Break Time


October 6, 2017, Prescott-

It’s Fall Break, from now until October 16- when we return to our labour of love and our lead teacher has a birthday.  In between, there is a balance of rest and motion. I have a service jaunt to Flagstaff, bright and early tomorrow morning, to help install smoke detectors in several units of a large modular home development.  Sunday will be a day of rest- until it isn’t.  Monday, I head down to Superior,  reconnect with the SunFlour  people and maybe hike Picketpost Mountain.  Beyond that is time in Globe,  then across to Safford, Silver City and Gila Cliff Dwellings, before getting back here, sometime Wednesday evening.  There will then be two days of relative rest, before Saturday the Fourteenth, when everything seems to be happening at once.  More details will be in order about that, later.

Anyway, it’s good to change the channel and replenish, every so often.


No Black Thursday


November 24, 2016, Julian, CA-  This little town, northeast of San Diego, has been our Thanksgiving hub, for three of the last four years.  Only in 2014 were we diverted to Aram’s ship, for what was an estimable meal, in its own right.  Otherwise, Julian Cafe has been an irresistible venue- for one of the best traditional Thanksgiving meals this side of the Appalachians.

Julian appeals to Aram, because it reminds him of Prescott and Flagstaff.  The oak forests that surround the town, and the Laguna Mountains, to its southeast, are of immense comfort to one who was born , and spent his first years, in a forested landscape.

It appeals to me, as all mountain towns do, because Saugus ( my home town), and so many towns in New England, are similarly entwined with rugged landscapes and a wealth of historical nuggets.  Julian’s history is inextricably linked to the California Gold Rush.  Southern California had several spots which, while not as noteworthy as the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, nontheless contributed to Gold Fever.

What appeals to neither of us is Black Thursday, as some have taken to calling the afternoon and evening of Thanksgiving Day.  There may be some LIMITED need for some people to pick up groceries, in the morning, as I did on behalf of Aram and his housemates, around 8:30 this morning, at the local Ralph’s store.  I can’t see either of us shopping for deals on Thanksgiving, ever.  I understand some want that to be their Thanksgiving tradition, but I stay with family remaining focused on non-commercial pursuits.

We had another awesome meal, with his two housemates along.  This will be the last time, though, for at least three years, as he heads across the Pacific, in a few months’ time.  That made it an especially treasured repast.


The Road to 65, Mile 310: Springing Eternal


October 3, 2015, Prescott- This was a very long day- 5:30 A.M.- 1:15 A.M.  The wake-up was necessary, in order to be up in Flagstaff, in time for a Baha’i gathering- our region’s annual consultation session and election of a delegate to the National Convention, held  the following Spring.  It takes about two hours to go from Prescott to “Flag”.

Once we finished our session, I stayed behind to help with cleaning the hall.  I mention this only because what was waiting for me back here was:  Manning the Registration Table for volunteers at Hope Fest, a faith-based event at Courthouse Square, followed by breaking down the site, when a concert ended at 10 P.M.

Hope Fest was initiated by Evangelical Christians, four years ago, to help homeless families, and domestic violence victims, with access to programs that alleviate suffering and offer relief from the cold, in the months to come.  I joined the effort, because that’s what I do.  A lot of people were here today, as they were at earlier events that came to the aid of the disadvantaged:  Stand Down for Veterans and Empty Bowls, both in mid-September.  It’s what our community does.

Our clean-up crew spent three hours transforming the Court House grounds from “The Day After Mardi Gras” to a place prepared for the next day’s Oktoberfest gathering.  Trust me, all three dumpsters in the back were piled high, but the grounds were spotless, otherwise.  I left right at 1 A.M., walking the mile to my cozy apartment, my pants soaked with salad dressing leakage, to my chagrin and to the discomfort of a twenty-something neighbour, who held her nose as she walked past.  I totally understand- and can’t wait to get all the clothing I wore today, into the washer.

The fun part of the evening, actually, was watching the antics of my supervisor’s three pre-school age children.  As late as it was, they showed no sign of fatigue, leaving at 9:45. This newest generation, sometimes called GenZ, gives credence to Alexander Pope’s wry observation.  Hope is still springing eternal.

The Road to 65, Mile 29: Darkening, Below the Peaks


December 27, 2014, Phoenix-   When I was 18, and working at the General Electric Company’s Riverworks, in Lynn, MA, word came up the pipes that one of our town’s favourite police officers, Augustine J. “Gus” Belmonte, had been slain, while busting up a robbery attempt at a Saugus restaurant.  Rumours flew about that it was an execution, ordered by this or that Mob boss.  Gus was a man of the people, and enforced the law in an even-handed, humane manner.  It turned out that the killers were Irish-American thugs, but not tied to any crime family, per se.  All Saugus turned out to see Gus off to his place in Heaven.

I was a jerk-wad kid, back then, and probably struck a lot of people as being barely able to tie my own shoelaces, but I thought the world of Augustine J. Belmonte.  He was in the prime of his life, forty-four years of age, when the Lord called him home.

Fast forward, nearly forty-six years later, to Flagstaff, AZ.  Tyler Stewart, a young man from north Phoenix, serving in his first year as a police officer on the Flagstaff force, responded to a domestic violence call, in one of the mountain town’s few tough neighbourhoods.  The perp got the officer’s confidence by seeming to be polite and co-operative, then got the drop on Officer Stewart.  Tyler Stewart was 24.

Flagstaff is a university community, a ski resort and an outdoorsman’s year-round paradise.  The San Francisco Peaks, an alpine sky city, loom to the north and smaller peaks like Mount Elden, Mars Hill and Kendrick Peak beckon to hikers and runners, as well.  It is also a railroad town, as anyone seeking a good night’s sleep in any of the motels along Old U.S. 66 can attest.  Drifters and the troubled find their way here, en route to or from California or  Las Vegas, and many stay.  Robert Smith, who killed Officer Stewart before turning the gun on himself, was one of those troubled souls.  He was 28.

While this transpired, on a sunny Saturday-after-Christmas, I was in a faith-based conference in Phoenix, learning of systemic alternatives to greed, rapacity and vengeance.  It occurred to those of us who heard of this incident, over dinner, that there is, when people feel utterly trapped, and at the mercy of wolves, so to speak-they revert to savagery, however tempered by cunning that it may be.

We often worry about high-profile catastrophe: Mass murders, such as the Twin Towers, Newtown or Peshawar; missing and ill-fated airplanes, of which there have been three this year; or almost incomprehensible global phenomena, such as the Mega-Tsunami of ten years ago, Friday.  The more common tragedy is, collectively, like death by a thousand cuts.  Four police officers have been killed, in the line of duty, over the past two months. Some blame an obscure street gang, which has “declared war” on police. To date, that group has not carried out any of its threats.  The deaths which have occurred, are all random results of a torn social fabric.  The mentally ill, from unrestrained sociopaths to schiziphrenics, who are shunted aside by the hipsters and the Men of Purpose, have, in each case, been shown to be the perpetrators.

While there is no conspiracy, there is an issue that needs to be addressed.  Registration of firearms, as appealing  and, in many cases, necessary as it is, resolves only a small part of the problem.  It has not been that many years since I had to explain to my then-teenaged son how it was that a schizoid man could behead his own flesh and blood, and toss the head out of his moving truck, onto a highway full of horrified commuters.  No human being can long be made to feel that he or she is irrelevant to the very people in whom trust has been placed.  The rest of us will soon have to bear the full cost, and dollars are a very small part of that cost- as everyone who has tried to make mental health care all about the money has learned, to their chagrin.

In a couple of days, most of us will assess this departed year and gaze ahead at the broad horizon of anno novo. The sunrise and sunset will appear the same.  Perhaps somewhere, an overloaded ferry, in a far-off place, will be the first reported disaster.  The jails will be full of those who over-celebrated.  In New York City, a young widow will wake up alone, and two fatherless boys will look at the empty dining-room chair, where their father used to sit.  In the Anthem neighbourhood of Phoenix, a veteran State Police officer will look out the window, and tears will stream down his face- as he wonders “Why MY son?”. even as he knows the answer, full-well.  In the Old Town section of Flagstaff, a young woman will also wake up, without the man she thought she could trust, and hopefully not blame herself.

Life is beautiful, under the shadow of the Peaks, and it is also grim.

Trailheads and Trails, Volume 1, Issue 20: Walnut Canyon, Flagstaff


August 31, 2014, Flagstaff- I spent Sunday of Labor Day weekend, nearly a month ago, walking and re-acquainting myself with two Flagstaff-area National Monuments that pertain to the Sinagua people, who were ancestors of the Hopi, Zuni and Tewa people of today.  I have been to both Walnut Canyon and Wupatki National Monuments, several times, but not since Penny passed on.  It was time to make another visit.

I went to Walnut Canyon first, as it is the more archaeologically-sensitive and needs to be shuttered and locked up, each night.  The centerpiece is the Island Trail, which takes visitors to a “sky island”, separate from the Colorado Plateau.  It is there that most of the Sinagua ruins are to be found.  The rest, in cliffs, to the east and

west of the sky island, can be easily seen from there, but are not accessible to the public.  First, is the view of the canyon, from the Visitors’ Center.


The next several shots are of the Sky Island and its ruins.  It is my practice to walk around an area clockwise.  Most people prefer to go counterclockwise, so I find myself coming across more folks coming from the other direction.




The overhangs made natural places of refuge, and many were used as open-air kitchens, hence the soot marks that are visible in some scenes.








This informational sign describes the snowberry, a medicinal plant, used by the Sinagua for treating gastrointestinal ailments.


Now for some views across the canyon, to the dwellings outside Sky Island.




Lastly, Mother Nature throws in some rock formations that just seem to have personality.


Walnut Canyon may be said to have been one of the safer spots for the Sinagua, given its relative inaccessibility in pre-Columbian days.


NEXT:  Wupatki