Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LXIII: My Dream Pack

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September 18, 2017, Prescott-

A writer whom I recently began to follow has written, of late, about the concept of the Dream Pack- essentially, a way of life, place, group of close people which, collectively help each being realize the fullness of his/her particular dream.

The outpouring of love I have felt today, in person and online, brings me to reiterate what I have said on occasion, in the past.  People have come, gone and, in a few instances, returned.  I have found places, near and far, which bring me inspiration, for a time, and while some have lost their allure- others have drawn me close.  My way of life remains pretty much the same, though the accent, of late, has been on service, rather than a trail-side regimen.

My Dreampack , then, is large and varied:  My son, in Korea, is a phone call and an ocean away.  My siblings are a mere continent apart from me.  I have a nephew, in Los Angeles, who is a full schedule, or two, distant.  Mother is East Coast-bound, but will get a letter a week from me, and will respond, when she can, with reassurance that she is just fine, and inspirational comments.  My solid network of friends, in the Prescott area, and across Arizona, make it certain that, if I feel lonesome, it’s my own doing.  The same is true, all over North America.  I am never far, when in my car, from someone who at least has time for a cup of “joe”, or tea, or Jamba Juice.

There is a teen boy, who I am sponsoring, across the Pacific.  Someday, I will visit him.   My Dream Pack is large and varied, and includes kindred souls in the Philippines, South Korea, Australia, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Iran, Russia, Romania, Italy, Spain, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Scotland and beloved France.  Yes, that’s a lot of turf, for one who lives on a shoestring, but since when has that been an impediment?

My Dream Pack has been a series of Chinese boxes, opening up to yet another, and a series of amazements, (yes, I just made up a word), which will continue.  The Universe is endless in its provision of many kinds of wealth.

Thirty-fifth

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June 6, 2017, Prescott- 

So, on this day, thirty-five years ago, I made the wisest move I have ever made, and took the vow of matrimony.  A Baha’i marital vow is simple:  “We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God.”  That divine will took the two of us to great heights:  Pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy Places, in Haifa and Akko’, with side visits to  Holy Places of Christianity, Islam and Judaism, in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and the Galilee; various journeys of service around North America, to Guyana and to Taiwan; many years of work with children and youth, on the Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi Nations and perhaps, most consequentially, five and one-half years in Jeju, Korea, the birthplace of our son.  There were depths to be navigated, as well:  Penny’s debilitating disease, the worst effects of which were concurrent with the subprime mortgage crisis, the Madoff scandal and the “Great Recession”-each of which impacted us, directly or indirectly.  Standing by her side, until the end, was simply part and parcel of what my love called me to do.  Likewise, as I confronted my own demons, in the midst of all this, she supported me and her spirit has brought me through to the other side of the tunnel.

I am reminded of so much, this morning, after talking at length with our son, who, likewise, has stood by me, disagreeing with some family members, when they castigated what they saw as my irresponsibility and setting me straight, when he has seen the path veering off in an odd direction.  He’s been right, on both counts, showing that the one thing I have done right in this life has been to raise and guide an exemplary human being.  This morning, I looked at photos of Aram and his sweetheart, sensing that he continues to thrive and find his way along this marvelous, but often treacherous, road.

I have reached a minor crossroads, in my own life.  There is the option of staying the course, which would cause discomfort for my critics, as well as, initially, for me.  There is the option of moving to a more rustic part of Prescott, a place I visited yesterday, and find most salubrious.  There is the option of moving to a high desert community, close to the workplace of two of the most supportive souls I’ve ever known.  In each case, I know it’s time, as I’ve said repeatedly of late, to simplify, to downsize and to detach.

Thirty-five years after we took our vows, my love’s spirit urges me on.

Looking Back- Part 2

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December 31, 2016, Chula Vista- As the Year of Upended Routines winds down, and has already passed, in the areas immediately west of the International Date Line, I find it meet and seemly to give 2016 its due.

The goodness of it all:  I was embraced by Prescott Unified School District, and brought into a position where positive differences can be made, in the lives of troubled children.

One car served me well, then died, on the road.  Two members of my family stepped up, got the first car through its final duties and the next car into my possession.  Thankfully, I am able to repay these kindnesses, in full.

It was an amazing series of  visits, with friends in Amarillo, Enid (OK), Columbia (MO), Indianapolis, Oley (PA), Knoxville, Boulder (CO) and Dana Point (CA); family in Avila (MO), Saugus and Wakefield (MA),  Newnan (GA), Brooksville (FL) and Loveland (CO)- to say nothing of my Baha’i family in Carson City and Reno, and all who nourish and support me, throughout Arizona.  Most important of all, though, is the strength and constancy of my closest:  Mom and siblings, in Massachusetts, brother, in Georgia, in-laws, in Florida and son, here in southern California, but soon to be in Korea, the land of his birth.

The warmth of new friends, in Fallon and Pioche (NV), Fort Sumner (NM), Ponca City (OK), Salina and Hays (KS),Florissant (MO), Wilmette (IL), Francesville and Kokomo (IN), Bedford and Bushkill (PA), Port Jervis and Middletown (NY), Newtown and Danbury (CT), Martinsburg (WV), Harrisonburg (VA), Register (GA), Chattanooga, Nashville, Marion (IL) a Colorado Springs and Mancos (CO) just reinforces my belief that there is a universal love, which only needs to be tapped and nurtured.

How blessed the natural beauty of the forests, deserts, plains and mountains that gave me solace, this year:  Prescott Circle Trail, which brought the totality of my adopted home into focus; Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, which transcends Arizona’s Central Highlands and the northern reaches of the Sonoran Desert; Arcosanti, an intriguing blend of ancient desert rock, seasonal water flow and nouveau architecture; Juniper Mesa, a stand-alone promontory, which once sheltered Yavapai warriors; the shimmering lakes above Zion National Park, a reminder that the Earth is a changing creation, which will outlive us, despite our illusions to the contrary; the tall grass prairie outside Boonville, MO, a fine place to just lie down and think of childhood days, spent in the grasses of summer; Bushkill Falls, PA, as amazing and comforting to me, on a cool, drizzly July day,as it was to my parents-in-law on their honeymoon, in the winter of early 1949, and on so many wedding anniversaries, thereafter; Lake Redwine, and Serenbe, GA, which brought family together, and  help to keep my Georgia relatives so well-grounded.

How eternally comforting it is, to visit the Baha’i House of Worship, in Wilmette, and to gather with my fellows-in-faith, at Baha’i Centers in Phoenix and Scottsdale, as well as the Marriott Desert Ridge Resort.

So,many thanks, 2016. There were breathtaking changes, coming from all this, and from the winds sweeping our nation and planet.  These will impact me, along with everyone else, in the next few years; stay tuned.

 

My Life Thus Far: The Nineties

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March 6, 2016, Chula Vista- In the scheme of things, my most productive decade, to date, has been the 1990’s.  My forties were, initially, of consternation to my wife, but ended up being a time of relative calm and mutual growth for us.

1990-High Point: Travels with my family, around Jeju.                                                                                   Low Point:  Losing several more aunts and uncles.                                                                                People in the Heart:  My little family; my students; the Korean Baha’is.                                     Places in the Heart:  Jeju; Mt. Halla; Nonsan; Yosu.

1991- High Point:  Continued growth of our community, and in my teaching.                                       Low Point:   None.  This was a very sanguine year.                                                                                 People in the Heart:  Koreans, in general.                                                                                               Places in the Heart:  Jeju; Inchon; Jonju, Busan .

1992- High Point:  Return to the Navajo Nation.                                                                                               Low Point:  Leaving Korea.                                                                                                                              People in the Heart:  My students, both in Jeju and in Jeddito; the long-suffering Mr. Chun; Marty Green, who gave me a fresh start; the proprietress of Mile-Hi Motel, Prescott.                                                                                                                                                                              Places in the Heart:  Jeju; Sorak-san; Prescott; Jeddito.

1993- High Point:  Penny’s return to teaching.                                                                                                   Low Point:  Dealing with a disinformation campaign.                                                                          People in the Heart:  My Navajo and Hopi students; A.T. Sinquah; the Begay family,              of Cienega Canyon; Harry James, who gave his life for his faith.                                                      Places in the Heart:  Jeddito, Keams Canyon; Canyon de Chelly; Flagstaff.

1994- High Point:  Learning about, and implementing, a comprehensive guidance                              program.                                                                                                                                                                Low Point:  Struggling to adapt to new school administration.                                                         People in the Heart:  The Ambrose family; the Melvins, who taught me how to act                 with grace, and patience; all the aforementioned.                                                                     Places in the Heart:  Pinon; Shungopavi; First Mesa.

1995-High Point:  Our first cross-country road trip, as a family.                                                                 Low Point:  The passing of Penny’s paternal grandfather.                                                                  People in the Heart:  Sadie Charley; the Bathkes; the Shuplas; A. C. Fellman.                           Places in the Heart:  Louhelen Baha’i School; Bedminster; Saugus.

1996- High Point:  Continued success in our school’s program.                                                                    Low Point:  The passing of our neighbour, Georgianna T.

           People in the Heart:  The Coin family; Clifford Q., who taught us all patience, in a                  different way; Mark Sacco, who never gave up on the hardest of students; the                            Smiley sisters; the Tewanema family.

          Places in the Heart:  Edgewater, NM (our vacation spot); Sandia Crest; the Navajo                  and Hopi Nations, in general.

1997- High Point:  Our road trip with Lady (our dachshund, adopted in 1995).                                        Low Point:  The suicide of a former student.                                                                                            People in the Heart: Marwin Woody and his family; the staff of Louhelen Baha’i                      School; all my relations.                                                                                                                                  Places in the Heart:  Amarillo; Effingham; Lambertville, NJ; Louhelen Baha’i                           school; Edwardsville, IL.

1998-High Point: My securing a principalship.                                                                                                   Low Point: The accidental death of a key staff member.                                                                       People in the Heart:  Mrs. Lowe and Ms. Young, my strongest classroom teachers.                  Places in the Heart: Chilchinbeto; Kayenta.

1999-High Point: Landing on my feet, at Salome High School.                                                                     Low Point: Aram’s harrowing return visit to Korea.                                                                             People in the Heart:  Tom Riggenbach, the Charley family (who spoke in my                             defense); Paul Lansing; the majority of my constituents in La Paz County.                                   Places in the Heart: Polacca; Salome; Prescott.

The Nineties began with stability and hope, though various storm clouds were always showing lightning,in the distance.  This was a time that began and ended with big moves for us.  I made a stab at being an administrator, and found it was not for me. I am much more at home with counseling, and would have done better to hone my skills in that area, still further.  Penny had a serious fall, in 1998, and we spent much time and energy seeking competent neurological care.  She seemed to have recovered, by the end of the year, when we observed her parents’ 50th Wedding Anniversary.  The decade ended with us working through the joys and sorrows of life in a small Southwestern town.

Still and all, that decade was good for us.  The ten years to come would prove far more challenging.

 

 

The Mists of Jindo

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Park Jee-yung dropped out of college, and went to work on a Korean domestic ferry, when her father passed on, two years ago.  It’s what Korean children do for their families, in the Confucian tradition of filial piety. Two weeks ago,  Miss Park found herself, along with nearly 400 other young people and 75 elders, on an ill-fated journey to Jeju, Korea’s holiday mecca, some 60 miles off the southwest tip of the Korean Peninsula.  This journey entailed sailing from a port in the Seoul area, and thus a potentially treacherous voyage through countless areas of rock and reef.  The story of how the journey ended is gradually unfolding:  Essentially, an inexperienced and unconfident helmsman, scarcely more than a child herself, lost her way and the ship foundered into a mess of rocks.  It’s not certain where the ship’s captain was during this time, but it is notable that he left the ship while most of his passengers remained aboard, and the ship was going inexorably down.

Park Jee-yung stayed with the teenagers, going as many places on board as time allowed, finding life vests for her younger charges and trying to get as many on board life rafts as she could.  Survivors reported that Miss Park repeatedly refused to leave the ship, saying it was the crew’s duty, and thus hers, to be the last to leave. So it went- for her, and possibly other crewmates, though not for the senior ship officials.  This has become de rigeur, in recent years, for the crews of troubled vessels, but I digress.

I lived in Korea, on Jeju, for 5 1/2 years.  The vast majority of the people I met were like Park Jee-yung- bright, organized, and self-effacing.  I can only imagine the horror that has engulfed this blessed nation, whose traditions dictate that a people move forward together, that the needs of the whole trump the whims of the parts, that children mind their elders, without question.

So it went, that horrific day.  The aging ship’s captain issued an order to the students on board to stay in their cabins.  A few rowdy boys chose to challenge that order and went on deck, saw what was happening and, rallying some of their schoolmates, managed to get on board the life vessels and to safety.  One of them was the first to issue a distress call to the mainland.  These were among the people helped by Park Jee-yun.

There is much to admire about Korean society.  Few nations could have risen out of the ashes of war, largely on their own, as South Korea has.  Shoulder to shoulder, Koreans have seen what was needed, and brought it about.  Now it is time to take stock of the price of fragmentation- nearly 160 dead, as I write this, and hundreds more still missing.  I sit here, in the comfort of an American home, and feel only grief and sorrow.  So many beautiful souls, who could have only elevated life in their city of Ansan, and beyond, now sit at the Throne of the God of us all, and wait to see just how they might comfort those who miss them so grievously.

Let Korea continue to move forward as an entity, with the caveat that sometimes, many times, the voices of the rambunctious need to be heard. The gadflies among us frequently see things the masses overlook, and their warnings, however irritating at the get-go, turn out to be what save the day.  Cassandra was not altogether insane.

Rest in peace, beautiful friends, and  may the nation you left too soon regroup, restore its sense of balance and move forward, in unison.