Niners

2

April 18, 2019-

Age nine found me whimsical,

lost ever in my own thoughts,

save when it came to lessons,

in Mrs. Kimball’s class.

Age nineteen found me lackadaisical,

flitting in and out of other people’s lives,

with no thought as to my effect on them.

Age twenty-nine found me desultory,

often lost in the bottle,

floating along Arizona’s highways,

or the backroads of the  wider West,

yet making a stab at conveying math,

to myself and my students.

Age thirty-nine found me devoted,

to my wife and toddler son.

The fragrance of Jeju,

and the progress of my English-teacher candidates,

filled out my world.

Age forty-nine found me wary,

of any and all politicians,

of a wayward shaman,

whose stated goal was

to bring about my ruin.

Age fifty-nine found me crumbling,

about to lose the most important

person in my life,

to the dis-ease that had

stalked her,

for over fifty years.

Age sixty-nine is seven months off,

yet it may well find me

in a state of flux.

Regardless,

I know my life is aimed

towards wholeness,

towards growth,

ever looking past

mere survival.

 

Eight Years

11

March 5, 2019-

On that quiet morning,

your spirit filled our room.

I knew the life we shared

was about to end.

Your body,

ten miles away,

in a lonely hospice room.

was left behind,

and you traveled alone,

to the Placeless,

even as our son and I

were hastening towards

your somber abode.

With a swirl of wind,

dust and leaves,

you greeted us,

soaring upward,

in farewell.

Each of us embraced,

the still remains,

of the love of my life,

whilst comforted

in the knowledge

of suffering’s end.

 

Throwback Thursday and Desert Shrimp

16

December 6, 2018, Prescott-

Thirty-eight years ago, today, I met the woman who would change my life, immeasurably, for the better.  Penny and I met in a crowded and very simple house, in Zuni, NM, on the night of a house blessing (known as Shalako). We shared a chair, taking turns sitting down and nodding off, during the all-night ceremony.

We ended up sharing everything else, for close to thirty years, all but one of those years as husband and wife.  As I’ve said before, she’s still looking out for me, in ways large and small, since her passing in March, 2011.

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Above, we are flanked by my parents, on our wedding day, June 6, 1982.

We shared many of the same tastes in food, among other things.  We both appreciated healthy and unadulterated ingredients. So, I think she would have liked Desert Sweet Shrimp. https://arizonashrimp.com/

I purchased a pound of these gems, over a month ago, and made two great meals out of them.  The first order of business, when preparing shrimp for a fine repast, is to shell the Caridea (the correct name of the creatures which are bred in this series of well-derived ponds, in Gila Bend, AZ).  Shelling can be done in a variety of ways- the easiest of which is to soak the shrimp in beer, for 8-10 hours. This leads to the shell falling off, almost automatically. I chose to shell each one individually, sans bier, so as to get a feel for the relationship between the shell and the flesh.  Deveining follows, no matter what method one uses for removing the shell.  Deveining means removing the receptacle holding the shrimp’s fecal matter, so it’s a VERY important step.  The Caridea are then rinsed, at least twice, before being added to a recipe.  It took me an hour to properly prepare the shrimp for cooking. Below is an image (Courtesy of Arizona Shrimp Company-all rights reserved) of the actual shrimp that I purchased.

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I prepared most of the shrimp in sopa de camarones (“shrimp soup”), using green onions, chili powder, turmeric and sea salt.   It’s been a favourite of mine, since I first ate it in Puerto Penasco, Sonora, nearly forty years ago.  I used the rest in a small scampi dish, using a recipe posted on In Diane’s Kitchen, https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/114793426/posts/27651 , on September 13.

Both were exquisite meals, which gave me sustenance for over a week.    I hope to visit the actual facility, during a few days in the West Valley and Gila Bend, right after New Year’s.  I also hope the company will continue a presence at Prescott Farmers’ Market, next spring and summer.

This is the first of a series of posts honouring the festive, and deeper, aspects of the great December holidays.    NEXT:  Prescott’s Acker Night.

 

 

Gratitude Week, Day 7: The Finest Fruits

9

November 24, 2018, Prescott-

I have decided to end this week of gratitude, by looking back at the ten best choices I ever made.  I am grateful to the Universe for having placed these in front of me and I have a measure of self-gratitude for having made them.

10,  Serving in the Army– At 18, I had little to show for my life. There was no discipline, of which to speak and my world consisted of drooling over girls and imbibing too much alcohol, too fast.  Other-imposed discipline gave me a regimen, which I could add to the work ethic that my parents instilled in each of us and it set me on  a course of self-reliance, which I still need and use.

9.  Studying Psychology- It didn’t make me wealthy and barely got me a job, but knowing something of what makes the human mind tick has given me insight into myself and has made me more understanding of others.

8. Living on the Navajo Nation- I have a strong genetic memory of the Indigenous. I am not much, in terms of blood quantum, but my nature fairly burns with the feeling that I belong in the woodlands; that I am a gatherer and a sharer; that I am one with the Universe. Being on the same page, day to day, with Dineh (Navajo) and Hopi people reinforced that unity.

7. Blogging-   Writing is a skill that three of my four high school English teachers saw as a talent that I needed to sharpen.  They gave me the tools to keep on sharpening that talent.  College brought it up another notch.  As a caretaker, and then as a widower, far from extended family, blogging gave me an outlet, one step up from journaling  (which I also still do) and a wider appreciative audience.

6, Returning to work, full time- In 2016, having been a substitute teacher, with a couple of other jobs, whilst being Penny’s caretaker, I found a niche at Prescott High School.  My place there was, more or less, secure and I was urged to return full-time, for the years leading up to my retirement from education.  That work has been fulfilling, and will remain so until I reach 70, two years from now.

5.  Working as a counselor- As a school counselor, I was able to impact thousands of lives, over the span of eleven years, between Tuba City and Keams Canyon/Jeddito, and some of those lives were saved.  I am haunted by  a few lives that weren’t and by those I couldn’t reach.  The majority, though, learned life skills and resilience, and knew that someone had their backs.

4. Settling in Prescott- The job aside, moving here after Penny’s passing was a lifesaver.  I had the anchor of a house, for the time I needed it, and of a Faith Community with whom I was already familiar and who were not intimate with Penny’s suffering.  That last was important.  I could not have the constant reminders of all that we had endured together.  Since then, I have made many new friends and branched out in several directions-all healthy.

3. Widespread travel-Besides going back and forth from Arizona to the East Coast, for family visits, my wanderlust has taken me to western Europe, Hawai’i, the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska.  I took in a small swath of eastern Canada, last summer and am likely to cross our northern neighbour again, in the summer of 2020.  California, Nevada and Colorado have also seen a lot of me, these past seven years, as have the South and Midwest.  This is an essential part of who I am.

2.  Getting married- I have always been crazy about girls and women.  There isn’t much about the opposite gender that I don’t like, though I am proud to be male.    Self-dislike got in the way, though, when I found myself drawn to one young lady after another.  Penny didn’t fall for any of that, and we built a solid foundation, by which both of us were able to tame most of our demons and raise a fine young man, who has taken his full place in the world.

1. Recognizing Baha’u’llah- I received a solid spiritual foundation, having been raised in the Roman Catholic faith. As I matured, though, the rituals and practices began to feel automatic to me, and I have always known that there is a continuity to Divine Revelation, superseding any one of the faiths or denominations that are commonplace.  In 1972, I heard of Baha’u’llah, and the Baha’i Faith, for the first time.  Nine years later, I embraced Baha’i as my own.  I have found its precepts teach everything in which I already believe, and the teachings regarding health are exactly what I needed, to tame the demon of alcohol dependence.  Far beyond those, however, are the vision of planetary and human unity-dispelling the darknesses of racism, nationalism and excessive materialism.

I am sure I will have other choices to make, in the coming days, months, and years.  Perhaps a life-changer will be among them, as well.

Carrying the Heart Home

14

November 15, 2018, Prescott- 

As I sat in the midst of a Community Celebration of Thanks, this evening, there was plenty of time, even in the crowd that attended a full schedule of interfaith devotions, to let my heart reflect on what has continued to  make this year one of astonishment and the bestowal of divine grace.

In the past few days alone, I have received affirmations in the areas of finance, friendship and health that I sensed were coming, in the darkness of October, yet had no idea how quickly they would present themselves.

Now, to top it all off, comes the highlight of the year-as I feel, but do not physically witness, the marriage of my son, to a mature, grounded woman, three years his junior, but in every sense his partner, walking side-by-side.  I will be there, in the Spring, though, when they affirm their vows, in a spiritual setting.

I will have much more to recap 2018, upon my birthday, two weeks hence, and of course, at December’s end, when the face of Janus appears again.  The bottom line here, is the value of patience and certitude, even in the darkest of nights.

Our Best Friends, across the Universe, always seem to show up when we need them-though maybe not always upon demand.

 

Janus Speaks

6

November 8, 2018, Prescott-

Transitions, both for better and for worse, often seem to take place, just before or after my birthday, which falls towards the end of this month.  They have been big changes, and small ones.

On my 25th birthday, in 1975, I made the drive from my parents’ house, back to Northampton, MA, only to have my then-boss gleefully tell me I had been fired, from a part-time job.  I later found this move was made because a co-worker’s son needed a job.  An acquaintance put things in perspective that night, telling me her divorce had been finalized, earlier that day.  I went on, without the chump change.

In November, 1980, I began to get a very strong message that it was time for me to get involved with a woman again.  A week after my 30th birthday, I met Penny, in Zuni, NM.

In November, 2000, personnel changes took place at the school where I was working, in the aftermath of the untimely deaths of the school’s founders. I had been hired by the wife, whose replacement was not exactly fond of how I was running the school.  My tenure at the school would end, under questionable circumstances, a few months later.

In November, 2010, Penny was released from the rehabilitative hospital, in which she had been treated for seven months, due to insurance policy requirements. She would live only three more months, mostly in hospice treatment.

Late last month, Penny’s mother, the last surviving of her own parents’ children, met the end of her physical suffering.  She will see the civil marriage of her only grandson, from the other side of the Veil.  My beloved son will be wed, on American soil, in Guam, next week.  I will be there in the fullest of spirit, with the promise of attending a spiritual wedding ceremony, next March.

So, once again, autumn brings transition into my life.  There will be other changes, I’m sure, and the net will be for the better.

 

The Light of Abiding Love

11

November 4, 2018, Prescott-

Friday night, I headed down to Phoenix, and spent time with several old friends, at the Baha’i Center.  The occasion was a Launch Party Tour finale for  the latest album by a talented young artist, named Colby Jeffers, a rapper with a strong spiritual message.

One of the themes he raised was the importance, the abiding bond, with his wife, M.  They have been present for one another, for several years now, and the love is only getting deeper.

I saw several examples of the light of abiding love, that night, and over the weekend.  Another young couple showed both the firmness of their bond, by holding one another, at moments when Colby’s words hit just the right tone of everlasting love, then having the strength to go about their individual tasks of the evening, knowing that each would be there for the other, when needed.

Penny and I were like that, so my heart is always warmed by a man who takes good care of his beautiful wife-and vice versa.  I feel much the same towards couples who are not quite married, but who are committed to one another.  Having so many friends who are at one point on the commitment continuum, or another, their ties generate light in the world, and I feel reassured.

This was further cemented today, when I attended an honorarium, at a lovely equestrian ranch northwest of here, and saw a couple being honoured, for their service to the Prescott community.  They have suffered unimaginable losses, these past two years, and while I am not her favourite person, by any stretch, I feel very much appreciative of both all they have done and for the depth of their suffering.  Their light shines, intensely, through all the shadows.

Marriage is an affirmation of light, when it is real.

Burning the Mask of Obligation

6

October 13, 2018, Prescott-

Obligations are things one takes on, in order to please other people.  They could become passions, which are those things one takes on out of sincere spirit and pure love.   Parenthood, spouseship and a sane and intelligent patriotism are examples of the latter.

In this life, however, there are obligations each of us take on, which raise the person to whom we feel obliged to the status of superior, or master.  Unless one feels passionate about the activity  in which s(he) or he is involved, the obligation becomes a false one.  Many holiday celebrations, for example, become empty rote activities- none of them memorable.  Going to the place of employment, for all too many people, is an empty obligation.  Even having a conversation, if there is no passion, involves putting on the mask of caring, almost a political and vapid exercise.  It fools no one, except, perhaps, oneself.

I have been in the process of shedding obligations, for the past seven years.  Marriage was an act of living love, and never felt like an empty obligation.  There were plenty of moments of misunderstanding, but the passion did not disappear.   Fatherhood is an act of living love, even when miscommunication and physical distance seem to create a sense of discord.  The passion does not disappear.

Working with children and youth is an act of living love, even when their behaviour seems to be enough to drive one to the edge of insanity.  The passion cannot disappear.

Growing as a spiritual being is the greatest of passions- otherwise I would likely dissipate as a person. This means two things:  Do not filter communication, no matter how seemingly drawn out it may be.  Presence is a burden, when viewed in the least obligatorily.  It can only be viewed, from a passionate viewpoint, by not filtering the subject presenting self, in any way.  This requires being totally non-judgmental, as to what is worthy of one’s attention and to what is trifling or frivolous.  How many wars have been started, and fought, because of a perceived or real slight?

So, as I look at obligations, great and small, and bring those that matter to the level of passion-I must chance the burning of the masks of obligation, that I may show the real face that comes with passion.

NEXT:  The Mask of Self-Disdain

 

I Know…

13

May 9, 2018, Prescott-

I know that I made the best decision of my life,

when I married her

and stayed faithful.

I know that I could have done better,

dealing with the winsome faces,

especially once she left.

I know that

I never cheated.

I know that now,

as I blaze my own trail onward,

there are she and other spirits,

telling me  that it’s okay

to really love another.

I know that one will come to me,

as a dear sister told me,

a few days ago.

I know that time is

never rushed,

that people need

to figure it out,

for themselves.

I know that I am

essentially good,

that dwelling on flaws

is a chimera.

I know that life

could turn on

a dime,

and probably will.

I know that the

best job I’ve had,

since the mid-1990’s,

may last three more years,

or it may only last

two more weeks.

I know that

I will land on my feet.

I know that I am loved.

Sweetness

6

February 14, 2017, Prescott-  

It’s said that Valentine sought to safeguard marriage,

from Caesar Claudius II’s misguided bans.

Marriage outlived Claudius,

who outlived Valentine,

by design.

Love is somewhat honoured,

by candy, and flowers.

I have found it is equally honoured,

by being able to be with someone,

for hours.

They turn into years and decades,

and the returns are paid,

in spades.

I had my wonderful decades,

and wish the same to those

coming along.

No matter how one marks today,

let your love remain ever strong.

Another joy on which to hold:

Real love is never gone.