So He Loved and Has Now Flown

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May 13, 2017, Prescott-

Another long-suffering soul has gone home.

His first comment to me,

thirty-six years ago,

was to not soak a tub of beans overnight,

unless the plan was

to stay up and watch them.

This, as we saw that someone had

done the opposite.

The ground was littered

with soft pintos.

Ants were emerging,

to savour the feast.

His last remarks

to his family, were

that he wanted to go home.

Yesterday afternoon,

he did just that.

In seventy-five years,

Moses Manybeads Nakai

had been a steadfast believer

in the Oneness of Mankind.

He married a young nurse,

who had come to the Navajo Nation,

to serve both the Dineh and Hopi.

They raised two daughters,

both of whom are

college-educated professionals.

Moses went many places,

in his life,

from Samoa to Alaska.

He always came back,

though,

to his beloved Dinnebito.

It was there that his father

practiced traditional healing.

It was there that his mother

made the best mutton stew

in the universe.

It is there that his sister

still lives,

with her husband and family,

living the traditional herding life.

Moses left us,

while in the comforting environs

of Montezuma Well.

It gave him solace

to know that

there is a deep connectedness there.

Only days ago,

a rare red snapping turtle

emerged from the well.

It had navigated the channels,

of which we seem to know little.

Moses knew,

and the Navajo people know,

quite a bit about such things.

One more bit of connectedness

has now gone through the veil.

I trust

that I will hear from you,

again soon,

my friend.

Embrace the Light.

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Tales from the 2016 Road: The Long Walk of 1864

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Entrance to Fort Sumner National Monument,NM

July 1, 2016, Fort Sumner, NM-  There are several places in the United States, that every citizen should see, if for no other reason than to know that unity is a delicate thing.  Fort Sumner, a place of captivity for thousands of people, in the 1860’s, is such a place.

I have known, and  worked with, Navajo (Dineh) and Hopi people, for several years.  The Dineh, along with the Mescalero Apache (Indeh) people, were forcibly removed from their ancestral lands, in 1864, by one of the most unfortunate edicts of President Lincoln, who had a blind spot, where Native Americans were concerned.  He never stopped being an Indian fighter.

The people endured the harsh life of captives, very similar to what the Japanese internees endured in the camps of World War II.  The difference was that the Dineh and Indeh people built the camps, including the quarters of their overseers.  Many died of disease and starvation, in this squalid place.

The people were released in 1868, on orders from President Andrew Johnson, who had no real axe to grind with the Navajos or Apaches.  They walked homeward, and the Navajo wept, when they spotted one of their sacred mountains, Mount Taylor, east of Albuquerque.

Here are some of the sights that presented themselves to me, during my visit here, this morning.  The first shows the pyramid-like structure that houses the museum displays and theater, that tells the story of the Long Walk.  The ranger initially interpreted my foregoing the film, as a sign of disinterest in the actual events.  A conversation, afterward, corrected that misconstruance.

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Monument Headquarters, Fort Sumner, NM

The second photo shows the area, as it might have appeared when the captives first arrived in Bosque Redondo, as the woods were called back then. The Commemoration Stone, first brought here by Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah, in 1994.

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Nature Trail, Fort Sumner, NM

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Commemoration Stone, Fort Sumner, AZ

The descendants of both Navajo and Mescalero Apache internees, and many others from various tribes, bring items of dedication to this memorial site.

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Memorial Site, Fort Sumner, NM

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Barracks for US Army troops, Fort Sumner National  Monument, NM

The above is an example of the structures which captives were forced to build, for the housing of their overseers.

Below is a flock of Churro Sheep, raised by Navajos and now viewed as an heirloom breed, for the quality of their wool and meat.

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Churro Sheep, Fort Sumner National Monument, NM

This visit, which I had planned for quite some time, was a sobering reminder of just how far we have come, and a caution of how far we can fall backwards, in our inter-human connections. Like Manzanar, and Berga, Germany, it is a place that the smug and self-assured would do well to see, as a wake-up call.

NEXT UP:  Return to Amarillo’s Happy Southwest 6th Street.

Stairstepping In Kodachrome Land, Part 3: A Zip Through The Cedars

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June 3, 2016, Chinle, AZ- After leaving Nevada behind, I decided that the drive through the expanse of heaven that is southern Utah would have to be somewhat less than just.  I have the Golden Circle on my radar screen for a full month of exploration- but not until next summer, at the very earliest, and maybe not until 2020.  The pines, cedars and unparalleled canyons of southern Utah are treasures to be taken one inch at a time.

One caveat I share with most other drivers is:  Don’t make a nuisance of yourself, by constantly and abruptly pulling to the side of the narrow road, to get that great photo.  So, the scenes presented herein are few in number- focusing on two places:  Navajo Lake/Duck Creek and Orderville Canyon.  These two very different environments give a snippet of the variety in a relatively small area of Kane County.

I spent a few minutes in the commercial hub of Cedar City, just refueling and resting my Nissan.  The traffic was already gearing up for a crowded weekend, hereabouts, so on up through Kolob Canyon it was.  Navajo Lake lies in the rim country, above Zion National Park.  There were about a dozen people at the overlook, so we took turns with photographs.

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Navajo Lake, Dixie National Forest, Utah

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Navajo Lake, Dixie National Forest, Utah

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Dike  across Navajo Lake, Dixie National Forest, Utah

The dike was built by members of the Civilian Conservation Corps, during the New Deal, to maintain constant water flow.

Navajo Lake, and nearby Duck Creek, were created by lava flow, which altered the course of the Virgin River, which created Zion Canyon.  Below, are some scenes of the lava beds, around Duck Creek Visitor Center.

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Lava bed at Duck Creek Visitor Center, Dixie National Forest, Utah

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Lava bed, Duck Creek Visitor Center, Dixie National Forest, Utah

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Duck Creek, Dixie National Forest, Utah

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Duck Creek, Dixie National Forest, Utah

Orderville is one of the small farming towns that are a delight to visit, in the midst of southern Utah’s canyon country.  It is also a jumping off point for those headed east, towards Capitol Reef and Canyonlands National Park.  Orderville has a gorgeous canyon of its own, though, and can easily enchant the visitor for 2-3 days.

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Orderville Canyon, Utah

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Orderville Canyon, Utah

With the day growing short, I headed on east and south, through Page, AZ, on the southern shore of Lake Powell, across the Navajo Nation, to Kayenta and Chinle.  At Tsegi, just west of Kayenta, I cam across a couple whose vehicle and trailer had overturned.  The Indian Health Service worker who had stopped to help was having a hard time getting through to emergency services.  I was able to call and get help en route.  Good thing that neither person,nor their two dogs, were injured.  Past Kayenta, a brush fire had broken out, south of Chilchinbeto, where I once worked. Once again, 911 was dialed from my phone, and a fire truck was dispatched.

That was the end of the day’s excitement.  I enjoyed a relaxing meal at Junction Restaurant, in Chinle, before heading down to Native American Baha’i Institute, another 1 1/2 hours further southeast.  It is time to change gears, and focus on spirituality for a day or so.

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.

 

 

My Life Thus Far: The Eighties

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February 20, 2016, Prescott- Today was spent in spiritual study, and an hour or so will be so used, tomorrow afternoon.  All of this was initiated by my beloved, and because of her, the decade of my thirties brought a whole new outlook on life.  The 1980’s were one of the two best decades of this life, up to now.

1980-High Point:  Meeting Penny (December 6)

Low Point:  Scrambling to find housing in Flagstaff (September)

People in the heart:  Penny Fellman, my future wife; my Flagstaff housemates, Mohammed Saeedi, Chris Lugenbuhl and Carol Vireday; the anonymous guys who gave me rides, to/from Oregon; my Mesa friends, the Lunts.

Places in the heart: Flagstaff;  Durango; Zuni; San Diego; Laguna Beach; Redwood National Park; Hebo, OR; Portland; Eugene; Crater Lake; San  Luis Obispo; Santa Barbara.

1981- High Point:  My entry into the Baha’i Faith.

Low Point:  Our temporary break-up.

People in the heart:  Penny; the Cordova family; the Beausoleils; the Travises; Mishabae Mahoney; Hilde Mc Cormick; John Carrillo (my office mate and sounding board); my first nephew and niece, Chris and Marcy.

Places in the heart:  Flagstaff; Tuba City; Dinnebito, AZ; Capitol Reef National Park; Natural Bridges National Monument; San Diego; Julian.

1982- High Points:  Our wedding (June 6); our Baha’i Pilgrimage (June 16- 30).

Low Point: Getting organized into a household.

People in the heart:  My wife; both Moms and Dads; the San Diego Baha’i Community; the Tong family; the staff of the Baha’i World Centre; the Baha’is of London; my mentor at Northland Pioneer College.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; San Diego; Julian; Dinnebito; Bedminster, NJ; Jerusalem; Haifa; Akko; Bethlehem; London; Canterbury;  Saugus; Bedminster; Standoff, AB; Yellowstone National Park; Bozeman, MT.

1983- High Points:  The Wildfire Conference, at De Pauw University; Baha’i teaching in southern New Mexico and Metro El Paso; my brother, Glenn’s wedding.

Low Point:  My Nana died.

People in the heart:  Penny ( and this goes without saying, until the day she passed); the Baha’is of Tuba City, Dinnebito, Jemez, Phoenix, Las Cruces, El Paso and Chicago; the Biernackes, of El Paso; my second niece, Melanie; my second nephew, Jeff.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Dinnebito; Blue Canyon, AZ; Jemez Springs; Durango, CO; Silverton; Ouray; Great Sand Dunes National Park; Chama; Santa Fe; Albuquerque; Chicago; Baha’i House of Worship, Wilmette, IL; Greencastle, IN; Las Cruces; Berino, NM; El Paso; Fabens, TX; Andover, MA.

1984- High Points:  Baha’i teaching in Guyana, Pine Ridge, SD and Macy, NE.

Low Point: The passing of Gordon Tong, our Baha’i friend and mentor.

People in the heart:  Our Guyanese  hosts; the people of Pine Ridge and of the Omaha Nation; our friends and our co-workers on the Navajo Nation; Elizabeth Dahe and her family; our  hosts in Houston and Oklahoma; my third nephew, Nick.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Burntwater, AZ; Houston; Ada, OK; Georgetown, Bath, Whim and Meten meer zorg, GY; New York; Macy, NE; Wanblee, Pine Ridge, and Martin, SD; Fort Collins, CO.

1985- High Point:  Both sets of parents visiting.

Low Points:  The deaths of three Navajo boys, in two separate accidents; our separation, while Penny was in Graduate School ( a month is a long time).

People in the heart:  Our parents; Jeff and Helen Kiely; the Baha’is of Dinnebito and Ganado, AZ; my third niece, Kim; my fourth nephew, Matt.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Flagstaff; Dinnebito; Polacca, AZ; Red Rock State Park, OK; Effingham, IL; Columbus, OH; Michigan City, IN; Wilmette and Evanston, IL; Grand Canyon; Lake Powell; Prescott; Montezuma’s Castle National Monument; Sedona; Phoenix.

1986- High Point: Our move to Jeju, South Korea, for Penny’s work, as Visiting Professor.

Low Point:  My father’s passing.

People in the heart:  Our parents; my siblings, our extended family; my fifth nephew, Curtis; our friends and co-workers in Arizona and in South Korea.

Places in the heart:  Tuba City; Los Angeles; Seoul, Songtan and Jeju, South Korea; Saugus.

1987- High Point:  My hiring as Visiting Professor, in Jeju.

Low Point:  Having to leave Penny behind for a month, to get a work visa.

People in the heart:  Our Korean colleagues, students and friends; three surviving parents;  our siblings; our friends in Flagstaff.

Places in the heart:  Jeju, Muan, Pusan and Seoul, South Korea; Los Angeles; Portland; Seattle; Butte; Madison, WS; Chicago; Wilmette, IL; Saugus; Bedminster; Greenville and Simpsonville, SC; New Orleans; Phoenix; Honolulu; Tokyo.

1988-High Point: The birth of our son, Aram (July 7).

Low Point:  None, actually.

People in the heart:  Aram (from this point on); the Baha’is of Jeju;  Dr. Kim Chung Hak; our students;  our hosts and friends in Taiwan; Penny’s parents (who flew to Korea for Aram’s birth).

Places in the heart:  Jeju; Pusan; Tsaot’un, Chungli, Taich’ung and T’aipei, Taiwan;

1989- High Point:  Bringing Aram to the United States, to meet our family.

Low Point:  Feeling threatened, while visiting Maine.

People in the heart:  Our extended family; our students; the Baha’is of Jeju and Seoul.

            Places in the heart:  Jeju; Anchorage; New York, Bedminster; Saugus; Lynn, MA; Eliot, ME.

So, while visiting Durango, in November, 1980, I had this inkling that I was ready to meet someone special.  It didn’t happen that weekend, nor on my 30th birthday trip to San Diego.  It was on an Anthropology class trip to Zuni, where Penny and I first connected.  Turns out, she also had had a vision, while meditating on a mesa above her residence in Keams Canyon, AZ, where she was teaching at the time.  The message said that she, too, would meet someone.

Our on again, off again, 18-month friendship became a marriage that lasted, physically, for 29 years.  I believe in the eternity of marriage, and though she’s gone from Earth, we still connect, daily.  We had our ups and downs, especially in the early years, but never went to bed angry with one another.

My entry into the Baha’i Faith helped me cast out the demon of alcohol dependency, and put me on a path to dealing with my larger demon, of self-doubt.  Baha’u’llah has opened up many powerful channels within me- at least I feel them.

Aram’s arrival made me be responsible for someone other than the two of us.  Raising him to adulthood was the only big task that God has ever given me.  While I wasn’t the greatest father to have been given the bounty, I gave it a good, solid effort and he is an amazing young man.

We traveled a lot, the two of us, then the three of us, mostly in service to our Faith and to visit family. The Eighties were a decade of primarily air travel, though crowding into a Peugeot, and then a lorry (truck), in Guyana, was quite an adventure.  Our Toyota Tercel got quite a workout, those four years we lived in Tuba City.  It became a young lady’s first car, when we moved to Korea.

Pilgrimage to the Baha’i Holy Sites, in Haifa and Akko, Israel was the seminal defining point of the decade.  Our marriage, and the birth of our son, six years later, were entirely safeguarded by our having begun life together, in this manner.

The Nineties would be a second amazing decade.

 

 

The Road to 65, Mile 305: Gran Fondo

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September 28, 2015, Prescott- One of my outwardly less successful endeavours, over the years, was my principalship at Chilchinbeto Community School, between Chinle and Kayenta, on the Navajo Nation, in northeast Arizona.  It was, in more ways than one, a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

One of the silver linings, in that dark academic year, 1998-99, was the presence of Youth Empowerment Services, and Tom Riggenbach, who was my second-in-command.  YES, led by Tom, has empowered the youth of the Navajo Nation, for nearly twenty years.  Their Chuska Challenge, a bicycle marathon, through some of the Nation’s wildest and most beautiful country, has brought people from the world over into contact with local youth, in a far more up-close manner than is provided by jeep tours through Monument Valley, or the purchase of a rug at Hubbell Trading Post.  The Dineh’s traditional love of running has also been rekindled, through efforts such as this.

Tom refers to the enterprise variously as Tour de Rez and Gran Forno (an Italian term for the type of bicycle marathon, typified by Tour de France.  The Chuska Range is not for the faint of heart, and Tom has never been in that category.  We didn’t always see eye-to-eye, in the tumultuous aforementioned year, but I always commanded his respect, and he, mine.  He has given a tremendous amount of his energy and drive to the betterment of thousands of Native American youth, and so it continues.

To the extent that I was able to encourage YES, and see the program expand throughout the Four Corners region, my time in Chilchinbeto was not misspent. I look forward to seeing many more years of Gran Forno in the Chuska.