Elbow Bumps

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May 1, 2021- May Day has traditionally been a day when I have looked back on my year of work, with a view towards successfully summing up what has been achieved and what remains ahead. This year will more or less conclude on May 7, the end of my series of special projects that has followed retirement. There could be other, unanticipated calls between now and May 27, or at different points next Autumn, and beyond. My major focus, though, will by and large be more a more fluid effort at community service.

Today was spent running a duffel bag filled with “Days for Girls” washable and reusable feminine products to a couple who met us in Flagstaff. The woman receiving the items was less than thrilled that I was the one who had driven them up there. Perhaps she was just embarrassed, though we have had a few issues in the past. We got the mission done, and a friend retrieved her truck, which had been used for water delivery on the Navajo Nation. I helped several girls and a long-time friend, which is what matter most. Connecting two equestrian friends was also accomplished, and I got to visit a bit with two wonderful horses.

I still found myself greeting my Dineh friend, in Flagstaff, with an elbow bump. We wore masks, for the benefit of those who remain immuno-compromised. Even if that benefit is merely psychological, it is worth their peace of mind. The residual effects of the virus will be with us for a short while longer in the U.S.-and longer still in countries, like India and Brazil, where it is still raging. While one can look beyond the present status of the pandemic in this and other countries, where it is under control, we must not lose concern for the well-being of the planet as a whole.

Elbow bumps will be a thing, for some time yet to come. We will, however, prevail as a species.

Narrow Passages

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April 11, 2021- This afternoon, one of my friends and I were hiking in a park in Prescott Valley, which is one of Prescott’s sibling communities. We took a trail less trodden and found ourselves, briefly, in a slot canyon. This is a narrow passage, in which it is okay to walk when there is absolutely no precipitation, even remotely in the forecast. Rain and snow can turn even the dustiest creek or river bed into a deathly torrent, for anyone in a slot canyon. We got through the slot canyon and back onto the main trail, with no threat of water overtaking us.

This evening, a group of Baha’is presented an update on conditions on the Navajo Nation, which has had an especially difficult row to hoe, even before the pandemic hit. There is progress being made, in terms of infrastructure (Roads, running water, utilities and technology), but we are talking a decade or two, even with systematic dedication, before the Dineh (Navajo) can emerge from this narrow passage. COVID19 is a torrent that is slowing down their walk, and which has taken too many people downstream.

Indeed, far too many communities are finding themselves in similar slot canyons. We, as a species, and as a planet, are in a collective narrow passage, and vacillate between thinking we can inch our way out of it, by just going on as usual and flailing through the waters of tests and difficulties. There are too many who think this is something that can be negotiated individually-and too many who think that they can just appeal to others to solve the problems.

The fact is, we all are needed to think globally and act locally. Only then will the passage be widened and, with more room to walk ahead, the human race can bring the gifts of each and every soul to bear on the ills that have arisen because of the neglect and misfeasance of the past.

The Big Snow

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January 25, 2021- The heaviest snow we have seen, since 12/24/2018, arrived late last night, and has continued for most of today. It is expected to go on, until about Noon, tomorrow. As I write this, the white stuff is indeed coming down, in robust fashion.

I grew up, in eastern Massachusetts, with snow being a staple of our winter experience, from mid-December to early March. As with many people, I recall snowdrifts being as tall as, or taller than, my ten-and eleven-year-old self.

I recall reading about the Great Blizzard of 1967, when President Johnson sent military food and fodder drops to the Navajo, Ute and Hopi Nations-and the Southwest was blanketed with snow for days. In 1978, I lived in Bangor, Maine and experienced the three-day blizzard, when it was possible, for those so inclined, to cross-country ski in downtown. I also found myself stuck in Skowhegan, Maine, one snowy February night, and blew off the early morning alarm, only to wake to clear blue skies and scrambling to call in “sick” to my workplace, some thirty miles away. In the mid-1980s, setting out in light snow, from the Navajo community of Tuba City, the storm followed three of us, clear to Tucson, with snow even on the streets of downtown Phoenix. In December, 2000, Aram and I were pursued by a snowstorm, from Roanoke, VA to El Paso, as we took a route across the Deep South, with a view towards avoiding winter weather.

Snow can be fickle, but it also can be intense-and so it is, this evening-with accumulation in even lower-elevation areas of Yavapai County. I was to have gone in to two different COVID-relief school assignments, but Mother Nature simply said “Enough!” Instead, I went out, twice, and did some shoveling, as will likely be on the agenda tomorrow. That, too, is something that was a staple of my childhood-and Mom didn’t even need to ask- we just put on our boots and winter garments, and did it.

It is nice, for now, to have a throwback. Prayers, though, go to those who may have lost power, however temporarily, or who had to find shelter, rather quickly.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 64: Breakfast On the Corner and Another Delivery

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August 3, 2020, Winslow

Every so often, even during this pandemic, I find myself leaving Yavapai County, to do what is necessary for the good of the whole. My mask and gloves go with me, of course-along with the EO supplements that are giving me all I need to keep my immune system thriving. Vitamins C & D, along with soap and water, go a long way towards making the virus unwelcome. CDC guidelines do the rest.

Now that that’s out of the way, the purpose of my short journey is to deliver some items to a friend from the Navajo Nation. These are health care items that have been sitting in Prescott Valley, since the service plane was grounded, about a month ago. Surface transport being the only way, I have made this time available.

After gathering up the items, yesterday afternoon, and enjoying a leisurely dinner at Leff-T’s, an old favourite from the early days of my life here in Prescott, there ensued a smooth and uneventful drive up here to Winslow, and Delta Motel, a funky, music-themed establishment, which is my preferred place to stay, when in this corner of the High Desert.

The Sipp Shoppe, Winslow, AZ

Speaking of corners, Standing On The Corner Park has developed into an actual park, and is the nexus of a small, but growing, downtown core. Winslow is coming back. I enjoyed a delectable, lovingly-made Mexican-style crepe, at a lovely new place called Sipp Shoppe, across Old Route 66 from the park. A gentleman was strumming a guitar and singing some satisfying Blues, even at 8 a.m. This is what life is meant to be-celebration and affirmation.

Standing On The Corner Gift Shop. Winslow, AZ
Stage at Standing On The Corner Park, Winslow, AZ

I will make my connection with my Navajo friend at Noon, then head back to Prescott directly, returning to the world of online meetings and a new addition to my health regimen: Wheatgrass juice. More about that, in a coming post.

The Summer of Rising Tides, Day 1: Whose Law, Whose Order?

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June 1, 2020

The summer of 2020 doesn’t begin, astronomically, for anothe rthree weeks. From today until Labor Day, though, I will be entitling posts as part of a series, The Summer of Rising Tides. Coronavirusdisease-2019, and the racially and politically-sparked violence in our nation will be the initial foci of this series, as they are the immediate backdrop.

The situation is, as most are aware, extremely fluid-with fearful people across the political spectrum trying their best to show respect towards the Floyd family and many still making a concerted effort, within the bounds of their own sensibilities, to not spread the novel Coronoavirus.

There are those who view President Trump as the sole bulwark against a feared dictatorship, by a little known philanthropist named George Soros, who is nearly 90 years old and is of questionable mental stability. I personally don’t think Dr. Soros has a chance in H*** of taking charge of the country, or of even functioning as the “power behind the throne” , in a potential Biden Administration. His most powerful days, such as they were, are behind him-fortune or no fortune. Most of the fears people have expressed to me are the result of his occasional pronouncements that he sees himself as “a kind of God”.

Others fear a second Trump administration. The president may have added gasoline to that fire, by stating, “The looting starts, the shooting starts” and “I am your Law and Order President”. A rumour had even made its way out here that there was nationwide curfew, starting at 7 P.M. (EDT). That curfew has been established, but only for the District of Columbia, and it was announced by the Mayor of Washington, not by Mr. Trump.

Here in Arizona, we do have a statewide curfew, for everywhere except the Navajo Nation, which has its own sets of restrictions, themselves stemming from efforts to control COVID-19. The statewide curfew is essentially from 8 P.M.-5 A.M., until Monday, June 8. There are exceptions for those who are working or who are taking care of elderly relatives. The statewide curfew is a response to rioting in the Phoenix area, on Saturday night, into Sunday morning.

I am old enough to know that none of the above-mentioned events will play out as anticipated, or as feared. If Mr. Trump is re-elected, he is most likely going to adhere to our Constitution. If Mr. Biden is elected, Mr. Trump will likely complain, long and loud, will leave office and become an even louder voice of the opposition. As for Dr. Soros, he would be likely imprisoned, if he tried to assert power in this country. His comment, that he could gain power by getting the Black people on his side, because they “are easiest to manipulate”, has already sealed his failure.

This will not, however, be an easy three months. We will need to strive, mightily, to bridge our gaps, recognizing, at long last, that we all bleed the same. Stay tuned, and stay safe.

Keeping Honour

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May 28,2020

I have found that my throat chakra. It’s a feature that had been rather subject to timidity and over-circumspection, especially when it came time to face challenges from more strident individuals, over the years. I find myself talking back more-and with more confidence.

These are times when people are dealing with fear and pain, in some very unsettling ways. Then again, people have dealt with fear and pain in unsettling ways, forever. It just plays out more in real time.

Grand Canyon National Park has re-opened its North Rim to hiking, but not to lodging. I had a pre-COVID plan to hike a trail up there, in honour of my Uncle Jim, who passed away last year. June 3 would have been his 86th birthday. As it happens, I have an obligation here at Home Base, that evening, but June 2 is open. So, I have plans to take my hiking sticks, water, natural sanitizer, mask and gloves-and honour my uncle’s memory.

The reaction to my announcement of this has not been what I expected. I thought friends on the Left would come screaming about contagion. So far, only one mild protest has come from that direction. Most everyone, progressives and conservatives alike, have simply said “Be safe and enjoy!”

The only caveat that I have, for the driving portion of this trip, is to not stop along the way, in the Navajo Nation, unless absolutely necessary-to honour the Nation’s President’s request that outsiders drive through, without stopping.

For what it’s worth, this is the only long trip I have planned for the next several weeks, if not months, and out-of-state, for now, remains out of the question.

Nuance

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May 23, 2020

One of the major pitfalls of viewing life strictly through a digital lens is that three of the five physical senses are left hanging-thus depriving the sixth sense, intuition, of what it needs to be validated. Lack of touch, taste and smell deprives the mind of nuance, which is intuition’s best friend.

So, we have the minor spectacles of the “Karens” and “Nervous Nellies”, on both Right and Left, making and passing judgments about events in places far from their abodes-even places to which they’ve never been, about people whom they’ve never met.

Of course, we’ve probably all done it, at one time or another. I have expressed loud disapproval of cruel acts committed against children and animals, or the depredations of sex traffickers and overzealous abortionists. My only defense is that I have spoken on behalf of innocents.

COVID-19 has brought this phenomenon to a boil. People in small towns and cities, relatively unaffected by the pandemic, in terms of actual infection rates, can make the case for THEIR communities to not adopt the same regimens as large cities-or close-knit rural areas, such as the Navajo Nation or the Amish communities, where large families share living space.

Likewise, those large urban areas and large family groups do well to take stringent measures, in combating infection. They do not need to take, to heart, the objections of people in less densely populated areas, to those measures.

In this time of trial, and of restricted travel, chances are that neither really, deep-down, comprehends what the other is enduring. Rural people feel the bite of a slowed down economy, in ways that that people in larger communities do not- and vice versa. We have each been hit by a different sack of bricks.

People like the Navajo, their neighbours-the Hopi, Zuni, Southern Paiute and Ute, as well as countless other First Nations tribes, the aformentioned Amish, Appalachian Whites and Blacks in the rural South tend to get the worst of both situations-geographic isolation AND no safe harbour from living in close-quarters.

Those in densely-populated cities in the East and Midwest, as well as the major urban areas of the West and South, are enduring real-time catastrophes, in ways that those in the rural Midwest and West can barely comprehend. The converse is also true. Those who feel the fright of dealing with a loss of income, due to a pandemic which has otherwise scarcely affected their communities, are right to voice that fright.

I feel it is time for one and all to take stock of the other’s situation, knowing that we can not have a full-on understanding of that experience. With that knowledge, let us set our emotional reactions to what we see and hear, about far-off events, aside. Take several deep breaths. How long, and to what measure, New York, Los Angeles and the Navajo Nation are in lockdown should not be the target of the objections of people in the Great Plains and non-Indian Mountain West. Neither should the reopening of Arizona, Montana and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan be grist for the anguish of those in communities that are still struggling with COVID-so long as people from reopened areas don’t descend on the war zones, or vice-versa.

Only grasping the nuance of the other person’s experience can bring understanding.

The Hand Up

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May 4, 2020, Flagstaff-

Two vehicles, full of necessaries, pulled into the parking lot of Little America Resort Hotel, in the center of this sprawling forested city.  The drivers, yours truly and a longtime friend, arrived two hours ahead of the designated time for meeting another friend, a member of the Navajo Nation, who was to take the cargo the rest of the way.  We each had our lunch of choice and stretched out, in our respective vehicles, to while the time away until then- he, playing a video game and I, taking a nice long nap.

This was my first time out of Navajo County, since March 13, and my first time out of the Prescott area, since March 22.  Of course, everything is as I remembered it-in terms of greenery, the layout of cities and towns.  Everything is also changed, and as in Prescott, meals are served to go and the picnic table has replaced the patio.  I heard, a few minutes ago, that there is a chance restaurants will open for Mothers Day.  That would mean rush orders and frantic cleaning, as well as convincing workers to come back-and give up their unemployment.  So, it would have to be a genuine restart-not a game of fits and starts.

Anyhow, right at 2 p.m., our Dineh friend and his cohort arrived, and we got all the items transferred, in short order.  The supplies will make many people happy and re-assured. There may be other such deliveries.  God knows I have the time to assist-clear to next Spring.  For now, though, it’s nice to be alive, and useful.  I will stop by and purchase a cold brew coffee from a young friend who owns a shop in Sedona, and then head on back to Home Base.

Growing (Beyond) Pains

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January 24, 2020-

Every community has its pain.  I saw lots in Peach Springs, just as I did so many years ago, in various communities of the Navajo (Dineh) and Hopi Nations-and I know the pain continues, even though life is better, in some parts of the old Home Base.  So, too, there was, and is, pain in Phoenix, in La Paz County and here in Prescott.  I heard of suffering in Seligman, which is en route to any point northwest of here, yesterday, when I stopped for an early dinner.

People have their concerns, their agonies and their setbacks.  What makes the difference in much of this, is the extent to which the suffering souls lay their woes at the feet of others.  I’ve done some of that, and have thankfully learned to put that mindset behind me.  Whine and cheese are not the stuff of social progress.

I have said a bit about what I’d like to see in Peach Springs, though my own skill sets may not do much, immediately, to help that community, on the ground.  Prescott does have a few programs in place, which can help those who are knocked down, in getting themselves upright.  Essentially, though, it falls to each person to determine his/her own course of action.  The Blame Game may be mildly salving, for a day or so, then the confusion sets in, as one sees no progress.

When I last found myself really foundering, I had to set concrete steps for my own recovery.  They involved a mix of travel, social media-journaling, exercise, photography and involvement in the community that I chose as Home Base.  That mix still suits me, and it will long continue.

My hopes for each community that matters in my heart is that strong and good-hearted people will take the lead and show their family, friends and neighbours the way forward.  I want to be there when these communities arise.

My Gratitudes

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November 28, 2019-

A year ago, my shoulder was getting better and my left knee, injured by what seemed to be a psychic attack, as I walked down a short, routine set of stairs, was also well on the mend. The “woo-woo” aside, my health has been fabulous this year.  I am grateful to do Terra essential oils, hemp-based CBD cream, a team of physical therapists, my dental team in Phoenix, Planet Fitness and my chiropractor for helping me maintain that fabulous.

My family has been extraordinarily gracious and generous this year, as always.  Being with Aram, Yunhee and the Shin family, on the occasion of their Baha’i wedding, and the travels around southern South Korea that followed, remains the greatest of blessings.

My Baha’i community and other dear friends, around Prescott, continue to keep me grounded.  Those whose aim was to bring me down also had a role to play. Rearranging my priorities this year, has only made my life richer and more satisfying.

Prescott, and Arizona as a whole, continue to be inspiring, good hosts.  I never tire of the view of Thumb Butte, from my front window or of any of the exquisite scenes that unfold, no matter which direction I go.

My many friends and family, across the United States, and beyond, are ever present and encouraging, even if we rarely, or never, see one another in person.  I am grateful to have spent time with some, from California to Massachusetts and in-between, over the past twelve months.

Being ever expansive in my view of the world, visiting new places and making new friends is always a plus.  I found new perspectives on Albuquerque, Memphis, Charleston, Raleigh, the Eastern Shore and Delaware, West Point, Pittsburgh, Chicago/Wilmette, Kansas City and Los Angeles, over the past twelve months. Youth hostels, Airbnb and the comfort of friends’ and family homes made all the difference.

Time in nature is always huge, in my life.  The Centenary of Grand Canyon National Park saw me visit both North and South Rims.  The Navajo Nation’s Coal Mine Canyon, Canyon de Chelly, Window Rock  and Monument Valley ever warm my heart.  Being in New Mexico’s El Malpais was a comfort, after a case of food poisoning upended my Father’s Day.  There were meanders along the banks of the Mississippi and above the Goosenecks of the San Juan River; focused exploration of  Utah’s Natural Bridges and Hovenweep National Monuments, Lake Powell’s Wahweap area and the urban solace of Los Angeles’ Venice Canals re-affirmed who I am,at my core.

The greatest gratitudes are reserved for what is ongoing:  My mother’s continued presence in our lives, my little family returning to the United States, having three of the finest people as my siblings, my Faith in God being reaffirmed, each day, and my physical, financial and mental health remaining optimal.

Thank you, 2019, for having been, and remaining, a space of strength and comfort.