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.

Back Along A Golden Road

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July 17-18, 2019-

It had been three years, since I was last in Colorado. In the words of a waitress at one of my favoured spots, Del’s Diner, in Fort Garland, “That’s just too long!”  Del’s had been a bit of a dive, but had remodeled and was doing just fine.  The food was every bit as good as I remember.

U.S. 160 is one of those roads that make me feel at home, regardless of where I am, along its passage.  The same thing is true of Old 66; Highway 1, along the Pacific Coast; U. S. 30, through the Midwest,; and MOST of U.S. 1.

So, I took the road, from Ulysses, Kansas to its western terminus, in Tuba City, AZ.  A side hop was necessary, for me to take in Sand Creek National Monument.  From La Junta, though, I zipped down to Trinidad, then back up I-25 to Walsenburg, from which I could re-visit my favourite part of 160:  Colorado’s southern tier.  Thus came dinner at Del’s and a long search for a place to stay that wouldn’t mean my budget would need a budget.  Colorado seems to be even more popular than usual, this summer.  That does my heart good.

The Spanish Peaks are a fine greeter, just east of Walsenburg.

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The San Juan Mountains, between Del Norte and Pagosa Springs, are a reminder that snow regards the Rocky Mountain State as its summer home. (I’ve been in Colorado, at some point, each month of the year, and seen it snow, each and every month.)

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I stopped briefly in South Park, just west of the formidable Wolf Creek Pass, and found a Cal King was the only bed available.  Since I’m not part of a package deal, up and over the Pass I went.  Going through the pricey resorts of Pagosa Springs and Durango, the night drive came to an end at Mesa Verde Motel, Mancos.  There, I was generously offered a room at discount.  It is a “dog room”, the owners being pet lovers, but there was no sign of dog hair anywhere in the room.  Mesa Verde’s owners are just gentle, laid back people, and I  recommend the place for anyone finding themselves tired and on the west side of heaven.

The home stretch began with a stop at Mc Elmo Creek Flume, an irrigation channel, built in 1921.

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Seeking to stretch my legs a bit, before lunch, I walked around the City Park, in downtown Cortez.  A laid-back Ute gent, seeking to impress some ladies in his company, started to mock me, while I was walking up the hill. When that had no effect, he asked if i were a veteran. “Yes, I am, and you? ” “You know it, Bro….. Devil Dogs!”  He had the tattoo of a Marine, and though I recall the name being used specifically for those in the Corps, who fought at Belleau Wood, during World War I, I gave him a pass on that.  Everyone deserves a semblance of dignity and respect.

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Lunch time was here.  I sadly noted that my go-to place, Jack and Janelle’s, had gone belly up.  A walk downtown showed that there was someplace fairly new:  The Farm Bistro.  I gave it a shot, and am glad of it.  Alex and crew are spot-on, with great cuisine and set a spunky, welcoming ambiance.  Each party selects a plastic animal for its table, as a cue to the server.

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My visit to Cortez came to a close, and shortly, thereafter, I was back in Arizona.  Along the drive down the Navajo Nation, I noted that two once grocery-deprived communities, Red Mesa and Dennehotso, now have local markets.  One place that has nothing is Baby Rocks, yet this little village, east of Kayenta, could easily be the next big outdoors thing.

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This little wonderland is close enough to tourist-mecca Monument Valley, that a Dineh entrepreneur could easily remove the “Best Kept Secret” label from Baby Rocks.

Going onward, for four more hours, I brought this phase of Summer, 2019, to a peaceful conclusion.  Carson City, and my  Nevada extended family, await next week, after a few days of meetings here at Home Base.  My eyes and heart are always open, to what counts most in life:  Love of humanity.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Tasks

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January 19, 2019-

Many people make resolutions, the first thing, when the calendar rolls over.  I don’t indulge in that particular practice, knowing that making firm commitments to new practices takes time.

There are nine task areas, labours of love, that have defined my life, since the passing of  Penny, nearly eight years ago.  I will focus today on what these mean, relative to 2019.

1.  Family- With Aram and Yoonhee based in Busan, for at  least the rest of this year, my focuses are: To be in Korea for their sacred wedding ceremony, in March; to tend to such of their needs as can only be addressed on this side of the Pacific; to meet them in the U.S., should they visit here in the summer.

2.  Work- I remain committed to working, during the regular academic year, through at least December, 2020 and no later than May. 2021, depending on the needs of the school, preferably in the High School Autism Program.  Thus, work is a major daily focus through the fourth week of May and from August-December.

3. Faith- No day has gone by, since February 23, 1981, that I have not begun my morning in devotions and a fairly long recitation of prayer.  Service to Baha’u’llah remains  a prime expression of my inner joy and love for humanity.  This year marks the Bicentenary of the Birth of al-Bab (The Gate), Who we revere as both Baha’u’llah’s Herald and His Twin Messenger of God, as al-Bab’s spiritual Dispensation took place from 1844-1853, immediately before the beginning of Baha’u’llah’s.   Their birthdays also fall on two consecutive days, on the lunar calendar.  This year, these are October 29-30, with al-Bab’s  anniversary occurring first. (Historically, Baha’u’llah was born in 1817 and al-Bab, in 1819).  There are also regular Spiritual Feasts and other Holy Days, throughout the year and I  am participating in regular study groups and other activities.

4.  Community Life-  I take part in volunteering on community projects, with the American Red Cross and Slow Food Prescott.  The focuses are on disaster response, home safety, school gardens and,  new this year, food recovery.  These activities largely define my giving back to Prescott and Yavapai County, for having been a large part of my solace, in the Fall of 2011.  The American Legion’s Post 6 celebrates its 100th anniversary, in May, and I will have a part to play in that celebration.

5. Writing- Blogging and journaling have also been critical to my inner healing, even in the midst of my caretaking, in 2008-11.   They remain an integral part of who I am, and so Word Press, with its being extended to Facebook and Linked In, remains my primary means of self-expression, through this year and beyond.  I also maintain a pen and ink private journal.

6, Hiking-  This has been a huge lifelong pastime, pretty much since I was old enough to walk.  Since I’ve been old enough to take off on my own, without getting into trouble, many trails and paths, from my native Massachusetts to the desert Southwest, Colorado, southeast Alaska, Korea and northwestern Europe have seen my bootprints.  This year, my focuses will be on further segments of the Maricopa Trail, at least two visits to the Grand Canyon, more beach walks in southern California, Fall hikes in Utah and the Navajo Nation, and several walks with Aram and Yoonhee, whilst in Korea.

7. Travel-  This has also long been one of my passions, often dovetailing with hiking.  The Korea trip will take me to Gwangju and Jeju, as well as Busan.  Prior to that, will be a Presidents’ Day weekend visit to southern California, hopefully connecting with friends in Orange County and the San Diego area-with La Jolla, Dana Point, San Clemente and possibly Crystal Cove being on the itinerary.

June and July largely hinge on my little family’s schedule.  Carson City, in late May, is a given, with a new extended family member having been born, this past week.  A 1-2 week visit to the Northwest, Vancouver Island/Sunshine Coast and southeast Alaska is likely-as is the now customary jaunt through the Midwest to New England and back through the mid-South.

October (Fall Break) will find me in Monument Valley and southeast Utah- returning to Capitol Reef and Natural Bridges, as well as the Goosenecks of the San Juan River.  Christmas, God-willing, will see a return to Massachusetts.

8. Diet and Exercise- Planet Fitness and our daily Adaptive Physical Education regimen have largely provided my continuity as a healthy physical specimen.  Stretches at home have also proven critical, as I recovered from a posterior knee strain, over the past ten weeks.  Things are 99% back to normal and I want to keep it that way- up to, and maintaining, 100%.  I am cutting back on coffee consumption, not out of any pressure, but because my body tells me that’s what it wants.  Less red meat is also finding its way onto my plate-and what there is, is certified grass-fed and organic.  A greater percentage of my diet being of vegetables, fruits and whole grains is on tap for this year, as well.  Yes, I will drink more water-that’s not an empty statement. Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils, including Lifelong Vitality Supplements, are a continual source of sustenance.

9. Study-  My mind is always looking to keep current with advances in health, trends in positive thought and expanding my awareness of subjects in which I have scant knowledge- as well as continual study of Baha’i texts and new correspondence. This will continue, as 2019 progresses.

This is a longer post than usual, but there you have my year’s plan.

 

 

 

Gratitude Week, Day 7: The Finest Fruits

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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.

Rising

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March 26, 2018, Prescott-

I attended a gathering, yesterday, at the Native American Baha’i Institute, which is 4 1/2 hours’ drive from here.  The occasion was an intensive flute making and playing workshop, by a long-time flautist, who is a friend.  Kevin visited our home, years ago, when Penny, Aram and I lived on the Navajo Nation.  His work is always worth supporting.

I will have more to say about the flute, and about the event, in my next post.  Today, though, a brief word is in order about the rising of those who have been subservient.

In the mid-1990’s, my mother-in–law would insist on the Victorian dictum, regarding children maintaining silence.  She would later come to regret that stance, but at the time, it was her way of keeping our son and his girl cousin in check. I disagreed, vehemently then, and do now. Children should be seen, heard, believed- and properly educated and guided.

Women have largely been relegated to a subservient role, over the centuries- across the globe.  Thankfully, this nonsense started to unravel, as far back as 1965, though people like my mother have never been content to have their voices go unheard.  The presence of so many strong women in my life has made such a state of affairs seem totally absurd to me, forever and a day.

When I was a senior in high school, one of the seminal events was the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., fifty years ago, next week.  In my social studies and English classes, I would raise the issue of civil rights, to a largely deaf audience.  My school, at that time, had five African-American students.  I knew two of them, brothers, who were kept at home, the day after the senseless murder.  There were hoots and hollers, expressions of satisfaction, by young men who have long since overcome their prejudice, born, as all prejudices are, by ignorance and fear.  There were tears shed by more enlightened young women, who dared to date young Black men, from the next town over.  My hometown is a more open-minded place, nowadays, and people are increasingly, though not completely, expanding their circles of friends.

There is a new world, a better place, rising from various ash heaps.

If

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November 14, 2017, Prescott-

If I am chosen to serve as a co-ordinator for international students,

I would work to make their time here a cornerstone of the rest of their lives.

If my son safely completes his time in service,

I know he will make a huge mark in the world,

in the time afterward.

If it be God’s Will, I shall not be moved aside

from generous acts of service,

both here and far afield.

If there be a clear sense of reality,

the good people of the world

will find a way,

to end imbalance,

for Puerto Rico,

Kurdistan,

Rakhine Province,

Sri Lanka,

Syria,

South Sudan,

Rockport- Port Aransas,

central Appalachia,

the Navajo Nation,

Uyuni,

Haiti,

Chicago.

If  justice prevails,

those being marginalized

will see solutions,

that honour their

creativity,

their intelligence,

their dignity.

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.