And It Was….

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December 31, 2019-

It was a time of loss.

The decade took Penny, my wife of twenty-eight years and nine months, both her parents Norm and Ruth (“Bunny”), two of her aunts Averala and Helen (“Honey”), two of  her cousins, Tom and Jean, and a cousin-in-law, Richard.

It took my maternal uncles, Carl and James,  Carl’s two children-Keith and Carla, and our cousins Ronnie and Lorraine.

It did not spare my father’s side of the family, either, taking Uncle George, Aunt Adeline (“Sissy”) and her son Bob.

It brought several others to the Life Beyond, friends all:  Christie Serino, Drew Crotty, Larry Silipigni, Alan and Rick Belyea, from my hometown of Saugus, MA;  Alison Sipes, from Indiana; Mildred “Mildoo” Forney, who, along with her daughter, made my visits to Oley, PA an annual pleasure; my American Legion comrades Bob Wittmann, Dennis Young, John Mortimer, Sue Chambers, Al Tercero-among several;  a host of Baha’i  fellows- Ali and Violette Nakhjavani, Nancy Coker, John Cook, Firuz Khazemzadeh, Avid Navidi, Dick Sloman, Moses Nakai, Russ Garcia, Chester Kahn, Roy Dewa, Tom Smith, Keith John Manybeads.

 It was a time of change.

It saw me get out of town, leaving Phoenix, after ten years.  Prescott, once more, became Home Base.

It saw our son, Aram, follow in the footsteps of many of his forebears, on both sides of the family and enter the service of his country, serving in the United States Navy, for nine years.

It saw him enter into matrimony.  Having returned to Korea, the land of his birth, as part of his service, Aram met and married Yunhee, a superlative addition to our family.

It saw us honour two of my nieces, who preceded him down the aisle, also bringing spouses who add luster to the Boivin brood.

It was a time of growth.

It brought in fourteen new members of my Grandniece/nephew Club and some new additions to my Greater Tribe.

There were a couple of good years, working full time, at Prescott High School, and several others spent substitute teaching.

The decade brought me the joy of giving back- with the American Red Cross, Slow Food, school garden projects, and the Farmers’ Market, as well as American Legion Post 6 and the Baha’i community.  It has brought me many new friends, members of my Tribe, who consistently make this life a thing of beauty.

Then, there were those journeys- annually to see family, on the East Coast, in the South and in the Midwest, which is never “Flyover Country” to me; my first solo visit to Europe, partly on my father-in-law’s behalf and partly because  I wanted to connect with the lands of my ancestors;  I returned to Korea, to  fully embrace my son’s wedding and to recap our life in Jeju; Hawaii welcomed me, in advance of the Tiger Cruise from Honolulu to San Diego, as Aram & crew returned from a Pacific Rim deployment; I fulfilled some of the dreams I shared with Penny, and explored the Pacific Northwest, a bit of British Columbia; southeast Alaska and eastern Canada; California, Nevada, Texas and Colorado were constantly seeing my face-largely to spend time with far-flung members of my Tribe.  Shorter, but no less meaningful, jaunts around Arizona, Utah and New Mexico filled in the blanks.

Now, the sun has risen on a new decade, for much of the world and the year, which once loomed as a pinnacle in my life, has a remaining shelf life of nine hours, here in the Mountain Standard Time Zone.

This decade of joy, sorrow, gain, loss, advances and setbacks will soon give way to another, likely much more of each.  Happy 2020, one and all!

2010-19: How I’ve Changed

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December 30, 2019-

It’s said that nothing in the Universe remains static for long. Even inanimate objects experience molecular change.  Of course, it’s been a while since I’ve been likened to a piece of furniture, and the blessed soul who made that comparison is himself long departed from our midst.

The decade now ending has been, in many ways, the most seismic in my life, since the 1980’s. In that decade, the changes were commensurate with full adulthood:  Finding spiritual footing, courting and marriage, solidifying of a career, loss of a parent, and  my own parenthood.

The changes that have come in the 2010s have been more in keeping with true maturity.  I’m not altogether there yet.  Few of us ever are.  The process has been in fits and starts, and suitably so, as everyone’s late middle age is unique.

So:

Losing a spouse– This was a long haul, and arguably something about which Penny warned me, several times throughout our wedlock..  It was the culmination of a lifelong, hereditary disease, that had come for a reckoning.  It made me responsible for the care of a vulnerable adult, at a time when a burgeoning adult needed us both.  There was always a balance to be struck.  The biggest lesson in this, was that never again could I indulge in the slightest amount of self-pity.  Buus Huus, the imaginary Roman patron of the woebegone, had taken his flight.

Altering my sense of community– I left Phoenix, after ten years, being alternately comforted in my sorrow and admonished about abandoning my duty to the community.  I found the latter ironic, as the West, especially in its urban and suburban contexts, has relied, to a great extent on the safety to be found in maintaining anonymity, in entering and exiting one’s residence, through the garage and inside a vehicle.

Prescott became my community, but it was, and is, more Home Base than castle.  I have dear friends here, who are never far from my mind.  Yet, the closest of them, even my best friend, know and accept that I have concern with people far afield.  Part of this is my Sagittarian being, part is boundless love.

Connecting with people– It’s become far easier for my mildly Asperger’s/autistic self to reach out to those not previously known to me, and to engage in meaningful conversation.  That has made both quotidian life and novel experiences more meaningful.  Largely gone is the concern with rejection.

Shedding long-held shackles– Subconscious  and  self-limiting views onto which I held, about women, people of colour and just about anyone different from me, have fallen away.  I’ve long known that overarching prejudice is wrong and have managed my behaviour accordingly.  In 2014, I was reproached regarding the residual bias, the microprejudices which, in retrospect, were continuing to cause difficulties in life.  Things like subtly expecting less of someone, because of gender, ethnicity or physical status constitute a forest that is hard to see for its trees-until someone comes along and blows the wake-up dog whistle.  Now, it is not possible for me to regard anyone solely on anything other than his or her merits.

Finally, self-acceptance– With all of these other changes comes a view of myself as fully worthy of taking my place in society.  There are few people, in Prescott and elsewhere, who choose to show me disrespect, and I know to disengage myself from such people, unless and until they change their attitudes.  Fall, 2018 was a litmus test of that practice, and was the first time, in many years,  that I totally blocked someone from my life.  The roof didn’t cave and life has proceeded just fine.

The changes that accompanied this decade are sure to have import for the years to come.  It’ll be fascinating to live.

The 2018 Road, Day 34: The Door Never Closes

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June 28, 2018, Salisbury, NC-

I first encountered W, in 2002, when he arrived in Phoenix, from his native Liberia.  At that time, he was recovering from a severe injury and was one of thousands of refugees from his then-war torn homeland.  He had been a journalist, writing for Monrovia’s daily newspaper, when his injuries occurred.

Like more than a few Africans living in Phoenix, he became a trusted friend and we have maintained a correspondence, ever since.  He has left Arizona and is now comfortably settled in a simple home, in this pleasant city of the Piedmont.  Salisbury is about an hour northeast of Charlotte, and seems to not have, as yet, become saddled with major urban sprawl.

I woke to a calm morning, in Timmonsville, about two hours further southeast of here.  As I suspected, there is an unnamed breakfast and lunch counter, inside the Mobil Station.  I walked across the street and discovered The Hot Plate- more than the microwave stand I had suspected would be there.  Instead, an effusive man of about 35 and a shy girl, who seemed to be about 15, were behind a full-service breakfast & lunch counter.  The man took my order and both set to work, he on the sausage and the girl on the eggs and pancakes.  She brought a fabulous breakfast plate to my small table, in eight minutes’ time.  Several other people- mostly customers, plus two women who seemed to have some role in running the show, came in and out during my leisurely breakfast.   After paying my bill, and giving the bemused girl a healthy tip, I reflected that places like The Hot Plate are what keep small-town America connected with the open road.  I would go in there again, were I to find myself in Timmonsville-or, as this sign would have it, in

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I headed, in earnest, towards Salisbury, and arrived at W’s place in a couple of hours.  There, a comfortable bed for the night, and a steaming pot of Liberian pork stew, with heaping portions of rice, awaited.  African hospitality is second to none-even in the simplest of homes.

On the way there, I picked up a few more gift items, as a few families in the small town of Mc Bee, SC were holding a fund-raiser and the bake sale was too good to pass up.  Mc Bee is also notable for this:

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Salisbury has several solid Federal period and Beaux  Arts era architectural gems.  I stopped to note  a few of these, whilst driving towards W’s apartment.

Perhaps most prominent, from the east, is the Bell Tower of First Presbyterian Church.

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Driving westward, St. John’s Lutheran Church becomes equally impressive.

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In Salisbury’s Veteran’s Cemetery, this memorial to World War II dead is at the western gate to the grounds.

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This is the old Sacred Heart Roman Catholic Church, west of the cemetery.

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I found a most happy W, waiting outside his apartment complex.  It’s been a while since he had any visitors from out of town.

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Here is a view of the park, down the street from his complex.

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After my hearty lunch of stew and rice, W and I walked to a Walgreen’s where I could get a spare dental care kit, as mine was possibly lost. I also got a spare razor and blades, while W talked of his joyful walks along Salisbury’s main commercial street.  He keeps away from the Confederate Memorial that greets the traveler coming in from the East.  Otherwise, he has walked all over the town, making friends as he goes.

I found, however, that there was little evidence of racial tension here, as W’s  White cross street neighbours were quite cordial, and there was plenty of friendly interaction during my own downtown visit.

Rowan County Courthouse is an impressive Federal Era structure.  This block celebrates George Washington’s visit here, following the American Revolution.

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The same detail has kept the County Administration Building in good repair, for over 150 years.

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Away from downtown, the west and south sides feature several older gems.  Below, is Chambers House, from the Revolutionary Period.

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Here is another view of the Bell Tower, as it is near Chambers House.

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This tiny salt box house was the Henderson Law Office, built in 1796.

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I spent a few moments checking out a south side block, from whence there is another fine view of the Bell Tower.

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Here is a three-part look at the south side’s finest mural, entitled “Crossroads-Past Into Present”.  It shows Salisbury life, circa 1900 and was completed in 2001.  The artists are Cynvia Rankin, Earle Kluttz and Raines Thompson.  Ms. Rankin was the primary artist on this project, commissioned by  Rowan Art Guild.

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W and I spent a great deal of time just talking of life in Arizona, as compared to North Carolina.  The latter is certainly a less frenetic and cheaper place to live, by and large.  He also told me much about Liberia, and his journalistic experience during the country’s Civil War.  We watched a lengthy Baha’i video, as well.  Our conversation tended to be more far ranging than those we’ve had over the phone. W speaks at a fast clip, so line of sight works better for me, in understanding him.

It has been another relaxing day, though, knowing I am in a place of friendship.

NEXT:  Across the Great Smokies, to Crossville

 

And So On

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April 1, 2018, Prescott- 

Happy Easter, and Passover, one and all.  I have spent much of today, fighting with my WP feed, trying to go back to those posts I missed, last flipping weekend and onward.  I have hit upon keeping one window open for my Reader- and one for this side of my site.

This laptop will need to go in for repair soon. To do that, I will finally re-open my account with Geek Squad, the Best Buy Technical Support arm.  This will do one of two things:  Either my 7-year-old laptop will continue to support my photo posts, or it will need to be replaced.  Either way, it’ll be a week before I post any photos on these pieces, as Windows File Explorer is constantly in buffering mode, which tells me my old friend is very sick.

I haven’t done much today, but then again, yesterday found me in Phoenix, walking with three other people around a neighbourhood called Sunnyslope, which is an important place in the annals of Penny’s and my last ten years together.  I am glad to have helped install 13 smoke detectors, in 7 of the 25 houses we visited.  6 went in one house, alone. The most important were those placed in the bedrooms of youths.

Visiting a friend in Superior, and finding her working alone, on a Saturday afternoon, was bothersome.  I stayed long enough to enjoy a nice lunch and to help her just a bit, with tidying up and offering moral support.  This person is going through something similar to what I endured, with a spouse suffering debilitation.  I hope her co-workers will get a grip and start pitching in more.

Today, though, I am thinking of someone,  very far away, whom I have never met face to face.  Something about her, though, has drawn me in.  Like anything else of this nature, we’ll see.

I watched a short video about the Sumerians.  It challenges conventional wisdom about our origins as a species.  I have one question, though:  If there are some beings that are responsible for our intelligence, and they “civilized” us, then left, why aren’t they back?  Perhaps, they know better.  I think I will stick with my God, and the God of us all.

My Memorial Day to Independence Day travel schedule is mapped out- Nevada, Colorado, eastward through Kansas, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ontario, Montreal, New England, Pennsylvania, down the Delmarva, Hampton Roads, across Virginia, the Carolinas and Tennessee, before an I-40 zip, back to Home Base and Prescott’s fireworks.  Most of this route is to see friends and family-some of whom I have not seen in a very long time.  Good Sam Parks and hostels will be well-researched and penciled in, beforehand.  There will be a birthday party or two, a family wedding and a Xanga/Facebook gathering.  If this sounds like a lot, it’s because it is.

In the meantime, we have a month of standardized testing at our high school, which means unusual schedules.  Then, there is Graduation Month.  In both April and May, I will also be occupied with Baha’i activities, to boot.  I would not miss any of this, or rush through it, for all the world.

Longest, Hottest

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June 21, 2017, Prescott-

I tend to disregard the temperature, to an extent..

When we lived in Phoenix, I did what I needed to do,

indoors or out, even in summer.

It just was done in smaller increments.

Today, the solstice, was the longest day,

north of the Equator,

and the shortest day, to its south.

What was necessary, here, got done.

Stepping Stones has more cards,

stationery, an egg beater

and a couple of old, professional-type books.

Days for Girls has several more covers

for the washable products they offer

to disadvantaged girls and women.

I have more space,

in the dining area closet,

in the tall kitchen cupboards

and atop the refrigerator.

Solstice is also a time of accounting.

We friends talked, first of what is pure

and later, of what is really sweet,

in terms of deeds,

as opposed to silver-tongued promises.

Solstice is a time for gathering.

So, the neighbours are outside,

enjoying the coolness.

Solstice is a time for reflecting,

so, after a hearty day,

I am thinking,

how fortunate I am,

to have friends in

just about every community

I’ve ever visited.

Wakefulness

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May 5, 2017Prescott-

I  am freshly returned from a visitation for one of Prescott’s genuine champions.The concept of waking, a seemingly odd term for remembering a departed soul, prior to burial or often, in these days, cremation, is perhaps in hopes that death is not a real thing.

I don’t know if that’s accurate or not, but the life of Jayme Salazar (he pronounced his name alternately in English and in Spanish), came back before those listening to the eulogies.His childhood and adolescent antics, presented by his older sister, were reassuring to all, that a full life proceeded from that awkward time.  A lifelong friend of his recounted the man’s intense work ethic, combined with a genuine love of people, which established his Taco Don’s Restaurant as one of the city’s premier lunch venues, and a true gathering place.

He came came here from California, by way of Las Vegas, as so many of us have come here from farther afield.  Jayme found that the mountains, lakes, dells and grasslands of the area, but above all, the earthiness of the people, were a capturing force.  That he gave his life here, in the shadow of Granite Mountain, was the ultimate giving back.

Some six years ago, I saw my beloved wife go homeward, to the Light, in a more prolonged way, but not dissimilar period of service to the children and general citizenry of a western suburb of Phoenix.  Any home in which we ever lived together was open to countless people.  Any school in which she ever worked was the center of our married life, with work and love likewise moving in tandem.

So, I understood, fully, standing in the anteroom of the funeral home, this evening, that priceless spirit, that brings casual customers and acquaintances of a loving soul to a sense that here moved a lifelong friend; here lived a steadfast pillar.

To each one to whom I’ve bid farewell, these many years, let me close with the voice of Enya.

Jayme, Penny, Norm, Dad, Brian, Colonel Mortimer, Uncle George, Aunt Adeline, Margaret, Mike C. and so many standing beside you, in the Legions of Light, thank you, for having lit my way and for lighting the night.

Sea of Trees

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January 30, 2017, Prescott-

Saturday evening, after my hike, I headed for a friend’s house, in Phoenix, where I spent the night.  I had experienced a fair amount of spiritual resonance, whilst on the trail, particularly in the alluvial stone deposits, just north of the New River. As I’m reading “The Standing Stones Speak”, which some of my more jaded friends regard as New Age hokum, I found a bit of a connection, through my meditation, between the book and the spiritual climate.

It was not a coincidence, in my view, that “The Sea of Trees”, a 2015 film that was slammed by hipster critics, was my friend’s Netflix choice for viewing, that evening.  Like the central character in the film, I was caretaker for a deathly-ill spouse.  The wife in the film was not ill for very long, though, and ended up being killed by a distracted driver, while riding in an ambulance (the one plot twist I had a hard time accepting, as I have never seen anyone T-bone an emergency vehicle, especially at a high rate of speed).

The protagonist and his wife struggled, at times, just as many couples do, when differences of life energy become personalized.  Penny and I worked through our issues, and ended strong.

When the protagonist chose to travel to a forest, east of Japan’s Mount Fuji, with the intent of committing suicide, he encountered another suicidal man, who was struggling to get out of the forest, as he had changed his mind.  Through trying to help the other man, he realizes his own suicidal impulses were not all that deep.  It turns out that his late wife’s spirit was working, through the presence of the other man, to help the protagonist work through his grief.

Again, this was no coincidence that we viewed this particular film.  I reflected that there have been so many times, in which Penny’s spirit has helped me, through one difficulty or another. This, it is apparent, is what loving spirits do for those they leave behind, here in the physical realm. Indeed, are there really any coincidences, at all?

Weather-wise

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January 18, 2017, Prescott-

Three storms are said to be headed our way.

The eternal optimist at the Arizona Republic calls for heavy rain,

all three days.

Locals in the know,

say there’ll be tons of snow.

Taking one day at a time,

all I’m sayin’

is, I am, as usual,

going to move nice and slow.

(This weekend was to be full, with a quick trip to Phoenix, on Friday night, to join a peace vigil.  Then, I was going to Camp Verde, on Saturday morning, to help install smoke detectors.  Sunday was to be devoted to Baha’i study.  Right now, my first event will depend on whether the roads are not too slick.  The second has been postponed.  The third is still a definite go, but that could change, if the storm lags.)

Hope all in the northwest, Midwest and southeast are getting back to normal.

Ghost Ship

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December 4, 2016, Prescott- It was terrifying to contemplate:  Dozens of people, in a warehouse-turned-party-place, whose only possible escape from an electrical fire was a makeshift stairway, fabricated from stacked pallets.  33 of them died, and having had a good friend burn to death, forty years ago, I shudder at what must have gone through their minds.

The “Ghost Ship” warehouse, in Oakland, is just the tip of the iceberg, when it comes to dilapidated and unsafe buildings, around the country and around the globe, being used for commercial, social and even residential purposes.  Earthquakes periodically remind us of the need to upgrade our building codes and increase enforcement of them.  Fires- Providence, Philadelphia, New York’s Garment District, Boston’s Coconut Grove and Dhaka come to mind most readily- tend to do so, far more intimately.

Another factor, in building-related injuries and deaths, reckless driving, also came to the fore, on Friday night, in Phoenix.  Nine patrons and four employees of a Persian restaurant were put in harm’s way, when a seemingly impaired, and rather hostile, driver plowed his BMW into the establishment, not stopping his vehicle until almost at the back wall.  He then got out of the car, and calmly took a seat, not even bothering to even look at the people he nearly killed.  Fortunately, he was otherwise unarmed and the police were quick to respond.

Somehow, some way, the notion that all lives matter needs to be taken far more seriously.  Lax fire codes, and devaluing the lives of those one regards as “those others”, will otherwise claim far more human victims.

Getting Around

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October 27, 2016, Prescott-

A brief update:  My landlord is in town, for a few days of repairs to our quadplex and grounds-keeping. He is considering allowing me more responsibility in the quad.  I plan to keep our backyard looking better, with his blessing.  A terraced garden has been my dream, for many years, and I hope to finally get it done.

Our team at school is upgrading the day-to-day curriculum, finally.  I am building a word wall and will post multiplication and division tables, over the next several school days.  Halloween is a half day for the students, and a few hours of planning work for us.  So, I will hopefully get a lot done, in the above regards, on Monday afternoon.

I will head down to Phoenix on Saturday, attend a morning meeting, get in some hiking and attend a Halloween party at the home of some friends, in midtown.  Sunday will be another day for hiking in the Table Mesa area, this time starting earlier in the morning.

Next week, I will begin to collate my poems and short essays, for the book which I want to put forth, in January.

That’s it for tonight.