Things I’ve Learned


December 31, 2022– As another Gregorian calendar year heads to the history books and memory n, what is most important, for an individual, are the lessons brought forward over the twelve months now past.

So, here are twelve things I’ve learned, some cogent, others banal-but all useful.

January- The border between the United States and Mexico is neither as chaotic as politicians away the border claim it is nor as smoothly functioning as it might be. I saw many content, focused people at the station in Douglas, AZ and no evidence of hordes of people sneaking through, at Coronado National Monument, a rural station, south of Sierra Vista.

February- Human beings, regardless of how they come to identify themselves, deserve the respect of those around them-and a keen listening ear. Losing someone who has not been completely understood by some of those around her was both unsettling and cautionary. Rest in Peace, Salem Hand.

March- Most of Man’s inhumanity to Man stems from insecurity. Andersonville showed the historical proof of that, both through its physical remnants and through the exhibits on Prisoners-of-War, both within this country and around the world. A more benign case occurred, in Miami Beach, stemming from a middle-aged man, having designs upon much younger women and threatening violence when I cautioned them about one aspect of his proposal.

April- There is no foolproof means of transport. Taking a train, when the route is secure, is a marvelous way to both see the countryside and to make good friends. The system is not without flaws, though, and a fire at a remote bridge resulted in my taking a Greyhound bus, between San Antonio and Tucson.

May- It is never too late in life for people to connect. An odd proposition was made to me, by someone much younger-and was quickly, if politely, deferred. On the other hand, two people who had been alone for several years, found each other and had a lovely garden wedding, making for several years of a solid bond.

June- There are still places where even brief inattention to surroundings can lead to discomfort, even momentarily. I found one briefly “wet” situation, checking out the depth of a bog. Fortunately, it was an “oops” moment, and caused no difficulty to me or anyone else.

July- You can go home again, but family is often going to be swamped with schedules, plans made at the last minute by spouses and friends, or just the crush of dealing with one of the greatest of American holidays.

August- No matter how well a car is maintained, the aftermath of a chain-reaction accident can lead to a total loss being declared, even 1.5 months after it occurs. So it was, for the vehicle that took me across seemingly ridiculous distances, with nary a squeak. Another person’s health issues led to Saturn Vue’s demise.

September- Not all Baha’i school events need include a heavy dose of scholarly presentations. Just being with children and youth, in crafting, dancing and fellowship, is as much a tonic for the soul as any engagement with intellectuals.

October- New friends, made in the wake of a bureaucratic flub, and clear across the continent, to boot, are as fine a result of a mistake as I can imagine. Three Bears Inn will be a place where I could definitely stay for several days, especially en route to the great mountain parks of the northern Rockies. It is all the sweeter when followed by a visit with dearly beloved friends, themselves so much like family.

November- Speaking of family, it is never necessary for my biological family to expend energy on my entertainment. They do so anyway, but just reveling in their presence and celebrating their achievements, is the finest way to spend any time-especially a holiday.

December- As an Old Guard increasingly passes from the scene, among my cohort of veterans, younger people are arising, in service to those who served our nation. I am also re-learning the rewards of patience, with those around me, as we all face increasing uncertainty. They need me, as much as I need them. I also need to be patient with myself.

Red Sky at Morning…..


March 18, 2022, Newnan, GA- The scene this morning, over Lake Redwine was beautiful, if a bit ominous.

My brother, Dave, and I headed out early towards Andersonville, the site of the largest Confederate prisoner-of-war camp (1864-65) and of the modern National Prisoner-of-War Museum. We drove down, past the central Georgia cities of Columbus and Macon, through the smaller communities of Buena Vista and Ellaville, getting gas at the former. Once we got to the village of Andersonville, a kind lady gave us directions to the park itself.

We found ourselves blessed with cloudy, but not rainy, skies for most of the time we were in the outdoor Prison Site. Andersonville was established when smaller prisoner-of-war camps in Virginia and Alabama became overcrowded. Union soldiers, suspected spies and captured free Blacks were housed here, under increasingly fraught conditions. The facility was originally intended to house a maximum of 10,000 prisoners; at war’s end, 32,000 were incarcerated there. It was minimally-funded, and at various times during the Civil War’s late phase, prisoners were either housed in tents or were told to fashion their own accommodations, from whatever materials they could find.

Monuments exist, in honour of captured soldiers from several states. Here is the memorial to Wisconsin’s captives.

The North Gate of the tightly-built stockade, in which newly-arrived prisoners were oriented to the prison camp, has been restored.

The facility’s main water source was Stockade Branch, a low-flowing, fetid creek. Dysentery and vermin were rife, and 13,000 people died at the camp, in only 14 months. Food supplies were meager. One miraculous event relieved the misery, somewhat. In August, 1864, a sudden downpour, accompanied by a lightning strike, resulted in a spring being opened. Grateful prisoners dubbed this water source Providence Spring.

The camp’s commandant, Captain Henry Wirz, was a Swiss immigrant who had settled in Virginia and was sympathetic to the Confederate cause. He was alternately regarded as a fair-minded man, in over his head and an uncompromising brute. Wirz was singled out, after the war, tried for war crimes and executed by a tribunal.

Andersonville has a sizable National Military Cemetery, still in use for contemporary veterans’ burials. A freed prisoner, Dorence Atwater, worked with Clara Barton after the war, to identify those buried at the cemetery, from prison records, which Atwater himself copied and smuggled out of the facility, upon his release at war’s end.

The Prisoner-of-War Museum honours all American Prisoners-of-War, from the Revoutionary War through the Afghanistan Conflict. Exhibitions also contain information about Confederate soldiers held at Elmira, New York-a facility which was no better than Andersonville; Axis soldiers held at camps in the United States, during World War II and British prisoners of war held both during the War for Independence and the War of 1812. A display on Native Americans from the various “Indian Wars”, is included in the museum, as well.

There are spoken presentations by the late John McCain and Admiral James Stockdale, mirroring the overall message: “War is hell!”.

May the departed prisoners rest in peace, and may we soon learn the meaning of universal brotherhood.

Mother Miguel Mountain


January 3, 2017, Chula Vista-   Whenever I look out the window, from my son’s apartment, the curious sight of Mount San Miguel, in the Otay Range, looms to the southeast. I took advantage of Aram’s being back to work, got up before dawn, and headed over to Mount San Miguel Park, on Chula Vista’s east side.  There was a short wait, of about twenty minutes, as the city park opens at 6 A.M., with decent light about 6:30.

My choice of trails led up Mother Miguel Mountain, to a military commemorative, called Rock House.  Two explanations are in order:  “Mother Miguel” is a mash-up of Madre Grande, which some early settlers from the eastern U.S. took to pronouncing “Mother Grundy”, and San Miguel, the name given to the area by earlier Spanish ranchers;  Rock House is the name given to a rock arrangement which houses two, rather tattered, flags-our national flag and the banner honouring Prisoners-of-War and those Missing-in-Action.  The latter is to be flown, or displayed at meetings of veterans’ service organizations, until the day comes when all such persons, or their identified remains, are honourably interred or cremated on U.S. soil.

My leisurely up and back lasted about three hours, over a round trip of 6.2 miles.  The photos, taken with my phone camera, are not as clear as those taken with the digital, but you will get the idea.20170103_0651391

Here is the trailhead for Mother Miguel, from the east end of Mt. San Miguel Park.20170103_0701591

Above, is a view of the destination, for which I used a series of 22 non-taxing switchbacks.


Occasional limestone boulder piles provide a place to sit and contemplate, along the way.


Others just dominate their area,  as does this castle-like outcropping.


Once atop the modest-sized peak, Mexico looms, to the south, with the San Ysidro district of San Diego, in the foreground.


Here is Rock House, with its resident banners.


A second stone arrangement, intended as a circle for contemplation, is found just south of the Rock House.  Sweetwater Reservoir is seen in the distance.


A third, circular, stone arrangement is a bit more to the south, still, and seems to invite a holistic view of the repatriation process.


Off to the east is Mount San Miguel, whose owners SAY they don’t want hikers going to its summit, but do nothing to prevent those few intrepid people,usually military members doing personal training, who make the steep hike up its western slope.

Speaking of which, there were about six others on Mother Miguel Trail, while I was there.  One, a young lady, passed by, as I was taking in the rock arrangements, and went to the southernmost point on the summit.  After she had returned from her moments of solitude, and headed on down the mountain, I went to that point, and found a commemorative bench.


There is, indeed, nothing that replaces a sense of home.  I hope that she felt comforted, and reassured, by this message.

The way down had me thinking, somehow, of just how vital the two youngest generations are, and will continue to be, to the well-being of our nation, and of our planet, as a host of problems, heretofore unfaced, will present themselves, over the next decade or so.  I guess the energy of the young runners and hikers, along with the industrial views of the area to the west and north of the park, set this thought in motion.  Like all previous such times of challenge, humanity will prevail, by working together.  There is no other choice.


The rocks remain, and patiently look upon us.