Light, Out of Calamity

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March 27, 2020-

In some of mankind’s darkest moments,  advances have come from the suffering, like small mammals coming forth after the Age of Dinosaurs.  These advances, in short order, became a part of the fabric of human culture.

After the Great Plague, of the Fourteenth Century, Europeans began to return to embracing science, rather than superstition, in treating illnesses.  The primacy of Cardinals and Bishops began to face widespread scrutiny, and the stirrings of Protestantism were felt.  The Catholic Church itself had to make changes, under Ignatius Loyola.  Advances in scientific discovery came, as a result of these trends.

After the American Civil War, the Red Cross was started, by Clara Barton, as a means of assisting soldiers, in time of calamity.  It quickly expanded to help society at large, in times of disaster.

After World War I, movements to assist disabled and unassisted veterans, in returning to civilian life began, with the American Legion and Disabled American Veterans. These organizations still make large scale efforts to assist those who suffer from dislocation, or from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

After World War II, mass production of houses, the science of rocketry, television and large computers became part of the civilian world, having been first advanced within the military sphere.  From large, room-sized computers have come hundreds of technological products, many of them falling into the realm of nanotechnology.

Now, we will await the advances coming out of the struggle against Coronavirus Disease 2019.  Teleconferencing, already available for business, government and limited conversations between family members and other small groups, has exploded in use, as nearly every group, which conducted its business in person, has found ways to meet virtually. Even when the crisis has ended, I can see the sheer range of teleconferencing leading to its continued wide use among the public at large.  It will also greatly modify the educational process, even more than it has to date.

The retrofitting of factories that produce a wide variety of products, from airplanes to distilled spirits, are now also producing items that will help face the virus.  Ventilators, medical-grade masks and hand sanitizer will still need to be stockpiled, even after this virus has spent its rampage.  Preparedness will not soon, if ever, be relegated to the realm of memory.

There will be many tasks, which the technology and skill sets coming out of the current crisis will need to be called to perform. Not the least of these is completing the still gargantuan effort to provide all homes with clean, running water and reliable heat or cooling.  This work will occupy post-pandemic humanity for years, if not decades.

Out of  the darkness comes a greater light.  Baha’u’llah teaches:

“O SON OF MAN! My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy. Hasten thereunto that thou mayest become an eternal light and an immortal spirit. This is My command unto thee, do thou observe it.”

 

 

Membership in Groups

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March 24, 2020-

I’ve historically had it tough, when being part of a group.  That hasn’t stopped me from trying.  I showed up every day, as a child, to take part the best way I could, in what ever game was being played.  In high school, I had friends with whom I could sit in the library and at lunch, and hang out on weekends.  Many are still connected-at least online.

I didn’t fare so well in the Army, or in college, but my purpose during those years was much different-and so, the work became most important.  The same was true of my first four years of teaching-never an insider, but connected with my students.  So it continued, over the next four decades, but family was my bedrock, and the kids were always the foundation.

I say this, in thinking about the groups with which I’ve been involved over the past nine years.  My Faith community is the strongest connection, followed by the mostly senior crowd at the American Legion, and my younger friends at Prescott College, both groups now in abeyance, until the virus runs its course.  Permaculture groups, like Slow Food and the Farmers Market have warmed to me, over the years.

I have personally committed to helping the Red Cross in the present crisis, only to find there is an “age-ism” rising.  The mentality seems to be that those of us over 65 are “at risk” and therefore ought to keep our distance, even beyond the current social distancing.  It may be that this is an attitude meant to keep us safe, but I find it patronizing-and more than a little cliquish.  I know my limits and would relegate myself to the background, if at all feeling ill.  I also am very tuned into the dynamics of small groups, and having seldom been an insider, can see when a situation is being manipulated to exclude all but the favoured few.

In the event there is a much larger calamity, I have become certified in FEMA’s Points of Distribution.  I am committed to helping my community, whether being welcomed by the elite, or not.  May it all just turn out to be unnecessary.

 

Keeping It Together

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March 17, 2020-

Hope all who wanted to have a festive St. Patrick’s Day, did so.  I was occupied with helping someone by giving him a safe space, for a day or so.  We ended up being among the relative few who enjoyed a meal at our local Texas Roadhouse.  That will be my last dine-in experience, for at least the next few months.  I will still use such take-out and delivery options as remain available,

There are lots of other changes.  My meetings with Baha’is, the Red Cross and Slow Food will be virtual.  My inchoate connection with Prescott College’s Sustainability Club will remain on hold, until some means are found to also connect online.  Work is suspended, though we may well be compensated, somehow.  Travel?  Only for family emergency, or to explore some of the Southwest’s wonders, in an unobtrusive manner.

I am approaching the end of my last physical Fast, ever.  Future Baha’i Fasts will find me praying for those who are abstaining, not eating or drinking in their presence and performing acts of service, as they present themselves.

I am finding that there are multiple requests for assistance, mostly emotional support, and that they come in clusters of two or three.  Thankfully, I have been able to meet the needs, with a minimum of difficulty.  My main job now is to keep myself together, physically and emotionally. With all that I’ve been given in this life, it has not been hard to do.

Stay focused, and be thankful for what is, and what will be again.

The Real Story of Santa Claus and Coal

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December 15, 2019-

Legend has it that Santa Claus sends his snarky sidekick, Black Piet, to put a lump of coal in the stockings of children who have been naughty,during the year.  I learned, this evening, that this is just not so.

The Big Guy and his Missus put in an early appearance this evening, at a Red Cross gathering.  He told a young man who complained of having received coal in his stocking, whilst he was a young street ruffian, in Chicago.  The young man did tell St. Nick that he had mended his ways, and Santa acknowledged that this was the case.

Santa went on to explain, about the coal.   “I don’t always give children what they want, but I do give them what they need.”, he offered, “When people needed coal to heat their homes, I made sure they got several lumps.”  Children living under hard circumstances, frequently act out, and Santa said he takes care of their home life, first.

That did my heart good, and shows that Santa Claus is not just a purveyor of belly laughs and trips down the chimney.  He really does look out for our best interests.  Black Piet? Why, he is a Red Cross volunteer, who goes down each chimney, to make sure it is firewise.

No Pause Button

4

December 1, 2019-

This holiday weekend, now drawing to a close, reminded me that even in the midst of a wonderful celebration, there may come the cry of the needy.  I tended to that, as best I could, without besmirching the kindness of one of my dearest friends and members of her family.  I was honoured, beyond measure, on Thursday afternoon and evening.  It doesn’t take much, anymore, for me to feel that.  I go forward, at age 69, with a continued sense of personal worth.  Thanksgiving, 2019 was the sixth straight year at table with this wonderful family that has found its way into my heart.

Friday was, of course, our first real bout of winter weather, one month ahead of the actual season.  Shoveling a path to the street was followed by a night manning a shelter, which no one needed.  That is beside the point, though, as shelters are, by definition, designed to be manned proactively.  I have to say, the large Arizona Republic Thanksgiving Crossword kept me  very well-occupied, nearly until morning.

Saturday, I finally answered the figurative tapping on the window, and hopefully have drawn the right attention to the issues that were raised by an online correspondent.  The rest of the day, though, was spent catching up on the sleep I forewent, whilst manning the shelter.  Being up most of Friday night, though, showed that I still have stamina.  The evening was graced by the megaton voice of one Jacqui Foreman, who showed both vocal range and mastery of two types of guitar, in a concert at The Raven Cafe. She and her two accompanists delivered a solid three hours of a range of music, from soft rock ballads to acoustic jazz; Ma Rainey, through Frank Sinatra, to The Cranberries and Metallica, all find a spot in Sister Jackson’s repertoire. Among the people who I encountered there were a veteran musical arranger, a little boy who was somehow fascinated by my presence and a young lady who waved at me, from across the room- a case of mistaken identity.  It’s always colourful at The Raven.

Today, the last month of a decade of growth launched itself.  I tidied up my driveway, which had still been laden with ice and snow.  The sun was a big helper, and now the driveway is mostly clear.  The breakfast meeting at the Legion was cancelled, so I went down to Cupper’s, for an order of skinny pancakes, with melon on the side.  Several transient men were there, warming themselves, waiting for a Salvation Army service, across the street.  They had a very sobering account of the snowstorm just passed.  At least, there was an active shelter-not the one I manned, but the regular overnight shelter that SA provides, on below-freezing nights.  The day ended with a short Baha’i meeting, and now I look forward to a fruitful December.

Work will likely still be slow, but I will be mainly concerned with my dear daughter-in-law, who arrives  next Sunday, for nearly a month.  Aram will be back, after New Year’s and his last days with the regular Navy.  It’ll give me a chance to introduce Yunhee to our fair state and to several of my dear friends.  Then, too, is everything that has to do with Christmas time in Prescott, and around the state.

Mandala

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September 22, 2019-

The mandala was prescient.

This is the last day of summer/winter (I reference the juxtaposed seasons, in acknowledging the essential unity of north and south.  Both extreme seasons present challenges.)  Fall/spring, starting tomorrow, will offer celebrations of fruition or of new beginnings.

I drew a mandala, yesterday, in the course of attending a small peace gathering, in the early evening.  Being no great artist, but having a curiosity, I let the Universe guide my thoughts, starting with a bright, fiery orange circle and moving outwards.

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Clashing, opposing colours are placed alongside, or in succession to, one another.  A green human and animals of colours with which they are not normally associated, occupy the outer layer. That you may not be able to distinguish which is which, is a testimony to my own rudimentary art skills and to the thick, stubby crayons provided.  No matter-the message is one of coexisting with differences and among opposites.

That was a key point of the entire day.  I spent a good part of Saturday walking a hilly neighbourhood, visiting people ranging from a transplanted Southern man proudly displaying a Confederate flag to a young woman professional and her dogs, all for the sake of verifying that the homes either had working smoke alarms or that my team mate and I installed them, before leaving the area.  It was all part of a concerted effort by the Red Cross to keep yet another neighbourhood safe.  Most people in the area covered have indeed tended to their own safety.  Heightened awareness, and insurance company diligence, have greatly lessened our workload.

After resting a bit, the evening Peace events beckoned.  I walked a labyrinth, at a church up the street, savouring the serenity that such calm attention to detail brings.  Then came mandala activity, followed by three of us Baha’is saying prayers, in front of  a very small audience-quality not quantity!  Before we prayed, a very nice lady, who had practiced three songs of peace, but had not had an audience for her scheduled performance, was invited to offer the songs.  Delivered a capella, these original songs, in a soft jazz lilt, created a lingering air of power and strength.

The evening brought another activity- Dances of World Peace, which I learned is an ongoing monthly activity of the Prescott Sufi Community.  Building peace between individuals, these dances involve following a few fairly simple moves, and rotating among partners-without regard to gender or age.  The point is acknowledging each person’s presence and spirituality.  That draws people out of pre-conceived notions and out of their comfort zones.  Yet, as I think of it, that which takes me out of my own comfort zone, has the effect of expanding that zone.

The mandala was prescient.  It had me draw opposites together, which is really the point of world unity.  The past several days, most recently this morning, I have been contacted by  social media friends from countries I’ve never visited, and which have not been on my immediate radar.  The Universe is telling me, a few years in advance, to get ready to expand my world, and comfort zone, even further.

The words that came to me, to write on the mandala:  “Night is the frontier we cross. Daylight waits beyond the gate of trial.”

Home Is Fluid

6

September 17, 2019-

“Well help me figure this place out.  I know I’m an outsider, but I’m not an enemy.” “No, you’re not.  But in this town those two words mean the same thing.”                     – Toni Morrison, “Paradise”

So, I was part of an interview, this morning, promoting a Home Safety event, sponsored by the American Red Cross, and to be held this coming Saturday.  Inside that little room, among friends, I felt like somebody, safe and honoured.  The interview went well, and I felt secure in sharing it on social media, once back in my apartment.

Walking from the studio to Ms. Natural’s, I crossed the Courthouse Plaza, normally a neutral place, where all are welcome, at least officially. Today, I had to pass by those who glared at me in my Red Cross shirt and ball cap; pass by the well-to-do, who look down at anyone not dressed for business.  It’s never pleasant dealing with the Self-Perceived Originals, in any community.

It was much different at Ms. Natural’s, as it always is.  Claudia and the young ladies are not from here, either, and know some of what gets thrown around, by some of the Pioneer Families and the faux elite.  I am at home there.  Sharlot Hall, one of the original pioneers, for whom Prescott’s Historical Museum is named, would spin in her grave  at the pretense and the snobbery.

No matter; I am here to serve those who need it and just have to put my lingering Impostor Syndrome and refugee mentality aside.  The people who accept me, and take me into their circle, are also from somewhere else.  These are the ones who matter.  They are the ones who make it all worthwhile. Home, for me, is a fluid term.

 

 

The Gold Standard

4

September 9, 2019-

Bill Tracy passed away last Thursday, after a month-long decline, triggered by a fall from the roof of his Palm Desert restaurant.  Bill was one of those rare individuals whose concept of business was primarily as a means of giving back. He had three restaurants in Prescott-The Dinner Bell (ironically, a breakfast and lunch establishment), Bill’s Pizza and Bill’s Grill.  Feeling age, he sold those establishments, in 2015, to a friend who has kept Bill’s vision.  Bill’s Pizza, for example, donated about twenty large pies to the Farmers’ Market Board, yesterday, to feed volunteers and staff at the Farm-to-Table Dinner.

Bill’s philanthropy was where his heart was.  He gave to a variety of causes and regarded the needs of the community, both in Prescott and in the Palm Springs area. He has helped our local Red Cross Chapter, as well as the Farmers’ Market and a local street ministry. Bill hired those who were disadvantaged, and worked with them to develop job skills.  I have eaten at all three of his restaurants, on several occasions over the years.  I never met the man, but I saw his ethic at work and notice that there is a close camaraderie in each of the establishments.

People like Bill Tracy are the gold standard, combining social sense, business sense and deep character.   Many of us strive to develop one or another of these qualities, and make a good effort at it.  Bill had the drive and sense of constancy to keep up with the changes and chances of economic downturns-and was a force in establishing shelters and care programs for the homeless, both in Prescott and in the Palm Springs area.

He won’t return to Prescott, but I daresay his spirit will never leave this community.

Back to Harmony

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September 8, 2019-

Yesterday, I let the sour mood pass through. I think it was a reaction to the falling barometer.  We got about 1.3 inches of rain, in this neighbourhood and in points east.  A trip to the laundromat, on the northwest side of town, revealed continued “dry as a bone” conditions. Whilst at Farmers’ Market, I learned, from a vendor, who is a mutual acquaintance, that an erstwhile tormentor had found some peace in her life.  That is comforting, as unhurt people are less likely to hurt people. As the day wore on, and the rain had passed, I felt more in tune.  Spiritual Feast, in the evening, was vibrant and well-attended, another uplift.

Today has seen a nice breakfast at Post 6 come and go.  Now the long and celebratory Farm-to-Table Dinner will occupy my afternoon and evening.  This is one of four large social events of the Autumn-three of them this month and the last, on November 2, which will keep me connected to the community and offer a form of activity, in addition to Planet Fitness and whatever hiking I do, here and elsewhere in the Southwest.  Service projects, other than the above, will also be performed, through the Red Cross.  Home safety, simply put, is our major focus, in areas at risk for wildfire.

The message comes to me that disharmony is, largely, actually a product of not being in sync with the community.  Letting other people’s pain affect my own self-concept is a disservice, to them and to myself.  So, back to a state of balance I go.

Today will make many people happy.

Inside and Out

6

September 3, 2019-

I stopped, briefly, at the new location of SunFlour Shops, about four doors down from the former SunFlour Market.  My purpose was to deliver a bouquet of sunflowers, on the occasion of the store’s Grand Opening.  This, I did, and was treated to a fine cup of coffee, whilst the owner hobnobbed with the people who will make up her primary customer base.

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The store is more focused on dry goods than its predecessor, although her fresh-baked pastries are still featured, along with espresso and other coffee drinks.

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As a result, seating is less of a priority, at this point. There is, however, a huge patio, which will be amenable to visitors tarrying, in a month or so, when the heat subsides.

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The storefront is not signed, as yet, but I knew the location from the window decorations.

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My time there was limited by two things:  I wasn’t entirely welcome in the shop and there was a meeting of the Prescott Red Cross Chapter, where I was welcome and where my input on a few things was needed.  After being asked if I needed anything else, I left Superior quietly and headed back  to Home Base, getting to the Red Cross office, in time for a barbecue and the brief meeting.

The two situations are a snapshot of my relations with groups.  There have been, historically, few groups where I have been “on the inside”.  The old SunFlour was one of those.  The Red Cross Chapter has evolved into such a place.  My last fulltime place of employment was, as well, until newcomers decided I was not ” a good fit”.

These situations are always fluid, given the vagaries of human nature. So, I’ve learned where, with whom, and how much time, I should focus.  It’s no surprise that some parts of southern California, the Midwest and South are always places of refuge.  The area of my childhood and youth will remain welcoming, also.  Wherever my little family is, likewise, will be home.  Prescott, and a few other places in Arizona, are ever home.

Maybe it’s more because of my more globally-focused nature, that I am more of an outsider.  It’s not something that hurts all that much, though running into closed groups is always a challenge.