Dereliction

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February 6, 2021-

There are many people still in my life, and several causes that seek attention. I gather that this is true of just about everyone. The question then arises: Is there a point at which being oneself and prioritizing one cause, or group of people, over another constitutes dereliction of duty?

Being an empath, I feel other people’s energy very strongly. That doesn’t explain the underlying reasons for that energy. Only the person feeling it can divulge those. I feel it even more so, when the energy is collective. So, to all those who have expressed the view that a person ought commit to one organization, activity or community, I say godspeed. I will help each organization as alignment allows. My own energy focus allows for a modicum of time spent in virtual meetings- knowing that, as with any human endeavour, there are those who would be on Zoom, or Microsoft Teams, 24/7-and again, godspeed to them. My greater energy, though, is spent away from the computer.

For the time being, that is, for the next two weeks, my priority is helping a couple of schools in dealing with COVID-related staff shortages. Some time will be spent on Red Cross classes, and with a small, but spirited, group of college students who are earnestly planning sustainability activities. There is also the 50% chance that jury duty will transpire, towards the end of this month.

Dereliction of duty is clearly defined, when it comes to parenting, supervision of children in a school setting or service in the public realm. It is less clear, when it comes to the matters of those generally self-sustaining adults who are suffering emotionally or spiritually. This gray area is also on my mind and in my heart, and occupies some of my time, on a case by case basis. Thankfully, most such people are appreciative of any time and energy that others give, as it at least validates that their situation is important to someone.

The Year of Living Furtively

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December 31, 2020-

Some of the hardest losses of this voracious year were two of the last. It pains me, especially, when two people who are meant to be together are separated by death, however temporarily. Perhaps because I know, so well, how it feels. I know the self-doubts, the second guessing, the “if only” moments that dog the surviving spouse. I also know that the way to resilience, for the one left behind, is to embrace that which makes one special, as an individual, with double the intensity.

I learned, only this afternoon, of the passing of one half of such a pair. Jeff had struggled with his cancer, constantly surrounded, enveloped with the love that only his indomitable wife and daughters could offer. Others among us tried to help, some offering respite care; some, like myself, offering remedies and a listening ear for our friends, whose shop has become such a vibrant gathering place, in a town that is still in the throes of becoming a community.

Thirty-six friends and family members, ranging in age from 21 to 100, have passed to the next realm, in this year of living furtively, Some were fixtures of my childhood; others, I had the pleasure of knowing for only a few years. Some, I only met once or twice, but the empath in me let them make an indelible impression. That impression will last long. It comes with the nature of my beast.

It is now 6:15 p.m. , and it is still twilight. Solstice being past for over a week, daylight lengthens a smidgen at a time. That is fitting; this year has seemed at times to be made of a darkness that is interminable. Coronavirusdisease 2019 has dominated much of the time and energy of the vast majority of people across the globe. Most of us have not been stricken with the ailment, but far too many others have. Those who have not actually contracted it, have been suspect of such-every time we sneeze, or emit a wet cough, into the crook of our elbow, or appear somewhere without a face mask. All but four of those friends and family, to whom I alluded above, died of COVID-related factors-especially pneumonia.

Dealing with the pandemic became complicated, with racial incidents, some of which were exacerbated by crimes of ignorance and by people continuing to talk past one another. Demonstrations muddied the water of our national response to the pandemic, especially in light of bans on gatherings for worship or for bidding loved ones farewell. Too many of those loved ones died alone, after having spent their last days and months in solitude. Demonstrations were, in most cases, necessary to the public weal. So, too, however, were gatherings of worship, so deeply-rooted in the American psyche-and not just in Christian communities. Dineh and Hopi friends missed their traditional ceremonial gatherings. We Baha’is also have made do with virtual connection.

The two demonstrations upon which I happened, featured participants who were uniformly masked-even among counterprotestors. The two church-based memorial services I attended featured physical distancing and/or uniform face masking. In these instances, subsequent infection was either minimal or nonexistent. Needless to say, I have exercised extreme caution when out of Home Base, since having had bronchitis (non-COVID), in mid-February.

My usual taking to the open road took a back seat, for the most part, in 2020. There were two deployments with the Red Cross, to Louisiana and Dallas. Another journey took me back to the Dallas area, for Thanksgiving and my 70th Birthday, with care taken in airports and elsewhere, to not become part of the problem. The joy of just being with my small family unit was worth the trip, as was the drive to Phoenix, three weeks later, for a mini-visit.

Equally salubrious, however, has been the use of technology, in connecting with my Faith community, with the Red Cross community and with wider spiritual gatherings. I have learned much and shared much. This aspect of technology can only serve to enhance our direct physical encounters, post-pandemic. I know that I need not be isolated from those in this community, when further afield again, towards summer and autumn of the coming year.

Finally, in reaching seventy, I reached full social security, and look at the culmination of my teaching career. Five days a week, out of personal necessity, is in my rear view mirror. Work in the coming Spring semester, will be in view of service to the schools and more discretionary, in terms of schedule.

This year, now grumbling to a close, has accented the small-How needful it is to revitalize memory, when it comes to the humble password or the most routine of courtesies! How crucial it is, to rekindle acceptance of differences, reminding ourselves how dull it would be for everyone to be forced into the same train of thought or the same world view. Exclusivity, as much as its proponents tell themselves it is necessary, is a dead end.

Let not one’s conservatism, or progressivism, lead to that dead end. Let 2020 be what comes to an end, without one’s viewpoint joining it.

Most Essential

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October 22,2020-

This year was supposed to be one in which I spent a goodly amount of time wending my way around the Pacific Northwest, Canada and the northern tier of states, from Maine to Montana.

Instead, COVID, hurricanes and just a general sense of being present here at Home Base came to the fore. I am grateful for all the experiences, from close to home ( in some local schools and as an online host for Baha’i events) and in Hurricane Alley (Red Cross disaster responses in Louisiana and Texas).

Nowhere do I feel more useful, though, than when making sure that little ones are guided to the right, safe place-especially at the end of the day, when it’s bus or parent pick-up time, That has happened twice in three days, just because it’s all new to our five-year-olds. It breaks my heart that they should feel ashamed for needing help with learning this routine.

The most essential thing is for human beings to feel safe, especially in what, for them, are novel experiences.

Heat of A False Summer

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October 15, 2020, Valle, AZ-

Mid-October used to be called “Indian Summer”, owing to the hot weather that seemed to just hang on, for days on end, even though it’d been Autumn for almost a month, and the leaves had mostly changed colour and fallen.

With our language showing more sensitivity, these days, perhaps “False Summer” would be a better phrase. “Aug-tober” may be a bit excessive, as we do see cooler temps, during the second half of the month.

My schedule has shown signs of heating up- a full week of work awaits, next week. A wildfire, south of Prescott, may or may not lead to my spending the weekend helping in a Red Cross shelter. In a couple of weeks, I am slated for jury duty-during Election Day and its aftermath. It’s a good thing that my ballot is filled out and safely inside the County Recorder’s office.

I am here, in this small roadside village, for an overnight stay before hiking the second of northern Arizona’s Red Mountains. This one will be an easy hike, and a geological wonderland to explore.

Valle’s lone motel is comfortable and has an engaging, cordial staff. The restaurant has one floor person (server and cashier) and one cook, yet they manage to get food ordered and to table-or take-out counter, in less time than some far better staffed establishements. The desk clerk is a back-up server. This is what a community dedicated to serving travelers does, when decisions made by higher-ups lead to staffing shortages.

President Trump is said to be headed to Prescott on Monday. I will be working at a school, while he’s there. Hope it is a safe event for everyone involved-as I hope for each event, between now and the inauguration of whoever wins on November 3.

Last Quarter Plans

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October 11, 2020-

With October nearly half over, it’s high time for me to look at this last three months, or so, of 2020.

October 12-17– This is Fall Break week and is the first of the two weeks I gave myself off, from any out -of-state deployments with Red Cross. If a wildfire breaks out around here, of course I will be on hand to help. Otherwise, on Tuesday, I will hike the first of two peaks in northern Arizona that go by the name Red Mountain. It is in an area between Prescott Valley and Lynx Lake, a section of the Bradshaw Mountain foothills that I have not explored, up to now. Monday and Wednesday feature Zoom meetings, two of which I host, so walks downtown will suffice. Thursday through Saturday, the road will lead to other Red Mountain, north of Williams, on the road to the South Rim of Grand Canyon. If the road to Hermit’s Rest is open, on the South Rim, I will go there as well.

October 18-24- This is a Holy Week for Baha’is, with two days spent commemorating the births of al-Bab and Baha’u’llah, which did occur back-to-back, though two years apart- Baha’u’llah having been born in 1817 and His Herald, in 1819. It’ll be different, celebrating these auspicious days on Zoom.

I may also have work opportunities, with the Sub service, but we’ll see.

October 25-31– Halloween Week will also be different this year. No word has gone out, from either of the groups who have put on parties, in years past. My default will be to throw on the silly suit I wore last year, and bring treats to neighbour families who know me. It may also be either a heavy subbing week or yet another deployment, for a disaster response yet unseen.

November 1-6- Election Week will have its share of challenges, both local and further afield. I am leaving my service options open: Our normally quiet, live-and-let-live little city could need as many voices of reason as can be had-or it could stay quiet, and congenial. There could very well be those who need the services of the Red Cross, if mayhem results in mass displacement. I will have the blessing of a virtual Spiritual Retreat, each evening, from November 5-8, to provide online balance.

November 8-14- Veterans’ Week will hopefully remind everyone that Freedom isn’t Free. Any public activities on November 11 will find me there. November 12-14 will be a good time to head up to Painted Desert-Petrified Forest.

November 15-21- Mid-month will be either a full work week or a time for day trips to Sedona, finishing the long-delayed completion of a hike on Limekiln Trail and going up Cathedral Rock.

November 22-28- Thanksgiving Week, ending with my 70th Birthday, so it’ll be Texas Time. Son will use a grill in the apartment complex courtyard, so this will be another fine gathering. I will likely be quite reflective, on that Saturday, with a view towards using all for which I can be grateful to help those who have been discounted and marginalized- the mirror image of the fourth Thursday in November.

November 29-December 5- The first week of my eighth decade will begin a run-up to my retirement (always unofficial) from substitute teaching. In practical terms, what that will mean is that I will not NEED to work, in order to make ends meet, after this calendar year. I will still be amenable to going in, two or three days a week, from January through May. The major emphasis, though, will shift to volunteer work, for which I’m already getting plenty of practice.

December 6-12- This marks forty years since I first met Penny. A trip to Zuni and Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Preserve will be in order. I will also stop in Bisbee, which we never visited together, on the way back-just because it’s there.

December 13-19- There may be a smidgen of work to be done, but my emphasis this week will be culling old files out of the cabinet and putting effort into shredding.

December 20-26- Depending on family input, and the state of the pandemic, I will either make a journey to New England or devote some time to an Arizona Christmas.

December 27-January 2- Part of the time will be in Texas and part will be in Florida, with the Gulf Coast in between (weather-permitting). The first week of 2021 will be the same, in reverse.

Some things will remain constant, location notwithstanding. I will have regular Baha’i Zoom calls to maintain and continuing to pay off what is left of my bills will be achieved.

This is my vision for the last twelve weeks of a tempestuous year.

The Hotel Project, Day 12

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October 6, 2020, Dallas-

In the end, the world held together.

Everyone facing forced relocation from the hotel was granted an extension-until the passage of Hurricane Delta; one lady was reunited with her clothing and another with her cellular phone; a young man mocked the mission of the Red Cross and was met by Mama Grizzly, our team leader, defending both her staff and our charges; everyone was fed and all the children were comforted; there was, however, no Pet Parade.

On this roiling and ever-changing day, we, Team Anatole, held our ground and were fortunate to be able to reassure the beleagured ones in our midst, that their world was being held together. They will be safe and sound, and they will formulate their own plans for going forward. The chrysalis will prove to have been a good place for emergence. The crucible will be viewed as a worthy vessel, from which a far greater community will energe.

For five of us, the Hotel Project has come to an end. The rest of the team, including our replacements, will press on, and finish the work, caring for the refugees, until every last storm victim is either relocated within Texas or has returned to Louisiana to rebuild home and fortune.

I saw snippets of events in the wider world, and that little has changed. I continue to pray for all who suffer from COVID-19, for those who offer themselves as leaders and for all who are deluded, in one direction or another. Prayers also, go out for those who are suffering in place.

I have no money to give to suffering Africans and South Asians, or anyone else, for that matter. I also ask for nothing, FROM anyone else. Love, though, goes out on abundance, and that is what truly matters.

See you again tomorrow.

The Hotel Project, Day 10

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October 4, 2020, Dallas-

The process of sorting out which homes are liveable, and therefore ready to re-occupy, is a tortuous process, in which our Red Cross team has little say. There may well be some back and forth, between home owners and renters, who may have quite a different concept of what is liveable from that of the state and Federal authorities who are making the determination. A formulaic approach will always have its drawbacks.

There may be a tense few days ahead, but we have done, and are doing, our part in keeping the evacuees in a safe and secure environment, until the time comes for them to go to one place or another.

The children were entertained by a game night, which featured Simon Says, a Relay Race and Freeze Dance, which is like Freeze Tag, except dancing stops when music stops and resumes when the music starts again. I did my share of dancing around-and got caught by the sudden stop, a couple of times.

A found child, at the end of the evening, complicated matters, with the police and hotel management still in the process of reuniting parents and child, as our shift ended. At least the little one was in safe hands.

The Hotel Project, Day 7

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October 1, 2020, Dallas-

This is a time when I am taking a hard line against distractions. I am not concerned with politics or who thinks what about whom. By focusing on what I have promised my charges and co-workers, I am doing far more of what matters to me.

Today, people who were waiting for clothing items for several weeks, got them. Others ran a couple of bingo games, and we began to prepare for more people to come to our shelter, as the number of hotels being used as shelters diminishes. Having been trained in registering people, in my previous deployment, I was able to help in that area, as well.

It was an exhausting day. Tomorrow may be more intense, but we will make it happen.

The Hotel Project, Day 6

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September 30, 2020, Dallas-

Today would have been Penny’s sixty-sixth birthday. There was no extended warranty to her lease on life, so it’s been ten years since she was here to celebrate.

I have done something of service, either directly to the Baha’i Faith or to the community- at- large, each year since her passing. This year, the ongoing relief project, for the victims of the three hurricanes that have hit southern Louisiana, has found me in Dallas- with the bonus of being able to spend time with my son and daughter-in-law, if only for a day-this coming Saturday.

While it is an honour to be asked to stay on, past October 7, I have promises to keep in the Prescott area and I think balance is very important. The Red Cross can have more of my time, after the close of 2020, but for now, I will finish out my substitute teaching and the community work that also makes a difference.

The Hotel Project, Day One

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September 25, 2020, Dallas-

I woke up a bit late today, but got to the designated hotel (no specific names, due to Red Cross policy with regard to hotel-based shelters) on time. After grabbing a quick breakfast, I set to work helping to sort clothing, sorting through paper work and manning a reception table for several hours. The afternoon and evening were spent at the toy table, where I greeted children who each got to select one toy for themselves, and one for any siblings who were upstairs. No one tried to “run the table”. They were just glad to have this sort of thoughts paid to their needs, by local volunteers.

The shelter has been going on for a few weeks now, so my take was to follow the lead of those who have their routine down. My role was mainly to offer support to those whose self-confidence is flagging. The team is doing a wonderful job of meeting clients’ needs. Younger team members deserve, and are getting, the respect and support of us oldsters, and the converse will take time, but it’ll happen. People tend to reflect the way they themselves are treated, if not initially, then in failry short order.

Now to get to sleep, as Day 2 will be here very soon.