Summer’s End

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September 20, 2021- This has been a strange eight days. I chalk most of it up to the change of seasons, which often finds me out of sorts and seeing darkness where none is intended. That, in turn, leads to trusted friends drawing back a bit and my being in a somewhat isolated state, for a few days. Taking the hint, this year, it’s a time to take care of a few things that have gone neglected for a while, today, and be in nature tomorrow-the day of Equinox.

It didn’t help matters any, that a planned deployment with the Red Cross fell through-only because I didn’t make a second consecutive phone call to the dispatcher-when I was expecting a confirmation call from that individual. Funny, how the protocol from last year has changed. At any rate, given my emotional state, I would not have been on game and mistakes may have happened, that would not have served well. Things, no matter how confusing, happen for the general good.

Today begins a second series of September birthdays (Mom’s and my middle brother’s being the first set, earlier this month). This one starts with the birthday of someone with whom I have had scant contact, in this life, but an inexplicable bond from some other realm of existence. It includes the birthday of my sister and ends with the commemoration of Penny’s birthday, both next week.

Summer’s end caps a season that took in a second cross-country journey, saw some friendships start to fade, others generate and renewed my bonds with good-hearted people. It included a longer work project than I had planned, but the results were fairly successful. It is now time to look towards Autumn-the season of harvest, and of my own birth. It will bring me to southern California, for a few days next week; complete Red Cross training that I feel is needed, in early October; and make a journey to places in New Mexico that have longed called out. Fall will also bring a couple more sessions with the dermatology team and hopefully see my little family come out here for Thanksgiving. I may yet also go on deployment for a couple of weeks.

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.” – Dan Wilson, “Closing Time”

Now, for another song, from a master songwriter:

Little Ado, Almost Nothing

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September 18, 2021- The call, for which I waited all day, never came. There was a flurry of phone activity on Thursday, with Red Cross dispatchers asking me, first to go to Louisiana to work as a computer operator, then deciding I might be better at supervising a shelter. Since I couldn’t go there immediately, owing to faith-based commitments, it was agreed I would go on Sunday-with documents to be handed me today.

Today has come, and is almost gone. With no word from RC, (and yes, the ball is in their court), I have concluded, from checking the weather forecast for Baton Rouge, that the need is fading. Bright sunshine lies ahead, after Monday, and good on the folks of Louisiana, who have been much put upon, again this summer.

We had a final monsoon storm here, this evening, as the major faith-based activity of the weekend was playing out. The rain was welcome, and did not interrupt our Zoom activity. Afterward, I felt the need to go across the mountain to Synergy Cafe, so off to Sedona it was. A two-hour visit with a mostly male troupe of musicians and a lengthy conversation with a spiritually-awakened lady made the evening worth the drive, as it usually is. The lady came here from Russia, as an adolescent, some twenty years ago, still retaining the more global view that many from that part of the world seem to embody.

Remembering that a meeting for tomorrow still had not been set up on my laptop, I made exit earlier than planned, but not before our little drum, guitar(electric and acoustic) and didgeridoo set of tunes had inspired the lady and her husband to dance in slow embrace. Romantic couples always make me smile.

I did learn one thing from today- don’t speak of service online, before boots are on the ground.

Life Blood

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September 15, 2021- It has taken a long time, but I think a contact in another country far from here has finally mustered the self-confidence to advocate for his children. Strong parenthood is one of the life bloods of a child who grows ready to face a life of challenges. The other key elements are strong will, a sense of humour and an inborn love for humanity.

I spent a good part of today greeting people at a Red Cross Blood Drive. 27 people donated one blood product or another-a good effort that matters in the current environment of disease, fire and flood. Blood, both actual and allegorical, is what drives human life and its various efforts.

I have had good friends tell me that money is the life blood of society. It has a key role to play, certainly, as there isn’t a whole lot of physical progress that can take place, over time, without some medium of exchange. Even a hermit farmer has to buy seeds, at least initially. I also recognize that water, which is after all the primary medium of blood, is then the “blood” of all life. Then, too, humaneness is the social life blood. No one can really thrive, unless treated humanely, over time.

Finally, though, I recognize that love is the ultimate life blood. Nothing can exist for long without it.

The Healing Garden

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September 13, 2021- With no agenda for today, other than a load of laundry and a look at the protocol for the Red Cross Blood Drive, in which I will assist on Wednesday, the morning rolled out blissfully quiet.

I revisited Crossroads Cafe, which is Prescott College’s eatery, and the place where I first connected with the Sustainability Club. The interior is still off-limits, but the patio is lovely and relaxing, so I enjoyed Breakfast Quesadilla as a few groups of students ruminated aloud, about everything from sexual identity to the stresses of just getting out of bed on a Monday morning.

Just past the patio lies a Healing and Meditation Garden, which in the future will be my favoured place to enjoy breakfast or lunch, on a Crossroads visit. Gardens have vied with the wilderness as places for me to recharge- so long as there are not loud and boisterous souls about, who don’t seem to realize what salubrious means.

Don’t get me wrong-the energy of youth, however noisome, is a major source of regeneration. Several of the most treasured, beloved young people in my life are effervescent enough to power a freight train, figuratively speaking. It is the balance of the calm and the hard-charging that has gotten me to this point in life.

The quiet, though, was much-needed, after two very intense days of service, with a cast of collaborators ranging from those who are elated at my presence to those for whom five minutes of that presence is about all they can handle. It may well be that solitude becomes ever more rare, in the coming months of Autumn and early Winter. Thus will the Healing Garden, along with Acker Park, a few select trails in Prescott National Forest and in Sedona, and the gurgling coolness of the Agua Fria, at Badger Springs, be ever more precious.

Each day and hour have their indelible places in my soul.

Re-Communicado

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September 7, 2021- A call came, out of the blue, and in short order, a bit of unfinished business was re-scheduled. The medical procedures that I had to cancel earlier, will now be a fait accompli before Thanksgiving, which seems appropriate.

The friend for whom I am covering, for a few more days, will be back soon. I’m sure the next chapter of needful things will be very clear, shortly after I finish this effort, on Friday. Whether this involves the Red Cross, and disaster relief, remains to be seen.

The tie between these three is that there was a fair degree of lack of communication. It was only this morning that the school situation became clear. The medical business was resolved this afternoon. Red Cross gives hints of when I might be called, but that will depend entirely on the situation on the ground, in northern California and in the areas affected by Hurricane/Tropical Depression Ida. Then, there are Larry, which may hit parts of New England, as yet and an unnamed depression that is taking aim at central and northeast Florida.

I mention these, in owning up to a fair degree of difficulty that I still have, with being held in abeyance. The lesson is to do better at contemplating the whole picture. Dozens, if not hundreds of factors can enter into any one series of events.

In the end, I always find out things when I am meant to find out.

How I Overcame Self-Absorption

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August 27, 2021-

There was a time when I bumped into a clearly visible barrier pole, whilst backing my car out of a space, at Breakheart Reservation, in my hometown of Saugus. My head was so far into a matter of such earthshaking importance, that I can’t even vaguely recall what it was. I remember the fender bender, though, and the mildly amused twelve-year-old kid who chuckled at my ignorance.

Mom and Dad didn’t raise us to ignore our surroundings, and I caught more than a few rounds of indignation, when I turned too far inward. Gradually, in the wider world, the core of my being, which loved my family and those around us, took focus. Penny came into my life, and we helped each other break out of our respective shells. Students, clients, by the hundreds, became my focus and between wife and children, I realized that my life actually mattered far more than I had thought. Aram became our responsibility and made sure, in turn, that I didn’t lapse into my former bubble.

There was a long eleven years, in which my wife was my primary responsibility. In the end, son and his crew, Penny’s family and my brothers were our primary support group. The cackling crows who castigated me for using the adjective “my”, when I referred to Penny, offered absolutely nothing in the way of help-save their mealy-mouthed ideological puffery. There were also the masses, who went about their business, but at least didn’t get in my way.

On my own, I had choices to make, and slowly shed the residue of self-absorption, once again. A few women came to me, hoping that perhaps they would be the next Penny. It didn’t happen, and life took a far wider turn. I almost deluded myself into thinking that one or two others might be the next Penny. That didn’t happen, either, and life took a wider turn, still. There were three things that propelled me out of my bubble, altogether.

The first was dealing with five people who were/are so intensely self-absorbed, in their own right, that I was constantly wondering what, if any, place there was in the world for me, or any other good soul who was just trying to live a good life. Four of these five are gone from my world now, banned for constantly magnifying every single mistake I made, ignoring any good thing I did and yet clawing at me for attention. The fifth at least thanks me for what has already been done. I thank them, though, for making me aware of all the times I was the same towards others.

Secondly, I found myself largely responsible, for the well-being of over 80 people in a storm shelter, in Alexandria, Louisiana, late last summer, during the daylight hours of a Red Cross operation. That is when my work never stopped, until wiser heads pointed out that the opposite of self-absorption is not complete other-immersion. Then came a more balanced view, that both my personal needs and those of others had equal importance. I also realized that being too deeply in the business of other people robs them of dignity.

Third, the full acceptance of others as complete human beings, beyond their physical trappings and even their personalities, has come about from our collective dealing with COVID and all the climate change-based events that we have faced, and will continue to face, long after I myself have left this earthly life. It takes me three to five seconds to recognize that a woman has pleasing features, that a child is precious, that anyone has an engaging nature.

There are things that are about to happen in this life, that make such an emergence from self-absorption more essential than ever. I look forward to them all.

Hot Spots

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August 16, 2021- I was originally supposed to spend today hiking along a road, to commemorate a friend’s passing, 37 years ago, Wednesday. The person who proposed this originally backed out, over the weekend, citing other obligations. It worked out fine for me, as I got to be with the groups of students with whom I will be working, for the most part, probably well into September.

The weekend brought hard news: There is a new Taliban government in Afghanistan, boding God knows what for women and girls; Haiti was clobbered by yet another severe earthquake, to be followed by a Tropical Storm, of as yet indeterminate strength; Delta continued on its merry path of death and destruction; the Sierra Nevada foothills continue to face the rapacious Dixie Fire. Here at Home Base, I can only continue to do what I’ve been doing- small charity here and there; safe hygiene and honouring the requests of businesses and institutions; promoting fire-safe spaces here and being ready, in case the call comes to go on Red Cross deployment.

We choose what hot spots in which we offer our services. With 7.6 billion people on the planet, there is no reason for any one person to have to do the lion’s share of relief work. I am constantly on the move, as it is, and have no feelings of regret for what I do. Learning to set boundaries, however, has been a most gratifying result of the struggles of the past three years.

Fits and Starts

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August 1, 2021- This is normally the hottest month of the year, even here in Arizona, where people expect heat, much of the time. This year’s monsoon, though, is more active than those of the last three years and there has been rain reported here in Prescott, just about every day since Independence Day-so Mother Nature heeded the fireworks. I will go tomorrow, with my hiking buddy, to Watson Lake and see how much the water levels have been affected by the rather generous precipitation.

Rain often comes during this time, in fits and starts. It could be dry for as long as two weeks, then rainy for almost as many days, and back to dry. My energy level tends to be the same, varying with the heat index, as one would expect. With the added vigilance about sun exposure, especially safeguarding the “little bit of heaven” on the left side of my face, I will limit the hike and other outside activity to an hour or less at a time-and be well protected.

August is saddled with the sobriquet, “Dog Days”, as this is the time of year when dogs are especially either enervated or aggravated by the heat and humidity. School starts up tomorrow, but as I have said earlier, my presence there this year will be limited somewhat-with more of an emphasis on Red Cross activities-if the powers that be in the local organization see fit to have me along to help out.

July Road Notes, Day 4: Poolside

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July 8, 2021, Grapevine– The birthday festivities having finished, Aram and I eased into our mornings, whilst Yunhee went to work. We did our part, later, with a Costco trip that garnered items we each needed-and a few belated birthday gifts.

I got word that another, equally important, event across the country had gone roughly at times, but ended well. So, too, did the final installment of an investment that has taken me three years of due diligence and getting past my own overthinking, to complete.

Aram and I went out to Terrawood’s relatively small, but comfortable pool area. There were about six other people in and around the pools, at the time we were there. The water is not deep- 4′ 6″, maximum. Nonetheless, I sat with my lower body in the water-taking care to not go in, as usual, because of the growth on my face being covered, both for protection and for the peace of mind of those around me.

There has been a tendency in me, all throughout adulthood, to be very watchful of children around water. It was a major area of my service to the Red Cross, when we lived in Phoenix, to help with Swim Safe events. Pool safety, in particular, is a huge concern-and not just in summer. So, here I was, being encouraging to the little ones, with their flotation devices attached, but not taking my eyes off them, for a second. A young girl, of about twelve, was equally vigilant, apparently being babysitter to at least two of the kids. As Aram did his laps and cardio, I was content to be a second pair of eyes.

It can’t be said enough: “Watch your kids around water!”

The Second Half

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July 1, 2021- The first six months of this year have produced some rather significant changes in my world. Chief among them was Mother’s changing her residence-thankfully of her own accord-after 66 years in the same house. With all of us pitching in, the gargantuan task was broken into a hundred fairly manageable pieces. Now, Mom is happily ensconced in a small, comfortable apartment, with her basic security set.

The other changes are more internal. I have jettisoned a few personal demons that, while not interfering in my life very much, did cause a certain tension to arise, unnecessarily, between me and certain people in the wider community. I have already noticed how much more relaxed things are, when I am in my favourite places around town.

There were, as always, journeys during the period January-June. One was not planned-but going to Massachusetts in May was never in question. Going to Carson City was a year overdue- one of my best friends, and her blessed children and grandchildren are like family to me.

The second half of 2021 will be similar, with most of July being on the road-again largely making up for the lost contacts of the pandemic year. I’m not worried about a variant-the masks and hand sanitizer will be with me, and I have been fully vaccinated. Variants will be around for decades to come, as they are with Ebola-and influenza. Life cannot and should not stop. August and September will mostly find me here in Prescott, save for a memorial hike on the Navajo Nation, on August 16 and a four-day visit to southern California, September 17-21.

In mid-August, I will determine the prudence of going to Europe, for four weeks in October, and plan accordingly, Much depends on any lingering quarantines at that time. November and December will again be Southwest-centric, with my serving as host, around Thanksgiving, hopefully attending a resumed Grand Canyon Baha’i Conference, around Christmas, and making a journey to southern New Mexico for a few days thereafter.

There will also be visits, at least once a month, to the Baha’i friends living along the Colorado River, in western Arizona, and always an eye towards getting up to Navajo and Hopi, as those areas open back up. The Red Cross is also opening its programs and services to in-person situations and meetings, starting within a few weeks, and I will remain open to helping in the schools, for special substituting activities.

Thus, the second half of this year will mirror, and expand upon, the first.