Across A Scarred, Blessed Land

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July 11,2022, Grapevine, TX- All of my errands were tended, in a little mini-mall at Muscle Shoals, right next to one of the Blues hub’s many recording studios. I went there, briefly, after checking out of Budget Inn, in nearby Florence. Last night, I was swept up in love for some openly devout people. Quiet strength is an overwhelming force. The manager of Budget Inn showed the same determination and fortitude as that precious family. I will not forget any of them.

I had a mission: To get to my little family’s home, here in the northwest of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metro area, before calling it a night. Crossing three states to get into Texas is an all-day affair, even with few or no stops. I find the scarred, blessed, lands of the South to be of particular beauty, both in terms of terrain and of their people. With all that came of following the doctrine of human ownership of other humans, of patriarchy and dominance-which existed in other parts of the continent and around the globe as well, just in other guises, the character of people and the force of faith have forged an indomitable culture of resilience-among Black and White people alike. That resilience is far from complete, but I saw a much stronger sense of self-worth, across Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana today, than I did on my last journey in this area, in December, 2020. Black workers were not furtively looking about, when serving me, but were forthright and confident. White youths were not engaged in mocking and ridiculing me for “walking like a Yankee”, whatever that meant back in 2020.

I had a fine meal, at Country Pride, in Tallulah, LA, served by a an amiable woman, of regal bearing. The magnolias and pines of the Appalachian foothills gave way to the grasslands of the Delta, which in turn gave way to the pines of the Big Thicket, then to the short grass prairie. I am in my little family’s home now, for three days.

A better South is rising.

Coming From Behind

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January 25, 2022- The tortoise, enjoying the scents of the flowers and the brightness of the Spring scenery, kept his steady pace. The hare, intent on reaching the destination, was overcome with the limits of his own body and, bored with the route he had covered countless times, decided he’d take a brief rest. Thus, did the lumbering reptile note his snoring rival, as he passed by, a short while later. So, the steady, appreciative creature was awarded the garland of flowers, to the abiding chagrin of the pompous lagomorph.

Aesop told the tale a bit differently, but the end is much the same-as is the moral. So often, people take current circumstances, or long-standing trends, and base their plans for the future on those. I noted how that did not work out, in this past weekend’s plethora of football games. I am also noting how self-assured politicians and political commentators are running into the buzz saw of uncertainty, as the people at large work the malleable clay of the country’s, and mankind’s, future. Few really saw the three-week-long financial correction coming, and neither do that many see the resilience that will happen, once the driftwood of ill-performing stocks is carted away.

We tend to see the present, no matter how well, or how poorly, things are going, as the wave of the future. Of course, some patterns endure for quite a while. Others, though, get swept away, almost instantaneously. Few people saw the election of 2016 turning out as it did. Equally few saw the subsequent presidential contest ending as it did. My guess is that this year’s contests, and those two years hence, will result in much the same.

There are many areas of life where fear rules-from the erratic weather patterns to the future of the world economy, but fear never takes human ingenuity, or the Hand of the Divine, into consideration. Our ability to handle, and transcend, the caprice of nature-and our own species’ flights of whimsy is almost unlimited.

Mankind is destined for a far brighter future than it often appears. We will, collectively, overcome our challenges, even coming from behind.

Best Laid Plans

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August 26, 2021- To those hoping for a sestina, followed by an octina, in the next two posts-sorry, I worked extra hard today and am ready to do so again tomorrow-so, rain check on the two big kahunas. I don’t go by other people’s schedules anyway.

My day began with a phone call from my colleague, for whom I am covering classes. We have worked as a team, these three weeks-I, in person, with the students and she from her family’s home, in another state. I was on my own today, with basic, but well thought-out plans, which kept five groups of potentially rambunctious teens happily engaged. Not everyone got all the concepts being considered, but when does that ever happen? The students made my day dance.

Plans, these days, are made to be changed. This is a poster year for flexibility, and methinks it is not the last such year that lies in wait. I thought for sure that I would visit Canada in the Spring and Europe in the Fall. Instead, two cross-USA trips took place this Spring and Summer and New Mexico will replace Silesia and Old Prussia, in October. I am very fortunate, regardless.

A man in another country thought for sure that glomming onto me and calling me “Brother” would guarantee him a steady supply of money. Instead, he got some help and a few lessons on forbearance and trying to network, rather than the old “You owe us” guilt trips, which are fast running out of steam.

This has become the year of shattered assumptions and of resilient self-reliance. I am feeling finer, with each day that I face whatever fire happens along. I wish everyone the same.

Tenderness

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August 9, 2021-

Tenderness, Mutual caring, Each for another.

The above is a Hay(na)ku- a 1-2-3 verse, containing six words, lined as shown.

I saw nothing but tenderness, yesterday, between the three girls and their Nanny. The kids looked after one another, and each other’s personal items. Ages six, seven and nine, they showed no jealousy or lack of understanding, when encouraging each other in their impromptu exercise routines. The woman, for her part, showed the girls the proper way to stretch and kept a light, but constant, vigilance, respecting both the girls’ emotional awareness and the nature of the group.

Tenderness comes a bit harder, when one is tasked with maintaining order in a larger group setting, with people who may not have experienced it very much, in their overall lives. Prisons, mental hospitals, residential schools, and overcrowded, underfunded day schools conjure the notion of ludicrosity, when tenderness is mentioned. It does indeed take a different form, but acknowledging another person’s pain has happened in settings as horrific as concentration camps and plantations of the enslaved.

Tenderness is a key to many things: Resilience, reconciliation, resolution of disputes and the recovery of communities, among them. It is not weakness, but it is the realization of a commitment to pay attention to the needs of others, on a level at which they are equal to oneself.

Oh, Okay…

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August 3, 2021- That is what some have said to me, when what I have told them is not what they wanted to hear. Usually, it has come from someone who barely knew anything about me and was just projecting their own hopes and dreams onto what they thought should have been my actions.

I have used this phrase, myself, when coming to a conclusion about someone who offers only excuses, over time, for not achieving what is possible, given their abilities or skill sets. I have used it, in that vein, with myself, on occasion-and thus have begun a bounce back. It’s been my way to tell self not to give up.

For the fourth time in my life, I have cut someone off, who has consistently argued and rebutted my suggestions. I stuck with this individual for nearly four years, and now it is time for walking under his own power. I believe he will, even if after a period of rage towards me and of self-pity. The human spirit simply cannot abide such drivel, in perpetuity. If I did not believe this was so, I would not have tried to help him, in the first place.

“Oh, okay…” I say this, to those who believe only ONE political viewpoint or philosophy can suffice all human needs.

I say this, to those who claim that there needs to be a Ruling Class, to which all others must bow.

I say this, to those who maintain that the “White Race” owes the rest of humanity a bailout.

I say this, to anyone who believes that one nation or ethnic group is superior to all others, and therefore should either take on all responsibility for those others’ well-being or subject them to servitude.

I say this, to anyone who rejects the notion that it takes concerted group effort, free of ideology or partisanship, to fix any major problem that exists-anywhere.

In truth, these attitudes are NOT okay. Refusing to educate the children in one’s community, state or nation, unless high tuition is paid, is NOT okay. Refusing to re-negotiate with a potential ally in social progress, because of past indiscretions or disagreements, is NOT okay. Refusing to accept others, because of differences of opinion, is NOT okay. Refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions is NOT okay.

I hold myself to these points, so it is reasonable for me to hold others to them, as well.

Tomorrow Always Comes

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April 15, 2021- Despite the best efforts of the naysayers, or perhaps because of their incessant reminders, there is always a bright sun shining.

In spite of the pain we may feel, or perhaps because of its calling attention to a place that needs growing, there is healing that brings solace.

In the darkest of night, there is ever a glimmer far to the east that calls to the soul, saying: “Rejoice, for the tidings of strength, vindication and resilience are nigh, would you but be open to these.” Tomorrow always comes, if not to the body, then surely to the spirit.

Dance The Moon

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March 3, 2021-

Dance the Moon, my diligent friend. Your work is, and will be, reaping grand rewards. You have a magnificent mind, with heart to match and a drive that will bring sustenance to many.

Dance Mars, my solitary chum. We may walk many miles together, amongst the red rocks. You will heal many, also, through careful measure of l that which brings salubrity.

Dance Venus, oh sad, yet resilient blessing to my soul. I hear your heart’s every palpitation, and know that the warmth of your heart will sustain you, through all grief.

Dance the stars, my eternally best beloved. Dance, sing, and guide us who stayed behind. We have many who look to us in wonder, and can not afford to skip a beat.

The Hotel Project, Day 11

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October 5, 2020, Dallas-

I get that the president wants to get back to his work. I am also one to be looking at finishing what I start. One of our coworkers is sidelined by illness, which may or may not be COVID19. None of the rest of us are showing symptoms, though, so it could be something entirely different. The same thing happened in Alexandria, and the one person was quarantined-with the rest of us not becoming infected.

We resolved the missing clothing problem, from last week and a very happy, relieved client was reunited with her wardrobe. Several others began to take ownership of their short-term futures, though the human aversion to change was evident, among many of the people.

There is, on balance, an appreciation for what Red Cross has done for the communities in southern Louisiana, with none of the agitation by the Far Right that followed Hurricane Harvey, in 2017. The organization is committed to continuing to work WITH the people and communities of the region, as they face both return to the area and yet another hurricane, this coming weekend. Many have said, flat-out, that they will relocate to Texas, permanently. I’m sure many more will choose to move elsewhere, once the fullness of the hurricane season is through.

Tomorrow is the last full day of deployment and Wednesday will be a transit day. Both will be full of activity and change.

The Hotel Project, Day 5

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September 29, 2020, Dallas-

The young mother pushed her son’s stroller up to where I was standing, and matter-of-factly asked me to hold her clean laundry, when it comes back tomorrow, as she was headed to her hometown, to tend to a family emergency. She will return on Thursday or Friday.

We are approaching the midpoint in this effort, and yes, people are moving out of the hotel and on towards salvaging their possessions, their livelihoods and their lives. It will be a rocky process for most, and as one gentleman reminded us, this afternoon, we volunteers, as hard as we are working now, will soon head back to lives of relative comfort. Those hit by three successive storms will, in many cases, have no such respite.

This team is far more comprised of multiple generations, than the Strike Team with whom I worked in Alexandria. I find it most gratifying. Half of the team here is comprised of Millennials, giving the lie to arguments that the younger generations have no cache in solving the problems of society. The ideas and observations of our younger teammates equal their energy, in value.

We shall overcome-and so shall the victims of the storms.

More Than That

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April 7, 2018, Prescott-

It’s been 6.5 years, but I remember:

He- “Your life has been one disappointment, after another.  Your delivery has been horrible.  You SEEM to expect others to carry you along.”

I (Thinking)- “My life is far from over.  I may not have my nose to the grindstone, but I am NOT letting one person condemn me to the scrap heap.  I may or may not amass the fortune he seems to expect, but I am going to get back to a quality life-on MY terms.”

The uncomfortable morning passed, and I’ve held my own.  There has been no fortune amassed, but there is a decent life.  I paid the above person back, every cent owed at the time.  We have a strong bond, again, and a mutual respect has been rebuilt.

I write this, in response to a young correspondent expressing a high level of self-directed anger, in the midst of a rough patch.  Some of us, indeed, hit more than our share of speed bumps, and some are imposed by other people- or by institutions, including governments.  There is no limit, however, on how many times one can get back up and continue onward.  Remember, Mohandas Gandhi, before he was Mahatma, and when he was a supporter of the South African government, was knocked down, repeatedly, for voicing a difference of opinion with that government.  Each time, he got back up, and eventually earned a meeting with the Prime Minister.

This resilience is true, for each area of our life.  I am known in my family to be nothing, if not as stubborn as an ox- and this has been the deciding factor, in keeping me alive and well.  There is no reason why any person can’t climb out of a hole- despite the depth.

Each of us is more than that.