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.

Sudden Shifts

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December 2, 2020- As the time for my retirement (more or less) gets closer, there is still no end to the surprises and shifts that continue in the conduct of public education. I no sooner was told my scheduled assignment for today had been canceled, than I got a call for three days-thus taking me through this week.

The next surprise: Friday will most likely be my last day of work for the calendar year. This is due to the school districts going online again, beginning Monday. I am strictly an in-person educator, as far as public schools are concerned. I helped a few children when attempting online instruction, but it was tough, which is likely one reason why the previous assignment was canceled-as online instruction was part of it.

This will prompt a re-assessment of my schedule for the next two weeks, but change is a constant. There is always a lot to do. For tomorrow and Friday, my young charges are glad that I came back. They are not thrilled about going back to online learning, so I hope that streaming technology, at least, can make things vivid for them. The chances of them going back to in-person learning, in January, will depend on COVID levels at that time. I will be taking on only special assignments, in the new calendar year, in any event.

Staying personally disciplined is, and will be, the only thing that will keep me standing-regardless of the swiftness or degree of changes. So, it will remain- Rise early, keep serving and stay steadfast in both exercise and faith. That, and be discerning with regard to the claims to reality, of disparate groups.

The Summer of the Rising Tides, Day 35: Walking My Path

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July 5, 2020-

Upon going through my usual morning rituals, I found a message on my phone, informing me that I was expected to start up a Non-Governmental Organization, the purpose of which would be to “save the world’s destitute children.” I was to found the organization and become its president.

Just so we’re clear, this is the wish of an over-exuberant online contact, whom I’ve never met, but who regards me as a family member. What is also clear is that I will help this person with legitimate goals, but I am NOT going to undertake the founding of an NGO, and become its head.

I will always strive, in an unofficial and voluntary capacity, to help the children of this world and support those of normal working age, whose careers are still underway. I will be 70 years of age, in late November, and while I realize that the election just prior to my birthday will be between two septuagenarians, that is THEIR choice. After forty-four years of working, I will be finished with being at someone else’s beck and call. I will still be robust, but am not working 60 hours a week.

My inner being is getting attention, especially during this period of sequestering. I am, and will be, taking part in the Harmonic Convergence that is goiong on, from today until July 14. Spirit guides, who these days prefer to be called Soul, are still telling me to prepare for time on the road, later this year and early next, and to go abroad, for much of the next four years.

Jesus once alluded to the fruits of presumption as despair. I take each day as it comes.

Primacy

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February 24, 2020-

As I was driving home, from this evening’s study circle with some friends, I encountered a bicyclist on the dark and narrow country road.  With oncoming traffic, as well, my only rational choice was to stop and let the cyclist pass.  His well-being and safety had precedence, as I’m sure most would agree.  A similar incident, earlier this afternoon, involved waiting to turn, at a green light, whilst a person in a walker used the crossing.  It was helpful, though not necessary, that one of my neighbours waiting behind me, was not in an all-fire rush.

I have reached the point in my life, when each action, each step in a process, is given primacy, and the attention it is due.  I wasn’t always of this mindset, so perhaps it is the much vaunted “wisdom that comes with age”, the antidote to “There’s no fool like an old fool”.  It helps that, with each step thus completed, I feel satisfaction.  There is also the fact that there will be many “completions” in my life, this year:  My last period of abstaining from food and drink during the daylight hours of the first three weeks of March; my last two semesters of working full-time as a substitute teacher; possibly, my last year of living in Prescott (family needs would be what take me out of here; otherwise, this area is as fine a Home Base as anywhere one could live).

Essentially, what has primacy in my life is the Will of the Divine.  This reveals Itself to me, in large and small ways, each day-and with regard to the needs of other humans, or the needs of creatures, great and small.  With that thought, I need to sign off and get a good night’s sleep.  Tomorrow, and this entire week, are full, from morning to night.

Another One Out Like a Lamb

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March 28, 2019-

There is one more work day and one more trading day left in March.  A quarter of my sixty-ninth year will end on Sunday.  March has been roiling, as we have seen, in the areas of weather-based crises and human conflict.  It has also been a time of great joy for me, personally.

As I get ready for the last two months of a fairly successful work year, and begin to ponder what life might be like, after I leave full time employment and devote my time to family and to several months of the year as a traveling writer, there may be a catch.

Having said, a few times, that I am likely to leave Prescott, and Arizona, after nearly thirty years straight and thirty-eight years, all told, in the Grand Canyon State, there is the matter of who might prevail on me to remain here.  Most of my friends here will wish me well, regardless of what path I choose to follow.  There are some, not  counted as friends, who will be glad to see me leave.  One or two special people, who will remain nameless, could yet get me to stick around.  In any case, I know my meanderings would bring me back here, time and again.

This is all conjecture, at present.  I have two very full and rewarding years left, before “retirement”.  The March Lion will bow out, and April will bring pesky standardized testing, the beauty of Ridvan and of Easter, and the Proms.  May will likely see the first 90-degree day for Prescott, and 100-degree day in Metro Phoenix.  The weekends seem to be fully-booked, but I could very well get in a day trip to Grand Canyon, on the Centenary of its National Park.  This one would be to the east side of the Park, and Desert View Tower.  That was my Dad’s favourite spot, when he and Mom visited, in 1985.

Enough meandering, word-wise; I had a busy day and rest is of the essence.  See many of you, tomorrow.

The Road to 65, Mile 346: Advocacy

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November 9, 2015, Chino Valley- I has now been almost a month, since I took on this work.  As I expected, several people have come on my sites and chided me for coming “out of retirement.”  My affairs and choices are mine alone, though, so I take my hat off to those who have stood by my side.  The boo-birds aren’t going to be anywhere around, when I am in the oldest stages of life, and I am determined to not be the least burden to my son and other family.

The bottom line is, I am working  harder than I have in years, because the group of children needs a tireless advocate.  I can go on like this, for at least five years, and longer, if necessary. So, for the next month, and most likely longer, here I am.  I don’t have to be anyone’s favourite.