Better

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August 24, 2019-

The father of one of the 19 Wildland Firefighters who died in the 2013 Yarnell Hill fire, gave me a wristband that his son had devised, shortly before his death, that said, simply, “Be Better”.  Andrew used this to remind himself, and his loved ones, to strive daily for self-improvement.  So, I am deeply honoured that I should have this wristband to wear.

I have also had this as my motivating force, climbing out of various ruts and working to treat those around me with ever more consideration and equanimity, especially over the past eight years.  Every so often, I slip.  We all do.  The wristband will help remind me to not let any provocation set me on a downward path.

This brings me to the natural inclination that we have, to attack what we don’t understand, perhaps thinking that, if there is enough vehemence in one’s voice, the “bad guy” will go away.  This is a much more tightly-connected world than in the days of White and Black Hats.  Those we fear and loathe tend to hang out on the fringes, rather than just disappearing.

So, improving oneself  not only takes on an increased urgency, it also serves as a beacon for even those who regard us with loathing.  “Be Better” does not draw a concrete trench  between us; it beckons us to resolve that which stands between us.

It is no secret that I have friends across the political spectrum, standing only against bullying and violent, excluding behaviour.  A person’s viewpoint is always subject to being challenged; but it is theirs to explain, and to hold, and hopefully to expose to new information.

I learned that one of my more politically conservative friends passed away, at a very young age, a few days ago.  I will miss our sharing of visits to Indiana Dunes and her accounts of the beauty of Brown County, in the south central part of Indiana,  and I will miss her keen mind, while remembering that my more moderate views on things Federal did not always sit well with her.  Being better, though, always resonated with A, even as it does with several of  her fellow conservatives and many of my more liberal and progressive friends.

One needs no one’s agreement, or permission, to work on oneself, after all.

Souls Passed Through Him

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September 11, 2016, Yarnell- I read, in this morning’s paper, about a Port Authority policeman, his experiences on September 11, 2001 and his wrenching aftermath- a life no one should have to live.  He spoke of being knocked to the ground, after the second plane hit, the tower fell, and “souls passed through me.”

I believe the last part, having experienced my wife’s soul filling our bedroom, as she prepared to leave for the next life, 5 1/2 years ago.  I know much of the rest: The buildings were physically hit by two airplanes; implosion devices, already in place since the towers were repaired after 1993, were triggered and  brought the towers straight down; dozens of people jumped to their deaths, to avoid being immolated; there are over a thousand for whom there has never been any identification or accounting, as to their fates.

Fifteen years does not erase the horror anyone felt that day.  Most, like me, watched incredulously, on television, as the engineers’ devices went off, automatically, saving tens of thousands more people from dying- as would have happened, had the buildings EXPLODED outward.  Just as those who were alive during the attack on Pearl Harbor still have nightmares, on occasion; just as walking through Gettysburg, Auschwitz, Valley Forge in winter, can still give the average soul and eerie feeling, so I was off to a shaky start, just from reading a post by a friend who was in the first (1993) World Trade Center bombing.

My resolution was to go to this serene town, 25 miles southwest of Prescott, and itself the scene of one of our state’s worst nightmares, on June 30, 2013, when 19 wildland firefighters died in the Yarnell Hill Fire.  I went to St. Joseph’s Mission and Retreat, and walked up the Stations of the Cross trail, revisiting another of history’s greatest horrors- the Martyrdom of Jesus the Christ.  This place brings peace, because the love I feel for Christ, and for His Father, is  primally soothing.  As always, the walk brought me to a centered place, as I recited some Baha’i prayers, words which Jesus Himself would have given His followers, had they been ready to receive.

Terrible things will ever plague humanity, in a harsh world.  Nonetheless, the Sacred Teachers are with us, and having felt Their presence, along this replica of Via Dolorosa, I am able to return to Prescott, and later, to Chino Valley- observing the birthday of a good friend.

 

People of Value

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June 30, 2016, Prescott- I will leave here, in a few short minutes, to visit with several friends and family members, scattered as we all are, across the Great Plains, Midwest, Northeast and South.

Earlier today, though, I stopped by the town of Yarnell, so horribly hit, three years ago, by the fire which took the lives of 19 brave souls and upended countless others.  I was not there for the formal ceremony, which will be addressed by an old friend and co-worker, himself grandfather to one of the men who died that day.  My extended spiritual energy will need to suffice, but at 4:42 PM, wherever I am on the road, I will stop and observe silence, at the very time the lives of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots were snuffed out.

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Future site of Yarnell Hill Memorial Park

This brings me to the wider concept of value.  Recent discussions, in various forums, have raised the matter of how much do the lives and livelihoods of men matter, anymore.  I have been in the situation of feeling devalued, and know several men who feel likewise.  It is not hard to find such people.  All one need do is go to a busy street corner, and notice the person holding a plea-ridden sign.

Of course, homelessness is a far more complex issue than I will address in this particular post.  My wife, son and I were homeless, for a few months in 1992.  We worked our way out of it, and managed to keep a roof over our heads- which I still do.  No, I am concerned right at this moment, with placing value on the persons and souls of the human male- every bit as much as I do with our precious, much-loved female companions on this earthly plane.

I will address this topic in more depth, but for now:  Let each human being realize that his/her dreams, and what they have to offer, matter just as much as anyone else’s.  We do nothing to make the Earth a better place, by excluding anyone, of either gender, or of any given category of humanity, from their rightful place in the mix.  Advancing one group, at the expense of another, is short-sighted, and has always contributed to strife, in the long-run.  There is room, to spare, for both men and women to work, contrary to the ongoing myth of scarcity.

Prescott Circle, Segment 3: Copper Basin to Thumb Butte Road

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April 9, 2016, Prescott- My companions today were about a dozen bicyclists, a few lone hikers, three herds of deer and birds-lots of them.  A wild turkey, or two, could be heard gobbling in the woods above Manzanita Creek- about a mile from Copper Basin Road.

With my Saturday afternoon appointment canceled, due to illness, and with a break in the storms, the trail called-loudly.  Who am I to turn down Mother Nature?

Choosing to use paved Thumb Butte Road, and one of its turnouts, as a safe place for my car, I opted to start the hike at the end point, and do the entire 10-mile round trip in an afternoon.  The jaunt took 4 1/2 hours.

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Miller Creek, near Thumb Butte Road

There are several creeks, coming off the Sierra Prieta, in this section of trail. Miller Creek is the northernmost, followed, north to south, by Butte, Aspen and Manzanita- which has the nicest little canyon in the area.

As I made my way up Porter Mountain’s northeast peak, also called Williams Peak, it was telling, just how severe the Indian Fire of 2002 was to this area, itself so close to the Granite Basin, which was later to be ravaged by 2013’s Dolce Fire.  These collective memories, compounded by the dire tragedy of Yarnell Hill (which followed Dolce by two weeks), make us here in Prescott that much more grateful for this morning’s rain- and that which is expected to follow, this coming week.

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Cloud, reaching up from base cirrus.

As if offering confirmation of my thoughts, a cirrus finger reached up from its base cloud, towards other clouds above.

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Granite Mountain, from Williams Peak

Williams Peak offers a fine vantage point for the majesty of Granite Mountain.

A pair of Arizona Woodpeckers hung around, while I was admiring the scenery, so I obliged them with a portrait.

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“Stormtrooper” Rock, Butte Creek Valley

As I headed into the Butte Creek watershed, I was watched by a Storm Trooper.

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Butte Creek Road, atop Williams Peak, Porter Mountain

The trail follows Butte Creek Road, along the flat ridge of Williams Peak, until one reaches the area known as “Hilltop”, where three trails converge.

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Thumb Butte, from Williams Peak

A clearing on Butte Creek Road afforded the best view of Thumb Butte, from the west.  It is two miles northeastward, from here.

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Butte Creek

Crossing Butte Creek, one heads into slightly more heavily forested, and somewhat more rugged, terrain.

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South Ridge, Williams Peak

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Manzanita Creek Canyon, near Dugan Camp, Copper Basin

Manzanita Creek Canyon is on my list of “picnic hike” spots, during the second half of June.  Dugan Camp, about a half mile southwest, is still an active resting place for trailer campers.

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Apparent ruin of miner’s cabin, south of Manzanita Creek

This area has been popular with campers and miners alike, especially during the heyday of Copper Basin, in the early 20th Century.

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Heart-shaped granite, near Copper Basin Road

There was another confirmation, waiting for me, close to the turnaround point, near Copper Basin Road.

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Stump, from 2002 Indian Fire

This stump stands as a silent sentinel, to warn humans of the lasting effects of careless camping and shooting.

Finally, in the spirit of Asian artists who leave a flaw in each of their works, here is a scene of one of the three herds of deer, who crossed my path on the hike back to Thumb Butte Road.

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Deer, the best wild animals for selfie poses.

Time, Times and Half A Time

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Rev 12:14″ And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.”

It has been just shy of a year, since one of the most horrific events to befall my adopted town took place on a remote ridge:  The Yarnell Hill Fire, which claimed the lives of 19 Wildland Firefighters.  Every family left behind has suffered unimaginable grief.  A widow, just shy of 30 years of age, has the task of raising four children, albeit with a strong, emotionally-supportive extended family and an upstanding Faith Community.  For the past seven months, she, and they, have dealt with a bureaucracy and its supporters, whose mantra has been “Life happens.  Make do with what you have.”

Fine words for those who may have suffered through the Depression, by taking in laundry, picking weeds or digging ditches, but the world has changed a tad.  Much water has gone under many bridges.  The issue in this case, though, is that while all the crew members worked equally as hard as the next, only some, by the interpreted letter of the law, were well-tended by the system.  The rest were to find other means of support.

After 1 1/2 days of hearings, the regulatory authority in this case determined, by majority vote, that the young widow and her children were indeed entitled to full benefits, under the appropriate system.  Our system may be slow, may often need careful, patient action to correct its mistakes, but today is proof that it works.  Today is proof that, even in our times of instant gratification-or-nothing, not giving up is essential.

On a far different note, I came home and read a  lengthy rejoinder to a comment I had made, relative to the Islamic Faith.  The author cites chapter and verse to show that Islam is inherently evil, and that anything said to the contrary is naive and “PC”.  I will obviously have to do a lot of research before responding to the innuendo, just as the legal team which prevailed in this week’s hearing had to do an enormous amount of work, in righting  a serious wrong.

Saint John the Divine, in the passage above, alludes to a desperate soul getting assistance from unlikely sources, and in a most unexpected way.  Those with a stake in an established system will naturally do all they can to guard that system- be it a governmental structure, or a code of beliefs. We must also bear in mind that many a misguided set of beliefs or codes of regulations themselves are rooted in correcting both real and perceived injustice. The needs of the  weak, the suffering, and the pure in heart, however, have a far more powerful set of allies to meet them.  It just takes longer to address them fully.

I also note that another young family, on the other side of the country, received word that THEIR anxiety and difficulties will now also be relieved- on a long-term basis.  Time, and time again, we seek relief.  Never give up!