June 12, 2016, Prescott-  My week was largely occupied with helping to man a shelter, for some 37 people who were evacuated from two communities, Yarnell and Peeples Valley, once again threatened by fire.  This time, no one died.  This time, there was minimal property damage.  This time, the fire was taken seriously, from the get-go.

The shelter closed this morning.  I helped with the breakdown, helped inventory the necessities.  Then, I went to the Raven Cafe, had brunch and came home.  My middle brother, in the course of a phone conversation, told me of Orlando.  He told me there were 50 dead.  He told me there were 50 other people, whose lives were in the balance.  He told me of the worst terrorist act on U.S. soil, since 9/11/2001.

Orlando/Beirut:  Many dead, in the former; many terrified, in the latter.  Two fine cities, united by atrocity.  The list of affected cities and towns grows.  The list of innocent victims multiplies. The hate continues.

Three years ago, when I was in yet another of the fogs that come with grief, and was making some terrible choices, one person came to my aid. One person called me and said, directly and convincingly, “This needs to stop.  You are acting crazy and it’s not going to end well.”  That person reset my mental clock.  That person, as fine a friend as I’ve ever known, is a member of the LGBT community.  That person and his fellows deserve all the respect and human dignity that those of us who are heterosexual, cissexual, or any other designation, can possibly muster.

Pulse is now a place of mourning.  Orlando is now a city dealing with two shocks: One small in scale; the other, the worst firearms attack in American history, outside of war.  Both shatter the convoluted logic that, if only good people had firearms, the bad would be at a disadvantage.  Yes, quick, decisive action by police officers did prevent more lives from being lost, in both incidents.  Yet, both shooters reportedly acquired their weapons legally.

So, our choice is this: 1. Honour the souls who have gone on, and not make excuses, as we have done- every single time before, including after 9/11 (“That Frenchman said the U.S. Government did it.”) and after Newtown (“Don’t you know those kids are in hiding.  Nobody really died, except Lanza.”)

2.  Stay in the mindset of ignorance, and denial, and watch, “helplessly”, as the carnage goes on, and gets worse, and comes to a theater near you.

I am listening, thinking, waiting- and mourning.  I will not stand idly by, if a demon rages  in my view.

The Road to 65, Mile 214: The Black Tiles


June 30, 2015, Prescott- This is where I resume the practice of writing two posts a day.  Morning will feature a reminiscence of the day just prior.  Evening will bring a post related to a just-completed journey to the Pacific Northwest and southeast Alaska.  Thus, you will not a juxtaposition in the “Miles” referenced.

On June 30, 2013, I was returning from a visit to the Navajo community of Dinebito and the Hopi village of Polacca.  Whilst driving through Leupp, on the way back, a bulletin came on KNAU.  19 wildland fire fighters had been killed in a windblown firestorm, at Yarnell, west of Prescott.  The team had been based in Prescott itself.  The communities of Yarnell and Peeples Valley had been evacuated, thus giving me an exact message as to what had to be done next.  I went directly to the Red Cross shelter, at Yavapai College, and served, as needed, there for the next four days, while working around a family event in San Diego.

All of that is now a blur, but the suffering of the “Hot Shot’s” families, ever since, is all too real.  Their day-to-day recovery has been undermined by the crusty attitude of many here in the area- “The men knew what they were getting into, when they signed on. Don’t give the survivors a dime more than they’re due already.”  Fortunately, enough of us Prescottonians can look beyond that benighted view of life, so that the surviving families have prevailed, in the courts and in every day life.  A foundation has been established, to handle the most pressing long-term needs.

There is a tradition, in the firehouse, that a rookie does not step on the set of black tiles that lines the middle of the floor, until he or she has been through a major blaze.  The tiles in Station 17, where the Hot Shots were housed, are now enshrined.  No one steps on them.

This leads me to thinking. Years ago, my father-in-law took me aside and said, “You have had some fine experiences as a couple, already.  You have not, though,as yet, been through more than a minor bump or two.  That was in 1985.  Since then, everyone who knows me, has witnessed the real rough patches.  The years from 2003-2011 were enough for any person’s life education.  I have stepped on the black tiles of my own life house.  It is a humbling place, and not often  a lonely one- thanks to those who have stayed as true friends.

As I stood this afternoon, on the Court House lawn, listening to the Fire Marshall offer words of respect for the fallen, the thought came that, while there is no guarantee that a fresh calamity won’t come our way, tomorrow, the sense of community that transcends even the differences of opinion,which sometime threaten to tear us asunder, will be what lifts us in a healing and forward-moving direction.  Yes, love is the secret.