Forging Ahead

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November 25,2020, Plano-

On a fine and comfortable late November morning, it’s a nice touch to hit the trail, even if the trail in question happens to be paved. So it was that the three of us headed over to Spring Creek Recreation Area, in neighbouring Richardson.

November, in the northern hemisphere, is something of a shoulder month, with leaves having mostly fallen (the cottonwoods of the Southwest, in their golden glory, are an exception). Nonetheless, Nature is healing, sustaining, even in its time of faded glory.

So it was, this morning, at Spring Creek.

This ramp leads down onto the trail.
Most of the trail is flat. This is, after all, a forest situated in a prairie.
Spring Creek, a small stream, is muddy in times of low precipitation.

There were relatively few people on the trail with us. A family of five, with a mildly mischievous adolescent boy teasing his older sister, and a couple of loud younger boys from another family, punctuated an otherwise quiet, self-absorbed coterie of joggers and T’ai-Chi practitioners, who wanted nothing but privacy.

Returning back to Plano Home, Yunhee treated Aram and me to freshly- made bowls of bibimbap, a Korean dish in which is placed rice, ground meat, leafy greens, shredded carrots, mushrooms and, if one wishes, either hard-boiled or over-easy egg in an individual bowl. The diner mixes the ingredients to own satisfaction. Often, the ceramic bowl is heated, so that a raw egg will cook as it is mixed with the other contents. Today, though, all was cooked in advance. It was, nonetheless, delectable-along with her home-made kimchi and seasoned dried minnows.

Bibimbap

As will be occasional, throughout this week’s visit, I felt it proper to join a couple of Zoom calls. One was with a small group of kindred spirits, in a guided meditation. The other, celebrating the life of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, was based in Prescott. Today is observed as the Day of the Covenant, which was the wish of ‘Abdu’l-Baha for those who expressed a desire to celebrate His birthday. As He was born on the very day that al-Bab proclaimed His Mission to humanity, ‘Abdu’l-Baha randomly selected this day (November 25 or 26, depending on the lunar calendar) as a day during which Baha’is could celebrate His life, and Baha’u’llah’s Covenant with His followers.

As it happens, November 28, 1921 was the day on which ‘Abdu’l-Baha ascended to the Spiritual Realm. Thus, in a short span of days, we honour His life and commemorate His passing. Next year, as you might imagine, our focus will be on that extraordinary life and legacy.

So it is, that the governing body of the Baha’i Faith, the Universal House of Justice, has given us a rough outline of the decade ahead- a One -Year Plan, focusing on the above-mentioned life and legacy of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, and a subsequent nine years of helping to build a more sustainable and peace-focused society. So it is, that we forge ahead.

With These Blessings,….

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November 9, 2020-

I sat here at my combination laptop table/gratitude altar, during the second of three Zoom meetings, this evening, and marveled at how my week’s schedule has evolved. Four work assignments have presented themselves- today being a short three-hour session with intermediate schoolers, whose classmates in the hybrid set-up will be my charges, tomorrow.

Thursday will be an early start day, with small groups of reading enrichment students, at the primary level. Friday, I will be with a class of first graders. Earlier this season, my plan for the end of this week was to head up to Painted Desert/Petrified Forest. Then came a second wave of COVID-19 which, while not dissuading me from the journey, did create a teacher shortage. Thus, my personal time is a weekend affair. Whether I head up that way, for a shorter time, will be determined later in the week.

There are many blessings that come in the guise of trouble. For me, being with children of any age is high on that list. COVID is the trouble and they are the blessings. Being able to visit friends in Sedona on Friday evening, then go no further than Homolovi State Park on Saturday, and being back for my weekly devotional on Sunday, would be a perfect weekend alternative.

Wednesday is Veteran’s Day, Armistice Day and the auspicious 11/11. The blessings of a midweek holiday come not only in the respect shown us as military veterans or in the free or discounted meals, but in the awareness that something I did, as part of a larger effort, made a big difference.

I am feeling blessed to live among people who can see the forest for the trees, and don’t altogether get rattled. If there is illness, momentary discomfort or a bit of inconvenience, there is a roadmap to getting past those things, and more of us are aware of this, than not.

The last few weeks of being a sixty-something are shaping up to be ever more filled with bounties.

Heart of the Matter

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November 3, 2020-

By one metric, my heart health is fairly good. By another, it needs a fair amount of attention. I am already moving away from a meat-happy diet, towards one that is more plant-based. That comes with the territory, and as I have left processed, fast foods behind, this is the logical next step. Very rare, anymore, are donuts and cake. Coffee is, generally, one cup in the morning.

Lavender and marjoram are looking to be a morning and evening application. More exercise is also in the mix-four days a week at PF. Fewer Zoom calls and more time outside- COVID or no COVID. I would wager that many people are losing ground in heart health, because of the pull of sedentary. Zoom is good for communicating with people far afield, but there was this wake-up call today, and I need to get on the stick.

Like Robert Frost, I have promises to keep and miles to go, before I sleep.

Priorities, and Mayhem

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October 14, 2020-

Some have watched the hearings on Judge Barrett’s nomination to the Supreme Court. Others actually bothered to read the New York Post’s alarm-bell piece about Hunter Biden (who would NOT likely have any role in his father’s still-possible presidential administration). Then, there is the back and forth, in our Arizona state government, about when would be a good date to end voter registration for the upcoming election.

None of these three processes are near the top of my attention focus, right now. I would have a huge problem with the Roberts Court curtailing any of the civil rights given us, by its predecessor courts, to wit: The tenures of Chief Justices Warren, Burger and Rehnquist, as well as, to a limited degree, Mr. Roberts himself. Amy Barrett reminds me of former Justice Anthony Kennedy-with a lot of Justice Scalia thrown in-so we all need to be vigilant, about both the appeal of judicial backsliding on human rights (The Koch Manifesto is likely on her shelf) and taking her at her word about keeping the Law above her personal predilictions. My fervent hope is that she keeps, front and center, what kind of world she wants for all five of the children she and her husband are raising. They may not fare all that well, in a world dominated by the mayhem of One-Percenters Gone Wild.

The less said about Hunter Biden, the better. At the very least, it is a case of Pots calling Kettles black, writ large. I wish everyone well, so long as they are playing by the rules of the game, but being the flip side of the same coin does not afford the Trumps the right to throw shade on their opposite numbers.

States where elected officials see the handwriting on the wall have made various efforts at voter suppression. There has been scuttlebutt about ballot harvesting, and thus far, little fire has been detected under that smoke. Setting a registration deadline of 2 1/2 weeks before an election, as our Secretary of State has done, seems reasonable. A month ahead, as is supposedly “written into the Arizona Revised Statutes”, would seem to be unnecessarily restrictive, in a state that is experiencing legal population growth on a daily basis. Besides, even the conservative State Court of Appeals sees no problem with the 2 1/2 weeks-out deadline (which is tomorrow). My prediction: People will brave long lines and vote in droves.

In my little world, the focus is on a Zoom’ed spiritual gathering, this evening; a memorial service, tomorrow morning; a trip, tomorrow afternoon, up to Valle, AZ for a hike, Friday morning and four different Zoom calls, over the next two days. The weekend will be what it is and next week, I will be at a work site every day. The Farmer’s Market will be open, we Baha’is will celebrate the Birthdays of our Faith’s Founder and His Herald and we will be one week closer to decision day.

Let’s keep mayhem to a dull roar.

Fortnight of Transition, Day 12: Holding My Own

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September 20,2020-

Three twenties in a row brought a few challenges with them. Someone who has enjoyed calling me out, on my perceived flaws, over the past few months, finally took my patience over the edge and has been banned from these sites. I’m sure the individual will show up, anonymously, just to prove that I have poor Internet security, but no matter.

Simply put, it is more imortant to me that the vast majority of people of good will may access these posts, than that I have airtight computer security, with a passphrase that has 100 characters, and is changed every five days. I have taken steps to minimize, if not eliminate, hacking- without taking on cybersecurity as a second job.

It was, otherwise, a very nice penultimate day of Summer, 2020. Two lovely Zoom-based devotionals-one honouring the late Helen Hamilton, about whom I wrote a memorial post, two weeks ago and the other honouring Race Unity, graced the morning and early afternoon.

It looks like a street fair that was to have taken place across the street from me was COVID canceled. I also had a rain check given me for a visit with friends north of here, as food canning took precedence for them.

This week brings what will pass for the start of Autumn, a dental check-up, anda possible second Red Cross deployment. September is not what is known as a “power month”, but it has called on me to sharpen a few skills of discernment and forebearance.

Altogether Fitting and Proper

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May 20, 2020-

I woke today, feeling the power that comes with a day which may be written as 05-20-20, and which is the midpoint of the twentieth week of 2020.  Being Wednesday, I found myself in two consecutive Zoom calls, for two different reasons, this afternoon.

After those were finished, it was time for a regenerative cat nap-THEN came the urge to finally take the first of four directional walks.  So, on went the sneakers, sunglasses and ballcap-and east I went.

Today was the last of a series of mild, rather breezy days, so walking was a veritable pleasure.  My eastward route took me as far as the still-shuttered Planet Fitness franchise, in a shopping center called Frontier Village.  This was a 1 1/2 mile-one-way jaunt, and relatively easy.

The way back led me along the edge of Prescott VA Cemetery, resting place of many military veterans, and a place where I usually join a large group of volunteers, placing American flags at gravesites, on Memorial Day weekend.  I’ve heard nothing about that, this year, so am thinking it’s another casualty of COVID19.  I stopped and read Abraham Lincoln’s “Address at Gettysburg Memorial Cemetery”, thinking about what, today, is “altogether fitting and proper”.

There are three things that come immediately to mind:

  1.  Treat all citizens, especially those with whom one disagrees, as worthy of respect.

2.  Honour those who may need us to make small adjustments in our daily conduct- i.e. people who might be immunocompromised, and need those around them, in public places, to wear face masks.

3.  Continue thinking for self-and that means THINKING, not following the loudest voices in the room, on the Internet or in the streets.

These are altogether fitting and proper, nearly 157 years after our nation’s 16th President dedicated a military cemetery, receiving the remains of those who fought in one of our nation’s bloodiest, and most divisive, conflicts.

Two Candles

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May 8, 2020-

On a Zoom call, this evening, the moderator put forth a telling message:  “It is not necessary for me to put out your candle, so that mine may burn brighter.”

Cynics may counter-“Too many lights put each other out.”

I beg to differ.  Life is not a zero sum game.  Some conservatives want a world without progressives.  Some progressives can’t wait to rid our planet of conservatives.  I find either prospect an empty one.  There are features, of extremists on both sides, that I find reprehensible-  From the alt-right:  The murder of an African-American jogger, on February 23, by two white men; the drawings of swastikas and nooses; “Rassus” jokes, told by both whites and Native Americans; ANY hint that one race is superior to another. From the extreme left:  The caricatures of conservatives as knuckle-dragging hominids; ANY defense of pedophilia (which occurs among both liberals and conservatives, by the way); advocacy of wholesale slaughter of those in power.

I’ve covered the need for an array of responsible viewpoints, in an earlier post.  So, I will end with this:  I know plenty of respectable, responsible and loving people, on both sides of the chasm.  I know plenty of decent, morally sound people, among all ethnicities, economic levels, creeds and ways of life.  My candle doesn’t need yours to be snuffed out, in order for it to shine brightly.  Come on home.

Opening Back Up

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May 6. 2020-

I asked my friend, who owns a small natural foods cafe, how she was going to go about re-opening her dine-in area, after the go-ahead bell is rung, next Monday.  She will go with patio service only, for the time-being-as the ambiance of the establishment is “tarry awhile” and indoor tarrying would bother her sensibilities.

There will be several “return to normal” efforts, over the next few weeks.  I am likely to get a haircut, next Monday.  My monthly check-up at the chiropractor went on today, as scheduled.  Turning right, into his parking lot, off the main artery between Prescott and Prescott Valley earned me a tirade from the guy behind me, who doesn’t like the idea that there are turn-offs, along his route home.  Some things aren’t going to change, COVID or not.  In a couple of weeks, I will head down to Phoenix, for my four-month dental check-up and cleaning.

Several Zoom calls will last the rest of the month. June will bring a different set of expectations, but we’ll cross that bridge, when we get there.  The gradual lifting of the curtain will be enough and may feel like a century has passed, by the time Memorial Day weekend arrives.  I want to see people remain healthy, to the extent possible.  God knows, we’ve already lost enough people, these past three months.

I have felt closer to the night sky, during this period of upside-down, whilst still getting up at 6 a.m., as the joy of morning is still very much in place.  That short mid-day cat nap makes all the difference.

Lessons from Flubs

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April 2, 2020-

Never let it be said that I have it all together.  Each day brings its share of little victories, but there are also those times when I’m all thumbs.  Each flub, though, brings a lesson.

This morning, I found myself in front of my laptop screen, trying to take part in an online Yoga class, while keeping myself visible on the Zoom screen AND Keeping the laptop plugged in.  It was a comedy of errors, which I’m glad the instructor could not see.

SOLUTION:  For the next session, whenever that is, I will simply bring the laptop and power cord over to my floor-based power strip, and make myself both visible and ready to roll.

I was up until midnight, waiting for a Facebook Live, which never showed, so my equilibrium was a bit off, and I napped longer, mid-afternoon, than I had planned, thus missing a Zoom call that WAS showing.

SOLUTION:  Don’t stay up until midnight, for a definite maybe.  Find someone who was on the call, OTHER THAN the host, and get an update.

I kept forgetting what Zoom call was going to be when.

SOLUTION:  The big whiteboard that I had bought in December, for travel planning, is now my Zoom Calendar board.  I also keep a Google calendar, for good measure.

Small matters, but they do impart lessons, for what may become larger events, when one has to be “on-game” much of the time.