The Tendrils Do Not Fade

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January 14, 2022- The gentlemen and lady came onto a Zoom session, this evening, to speak of the history of Baha’i in their land, as the centennial of its arrival there had just been celebrated. I have alluded to our time there as well, on several occasions.

The influence of South Korea on my life cannot be minimized-especially given Aram’s birth there and his lifelong ties to both Korean and Japanese culture-accented by his marriage to Yunhee. I last went there, in 2019, for the religious ceremony that helped cement that marriage. The country has done quite well, materially, and has had a considerable influence, as well, on the the burgeoning global culture.

Connections I made there, had for the most part, seemed to have faded over the years. It was almost symbolic, when the plaque that Penny and I had been given, at the end of our work in Jeju, in 1992, fell off its stand and irreparably shattered, in 2017. It was not long after that, though, that Aram and Yunhee met. A more formidable, enduring bond was created.

The tendrils that remain between the Korean people and me are thus not going to be broken-and if anything, are one of the strongest threads that are connecting this one’s world. From those threads came ties to Hawaii, Taiwan, all parts of the U.S, and now to Albania, of all places, where a friend from our Jeju days has settled.

There are ties that keep me here-and those that will serve as a safety net, in many places far afield. It all started with a chance move to Korea, thirty-six years ago.

Flex Time

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January 8, 2022- This was one of the weekends in January, when I was planning to be away from Home Base. The schedules of those I had planned to visit changed, and made any visiting inopportune, so this time is being used to tend to matters closer to home. I am also using a couple of meditation Zoom calls to consider the course of future journeys planned for this year and next. Things became clearer to me, during the meditations. Making initial practical information checks, on a couple of aspects of these journeys, made things clearer still.

There is always a way to make good use of time, when plans have to change. Even being mostly in retirement mode, I find there are not enough hours in a day for everything that might be accomplished. Flexibility also seems to be the order of the Universe, at least in terms of how elements of Creation interact with one another. The fact that the Universe is unlimited, infinite, helps with that flexibility. Besides, that infinitude means there are far too many variables for one to go about life in a rigid manner.

In the end, I actually was glad to be finishing the day by completing a reading of “White Fragility”-coming to the conclusion that I am not fragile, in my ethnic and racial identity, and can learn from others about microaggressions and other elements of my own thoughts and actions that might drive a wedge between me and those around me.

No time need be wasted.

The Road Back

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November 10, 2021- Another signature morning meal, at Harbor Breakfast, this one involving fried oysters, of all things, got the day off to a marvelous start. Armando’s gracious hosting and Maria’s delightful antics and banter were supplemented by conversations with a visitor named Chris, who hails from the Boston area and who works in Saugus, as well as other communities in the area, and with Billy, a Little Italy local who has known the staff for quite some time. Chris and I knew some of the same people, most of whom have passed on. Billy is quite enamoured with Prescott, and has driven his vintage truck there several times. Needless to say, Harbor has joined my pantheon of breakfast establishments-alongside Zeke’s, Bedford Diner, Maple Leaf Cafe and Hammersmith Inn (all of which have stellar lunches, as well). Thus will it be a staple of future San Diego visits.

I headed out of San Diego, a bit after 10 a.m., fortuitously being nudged by traffic onto Rte. 67, which led, in turn, to Rte. 79 and Julian, Penny’s last place of residence before our wedding. I always enjoy a stop in this former mining town, which has since learned to prosper from apple farming and a healthy tourist economy. My main purpose there, this time, was to connect with a group of friends on a Zoom call. Ala, there were no electrical outlets, so using my laptop was not an option-and Zoom is awkward, when used on a mobile phone. The slice of apple pie and coffee were at least a consolation.

The route from Julian to Indio is fairly straightforward, and cuts out about 2/3 of southern California’s I-10. It also offers the cheapest gas in the region at Pit Stop, in the “don’t blink” settlement of Mountain Center. I was therefore not surprised at having to navigate a scrum of drivers, worthy of any strip mall parking lot, in order to get out of the place.

The rest of the way was uneventful, though I pulled into the gas station in Congress, AZ, at the tail end of an incident involving a little girl who had been missing for about ten minutes-and was found to have been just exploring the lot, before getting scared and running back to her grandfather. Congress is one of those small communities where everyone looks out for one another- and they will keep an eye out for visitors’ well-being, too.

These three days were a fine return to southern California. Even with my being far more relaxed these days at Home Base, it is a tonic to be near the ocean, every so often.

Three Little Things

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November 5, 2021- I spent the day working mostly with a child who had a reputation for being feisty and insolent. While I saw flashes of those traits, at different points during the day, he was for the most part a delightful student. Many times, a child’s behaviour is a reflection of the attitude of the adults around. Besides, one can say such things about any person, at certain times.

I noted three little things about myself during the course of the day. I can start my day, with or without a cup of coffee, but it is the easing into a day’s activities that is facilitated by hot java-and a look at what is happening in the vicinity and in the wider world. Whether I am addicted to caffeine is debatable-and likely irrelevant. I drink no more than three cups, and then only a low energy day.

Multi-tasking, while rarer than it once was, is made easier by focusing-just for a few seconds, on how to do one thing (driving), while carrying on with another (talking with someone on the phone, using the speaker system). I had to do this, more often than I wanted, during all the years that I was caring for Penny whilst holding down a job. Thank God for the speaker feature-and Bluetooth. Talking with Aram, when he needs me, is ever a priority-and I’m glad when circumstances permit this.

Lastly, it is easier for me to correct my course of action than it used to be. The key is not to get rattled. Hosting Zoom calls is not always a shining moment, if one forgets to click the “share computer audio” button, at the bottom left of Screen Share. My audience, even the most tech savvy members, have become more forbearing than they once were-and in turn, I can correct course in less than thirty seconds. Staying mindful of the task at hand, and not being concerned about what others may be thinking, makes all the difference. As the Star Wars adage goes, “The only way is through.”

Every day has its gems-mine them.

Little Ado, Almost Nothing

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September 18, 2021- The call, for which I waited all day, never came. There was a flurry of phone activity on Thursday, with Red Cross dispatchers asking me, first to go to Louisiana to work as a computer operator, then deciding I might be better at supervising a shelter. Since I couldn’t go there immediately, owing to faith-based commitments, it was agreed I would go on Sunday-with documents to be handed me today.

Today has come, and is almost gone. With no word from RC, (and yes, the ball is in their court), I have concluded, from checking the weather forecast for Baton Rouge, that the need is fading. Bright sunshine lies ahead, after Monday, and good on the folks of Louisiana, who have been much put upon, again this summer.

We had a final monsoon storm here, this evening, as the major faith-based activity of the weekend was playing out. The rain was welcome, and did not interrupt our Zoom activity. Afterward, I felt the need to go across the mountain to Synergy Cafe, so off to Sedona it was. A two-hour visit with a mostly male troupe of musicians and a lengthy conversation with a spiritually-awakened lady made the evening worth the drive, as it usually is. The lady came here from Russia, as an adolescent, some twenty years ago, still retaining the more global view that many from that part of the world seem to embody.

Remembering that a meeting for tomorrow still had not been set up on my laptop, I made exit earlier than planned, but not before our little drum, guitar(electric and acoustic) and didgeridoo set of tunes had inspired the lady and her husband to dance in slow embrace. Romantic couples always make me smile.

I did learn one thing from today- don’t speak of service online, before boots are on the ground.

Tribes and Such

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September 6, 2021- Today being Labor Day in the U.S., many thoughts and expressions of thanks were offered to Frances Perkins, whose reaction to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire, of March 25, 1911, metamorphized into the workplace safety movement of the 1930s-1970s. That it reached many of its goals is a grand social triumph, but it will never be something that can be set on a shelf. Human greed and self-centeredness can and will seep back into the consciousness of social policy, if we are not careful. Ms. Perkins was a genuine American hero and it would not be a bad thing at all, were her visage to grace one of the bills or coins of United States currency-perhaps even a bitcoin, if it becomes part of the American exchequer.

This afternoon, I visited my somewhat laid-up hiking buddy, who was injured last week and is now on extended hiatus from the trails. Our conversation turned the matter of another friend finding her tribe. HB remarked that my tribe was all over the place, which is true, essentially. I have detailed the names of friends, extended family and those I regard as angels. That some are on one end of the ideological spectrum and some on the other end, with most in between, does not trouble either my basically progressive stance on many matters or belief in the sanctity of all life.

Some tribal members are solely seen on Zoom, these days. Others hang out in downtown Prescott, or at Rafter Eleven, or at Synergy Cafe. Some live in western Arizona, northern Nevada, eastern Tennessee, northern Indiana or all along the three coasts. My heart family, as I’ve said repeatedly, is found in any number of places and I know I will find more of them, as time unfolds.

There will always be outliers, who can be accepted for who they are, as long as they don’t hurt others. One such was a young man, with a rather pleasant voice, who sang acapella on the edge of Courthouse Square, this afternoon. He sang “I love myself and I love you (to a few random passersby). I love my backscratcher (which he held up, for all to see).” Telling him he had earned A for effort, I placed a tip in his jar and walked further around the Square, taking in the Crafts Fair and the blessed mass of humanity who had gathered along the sidewalks. I don’t mind crowds. They are proof that our species is alive and thriving.

Many thanks to all who labour honestly, today and every day.

A Working Solstice

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June 21, 2021- It was not so much a working day for me, but a relative handful of mechanics performed maintenance on Elantra Thirteen, replacing brake pads and rotors, aligning the wheels and performing the usual oil & lube. It was an all-day affair, leading to a few other errands being postponed, and a Zoom call set aside. That’s okay, E13 does a lot of work for me, both here and elsewhere, so the day was hers.

Whilst ensconced in the waiting area at the shop, I received a call from the Dermatology Center, and my procedure is scheduled for July 29. In the meantime, I will continue to dress the area, with essential oils and Life Wave patches. This also addresses the whole matter of my going where I feel called next month, at least leaving myself sufficient time to return to Home Base, by July 28.

Dallas, Tulsa and Sarcoxie will now, hopefully, be followed by Crossville, Knoxville, Harrisonburg, Oley (maybe Paoli and Exton, if the family schedules permit), Elmont, the North Shore, the resting place in Maine-of a cousin who passed away recently, Mishawaka, Wilmette, Minneapolis-and any part of Colorado that happens to be en route back to Home Base.

Back here around 3:50, I got my bearings, rested a bit and juiced a bunch of wheatgrass, after eating a dinner salad and hummus on a rye cracker. Today is actually the day after Solstice, and I’ve gotten well into my summer salad for dinner regimen, but I am very much enamoured of the 21st day of June being the First Day of Summer.

As I listen to an original jazz tune called “Tales of A Courtesan”, by the Japanese-American composer, Toshiko Ariyoshi, it’s a comfort to know that we each have our strengths and can share a unique view of one or more elements of life.

Pressure, Real and Imagined

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April 25, 2021- As I hau

As I hauled my laundry basket to the car, this afternoon, I spoke a few minutes with landlord, learning that there are a variety of infrastructure issues piling up, on and around the quad. This will most likely mean a rent increase, next year. I will face that issue, at that time. For now, there is no pressure on us tenants, but he will be pressed to come up with a game plan.

Whilst engaged in said laundry, I received another IM from someone whose basic message is that he needs help raising money. There was a time when I felt a welling up of pressure, with a measure of guilt at my relative level of comfort. I have since become more at ease with the situation, and my mantra is that people in a given country/community need to band together and make change happen-rather than keep the refrain that people in developed countries had better kick into the kitty , or at least make a loan to the poor souls. (Personal loans, even in this country, rarely are paid back, even in part. I have paid mine, but that’s a whole other matter.)

There is also pressure, both real and imagined, regarding one’s use of time. I have discussed the matter of proliferating Zoom calls, in an earlier post. Usually, there are at least two Zoom sessions, both of which are ABSOLUTELY URGENT, occurring simultaneously. I have learned to excuse myself, with a smile, from the less urgent of the two-or however many are scheduled at the same time.

It is a blessing to finally know how to distinguish true urgency from the urgency that exists only in the mind of the hearer.

Estrangers

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March 7, 2021- This morning, after ten years of my being a member, in good standing, of a veterans’ service organization, the matter of my Faith was raised-specifically that I am viewed by some, who I have known and with whom I’ve gotten along well for this past decade, as a “non-Christian”.

The context of this was with regard to a request that I serve again as the organization’s Chaplain, a post I held, with a good record of service and with no complaints registered, for two years, prior to embarking on several years of extensive travel. That latter stream of activity is set to resume in July of this year, and for that reason, I am declining the above request. An officer in a service organization needs to stay put-even in the days of Zoom and Microsoft Teams.

The larger issue here is that there is a shrinkage of the social circle of many people, partly a result of the political mayhem that has been afoot in this country, across the spectrum, for the past dozen years-if not longer, and partly because of a rising false narcissism, rooted in fear. Those I joined for breakfast, nearly each Sunday that I was in town, for the past ten years, have taken to talking only among themselves and shoving everyone else, including yours truly, to the sidelines. A culture of estrangement has taken root, which can only be detrimental to those who profess belief in the Paragon of Love. That embracing of parochialism has, from what I’ve seen in the past, only led to bitterness.

I cannot, and will not, turn aside from my Heavenly Father, in the name of a label. I cannot, and will not, let “estrangers” define who I am. So, with all prayer and loving regard for the members of said service organization, it’s time to move on.

OverZoomed

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December 10, 2020-

The spread of teleconferencing during this time of worldwide pestilence is probably the single most useful occurrence of the year . I can only hope it remains, especially as when I find myself away from Home Base, come late Spring onward, carrying on regular communication, via Zoom, YouTube or what have you, will be a much easier task.

There is, though, the matter of working out synchronicity. This evening, there were four events occurring simultaneously. Two were parties, one was a memorial gathering and the last was a worship service. I focused on the latter two, just barely greeting folks at the first of the parties, before it was time to leave.

We will, as with any other endeavour, need to work out etiquette and protocols of expectations for Zoom gatherings, lest feelings be hurt, unnecessarily. I know that, just because one is among many on a teleconference does not mean feathers won’t get ruffled by someone’s absence or abrupt departure.

So, I have worked out a set of priorities for my own Zooming- Offering condolences and memories will have to come first, then regular worship and devotionals, followed by special celebratory events and lastly, someone’s random informational offering-which ought, by definition, be recorded for later viewing.

In any case, may your Zooming be helpful and a source of connection.