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.

Limekiln Trail, Section 3

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December 8, 2020- At long last, I got myself on track and found the trailhead from which one may walk from the far western edge of Sedona to the northern edge of Cottonwood, a distance of five miles via Limekiln Trail. It was not a particularly chanllenging trail, though I felt the effects of being housebound and Zoom-bound, for much of the past eight months. A series of 30-minute workouts at Planet Fitness keep me in a modicum of shape, but it will take the rigours of the trail, even a fairly flat trail like the Deer Pass-Bill Grey segment, to get back into a semblance of “fighting trim”.

A rumour reached me that I was likely in the presence of a COVID-positive person, last week. It happens, though, that this individual was nowhere near the school, during the days I was working there, so once again, no worries. People are so worn down, so exaperated by the pandemic, that they will often take anything they hear, and run with it, whilst inwardly trembling. I ask one and all, to step back and breathe-We will beat this challenge, by adhering to common sense rules of hygiene, and ,more importantly, of wellness.

Now, back to the trail-

Here is the eastern end of the segment, at Deer Pass. A discerning eye might notice a human face or two, in the midst of the cairn .
In order to access the trail to the west, one must use this underpass, under Highway 89 A.

The handles to the gates, on this segment, are diagonal, and after wiggling the handle out, it is then necessary to either lift the gate up, or push it down, in order to secure it again.

Most of the trail is single track, like this, though some of the hike involved walking on US Forest Service roads.
One of the Forest Service roads that serve as connectors.
Igneous rock, deposited by volcanic eruptions, further afield, hundreds of thousands of years ago, make the long hike through the Sheepshead Mountain/Canyon sector, all the more fascinating.
This is the remnant of what was likely a miner’s camp, atop Sheepshead Mountain.
This is another marker of a miner’s camp, also long-abandoned.
Here is the top of Sheepshead Mountain’s west ridge. The summit, east of the trail, is fairly lush.
Sage brush has its own fall colours, which arrive on the scene when deciduous trees have long since turned a ghastly gray.
So, too, does Prickly Pear Cactus, especially at higher elevations, offer its fall colours.
Crossings of dry creekbeds and washes abound on this sector of the trail. There are Spring Creek, Sheepshead Creek-and Coffee Creek, which was also a favoured gathering place for miners, in the early Twentieth Century.

So, a long-standing itch in my saddle got scratched. I re-found the junction of Limekiln and Bill Grey Road, which had gotten lost in my mind, for several months.

Bill Grey Road, at its junction with Limekiln Trail.

The remaining sector of Limekiln runs from Deer Pass to Red Rock State Park, further in towards Sedona. It is a distance of seven miles, one way, so I would likely either start early in the morning or would camp overnight at Red Rock. Either way, it’s likely to wait for March or April, with a smidgen more daylight. There are a few other trails in our area that await, and which present shorter distances, out and back.

Neptune Direct

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November 28, 2020, Plano-

Seventy, as I expected, feels no different than sixty, or sixty-five. The day passed with a variety of activities: Joining a global Zoom gathering, hosted by a longtime friend from Phoenix; picking up another pair of dress casual shoes; munching on burger and fries for lunch and a delectable Pho (Vietnamese soup) and spring rolls for dinner; and exploring parts of Grapevine, TX (photos tomorrow), where Aram and Yunhee will live, come the end of January.

It has been a time of both taking stock of how things have changed, as I mentioned yesterday, and of projecting ahead. I have a sense of what I hope to accomplish in 2021 and beyond. Right now, I am focusing mostly on December, and being there for any children and youth who need me, between now and the Christmas/New Year’s Break. I had planned on taking three days off, to mark the fortieth anniversary of Penny and I having met. That would have taken me to a couple of places in New Mexico that are associated with our first encounter.

New Mexico, though, remains closed to people from most states, including Arizona and there are relatively few substitutes working with my employer, so I will be making myself available from December 1-18, straight through. With any interstate road trip over the holidays looking increasingly ludicrous, I will have plenty of time to check out places in other parts of Arizona, as well as relax with friends, during the Break.

Planet Neptune ends its retrograde, relative to Earth, tomorrow. This sort of event exhausts a lot of people, but generally focuses my attention more sharply and lets me sleep more deeply through the night. That will make it a lot easier both to give my attention where it is needed and to plan realistically for the weeks and months ahead.

Limits

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November 20, 2020-

I cut off all contact with an online magazine today, after about four months of reading sometimes disingenuous articles and abiding others that are perilously naive in their pronouncements.

Over these many years, some have told me that I have the patience of Job. This is largely true, when I am dealing with children or teenagers, and see that they are not hiding behind cunning or willful deceit. Some people just need what seems like forever to make changes. I know that it was true of me, so to penalize another soul for what I did wrong, seems worse than callow.

This was a day of turning aside from those who persist in deflecting attention from the legal maneuvers being conducted, relative to a recent election, by pointing to supposed crimes committed by someone who can barely get out of his own way. It was a day of leaving an online session which was degenerating into pointless argument. It was a day of me telling myself that I am going to limit my presence on Zoom still further, with only my promised hosted sessions, and a handful of others, keeping me tied to the chair, laptop and neck pillow. One could easily become a permanent resident of The Chair and Screen.

Maybe I am showing my age, but I have no time for the trivial and nitpicky-and even less use for those who are still harping about Barack Obama-or Ronald Reagan, for that matter. There are huge issues to be faced, which can ONLY be faced, and resolved, by a unified front. One would think that COVID-19 would have made that very clear, but no-it may take a whole lot more to bring the bickering fringes to a place of sensibility. When that happens, I’ll be hard at work on solutions-just give me a call, or even a Ping.

As for my critics, I have taken advice, from friend and foe alike, about cybersecurity-adding several passwords, facial recognition and two-step verification. I have some more work to do, in that regard. I am not, however, going to devote any attention to self-absorbed narcissists, nor do I care one iota about what Rudy Giuliani thinks that Hunter Biden did. Both are dysfunctional people, in need of help.

Keep the eyes front and center, people.

Adding New Skills

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November 10, 2020-

As I returned from work, this afternoon, my friend, the Mourning Dove, landed briefly on the gravel of our driveway. Usually, her greeting me is an indicator of good news. So it was this time, as I received written confirmation of a change in my monthly deposit from the Feds.

Workwise, I was asked to preside over a pair of online classes, this afternoon, having completed two in-person sessions in the morning. Being math and science, I had to pay close attention, ahead of time, to the material. It was not difficult, but these are “whiz kids” and it turned out they already had mastered the material.

What I had not mastered was the setting up of Breakout Groups, so everyone ended up in the same group, with little to discuss. This will be a matter for Zoom Tutorial, over the next couple of days, as I am quite sure today will not be the last time that I need to oversee such a class format, between now and Christmas.

In the end, my young friends were glad that someone was there to run them through the session, even if it was review material. There are a number of avenues of learning that can branch off from the lessons, yet I leave that to their very competent regular instructor, who returns next week.

I dreamt last night that a former hard taskmaster managed to teach me how to secure caps on bottles of cola, using plastic ties. I can pretty much guarantee this will not happen in real life. What I got out of it, though, was that I can, and will, acquire new skills, over the next several months and years. I won’t be working for wages, all that much, after next month, yet life itself needs us to stay sharp and focused. As I write this, the image of one of my uncles, whose cognitive skills were sharp during his working years, but faded in retirement, is cautioning just such a regimen of regular mental exercise.

Life is certainly a sweet cornucopia.

The Summer of the Rising Tides,Day 27: Grass Stains

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June 27, 2020-

Today was largely spent in a Zoom conference, concluding Unity Week, an 8-day conference, in which I only obliquely participated, largely through addressing topics that need to be faced, if true unity is to be achieved. The closing sessions, therefore, caught my undivided attention, addressing the Four Roads one must traverse, in reaching a point where contributions to society will be meaningful.

More about these Four Roads (or Vias), in the next several days. This evening, my mind went back to simpler times. I walked downtown, after the conference had reached its closing remarks and extended farewells. The aim was to sit up on the roof of Raven Cafe, and catch the salsa and funk that was emanating from the rooftop’s makeshift stage.

Wouldn’t you know it? There was an hour’s wait, for any spot on the roof. I’d already eaten dinner at home, anyway, and so went up the street to Frozen Frannie’s, and grabbed a refreshing cup of goodness, then headed further, over to the Courthouse steps, enjoying pina colada and berry frozen yogurt. A group of children buzzed around me, alternately sliding down the short incline, tussling, and engaging in a game of hide and seek. It’s always reassuring to see that, COVID or no COVID, life is going on, and parents are taking their families to places where fresh air and exercise are not monitored by draconian elements.

After enjoying my frozen treat, a seat in front of a tree beckoned, closer to the Bluegrass band that was occupying a festival stage. Sitting on the lawn, taking in a bona fide North American art form, was a perfect ending to the evening. Another group of kids was dancing up a storm, twirling around, as the band played the songs of Bill Monroe and John Prine, among others. When it was time to get up off my haunches, I noticed something was missing from my childhood: Grass stains. Lawns sure have changed, in 60 years.

Thirty Days In

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March 29, 2020-

I began serious application of Coronavirus Disease 19 response planning, on Leap Day, February 29.  In the past thirty days, these have happened:

Work stopped, on March 6, at 3 p.m.  Part of that was Spring Break, but my employer stopped assigning people on March 11.  I got some pay, this past Friday.

I said “see you soon” to friends who have since closed their businesses, moved away from college dorms, stopped playing gigs in local clubs and are generally sequestered.

Prayed, incessantly.

Learned a  lot about navigating Zoom and opened an account with that medium.  Hosted my first meeting on it, today.

Have been catching up with reading, journaling and, yes, Netflix.

Have made plans for “journeys in place”-studying various topics.

Kept in touch with people across the planet, to see how things are going.

Have done take-out orders, just so some support is going their way.  Same with food boxes  from the Farmers Market and groceries for a pop-up food bank at the Toyota dealership.

It’s standard stuff, and part of being a member of society.  Would do it all over again, no questions asked.

Brighter days are ahead.