April 19, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 142: Chalk It Up, 2015

    April 19, 2015, Prescott- I spent about half the day in meetings and a couple of acts of service.  Still, my mind fell into a funk, because of the suffering endured by some dear families and because of various critics, both here and in the Phoenix area, whose venom keeps playing in my head, though I know it’s wrong of me to buy into their negativity.

    Chalk It Up, an annual art festival here in Prescott, and associated with Earth Day, is the perfect mood lifter.  I present several of this year’s entries, without commentary, so that you might get some enjoyment out of the gallery, as well.

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    With this  little tour, and a small dish of frozen yogurt, all the sorrow melted away.  It doesn’t take much.

  • The Road to 65, Mile 141: Concerted Effort

    April 18, 2015, Prescott Valley- I had the pleasure of helping break down tables and put them, and the chairs away, at a Stand Up for Veterans event, here in this town of 46,000 people, just east of Prescott.  I had cleared my calendar for the afternoon, but we were done by 3 PM.  I was never so proud of one of my hardest working friends here, as I am today.  Her efforts, of over three weeks, paid off handsomely, and the point was made that we, as a community, are caring for all vets.  It is a constant, concerted effort, and there has been one common thread throughout all of this:  Men and women have worked tirelessly together, with no thought of selves or credit, to get an event started, which will hopefully continue to complement the “Stand Down” event that happens in the Fall, and has been successful for many years, in preparing homeless people for winter.

    Of course, much remains to be done in that regard, as we have seen this past winter.  Helping those who don’t want shelter, but still want to be acknowledged on a daily basis, is a work in progress.  Yavapai County Angels, to which I belong, is a fledgling group that will be able to do more, as time passes.  I have enough to do, also, with my Baha’i work, do Terra and teaching, to make the sixteen months after returning from my summer travels a very fruitful time.  Speaking of produce, I have some packets of seeds to plant in August, so yard work will be part of the mix.

    My client, too, is finally starting to get the picture, and has made great strides of late, in re-establishing his life.  He will, very shortly, be back entirely on his own.  I know how hard it is to get to that point, and it took my recent accident to fully get me feeling on my own.  There is nothing like a concerted effort.

April 18, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 140: Happy Returns

    April 17, 2015, Prescott- I returned an item that was particular to my Kia, and got money back, that will be useful tomorrow.  A few hours later, I returned to a neighbourhood trail, the Turley Trail, named for a man who was instrumental in starting the Prescott Circle, which begins at “P” Mountain, east of town, and goes in a 360 around the Bean Peaks, Sierra Prieta, Thumb Butte, Granite Mountain, Pioneer Park and our northeastern lakes, then back towards Lynx Lake and again to “P”.

    The Turley is 2.5 miles, one way, and traverses four ridges, before ending at a Prescott Circle marker, in a forested ravine.  I’ve written of it before, but here are some views from yesterday.

    “P” Mountain is not directly accessible from this point, but it’s quite an inspiration, nonetheless.

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    Here is the gap between the first and second ridges.  This is a moderate hike.

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    On return hikes, I focus more on the small.  Wildflowers are a bit past peak here, but still captivating.SAM_4791

    The quartz and granite caught my eye, at several points along the way.SAM_4794

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    Finally, here is a cave, which I don’t remember seeing last time.

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    It’s probably an animal lair of some sort, so of course I contented myself with this particular view.

    Finally, the journalist David Brooks was on NPR, discussing his book on returning to a community-centered ethos.  More on that, later.

April 17, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 139: High School

    April 16, 2015, Prescott- The other day, when I was covering a classroom at an area high school, a student remarked that one of his instructors essentially “phoned-in” his classes, putting on a video, with minimal explanation, and sitting back, as the kids zoned out, day after day.  As any class has the potential to be stimulating, rewarding and useful in a person’s future, this tale was especially saddening.

    I have seen all manner of instruction, or lack thereof, in my ten years as a fill-in instructor.  Some days, I have read entire chapters of my own books, while monitoring students taking tests.  Other days, I have been fully engaged in instruction, carrying on a well-planned lesson.

    This evening, I visited with an extended family for about forty minutes.  One of the members is a high school freshman, who spoke of having given perfunctory responses to a standardized test.  After several of us adults remarked as to the reasons why such tests are important, she replied that no prior notice of the test was given, nor was there any explanation offered, other than “It’s that time again.  Here’s the State Test, you know the drill.”

    I have not worked in her school for a very long time.  The administrator’s policy is that only women, and men over the age of 70, are to be trusted with the students.  Quirks like that may work for a time, but the reality is:  People are fallible, regardless of gender or age. People are also known to be trustworthy, regardless of gender or age.

    My young friend corroborated my remarks about the above-mentioned high school, saying this was common in her school as well.  The loudest and pushiest students are recognized, as are a favoured few others, and the idea of random questioning, or calling on people for response, is given short shrift in many classrooms.  I call on a variety of people, regardless of whose hand is up for every single question.  There is no other way I can conceive, to reinforce the idea that everyone matters, that the learning of all is important.

    I have been blacklisted by a few administrators whose attitude is “My way or the highway”, and yet, when I speak to students who are in those schools, the answer is often, “Mr. (or Ms.)________ doesn’t care much about us”.  Surprising?  Hardly. The name of the game, in my humble opinion, is:  “We are in the business of building a solid future.”  We are concerned with validation, affirmation, of the dreams and goals of beautiful souls, awesome human beings.  That’s education, in a nutshell.

April 16, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 138: The Best Defense

    April 15, 2015, Chino Valley-  Whilst covering a classroom full of third graders today, I was told by two of the girls, independently of one another, that they had to run from a man who had tried to snatch them into his car.  Both said that their parents had kept them safe, once they got away, and that the police had been told.

    I showed each of them, vicariously, how to get free of a person who had them in an armhold, from behind.  The heel of a shoe is a good, solid defensive weapon, when thrust backward at a would-be captor’s shin.  It is important to note that, in neither case, was a weapon being brandished by the assailant.  That, of course, is a game-changer, though not one that can withstand a little person’s ear-splitting shriek!

    Today marks a year, since the abduction of over 200 school girls by Boko Haram.  The Nigerian Army has been unshackled by the country’s new President, and along with forces from neighbouring countries, may well have more success in crushing the brutes of the Islamic far right.  We can only pray, in the meantime, for the safe return of ALL children and teens who have been kidnapped or conscripted by the forces of darkness.

    This brings me to the concept of defense against physical and sexual abuse of children, anywhere.  The first line is always the individual’s realization that no one, at any time, has the right to abscond with his/her body, or mind.  These are given each of us, by the Creative Force, and we relinquish them to others at our long-term peril.  Secondly, family must defend the child’s well-being, with no regard for monetary gain, promises of support from the transgressors or, in the worst case, giving in to one’s psychological or emotional weaknesses.  Thirdly, the community must support the child, hopefully with the family’s blessing, but unilaterally if the family is found to be the source of abuse, or in league with the abuser(s).  There was a movement, in the 1980’s, to shift the focus of sexual abuse prevention away from the victim, towards “giving the abuser a chance at healing and redemption”.  This was a terribly misguided effort, and set back the healing of thousands of abused children.  I was glad to be part of an education effort, in the 1990’s, which reset the focus back on awareness and prevention, with treatment of offenders conducted separately, away from the programs that were concerned with the victims.

    When I was accosted by a pedophile,at the age of fourteen, I was able to stand up to him and not be cowed by his loud threats.  Nothing further came of his false bravado, and my life has gone on, with normal relationships with girls and women, in the years since.  The best defense remains a solid first response of N-O!

April 15, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 137: Safety/Warning

    April 14, 2015, Prescott- Towards the end of my work day, this afternoon, a young man asked to use the restroom.  The wind had blown the door shut, so he had to push hard against the door, but to no avail.  I tried the door, and found it jammed shut.  I sent the student out through the back corridor, while one of the young ladies in the class worked on opening the door, eventually succeeding.  This whole incident, which I reported to the front office, brought back memories of locked doors in places like Providence, RI and Dhaka, Bangladesh- doors whose locked status spelled doom for large numbers of people.  I would have been able to lead the kids outside, through the back way, had there been an emergency today, but what if some were to panic?

    This evening, I attended a gathering of Slow Food Prescott, and several local events, for the next several weeks were announced.  While walking home, after the meeting, I got a waking message from my spirit guide:  Do not leave town, unnecessarily, until May 21.  There was an inkling that, had I stayed here on Holy Saturday, April 4, and tended to getting a certain person to move, I would not have generated the negative energy that led to my crashing the Kia.  There was a further message that, aside from an Awareness Walk and a dental appointment in Phoenix, the week after next, there were things on which I needed to focus, here.  I looked at the list of events which could use my assistance, and made the connection.

    These seemingly disparate incidents just serve to point out the need for a wanderer to have a base, and for the base to need a wanderer.  My connections to the wider world are shared by people here, with whom my own tentative bonds are sure to get stronger.

April 14, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 136: The Last Such Gift

    April 13, 2015, Prescott-   I completed my online Defensive Driving class, this evening.  Then, I went over to the Tow Lot and retrieved the license plate to the defunct KIA.  A round of machine work and deep heat massage at Planet Fitness completed the ritual.  I am back into the routine.

    The loss of my 2007 KIA Optima marks the end of my direct, day-to-day connection with Penny’s side of the family.  The house has given way to the apartment, and the KIA to the Nissan.  Penny will never give way to anyone.  If I enter into another relationship, it will parallel my now spiritual tie to the most effervescent, heart-centered soul I have ever known.  She has guided me into friendships with other women, and I’m sure this process will continue.  The central bond is always there, by the Grace of God.

    The last gift I received from her, in the tangible sense, was an investment, the core of which I will guard and do what I can to help grow.  It is this which has helped me, in turn, show responsibility and pay various homages to both her father and to those who came long before us, both here in North America and on the continent of Europe.  It is this which helped me honour our son, on his return voyage from Hawai’i to California.

    The last gift from the Light of my life is generating seeds of its own.

April 13, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 135: Stratified and Dissatisfied

    April 12, 2015, Eloy, AZ-  

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    The day broke, generally cloudy, but for one bright spot of blue.  As I gazed at where the sun was illuminating its cloud cover, the blue spot just below it showed a face, of sorts.  I took this to mean that the spirit world was telling me that today will be a productive one.

    We did go through a lot of material and set the stage for a lot of “heavy lifting”, in terms of connecting with the wider society.  As I said yesterday, to the apparent consternation of many, we Baha’is are no longer hiding on the fringes of humanity.  We have much to offer, and will work shoulder-to-shoulder with all people of good will, in remedying the ills of the planet.

    Some have asked me, “What sort of people do you favour?”  Answer:  Human beings.

    “Where do you consider home?”  Answer:  Earth

    “Is it not necessary to separate people into groups, so as to make sense of our human condition?” Answer:  Perhaps, but not in the sense that some are seen as better than others.

    I detest social stratification.  I have never met a physically dirty person who can’t be made presentable,either by his/her own hand or with the help of others.  I have yet to meet a wealthy person whose heart can’t be touched to the point that he or she generously gives of self or of resources.  Stratification of society serves, essentially, those who for one reason or another fear contact with certain segments of society.  “It’s just easier this way.”, I’ve been told.

    We each have our preferences.  I am drawn more readily to some people than to others, and likewise, some are drawn to me, more than to, say, the President of the United States, or to a surfer at Doheny Beach.  None of this, however, means that we must exempt any particular group of people from our lives.  I’ve rubbed shoulders, so to speak, with high and low alike- and some of those, at both levels, have been a bit on the seamy side.  None are beyond redemption.

    Those who categorize others, to a great extent, may find themselves dissatisfied with certain aspects of their lives.  I’m not surprised at this, because in the act of pigeonholing others, one is limiting oneself, and one’s choices, as well.  This doesn’t mean we must, in Pollyannish fashion, approve of every aspect of everyone else’s lives.  Rather, it means, simply that an effort to understand, and then to find a place in one’s life, for as wide a variety of people as possible, makes for greater satisfaction.

    Those were my thoughts, as we prepared to end the weekend’s consultation, in this Desert Rose.

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  • The Road to 65, Mile 134: Desert Rose

    April 11, 2015, Eloy, AZ-   We woke today to a cool morning, a bright blue sky, reports of snakes having been in the area (but no sightings this morning) and a light breakfast, with coffee by moi.   I spent last night alone, in the men’s dorm.  It was an odd feeling, but sleep came easy.

    We spent today discussing the relationship of the Baha’i community in Arizona to the wider society.  To me, this is a no-brainer.  We follow the Golden Rule, applying it to the entire planet.  We do the best we can to obey the laws of any place where we find ourselves. We do not respond, in kind, to any offensive behaviour. We consider the welfare of others, at par with our own well-being.  We act with honour, to the extent humanly possible, which means virtually all the time.  We readily make amends, to individuals, and to the community, for any offense we might commit. We refrain from making excuses, and move away from whining.

    Baha’i is out of the shadows, the brush, any hiding place in which those who do not understand the progressive nature of divine teaching might wish it to remain.  We have a lot to offer, in fact- everything to offer a world in travail.  So do you.

    No matter what a person’s faith is, the world needs you.  The only world order that will fit the Divine Plan is one which results from universal participation.  So, the first thing that needs to happen is abandonment of prejudice. The second thing is willingness to listen and to learn from others.  The third thing is to maintain a humble posture of learning.

    These are things I contemplated today, at Desert Rose Baha’i Institute.

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April 12, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 133: Silver and Gold

    April 10, 2015, Eloy, AZ-  Three of us took a drive down here, from Prescott, this evening, and will spend the better part of the weekend in conference with about 50 other people, on the relationship of the Baha’i Faith to our wider society.  I will write more about that, in the next two posts.

    More urgent for me, today, is another consideration of my expanding and evolving circle of friends.  I don’t use people, nor do I let myself be used.  Some “friendships”, in days long past, have ended abruptly, once I got the idea that the person was not to be trusted.

    All in all, though, I am very rich, in the friends department.  I will not want for hugs, warm greetings, and help when I need it- from my longtime friends who, as the old song says, are “gold”.  Neither will they want for reciprocity from me.  I have recently made more new friendships, and let the silver stock build also.  These friends, two in particular, bring artistic bounty to my world.  I have missed that, somewhat, since Penny’s voice was stilled.

    I thought of this, on the way down, as I momentarily felt alone.  There was something else, also. When there is disagreement between people, however slight, one must have the presence of mind to know that there are others who will reassure each person, and help their respective journeys resume.  We need both “silver” and “gold” friends, to reinforce the structure of our own self-worth.