January 27, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 59: Heaven Sent

    January 26, 2015- An asteroid, replete with its own tiny moon, zipped past us today.  As our area was overcast, no one here would have been the wiser, had it not been for the media making several references.  Apparently, Russia, Australia and the midmost Pacific Ocean were all spared, as was the rest of the planet.  God knows, we need no more extinctions or disasters, given that there are plenty of both happening, almost on a daily basis.

    The last five Northern White Rhinoceros are being prepped for DNA extractions, in hopes that a female Southern White Rhino might be a surrogate mother of an IVF Northern White Rhino baby, or two.  In order for the population to be restored, however, one would imagine the process would have to be repeated at least four more times. I mention this, because we tend to think of life as being subject to human whim.

    This is a peculiar narcissism.  Life happened so long before any creature resembling us was more than a part of the Creative Force’s long-range plan.  We have the power to undo so much, though, that I shudder at the tendency of some to look at profit as the sole determinant of who, or what, lives and dies.  Mass extinction, though, would seem to require far more.

    It could be that someday the  planet will be visited by an orb large enough to bring about a “night” of three to six months.  There will, no doubt, be human and animal survivors of such a dreadful occasion, just as there were animals which thrived, even after the asteroid which most likely precipitated the demise of the dinosaurs, as the fossil record revealed them to be.

    Through it all, I hope that people will look upwards, at the noonday Sun and at the bright moon and stars of night, and remember that, as life was generated, seemingly from nothing, so many eons ago, any acts of ours which extinguish one living flame will be answered by a new torch of life.

January 26, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 58: Hiding in Plain Sight

    January 25, 2015-  A few days ago, my topic was Expectations.  As I figured, the topic offended some people, but that’s the risk one takes, on a dedicated series like this.  Regardless, I will continue to write what’s in my heart.  Many of us prefer to overlook things which are either mundane or unsettling.

    When I was still quite young, I sometimes would win a game of Hide and Seek, by simply lying down prone on the ground, close to the bottom edge of a cliff or berm.  The seeker would, without fail, walk or run past me, and back to goal I would head in triumph.

    Fast forward to the present, and a job market which frequently casts its nets far afield, while overlooking local talent, either out of the vanity of seeking the exotic or in the belief that someone who comes from another locale, will bring fresh vision and energy to the table.  I fell in that trap, a few times, in the late ’90’s, only to be overruled by my Board, which chose an aging local person for the position.  She turned out to be perfectly suited for the job, and grew in it, professionally, to serve several more years- long after I had left.

    It’s just a thought, but how much would business and  industry  save, if they were to prioritize finding local talent, especially in smaller, close-knit communities.  The newcomers do bring a different perspective, but they often must be eased into the community, while so many who are passed-over are still in the community, years later, and could have been a far greater asset to the organization, overall.

January 25, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 57: Back Among the Saddled, Again

    January 24, 2015- I found, late this morning, that I had previously reached the trail head of Antelope Springs- Hidden Treasure segment of the Black Canyon National Recreation Trail, which I am determined to complete, in segments, during this calendar year.  Gleefully, I headed out from the large water tank that marks Antelope Springs.

    SAM_3762

    The first mile, or so, of the trail is easy, flat and distinguished only by what is probably the northwesternmost sahuaro in Arizona.  All was quiet, too, which gave me the solitude I craved this noon, after a week of earnest service to a homeless veteran and a class of Special Needs students.

    While the trail stayed sanguine, the rocks were the star attractions.  Smooth quartz, mostly milky white, was dispersed along the way- with a couple fields of shattered shards.  Other pieces were marbled with granite, or infused with iron.SAM_3766

    SAM_3767

    SAM_3771

    A surprise came, around the first mile point, in the form of a large boulder of blue granite.SAM_3772

    Then there were lots more broken bits of silica.SAM_3785

    The trail began to get more rugged around the area where Hidden Treasure Mine was supposed to be.  I found no indication of the mine, which is probably just as well.SAM_3787

    I did find an ominous hooded figure, but it was merely a standing bit of granite.SAM_3793

    In Government Canyon, where I took a brief rest, around Mile 4, I saw a marbled granite gem.SAM_3800

    The trail kept on rising, then began to descend towards Bumble Bee and Bland Hill Road, around Mile 5.SAM_3805

    Sahuaro are a bit more numerous in this area, and face the ravages of being approached by the occasional errant horse, or human.  There were plenty of both along the trail today.  It was a gorgeous day, and about two dozen horses, with both Western and English riders, happened along.  I picked up a shoe that one of the animals had lost, and the group later gave it to me as a souvenir.  About eight bicyclists also enjoyed the trail.SAM_3806

    I took note of the next starting point, at mile 6.2, just a mile or so west of Bumble Bee, an old mining town that is now home to about two dozen intrepid families.SAM_3811

    Off to the southeast, and up on a steep hill, I could see Sunset Point, the major highway rest area, on I-17, between Phoenix and the turnoff to Prescott.

    SAM_3812

    Heading back to the water tank, I spotted twoformations, in different light.

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    This outcropping contained a marker for stockmen to keep their animals in single file, as if they needed any such cue, on this trail.SAM_3817

    So it went, that I completed not one, but two, segments of this well-worn trail.  Next segment will take me from Bumble Bee to Black Canyon City, sometime in late February.

January 24, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 56: Expectations

    January 23, 2015- Over the past several years, I’ve learned it’s best to hold high expectations of my own performance and behaviours, while not expecting specific acts of others.  I’ve mentioned this before, and of course, taken flack from those whose view is that we ought hold each other’s feet to the fire.  The problem with that is, burnt soles make for hard walking.

    I am working with a transient man who has rejected all solutions, thus far, regarding his getting permanent housing.  I sense he’d prefer to be out of doors, permanently and that’s fine.  I have pointed out, though, that  others who are helping him. and I, are not available 24/7, given our other responsibilities.  He is congenial about that, and doesn’t give us any flack.  There is one thing about expectations, though.  High hopes are admirable, yet need to be tempered with patience.  Keep your sights high, dream big, AND prepare to move forward slowly.  The progress of mankind will be constant, yet tempered by setbacks, largely due to the scarcity mentality of the financial sector and other aspects of commerce, by the limited understanding and fear of change that affect both the guardians of the status quo AND those who say they believe in new ways of doing things, even as they also believe that the bottom has to drop out of those new systems, eventually.

    I believe that our expectations will lead to our future.  If you think that God provides, “kind of, sort of”, then you will get exactly what your doubt and fear are telling you will be provided.  If you believe that while, yes, it’s cold today, people might die, tragically, tomorrow and there may well be fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods and cyclones in the months and years ahead-maybe even WWIII, there will be civilized life beyond all those, then your efforts will be towards recovery and regeneration, not the doom and gloom of virtually every current religious and political system presently operating.

    When the latter happens, are the pessimists going to be pleasantly relieved, or will they still look under rocks for “dark days ahead”.  Expectations do best to  seek the light, even that which lies beyond the storm.

January 22, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 55: Challenges

    January 22, 2015- I got a call at 5:38 AM, got out of bed, fumbled with the phone, hit the wrong button, and ended up with no work today.  It always goes the way it is supposed to go, though.  While I won’t earn money from today’s activities, I did reassure a transient friend that he has allies in this community, got him where he needed to go, and spent some time with a friend in Prescott Valley, at a restaurant on the north side of the sprawling town.  The place is called The Chalk Board.  It’s a breakfast and lunch spot and has an inventive, well-prepared menu- like Soldi, here on the hilltop.  Several of us will probably gather there on Saturday morning, for breakfast.  I want to look for the trailhead where I left off of the Black Canyon Trail, last Spring, so a hearty breakfast, en route, will be a great start.

    Slow days like this are a good time to look at challenges that lie ahead.  So, between now and the end of May, I have these:

    Work- The full-time job will happen, if it’s meant to, by the end of February.  Otherwise, I will show up at every charter school in Prescott and Chino Valley, give them each a copy of my sub certificate, focus on building my Essential Oils business (which I’ll do, anyway) and sock money away.

    Service- I am with the Red Cross as a volunteer, regardless.  American Legion? My continuing there, past May, will depend on the political climate.  Right now, it looks iffy.  Prescott Family Shelter is on my volunteer radar screen, also, unless I get full-time work.

    Recreation and Travel- Colorado, next weekend, is my most immediate focus- for a do Terra Winter Summit.  Texas, the Gulf Coast and central Florida follow, from Feb. 6-17.  My MIL has a birthday during that time, in Leesburg.  Weekend hikes will be many, from mid-February until late May:  Continuing down the Black Canyon, McDowell Mountains’ Pemberton Trail(Scottsdale), Spur Cross Ranch (Cave Creek),Kendrick Peak (west of Flagstaff), Tucson’s Sahuaro National Park-West Unit, a few more places in Sedona and the rest of Tonto Natural Bridge State Park’s trails.  Then, there are the hikes I will no doubt take, on the spur of the moment.

    Faith- Baha’i, like random acts of service, makes up the built-in cabinets and shelving of my Life House.  My growth, and that of the community, will continue in tandem with all of the above.

    These may seem like trifling challenges, and they are.  Then again, I’m autistic.  Everything is a challenge.

  • The Road to 65, Mile 54: Who Serves Whom?

    January 21, 2015:  I am a member of the Baha’i Faith, as many of you know.  The Baha’i concept of service is one of humility and reverence for the human spirit.  It was modeled by the eldest son of our Faith’s Founder, Baha’u’llah.  This eldest son is known to posterity by His title, ‘Abdu’l-Baha.  The title is Arabic, and translates as “Servant of the Light”, in English.  Although ‘Abdu’l-Baha was, and is, revered by all Baha’is, in His lifetime, He walked a humble path of service to others.  For example, He organized and saw the establishment of a series of storehouses in the Galilee, during and immediately after World War I.  He visited North America and Europe, during the period, 1911-13, and would often prepare meals for His visitors, in the course of His travels.

    I will have more to say about ‘Abdu’l-Baha, in later posts.  The above anecdotes, though, form the backdrop for my own view of what public service is.  The person working with the public is in a position of trust.  The teacher is responsible for the education, welfare and safety of all students with whom she comes in contact, during the day.  The bus driver, both school and public transit, is responsible for the safe transport of paying and subsidized riders, for the duration of their travel in his vehicle, as well as safe ingress and egress.  The health care worker, be he or she a physician, nurse, pharmacist or medical technician, is responsible for the well-being of any patient in a care situation, within his or her purview.

    Most such public servants know these responsibilities, and take them to heart.  So, too, there are a large number of people serving in the social welfare field who do their jobs with the best interests of their clients in mind.  There are, unfortunately, a disconcerting number who view the people coming to their offices as wards, as people to be pushed around, browbeaten and treated in an undignified manner- because they are down on their luck.

    It’s time to take the “Kick Me” signs off.  I received word today, from a credible source, that one of the local offices purporting to help veterans is engaging in browbeating and intimidating the homeless, and refusing service to those who stand up for themselves in a respectful manner.  It is past time for the veterans of our Armed Forces to be treated as full human beings, and not just in the VA Hospitals, where  slow, but considerable, progress is being made in that regard.  Anyone who hangs out their shingle as a Veterans’ Resource Center has no business refusing service to someone for not going along with psychological gamesmanship, or not wanting to indulge a caseworker’s quirky behaviour, or for just being homeless.

    I mention all this because I am tired. I am sick to death of the patronizing, bullying, gamesmanship and dereliction of duty that I have witnessed from various government officials, both elected and appointed, at the Federal, state and municipal levels, over the past eight years.  From the hired thugs who threatened to beat a man for stopping to eat an apple, on a sidewalk in Washington, in 2007, to a mayor and  several councilmen of a small city, who personalized a conflict with a constituent, over the past year or so, there is an increasing air of arrogance, and “Feed my ego” seems the name of the game.

    I serve in a few capacities.  I am not the greatest Chaplain the American Legion has ever seen, and at least one member of the Auxiliary can’t wait to see me go, but I approach my fellow members in a spirit of service.   I take  any posting as a Substitute Teacher seriously, and am well-regarded by students and colleagues, precisely because their well-being and quality experiences trump any desire I might have to be revered or obeyed. I take any work I do with the Red Cross seriously, or any recommendations I make to people, regarding do Terra Essential Oils, because there are lives and healthful situations at stake.  Because of the way I was raised, ego gratification is not an option.

    It ought not be an option for anyone in public service.

January 20, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 53: The Same Boat

    January 20, 2015- “We may have arrived on different ships, but we are all in the same boat.”  This was one of the messages being carried by the some 400 marchers in Prescott, AZ, yesterday, during the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day march, from Prescott College around Courthouse Square and to the United Methodist Church, where a rousing rally, with gospel music and a stirring address by Reverend Michael Cannon awaited our assemblage.

    My parents raised us to regard each person we met, on an individual basis.  They were prisoners, somewhat, of their generation’s tendency to fear “the other”, but my folks desperately wanted out of that box, and looked to us to show the way towards a more inclusive world. There were classmates of Asian descent, in my high school, who were congenial.  I did not, however, have friends who were African-American or Hispanic until I was in the Army, and it was much later that my circle grew to include Native Americans and people who hailed from the Middle East.

    We are in a far more open world now.  My son does well with people, regardless of ethnicity, faith or sexual orientation, as do I.  The Baha’i Faith, to which I adhere, enjoins anyone from acting out of prejudice.  Our task is to root out the bias and replace it with an understanding of the people whose backgrounds differ from ours.  The thing to be opposed, in this great Age, is an unseemly character.

    That was the bedrock of Dr.King’s speeches, and actions, in the 1950’s and ’60’s.  It was the overriding theme of Rev. Mr.Cannon’s address, yesterday morning and again last night, at St. Luke’s Ebony Christian Church, where he is Associate Pastor.  It is the foundation of that which every person who seeks uprightness in this life, does every day.  Imperfect souls own their flaws, and still march towards the light, casting the burden of foulness aside as they go.  I know of many people, myself included, who have aspects of their past which, if left unaddressed and uncorrected, would serve as a personal Tar Pit.  On we go, though, grateful for forgiveness and grace.

    This is huge boat, and we each have a part to play in its successful voyage.  So, if you are African-American, come to the table.  If you are a lower-income, or lower-middle-class person of European descent, come to the table.  If you are of a family indigenous to these continents we call America, come to the table.  If you are from the world’s most populous continent, anywhere from the eastern Mediterranean to the western Pacific, come to the table.  If you came from Africa, during the past century, or from Australasia, come to the table.

    You may be, like me, attracted solely to the opposite gender- and you belong here.  You may be drawn to those of the same gender, or both, or may feel you need gender reassignment, or already have had it- and you belong here.  Regardless of age, ability level, or employment status, you belong here.  Whether you are Liberal, Conservative, Moderate, Tea Party or Occupy Anything With A Corner Office, you have a part to play.

    We need to uphold the rule of law, AND the law has to be humane.  We surely need to expect those entering our country to respect and obey our laws, just as those of us Americans who visit other countries must adhere to their laws.  We do best to remember that the task of the individual is to show mercy, and that of the human institution, from the family to the nation-state, is to show justice.

    The great boat will not list, will not leak and will not sink, so long as we all remember:  Each has a place.

January 19, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 52: Service

    January 19, 2015-   This morning was taken up with a short march from Prescott College, to a circumambulation of the Yavapai County Courthouse, then to a nearby Methodist Church.  At the church, there were bagels (“California-style”, which means untoasted), cream cheese and assorted fruit, with choice of hot beverages.  We then enjoyed a fine performance by the St. Luke’s Ebony Christian Church Choir, from Prescott Valley, and an address by their pastor, Reverend Michael Cannon.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s brief life of intense public service is the impetus for this day being held up as a National Day of Service, and Mr. Cannon’s admonition was for each of us to examine our own commitments.  He himself sounds like a man who lives each day in such commitment, judging from the accounts of others.

    I have committed myself to acts of service to others, for some time.  Many of these are part of an organized effort.  Others are spontaneous and random, as a given day unfolds.  I don’t really see myself as selfish; nor as a hero.  Day by day, each of us can serve others, from the unsung acts of a dedicated parent, or caregiver, to the First Responder working to bring peace to a disastrous scenario.

    There is one thing about service, though, that needs to be borne in mind.  It cannot be forced, nor can it be smudged by those who impose the pain of guilt on others.  Last night, several of us were given an indirect message that we were not doing enough to ease the plight of the homeless, and of a few shut-ins who live in a nearby community.  My reaction is, there is always more to be done, in a suffering world.  It cannot, however, be imposed upon us from the masters of guilt.   I trust that everyone who has good in their hearts will work, in some way, to relieve the suffering of those around them.  So it shall ever be.

  • The Road to 65, Mile 51: Real Friendship

    January 18, 2015-  The question came up, earlier today, about energy flows and what they might have to do with who is attracted to whom. Throughout life,  I have found myself inexplicably drawn to people, of various ages, and all types, for no outward reason.  The same has happened with people being drawn to me.

    Most of these encounters tend to run their course, and many of these people I see once, twice or a few times, and then not again, for a long time, if ever.  Yet, I never forget them.  There are others who have gone on, and with whom I still communicate, in thought waves and in visions.  This is especially true with my late wife.

    There are maybe two dozen people alive today, who are indelible in my life, and with whom I enjoy a robust and mutually supportive friendship.  Perhaps five or six, I have never met, in real time.  Another ten or so, I’ve met, face-to-face and spent a day or two with them, here and there. Others are a regular, almost daily, part of my world, both on-and offline.

    Real friendship does not depend on physical presence, on lock-step agreement or on identical world-view.  It does depend on mutual respect, regard and willingness to fully entertain and learn from the other’s point of view, It also depends on a passionate commitment to the friend’s best interests, as well as to one’s own.  Forbearance is frequently essential, for who among us is 100% in sync with any other person?  True friends are there at the end of a bout of pain-fueled rage; there, as a period of confusion and  foolishness ensues; there, in happy times and in their opposites.  A true friend sees the real person shining through, regardless of occasional lapses.

    There will not be a time when I don’t treasure my real friends.

January 18, 2015

  • The Road to 65, Mile 50: "You Are Not Alone"

    January 17, 2015- Since I was small, I could not envision forcing anyone into a solitary existence.  Pariah-hood does not become us, though there are some who need a period of isolation from those they hurt or deceive.  I thought a lot about these sorts of issues, over the past couple of days.  Like anyone else, I can get caught up in emotionally-charged issues, and come down on one side or another.  When the issue is properly resolved, though, all parties are clear with one another and there is either compromise, or full resolution.

    If we look upon those who oppose us or try to force our hand, it’s easy to wage war on a personal level.  In the quiet of the night, or the ensuing early morning, though, personal war rings hollow.  I’ve had a few conflicts, of late, one of which is at least at the live-and-let-live stage; another, which occurred this afternoon, was resolved by both of us learning what we did wrong and taking the right lesson going forward.  A good friend has been there for me, to help in processing what is right by everyone, and in reminding me of how not to handle an issue.

    I spent this evening at Planet Fitness, then by watching “Into The Woods”.  I will admit it, I am a schmaltzy sort, when watching sad parts of a film, even when the sadness is punctuated by hokeyness.  I laughed when a little girl in the audience mockingly joined in, when the two princes (Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen) offered a full-on rendition of “Agony”, complete with ripping their shirts open.  Tears formed though, when the Baker’s Wife was reported dead and their baby cried.

    The Baker and Cinderella reassure the orphaned Jack the Giant Killer and Red Riding Hood that they were not alone,  a theme song that reverberated throughout the musical, and serves as its saving grace.  I thought more about that, also.  No isolation need be forever; no loss need go unreplenished.  Any obstacle can be faced by people, of all ages and backgrounds, and both genders, forming a united front.  This is all too easy to forget, when our individual personas clash with others.

    I am coming up, in another 1 1/2 months, on the fourth anniversary of my wife’s passing.  Losses differ, in type, in circumstance and in aftermath, and no one loss is greater than another, except for a parent losing a child.  The common thread in all, though, is superbly laid out by Stephen Sondheim:  “You are not alone”.  I’m not, and neither are you, no matter how it may seem in the dark night, the early morning, or any time in between.  To everyone reading this:  Speak, be heard, but also be willing to listen. You matter.