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Abiding Blog
(2017-2018 Archives)
Lucki Melander Wilder

Still digging the blogs. Keep up the good works.  -- Jim (a reader since the first-ever announcement)

These are personal ruminations on divers and sundry topics of interest to me and, I hope, also you. Some are long, some short. Some are silly, some serious. Some are trivial, some profound. Nor is it always easy to tell which is which, even for me. And all opinions expressed are subject to change without notice.

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"Even talking about the deepest, most heartfelt matters, my brain wants to play with words."

I used that self-quotation from Twigs of a Family Tree over in Aphorisms & Memes, but it's equally useful here. I love words. When people ask me why I never learned a foreign language, I tell them that I'm still busy learning English.

Three books: A to ZEnglish is arguably by far the most (rhyme-poor and) nuance-rich language in the world. Because it unabashedly steals words from every language known to man. Like, did you know there are more Tagalog-derived words in English than in any other language except Tagalog itself? Including everyday favorites like boondocks, cooties, halo-halo, and yo-yo.

Our penchant for picking the pockets of other languages saves us from having to use long descriptive phrases when we want to hone in on something specific. Like, we didn't settle for saying "that longish, broad, heavy knife used as a sickle or weapon". Which could still leave you with a vague mental image. Instead, we stole the word "machete". And you now know exactly what I'm talking about. You know what it looks like. You know how it's used. Nuance-rich.

So yeah, I collect words like some people collect Krugerrands. (See. I didn't need to say "Republic of South African investment coins originally containing 1 troy ounce of pure gold and picturing President Paul Kruger on the obverse, at one time illegal in the U.S. but often left in Salvation Army kettles at Christmastime." Because we stole "Krugerrand" from Afrikaans.) So it disturbs me when I lose a word. And there were two words that I loved and then lost for a long time. I hated that. I sometimes needed them but they had disappeared from my brain.

Well, not exactly disappeared. They were in there somewhere. I just lost the addresses. Couldn't find them. For years! But I knew I'd recognized them if I ever saw/heard them again.

And I did.

One was iatrogenic. It means a condition or fatality caused by the practice of medicine. Since I experienced several iatrogenic conditions in my life, including at least one that nearly turned into a fatality, I needed that word. And now I have it again. It went from my dormant to my passive to my active vocab in one fell swoop.

The other word took me even longer to recover, though it's not really in my active vocab yet 'cuz I don't actually use it much: spermologer. A collector of useless information. (Not to be confused with a spermologist who collects and studies seeds.) Yep, that's me. Only I've found that, in the long run, no information is really useless.

Example: I had a neighbor once who owned a monkey. Named it Chichi after the sound it made when it was excited or scared. This was back in the days when you could bring pets into stores. I met them at the local grocer's one day. The monkey was sitting on the counter. Its person warned the grocer and me to not touch the monkey because it might bite our hands. But I remembered an obscure fact I'd once encountered. I reached one finger out to the monkey. It took my finger and bit the tip. Gently. More of a toothy pinch, really. So I took the tip of its tiny index finger and, lips peeled, gently bit back. And the monkey was ecstatic. Chichi-ing up a storm, it stood and plastered itself against my rib cage. My bosum buddy for life. Finally, it apparently thought, someone who understood how monkeys greet each other. Someone who didn't react with a scream or a slap. Someone who - oh MY! - even returned its greeting.

So now, what one word or two is special to you? Or is there a word you've lost that you'd like help recovering? Inquiring minds want to know.

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject


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Entries During

2018-12-12 Reword
The Wilders

2018-11-30 Going [Homing]
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-11-22 Earlybird

2018-10-31 Represent
2018-10-29 Twin [Totems]
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-10-08 First [People]
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2018-09-21 School [Castle]
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-09-08 Hi! [Houses]
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-09-07 Naughtmare
The Wilders

2018-08-22 Woods [Trees]
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-08-16 Fun [Fungi]
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2018-07-25 Wilds [Beasts]
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-07-11 Wings [Birds]
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2018-06-26 Runs [Water]
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2018-05-19 Tourist-ish
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-05-05 Lazy-ish
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2018-04-20 Home-ish
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-04-02 Agenda

2018-03-17 Mean!
2018-03-11 Cheers!
"True" Stories
2018-03-05 ...Story
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-03-01 ...Horror...
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2018-02-22 Halloween...
2015 Victoria, BC trip
2018-02-12 Moving

2018-01-01 Introducing...

2017-12-01 Cold/Cut
"True" Stories

    11-30 Memes
    11-29 Vacation
    11-28 Flowers
    11-27 Contact
    11-26 Fearless
    11-25 Servant
2017-11 Challenge Set 5
    11-24 Suffragette
    11-23 Shield
    11-22 Eagle
    11-21 Ocean
    11-20 Lion
    11-19 Vying
2017-11 Challenge Set 4
    11-18 Astonishment
    11-17 Tears
    11-16 Endowment
    11-15 Evolving
    11-14 Upgrading
    11-13 Debugging
2017-11 Challenge Set 3
    11-12 Confession
    11-11 Steps
    11-10 Persist
    11-09 Support
    11-08 Reflection
    11-07 Birthdays
2017-11 Challenge Set 2
    11-06 Lifeline
    11-05 Ask
    11-04 Heard
    11-03 Listen
    11-02 Time
    11-01 Godincidence
2017-11 Challenge Set 1

2017-10-29 Party!

2017-09-10 Strings
"True" Stories

2017-08-23 Half
The Wilders

2017-07-13 Hair
The Wilders

2017-06-02 Borderline
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2017-05-17 Westest
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2017-04-18 Westmore
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2017-03-22 Bruce
2015 Victoria, BC trip

2017-02-16 Un-Eel
2017-02-11 Silver
Cat Power

2017-01-01 Extensions


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"There is no mile as long the final one that leads back home." -- Katherine Marsh

I started blogging about my Vancouver Island trip on December 1, 2015. Today is my last entry in that string of 28 stories with pix. So, exactly three years of writing ... to share just the highlights of three weeks of travel. Time flies when you're having a life. But hey, it was one of the most joyous three-week stretches of my retirement (arguably of my life).

A shot of Rey & luggage showing how blurry everything gotOne of the things I haven't told you about yet, I don't think, was how - halfway through my sojourn - the expensive, compact, diver's camera Rey had lent me started turning into a expensive, compact, vibrating paperweight. Now, I'm not a great photog in the first place. So usable pix got progressively wa-a-ay fewer and farther between. I still took lots of photos, and they help me remember stuff. But I'm not going to bore you with them. Just to show you how bad they got, though, this is the last pic I took: Rey greeting me and toting my luggage back in Chicago's Union Station. Mya and her stepsisterish friend Michelle were there, too, and accompanied me home on the train.

(Sometime later, friend and techie guru David researched the camera and learned about that particular make/model tending to do that kind of thing after some three years of use. But since it was useless anyway, Rey figured why not let him try to fix it. So David did his magic … took it all apart, furbished it, put it back together without any pieces left over and, much to Rey's relief, got the camera working properly again. He's a treasure, that one.)

Anyway, having learned from the fiasco of getting TO the island, on my last day there Mead and I rousted out early in the morning, drove to and onto the ferry, enjoyed the hour and a half on the water, then drove over and parked at the bus station, and went to breakfast at the Tim Horton's restaurant I would have gone to. Seemed appropriate. Or our kind of silly.

We went back to the station and, when my bus pulled up, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Dan, Brent's trainer on my Seattle-to-Vancouver ride, was now my designated driver. He recognized me, too, and said that he'd been told the horror story up to the point where Brent had to leave me. Dan asked me to fill in the rest of it once we got on the road. So I sat in the first seat across the aisle from him. Other standing passengers also quickly boarded because it was lightly raining out.

Mead, of course, couldn't board. And he had plans for things to do while in Vancouver, then catching an afternoon ferry back to the island. But he didn't want to leave the bus stop before waving goodbye with me as the bus pulled out. So he stood in a shallow doorway that partly protected him from the rain. When Dan noticed that, he invited Mead to come sit with me until the bus was ready to leave. I wonder if - as once happened to us at a Doctor Who convention, which you'll just have to get Twigs of a Family Tree to read about (Mead's chapter. You can find the book here.) - I wonder if others in the bus wondered how we rated such special license. Anyway, the time finally came, as all such times must. We hugged, Mead and I, then he disembarked, and we did indeed wave to each other as the bus pulled out.

Once we were on the highway, I told Dan the rest of the Vancouver story and about finally meeting up with Mead. Dan was as amazed as Brent had been when I called him. No more than me, still, though.

This time, I got across the border with little difficulty. One agent did ask me if I had any drugs in my medical case, and I could honestly say no. I didn't mention the last of my daily meds in my gym bag. He'd have had to hold us up for a while (again!), check my luggage, and still find nothing untoward.

This time, I was able to get some actual photos of the Seattle Space Needle. The closest shots, unfortunately, were too blurry to use here; a couple of long shots will have to do as "proof". I boarded the train east - still on the starboard, now south, side - and met the new service staff  who would address my needs in the sleeping and dining cars. They were all friendly and good at their jobs, although the sleeping car attendant wasn't quite as awesome as Pete had been. Sadly, the photos I took of four people do remind me, but are too blurry to give them their earned face-time here. The trip home was just as much fun as the trip out. I got to see things that had been hidden in the dark of night going west. Plus there was a new dining car menu. And by trip's end, I had learned how to adroitly manage things even in something as compact as a roomette. So I'll be really ready for any such future train trip. I certainly was ready, though, for my first glimpse of the Sears, uh, Willis Tower.

As I said, Rey, Mya, and Michelle welcomed me back, went with me to turn in my unused Vancouver-to/from-Island tickets for the refund-plus, and made sure me and my luggage got to my Home-At-Last. Thus endeth the journey of three weeks (and three years).


My bus approaches the bustling ports of Seattle
As my bus approaches the bustling ports of Seattle,
Space Needle in the distance
the Space Needle marks the start of my cross-country train ride.
Evergreens below the mountain treeline
Below the tree line, mountain-sides are cloaked in evergreens.

Glacial ice draped on a mountainside
I finally catch sight of glacial ice draped on a mountainside.

Flattened grazing land
Eventually, mountains flatten to foothills, then to grazing land,

The beginning of the badlands
followed by the rippling edge of the increasingly hostile badlands.

Crossing a meandering river
There are also wide meandering rivers to cross, and to run beside.

Nearby trees on the bank below
This is how near I was to the treed bald eagle I didn't snap.

A direction sign amidst the trees
Amidst the thick autumnal forest, there's occasional human sign.

A small stand of birch trees
Birch trees are special. (Oh, I feel a future blog entry coming on.)

Approaching the suburbs
We cycle from rural to exurban to suburban to urban and back,

Sears Tower in the distance
'til a distant Sears Tower marks the nearing end of my journey.

Khoda hafez,

Mon, Mar 2, 2020 at 9:05 AM, Savva wrote:
   I started looking through some of these this morning. Wow - what a "Halloween" story...and also saw the photos of the Peacock you took. That and a few other things caught my attention right away. And I know that's just glanced at the surface. What a trip! Thanks!
  Lucki responds to Savva:
  You're welcome. I'm kind of honored that you're going back through these 28 entries [starting here] to get a feel for how much your family might enjoy an exciting multi-day train adventure...and tips on how to do it.

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject



"If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share." -- W. Clement Stone
~ ~ ~
"Appreciation can make a day -- even change a life.
Your willingness to put it into words is all that is necessary." -- Margaret Cousins

Because this five-Thursday November started on a Thursday, Thanksgiving in the U.S. has come on its earliest possible date. (Factoid Alert: Canada celebrates on the second Monday in October. They beat us to the punch for the first Thanksgiving by 43 years, and this year they beat us to the punch by 46 days ... par for the course. Nowadays, when we celebrate on our earliest possible date of November 22, they also celebrate on their earliest possible date of October 8. Of course, Native Americans/First Nations were holding celebrations of harvest thanksgiving long before Europeans ever invaded.)

A heartfelt THANKS to each and every readerI don't really have anything special to say about all that ... although I can always be thankful that an earlier date may translate into less chance of snow or ice impeding my getting to Thanksgiving dinner and fellowship with my AA home group.

It's been three years, though, since I wrote an actual Thanksgiving entry, so it's time to again. And come to think of it, I may have that dinner-fellowship tradition to thank for my life, as you may already know from an even earlier Thanksgiving-related entry. (And BTW, you can also read that latter story from Dr. Sanborn's perspective, as he originally published it, in Twigs of a Family Tree. My chapter. You can find the book here. Don't worry if it says "out of print"; that's apparently sometimes caused by its being print-on-demand. Email me if you have a problem ordering it. I can help.)

So all the more reason to honor the day. Plus which, Thanksgiving Day this year is also, after sunset, the first day of the Baha'i month of Qawl, or Speech, so what better time to speak about giving thanks.

May I suggest a 3-step Thanksgiving exercise?

1. Make a list of the top ten things you have to be thankful for, and read your list aloud to God or the universe.
2. Make a list of the top five people you have to be thankful to, and read your list aloud to God or the universe.
3. In person or by phone, tell those five people (or as many as you still have working numbers for) about being thankful to and for them, share your lists with them, and invite them to do the same 3-step exercise for themselves.

Have a joyous and thankfulness-filled day!

Khoda hafez,

P.S. By "by phone" I definitely don't mean text, email, Facebook, or any other technology that fails to include at least the sound of your voice, if not eye-contact or, better still, a warm and loving hug.

Sat, Dec 01, 2018 at 1:48 PM, Janet wrote:
  Here goes the usual "thank you" and the addition of other thoughts!
  You've included several places to go for added knowledge; and when I'm just lying in bed or have a down time, I'll click on and read.
  I remembered you said you were a writer and indeed you are. Writing English, grammar, sentence structure and explaining my thoughts in a more concise way has been such a big obstacle for me in the past...I finally picked up an IPad my kids gave me, and started to write. It saved me, I believe, from going nuts and finding whatever I wrote was good enough becasue it came from me. Getting help with editing was the next step and so I appreciate your writing ability which may be easy or not.
Take care.
  Lucki responds to Janet:
  Thanx for sharing, Janet. Glad to hear you want to pursue that extra knowledge when you have down time. Sure beats just vegetating, doesn't it? That's why I sometimes stop to do research and provide links, 'cuz I'm an I-wants-ta-know kind of person and appreciate others who are, too. Also glad to hear that you started using the iPad your kids gave you. I'm sure they were gratified, too, to see they got something for mom that helped stretch her horizons. And yeah, I'm often willing to help people edit stuff. I once had a boss who touted that I could sit down with him and, in one or two drafts, write what he'd said the way he wished he had said it. I've treasured that compliment, and enjoy giving such service.
Sat, Dec 01, 2018 at 3:16 PM, Tom wrote:
  I saw the subject line [of today's announcement email] and nearly jumped out of my seat. I had just used the word "seasoning" (in an entirely different context) on Facebook.
  Good to hear from you! We stopped briefly in Victoria, BC, in September.

  Lucki responds to Tom:
  Guess great minds do run in the same channels, right? And yeah, I'm not without my punny side. I'm not on FB, either, so I won't get to check out your different context.
  Equally good to hear from you again. Do you also have relatives in Victoria? Gave you a chance to check the reality against my trip reporting, huh?

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject



"Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote." -- George Jean Nathan

I've written about voting before. In Twigs of a Family Tree. In various articles. Even here in Abiding Blog, exactly six years ago. And I'm doing it again. Because it's important.

Vote on Tuesday, November 6, 2018Oddly enough, our national election, though not Presidential this year, will fall on the same date it did the last time I wrote: Tuesday, November 6. Means I don't have to do a new graphic. I'm able to recycle the one from 2012. Never did that before that I can remember: reusing a photo from an earlier article. Don't really plan to ever do it again. But I liked this one then and I like it now. It says it all. Because the vote is indeed the basic building block of our democracy. Of our country. Of our national culture.

Anyway, I'd really appreciate if you'd go back and read my earlier article. 'Cuz so much of it is still relevant. Important. Even vital. And that'll leave me more room to say what else I want to say this time.

Yeah, go ahead; reread it now. I'll still be here when you hit that Back Arrow to return to this page. I promise.

So, your vote is vital. It can make a difference. It's both your right and your duty. And anyone who tells you not to bother voting is as wrong, and nefarious, as anyone who tries to steal or supress your vote. It's YOURS. Use it! (Or - dare I say it? - risk you/we might lose it.)

Voting is about representing. In both the formal and the slang sense of the word. To represent is to speak or act for someone else. To represent is also to serve as a stand-up and stand-out example of yourself and others like you.

So yes, vote for someone you can trust will represent you and your best interests. Don't try to build that trust by listening to the promises they make, which they may or may not keep. Instead, base that trust on looking at what they've actually done, how it compares to what they've been saying, what the real results were and, most importantly, what true and useful and unifying service they've already given.

I Voted!And in the process, be sure that you're voting for someone who truly represents the kind of citizen and human being you are and/or want to be. Vote for the person who represents your best self. Even if it doesn't seem to make a difference to anyone else, it'll make a difference to you. Even if the election results aren't all - or even any - of what you hoped, taking part will make a difference to you. A big difference. Because, in a way, the state of our whole world depends on the state of its flagship democracy. And the strength of our democracy depends on the actions of its citizens. Even so simple an action as marking a checkbox or pulling a lever. Especially so simple, yet profound, an action.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. A last word to my fellow Baha'is: Yes, the Writings clearly tell me not to involve myself in partisan politics. But that doesn't mean I should neglect or have disdain for my duty as a citizen, a member of the body politic. And the first right and duty of a citizen in a democracy is to take part in the democratic process. It's true for Baha'i elections and it's equally true for civic elections. I have good guidance from the Writings on what to look for when I vote. And when I carefully follow that guidance, I can be assured that partisanship will not sway nor taint my vote.  I urge every one of you to get out and vote your prayerful conscience, and to encourage your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers to do so, too.

Ditto to my fellow 12-Steppers: Like the program, democracy (only) works if you work it. Sober.

Fri, Nov 02, 2018 at 8:17 AM, Claire wrote:
Hi, Lucki!
   I took seriously your imperative to read your first article, and I'm glad I did. It so beautifully reflects my own thinking (dream?) for how citizens in every democracy ought to embrace the opportunity to vote. Actually, I am crazy busy developing a new one-day seminar entitled "Workplace Harmony and Conflict Resolution." As I voraciously hoover up research and resources on these topics, I find so much material that I really wish everyone--especially the hyper-partisans--would read and embrace. Let's focus on the common ground, people!!!
   I still say we need a good invasion by some silicon-based extraterrestrial life form to unite us carbon-based folk. We are more alike than we are different!
   Enough--back to work! But really wanted to thank you for keeping me in your loop and for that blog post. You go, Girl!
  Lucki responds to Claire:
  Hi, Claire. Great minds, same channel, all like that. And proof positive that being a good citizen isn't about what Faith one practices but how conscientiously and lovingly one practices/applies it to the realities of the day. I'm just reminded that while the Writings direct us Baha'is to avoid partisan politics, they also clearly enjoin us to be good citizens, wishing the best for our government - and acting like it, which I see voting as an integral part of - so that it may indeed be(come) the "just government" 'Abdu'l-Baha asked blessings for in the scriptural Prayer for America he gave us in Chicago back in 1912:
   O Thou kind Lord! This gathering is turning to Thee. These hearts are radiant with Thy love. These minds and spirits are exhilarated by the message of Thy glad-tidings. O God! Let this American democracy become glorious in spiritual degrees even as it has aspired to material degrees, and render this just government victorious. Confirm this revered nation to upraise the standard of the oneness of humanity, to promulgate the Most Great Peace, to become thereby most glorious and praiseworthy among all the nations of the world. O God! This American nation is worthy of Thy favors and is deserving of Thy mercy. Make it precious and near to Thee through Thy bounty and bestowal.  
   And about those silicon-based invaders who finally motivate us to unite? Then maybe the task of the next Messenger of God will be to teach us how to develop loving unity with them. And, of course, vice versa. Just sayin'.
Hugs back atcha!

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject



"The interactions of the individual with his environment affect not only his body but his soul as well.
They develop both the genetically given physical capacities and the initially given spiritual capacities."
-- William S. Hatcher

One of the celebratory festivals in the Baha'i Faith is the Twin Birthdays, the birthdays of the Bab and Baha'u'llah. In the solar calendar, these two Holy Days always fall on October 20 and November 12, respectively. In the lunar calendar, on the other hand, they fall on two consecutive days, and cycle around the solar calendar over time. Until 2015, Eastern Baha'is celebrated according to the lunar calendar and Western Baha'is according to the solar.

But the Universal House of Justice, which has the important role of keeping the worldwide Baha'i community unified, decided that in 2015 it was time for the whole Baha'i world to start celebrating the Twin Birthdays simultaneously. So it instituted a formula that uses aspects of the lunar calendar to keep the two days consecutive, and aspects of the solar calendar to keep the two days in the October-November timeframe.

The amazing opportunity to attend that first worldwide celebration with Mead was one of the main reasons I asked Rey to schedule my trip for after, rather than on, my birthday. And it was a joyous occasion for us indeed. Not least because, of the seven locales in its cluster, Colwood was asked to plan and coordinate the Birth of the Bab celebration. The planning meeting took place at our home, and I was invited to be part of it. And we ended up planning something very different from what any of us were used to in the past. Which was usually a call to order, devotions (prayers and readings), a few songs, a program, and then a social time with food. But as we consulted, we focused not on "Holy Day" but on "Happy Birthday". It helped, too, that we knew we had a venue with a large plenary room that could then be subdivided into three via sliding curtains.

Upon arrival, we set up the plenary room so that, after division, one section would contain half the folding-chair rows and a couple of long tables for food, another would contain three tables and most of the remaining folding chairs, and the third would contain a circle of the softer "comfy" chairs. As people came in, we simply told them where to put the potluck food, then left them to their own devices to greet friends, get into conversational groups, sit and relax, whatever.

When it was time to start, there was no call to order. Marielle simply went to the front of the plenary room and began singing "We Have Come To Sing Praises to Our Lord". Mead, Shoghi, Bob, and I excused ourselves from whatever it was we were chatting about with folks, and went to sit down and start singing with her. By the second verse, everyone in the room had caught on, found seats, and joined in. The gospel song involves both clapping and flinging one's arms up in exaltation. Marielle told me afterwards how touched she was by the way that, more than anyone else, the elderly Persian men in the back of the audience threw themselves into those joyous exclamatory gestures. Then there were just a couple of prayers and readings (including Mead doing his explanatory rendition with true dramatic flair).

And then, much to the audience's surprise, the devotions/program was done and it was time to have fun. The dividers were pulled across. People were invited to enjoy the food-and-chatting section, the comfy-cozy storytelling section (Mead again), and the activities section. That last included things like: Planting various seeds in pots to take home (think of the "mustard seed" of faith) to add spirit-uplifting greenery in winter. Learning to make an origami turban in green (the Bab had the right to wear a green turban because he was a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad). And me doing another stint of virtues facepainting for kids and adults alike.

As far as we could tell, everyone had a good time. And someone from another community came up to Mead before leaving and "apologized" that the next day's celebration was going to be more "traditional". Needless to say, though, we went to that one, too, and thoroughly enjoyed it. In fact, I think the two celebrations being so different actually enhanced them both and added to the joy of our first-ever truly-Twin Birthdays.

Not that all the spirituality of my trip was restricted to Baha'i activities. You know, in traditional African cultures (and by extension, in African American culture), the most important relationships are between person and person. And in traditional African belief, "person" includes one's fellow humans, the ancestor ghosts, and God. There's a similar dynamic at play in traditional Native American/First Nations cultures, where the most important relationships are with the Great Spirit and one's family.

I got to see a lot of this reflected in both traditional and modern art. Especially totem poles, which often reflect or encompass cultural beliefs, familiar legends, family lineages, celebrated ancestors, noteworthy events, welcome signs, even jokes or ridicule. On the other hand, sometimes they're just artistic expressions. Thanks to Mead and especially Marielle, I sometimes had a basic idea of what I was seeing. (Mead and I had loads of fun on the phone last week, looking at Francis Dick's work again and trying to decypher the various anatomical features of each of her animals.) It was fascinating to me that one is allowed, perhaps even expected, to bring one's personal interpretation to a totem pole. No two people necessarily read the same thing, nor might the same person at different times. For instance, Marielle had a personal reading (in Photo File below) of the Harmony totem pole that differed from the common interpretation and that was, I feel, specifically informed by her Baha'i background.

The Photo File this time shows:
= "Interactive Language Light Pillar" by Francis Dick (art and artist) of the Kwakwaka'wakw (4 photos)
    The first two show the dorsal surface to the left; the second two show the dorsal surface to the right.
= "Salish Bear Pole" by Stan Modeste (art and artist) of the Coast Salish 1966 (1 photo)
= "Storytellers and Language Keepers" by Jaalen Edenshaw (art and artist) of the Haida 2014 (1 photo)
= "Harmony" by Tom LaFortune (art and artist) of the Tsawout 2015 (6 photos)


Bear side of Interactive Language Light Pillar by Francis Dick of the Kwakwaka'wakw
U'ligar - Bear side of pillar; see the snow on its hibernation den?
Raven side of Interactive Language Light Pillar by Francis Dick of the Kwakwaka'wakw
Gwa'wina - Raven side of pillar; see its hooked beak at the top?
Wolf side of Interactive Language Light Pillar by Francis Dick of the Kwakwaka'wakw
Gaia - Wolf side of pillar; is it panting/steaming as it crouches?

Whale side of Interactive Language Light Pillar by Francis Dick of the Kwakwaka'wakw
wa'yam - Whale side of pillar; see bubbles exiting its blowhole?

Salish Bear Pole by Stan Modeste of the Coast Salish
The bottom figure is Kw'uyutsun (Grizzly Bear) holding the only ceremonial mask used by the Coast Salish; the top figure is Tzinquaw (Thunderbird).

Storytellers and Language Keepers by Jaalen Edenshaw of the Haida
The left figure is mythic ancestor Story Woman, the right is the new generation of storytellers; they're connected by the voice & the stories it tells.

S'ael - Harmony

Frog - producing fruit & children

Man - palms forward in greeting

Owl looking left- knowledge, wisdom, sees past all lies & masks, knows the people's history, carries messages to us from the souls of the ancestors.

Bands - 3 levels of existence:
   Body -
the physical form
   Mind - the intellect
   Heart - the emotions, character
               traits,  & virtues

Eagle - intermediary/messenger; carries our prayers to the Creator & brings divine messages to us.

"This productive land welcomes
you here to acquire wisdom &
truthfulness about body, mind,
heart, & spirit through the
messengers of the Creator."
Implies a progression & a promise.

Marielle added that the frog represents both the past and the potential future bounty of the land. The promise for the future is this: If we put our knowledge into practice wisely, it will produce fruit that will add to the bounty of the land. The owl represents human knowledge, the general knowledge we can acquire as a species. Adding the three bands emphasizes that we also have to add the ethical knowledge of the heart or conscience. Finally, the eagle represents the divine knowledge that we need also glean through the helpful acts we offer and the guidance we request, so that our conscious selves can put all the knowledge acquired into service to the divine plan for all people.

Makes sense to me. Very rich and dense and fluid and nuanced, totem poles.

Khoda hafez,

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"If you have the power to make someone happy today, do it.
The world needs more of that."  -- Marc&Angel Chernoff

Continuing again ... and very on-track to be done by year's end, long as the "journey" has been since the start.

What's the first thing I think about when someone asks me what I did with Shoghi during my Vancouver Island visit? The answer is probably walking him to and from his school bus. The first time or two, I accompanied him and Mead. After that, Mead let us go on our own, giving me some Shoghi time ... and Shoghi some Grams time. After the driver and adults at the pick-up point got used to me bringing Shoghi to the bus, first with his dad and then by myself, they became comfortable enough to let me walk him home from the bus, too. I also got to visit his school.

Remembrance Day poppy - CanadaPerhaps the first picture that flashes in my mind about Marielle is getting to watch her march in the Remembrance Sunday Parade ... all spit and polish, and wearing both her Métis sash and a poppy. The Canadian Remembrance poppy looks quite different than the U.S. Memorial/Veterans Day one ... which served me in good stead that day. Tell you about that a little later. (Gotta admit, though, that while I like the design and material of the Canadian poppy better, I hated that silly loose straight pin that kept falling out, and dearly wished for the US-style bendable stem that I could attach to a button, button hole, zipper tab, purse strap, or whatever. Wasn't the only one who felt that way, either.)

As for firsts with Mead, one activity I dearly loved was accompanying him for his two-day stint at the "First Chance" art/craft fair. I'd assumed I'd spend the days in his booth with him. But I could picture myself more getting in his way than actually helping out. Then I had an idea, I suggested it to him, he liked it, he contacted the fair organizer, she liked it, and there I was.

Doing what, you ask? Manning my own booth. Or rather, card table. The organizer found me a perfect spot just outside the entrance to the main hall. For free. I didn't pay for my table. And I didn't charge anyone for my art. What I did was offer free Virtues Facepainting to any child who wanted one. From my first delightful little customer who loved her art so much that her enthusiasm attracted other little "canvases", to the umpty-bumpth kid who picked a virtue and proudly showed off the art that resulted, it was just plain FUN. And some parents seemed mightily happy to have someone occupy their child long enough for them to sneak away for a cigarette, washroom run, or even back into the hall to pick up a surprise gift.

As an aside, since the second day of the fair was Remembrance Sunday, that day I offered a free painting of the poppy to anyone wearing one, which meant they'd probably contributed to the Poppy Fund in support of veterans and their families. Got a lot of adult takers for that. Mostly on their hands, though; only a couple of faces.

So I'd ask each child to tell me their favorite color(s) and to pick a virtue from my displayed list of dozens of virtues. Sometimes they knew what the virtue meant, sometimes they didn't. They usually had no idea what picture they'd get painted. As I worked, we'd talk about the virtue, how the picture represented it, and how they could demonstrate it. (See examples.)

There was one child, though, who especially warmed my heart. He was with his father. He was almost incapable of speaking, and had severe tremors. When he indicated he wanted a painting, his father explained that the boy couldn't pick a virtue but loved Spiderman. So I painted his face with the spider-and-web design that stood for perseverance. He didn't really speak to me, but he listened intently; and his father joined in the conversation. When I finished the painting and showed him his face in the mirror, his eyes lit up, he smiled, and his father almost cried. Thanking me profusely for my patience with his son, he tried to offer me a CAN$5 tip. (I kept a tip jar on the table because some people, especially parents, get antsy about letting their children accept anything free from someone they don't know; and seeing the tip jar seems to ease their mind.) I protested that it was too much for what little skill I had ... 'cuz as you can see from the example-sheet, the art is very basic and not at all professional. So he put his $5 away, pulled out a toonie - a $2 coin; and how Wikipedia has managed to miss the pun on Loony Tunes is beyond me - and asked if I'd accept that. Not to come across like a total ingrate, I did.

One more piece to the whole story. Mead was somewhat familiar with the list of virtues and corresponding pix. Whenever a facepainted child would come by his booth, he'd ID the virtue represented (or, if he didn't remember, ask the child what virtue they'd chosen) and engage the child in another conversation about it. He told me the kids were excited that he recognized their paintings, especially because they had no way of knowing that he and I even knew each other. When the special-needs boy and his father came by, Mead asked what the spider represented. The boy tried to tell him, but simply couldn't get the word out aloud, so he whispered it to his father to tell Mead. The father added that the boy hardly ever even tried to talk to people, so he was amazed that the boy remembered the word and tried to say it out loud. Maybe that was a happy first for the two of them ... a memory to cherish.

BTW, I ended up with about CAN$40 worth of tips from First Chance. Gave me some extra cash to contribute to the Baha'i Fund. But if I'd ended up with only that toonie, or nothing at all, it was worth the fun and opportunity to be of service. If you're in the Chicago area, and you'd like me to do Virtues Facepainting at an event, email me.


Mead wearing his Gallifreyan name patch
Mead wears his Gallifreyan patch on his right arm. Is he a combat verteran of the Time Wars?
Shoghi wearing his Gallifreyan name patch
Shoghi wears his patch the same way his dad does, but on his jacket rather than a shirt
Marielle wearing her Gallifreyan name patch
Marielle wears her patch upside down on her thigh so she can read it but it's gibberish to anyone else.

Marielle in her dress uniform
Resplendent in her dress uniform and Métis sash, Marielle holds her clarinet at left shoulder arms.

Mead leaning on a large fallen tree
As a six-footer, Mead enjoys his ability to lean on even the really big fallen trunks.

Mead dwarfed by a humongous stump
Doesn't mean he can't still be dwarfed by the ghosts of some of the most venerable trees.

Mead carefully watching for things that might trip me
When we hiked, Mead watched for little things that might trip me up, as I have no depth perception.

Mead grinning at his scales-storage gift
Rey gave me money to get Mead a gift. He loved the sorting case I found for his largest mail-scales.

George the cat laxing out
Kismet is, as you can see, a very "rub my tummy" type of cat ... at least when she trusts you.

Kismet the cat in quiet meditation
George, on the other paw, is more into quiet reflection about being the center of the universe.

Two cats bookending Mead as he knits chainmail
But they're feline bookends when Mead settles in to knit chain mail or, in this case, steampunk gears.

Spirit Bear gift that Marielle made freehand
Marielle made this Spirit Bear gift for me freehand; didn't even draw the pieces before cutting 'em out.

Khoda hafez,

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"We don't stop going to school when we graduate."  -- Carol Burnett

Continuing the saga: To be clear, I didn't totally eschew touristy things on Vancouver Island. I just let Mead and Marielle set the itinerary. After all, I figured they'd know better than me what was and wasn't worth spending time and energy on.

When Mead and Shoghi came to visit me back in 2013, we did plenty of museums. Especially places Mead and I had visited in his youth. Likewise, in and around Victoria, Mead and Marielle wanted to expose me to curated art and culture both historical and contemporary, such as in the First Nations exhibits in the Royal British Columbia Museum. Happily, Victoria and environs are beautifully rife with First Nations art both indoor and out.

Such opportunities for learning were, of course, fun. Equally fun - if not sometimes a bit more so - was living within walking distance of Charles Xavier's school for mutants as featured in six films to date (X2: X-Men United, X-Men: The Last Stand, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Deadpool, X-Men: Apocalypse, and Deadpool 2). The actual site is Hatley Castle. And that's the source of the device on the Colwood Fire Department patch I mentioned earlier this month.

Marielle learned something new about me the first time we walked to the (X-)mansion. (I forget what Mead was off doing, but he wasn't with us at that point. Too bad. He would've loved Marielle's discovery.)

When we went around to the back, which initially seemed to serve as the front on film, I decided to go up on the building's terrace. Parts of the back lawn seemed covered with clusters of Canadian geese. Including a large gaggle that wandered over and gathered right on my way to the stairs. So I just walked through them. At which they were not amused. They scattered out of my way, some of them honking to beat the band. One of them, a large (and I assumed) gander, was especially vociferous as it indignantly waddled away from me, begrudging every inch. A brief excerpt ensues:

"HONK, honk, honk, honk!" it further exclaimed.
"Honk, honk, HONK." I replied.
"Honk, honk, honk, HONK, honk!" it retorted.
"Hey," the bilingual Marielle called out to me, "I didn't know you could speak Goose."


First Nations mask in museum
First Nations traditional mask

First Nations shirt in museum
First Nations traditional shirt
First Nations statues in museum
First Nations traditional statues

Front of Hatley Castle
Front of Hatley Castle

Port-cochere at main entrance of Hatley Castle
In port-cochère at main entrance

Back of Hatley Castle
Back of Hatley Castle

Exterior detail on front wall of Hatley Castle
Exterior wall detail in front

Small side garden at Hatley Castle
Small side garden

Window detail at back of Hatley Castle
Window detail in back

Canadian geese flock at the back of Hatley Castle
Canadian geese on the grounds...

Canadian geese on the back lawn of Hatley Castle
...all over the place

Lucki waving from the back of Hatley Castle. Maybe to Wolverine?
Who's she waving to? Wolverine?

Khoda hafez,

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H I !

"A house is not a home unless it contains food and fire
for the mind as well as the body."  -- Benjamin Franklin

Okay; after a short, one-entry interruption, back to a Victoria trip report. And it's a long, meaty one.

One of the perks of being a guest rather than a tourist is getting introduced to places and people one's hosts are familiar with. I got to visit a lot of houses on Vancouver Island. Some visits just happened. Some I'd planned. Both were fun.

One thing I did notice: When Mead introduced me to general neighbors, he'd liken our relationship to my being his godmother. (That's also the term I used when the agents at the border asked whom I was visiting. They accepted that relationship/description without comment.) Of course, with Baha'is he'd introduce me as his spiritual mother, and they knew exactly what he meant.

But when he introduced me to First Nations friends, he also told them I was his spiritual mother. And though they didn't necessarily relate that to anything Baha'i, they immediately recognized the unique structure and import of the spiritual relationship. They recognized me as family. Close family. Eternal family. And in Native American/First Nation cultures, it seems to me that everything is first and foremost about relationship with family and with the Great Spirit (God; I think it interesting that Mead first lived and worked in Canada, and met and married Marielle, in Manitoba, a Cree/Ojibwa word meaning "straits of Manitou/Great Spirit/God").

No matter who or where we visited, though, people were always willing to warmly invite us into their house. Often offering food as an incentive. Didn't hurt that we sometimes brought food when visiting, too. Like I said: Fun. And fattening, if it weren't for all that walking up and down, hither and yon, over the hillsides and through the trees.

When you're in a coastal area, lighthouses are also important. And can easily become artistic icons. I know this because Chicagoland is, of course, a coastal area on the Inland Sea. I even live within easy hiking distance of an historic lighthouse. Can't tell you how often I've been by there. So seeing such lighthouse artistry in Victoria was also fun.

Another accidental "house" encounter happened when Mead wanted to go shopping at a working farm. There I saw several goats easily venturing up and down the multiple levels of their home. They seemed to enjoy it just for the exercise, cared less about who or how many people were watching, but greedily accepted the fresh greenery Mead and I plucked and gave to them as they descended their ramp. Good reminder that goats are mountain creatures.

Three more house encounters, two short and one long. Please bear with me.

When Mead and I went to pick up Marielle one day at her band's "house" on the naval base, we found her in the common room. As I stood several yards away, looking around at things, Mead and Marielle chatted about the afternoon's plans. Within minutes, another band member entered the room and started talking with them about something or other related to work. Suddenly, she turned towards me and exclaimed to them, "Wait! Is this Lucki?!" Yes, this was Lucki.

It was Katrina, the daughter that called her father Ross, who then rescued me from the Halloween ... Horror ... Story in Vancouver. Hugs all around.

The other kind of "house" I had to visit was, of course, a local firehouse. Some small local volunteer units are essentially not manned except when a call goes out. But I was able to visit the Colwood firehouse ... snacks in hand, of course. And I gotta admit I had to smile when we exchanged patches. Because the little house seemed thrilled to receive a visiting patch from a big "foreign-country" city like Chicago. And I was equally thrilled to recognize the house-specific device on the patch they gave me.

Then there was the big Esquimalt fire station. And I do mean big. I was amazed. The place is huge. Three stories. Six double-doored bays. Eleven apparatuses. (Even Rey's house at O'Hare Airport isn't that big.) It's on municipal land, but it also abuts a secured gate to the naval base, and serves that as well. Naturally, I brought snacks, including having devilled a dozen eggs. And as in High Point, I'd brought Chicago Fire Department patches to trade.

The "candidate" (rookie) on shift was detailed to give us a tour. His name is Nick; but his housemates nicknamed him Sugar, he told us, 'cuz his father is also a firefighter they knew well, and they said he's more laid back or "sweeter" than his dad. Even as he told that joke, you could hear the pride in his voice for his father ... and also for being able to follow in his dad's footsteps. I asked Sugar's permission for a photo, and he agreed. He said it was his first ever photo taken in his new uniform, standing there beside his new engine.

One thing that Rey often has to contend with is snow. Lots of snow, some years. An annual average of three feet. (That's the average: 36 inches. But I clearly remember one December when my end of Chicago had 40 inches for that month alone. And it took forever to melt. Not till mid-Spring. Streets&San literally couldn't figure out where to put it all.) Piles of it that accumulate, and may only melt off once or twice, between December and March. So Rey advises people to shovel paths from their street to their fire hydrant and then around the hydrant to their sidewalk. It can cost him crucial, life-saving seconds when he's trying to get to and from the hydrant, dragging his heavy hydrant wrench and/or hose, and has to bore through or crawl across deep snow.

Not an issue with the firefighters I met in Victoria. Fresh snow falls on perhaps half a dozen days a year, and holds on to two or more inches of snow on the ground maybe three days a year. Winter weather in that area is more rain than snow, so what snow does fall usually gets washed away pretty quickly. Makes for interesting fire hydrants from a Chicago POV. A deep red hydrant stands out very well against both gray pavement and white snow here. Not so much against the perpetual deep greens and browns of woodland. Definitely need a different paint scheme.

Two things about the humongous firehouse really stood out. One was the poles, which their firefighters still use. (Rey initially worked in a house that had a one-story pole; but it was closed off from use because it became dangerous once an ambulance was added to the house. That's 'cuz the ambo had to encroach on the space that sliding firefighters needed to safely land and move out of the way of the next firefighter coming down.)

Apparently, a single pole was originally installed in the three-story station. But the extra height meant that anyone sliding from the third floor accelerated too much and hit bottom too hard. I imagine it might also be dangerous if someone rushed to the pole on the second floor without seeing that someone was already on the way down from the third floor.) So they essentially cut the pole in half and offset the two halves by a couple of paces. It takes the firefighters a few extra seconds to get from the third floor to the first, but they get there safely.

The other biggie was that the fire station actually served as its own dispatch center for the region. Partly because it was responsible not only for the naval base itself and its municipal environs but also for all the ships in the harbor. In fact, it was the dispatch center called by all Canadian ships along the Pacific coastline of both Canada and the U.S. So the center had to stay on top of the list of all firefighter units available to serve ships in need.

Let's look at the stats on that. Remember that Vancouver Island is essentially in the very southwest corner of Canada. The farthest-south city in California is Imperial Beach. It's 1,403.4 miles / 2,258.5 km from Victoria, BC. That's a lot of coastline to cover. But the farthest-north place in Alaska (which is north of Canada) is Point Barrow. It's 1,904.5 miles / 3,065.0 km from Victoria. That's even further to go. Still, they cover it.

One day, the dispatcher on duty told me, they got a call from a Canadian ship on fire in a harbor on the U.S. coastline. OK, no problem, we got the list. Which harbor are you in? Came the reply: Pearl Harbor. PEARL Harbor?! In Hawaii? Yep. After all, it is the Pacific coastline of an American state, right? So Esquimalt is the dispatch center the call went to. And by gum, they figured out how to get in contact with the appropriate firehouse on Oahu, so the fire was struck before it could get out of hand. Even though Pearl Harbor, you see, is 2,666.3 miles / 4,291.0 km from Victoria!

I'll tell you, even Rey was impressed by that story.


Sculpture of a lighthouse on the waterfront
Lighthouse art at the waterfront.

Goats' home on a working farm
Goats survey their domain...

Goats clamber up and down a 2-level tower
...from atop their 2-level tower.

Close-up of a white-with-red fire hydrant
Hydrants sport unusual colors...

White hydrant is visible amidst the greenwood they can't hide in the woods.

Sugar proudly poses, beside his new engine, for his first ever photo in uniform
Sugar's first photo in uniform.

Two one-story staircases
3 stories equals 2 staircases...

Two one-story poles...AND 2 poles.

Washing the firehouse aparatuses
Carwash day at the firehouse.

Maps tracking all the ships at harbor
Tracking the ships at harbor.

Colwood Fire Department patches
Recognize the Colwood device?

Protection prayer, Canadianized.

Khoda hafez,

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"Sleep is the best meditation."  -- Dalai Lama
"Reality is wrong. Dreams are for real."  -- Tupac Shakur

"I dream of painting and then I paint my dream."  -- Vincent Van Gogh

Have you ever had a nightmare so terrifying that you woke up? Heart pounding? Unable to catch your breath? Trying to cry out in fear? Needing several seconds to realize that you'd actually slid from dream to waking? Yet remembering enough of the dream to know exactly what scared you so?

Have you ever had a dream just like that, but the opposite? So astounding that you woke up? Heart pounding? Unable to catch your breath? Trying to cry out for joy? Needing several seconds to realize that you'd actually slid from dream to waking? Yet remembering enough of the dream to know exactly what excited you so?

I've had a few of the former in my lifetime. Not for quite a few years, though.

I had one of the latter last night. This morning. Around 4:30 AM. About 30 minutes ago as I start to compose this entry. It was awesome. Never mind the details. That's not what I want to address. What I want to address is the importance of having it at all. Or rather, the importance of waking up on and therefore being able to remember it.

Back in 2010, sleep testing showed that I used to momentarily awaken -- automatically to kickstart my breathing again -- about 42 times an hour. So, like, once every minute and 25 seconds on average. (That's just an average. Actually, it probably varied greatly from hour to hour through the night cycle.) Apparently, I didn't get all the way down to dream sleep very often. But when I did, I often woke up on it and therefore remembered dreaming. Sometimes even remembered the dreams themselves.

Once I started using my CPAP, I no longer woke up on my dreams. I rarely remember dreaming at all, never mind what was in the dreams. My subconscious, sleeping mind is apparently still doing the sorting and storing of awake-time input that our dreams are there to do. Perhaps even more efficiently than before. Then again, perhaps not. But to my conscious mind, it's like I'm never dreaming at all. Disconcerting. Very disconcerting.

There was only one dream that I clearly remembered since starting CPAP use. Interestingly, even though it featured a complex, detailed, visually compelling nightmare scenario, it wasn't a nightmare. It was more of a meditation on just naturally using the right prayer in the right way for the right reason amidst a catastrophic situation. Using a prayer not only for myself, but for others. Even though they were strangers.

Dreamcatcher, dove, and rainbow over mountainsThen there's this morning's dream. This dream featured only two players. My grandmother and me. I don't know which grandmother I was with. But she was there. She didn't have any lines. I almost spoke to her, but didn't. She was just there. After awaking, I questioned why she was there. But the obvious answer came quickly. After all, everyone in any of our dreams is really us.

This dream was not about a complex and detailed situation. It was about a simple situation, with clear and simple visuals. I was reading something that someone had written. What they wrote, though, was indeed complex and detailed. Fascinating. Compelling. Personally meaningful. Exciting. The kind of thing you can't wait to share with someone. But you wait. Because you need to finish reading. And because you want to share it first with just the right person. And I can still remember not just the gist of the writing, but even a few important fragments word-for-word. I never got to finish reading, though. But in the dream I was pretty sure I knew where it was going. (Who wrote, about what, which words, how personal ... all not relevant here.)

I was eager to finish reading. And then get in touch with my #grandMya to share it. After all, everyone in any of our dreams is really us.

Based on these two dreams that were so powerful as to wake up on, I'm reassured that, even if I mostly can't remember it, I still have a rich, detailed, complex, even compelling dream life. In living technicolor. Good to know.

Khoda hafez,

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"Some of my kin look just like trees now, and need something great to rouse them; and they speak
only in whispers. But some of my trees are limb-lithe, and many can talk to me."  -- Treebeard the Ent

Vancouver Island and its channel companions are, if anything, all about trees. Trees, trees, trees. Many makes and models of trees. Deciduous trees and evergreen trees. Young trees and old trees. Big trees and little trees. Indigenous trees and imported trees. Cultivated trees and wild trees. Living trees and dead trees. Trees, trees, trees.

It's the beauty of the island forests that makes the area increasingly desirable to developers. Who are thus ruining the very beauty they're touting as a selling point. They've even figured out how to get around the laws prohibiting development on wild-wooded land ... like getting permission to remove forest for the purpose of growing crops, and then a few years later repurposing the crop fields for residential and commercial building. And as with the loss of salmon, once the ecological damage to all this temperate rain forest hits its tipping point, there'll be no going back.

That's one reason why Mead and Marielle have been angsting about staying on any of the islands once her Navy service is over. Because when it's time to rent or purchase civilian housing, they don't want to contribute to the islands' deforestation. Fortunately, they have options. And a few years left to consult and figure it all out.

In the meantime, my visit took advantage of the scenery. Sure, Mead and Marielle drove me a lot of places. To do my fair share of touristy things. Also to go to the Navy base. Visit nearby firehouses. Tour museum exhibits. Work a crafts fair. Take part in several Baha'i events. And attend three small-town AA meetings -  one once and another twice - where the attendees were very surprised by and welcoming to their "out-of-towner" all the way from the big city of Chicago.

But an equal amount of time was spent on foot, often within walking distance of the house. Not a day went by that I wasn't out there in all the brown-and-greenery. Getting in my miles of steps no matter how lazy the day. Retracing paths Mead and Marielle had shared with me. Or, if the day had been too busy elsewhere, simply going out after dark to complete my day's steps in the neighborhood. Although Marielle was insistent that I not be alone out there after dark, but walk-and-talk with her, Mead, and/or a neighbor. Not 'cuz she was worried I'd get lost. But 'cuz a quiet loner at night always stands the chance of a cougar encounter. And a startled cougar is not a cougar to be cavalier about.

Something else the J.R.R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings character Treebeard (aka Fangorn) said was also very apropos of our many walks in the woods: "Things will go as they will; and there is no need to hurry to meet them."

So I unhurriedly got enough pix of trees to bore anyone to tears. Though I'm going to share only a dozen.

But I want you to look at that first one very carefully. 'Cuz Mead and I never were sure about that one.

Maybe it was just a limb-lithe tree. But we suspect it was an Ent. Or, more likely, a young and hasty Entling. One in a great hurry. Rushing headlong away from us through the weeds. On its way to an Entmoot, perhaps. (To consult on marching against the destructive developers, might one hope?) Or seeking sign of an Entwife. Or just trying to reach a hiding place. In any case, striding so fast that if we could've stopped and watched it for a few hours, we'd've seen its progress in inches. Feet. Perhaps even a yard or two.

What do you think?


A tree, or an Entling?
Entling in a hurry?
Just trees, or an Ent Moot?
To an Entmoot?
Dense forest
Or just to hide in denser forest?

Landscaped ornamental tree
There are landscape ornamentals.

Path through the wildwood
And many paths thru wildwoods.

A big tree
Some trees are big.

Huge tree stump, taller than Mead
And some are (or were) huge.

Dead and molding tree
Dead trees are left to decay.

Remains of fallen tree in picnic area
Even fallen in people places.

Odd-looking dead tree
Which can make for odd sights.

The "bones" of a dead tree
Like seeing a tree's "bones".

Live tree interweaving with dead stump
Or interwoven death and life.

Khoda hafez,

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"We don't scare easy. We're Mycologists."  -- Girl vs Monster

I've surely mentioned before, proudly, that my daughter-in-law Marielle is the family mycologist. Benefit of having a First Nations member in the family. Whenever she visits me here in Chicago, she always lucks across the odd mushroom or six suitable for human consumption. Makes our walkabouts fun.

On Vancouver Island, though, mushrooming isn't a hobby. It's a food - and medicinal, even biofuel - source. An important one. Especially when you have a family mycologist. Or maybe I should call her the family phytologist, because she does a lot with all kinds of indigenous plants. (Although, truth be told, we've recently learned that mushrooms and other members of the kingdom Fungi are genetically more closely related to the animal kingdom than to the plant kingdom.) I mean, I do know how to make use of some wild plants; but Marielle is lightyears beyond me. As I can attest both from food and medicinals I consumed on the island and from various healing gifts I brought home that Marielle concocted using lavender, poplar bud, sage, and such.

Since she has an artistic bent, too, I wouldn't be surprised if Marielle also started making mushroom art. Just for fun. On the order of the large signed piece I once won at auction in an SF convention art show. (At only 65%, I might add, of what I was actually prepared to pay.) The woody fungus, mounted on a small piece of forest deadfall, is a two-color cameo-ish carving of a baying wolf under a full moon. The title is "Goodbye to Yesterday" by artist G. Bacus of Inter Earth, Inc., and I still have it proudly displayed among my objets d'art. Once such a living fungus is harvested, it has to be carved quickly to bring out (in the case of the one I own) the beige hue of the underlayer against the ruddy surface layer before the whole thing dries and dies. Since I've watched Marielle cut and sew a piece of fabric art freehand, I'm sure she could also master the quick carving of cameo-like pictures on living fungus. (Hint, hint)

Marielle is a trailblazer in other ways, too. One example: Royal Canadian Armed Forces policy ensures that First Nations members can practise their specific customs and traditions, such as wearing the Métis sash, if they so desire. To the best of our knowledge, Marielle is the first member of the Navy's Music Branch to request, receive, and exercise the sash-wearing right. It was beau coup fun that I got to watch her wearing her dress uniform with sash for the first time in the Remembrance Day (Veterans Day here in the US) parade. And as a result of Mead and I (well, mostly Mead) talking with several other parade participants, staff, and observers, a couple of them expressed surprise and a desire to exercise the same right.

Do you get how my pride in Marielle - and in Mead for having the sense and loving nature to woo her hand and win her heart (or vice versa) - continues to, uh, mushroom?!


Small mushroom
Some mushrooms are small.
Very small mushrooms
Very small.
Really small mushroom
Really small.

Large white mushroom
On t'other hand, some are big.

Large woody mushroom
Big enough to cameo-carve as art.

Main-course sized mushrooms
Or to serve as the main course.

Bunch of mushrooms
They often grow in bunches.

Cluster of mushrooms
Big bunches.

Stages of mushroom maturity
At various stages of maturity.

Mushrooms living horizontally
Some live horizontally.

Odd (probably old) mushroom
Some look odd (probably old).

Flower-like mushroom
Or oddly beautiful.

Alice-in-Wonderlandish mushrooms
Some are Alice-in-Wonderlandy.

Fantasia mushrooms
Or look like Fantasia characters.

Funny pair of mushrooms
Or like, uh...never mind.

Little white threads
Some aren't even mushroomy.

Big white threads
Like translucent white threads.

Translucent white fungus
But they're still fungi.

Khoda hafez,

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"Never apologize for being over sensitive and emotional when defending the welfare of wildlife. Let this be a sign that you have a big heart and aren't afraid to show your true feelings."  -- Paul Oxton

Almost 300 miles long and over 60 miles wide, Vancouver Island is the largest Pacific island on the west coast of North America. A part of the temperate rainforest biome, it has the mildest climate in Canada, especially on the leeward side of the island. The temperature seldom drops below freezing, and even more rarely rises to human body temperature. It is the homeland of three First Nations: Kwakwaka'wakw, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Coast Salish. We were in the Salish area, but I remembered having studied the culture of the Kwakwaka'wakw (erroneously ID'd as Kwakiutl, one of the nation's tribes, in the scientific literature of the time) in college.

The climate lends itself to year-round greenery ... plentiful food for a wide range of animals that colonized the island even before the arrival of humans. Throughout the weeks I was there in November, pretty much everything was still green and growing. I never missed the full-blown winter coat I hadn't even packed. In fact, I wore my short, flannel-lined, fall jacket with some layers underneath more to ward off the damp than the cold.

We did a lot of nature walking. But I never had to worry about slipping on ice. Slipping on damp dirt, that was more likely. Especially since just about every walk we took involved going uphill and back down (or vice versa). Mead and Marielle were, of course, very familiar with the many paths we trod. They made sure to guide me to steady footing, and occasionally helped me over a really rough spot. Not often, though. Once I became familiar with paths near the house, I often went on my own little hikes. Whether alone or with them, however, I had sense enough not to go where I really couldn't handle the terrain (like down the steep, slippery slope to the foot of that waterfall I showed you back in June).

I really enjoyed "meeting" trees posted by the Ministry of Environment, Lands, and Parks and the Forest Service:

Posted with permission on private lands

We often encountered land animals of one form or another. But there was one form of four-footed wildlife that we never had to go anywhere to encounter. Deer. By the dozens. They grazed right outside our windows every morning and evening. It was like having our own personal lawn-mowing company. Free.

One herd member that caught my attention was a buck with a right ear so damaged he could neither lift nor turn it properly. He was skinnier than the others, possibly because he had to spend less time grazing and more time looking around to suss out potential dangers. Mead and I discussed the probability that the buck wouldn't last the winter because he might not even be able to hear a cougar sneaking up from behind on his right side. (It pleases me to say, though, that he did in fact survive the winter. A fact that Mead happily shared with me in Spring of 2016.)


Still green in late winter
Even late in the year, there's still a lot of greenery.
Plenty of ground cover
Fodder for many wild critters, it covers the ground...
Rock sporting a green cap
...even sinks roots into rocks, giving them a jaunty cap to wear.

Wildlife Tree sign
This tree is somebody's home. Probably a bunch of somebodies.

A skink hiding under cover
I almost stepped on the little skink, it was so well hidden; but...

Skink skittering away over leaves
...when it skittered out, we saw it was a tunneler, not a twig.

 A buck used his nose to suss out whether a doe was interesting.

When she gave him a languid
look, he lost interest and...

...she strolled away on the serious business of chowing down.

She was OK with others also coming to graze on "her" lawn.

I wasn't used to seeing a herd
with multiple bucks.

The lop-eared buck came up to the window to check us out.

Khoda hafez,

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"In order to see birds it is necessary to become part of the silence."  -- Robert Lynd

I mentioned in the photo array last time that, during the salmon runs, carrion-eating birds flocked to scavenge the dead fish. And I'm not talking just the occasional bird here and there. The gulls, especially, would line up like, well, gulls in a row to await the death of exhausted or sidepool-trapped salmon.

Of course, whenever I wanted to see birds, I just had to look out of the living room picture window. There were several bird feeders - mostly homemade - in the tree just outside; and if there wasn't one species of small bird ensconced there, there was another (or six). Especially notable were the many crested birds.

On the big side, besides a heron or two seen from afar on our beachly walks, there were tons of Canadian geese. Hardly anything, though, beat the unexpected peafowl that have freely wandered the Royal Road University campus at Hatley Park since the '60s. But what really got me was the eagles. Only I didn't really see them on the island. Not like I did on the train going back home.

While I once had the opportunity to not only stand eye-to-eye with a golden eagle but even reach out and touch her, I'd never seen a wild bald eagle up close and personal. And I still didn't on Vancouver Island. There were several long-distance sightings as we'd hike about. Mead and Marielle were always alert to point them out to me. But usually, they were so far away that my old eyes just couldn't see them as anything but blobs. If at all. *Sigh*

That changed the first day on the train ride home, though. I was in the observation lounge. We were on a hillside overlooking a slow-moving river. Beside us a steep tree-covered slope ran down to the waterline. Our windows were just about even with the tops of the trees on the bank, which were bare. And suddenly, I espied a bald eagle sitting in a treetop, probably watching the water for fish movement. It was obviously used to hearing and seeing trains go through its territory. Even though it was mere yards away, it didn't react to us at all. And I had my camera right there in my hand. So I did the smartest thing possible.

I did not lift my camera and scrabble to frame a shot. Which I probably would've missed anyway as we sped past. Instead, I kept my eyes on the eagle. For seconds. Until it was out of sight. After all, if I want to look at a photo of an eagle, I can find them all over the Internet. But this was my one chance to actually look at the eagle itself, relatively up close and personal, and I wasn't about to waste it. It was the high point of that part of the trip. And I suppose it was only fitting that I "meet" my first wild bald eagle in the country it's actually the symbol of.

If you're all bent outa shape 'cuz I didn't get a photo to show you or "prove" what I saw, tough. Sue me. (I know you're not, though. You're cool.)


Five gulls in a tree
Seven gulls sittin' in a tree, waitin' for some salmon supper.
Gull atop a dead tree
Of course, there's always a loner who claims a higher perch.
Two small birds on a limb
Little birds don't necessarily mind sharing a limb.

Two birds eye the bird feedersLarger birds are also willing to share their space.

Black-crested bird
Some seem to intentionally display a proud silhouette.

Red-crested bird
Others make the most of their heady colors.

Peacock with draping tail stands at attentionA peacock stands at attention,
his tail draped behind him.

            Peacock starts to strut
Before long, though, he starts to strut his stuff.

Peahen watching intentlyWell, that certainly gets a peahen's attention, doesn't it?

Peahen sees something better
But then something - someone - more interesting catches her eye.

           Peacock who flew up
Another proud cock has flown up
to the heights of academe...

Peacock surveying domain...from whence he surveys his Royal (Roads) domain.

Khoda hafez,

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"We need a new ethic of place, one that has room for salmon and skyscrapers, suburbs and wilderness,
Mount Rainier and the Space Needle...."  -- Matthew Klingle

I finally got the chance - another first in my life - to clamber past a line of driftwood, head down the beach, step to the edge of the water (thank heavens for waterproof shoes), reach down barehanded, and touch the Pacific. I could practically feel the bigness. And I learned something vital along the way.

If there were no salmon runs in their millions, there'd be no Vancouver Island as we know it today. It'd be pretty much a dead rock. And if we keep killing off the salmon in their millions, the island will eventually die again. 'Cuz as I understand it, over the course of geologic eons (long before man every arrived there):

= Pretty much all the wealth of fertile soil on the island owed its existence to the salmon swimming upstream, spawning, dying, & decaying.

= Pretty much all the rich diversity of plants on the island owed their existence to the presence of the fertile soil.

= Pretty much all the plant seeds carried to the island owed their trip from the mainland to birds. True, some may have come via floating pods or branches, or been blown by the wind. But the wind (the prevailing westerlies) usually blows from the open ocean west of the island, not from the continent east of it. Which means the water also tends to course towards the mainland, not away from it. Plus which, oceanic salt water wreaks havoc on most land-based plants and their seeds. (Though granted, the Pacific Northwest has probably the lowest salinity of any oceanic water in the world.)

= Pretty much all the earliest birds to "commute" to the island were carnivores (like eagles) and, especially in terms of spreading seeds, omnivores (like gulls) attracted during the salmon runs by the humongous, crowded mass of fish in the streams and spawning pools. Especially the dead and dying fish, a primary food source for carrion-eaters (like eagles and gulls).

= Pretty much every other type of plant and animlal on the island, from the lowliest shrub or mushroom to the biggest bear and cougar, owed its arrival and survival there to the wealth of natural resources stemming from the salmon runs. That includes people, too.

The various species of salmon on the island (Chinook, Chum, Coho, Pink, Sockeye) gather at slightly different (though overlapping) times at the mouths of their home rivers. There they wait for the rains to swell the rivers for their passage, while waiting out natural events that might impede their progress, like flashfloods that are too hard to swim against, or sediment that clouds the water until it's too oxygen-poor.

Visual counts of the waiting wild salmon schools over the years have showed a drastic decline in the number of salmon returning to the island. DRASTIC DECLINE. Increased pollution, warmer marine temperatures, influx of predators for whom the northern waters used to be too cold, diminishing food supply, competition for resources with hatchery fish (including epigenetically mutating farm salmon), dams that obstruct access to spawning grounds, fisheries, they all take their toll.

To repeat, if we keep killing off the salmon in their millions, the island (and all its channel companions) will eventually die again.


Salmon swimming upstream
Salmon swim upstream to reach their spawning ground.
Salmon struggling upstream
Struggling against the current, only the strongest live to breed.
Gulls scavenging salmon
Carrion-eating birds scavenge salmon that die along the way.

Salmon-for-Sale sign
People, of course, prefer salmon that was live-caught.

Ruggedly beautiful waterfall
We went on a nature hike to a ruggedly beautiful waterfall.

At the foot of the waterfall
Some people clamber down to its foot for pix. I wasn't one of 'em.

Double-decker rows of boats on the waterfront in Edmund, WA
The water streams into a spillway tunnel.

Two paragrliders out over the water
Graffiti artists make their mark when the water is low & slow.

Locks on the way to Seattle, WA
Outflow's too slippery & forceful in Fall (but we saw 2 hikers try).

Khoda hafez,

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T O U R I S T - I S H

"The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see."  -- Gilbert K. Chesterton

The previous day being so lazy and early-to-bed, I woke up at a very reasonable 7:30 AM. Only, of course, it was really 5:30 AM Pacific Time. Mead is almost always the first in the family to arise, and even he wasn't awake yet. So after I dressed, I stayed in the guest room, sorting my luggage for quick access and then making some notes on the horror story. 'Cuz if nothing else, I wanted to keep my facts straight for when I'd get home and write that letter to Cantrail.

Since all four bedrooms were on the second floor, I knew I'd be well aware when everyone else starting going downstairs; and I'd join them. In the meantime, though, I was very pleased when George and Kismet both came into my room. Petting them for a bit took precedence over other time-filling activities. Only Kismet felt secure enough, though, to actually leap up on the bed and sit next to me. That was okay. George would come around in his own time.

Sure enough, Mead was the first one up. When I heard him go downstairs, I finished what I was doing and followed him. When Shoghi came down, we put together a breakfast of granola with blue- and strawberries and yogurt (Shoghi) / milk (me). As we ate, we watched all the birds and deer in the front yard. Then Marielle headed off to work at the Navy Base. And I walked with Mead and Shoghi downhill to his school bus pick-up point.

When we got back up to the house, Mead and I spent a little time researching AA meetings in the area. We found two nearby that we could schedule around. Unfortunately, they were both closed meetings, so Mead couldn't attend even if he wanted to. But he was still ungrudgingly willing to drive me to and from. So during my two weeks in Colwood, I got to one of the meetings once and the other twice. I enjoy seeing out-of-towners (out-of-staters, even out-of-countryers) visit my meetings in Chicago. It was equally fun to announce myself when the meeting chair asked if anyone was from out-of-town. People seemed surprised enough that I suspect they, being small-town, don't get that many visitors period, never mind from another country (and, at that, a big city whose name they easily recognized). I wasn't a stranger, though. The Baha'i Faith and AA are very alike in this: Wherever in the world I attend a gathering, I'm not just welcomed, I'm a member and I'm home.

[ASIDE] For example, when I went on pilgrimage to Israel, AA had been there for only a dozen years. lf there were no meetings available in English, I could go to one of the Hebrew-speaking meetings, not understand a word, still know what was going on and that I was in the right place, and be warmly welcomed. Likewise, if I move to another city or another country, all I need to do is ID myself and where I've transferred from and I'm immediately a full-fledged member of that locale's Baha'i community. [/ASIDE]

Our research done, we climbed in the car and headed off to Ogden Point. The first touristy thing I did there was stand at the November line on the giant sundial. But just as Mead snapped the pic, I reared back in sudden laughter. Because of the sign up to my left. And the crow sitting atop it.

Ogden Point sundial - Note the crow sitting atop the sign

Only, blast it, before I could retrieve my camera and get a close-up, the crow flew away. Probably to go get one of its recordings reviewed. As required. In fact, I thought I'd missed it entirely. But in the bg of Mead's shot, he caught the crow on surveillance. So you can imagine actually being able to read the sign when I did ... and laugh with me.

I soon saw that corvid's relative, Raven, on the huge breakwater mural that welcomes visitors with a quote from Baha'u'llah in a First Nations language. And on another winged note, I saw the mural's memorial to Jacob Bighorn.

The story of Jacob's Eagles

After walking the breakwater, we wandered along Fisherman's Wharf where, sadly, seals have learned to come and beg food from people. It's unhealthy for them to stay in that water at all. Plus, it's more polluted close in like that. And even when someone has sense enough to toss them fish instead of, say, bread, or even to feed them the fish raw instead of cooked, it's seldom live - so they get no exercise chasing it. Needless to say, we didn't feed them.

A seal comes into Fisherman's Wharf

A seal approaches people

A seal begs for food

[ASIDE] Chicago is one of the world's culinary capitals; but one thing it just can't provide is dockside-to-dinner-table coastal seafood. Even shipped "live", it's half-dead by time it gets here. Which affects both taste and texture. Plus which, I was last able to relish the "pure quill" in 1988 in Haifa. And before that in the '60s in New England/New York. This would, of course, also be the first time I'd ever have truly fresh Pacific seafare. My mouth was already watering as much as those seals'. [/ASIDE]

Shipshape buildingBlue fish pathAlong the way, a unique building caught my attention. Without being overly cutesy, it evoked the appearance of a sea-going vessel. We also followed the yellow brick ro...uh, blue fish path to Mead's favorite fish store. There we bought a package of smoked oysters for supper. We also sampled some of their candied fish ... another first for me. Then we went to Chinatown. (That's Mead standing in that alley.)

Chinatown lion at the gate

Chinatown dragon

Mead in a Chinatown alley

Spirit Bear award giving to Marielle's bandWindow shopping in the city center, including seeing the market square where Mead has his chain-mail booth in summer, occupied us until past noontide, when we we finally hurried off to the naval base to pick Marielle up for lunch. When we went into the band area, she made sure to show me the prominently displayed Spirit Bear award her unit had received. (Like Mead, Marielle is attentive to every opportunity for me to connect with my spirit guide.)

We decided to drive over to Zap Thai to eat. In the parking lot there, we suffered a minor two-car back-up bump; but no damage was done and no one was mad. We entered the restaurant and sat down first. Soon, Marielle was munching down on papaya salad while Mead and I were digging into our pad thai. After a while, the other driver came in, sat down next to us, and discussed our meal recommendations. The four of us had a lively, fun conversation as everyone ate.

Since Marielle's work was done for the day, we all went home. When we got there, I checked my pedometer. As I'd suspected, our long morning walkabout had racked up my required steps. And then some. So I lazed around for what was left of the afternoon. Caught my first pic of a bird at one of our bird feeders, as well as an approaching half-dozen members of the local deer herd that were also slowly grazing their way home to hunker down for the night ... including one doe who obligingly posed for a picture just a few feet the other side of the picture window I was standing at.

First picture of a bird at our bird feeder

Approaching deer herd

Doe posing near picture window

Suppertime rolled around, and the hearty pasta and beans were as tasty as the oysters. We'd eaten so much for lunch, though, that we only ate half the supper. No prob; that's why fridges were invented. Then Mead headed off to Assembly meeting. Marielle and I spent the evening sharing baby stories. (Well, what do you expect when you put two unhurried mothers in a quiet room together?) We reminisced about Rey, Tahirih, Mya, and Shoghi; about babies lost before birth; and about dreams and visions we've had of them. Marielle also imparted how nervous Mead had become as my trip to the island drew closer and closer. Seems he was anxious that his big-city "other mother" wouldn't enjoy her time with him in laid-back Colwood. (Not to worry. I knew I would.) It was an awesome bonding session that lasted until Mead finally got home.

End of day two. Bed felt really, really good.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. Next month, I'll start taking a different tack with these entries. Instead of a day-to-day diary, I'll cluster and concentrate on special activities, captioned photos, and meaningful memories. Two reasons: One, I wasn't really a tourist. Intent on going where I planned to go and seeing what I came to see. On schedule. No, I was a traveler. Traveling to and with my family. Willing to enjoy everything I might see and do. Whatever Mead, Marielle, and Shoghi wanted to share. And also whatever came along by happenstance. Serendipitously. Two, I hope the change in process will move things along a bit more expeditiously. Hope you agree.

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L A Z Y - I S H

"As I have gotten older, I've discovered the joys of being lazy."  -- Julie Bowen

It was November now. And Sunday. And I had to catch up with myself. (After all, I'd had to change my watch through two time zones, and then again last night to Standard Time.) So, lazy was the order of the day, in this home away from home for the next couple of weeks..

I'm not usually big on breakfast. But it's fun when someone else is doing the cooking. So thanks to Mead, breakfast was a simple pasta, with wild mushrooms that Marielle had harvested. (Way back when Shoghi was a baby, the three of them visited me in Chicago. And Marielle tried to teach me how to recognize safe mushrooms. I had sense enough not to try it, though. Trusted her. Didn't trust me. Rightfully so. I'll leave the dinner-table mycology to the family expert.)

Realizing I'm not as steady on my feet as I used to be, Mead ran out and bought a non-slip bath mat. And let me tell you, after those days in transit, the hot shower I took as soon as he got back was heavenly. Then, when everyone had come downstairs, I handed out the gifts I'd brought (from myself and also from Rey and Mya).

Shoghi received:
= Ten books and five chapbooks
=  A large handmade fur pouch named "Blood Moon on Waterfall"
=  Two Doctor Who figures (from Mya) - Amy Pond and the Twelfth (Capaldi) Doctor - which he immediately began to play with

Mead received:
=  The previous twelve months' issues of The American Baha'i magazine
=  The fur pouch named "Embers at Midnight"
=  A box of unusual and old coins (from me) - many older than me, a few over a century old - which he immediatelly starting sorting through

Marielle wearing Cubs earringsMarielle received:
=  A fancy bag of makings for a hearty vegan soup
=  The fur pouch named "Sunspots Dancing"
=  A pair of Cubs-logo earrings (from Rey), which she laughingly declared she would wear "when the Cubs win the World Series"

Well, we all laughed at that. Despite Marty McFly's trip to, apparently, a parallel 2015 universe, the Cubs still hadn't won the Series in over a century ... the longest such drought ever in North American major professional sports leagues. (But the next year, darned if they didn't. And true to her word, Marielle posted her picture on Facebook wearing her Cubs earrings. Her friends and coworkers were amazed at her prescience ... how could she have known?!)

I'd also brought a three-pack of cat toys. Held back on pushing George and Kismet to get too trusting and friendly too fast, though. Let them go at their own speed.

Needless to say, later in the morning I called Brent to let him know what happened after he left me at the station. His response to the rescue story? "No way!" He also suggested a letter to Cantrail. "Already planned," I told him.

I ended the morning "agenda" by sharing my trip pix with the family. (While they'd all traveled between Vancouver and Chicago, they hadn't done so overland by train.) Then I let the rest of the day unfold in unplanned, unpressured leisure. Laxing out. Didn't even do lunch, just knoshed on nuts and seeds a few times. Met the family's tenant/friend Bob. Also spent some time being evaluated by Kismet and George, who finally agreed that I could stay. Went for a walk to Royal Roads until sunset. (Gotta get those daily steps in!) Took a few pix along the way:

Shoghi's carved Halloween pumpkin on the door stoop
Shoghi's carved Halloween pumpkin on the door stoop

A plethora of flags at the Ranger station
A plethora of flags at the Ranger Station

A wealth of cool cedars and other trees
A wealth of cool cedars and other trees

Of course, I was two time zones west of where I usually hit the hay. With Colwood being on the leeward slope of the island, sunset came faster than I was used to. We finished up the lazy day with a supper built around a fantastic squash soup. Homemade is best, and both Mead and Marielle are good at it. Then everyone - two-footed and four - crashed early.

Khoda hafez,

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H O M E - I S H

"If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored."  -- Henry Miller

Having survived my welcome-to-Vancouver horror story, I shook the dust of the mainland off my heels and boarded the ferry to Vancouver Island. Between the rush and the darkness (very cloudy; rain was coming in), I really had no idea at all of how big the ferry boat was. Only weeks later did I realize it was tantamount to being on a small ship. After all, it'd been over half a century since I'd ridden an East-Coast ferry (probably to Block Island); and that one was so small, at least back then, that the motion even on the calm Sound, which benefits from the protection of Long Island, made me a little seasick. (And yeah, I still pronounce it Lawn Guyland.)

Boarding on foot put me on the first passenger level above the car levels. Ragged out as I was, I probably could've gotten lost if I'd tried to wander around. But I went into the nearest common room and sat down next to a starboard window. Once away from the ferry-slip lights, the "view" was pitch blackness.

The ride was uneventful. I couldn't even really sense motion, only engine vibration. The only time I ever saw motion was in relation to the lights of other boats a few times. Especially one time when a beam from another boat illuminated the water around us, and I could see the mild chop of our stately (around 37.5 km/24.5 mi per hr) and steady passage. I realized that I was experiencing another first in my life: first time ever on the Pacific Ocean.

Swartz Bay ferry slipEighty minutes or so later, the loudspeaker announced the approaching end of our journey through the channels between islands I hadn't even seen. Me, my purse, & my CPAP case wandered back out onto the deck to watch our arrival at Swartz Bay. I wasn't the only passenger out there braving the chill in eager anticipation of the docking.

Even though I was one of the first foot-passengers out of the gate, so the speak, it was a long trek down the debarkation ramp and then through corridors to the waiting room and baggage pick-up. Pretty much everyone else passed me by on the way. When I finally got to the waiting/baggage area, I saw Mead standing about two feet inside. Watching for me through the glass doors. Smack dab in the middle of traffic. Making all the other passengers walk around him. (He later claimed it wasn't like that. But I know what I saw.) I went through the doors and simply leaned on him. We both laughed.

I don't know what kind of anchor the ferry used; but he was definitely mine, there.

We collected the rest of my luggage and drove home to Colwood, a suburb of Victoria, in what became torrential rain along the way. I told Mead the whole horror story and he told me the story of how he and Marielle effected my rescue. I also shared with him what I'd heard at the station and the pier about Pacific Coach Lines getting ready to sell, closing routes and runs without warning, and not telling riders that the PCL Vancouver-to-Victoria bus fare does not include the ferry fare that riders must pay to board. Mead thought that last point couldn't possibly be right, but I'd heard it more than once.

We finally arrived home. Marielle was there waiting up for me. So was a very late supper. We talked for a while as I ate, I called Rey to let him know I was safe and in place. He was dumbfounded by how my stubborn insistence on staying at the station had actually turned out. Well, to be honest, so was I. At last, I was shown to my room. Home sweet home away from home.

And I crashed.

Khoda hafez,

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"Never let the other fellow set the agenda."  -- James Baker

Diarty Word symbolWhen did the word "agenda", all by itself, become a dirty word?

People don't even make the accusation any more that "You have a hidden agenda!" or "You have a special-interest agenda!" (Even though neither of those is necessarily bad in all cases, either. When I snuck pureed cauliflower into mashed potatoes for my kindergartner #grandMya, it was defintely part of a hidden, special-interest, personal agenda. Her health. But it wasn't negative.) No, they just retort, or even scream, "I don't trust you. You have your own agenda."

Agenda checklistWell, of course I do. I should hope so. An agenda is, according to the dictionary, "A plan or list of things to be done." If I don't have a plan for (at least) my day, a list of things I need or want or hope to do, why even bother to get out of bed? Doesn't mean my agenda is automatically evil. Doesn't mean absolutely everything I do all day is all about that agenda, either.

And people often feel compelled to defend themselves by saying "I have no agenda."

Really? You don't? None? Not ever? Not even to lax out for the day? Or to enjoy life, greet change, experience something unexpected. Then, same question: Why do you even bother to get out of bed?

Plus which, when did adding the word "agenda" to any other word you disagree with on principle (I use the term loosely) make the whole phrase an even dirtier word?

Devil egg and angel eggConservative agenda. Liberal agenda. Religious agenda. Atheist agenda. Corporate agenda. Feminist agenda. Black agenda. Gay agenda. If you don't like the people you're talking about, just accuse them of an agenda. (As if your accusation itself were not part of your own "agenda".)

Because "agenda" all by itself now means something negative. If you don't believe me, go enter the search term "agenda" in BrainyQuote or GoodReads or the like and see how many of the quotes are about negatives rather than positives.

And if you want to really drive the evilness point home, tack on something that invites people to really sneer. Right-wing conservative agenda. Bible-spouting religious agenda. Money-grubbing corporate agenda. Antifamily-values gay agenda. Don't worry about whether it's true or not. Just say it.

In doing so, accusers can then imply, or sometimes even directly claim, that everyone who fits in any way into the group they're talking about has exactly the same "undesirable" agenda. All the time. And is working hard on it. Which makes anything anyone in that group says or does easy to ignore. Ignore the ideas and accomplishments of Colin Powell; he has that hawkish Republican agenda. Ignore the ideas and accomplishments of Michelle Obama; she has that Black social agenda. Ignore the ideas and accomplishments of Lisa Su; she has that ambitious immigrant agenda. Ignore the ideas and accomplishments of Greg Berlanti, he has that Hollywood gay agenda.

I know whereof I speak. I ran into this issue in Twigs of a Family Tree. Mead and I were talking/writing about an agenda-term that many people use as an accusation, And no matter how we tried to couch it, too many readers were reading it wrong. Like an actual accusation. I finally changed the text (thank heavens for print-on-demand) to put the word in quote marks to show we weren't talking about any real agenda, but people's accusation of one. You know, unlike the real kind you use to ensure that a business workshop or condo-owners meeting, a parent-teacher conference or college seminar, a music festival or sports meet accomplishes what it was called for in the first place.

So how do I suss out whether/what an agenda is, or who has one? Instead of getting hung up on the "agenda", real or imagined, I need to look at the results. That's what matters. And if the results themselves really bother me, I should look at myself, my values, my actions, my growth, my faith, my hopes and my results to see whether or not I'm on the right side of (future) history. Doesn't always work perfectly. But works a lot better than always assuming. And accusing.

Khoda hafez,

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M E A N !

"I look around and see so much fear, people getting more and more comfortable
with their hate, more at ease being mean...."  -- Scott Stabile

When used as an adjective, what does "mean" mean?

Most of us can come up with a bunch of synonyms. The bulk of which are about being cruel:
      Bad-tempered, callous, contemptible, disagreeable, dispicable.
      Evil, hostile, low-down, malicious, nasty.
      Perfidious, rotten, rude, snide, treacherous.
      Unscrupulous, vicious, vile, vindictive, vulgar.

And sometimes about being greedy:
      Petty, predatory, rapacious, selfish, stingy.

And occasionally about being base:
      Dishonorable, ignoble, inferior, lowborn, miserable.
      Second-rate, seedy, shabby, sordid, tawdry.

Now that I've laid the foundation, please bear with me while I get into claims and disclaimers.

As a Baha'i, I'm not supposed to get enmeshed in political partisanship. That's divisive, and the Baha'i Faith is all about unity. And I'm not supposed to be disobedient or rebellious against my rightful government. Nor wish ill upon it or anyone in it. Nor bad-mouth it. That's turmoil, and the Baha'i Faith is all about peace.

OTOH, As a Baha'i, I'm not supposed to stand idly, silently by when someone - anyone - is being denied what's rightfully theirs. Being oppressed by the powerful. Being victimized by injustice. That's unjust, and the Baha'i Faith is all about justice.

Threading one's way between those concepts can be a fine line to walk. I'll do my best. Please pardon me if I stumble and fumble a bit. I'm trying. (Yeah, I know, sometimes I'm very trying.)

Andrew McCabeOK, back to building this one-story edifice.

Andrew McCabe was due to retire tomorrow. Instead, he was fired yesterday. A mere 26 hours before his announced retirement could take effect. Fired, apparently, to discredit him as a witness. Put a permanent black mark on his employment record. And his name. Cheat him out of the pension he earned with more than 20 years of public service. Etc.

That just ain't right. That's just plain mean. That's cruel, greedy, and base. And all those 35 other words.

Now to put a roof on it.

I used to think God was, to quote myself from Twigs of a Family Tree, "two-faced ... neglectful, capricious, disdainful, angry, judgmental, vengeful, punishing, [and] a sadistic paranoid schizophrenic."

The Baha'i Faith and the rooms of recovery helped me to see that I was wrong.

God isn't like that!

But some people are.

And when it comes to injustice, I gotta call 'em like I see 'em.

Khoda hafez,

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C H E E R S !

"Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important,
have the courage to follow your heart and intuition."  -- Steve Jobs

Holy moly, am I on a roll! Yeah, I promised more frequent posts. I promsied to keep to my schedule and not skip any months this year. But three posts here already and the month's not even half over?! That's unexpected. Yes, I'd planned to continue the Halloween horror story this month. I'd even hoped to finish it during March. And of course, come April, I'd planned to continue regaling you with more bunches of trip photos and the tales behind them.

What I didn't plan on was having something else pop up that I really wanted to write about before it got too old. But here it is anyhow.

This item appeared as the first item in TV Guide's "Cheers & Jeers" for February 5-18, 2018:

TV Guide Cheer re adding Kid Flash to Legends of Tomorrow

I have a fairly new reader, Bri, who apparently enjoyed and agreed with my three blog entries about #LegendsOfTomorrow, especially the last one mourning the total loss of its strong #Wentnic dynamic. So upon reading that TVG Cheer, Bri contacted me to ask if I could help do some kind of response to the magazine.

Well, of course I could. We consulted on how one sends feedback to TVG. Also what kind of feedback seems to float their boat. Single-topic. Short. Pithy. A little in-your-face. I helped tweak the feedback to meet those criteria and still "feel right". Bri opted for email over snailmail. I agreed that'd get the feedback to TVG faster. Still, I was very clear that I assume TVG gets googobs of feedback. And publishes only, like, three (?) per issue. Three that encapsulate what many readers are saying. Lo-o-ong odds. No promises.

Bri sent the email on February 6. BCC'd me. I was fine with its "stealing" my oft-repeated aphorism about how "Wentnic is screen gold". Whatever the result might be, we felt good that Bri's feedback/feelings had been expressed.

I'm telling you this story 'cuz the whole process seemed outside of Bri's comfort zone, but that didn't stop no show. So, shout-out and kudos where kudos are due. Pushing outside your comfort zone, even when someone's got your back, takes courage.

However, the story didn't end there. Ten days later, Bri sent me another email. It read:

Did you see? That email to TV Guide I wanted to send them and you helped me do they published it. They changed it but they published it first in YOUR FEEDBACK. Thank you thank you!!! It said

TV Guide Feedback re losing Miller on Legends of Tomorrow
[Bri typed in the text, but I've inserted the actual clipping in its place. #WentworthMiller #DominicPurcell]

And they even turned Wentnic into a hashtag.

Yes, I'd definitely seen. It was a total, but exciting, surprise, there at the top of page 3. It had been edited, yes, but still kept the real thrust and flavor of Bri's thoughts. And I, too, had noted that TVG hashtagged the word "Wentnic" even though Bri didn't. Too bad columns like "Plus Your Feedback" don't appear on the TVG websites, or that hashtag might be repeated all over the internet by now. Ah well, c'est la vie.

Bri, thanx for this grist for my Abiding Blog mill.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. During our consultation Bri, who's still been watching LoT, opined that maybe Miller left because it was getting too goofy for him. New thought for me: Slapsticky-scripts overload? Could be. Who knows? Maybe Bri's onto something there. Apparently doesn't suffer, in cases like this, from my penchant for overthinking dark thoughts.

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. . . S T O R Y

"...a happy ending."  -- Vagish D

Once again picking up where I left off…

"I'm Ross. My daughter Katrina works with Marielle."

Fireworks for HalloweenWith Marielle? MY Marielle? My daughter-in-law? Mead's wife? I'm half convinced. But nowadays, with cyber-invasion of privacy so ubiquitous, someone could very well have used Google and Facebook and whatnot to suss that out just from hearing (or hearing about) the conversations with Brent, the Amtrak guard, the ViaRail clerk, the station guards, Rey.

Ross pulls out his phone. Dials. Says, "I'm sitting here with Lucki." Converses for a minute. Hands me his phone. Tells me, "It's Mead."

And it is.

< < < < < < < < < < < < <
Join me now in, I dunno, the WABAC Machine? the TARDIS? the Waverider? as we go back in time and watch what was happening offstage.

Mead was on his computer when Rey messaged him. He read it immediately. Knowing that the last ferry to Victoria leaves Vancouver at 9 PM, he didn't waste even a minute calling back Rey or Brent. Instead, he and Marielle immediately sprang into action. Whom did they know in Vancouver? Or whom did they know who knew someone there? They tried calling many Bahá'í friends in Vancouver. None of whom answered. (Turned out they were all at a conference and had their phones turned off.) Mead and Marielle left detailed messages and continued their efforts. They did reach their friend Miguel. But he was on his way to a concert. Though he promised to reach out to another friend going to the concert, Sergio, for help.

Then Marielle started calling her coworkers. You know, that Royal Canadian Navy "Parati Vero Parati" ("Ready Aye Ready") attitude. She reached Katrina. Katrina's parents live in Vancouver. Katrina knew her mom wasn't home, and thought her dad was in Ottawa. But she'd try calling home, and at least leave a message. She tried, there was no answer. Her message explained the problem and asked her dad to call Mead for details. What her message didn't do was name or describe me in detail. Just something like "Mead's godmother Lucki from Chicago".

By time her dad heard Katrina's message, he saw there was less than an hour till the last ferry. And walk-on ticket sales close ten minutes before departure. No time to stop and call Mead. Ross rushed to the station, parked, and entered. Went to the station guards to enlist their help in trying to find a lady from Chicago who was stuck alone in the station. "She's right over there," the male guard said, pointing to me sitting nearby. Really? A nod and, "That's her."
> > > > > > > > > > > > >

"I'm sitting here with Lucki," Ross tells his phone. Really? Ross confirms, "Right here. I'll drive her to the ferry and get her ticket. You be at the other end." Of course, I take the phone and confirm with Mead before going off with anyone. But now we have to rush. The female guard finds the ViaRail clerk again. He retrieves my bags. Everyone expresses how happy they are for me, rescued. And off I speed with Ross on the half-hour drive to the Tsawwassen ferry slip. Fortunately, it's not rush hour. We'd never make it in time through the traffic that converges on the ferry slip then. (Yes, the ferries are a vital part of Vancouver's public transit system, like the L lines in Chicago).

< < < < < < < < < < < < <
Oh, back in time once again. Just for a hot minute. Right after Ross and I talked to him, but before we even got out of the station, Mead called Sergio to let him know I was safe. Only to hear that Sergio had just that very moment pulled up to the station and started to park the car. Learning that I was already rescued, Sergio pulled back out and headed off to the concert. And made it there just in time.
> > > > > > > > > > > > >

Tsawwassen ferry slip in the distanceOn the way to the ferry, Ross and I see a large eruption of Halloween fireworks. A Vancouver tradition. They look like I feel. What a cheery welcome to being back on track. Vancouver's amends for the last, lo-o-ong three hours. It's almost as exciting as finally seeing the ferry slip in the distance. Knowing a picture of the approaching lights will be all bouncy and blurry. Taking one anyway.

As we drive, I also give Ross a copy of Infinite Blessings as a thank-you for his being such a blessing. We arrive at the ferry at 8:30. Ross springs for my ticket, CAN$16 and some change. We consult on the best plan for my luggage, and he helps me check my suitcase and gym bag. Good thing, too, 'cuz there's no way I could've lifted that suitcase up onto the top of the baggage ramp. I board the ferry with a good ten minutes to spare. It's only a 90-minute ride to Swartz Bay. Where I have absolutely no doubt Mead will be waiting for me.

The horror story is over. Does make for a good story, though, doesn't it?

Khoda hafez,

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. . . H O R R O R . . .

"...with..."  -- Vagish D

Picking up where I left off last month...

For the luggage-lugging issue, at least, the Amtrak guard has an answer. He goes to the ViaRail clerk and explains my situation. The clerk, who will be there till after 11 PM (mostly back in the baggage area), offers to check my luggage for free. I give him my suitcase and gym bag, preferring as usual to keep my hands on my purse and CPAP case.

Oh, more horror!Learning that my cell won't work, Brent tries to call Mead to let him know about the delay. So he won't drive to the island's ferry slip now and panic when I don't show up. So he'll be at the ferry slip in the morning when I finally arrive. And here's where I learn the hard way that depending on automated dialing of frequently-called numbers on one's landline does one no favors when one is trying to remember such a number. I get it wrong. (Yes, I'd written it on my itinerary. That's where I got it wrong.) Brent gets no connection. But he has service to/in the States. So he calls Rey instead. That number I get right.

Seeing a Canadian phone number, Rey answers right away. We explain. Rey insists I get a cab to the closest hotel and have them call him to cuh....

I think he's going to say "cover the charge", but I stop him. "I'm staying here at the station. I can't take any more complications now." He tries to persuade me, but I refuse. What can he do? So he concedes. He doesn't have Mead's number either. but promises to immediately Facebook-message him with Brent's number. (Ain't technology grand. We spend so much time with each other in cyberspace that we barely have time for real-life - see, hear, touch - contact any more.)

We hang up and wait. Mead never calls back.

It's been 90 minutes now, and Brent needs to get home. He refuses the tip (US dollars) I offer, saying I might still need it. Instead, before he leaves he gives me CAN$10 for two meals. (Go on, tell me there's no such thing as real-life angels.) I get his email address. Give him my card. Also give him as a gift, in lieu of that refused tip, a copy of Infinite Blessings.

Before leaving, the Amtrak guard also takes me outside and shows me how to get to a nearby restaurant, Tim Horton's, that his experience says will let me sit for four hours when the station closes. Even if I don't buy anything. He also warns me to be careful of my purse and especially my medical case. Seems they're both prime fodder for druggies that often target the station. So I rearrange their contents and, with a station guard's help finding the ViaRail clerk, check my CPAP case, too. As the clerk gives me the third tag marked "No Charge", he mentions that about the time he's handling the last train and then leaving, a new Amtrak guard will come in. He says I should be sure to tell my story to the new guard, too. Worth a try, I suppose. New guard might even let me stay in the station through the closed hours.

Book - 239 DaysI wander around the station several times to reach my then-daily goal of 5,280 steps. But I'm not yet ready to spend money on food that I'm still too rattled to eat and enjoy. Besides, I might need that CAN$10 for something more crucial. Finally, around 8 PM, feeling weakish, I sit down and have some water. Then I settle in to read Allan L. Ward's 239 Days: 'Abdu'l-Baha's Journey in America, which I'd held out from my CPAP case. I've barely opened it when a man enters the station and makes a beeline for the two station guards. I can't really hear him, but I can hear them. He talks for a moment and the male guard says, "She's right over there." That makes me look up. The man says something else and the guard confirms, "That's her."

And this strange white guy comes over to me and says, "I'm Ross. My daughter Katrina works with Marielle."

Khoda hafez,

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H A L L O W E E N . . .

"A horror story..."  -- Vagish D

Finally getting back to my Victoria, BC trip. At the end of my entry about the Borderline between the US and Canada, I promised you the Halloween horror story next. This is it.

As I said, at the bus terminal in Vancouver I ask Brent for handicapped assistance to get to my Pacific Coach Lines bus. So after he unloads everyone's luggage and Dan offers to park the bus for him, Brent, me, and my luggage make tracks through the station and out to the platform for the 5:30 PM thruway bus to the ferry and thence to Vancouver Island. We make it to the appropriate Pacific Coach Lines kiosk just in time. I'm finally there.

The bus isn't.

Oh, the horror! Let me rephrase that. The bus is there. Well, a bus is there. Dark and empty. No passengers. No driver. No route number. Lights off. Motor cold.

Needless to say, we're both puzzled. Even if our watches are slow by a minute or two, how had the 5:30 bus driver - who was supposed to pick up transfers from our bus that had just arrived - how had s/he left long enough ago for another bus to pull into the slot and be abandoned before we could get there? Are we too late? Too early? At the wrong kiosk? I check my ticket. Nope, right place, right time.

Brent has me wait with my luggage while he looks for someone from PCL. When he returns, the news isn't all that great. He found the PCL room on the platform, but no one was in it. And there was no one at the PCL service counter in the station. But at least there was a sign with the words "Next Departure" and a clock face set at 9:45. Also one that said the agent would return at 9:05. Drats, three hours of waiting. If they'll even take my 5:30 ticket. Brent says they should have to, as they'd had a manifest with my name on it and shouldn't have left without me.

At which point, a couple of employees on the platform ask what we're looking for. Brent explains about the 5:30 PM to the ferry. Their reply? "That bus hasn't run in weeks." What? Really? So I have to wait till 9:45 tonight? Another showstopping reply. "No. That's 9:45 AM." WHAT?! I have to wait in the station all night?

For safety's sake, Brent takes me to the Amtrak security desk in the station. Only to find out that the guard will leave at 7 PM. After that, I'm on my own. I'm not a happy camper. Neither is Brent.

I have no Canadian money, and the station's currency exchange is already closed. (Mead told me later that I could probably have used US dollars one-for-one in lieu of Canadian dollars. With US$3 actually equaling CAN$4, though, that would've equaled a 33% surcharge on everything.) I realize I maybe can't even use credit, as I hadn't notified my card issuer that I was leaving the country. My cell doesn't work in Canada, so I can't call anyone. I'd eaten my last two chips and one cookie on the bus, so I only have a bottle of water left to tide me overnight.

Colorful Canadian dollarsBrent goes back to the bus and gets some Canadian money - his own - for me to at least buy something to eat. And then - are you ready for this? ('cuz we weren't) -  the guard suddenly remembers to tell us that, oh by the way, the station closes from 12:30 to 4:30 AM. Everyone out.

But, he says, I can always go to a restaurant or something for four hours, right? Right. Lugging all my luggage.

Enough for now. I'll continue next time. Promise.

Khoda hafez,

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"Your book is now up on our website...We will include it in one of our
promotional emails soon."  -- Ariana Ali, Baha'i Distribution Service

Imagine how thrilled we were when we got this news, Mead and I.

Yeah, we're up on Amazon, too. But everybody and his brother and probably his dog can get something up on Amazon.

No, to us this is special, being in the Baha'i Bookstore. You can find Twigs of a Family Tree there now.

Twigs of a Family on Baha'i Bookstore website

And I have to say that Ariana came up with a book description quite different from the one on Amazon. One we did NOT write for her. She built it on her own reading of Twigs. Which she called moving. Which she obviously liked or BDS wouldn't be selling it:

Twigs of a Family Tree is a story about faith. The four chapters of this book, written by four different individuals, are connected through the bonds of spiritual ties. They make up a spiritual family, having learned of or taught the Baha'i Faith to each other. This book is for anyone who knows the path is not always straight and smooth. It is meant to encourage and inspire, and to assure others that they are not alone in their questions and spiritual tests.

Amazon is big. BDS is small. We'd love to see BDS moving as many copies of Twigs as possible. Not for us. For them. So comparison shop, of course. But if you can afford the difference, we ask you to consider bypassing the Amazon "megamart" and spending your Twigsy bucks in the little BDS "mom and pop corner grocery".

Anyway, if you get the BDS promotional emails, watch for Twigs and let us know when you see it.

Khoda hafez,

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I N T R O D U C I N G . . .

"Creativity is just connecting things."  -- Steve Jobs

As I promised at the end of the Baha'i Blogging Challenge, and inspired by it, I'm starting a new, third blog this year. It came about thanks to an interchange with a reader. She'd expressed a concern to me about giving offense, and I opined that maybe the best way to go was to not take offense. She liked what I said. She answered, "Brilliant!! I'd like my next T-shirt to say 'The best way to not give offense is to not agonize about giving offense and to instead concentrate on not taking offense.'" ("Next T-shirt" 'cuz she'd recently bought the one that resulted from my #grandMya's winning entry in the Active Minds 2017 T-shirt design contest.)

So I started thinking about how to turn my statement into a T-shirt or poster design. The way Mya did for the contest. I tried it out, and it made an interesting graphic. Then I thought about doing likewise with other quotations. I came up with a few, and started looking around for good source material. But of course, just about any quote that's any good, from anywhere, has probably already been turned into graphic art by someone somewhere. Art way better than I could produce.

NEWAh, but not quotes from Twigs of a Family Tree. If for no other reason than 'cuz the book hasn't been out that long. A way to get started, anyway. So I've been researching. And playing. Even using free clipart. And a couple of my own photos. And another couple I stole but didn't file the serial numbers off of. (Actually, the photographer gave permission in writing: "...if there's something here of value to you, please - take it. Download / screenshot / share / cut-and-paste it.  Make it yours." So I did. With all due credit. And I'm taking a page from his book, making you the same offer in the new blog.) It hasn't been easy. Mostly because I decided that, since I'm not really writing anything new in Blog 3, I should commit to posting once a week instead of just once a month. That's gonna be a challenge. But I'm game to try.

In this, its inaugural year, I plan for Aphorisms & Memes to feature 53 weekly (Monday) quotations from eight different Twigs contributors. Next year, something else(s). You can expect pithy, uplifting, thought-provoking, profound or pseudo-profound, and occasionally trivial, even silly, quotes. I'm also considering whether to do bonus quotations, from the Writings, for Baha'i Holy Days. Not about the Holy Days per se; just some of my favorite scriptural quotes.

You have my permission to copy and use any of the images in Blog 3. Anywhere you want to. On your FB page. Instagram. Snapchat. With a tweet. In emails. For a T-shirt or poster (you can ask for a high-resolution image). Etc. As long as it's just for your personal (not commercial or any money-making) use. Just please don't crop images, though. Make sure the credit lines always show. OK? Enjoy!

Khoda hafez,

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C O L D / C U T

"Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful
as staying stuck somewhere you don't belong." -- Mandy Hale

One show. Two years. Three posts. Final forethoughts. I promised to keep up with Abiding Blog monthly again. And I'm starting off like a house afire. First day of the first month since I promised. Unfortunately, not because of anything happy. (Hear the Heat Wave-ish grumble there?)

#LegendsOfTomorrow is on my radar again. If you don't remember my previous forays, please go take another look at this and then this. Then come back here. I'll wait.

Wentworth Miller as Leonard Snart/Citizen ColdNow that you're back: News is that Cold - at least the Cold(s) we know and love/hate - is leaving the Arrowverse franchise. Or that's what people glean from #WentworthMiller's Instagram "farewell" post last month. (They say. I don't have an account.) Next week, Citizen Cold will be working with/against #DominicPurcell's LoT #HeatWave. Cool. After that, there's apparently some actual #CaptainCold closure happening, too.

I'm sure Miller's final Cold performance will be a tour de force. Especially if it's a #Wentnic moment. ('Cuz, you know: #WentnicIsScreenGold.) Then goodbye for "good" (NOT!).

Victor Garber as Martin Stein/FirestormThis bothers me on two levels. One you know about: No more character growth? No more Snartly anchor? Ever? DAMMIT! Of course, if Miller really is done-and-done for his own sake, he's forgiven. Has to be. In fact, there's nothing to forgive. But if it's someone else's doing....

Maybe my head really is in the wrong place, but it just all seemed terribly - and I do mean terribly - coincidental. To say nothing of foreboding. 'Cuz the other thing bothering me is the concatenation of John Barrowman, Victor Garber, and Miller all leaving the franchise in the same year. Who'll be left? Just Colton Haynes-Leatham? Keiynan Lonsdale, sort of. Well, and Russell Tovey (who sure worked with Miller, but it still wasn't Wentnic-grade) in the animated web series? Maybe? (Watch if any of them quit!)

John Barrowman as Malcolm Merlyn/Dark ArcherLast I heard, 15 women and 4 men allegated against Andrew Kreisberg for sexual harrassment. All asked to remain anonymous. The claims were substantiated enough that, after investigating and with the support of Berlanti Productions, Warner Brothers severed all connection with him. Were Barrowman, Garber, and Miller some of those (or also) victims? Who chose to move on away from that toxic mess 'cuz they have the industry chops to do so without blowing up their careers? (And my heart is really out to the victims who couldn't just move.) But now that Kreisberg is gone, might any of them reconsider? Will ego, stubbornness, the bad taste in their mind make them, sadly, stand their anywhere-but-here ground? Or could/will any of them actually be back someday? Maybe even as regulars? Are Greg Berlanti and, I dunno, Marc Guggenheim on the same page? And especially as to Miller (please?!), does Grant Gustin know something we don't. Or only, like the rest of us, hope.

OTOH, maybe I'm all wet about Miller's retiring his character(s). Maybe all the male allegators were actually speaking up on behalf of female victims. If so, good for them. Blessings on them. (My friend Ed told me Miller wrote one of those men a letter of support. Doesn't surprise me for a minute.) Hard to tell, though, 'cuz Miller seems to be in a bit of a silent corner lately, Web-wisely speaking. Maybe that, too, is an escape from toxicity. Or maybe it's actually a positive thing (one would hope). Time will tell. Or we'll never know. C'est la vie. And other cliches. Feels, you should pardon the pun, cold. (Yeah, I know, you really shouldn't. Ba-a-ad pun.) Guess I'm still shocky. Sorry. #sorrynotsorry

Gone but not forgotten. Never forgotten. This time, forewarned is anything but forearmed. 'Scuse me, even forgive me, while I go console/commiserate with my #grandMya now.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. I gotta add this. Not sure why. Just do. Warning: true-name stuff in the offing. Anyway, I did with this primary blog entry what I usually do. Drafted it yesterday. Slept on it. Pulled it up to tweak and post today.

So why the long PS added now? Well, last night I had a 90-minute phone convo with fellow author (actor, screenwriter, creative supervisor, etc.) Lisa Bradley. Towards the end, we got into trends in entertainment and our similar and differeing tastes in various media. So I talked about this post, and the two from last year and this past September. And, since she never watched LoT, gave her some pieces of my Strings description of Snart that starts: "This master thief. This cold-blooded killer. This patricide. This emotionally frozen survivor. This abused, angry child trapped inside a brilliant, bent adult."

As I also talked about Snart's forthrightness and loyalty and love and growth and how all that resonated so positively with me, I mentioned in passing how I also really connected with one of those negative THISes. 'Cuz I'd long ago been there/done that (albeit less successfully than Snart). For much the same reasons. Got away with it. And would've gotten away with it even if I'd totally succeeded. (Heaven knows why I said any of this to her.)

At the convo's end, I thanked her for letting me talk. Told her I'd never before spoken of the actual connection between me and Snart re that THIS. Hadn't thought of it, hadn't seen it, before. Not even while finishing up Twigs of a Family Tree, wherein I do explain what I did. And why. And why I wasn't successful. And yet was. Which wasn't good. (So you'll have to go read it. Or ask me in private. 'Cuz the only thing you can be sure of, without asking, is that I've never matched Snart in his brilliance.)

And Lisa responded, "What a huge burden to bear. And now that you've seen it, you need to look at how it affected your life. Choices and directions and relationships. 'Cuz it has to have. Still must."

She's right. It's not something I want to do. But it's something I need to do. And I owe Snart for that.

Finally, realized something else, too. Remember back in September when I alluded to a telling aspect of the relationship between Snart and Flash? Flash could see the good in Snart. And Snart could let him. Snart could see the bad in Flash. And Flash could let him. Well, I know that every time I've had a strong anchor in some show, it's 'cuz I resonated with (what I perceived as) the good/best in the character. To the point where I could accept the bad. Could even see how the bad birthed the good. In this case, though, and this case only, I resonated with something of (what I perceived as) the bad. No excuses. No mitigation. No mercy. No forgiveness. No expectation of or demand for balance by the good. Just "bad, yeah, you and me both."

So how the blazes can I continue to learn such important stuff - no matter the pain - from Snart if he's gone for good? No wonder I'm so grieved by the loss of a frikkin' fiction (only, such a true one)!

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2017-11-25 - 30
C H A L L E N G E   S E T   F I V E

"They rise to the challenge. They grow and develop into something we would not have predicted."  -- Mead in Twigs of a Family Tree

11-25 Servant: Yeah, time flies all right. Like the paraprosdokian says, "Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana." Sorry (#sorrynotsorry).

Portrait of 'Abdu'l-Baha by Kahlil GibranAs I'm coming 'round the far turn here, I'll be talking about the song's last example of fearlessness: 'Abdu'l-Bahá. Born Abbas Effendi. He who walked the mystical path with practical feet. Whose Father, upon hearing of a particular act of generosity His firstborn performed as a child, laughed and said, "We will have to protect 'Abdu'l-Bahá from himself - some day he will give himself away." Who, because even as a child he had mastered living a Bahá'í life, became known as the Master. Whom the British Crown knighted for his service to others. About whom General Edmund Allenby's report back to the Crown on defeating the Turkish (whose Commander-in-Chief had vowed to crucify the Master) exclaimed, "notify the world that Abdu'l-Baha is safe". Of whom the writer and artist Kahlil Gibran said, "For the first time I saw form noble enough to be a receptacle for the Holy Spirit." Also, after several meetings, "He is a very great man. He is complete. There are worlds in his soul. And oh what a remarkable face - what a beautiful face - so real and so sweet." And who had, though we seldom hear about it, his own "wicked" sense of humor.

'Abdu'l-Baha has been called many loving titles. But the most important is what he called himself: Servant of the Glory, referring to His Father. "My name is Abdu'l-Baha. My qualification is Abdu'l-Baha. My reality is Abdu'l-Baha. My praise is Abdu'l-Baha. Thraldom to the Blessed Perfection [Baha'u'llah] is my glorious and refulgent diadem, and servitude to all the human race my perpetual religion." And, "No name, no title, no mention, no commendation have I, nor will ever have, except Abdu'l-Baha. This is my longing. This is my greatest yearning. This is my eternal life. This is my everlasting glory."

There are many portraits and photographs of Άbdu'l-Bahá. (I chose to share Gibran's portrait here, for which Άbdu'l-Bahá sat on 9 April 1912.) And once again, you're invited to read more about 'Abdu'l-Baha's life online in the Baha'i Library Online and (if you must) Wikipedia or in more books than I can count. But I'm going to close by inviting and encouraging you to read "The Master Humorist" free online. And to laugh with the Master.

BTW, did you notice that final set-starting quote from Mead that I told you about in Vying? See why I thought it fit the subject of vying for excellence?

11-26 Fearless: Bet you thought I was finished with that song. Actually, you have another think coming. Free of charge. ;-) 'Cuz I'd like you to think about this.

Martin Luther King, Jr. & Malcolm XWe often interchange the words brave and fearless. Which makes sense only if we realize that being fearless does not mean being without any fear. The term for operating with no fear whatsoever isn't fearless. It's foolhardy. Harebrained. Reckless. And as I (and probably you) know from experience, what reckless usually leads to is more wreckage.

Brave means having fear and also having the courage to go through with what we must do anyway. Without fear, there can be no bravery. Bravery doesn't so much mean to be fearless as it means to fear less.

So how do we do that? Baha'u'llah tells us, "he that feareth God shall be afraid of no one except Him, though the powers of the whole earth rise up and be arrayed against him." 'Abdu'l-Baha reminds us, "To the sincere ones, tests are as a gift from God, the Exalted, for a heroic person hasteneth, with the utmost joy and gladness, to the tests of a violent battlefield, but the coward is afraid and trembles and utters moaning and lamentation." And the Universal House of Justice urges us, "Let no excessive self-criticism or any feelings of inadequacy, inability or inexperience hinder you or cause you to be afraid. Bury your fears in the assurances of Bahá'u'lláh."

Drs. Bennet Omalu & Julian BailesFearless is going ahead. Even though we're afraid.
Fearless is being scared to death. And still living life.
Fearless is fearing we will fall forever. And taking the leap.
Fearless is having been hurt before. And being willing to love again.
Fearless is recognizing what we can't breathe without. And then letting it go.
Fearless is knowing we're just going to get knocked down again. And standing back up.
Fearless is wanting to lie to save face or be liked or have peace. And instead telling the truth.
Fearless is feeling that our prayers are always answered "No." And nevertheless keeping the faith.

To conquer our fears, we have to have them in the first place. Then we can work on them. Overcome and bury them. (Not bury them inside ourselves, to fester like a fungus. Bury them in God's assurances, the light of which can curb them. Bury them there without moaning and wailing and gnashing of teeth.) Then we can be brave. Demonstrate courage. Fear less.

Thus endeth the lyric.

11-27 Contact: Step 11 in 12-Step programs starts: "Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood Him...." It's an interesting meme. It really brings together the spiritual practices of East and West. The most concise definition I've encountered is "Prayer is talking; meditation is listening." To my mind, people in the West are very good at talking to their Creator, maybe not so good at listening to Her "still, small voice". OTOH, people in the East are very good at listening to the Creative Force of the universe, but not so practiced in talking to It.

I had a conversation yesterday morning with one of my sponsees about this. I assured her that it was actually all right to "vent" to God. That God understands. That once we do that, though, we need to become still and small ourselves and listen to God's response. And that there's truth to the saying in the rooms of recovery: "Don't tell God how big your problems are? Tell your problems how big God is."

Then I reminded her of something I admitted to in Twigs of a Family Tree, which she's in the process of reading:

     Sometimes I despair of having any idea what sincere prayer is. I tend to pray more for others than for myself. Maybe it's because I wonder why God would pay me any attention when I'm talking about myself. Whereas He might be kind enough to pay heed when I'm pleading for others. But sometimes my prayers for others - especially when I feel obligated - seem anything but sincere. I talked with my grandsponsor, O.H., about it. I said that sometimes I just give up and ask God to accept my prayer as if I were being sincere even though I'm not. But O.H. had a slightly different, or maybe more far-seeing, take on it.
     "Whatever you pray is sincere. It's as sincere as you can be at the time. Sometimes just saying the words, knowing you don't mean them yet, is as sincere as you can get. Sometimes just saying you intend to pray for someone, or know you should, is as sincere as you can get. God understands. God answers. God doesn't penalize anyone who needs your prayers just because you don't feel sincere. Including you, when you're in need. God accepts what you're able to offer and uses it to help you prepare to offer more. Offer the prayer you can in the moment, no matter how poor you think it is. That's being sincere."

I would add: "Practice the meditation you can in the moment, no matter how poor you think it is. That's listening sincere."

Anyone who's looked at the Writings, or a Bahá'í prayer book, will readily see that prayers and meditations are liberally intermixed. The only way to tell one from the other is this: If it's talking TO God ("Thou"), it's a prayer. If it's talking ABOUT God ("He"), it's a meditation. We are enjoined to use both.

Hands upraised in conscious contact'Abdu'l-Baha tells us that "The prayerful condition is the best of all conditions, for man in such a state communeth with God, especially when prayer is offered in private and at times when one's mind is free, such as at midnight. Indeed. prayer imparteth life." And from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, we know that "The inspiration received through meditation is of a nature that one cannot measure or determine. God can inspire into our minds things that we had no previous knowledge of, if He desires to do so."

Talk about conscious contact. God's always in contact. We just have to pick up the phone. And keep it charged.

11-28 Flowers: Well, here we are in the home stretch. Antepenultimate Challenge post. I've kept up as best I could with others' entries. Commented where I was inspired...and their platform let me. Another Challenge-blogger's article (which I submitted a comment on, but never saw it posted) one day reminded me of something about prayer and meditation. In a letter written on his behalf, Shoghi Effendi told us that "Prayer and meditation are very important factors in deepening the spiritual life of the individual, but with them must go also action and example, as these are the tangible result of the former. Both are essential." So when we pray and meditate about something, we should then act like we prayed and meditated about it. We hear the same meme in the rooms of recovery, too.

Now, that Challenge post talked about not listening to the flowers but only looking at them. Not being swayed by what they might say but simply appreciating the beauty of their existence. I got what it was saying. It caused me a little dissonance at first, though. 'Cuz it brought to mind a Buddhist sponsee who once, in sharing with me how to meditate as she did, said as we sat in a garden, "Compose yourself, close your eyes, and listen to the flowers grow."

(Can I learn as much from my sponsees as I'm able to teach? You betcha! Having paid attention to her verbal gift to me, I delved deeper into what meditation is and does. I included something in Twigs of a Family Tree that really struck me about it. When scientists used real-time fMRI to ID the active and inactive areas of the brain during various activities, "They expected that when experienced meditators meditate, the areas of the brain associated with self-calming would be the most active. But it turned out the most active areas actually have to do with vigilance: watching for something and noticing, identifying, and then ignoring everything that isn't what we're watching for. They expected the most active areas in saying prayers would be those involved in reading or reciting. Instead, the active areas for those who believe in prayer are the ones having to do with holding a conversation. So prayer really is a conversation with God.")

Bouquet of flowers I gave Rezvanieh the last time I ever saw herAnyway, what my fellow blogger and what my Buddhist sponsee said may sound like opposites. But they really weren't. It's true that what the blog post called "flower talk" may be all talk. And misleading. But listening to the flowers grow? That's paying attention not to what they say, but to what they do. That is their adorning. Even as Baha'u'llah has told us, "Let deeds, not words, be your adorning."

BTW, I gave this bouquet to Rezvanieh the last time I ever saw her. When I visited High Point. 'Cuz I believe in not waiting 'til someone's dead. In giving them their flowers while they're alive. Metaphorically and literally. As we were leaving after settling her down to nap, I made sure the flowers (which I'd also made sure included a rose) were where she could see them on awakening. When she awoke, I hope she heard them say, in all truth, "Your spiritual daughter thanks you. Blesses you. Prays for you. In the garden of her heart, you planted naught but the rose of love.* Here it is reflected."

*The Hidden Words of Baha'u'llah, from the Persian, #3: "O FRIEND! In the garden of thy heart plant naught but the rose of love, and from the nightingale of affection and desire loosen not thy hold. Treasure the companionship of the righteous and eschew all fellowship with the ungodly."

11-29 Vacation: It's our penultimate Challenge day today. That really is a big, bright light there, at the end of this month-long tunnel.

And yet another Challenge blogger's writing made me think in an unwonted direction. With this post: "We spent many hours lying on a blanket on the lawn, looking up at the clouds in the sky, finding shapes, faces and all kinds of wonder. A self-made vacation from all the 'demands' of childhood. What is your self-made vacation?"

My answer? (Which also apparently disappeared down some oubliette. As have the majority of my several dozen comments submitted to Challenge blogs. Never see 'em. Must be doing something wrong.) Accidentally - or perhaps Godincidentally - also copied it to something else I was simultaneously doing. So much for being a master of multitasking. Anyway....

Two people conversingI commented: "Sorry (#sorrynotsorry), no lying around on the lawn here. Not now. Too cold. Doesn't matter. Mine is probably lying abed in a dimly lit room. Looking up at the infinite universe. Sometimes with a warm cat or two snuggled nigh. 'Pillow talking' with some good friend -- who doesn't even need to be there; aren't telecommunications wonderful?! -- about the important things in life. The thought-provoking things. The energizing things. The fun things. The spiritual things. Even the trivial things that may turn out to not be trivial at all. Or even if they don't, that's OK. Sometimes all of those in one thing. What a vacation!"

Also what a challenge! Because it is vital that we have meaningful and distinctive conversations. Elevate the discourse on human and spiritual affairs. And sometimes the best way to do that isn't to seek opportunities to publically expound on the momentous before millions. It's to naturally weave a minute spirit of the Writings into everyday conversations in everyday situations with a small handful of listeners. Or with just one other soul. Especially with friends. Because being a friend is the foundation of it all.

For those of us who can speak to (or write for) the millions, cool. For those of us who can speak to only one someone, equally cool. The point is that God does not choose to deliver Her message by some "magic wand" or irresistible divine fiat that we don't even know is forcing us. Nor by the sword, figuratively or literally. Nor by any coercion, or threat of hellfire, or offer of material gain. It is to be delivered through the "kindly tongue" that Baha'u'llah calls "the lodestone of the hearts of men", adding that "It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding".

"We have ordained that complete victory should be achieved through speech and utterance," He tells us elsewhere. And "Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement, which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets." And "Utterance must needs possess penetrating power. For if bereft of this quality it would fail to exert influence. And this penetrating influence dependeth on the spirit being pure and the heart stainless. Likewise it needeth moderation, without which the hearer would be unable to bear it, rather he would manifest opposition from the very outset. And moderation will be obtained by blending utterance with the tokens of divine wisdom which are recorded in the sacred Books and Tablets. Thus when the essence of one's utterance is endowed with these two requisites it will prove highly effective and will be the prime factor in transforming the souls of men."

Tall order. Still, progress, not perfection. Words to live by. Words to offer words by. Words to share.

11-30 Memes: Ultimate Challenge-response post. Across the finish line by a nose. Made it. Whew! Or, as Number One Son would say, "Whoo hoo!"

Hiker/climber with arms up in victoryWanted to do 30 posts. Did 'em. Committed to visiting other Challenge blogs. Repeatedly visited them all, but for a few where the platform - such as FB - wouldn't let me. Hoped to post as many as 25 supportive comments during the month. After all, remember Baha'u'llah telling us, "God loveth those who are working in His path in groups" and 'Abdu'l-Baha adding, "united and bound together, supporting one another." Submitted 39 (even if most of them never got shown for some reason). That's how inspired I was by what others wrote.

Yeah, it's been a challenge all right. And a pleasure. The end seemed to take forever to get here. And it came too quickly.

What's next? Well, I'll go back to my old monthly schedule for this Abiding Blog, as well as for Adding Insult. Only, with a little more attention given to keeping to that schedule. After all, Twigs of a Family Tree is out now, so that's no excuse. Of course, I do have to keep my commitment to Rezvanieh to complete Anasazi Anthem, but there's less internal urgency there.

In a spirit of promoting distinctive conversations and elevating the discourse - and still "vying for excellence" - I've also been inspired to start a third blog: Aphorisms & Memes. Each week, I'll turn a quotation into poster art. For the first year, 2018, I'll be randomly seeking out quotations from Twigs. Mostly meaty, thought-provoking, uplifting ones. But occasionally, for a change of pace, maybe trivial or even silly ones. After the year is up (or if I run out before then), I'll decide where to look next ... I'm sure there's a wealth to be found. And there's always the Writings. (Though, how do I do them justice?)

And you'll be invited - nay, urged - to copy and repost anything that strikes your fancy to your own blog or other social media. All I ask is that you always include the "credit" at the bottom of the poster. 'Cuz I don't ever want to have to write an apology letter to someone whose words I used and then someone else came along, took the words, and deleted the credit. The kind of heartfelt apology letter my #grandMya felt sadly inspired to write recently. Maybe tell you about that someday. Maybe not.

Final Challenge-completing anecdote from Twigs. About Mya and me. About a conversation we had. I was lauding her for her mature outlook on something, which was why I'd shared a story with her about a stunning public response to a hurtful Internet meme.

     Suddenly, in the middle of it, she interrupted me.
     "Wait," she demanded, "did you just say 'meme'?"
     "You know what a meme is?"
     "Yeah." Well, of course I do. I knew what a meme was way before there were Internet memes. "Doesn't everyone?"
     "No. They don't. Most of my friends know, but their parents don't. Even my mom doesn't." Then she exclaimed, "You just became the most awesome Grams ever!"

Can't beat that!

And thus endeth this writer's #bahaiblogging Challenge. Thank you.

Khoda hafez,

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2017-11-19 - 24
C H A L L E N G E   S E T   F O U R

"Thank you for challenging me to think it out and articulate it."  -- Lucki in Twigs of a Family Tree

11-19 Vying: Speaking of astonishment, were you astonished that I made it through three sets already? Eighteen November entries to date? 'Cuz I sure was. That's more entries so far this month than I'd done in any previous year in this blog. Or in Adding Insult, either. My usual goal is to post monthly at least. An average of 12 per year. And I haven't always managed that, even. Some years, I've actually had to combine both blogs to reach that average of 12. I gotta admit, though, that encouragement to "vie for excellence" is a great motivator.

If you continuously complete with others, you become BITTER; if you continuously complete with yourself, you become BETTER.That's a shorthand term that Bahá'ís use a lot: Vie for excellence. It reminds us of encouragement from the Writings. Bahiyyih Khanum (Khanum is an honorific, not a surname), Bahá'u'lláh's daughter, reminded us of how often that idea came up. How people were encouraged to "vie with one another in service". Shoghi Effendi's wife, Ruhiyyih Khanum, said of the Guardian, "He frequently quoted Bahá'u'lláh's admonition 'Vie ye with each other in the service of God and His Cause' and openly encouraged a competitive spirit in its noblest form." He also quoted the encouragement, "Vie ye with each other in the service of God and of His Cause. This is indeed what profiteth you in this world, and in that which is to come...."

OTOH, from another standpoint, I'm not really vying with the other Challenge bloggers so much as I am vying with myself. Vying against my own laziness. The fatigue that can come with age. Spotty time management. And not always the best prioritization. But give me a challenge?

For that matter, give the whole bunch of us bloggers a challenge, and.... 

I'm not going to finish that "and" just now. 'Cuz I'm saving a really salient quote for the lead quotation of my final set. Something Mead said (about a somewhat different subject) in Twigs of a Family Tree. You'll simply have to wait until Nov 25. (Ain't I just an ol' meany? LOL)

11-20 Lion: Other Challenge-blogger posts also reminded me of a song my #grandMya sang with the children's class at Chicago's Naw-Rúz celebration one year. The song as we originally heard it went: Make me fearless / Like a jungle lion, / Like a roaring ocean, / Like an eagle in flight. / Make me fearless / Like Mullá Husayn, / Like Táhirih, / Like Άbdu'l-Bahá.

But we changed it. Why? 'Cuz we realized there's essentially no such thing (at least any more) as jungle lions. Only savanna and mountain lions. In open forests and woodlands on rare occasions, yes. But not in jungles. So we changed the first two analogies to: Like a roaring lion, / Like a surging ocean. That also made it easier to do hand movements for "lion" and "ocean".

BTW, interesting how savanna lions, both African and Asian, are usually just called lions. While mountain lions have a bunch of alternate names, but are almost never just called lions. Some terms strictly regional. Some recognized, even used interchangeably, by almost everybody. American lion, American panther, catamount, cougar, mountain cat, mountain screamer, onca, painter, puma. Just sayin'. Anyway....

Roaring maned lion on the savannaNaturally, we didn't want to lose that regal feline image of both raw power and family unity. What Baha'u'llah talked about when He said, "Should it be God's intention, there would appear out of the forests of celestial might the lion of indomitable strength whose roaring is like unto the peals of thunder reverberating in the mountains." What 'Abdul-Bahá meant when he talked about God making the weakest, lowliest of His servants into "lions roaring in the forest of knowledge and wisdom" and called steadfast teachers of the Cause "brave lions". (Although, let's don't forget his reminder that, "For her greater strength and fierceness, the lioness is more feared by the hunter than the lion.")

Now, analogies aside, there have sometimes been lions seen in the modern Ethiopian rainforests. But those don't really count as "jungle" lions because they're thought to just be savanna lions migrating through the rainforest during the dry season. There's also a small wild population of lions in one forest in India. Back when they started counting in the '60s, it was less than 200. With a breeding program, it's now above 500. (Even though, weirdly, some of the older lions who remember being hunted have, apparently intentionally, opted out of any breeding behavior at all.) But they're still endangered. And really, how well could they get on when dense "jungle" essentially short-circuits the normal hunting style of lionesses? To say nothing of males getting their manes irreparably entangled in all the spiky underbrush?

BTW again, they now think that size and thickness of mane is not strictly a genetic characteristic. That climate plays a role, too. Sort of makes it understandable why the most heavily maned lions survived on the grasslands. Not in jungles, where it was way too easy to entangle their mane. And also not in the rainforests, where the result of heavier shade and constant moisture is what your hair would be like if you kept it damp 24/7/365. (Yeeuucch. Fungi. Mushrooms in your mane!).

Anyway, we kept the change. 'Cuz savanna lions - with those big old thick, long, lush manes on the males - is what most people think of when they think lion. And believe me, when our children lifted their "paws" to lunge forward as they sang, those loving little lions really roared.

11-21 Ocean: Okay, since all that roaring was taken over by the lion, why a surging ocean? Once again, we turned to the Writings to see what would best fit. And found a wealth to work with.

Crashing waves of a surging oceanBahá'u'lláh talked about setting one's face "towards the Spot wherein the ocean of wisdom and of utterance hath surged". About "the billows of this surging and treasure-laden Ocean". Assured us that "This most great, this fathomless and surging Ocean is near, astonishingly near, unto you." And extolled "How resplendent the luminaries of knowledge that shine in an atom, and how vast the oceans of wisdom that surge within a drop!" He also taught us to beseech God "by Thy Name through which the ocean of forgiveness surged". To ask to be "immersed beneath the billowing oceans of Thine overruling providence and the surging seas of Thy holy unity". And reminded us (I'm thinking of this Thanksgiving week) that through His summons God "caused the oceans of inner meaning and explanation to surge from Thy heart in remembrance of Thy Lord, the God of mercy, that Thou mayest render thanks and praise unto Him and be of those who are truly thankful."

'Abdul-Bahá also assured us that "The ocean of divine mercy is surging". That "the ocean of the Covenant hath surged and surged". Even that "the thoughts of men are being directed toward the welfare and unity of humanity. Daily the mirage of imitations is passing away, and the ocean of truth is surging more tumultuously."

So "surging ocean" it was. The segue of hand movement from the paws-up lunge of "roaring lion" to the rolling waves of "surging ocean" was obvious and easy. Even more so was the segue from that to the outstretched arms of our "eagle in flight". Yep, you guessed it. Gonna look at that tomorrow.

11-22 Eagle: And why an eagle in flight? By which we can assume the Authors mostly meant Persia's native Imperial Eagle in all its majesty. Actually, in all her majesty, as female eagles - and other raptors, all the way back, it seems, to T. rex et al - are at least a third larger than their male counterparts.

Imperial Eagle (native to Persia) in flightBahá'u'lláh starts us off by talking about "the eagle of love", the sigil of the second of His Seven Valleys: the valleys of search, love, knowledge, unity, contentment, wonderment, and true poverty and absolute nothingness. 'Abdul-Bahá, too, waxes lyrical with prayerful entreaties like "How can I succeed unless Thou assist me with the breath of the Holy Spirit, help me to triumph by the hosts of Thy glorious kingdom, and shower upon me Thy confirmations, which alone can change a gnat into an eagle, a drop of water into rivers and seas, and an atom into lights and suns?" And "Make me victorious through the armies of Thy Supreme Kingdom and encircle me with Thy confirmations, which shall make the moth the eagle, the drop the river and the seas, and the scintillas the suns and the moons!" Seas? Suns? Pretty highfalutin' company those eagles get to soar with, don't you think?

Speaking of T. rex, if and when you get a copy of Twigs of a Family Tree, check out my and Mead's personal story about "encountering" the largest T. rex ever discovered, Sue, together at Chicago's Field Museum. It was certainly eye-opening. (Even if it turns out that the person who started arguing last year against Sue being a female - with all the upheaval that may bode for the idea of reverse sexual dimorphism in saurian as well as avian raptors - is correct.)

11-23 Shield: Mulla Husayn Bushru'i was the first person in the world to recognize the Bab, the Herald of Bahá'u'lláh. Became the first of His disciples, or Letters of the Living. Thereby earned the honorific Babu'l-Báb (Gate of the Gate). Gladly served the eighteenth and final Letter of the Living, Quddus, for many years. Also met, recognized, and extolled the greatness of Bahá'u'lláh, even though He had not yet declared His station and mission. Orchestrated the brave, fierce, and stunning defense of his cobelievers, including Quddus, in the besieged fort he'd had his men build at the Shrine of Shaykh Tabarsi. With just 110 men at his back and two swords in his hands, turned aside a Prince's army. With 313 men, ruined the fortifications set up by the King's armies. Was finally felled only by a sniper's bullet. And even then, spent the last two hours of his life, mortally wounded, sitting in quietly happy conversation with Quddus.

The sword of Mulla HusaynYou can read more about the life of Mulla Husayn on sites like the Baha'i Library Online and the probably less accurate Wikipedia. To the best of my knowledge, we have no portraits or photographs of Mulla Husayn. His sword, however, is still kept with other Babi and Baha'i relics. It's no wonder that we normally associate him with SWORD. But I am more struck by the SHIELD aspect of his character. Because he fought only in defense. And that act of steadfast service gave him unexpected - one can sincerely say heroic - strength.

Have a gratitude-filled, family-unifying, safe, healthy, and happy Thanksgiving. Remember whom you are thankful for. And tell them so.

11-24 Suffragette: Fatimah Baraghani - upon whom Bahá'u'lláh bestowed the honorific Tahirih (the Pure One) - was also one of the Letters of the Living, the first eighteen disciples of the Báb. One of her biographers called her "the most celebrated woman in Iranian history". Lauded for her great intelligence and beauty, she was a renowned poet, insightful theologian, persuasive teacher, and staunch advocate of the rights of women. Persecuted by many in her family (including her spouse), the clergy, and the government, it was still she who personified the Teachings on the new era of divine revelation and sacred law (her primary concern) and thus also on the equality of women and men. As a prime example, in the company of men at scenes like the conference at Badasht. she publicly removed her niqab (facial veil) to address them. For her audacity and her Faith, Tahirih was denounced by the authorities as a heretic. She was finally arrested on specious charges, kept under house arrest, and eventually executed, strangled by a drunken officer. Her final words were reported to be "You can kill me as soon as you like, but you cannot stop the emancipation of women."

A niqab (facial veil) like Tahirih wore...and threw offYou can read more about the life of Tahirih on sites like the Baha'i Library Online and the not-as-trustworrthy Wikipedia. To the best of my knowledge, we have no portraits or photographs of Tahirih. But we can imagine how shocking and inspiring it must have been to see her, standing stalwart in her hijab, throw off the veil that connoted female subservience and "invisibility". (I'll tell you what doesn't float my boat, though. All these modern artists' impressions of what they think/wish Tahirih had looked like. Excuse me, but I've been told on good authority that the standard of feminine beauty in her time and place was not tall and sylphly slender. It was short and pleasingly plump. Just sayin'.)

I actually have a personal connection to Tahirih. Two. Maybe three. There's a minor connection through Anasazi Anthem, which you can see the opening chapters of here. For example, Tamerlane Anasazi, the fictional Progressive Revelator/Divine Voice in the novel, invokes the Matriarch of his Pride and her hero in the Chapter 19 epigraph thusly: "Helping another being to survive and grow - physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually - is also a surviving legacy. I do not personally know any descendents of Tahirih either. But because of her faith, fire, strength, vision, beauty, artistry, care, courage, commitment, and myriad other traits worthy of survival, she was our Matriarch's hero and spiritual mentor first centuries, and then millennia, after her death. And Kol taught me to remember her, too."

Then there's the major connection that I named my daughter Tahirih.

And there's the unexpected connection with my spiritual family. As I discovered when my beloved spiritual mother, Rezvanieh, wrote in Twigs of a Family Tree about her great granduncle, the physician Hakim Masih. When he was sent as a Jewish pilgrim to listen to Tahirih, "He was amazed at her wisdom and spiritual depth, and declared that whatever she believed in, that was what he wanted to be. It was through her that he learned about the Blessed Bab." And Rezvanieh further wrote that, later, the King of Persia asked Hakim Masih to treat an ill Babi child in his dungeon, because no other doctor was willing. There, the prisoners "began to tell him about Baha'u'llah. Again, what Tahirih and they believed was what he chose to believe. And so, he was the first Jewish person ever in the world to become Baha'i."

One more set to go. Time flies....

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject


2017-11-13 - 18
C H A L L E N G E   S E T   T H R E E

"It's both a challenge and a blessing."  -- Lucki in Twigs of a Family Tree

11-13 Debugging: I mentioned in my Nov 9 entry that I can usually read HTML well enough to debug my website glitches. Assuming they're mine to start with. May take a while; but I eventually get there. Comes from my background in programming, back in the dark ages when programs had to be elegant because the biggest commercial software-controlled machines -- which filled a large room -- were 64K. (After all, man first landed on the moon using only 72K. And the onboard landing computer itself was only 2K! Sheesh, my rinky-dink little stand-alone pedometer is more powerful than that. And has a longer battery life.)

Roomful of old computer, back in the dayBack when I started writing programs in COBOL, a high-level programming language, I still used assembly languages like HW's Easycoder (well, as it was very user friendly) and IBM's Autocoder (not so well, as it could be a nightmare to follow) to debug. When I became a documentation specialist and wrote for business and pleasure using WordPerfect, I always kept "Reveal Codes" open to debug issues and keep things clean. I use "Reveal Formatting" in Word now, too, but don't get me started on how unhelpful that really is. And I eventually did work in markup languages like GML. All of which helped me evolve the mindset that made HTML easier to understand and use for debugging purposes when we started developing this website.

BTW, is it just me, or have you noticed how often something gets "improved" to the point where it's practically useless? Ask me about the company-forced switch from my old Hughes satellite box to DirecTV's "upgraded" model with the GUI that bites. No, wait; like I said, don't get me started.

Anyway, the company where I learned to program hired my former boss again, three decades later, to come in as a consultant and deal with Y2K. And he got in touch with me because "80% of everything you wrote there is still running." In that instance, it wasn't so much debugging as upgrading, but the ability to still read a lower-level language was vital to get the job done quickly. (Well, what also helped was that I'd documented my programs so well, the company'd had me document everything the two other programmers wrote, too. Which was probably the final foundation stone that set me on my path of becoming a career writer.)

What does this all have to do with a Baha'i topic? Glad you asked. Plenty. I'll tell you tomorrow. With today's teaser being a statement by Άbdu'l-Bahá: "All things are subject to re-formation."

Upgrade in progress throughout the whole world11-14 Upgrading: Humanity, too, sometimes needs to be debugged and/or upgraded on a spiritual level. We are given a message by a Voice of God. Over time, though, our memory becomes vague. Or our understanding veers off track. Yet our species keeps evolving. As does our society. But God has promised never to desert us, His children. Never to give up on us and leave us to our own devolving devices. So another Voice is sent. To remind us of the spiritual truths we may have lost sight of. And to offer us new truths. Or, more accurately, an expanded understanding of existing truths. And new methodologies. So that our spiritual evolution can keep pace with our physical and societal evolution. Nor are these Voices in contention. They are in cooperation. Like teachers in a school. Chapters in a book. Lamps in a home.

That whole statement by 'Abdu'l-Baha reads: "Religion is the outer expression of the divine reality. Therefore it must be living, vitalized, moving and progressive. If it be without motion and non-progressive it is without the divine life; it is dead. The divine institutes are continuously active and evolutionary; therefore the revelation of them must be progressive and continuous. All things are subject to re-formation. This is a century of life and renewal. Sciences and arts, industry and invention have been reformed. Law and ethics have been reconstituted, reorganized. The world of thought has been regenerated. Sciences of former ages and philosophies of the past are useless today. Present exigencies demand new methods of solution; world problems are without precedent. Old ideas and modes of thought are fast becoming obsolete. Ancient laws and archaic ethical systems will not meet the requirements of modern conditions, for this is clearly the century of a new life, the century of the revelation of the reality and therefore the greatest of all centuries."

Baha'u'llah Himself tells us that this is "the day when faith itself is renewed and regenerated by God, the Almighty, the Beneficent."

Too, Shoghi Effendi reminds us "that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is not final but progressive." In fact, Shoghi Effendi has a lot to say on this subject. I'll finish up with that tomorrow.

11-15 Evolving: Shoghi Effendi reaffirmed that, "The fundamental principle enunciated by Bahá'u'llá that religious truth is not absolute but relative, that Divine Revelation is a continuous and progressive process, that all the great religions of the world are divine in origin, that their basic principles are in complete harmony, that their aims and purposes are one and the same, that their teachings are but facets of one truth, that their functions are complementary, that they differ only in the nonessential aspects of their doctrines, and that their missions represent successive stages in the spiritual evolution of human society...."

He also stressed that the Bahá'í Faith "recognizes firmly and absolutely the Divine origin of their Authors, preserves inviolate the sanctity of their authentic Scriptures, disclaims any intention of lowering the status of their Founders or of abating the spiritual ideals they inculcate, clarifies and correlates their functions, reaffirms their common, their unchangeable and fundamental purpose, reconciles their seemingly divergent claims and doctrines, readily and gratefully recognizes their respective contributions to the gradual unfoldment of one Divine Revelation, unhesitatingly acknowledges itself to be but one link in the chain of continually progressive Revelations, supplements their teachings with such laws and ordinances as conform to the imperative needs, and are dictated by the growing receptivity, of a fast evolving and constantly changing society...."

Spiritual evolution, symbolized by hands upraised to the lightAnd he explained that, "Just as the organic evolution of mankind has been slow and gradual, and involved successively the unification of the family, the tribe, the city-state, and the nation, so has the light vouchsafed by the Revelation of God, at various stages in the evolution of religion, and reflected in the successive Dispensations of the past, been slow and progressive. Indeed the measure of Divine Revelation, in every age, has been adapted to, and commensurate with, the degree of social progress achieved in that age by a constantly evolving humanity." That includes the latest. To quote The Three Onenesses: "Not the only. Not the last. Not the 'holiest'. The latest." The Revelation of Baha'u'llah for this age. How awesomely hopeful is that.

And here I am, having reached the middle of the backstretch, halfway home from the Challenge's starting gate. (Only it's not a competition. It's a cooperation.) Keep checking in.

11-16 Endowment: Final thoughts on Progressive Revelation. As I said in Twigs of a Family Tree, "the Writings give me the biggest tool kit, the latest instruction manual, the most detailed blueprint, for living in this world. And for helping to make it better for myself and others." And they're "the most comprehensive and up-to-date operations manual I've found for living and thriving in God's physical and spiritual universe today." And if there's anything I learned right up front as a programmer, it's to read the manual. And then use the brains God gave me to apply it.

This great endowment from God: Intellect and wisdomSo something 'Abdu'l-Baha said really resonates with me. "Praise and thanksgiving be unto Providence that out of all the realities in existence He has chosen the reality of man and has honored it with intellect and wisdom, the two most luminous lights in either world. Through the agency of this great endowment, He has in every epoch cast on the mirror of creation new and wonderful configurations. If we look objectively upon the world of being, it will become apparent that from age to age, the temple of existence has continually been embellished with a fresh grace, and distinguished with an ever-varying splendor, deriving from wisdom and the power of thought."  Especially thinking about the spiritual as being equally important to the physical, mental, emotional, and societal. Having at least an equal, if not predominant, place in our lives.

For without including spiritual solutions to our ills and ignorances, we can find no lasting solutions at all.

11-17 Tears: Another Challenge blogger's writing reminded me recently of something I'd occasionally heard through the years: that tears come more easily to the old. I didn't really know what that meant. Did they become more depressed as they aged? Have weaker control over their emotions? Or simply weaker physiology? Feel for some odd reason more willing to shed tears? Laugh less, so people thought they cried more? Didn't know.

Through the years, from infant to agedStill don't know. Not for sure. But I've experienced it firsthand. Am experiencing it. Which is very disconcerting.

I spent most of my life making sure "they" never saw me cry. (Whoever the blazes "they" is.) 'Cuz I was, as I said in Twigs of a Family Tree, the girl/woman "Who had to be hard and cold to survive. Because that was the only way to ensure 'they' couldn't hurt her." I mentioned something about that in a long, convoluted blog entry in September. It was in passing, though, so you may not have noticed. I was talking about a fictional character who rings irresistibly true for me. And I posited several reasons why he may resonate so with me. This character whom, to the best of my memory, we've never seen cry. Even - especially - when he had reason to. And the ultimate possible reason for that resonance that I offered was "maybe just because I know what being a survivor - solitary, hard, emotionally frozen - is like."

I still don't know why that's changed. Not physically. Not mentally. Not emotionally. I just know it has. Age? Acceptance? Chemo-brain? Don't know. And sometimes I rail at my weakness. Don't get me wrong, though. I still laugh more than I weep. But I weep more these days. And occasionally I'm even willing to let someone else see it happen. Not always. Not often. Still rarely. But at times. BIG change.

I think I get why on a spiritual level. At least in part. Because it's a gift. Everything I experience can help me grow. In fact, it's often the worst of what I experience that helps me grow the most. After all, whatever doesn't kill us makes us stronger. And I'm learning that allowing tears doesn't kill us. (Though suppressing them might. 'Cuz unlike, say, reflex tears from chopping onions, or the continuous tears that lubricate our eyes, emotional tears not only can relieve us psychologically, they also remove toxic stress hormones from our bodies. Which actually helps our heart, our brain, our whole corpus.)

It's more than that, even. As I concluded in Twigs, the final facet of the gift - the part we find at life's end - is that, "whenever I do get to finally leave, that's one huge barrel of dammed-up, stuffed-down, unshed tears I won't have to lug along with me."

Baha'u'llah assured us that, "My calamity is My providence, outwardly it is fire and vengeance, but inwardly it is light and mercy." And He taught us to pray, "We would yield Thee praise and thanksgiving, for we have recognized and are persuaded that Thou hast ordained only that which will be best for us." Including tears.

11-18 Astonishment: Of course, not all tears are tears of anguish. As I also said in Twigs of a Family Tree, "When I experience prayer the way that [C.S.] Lewis described it. When the need to pray wells up in and pours out of me. Waking and even sleeping. Accompanied by tears of astonishment. (Which I admit doesn't happened often, 'cuz I've never been a weepy sort of person. But when it does, oh my!) That's when I change the most. For the better." Elsewhere in Twigs, I talked about personally experiencing, "Another case of tears of anguish turned to tears of astonishment. Pain to joy. Blight to beauty. Death to life."

A tear of astonishmentI also share in the book a story of something that happened at an AA meeting where I was the last one to read from the Twelve & Twelve and therefore "...the person to start our discussion with a short lead. It was short, all right. Thirteen words. 'x"We don't have to be alone any more." What more can I say?' And then I wept a bit. After the meeting, just about everyone in the room came to me to offer comfort. But I didn't need comfort. 'Those weren't tears of sorrow,' I told them. 'Those were tears of joy.'x" I think that was a first for me: Letting them see that. And then knowing what to call it.

As 'Abdu'l-Baha once beseeched a woman, "Be filled with joy, so that thine eyes may be overflowing with tears of happiness and beatitude,..." That too is a positive purpose of tears. What a gift!

New set and new topic start tomorrow. See ya then.

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject


2017-11-07 - 12
C H A L L E N G E   S E T   T W O

"I wish you'd stop challenging me with so many ideas. No, no I don't!"  -- Lucki in Twigs of a Family Tree

As you can see, I decided that putting 30 entries in one long strand would be a bit too much. So I've divided the 30 days into a handful of sets. And, with this new entry, I've also made it through my first week of the Challenge. Enjoy!

11-07 Birthdays: New topic today. Sort of. It Godincidentally relates to what I've written about up to now. So it's a good way to close out my first week of the Challenge. It's about the actual date: October 20.

For nearly half a century, I celebrated the Birth of the Bab (the Herald of the Founder of the Baha'i Faith) on October 20. And the Birth of Baha'u'llah Himself (the Founder) on November 12. Because that's when they fell in the purely solar Gregorian calendar we use in the West. Easy for me, and all Western Baha'is, to remember. Eastern Bahá'ís, though, who grew up with the purely lunar Hijri calendar, celebrated those Birthdays according to when they fell in that calendar. Which meant those two Holy Days traveled around the year. Sometimes falling in one season, sometimes another. Sometimes even smack dab in the midst of the Bahá'í Fast. OTOH, it meant they fell on consecutive days. Which is what the Writings mean when they call these two august celebrations "the Twin Birthdays".

Twin Luminaries - two stars in the night skyThen, in 2015 AD, the Universal House of Justice brought the Eastern and Western Bahá'ís together for the first time in terms of celebrating the birthdays of these Twin Luminaries. The timing isn't easy for either group to remember. It takes calculating on an annual basis, much like the timing of the Seder in Judaism and Easter in Christianity. But, hey, isn't that why computers were invented? So the Twin Birthdays are now celebrated worldwide using a sort of combination of the lunar and solar calendars. Eastern and Western. Using the lunisolar Badi calendar. Which, when you think about it, is a cool demonstration of the principle of unity in diversity.

The Twin Birthdays will fall on different Gregorian dates every year. But they'll always be on consecutive days. And they'll always occur in the October-November range (so, for instance, they'll never interrupt the Fast). And one of the great bounties in my life was that the first worldwide celebration of the Twin Birthdays on consecutive days took place while I was on Vancouver Island. I was able to celebrate with Number Two Son and his family and friends. (If you haven't been reading about that trip all along, now's a good time to start.) Awesome celebrations bringing together the members of the seven small communities in his cluster.

Notwithstanding all that, I'm an old geezer who can wax nostalgic with no warning whatsoever. October 20 and November 12 still resonate as special for me. And I couldn't help but ponder why last year I was given the blessed opportunity to help someone so desperately in crisis on, of all days, October 20. Just sayin'.

11-08 Reflect: Having completed a week of the Challenge, I stopped yesterday to reflect on my experience so far. So far, my experience has been amazing. And frustrating.

ReflectingAmazing in being challenged to write about something every day. Sometimes wondering what the blazes I have to say that anyone would care to hear. Sometimes having so many thoughts flying that I fear I'll run out of calendar. In the first case, I simply stop wondering and start writing. In the second case, I simply stop fearing and start writing.

Yep, same response. For obvious reasons. Foremost being: It's the only way to fl... uh, blog. In order to write, I have to WRITE. And as 'Abdu'l-Baha said in Paris, "Writing is, in itself, a sign of the writer's soul...." So, to keep my soul uplifted by its engagement with the universe and others in it, I haven't missed a day yet. Despite an unusually hectic schedule. I've even managed to kickbash it all into shape despite the sometimes wonky vicissitudes of my website-building software. (Good thing I can read html code enough to debug. Usually.) To say nothing of the numerous browsers that don't agree with my software, or each other, on what the finished product is meant to look like.

Regardless, striving in the Challenge is its own reward. I'll talk about the flip side tomorrow

11-09 Support: Frustrating in that my Challenge interface seems too often ruled by Murphy's Law: The perversity of the cyberverse tends towards a maximum. For starters, though my Abiding Blog's URL was correct in the Challenge site's original table of contributors, it was wrong for quite a while in their right sidebar list, which is what most bloggers were probably using. The link had an extraneous hex-20 embedded at the end. So no one could use it to get to my site. They got one of those pernicious, unhelpful, error messages everybody hates. And once you've hit that two or three times, you don't bother to try the link any more. Took me a long while to notice 'cuz, like, I was using the sidebar to go to the other bloggers' sites. And the site managers aren't at fault for not noticing it, 'cuz you can't really SEE a hex-20; it's a blank. They've fixed it now, though, for which many thanx.

Working towards the common goal of completing a puzzleThe other, even bigger frustration is that I've gone to other contributor sites every day. And every day, something has moved me to comment. Sometimes more than one. But on some sites, I can't figure out how to comment. At all. Or I'm forbidden to comment (or sometimes even see) unless I've "joined" the site or some social-media group. Which I prefer not to do. In a case or two, a comment's awaited moderation for days. Or sometimes my submission apparently disappears down an oubliette, never to be heard from again. (And I don't copy comments to my drive before posting; so if they're gone, they're gone.) Some comments actually have seen the light of screen, so those bloggers know I'm there in their corner. But I fear many of my fellow Challenge-responders have no way of knowing I'm supporting their efforts. And I want them to know. 'Cuz I do support them. (Of course, it's not all that easy for them to comment to me, either, as my site doesn't yet have an app for that. So they have to use the email link at the bottom of each entry set. That's an extra bother for which I'm sorry.)

So, on balance, do I have what 'Abdu'l-Baha affirmed is needed to achieve a goal, as summarized in Century of Light: "the will to act and the faith to persist"? Tune in tomorrow.

11-10 Persist: Giving up on the Challenge is not an option. Not for a minute. I stand firmly for the very principle that drew me to the Faith in the first place: unity. I -- we -- just need to persist in our unified action of responding to the Challenge. "And," as Mead once said in Twigs of a Family Tree, "if we don't always succeed, that doesn't mean we stop trying."

Persisting with a large puzzleSo for me, it's about remembering what 'Abdu'l-Baha said, first quoting his Father: "'Verily, God loveth those who are working in His path in groups, for they are a solid foundation.' Consider ye that he says 'in groups,' united and bounded together, supporting one another. 'To work,' mentioned in this holy verse, does not mean, in this greatest age, to perform it with swords, spears, shafts and arrows, but rather with sincere intentions, good designs, useful advices, divine moralities, beautiful actions, spiritual qualities, educating the public, guiding the souls of mankind, diffusing spiritual fragrances, explaining divine illustrations, showing convincing proofs and doing charitable deeds."

No one responder to the Challenge is going to pull all that off. But together....  Our synergy doesn't have to (and, of course, humanly can't) be perfect. Just persistent. 'Cuz whatever we accomplish this month will inarguably be more than what would've been if we'd never started. Or if we stopped trying. So in this group endeavor, I persist.

11-11 Steps: This is another new topic. Still, it was sparked by my Nov 2  post. So there's a thin strand of connection there, too. Anyway, have you ever pondered why "confession of sins" isn't allowed in the Bahá'í Faith? (I have. 'Cuz I grew up immersed in Christian culture.) What exactly does that mean? And why doesn't it apply to 12-step programs? Let me address that last question first.

Step 5: Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

And Step 9: Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

Also Step 10: Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

In the 1986 letter I mentioned on Day 2, the Universal House of Justice also said that "there is no objection to Bahá'ís being members of Alcoholics Anonymous" and lauded AA for the great good it does. And as you know, AA is the mother of all 12-step programs. In a 4 June 1987 letter, the House of Justice reiterated, "There does not appear to be any conflict between Step 5 of the Alcoholics Anonymous program and the Bahá'í teachings concerning confession."

Confessing an error or fault of characterIn the notes to the Kitab-i-Aqdas (our Most Holy Book), the House of Justice further reminded us of how Shoghi Effendi himself affirmed that "…if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person's forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so." So that's not what the Writings mean by "confession on sins" either.

What the Writings are talking about not doing, to the best of my understanding, is the public or formalized confession of sins in an ecclesiastical/sacramental setting. Allowing someone else to sit in spiritual judgment. Especially with the purpose of obtaining absolution, a washing away of our sin, from an "agent" of God. Based, perhaps, on doing acts of penance as directed.

OK, so why not? Get into that tomorrow.

11-12 Confession: Through studying the Writings, I see and understand, at least in part, five reasons why not.

1. Sin isn't a thing. It's an absence. The absence of doing what was spiritually right. Sometimes through spiritual ignorance. Sometimes through spiritual sickness. 'Abdu'l-Baha said in Paris, "The only difference between members of the human family is that of degree. Some are like children who are ignorant, and must be educated until they arrive at maturity. Some are like the sick and must be treated with tenderness and care. None are bad or evil!" And obviously, the way to be rid of an absence, an emptiness, isn't to somehow try and dig it out or wash it away. It's to fill it. With what is good. Just like you can't vacuum the darkness out of a pitch-black room. To combat that absence of light, you have to fill the room with light.

2. No one has to mediate for us with God; we can go to Her directly. A note to the Kitab-i-Aqdas reminds us, "Bahá'u'lláh prohibits confession to, and seeking absolution of one's sins from, a human being. Instead one should beg forgiveness from God." Absolution and forgiveness from others are not the same thing and are not interchangeable.

3. No one but God can grant us absolution, a washing away of our wrongs, either. 'Abdu'l-Baha said in a letter, "No one has the power to receive confession of sins, or to give absolution." I can ask a person for forgiveness, yes. But even then, when I ask someone I hurt for forgiveness, I must be willing to hear them say "No." 'Cuz they need to heal in their own time and way.

4. Baha'i practices don't include any form of self-abasement. Bahá'u'lláh said in a letter that "such confession before people results in one's humiliation and abasement" and that God "wisheth not the humiliation of His servants" in any way. And yes, AA's Step 7 starts with "Humbly asked Him...." But humility and humiliation are not the same thing. In fact, being humble is the best inoculation against being humiliated. By anyone or anything. Ever.

5. No one else can decide what our heartfelt penance - or more to the point, amends - should be. It has to stem from our own spontaneous desire. 'Abdu'l-Baha also said in Paris, "Evil is imperfection." Well, you don't improve what you're working on simply by brushing away your mistakes. You keep working on perfecting it. Which includes working to avoid repeating your previous mistakes.

Forgiveness in a hugMy AA grandsponsor, who's also Baha'i, often reminds me that amends doesn't merely mean apologizing or making restitution, though one or both of those may be involved. To amend means to change. If I don't change my behavior, I haven't completed my amends. If I do something - especially grudgingly do something someone else demands - just to be forgiven or absolved, what have I really changed? Do I really think people don't recognize the difference? And respond accordingly? And how can any other person know for sure exactly what I need to do to change myself? Or what will motivate me? Don't I have to work that out with my Higher Power? She knows. Even when I don't.

That's my take on it all, anyway. Good place to end my second Challenge set.

Khoda hafez,

email your feedback with ABIDING BLOG and the entry date as the subject


2017-11-01 - 06
C H A L L E N G E   S E T   O N E

"But, oh, what a glorious challenge!"  -- Mead in Twigs of a Family Tree

Planned to post a special "anniversary" entry on Oct 20. Life had other plans. Two. One was the run-up to a book release party. Which wasn't even on my radar until October 10. I was up to my ears in alligators. Nice alligators, mostly. But alligators nonetheless. The other was learning about the Bahá'í Blogging Challenge. From Number Two Son. Mead. Who's also taking part, so be sure to watch his blog along the way, too.

So, since I didn't have time to post anything on that Oct 20 anniversary date, I decided to wait until today. Start it as my first Challenge entry. What follows may end up looking like one huge month-long blog entry. But that's just for technical/coding ease. It actually will encompass a month of daily entries, and various topics will be covered during the 30 days. Enjoy anyway, and check back daily to see how well I do.

11-01 Godincidence: My friend and co-author (we did a book of SF poetry together, entitled 2*4*7) Lillian Wolf taught me to use a slightly different word for, as the dictionary puts it, "a striking occurrence of two or more events at one time apparently by mere chance." She said sometimes it's not mere coincidence. Sometimes it's Godincidence.

Oxford UniversityI had one of those exactly a year ago today [Oct. 20]. One so striking that my #grandMya even posted about it somewhere on FB. I didn't post about it here then. But I want to bring it up again now. Because it still is - and always will be - relevant.

At one point late that Thursday morning, I started watching an interview that took place at university in Oxford. (Yeah, where Mead was an exchange student back in the day.) It dealt with a number of topics: Career matters. Plans for the future. The then-upcoming U.S. Presidential election. #MentalHealth issues, #Depression, and #SuicidePrevention. Etc. And a Q&A session with students. Just over halfway through the interview, though, I realized I had to stop. Had to get to one of my weekly meetings in the rooms of recovery.

Check back tomorrow to see what happened there.  [Continues through 11-06]

11-02 Time: There I was, off to my Thursday meeting. Me with my Bahá'í attitude about the rooms of recovery. (About which the Universal  House of Justice, in a letter dated 26 August 1986, has clearly stated that "the sharing of experiences which the members undertake does not conflict with the Bahá'í prohibition on the confession of sins; it is more in the nature of the therapeutic relationship between a patient and a psychiatrist.") I didn't realize that an hour later, I'd need the last thing I heard onscreen. Need it when, after the meeting, a woman started crying. And responded to a question about what was wrong by raging at her life.

Despite not really knowing her, a friend (the meeting secretary and a fellow Baha'i) and I stopped to talk with her. After about twenty minutes of the woman's erratic speech and behavior, my friend realized she had to immediately lock up and leave for work. She also felt that if she tried to call 911, the woman would bolt. I think she was right. Fortunately, she had the address of a nearby refuge. Within walking distance.

Time To ListenLong story short, I got the woman in crisis to express her feelings. To open up about wanting to end her life. To tell me what support would look like. And to walk with me. Slowly, by loud fits and flailing starts, I got her to a safe place. To people who could help. And it was worth it. Worth the 90 minutes it took to get her to open up, then to move with a goal in mind, and finally to accept help at the refuge. Worth the fear that her arm-waving, chair-kicking rage could become a physical attack. Worth the risk of saying or doing the wrong thing. Worth confronting my own dredged-up feelings in the process.

Check back tomorrow to see what, after the fact, my friend thought of all this.

Stop And Listen11-03 Listen: I called my friend when I got home, to let her know what happened. And she mentioned being glad that I'd been there, because she hadn't been sure what to do. She commented on how calm I was as the woman raged. On how I got her to respond to and then go with me. "You won't believe this," I said, "but that's all because the last thing I heard before coming to your meeting was someone talking about crisis. About not turning a blind eye in hopes someone will fix themself. About how to see. How to respond. How to offer support. What to say when you don't know what to say."

My friend's reaction: "That was a God moment."

Yes, it was. One I give thanks for. 'Abdu'l-Baha gave the friends in the Central States, where I live, a special morning prayer that starts "O Lord, my God! Praise and thanksgiving be unto Thee for Thou hast guided me...." Those words alone, a mere fifteen of them, that wonderful beginning sufficed me. It was exactly what I needed to say/pray. 'Cuz it wasn't me. And it wasn't my timing. I was guided. So was the person who gave that interview. And the person who gave me the link to it. A God moment. Godincidence.

There's more to say about this type of situation. Please keep checking back.

Being heard is so close to being loved that for the average person, they are almost indistinguishable.11-04 Heard: I remember my reaction the first time I saw that Augsburger poster. Tears welled up as I thought of someone who didn't cry for help. Didn't believe there was help to cry for. Didn't believe anyone would HEAR.

We are all "the average person" in one way or another. There are times when we feel unloved. Unwanted. Unimportant. Unheard. And we isolate. Which is the worst thing we can do. We can't be heard if we don't speak out. Cry out. Reach out.

Suicide prevention hotlines can work only when people call them. But they do work. Not all the time. But sometimes. Every "sometime" a gift. They work because someone is willing to listen. To hear. To support. And because someone is willing to be heard. To take the risk of being heard. To take the risk of feeling loved. Even if just for a moment. In those moments, if being heard is so close to being loved as to be indistinguishable, that's a good thing. That's a vital thing. That's a lifesaving thing. Therapy. 12-step programs. Self-care groups. Communities of faith. They all can work that way when someone works them.

What can you do? Tell you tomorrow. Because, as a pilgrim's note tells us 'Abdu'l-Baha once said, "Whatever is done in love...

Reasons I Speak - To help end the shame, the stigma, the silence11-05 Ask: never any trouble, and - there is always time." So if you encounter someone - family, friend, colleague, stranger - who (you feel or fear) is suicidal, deeply depressed, grieving life, take the time to get them to talk. Even if you're not sure how heavy their issue really is, get them to talk. And LISTEN to them. If you don't know what to say, tell them you don't know what to say. Ask them what they need you to say. Need to hear. And don't just suggest they get help. Get them to help. Or get help to them. 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255) can assist you with that.

Or if you are grieving life, deeply depressed, contemplating suicide, don't put up a good front. Don't think it's just you. 'Cuz it's not. You're not the only one. You're not alone in feeling what you feel. And don't think that what you're feeling is too small - or you are too unimportant - to matter. 'Cuz it's not true. Let someone know. ASK for help. Believe that it's there for you. 'Cuz it is. Believe someone cares. 'Cuz they do. We do. Believe that you matter. 'Cuz you do. You may think the world doesn't need you, but the world disagrees. For proof of that, call 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255). They will always take the time. And they will never think it's too much - or any - trouble. Promise.

Silence is not always strength. Or support. Sometimes it's anything but. Isolation can silence. Shame can silence. Fear of stigma can silence. And silence can kill. Break the silence. Please.

BTW, the person holding that sign is a survivor of more than one suicide attempt, starting in his mid-teens. He's now in his mid-40s. Helping others has been added to his list of reasons to keep living. High on his list. Empathy works. Service works. It may tip the scales. Final thoughts on all this tomorrow.

Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK11-06 Lifeline: Twigs of a Family Tree is up on Amazon now. And there's a lot in there that is, in one way and another, directly related to this subject. Especially in my chapter. My story. Stories others have shared with me about mental illness, depression, and attempting suicide. And how the Baha'i Faith sees it. Which is not as some criminal act or unforgivable sin. For as 'Abdu'l-Baha even tells the grieving widow of (we are able to surmise) a successful suicide, after noting the "extreme pressure of anguish" that may have driven him to it, "He will be immersed in the ocean of pardon and forgiveness and will become the recipient of bounty and favour."

This is worth repeating one last time: Call for help!

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline even has an online chat service. And the Lifeline asks that if you are in crisis/danger and cannot get through to a crisis worker via 1-800-273-TALK (273-8255), 1-800-SUICIDE (784-2433), or the Lifeline chat feature, do call 911 for emergency help.

Someone cares. Someone wants to help. All you have to do is ask. Now.

Thanx for sticking with me on this. New topic starts tomorrow.

Khoda hafez,

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P A R T Y !

"A book, too, can be a star, 'explosive material, capable of stirring up fresh life endlessly,' a living fire
to lighten the darkness, leading out into the expanding universe." -- Madeleine L'Engle

Twigs of a Family Tree front coverOn my way to a party. A book-release party. My party. For Twigs of a Family Tree. Today. At Changiz's. Which I often go to anyway, as it's only a short walk from my home. About a mile, so that's very convenient.

You've been so patient. You need wait no longer. It's finally up on Amazon. In all its glory.

Or, if you live close to me, you may wish to buy it directly from me, person-to-person. (I'm in Chicago, near Evanston, very close to rapid transit, less than five miles from the Bahai House of Worship)

Why? Because.

Because (a) you won't have to pay tax and S&H; so even at full price, it'll be cheaper for you and you can get it faster.

Because (b) you'll be able to take advantage of my 4-tiered pricing options, based on your ability to pay.

Because (c) the proceeds will go to a much better cause than merely lining the pockets of you-know-what-megabusiness.

Because (d) you'll be able to get your copy personally signed.

And because (e) you'll even get to take a selfie with me, post it to your social media, and brag about knowing the author. LOL.

Gotta run. See ya soon.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. If you're in the Vicotoria, BC area, check out Mead's booth at First Chance this coming weekend. He plans to have Twigs of a Family Tree on sale there, too, at a discount from the price on Amazon Canada; and you can ask him to sign it and take a picture with you. More social-media bragging rights.

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Snart at the dead-man switch of the Oculus

***SPOILER ALERT*** If you're not up to date on the Arrowverse, especially #LegendsOfTomorrow, and if you're planning to binge watch or whatever and don't want to know anything about anything beforehand, skip this long spoiler. Maybe skip this whole article for now. If you wanna know how I got started with LoT, check this out.

That was #LeonardSnart's dying declaration. #CaptainCold's exit line. A soul's contention that it was not, ever, a puppet. The moment before the Oculus imploded and, we were told, a hero died to save his team. And the world. "There are no strings on me."

This master thief. This cold-blooded killer. This patricide. This emotionally frozen survivor. This abused, angry child trapped inside a brilliant, bent adult. This cynic with the Stinky attitude. The Snarky facade. And the Snarty heart. The heart Leonard goes back decades and warns Leo, his childhood self, about. "Don't ever let anyone hurt you. Ever. Not [touching his own head] here and especially not [touching Leo's heart] here." This villain who reveled in the discovery that he could see the bad in a hero (who let him). And yet...more importantly, that the hero could see the good in him (and he could let him). This man whose strong ethical code, finally given the chance, gives rise to an equally strong moral code. His ability to live with himself enriched by a new ability to live with others. To die for others.

So we've been told. Repeatedly. In Legends of Tomorrow. In various episodes of other shows in the Arrowverse. In interviews and blogs and social media. Even in his and the Arrowverse Wiki and Wikipedia pages. He sacrificed himself to save the team. He sacrificed himself to save the world. He sacrificed himself to save the future. Even his partner tells Snart that he died for his friends, just before Rory neuralizes him to return him to his proper lifeline.

Only one problem. Not true. None of it. Zip. Zero. Zilch.

Yet listening to the lines in such episodes, you wonder if even the writers don't get it. Which is disconcerting. 'Cuz it's the job of writers, directors, and actors to collaborate in telling a story that, even if it's fictional, is TRUE. Even, perhaps especially, when they make us face and feel things in watching that we'd do most anything to avoid facing and feeling in real life. When they illumine for us (as my friend, cultural anthropoligist Jean Mavrelis puts it) "humans being".

Snart would get it. Which is why, to my mind, when the Legion of Doom goes back in time and tells him how he'll die in a year to save the Legends, he doesn't trust it for a minute. Which is why he goes so ultra-snarky. (Maybe the actor got it, and it was his personal choice to deliver the performance that way. Maybe actor, director, and writer all got it and left it as a well-hidden mental/emotional Easter egg for the final contributor to the collaboration - the viewer - to find.)

Snart didn't die for others.

He didn't die to save the future. Any future important to him was already safe. He didn't die to save the world. The world, newly important to him, was already safe. He didn't die to save his team. His team - and it was his, important to him - was already safe. All that, already safe the moment Ray Palmer took on the task of holding down the dead-man switch in the Oculus. Equally safe when #MickRory stepped up to wrest that task from Palmer's hand. And that's the crux - dare I say "the heart"? - of it.

The only person in that danger at that point was Rory. The only person Snart sacrificed himself for was Rory. Snart was perfectly willing to let anyone else take on the deadly task. Had Palmer's hand still been on the switch, Snart would've gladly escaped in the Waverider with the rest of the Legends. But leave Rory there? No. Not again. Never again. No way!

And so, when the Legion told him about his death, did Snart have some inkling of the truth? Of why he sacrificed himself? For whom? Was that the real reason he then clocked Rory, back there on the battlefield in World War I? 'Cuz down deep he knew? And he knew Rory knew? But he obviously, certainly, decidedly couldn't hug him. Kiss him. Anything like that. As he once told a tongue-tied Rory, "Mick, I don't do touchy-feely. If you got something to say, say it."

(And don't get me started on how our screwed-up culture of machismo and gender-policing has devastated generations of men by demanding, from at least kindergarten on, that they be gentle-touch avoidant among themselves. Well, actually I already did get started. Big time. Go read Twigs of a Family Tree. It's been put to bed as of today. What's left is just some Amazonian logistics. Yep, this is your stealth preview announcement.)

My #grandMya initially watched that "Destiny" episode with me. Afterwards, I expressed my ire about Snart being killed off before the first season even ended. (Yeah, what was up with that? The actor leaving when/how he did never did ring quite true with me. But that's another story. And no, I'm not going to blog about it.) I think the writers shoulda figured out how to kill off Vandal Savage first, in the penultimate S1 ep, and then closed the season with the defeat of the Time Masters and the fulfillment of Snart's life. That way, the actor would at least have gotten full-season credits. And I think it would've been stronger in that order. 'Cuz I was mightily weary of Savage's arc long before then.

But Mya offered me a fresh perspective when she said that "Everyone will always remember his last line." She didn't mean everyone in the Arrowverse. They didn't hear his last line. She meant the viewers. Everyone watching. We'd all remember that line. And how the actor delivered it.

I don't know about that. Maybe. I don't haunt fan sites, but sometimes something will serendipitously come to my attention. And I do still watch Arrowverse shows. First-run, anyway. Sometimes. Fans have speculated on all kinds of reasons for this or that being the pivotal moment when Snart's willingness to sacrifice himself - "for the team", "for the world", "for the future", "for his friends [plural]" - took root. This moment when the Legion of Doom was defeated. That moment when the Flash delivered Snart back to Siberia. Some other moment when Rory didn't kill him. Etc. And so on. Ad nauseum.

I don't buy it. None of it. Not for a second.

I haven't seen anyone else with my take on the pivotal moment. Doesn't mean there isn't anyone else. Perhaps many anyone-elses. Just means I got here by myself and I haven't run across anyone else yet who got here too. Not exactly here. Looking down at this Easter egg in my hand.

The pivotal moment, the moment that confirmed Snart on his heroic journey, the moment that sealed his legendary fate, was when - having just lost his partner and protectee/protector and erstwhile conscience to the Oculus implosion - Rory goes back in time several years to tell the unsuspecting earlier Snart (who assumes he's talking to the Rory of his time) that "You're the best guy I ever knew. You may not think you're a hero, but you're a hero to me."

Dammit, Rory set Snart up to die. Not intentionally. (I hope...unless Snart actually schooled him too well.) But he did. He even prefaced his statement with "This wasn't a good idea." But STILL he said it. He couldn't NOT say it. 'Cuz he meant it. And he needed Snart to know.

Sure as blazes was a big change from what an earlier Rory told Snart when they were both in the same present together in the midst of their common LoT trek: "You think you're some kind of hero, but deep down you're still the same punk kid I saved in juvie." Which, when you think about it, was equally true. (Article continues below.)

What Snart hears from Rory

Yeah. There were strings on Snart. One string, anyway. A heartstring. Connected to Rory. And it got pulled on. Without realizing what he was doing, Rory cursed/blessed Snart with the strength to sacrifice himself. That's why Snart lived up to his destiny. That's why he died a hero. Not through any world-embracing altruism. Team-protecting superheriosm. Sudden decision that these new friends were friends. No. For one reason. One. For one person. One. Because he loved someone. *END SPOILER ALERT*

I sat on this for a long time. But some reruns and a conversation with a friend brought it back up and I decided to try and write about it. Why? Why was it important enough to me that I remembered it all this time? Because the story, albeit fiction, was true. Because these characters, albeit fiction, were "humans being". And because....

In a TV or film (or even book) series, do you know what an "anchor" is? It's the one regular character that you as an individual viewer (or reader) anchor on. You may like and enjoy many characters, but you anchor on one. Everyone who gets deeply involved in a series, who keeps coming back to it, who even sits through the reruns (or rereads the stories), almost certainly has an anchor in that series. The one character they most identify with. Most care about. Most want to know. Love and/or hate the most.

Give you an example. Back in the dark ages, my friend David and I both started watching Blake's Seven when it was broadcast in the US. And by the end of episode 2, we both knew who our individual anchor characters were. David anchored on Olag Gan, a character described by Wikipedia as "having killed the Federation guard who murdered his girlfriend" and "courageous, strong and dedicated to Blake's cause." I anchored on Kerr Avon, described by Wikipedia as a computer genius, thief, and reluctant rebel who " distrusts emotion, and...attempts to pursue a code based on logic and reason...[which] frequently causes him conflict with Blake" and who "shows his readiness to put companions in danger in order to protect himself." (Although it says elsewhere that "Avon acts self-serving but in reality, when it comes to actions, he is more selfless than any of the others...." Heavens, another character of Snartish complexity. Am I in a rut, or what?) Not that any of that does much to describe the depth of either Blake's Seven character. To be honest, though, I doubt either David or I ever fully understood why the other anchored on the character s/he did. But I think we each understood why we had the anchor we did. Somewhat, anyway. 'Cuz a good anchorage is like an onion: there's always another layer to peel.

Anyway, Snart wasn't just my anchor in LoT. He was my anchor in the whole Arrowverse. (Hey, my anchor in everything CW that Berlanti Productions currently has a finger in the pie of.) When Snart died, nothing else in the Arrowverse was strong enough to make all those shows appointment viewing any more. Yeah, I still watch them. Sometimes. When I feel like it. And don't have something better to do. Or, for sure, when I know that Snart is going to be in an ep/rerun.

Don't know why the character resonates so. Remember, I started watching LoT because of Arthur Darvill. Unfortunately, Darvill is a bit too good at what he does. He's portrayed Captain Rip Hunter to a T. And it turned out I didn't like Captain Rip Hunter. In fact, Darvill's made it work so well that I really don't like Captain Rip Hunter. Wouldn't trust him farther than I could throw him. Wouldn't say I "like" Captain Cold/Leonard Snart, either. But I always knew that if you can just become psychically indispensable to Snart, like Rory did, he will ensure you survive. So I trust him. Always. 'Cuz he is exactly who he is. Always. He'll be himself no matter what. Even when he wears a mask, it's a mask of his devising. It's still really him. And all you have to do to survive in his world is know, understand, appreciate, complement, trust to who he always is. That resonates. He speaks to my soul. No one else in the Arrowverse (nor, for that matter, in any of the actor's other series and films) does. Not like that.

Maybe because I so value loyalty. Especially truly volitional loyalty. Maybe because he speaks his own truth. In exacting detail. Maybe because he can read your soul. And when he respects you enough to give you his true word, he keeps it. Maybe because no other Legend has seen their destiny change "for better or for worse" the way Snart has. And he's the one who saw/voiced that potential for them all. Maybe because I have a real-life inkling of what Snart felt. Both at the start and at the end. Maybe because I've been able to sometimes recognize unwonted, hard-won, even backhanded gifts. Or maybe just because I know what being a survivor - solitary, hard, emotionally frozen - is like. Dunno. Doesn't matter.

What matters is that Snart was able to make his choice, to become a hero as well as a legend, to crown the trajectory of his life with immemorial honor, because in spite of everything - or maybe because of it - he loved someone. There's hope in that (true story). For all of us.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. #WentworthMiller and #DominicPurcell have always been able to pull this kind of thing off together. "Fake it till you make it." Hear that a lot in the rooms of recovery. And Miller and Purcell attest that, through their work together in Prison Break and in the Arrowverse, they have become brothers. Scofield and Burrows. Snart and Rory. Miller and Purcell. #Wentnic is screen gold. Let me repeat that: #WentnicIsScreenGold. I almost wish I were in the industry, 'cuz I have a couple of "Wentnic" projects I'd love to pitch. Preferably to Greg Berlanti.

Sun, Jun 26, 2022 at 10:31 PM, Nancy B wrote:
  I came back and reread this old entry because I wondered about the context of the Aphorism you posted yesterday. I noticed that you got the one a week ago from this article too. It certainly is a long one.
  What you said at the end is true, and important. "He loved someone. There's hope in that for all of us."
  I think, though, that we're seeing a change in our culture. (You know, there are some cultures where men just hug without having to make it macho by pounding each other's backs, and kiss, and hold hands or lock arms while walking together, and no one accuses them of being too touch-feely.) I think more men in our culture are slowly becoming willing to give and receive what you call "gentle touch" from each other. Gay men and straight men both, even with each other, because they see it as just a sign of friendship. That's brotherly love and it's much healthier.


Lucki responds to Nancy B:
  You came back to reread something after five years?! I'm impressed. And gratified. Guess you realy liked, or were intrigued by, the 2022-06-25 poster. Yes, there've been two posted from this article so far; and there'll be four more, so stay turned. (Buat then, you always do, don't you?)
  That image of unconditional, redemptive love really resonated with me, too. When writer, director, and actor offer us such a profound example - no, exemplar - of the best in the worst of us, even as an uplifting fiction, hope can well up like a fountain. The trick is to keep that hope alive. To protect and nurture it until it's big enough, strong enough, pervasive enough to become an ingrained cultural meme of its own. Something we accept as just the way things are.
  Maybe you're right. Maybe it's already happening. I don't see it as much as you apparently do. But maybe you're seeing things better than I am.
One can, indeed, always hope.

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"My grandmother started walking five miles a day when she was sixty.
She's ninety-seven now, and we don't know where the heck she is."  -- Ellen DeGeneres

Did something special yesterday. Didn't start out that way. Or at least I didn't realize it did. I was just laxed out from having shipped the publication mockup of Twigs off to our authors' editor. So I didn't even bother with the computer for the day. I ran a bunch of errands, all within walking distance. I watched a bunch of TV. I had a long phone chat with a good friend. And I grooved to music. SonicTap. The retro disco channel. Dance, dance, dance. And by time the day was done (i.e., midnight Sunday to midnight Monday), I had logged an interesting number of steps on my pedometer.

Steps on my pedometer - walkingI started using my pedometer on April 22, 2015. For me, a mile is 3,520 steps. That's in a combo of walking and dancing. The ratio depends mostly on the weather. I felt that the dancing wasn't really as exercise-intensive as the walking, because the steps aren't quite as long. My physical therapist recently begged to differ. Walking, she said, is a natural movement. We've evolved for it. Our bodies are very efficient at it. Anything that takes us out of that normal forward direction, like dancing side to side, is less efficient and therefore harder work. Hmmm, learn something new every day.

My daily goal at the start was 5,000 steps. Never missed it. Even doubled it once. By July 1, I was ready to jack the goal up to 5,280 steps, 1.5 miles. Kept that up the rest of the year. Never missed it. Not even on my Vancouver Island trip. Even the days on the train, I got off to walk at every opportunity, plus walked back and forth through the quarter-mile of train a lot. Which ain't easy on the roll. Not until you get your sea legs. If ever. Elsewhen, doubled the goal several times. Tripled it once. Learned my time averaged out to about 1 minute per 100 steps, depending on things like surface conditions (walking), the beat (dancing), stopping a moment to do something (like get some H2O, or await a light). It made planning easier.

Steps on my pedometer - dancingAt the start of 2016, I upped my goal to 5,555, just for fun. Never missed it. Often doubled and tripled it. Quadrupled it a time or two. Even managed to quintuple it once. Also attended our Naw-Rúz party and got to dancing. Kind of amazed the bro I did most of my dancing with. By the end of the third long, fast dance, he was ready to quit for a bit. Well, to do him justice, he hadn't taken off his suit coat, so I think overheating accounted for most of it. I was dressed more lightly. But when he asked how I was so ready to keep going, I mentioned that all through the winter, when I couldn't go out walking, I danced for an hour or more every day. (I didn't bring up how the two sisters I danced a lot with were also staying on the floor, too. No need to rub his nose in the fact that men are built for high exertion, but women for long endurance.)

Anyway, by July 1, I was once again ready to jack it up. To 7,040, 2 miles. Amazingly, though, I actually always doubled it. Occasionally tripled it. Enough of that silliness, then. On October 1, I set my beeper to 10,000 steps (where it remains to this day), just for the fun of hearing it go off. And on January 1, 2017, I jacked up to the present goal of 14,080, 4 miles. And I've still never missed it.

No, that's not quite true. I missed it once. By 108 steps. I was actually dancing at midnight. The pedometer zeroed out. But the song wasn't over yet, so I kept on dancing. By the end of it, I had an extra 154 steps. I added that back to the previous day's total of 13,972. Then zeroed out the pedometer again before heading off to bed. Yeah, I know: I cheated. Sue me.

All of which brings us to yesterday. So, Lucki (I hear you say), shut up with all the boring background and tell us what made yesterday special.

All right, I will.

Yesterday, I racked up … are you ready? ... wait for it ... OK ... 46,394 steps! That's the equivalent of 13 miles 317 yards of footwork. A half marathon is 13 miles 192.5 yards. Which I beat. By 124.5 yards. Me. At my age. Guess I'm in pretty good shape for the shape I'm in.

Can't wait to catch that dude (those ladies, even) on the dance floor again.

Khoda hafez,

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"Trust the universe and respect your hair."  -- Bob Marley

Met a new friend in the Jewel's today. She struck up a conversation in the frozen dinners aisle. Complimented my dreads. I said thanx. We went from there. Talking about hair. A little about the politics of. A lot about the care and feeding of. She wanted to know where I'd been umpty-bump years ago when she was trying to grow locs. And was, she now discovered, carefully doing all the wrong things. She's enthused about dreads again. She's got my phone number now. She's gonna call. I look forward to some long, fun convos.

If anyone is interested in any care-and-feeding tips, lemme know. Maybe I'll blog on that a time or two. After all, why not pass on my couple of decades of experience. Some of it gleaned from other people's tips. A lot of it discovered by doing all the wrong things myself. Still sometimes make this or that mistake.

But for now, I just wanted to share two items that are more from the politics side of our discussion. Why? Not sure. Just feels worth doing.

The first is something that came up back, I dunno, somewhere just past the turn of the century. It happened when I was a frequenter of stage (American Moor, Coriolanus, Julius Caesar, Midsummer's Night Dream, Ruined, etc.) and screen (All My Children, Andromeda, Eyes Beyond Seeing, Noah's Arc, The Young & the Restless, etc.) actor #KeithHamiltonCobb's website message board. And also ended up writing the FAQ cum glossary for it: A to Z on the KHCMB. Enjoyed the day when he approved the final content draft and up it went. And stayed there as long as the MB itself did. The fans seemed to love it, too.

Keith Hamilton Cobb thenKeith Hamilton Cobb nowAnyway, back then Cobb was rocking an awesome set of leonine locs himself. These are his pix from then (left) in Andromeda and now (right) in American Moor. Sometimes he'd comment about his dreads on his MB. One day, he mentioned, with disdain, someone asking him how he washed his dreads. "With shampoo," he had snippily replied.

Well, I was one of the MBers known at times to beard the leonine in his den. Not 'cuz I thought myself privileged, writing something for him. Just 'cuz that's how/who I am. And I don't know whether he respected me for that and that led him to approve my writing, or vice versa. Or both. Or neither. It's not like we were so close I could suss it out. Or, for that matter, just plain ask him. Maybe someday. In any case, I took a bit of public issue with how he responded to his questioner.

Now, Cobb could've been absolutely spot on. He never really described the circumstances for us. His questioner might very well have been talking, writing, thinking in that wrinkled-nose tone of voice that says "I'm picking on something I can feel superior about" or "You're just so odd you belong in a zoo." In which case, a snippy reply could be considered the mildest of just deserts (or desserts, if you're into punning). But it's also possible the questioner was seriously curious. Really wanted to understand if there were special issues or techniques unique to dreads. (Which, yes, there are.) And was willing to ask someone they trusted would surely know. An expert through personal experience.

I've had people ask me essentially the same thing. They've ranged from uncouth to mildly curious to seeking comprehension to requesting advice. When the question is real, I'm willing to spend time giving a real answer. When it's not, when they're just throwing shade, I'm tempted to steal Cobb's response, file off the serial numbers, and....

Even maybe go change into one of those "Yes, I have dreadlocks. Yes, I wash them." T-shirts you can get all over the Net. In your face!

The other item is something that happened to me at a big business conference in a fancy hotel in the Loop. There I am in my business suit, walking briskly through the large entrance hall with my briefcase in my right hand and my conference materials in the crook of my left arm. And suddenly I'm tugged slightly aback by a hand on my dreads.

I'm in what my head expects is a safe place; so I don't instinctively drop my stuff and spin around swinging. I turn quickly, yes, but quell the adrenaline rush and hang on to everything. And before I can even voice a polite version of WTF, the white lady who'd sped up behind me and laid hold of my locs without a by-your-leave, or any warning whatsoever, starts berating me 'cuz she only wanted to feel what they were like and now she's got some kinda stuff all over her hand.

Well, shoot, sugah, if'n y'all 'ud axed me first kin ya mess wit' my hair, I might coulda warnedja 'bout de beeswax, like.

Who did she think she was? Entitled? 'Cuz this was definitely the modern business version of those smarmy, hair-brained whites who'd go around all the time rubbing the close-cropped heads of little black boys. Get off! I ain't your touchy-feely petting-zoo exhibit. Or your animate good-luck charm (name notwithstanding). Or even your obligatory educator in all things black(ish). Keep your frikkin' paws to yourself.

My Jewel friend laughed. And concurred. Imagine - hope - you do, too.

Khoda hafez,

P.S. Decided against getting a frozen dinner. Went home and cooked something. Cheaper. Healthier. Also pondered how Cobb is one of the "angels" who made Twigs of a Family Tree happen. Which is why he's on the dedication page. If they ever turn our family bio into a play or something (won't be holding my breath), hope he gets a juicy role.

P.P.S. Another time I took issue with Cobb on his MB was when he said something to the effect that since racism wasn't something we could solve on his MB, we shouldn't get into it there at all. My question was: If we can never bring it up anyplace where we're not going to right-there solve it, wherever will we be able to bring it up at all? And if we can never bring it up at all, how will we ever (even start to) deal with it? I'm pleased that this articulate actor has come a long way from that viewpoint of his. Maybe I contributed some infinitesimal iota to that growth, but that's neither here nor there. Point is, he seems very vocal about it now. Wherever he's offered a forum. That's why he wrote American Moor four years ago. Engages in post-performance conversations with his audiences. Takes advantage of other forums this offers him, such as speaking at a recent symposium on "Shakespeare, Race, and the Practical Humanities". Kudos.

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"The love of one's country is a splendid thing. But why should love stop at the border?"  -- Pablo Casals

Seattle's King Street Station - exteriorSeattle's King Street Station - InteriorHalloween. Seattle. King Street Station. One of those "golf carts" for disabled passengers drove me and my luggage from the train, through the station, outside, and around the corner to the terminal for the thruway buses. I had some time to wait, but not enough to want to check my luggage and try going anyplace. Not even to eat. Those snacks from Vangie and the Metro Lounge sufficed. And I did some walking around the little plaza where the buses pull up. Gotta get in those steps every day, right?

While on the train, I'd been able to use Lily's cell a few times when we were in fairly large cities. Letting family and friends (and cats) know how I was progressing. For most of the three days, though, the cell phone made a great paperweight. No service. Not US service, anyway. And I couldn't take advantage of any towers from over the Canadian border, 'cuz the phone only had US service. So Seattle was pretty much my last chance to communicate with family and friends (and cats) until I made it to Mead's house. Unfortunately, I'd be too late getting there to actually do Halloween stuff with Shoghi. But, hey, can't have everything.

Unusual building in Seattle, WAIt was a pleasant wait for the Cantrail bus to Vancouver, BC. A Google search had shown me that Seattle does some oddball things with big buildings. As I sat with my snack and the cell phone, I was able to catch a good shot of one right near the train station. I suspect that on a clear day, it would be blazingly reflective. But Seattle is the cloudiest city in the contiguous 48. Averages 226 cloudy days a year. So no surprise that I arrived on one of them

The bus had two drivers. Dan was the trainer. Brent was his trainee. The one doing the driving. Brent wasn't learning how to drive. He already knew that very well. He had just moved over from Greyhound to Cantrail, and was learning the Seattle-Vancouver route and Cantrail ticket protocols. I sat in the second seat behind the driver and watched the training with interest. I was most surprised to learn that the driver has leeway regarding which routes to take in and between cities and over the border. Dan talked Brent along a specific route, and also described alternates he might want to use based on day, time, traffic conditions, and so on.

And yes, I saw the Needle. But contrary to the ubiquitous images from film and comic book, you really can't see it from absolutely everywhere in Seattle. In fact, I didn't see it until we were already past it. So I wasn't in a good position to try to catch a shot as we were moving. Not to worry, though. I expected I'd have a much better chance when we approached Seattle on my trip home.

I dozed for part of the way, so may have missed various somethings of interest. I did notice us going through a torrential rainfall. But the sky was clear by time we reached the Pacific Highway border crossing. Odd experience there. We filled out our declarations. All our luggage was unloaded from the bus, as we had to take everything with us into the building. There we answered a set of pro forma questions by a front-line agent. I was the only person from the bus who didn't pass the test. Had to go sit and wait for a next-level agent. Couldn't figure out why.

But while I was waiting, I watched the extended questioning of a young backpacker who'd apparently been there since before our bus even arrived. The gist of the situation was that the special agent he'd been sent to didn't believe this tourist was coming into Canada just to visit. Seemed suspicious that the young man was planning to enter and illegally disappear. The weird part was that the more he tried to convince the agent he was just visiting, the deeper a hole he dug himself. Even my untrained ear sussed that out. All wide-eyed and innocent-ish. Volunteer info. Back and fill. Volunteer something else. More and more off the wall. He was still trying to be persuasive as the upline agent with my passport fiddled with his computer for a moment, then called me up, simply handed me back my passport, and let me go. I suspect the "tourist" and his backpack never did get across that border.

I spent the rest of the ride feeling bad that I'd held everyone up. And trying to figure out what happened. And I think I got it. One of the questions the front-line agent asked was "Have you visited Canada before?" And my answer was "Yes." "When?" I was asked. I thought back. The first time I visited Canada as an adult and a passport holder was when three friends and I traveled to Detroit, then over to Windsor for the night. We were in a car. An agent came to the window, asked to look at each of our passports, asked us where we'd been born, and let us through. (This was obviously before computers ruled the roost.) Well then, that was an easy answer. "Decades ago. Windsor," I said. And that's when I got kicked upline.

Well, silly me. Asked if I'd ever been to Canada, I recounted my first time. To Windsor. Not my last time. To Winnipeg. For Mead and Marielle's wedding. But that Winnipeg trip is obviously the one that came up on the computer, while Windsor did not. And her protocol was to escalate the discrepancy up to the next level. But the upline guy probably figured I was old enough that either I had indeed also traveled to Windsor before computers were ubiquitous, or I was going senile and got the names Windsor and Winnipeg mixed up. Whatever. Plus which, obviously I'd gone home from the Winnipeg trip like I was supposed to. So me and my luggage got back in the bus, and off we went. Ten minutes late.

On to Vancouver. It was an awesome sight as we crested a hill, turned, and saw the towers of Vancouver spread out before us. We drove down and in among them so quickly that I never got a good shot. Or any shot at all. We rolled into the bus terminal still that ten minutes late. Leaving about five minutes to spare to get over to the second thruway bus that would take me to Vancouver Island. And that's where having two drivers really came in handy.

When I asked Brent to help me get to the second bus, Dan volunteered to take care of the first bus in Brent's stead. Dan opined that since the Seattle-Vancouver bus was the feeder to the ferry bus, they might have to wait for ticketholders anyway. But why take chances? So Brent, me, and my luggage made tracks for the thruway bus to the ferry and thence the island. And we made it to the appropriate Pacific Coach Lines kiosk exactly at the 5:30 PM departure time.

Which is where and when the Halloween Horror began.

Khoda hafez,

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"Water does not resist. Water flows. … Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you.
But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient.
Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water.
If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does."  -- Margaret Atwood

I'd planned to put a note of thanks in an enveloped copy of Infinite Blessings with my trip tip for Pete. The Whitefish, MT stop seemed the likely place. But it turned out to be one of the places we lost internal power. So that didn't work. And trying to write something neatly while a train is moving is messy. Essentially impossible. At least for me. So I hoped to wake up in Spokane, WA, and write during the half-hour stop. Before that, though, we stopped on a siding at one point to let a high-speed freight train pass us (for safety's sake, passenger trains go slower than freight). And I decided to take a chance and write my note then.

Good thing, 'cuz I didn't really wake all the way up in Spokane, despite the jostling and rocking as the cars were moved back and forth several times to decouple the Portland-bound engine, observation lounge, coach, and sleeper cars and recouple the Seattle-bound engine, sleeper, coach, and dining cars. (Yep, Seattle passengers were getting a full breakfast in the dining car. Portland passengers had to settle for boxed meals. GLOAT.) But at least I knew I was firmly in the Pacific Time Zone. Another lifetime first.

Lots & lots of rain
Thanks in part to all the rain, I missed our only stop in Idaho
"One Race - Human" T-shirt
She really liked the T-shirt she saw me wearing yesterday
Flashflood warnings
Because of flashflood warnings, our train was going very slowly

Rivers rising
They needed that rain out there, but not all at once like that

Rivers raging
The rivers were not only high & rising, they were raging

Puget Sound, very choppy
Even Puget Sound was very choppy

Little teeny spit of land for the train tracks
Our train ran along the very edge of that teeny, low spit of the land

This strip of land between me and the waves
This thin strip of terra firma between me and the waves

Signs of heavy shipping
Signs of heavy shipping after a long dry-land spell

Double-decker rows of boats on the waterfront in Edmund, WA
Edmunds, WA - Double-decker rows of boats on the waterfront

Two paragrliders out over the water
Paragliders over the water. Yeah, there's two of them. Look hard.

Locks on the way to Seattle, WA
A set of locks on our way out to Seattle, WA

Thanks to power outage, darkness, eventual rain, and what-all, I'd missed our only stop in Idaho, Sandpoint. As well as most of  the Rockies, Marias Pass, the glaciers, and the third longest tunnel in the Western Hemisphere. Not to worry. In a couple of weeks, I'd be coming back through them during the daytime. But for now, the start of my final morning on the train, I found myself encountering a new Leavenworth, this one in Washington. With breakfast time about to start, I gave Pete his envelope as he helped move all of my baggage into one location near the lower door of the sleeping car.

I had breakfast with Charlotte. Then I sat with Frank and Vangie for a while. Also learned that by time I head back to Chicago, the Empire Builder menu will rotate. Different selections. What fun. Frank headed for the observation lounge. Vangie and I went back to their roomette and talked. She told me she really liked the T-shirt she saw me wearing yesterday, and we talked about the importance of the concept it sets forth. Along with a copy of Infinite Blessings, I gave her one of The Three Onenesses. She gave me two croissants. I shared one with her, and stashed the other with the snacks I'll have while awaiting the northbound bus in Seattle: a bottle of water from the train and one cookie and two Doritos snack bags saved from the Metro Lounge.

Because of flashflood warnings, our train was going very slowly. Slow enough for the engineer to personally see any dangerous spots and be able to stop. There were actually two types of danger. One easier to see than the other. The easy kind was anything across the tracks. An uprooted tree. An avalanche of mud. Like that. .The harder-to-see was nothing under the tracks. Places where the earthen support under the tracks might have been undercut and washed away. He was taking no chances. Just in case.

They needed that rain out there. But not all at once like that. Not only were the rivers high and rising, they were raging. Even Puget Sound itself was very choppy. All during that part of the trip, our train tracks ran along the very edge of the land. The coastal rocks. Looking out my roomette window and seeing this thin strip of terra firma between me and the waves was a bit queasy-making. On the other hand, It was nice to eventually see signs of heavy shipping after a long dry-land spell. And I got a chuckle out of the double-decker rows of boats on the waterfront at Edmonds, WA, our last stop before Seattle. Boats in the air. Like they had gone to high ground because of all the rain. It was also fun seeing the paragliders out over the water as the horizon showed some sunlight breaking through. They're something I haven't seen much of in Chicago.

Ya know, people don't think of Chicago as a sea-coast town, but it really is. There's a reason the Great Lakes (all six of them; everyone forgets li'l ol' Lake St. Clair there in the middle) is called an inland sea. And not just because the area used to BE sea bottom. The Great Lakes chain borders and separates two countries. It has been the breeding ground of extratropical cyclones with as high as 90-mile/hour hurricane winds and 35-foot waves. It has it's share of big, deep shipwrecks. Naval battles have been fought on it. It has yielded 300-pound fish. (I don't care if it ain't a shark. If it's eight feet long, I don't wanna mess with it.) It has a huge effect on both weather patterns and climate. The only thing lacking is salt water.

We crossed a set of locks on our way out to Seattle, WA. I also eventually saw the Victoria Clipper pier. The Seattle ferry directly to Vancouver Island. The pier really is far from the King Street train station. I was glad I'd instead chosen to go from Seattle by thruway bus to Vancouver, and then by ferry to Vancouver Island. After all, I'd probably never have another chance to see the real Hollywood North.

Midday-ish, we came into Seattle late but safe. I still had a few hours to wait for the bus to Vancouver. I bade my remaining car mates adieu. Also Pete. He called "Goodbye, Lucki" from the car door. He looked almost sad to see us go. I was sorry to see him go, too. But hey, life moves on. His. Mine. Everyone's. Next phase of my journey coming up.

Khoda hafez,

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"There is more to life than simply increasing its speed."  -- Mahatma Gandhi

As promised, the saga continues. I enjoyed sitting down to my lunch with Frank (again), his wife Vangie, and Ruby, who were close to finishing up theirs. After they left, I got to talk with Mike (again) and his table mates. Finally, I got to chat with Fen, his mom, and their table mates. At one point, one of them noted that it had been cloudy but was now sunny.

"After all," she concluded, "that was then and this is now."
"More like: that," I answered, "was there and this is here."
"Good point," she said.

Fen & Mommy in the next roomette
Fen and Mommy were in the roomette next to mine
Mary, dining car attendant, Portland end
Mary, dining car attendant,
Portland end
Some snow-covered ground
Finally, some snow covering the ground

Our eastbound sister train
Couldn't click fast enough to catch the front of our sister train

Some areas still had green ground cover
Some areas still had green ground cover

Havre, MT history - Great Northern Railway steam locomotive
Havre, MT - Great Northern Railway steam locomotive

Havre, MT history - Sculpture representing "US-Canada Friendship"
Havre, MT - Sculpture/flags repre-
senting "US-Canada Friendship"

Sweet Grass Hills rising starkly from the plains
Sweet Grass Hills rising starkly from the plains

Striking, sun-washed flattop
Striking, sun-washed flattop; the sun shining through our windows

Fen and Mommy were traveling in the roomette on the other side of mine from Mike. When I had stopped by to introduce myself, Fen proved to be an amenable, willing child (though by the end of his trip, he was more than ready to be shut of the train). He came to me and even motioned me to pick him up. "Stranger danger" didn't seem to be part of his mental vocabulary. At that time, I gave his mom a card pointing to the children's stuff on this website.

Since we were at the Portland end of the dining car, Mary was our server instead of Lynne. The service was equally excellent. And I finally got to look out at some snow covering the ground. Or perhaps it's snow covering ice on a pond. Or maybe I was totally wrong and it was really a small salt flat. Because the next pond I saw was liquid. Hard to tell for sure when stuff goes by so fast.

Speaking of fast, that afternoon we eventually pulled onto a siding in the middle of nowhere. The announcement told us it was to let our eastbound sister train for the day pass by. So I was prepped for it. Seated in my roomette. Leaning against the window to see as far ahead of us as possible. Camera up to my eye. And that baby came by so fast I still couldn't click fast enough to catch the very front of it. And boy oh boy, did that bow wave rock us!

We lost half an hour again getting stuck behind a freight train. But hey, it's their tracks we were using, so fair's fair. Pete said we'd make up the time by Spokane, Washington. I asked how his day was treating him. He said his back hurt sometimes, but he took some aspirin and that helped. He confirmed that the white stuff I'd seen was ice; the shallow ponds were icy, the deeper ones still liquid. Some areas still had green ground cover, even. He also confirmed that the weird landscape we'd passed through was indeed the Badlands that extend down into South Dakota.

Like many of the stations, Havre, MT was home to some interesting artifacts. Havre's were historical: a Great Northern Railway steam locomotive and a sculpture representing "US-Canada Friendship". Soon after, I saw the Sweet Grass Hills rising starkly from the plains of the US/Canadian border. Running fifty miles east to west, they can be seen for such incredible distances - staying in my view for over an hour - that you might reasonably mistake these buttes and their interspersed hills for part of the Rockies. But they're not. Soon after that cloudy vista, I got a good shot of a striking, sun-washed flattop, as the sun shone through the train's windows in moving bands onto the rolling land. And not too long later, I saw the first snow-covered peak. Well, hey, it's called Montana for a reason.

Enjoyed supper with Mark, his son-in-law James, and a fellow long-time 12-stepper whose anniversary had started the month. After supper, she and I went to a quiet corner of the observation car. Had a brief "meeting". Shared our stories. And I gave her, too, a copy of Infinite Blessings as an 11th-step gift. You see now why I wanted to carry some in my little purse.

Around 9 PM, I asked Pete when we'd reach our high point over the Rockies. Marias Pass. Within spittin' distance of a mile up. He told me we already had, and were on the down-slope. Missed it, and all of Glacier Park, in the dark. Wow, there I was, west of the Continental Divide for the first time in my life. And never noticed a thing. Guess those bananas really worked.

End of a long, full day. Time to hit the sack again. I was tired enough, despite the fact that the other thing those roomettes definitely are anything-but is sound-proofed. LOL

Khoda hafez,

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"I'm not fat, I'm sturdy!"  -- Ethel Mae

Grain elevators, old & new - an agrarian GormenghastPicking up my 2015 BC trip entries from the end of last year, Williston - with its clusters of old and new grain elevators rising above it like some agrarian Gormenghast - was our last stop in North Dakota. And in the Central Time Zone. And it was here that I captured a pic of Bruce. With one of his people.

Along with his human couple, Bruce rode in one of the full-size rooms in my sleeper. The easy-going English bull dog was a trained seizure-service dog. At 60 pounds, he was a pretty hefty hound.

Yeah, I know, technically he's not in the Hound Group. The American Kennel Club puts him in Non-Sporting Group. Pretty ironic for a breed previously bred for the so-called sport of bull- and bear-baiting. The Kennel Club in the UK classifies him as a Utility dog. The United Kennel Club, with their emphasis on performance as well as looks, seems to get closest to the mark by putting him in the Companion Class.

Bruce the bulldog & one of his peopleThe dining car staff worked with Bruce's people every day to ensure he received nutritional, hydration-balanced, low-residue meals. After all, the train couldn't just stop 'cuz Bruce (with his co-person --->) needed to go. But when we did stop, Bruce was right there at the car door, waiting to get taken for walkies. Obviously very relieved. (Arrgggh, horrid pun. Sorry.) Problem was, Bruce didn't always understand the pit-stop urgency. After all, stations didn't just have places where one could conduct one's business. They were also full of doggie newspapers. Places to sniff to see who'd been there. What kind of a who they were. Gender. Health. Diet. Social status. And all the other things a canine nose knows. And Bruce also, I suppose, had his own internal pedometer. Exercise was important. Also slo-o-ow.

The attendants, conductors, and engineers were very cognizant of Bruce's needs. When he was out - and he was sometimes even able to go out when no others passengers could (at brief pick-up/let-off stops) - they'd watch carefully to ensure he had as much time as possible, yet always made it back in. He wasn't even necessarily expected to respond to the general all-aboard calls at the longer rest stops. Once all other passengers were in, if Bruce was still out, the engine staff would watches-watch until the last possible moment. But when the schedule said you have to go NOW or else, they had to go now. So they'd call out, "Now, Bruce. We gotta go now!"

I never did catch a pic of what happened when Bruce's co-person, his person's husband, heard that final call. But I remember him - and you can picture it - suddenly picking up 60 pounds of startled bulldog in a tummy hold. And running for the sleeper door. Where Pete helped lift first Bruce and then his co-person into the car and slammed the door shut. And off we'd go, bulldog and all, the track (singular, way out here) once more receding endlessly behind us.

Welcome to Wolf Point, MTIn what seemed a tribute to Bruce's ancestry, we eventually reached our first stop in Montana. Wolf Point. Don't know what it meant to him. If anything, beyond the usual relief. But it meant I knew for sure that I'd entered a time zone I'd never, ever been in before. And Rey wanted to fly me in a plane over all this? Pffft! Boy howdy, am I glad he was willing to change the plan. It was so interesting.

Before lunch, I started to doze in the observation car, then woke myself back up. After all, how would I know if I missed something? Like, say, the two colorful dinos in a yard just east of Malta, MT? Or those cows I told you about that ran away from the train west of Malta? Plus which, if I slept now, I'd likely be wakeful again tonight. Nope, sagas work better when you're awake for them. This one will continue next time.

Khoda hafez,

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U N - E E L

"Lucki, So far this year we've encountered four small copperheads up at the cabin. I've taken to hooking them into a bucket and relocating them far enough away that they should not return, but not so far that they can't find their den. Like the rattler, they're turning out to be quite laid-back and non-aggressive. Two of the four have been found on the same stone terrace as that rattler."  -- Tom Ligon

I ended my entries last year by telling you about animals wild and domestic seen on my train ride west. Mammalian and avian, that is. So as a segue from that to regaling you with the Bruce story and further highpoints of the journey, let me catch up on some old business of the reptilian kind. A capper to the ongoing sharing of snake stories, on and off this site, that famed SF author Tom Ligon and I started back in the dark ages.

Ah yes, laid-back pit vipers.

The last time I remember encountering one, many years ago, I was out swimming at a lake-side cabin after summer sunset. A friend on the bank called my attention to an eel swimming behind me. I touched bottom. Looked around. Saw from my angle that the "eel" was swimming on rather than in the water, head held high. Eels don't do that. Most snakes don't even do that. So instead of splashing at it to get it to move away, I got very still and quiet and watched it swim by. Triangular head and all.

Swimming cottonmouthActually, it wasn't that big a cottonmouth - water moccasin, as some people call 'em - only about a foot and a half long, maybe two feet at most. I was surprised to see one so far north. Wondered however did it get there. But that "cotton" mouth was a, um, dead giveaway. When it swam through the moonlight path on the water, its colors showed up, so it must have been fairly young. Maybe some idiot had brought it northward as a neolate and then let it escape, or dumped it when it got too big. Jerkwad. The idiot, not the adder.

It had apparently holed up in the rock retaining wall of the bank during the hot day, and was now on its way to who-knows-where (probably the little wild island in the middle of the lake) to find supper. Or, in its case, breakfast. Plenty around for it to eat, especially in active foraging mode: island rodents, cygnets, baby snapping turtles, small fry in the shallows. Since I was too big to swallow and didn't threaten it, it was quite satisfied to swim on by about six inches away. Well, maybe a foot away. But it felt like half that. Or closer. Viper didn't even bother to stretch its intimidating whitish mouth all the way open, though. It seemed contented with its summery lot in life so far. But I doubted it'd make it through a New England winter.

You know, one thing I find interesting about the pit vipers is the tail's-end comparison. Because most rattlesnake species retain and add to their tail beads when they molt, they shake their noisemaker tail tips to warn off potential threats. Cottonmouths and copperheads will also shake their tails to distract predators into going for the tail instead of the head. On the other hand, sometimes they may, especially the young ones with their bright yellow tail tips, undulate or quiver or "rattle" their soundless tails to attract prey. It's easy to see the evolutionary link that nevertheless resulted in different, even opposite, uses.

And thanx, Tom, for giving me fodder for yet another Abiding Blog entry.

Butterflies, Viceroy & MonarchKhoda hafez,

P.S. In a form of possibly defensive mimicry in behavior, some non-poisonous snakes may also shake their tails to scare off predators who might think they've encountered a viper. Just like, it has been hypothesized, the viceroy butterfly's mimicry in appearance of the larger monarch butterfly may ward off predators who've learned by repeated experience that monarchs can taste bitter.

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"I knew Silver for my whole life and I will not forget…."

Preface -- This is how you calculate years for Felis silvestris catus: Take the number of human years. Multiply by 5. Then - and here's the part people usually forget - add 7. Because in their first year, cats mature at the rate of about 1 cat year for every 1 human month. After that, they slow down to 5 cat years for every 1 human year.

Sir Herrington Silverstone - Silver, for short - was a rescue. Most all my cats have ever been. I got him in his gawky juvenile phase. Around a year old. The equivalent of a human just about to enter their teens. Two neighbor kids were out with him. They never did tell me their name for him. Assuming they even had one, other than Gato. They asked if I wanted to take him. 'Cuz they couldn't keep him. I didn't know why at the time. But I said "sure" anyway.

I soon found out why. Silver had some kind of chronic bowel condition that caused incessant ploppiness. Which, of course, also led to dehydration. The vet told me I had to give him this special food that cost nearly ten times more than what I always fed my cats. The week's worth of packets I bought worked. I couldn't afford to keep buying that, though. Fortunately, I didn't have to. I decided to try a way-less-expensive, home-style remedy. To give canned pumpkin a chance. And it worked. So every November, I'd stock up on a year's worth of house-brand canned pumpkin at the local discount market. He got a heaping teaspoon with every meal. And he loved it. He'd eat the pumpkin first. And no more ploppiness. In fact, after half his life on pumpkin-inclusive meals, I learned that his bowel condition had cleared up and he didn't need it any more. Still occasionally got it as a much-loved treat, though.

Sir Herrington Silverstone (right) and Black Angelfish Princess - Silver & Angel, for short<-- BTW, that's Mya's Black Angelfish Princess - Angel - there in the picture with Silver. watching him do one of his "tricks". Standing up to nibble a treat. He had me well trained.

After his year with the family that saw fit to dump him instead of trying to help him, Silver lived with me for eighteen and a half years. (I'm not sure he'd have made it eighteen and a half weeks - or days - if he'd just been thrown into the alley to fend for himself. Not with that medical condition.) So he reached the equivalent of around 105.

About the last six months of his life, though, everything was failing fast. His kidneys shut down. Water went through him like, well, water. He lost his appetite. Weight melted off. He no longer kept his nails trimmed or coat clean and groomed. Had to do that for him. His bowel condition came back. Even pumpkin didn't help much. Occasionally, he couldn't even make it to the litter in time. Which made it a good thing I don't have carpets. That meant, though, that I didn't dare let him sleep in my bed any more. That was very sad, because he always loved cuddling under the covers with me, be it a light sheet in pleasant weather or a snug pile of blankets in winter.

But the one thing he always did manage, until very near the end, was to levitate up to and down from the top shelf (the "penthouse" at my eye level) of the five-level cat condo, which is directly under one of the heat/air vents in the living room. So, after he was too ill to sleep with me, he'd always sleep snuggled up there with Angel. Probably helped him stay warm.

And at 9:18 PM last Tuesday, he died. Quietly. In my arms. I called my #grandMya right away to let her know. And after we finished talking, she posted this eulogy on her FB page.

Mya's eulogy to Silver on her Facebook page

She got a lot of sympathy emojis in response. And a number of text comments. Her dad's was the first, a couple of minutes after 10: a simple *R.I.P. Silver*. Mead's was two minutes later: "I'm so sorry to read this. Silver was such an awesome cat. I'm certain Shoghi will be sad, too."

Mead was right. Silver was awesome. He got along with everyone. He was bold. He was very, very vocal; and the range of sounds he could voice was amazing. He was a purr factory. He knew when his human needed a snuggle. He loved to lap sit. Sometimes, at my invitation, he would jump up. Keep his back feet on my lap. Put his front paws up on my chest. And just drape himself against my torso. He was accepting of a figure-8 leash when it meant we could go sit in the sun and breeze on the back porch.

Silver had more tricks than just getting treats. I'd sometimes find him in my fully-made bed. A lump under the covers. Which were otherwise totally undisturbed. How he managed that, I'm not quite sure. Teleportation? Telekinesis? Whatever, Angel never figured that trick out. She finally gave up trying, but would lie atop the covers next to the Silver-y lump. Twice, though, he apparently figured out how to get her in there with him. I was surprised when I threw back the covers to move him, and him was a them.

That eulogy's not all Mya did. There's a public FB site she sometimes frequents and occasionally comments on. A site with well over one and a half million (!) likes/followers. That site's owner posted, as part of a month-long daily self-care chronicle: Today self-care looked like a "share size" bag of peanut butter M&Ms I didn't share.  #sorrynotsorry  What did it look like for you?

And Mya told me she posted this response: I told Grams about your self-care chronicle, and she told me today self-care looks like wrapping 19-year-old Silver cat in a big towel and holding him close so that the last thing he knows is warmth and softness and the sound of a heartbeat (which is the first thing he knew even before he was born). Like letting him go gentle into his good night. Like not raging, raging against the dying of his light.

Yep, that's what I'd told her. It wasn't an easy thing to do, all that. But it was the right thing to do.

The week before Silver died, I went with David - as I had promised - to bury one of his cats, BW, that died of FIV. It had been a big, young, and beautiful, but unadoptable, male that David "inherited" - when cancer took her life - from the animal-care person he'd sometimes worked for. The day and the ground were cold. But not totally frozen. There wasn't even snow cover. We found a beautiful spot amidst a logfall, across the way from where we had buried Ascii years before. And as with Ascii, we noticed a couple of deer nearby, as we used big swaths of broken-off bark to form a protective little coffin for BW. David promised to bring me back to lay Silver in the same grave when it was time.

When Silver died, he was no longer young. Or big. Or even beautiful (body-wise). He was old. Worn down. Mostly skin and bones. He was ready to let go. And I let him. No traumatic vet visits. No intrusive measures to keep him alive just for my sake. He wasn't in pain. He was just winding down naturally. My job then was simply to make him as comfortable as possible. When he could no longer jump up to the penthouse, I made him a warm, soft nest a few inches off the floor. When he could no longer climb into the tall-walled litter box, I lifted and held him in it so he could relieve his final urge. When he could no longer lift himself out of the nest, or even stand in it, when all he could do was lift his head and weakly call for me, I wrapped him in a big warm towel and sat in my rocker holding him. He gradually faded away. I heard his last breath and saw the moment the life left his body. I said goodbye. And thank you. And called Mya.

David and I drove back to the burial site we'd created for BW the week before. Rey brought Mya and met us there. Mya was really torn up. Couldn't even look at Silver as we lowered him to rest atop the existing bark cover. She walked away. Stood with her back turned. Crying. But somehow, I was ready. Somehow, I did the right thing. I didn't downplay Silver's importance to her. Belittle her grief. Say he was only a cat. Tell her to buck up. Promise her time heals all wounds. None of that bushwah. But I'd brought a small vial of silver glitter with me. I invited everyone, especially Mya, to scatter a pinch of glitter on Silver before we covered him tightly with another layer of bark. That brought Mya back to us. Seemed to give her some kind of closure. Rey also said he thought that bit of ritual was "cool".

When I got home, I wanted to do something "closure-y" for myself. Something "sweet". Ah, yes, maybe a candy bar. I went to the store and saw some peanut butter M&Ms on sale. A share-size bag. That would do. I don't buy them much, PB M&Ms or Reese's. But they can be a go-to when I'm really, really sad. I decided to set aside a handful for Mya to enjoy next time she came over. Held out three each of the three primary colors. When I talked to her afterwards, I told her about having the candy, but not about saving her any. Wanted it to be a surprise. Still, telling her what I did may have been why her attention was caught by that public FB site post equating self-care with PB M&Ms. Enough that she decided to comment on it.

Later, she added this comment: This is weird. I posted on your "peanut butter M&Ms" self-care post about Grams's self-care when her cat Silver was dying. Grams told me later after we went & buried Silver, she went & bought a share size of peanut butter M&Ms. She didn't see your post or anyting. That's just what she wanted to do when she was feeling so sad. She doesn't buy them much, but they're her favorite kind, and she didn't share any with me either.

Of course, now she knows better. She has since eaten them. And thoroughly enjoyed them. Interesting coincidence, though. So, even dead, Silver added another gem to our family necklace of togetherness.

Good cat!

Khoda hafez,

P.S. Mya told me a little later that at my burial, instead of flowers, she's going to scatter a handful of black and green glitter on my coffin. And invite others to join her in doing so. I think that's very cool. Waydahgo Mya!

Mon, Feb 07, 2022 at 8:06 AM, Mya wrote:
Just saw a Facebook post I made, but today marks 5 years since Silver passed away. I still miss him very much. :(


Lucki responds to Mya:
Me, too, Mya joon. I remember & miss all my cats. It helps, tho, that I feel I gave them a good life as I could & knew how to. Thanx for the reminder. It was special that you & Dad came to his little silver-glitter ceremony.



Mon, Feb 07, 2022 at 1:31 PM, Mya wrote:
All your cats for sure lived an amazing life; they had the best mama.

      Lucki responds to Mya:
I don't know about "the best"; I made more than my share of mistakes. But I kept trying. Howsomever, I was not their mama & they were not (& had no interest in being) some kind of third-class little humans. They were first-class felines, proud of it, & I was their person. LOL
        Mon, Feb 07, 2022 at 4:25 PM, Mya wrote:
Yeah. You were their person.

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"It's pretty scary to know how quickly time flies."  -- James Wan

I promised to keep you informed about the progress of Twigs. This is me doing that. Seems a good way to start the new Gregorian year.

As you know, we submitted the expanded manuscript for peer review at the beginning of last June. They'd helped us before, with the earlier versions of the manuscript. With all the new material, though, they asked us to allow two months for the follow-up review. We were fine with that.

In fact, we thought they were being overly optimistic. So we weren't surprised when August came to an end and they asked for another month. We were quite happy to give it to them. After all, our marketing consultant had advised that we'd be in good shape if we got it into print by end of year. Three months for the peer reviewers, the final three for us. Seemed fair.

Unfortunately, September also passed and our peer reviewers were still immersed in all that new stuff. For us, patience had to be the watchword of the day. They do good work, the reviewers. They catch important stuff. Best translations. Up-to-date sources and citations. Research biases. Foggy wording. Sneaky typos. The list goes on. Plus, it's not like anyone's paying them to help. It's a labor of love for them. As it has been for us.

Peer reviewersHave to admit, though, that when Halloween and Thanksgiving passed and we still didn't have everything back, we got angsty. How could we possibly make that end-of-year publishing deadline? Finally in mid-December, despite some software incompatibilities that drove everyone bonkers for a week or so, we had everything in hand. But there was more than we excepted to deal with. No way to finish it all in the two remaining weeks. What to do about that December 31, 2016 deadline?

That's what we've asked our marketing consultant. And she has responded that, while it isn't ideal, we can get away with a new deadline: Getting the book on the shelves before or on the one-year anniversary of our "Introduction" date. In other words, by May 10, 2017. We've already started working on clearing up those review issues. The hardest part is finding some more stuff to drop on the cutting room floor, so we have room for necessary clarifications and citations without upping our page count and thereby moving our price point out of the acceptable range. (In other words, friends, we don't want the book to become too expensive.)

Sorry it isn't more exciting news. But it is what it is. For now.

Just to keep things in perspective with a smile, though, remember that, as Terry Wogan said, "Time flies like an arrow, but fruit flies like a banana."

Khoda hafez,

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