Man Alive Summer 2020
NEW MEXICO MEN'S WELLNESS
Summer Edition 2020
We are here at the time where, in this hemisphere, the longest day, the most light, announces our summer. It is a time for growth, flowering, tending and feeling the heat of the sun. Cactus flowers bloom, hummingbirds celebrate their successful migration, new life matures. As we are leaning more steeply into our star, the abundance of light encourages us to engage in our outside lives: planting, building, hiking, opening windows. Let us remember this season with gratitude and generosity with our planet, loved ones and ourselves.
We mark this time when the sun is at its’ highest, illuminating the best and the worst of times. Currently, our planet and our species struggle. Fear, divisiveness, anger roil like summer thunderstorms. Isolation and quarantine challenge community and connections. Now, more than ever, shining light on the higher self, the awake self, becomes more critical and more difficult.
Hopefully, the following contributions might speak to you in a way that encourages, offers hope, creativity and courage. We are grateful for those that offered words, thoughts and images for this summer edition. May we never forget to say those things that need to be said, to communicate what our hearts and souls encourage us to say. May we be instruments of positive, loving change within our spheres of influence. May we hold fast to the difficult task of finding our higher selves. May we strive, now more than ever, to bloom and grow.
OFFERINGS AND CONTRIBUTIONS
Joseph Woods: cover, page 10
Joseph Woods: pages 22, 25
Roger Harmon: pages 5, 17
Hank Blackwell: pages 4,7,11,16
By Brett Nelson
Lost in my own desert wilderness,
I am all seriousness and doubt,
longing for the straight road and a clear path
down to a destiny carved by my own hand.
Climbing over another slickrock ridge
just like the last one,
I stumble into a voluptuous little canyon
full of astonishing boulders, grass,
willows and running water,
with a spring and ferns! under a pour-off.
I’m sure I see two bobcat cubs
vanish under the rocks!
Letting the hand play,
I shelve my wanting
and walk the canyon’s wild floor,
letting it feed me down
until it spills me out its mouth,
no longer lost in my own wilderness.
I am found.
By Roger Harmon
“This is Hard,” declares the curtain above. The message is reflected in the rough stitching and the wrinkled fabric.
The curtain maker tells us in the companion window, “Be Kind to Yourself and Others.”
The Albuquerque storefront bearing these curtains is Neo Thread. The store has been closed by the pandemic for over three months.
I have never seen what is behind those curtains. When that shop finally opens I will go find out.
And I will find out who that curtain maker is. I think I’ll meet a kind soul.
That is only a hunch. But a good hunch, because in addition to those curtains, other beautiful things are happening in that row of shops.
The day I first saw the curtains, I also witnessed the scene in the photo below: A barista from two shops away offered a man on the sidewalk a cup of ice water and some gentle words.
Since seeing those hand stitched curtains, since witnessing that simple offering of water I haven’t been the same. In these pandemic times I’ve been:
I’m intending to carry these qualities forward.
How I Got from There to Here
by Ray Johnson
Couldn’t remember who I wanted to be
when the circle opened.
Didn’t want to run into a pole
and knock myself senseless
following my voracious brothers
out into that world of possibilities
I knew I had the spunk and verve of Grandma
who lived a full 100 years, but
wasn’t sure where to plug in, when to cut the cord.
And as Grandma said: “Always look
to those you love for guidance
when matter-of-fact decision
seems out of reach, because
they’ve been there, done that and are alive
to point out pitfalls and life’s incongruities.”
Now here I stand, her words to heart,
mastering the next move. I think I’ll take
a train across Mexico, along its deep canyon,
keep a journal, practice my Spanish, work on compassion
and write a book about the whole friggin’ adventure.
Like Grandma said, “Enjoy life,” then pausing,
“but put those mean ones, those nasty,
inconsiderate bastards in their places
so as not to do harm to the innocent.
But enjoy life.”
Notes From Chupadero
by Arrin Richard
There’s something different about snow in mid-April and the distinct solace it brings. Having become warmed by the new spring and thankful that the harshest of winter has past, an unexpected spring snow allows me to stop for a moment…to ease into the day and perhaps a new way of being. Like pulling off to the side of the road to take in a moment of beauty, the falling snow brings me to a moment of reflection…and silence. It is always quiet here in Chupadero. The snow makes it even more so. The natural world has tucked in for the morning, the community is hunkered down. Nowhere to go now, as we find ourselves in a world turned upside down.
So as I sit by the warmth of the woodstove, watching the snow fall on my deck and the hillside beyond, it’s a good time to think…about what the world will look like going forward and of course, my little world…what do I really want and need to get by and be happy? What do I truly feel is important as compared to just several weeks ago?? These are questions that might need to simmer a bit. But what have I already discovered in recent days?
Well, I now know it’s much easier to conserve personal resources than I previously thought…and that there is always space to be more mindful, more grateful! I’ve come to truly appreciate the people who make up a community, especially those who have put themselves out there to help the rest of us. And I now realize that going out every day isn’t so needed after all. Yes, these are simple things, but nonetheless important! And sometimes within the simple things, I find my best teachings and if I’m lucky, catch a glimpse of my better angels.
The world will ramp back up to speed at some point, in some fashion. When it does, I wonder if I will resist the urge to jump mindlessly back into the hamster wheel?
I’m grateful for the snowfall this morning. It has brought me a new white canvas on which to ponder!
Please share your thoughts!
Wishing you peace….
By Hank Blackwell
I was unable to be passionate
with my words and embraces
until they were lured out of me
by life’s energy…
My hesitation sings
to a stone
surrounded by the current
A song whispers,
above the rushing current.
I waver between the antiphonal,
as if I were glancing
between the horizon and my feet.
I am cautioned in whispers,
fearful of a betrayal
by my own reluctance…
My Covid Epiphany
by Ross Perkal
[All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Spring 2020 Under Quarantine Order]
“People, People who need people, Are the luckiest people, in the world… With one person, one very special person A feeling deep in your soul Says you were half, now you’re whole No more hunger and thirst But first, be a person who needs people”*
*Barbara Streisand in Funny Girl–1978
Day 1 of Quarantine—
My doorbell rang. Neighbor Donny, with a box in his hands: “Just keep this for me, will explain later…,” as he ran off! I set it down, agitated and with more important matters to attend to.
[Narcissistic Tirade at two (2), five (5) year old chihuahuas:]
“Well this really sucks !” 2/29/20, NM Governor issues “stay at home” Order. Had been home already, working offsite for law firm, but now: I can’t go anywhere, or do anything, golf, tennis, volleyball, or other healthy exercise!”
“YOU can’t do this to me! It’s NOT fair! Six months AWAY from retirement, after 45 years in the business-law trenches; an abominable time to force me to change my plans! I want my “old normal” back. I want it right NOW!!!”
“This might be OK, if I were not an anal-compulsive planner. These were to have been the BEST YEARS OF MY LIFE! You can’t take that away from me now! Please, whoever is listening up above, PLEASE STOP THIS!”
[TAKE DEEP BREATH] “Keeping all this anger inside of me takes SO MUCH energy! I need a nap at noon and one at 5 pm. Still sleepy at bedtime. SLEEPING MY LIFE AWAY, while a flu-like virus has the entire WORLD paralyzed/perplexed. Ultimate Force, please CEASE this insanity!!!”
I always thought the END (my end), would be a surprise, nuclear attack from North Korea. Bored, I opened Donny’s package. Heavy, metal handgun inside the box. A clip full of bullets inside the pistol-grip. NO CLUE why he gave it to me, an avowed pacifist!
Day 30 of Quarantine–
This is NOT how my PLAN was supposed to work, just six months away from “R Day,” the day when all those inept, young Judges were to have to stopped tormenting me, and all those ungrateful, clients have to stop criticizing all the wrong decisions by those bleeping Judges and blaming ME!
The gyms (volleyball), tennis courts, golf courses all closed for 30 days now. My body a wreck, not to mention my mind. Falling apart at the seams. Can only SLEEP. No interest in food, even though am great cook. Drinking fluids, to keep my joints lubricated. Rest of me like tinman in Wizard Oz.
Can’t listen to TV, depressing me with “latest” on virus—global its raging spread from China to world. Am in “serious risk” category, due to age, labeled as perhaps having “underlying conditions.” Is FEAR one?
[To Dogs:] “Dreams/fantasies all gone now. My hopes to retire, relax, meet lady of my dreams, become “lovers,” and recall the feeling deep in my soul; stop feeling like half, and soon become whole. But first, I have to be a person who needs people, dammit! Not likely in my deteriorated state. Seldom bathe/ wear same clothes for days. Am invisible to all but dogs.”
“Despite 30+ years therapy with trusted counselor, am bereft of sanity. “Glory” days ahead, seem like “trick” by universe. Endless, dedicated work; explosion of 20-year marriage by infidel; subsequent 26 year rebuilding of psyche, but now left with catastrophic conditions/chronic depression/rude injustice. Have only 3 “M” words to describe my descent into Hades: ME, innocent victim of malevolent, malicious, malignant, course toward deterioration, and/or early (pre-retirement) death.
Morbid fascination…the gun like a toy, but heavy. If extended outward, my arms tremble, cannot hold it still. Not sure how long I will be “custodian.” Dreams of shooting it, hoping shock might awaken me from restorative slumber, only to find, with joy, my warm, fuzzy, cozy, normal. Put it away in freezer, so no one might see it. My dreams are on ice, now, also.
As virus appeared, people started behaving badly, irrational, selfish, narcissistic behaviors. My clients and my clients’ opponents also. STUPID-20 will probably be the next virulent, virus trying to ruin my retirement years.
Day 60 of Quarantine—
Cannot even get out of bed now. Depression, when mixed with 45 years of jumping out of bed and throwing on 3-piece suit (with matching vest), really wears on a lawyer. The WORST is I never know what day it is! Time either stands still, or races compulsively out of control. The irony is that only the garbage pick-up days are etched in my psyche.
Always read the obituaries first when run out to get the daily rag. Did you know that many persons are now living well into their 80s and even some into their 90s. I don’t have a goal, except to keep up my health/exercise regiman, as long as I am around.
Donny called said “getting divorce; afraid that ex would shoot him, if she had gun.” Warned me not to “play” with it…
All politicians dissembling to gain advantage from Coronavirus. People everywhere dead and dying.
IRA went down 33% that first day, two months ago. Warned to not expect recovery, in my “lifetime.” May have to work several more years now, in order to finish, and be ok, IF there ever is a new “ok!”
Been “half,” trying to become whole, for 18 months now. My last partner wandered off; good timing for both of us, though our two years together were perfect, it had seemed.
Searching for new partner, former GF–nurse, at assisted living facility, came knocking, at what would normally have been synchronous time. Virus races rabidly through senior residence homes here though.
Like virulent, lightning bolt, accompanied by vicious flood of mortality, killing all in its wake. To my great dismay, fraught with extreme risk to first responders, like her.
Had not seen her in five years before start of quarantine. Made frantic, desperate, pent-up love on our first date back. Then she was gone; with her absence, am left without any trace of sensation, humanity or touch.
Her sudden, mystical, astonishing, reappearance was a breath of fresh air, before morbidity returned, clouds darkened, ominously, and sense of final foreboding, and ultimate, untimely demise overwhelmed me.
There is skin hunger and thirst for deep kisses again…with loneliness/sadness/feelings of wanting more, before I depart.
Lots of neighborhood violent crime now: armed, home-invasions, car-jackings, etc. Gun “around,” brought false hope/security; at least vision of ability to respond, but don’t know how to use it.
Bad news/Good News Report: Stay at home Order meant have not seen best friends or exercise buddies for three months now.
Text/email, only. Phone seems too intimate for the terror/trepidation/fright that is predominant in my and their beings.
Two adult children here are safe, but distant, due to fatalism (mine) and separation anxiety (theirs).
Most uplifting moments are neighborhood walks with dogs, who though diminutive, light up the countenance of all who view them. My ever-present, arm-waving HELLO/beaming smile, brings some comfort, to me and to those we encounter. All smile broadly and mouth “cute!” and wave back. My only wish–that they were referring to ME.
Day 90 of Quarantine–
Others slowly return to offices. Gloomy morbidity demands I stay home. Anger/angst/antipathetic, dismay regarding what my new “normal” will be like, causes despair/grievous sorrow/lingering sadness, tears and despair.
Am violent, life-long opponent of narcissism (except for this rant), having suffered younger brother (could have invented that word) and ex-wife (who gave new meaning to it).
Political climate past few years bred fantasies about becoming ex-patriot. China, intentionally, or negligently poisoned globe. No place to run away/hide now.
Curiosity ravenous. Took gun, in box, to local gun store, which has “practice” facilities in rear. Inquired, naively, how much it would cost for me to shoot the gun “a few” times. Clerk laughed deprecatingly, and retorted LOUDLY, so everyone in store would hear: “We don’t charge you for each round you shoot, sir, we charge you for the TIME that you use the range!”
I slunk back home, feeling even more, despondent/hopeless. My new “toy” humiliated me. Could not bear the dejection, anymore. Hugged both dogs/cat and closed them in my bathroom.
Overwrought…at my spiritual emptiness. Called Donny, no answer. Felt empty. Irreparable. Emotionally bankrupt.
Ripped open package. Placed gun-barrel on chest, facing me.
In flash of rage, I pulled trigger.
Deafening sound of metal on metal, but felt nothing.
Forgot to turn “off” the safety!
Began hyperventilating in worst panic attack ever, collapsing in heap on floor.
Lay there trembling uncontrollably, catatonic, blank façade.
Having “dodged a bullet,” I swore repentantly, to immediately restructure my life, so as to TRY to “first be a person who needs people….”
Finally, I texted my former GF, begging for another date…, and then, I let the dogs out.
A Little Reopening
by Roger Harmon
A neighborhood Little Free Library, closed during part of the pandemic, is open again! And on re-opening, it has become a Little Free Food Pantry, too.
The Library, now Library/Food Pantry, is located across the street from Albuquerque’s Bataan Park, a sheltering spot for a small number of homeless people.
The library won’t meet all the food needs, of course. But this compassionate offering is a lovely example of a neighborhood creating the world of which we want to be a part.
May all beings be at peace, and may this begin with us.
Notes From Chupadero
Sometimes, Raspberries Fall from the Sky
by Aarin Richard
One morning several years ago, while I was contemplating breakfast, I remembered the fresh raspberries in the fridge. Smiling, I grabbed the plastic carton and impatiently began to pry it open as I walked towards the counter. The lid sprang up and the whole container summersaulted out of my hand… all of the berries scattering around the Saltillo floor. A surge of anger welled up but it sourced not from this mishap. No, this anger was rooted in a deep sense of uncertainty and angst I was feeling in my life at that time. My usual stream of profanity started flowing out but within a nanosecond something stopped me, mid-curse word!! It was like a silent voice had barged in, front and center. I knew immediately… It was my old friend and teacher, Woody. He showed up with this message; “You know Aarin, sometimes raspberries just fall from the sky”. I recognized it instantly as another one of his beautiful lessons, so eloquent in its simplicity. As I stood there looking at the floor in a state of bemusement moving towards wonder, my frown turned back to a smile… of gratitude.
Woody was my old companion and faithful friend… a Labrador Retriever. I also consider him one of my great teachers!! Over the years he had placed small lessons in front of me, without demands, without obligations and without expectations. Lessons in the Ways of Being that he had mastered through innate knowledge and which I, the student, struggled to grasp and adopt as personal truths. Woody’s teachings were about the true nature of abundance, living in the present, spontaneous joy, graciously accepting bliss and finding the good in everyone. These were his truths and the true north of his being.
For me, they were often paradoxes that I had to question and probe in order to find the hidden, deeper meaning. But Woody was masterfully patient. He had no lesson plan, attendance was optional and grading would have been totally inappropriate. He was just there as a guide, walking the path, informing by example.
For us humans, expectations are not always met while residing in the physical reality of planet Earth. Disappointment, hardship and heartbreak, large and small, are part of the terrain and we do our best to navigate. But there is also immense beauty throughout this terrain. Despite all the things that get thrown at us, sometimes, when we least expect it and for no apparent reason, raspberries do fall from the sky, like little miracles that land in a beautiful array all around us. If we just stop and take a little time, their sweet gifts are there to be savored. That was the lesson I received in the kitchen that morning, with the help of some visual aids.
I think some of our great teachers in life are only with us for a short while. They come as guides to impart wisdom about our journey and then leave us to work through the lessons on our own, as we need to do. But in spirit, they never really leave us. I believe they stay just a step away, there to help us through the difficult parts.
Woody left the earth plane on this day nine years ago…. and I still miss his boundless love!! Shortly after, he came to me in a vision. I was walking down a path and Woody was running ahead as usual, stopping occasionally to turn towards me to make sure I was coming along. It was then that I understood what his gaze had always been saying to me… ”Come on Aarin, the path is this way, follow your joy”!!
About Bill Light
by Robert Younger
Some of you asked that I share some of Bill’s emails as a result of my stories about him. We knew each other and our families for over 35 years and shared so many wonderful times. He was a gifted storyteller and a wonderful man.
This is a series of emails from a deceased friend, Bill Light. I share this with you because as he was sick with pancreatic cancer, he reviewed his life and wondered about the difference he made and what he would leave behind. He was always politically active and he talked with me often about his time in Mississippi during the Freedom Summer of 1964. He wondered if he made a difference as it was such a struggle but I think his words capture something for all of us to remember:
Sometimes what we do now, will not be apparent in the present but surely has the potential to effect change.
Seems very important to remember given the climate we find ourselves in.
“Some of you have been recalling when I first went off to Mississippi, 50 years ago, where we were when I told you, the feelings we had about it. I now know I was rather naive about what I was getting into, how dangerous it would be, even the complexity of my reasons for doing it, the complexity of the racial politics, and on and on.
This time it is rather simpler, though the complexity is if anything much greater than it was then. Having a bit more experience in the world, a bit more wisdom, a bit more appreciation for the fact that it is not about good and evil, I see that everyone has a point of view and a summation of life experience that gets them to where they are now. Not that there isn’t a clear distinction between what is right and wrong, wholesome and destructive.
But the subtleties of humanity, and the amazing convoluted thinking and feeling that we do kinda puts all of us, racist or not, in the same barrel of monkeys. Being judgmental gets us absolutely nowhere. The issue is how to connect, not that I am right and you are wrong.
Many of you know my favorite Rumi quote: “Out beyond all notions of right doing and wrongdoing there is a field; I’ll meet you there.”
Alright, enough sanctimony, Onward!
For the first time ever in my life, my suitcase was all packed and ready to go 5 days before the beginning of the journey. I guess you could say I am pretty pumped about this adventure, especially since I get to make it with my dear friend, Ron Bridgeforth, the one who more than anyone taught me how to act and how to survive in Mississippi. We will leave Tuesday morning, the conference will go from Wednesday to Sunday, and then Ron and I will drive up to Starkville and Maben, where for us the action was. We will return to San Francisco on Tuesday the 1st. I will begin my third chemo run two days later.
I have been nesting in my new habitat (Bill went to San Francisco where he grew up for cancer treatment), putting up hanging hooks, finding places to put my too much stuff. I succeeded in mounting a clothesline out back, so I can say with confidence that no fossil fuels were harmed in the drying of my laundry.
I am feeling fairly well, no nausea problems right now, though I have a new wrinkle, mouth sores that make me not want to eat or drink. I do anyway, because if I don’t eat and drink I will die, but I can’t work up much enthusiasm.
I am missing my friends and colleagues in the political realm (back in Santa Fe), although WeArePeopleHere! seems to be humming along quite well without my help. I’ll be back squarely in the political realm next week, and it will be good to think about something other than cancer and throwing up.
I am OK being back in San Francisco, but I really do miss and love you all, and nothing looks better right now than being back in my own home with my own friends. Soon, ojala!”
WEB INSIGHTS–DO NOT MISS!
Contributions in Song by Matthew Blank:
Wellness, well-being and now, suggestions regarding coping with Covid-19 from Victor LaCerva at:
This section is intended to hold a place for announcements of relevant events and happenings, as well as invitations for participation, support, in the fashion of pulling your neighbors and loved ones together for an old-fashioned barn-raising. Here are a few such items to prime the pump for the next edition:
Dear good men,
Since CoVid 19 has finally been confirmed as being in NM, the Department of Health has advised against holding “big gatherings.” Although the upcoming Bring a Buddy events in both Albuquerque and Santa Fe are not especially large, they do attract some elderly folks who may be at increased risk.
The NMMW Board has decided to cancel the Spring gathering at Hummingbird. Anyone who has registered will receive a full refund. If you want us to keep your scholarship donation, please let Jim Connoly know, and your refund will be adjusted accordingly.
The ABQ Bring a Buddy committee has unanimously decided that we should cancel future Tuesday evening Bring A Buddy events, starting with the April 7th event. Everyone’s physical safety is of upmost importance and we feel that hosting meetings would not be wise at this time. They will be in touch via email when it is safe to resume our events. Please be careful and we look forward to seeing you and your buddies in the near future.
The Santa Fe April 21 Bring a Buddy event is also cancelled.
The late May couples gathering is still a go, as is the summer gathering, and we will monitor events to decide if that needs to change.
Victor puts out short weekly free podcasts, and the last few have been on coronavirus—with his public health medical hat on in terms of what to expect and how to protect oneself and one’s family. If you wish to sign up, you can do so at myheartsongs.org Proper hand washing is king! Social distance, or better compassionate spaciousness (6 feet) when prudent, particularly if you are over 55 with a chronic heart or lung disease. This is a lung disease: if you have a runny nose or nasal congestion with other symptoms, you most likely do NOT have coronavirus infection.
The Health Department has a toll free number if you have questions or concerns about getting tested. 855-600-3453
They also developed this questionnaire – designed to assist facilities with a large number of elderly – that may also be useful to help you “self assess” your current risk.
NEW MEXICO DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH FACILITY VISITOR SCREENING QUESTIONAIRE
In response to concerns regarding COVID-19 (coronavirus disease 2019), and in accordance with guidance issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), this facility is screening all visitors for certain risk factors before entrance is allowed. Facilities may restrict or limit visitation rights for reasonable clinical and safety reasons, specifically to prevent community associated infection or communicable disease transmission to the residents. See 42 CFR §483.10(f)(4).
- Have you traveled internationally in the last 14 days to any country currently designated by the CDC as a high-risk location for COVID-19*?
- Have you had signs of a respiratory infection in the last 14 days, such as a fever, cough and/or sore throat?
- Have you had contact with anyone who has been diagnosed with, or screened for COVID-19?
- Have you traveled to another state with widespread community transmission of COVID-19 in the last 14 days?
Love and hugs and we will all get through this!
Your NMMW Board:
Victor La Cerva
Our New NMMW website will be up in July. Look for the link in NMMW July newsletter. The Summer Gathering has been postponed till July 2021. There is the possibility of an informal gathering at the group site at Jack’s Creek. Check the July newsletter for more details. Santa Fe Bring a Buddy hopes to resume by end of summer in person.