Proof There Is A God

imageOn a recent Sunday afternoon I went to the Tucson Symphony Orchestra for their matinee production. It was a nice enough event but as I sat there during the end of the program, I said to myself, “I wish Tucson had a professional hockey team. Phoenix has one. Even an AHL team would do. I’m in the mood for live hockey!”

As I left the Tucson Music Hall and walked towards my car I glanced up and saw the spires of the cathedral. I decided to bring my hockey question to the Lord. “Lord, why doesn’t Tucson have a professional hockey team,” I asked? He gave no immediate answer.

Feeling curious, I returned to my car and googled “hockey and Tucson.” I thought maybe the University of Arizona supported a team or perhaps in the past the city had a professional hockey organization.

Much to my surprise, my Google query returned a link to a headline proclaiming the 2016-2017 season as the inaugural year for the Tucson Roadrunners, an American Hockey League (AHL) affiliated hockey team. Surprise! Surprise!

My joy at this information was real. I then wondered what might be their schedule this year. I googled that information as well. Much to my surprise, there was a game being played at home at that very minute. The Tucson Roadrunners were playing in the Tucson Convention Center. “Oh Lord, this couldn’t be true! Was there hockey being played in the building right behind me?”

Still wearing my blue blazer and fancy Panama straw hat made in Spain, appropriate for the symphony but maybe not AHL hockey, I scampered towards the Tucson Convention Center doors.

My enthusiasm got the better of me and I asked a very robust man with a few days of facial hair growth standing outside the center intently enjoying his cigarette if there was a hockey game going on in the building. “Yes,” he said, “The first period had ended and it’s a pretty good game.”

In my excitement, I poured out my most recent conversation with the Lord about Tucson and hockey to this gentleman and wife. He paused, grinned a bit and pulled out his extra ticket and said, “And here’s your ticket!”

Thinking he was selling tickets, I asked him how much. He replied, “Don’t worry about it. Enjoy the game.”

So, I entered the convention center and enjoyed the last two periods of an exciting AHL hockey game. It was an answer to a prayer.

This proves, there is a God. ūüėČ

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Finding Cousin Richard

Sometimes hard work and perseverance set the stage for genealogical success. Other times, serendipity and chance set that stage. Finding Cousin Richard was one of those endeavors which relied more upon providence and chance than upon skilled genealogical research. Here is the story.

On December 4, 1951, Jean Frank, then known as Mrs. Richard Edward Raybold III, gave birth to a boy and he was named Richard Raybold. Richard’s father was also named Richard Raybold as was his deceased great uncle, Richard Edward Raybold, Jr. Additionally, his great grandfather was named Richard Edward Raybold, Sr. This Richard, Jean Frank’s little boy, was the fourth in a proud line of men with the name Richard Raybold.

Sadly, the marriage between Richard III and Jean Frank ended in divorce. Like many divorces, this separation included heartache and loss. Young Richard, you see, and his mother remained in Ohio where she eventually remarried. As the story unfolds, the younger Richard’s step-father understandably wanted to cut ties with the past and establish a new family with a bright future. In light of this fact, Richard, at 12 years old, was renamed Jonathan Jenson.

As the years went by and the distance increased, various Raybold family members unsuccessfully attempted to locate and communicate with Richard Raybold. His own biological father tried to contact him early on in the separation but met with resistance. Interestingly, when the younger Richard, now known as Jonathan, came to adulthood his own attempts to contact his father, Richard III, were complicated because in the 1970’s Richard Edward Raybold III legally changed his name to Marshall Blake.

Eventually Jonathan Jenson’s curiosity about his Raybold roots led him to research his family through Remember, Jonathan was called Richard Raybold, Dick to his friends, for the first twelve years of his life. His Raybold awareness was keen. While he appreciated his new family, he always identified as and felt like a Raybold.

Jonathan’s search throughout the years paralleled searches being carried out by no less than three members of his extended Raybold family. Jonathan Jenson was considered by some to be “The Lost Raybold.” While he was searching for his roots, members of his Raybold family were also searching for him. It was in this context that Richard Raybold/Jonathan Jenson was found.

One of the reasons it was difficult to find Jonathan was the fact that the people looking for him used the wrong spelling of his name. They all thought his name was spelled “John Jensen” and they used this name in their searches. It’s no wonder they kept coming up short.

In early 2016, Jonathan Jenson established an account and began populating his family tree with the information he had about his Raybold family. He entered about ten Raybold names into his family database and then backed off from using his account any further.

About six months later, I, his cousin, was doing research on our shared great grandfather, Richard Edward Raybold, Sr. using to do my research. As providence, or luck would have it, my account displayed Jonathan’s data as a possible hint (or a possible lead) for corroborating information about Richard Raybold.

I was stunned when I saw the name “Jonathan Jenson” on my computer screen. “Could this be ‘The Lost Raybold’ for whom I had been searching for over 15 years,” I thought to myself? Thinking his name was “John Jensen,” I still wasn’t sure this was the former Richard Raybold for whom I searched.

I decided trying to contact him through was my next step. As Jonathan was no longer actively using his account, I didn’t expect my message would receive a prompt reply. Because of this, I decided using Facebook for a search of Jonathan Jenson might be helpful.

I had searched on Facebook for him previously but as I was using the wrong spelling of his name I came up empty-handed. This time, I had a different spelling of his name and clearly, based on his activity, Jonathan Jenson was a person looking for information on the Raybold family. Perhaps he was my man! Hope springs eternal.

With some excitement, I typed in “Jonathan Jenson” into the search field on my Facebook page and within a few moments 100s of Jonathan Jensons filled my screen. I was discouraged by the volume of names. How would I ever find “my” Jonathan Jenson in this list? Whispering a little prayer, I started to contact the lengthy list of Jensons by sending them private messages.

Interestingly enough, my first inquiry, to a “Jon Jenson,” was returned with a somewhat cryptic yet intriguing message. I had written, “Hi Jon, Does the name Raybold mean anything to you?” His response was, “It might, how did you come across me?” His “It might” gave me hope but it also fueled my concerns that possibly Jonathan Jenson, the former Richard Raybold, did not want to be contacted. This, actually, was a concern that was greatly on my heart. I was, however, undaunted.

I decided to contact other people with the last name Jenson connected to the Jon Jenson on this Facebook account. My next inquiry was sent to a “Kathy Jenson.” Again, the same question. This time the return message was much more definitive. She responded, “Yes, this was my husband’s last name before he was adopted as a young child.” I¬†was both amazed and thrilled to have actually found a real connection to “The Lost Raybold.” Moreover, I was shocked to have found him through the first person named Jonathan Jenson I contacted on Facebook! It turns out, the Jon Jesnson I initially contacted on Facebook was actually the son of “The Lost Raybold,” Jonathan Jenson, Sr.

Now, many questions ran through my mind about Jonathan Jenson. Was he alive? Did he want to reconnect with his Raybold family? Would he be upset with me for bringing up a possibly tender subject about his earlier life? I proceeded with some care.

As it turned out, Jonathan’s wife was delightful and she contacted me from the hospital where her husband was recovering from a recent procedure. This Jonathan Jenson, Sr. was indeed “The Lost Raybold.” Moreover, Jonathan, as I was told through his wife, was eager to talk with me after he recovered from his hospital stay. I was elated!

Within five minutes of returning from the hospital, Jonathan Jenson sent me a message through Facebook indicating he was interested in talking. When we talked, Jonathan told me my reaching out to him was an answer to a prayer and a true blessing. I was greatly relieved and remembered the short prayer uttered some days earlier.

As our initial contact and communication unfolded, Jonathan was delighted to learn he descends from at least nine different Mayflower passengers. He was also eager to reconnect with more contemporary members of the Raybold family. The Waterman – Raybold Family holds a yearly luncheon in Sandwich, MA. Jonathan, and his wife Kathy, are eager to join the clan and take their seats at the Raybold table next year. I am eager, like many, to welcome them.

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Bikers, Mexicans and Trump

Sammy'sThis political season, I had originally intended to keep my political musings off my Facebook page. And I was certainly not going to write about politics on my blog.

Last time I delved into politics on Facebook, I lost a few friends. One was an old girlfriend that left in huff because of my political postings. She left stammering after my logic defied her. It wasn’t pretty and I felt the loss. This year, I decided to keep a low profile.

Having said that, even though I’ve attempted to avoid politics, politics have found me. And like many other things, it came through my stomach. Let me explain.

Today is primary day in Arizona. Evidently, this past weekend there were many rallies in Tucson and throughout the state. At one rally in particular, a Latina co-owner of a Mexican restaurant held up a sign saying, “Latinos for D. Trump.”

It turns out the woman holding the sign, Betty Rivas, was the co-owner of Sammy’s Mexican Grill.

Sammy’s was my “go to” Mexican restaurant when I first stumbled into Tucson, Arizona with my lonely and hungry heart. I often mentioned to Betty that her carne asadas were so good because she always made them with love. Love, I told her, always makes the difference. She always laughed and seemingly agreed.

Betty’s husband, Jorge, always took my order of six carne asadas and, suspecting I was on a tight budget, in his goodness allowed an extra carne asada to find its way into my take out bag once or twice.

Moreover, Jorge indulged me as I tried to practice my Spanish with him even though he spoke English. They were good people and they were good to me.

This was especially true the first year I came to Arizona. During my first year in Tucson, about four years ago, they in fact moved from a shared location to their own restaurant. I was happy for their success.

Fast forward a few short years later and I hear from a friend that Sammy’s is being boycotted by people because of a sign held up by Betty at the Trump rally in Tucson. These were my restaurant friends and they were being treated poorly. Politics had found me.

Betty evidently caught Trump’s attention and was brought up onto the stage. Trump said he loved her sign. This public display of support was enough to trigger a landslide of reaction against Sammy’s owners.

People took the time to flood the internet with negative restaurant ratings which could significantly and negatively impact the economic stability of Sammy’s. I didn’t think this was fair. They also called Betty and Jorge and made threatening remarks. Sad. Has our civil discourse come to this?

Now, I’m not sharing with you my political leanings. Everyone knows, I am a Catholic and my politics are impacted by my faith. This, however, tells you very little about¬†which particular¬†candidate I like the best this year. And, I will keep that private.

It’s like my sexual orientation. I have one. I’m just not going to share it with you. Those who need to know. Know. ūüėČ

I digress.

Back to Sammy’s. I feel that a person has the right to articulate their political leanings as a private citizen without it adversely impacting them economically.

We live in a community and while I might disagree with you on a political issue, I’m not going to undermine you in a malicious way because of our differences. At the end of the day, we all live in the same community together. We all share an equal dignity and worth. It seems to me, we can agree to disagree if need be. Living in community means living with differences.

With this attitude in mind, I decided to go to Sammy’s with a friend for lunch to show my support for Betty and Jorge. We drove up to the parking lot in Catalina and began to look for a parking space. The place was packed. We, apparently, weren’t the only ones interested in supporting Jorge and Betty.

I parked my car in the lot and was immediately approached by a classic Arizona Harley Davidson biker dude. He had on the expected blue jeans with a leather jacket adorned with assorted motorcycle related patches. His chest was broad, his legs were thick and we could certainly call him a strapping Arizona man.

I looked at him and he returned my gaze somewhat sheepishly and shyly almost as if he was not only a biker dude but also a taciturn cowboy. And then he said to me, “Are you here to support the owners?” I responded, “Yes, I don’t think it’s fair what people are doing.”

His demeanor noticeably changed and a broad smile came upon his face as I transformed from being a stranger into an ideological friend. He promptly extended his thick five pound beefy hand and shook mine. He then exclaimed, “That’s why we’re here too.” As he said this, his strong calloused right hand came affectionately down upon my chest in a hearty and friendly THUMP!

He damn near knocked me over with biker dude enthusiasm as the palm of his open hand struck my chest. I felt he might next invite me into his club but I was so dazed by the “friendly” pat, ¬†all I could do was to try to keep myself upright. I puffed up my chest in an attempt to look tougher but I think he knew I was faking it. I wasn’t really a tough guy.

The friend I was going to lunch with arrived about the same time I did and saw the whole interaction with my biker friend. As she approached me after my encounter, she did everything in her power not to burst out laughing.

The encounter was really so comical to watch. It was kind of like Easy Rider meets Barney Fife. “Yeah,” with a snort, a sniff and a tug on my belt, “I got some bullets in my weapon,” (which everyone knew was a lie).

My friend was kind of like Andy Griffith smiling with an affectionate and knowing smile, shaking her head and then saying, “Let’s go Barn. We’ve restored justice here. Let’s call it a day, before you get hurt.”

As quickly as he arrived, my biker friend disappeared into the restaurant heading in for some good Mexican fare celebrating the gift of free speech. May we all live together in mutual respect and peace.

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A Winter Moment in the Desert


Some time ago, I awoke to find a dusting of snow covering the saguaros of the Sonoran desert where I live. I arose quickly knowing this new fallen blanket from the clouds would soon be gone. I was transfixed by all that surrounded me. The desert was seemingly transformed overnight.

As I turned to view the landscape, I noticed a stately saguaro on the crest of a hillside gleaming in the early morning sun and snow. I was struck by how the saguaro was nearly refashioned by the presence of snow on its outstretched arms. Additionally, the nearby cholla, though much shorter in stature, seemed to be plumped up and jumping for joy with the chilly refreshment all around. It was a remarkable scene for me.

To those who have lived all their lives in the desert, this scene is perhaps quite unremarkable. For me, however, being brought to the desert from far away, I was struck not only by all the beauty surrounding me but also, and I’m embarrassed to say this, by the very fact that it can snow in a desert environment. Even an environment that was a comfortable 65 degrees just twelve hours earlier. This was delightfully unexpected for me.

This surprising encounter with Mother Nature reminded me how we each awake to the new day to many unexpected experiences and opportunities.

As the snow quickly melted on the arms of the saguaro, I imagined this cactus was absorbing the winter water, quenching its January thirst, and building its inner reserves.

Similarly, I thought to myself, each one of us might be surprised by a “dusting of snow” in the desert of our experience of life but we can allow it to be, just like the saguaro, an unexpected way of growth, nourishment, and a way to build our inner “reserves” for a difficult day. Did you have a “surprise snowfall” today? What was it?

In the winter of our struggles there are many unexpected experiences offering hope and healing.These moments might include the timely meeting of an old friend at a holiday get together and hearing her share excitedly about the discovery of a new health protocol working for her. Or it might come in a more subtle way in a whispered suggestion to the ear of our hearts. The trick is to be ready or open for these unpredictable moments of awareness, don’t you think?

Remaining open often requires us to be vulnerable. The outstretched arms of the saguaro in the snow was a symbol of that openness and fragility for me. And we, like the strong old saguaro, can stand resolutely and patiently waiting with open arms to each new day whatever it might bring.

This desert snow fall, with its fleeting nature, also reminded me to enjoy life in the moment. For, like the snow in the desert, life quickly passes. This quiet pause, in the early morning, awoke my mind and heart from a bit of winter hibernation and allowed time for recollection in the frosty stillness. Life passes quickly; enjoy it!

So, these are just a few thoughts about my recent winter moment in the desert. There was quiet. There was peace. There was snow. It was all a grand surprise. And I was chilly but grateful. I look forward to my next desert surprise, however it may unfold.

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By The River Side

image A few days ago I experienced a beautiful and blessed day. I thought I’d share a picture and a few words about it with you in this blog post.

The day included much – but a river, blades of grass, sunshine and God’s gentle touches all figure prominently.

The day was especially appreciated as my experience of God of late has been, well, let’s just say, He’s been seemingly quite remote. And it was after a few weeks of physical and spiritual suffering, that I won’t detail here as we each have our own variety, that these events unfolded.

It was a sunny but brisk fall day in rural New Mexico. It was one of those days when each event and encounter seemed especially created for me in love. Even the little meditation spot along the river I stumbled upon seemed to be carefully prepared with clean, fresh and dry hay. Such a place to sit. Just sit.

Perhaps it WAS all prepared for me? The God of my understanding is like that, you know. Loving, providential, present. Have you ever had such a day?

I sat on the side of the river bank and meditated. Just sitting.

Once, on a months long retreat at a Benedictine monastery in Vermont, it became difficult for me to sit and to meditate so I asked a friendly monk brother for help. I asked him what he thinks about when he is meditating. He responded by saying he tried not to think too much and he allowed himself to “just sit.” Sometimes when his mind wandered he would gently say to himself, “Just sitting.” And then he returned his attention to his breathing. I tried that on the side of this river. Just sitting.

When I opened my eyes after some time sitting, the nearby blade of grass jutting out into the air seemed to pulsate with the glory of God. It seemed for a moment all the mystery and beauty of nature was captured in that blade of grass. I could have meditated on that blade all afternoon.

“Heraclitus would have loved this river,” I thought to myself. He was known to have said, “You can’t step into the same river twice.” This river, flowing strong and always changing, reminded me of the impermanence of life.

When I considered the river with it’s flux and turbulence, I was also reminded of something I heard many years ago. God is in the rapids and in the flux as much as He is in the rocks and in the banks. No need to cling to safety and comfort. Let go. God is there.

I was captivated by all the beauty surrounding me near this river. The beauty didn’t seem to¬†surround me so much as it penetrated me.¬†It was moving through me. Piercing me.

All alone with God. It was a nice moment by the river side.

John Muir once wrote, “Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.” Nature’s peace flowing into you as sunshine flows into trees and cares dropping off like autumn leaves. True this, eh?

Do you know the Rio Grande was called El Rio de Nuestra Se√Īora before it was called “Big River?” I suspect it had an even more majestic name prior to that. Subsequent to being named El Rio de Nuestra Se√Īora, it was called El Rio Bravo, The May River and even The Turbulent River. I like the name Our Lady’s River (El Rio de Nuestra Se√Īora) best, how about you?

As I carefully made my way up the river bank and back into civilization, a lone photographer walked by. A protective sun hat and a camera with a large lens indicated his pursuit. He said, “Beautiful colors and nice light today ‘eh?” I replied with a warm smile and a definitive, “Yes!” He recognized that my brief response was not an anti-social stance but rather a recognition, in silence, of the true awesomeness of the moment. He returned a smile and, understanding the moment, joined me in contemplating (alone but together) El Rio, the Cottonwood trees and the desert cacti at the base of The Mountains of the Holy Day.

May your day today be filled with such an adventure, mystery and beauty. It’s all there.

Where is a spot that you find health, healing and a communion with the Divine? Please share by leaving a comment.

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Tethered Sparrow







A few mornings ago, I awoke to find this feathered friend tethered to the desert floor by a slender black thread. The thread was seriously fouled around the left claw of the little fellow and he was stuck good.

Made curious by his seemingly strange antics, I approached him carefully. Initially, I didn’t realize he was a prisoner. He was hopping around when I drew near to him and as I came closer I realized he was definitively caught. Moreover, this little guy was clearly eager to be released from his mooring line.

I carefully picked up this fragile sparrow and gently severed the thread holding him fast to the ground. Noticing the thread entwined his claw and knotted it up like an old arthritic hand, I decided simply releasing him without removing the twisted thread would be imprudent. I brought him back to base camp for advanced procedures.

Using scissors, tweezers, and finger nail clippers, I delicately cut away the threads tangled around his claw.

A few things struck me most profoundly about this encounter. First, the little bird, after some slight initial reluctance, settled quite comfortably into my hand and allowed me to gently cut away the knotted thread. He almost became docile to my ministrations.

As I experienced this docility, I thought to myself if only we would let go and allow God to cut away the tethered threads of lack of love that limit our ability to soar.

Second, I had never been so close to a bird’s claw and was captivated by its complexity and its seeming fragility. How wonderfully made we are! I paused in quiet awe.

Next, I found myself deeply aware of this little sparrow’s beating heart. Oh how rapid it was as it beat against my palm. Knowing I could easily crush this little bird, the fragility of life and its attendant beauty struck me deeply. Again, I paused in awe.

One of the other elements that amazed me about this encounter, and there were many, was the fact that I had been meditating on the following quote from St. John of the Cross for the last few months:

“The soul that is attached to anything, however much good there may be in it, will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for until the cord be broken, the bird cannot fly.”

~ St. John of the Cross

As I was cutting away the threads that bound our little sparrow, these words came to my heart. Seeing this little bird caught fast by a gossamer thread and knowing I only wanted to help him fly, helped me to better understand the teaching of St. John of the Cross.

This encounter was no small event for me. I was really touched by this little sparrow and my chanced meeting the other day in the desert. It seems to me, we are called to be helpful to other beings not simply because it is good for them but also because we become transformed in the process of helping.

At the end, the little bird chirped a happy song and flew away. As for me, I spent the rest of the week deeply moved by this encounter.

Some days later around¬†2:30¬†in the morning, I was awakened by a little songbird¬†singing outside my window. I thought to myself, “Gee, little bird it’s too early in the morning for you to be awake. Why are you not sleeping like all the other birds?” I then thought perhaps this was my little friend released from his bonds and healed from his wounds returning to offer me an early morning song of thanks. Who knows!

This encounter with the tethered sparrow happened a few days ago and yet the joy of that moment lingers. Life is good. Rich. Beautiful.

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Javelinas in the Morning!

Music, my father and love were the themes presented in my first blog post. In this, blog post, I am bringing my theme a little closer to my temporary home in Arizona by sharing an animal encounter I experienced on my first day in the desert.

While rattle snakes, free range cattle, baby squirrels, skunks, gila monsters, tarantulas, cardinals, owls, road runners, coyotes and a hedgehog named Henry all feature in the entire story of my desert animal encounters, for today’s brief blog post, I’ll start the longer narrative of animal encounters with a short reflection on my encounter with Arizona javelinas. In fact, this is where all my animal encounters actually began.

You say you don’t know what a javelina is? Well, neither did I until this first encounter removed my unfamiliarity. This dramatic encounter, on my first night in Arizona, proved to me – early on – that the desert night has its own world of determined nocturnal denizens.

The story unfolds when I arrived in Ajo, Arizona to rent an apartment from Ed and Charlene. Ed shares the same health condition as I do, Environmental Illness (EI), and he built a number of homes that are uniquely suited for people with this challenging illness. I’ll share more about Environmental Illness in another blog post but for the moment suffice it to say, this illness necessitated me moving from my comfortable life on the east coast to pursue temporary housing and long term healing in Arizona.

I arrived at Ed and Charlene’s house after a lengthy three day journey from Dallas, Texas. Dallas had hosted me for about two months as I sought treatment for Environmental Illness from a well known EI doctor there.

The last leg of the journey took me through the dusty desert of southern Arizona. When I arrived at Ed and Charlene’s house, as you might imagine, I was beat from a long journey. Having never visited the southwest desert before, I found myself a bit shell shocked, disoriented and downright weary from my late afternoon drive through the desert. The perceived desert emptiness seemed endless to me.

Ed and Charlene received their tuckered traveler graciously enough with a hearty meal and warm table fellowship. It was good to be among folks who were living vibrant lives and shared similar health experiences. After this satisfying meal, I was lead to my apartment and quickly prepared myself for sleep. I was bushed!

Prior to getting readying for bed, I went outside to my little Nissan Versa (Which I named Rocinante. No offense to Steinbeck.) and removed two large plastic totes, my sleeping bag and other travel items and placed them carefully beside the back of my car. They seemed safe enough resting there against the cement wall dividing Ed’s property from the neighbor’s yard. I thought everything was well secured for the night. Little did I know.

Get! Get out! Get out of here, screamed Charlene at 3:00am in the morning just outside the window of the room in which I was sleeping! I was sound asleep and her cries were more like distant sounds in a strange faraway dream than an actual call for alarm. I had been traveling hard and consequently was dead asleep. I never fully woke up to investigate the commotion and just rolled over and fell back asleep. Dead to the world.

It wasn’t until the morning that I realized the filthy and disorganized consequences of a javelina attack lay just outside my door.

Three or four stinky javelinas evidently came charging into the yard earlier in the morning and Charlene chased them away from the property and the goodies they encountered in my food storage totes. They also seemed to have fun with my sleeping bag which was left outside.

As I looked at my ripped apart plastic totes, rice cakes, almond butter and organic crackers strewn all over the yard, I knew something unexpected had taken place in the early morning. In addition to the mess, this havoc was accompanied by a filthy smell that was something like a combination of a wet skunk, a dirty gym sock and a musty bitter stench of old garbage rolled into one. This smell, along with a filthy black residue, was all over my totes and seemingly infused into my sleeping bag. Such was what awaited me this first morning in Arizona. I was not happy.

What had happened, I thought to myself? I knew I had encountered something unknown from my own experience but I had no idea what had happened. Then I vaguely remembered Charlene’s shouts from a few hours earlier.

Dazed and curious, I walked around to the back of the house where Charlene and Ed lived and gently knocked on the door. Charlene presented herself with a slight smile on her face and I, after saying good morning, asked, “What happened here last night?”
¬Ě”Javelinas” she responded somberly. “Javelinas?¬Ě” I shouted! “What in the hell are Javelinas?”¬Ě I stammered completely confused by what they were but quite convinced I understood the consequences of their actions. She laughed.

Charlene couldn’t contain herself and let out a full laugh. “You don’t know what a javelina is?”¬Ě she asked incredulously? Shaking my head, surveying the detritus filled yard and looking a little stunned she knew I had absolutely no idea what animal had attacked my food supplies the night before. For all I knew it could have been the infamous and mysterious chupacabra from Puerto Rico. Charlene went on to explain the javelina is an animal about the size of a large hog which looks like a wild boar or pig but is actually a giant RAT originally from South America. “A giant rat?”¬Ě I thought. Yuck!¬† I was further amazed to learn it was not just one javelina that devoured my food and left a mess but several critters. Evidently, these animals travel in packs!

As it turned out these active night creatures, which Charlene had chased out of the yard at three am, are protected and it’s only legal to hunt them certain times a year. They have actually become somewhat of a nuisance in the small desert town of Ajo, Arizona. They will eat just about any garbage they can find and will surely break into food supplies left outside thinking they are snacks for the whole javelina community to enjoy.

I learned an early lesson on my first night in the Sonoran desert. There are indeed creatures lurking in the Arizona dark and it’s wise to leave no food outside for these roaming characters to consume! Moreover, what I initially thought was a barren lifeless landscape is actually brimming with animal activity!

As my encounters with animals have unfolded here in the desert, most were far more enjoyable! All have been educational. More on those in future blog posts! Have you had an interesting animal encounter? Please share your experience as a comment here! Thank you for reading! Until next month, wishing you all the best!

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O Mio Babbino Caro – Oh My Beloved Father

Starting, I’m told, is always the hardest part in any endeavor. So, it would seem, with this first blog post, I’ve passed through “the hardest part.” We shall see if that bit of wisdom holds true.

Music, my father, and love are the themes that will be discussed in this blog post.

As you will see from the embedded video link, and I do hope you have listened to and watched it, this blog entry will initially involve some discussion of classical music.

I present this music video to you because the music by Puccini – as performed by Joshua Bell – is the most beautiful piece of music I have ever heard performed and is my most favorite.

Although I am no expert and hardly know my andantes from my adagios, I do know I am transformed into a better person and transported into a better world from the very first note of this aria. Does music do that for you at times? Why, I wonder?

On a certain, far more hum-drum level, I’m hoping my writing might help me and you to become a bit more transformed…going from where we are to where we might be.

Art in general and Italian opera in specific often help a person transcend the present reality and enter more deeply into a different reality. The story behind this aria does this and is most touching to me.

This evocative melody was written for an Italian opera and is sung by a young love smitten girl, Lauretta, after tensions with her father and the family of the boy she loves reach a point that Lauretta might be separated from her beloved. This song of tender devotion captures Lauretta’s love for her firm Italian father and a plea for him to show mercy.

The name of this aria in English is, “Oh My Beloved Father.” The title gives you insight into the story. It is particularly touching to me, and perhaps to others, because, like in the operatic story from whence it comes, I, too, have experienced “tensions” with my father and now, like the beauty of this music proclaims and the name it carries, my heart feels nothing but love and tenderness for my beloved father. How good it is to be transformed.

IMG_0050My father is now elderly and a stroke from a few years ago has perhaps slowed him down and softened him a bit. As he walks his last few miles (a great heartbreaking distance from me), I think of him often, pray for him regularly, thank God for him near daily and delight in the great gift he is – especially as I listen to Joshua Bell perform this magnificent rendition of “O Mio Babbino Caro.” My beloved father, indeed!

So, as I begin my meanderings and musings in the blogosphere, I introduce you to my favorite piece of music, share with you the love I have for my dad this music evokes, and ask you to consider what your most favorite piece of music is and why.

Joshua Bell is one of my favorite performers and I share this music with you to elicit a response and to dedicate this song and my blog writings to my beloved father.

And so, with this post, I have started my blog. Enjoy the music video again, and please share, if you are so inclined, what your favorite piece of music is and why?

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Greetings from the Desert!

Welcome to my blog! In the coming days I will share thoughts and ideas inspired by living in the desert.

In this blog, I will write about my personal journey, thoughts about faith, general experiences in our culture, and what it means, to me, to be a human person in the modern world. All of these themes, and others, will be written from the perspective of the desert.

Thanks for reading!

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