Category Archives: Reflections

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. 😉

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.

A Winter Moment in the Desert

imageSome 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.

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 Señora 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 Señora, 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 Señora) 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.

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 discussed in this, my first, blog post.

Originally, this blog post had a video-link embedded in it of a Puccini aria as performed by Joshua Bell. The song is entitled, O Mio Babbino Caro. Evidently, I violated some internet rights and it was removed. I do hope you have a chance to google it and listen to it. It’s really beautiful.

I presented this music video because the music by Puccini – as performed by Joshua Bell – is one of the most beautiful pieces of music I have ever heard performed and it is one of 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. Perhaps, simply growing in friendship.

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?