USA Trip May-June 2016

My USA trip was a real zinger.

Coming on the beginnings of a new relationship with a generous, caring, successful, playful and creative woman, conferences, courses, projects, visiting with my son, and chilling out, was interspersed with lengthy viber or skype conversations that were flirty, jokey, intellectual, dissonant, honest, vulnerable, happy, and teary.

The Landmark Global Transformation conference, my entry event in San Fransisco, rode on the theme of ‘Wonder’. One of my all time favourite topics, wonder would anchor the whole trip and come back, specifically, again during the Alba Emot Course in Asheville, North Carolina, a couple of weeks later.

Although Global Transformations took the ‘Wonder’ theme, it was a wondering about leadership that took my ear. Gladly, presenters I had met a couple of year ago, facilitated a couple of beautiful engaging structural movement communication work. I attended those sessions for my work in dance and it gave me another access to my hearing on leadership. Initially that hearing on leadership was all about what I need to be a leader of my rEvolve project. As my trip comes to a conclusion, that has transformed into rEvolve being the possibility of a leadership training program, ‘Moving into Leadership’.

The idea of moving into leadership is a more clear consolidation of the work I am doing around sustainability and climate change, men’s culture, and dance, into an integrated work, a leadership training program.

From San Fransisco, I flew over to Denver, Colorado, for a few days, to catch up with my friends in Art as Action. Staying at an Air BNB nearby, I was able to ride a hire bike into the city, and even on the light rail to Jefferson County where I could ride to hiking paths. As with my previous experience in that part, life at one mile high can make the legs ache in bike riding unusually earlier than at my home altitude in Australia of half a mile. I learnt how to use Lyft.

It seemed that each time the past two years I’ve seen my friends in Art as Action they have been grieving over the loss of a loved one. Last year the grandfather of the director had passed away. This year one of their music/dance colleagues and his partner were killed in a car accident. I want to make some bigger sense of this coincidence. It only mattered that I could be some community of listening around the grief. Sarah Leversee welcomed me into her Reconnect Class based on Dance for PD and it was wonderful to see the liveliness of that ‘older’ dance class.

It was a special treat to spend a few hours over lunch with Wayne Gilbert, performance poet, retired literature teacher, and recent (having Parkinson’s Disease) dance performer with Art as Action. Wayne is a volunteer poetry teacher to the State prison to the north of Denver. His experience of the attraction of poetry to some hard men, has been profound. At one of his earliest classes, having delivered a poem on Parkinson’s Disease, he was astounded that a hand immediately shot up. The owner said, “Yeh, I get that poem. It’s like how I feel about being in this prison.” I find myself amazed by the nature of the human being around their limiting circumstances, their authentic relationship with those limitations, the access they find to some expansion of those circumstances and they contributions they choose to make, nonetheless. There is some inspiration there, for all of us, and I store that idea away for a way to provide access to that inspiration for everyone.

It was great to spend a week chillin’ at my son’s place in Riverside, California. We had a number of social outings together including a Baha’i meeting. We played an hour of table tennis every night. I got a little heat stroke doing a hike in the desert hills at the back of his place, and the effects of that took quite a few days to remedy, reminding me, among other things, that I’m not as young as I used to be. It was lovely to spend a sedate four hours with my son in the UCR library while he played with an assignment for his masters degree in social work. Sometimes I think I should be in conversation with my son, seeing that we can’t see each other much across the seas, but I profess one of my greatest joys is just to be in proximity.

The next phase of my travel was to spend a few days with Sue Blythe on the Sustainable Farm, Hampton, Gainesville, Florida, around her Future Flash Climate Change Project. Sue’s work has expanded to engage commitments from some fabulous environmental players in Florida, including the manager of the ‘Sustainable Floridians’ volunteer training program out of Florida University, Lanny the Earthman, Actor Jan Booher, and Dave Room San Fransisco based creator of Pacha’s Pyjamas. As I write this I’ve just finished a Skype conversation with Dave Room, opening the way for his work to find expression for children environmental education in Australia.

From Gainesvile to Asheville to the Alba Emot course with Laura Bond. What a fantastic 9 days, learning and training in primary emotional expression, Feldenkrais movement, and exploring related experiments in life story, text, voice and dance with an extraordinary teaching team. So much to bring back to my dance and theatre work but also into the possibility of leadership training.

And so, this week another chill out and exercise at my son’s place in California. It’s a hot summer week in the desert, 113 F early in the week. Time to meditate, play with movement training (God I need it), and have dozens of small conversations with him around his life. He became an American citizen while I’ve been here. Looks like another feather in his global citizen’s cap.

Two nights ago I woke in sadness. My time here is slipping away. Today, I’m prepared for a great weekend with my son, at the beach, in LA. It is time to go home.

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RIverside 2011 – A Poem

Lake Marshall, Riverside

Owen overlooking Lake Marshall

We heard our name called out

from the boarding desk.

Standing around, talking,

we nearly missed our flight out of Cairns.

In Brisbane we caught our flight

in a timely fashion,

not a moment to spare.

15 hours and 5 movies later,

we queued in a customs snake.

Behind us by a few,

a girl with a puppy dog tic

brought the officers to alert,

running to inspect

for illegal importation of a dog.

Her sister had to explain loudly.

We hoped she wasn’t too embarrassed.

Finally, joyfully, we saw

 Nathan and Danielle

had risen early, early, on a

cold, rainy day LA,

bringing to my mind the song

“It never rains in Southern California”

forgetting that the following line of the song is

“but it pours..”

That night we slept deeply

in exhaustion

waking with Danielle’s loud telephone voice.

M’God, it’s 10:30

No plans.

Danielle went to a class at St Benardino University

We went with her.

To a fabulous little art museum

showing exciting colourful, evocative works,

a Buddha plasticine sculpture activity,

then prowled the campus.

As evening fell

Soroor and Danielle organised

a visit to Nathan’s work

to meet a cheerful team of

Evelyn, Gustavo,  Kristine, Patty, Ron.

Dinner at the Olive Garden.

Tues Day 3 Soroor ran to catch a bus

while I hobbled on knees

that seemed to have died on the flight over.

We took the bus to the other end of Riverside

to Galleria on Tyler.

Soroor noticed “You’re a minority on this bus”,

in a smug, I’m feeling quite comfortable, voice.

And Tigga went “Sigh, I hadn’t noticed”

At Galleria we over-ate for one.

Our bus trip back was planned meticulously.

Spending time looking around the Mission Inn,

then coffee,

and missed the bus.

Soroor borrowed a phone.

We caught the next one.

Dressed up and experienced

a nocturnal freeway drive

to the Baha’i Feast in Corona

Wednes Day four Nathan takes work for the Thanksgiving weekend

Took a drive

California State orange orchard / Lake Marshall / Chipalettos

Dropping in on Nathan’s boss, Linda

Soroor is relaxed and secure,

everyone loves her baby.

Another freeway ride

to Murrietta

Jazzae played Basketball

we cheered.

She shot, she scored.

we cheered.

We went on to

Tash and Afshin’s

for Thanksgiving.

Thurs Day five I got up a dawn

as the Arneson family rose

to prepare Thanksgiving repast.

The turkey took a basting.

I stepped in as Tash’ stunt arm.

Drank coffee, distracted the children

looking for Thanksgiving songs with the IPad,

peered at Tash’ nicnacks

more guests arrived,

we ate and talked,

sang a Slim Dusty song,

and late, drove the freeway back to east riverside.

Fri Day six slowly offered the possibility of

a trip to a wholesaler.

I took a hike on the hill nearby,

surprised at the sponginess of the grass and soil,

and the steepness and openness of the slope,

reminding me I am scared of falling from heights.

I hiked down.

We got back on the freeway

to Corona to study

a Baha’i course, RuhiBk8, with a local group

Satur Day seven saw a tour

of the UCR botanical Garden

that has cacti, rocks, and a view of the suburb.

Soroor and Danielle cooked dinner

for her family and later enjoyed

the Riverside Christmas Lights display.

Sun Day eight a longer excursion to

Newport beach and a Kebab & Persian shop.

Staying awake to attend a commemoration,

the Ascension Abdu’l-Baha’

in San Marino.

Mon Day nine we caught the bus

on time to Las Vegas.

Booking in to the 26th floor of the Luxor,

a pyramid of rooms,

with quarter wall corridors,

looking down into the foyer,

reminding me

that I am very scared of falling from heights.

Soroor leans over the balcony to get a good view.

Prowling the lights,

hungrily we stopped at a grill

where the food was quite boring and the sport TV very loud.

Walking on we came across

our first delight

the Bellagio fountains.

Diving in and out every hotel we came,

we learnt that dodging show spruikers

was part of the Las Vegas game.

Tues Day ten began with brunch in Denney’s

 – yippee –

And then we walked the strip

for hours,

deciding that Caesar’s Palace is número uno

and back to the hotel next to our hotel

 the Mandalay to see

“The Lion King”

– so grand, so fantastically enjoyable –

Sweet Crepes became a late dinner.

Wednes day eleven straight to Denney’s for breakfast

Walked more of the strip

Costumed buskers – Kandy Floss, Transformers, Elvis, Mickey, Garfield, Willy Wonker,

Club spruikers, Moving billboards selling girls

Treasur Island, Wynns, Palazzo, Venetian

it goes on.

We hit a large buffet for lundinner

Then to the

Phantom of the Opera

at the Venetian.

As if to set the mood, the evening turned very cold and windy.

It was mindboggling.

The chandeliers flew around the ceiling,

and fell.

Reminding Soroor in a scream

that she is scared of things falling on her.

Thurs Day twelve we slpt in to check out

Breakfast at MacDonald’s inside the Luxor.

Bus back to cold, cold,

Fremont st, the original casino area of LA

Bus back to Riverside

The traffic inbound to Las Vegas,

a sight to behold.

At Barstow in the desert,

we got out of the bus for a break.

We missed the Bus.

It left without us.

Taking our bags, iPad, and camera.

“There are no more greyhounds ’till tomorrow”, says the greyhound ticketer,

who sent a message to riverside bus depot

that Danielle would meet it and get our bags.

We caught an American Lion to Colton

Danielle and Nathan did the circuit

picking bags, then us up

and fed us Curry.

Fri Day thirteen we went shopping

Sorted photos,

Watched wedding video of Kelsey and Nathan

Went back to study Ruhi Bk 8

At Burritos at Albertos

-a must for all food adventurers-

Satur Day fourteen got up slowly

Bags all packed

Took the freeway to Hollywood

walked head down,

dodging spruikers in costumes,

checking out the stars on the footpath

and the handprints

at Sid’s Chinese Theatre.

Lunched on the roof

Soroor searched for souvenirs

Sun already going down

Found our way to the Getty Museum

amazingly sitting on a rock overlooking LA

Millions of dollars of art

reminding me I am scared of falling from heights.

Soroor fell down

on a marbled floor.

Plenty of time to catch our flight for a midnight departure,

Burritos near Venice beach

then to the airport by 9:45

“Wait by the phone,” we joke with Danielle and Nathan “in case we miss the plane”.

“Check in is quiet”, noticed Soroor to the lone check in guy.

“Because the flight is about to close”, he chastises.

“What!” we exclaimed, “for a midnight flight?”

“It leaves at 10:45, maam”, he replies boredly.

We keep it straight.

Later, we giggle a lot.

Couldn’t wait to tell Danielle.

Three movies and a some deep sleep to Brisbane,

we had breakfast with Kels, Sep, Reubs.

The prices are outrageous.

Israel Day six

We have a ‘free’ day from the organised pilgrimage. My wife has a nephew who is an agronomist doing volunteer work on the  gardens. He is a talented lad who speaks French (country tongue), Parsi (mother tongue), English(cousin tongue), and Spanish (holiday tongue).  He is also very cheerful. We decided to meet him and go for a walking tour of Akka. It surprised me that it really only took a couple of hours strolling and sightseeing to get around the old walled city. Many of the places we knew from Baha’i history but I was intrigued to see a ‘crusader’s tunnel’ – an escape tunnel from near the mediterranean sea wall to the inner town.

We had late lunch at a very crowded restaurant which we had gotten to through the Akka market. The market was so crowded that it was like being squeezed along for about 15 minutes.

As evening fell, we took a taxi over to Bahji to pray in the Shrine of Baha’u’llah. Many of the pilgrims took the opportunity to be there as well as there were late buses organised to get us back to Haifa.

Israel Day Two & Three

Still trying to catch up with my travelogue after such a busy month.  Already I find my detailed memory starting to fade after two months since our trip.

Day 2 we started early at 7:15am and took the organised bus to the Most holy Place for the Baha’is – the resting place of Baha’u’llah – at the mansion and farm (now extensive gardens) called Bahji. I have no photos from that day as we spent it in total contemplation and prayer. Later in the week we returned and I took more photos then.
Day 3 of our pilgrimage was an early start 7:15am on the bus in Haifa and around the bay to Akka. The pilgrimage approximates the chronology of historical events for the founder of the Faith, Baha’u’llah, and His son and successor, Abdu’l-Baha. So this first trip to Akka finds us at the army barracks which were used as a prison. It is a fortified barracks with a large dry moat around it. It is important to note that the fortress city of Akka repelled even Napoleon’s army. Its walls were breached by the Egyptian governor in the early 19th century. Yet at the time of Baha’u’llah it was a poorly upkept town with a stench that harboured nasty diseases. Although the family became sick on arrival, only 2 died from disease. Other prisioners here had not been so lucky (if you can call it that.) Later Baha’u’llah was instrumental in cleaning up the town. Two years later, and still in that prison, Baha’u’llah’s youngest son who He had named ‘The Purest Branch” fell through a skylight on the roof while pacing and praying. He fell on a crate that pierced his chest, and died.

We then went to the House of Abbud (named for the owner at the time). Baha’u’llah and his family rented part of this house after being released from the barracks. He wrote His “Most Holy Book”, the book of laws of the Baha’i Faith, here.

His son, Abdu’l-Baha, also married here, to a young woman who had come from Persia.

Baha’u’llah lived here for seven years, while Abdu’l-Baha lived here until after Baha’u’llah’s death in 1992.

Israel Day One

We met a few other pilgrims to the Baha’i Holy places in Israel, in the TelAviv airport. Together we took a ‘sheroot’ bus from TelAviv airport to our B&B in Haifa. The driver was enthusiastic to reassure us he would look after us, and he was true to his word. Apart from the general salubriousness of being among a larger group of like minded people than we are commonly used to, a Baha’i pilgrimage offers proximity with many people from all corners of the Earth who have interesting tales and knowledge to share.

Our first day in Haifa is orientation. We are staying on top of Mt Carmel and the walk down the mountain in night or day provides marvellous views. When Haifa was a small town at the early 20th century, the head of the Baha’i Faith told a visitor that one day there would be light of a city around the bay. That day has come and it is almost astounding to think of the great expansion in a hundred years. It tells me that we have no idea how the world will be in another hundred years. I think if we could be around, we would be gobsmacked. Reminds me that my grandmother once sighed how much change there had been as she was a child in horse and carriage era and lived to see man walk on the moon. We humans have such a penchant for taking things for granted. What a wonderful capacity! We do something great. Tomorrow we think it is ordinary. The next day we do something greater.

But I digress. Back to the walking. I walked up the public stairs on Mount Carmel on the evening of our first day, but not thereafter although I walked down everyday. Felt very fit by the end of the week. Israelis like dogs and walk them regularly. One day a woman passed me with a beautiful black great dane with a muzzle, but he was very friendly. I never heard a dog barking incessantly. Maybe they keep them indoors and well trained.

Our first day of pilgrimage consisted of a visit to the Shrine of the Bab (1819 – 1852), one of the two founders of the Faith. The Bab was executed in the north of Persia by a squad of 750 soldiers so that his body was severely mangled. His remains were secreted from Persia to Haifa until they were interred on Mt Carmel in 1909. Abdu’l-Baha, the son of the other founder of the Faith and the head of the Faith from 1892 – 1921, is also interred in that shrine. Abdu’l-Baha built the basic shrine. His grandson and the head of the Faith after him, then raised a superstructure with a golden dome. Over the past decade, the world governing body of the Baha’i Faith, known as the Universal House of Justice, realised a set of nineteen terraces (9 above and 9 below the shrine) running from the bottom of Mt Carmel at the end of Ben Gurion avenue to the top of Carmel bordered by Panorama street.