We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Great Wheel go bragh!

Imbolc                                                                 New Shoulder Moon

Erin go braghMade corned beef and cabbage for dinner last night. Erin go bragh! When I decided to write novels, now long ago, Kate suggested I find an area that I could relate to. I chose my Celtic heritage, both Welsh and Irish. It is a fertile realm, filled with gods and goddesses, fairies and banshees, this world and the other world. Not so deep into it right now with one exception, the Great Wheel.

The Great Wheel, though, continues to inform my spiritual journey, a steady point on an often changing ancientrail. The Great Wheel is us, homo sapiens, using consciousness to ground ourselves on this planet and to its fate. Still seems a good place to start thinking about our relationship to the whole, better than any text. Great Wheel go bragh!

Took a sack full of food into the Aurora Olson’s yesterday afternoon. Jon, Ruth and Gabe have all been home sick since Tuesday. Gabe has pneumonia, Jon and Ruth the respiratory illness that preceded it for Gabe. Another positive of being close enough. Ruth sent a text Friday night, “Yo. Can you bring us some food?” I didn’t stay because neither Kate nor I want to get sick before her surgery on Thursday.


As long as I was in Denver, I drove to Meiningers. This is the big art supply store in the Denver area. It’s filled with paints and papers and brushes and pens and tape and pencils and cutting tools. A wonderful place, its existence alone stimulated me, and I’m sure every customer who goes inside.

yasumotoIts sumi-e material material, though, was feeble compared to the hole in wall (by comparison), Red Herring. Meiningers’ selection of brushes were all cheap, beginner’s brushes. They did have a couple of Yasumoto inks that I bought, an Ultra Black and a Black Gold. I also picked up an Olfa knife to cut paper, from the kraft roll that came last week and from the rolls of rice paper I bought from Red Herring and Blue Heron, an online sumi-e store.

Not sure why this has become so important to me in so short a period of time, but as I said below melancholy allows the heart to catch up with decisions already known to the subconscious.

Life flows on, in endless song, I can’t help singing.



Stuff From Out There

Imbolc                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

A few random finds. The first one sent by sister Mary. It appeared in the Guardian.

Romanian court tells man he is not alive      Constantin Reliu, 63, fails to overturn 2003 death certificate because he appealed too late.  Read the whole story at Guardian

And, two from Post Secrets.  The second because it breaks my heart. The first because I recognized the sentiment of feeling guilty because I did not suffer more. The thing to remember is that ignored mine would have done what all cancers do, take over my body and kill me.


Regress to advance

Imbolc                                                                             New Shoulder Moon

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
– Anatole France

melancholyThe last letters of the Hebrew alphabet now have renderings in sumi-e, lying on my table ready for quotes and the chop. A member of Beth Evergreen last night referred to me as an artist. Oh. I thought he said audience. Artist is not a word I’ve ever associated with myself so my brain heard something else. A revealing moment. How others see us is not always, perhaps often, not the way we see ourselves.

An obituary on Terry Brazelton had this summary of a major finding of his research: “Development does not occur on a linear path, with each skill building on earlier ones. Rather, it unfolds in a series of major reorganizations in which children temporarily regress before mastering a new developmental milestone.” NYT

Well. That explains melancholy, at least as I’ve experienced it. There’s a plateau effect, then a hesitation, a pause while the psyche incorporates a new way of being, one probably not available to consciousness at the time of the pause. Since it’s inchoate, the reorganization seems like a regression, a stutter. The mind and the body both slow down, awaiting something they don’t understand. Result: melancholy.

 Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

If you’ve read my posts over the last month or so, I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. My psyche had moved on, already aware that I needed more tactile moments in my daily life, already aware that it was time to resort my priorities based on a new constellation of possibilities made real by our move.

Last night at the shabbat service a rabbi friend of Jamie’s gave a short reflection. She had us consider an unusual moment in the Torah when the former Hebrew slaves remembered fondly the foods they had in Egypt. Using this seemingly inscrutable nostalgia for a time of bondage, she suggested that during transitions, a time of instability, wandering in the dessert for example, we often want to return to the stable state we know to ease the anxieties and uncertainties of a transition. Thus, when faced with a period of eating manna during an often frustrating movement toward the land promised, but not yet reached, even slavery seemed to have its charms.

That nostalgia, I think, is the root of melancholy, a hope that the past can ease the upset of the present. The psyche knows that’s a false hope, a trap, but is unable to articulate why. So, stasis, moving neither forward nor backward, which the ego interprets as negative without knowing why. Really, the moment is gestational, a new way awaits its birth. Not back to Egypt, but on to the promised land. Not back to the life of forty years in Minnesota, but on to the new life developing in Colorado.





Imbolc                                                             (New Shoulder) Moon

In my continuing and haphazard research into the semiotics of the American vehicle, especially the rear window and below it, I present my latest find discovered when I went to pick up supplies for my hearing aid.


New Shoulder Moon

Imbolc                                                                       (New Shoulder) Moon

20180121_172506The new life moon, which hung in the sky during the Jewish month of Adar, gives way this evening to the new shoulder moon in the month of Nisan. On March 22nd, under a waxing new shoulder moon, Kate will meetup again with Dr. David Schneider, this time at Ortho Colorado, the same hospital where Dr. William Peace put in my new knee. If all goes well, her new shoulder will be in place that day and she will return home on Friday to begin six weeks or so of recuperation.

Her right shoulder has become, no pun intended, unbearable. Not only does its pain restrict the utility of her right arm, the pain at night has interfered with her sleep for months. I’m hopeful that this procedure will at least eliminate the pain and at optimum, through rehab, restore her right arm to her. She’s a quilter, an organizer, a clothes folder, a grandma, a food cheiftess, and my favorite hugging partner.

Hugging has been an issue for some time since her shoulder pops and cracks, audibly, even to me. We’ve developed a half body hug that preserves her shoulder, but I’m ready to go back to full body and so is she.


Sjogren’s syndrome presents some obstacles during and immediately after the surgery with dryness, especially in her eyes and mouth. We have a sheet of protocols other Sjogren’s patients have used. We’ll hand it out to the surgeon, the anesthesiologist, and the recovery room/hospital room nurses. Ortho Colorado and Panorama Orthopedics both have extensive and well-followed procedures for following a patient’s medical history, so I’m hopeful here, too.

Too, the new shoulder moon will rise over the first day of spring on March 20th. That means Kate will have the energy of a waxing moon and the power of nature resurgent working in her favor. Can’t hurt.

New Its A Small World Images history mitzvah day akronThere is, as well, another factor. Beth Evergreen. Kate has a community that cares about her and will help us through her surgery and recovery if we need it. We probably won’t need help, but if we do, we know Beth Evergreen is there for us. For two folks living in a new place, with ties of forty years severed by leaving Minnesota, this is a huge comfort. Being part of a beloved community. A gift for which we are both grateful.


Moving Forward, Cloud Dissipating

Imbolc                                                                             New Life Moon

20180315_080213Under the New Life moon a new life has emerged, related to the old one, but different nonetheless. The trajectory and the distance of the change got a marker last night on the final evening of the kabbalah class on the mysticism of the Hebrew letters.

I had my first art exhibit! (well, since elementary school.) I have done over half of the Hebrew letters in my sumi-e calligraphy, adding a quote I felt highlighted some aspect of the letter’s significance. And finishing them off with the chop. Oddly, the thought of displaying my work didn’t daunt me, as it would have in the old life. In the new life my work is my play. Self consciousness doesn’t enter the field.

Some even called my work beautiful. Wow. Don’t get me wrong though. I was proud of these pieces and as a result was able to appreciate how the others responded to them, not deflect it.

20180315_080239Too, under the new life moon I’ve become the regular dinner cook at our house, experimenting at times, at other times (mostly) using recipes, but enjoying myself immensely. Added to my long practice of working out, even that has a new flavor with the workouts every six weeks or so from On the Move Fitness, I’ve got tactile time each day. I’m using my hands and a non-verbal creative impulse.

The day after my birthday was the new moon. That means these changes have all happened in my 71st year, facilitated by the earlier fall into a melancholic state. So today I speak in favor of sadness, of gloom. Without the stasis and the deep reexamination that melancholy brings this new life would likely not have emerged.

20180315_080258It is no accident, though in real time it was, that this period was also the time of the middot of joy. Joy and sadness are not enemies, rather they are a vital source of learning if we don’t suppress them. Steering away from grief, tamping down joy in favor of a false stability, a false calm defuses the opportunity our soul offers to us through these emotions. They signal the soul’s gladness, the soul’s mourning, both key to a depth appreciation of our journey.

How the rest of my life will adjust, shift in light of these changes is not yet clear to me. And that’s ok.




“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Einstein

Imbolc                                                                  New Life Moon

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” Einstein



Happy Pi day! And, happy birthday, birthday boy Albert Einstein! Instead of grieving the loss of Stephen Hawking, I’m going with celebrating his life and his thought, his determination, grit.

So, permanently joined now: Pi day, Einstein, Hawking. Who says the universe isn’t poetic? “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” This Einstein quote could be the headline for Pi day from now on.

Physics. I admit certain ideas in high school physics still elude me. Latent heat, for example. Never did get that. There are trajectories I could imagine, ways my life would have been different, not better, necessarily, just different. One of them would have had me follow mathematics and physics in college. I enjoyed both of them, had plenty of aptitude for mathematics especially, but I set them aside after high school, heading into religion and philosophy and politics.

hawkingHappy with that direction since it’s borne fruit for me all along the path of my life, kept my bicycle moving. Still does. Though. The sort of attention to detail demanded of scientists and mathematicians would have been a good thing to cultivate, too. Peering behind the curtain of the sensible world, a feat much like translation from one language to another, appeals to me, too. I’ve tried to keep up with science, in a not very organized way.

Pi day is a good reminder, a scientific holiday.



Maybe I’ll pull that Great Courses dvd off the shelf and finally explore calculus. Never have done it. Ruth loves math. She indicated some interest. Kate, Jon and Joseph all have calculus. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Today the tao pokes out from behind the faces of Einstein and Hawking, illuminates the mysterious number of pi, transcendental, irrational and downright useful in spite of all that.

the tao

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

taoHad a strong sense yesterday of the tao. Often elusive for me, yesterday had a distinct flavor, a wind blowing through the events of the day and I rode with it.

Gabe’s sick, a croupy respiratory bug. Now, Jon has to deal with this as a single parent. A sick kid and two working parents is hard, but a sick kid and two divorced working parents is harder.

Into Aurora yesterday at eight a.m. to pick Gabe up and bring him up here. It was daylight saving time, the next day, and I felt loggy, off, a mild buzzing in my head and stomach not quite settled. There’s only one route to Aurora from here, Hwy 285 which becomes Hampden Road in Denver. Hampden runs through southern Denver, four lane at points, six lanes at others, lots of businesses, especially past Interstate 25 headed east.

I’d waited until eight to leave to avoid rush hour. The tao of the day laughed. At about Swedish hospital traffic seemed to slow, slow, slow, then crawl. And, occasionally, stop. Three lanes of traffic clotted. And, the clot lasted. Usually, from Swedish Hospital to Colorado Avenue is about a three minute drive. Thirty minutes. A lot of it with plenty of time to read the warning label about the semi-fluid lubricant in tire bearings on the semi sitting next to me.

1514204365009It was jaggedy, edgy tao, putting up barriers, then releasing. Gabe had his own struggle with this tao. I was forty minutes late picking him up.

We drove back to the mountains in silence. My hearing aid battery died in Lakewood, about thirty minutes from home. Even with the hearing aid, the noisiness of the Rav4 makes hearing Gabe’s soft voice from the back seat impossible for me.

Once home Kate had to leave for a mani-pedi, so I remained in the house in case Gabe needed anything. He came with a cooler containing ginger ale and cheese.

I felt jangly, stomach still off. Reading the Third Plate kept my mind distracted, a positive barrier to temporary discomfort. This book has a lot to teach. Of the many key learnings so far, one that keeps coming back like a ruminant’s cud was a short encounter between Dan Barber, the author, and Wes Jackson, a hero of mine who runs the Land Institute in Kansas.

Stone Barns and Dan Barber's Blue Hill restaurant

Stone Barns and Dan Barber’s Blue Hill restaurant

Dan had visited an organic farmer in upstate New York who “listened to the language of the soil,” reading soil health from the weeds that grew in his fields. This particular formulation, language of the soil, grabbed me because I had come to the same metaphor over my years of gardening in Andover. The soil speaks, tells you what it needs. You just have to see what you’re looking at. This farmer’s attention to that language resulted in an organic farm, growing mostly heirloom varieties of corn, wheat and other grains, intermixed with soil healing crops like spelt and clover.

After Dan told Wes about this farmer, he nodded. “Yes, Dan. He sounds like a great guy, but it won’t last.” Someone else, he went on, will buy the farm and all of the careful reading of the soil’s language will disappear. The chemical/industrial farming ethos will return. When Wes recognized Dan’s disappointment, he said to him, “What can I say? We live in a fallen world.”

tao3This anecdote has stuck with me, I think, because of the sale of our land in Andover. We did so much, worked hard at creating soils that would grow healthy, vibrant plants, but then we moved on.

It was the tao of Monday, a slow pulsing tao that put up obstacles, then took them down. It placed Gabe’s illness alongside a huge accident with ambulances and fire trucks, wreckers, clean up crews and three lanes of traffic forced down to one lane. It put Wes Jackson’s sigh alongside my sensitive stomach, alongside Kate’s beautiful nails, calming her and getting her ready for surgery next week. Rigel once again pushing her nose into us, pacing. An obstacle. Back on the metronidazole.

Riding with this tao I let the obstacles and their resolutions wash over me, not as frustrations (mostly), but as the way of this Monday. When the day was over, I was glad, especially glad to have been sensitive to the tao.

Life is a Red Herring

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon


Red Herring Art Supply: Life is a Red Herring for Art.    Life distracts from creating your next master piece.  Be strong. Take control.  Make your Art.


Casa Bonita

This odd little gallery cum art supply store sits at a right angle to the biggest Mexican restaurant in Denver, Casa Bonita. Not to get too distracted but Casa Bonita has cliff diving! inside. It defines whatever Spanish is for kitsch. And pink at that.

Kristi, the owner of Red Herring Art, is a pleasant, voluble person. The Colorado Sumi-e Society meets at Red Herring, so when I gravitated to the brushes and rice paper and ink sticks, we started to talk. She showed me a brush with faux jade beads as handles. “Would you like to try the rooster tail brush?” Say what? “Yes,” she said, “since we raised chickens when I was a kid, I was surprised to see rooster tail feathers uses in a sumi brush.”

I picked up the brush, a bigger one, with, sure enough rooster feathers hanging down where the usual goat or sable hairs would be. Dipping in the pot of water she offered me, I brushed a zen circle on a board she has that is reactive to water. It surprised me. In that it worked. “I don’t think I’m ready for this one yet.”

sumi brush2After buying a pad of larger rice paper and a larger roll, I picked out a new goat hair brush and a set of Japanese water colors for sumi-e. All the while we were talking and Kristi invited me to come to the Colorado Sumi-e meetings on the last Tuesday of the month. “You know, I use Kraft paper and plain old newsprint for practice.” Huh. Kraft and newsprint is cheaper than rice paper, for sure.

Kristi liked me, apparently, because after she rang me up, she said, “I’m going to give you the 40West discount. Because  you should really be in it.” Took 10% off my bill. Nice. 40West is a Denver creative arts district that includes the area around Red Herring and Casa Bonita. Just up a slight rise behind Casa Bonita is the Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design.

“Oh, I’m just playing I said. I don’t have any real ambitions.” “We’re all just playing, especially when we take up a new medium.”

Pushed me back a bit to Thursday and those instances of joy. Play and joy go together, too. Maybe, come to think of it, that was the real message behind my last melancholy. Stop being so serious. Let go, lighten up. Have more fun.


Oh, Snap

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon


“Then there is Jerome Rodale, founder of the publishing empire dedicated to health. In 1971, Dick Cavett invited Mr. Rodale onto his TV show after reading a New York Times Magazine article that called him “the guru of the organic food cult.” Mr. Rodale, 72, took his chair next to Mr. Cavett, proclaimed that he would live to be 100, and then made a snoring sound and died. (The episode never aired.)”  NYT, 3/10/2018, The Secret to a Longer Life? Don’t Ask These Dead Longevity Researchers

March 2018
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