We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Just One Tree.

Written By: Charles - Dec• 12•18

Samain                                                                             Stent Moon

AfforestationBeen thinking about actions to fight climate change. The inversion of the Great Work championed by his Satanic Majesty, the orange tumor on our democracy, threatens human genocide. Intentional mass murder of potentially billions. Hitler and his crowd? Pikers.

Realizing that at least for now the country at the Federal level is going to be not only an obstacle, but an active proponent of carbon emissions, what might an ordinary person do? It has to be something that’s got some heft, but doesn’t require political sophistication, or political activism. What simple thing might fit the bill?

Oddly, I think I know one. When I first started getting to know Jews, now long ago, something that kept coming up in conversation involved trees. Plant a tree in Israel. “With over 240 million planted trees, Israel is one of only two countries that entered the 21st century with a net gain in the number of trees. Due to massive afforestation efforts, this fact echoed in diverse campaigns. Israeli forests are the product of a major afforestation campaign by the Jewish National Fund (JNF).”

Johnny Appleseed

       Johnny Appleseed

That word alone, afforestation. Deforestation and desertification, no. Afforestation. “Afforestation is the process of planting trees, or sowing seeds, in a barren land devoid of any trees to create a forest. The term should not be confused with reforestation, which is the process of specifically planting native trees into a forest that has decreasing numbers of trees.” matteroftrust.org I like replacing the prefix de.

If you click through the link on the Jewish National Fund, you’ll find a page that enables, with a click and a credit card, the opportunity to plant a tree in Israel in memoriam. $18. What if we created a Gaia Global Fund where, with a click and a credit card, you could plant a tree in memoriam or just because. What if each continent identified large areas available for afforestation and, of course, for reforestation, too? Then, continent specific organizers could locate seedlings, planters, and develop a plan for using Gaia Global Fund dollars to get started.

Why might it work? Read this Scientific American article: The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn’t a Technology.

Not sure about next steps for this. I suppose seeing if anybody else is actively pursuing something similar, but this feels like an idea that could inspire children and grandchildren around the world to participate in saving their own future. By nagging the adults in their lives to plant a tree for them. Just one tree. Imagine.


The Great Work Inverted

Written By: Charles - Dec• 11•18

Samain                                                                                                Stent Moon

satan“The United States has an abundance of natural resources and is not going to keep them in the ground,” Mr. Griffith said. “We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice their economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability.” Wells Griffith, Trump’s international energy and climate advisor, NYT, Dec. 11, 2018

Sacrifice is an interesting word in this quote. It imagines money and safety too important to sacrifice. Griffiths can’t understand what environmental stability means. If he did, he would understand that the real result of his stance is the sacrifice of humanity itself for temporary pleasures.

This sort of logic I’ve heard before, recently, in a Trump report that said since climate change was inevitable reducing car emissions wouldn’t make any difference. So, jettison them. This attitude is not new, of course. It’s been the world’s de facto position toward carbon emissions, plastics, water shortages. Today is more important than tomorrow.

It is a problem with be here now. If we only focus on the now, then Flint’s lead laced water coming tomorrow is somebody else’s issue. If we only focus on the now, then rapid temperature rise and radical climate change is far off, not ours. So wrong.

Anyone with children or grandchildren knows this. The Iroquois looked seven generations ahead. We can’t get past the Dow Jones movement this week.

This is evil. Griffith’s may be banal, as Hannah Arendt thought of Eichmann, but he and his kin seem committed to a permanent solution for our own species. Why? Short term political advantage.

Sad that any human can make these calculations. Angry that we’ve elected an administration that does.


Ensouled or Disenchanted or…?

Written By: Charles - Dec• 11•18

Samain                                                                           Stent Moon

astrology3Astrology is a thicket of wild claims, unjustified certainty, and intriguing utility. Sorta like religion. In my reading so far I’ve found sensible, modest intellectuals who lean on the utility, using this ancient discipline (Mesopotamian in origin.) to promote self-knowledge. I’ve also found, as you might expect, a number of at least charlatanesque figures who are only one step away from the traveling potion wagons of the early frontier. OK, maybe not one step away.

Learning how to read a natal chart is the base line of astrology and I’m working on how to do it for myself. It’s not easy. Many symbols to learn, planets, houses, signs, aspects. Also, for understanding it in a way that makes sense to me, I’m still pursuing the nature of archetypes. That requires a lot of refreshing from my Jungian salad days. Still not sure it will be worth it in the end, but I’m committed to giving it a fair look. I had a similar fascination for a time with psychometrics like the MMPI, the Big Five, Meyers-Briggs, Eneagram, and career choosing tests. Fiddling with the dials of the self, trying to tune in, see inside. All part of the journey of self-discovery. I’ve learned something from each of them, but I found the psychometric approach judgemental in its attempt to sort the normal from the abnormal.

The evolutionary and psychological astrologists have the most potential for utility and explicitly eschew judgement. In the older, predictive style of astrology, still common, there are, for example, malefic and benefic planets, aspects, even charts. Malefic = bad and benefic = good. Mars and Saturn, malefic. Jupiter and Venus, benefic, for example. These two schools see instead psychic forces, archetypal influences that can create, say, energy for transformation in the case of Mars and Saturn. Or, misapplied, the beneficial aspects Jupiter and Venus can impede personal growth.

mmpiIn the later days of my interest in psychometrics there was a similar change from seeing certain personality characteristics as bad or good, especially those characterized as abnormal. Two instances from my own testing. I spiked both the 4 and 5 scales* of the MMPI when tested in the mid-1970’s in seminary. In the original uses of the MMPI these two scales supposedly determined whether you were a psychopath, 4, or a homosexual, 5. The new (then) understanding became: 4 spike = non-conforming, rebellious, angry, creative, family problems, impulsive and 5 spike =  lacks traditional masculine interests. This testing was also done while I was still drinking and some of those 4 scale attributes reinforced my addiction. Though I may have lacked masculine interests (not quite sure what that means), I did have one clear masculine interest. Women.

I suppose you could frame this like Tarnas frames the major problem of our time: an ensouled primal universe and a disenchanted enlightenment universe in conflict, needing, very much needing a synthesis. On my mind all the time these days. Imagining ways through this conflict, ways to reconcile, to use the tension as a creative force for a new metaphysics. Reimagining. Reconstructing. Reenchanting.


*Scale 4 (AKA the Psychopathic Deviate Scale) Measures a person’s need for control or their rebellion against control.    Scale 5 (AKA the Femininity/Masculinity Scale) Measures a stereotype of a person and how they compare. For men it would be the Marlboro man, for women it would be June Cleaver or Donna Reed.



The Duke

Written By: Charles - Dec• 10•18

Samain                                                                          Stent Moon

Marijuana prerolledJon, Ruth, and Gabe came up Saturday evening. The Instapot proved capable of turning a rump roast into a more tender cut of meat. Using a pressure cooker at elevation makes a lot of sense. Almost of all the roast plus potatoes, carrots and parsnip disappeared down mostly functional gastro-intestinal tracts. The gi tract with difficulty got help from Maryjane. (Grandma took 3 hits on a prerolled joint.) That went well.

We passed out Hanukkah gifts, lit the candles, said the prayers, then Ruth, Kate, and I sat around the table and talked while the candles burned down. Ruth has a piercing plan. When she’s 13, she’s adding a third stud to both ears, then, when she’s 14, a nose stud. After that? Lots of body parts available. Why? I don’t really know. I’m going to ask her next time she’s up.

Jon and Ruth took off early Sunday morning for A-basin. Good powder there. Snow in the mountains has been good, but across the divide to the east, where we are, much less so. So much less so that Denver is about to have its 12th year of under 30 inches. 2 of those 12 will be last year and this one unless a big storm arrives before Jan. 1. Not in the forecasts right now. 1/6 of the driest snow years in all weather records for Denver in the last two years!

Gabe made pinch hitter pizzas for lunch. This from a recipe in a Hanukkah gift, Boys Can Cook! The pizzas were on English muffin slices with red sauce, soppressata slices, and cheese. Not bad.

Alan, third from the right

Alan, third from the right

After a nap we drove over to Evergreen High School for a Jazzy Yule holiday concert by the Evergreen Chorale. My friend Alan Rubin sings in the chorale and is on the board of Ovation West, the company that includes the Evergreen Chorale and Ovation West Musical Theater. The quality of both the chorale and the theater are good, high for amateur performing arts with skilled musicians and talented actors.

The first half of the concert took me by surprise. Alan had told me that the first half was music from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts songbook, but I had expected something more beboppy, more holiday jingly. Uh-huh. This was serious music, jazzy with a little bebop in there, but music with an edge, especially the last piece, “Freedom.” I’ve included a full you-tube video of a performance of it below. If you have time, and like complex choral pieces, you may find it interesting. I found it compelling, a work of art that challenges what that word means in the American context, today in particular.

In Kate news we’re going to press for a date for Kate’s procedure. Wanting to get on with it for obvious reasons.


When the moon is in the 7th house…

Written By: Charles - Dec• 09•18

Samain                                                                         Stent Moon

astrologyMercury-RetrogradeMercury retrograde. Elisa said this would be a time when I would remember my dreams. I have recalled some, definitely more than usual. I’d also reassess my life, letting new things in, chucking the no longer useful.

Well. Over the last month plus I’ve read a lot, and I mean a lot even for me, on astrology. Letting it in. Gradually. Still. Those color field paintings by Rothko that I’ve always admired. Doing it myself, learning oil paints, what to do with oily rags, how to glaze, mixing colors, thinking and seeing in color. Last night I did my first instant pot meal with a rump roast, potatoes and carrots for Jon, Ruth, Gabe, and Kate. I’m also gestating a new style (for me) novel, a novel of ideas that will focus on the great crisis of our age, creating a synthesis between the ensouled primal universe and the disenchanted universe of the enlightenment.

artrothkoYou might say, oh, the power of suggestion. Could be a bit, I suppose. But recalling dreams when I haven’t been is big for me. Years of Jungian analysis, you know. Running toward something like astrology is a definite change in mindset. And, oil painting? I mean, come on.

It’s a fertile time for me in spite of (or, because of?) the upset with Kate. We’ve never been closer. Jon’s shift toward acceptance and moving on makes me glad. Ruth and I have a growing, deepening relationship. We’re going to paint together over her winter break. She comes to me with new books she’s reading, new art she’s making, her life at school. Gabe runs up and gives me a hug right away when he sees me. Rigel runs through the yard like a canine modern dancer, flexing her muscles, a smile on her face.

maslowHoliseason underlies and inflects all of this, creating moments of reflection and quiet, reinforcing attention to the Great Wheel. Feeling as positive about life as I have in a long, long time.

In the conversation last week at mussar vaad practice group, MVP, Tara said to me, “Maybe you’re just self actualized.” Not in jest. And you know, I think she might be right. Not enlightened. Not nirvana bound, not karmaless, but easy with myself, easy with others. Doing those things that make my heart sing. Loving and being loved. Setting aside the past, living today, knowing tomorrow will be as it is. Feels like the journey as destination. Whoa. Can’t believe I wrote that. Still, feels right to me.

What if the light at the end of the tunnel is an oncoming train?

Written By: Charles - Dec• 08•18

Samain                                                                          Stent Moon

sharknadoChum is in the water. It may be Sharknado for he who shall not be named’s presidency. Part of Michael Cohen’s testimony indicates that individual-1, i.e. 45, the orange tumor on our democracy, ordered hush payments to two women with whom he had affairs, Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal.

Note the state of our public life now. This isn’t about the fact, the fact, that the President had extramarital affairs, one with a porn actress whose work is available for all to see. No. And, it’s not even technically about paying money to quiet them in advance of a Presidential election bid. It’s about illegal campaign donations, both payments constituting donations to 45’s campaign in excess of the $2,700 Federal limit.

I’m searching for the Christian ethical principle evangelicals see at work in all this. Nah, just kidding. I know worshiping Mammon when I see it. 45 is no Cyrus.

Having said that I’m not sure what this portends for our country. Look at this from RealClear Politics today:

Favorability Ratings: U.S. Political Leaders
Favorable Unfavorable Spread
Donald Trump 41.4 55.2 -13.8
Nancy Pelosi 29.5 52.0 -22.5
Mitch McConnell 21.8 48.3 -26.5
Chuck Schumer 29.3 42.7 -13.4

In spite of the pussy grabbing, in spite of the mocking of the disabled, in spite of inciting white supremacists, in spite of being Tariff Man, in spite of all the mean, low, bitter tweets, in spite of the now becoming clear violations of federal election law, 41% of the American people have a favorable view of 45. That means that any headon assault on his presidency will deepen and harden existing divisions in our political life. Congressional leaders have lower approval ratings than the orange tumor on our democracy. We’re in deep trouble at the Federal governance level.

orge González/Flickr. Some rights reserved.

orge González/Flickr. Some rights reserved.

If I were a foreign power, I’d take advantage of this weakness in any way I could. Think Russia and China have considered actions? I’m 100% certain of it. In fact, they may both be implicated in the current chaos, and if so, it’s working out even better than they could have imagined. I’m feeling like a Brit as the empire fell apart, only in this case it’s our own government.

I suppose the only answer to the mess is to keep slogging forward, electing Democrats to more and more offices, hoping that at some point the Republican party will wake from its long hibernation and eliminate the shameful immoral collection of shills currently operating under its banner. No, I’m not under any illusion about the Democrats. I know they are part of the corporate/capitalist cabal that controls our politics. But at least the Democrats make noises, though very quiet ones, about caring for the poor, understanding the danger of climate change, restoring our geopolitical alliances. That’s more than good enough for me right now.



Written By: Charles - Dec• 07•18

Samain                                                                       Stent Moon

October, the healing moon. November, the recovery moon. December, the stent moon. A quarter of a year with an intense focus on keeping Kate alive and then making her well. Well, well worth it.


Last night, an odd, sad, disturbing, necessary evening. If you’ve ever encountered preparedness training for a business, school, or place of worship, the four medallion image above may be familiar to you. It’s now a nationwide safety preparedness program used in thousands of schools, places of work and worship. But it’s origination is local and by local I mean Bailey, Colorado.

iloveemilyThe Platte Canyon hostage situation. Platte Canyon is the long, deep slash between two mountain ranges created by the South Fork of the Platte River. It runs from Baily to roughly the Kenosha Pass. Hwy. 285 runs its whole length. Outside Bailey headed toward Kenosha Pass is Platte Canyon High School. In 2006 a gunman, Duane Morrison, took hostages, all girls. One girl, Emily Keyes, had to speak to the police for Morrison, since he refused to speak to them.

IloveyouguysEmily’s father got to the high school using an old mountain goat trail. 285 had both police barriers and a huge traffic jam. When he arrived, he asked if any person could text Emily. Someone did. She texted back, “I love you guys.” A second text went unanswered. She was dead with a bullet wound to the head.

In her memory her father, John-Michael, and her mother, Ellen created the ILoveyouguys foundation. It is responsible for the Standard Response Protocol, the four medallions above representing its four responses to a crisis.

I learned all this last night at Congregation Beth Evergreen as part an emergency response training. The Squirrel Hill shootings in Pittsburgh heightened the synagogue’s awareness and the board decided to review how we protect those who worship or come to the synagogue. The man who runs the Jeffco Sheriff’s Jefferson County School District School Safety program spoke.

iloveyou3m He started with a tagline: The world we live in isn’t scary, but it is full of uncertainty. He had a reassuring manner, years of experience in protection, and a common sense approach to security. He recommended CBE put a 3M product on the windows, Safety and Security film. “You have a lot of glass.” This film ensures that bullets fired through the glass will not shatter it. The bullets pass through but the glass itself remains intact overall. He also recommended blinds on the windows so a shooter couldn’t see inside and a really good locking system for the sanctuary doors. All of these things made sense to me.

I was there as a teacher in the religious school. We did no drills last night, but we will at some point in the future.

My overall response to this was sadness. Kids in school today learn how to self-evacuate, how to lock, turn out the lights, and hide. They learn how to run like quail if an active shooter is among them. That is, scatter in all different directions. My god. Duck and cover from the fifties, which I do not recall ever doing, seems abstract and silly in light of these very real and immediate threats.

sadnessThat sadness has a special resonance here since Columbine was the ur-school shooting. John, the speaker, said he’d been at a conference in D.C. in the last month where a full day and a half was devoted to Columbine. Why? So many of the school shooters still refer back to Columbine for inspiration, for tips. It’s still relevant. Not only has Colorado had Columbine and the Platte Canyon hostage situation, but we’ve also had the Aurora Theater shooting.

This is, for some, still the wild west where a sidearm and a strong will can solve many problems. It’s also unfortunately a hotbed of libertarian leaning, no government treading on me folks. If they get cranked up by the news, or by groups of white supremacists, or by their neighborhood anti-semite, they can choose to act by heading out to the nearest public school or synagogue, taking their firearms along.



Written By: Charles - Dec• 07•18

Samain                                                                    Thanksgiving Moon

This is me. No, really. (ok, fake news)

This is me. No, really. (ok, fake news)

Into On the Move Fitness for a new workout: side lunges on the TRX, oblique isometrics with bands, a twisting shoulder press, planks, stepups with weight, push ups from an exercise ball, crunches on an exercise ball.

I always feel so much better when I exercise routinely. Long ago I decided regular exercise was a matter of  identity. Am I an exerciser, or not? Once I decided I was an exerciser I’ve been able to maintain regular exercise. When I fall away after a chaotic schedule or a long trip, I remind myself, I’m an exerciser. Then I start again.

Working on color field paintings. Finding myself looking, seeing, in a whole different way. For example when Kate and I were on our way to the radiologist Wednesday as dawn broke, I saw the color bands in the sky as inspiration for painting. Began wondering how to mix paints to get that color, how to arrange those colors on a canvas. Yesterday at On the Move I noticed a droopy face in the wood grains of a bathroom door. Oh, I could do that! While I did my cardio I wondered about the deep blue wall. Could I just cut a rectangle out of the sheet rock, frame it and call it found art?

20181202_070637My friends Stefan and Lonnie have devoted the last three years to a traditional painting education. The atelier in Florence where they’ve studied makes the usual atelier argument that representational painting is real painting, the sharp turn taken by Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh and later DuChamp, ManRay, Bacon, Pollock, Rothko a mistake.

I’ve always felt that an argument over “true” art is doomed at the beginning. I’m more a DuChampian, art is what an artist makes. That means, at least to me, that the color field painters, the pop artists, the abstract painters, fluxus folks, are making art. It also means that those still creating representational art are making art. Why fight?

My interest, at least right now, is in color, just color, arranging it on a flat surface in a pleasing or provocative or evocative way. I intend to make abstract works inspired by nature. The shape and color and texture of mountains at different times of day. The sky at sunrise and sunset. The night sky, especially moons. Streams. Faces in wooden doors. Clouds. I’ve noticed for a long while that even the most Rococo flourishes are often direct copies of natural forms. Not sure where this will take me, but I’m really enjoying the enhanced seeing, the thoughts about color, the mix of brushes and paints and palette knives.







The Thanksgiving Moon at 1%

Written By: Charles - Dec• 06•18

Samain                                                                            Last sliver Thanksgiving Moon

moon2Under the Healing Moon Kate recovered from her g.i. bleed. Under the Thanksgiving Moon we found the problem and are close to a procedure to provide her relief. The bleed was on September 28th, over two months ago. It does seem to have served the unintended but welcome purpose of ratcheting up the already extended process of diagnosing her problem.

Why this wasn’t found before? Here’s my take. All of her symptoms were gastro-intestinal with common g.i. problems that explained them. So the process was to look closely at her g.i. tract. This common sense approach kept its focus on the most likely source of the symptoms. When you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras. In other words the looking was inside the gastro-intestinal tract with a side excursion looking at the gallbladder.

The difficulty? The cause was outside the g.i. tract in the arteries that supply blood to part of it. These last two imaging studies were a sort of last gasp, let’s check out the really unlikely since nothing else has shown up. Fortunately, Dr. Rhee decided to look outside the g.i. system. The literature on the problem says it is difficult to diagnose, one of those things that you have to look for explicitly. Further complicating it is the fact the ultrasound which does diagnose it is itself difficult and requires very competent technicians and an acute radiologist.

medicineMedicine is much more art than science. Kate’s long journey toward a solution shows that. Imaging studies are not easy to interpret and no imaging study will find something if you’re looking in the wrong place to begin with. The body is exquisitely complicated with linkages between its various systems often tiny and in hard to see spots. Also, symptoms have multivalent possible origins. I find myself more forgiving of the medical world after all this. Why? Because I’ve observed first hand the struggle of competent people, working as best they can, to solve an intractable problem.

I’ve come to appreciate the incredible courage it takes to be a physician. People come looking for answers, for certainty. The questions can be matters of life and death, of a happy, fulfilling life versus one with chronic pain or weight loss or nervous system collapse. The stakes are so high, for the patient, for their families. The myth of the physician in our culture, the penumbra of authority and wisdom we impute to them, is just that, a myth. The arena in which they have to solve problems is, for the most part, closed off from direct view, accessible only through lab work, imaging, and the reporting of the patient. It’s often like asking a mechanic to diagnose a vehicle’s odd sounds without opening the hood and to solve the sound by putting tools through the car’s metal body. Really hard.

I think we’d appreciate the physician even more if we acknowledged the fraught world in which they work with imperfect tools. The work Kate did all those years ago was hard. But, also satisfying. Think if you could be the one who finally understands what makes a 74 year old woman experience nausea and abdominal pain when she eats, one who lost 30 pounds in less than a year. More. Think if you were the one who understood and steered her toward a solution. Wow.


It’s a New Day…

Written By: Charles - Dec• 05•18

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

stentWhat a remarkable turn things have taken here. After many -oscopies, endo, upper, lower, colon, small bowel follow through, a HIDA test, nuclear med search for bleeding, bowel surgery and even more doctor visits, finally, finally. A consensus. The superior mesenteric artery has sufficient stenosis, severe, to cause Kate’s symptoms. And, there’s a stent for that.

Maybe in two weeks time we’ll drive again to Swedish hospital, check Kate in, and Dr. Mulden, assisted by Dr. Kooy, will thread a catheter up her femoral artery, follow the branching to the superior mesenteric, take a right turn, then where the narrowing is deploy a mesh stent, opening up the blood flow. Sounds straight forward until you consider the size and delicacy of everything involved. Can you imagine pushing, very gently, a long wire through a very small pipe with soft walls? Turning where needed into even smaller pipes and at the right time releasing a small device, leaving it behind to cure? I can’t.

We drove to the radial imaging offices in the far east of the southern Metro. As we went, our appointment was at 7:30, the sky put on a magnificent display. Red clouds, lenticular clouds stacked like pagodas, bands of umber, ocher, pale yellow all backgrounded by blue-black sky. We both kept pointing, exclaiming. Aurora is a goddess of hope and newness, a fresh slate, a beginning. Just what we got. She has my devotion today.

Yesterday was a hair day with Kate getting her usual dye and Michelle Williams cut, me a close beard trim, eyebrows and hair. Wax on the stray hairs that pop up on our ears as we age. Jackie, the cosmetologist, is a sweetheart, a friend. We both looked our best for the interventional radiologists.

Found myself hesitant yesterday, tired, low energy. Canceled my time to get a new workout and stayed home. It was a good choice.