We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Book of Life, Black Holes

Summer                                                                    Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180622_193239Yesterday was a big day. Up early to write, workout. Lunch with Alan Rubin to start planning for the 6th and 7th grade religious school at Beth Evergreen. Home for a fitful nap. Left at 5:30 pm with Ruth for Boulder. We had a reservation at Japango on the Pearl Street Mall before seeing the Fiske Planetarium show on black holes. Driving home under the waxing gibbous moon with Jupiter below it, Mercury and Venus visible, too, as well as Mars and Saturn. A planetary moment. No twinkling please.

A highlight from the Alan Rubin meeting was deepening my relationship with him, learning more of his history, sharing some of my own. I agreed to take on the task of researching Jewish Liturgical history.

Rosh-HashanahWe want to reframe the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, in a reconstructionist way, then help the kids come to their own way of reframing. In the traditional understanding, taken here from the Chabad website, each year on Rosh Hashanah “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die … who shall be impoverished and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.” After ten days to seek repentance from those we have harmed in the previous year, God closes the Book of Life, sealing the fate of each worshiper.

book of lifeThe tradition implies a white bearded, Santa Claus like God who checks on the naughty and the nice. He takes out his celestial quill pen and starts scratching. He pauses, waiting to see what you have to say for yourself, then after a reasonable interval (the ten days), he writes fini.

How did these holidays come to be celebrated in the first place? Why? Who observed them and how? Have the observances and meanings of those observances changed over time? How? This is the exegetical move, gathering as much data as possible about the historical holidays. The hermeneutical move comes after it, asking what in our current circumstance, our present moment, if anything, corresponds to the original intentions. There is, too, a theological move here, asking if the metaphysics of the holiday can still be plausible. If not, that informs the reframing, too.

japangoIn my peculiar little world this is great fun. Looking forward to engaging similar research throughout the upcoming liturgical year.

Contrast this with my evening with Ruth. (Ironically, she is exactly the target audience for the above work, being a Jewish girl about to enter 7th grade.) We went to a sushi restaurant in Boulder where she had a sushi Tokyo plate. I had a sashimi plate, chef’s new choices. Green tea, too, for both of us. Ruth said, “You know me so well.”

black-holeAfter the dinner we drove back up Broadway to the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado, about 5 minutes. At the planetarium, where we’ve gone many times, we saw a presentation on black holes. It covered the usual topics of star death, neutron stars, supernovas and the formation of black holes with their extraordinarily deep gravity wells. It also covered recent observation of the long pursued gravity waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

From the book of life to the heat death of the universe in one Friday. Quite the journey.

 

 

 

Sweat, Black Holes and Sushi

Summer                                                                       Woolly Mammoth Moon

49 this morning.

HIITEasing back (if that’s the right phrase) into high intensity interval training (HIIT), up to 9 minutes of 30 second, 20 second, 10 second intervals, moderate for 30, higher speed for 20, as fast as possible for 10. Once I get back to 10 minutes, two 5 minute sessions in a row with a two minute break, I’ll start increasing the incline on the treadmill. I’m only at 2% right now and I’d like to get to 4%.

I can already tell an improvement in my breathing. This is cardio at its quickest and best. The whole workout takes 20 minutes, though because of my knee I add 15 minutes of icing. I’m now back to the five day pattern I want to retain. I used to go 6 days, but decided I need the two days off for psychic reasons.

pearl-street-then-and-now Photo from Silvia Pettem's book Positively Pearl Street. Historic photo from the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History. Current day photo taken by Casey A. Cass.

pearl-street-then-and-now Photo from Silvia Pettem’s book Positively Pearl Street. Historic photo from the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History. Current day photo taken by Casey A. Cass.

Ruth and I go to Boulder tonight, leaving around 5:30 pm. We’ll hit the 8 pm show at Fiske Planetarium, Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity. Before that I’m taking her to a sushi restaurant, Japango, that Mark Odegard and I found last week. It’s on the Pearl Street Mall, an urban spot among the best I’ve found in Colorado.

When Mark was here, I found an article from 2008 in the NYT that referred to Boulder as 25 square miles surrounded by reality. Here it’s known as the Republic of Boulder. We would have chosen to live there, but housing is very, very expensive, in the near million dollar range for an average purchase price. Too rich for us.

Even though we had over an inch of rain last week the fire danger signs here seem stuck on high. Not sure how they determine the fire risk ratings. Not even sure who determines them though the fire danger signs themselves are National Forest Service issue. A piece of information that remains in memory because they’re located frequently enough that every trip takes us past at least one. The point I suppose.

eudaimonia and makarismosJon’s working on his house, creating maps of wiring he intends to install and getting ready to rewire much of it. He’s got so many skills and he’s very bright. He seems to be gradually getting his balance though it’s been a tough slog. Ruth and Gabe both have become much less reactive. Neither of them will ever be normal kids, just fine with that.

Like most parent/grandparents we want to them to choose for themselves, live a life that makes them productive and fulfilled. Personally I think happiness overrated, preferring for them eudaimonia, flourishing, and resilience. Those are my goals, too.

makarismos=blessed, from Homer

 

Summer Solstice 2018

Summer                                                                         Woolly Mammoths

Stone BarnsAs I said in a recent post, I look forward to the summer solstice for what most would think is an odd reason. It’s the day when Sol begins to slowly diminish his warm embrace, from now through the winter solstice six months away night begins to increase. So, yes, on this day of dances around bonfires, this day of Midsommer, I celebrate the dark.

That’s not say I’m not in the moment. As a long time gardener, a part-time phenologist and a mountain man, I’m glad for the sun, for the growing season begun on Beltane and now six weeks underway. At Midsommer we  get naked and dance to the music because the wheat and the carrots, the onions and the garlic, the tomatoes and the beans, the corn and the rye have taken root, have reached for the sun.

Summer-Solstice-Full-Moon-e1466346884772If we want to add a little sympathetic magic with our partner, all the better. An article from CNN, Summer Solstice: It’s All About Sex, reports that “A lot of children are born nine months after Midsummer in Sweden,” says Jan-Öjvind Swahn, a Swedish ethnologist and the author of several books on the subject.”

We’ve finished the pine pollen season, at least I think we have, and that’s an immersion in the sex life of the lodgepole pine. There are also, up here in the mountains anyhow, many babies enjoying the delectables of the recent growth in both plant and animal life. This is the season of fox kits and mule deer fawns, mountain lion cubs, elk and moose calves. It’s a time saturated with the joy and promise of new life, the circle of life turning through its reproductive phase.

summer aleOne of the odder summer solstice gatherings occurs at Stonehenge where “druids” and other pagans celebrate. I say odd because, although Stonehenge probably aligns for sunrise on the summer solstice and sunset on the winter solstice, no one has a clue as to the rites observed when it was built, well over 4,000 years ago, long before the time of the druids.

I feel better because my own soul aligns more with darkness than light, more with the winter solstice than the summer and today marks the six month shift as we move toward the longest night.

Kate and radiation

Summer                                                                      Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180526_143004Kate’s had a big couple of days. Tuesday night was the Beth Evergreen board meeting. “I feel like I’m among my peers.” And yesterday was the Needleworkers here at our house. She presented food in abundance: cherries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberry muffins, angel food cake with orange icing, brie, cooked shrimp, crackers, coffee both caffeinated and pointless.

Mailed off the 90+ day radon test. The last one a few months ago was over the minimum radon level, but I discovered that the radon system fan had been inadvertently turned off. Decided to try again, but with a longer, more definitive test. If it comes back positive, I’ll have the radon folks out. Duck and cover is no good against radon.

42 this morning as the summer solstice rolled in. 4:07 a.m mst.

 

This and that

Beltane                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

All the Woollies are back in their places with bright shiny faces. Mark and Tom in the Twin Cities, Paul in Robbintson, Maine.

Kate had her first board meeting last night. She dressed up in her serious adult clothes, put on a coat of many colors and went to Evergreen. I stayed home. Felt good after the long drive.

It’s 50 again this morning, cool, but clear. Yesterday the rain continued in the evening. A bit of nostalgia on the weather website, a tornado watch! Felt like the Midwest. Don’t recall having had one while we’ve lived here. Lots of red flag days, flash flood warnings, winter storm warnings, but no tornado watches. A few severe thunderstorm warnings, usually announcing the possibility of killer hail. Colorado has significant hail damage, among the highest in the nation. Climate in the montane region of the Rockies.

With the Durango trip over I’m finished with traveling until early August when I’ll head back to the Twin Cities for Groveland U.U.’s 25th anniversary celebration. Look forward to reconnecting with both Woolly friends and fellow docents from the MIA, seeing the MIA and the Walker, a jucy lucy at Matt’s.

Tan clumps are stump detritus

Tan clumps are stump detritus

We go into Denver less and less, our out of the house time spent either in the mountains themselves or in Evergreen, mostly at Beth Evergreen. Not an intentional thing, though the heat during the summers is a barrier for us, just that our life is now in the mountains and the city seems more and more foreign each time we go. Of course, we lived in Andover for twenty years, well outside Minneapolis, but we got into the Cities with greater frequency there. I had the MIA and the Sierra Club, the Woollies that drew me in; Kate had friends.

The stump grinder did a great job. Feels like we’re beginning to move in, a process attenuated by the medical and familial upsets that came bang, bang, bang after we moved. Jon’s bench is a good step in that direction, placing the fans, adding the light in the living room. Plenty more to do. We spent a lot of money early on installing the generator, a new boiler, solar panels, the new bathroom downstairs, sealing and staining the garage, new kitchen. Decor has waited. I’m close to having the garage organized again, may do some more work on that today.

 

Barely Legal

1968 or so, found by Mary Munchel

1968 or so, found by Mary Munchel

Woolly’s In the Rockies

Beltane                                                                               Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180616_104132

Paul and Tom

Ode and All Hat and No Motel

Ode and All Hat and No Motel

20180616_114754

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

Pensive Tom

Pensive Tom

The Trailhead, Buena Vista

The Trailhead, Buena Vista

Cleaning the Pine Pollen Off Our Solar Panels

Beltane                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180619_093741According to my weather system we’ve had 1.5 inches of rain this month. That’s 6.8% of  our annual precipitation total of 22 inches. (Conifer does better than the state, precip wise, 22 inches on average with 105 inches on average falling as snow.) And most of it came over the last three days. Pinecam.com is abuzz with hosannas. Things were not looking so good when the four of us left for Durango. Now? Much better.

This morning the dewpoint is 49 and the outside temp is 50. We’re in a cloud, rain falling, air cool. Wonderful for two days prior to the Summer Solstice.

Kate has her first meeting of the Beth Evergreen board tonight. She has management experience, great number sense, and a clear, unflinching view of reality. She will be an asset to both the board and through it, the synagogue. I’m happy she has this opportunity.

Got back into the exercise routine yesterday, planning to go back this week to 5 days with Tuesdays and Thursdays being high intensity interval training. I breath better when I do HIIT, got off it for a while during the intense period of Kate’s recovery.

‘Wild Rabbit in the Headlights 5#’, pencil & acrylic on rejection letter’, 21x29cm (2013) by Louise McNaught

‘Wild Rabbit in the Headlights 5#’, pencil & acrylic on rejection letter’, by Louise McNaught

Also made a commitment to myself, which I have written down on a yellow note stuck to my computer: NO 104 x’s  2018.  This means I want to receive 100 rejections this year from publishers. Sounds a little nuts, I know, but I’ve read the idea several places over the last year or so and I like it.

It recognizes that in any creative work: acting, writing, painting, music auditions you hear no more often than you do yes. And, this can be crippling. It has been for me. But, if you turn the idea around and acknowledge that reality, you can set a rejection goal. Why? Because the more times you’re rejected, the more opportunities you’ve given yourself to hear a yes. It can get somebody like me, who’s grown discouraged, a way of overcoming the negative. So, I have a goal of 2 rejections a week. Which means of course that I have to submit material to publishers. The point of it all.

forest and soulWriting, at least for me, is sufficiently compelling that I’ve continued to write over the years without success in publishing. That’s working without regard to the results. And, I found quite a while ago that that was enough for me. The writing is, itself, sufficient reward.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t like to sell some work, get some recognition. I would. But I’ve let the fear of rejection and the other negative emotions that come with it hamper me. A big psychic hurdle, one I stopped trying to overcome.

I now have enough work I can easily reach my goal of 104 rejections in 2018. Looking forward to the first two. Then two more. Then two more.

Writing has been my ground project since 1992. I’ll talk more about this idea in a later post.

 

 

Home Again

Beltane                                                                               Woolly Mammoth Moon

HelmsmanBack from the lands of the ancients. Back from the still growing 416 fire, now 30% contained. Back from an immersion in my old life so complete that I would occasionally say here, referring to the Twin Cities or Minnesota. The web of context and thick memories with Tom, Mark and Paul is old and deep.

We ate breakfast (thanks, Mark) in Durango at the Doubletree where we stayed. Packed up and left in the rain. It rained or sprinkled the whole time we were in Durango and that same pattern continued all the way back to Conifer. This meant my three amigos got to see the mountains with clouds hanging over them, the forests with mists boiling up in and through them, the grasses green, and small, temporary creeks flowing as the rain sought lower ground through rocky elevated terrain. It was a picturesque drive made mythic.

Paul's t-shirtNew memories. Climbing the ladders out of Cliff Palace. Talking with Doug Crispin about Mesa Verde. Tom as the Great Helmsman. Mark with his notebook open, sketching as we drove. “Riding loosens me up, makes it better.” Paul’s Common Ground County Fair t-shirt. (see poster) Wandering through the Durango RR museum with its odd, large and varied collection: the blonde black bear, the bi-plane, the solar car, a private train car, memorabilia from the capture of Saddam Hussein and  a thousand miniature soldiers, among other things. Visiting the Telluride Bud Company with Mark, his first visit to a legal pot shop.

The rain, a constant for the last couple of days, has to have helped our fire situation, too. A good thing.

 

Cliff Palace

Beltane                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

The Quadruplets

The Quadruplets

We drove yesterday where others walked long ago. The drive from the visitor center at Mesa Verde to the Cliff Palace where we went on an hour long tour took a long while, maybe 30 minutes up an incline. The land at Mesa Verde slopes up at an angle with fingers of land separated by eroded valleys. At the end of these wide fingers the land slopes down again, gently. As a result, according to an exhibit at the Spruce Tree dwelling museum, Mesa Verde is not a mesa at all, but a cuesta. Mesa’s have sharp cliffs while cuesta’s slope, as they do here, toward the lower ground.

20180616_113852

Paul and Mark descending

The route down to Cliff Palace (I’ll post pictures when I get back home) was the same one the cliff dwellers used, narrow steps cut into sandstone, augmented a bit by the occasional iron railing. There was, too, a ten foot ladder on the way down and two ten foot ladders on the way out which also followed a cliff dweller path. It would have been a fun place to grow up as a kid, scrambling up and down over rock and ladders, a more or less level surface above the home site where games could be played.

As at many sites where rock was a primary building material, the skill level was high with walls that were plumb, right angles, and a mortar that both bound the rock together and allowed water to seep through without loosening.

20180616_104310

Cliff Palace

Mark asked an interesting question about wall coverings. These rocky appearing structures would have had several coats of plaster on them and would have been painted. That means they would have looked much different than they do now.

A ranger at the visitor center compared Mesa Verde to Giza and other World Heritage sites. When Tom asked him what was good about working there, “We get visitors from all over the world.” Another Ranger I talked to, Doug Crispin, had an obvious reverence for this Park. He was a first generation immigrant and said, “This is an American story. I’m honored to be here to share it.” He and I mused over a thousand years from now, “Will anyone be coming to look at the ruins of Durango? Probably not. But Mesa Verde will still be here.”

Right outside my hotel room is a small balcony with two chairs, a small table and a view of the Animas River. Had I been in this room on April 7th of 2015 the Animas would have been a sickly, mustard yellow thanks to the toxic spill from the Gold King Mine upstream from here. It’s clear now, with people kayaking, long  boarding, even fishing, but it took a long time. Here’s a hardly reassuring couple of paragraphs from the Durango Herald, April of this year:

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

San Juan Basin Public Health said water samples taken throughout the Animas River indicate there’s no risk to human or environmental health from normal use of the waterway.

However, the health department suggests people who come in contact with the river to wash with soap, keep a close watch on children who are more susceptible to unintentionally swallowing river water and treat water before consumption.

Meanwhile, the 416 fire, from the same newspaper, an hour ago: “The 416 Fire hasn’t exhaled its last column of smoke yet, but steady rainfall Saturday did help tame the 16-day-old wildfire and allow firefighters to increase containment lines around the 34,161-acre blaze.

20180616_122340I slept last night with the patio door open, screen closed. I could hear the Animas, the river of souls, running. When I woke up this morning, it was raining. My ear was eager for the sound, found it soothing, familiar in a humid East, Midwestern way.

Being with Tom, Paul, and Mark has reminded us all of the depth our long time relationships has nurtured. We move together through the day easily, listening to each other, making decisions, continuing lines of thought, sparking new ones. One of Paul’s hopes is that this trip might encourage us to use a meeting app like Zoom to get together even while far apart physically. I’d like that and hope we can make it work, too.

Kate says the stump grinder got a lot done in 2 hours. I’m excited to see it. An outdoor room. Later we’ll have him back to do the front, leaving widely spaced trees with no stumps.

 

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