We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Shadow Mountain Journal

Fall                                                                            Hunter Moon

tumblr_mla7p2roxc1r7xatro1_500Pain. Can make you tired. Can make it difficult to focus. Just plain hurts. My left knee has gone from bad to very bad. Trying various meds as a way to make it from now until January. Some success. Pain is a peculiar phenomenon, so assertive, so real; yet totally individual. Inaccessible to another. A message that, once sent, it would be nice to be able to turn off.

Superior Wolf continues to grow. 50,000 words. Writing is so much damned fun. Interesting to see a story unfold from the tips of my fingers, words and ideas following one another, no idea where they’re coming from. Doesn’t seem probable, but it happens. Everyday. Odd.

The aspens stand unclothed, their skirts dropped by the big winds we had last week. I’m glad they’re here. Realized yesterday that bare deciduous trees are a marker of fall for me, being a Midwest boy. We’re in that time between the falling of the leaves and the coming of the snow, a time with a skeletal aesthetic, when a senescence aesthetic with browns, tans, ochres in various shades colors the mountain meadows, an arid aesthetic with little rain, little snow, mountain streams at their low ebb. Samain, next Monday, is the holiday of this transition time, a holiday of the veil between this world and the Other World thinned. The growing season is well over, the season of harvest is ending. The fallow time comes next.



Kate went to Simchat Torah at Beth Evergreen last night. This holiday marks both the end of Sukkot and the annual end of reading through the Torah. I chose not to go because it involves dancing and lots of standing. The congregation holds the Torah scroll at various points, symbolizing the year’s readings and the Torah’s ability to link the congregation together.

The rabbi, in this case Jamie, goes around and tells each person which portion of the Torah they hold. Kate had the story of Jacob and the angel at the Jabbok Ford. Probably my current favorite Biblical passage. I like the notion of struggle, of wrestling through the night, with the sacred. I like the suggestion that such a struggle can change your identity, give you a new name and a new purpose.tumblr_lc65dk9dw41qcu8ix



Racism. Long. Hard.

Fall                                                                               Hunter Moon

540546_405303126228787_1694483271_nRacism. Is complicated. Very complicated. And, yes, I believe all white Americans are part of its grip on our culture. I’m going to try to boil down a very thorny subject into a few words, see if I can convince you that you are part of the problem if you’re white and live in the U.S.

Power. Racism is not about prejudice, it is about power. An analogy is rape. Rape is not about sex, it’s about power. So, just as rape is about power, not sex, racism is about power not race. Race, a spurious concept in the first place, not supported by DNA evidence, is a cultural idea, not a biological one.

At the beginning of our country, as the founders drafted the much admired and revered U.S. Constitution, a beacon of liberty and freedom for all nations, there was conflict between southern slave holding states and northern states. It concerned how to count slaves for the purposes of determining a state’s population. In our system of government the number of representatives a state gets in the House of Representatives follows from the state’s population. More population=more representation.

antislavery_medallion_largeSlaves did not vote, but if counted as full persons for population purposes they would have given slave states and the whites who did vote greater representation in the U.S. House. This would have unbalanced power between the North and the South.

The three-fifth’s compromise was the result, stating, in our founding document, that slaves were only three-fifths a person for census purposes. From the start both North and South willingly manipulated the fate of the enslaved for their own purposes. Not only did the north instigate the three-fifth’s compromise, they did it to retain slavery in the U.S. Slavery was then a powerful economic engine that underwrote a large amount of the total U.S. economy.

This legal idea of a slave as a three-fifths a person contributed to the general devaluation of the enslaved. And who benefitted? Every citizen of the new country who benefitted from the slave economy. Everyone did. Thus whites in the U.S. had from this early date in our history an unearned advantage, an unearned economic advantage over persons of African descent.

build-a-tableThey also had an unearned advantage in their social status as at least higher than that of the slave, the three-fifths of a person enslaved. This unearned social status gave low income whites, often share-croppers, a psychological and social boost which had nothing to do with their personal merit. They were better, at least, than those who toiled without compensation and freedom. That unearned and undeserved lift in personal status persists in the minds and hearts of all white Americans.

The advantage in economic circumstances held by whites in the aggregate over the descendants of the enslaved has its roots in this wholly unequal economic baseline. Our wealth, as whites, depends in part on the advantage we had as a segment of the U.S. population, a segment that received the economic benefit of goods and agricultural products made cheap by the unpaid labor of the enslaved.

chomskyThe civil war, you might say, shows the inherent goodness of the north and the hostile debasement of southerners. You might say that if you don’t factor in the unearned economic and social advantages even northerners gained from the enslaved. You might say that if the wreck of reconstruction hadn’t resulted in Jim Crow laws throughout the south. You might say that if you hadn’t grown up near Elwood, Indiana which had a sign at its city limits, No Niggers In Town After Sundown. This was taken down only after the civil rights act in 1964.

You might say that if the disparity in white/black economic fortunes hadn’t persisted to this very day. You might say that if prisons were not filled disproportionately with persons of color, especially African Americans. You might say that if systematic attempts to prevent African-Americans from voting weren’t front and center in this very election-all those cries against non-existent voter fraud and for voter i.d. laws that would make it difficult for the poor to vote at all.

i-am-not-a-racist-i-am-against-every-form-of-racism-and-seggrationHow have all these terrible realities managed to remain in place? Because those with power rarely give it up willingly. We white Americans, through our avoidance of these issues, have capitulated to the structures already in place. Why? Because those structures: biased employment choices, biased voting requirements, lack of affordable housing, lack of available health care, still unequal education, are on the fringe of our lives, happening to someone else, some other African-American self. And to fix them would cost us in taxes, in our unearned advantage in employment, in our ability to control local and state and national elections.

Are these conscious decisions for most of us? No. But they do not have to be. It is our assumption that the way our culture organizes itself is just and fair that makes us all complicit. This is institutional and institutionalized racism. It is the result of either our conscious decisions or our unconscious capitulation to things as they are. We, we white Americans, are all part of this, and, in this very real and potent sense, racist.


Fall                                                                       Hunter Moon

Dogs are love on four legs

strange territory

Fall                                                                                 Hunter Moon



This trip into Judaism, my journey as a fellow traveler, has begun to transfer into strange territory. Both the Reconstructionist movement and a newer one, the Renewal movement, have representation at Beth Evergreen. They are, I think, the result of rabbis and scholars beginning to ask a question similar to the one I’ve posed in my reimagining faith project. That is, how can the religious imagination, that poetic impulse in the human spirit, respond to contemporary life?

The answers in both Reconstruction and Renewal are still opaque to me, largely because of my ignorance of their fine-grained details. But I know this already, there is a strong contingent in both movements that lean pagan, that follow many of the Jewish practices back to their earth-centered roots. Sukkot is an excellent example since it is a harvest celebration as well as a commemoration of the Exodus. The sukkah, the booth built outside and used for informal gatherings, recapitulates the temporary shelters agricultural workers in ancient Israel would use while engaged in the all important task of ingathering crops.

20161022_113638Yesterday Kate and I went to the Sukkot sabbath, a day focused on children and religious education, utilizing the Sukkah as a place to gather the kids. Rabbie Jamie played his guitar and led them in song, parents and older adolescents participating, too.

There are, I now know, people at Beth Evergreen who combine Judaism and paganism. One woman calls herself a Jewitch. Another has a strong element of sun-earth-moon worship in her approach to the tradition. And, there is me. I’m there because of my love for Kate and a long time fascination with Judaism, really more the Jews I’ve known, and what I see now as an incurably religious poetic soul.

I am religious with a small r, no longer interested in dogma or institutions, but with an abiding appreciation for religious community and the quest of the religious self. In this sense I suppose Kate could have been a Hindu and I would have followed along, not as a believer, but as an appreciator, as one willing to use the deep metaphors to understand my own life.

A beloved community, one where love and affection dominate abstract thought, but do not eliminate it, is a place where I can flourish even without embracing a theological position. Beth Evergreen is, I believe, such a community. How I’ll end up attached to it, I don’t yet know, but it will come from knowing individuals, their dreams and their passions. My suspicion is that it will be the great work, creating a sustainable presence for humans on the earth, that opens the way.




Fall                                                                       Hunter Moon


(photo, Tim Evanson)Donald Trump is the gift that goes on giving for Democrats. Against almost any other candidate, and even against the Donald if he had learned to grow up, Hillary would be in deep, serious trouble. Acting as he has, with multiple comments and missteps that would have disqualified a more typical presidential candidate, Hillary has been unable to pull away in numbers proportional to his many insults and errors.

But. Just because he has done more than any candidate could be asked to to further the victory of his opponent, does not mean that his politics, his campaign and his base are unimportant. What may be seen historically as this campaign’s fundamental theme is a third-rail concept: class.

Bernie and the Donald both drew energy from the rage of the left behind. So does Hillary, but in a less obvious way. The left behind are the white men with no college whose fate in the current job market is abysmal. “Nearly one-quarter of white men with only a high school diploma aren’t working. Many of these men, age 25 to 64, aren’t just unemployed … they aren’t even looking for a job, according to federal data.” CNN

This is important. First, if recipients of white male privilege can take such a hammering in the blue collar work force, imagine if you’re black or Latino. Then, factor in gender. So what if you’re female with only a high school education? What if you’re female, lack a college degree and are black or Latino? Leaving large chunks of the population out of the work force is a recipe for revolution. Desperate people can be recruited to do desperate things.

Class matters. Yes, so does race and gender and sexual preference and disability. Of course. But factor in class to any of these other demographic categories and the results rise logarithmically. Work for those without higher education affects families, the psyche of individuals, whole communities, even states.

When I was young, in the post WWII economic boom, manufacturing offered many, many jobs with good salaries, benefits and apparent longevity to folks with a high school education, or even less. These jobs paid for houses, cars, college for children, vacations. They provide health care and disability coverage. They made my hometown of Alexandria, Indiana a vital and prosperous community. The transformation of work in the 60 years since then has stripped these jobs out of our cities and towns. The resulting pain has become political fodder for nativist populists like Trump, for a socialist candidate like Sanders and for groups traditionally supportive of Democratic candidates like Hillary Clinton.

When this sad and despicable campaign winds to its end, and when the “orange haired snatch grabber” (line from a Comedy Central sketch) has decided whether the US system of government is important to him, when inauguration days rolls round in January, 2017, these challenges will remain. The rage will still fester in working class towns in the rust belt, up and down the East Coast, in the heart of Dixie. There will still be whole categories of American citizens who will find work elusive and the life one can build only with work out of reach.

It’s not over. Not by a long shot.


Fall                                                                              Hunter Moon

sukkot-greetingAte lunch in the sukkah yesterday. This is the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, a harvest celebration and a commemoration of the Exodus experience. The occasion was a potluck for our mussar group.

This Colorado life has distinct differences from our Minnesota life. We see the grandkids and Jon a lot, especially during this divorce process. Our life on Shadow Mountain, as we planned, has a significant family component, one that had gone missing after Joseph and Jon moved away, leaving Annie as our only remaining relative in the state.

Judaism, and more specifically Beth Evergreen, is now a regular part of our lives. I attend the mussar group with Kate. Kate’s taking Hebrew and we both attended services during the High Holidays. There is spiritual growth, yes, and community.

We’ve become more and more Evergreen-centric. The Evergreen Writer’s Group has become a part of my life as Kate’s needlework and quilting groups have become part of hers. We eat breakfast there often for our business meetings, lunch and dinner, too, on occasion.


The mountains enfold it all. When we leave home, we drive through the mountains. Unless we go into Denver or Boulder, we don’t leave the mountains. Black Mountain is a constant visual companion and we live on Shadow Mountain. Mt. Evan’s is a fourteener several miles west of us, but present here as determiner of our micro-climate. Yesterday there were two large, stacked lenticular clouds hovering like UFO’s over it.

Awe is a constant. In addition to the mountains, their streams and forests, there are the many wild cousins with whom we live. Last Saturday we ate in Evergreen at the Lariat Lodge with Jon and the grandkids. A man from a nearby table got up and said, “Look! A fox.” Sure enough, not twenty feet from our table a red fox with a bushy, white-tipped black tail was on some crepuscular mission. Many people gathered around to look.


The wild cousins live in these mountains without grocery stores or automobiles or electric lights. They sleep among the rocks and lodgepole pine, drink from the streams, and eat from the food available in mountain meadows and forests. When we see them, it’s an affirmation that the human way is not the only way. And that affirmation is, at least for me, awe-some.

There is, of course, the house and yard. The snow that comes and melts. Fire mitigation. The various projects. This loft, Kate’s sewing room. The grandkid’s room and their projects in the yard, ranging from Gabe’s rabbit house to Ruthie’s lean-to to a frame that Jon built. The dogs. The house is the core of our Colorado life and it’s as wonderful now as it was when Kate first found it.


Gabe’s Rabbit House

Cogito Ergo Not

Fall                                                                      Hunter Moon

Rene Descartes walks into an English pub, and the serving wench asks him if he would like a flagon of ale.

He says: “I think not!”

Poof! He disappears!!

Election Over

Fall                                                                                Hunter Moon

mail-inThe election is over. At least for Kate and me. We got our ballots in the mail on Tuesday. Yes, in the mail. We opened them and yesterday sat down together to vote. At our beetle kill pine kitchen table. The ballot spread out before us, front and back. The front had Hillary Clinton, Michael Bennet (Senate) and Jared Polis (House of Representatives) in a row, making it easy to vote for these Democrats.

There were several retain or not choices for judges. Don’t know if this happens elsewhere but here judges are appointed for two years then have to stand for a retention election. If retained, they serve eight more years. A state house race, county commissioner, surveyor, those sorts of offices sent us to the computer, checking on candidates and positions. We definitely voted against the Republican candidate for the state house who wanted to separate “School and State.”

colorado-care-actOn the back of the ballot were several matters up for public decision, most amending the constitution, a couple with only statutory weight. These are placed on the ballot if they get enough signatures in a pre-election petition process. This is referendum politics and I don’t like it. It sounds like direct democracy, but in fact it is too often a place where large organizations run stealth campaigns, hammering the process with lots of money.

On the other hand the matters that make it onto the ballot are often important, sometimes conservative, sometimes progressive. TABOR, a tax revenue limiting referendum passed in Colorado in 1992 is “…is the most restrictive limitation in the country…” (Bell Policy) Conservative. But in 2012 another referendum allowed for the legalization of marijuana for recreational use, expanding the 2000 referendum which allowed medical marijuana.

This year ColoradoCare is on the ballot, a proposal which, if passed, would establish a single-payer health system in the state, so is medical aid in dying, a $1.75 increase in the cigarette tax, and an obscure rule about taxing benefits of using Federal lands.

politifact2fphotos2fboulder_votersIn effect the polling place became our kitchen table. It was better than a voting booth because we could discuss our votes, look up information on candidates or ballot issues. Today we’ll drop our ballots off at a ballot collection box at the Evergreen library.

Colorado is an odd mix of libertarian, nutjob conservatives, centrists like Governor Hickenlooper and Richard Lamb, and progressives. It shows in the referendums on the ballot, the ones already passed and the mail-in ballot. The trend, thanks to in-migration of millennials and others from blue states like Minnesota, seems to favor the progressive as does the potential for a large turn out the vote campaign among the state’s significant Latino population.

It’s an edgy place, this strange state where the Great Plains end, the Rocky Mountains rise. Though Cozad, Nebraska marks the 100th parallel and the line where average rainfall plummets below 20 inches year, the start of the arid west, it is the Rockies which mark the true border between the agriculturally dominated Midwest and Great Plains and the West.

We are both of the plains and the mountains, a place where Eastern ends and Western begins. The politics here represents that border transition, an uneasy joining of the two. The future, as seen from Shadow Mountain, should be interesting.

From Way Out There

Fall                                                                             Hunter Moon

Friend Tom Crane found this. And friend Bill Schmidt nailed it as, “Good music for Halloween.” A literal symphony of the Planets.

The Unexpected. Snow.

Fall                                                                  Hunter Moon

Didn’t expect snow this morning, but there it was, white in the yard. The season is trying to push toward winter, but has a bad case of reticence.

lycaon-becomes-a-wolfI’ve been working on the second chapter of Superior Wolf. It got plenty of critiques, valid ones, in my writing group, so I decided to rewrite it. I believe version 2.0 will be better.

Kathleen Donahue. Died. I met Kathleen, really, on facebook, though she was from Alexandria, my hometown. She was seven years younger than me, meaning she was in 6th grade when I graduated from high school. She moved to California long ago, got involved in the music business writing lyrics, suffered through two violent attacks and had an iconoclastic personality.

About six months ago she posted that an unexpected finding during a visit to the doctor had uncovered stage 4 lung cancer. They gave her about six months to live. I’m surprised how much her death affected me. Social media has its rightful critics, but for the purpose of staying in touch with old friends and faraway family, for the opportunity to renew or begin acquaintances with people with whom there is some connection already, they offer a possibility unavailable when I was younger.

And with that opportunity comes the chance for grief.

Kate and I did the drive into Denver yesterday. A long way for nosepads for a pair of glasses and to have some Mac repair guys wave their hand over her Ipad. They made it all better. There are things you can’t accomplish in the mountains, these are two of them.

Jon’s  in a much better place. If things remain as they are, he will get most of what he wants in the divorce’s final orders, due November 28th. It’s gratifying to see that his strategy of taking responsibility, being open to negotiation and trying to avoid stirring things up in this delicate pre-final orders stage is working.


They’re baaaack!

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Black Mountain Drive, Colorado

October 2016
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