We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Rigel et Mois

Winter                                                                                  Imbolc Moon

Two gray beards. Dogs and owners who look alike.

20180119_095931

Snow

Winter                                                                        Imbolc Moon

Cozy. Kate finishing a quilt gift for Sandy, who will have surgery again this week

Cozy. Kate finishing a quilt gift for Sandy, who will have surgery again this week

20180121_172039Well. Finally. A real snow storm. The white stuff started falling around midnight on Saturday and continued through the day Sunday. Maybe 10 to 12 inches. Ted of All Trades plowed us out in the afternoon. I cleared our deck and the path to garage 5 times as the snow fell. It’s easier to clear it before it builds up too much bulk.

When the temperature drops, the clouds roll in over Mt. Evans and the flakes begin to come down in earnest, I feel Shadow Mountain most keenly. Not sure why, but I know we’re on a mountain top then. It feels secure and cozy, the forest and the peaks around us our real home.

Maybe that’s it. When the snow falls, we are intimately linked to the mountains and the forests, all of us experiencing this change, the soft silence that pervades the lodgepole stands, the aspen groves, that covers the iced over Maxwell Creek with more cold water, that drifts in our open bedroom window. Just as the deer and the fox and the mountain lion and the elk have to wade through the snow, so do I on my way out to get the mail or the newspaper.

Beautiful. Important. A gift from the sky to our thirsty plants. We’re all grateful.

Bees, Dogs, Hearts and Shoulders

Winter                                                                   Imbolc Moon

20180119_095931Rigel’s blood work so far is encouraging. Her liver values are back to normal. This may be a sudden old age shift to intolerance of chicken protein. The rabbit diet food is on its way from Chewy.com. Her appetite is good. If she gains weight on the new diet, that may be all we need to know. Fingers crossed.

Went over to Rich Levine’s yesterday for more bee conversation. He put the flow hive together. It looks very cool. If it works as advertised, it could eliminate the need for honey supers and the back breaking, hot, sweaty work of extraction.

IMAG0873

Kate uncapping a honey frame

I agreed to talk to the religious school about bee symbology since they’re going to decorate their hive boxes in a couple of weeks. When the school, and Rabbi Jamie apparently, hive their bee packages, I’ll assist. And, I imagine, support the hives as they grow over the course of the summer. A good way to keep my hand in without having to do all the work myself.

Snowing today. Yeah! The forests are dry. The Smoky the Bear signs which give us a hint about the future of our homes are all set on High fire danger. In January. That means really bad news for reservoirs and the 2018 fire season unless we get a lot of snow between now and May or so.

We’ve had four, maybe five inches so far and the snow’s still falling. Supposed to last all day. Could be bigger than predicted, which would be more than fine.

2011 01 09_1223

Two Olsons

Kate’s got a big week coming up. Monday she has a nuclear stress test for her heart and a visit, on the same day, with the electrophys doc. Next Monday she has an appointment with David Schneider at Panorama Ortho for a shoulder consult. Her right shoulder is painful and weak. The pain interferes with her sleep, so getting it fixed has become a priority.

We don’t expect the heart work up to show more than normal aging. It’s a followup to the tough times she had at Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Better now. Stress may be a larger factor than we know.

Rigel’s work up on her GI tract will come back next week. Hope it points in the same direction as Dr. Bayliss thinks.

 

 

Re-enchant

Winter                                                                               Imbolc Moon

20180116_183104This is, I know, a terrible picture, although since it was taken at night, with my hand held computing device and from a considerable distance away-I was parked at the side of the road hoping no one would stovepipe me-it’s ok.

This tree is my favorite light display along Brook Forest Drive on the way to Evergreen. There were many. The folks who lit it up must have run a very long extension cord to get to it, because it sits all alone in the woods, on the edge of a precipice. I love its existential isolation and yet its brilliance and its color.

The woods up here, the Arapaho National Forest for the most part, are lovely dark and deep and beautiful because of that, but having this small bit of human intervention tickles me.

It’s a part of a larger picture that’s coming to me. When I mentioned shamanic seeing in the post about the mountain spirits, it made me aware that I need to a third R to my gerundal theology: reimagining and reconstructing AND re-enchanting. This last of the three R’s of an emerging approach to faith may be the most important of all. The first two involve rational heavy lifting, taking something apart and putting it back together in a way meaningful today. Important and critical, yes. But, I’m realizing, not enough.

reenchant_logo10-08-100pxMore than the intellectual work we need the emotional work, a return to shamanic seeing, a return to a view of the world as a magical, mystical place. Which it always has been and continues to be. The empirical method, the scientific method has, like religious dogma, occluded our ability to see wonder. One woman said, during the mussar class in which we discussed the three messengers (angels) from the mountain spirit, said, “How would the mountain know when to send out the messengers?” Beep. Wrong question.

The right question? How can we open our hearts to the intimate communication we get from the natural world everyday? Including those emanating from within our own bodies. It’s our perception that needs to change, not the world. It’s still sending messengers and messages, but we’ve systematically tricked ourselves into thinking we now know too much to attend to them. We don’t.

reenchant.jpg2What does that lenticular cloud hanging over Black Mountain have to say? How about the wind howling down off Mt. Evans? The snow storm about to hit us? The fox or the mountain lion or the bear crossing our yard? The gradual decline of our muscle mass, our mental mass, as we age? Where are our faeries? Why won’t the wood nymphs of the lodgepole pines speak to me? The sun and its perpetual light. That rock fallen on to the road. What do they mean? Not what are they? Not why are they there? But what love note from the big bang do they contain? How would the ancient Greek or the Hebrew on Sinai or the folk who walked up out of Africa relate to them?

No, we don’t have to give up the scientific. No, we don’t have to abjure missing the rock with our car or truck. We only have to ask about our relationship with all these. What is it? How does it convey meaning to me? I like the notion of spirits and gods, goddesses, too. I’m still looking for the Great God Pan. Maybe you’ve seen him?

 

Figuring Things Out

Winter                                                                          Imbolc Moon

20180119_095931 Rigel. We took her to the VRCC, the Veterinary Referral Center in Englewood. This place is the equivalent of the University of Minnesota’s Vet Hospital for the Denver Metro Area. The Vet school here is in Colorado Springs, at an hour and half away too far for most folks to travel.

We had a consultation with Dr. Danielle Bayliss, an internist. She reviewed the blood work Rigel has had, all the notes from Sano Vet Clinic, asked about her ultra-sound and went over Rigel’s recent history of weight loss and neediness. Plus her insistent dining on Jewish texts.

Dr. Bayliss’s mind was a pleasure to watch work. She was compassionate, unhurried and thorough. She began by explaining that she thought we needed to redo Rigel’s blood work and do what she called biologic tests. Her reasoning was that the major presenting problem was weight loss. “That could point to some GI tract problems with nutrition absorption. We don’t want to do a liver biopsy (our Vet’s recommendation), then find out she’s still losing weight.”

Kep and Rigel

Kep and Rigel

The biologic test involves drawing blood, getting a baseline, then feeding her and two hours later, drawing blood again. I’m not sure exactly what it measures, but it tells Dr. Bayliss something important about the bowels. We’ll get some of the results today, the rest, the biologic tests, sometime next week.

Meanwhile, Dr. Bayliss prescribed a new dog food, one with rabbit as its primary protein, not the chicken in her Blue Diamond Senior diet. Prescribed in this instance means expensive, like $84 for a 25 pound bag. In addition, since she’s supposed to have only this diet, her treats will have to be canned dog food with the same ingredients. Another $82. Yowzer. She also received a prescription for metronidazole.

All this, however, gave both Kate and me at least a momentary reprieve from the liver cancer we thought they would find. It could be there’s still something dire going on, but it’s also possible she’s becoming unable to absorb chicken proteins and that the diet will be at least a partial fix.

Rigel

Rigel

We’re never ready to lose a dog and Rigel has been our healthiest dog ever. Which is saying something after seventeen dogs. She’s a sweetheart, except for digesting texts and flashcards on Hebrew and several patterns from Kate’s sewing room collection.

Since Vega died in April of 2016, she has come out from under Vega’s big personality to claim her own space. In particular she has found her voice and comments on many things, not always intelligibly to us, but usually so.

This summer she dug after and caught a vole. The shallow hole she dug was about three feet long, this is in spite of the amputation of one toe on her right front foot a year or so ago. Catching that vole, and eating it, reawakened her predator spirit and has found her since then spending a lot of time looking for critters under the shed, something she and her sister Vega did for hours in Andover. She’s retained that vigor, the eagerness, I suppose you could say zerizut. She runs out with her long, loping stride, tail up and ready for what she might find.

May she still.

Siyum

Winter                                                                      Imbolc Moon

Siyum_on_kesubosAn interesting mussar session yesterday. We had a siyum, a new favorite thing. In the rabbinic tradition whenever a group of learners would finish a book or a large section of, say, Talmud, they’d throw a party. This picture of a hasidic or orthodox siyum is exactly like our group except we’re almost all women, don’t wear hats and had much better food.

In this instance we finished a year plus study of the “Messilat Yesharim: the path of the upright” by Rabbi Moses Luzzato. As part of the siyum we each offered a verse from the text that we would carry forward, a sort of summary of the work’s significance to us. I chose a verse which contained the English word omniscience. I replaced it with what I then thought was the Hebrew, permeated knowledge. I also replaced the word God each time it appeared. This was a hermeneutical act both of reimagining and reconstructing.

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Our mussar class under Joseph’s dream and the burning bush

As an example of encountering the knowledge, the sacred knowledge, that permeates the universe, I spoke about the three mule deer bucks who visited me in our backyard, October 31st, 2014 when I came up for the closing on the Shadow Mountain house. We watched each other. I moved a little closer to them, they watched with those large round brown eyes. I moved a little closer, then stopped, not wanting to spook them or reinforce any habituation they might have. They were the spirit of the mountains come to say it was all right for me to be here.

This August, our yard

This August, our yard

But here’s the really interesting part. There were also three mule deer bucks in the grass outside the windows where we studied. Jamie pointed them out, we all looked. Then, several, maybe a quarter of the 20 or so people in the class, recounted their own stories, right around the time they moved to or were considering moving to the Evergreen/Conifer area. There had been welcoming deer, elk and even a bear. All of these accounts were reverential. Each recalled incident added a goose bump or two.

I felt so affirmed in my odd pagan journey, my pilgrimage on this ancientrail I chose so long ago; not because of the response to my choice of verse, but because of the obvious pagan sensibility commonly shared. This sort of shamanic seeing is a part of our human tool kit if we’re not summarily dismissive of it.

Beat the drum slowly friend.

We Die

Winter                                                                     Imbolc Moon

Been thinking about dying recently. No, really. In a good way. I try to imagine myself dead at least 5 times a day, my body lying on a small tilted table awaiting cremation. Kate and I saw her mother, Rebecca, just like that.

When I get done with that imaging, usually brief, this song keeps coming up from the far away days of the early 70’s. And it still works for me. In fact, it has an existential content now that’s far more profound than when I first heard it.

When I received the consolation of Deer Creek Canyon shortly after my cancer diagnosis, the mountains forming the Deer Creek valley accepted my short life, my mayfly life against their millions of years.

This song reminds me of something many of us notice when someone close dies, one child is born to carry on. By implication, of course, that means you were that child for someone dying around the time you were born. Living and dying. Beltane to Samain, Samain to Beltane. We are part of the Great Wheel, rolling with it as it goes, in living and in dying.

And When I Die
And when I die
and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
There’ll be one child born and
a world to carry on, to carry on
I’m not scared of dying
and I don’t really care
If it’s peace you find in dying,
well, then let the time be near
If it’s peace you find in dying,
when dying time is here,
Just bundle up my coffin cause
it’s cold way down there,
I hear that’s it’s cold way down there,
yeah, crazy cold way down there
And when I die and when I’m gone,
There’ll be one child born and
a world to carry on, to carry on
My troubles are many, they’re as deep as a well
I can swear there ain’t no heaven but I pray there ain’t no hell
Swear there ain’t no heaven and pray there ain’t no hell,
But I’ll never know by living, only my dying will tell,
Only my dying will tell, yeah, only my dying will tell
And when I die and when I’m gone,
There’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on
Give me my freedom for as long as I be
All I ask of living is to have no chains on me
All I ask of living is to have no chains on me,
And all I ask of dying is to go naturally, only want to go naturally
Don’t want to go by the devil, don’t want to go by the demon,
Don’t want to go by Satan, don’t want to die uneasy,
Just let me go naturally
And when I die and when I’m gone,
There’ll be one child born, there’ll be one child born
When I die, there’ll be one child born
When I die, there’ll be one child born
When I die, there’ll be one child born
When I die, there’ll be one child born
Songwriters: Laura Nyro

Zerizut. Mother letters.

Winter                                                                     Imbolc Moon

mother letters

mother letters

Oh, my. Two nights out again. Bedtime missed by an hour, two last night. Resilience is not what it used to be and hasn’t been for a long time. Even so. Tuesday night was kabbalah, an exciting evening with Allen Rubin and Jamie investigating the mother letters, mem and shin, which appear on the horizontal linkages above and below aleph on the tree of life. (see previous post about aleph)

zerizutLast night Kate and I had adult Hebrew, then, an hour later, tikkun middot havurah. This is the third of three mussar related times during the month, a once a month gathering for those who’d like to study mussar but can’t make the Thursday afternoon class. The topic was zerizut, or the middot (character trait) of enthusiasm.

January has been tough throughout the nation, I believe, with H3N2 devastating many and a general malaise allowing other less severe illnesses to gain a foothold, too. The energy level for our discussion of zerizut was ironically low because of this, I think. A lot of folks seem to have their heads down, shoulders hunched, moving slow and hoping nothing bad happens. Many are waiting for the sun.

Mountain_jewLogoMe, I was just tired. So, the question is, is it worth upsetting my normal rhythms? Yes. Yes, it is. No, not because I’m converting, still not interested. But, I have come to believe that Judaism, at least as practiced in this small mountain synagogue, is about helping humans be better in this life and to use this life to make things better for the other, be the other human or animal or a planet. Synchs up pretty well with my own journey, this ancientrail that has wound from Oklahoma to Indiana, Indiana to Wisconsin, Wisconsin to Minnesota and now, Minnesota to Colorado.

The result of this approach to the religious life is a community where people care about each other, are willing to challenge each other to grow and to support each other in various concrete ways. These long evenings are the energy sources for that work and I’m proud and glad to be part of it. Even if it makes me weary.

 

Life is like an hourglass

Winter                                                                             Imbolc Moon

hourglass

This is a short piece from a book, 365 Tao: Daily Meditations. It’s day 350. It fits so well with kabbalah, as I’m finding Taoism often does.

Life is like an hourglass

Consciousness is the sand

Imagine an hourglass.

Its shape is like the symbol for infinity. Its form recalls the double helix of DNA. Its two sections represent polarity. The material on one side, the immaterial on the other. The male on one side, the female on the other. Hot and cold, positive and negative, or any duality. (dialectic)

The sand runs in a stream, the same stream as the course of energy that runs up your spine, the same stream that is the road of life.

The movement of that sand is what we call Tao. Our consciousness alternates between the various states represented by the hourglass. It is as difficult to grasp as a stream of sand. Therefore, it is foolish to examine things minutely. It is unwise to focus on the material. It is wisdom to understand the movement.

 

The World Without Us

Winter                                                                             New Imbolc Moon

Video from a neighbor, couple of days ago.

And, this one, too.

mountain lion2

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