We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.


Written By: Charles - Jan• 20•19

Winter                                                                   Waxing Moon

20190120_104200Shhh. Don’t tell anybody or you might jinx it, but I think Kate’s starting to gain weight. She’s at 84, past the 82 pound barrier that seemed so intractable. yay. shhh.

SeoAh and Murdoch are on their way today. Back to the warmer climes of Peach and Pecan country. Gonna miss her though she needs to get back and we need to settle in again to our own rhythms. SeoAh loves pho so I took her to the pho place near Evergreen’s King Sooper yesterday. A going away present. We had a long talk about her life in Seoul. She sold clothing and cosmetics door-to-door for a good while. What a tough way to make a living.

In that conversation she made an interesting point about American culture, one that wouldn’t have occurred to me. In Korea women expect each other to dress well, to the point of putting on make-up even when going to the store for groceries. And, they’re unforgiving of those who don’t. “Most Asian women are like this,” she said. “But, I love American culture.” We don’t have the same blanket expectation for women. (not saying it doesn’t exist here, but it’s not everywhere.) That makes a big difference to SeoAh.

20190101_103345Went out to DIA late last night and picked up SeoAh’s husband. Got back here about 11:00 pm, well past my sell by date in terms of sleep. The dogs didn’t get fed until 7:30 am. Gabe’s here, too. Jon brought him up last night. Jon and Ruth will go skiing today at A-Basin, then pick Gabe up on their way home. It’s been a very family oriented Christmas and New Years and January. Friends, too.

We’re expecting snow again tomorrow evening. Hopefully the pace will pick up.

Got some gold leaf yesterday for a painting I’m working on portraying the ohr penetrating the ein sof. Considering a series on Genesis with this being the first of them.




Tajikistani Comfort

Written By: Charles - Jan• 19•19

Winter                                                                Waxing Moon

20190118_104419Quick geopolitical quiz. Where is Tajikistan? No googling, no globe, no world map. Where is it? If you know, you get the sister city of Boulder appellation, Friend of Dushanbe. Friend of what? Oh, you didn’t know that Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan? No, we’re not revoking your nametag. Not only are we not revoking your nametag, we’re inviting you over to tea at a traditional Tajikistan Tea House donated to Boulder by the citizens of Dushanbe. And, it’s a stunner.

The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse was fabricated in Tajikistan and then reassembled in Boulder, much like the Teahouse exhibited in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Japanese galleries. The result puts you in another place. The intricate, colorful glazed tiles and the carefully hand carved wooden pillars lit by floor to ceiling windows makes the dining room seem both familiar and exotic, intimate, yet expansive. 20190118_123043Though we didn’t sit on one of them, there were also raised platforms with cushions and short tables. Looked like fun to me.

The menu has an assortment of dishes ranging from Lapsang Souchong Bulgogi to a Russian Beet Salad. We spent a leisurely hour and a half eating hummus, samosas, and the Russian Beet Salad. The deserts were wonderful, too.

I picked up an ounce of white tea, Silver Needle. My disappointment with the physics of boiling water at 8,800 feet sorta knocked me out of the tea making habit I’d developed in Andover. The Teahouse inspired me to suck it up and get back to it. Starting today, I plan to add tea-making back into my daily routine.

Fellow Travelers

Fellow Travelers

While we ate a gentle snow fell, visible through the large windows. Could have been a morning in Dushanbe. After our meal, we drove over to McGuckin’s. It’s a hardware store, but so much more. First, it’s the size of a big box retailer. It’s aisles have that distinctive hardware shelving and signage, but they include furniture, fly fishing equipment, art supplies, humidifiers, a dizzying range of power tools, garden tools. The atmosphere was laid back, many folks meandering around, like us, taking in its immensity. I found a large brush to paint backgrounds and some tape to use for outlining. A few sponges, too.

Dark Lane, Southowram, England

Dark Lane, Southowram, England

The drive back home, about an hour in normal conditions, took almost two. Tom did his usual masterful, calm job as helmsman. Unfortunately the timing meant that he and Mark dropped me off, then headed back down the mountain to make their 7:00 pm flight. DIA is far from our house and you have to traverse the whole of the Denver metro to get there. Not a fun drive.

Ram Dass sums it up: We’re all just walking each other home. Tom and Mark came out and we hiked another few miles toward that final destination, the most ancientrail of all. The precious value of knowing we’re not walking alone turns us into fellow pilgrims. Life without travel companions is a burden; with fellow pilgrims it’s a rich, exciting journey toward the unknown.



Written By: Charles - Jan• 19•19

Winter                                                                             Waxing Moon

The Cutthroat

The Cutthroat

The support team arrived. We went to three Baily landmarks. The Rustic didn’t open until 11:00, so we wandered back across 285 to the Cutthroat Trout Cafe. Which Mark observed, “Doesn’t serve any fish.”

The food was good, straight breakfast, no fancy names or ingredients. Eggs, pancakes, hash browns, coffee, toast, jelly. Our waitress had been there since 5 am. “Yes, mostly coffee drinkers before six, but there are two gentlemen who come in and eat pretty regularly.” She had on an I love Goonies t-shirt.

Since the Sasquatch Outpost was right next door, we walked in there. I bought Kate a Sasquatch doesn’t believe in you either t-shirt from among the many, many Sasquatch themed items on offer: a bar of soap shaped like a Bigfoot foot, a Bigfoot riding a motorcycle, signs: Caution Big Foot Breeding Area, avoid eye contact, Warning Big Foot Area Stay on Marked Trails, hats, sweatshirts, books, scarves.

Shoppin' for weed

Shoppin’ for weed

Next stop. The Happy Camper. These old enough to remember dial phones and black and white tv guys stepped into the brave new world of cannabis with a cash register to take your money. Mark had a bit of culture shock. So many options, so little hassle. He chose some thc capsules. That night both he and Tom enjoyed a better sleep. A big deal for both of them.

After Bailey we came back to the loft and hung out. Talking. Then it was nap time so we rolled out our mats, oops, no, kindergarten. Tom and Mark went back to the unusually decorated B&B, Arrowhead Manor, and I went downstairs.

We reconvened at 5 pm for a trip to Sushi Win. Sushi Wins’ owner no longer accepts credit cards or checks, just cash. Mark had an unusual roll that came in a seaweed cone wrapped in black and white checkerboard paper and presented in an ice cream cone stand. Very mod. Tom and I had the sashimi bowl. As usual Sushi Win had few customers, quiet.





Bailey. Yesterday.

Written By: Charles - Jan• 18•19

Winter                                                                      Waxing Moon


Stocking Stuffers

Written By: Charles - Jan• 17•19

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

Arrowhead Manor

Arrowhead Manor

Today and tomorrow. Friendship in the Rockies. Tom and Mark flew in yesterday, spent the night at Arrowhead Manor, a B&B off 285 near Meyer’s Ranch. Between 8:30 and 9:00 they’ll be here. I need this time with them. I’ve had my head down, pushing, pushing, pushing for quite a while now. SeoAh’s been so helpful, CBE folks, too, and Kate. Well, Kate’s had the hard time. Is having the hard time. Yes. All that. Even so, there’s been my side of it, too. Uncertainty. Stress. Caregiving. All ok, but a break from them for a couple of days? Needed, too.

The Happy Camper, our dispensary in Bailey, will be among our first stops. When I went in there a couple of weeks ago to pick up our monthly supply of THC, I asked for my usual edibles from Love’s Oven. “Don’t have any,” the budtender replied. “Oh?” “Yeah, some guy came in just before Christmas and bought all of them for stocking stuffers.” Oh. The times are not changing. They’ve changed.


The Rustic’s Door

After that we’ll visit the Rustic Bar a couple of miles from the Happy Camper, down a 7% grade called Crow Hill. This is where Paul, Mark, Tom, and I had our first breakfast on our Durango trip last year. Beyond the Rustic? TBD.

The Rav4 has new oil. It continues to function well. I sorta wish it didn’t because I don’t like it much, even though I picked it out in 2011 when our Tundra had STDS, sudden truck death syndrome. It has two main virtues. It’s paid for. And it’s sturdy. Will probably drive it another 125,000 miles.

Class on yirah for religious school. Note to self. Always have a craft-like activity in addition to talk. I’ve figured out a way to get the kids quiet. They’re attentive and responsive. But, I aimed the class a mile or so over their heads. They’re concrete thinkers, as Alan reminds me, and I went into full adult, let us reason together mode. Not a flop, but not a success either. Teaching is hard to do well. Not hard to do poorly. I was in the middle yesterday.

20180828_185716Kate came to our MVP group after the religious school class. Marilyn Saltzman picked her up. She lasted a bit over an hour before she began to fade. She’s decided to challenge herself, get out more, see people, build her stamina. I’m so proud of her. It’s tough and in these early days it’s impossible to calibrate well, so she shows up and stays as long as she’s able. When people see her, they smile, come over, give her hugs. Important for healing. Slowly.

SeoAh will leave on Monday, taking her smile, her upbeat presence, and Murdoch back to Georgia. She’s been here since Christmas Eve, teaching us about family and about Korean cooking. Sorry to see her go, but she needs to get back to her Warner Robbins life.





Written By: Charles - Jan• 16•19

Winter                                                                    Waxing Moon

Big excitement this morning. Into Stevinson Toyota for a Rav4 oil change. Last oil change came on the Monday of Kate’s no good, very bad, horrible weekend at the end of September. That oil has degraded over the whole twilight circus of events since then. This fresh oil comes as the news begins to look better. It will degrade as the Waxing Moon works and puts the unhappy last quarter of 2018 to rest. Looking for a better story in the first quarter of 2019.

Painted some yesterday. Both sumi-e and oil painting have put me back in a tactile world gardening occupied in Minnesota.

Here’s my latest, akeda. Akeda means binding in Hebrew and in Jewish tradition evokes the binding of Isaac by Abraham.



Yesterday morning I created a lesson plan for the religious school. Yirah. The akeda could be used as an example of yirah. How terrible, how frightening. Sacrifice the son whom Sarah bore in her 90’s. Isaac means, he laughed, to remember Abraham and Sarah’s response to the news that she would bear a child. Not only was Isaac the improbable son of Sarah’s old age, he was also the son who would fulfill the covenant God made with Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the “stars in the sky.” Killing him as a sacrifice would mean the end of Sarah’s miracle and the promise of God. Yet, he went ahead with the akeda.

A friend of mine in Minnesota, a Sierra club activist, was in an accident on January 14th. Her 18 year old son, Henry, a freshman at Bowdoin college, drove. She was in the passenger seat. A pickup truck drifted into their lane. The wreck killed Henry. Sarah survived with non-life threatening injuries. Since her brief announcement on facebook, “Devastating news. We lost Henry in a car accident. Only 18. So much potential,” I’ve been cycling through imagining the awful pain of losing a child.



The Holy

Written By: Charles - Jan• 15•19

Winter                                                                     Waxing Moon

Going for calories

Going for calories

Took Kate to Bailey yesterday, the social hall of St. Mary’s of the Rockies. She stayed several hours for a meeting of the Bailey Patchworkers. It was the first time she’d been back since August, a session when she piled up the good eats for a quilt documentation day. That was also the day I backed into her friend’s car. With said friend in it. Sigh. Kate’s stamina has improved markedly. So good to see.

After Bailey, I drove not home, but to Evergreen where I had lunch with Tara and Alan. Murphy’s sits right on Bear Creek, a lovely place in the spring, summer, and fall for an outside lunch. Tara and Alan and I talked CBE religious school. Alan returned Saturday from a couple of weeks in Argentina. In Patagonia, at a national park, he was told, no, you can’t walk on the glacier. You’re over 65. Didn’t know glaciers took notice of such brief lifespans; but, it was Argentina.

gods celtic twilight yeatsI’m responsible for the next lesson, tomorrow, as I was last week, but with Alan as back up this time. Last week we worked with the middah, character trait in the Jewish ethical discipline of mussar, chesed, or loving-kindness. This week we stay in mussar, but focus on yirah. Yirah often translates as fear in the Torah, as in “the fear of the Lord.” I prefer awe as a translation, but it does mean both and we’ll use that in the class.

Rudolf Otto, a famous theologian of the early 20th century, wrote a book called, The Idea of the Holy. I mentioned his thinking from this work in a post a couple of days ago. It’s one of a handful of theological texts that have had a radical effect on my thinking. Another is Moses and Monotheism by H. Richard Niebuhr. In both cases the authors try to dig behind religious concepts often simply accepted to find their phenomenal roots. Otto wants to understand the strange nature of the sacred. Niebuhr was after the psychic meaning of monotheism.

Otto’s work has a lot to do with yirah. His idea of the numinous, a distinctive feeling we often equate with the holy or the sacred, has two components: mysterium tremendum et fascinans. When we encounter the numinous, we encounter mystery, a mystery that both attracts us, we want to move toward the experience (awe, yirah, fascinans), and repels us, (fear, yirah, tremendum).

alvarez-adventure-caving-spelunking-1I have had many encounters of this kind and they vary in which characteristic of the Holy they emphasize. I’ve written before about my mystical experience on the quad at Ball State. Fascinans dominated. I wanted to be there, in a state of total linkage with all. I wanted to stay. In high school I attended a summer church camp at Epworth Forest in Indiana. We learned a lot about communion and in particular I took to the heart the idea that if we didn’t reconcile with others, we might “eat and drink our own damnation.” OK. I was an impressionable guy in that moment. But the fear occasioned by that idea made me find a young woman whom I’d teased and ask for her forgiveness. Stepping into the Sistine Chapel. Awe. Driving to Bailey and seeing the Continental Divide capped with snow. Awe. Contemplating my own death. Fear moving toward awe.

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset

Another. In Ely, Minnesota at the International Wolf Center, during a week long wolf studies immersion, we did a necroposy on a collared wolf that had been hit by a car. When we opened his rib cage, a space opened up in front of me where the mystery of life and death vibrated, took me in, absorbed me. This was both fascinans and tremendum. I wanted to look away, to be elsewhere. Right now. I wanted to dive in, swim in the galaxy revealed by this too intimate experience.

How about you? Got any experiences of the holy or the sacred? I especially encourage considering Otto’s point that an experience of the Holy is without moral freight. It simply is. We apply the morality later, much later.




*”In his most famous book, Das Heilige, Otto turned from a critical philosophical account of the possibility of religious experience to a descriptive psychology of the content of that experience and its relationship to the “rational,” symbolic dimension of religion. To designate religious feelings at their most distinctive he coined the word numinous, which referred, he said, to the Holy or Sacred minus the moral dimension. But he soon encountered a methodological limitation. Conscious experience is only available to the person who has it; therefore, it is possible to formulate a descriptive account of religious feelings only on the basis of introspection, informed by apparent similarities in what others have said. In other words, in order to study the experience that is the ultimate source of religion, a scholar must have a sensus numinis, an ability to experience numinous feelings—just as the description of color in painting or pitch in music requires certain kinds of perceptual abilities. Those who have such abilities, Otto suggested, experience the numinous as a mysterium tremendum et fascinans. As a mysterium, it is completely other, beyond the realm of ordinary existence, apprehensible but not comprehensible, evoking in human beings the feeling of stupor and stunned silence. People find this mysterium both attractive (fascinans ) and repulsive (tremendum ). On the one hand, it arouses the sense of grace, love, and mercy. On the other, it arouses feelings of terror and awe and the conviction that human beings are in reality nothing—feelings to which Otto, countering tendencies to equate genuine religion with love, gave a great deal of attention.” encyclopedia.com




Dark Vessel Rising

Written By: Charles - Jan• 14•19

submarineWinter                                                                                    Waxing Moon

Encountered something yesterday, a dark vessel that rose up from 33 years deep. Grief. I’d forgotten. When I lost my hearing in my left ear at the age of 39, it happened suddenly. Over a period of six months it waned, then was gone. At the time I was doing a bible study in Horn Towers, an affordable living senior high rise on the West Bank in Minneapolis. The women there, probably of my age now, helped me through this first mortality signal. That was the first insult. My body, which had worked just fine up until then, could fail. And, not in minor ways, but in ways that effected my life on an ongoing basis. (polio was a memory more than an experience.)

Since then I’ve dealt, sometimes well, sometimes poorly with the disability. Three years ago the hearing in my right ear began to diminish enough that I required a hearing aid. One good thing about that deaf left ear, I only needed one hearing aid. Cheaper! The hearing aid, while light and unobtrusive, is still a foreign object on my ear. It gets in the way of my glasses, sends sharp feedback noises if I put my watchcap on over it, requires batteries and maintenance. It helps. Not as much as I’d like, or need, but it does help. Even so, I don’t like wearing it.

deafWhen I went downstairs yesterday after a hard day at the easel (hah), I had my hearing aid in, but still didn’t hear something Kate said. I asked her to repeat it. She waved me off dismissively. Most of the time, I get it. It’s no fun having to repeat yourself. It can feel like I’m not paying attention or being respectful. Over and over. For some reason though, the dark vessel constructed in those first days of my deafness in my left ear, a vessel built to carry the notice that my body would someday fail me altogether, surfaced.

33 years I’ve had to contend with an invisible disability, one that manifests, for others, only briefly. A huh? Or, ignoring you if you’re speaking to me from my left. Or, if there’s a lot of people, or waterfall like noises, or a loud air conditioner, a plane overhead. It screams at me occasionally when an unheard or misheard emergency vehicle suddenly appears as if out of nowhere.

Most of the time, as with most disabilities I imagine, it’s background, forgotten for me. Up here in the loft, for example, I rarely wear my hearing aid. No one to listen to, a quiet room. When driving, I often reach up and turn it off because a whooshing noise gets amplified into an annoying cascade of sound.

gods hadesIn the wake of Kate’s dismissal 33 years of grief, of annoyance, of having to explain, of being handicapped-always, broke into consciousness. I felt overwhelmed by the accumulated sadness, anger, discomfort. Didn’t know I carried within me this complex. I’m imagining a black submarine navigating the seas of my inner world. When its bow first broke through the waters of my attention, it stunned me. Knocked me back. I took it out on Kate. Not good.

Calmed down. We talked. Got through that maelstrom. Happens once in a while. Surprised by the freight.

I’m sure we all have our dark vessels, a divorce still knifing away at the gut, a lost job, an embarrassing public moment, a failed opportunity. When they surface, these dark vessels, chthonic gods James Hillman would call them, demand our fealty. Maybe even sacrifice. Taking the Jungian approach these vessels carry gold, keeping it to themselves, for themselves, but when they pierce the barrier of consciousness, that gold can be recovered, reclaimed, salvaged.

Not sure quite yet what’s in the chest I took off the sub, but I suspect it will become clear. Someday.

Winter Has Come

Written By: Charles - Jan• 13•19

Winter                                                                                Waxing Moon

Dominant white. Black Mountain is white. The lodgepoles have white flocking. The solar panels have disappeared under individual mounds of snow. The sky is a whitish blue. The steps up here are still snow covered. No new snow though since yesterday. Huge piles of snow from Ted’s plowing twice. 14 degrees. Winter on the mountain. This is, however, Colorado and the next few days have sunshine. The roads are clear.

This morning

                                         This morning

These last three days I’ve had no obligations. Love that. SeoAh and I went to Walmart yesterday in Evergreen. She has glaucoma and needs eyedrops, like I do, but had run out. Thanks to modern tech the Evergreen pharmacy could contact Georgia, Georgia could, as the pharmacy clerk said, “Push a button.” Then, a text would go to SeoAh’s phone as we shopped. Not a fan of Walmart due to its low wages and small town downtown busting habits, but in this instance a good deal for SeoAh. It happened that way. While she shopped for bleach to give her hair highlights, a text came in.

Ran into a mussar friend at Walmart. Her husband has prostate cancer that has spread to his spine and, perhaps, his lungs. MRI tomorrow. He’s starting radiation and is already getting hormone treatment. Doesn’t sound good. I do like running into folks I know at the store. Small town living.

Apparently Saturdays are for new recipes. SeoAh made a sweet tofu wrapped rice confection, Japanese. Wonderful. Also, an egg drop soup with dumplings and rice cakes.

Jon’s got a new printing technique, one he used yesterday to “print” a paper bag. It’s amazing. He’s using found objects, mostly metal, to create colorful prints of shapes that look vaguely familiar, yet also abstract. He said in a later text that he’s glad Ruthie and I are exploring oils together. Me, too.



Awesome, Dude

Written By: Charles - Jan• 12•19

Winter                                                                              Waxing Moon



I’m gonna say between 12 and 15 inches over the last 36 hours. We’ve been plowed twice and our contract specifies 6 inches as the minimum for a push. I’ve cleared the back decks 4 times, or 5, and this morning it was as much as it was yesterday morning, maybe more. I’m pretty weary from it. With the new palette/deck it increases the amount of snow I have to move and reduces the places I can put it. Creates a tough situation.

All of us up here love the snow, in part for the beauty and in part for the practical reasons I mentioned yesterday. That doesn’t mean it’s always easy to remove or a joy to drive in. Right now, I could wait a bit for our next big storm. Nothing on the horizon right now.

Considering some snow shoeing. I’ve not done that much here. Great cardio and beautiful, quiet here in the mountains.

Yrah tornadoGonna look at material for the religious school class on the 16th. Alan will be back from Argentina. Our lesson theme is yirah, awe. Getting fifteen inches of snow over 36 hours creates yirah. We do not impact the weather, at least not directly. Yes, climate change is effecting the sorts of weather we get, but we don’t get to choose the diverse effects of our self-genocide. Fifteen inches of snow is like a volcanic eruption or a tsunami or a tornado, sudden, unpredictable except just before the fact, a natural act that changes the immediate environment dramatically. Though not as devastating as those violent manifestations, a great snow storm does show the power of the natural world, something to which we have to adapt rather than something we can manage.

Those of us inside homes with heat, water, plumbing, a full refrigerator, a kitchen can, and often do, ignore the rain, the snow, the high winds, perhaps only remarking casually, “Listen to the rain.” “The snow’s so beautiful.” “Those winds are really howling.” In doing so we shield ourselves from yirah. Yirah is the Hebrew word often translated as fear in the Torah, as in fear of the Lord. Remember Moses and the burning bush? Yirah.

yirah volcanoYirah and kadosh, holy or sacred, go together. Rudolf Otto defines sacred as an experience of awe, yirah, and the mysterium tremendum et fascinans: mysterious, awesome, urgent, attractive in spite of our fear. “As mysterium, the numinous is “wholly other”– entirely different from anything we experience in ordinary life.” Kenyon College. I disagree here. We experience natural acts, acts that have a cause in the world we know, that are so far beyond our control that though we do find them in ordinary life, they are also, at the same time, wholly other. Ask anyone who’s seen the ocean recede, then come blasting in as a tsunami hits. Ask anyone who’s felt the earth, the solid stable never-changing earth, shake beneath their feet. Anyone who’s been been faced with pyrocastic flow.

When I was 10, back in 1957, I visited my aunt and uncle in Mustang, Oklahoma. About 3 am one morning, my uncle Rheford came in and shook me awake. “We have to go.” I followed him out the backdoor of the house and into the ground. Wind and rain battered us as we went down the steps into the storm shelter. The wooden doors closed behind us and a thick chain was passed through inside door handles then linked to a hook set in the concrete floor. When the tornado crossed over us, the oxygen got swept up and out of the shelter, the doors banged and clanged like living things. Afterward, we went back up the stairs, fearing what we might see. The post office, attached to the front of Uncle Rheford and Aunt Ruth’s house, was gone. Just. No. Longer. There.

Yirah Roaring_Forties_300Something experienced in ordinary life but also wholly other. I’ve been following a sailing race, the Golden Globe, in which several skippers competed against each other in solo jaunts around the world. Ask any sailor, solo or not, who’s navigated the roaring forties about yirah and mysterium. They’re manifesting every day, every hour in places most of us will never go; but, a few do. Wholly other, but also part of the same puzzling universe which coughed us up into life.

A long road to an old observation, the sacred in the ordinary. Religion has too long tried to cordon off the domains of holiness, of the sacred, of the divine. And not only cordon them off, but claim control over the experience of them. This is human, yes, to identify our own experience as unique, as special to us and ours. But it is not true that either awe or mysterium tremendum et fascinans, is only wholly other, and it is especially not true that Christianity or Hinduism or Tibetan Buddhism or Islam or Mormonism has the only safe way to encounter them.

In just a moment I’m going to go back downstairs in a world transformed by snow. It’s awesome and mysterious. And right here, right now.