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Monthly archives for July, 2017

Less Angry

Midsommar                                                                 Kate’s Moon

johari windowOn the last night of kabbalah a classmate, Cece, chose for her presentation an exercise involving the Johari window. She had this model (illustration) with blank quadrants for each of us. We filled in 3-6 adjectives in the hidden self quadrant, then passed the paper to our left and others added adjectives in the open self quadrant.

It’s a powerful exercise when done in a safe setting. It was powerful here even though many of us had only the other 5 nights of our kabbalah class as baselines for our observations. The information other people give us about ourselves is key to life in groups, but most of the time the feedback involves glances, body language, or indirect observations. Getting direct information about how others see us can increase intimacy and trust. Not to mention that it’s just interesting.

PEACE DYERToo long introduction to the point. One of the others in the group wrote on my sheet, less angry. There were four people in the class who know me from the mussar class on Thursday afternoon and probably remember my agitation after the 2016 election. I was not and am not a happy U.S. citizen, but something has changed for me. I’m not sure what changed, but I am less angry, though I hadn’t realized it.

I did surprise myself a couple of weekends ago when we were in Glenwood Springs with Lonnie and Stefan. Over lunch they both expressed understandable and referented anger at Trump, at the decline of civility, at the danger facing our democracy. “He meets the definition of a fascist.” Stefan said.

“An election can fix most of what’s being done in Washington right now,” I replied. Stefan had quoted an Italian friend from Florence who said, “We had ours (Berlusconi) and know you have yours.” I agreed with that, going on, “Yes, the nativist and alt-right type movements are strong on the continent, but France just turned them back. And, Hillary won the popular vote here.”

peace“Well, what does that mean?” Lonnie asked, “The system elected Trump.” “The electoral college, yes.” I said, “But more people, some 3 million more, rejected him. He does not have a mandate.”

I think the gridlock and deadlock in D.C. right now reflects that rejection. We are a divided people, yes, but we’ve been divided before. We’re still the strongest economy in the world though by some measures China is catching up. Point is, I was voicing a don’t panic, don’t despair attitude toward our current political mess. I agree with the analysis that Trump is a disaster for our country. There’s no question that he and the Republicans are trying to take us to places as a people that are despicable and mean. True that.

But my anger at all of this has been tempered over the last couple of months. I’m just not as reactive. And I like feeling this way. My analysis has not changed, at least not much. I still view both parties as agents of a rapacious capitalism that creates false gods, false gods on whose altars their worshippers would sacrifice the very lives of our citizens. Just look at the idea of “reforming” Obamacare by gutting Medicaid.  With Medicaid expenditures out of the way, their plan goes, draconian tax cuts for the wealthy won’t break the Federal budget. Evil.

soul-mate-heartI still believe that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. But for me, how to be part of the solution has changed, I think. Long, long ago I realized that my anger toward my father, whether justified or not, was hurting only me. Not him. I set it aside. Somehow the same realization occurred to me about politics and only recently. So, I set that anger aside, too.

Now the question for me is how to be part of the solution. I’ve always had a straight line approach to radical politics. Join up with others, focus on an issue at the root of a social ill and work until something good happens. It’s a strategy that has worked for me over and over since the mid-1960’s. I’m moving in a different direction now.

beautifulThis is in part a third phase change. The angry young radical has aged. I can see the finish line from here and want to make the time before my death as fruitful, loving and creative as I can. Anger interferes. I want to write, to spend time with Kate and Jon and Ruth and Gabe and Joe and Seoah, with friends at Beth Evergreen, friends from Minnesota, Mark and Mary. I want to study Latin, kabbalah, China, art. I want to hike in the mountains, travel this state, see the solar eclipse. Obsessing over the insults to our body politic just doesn’t seem useful to me right now.

spiritual-enlightenment-spiritualityLiving well is a political statement I need to make. Politics, in other words, though crucial to our common life, is not the only component of a life well lived and should not be allowed to interfere with the very goal of politics itself: a decent life for all. In my case I’ve often allowed that interference and right now I’m saying enough. The priority for me, now, is this smaller life, the domestic and semi-public life of family and learning and creativity. Feels calmer, more livable, more age appropriate.

 

Family Celebration

Midsommar                                                                          Kate’s Moon

Jon has made it through, all the way through, a year plus of divorce drama with court appearances, lawyers, contested final orders. Those final orders, written in November of 2016 and recorded then, have now been in place for over six months. The daily crisis mode has fallen away, replaced by the gradual establishing of new norms. Both Jon and Jen must find a new balance, as must Ruth and Gabe. When kids are involved, you’re not divorced from someone, you’re divorced to them.

To celebrate we all went to Domo. It’s a unique restaurant, one of my favorites in Denver, that focuses on serving dishes typical of rural Japan, especially its mountain prefectures. Below are some pictures.

Waiting for supper

Waiting for supper

20170729_190250

Inside

Inside

20170729_190758

Midsommar                                                                      Kate’s Moon

Went to the embodied spirituality shabbat service: pillows on the floor, yoga mats, lots of singing bowls, a chakra wielding psychotherapist and a rabbi in training, also on the sanctuary floor. A long meditation accompanied by Heidi stroking the bowls and Bonnie leading us in chants in Hebrew kept us inward most of the time.

The variety of services at Beth Evergreen, between shabbat and holidays, makes attending fun and challenging, a good combination.

End of Week

Midsommar                                                              Kate’s Moon

So the right-sized, but too big air conditioner has been rehome Depoted. Another life lesson, though a minor one. Not sure what’s next in cooling for the loft and bedroom. Also have begun looking at robotic vacuums. Might be good for us.

sundance-01After returning the air conditioner we went to Sundance Gardens to shop for lilac bushes and plants for our rock garden. Very helpful young woman, but no call back yet on the lilacs. The main folks were in Denver buying plants. All this in Evergreen.

Lunch at one of our favorite spots: Saigon Landing.

Nap. Late afternoon workout since the air conditioner/garden errands occupied the mornings. Then, grandkids. I made Maid-Right, loose-meat, Iowa type hamburger. We had curly fries, peas, and cut up fruit. Ruth loved her t-shirt: I read. That’s what I do. I know things.

labyrinthJon’s nearly finished with the benches. Kate will make cushions for them. These benches will increase our storage for pots and pans, infrequently used kitchen appliance as well as providing built in seating for the dining room table. The wood Jon used for the exterior faces is cedar and smells wonderful.

Kate and I head over to Beth Evergreen this morning for an embodied Shabbat service. Rabbi Jamie is on vacation.

 

Easing Back

Midsommar                                                                          Kate’s Moon

books and cupWith concern about my knee prosthetic assuaged, I’ve gotten a better workout routine going. It’s taken me awhile to match my new workout time, start between 9 and 10 am, with productivity on other projects like reimagining and a new novel, but I’m getting there.

Yesterday I printed out work on Loki’s Children, the second part of the Missing trilogy, and the Protectors, a nugget about a group called the Carthaginians. That gives me three stories to consider. I’m also going to through a file I have in Evernote called story ideas. Check out what I’ve been squirreling away for the past couple of years.

Reimagining work right now consists of scissors and a stapler: cutting up the printed out pages from ancientrails, stapling individual posts together, then filing them under the conceptual (chapter?) headings I’ve defined. I ended up with well over 200 printed pages so this is no small task.

kabbalahThe kabbalah class is over until after the high holidays, but I plan to read in both the first volume of the Zohar and the key work by Isaac Luria. No idea right now about how to organize that reading, but Rabbi Jamie will help. Kate and I continue to study mussar, the Thursday at 1 pm group grounding us in both Jewish ethics and a small community.

Sister Mary and her s.o. Guru will be here Tuesday through Thursday. They’re flying here from Tamil Nadu where Mary and her friend Anitha were presenting at a conference. Mary has a conference in L.A. beginning on Friday. She’s got lots of air miles to her credit.

Life near the end of Midsommar

Midsommar                                                                   Kate’s Moon

a while ago

a while ago

Jon’s work on the benches for our dining room shows his continuing growth in woodworking. I’ll post pictures when he’s done, but the panels he’s building are cabinet maker good. That’s a pretty high skill level and he’s self taught after an apprenticeship with Dave Schlegel, a renovation contractor in Minneapolis many years ago.

The grandkids were up last night. Ruth’s excited about middle school, “I won’t be in the same classroom all day.” Jon, “That’s good for your teachers.” Ruth, “That’s good for me.” She’s a sweet kid. Gabe wants to be a sweet kid, too, but some misfiring neurons keep pushing him toward ornery. Maybe as the divorce settles and they move into Jon’s new house, achieve a new normal, he’ll come back toward center. But, maybe not.

20170721_172815Kate’s doing a lot of self care. She’s eating more, trying to get her weight up, an irony lost on neither of us. She does facial saunas, sinus clearing saline, pays attention to the development of thrush and knocks it back. Yesterday was her third or fourth infusion of Remicade for her r.a. Her rheumatologist gave her a drug for her dry mouth, a saliva stimulator. She uses the oxygen concentrator at night and sometimes at naps. Its humidifier has been a big help. None of these aggravations are fatal, but they do rob her of energy and sleep, of time, of resilience. Hard. But, she’s a strong, smart woman and able to develop a solid care plan for herself.

In my world I’m rediscovering my love affair with writing novels and my resistance to writing non-fiction. I reread Jennie’s Dead, maybe ten to twelve thousand words. Got excited about entering that universe, finishing it. This one’s about magic, straight up. I’m still going to continue research and general work on reimagining through Samhain, seeing if, as I said the other day on Ancientrailsgreatwheel, I get renewed energy for it in the fall. I am, however, going to look at a few other project fragments and pick one to flesh out, probably Jennie’s Dead, but there are a couple more. I miss the discovery and joy of creativity I experience while writing novels.

Lariat Lodge, Evergreen

Lariat Lodge, Evergreen

Since the visit with my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Peace, I’ve ramped up my workouts, now aiming for 10,000 steps on the days I don’t do the resistance work, 7,000 on those days. So far, I’m hitting those marks. The new resistance work is good, sufficiently good that I’m considering extending my work with On the Move Fitness so that I can get a new workout every six weeks or so. Keeps things mixed up and I have a tendency to get into a rut with workouts I design myself. Also, my form gets out of whack, or was never in whack to begin with.

Measure once. At least once.

Midsommar                                                                     Kate’s Moon

ted

So that happened. Ted of All Trades, a former Iowa handyman now living here, came over to install the 15,000 BTU air conditioner in the loft. The loft is 850 square feet so it has to be that big or it would run all the time. I researched this, found the right air conditioner, bought it and brought it home. Forgot one thing. “That’s a big box,” said Ted, a hyper masculine, shaved head, brawny guy. Oh. “You have 25″ of window and a 29 1/2″ air conditioner.” Oh. Right BTU, wrong size. 70 years old and I haven’t learned to measure things. So, back it goes. Not sure what I’m going to do to cool the loft now.

Ted does not impose a trip charge. “Nope, I don’t do that. I want to earn my money.” We then had a conversation about the mountain way when it came to trades. “I went to a customer’s house. Said I’d be there at 8 am, got there about 7:45. Knocked on the door.” He shook his head, “The guy came to the door and said, ‘Who are you?'” “Ted,” I said, “Ted of All Trades.” “Holy shit, I wasn’t expecting you until 9:30 or later.”

The Midwestern work ethic, especially one grounded in the agricultural ethos of Iowa, would chew up and spit out guys who don’t show up on time. Ted’s on time, start to finish attitude about his business has him booked until October in spite of having been in the mountains only a year.

Grief

Midsommar                                                                         Kate’s Moon

arid westWe’re grieving. Kate visited her rheumatologist yesterday. She has both Sjogren’s Syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Eric told her that patients with Sjogren’s struggle in the arid west since it’s a disease that creates dryness in the mouth and the eyes. The low humidity here exaggerates and reinforces those symptoms. In addition both Sjogren’s and r.a. (rheumatoid arthritis) can sap energy, cause joint stiffness and generally make life difficult. “This is the new normal,” Kate said.

Jon also has multiple significant diseases: type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease (low production of cortisol), r.a. and has managed them very well. He’s 48 now and shows none of the sequelae normally associated with a long history of type 1 diabetes. These chronic conditions take up money, time and a lot of attention, requiring daily, and often more frequent than that, self-care.

grief-quotes-quotes-about-griefLife is different now and will remain that way, that’s what we’re grieving. We had hoped there would be some medicine, some procedure, some magic that would put these insults behind us, but no.

Most of us, by the time we reach our seventies have some cluster of physical irritations and annoyances: hearing loss, kidney disease, bad joints, high blood pressure, generalized anxiety disorder, for example. If we’re lucky, we can absorb these changes, mitigate their problems and live our lives in spite of them. There is, however, always a period of adjustment, of realization that, yes, this body or this psyche has a now permanent malfunction, a condition of dis-ease.

They are reminders, often not gentle, that someday, sometime, something will end it all. The grief involved in these lesser problems is a precursor to the larger grief, the loss not only of function, but of life itself. If we let them, these short of fatal conditions can teach us how to confront and absorb the larger grief.

A Clashing of Deep Thoughts and Spiritual Longings

Beltane                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

(found this draft and just published it. It’s from a month or so ago.)

Irv Saltzman invited us to a performance by his singing group, the Renaissance Singers. It was held in a wooden Episcopal Church, St. Laurence’s, which is near our home. Directed by a Chinese national, Hannah Woo, who is finishing her Ph.D. in musicology, they were 8, four men and four women. As a group, they matched each other well. April, a soprano, had a lovely clear voice and a large range. Irv, formerly a tenor, has now transitioned into a bass/baritone role. Their performance was wonderful. At a meal afterwards we discovered April is our neighbor.

Renaissance choral music and instrumental renaissance music has always captivated me. It’s easy to see courtiers in colorful costumes listening to this music in a palace, brown robed and cowled monks hearing it in a morning prayer service, or small groups performing at home for their own amusement. It’s also the music most often heard at Renaissance festivals. Sorta makes sense, eh?

The sanctuary had a vaulted ceiling with exposed beams and two large, clear windows that looked out to the east, toward Shadow, Evergreen and Bear mountains. It rained while we were there and the mountains were in mist, the windows covered with raindrops slowly moving from top to bottom. There were individual chairs, padded with kneelers, arranged in a three sided configuration, making the sanctuary a sort of thrust proscenium stage, an ideal arrangement for a small group of singers.

A church artist had painted the stations of the cross and they were around the sanctuary, set off by bent sheet metal frames. A copper baptistry, large, sat over a cinerarium where the congregation deposits cremation remains and memorializes the dead with small plaques.

Between the two windows hung a large crucifix, a cross made of bare, light wood and a bronze Jesus hung by two nails. I had an odd sensation while listening to this music I’ve often heard in monastic settings on retreat, being carried back into the spiritual space of an ascetic Christianity that often comforted me. This time though I came into the space as a peri-Jew, identifying more with Marilyn and Irv and Kate, with the still new to me spiritual space of Beth Evergreen, than the theological world represented by this spare, but beautiful sanctuary.

The crucifix stimulated the strongest, strangest and most unexpected feeling. I saw, instead of the Jesus of Christianity, a hung Jew, a member of the tribe. More than that, I felt the vast apparatus and historical punch created by his followers, followers of  a man who shared much of the new faith world in which I now find myself. It was an odd feeling, as if this whole religion was an offshoot, a historical by-blow that somehow got way out of hand.

These feelings signaled to me how far I’d moved into the cultural world of reconstructionist Judaism. I see now with eyes and a heart shaped by the Torah and mussar and interaction with a rabbi and the congregants of Beth Evergreen.

This was an afternoon filled with the metaphysical whiplash I’ve experienced often over the last year, a clashing of deep thought currents, spiritual longings. This process is a challenge to my more recent flat-earth humanism, a pagan faith grounded not in the next world, but in this one. Literally grounded.

What’s pushing me now is not a desire to change religious traditions, but to again look toward the unseen, the powerful forces just outside of the electromagnetic spectrum and incorporate them again into my ancientrail of faith. This makes me feel odd, as if I’m abandoning convictions hard won, but I don’t think that’s actually what’s going on. There is now an opening to press further into my paganism, to probe further into the mystery of life, of our place in the unfoldingness of the universe, to feel and know what lies beyond reason and the senses.

 

 

Major Changes

Midsommar                                                                   Kate’s Moon

20170423_090148Jon’s house deal in Aurora finalized. He takes possession on September 7th. That will put him much closer to his school, within a long bike ride. The ride to school is how he got his exercise before moving up here so he’s looking forward to that. It also means that the custody arrangement will revert to 50/50, which will be a dramatic change for all involved.

He’s finishing up some projects here in the meantime. He installed the living room air conditioner last week. The benches that will surround half of our relatively new dining room table are under construction. He’ll finish those, I hope, this week.

This also means that after September 7th, Jon will no longer live with us; he’s been on Shadow Mountain a little over a year. It will be sad. Jon moved to Colorado 14 or 15 years ago and our time with him diminished to little, only on visits. Now we’ve had a chance to reconnect, to resee him and for him to resee us. That’s not a chance parents and children often get when the child is 48. His move also means our three times a month weekend time with Ruth and Gabe will end. We’ll see all three of them, but much less frequently. So there will be grief, as well.

Passover 2016

Passover 2016

We plan to use the fall and maybe the winter to finish our move, which has been on partial hold while we hosted Jon, Ruth and Gabe. There’s art to hang, furniture to relocate, maybe some painting and flooring, some bits of this and that left over after our kitchen remodel.

It is time though for Kate and I to complete the changes we want to make to our home and property. It’s also time for our lives to slow down a little, to have substantially less stress. It’s been a complicated year with the sturm und drang of the divorce, my knee surgery and recovery, Kate’s gradual coming to grips with Sjogren’s Syndrome. A year or so with no medical or family drama would be pleasant.

 

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