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Monthly archives for December, 2017

Celebrating the Obverse

Winter                                                              Moon of the Long Nights

sol-invictusThe solstices mark swings to and from extremes, from the longest day to the longest night, there, and as with Bilbo, back again. Darkness and light are never steady in their presence. The earth always shifts in relation to the sun, gradually lengthening the days, then the nights.

Most folks celebrate the Winter Solstice for its moment of change toward increasing light. Sol Invictus, the Roman sun god, added a martial spirit. The ancients feared that the nights would continue to grow in length, and act as a shroud thrown over the earth marking an end to growing seasons, to warmth, to life. It’s no wonder that relief at the return of the sun, revealed by small increases in the length of the day, caused holidays to be born around this subtle astronomical change.

There are also bonfires and songs and drinking and sex on the Summer Solstice. The sun manifests itself as light giver, light bringer, with the longest days. The growing season is well underway then, the miracle of life that the sun’s increasing light creates is the very relief anticipated on the Winter Solstice. Fear and the vanquishing of fear. Sol Invictus, the conquering sun.

Yet even in ancient times there had to be a few outliers like myself. We don’t begrudge the return of the sun, nor deny all the miracles that its return makes possible, that would be silly; but, for some psychic reason, perhaps not clear even to us, we reverse the common sensibility and find succor in the gradual lengthening of the nights that begins at the Summer Solstice and reaches its maximum on the night of the Winter Solstice.

We know that the cold and the darkness, the fallow time whose genesis each year happens on the longest day, is also necessary, also worthy of honor. It is earth’s sabbath, a time for all the generative powers to rest, to regather themselves, to ready themselves for the next florescence. I suspect somehow in our psyches we honor slight dips into depression or melancholy, knowing that in those times we regroup, rest the eager forward creative parts of our souls and the gradual lengthening of the darkness outside mirrors that.

winter solstice4In these long nights the cold often brings clear, cloudless skies. The wonderful Van Gogh quote that I posted a few days ago underscores a virtue of darkness, one we can experience waking or asleep. Dreaming takes us out of the rigors of day to day life and puts us in the realm where ideas and hopes gather. So, the lengthening of the nights increases our opportunity to experience dream time. Whether you believe in Jung’s collective unconscious or not-I do, the rich resources of dreaming are available to us with greater ease when the nights are long and the cold makes sleeping a joy.

It was, too, many years ago when I pushed the notion of transcendence out of my spirituality in favor of immanence, incarnation over a god in the sky. My focus moved to down and in, not up and out. Our inner world is a mystery, a place of fecundity, but also a place often occulted by the demands of the day. When we shift our focus to the night, to the half of the year when darkness grows, we can use that external change as a trigger to lean inside, to find the divine within. If we can make this discovery, the god that we are, we can stiff arm the notion that revelation stopped thousands of years ago.

each birth, always

each birth, always

Every moment of our existence is a revelation, the path of a god, the most fundamental ancientrail of all. No, we are not omnipotent, that’s an illusion created by the idea of transcendence, the need to find validation outside of our own soul. This is the true polytheism, the one that folds its hands, says namaste, bows to that of god in everyone, in every animal, in every plant and stone and star.

When you reach out in love to another person, to a dog, to a crocus blooming in the snow, you bring the finger held out by the white haired floating god in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. That moment of creation is always, ongoing, a joint effort between and among us all, human and inhuman, animate and inanimate, the cosmic dance of Shiva brought into this mundane world. He or She is not out there, waiting to be called by prayer, but in here, waiting to be called by the quiet, by the joy, by the persistence held in the soul container that is you.

 

Ordinary, Sacred Times

Winter                                                           Moon of the Long Nights

Looking at last year. Where did it go?

Looking at last year. Where did it go?

It’s easy, at least for me, in scanning back over a period of time to focus on the struggles, the difficult bits while forgetting the ordinary miraculous, the sacred mundane. When I set out yesterday to capture last year in photographs, two per month, though, that was exactly what I saw. The photos, taken with my Samsung handheld computing device, show a year encapsulated by Kate and I renewing our vows on one end and our whole family together on Christmas Eve on the other.

In between were visits to and of friends, birthdays and dinners, private moments of beauty, the total eclipse, Mary and Guru visiting, choosing Murdoch, hunting for bones with Gabe. None of these were extraordinary, they were times spent nurturing relationships and celebrating them. Yes, the eclipse was extraordinary but the viewing of it was a family weekend.

faith-in-what-will-beMy point is that our take on the past, as for writers of history, depends not only on our perspective, but on the documentary evidence we use to express it. As I looked back on 2017 mentally, recent events of a dystrumpian nature colored it, as did Kate’s various medical struggles, that coloration bled backwards, had me looking for the other things that created turmoil and upset. Surprise! I found them.

When I went back through the monthly folders I use to organize my personal photos though, I found myself seeking out mostly family and friend oriented images. Oh, yeah. That night Ruth lit the menorah, Kate and I renewed our vows, an unexpectedly touching moment. The sparkles in the air on Gabe’s birthday. Tom and Bill out here for a visit. Jon’s new house. Mary and Guru at The Fort. The time at BJ’s in Idaho watching the eclipse. Joe and SeoAh and Murdoch. Good times, times that happened during and in spite of the very real struggles also going on.

In other words it was an ordinary year, filled with happy, precious times and difficult, hard to take times. In other words it was a year filled with the sacred, the divine within and the divine in human and animal and meteorological form. Looking forward to another one.

Georgia on their mind

Winter                                                                Moon of the Long Nights

Before

Before

After, all in, SeoAh and Murdoch in the back

After, all in, SeoAh and Murdoch in the back

The Year In Photographs

Winter                                                                   Moon of the Long Nights

January

Ruth, Kate and I in the Canyon Courier

Ruth, Kate and I in the Canyon Courier

Jon's car

Jon’s car

February

The Resistance

The Resistance

Mountain Lion, Feb 2 Jeffco sheriff photo

Mountain Lion, Feb 2 Jeffco sheriff photo

March

Ruth's Destination Imagination Team

Ruth’s Destination Imagination Team

First year of Hebrew

First year of Hebrew

April

Gabe's birthday

Gabe’s birthday

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May

Growing the wizard beard

Growing the wizard beard

Ruth's musical

Ruth’s musical

June

Seeing Joe in Colorado Springs

Seeing Joe in Colorado Springs

Ruth's final day at Swigert

Ruth’s final day at Swigert

July

At Domo

At Domo

New do

New do

August

Totality, Idaho

Totality, Idaho

Mary and Guru

Mary and Guru

September

Jon's new house, Aurora

Jon’s new house, Aurora

Gabe hunting for bones

Gabe hunting for bones

October

Murdoch's last day at his birth home

Murdoch’s last day at his birth home

Weather station installed

Weather station installed

November

Tom and Bill, Guanella Pass

Tom and Bill, Guanella Pass

Raris avis, a Thanksgiving capon

Raris avis, a Thanksgiving capon

December

Christmas eve

Christmas eve

Breathing in the last of 2017

Breathing in the last of 2017

The Ancientrail of Family

Winter                                                        Moon of the Long Nights

Sushi Win last night

The last of the holiseason guests leave today. Joseph, SeoAh, and Murdoch load up the Subaru, including some very appreciated sports cards; one could be worth thousands! It has been so sweet to see these two and their puppy. Their second anniversary is only three and a half months away. Joe’s got a lot of travel with his Weapons Officer position, especially with the sword rattler-in-chief, so SeoAh and Murdoch get to spend a lot of time together at Robbins AFB.

We had the talk with Joe yesterday. No, not that talk, but the other one about estate plans, medical powers of attorney, money, disposal of cremains. Being in the military has made him very aware of such matters. As an officer, he’s required to understand them for the personnel he commands. He said, “I hope you live until I retire in ten years.” Me, too. But you never know.

typical of their relationship

typical of their relationship

This is another purpose of holidays, to bring families together and to allow opportunity for sorting out the business side of their affairs. These are often emotional and difficult issues, also, for the same reasons, often avoided. We’re lucky that we can have these conversations easily.

Kate got a call every patient appreciates. “Oh, that C.T. scan? They didn’t do the contrast dye so we have to do it over.” Great. On the upside it looks like the portable O2 concentrator battery has decided to come back on side. Tammy, from the O2 concentrator store tech support, had me recalibrate the battery. Recalibration involves running the battery down to zero, then charging it fully. “You should do this every quarter since the batteries are so expensive.”

goofy-droopy-glasses-bigAs with the whole United States (except for the 30% or so who still see Trump through those crazy glasses with the eyeballs that fall out on slinkys), I’m going to be very, very glad to put 2017 to bed. You know. The gradual rehab of the knee. Jon’s final eight months with us. The turmoil in his life and the kids. Kate’s gradual and painful introduction to Sjogren’s. Her shoulder. Trump. And, of course, Trump. The troubles in Korea, now of significance to us in a new way. It’s been a tough year, expensive and emotionally trying.

Rice Cake Soup. And more.

Winter                                                                     Moon of the Long Nights

rice cake soup ddeok-kookYesterday SeoAh taught me how to make rice cake soup. It’s delicious, a good breakfast soup. It has an unusual role in Korean culture. At the New Year, the spring festival, (same time as Chinese New Year), all Koreans eat, with their families, a bowl of rice cake soup. When they’re done, they’re all a year older. The entire nation becomes a year older on the same day, using the same ritual.

The new InongenG3, Kate’s portable O2 concentrator, has refused to charge beyond 16%. Called service and they suggested a hard reset. “Set the unit on the right and the battery on the left of the table. Set an egg timer for thirty minutes. At 30 minutes, plug the unit in for 30 minutes. After that, put the two back together and charge.” Just a bit condescending. Didn’t work the first time. Trying one more time, then this puppy is getting rehomed and  exchanged for a new one.

20171225_162548Kate had a battery of tests, some blood work and a CT scan. The CT scan showed nothing. Which is good since they were looking for a possible pulmonary embolism. She may have a stress test next. The question moves on to cardiac issues. It’s been a tough year for Kate physically, but she’s handled it with calm and resolve. Still more stuff to workout. That damned right shoulder, too.

Joe and SeoAh decided to stay today, leave tomorrow. Joe and I took down the boxes of his stuff that we moved here from Andover. He’s going to sort through them, making a throwaway pile, a keep here pile, and a move to Robbin’s pile. He’ll start by taking some of that last pile tomorrow. He has many, many baseball, basketball, football cards. There are Transformers, a train set, the Great Books, college text books, Christmas decorations, fun things he had on the ledge in his room back in Minnesota. All that between high school and after college stuff.

Auld Lang SyneWe watched the Murdoch detective series last night. The detective is Murdoch the Akita’s namesake. There is a great ease in family relationships of long standing. So much that does not have to be said. So much confidence in the future of those relationships. Holiseason moments abound in these experiences, giving us fuel and stability for the months ahead.

May your days-and nights-be merry and bright, may old acquaintance be recalled and a cup of kindness lifted to them all.

 

Got Oxygen?

Winter                                                                          Moon of the Long Nights

20171226_093122Kate made oven pancakes yesterday, a treat at which she’s become expert. If you remember the old Pannekoeken chain, that’s oven pancakes. On my trip to Safeway for maple syrup, I picked up a couple of oxygen bottles in case she needs supplemental oxygen and the electricity is out. Shouldn’t happen since we have the generator, but…

That little Murdoch runs around like a puppy possessed, trailing toys. He gets so excited coming down the stairs from the guest room that he pees on the way down. Thank god for tile floors.

Kate’s struggle with holidays and holiday meals prompted me to encourage her purchase of a portable O2 concentrator. Don’t know whether she’ll need it a lot, but it just seemed like time. She called the same folks from whom we purchased the one she uses at night, a fairly big appliance, not portable. After some conversation she had a good agreement and I drove over to Centennial and picked it up. Gertie went along in case I needed help.

inogen-one-g3-control-panelShe used it last night when we went to the Denver jazz club, Nocturne. Along with the lower elevation, she had great o2 stats using it. Definitely a good purchase.

Joseph, SeoAh, Jon, Kate and I got to our table at 6:30 p.m. at Nocturne. It was a bassist’s band, young guys, all in suits, one with a pork pie hat. The drummer chugged redbull, the bassist looked stoned, the guitarist was a wizard and the trumpet/piano player was very mellow. They were very good. We stayed two hours, laughed a lot, had some good food. These nights were a significant part of what Kate and I missed after the boys moved away.

SeoAh at Nocturne

SeoAh at Nocturne

Joe and SeoAh offered to come back around Memorial Day to help Jon with his house. I’m  happy about that since it means we’ll have the chance to do this again. Maybe, see Murdoch, too. Our family became Colorado-centric several years ago and it makes sense we’re anchored here, too.

The heart is a funny thing. It smiles at the mundane, the everyday, warms to the quotidian, yet we keep searching for the next big thing. A strange part of being human. At least a white upper middle class American human.

 

 

Cold

Winter                                                                 Moon of the Long Nights

Meanwhile, back in Minnesota:

“We just heard on the news that it is colder in Minneapolis tonight than the Amundsen-Scott weather station in the South Pole. We are -4°; the South Pole is a balmy -1°. Sheesh.” Joann Bizek Platt, Facebook

The Miraculous Ordinary

Winter                                                         Moon of the Long Nights

Joe and SeoAh's house, Robbins AFB

Joe and SeoAh’s house, Robbins AFB

Christmas is over. As is Hanukkah. Diwali. Posada. Advent. Thanksgiving. Samain. The Winter Solstice. Coming up: Kwanzaa, New Year’s, Epiphany, Feast of St. Agnes. Holiseason continues.

Much as I love Holiseason and all its wonders, the ordinary miracles and the miraculous ordinary of its lights and meals and time spent together with friends and family, I admit it can be hard, too. Some, many, are left out of the merriment due to poverty, ill health, prejudice. Others find the memories of Holiseason’s past unpleasant, even suffocating.

Visitors, while wonderful, can tax a home. Kate and I have discovered that holidays where she cooks and the grandkids are around strains her too much. The combination of being on her feet while managing expectations she feels from them has become difficult. Either I’ll cook or we’ll cater or go to a resort. Having the grandkids and Jon, Joe and SeoAh around is too important to lose.

1514288916927Joe and SeoAh are different because, as SeoAh says, “You are my parents, now, too.” She cleans with no prompting, cooks with us. Joe, inspired by her, does the same and helps out otherwise. Murdoch, see the post below, is a joy. Lots of puppy energy, friendly. And growing so fast.

Even so, any difficulties we find in the holidays only underscores their importance. They are special moments, often moments out of time, that connect us to the deepest yearnings of the human soul. What are we? What are we for? Who are we? Who are we for? Where are we going? Where have we been? How do the mysteries of life and the universe effect us and those we love?

Some might find the holidays have answers to these questions, and that’s all right, but I prefer to see them as prisms through which many possible answers refract, the lights of Holiseason seen from many, many perspectives.

winter solstice3What are we? Gods. Brothers. Sisters. Mothers. Fathers. Husbands. Wives. Grandparents. Sources of light and love. What are we for? For each other. For the planet. For our own growth.

Who are we? Fellow travelers, as Ram Dass says, walking each other home. Who are we for? Each person floating in their barque toward the sea of all souls. Each living entity on the planet, not least because they sustain us. The earth as a living goddess who loves and nourishes us.

Where are we going? To the heavens. To the soil. To the darkest of nights. To a Thanksgiving table always filled with food. To the depths of our own souls. Into a new year. Where have we been? Through the desert running from an evil king. In a fortress fighting off alien invaders who destroyed our temple. On the shores of a new world. In the dark, happy and content. In the dark, waiting for light and warmth. Most recently, 2017.

 

Where Did He Go?

Winter                                                                     Moon of the Long Nights

Joe took this just after I went downstairs to bed last night. Murdoch

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Breadcrumbs

Trails