We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Monthly archives for June, 2018

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Summer                                                                   Woolly Mammoth Moon

Happy to report that the two friends with critical life moments had good news, one through medical surveillance and one through a lifetime of work brought into clear focus. May the congregation say, Amen. Or, blessed be.

Under the Woolly Mammoth Moon two natural wonders continue apace. The 416 fire, though now reporting 37% containment, has increased in size to 47,000 acres plus and further information on the inciweb site for it indicate weather conditions are favorable for the fire to continue to grow. In addition to its location only 13 miles north of Durango, where my buddies and I spent a weekend, it’s also very close to Mesa Verde and the Canyon of the Ancients. This fire began on June 1st and has lasted into the difficult fire conditions of midsummer.

Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde, Mark Odegard

Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde, Mark Odegard

Back on the Big Island, Kilauea continues to erupt.

June 27 fissure 8 cone supplies lava to the ocean overflows

June 27 fissure 8 cone supplies lava to the ocean overflows USGS. The cone is now nearly 180 feet high.

June 28 Night view of the lava channel toward fissure 8 under a nearly full moon.

June 28 Night view of the lava channel toward fissure 8 under a nearly full moon. USGS

At the Kilauea caldera, Halemaʻumaʻu crater, home of the goddess Pele, continues to deepen and subside, the floor now 1,300 feet below what used to be the overlook area. The USGS reports that the popular parking lot next to the crater is no more, having fallen into Halemaʻumaʻu.


Sweet. So, so sweet.

Summer                                                                  Woolly Mammoth Moon

20150509_135508Oh. Sometimes the sweetness of life becomes palpable. More and more of late. Not drowned out by the drumbeat of illness, family struggle, heat it underscores that life, our lives, are moveable feasts. The meaning of life itself lies in this realization, not in achievement or wealth or knowledge or belongings. Why? Because no thing in life carries permanence, not joy, not hate, not anger, not even love. All is transitory, the matter of a moment, then it will change.

We are not prisoners of the failed marriage, the drunken mistake, the doomed career, nor are we prisoners of the awards, the fancy house, not even of the loving family. Life moves on regardless of all these. It’s not a game; it’s not true that the one with the most toys wins. No winning, no losing. Just living.



This last is the surprise key. Just living. I’ve been thinking about breathing recently, part of my sharpening doubt practice. Breathing and the heart beating. Breath. Beat. Rhythms of life. Sine qua non of life. Breathing takes the outside inside and the inside outside. It’s binary, one, two, one, two, one, two. In, out. Both necessary. Breathing in is not enough. Breathing out is not enough. Both necessary. Breath in and stop and the body will gradually die, poisoned by co2 and starved by lack of oxygen. Breath out and stop. The same. Only the two together, opposites, continuous, unconscious sustain life.

(the watercourse way, Upper Maxwell Falls)

Sometimes, up here at 8,800 feet, breathing becomes difficult, shallow, a struggle. I’m learning to take those moments as doubt sharpeners. How? Well, we’re always only one breath away from death. Always. As you breath in, it could be the last breath you take. Will be at some point. Each breath punctuates the act of faith required to live, just live. We act as if the next breath will always come, but in fact we don’t know that. The same with the beat of your heart. It only needs to stop once. And we’re dead. Yet we live as if the next beat is coming.

We need no more than breathing and the beating of the heart to remind us of the fragility and awe that is life. We are the animation of elements created in the hot furnaces of mighty stars, elements formed since the big bang, now helping us transfer oxygen from the atmosphere to our hemoglobin, then out to the organs and muscles and nerves. No wonder life cannot last. We’re a magic act, the transubstantiation of matter into vitality, elements moving with intent, with purpose. Entropy must rule. The juggler can only keep so many objects in the air at one time.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I know, it was thick, but if you have, here we are at the sweetness. It’s always there since it lies in this, every breath a leap of faith, our willingness to act as if the next heart beat will come. The sweetness is just life, the extraordinary and unexpected animation of items off the periodic table. Let no one, no thing, no thought obscure this wonder, this true miracle. A wonder and miracle we can know with each breath, each pulse.

Summer                                                                       Woolly Mammoth Moon


Fire Weather

Summer                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

preferred weather here, cool and rainy

preferred weather here, cool and rainy

It’s late June and we have a spate of hot, dry, sometimes windy weather ahead of us. In spite of the rains over the last week or so, the fire danger has remained high and this forecast has put us into a stage 2 fireban. The underlying rule in a stage 2 fireban is, if you have to put it out, it’s forbidden. If you can turn it off, it’s ok. Charcoal grill. No. Gas fired grill. O.K. Lot of grumbling yesterday on Nextdoor Shadow Mountain about this ban because it’s in place the week before the fourth.

Makes me remember the inevitable conflict with our otherwise well-liked neighbors, the Perlichs, who lived across the street from us Andover. They loved fireworks. The week of the fourth always got to our dogs. Dogs don’t like sudden, loud noises. Some, like our dear Tira of late memory and Rigel of current experience, really, really don’t like them. A stage two fireban for us is fine, thank you. (Though it does mean I have to carry a water bucket and a pointed shovel with me while I finish up the limbing and bucking.)



Two friends have significant events today and, though I can’t say what they are, I can say that it feels good to have had the time with them last week. It means I’m a little bit more there for them and I like that feeling. Here’s hoping for great results in both cases.

Heat makes me turgid, slows me down. Shortcuts the thinking process. By mid-afternoon the only comfortable place in our house is the downstairs. It does cool off quickly as evening approaches, but for a couple of hours both Kate and me experience debilitation. I know, a strong word, but accurate nonetheless. We’re cold weather creatures who suffer the horrors of sunny days in summer with some grumpiness. The elevation moderates summer heat, yes, but doesn’t eliminate it.

Mountain living

Mountain living

Read an article about folks who move to the mountains and those who move to beaches. Mountain folks tend more toward introversion, beach folk toward extroversion. (and, in the latter case, skin cancer) I suppose if the heat encouraged me to go and find other sun lovers and, if I liked that, then the beach would make sense. Doesn’t, though.

To some extent I feel as if life is on hold while heat dominates the day. See the earlier posts about why I celebrate the turn toward darkness at the summer solstice. It gives me hope.


Sharpening Doubt

Summer                                                                         Woolly Mammoth Moon

Yehuda HaLevi

“Tis a Fearful Thing

‘Tis a fearful thing
to love what death can touch.

A fearful thing
to love, to hope, to dream, to be –

to be,
And oh, to lose.

A thing for fools, this,

And a holy thing,

a holy thing
to love.

For your life has lived in me,
your laugh once lifted me,
your word was gift to me.

To remember this brings painful joy.

‘Tis a human thing, love,
a holy thing, to love
what death has touched.”

Yehuda HaLevi

Friends and Family Far Flung

Summer                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon


Woolly’s in Stillwater, Minnesota

Mark Odegard has worked his magic on the pages of notebooks again, his distinctive marks creating memories of our Durango, Mesa Verde trip. Paul’s been hanging in splendid isolation from the digital and media world at their family compound in Robbintson, Maine. As a result, he claims he can almost life at the comedy act we call government. Tom battled strep, had a house full of grandkids and their parents, and heads off to Atlanta on a business trip. He’s had a very busy three weeks or so, with little cessation.

Israeli Abroad, Saigon Bui Vien Street, a backpackers’ paradise

Israeli Abroad, Saigon Bui Vien Street, a backpackers’ paradise

Brother Mark reports still stark divisions in Vietnam between the north and the south. He’s spent a good bit of time recently in Ho Chi Min City, the former Saigon, and flew yesterday to Hanoi. He’d like to find a job somewhere in Vietnam. Mark is my literal foreign correspondent, reporting of late from various cities like Riyadh, Bangkok, Singapore, HCMC and now Hanoi. Sister Mary is on her way at some point to Kobe, Japan where she will teach for a month this summer. She’s been taking Japanese classes.

Joseph and SeoAh will head to the beach for her July 4th birthday. With Murdoch of course.

days of aweMeanwhile I’m hip deep in the mahzor, the prayer book for the days of awe. Attended a webinar yesterday, with Kate, on the new b’nai mitzvah curriculum Beth Evergreen has elected to use. Spending time considering the world of the tween, the things that matter to them and how we can travel with a few over the next year. Still getting a focus on lesson plans, reconstruction as the reconstructionists use the term, and the Jewish liturgical year. Making for an interesting summer.

Kate’s done so well with her recovery from shoulder surgery, with managing Sjogren’s Syndrome. Nausea, too frequent, makes taking a victory lap or two difficult. It’s the Chief Complaint now, CC. CT on Friday. She has some ideas about what might be causing it, good ones, I think. Like playing whack a mole with debilitating symptoms, but she’s a good mole whacker.



The Emersonian Turn

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

winter solstice yalda-night-persian-calligraphy

winter solstice, Yalda night, Persian calligraphy

Well, it’s incremental. Down from 14:59 to 14:58 today but the needle has begun to move. By the end of the month daylight will have decreased to 14:56, but, by the end of July, to 14:16. August 13:05. September 11:49. December 21 9:21. That’s for Colorado, of course. Other locations will vary. A lot. But the trend is the same. And, on top of this mountain, welcome.

Started working on lesson plans, a first for me. My task involves the 6th graders of our religious school. Rabbi Jamie has a worksheet I’m using with four columns: Hebrew, Torah, Middah, and Mitzvah. Guess what? The first column is in Hebrew. That makes it a challenge for me. But, in this wonderful age of quick information access I can plug in the word to google’s task bar and get at least a clue quickly.

Glad I learned the quote, “Confusion is the sweat of the intellect.” After yesterday’s work on the lesson plans the metaphorical sweat came easily. It’s no easy feat stepping into another tradition, even one with which I have some familiarity. Yet, it is also rich, resonant.

Not a Jew, but a reconstructionist. That realization about my comfort level at Beth Evergreen has given me a broader insight. It’s a little strange, so bear with me, please.

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

Spruce Tree House, Mesa Verde

I love definite, strong connections to the past, both Christianity and Judaism offer that to their adherents. So does travel. And reading. Among my favorite places to visit are ancient ruins like Ephesus, Angkor Wat, the Great Wall, sites of ancient Rome, Pompeii, Bath, Delphi, Delos, Cahokia, Mesa Verde, Chaco Canyon, even the castles of North Wales like Conway and Dinas Bran, encyclopedic art museums, and worlds created by writers like Ovid, Homer, Dante.

This could make me a conservative, a thinker and an actor with a preference for things as they were, a reluctance to change what works. But, oddly, it has had the opposite effect. I find in the ancient world a panoply of human possibility, ways of coping with this odd gift, life. How we think today, how we feel, has its roots in this vast web of life’s journey. We don’t have to experience everything as brand new, don’t have to figure everything out for ourselves. Others have loved, have doubted, have feared, have wondered, have hoped. So can we.

thoreaus_quote_near_his_cabin_site_walden_pondBut, and I might call this the Emersonian turn, we cannot use the offerings of the past without remembering his introduction to Nature: “The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?”

When we wittingly or unwittingly chain ourselves to the experience of others, especially those others from the distant past, we disrespect both them and ourselves. We disrespect them by claiming their authority as if something we had earned. We disrespect ourselves because we cheat ourselves of the present, of our own deep intuition, of our own revelations.

When we recognize though that those previous generations did behold God (bracket content) and nature face to face, that they did have an original relation to the universe, that they did create poetry and philosophy of their own insight, that they did create their religions by access to their own revelation, we learn an important, perhaps the important, lesson. We too live in this world with the same faculties, the same powers of observation and discernment that they had.

Gawain and the Green Knight

Gawain and the Green Knight

It was not those who had a religion of revelation to them that blinded us though. It was men, yes mostly men, of institutions, who tried to make the words of the past govern us. Those who declared scripture inerrant and infallible meant they knew what it meant, once and for all, and we had to obey. Well, I call bull shit on that. Those original beholders of God and nature opened themselves, in their present moments, to the awe and wonder all round about them. What a thing of beauty! Think how the mere record of their lives has effected us down to this day.

It is, though, the record of their lives. Only that. In our present, in this sacred moment, we have the same opportunity that they had, we have the same responsibility that they had. Think how the mere record of your life might effect others as distant from us in tomorrow as those are in yesterday.

Open up. Lighten up. Dance to the music of our time. Rip back the cloth from the temple gate in your life. Peak inside. Tell us what you see. We need to know.

Remember this. Always. “In the coming world they will not ask me—Why were you not Moses? They will ask me—Why were you not Zusya?” Rabbi Zusha of Hanipol

Dead Tree Down

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon


Found the telltale mark of beetle killed pine in this tree, the blue stain

At one o'clock and from roughly 5 to 8.

At one o’clock and from roughly 5 to 8.

after the fall

after the fall

limbing axe

limbing axe

the aging steam punk lumberjack

the aging steam punk lumberjack

Sundays are strange

Summer                                                                          Woolly Mammoth Moon

Instagram logoAfter talking with Ruth yesterday I created an instagram account. Surprised to see that several people I know already have one. Probably spells doom for the tweener and teenager use of it. They understandably like platforms without their parents or other adults who know them.

I asked Ruth whether she got more guidance from her parents or her friends, “Duh. My friends. I’m more open with them. They know me better.” See above. This is part of my research for developing lesson plans and her response conforms to what I’ve been told about the psychology of kids this age.

Had a dream last night that I got surprisingly big offers on my two submissions. Really, really big offers. Even in my dream I thought, that can’t possibly be true. Still…

Often on Sundays I feel neither here nor there, wanting to relax as if it’s a commandment, but not feeling like it.

20180624_095233I cut down one more dead tree, making two so far of the six. In spite of my workouts the chainsaw feels heavy and I tire quickly. Which means I’m stopping earlier since I won’t use the chainsaw when I’m tired. Too easy to do serious damage. This is odd to me because I cut, limbed and bucked several trees, well over 40, the first two years we lived here. Recovery from both prostate surgery and then knee replacement must have weakened me more than I thought. I’ll do the work in stages that I can handle.

The grandkids were here from Thursday through yesterday evening and it went well. Gabe stayed all day Sunday. Jon and Ruth went to a wedding in Silverthorne later in the day and came back around 8 pm, then all three left for the city.



100 no’s, 5 days, and life grounds

Summer                                                                       Woolly Mammoth Moon

rejectionAfter the Durango trip, during which I read three articles I’d saved for down time, I made two decisions.

First, I would shoot for 100 rejections in 2018. I just submitted Missing to Parvus Press and School Spirit to The Metz Review. Since I’m starting with the year almost half done, 100 may be ambitious, but I’m going to work toward that end.

Second, I reaffirmed a decision I’d made when I started caretaking for Kate after her shoulder surgery. When she had recovered enough to clean up after I cook and feed the dogs their lunch, I’d go back to five days a week exercise. Three days resistance work and two days HIIT. This last week I got back there.

becoming nativeIn that reading I also learned, in an article focused on Gauguin and the moral philosopher Bernard Williams,  about the idea of ground projects. “If you are going to live a life that is true to yourself, then you had better know yourself, and remember that ‘know thyself’ was one of the Delphic maxims that set Socrates on the road to philosophy…A wiser, older Williams gave more emphatic expression to the fact that the pursuit of authenticity can lead to ‘ethical and social disaster’. He also moved away from the stark individualism of ‘Moral Luck’ and stressed the role that one’s community plays in preventing or enabling one to become whom one wants to become.”

Without tumbling around in the conceptual concrete mixer that stirs together individualism and authenticity vs social responsibility I’ll say I like the idea of ground projects, projects that give us a reason to live. This conforms well to my existentialist self who believes we are responsible for the meaning in our life and with my Taoist self who seeks the Way regardless of social convention.

labyrinthMy ground project for many years was economic justice, transmuted later on into the Great Work of Thomas Berry, creating a sustainable presence for humans on this earth. My ground project of the moment is reconstructing faith with the assistance and stimulation of the Reconstructionist Jewish movement. I have a side project, perhaps a little hillock on my ground project, which is creative writing. All of these have and do give me a reason for being alive, for being enriched and enlivened. Good enough ground for me to stand on.