The End of Summer

Samain                                                                      Healing Moon

SamainSamain. The end of summer. The end of fall. The end of the growing season. The time of quiet and darkness and cold. Ushered in here on Shadow Mountain with 6 or 7 inches of wet snow. Welcome. Winter has come.

The veil thins. The always resonant link between the living and the dead thrums, pulses. A moment to consider those who have died, to remember them, celebrate their lives or appease their spirits. Most present to me right now are 11 lives ended in Pittsburgh, people I didn’t know, but with whom I share a spiritual connection. They left the living under circumstances so horrific as to be unimaginable, except, of course, circumstances also all too common here. All the horror this Halloween needs.

Samain is also the beginning of holiseason (though to be fair with my Jewish inflected life holiseason really begins on the first day of Tishrei with Rosh Hashanah.). This long dormant time causes humans affected by it to want gatherings, lights, gifts, bravery in the face of potential starvation. It is, as a result, peppered with holydays, days of family and friends and feasts, days that encourage both standing over against our fear of bleakness and ample opportunities to pause, reflect, and embrace it.

dias de los muertosThe wings of the angel of death hover, whirring. They brush the air past our souls. We feel it, a faint quiver. He is never far away, never at rest, never near the end of his duty. Murders, catastrophes like Tree of Life, Pulse, Columbine, 9/11 are not awful because people die. We all die. They are awful because these are lives ended too soon, with malice, through hatred and venality.

I prefer the wonderful Day of the Dead with its playful, joyous overtones. Like the Nayarit House in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts we all dine with our dead. On the day of the dead we remember that. At each shabbat service near the end kaddish is said for all those mourning a recent loss and for all those celebrating a yahrzeit, the anniversary of a death. In this sense each Jewish service is a rolling Dia de Muertos.

47.2.37On this day, Samain, summer’s end, the season of vitality, growth, the season which replenishes those things we need to sustain life comes to a close for another cycle. As it does, we remember those whose vitality and presence shaped our own lives, just as later, after our deaths, others will remember us. I suppose this could sound grim, but I don’t experience it that way. I’m more of the Mexican, Latin American spirit in this regard.

However you experience it this is a day when memory underscores the unique value of each day, each moment. Ichi-go, Ichi-e. This time, right now, is once in a lifetime. Savor it, don’t gloss over it, don’t let worry blot out your attention. Happy Halloween.



I Know

Fall (last day)                                                                 Healing Moon

Fujinraijin-tawarayaThe weather gods have chosen an apt offering for the last day of fall, 8 inches of snow. In true Colorado fashion it will probably be here tonight and tomorrow, gone by Thursday if not late Wednesday. Looking forward to it. A difference between Colorado and Minnesota exists in forecasting snow. Here in Colorado people pant for the snow, welcome it, do celebratory dances. In Minnesota, not so much. It means work and slick roads in the Gopher State; here snow means beauty, tourist dollars, and will be gone conveniently.

Scheduled my first full chart reading with Elisa on November 16th. I’m curious. The ancientrail to self knowledge never ends.

Having said that. I want to claim what I’ve learned, not keep shuttling it to the back to let new information in. That’s why I’m reluctant to avoidant when it comes to converting to Judaism. I find it compelling in many ways, a practical down-to-earth way of life lived out in a solid community. I love the people at Beth Evergreen and I feel member of the tribe solidarity when anti-Semites shoot up synagogues.

But. I long ago quit molding my perceptions and beliefs to outlines drawn by the dead. Said positively it’s the Emersonian insistence on having revelations to us, not the dry bones of theirs. Doesn’t mean I can’t learn and learn deeply from other faiths, other political beliefs, other gendered views. Of course I can. And I do.

I’ve never found the balance between stating what I’ve discovered, seen, had revealed to me, and the obvious limitedness of it. I know that my knowing is fragmentary, tentative, subject to change. Yet, it is mine and I do have it. On the one hand I seek knowledge like a thirsty desert traveler seeks an oasis. On the other I’ve done so for so long that I have accumulated my own wisdom.

In spite of my logical bent, in spite of my study of systematic thinkers and even my desire to emulate them, I’ve not been able to pull off anything book length. I seem to function best in shorter formats like sermons, blog posts, brief essays. I guess that’s why fiction appeals to me. It’s a medium where my writing can extend itself, dig into the depths of my soul and reveal mySelf, but obliquely.

It’s not that I don’t want to learn new things about myself. I do. It’s just, how do I stop, say that for now this is what I know. It may be different tomorrow, but today, perhaps just for today, I claim this understanding and offer it. Haven’t figured that one out.

Here’s a couple of things I know, at least right now. Death is. As is life. The two are the ultimate dialectic, the ur form of creative tension for all of us. We literally live into death. If we do so without fear or with less fear, then the tension of our end can enliven our present, make it rich and precious. Confronting and accepting death is a key to living well.

This fundamental truth is writ both large and small in the turning of the seasons. Tomorrow we move into the fallow time, the time of a death-like pall on the earth, a necessary pause, rest. During the fallow time, the spring time of the soul, we can dig into our own substrata, let our roots seek nutrients in the collective unconscious. Bloom, even, with new understanding, new acceptance.

With spring the subtle gains of decay will have fed the soil, which will feed the plants, which will feed us.

I also know that love is a rose and you’d better not pick it. Neil Young’s song, made popular by Linda Ronstadt, is a moment of that revelation to us that Emerson sought in each generation. Hear it on Youtube.

(love) Only grows when it’s on the vine.
Handful of thorns and you know you’ve missed it.
Lose your love when you say the word mine.


When the moon is in the seventh house…

Fall                                                                                 Healing Moon

astrologyAstrology. Judaism has its weird side. Kabbalah, in particular. Turns out the kabbalist’s support astrology and if you follow the story of creation from a kabbalistic perspective, you can see why they might. At the shattering, the sharding of the divine light, ohr, pieces of divinity divided into minute pieces, atoms you might call them, and since then have created and recreated everything in the universe. That means that all things are connected, as part of the original attempt to create an undivided holy creation. In a sense it means that all things yearn for each other, to be rejoined, made whole again.

Elisa, a member of Beth Evergreen, worked as an astrologer to pay her way through her PhD program in geology. Seems cognitively dissonant, eh? Oil field geology no less. She’s worked as an academic dean for the last twenty years. She is no woo woo, dawning of the age of Aquarius type, but an educated scientist and a practicing academic. Part of her continuing interest in astrology is its validation in Jewish tradition.

She offered a chart for each of us who came if we sent in our birth time, date and place. I did. It impressed me. Elisa’s explanations of rising signs, sun sign and moon sign, and especially the concept of the north and south nodes rang an inner bell for me. Usually this sort of presentation would agitate my bullshit detector, but Elisa’s intelligence and willingness to question encourage me to pay attention instead.

JungThe concept of the north/south nodes has some connection to the past lives notion, which seems far fetched to me, but I got opened up a bit here, so I was listening. The idea is this: the south node is your default approach to life, the one, if you’re a past lives enthusiast, informed by the accretion of knowledge from other lives you’ve lived. It’s comfortable, effective, easy. But. Not growthful.

The growing edge for your life lies in your north node. (I don’t know why.) The north node represents what, in Elisa’s words, you came into this life to learn. My north node is in Gemini.* Where it is makes a big difference, too. When I read explanations of my north node, I find my head nodding. Oh, yeah. Sounds like me.

I’m intrigued enough that I sent Elisa a note asking if she would do a full chart and consultation for me. First time for everything.


*”Having the North Node in Gemini in your birth chart means that this lifetime needs to be about true communication for you. Your highest soul-expression is one that is logical, inquisitive, and eager for more information. That is why I call you the curious soul. Deep down, you possess this powerful yearning to just learn more. More than most people, the more you know, the more you grow. But, you need to “know things” in a rational way; by gathering all the facts. Gemini North Node individuals are discovering that, in order to evolve, they need to treat life like an endless classroom, a textbook that never ends. Accessing and embracing your ability to be both a remarkable student and a remarkable teacher is what is going to bring you the most spiritual growth.”  Astrology Arena

The Lord of Misrule and our Feast of Fools*

Fall                                                                                 Healing Moon

misrule3I remember MLK: “You can’t legislate feelings, but you can legislate behavior.” It was an admission that changing people’s hearts is work outside the realm of government, but within the public sphere, government’s appropriate responsibility, we can decide what behaviors we will tolerate and which we will not.

In place of humane restraint on our baser impulses we are now witnesses to American democracy as a long lasting Feast of Fools. Instead of a real president we elected a Lord of Misrule, an orange topped peasant (no, scratch that as unfair to peasants), let’s say an orange topped lout who now presides over an American public space dominated by greed, fear, anger, chauvinism, racism, homophobia and misogyny.

misrule2In its original manifestation the Feast of Fools served to highlight the norms governing public life by mocking them within a predetermined period of time. Leadership of the chaos went to one obviously unsuited, his actions expected to be unpredictable, coarse, even blasphemous. When the party ended, all went back to normal. The king was in charge, louts were not. And, the difference between the two had been made visible. Rule by louts harms everyone.

My one positive spin on the Orange Oval Lout is that his behavior, like the Lord of Misrule, or, should I say, as a Lord of Misrule, will serve as a similar norm revealing feast of fools. We are not a nation that shoots up synagogues, solves our problems with pipe bombs, deploys Proud Boys to beat up people of color, those with gender and sexual preferences different from our own.

When I say we are not a nation that does these things, I do not mean they will never happen. Hardly. I mean we recognize them for what they are, behavior not tolerated. We need to push these people back into their Klan Klosets, push them back into places from which they can grumble, but not rumble.

I don’t know whether this is fascism or authoritarianism or oligarchic over reach and I don’t care. I see it for what it truly is, unacceptable. Inhuman. Evil. It’s time to stop this Feast of Fools, to put that lout masquerading as a legitimate leader back in the penthouse and out of the White House. I don’t really care what happens to him. Impeach him. Defeat him. Just get him the hell away from our government. And have him take his feast of fools cronies with him.



*In England, the Lord of Misrule – known in Scotland as the Abbot of Unreason and in France as the Prince des Sots – was an officer appointed by lot during Christmastide to preside over the Feast of Fools. The Lord of Misrule was generally a peasant or sub-deacon appointed to be in charge of Christmas revelries, which often included drunkenness and wild partying.  wiki


Fall                                                                                Healing Moon

ballot-e1476388826824Kate and I got coffee, sat down at our beetle-kill pine dining table, cracked open the mailers from the state of Colorado, and voted. Not a complicated ballot in terms of candidates, though the retention questions for judges left us both scratching our heads. Guess which way we voted? Blue wave, blue wave, blue wave. At least two water particles added.

On the other hand there were several referendums on the ballot. Some obscure, like changing the way judicial candidates are presented on future ballots to a measure eliminating slavery and involuntary servitude. Some not so obscure but frustratingly necessary because of Colorado’s TABOR, a long ago referendum which passed requiring all tax increases to be voted on by the general public. These referendums are attempts to squeeze out more funding for education and transportation, both victims of TABOR’s constrictive grip on Colorado’s public economy.

taborThen there were two that make creating both federal and state legislative districts non-partisan. Like campaign funding gerrymandering is currently a cancer in our democracy, both in their own way as serious as the orange tumor in our body politic. Voting yes.

A controversial measure this year involves setbacks for drilling pads as frackers go after natural gas and oil often inconveniently located. One of the biggest oil and natural gas deposits lies in Weld County, part of the Denver-Aurora Metro. Prop. 112 would increase the setback from dwellings and businesses to “a 2,500 foot buffer zone between new oil and gas development and occupied buildings like homes and schools, as well as water sources, playgrounds and other vulnerable areas.” prop 112 website We voted for the setback.

libertarianColorado continues to be a strange political environment to this native Midwesterner. The libertarian streak in all American politics colors issues with a let me alone and don’t make me pay swoosh, here it’s a swoosh often as big as the entire running shoe. That can drive electoral decisions. There’s also the even more dramatic than in most states divide between the liberal Front Range and the remainder of Colorado. Rural and mountain Coloradans often complain that their views are ignored. True, too, to some extent. The rural vote is often reflexively against candidates and ballot measures that seem to reflect Front Range values.

We’ll see how much in-migration has altered the politics here on November 6th.


Dead pump lying in the ground

Fall                                                                        Healing Moon

wellWell pump dead a couple of hundred feet under the surface. It will cost about the same as I’m projecting Kate’s hospital co-payments. Oh, joy. Right now I’m feeling beat down, labile.

I know this is just today’s trouble. And, I know that I’ve solved it. Living Water will have the pump replaced by supper time. But having to spend the day on this, plumber, then well pump guy, has pushed me up to an unhappy edge. Temporary, I know, but right now? Yecchh.

Looked down our well casing. Not much to see. Dark and deep, just like Frost’s snowy woods. The pump truck is in our front yard, boom up about 25 feet or so, lowering down a piece of tackle that links on to 21 foot lengths pvc. They have to be unthreaded and set aside. However deep the well is we’ll have an equivalent amount of pvc. Between 9 and 15 of them.

Well+Pump+FailureThen the pump. It labors on our behalf, in the dark, responding when the pressure tank calls for water to keep the house supplied toilets, showers, faucets, hoses, dish and clothes washers. The pump is most of the expense, this one coming in at $1,500. Other matters are metal sleeves for the new pump, new wiring, since the 1991 code requires all wells to have a ground and ours went down in 1982, and, of course, the men and the truck.

Home ownership. The American dream. And water such a big part of it.


One g*&$%!m thing after another

Fall                                                                                  Healing Moon

piling onSometimes. Piling on. You’ve heard of it, right? Jumping on the quarterback or wide receiver or tail back with more big bodies after they’re already down, stopped. Well, SeoAh telling me last night that there was a water problem. Piling on. For a reason I do not understand we have no water. In the whole house. Of course, this happened at 8 pm, after I’d already taken my thc and had a long, fruitful, but exhausting day. Just. Couldn’t. Deal.

But. I checked the electrical panels anyhow. No thrown circuit breakers. All the water valves were in their proper alignment. WTF? It has occurred to me that the problem might be our water pump, but I don’t know how to check that. This morning I got down in the crawl space and checked the fuses on the water tank that stores water for the house. They were fine. I mean, geez.

piling on puppiesAt 7 am I’m going to call Herb Swindler of H2 Plumbing. Herb, oddly enough, lived in Ramsey, Minnesota, less than 10 miles from our house in Andover. It may not be a problem he can fix, if it’s the pump, but I want to rule out some simple explanation inside the house first.

Gotta say I could do without this.


Fall                                                                     Healing Moon

Exhumation of the Mastodon: Peale, Charles Willson, 1741-1827.

Exhumation of the Mastodon: Peale, Charles Willson, 1741-1827.

Another of life’s inflection points. I want to consider it, honor it, respond to it, but I’m having a hard time. Just too tired. And, I feel guilty about that. Like somehow I should be able to just power my way through and get back to the usual. Which is unrealistic. Certainly for the next few weeks, maybe on an ongoing basis. Need to know what the new normal might be like. Too soon. I know it. So I’m trying to hold back, not speculate, not project. The fact of trying though suggests I’m not always successful.

Here’s an analogy I discovered in the High Country News, my favorite source of information about the West. In reviewing a novel called West there’s a quote from a widowed farmer on his way to the land beyond the Mississippi. He says, to a Dutch land agent he encounters on a river boat, “I am seeking a creature entirely unknown, an animal incognitum.” Apparently Thomas Jefferson also sought the animal incognitum, probably a Mastodon.

Humanity has always wondered what's on the far shore -- even if our guesses sometimes miss the mark.

Humanity has always wondered what’s on the far shore

Right now, I’m on the riverboat, looking at the western shore of the Great River, wondering what lies on the land which spreads out from there to the Pacific Ocean. It contains, I know, a life incognitum, a life so far unknown. Not entirely unknown, certainly. There will be familiar elements in familiar places, but the rhythm, the demands, the joys? Will change. That farmer and I share a desire to explore the land, to find the incognitums, to embrace them, and find our way anew.

It’s a source of energy. I love the unknown, the strange. Vive la difference! More news as this pilgrim sets foot on the shore, buys an oxen or two and loads up the Conestoga with supplies.



Fall                                                                              Healing Moon

“Everyone experiences stress and anxiety at one time or another. The difference between them is that stress is a response to a threat in a situation. Anxiety is a reaction to the stress.”  adaa

stressFinally figured out my life over the last three weeks or so. I’ve been telling people I haven’t been anxious. And, I haven’t been. Thank you, years of Jungian analysis, existentialism, Taoism, the Great Wheel, and each of you out there. But. I have been stressed. Unable to focus. Tired. Responding to new threats. Did I mention tired? In spite of adequate sleep and decent nutrition.

StressCartoonSomehow this makes me feel better, validates learning I hoped had sunk in deep. Reminded me a bit of “living in the move” which Kate and I tried to do while preparing for and executing our move out here to the Rockies, for the most part successfully.

This definition of stress and anxiety is new to me, but I’d grown to suspect the explanation for my inner life in the recent past involved some split like this. Stressed, but not anxious.