2018

Winter                                                                         Stent Moon

January 2018

January 2018

Buddy Paul Strickland, living in Maine very close to New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy, has a year theme: Bumping into Wonder. I haven’t discussed it with him so I’m not even sure what a year theme is and I don’t know why he chose random acts of amazement. (though it’s a wonderful idea)

But. I like the idea of a year theme. Our men’s group, The Woolly Mammoths, of whom Paul and I represent two-thirds of the diaspora from Minnesota/Wisconsin, often had year themes. Pilgrimage. Mothers. Fathers. Like that.

Numa's Janus Temple on a Neronian coin

Numa’s Janus Temple on a Neronian coin

Not sure I’m ready to declare a theme quite yet. Maybe later today. I am inviting Janus to take up residence with my psyche for today only. Today is the gate of my Numa shrine. It closes at midnight until February 14th when it will swing open again for a day. I’m putting on the backward looking face and the forward looking one, try to see the last year as it was and the next year as I hope it can be.

At the VRCC, Jan. 2018

At the VRCC, Jan. 2018

 

2018. September 28th was the date of Kate’s bleed and the events since then dominate my thinking about 2018. The misery of Kate’s illness the nausea, cramping, weight loss, and food aversion existed, and worsened, over the whole year.

She was not the only one in the family with intestinal issues. Rigel had begun losing weight in 2017 and we feared liver cancer. A visit of to the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital however found she had an allergy to chicken proteins. We shifted her to rabbit based food and she began to thrive. A year later she’s bounding around the yard like a puppy. At 9 years old. Very old for a large sight hound.

Rabbi Jamie and Kate, Purim

Rabbi Jamie and Kate, Purim

In February Kate went on a quilting retreat at the Liar’s Lodge in Buena Vista. The drive out was a joy, all the way across South Park, the high plains, past the headwaters of the Arkansas river and into the Collegiate Range which rises to the west of Buena Vista. At Purim Kate got into the spirit of the day and dressed up in the coat of many colors she made for our youngest.

 

Kate’s shoulder surgery in March marked the end of a sleep wrecking, daily life function disrupting arthritic shoulder joint. We met Dr. Schneider, an orthopedic surgeon, and a helluva good guy. He would not be the only surgeon we met in 2018, but the work he did ended a source of constant pain for her. I was deep in my third kabbalah class, this one focused on Hebrew and its mystical qualities. Since I was already playing with sumi-e, I focused on creating Hebrew letters with Japanese brushes, pairing them with quotes focused on that letters deep meaning. I also got to use my chop bought in Beijing in 1999.

Kate at Domo

Kate at Domo

Both Ruth and Gabe are April babies. Ruth on the 4th and Gabe on Earth Day, the 22nd. Ruth loves Domo, the rural Japanese restaurant in Denver, so we took both of them there. SeoAh came out to help with Kate’s recovery, a gift she would give us twice more in the year. The Sjogren’s Foundation had its annual conference in Denver, so Kate went. Gabe was at Children’s Hospital for an operation occasioned by a port problem. April is also an annual art show by art teachers in the Aurora School District. Yam Hashoah, a holiday added to the Jewish liturgical calendar after the holocaust, fell in April. A wonderful ballet memorialized the day at CBE.

Rabbi Shapiro at Alan and Cheri Rubin's, talking about his book, Holy Rascals

Rabbi Shapiro at Alan and Cheri Rubin’s, talking about his book, Holy Rascals

More lumberjacking in May. There was still some fire mitigation to do and I wanted to clear a spot for an outdoor room. Kate recovered well from her shoulder surgery and was able to attend a CBE sponsored tour of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Natural History and Science. May also found controversial Rabbi Rami Shapiro at CBE as a visiting scholar. An important, iconoclastic figure in the Reconstructionist movement (and, therefore, Judaism as a whole) Rami considers himself a Holy Rascal and has a book with that title, among many he’s written.

 

Leaving for Durango

Leaving for Durango

Visiting ancient pueblo dwellings at Mesa Verde with buddies Paul Strickland, Tom Crane, and Mark Odegard was the highlight of June. We stayed in Durango and Mark bought his first legal marijuana in a dispensary there. Our hotel was on the Animas River, recently of Gold King mine spill fame, was running blue and clear. In 2015 it was a sickly mustard color. I finished my fourth kabbalah class with a sumi-e enso drawing exercise for my project. Somewhere in this time period Alan Rubin asked me to co-teach the 6th and 7th grade B’nei Mitzvah class in CBE’s religious school.

ICE detention facility, Aurora

ICE detention facility, Aurora, July

Never written a lesson plan. Started in June, continuing in July. Alan and I started almost weekly meetings, our goal: plan a full year of classes. We did it, though we didn’t finish until late August, just before CBE’s religious school began. Some more lumberjacking, continuing the earlier work. After a powerful presentation on the detention and fragmentation of refugee families by ICE, Kate and I decided to join other Jews from the Denver/Boulder area in a protest outside a Geo detention facility in Aurora. The wonder of it (bumping into wonder, eh?) was rainbow which came to earth right over the detention facility.

Lake Minnetonka. Tom's boat

Lake Minnetonka. Tom’s boat

I’ve been back to Minnesota only twice since we moved. Once in May of 2015 for an annual Woolly Retreat near Ely and August, 2018. Groveland UU invited me back to speak at their 25th anniversary.  I took the opportunity to visit old haunts: everywhere I lived in Minnesota, except for the Peaceable Kingdom near Nevis, the Walker and the MIA, neighborhoods and restaurants in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Also connected with Tom and Bill, plus other Woollies, and some docent friends at a small jazz club listening to Hoaxer, fronted by Grace Goggin’s son.

 

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ER, Sept. 28

September started with the Days of Awe at CBE. Kate and I helped set up and serve the Board’s luncheon during Rosh Hashanah and attended Kol Nidre, then Yom Kippur. It was also the start of the religious school and I had my first encounter with a class of bright Jewish tweens. Oh, boy. I felt exhausted after that class.

The big event though held off until nearly the end of the month. “I’m bleeding.” This at 5:30 a.m. Didn’t know it then, but this was the start of a month away from home for Kate, two weeks at Swedish Hospital and two weeks at Brookdale Rehab. The three days left in September found her in the E.R., then on the 8th (surgical) floor. She had several units of blood, a colonoscopy, a nuclear imaging study of the bleeding, an attempted embolization of the bleed site which failed, and finally a decision to cut out part of her large bowel as the likeliest source of the bleeding.

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Kate at home wrapped in the friendship quilt made by the Bailey Patchworkers

Institutionalization. That was October for Kate. Ten units of blood. Post-surgical disorientation. Deep pain. Nights in a hospital bed, days ruled by hemoglobin results, morphine, and a slow, often literally painfully slow, recovery. Gastric tube for feeding. Slowly back to solid foods. Then, not home, but off to Brookdale, a home, a very nice one, but one that would reveal the limits of even a well-appointed place. She had to learn to walk on her own again, though with the aid of a walker. She did get her diet back to sort of normal.

Installing the new pump

Installing the new pump

SeoAh came again, driven here by Joe with Murdoch. She stayed two weeks and made life much easier for both me and Kate. She cooked, cleaned, smiled, laughed. A joy to have around. One evening she came down and said, “Charlie. There is no water.” What? Sure enough. No water. Kate home now, but still in recovery. Perfect. Quick diagnostics the next day showed it was the pump for our well. And so we have a brand new stainless steel pump installed by the folks at Living Waters.

Near the end of October I went into Dazzle Jazz to hear Frannie and the Jets. Frannie is Alan Rubin’s daughter and this was, at 22, her swan song as a jazz singer. It was a touching evening.

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SeoAh on right. Birthday party at Brookdale. Oct.

SeoAh stayed into November. The bad news in November was that all the medical care Kate received after her bleed had done nothing for her nausea, cramping, and food aversion. She was miserable and weak from the weeks at Swedish and Brookdale. The nausea and cramping meant she couldn’t keep down enough calories to gain weight, even slipping back some.

Jon’s big news in November was an arrest and subsequent court appearances on a violation of a court order charge. I went with him both times, at the preliminary hearing and the hearing where he entered his guilty plea. Gabe had his fifth grade choral concert and because of the restraining order changes made in the last hearing, Jon couldn’t attend, so I went to represent him.

Kate and the machine

Kate and the machine

The good news in November came near the end of the month. After another round of visits to our internist and to Kate’s G.I. doc a last round of imaging studies was ordered, sort of a last gasp. She had two studies, an ultrasound sonography of the arteries feeding her bowels and a small bowel follow through study which checked its efficiency. And there it was at last! A diagnosis. The ultrasound picked up a stenosis, narrowing, in the superior mesenteric artery. A narrowing of this vessel can lead to nausea, cramping, food aversion, and weight loss.

Some frustration after the diagnosis. We saw an interventional radiologist who confirmed the stenosis and offered a procedure, a catheter placed stent in the effected artery. A couple of weeks passed and nothing happened. We decided to push. After a round of phone calls and e-mails, we got a date for the procedure in January.

Our Korean angel

Our Korean angel

Then, on December 19th Kate turned to me in bed and said, “I have news.” An hour later we were once again in the ER at Swedish. She’d had another bleed and determined not to let it to the point it had in September. This one stopped and there was no recurrence. She went again to the 8th floor, this time of observation. After two days of observation, the interventional radiologist decided to go ahead and place the stent while she was already in the hospital. Dr. Mulden positioned the stent without incident on the winter solstice, four years to the day after we moved here.

Going for calories

Going for calories

SeoAh and her husband came for the holidays as they had planned. She’ll be here for another two weeks, maybe three. Their support, and hers in particular, has made this whole unfortunate mess bearable for us. She deserves, and gets, our deepest gratitude.

The nausea and cramping after eating has stopped. The food aversion may take a while to reverse, but Kate’s eating better now. It took a long time for her to decline to her current weight and it will take a while to get it back. She’s visibly less stressed and happier, though still pretty tired.

 

 

Janus

Winter                                                                               Stent Moon

JanusAging brings with it an inevitable glance over the shoulder. Did I matter? If so, how? If not, why? Does it matter if I mattered? I suppose it would be possible to disappear into regrets or vanity or even anguish. But, why?

The past, though we can change its role in our life by reframing, paradigm shifting, or, best in my opinion, acceptance, ended a moment ago. No do overs.

Interestingly, the New Year brings the same glance over the shoulder. At or around January 1st we become Janus* faced, looking squarely at the past year and the one upcoming. He’s the Ganesh of Roman mythology, the one you want on your side as you change jobs, get married, have a child. Wonder about the year ahead. And, the one behind.

As we inch past 70, Janus becomes a god with whom we must contend, one we may worship, even without knowing. He is the archetype for being of two minds, for that part of us that feels pulled back or pushed forward out of the moment.

When tomorrow comes and resolutions start to form, if you do resolutions, they will be concrete expressions of Janus in you. What were things out of the past year I might change for the better? Or out of my whole past? Resolutions express a regret and a hope. Wish I’d been less angry, more loving. Eaten a healthier diet. Been more aware of my authentic yearnings. And followed them. Wish I’d fallen in love. Or gotten out of that damned relationship. As a heuristic, a motivator for positive change, letting Janus take over for a limited time makes sense.

Janus_Bifrons_by_Adolphe_Giraldon

With him in the forefront we can see what was, imagine what might have been, then look forward to how we might live differently. But he is a god and you can’t let him take control. If all your time is spent with Janus’ two-faced view, you will be constantly out of the now, always taking a step back or a step ahead. If you look longer with his past oriented visage, you will tend toward depression. If your gaze looks toward the future overly long, you will tend toward anxiety.

Perhaps a shrine or an altar to Janus could help with this. The Numa Janus shrine** had gates that could be opened or closed. Open, Rome was at war. Closed, Rome was at peace. A small shrine at home might have a door that could be open or closed. When open, you’re consulting the Janus moments in your life, staying open to the truth of the past and its importance for your future. When closed, you’re trying to remain in the present, not get pulled away to what was or ahead to what to might be.

On December 31st, the Days of Awe, and maybe your birthday or anniversary, open the gate of your own shrine. Sit with Janus for a while. Feel in your person the frisson between the face that sees yesterday and the face that sees tomorrow. Consider what that feeling means for your life, not as a route to depression or anxiety, but as a way of knowing how they link together, or better, how they might link together. Take yesterday’s lessons and let them inform life as it moves toward tomorrow. After that, close the gate and live now.

 

 

*…the god of beginnings, gates, transitions, time, duality, doorways, passages, and endings.” Wiki

**”Janus presided over the beginning and ending of conflict, and hence war and peace. The gates of a building in Rome named after him (not a temple, as it is often called, but an open enclosure with gates at each end) were opened in time of war, and closed to mark the arrival of peace (which did not happen very often)…Numa built the Ianus geminus (also Janus Bifrons, Janus Quirinus or Portae Belli), a passage ritually opened at times of war, and shut again when Roman arms rested.[49] It formed a walled enclosure with gates at each end, situated between the old Roman Forum and that of Julius Caesar, which had been consecrated by Numa Pompilius himself.”  op cit.

The Blade Runner Year

Winter                                                                Stent Moon

Kate’s face is smoother. She’s smiling. Her weight is stable, though not yet trending up so much as back and forth around 82. She walks no longer with the pained, slightly stooped habitus of a sick person, but, the steady, if slow, gate of a healthy one. 2019. The year things begin to improve. I hope. (and, believe)

Blade-Runner2019. The Blade Runner year. Dystopian time? Match. Authoritarian regime? Match. Police killing those marginalized to society? Match. The cinematography of our era may look different-though Hong Kong, Shanghai, Dubai-but the underlying premise of a dark future catching up with all of us was prescient, if not exactly surprising.

No flying cars. At least not in mass production. No replicants, though there a clone or two running around, at least one we know of for sure. Video screens wide spread? Match. Too much of a damned match. In fact, I consider one of my achievements for the year turning off TV’s in medical reception areas when nobody’s watching. When Kate went in for her imaging at Porter Adventist, we were the first ones in the waiting room in the bleary part of the morning. I turned off the TV and it was still turned off when we left about three hours later. Score!

Dystopian-WorldDystopian futures, even ours from the perspective of 1982, have this seeming anomaly: Life goes on. Most folks make some accommodation, some compromise, and go on with their daily routines. Short of mass suicide, what other option is there? It is those very accommodations and compromises that are fertile soil for the demagogue and the populist. See Trump, Erdogan, Germany’s alt-right, Hungary’s Viktor Orban, Brazil’s Michel Temer. Movies have to convey dystopian troubles cinematically, so we think if the visuals don’t correlate with ours that the movie doesn’t apply. Wrong. It’s the core cultural themes that are important.

So I would say this is the Blade Runner year, with visuals a bit less thrilling.

 

 

Mile High Comics

Winter                                                                                Stent Moon

20181228_135344Went to Mile High Comics yesterday. They advertise as America’s largest and friendliest comics dealer. When we went in, a staffer, maybe the owner, hipster beard and comic icon t-shirt, greeted us. “This place is big. 1983 to 3 months ago is all here. He gestured toward row after row of white boxes on tables, “All alphabetized by title regardless of publisher.” To our left, along the wall of this cavernous 45,000 square foot warehouse, “…are variants (particular issues of a comic with different cover art from the original). Marvel and DC work with us, so many of them are unique, only available here.” The new comics, in the last three months, had tables and chair in front of them for friendly perusing.

20181228_141214“Back there, where the Help Desk sign is, we have our inventory. Customers can’t go back there, but it’s all searchable and staff will bring you anything you want to see. 8 million comics in inventory. 2 million on display. 10 million all together.” He seemed sincere, but the numbers seem pretty damned high to me. Even so, there’s no doubt there were a vast amount of comic books.

It’s not a fancy place. Bare concrete floors with gray sealer paint, carpet squares laid down in front of the new comics. The fixtures were used, bought at auction, I imagine. A ten foot ceiling and the only walls marked off bathrooms, a utility closet and a small backroom area. A long outside wall, one that runs along now disused railroad tracks, had the silver and golden age comics, 1930-1983. Many of them, the rarest editions, sat under clear plastic covers that reached to the ceiling. Many of the prices were impressive. $2,000 was not an unusual price point.

20181228_142947In addition to the 10 million comics several different displays featured toys related to the various universes represented in the comic book world. A true multiverse of the mind. There were Star Wars toys with death stars and yodas, Empire fighters and Millennium Falcons. Star Trek toys with Data, Captain Picard, models of the Enterprise. A large Ironman statue. Intricate modeled scenes from Batman, Superman, the Marvel comics sat alongside small action figures. There were chess pieces made of comic book figurines, including one full chess set with pieces modeled from Batman characters.

There weren’t many people there at 1 pm on Friday afternoon. But of those that were thick glasses, unkempt hair, and a distracted look was common. Nerd stereotypes that would fit well in the Big Bang Theory.

I didn’t buy anything. The size of the place and the vast number of things on offer overwhelmed me. I went to the chairs and tables in the new comics section, sat down, and closed my eyes.

Snow and Cold

Winter                                                                        Stent Moon

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, a couple of days late. 1 below this morning, fresh snow, just a bit. Black Mountain has on its winter dress. When I went to get the paper, the snow crunched beneath my feet and the air slapped my cheeks until they were red. One of the things I love about the snow is that it records at least some of the critters that came through our property. Rabbit, this morning, I think. Two. The waning gibbous Stent Moon was in the south, over Eduardo and Holly’s.

Here a few photos:

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Black Mtn. Drive, toward Evergreen

Black Mtn. Drive, toward Evergreen

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H-Mart

Winter                                                                       Stent Moon

20181227_122644SeoAh and I went to H-Mart yesterday. Not sure if I’ve written about it before or not. H-Mart is a New Jersey based, Korean owned Asian grocery chain. It has two stores in the Denver metro. An obligatory part of a SeoAh visit is at least one visit to H-Mart. These are huge stores, set up like a cross between a grocery store and a suk with many small shops set inside a standard mall large box. On any visit there are folks from India, China, Korea, Japan, Vietnam scrutinizing the produce, buying live lobster or clams or fish, Asian cookware and dishes, choosing from so many brands of soy sauce. There are, too, the occasional Caucasians, some in families with Asian kids, presumably adopted, a few just shopping for themselves.

I asked SeoAh if seeing all the Asian people made her feel at home. She shook her head, then picked up a package of rice cakes, “But the food? That makes me feel at home.”

2018 주간포커스My goal in going with her was to learn how she shops, what she looks for. I want to learn at least a few Korean dishes; but, I really want to learn how a Korean cook thinks. That way I can make my own Korean meals. Kate likes the food and so do I.

A problem quickly arose however. SeoAh bought items with Korean language labels. Well, just look at it, I thought. What’s that? I asked. You know ginseng? Yes. Dried. Ah. So many kinds of seaweed, including some small packets, lunch box sized. I like them, remembered she bought them last time, but I’d never recognize them again. Guess I’ll have to take photographs.

Another issue is that both H-Marts are far from here. At least an hour. No good for weekly shopping. I love their ambiance though and even more the wide selection of fresh food. I might try to get there a bit more often that during SeoAh’s visits.

 

Homemade

Winter                                                                       Stent Moon

20181110_16410310 degrees on Shadow Mountain. A couple of inches of fluffy powder fell over night, a minor storm compared to what had been predicted earlier. The lodgepoles have white flocking. Black Mountain hides behind a gray blue cloud. The neighbor’s Christmas lights, now past their expiry date, still glitter.

Frustrated here by realpolitik. Can’t say more about it.

Kate’s Sjogren’s flare has subsided. She’s still fatigued, both from all the insults her body has received since September 28th and Sjogren’s. There may be an anemia component in there, too. Fatigue, when it’s constant, carries with it its own malaise. Sleep, get up for a bit, sleep some more day and night. Her face does not, however, have the stress lines brought on by repeated bouts of nausea and cramping, bouts that followed every meal until last Friday. That’s a marker on the road leading out of this mess.

I’m working in a slightly larger format now, 8×10 canvases, trying to think more about design. The Western icons idea will require more gathering of props. I turned to items I had close to hand. My favorite tools. Those of you who know me well know I’m not a shop guy, not a handy guy, but I do have some tools I love.

astrologyMercury-RetrogradeThe learning curve in both astrology and oil painting slopes almost straight up for me. My mind gets short of breath at times. I remember this from Latin. Slog. Slog. Slog. Oh! “Confusion,” I read, “is the sweat of the intellect.”

Back in 1966 I was a very young student of symbolic logic. My second semester at Wabash. German had already defeated me and I was feeling the shock of intellectual challenges that seemed beyond me. Larry Hackstaffe, the professor who wandered around on off days with a six-pack of Bud hanging by one of its plastic rings from his belt loop, was a good teacher. After the D on a German test, a D!, my sense of myself was in trouble. Study. Study. In the library, in a carrel. My safe place.

The mid-term. When I sat down, my palms were sweaty and my socks uncomfortably moist. My neck hurt from slumping over in the study carrel. Larry passed out the blue books and the exam. And away I went, developing proofs, using the symbols like I’d had them from birth. That exam was a revelation to me. With hard work I could master something difficult, really difficult. I didn’t need the grade after that, though it was an A and I was glad. I had taught myself a life lesson, not in logic, but in persistence.

logicAt almost 72 I’m no longer naive enough to think I can master anything, but I’ve proved to myself over and over that with patience (difficult for me at times) and either a good teacher or a lot of autodidactic effort, I can learn new things. Even new things that might seem unusual for me. Organic gardening. Beekeeping. Raising perennial flowers. Writing novels. Teaching Jewish religious school. Living at altitude. Cooking. The downside of this valedictory life, that’s a thing, is that I’ve not become Tolstoy or a commercial beekeeper or Top Chef, certainly no Latin scholar. But I have had the chance to peek behind the curtain of numerous activities I might have once thought, like German, beyond me.

A lot of blather to introduce you to some paintings by me. As you can tell, I’m still breathing hard, looking for handholds on the ancientrail of creating beauty, of making pigments tell their story, but I’m having a hell of lot of fun. As I am with astrology.

These are in the order in which I painted them.

Here they are:

JUrsa Major

Ursa Major

Felling Ax

Felling Ax

Limbing Ax, 1.0

Limbing Ax, 1.0

Limbing Ax, 1.1

Limbing Ax, 1.1

Replicant Reportage

Winter                                                                         Stent Moon

cinema bladeChristmas and Hanukkah 2018 in the past. New Year’s eve coming Monday. 2019. The Blade Runner year: “In the 21st century, a corporation develops human clones to be used as slaves in colonies outside the Earth, identified as replicants. In 2019, a former police officer is hired to hunt down a fugitive group of clones living undercover in Los Angeles.”  IMBD

My replicant wrote this post two years from now and sent it back via quantum entanglement. Or, something.

He says 2021 is the year things begin to change. No Trump. Not anymore. The few remaining sane Republicans now believe. Even they admit it’s not winter that’s coming, but eternal summer. Eternal, hell hot summer. Folks have buckled down, quit coal, kept oil in the ground, cranked up the electrics. More and more trees get planted daily thanks to Plant a Tree for Your Mother. Nuclear’s doing its bit, too. A special commission at the U.N. has developed short, medium, and long term methods for reprocessing nuclear waste. Can they save the world for our grandkids? Uncertain.

Trump. In jail. Not for Russian collusion but for the biggest attempted genocide in all history. Convicted of trying to wipe out the human race. He knew. They all knew. And even some of his cronies admitted it. They’re all in the special, private Camp Koch situated on an island smack in the dead zone of the Caribbean. No windows. No roof. No AC. All the Jamaican jerk chicken you can eat. But, not much water. Crocodile tears, anyone?

He also said, in a nod to a thankfully former obsession that no, the Vikings have still not won a Superbowl. Not shocking.

He says Ruth loves high school, Gabe’s doing ok at McCauliffe, and Jon’s found a lady friend. Good news. The rest of the family, except for us, is in various parts of Asia. Singapore. Saudi Arabia. Hawai’i. Our Asian pivot still underway.

Kate’s back at a feisty 105. Quilting, sewing, still on the board at CBE. My painting’s improved. I’m doing astrology readings for fun. That new novel? Not done yet, but well underway. Seeking the synthesis between the ensouled primal world and the disenchanted world of the Enlightenment. Had to have something to do in my spare time.

He also says not to worry about the stock market. It recovers, makes another strong run. Fattens the coffers of mostly the wrong people. Again, not shocking.

That’s it. The news from 2021.

Hark, The Herald Angels Sang…

Winter                                                                                    Stent Moon

20161203_083509

Happily in pain.    2016

ChristmasNot long after my December 1st, 2016, knee surgery, I had an odd moment. It was Hanukkah. Gabe and Ruth were plowing through their presents, and I sat on the couch, my leg up and some combination of pain meds circulating, morphine and oxycontin, I think. Ruth lit the menorah. A sudden, overwhelming (undoubtedly drug accelerated) sense of dislocation came over me. Sadness, too. What was I doing in this house? No Christmas tree. No decorations. This exotic holiday had pushed all that away and left me on the outside.

It was true nostalgia.* And it was painful. I swirled down, feeling a deep longing to get back to the seasons with which I was familiar. To push away this foreign intervention. To put myself under the Christmas tree on 419 N. Canal Street. All the way back. Not Colorado. Not Minnesota. Not Wisconsin. Indiana. An old fashioned, true to my culture Christmas.

Meanwhile Gabe was click-clacking a Rubik’s cube. Ruth held a money jar Kate had made for her. A fire crackled in the fire place and the menorah burned quietly on the dining table. No one knew I was somewhere else, sometime else. Here’s something from that day’s post:

                                                   2016

The Christmas spirit that still flows around this secular, pagan heart saw them. (Hanukkah presents) And rejected the moment. What followed was a period of dislocation, the closest analogy I can give is culture shock.

What was I doing in this house with this holiday underway? Mom, Dad, Mary and Mark rose up. I missed them all, a lot. Further the friends from Minnesota. Why was I here in cold Colorado, in the mountains, when my family and friends were dead or far away?

Having experience with the not so subtle influence of drugs on the mind, I knew this was both a false response and a true one. It was false in that I loved these kids, Kate, Jews all, and had begun to get more involved at Congregation Beth Evergreen. It was true in that Christmas spirit is a real thing, a tangible and mostly positive emotional state engendered by the church, by family, by memories of Christmas past, and, of course, by your favorite retail establishments. And at that moment I missed it.

Two years later the knee is fine, better than fine actually. I’m not using any drugs. (except at bedtime) And I’m much further along in the assimilation process I mentioned a few posts ago. My peri-Jewish identity has congealed around my membership at CBE. I’m part of a community I love, surrounded by people who love us and have shown that over and over again in the last few months. Love is a verb, after all.

Angelic host proclaiming the wonder of your birth

               Angelic host proclaiming the wonder of your birth

Last night was the night before Christmas. Today is Christmas day. The festive part of the day will be the big meal at noon and seeing Jon, Ruth, and Gabe at 2 pm. I’m ok with that. It feels like the right amount of celebration for us.

So. Christmas now has two components. One is much more tempered nostalgia than I felt in December, 2016, a warm spot from days now gone by. The second, and more important to me, is as a festival of incarnation, a celebration of the divine and human mixed inextricably together. As the bells ring out this Christmas day and churches the old familiar carols play, I’ll recall the folks I love, the animals I love. I’ll see past the mundane and look into their souls. There is the ohr. There is the divine. There is the sacred. And guess what? When I look in the mirror, I see the same thing.

*”…the term was coined by a 17th-century Swiss army physician who attributed the fragile mental and physical health of some troops to their longing to return home — nostos in Greek, and algos, the pain that attended thoughts of it.” The Guardian, Nov. 9, 2014

The Sacred Marriage

Winter                                                                            Stent Moon

ohrOn the drive over to Tony’s Market to pick up Christmas dinner I got to thinking about ohr, the shards of divine light kabbalists believe actually make up the known universe. When I bow to the divine light in you and you bow to the divine light in me, we say that makes sense in that framework. So there can be the ohr, the light of the divine blasted apart at the moment of creation; but, I thought, there’s also the more immediate light, that of the sun.

It’s correct in every important way to say our life spark comes from and looks back to the sun. Photosynthesis creates the food we eat, whether at its primary source in plants or in a secondary source like meat. So the divine light could also be solar, the power of the fusion engine that is our star.

More and more I see the divine sun in sacred marriage with the holy goddess, mother earth. It is through the constant and intimate play between these two that all life emerges. In this sense then the celebration of the incarnation observed tomorrow can be seen as a holiday created to honor us as children of the sun and the earth. Of course, not just us, but all of the animate creations here.

We differ from the rest of the animate world, as far we know, primarily in our capacity to know our creators, the creature knowing the creator, or, said another way, the creators looking on themselves through their creation.

sacredIt is this dance, the days of the dancing star, that we are thrown into this world to execute. Sure, you could take this and conclude a scientistic flat-earth humanism, minus the divinity, but it seems to me you end up in the same place with a reductionistic refusal to see the simcha, the joy, of life as part of, not separate from. It is the bondedness we have with our star and our planet which is divinity, we are part of a dialectic between power and fertile elements, a fruit, in fact, of its creative tension.

Sure, you could also take this perspective and place a whole pantheon in and around it. Aurora. Shiva. Mithras. Yahweh. Even baby Jesus. But I believe it is this pair, this vital union of star and planet that both makes us and teaches us about our sacred relationship to the whole universe through the example of their intimacy. I see no need to add more deities though I don’t think it hurts. Not exactly. As long as we keep our hearts on the source, we can names its elements as we wish. That creative and destructive nature both sun and earth have. Sure, Shiva. The still point, the apparent stability of the earth below, the mountain above, the ocean spread out. Vishnu. The sun appearing as the earth turns on its axis. Aurora. The dangerous interplay among humans and among humans and the rest of the creation. Yahweh. Your presence as a manifestation of this sacred marriage? Jesus.

I come back now to the Great Wheel, that cyclical turning of mother earth around her sol, how it reflects our lives as they grow and change. It is the great scripture in which we can read of our gods, know their moods, and how we can celebrate their deep meaning in our lives. Blessed be.