Shadow Mountain Gratefuls

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Everybody got here. 8 of us. Ruth, Jon, Gabe, Joe, Seoah, Annie, Kate and me. Plus a very interested Gertie, Rigel, Kepler, and Murdoch. Our oven thermometer allowed me to calibrate the lower oven since its heat is different from what gets set. Ruth’s pies, pumpkin and pecan, were wonderful. The heated side dishes made the meal easy to prepare. Love around the table. None of my burns were too bad.

The heated capon was ok, as were the side dishes. Hardly gourmet though tasty. We ate downstairs around the Stickley table that largely gets used for folding laundry. The red table cloth was festive as were the Happy Thanksgiving paper plates.

We used a few questions from a set by a company called Vertillis. The intent was to have a conversation that did not feature Trump tirades, one that was, instead, about us. It worked. After the plates of sage stuffing, mashed potatoes, capon, cranberries, and green beans were empty we broke into groups.

The women, with Kate at the head of the table, stayed downstairs talking while us guys put away food, cleared the table. A moment of gender parity. I mentioned it and Jon said, “Yes. And, two male dogs and two female dogs.” True.

Later Annie, Kate, and Ruth went upstairs, Jon sat in the chair and dozed while Joe, SeoAh, and I talked. The spirit of those questions seemed to linger even after the meal. Seoah said Joseph was her first true love. Who was mine?

The question set me back. After three visits to the altar and many women friends/lovers over the years, I wasn’t sure at first. “Kate,” I said. Raeone and Judy were both relationships formed while I was drinking and their dissolution reflected their flawed premises. Kate though was, pardon the not really a pun, my first sober choice. It’s true love because we both want what’s best for each other, will sacrifice for each other, and share convictions, core convictions, about politics, mother earth, dogs, family.

The essence of holidays, these sorts of conversations reinforce family ties, deepen them. We come together out of individual and nuclear family lives to bathe for a moment in the larger, extended field of our relationships. SeoAh said Koreans celebrate a harvest festival with similar themes.

Even though Kate’s going through some kind of disturbance in her force, nausea and fever, it nonetheless felt to me that this holiday put away the old, bad year and began a new one. Next year Joe and Seoah will be in Singapore, so it will be different.

Murdoch will stay with us for a year since Singapore wouldn’t let him in. Means considerable jockeying since both Murdoch and Kepler are male Akitas with the dog on dog aggression that comes with the breed. We’ll work it out, get a routine down.

Dogs, I read recently, like certainty. If we can get a system that works, when to feed, when to let this one out, then that one, keep Murdoch outside while Kep is inside and vice versa, we’ll avoid squabbles. Squabbles being a euphemism for teeth tearing flesh, blood, wounds, squeals of pain, and my forced interventions.

At two years old Murdoch still has a lot of puppy in him. That’s delightful and will warm up our house. He’s also a sweet boy, nice to have around.

Today is Thanksgiving on Shadow Mountain

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: Joe and SeoAh arrived with Murdoch after a long drive. Our plowed driveway. Thanksgiving when everyone can be here. Learning how to make chili from scratch. Discovered that smoked paprika adds to chili. Murdoch’s happy, puppy presence. This computer on which I do so much work. This loft in which I paint, write, read, exercise.

Joe and SeoAh’s arrival delayed Thanksgiving. They encountered several accidents on their way to Missouri for a night’s rest. Didn’t get there until 3 am. I decided we’d wait Thanksgiving rather than have them rush while sleep deprived. Cooked the capon last night, sliced it, covered it in tin foil. Will go in the oven to warm up today.

The big box of side dishes from Tony’s rests in the back of Ruby, cooled by what Kate and I call the great outdoor refrigerator. They, too, will go into the oven to warm up. Then those fancy plates and napkins I picked up at the Paper store will adorn our downstairs table. Around it will be Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Annie, Joe, SeoAh, Kate, and I. Eight souls. The animal souls will be in various places to avoid hassles.

We have 18 inches of snow on the ground and on our roof. A Colorado Thanksgiving. The solar snow shovel will gradually remove it.

Thankful Kate’s health is so much better.

Always Something to Celebrate

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Thursday (Thanksgiving) gratefuls: Annie, who came yesterday. The snow on Tuesday. The capon that gave its life for our meal. The winds that howl through the forests this morning. Orion, faithful friend and his good dog, Canis Major. The folks who designed and built our Rav4’s, especially Ruby, whose AWD makes her surefooted. Those who care for them at Stevinson Toyota. And, on this day in particular, for all those who sustain traditions and holidays, moments out of ordinary time.

I asked brother Mark and sister Mary what Thanksgiving, a very American holiday, looks like in lands Asian and Arab. Mark said Thanksgiving probably got celebrated in Aramco compounds. Here’s Mary’s reply from Singapore:

The big hotels serve Thanksgiving dinner & it needs to be reserved way in advance; Brits have Christmas dinner which is also involves Turkey so food is authentic- with all the trimmings- here Halloween and St Patrick’s Day☘️are also widely celebrated- in addition to Asian festivals- so pretty much there is always something to celebrate

Mary has made this comment, always something to celebrate, before. When I visited Singapore for the first time in 2004, I was there the first week of November. Christmas decorations lined Orchard Road, the big commercial street. It was also U.S. election week, so the American Club had a big breakfast spread so we could watch the returns live. You know how that turned out. We weren’t celebrating. (though right now GW Bush looks like a political genius)

These paled in comparison to the Arab quarters celebration of post-fast Ramadan. We found shisha smokers lounging on the sidewalks and had a good Arab meal, probably lamb and rice, but I don’t recall.

Little India had a huge arc of lights over its main road marking the holiday of Diwali, the festival of lights, also underway. There were stalls selling sweets, Diwali lights, and Hindu related religious artifacts. I bought a Kali medallion, a Vishnu and Shiva medallion. We had a vegetarian meal in a Tamil restaurant where we ate with our hands. Our right ones.

Not sure whether it was Diwali related or not, but much later that night, in the early a.m., Mary and I went to the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore, Sri Mariamman Temple, built in 1827. According to the Temple’s website the firewalking was on October 20th this year.

Due to changes in population over time it happens to sit now in the midst of Chinatown. There were lines blocks long of men in various sorts of clothing, all holding branches of some kind and, if I recall correctly, lemons or limes. At the very end of these line were a few women.

I stopped to talk with some of the women. “Oh, yes. Now we can go to the firewalking, too. But they didn’t want us. We insisted.” This was about 3 am or so. Mary and I walked along the lines of devotees waiting for their turn.

We got to the temple and watched folks walk across the bed of coals, then into a milk bath, and finally into the arms of priests and fellow firewalkers. The moist night air, the early morning quiet, and this strange (to my eyes) sight is a special memory for me. Afterward, Mary and I had Chinese food at a big hotel.

Ramadan, Diwali, Christmas, firewalking, and the American election. It was my introduction to Asia and underlines Mary’s there’s always something to celebrate.

Gathering

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: lodgepole pine and their snow shedding branches, aspens and their massive cloned groves, Maxwell, Blue, Shadow, and Bear creeks, the mule deer, the elk, the rabbits, the voles, the mice, the cougars, the bears, the foxes, the pine martens, the porcupines, the Canadian jays, the magpies, the ravens, the crows, the trout, the minnows, the willows and dogwood. And all the critters I don’t know about and all the soil organisms and grasses and flowers

Annie comes in today. Her flight arrives at 8 am. Joe and Seoah will get here tomorrow. We’re going to eat later as a result, probably around 5. Plus Murdoch, who, it turns out, will be staying with us for the next year. Gonna be interesting.

Jon, Ruth, and Gabe will come up for the day. Since Ruth has agreed to make the pumpkin pie, they have to get here early enough for her to work.

Getting the side dishes made by Tony’s means I can concentrate on the capon. I want to do it well. I hope our oven does not recapitulate its last Thanksgiving performance where it didn’t reach an adequate temperature. It’s been fine since then. Of course.

Lupron has been swinging my moods, giving me hot flashes, making me weaker than usual. Lotta fun. Better than the alternative.

Got plowed yesterday. But. New guy since Ted, our usual plow guy, fell off a ladder at a job and broke several bones. Chris is a substitute. He did an ok job, but he doesn’t know our driveway like Ted does. On Thanksgiving day we’ll have three extra cars here: Annie’s rental, Jon’s, and Joe’s. Ought to be interesting.

1′

Samain and the Gratitude (new) Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Friends. All the Woollies with a special inflection for the Zoom guys: Mark, Bill, Tom, Paul. My zoompals. At CBE: mussar folk, Alan, Jamie, Rich, Marilyn, Fran in particular. Neighbors: Jude, Holly, Eduardo, Derrek. All the Facebook friends from long ago in Alexandria, Ball State.

Put the yardstick down on the deck this morning at 6 am. 1′ of snow. So far. Overnight. More still coming. The biggest snow event here since a blizzard last March. Ending today, probably AM. Roads will be clear for Thanksgiving travelers on Wednesday. Thankful for that. Seoah, Murdoch, Joe on the road from Warner-Robbins, Georgia.

Put on my Sorel’s, my down vest, my watchcap, my alpaca coat. Warm enough. Shoveled the deck and the small, pallet covered with rubber stall mats deck extension. The plastic push shovel that works so well on the composition decking and the stall mats is not good for throwing or lifting snow. Just bought a poly shovel. These heavy snows are easier to push if I can clear a few inches off the top first. The curved plastic of the push shovel dribbles the snow off as soon as I lift it.

Beautiful outside. The sun is up but Black Mountain is gone behind a pale bluegray curtain. The solar panels look like Korean tombs resting on our roof. The lodgepoles look like flocked Christmas trees.

Kate went to the grocery store to pick up an order and go to the bank which is in the King Sooper. When she got back, her lips were white and her face ashen. Walking to the bank and to the pharmacy (both inside the store) was too much. She’s having a Sjogren’s flare which may account for some of it. Her appearance shocked me, and I feel bad for not having done the trip. She thought she could do it. So did I.

A Holiday Week

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Monday gratefuls: the folks at Weather5280, Ted the snowplower, our mail guy, Greg, our Denver Post most of the time delivery person, the UPS and Fedex drivers who deliver our packages. A small web of people who help us in this isolated, yet hyper connected age.

Yesterday I got up around 6 am, late for me, and Orion already had his boots behind Black Mountain. This morning he stood fully above it, the soles of his boots resting on the peak. He’s hunting Lepus the rabbit who always scoots away, just out of reach. Lucky Lepus.

Saturday included picking up a grocery order and a trip to the Happy Camper in Bailey after the bagel table. Tired.

On Sunday we began a ritual going on in many households around the whole nation. Decluttering. Not a lot to do, but still some. Books piled up on the downstairs table where we’ll eat the meal. Papers of various sorts stacked by my place at the table. There are photographs in boxes in the room Kate’s using for exercise. Some jigsaw puzzles going up to the guest room.

Sandy, our housecleaner, will come on Wednesday. Her usual day was last Friday, but we had a snowstorm that prevented her California raised self from coming up the hill.

The capon and the side dishes I’ll pick up Wednesday morning at Tony’s. I’ll also get pizzas for supper Wednesday night when Joe, Seoah, Murdoch, and Annie will be here.

Last year Kate was recently home from Brookdale Green Mountain rehab. Cooking was not part of the plan. “At 2 pm I drive over to Littleton to Tony’s Market to pick up our Thanksgiving meal, a turkey breast and several sides. We decided putting out a big meal this year was beyond us.” Nov. 21, 2018

Inching our way back to a full meal. I love capon and wanted to cook one, but didn’t want responsibility for the whole meal. Kate suggested we go with the side dish bundle from Tony’s again. No pushback from me. Maybe next year we’ll get back to the full meal. Ruth’s agreed to make the pumpkin pie. She’s a good cook and loves to make pies.

The big storm, thankfully, gratefully, comes tonight and tomorrow, leaving Wednesday and Thursday clear. Joe and Seoah should have clear roads.

A Bagel Table

Samain and the beautiful waning crescent Fallow Moon

Thanksgiving will have an almost equivalent waxing crescent moon. The Gratitude Moon. A month of saying my gratefuls out loud right here. At least one a day.

Grateful for Jon, Ruth, Gabe. Grateful for Kate. Grateful for Joe, Seoah. Grateful for Mary, Mark, Diane. Grateful for Rigel, Gertie, Kep, and Murdoch. Grateful for photons and lupron.

Did the bagel table with Alan. A somewhat strange experience. Folks came up and shook my hand afterward so I believe it went well overall. Rabbi Jamie and I had some dissonance, not sure why. I was on his turf, no doubt. And, I used his favorite commentator as a resource.

He is a master teacher, wonderful at drawing out insights and curiosity. I’m not. His knowledge of Hebrew, of the Midrashim (rabbinic commentary on the Torah), and of the details of each parsha are far superior to mine. He can start out with nothing in hand and get a discussion started.

His approach, especially to Torah study, has an open ended nature that he can sustain. I have a more data driven approach. In this case I wanted to focus the class on the question of Sarah’s death, and how the parsha resolves the problems of her life. To do that I dubbed every one a rabbi and asked them to sit around the table and develop a midrash aggadah (see below) on this matter.

Folks kept turning to him for answers to questions, usual since he’s the rabbi. But. It was hard to keep the conversation going on the question of why Sarah died as a result. I guess it was like trying to teach a class on quantum physics with Niels Bohr in the room. I was happy to have him there. And yet…

Made me a little less enthusiastic to do another one although I enjoyed the prep work. A lot.

Monet

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Kate and I went to see the Monet exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art. First outing for Kate in quite a while. Lesley, a fellow mussarite, architect and art historian, led the tour as a DMA docent.

Christoph Heinrich, director of the DMA, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Monet and used his scholarly contacts as well as his museum world contacts to organize this show with a fellow Monet scholar from Potsdam, Germany. It has 120 paintings by Monet that show the development of his unique, impressionist style over a period of years.

Leslie had a knowledgeable presentation, for which she had many notecards. The exhibit draws big crowds and the museum supplied ear pieces and a receiver. Leslie stood back and spoke to us through her headset while we looked at the paintings. Could have used this technology in several exhibits at the MIA.

The DMA has a different docent style than the MIA. The docent explains, gives facts and interpretations. The way it used to be everywhere, I believe. The MIA requires the docent to engage tour participants with questions about each work, questions that help them draw their own conclusions, that force them to look and learn for themselves. There’s a place for both styles, imo.

There were some beautiful pieces, some ordinary works that showed Monet working out what he wanted to paint, many showing early experimentation with putting colors next to each other and letting the eye merge them into the color Monet saw as he painted. There were no real show stoppers in the exhibit however. I imagine the cost of getting several haystacks, several Rouen cathedrals (there were none), and the large water-lilly works like hang at the Chicago Art Institute was too much.

While a docent at the MIA, I became friends with the registrar, a position little know outside the museum world. The registrar crew handles the art works, moving them, hanging them, indexing them with the museums cataloging protocols. From him I learned about the intricacies of putting an exhibit together.

Most museums require that works over a certain value, I believe it was two-hundred and fifty thousand at the MIA, are never out of sight of one of their employees. An employee travels on the plane with them, observing them be loaded and removed.

I remember he told me (can’t recall his name) a story about a painting being flown to Australia for an exhibition there. He agreed to go with the painting, but due to his workload, he flew there with it, watched it get unloaded and shipped to the museum, then turned around and got back on a plane to Minneapolis. A long, long time in the air.

Given Monet’s prices at auction I would guess most, if not all, of his many paintings exceed the value limit of the MIA. That would be a lot of insurance, shipping, and travel costs.

Found myself fascinated with his brushwork, color choices. I’ve not spent much in museums or galleries since I started painting. Made me want to start going again to inform my own work.

Midrash Aggadah

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Made it into Evergreen going slow. Some timid Coloradans ahead. Black Mountain Drive/Brook Forest was icy, but Jeffco public works had put down a lot of sand, enough to make it safe to drive normal speeds.

To the Dandelion. A nice little breakfast place, quiet. Not as tasty as the Wildflower, which is in the touristy part of Evergreen, but the Wildflower is small and the dining area noisy. The Dandelion makes the usual suspects when it comes to breakfast and does them well, but with little imagination.

We discussed Chayei Sarah and how to approach it. I gave Alan a commentary by Zornberg’s mentor (whose name I can’t recall and Alan has her book). Forgot that commentaries are really behind the scenes props for clergy. They’re not secret, but few lay folk ever look at them. They usually require some background knowledge and they get technical pretty fast. Alan, who is a bright guy, admitted that he swam upstream while reading it.

We agreed to go with Zornberg’s approach first (see the post The Abyss Stares Back) and if we run out of conversation, Alan will hop in with what he’s learned. Gonna do a bit on exegesis and hermeneutics from the Christian perspective to introduce the Talmudic approach, midrash aggadah*. Midrash aggadah have a playful quality, making leaps, filling in gaps in the Torah narrative, and displaying a rigorous internal logic while suggesting many different ways of looking at a text.

Here’s a summary of a famous example, Abraham Smashing the Idols:

Abram tried to convince his father, Terach, of the folly of idol worship. One day, when Abram was left alone to mind the store, he took a hammer and smashed all of the idols except the largest one. He placed the hammer in the hand of the largest idol. When his father returned and asked what happened, Abram said, “The idols got into a fight, and the big one smashed all the other ones.” His father said, “Don’t be ridiculous. These idols have no life or power. They can’t do anything.” Abram replied, “Then why do you worship them?” Judaism 101

* Midrash falls into two categories.When the subject is law and religious practice ( ), it is called midrash halacha. Midrash aggadah, on the other hand, interprets biblical narrative, exploring questions of ethics or theology, or creating homilies and parables based on the text. (Aggadah means”telling”; any midrash which is not halakhic falls into this category.)

Mundane

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Stayed out late Tuesday, for us past 8 pm. Makes the next day slow. Tried to get into the resistance work, couldn’t. Muscles complained. Did thirty minutes on the treadmill.

In to see my ophthalmologist. (spelling gets me every time) Glaucoma check. Every six months for over 20 years. Now every 4 months. The usual. Eye charts. A small glass instrument pressed against the pupil to check pressures, 16 and 14. Scan of the retinal nerve. Mine’s still abnormal. Has been for as long as they’ve been following me.

Stopped by Tony’s market. Picked up a few things. Cooked supper. The end of the day.

Big day. I’m meeting Alan to go over our bagel table plan for Saturday morning. The Dandelion again in Evergreen. Slippery roads this am, freezing drizzle. Driving freezing drizzle down the mountains can be challenging. The Blizzaks went on Ruby last Friday and she has all wheel drive.

At 12:45 we’re meeting Steve and Jamie at the Staples parking lot. We’re going to a CBE tour of the Monet show at the Denver Art Museum, a four hundred object exhibit arranged by a curator at the Denver Art Museum. This is its only stop. Looking forward to it.

This evening we have MVP, the mussar vaad practice group. Had to be moved from Tuesday due to the shiva at Steve and Jamie’s.

That’s a lot of moving parts for us in one day. Good ones, yes, but still a lot.