Winter and the Future Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: the folks at OnPoint Urgent care, especially Leah and Trevor. Jon, for coming a long ways. Adrenaline. Murdoch and Kepler, that they didn’t kill each other. The replacement of Kate’s feeding tube. That 2019, not a great year for us, will soon be in the rearview.

Life odder than fiction. Here’s a story. A while ago a dog came to visit for a year. His name is Murdoch. He’s young, bouncy, a genuine joy. On Sunday he bounced his way down the stairs and got tangled up in Kate’s feeding tube while she was walking on the lower level stairs.

Pop. The feeding tube came out. Not out of the feeding bag, which hung suspended from her shoulder, but from her body. Geez. It’s the second time a feeding tube has come out, so it wasn’t quite the shock it might have been, yet it’s still her primary source of nourishment.

Call the oncall doc. Go visit your primary care doc on Monday. We did. They found a place to have a new feeding tube put in, but I only heard Adventist hospital and took us to the one closest to the doctor’s office. Wrong one.

Found the right one about a half hour late, but the doc had been working on someone else anyhow. Kate went in and came back out in twenty, thirty minutes, new tube in place, able to take nourishment again. Not a pleasant process, but not a huge deal either.

By the time we got home we’d been out of the house since 10 am and the clock had ticked over 6 hours plus. It was close to 4:30 pm. We were tired. It was a long day already.

I asked Kate to let Gertie and Rigel out while I put the Rav4 in the garage and let out Murdoch who had spent the time in the loft. He was bouncy and happy and at the door when I got up here, so I let him out. Meanwhile, unknown to me, Kepler had squirted out the door with Rigel and Gertie. Uh oh.

When I came out of the loft door after putting Radical Judaism and my notebook on the table next to the computer, I heard squeals. There, in the snow, in 20 degree weather, a brown, black, brown, black furry action movie was underway. Kep and Murdoch, finally in the same space, had done what we feared, gone for each other.

I ran down the stairs, deposited my book, Automatic Eve, and my phone on the cement landing at the bottom, and rushed over to the two fighting dogs. Never intervene in a dogfight. Well, sure. Unless the dogs look like they’re going to kill each other. And, these were two Akitas, bred to guard. When they bite, they’re serious about it.

Besides, who would want to call their son in Singapore and say, sorry about Murdoch? Not this guy, for sure. So, I intervened. It was red in tooth and claw. Kepler and Murdoch had already wounded each other and were snarling, way past growling, as they grappled. Collars came off in my hand. No handle.

I sat on their heads. Kepler had Murdoch’s lower jaw in his mouth. My scarf was all I had. Taking it off I tied it around their jaws, limiting their movement. Kate couldn’t help. Too far out in the yard for her oxygen. Besides, the feeding tube.

It went on about 10 minutes. Not sure I helped at all because I finally had to give up and stand up. They sort of quit on their own.

In the melee however I sustained a bite. The worst bite the p.a. who sewed me up said she had ever seen. Oh, good. It was a triangular gash, opened to the fatty tissue underneath and with a fortunately intact, but visible blood vessel right in the middle.

Jon came to the emergency room and helped me. I drove myself there and back. Got home about 9:30 pm, ten or eleven stitches later. Leah, the p.a., sewed my inside skin together first, then closed the gash. Lidocaine kept it from being impossible for me.

Not sure about doggy injuries though I know Kep’s rear left leg is hurt and Murdoch has a slash on his cheek. I left for Urgent Care after we got the dogs situated and when I got back everybody was asleep.

Come to me, 2020. 2019 be gone.


Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: (I like this practice, so I’m going to continue it for awhile. Maybe keep it here.) Being with Ruth yesterday. Going to Meininger’s Art Supply with her. The stuff in Meininger’s. Stanley Market Place. Maria’s Empanadas. Coming home to the mountains after driving in the city. The bare rock on Berrian Mountain. The flocked trees.

Took Ruth to Red Herring Art Supply. Again. Seoah was with us the last time. Like last time, it was closed. The holidays. We drove along Colfax, “the longest street in the U.S. that doesn’t turn into a highway,” she said. Makes me think of Lake Street. Colfax runs through several ethnically diverse neighborhoods and changes its character as it does. Near its ends, west and east, are old tourist motels now the cheaper equivalent of SRO’s.

We took it into downtown Denver, turned right at the State Capitol Building, and followed Broadway to Meininger’s, Colorado’s primary art supply store. Ruth educated me again. Explaining the use of mediums for oil paints, why she likes synthetic brushes, and a type of paper on which you can do oil painting.

We bought some of that paper, a small bottle of medium, and some brushes. The next time she comes we’ll cut up some of the paper into sizes she would like to use.

The ancientrail of art is not only for the gifted. Making things with our hands is a primary human act, from houses to Space Shuttles, quilts to sculptures. When creating objects that reflect our inner life, make the world beautiful, show and enhance our ability to see, we expand our own life.

We got Gabe a Chromebook for Hanukah, a very low end, yet still useful laptop. Jon predicted he would be, “very happy.” After he opened it up, Gabe said, “I’m so happy.” Sometimes grandparents are the wish genie.

We both have concerns about Jon. Still. He inherited depressive genes from the Johnson line, maybe the Olsons, too. Very bright, creatively gifted, incredibly self sabotaging. And, 51. I hope in this next decade he can find the traction he needs.

His art is wonderful, colorful and conceptual, using old smashed metal pieces he finds along the road as objects to print. His grasp of politics, of the workings of his school, of home renovation is keen. When he’s not down, he’s a lot of fun. He skis and makes his own skis.

Tough, very tough, situation.

Easy, boy

Winter and the Future Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Ruth’s mint candy. Her delight in staying with us. The snow storm that could. All the delivery people in the mountains. Rest time from working out. Being easier with myself. The clear, cold sky.

Ruth. Our favorite granddaughter. Our only granddaughter. She stayed Friday night after a day of skiing with her Dad. She slept with Rigel and Murdoch since the guest room now belongs to them. But, they were willing to share.

It snowed yesterday. An unpredicted round which exceeded six inches. A frequent poster on Pinecam.com, Weather Geek, lives on nearby Conifer Mountain. He says we’ve had 55 inches this season, before yesterday’s snow. Say 61 inches now. 5 feet, 1 inch. Deep enough to bury Kate. That’s since October.

Being easier. Over the past year plus I’ve been pushing, pushing, pushing. Do this. Get that done. Keep doing this. And that. And that. Don’t let up. Keep moving. Realized I’d put myself in an impossible situation.

Even though they’ve reduced in the last month or two, doing the activities of care giving put me in a peculiar tension. I viewed all the domestic activities as necessary, good in themselves, but as barriers to creative work, work I did for me. The tension between caregiving and writing, caregiving and painting, caregiving and reading made me devalue the domestic, not resenting it, but feeling pulled between the needs of my Self and the needs of our home. When I talked about this with Kate, she said yes, the housewife’s dilemma.

Though it came rather late, my solution was to be easier on myself. To let up on the pedal. Immediately things got better. It was enough, this cooking. This workout. This grocery pick-up. The tiredness was ok, not something I needed to shoulder past, but an indication that it was time to rest.

I’d robbed myself of the satisfaction in cooking, shopping, running errands, and in the creative work by feeling always pulled between them. This is life now. Kate and the dogs and the house. They come first. The rest is bonus, important, but secondary.

Death and Resurrection

Winter and the Future Moon

Saturday gratefuls: The snow, coming down hard. The temperature, 17. All 8,800 feet above sea level. Two weeks of consistent workouts, 5 days, 3 resistance, two with high intensity training. Ruth’s being here. (she’s sleeping with Rigel and Murdoch right now.) The Hanukah meal last night. Hanukah. Whoever conceived and executed Resurrection: Ertugrul. The internet.

Been thinking a bit about resurrection. Not as in Resurrection: Ertugrul, which is about resurrection of the Seljuk state, but in the New Testament mythology. Birth, life, death, resurrection. Christmas, Ministry, Black Friday, Easter. The Great Wheel. Spring, growing season, fallow season, spring. Osiris. Orpheus.

Death is being overcome every spring. Life emerges, blooms and prospers, then withers and dies. A period in the grave. Spring. Resurrection is not only, not even primarily, about coming back from death. Resurrection is a point in the cycle of our strange experience as organized and awake elements and molecules.

Saw an analogy the other day. Twins in the womb. Talking to each other about whether there was life after delivery. How could there be, one said. What else is all this for, said the other. Do you believe in the mother? Yes, she’s all around us. I can’t see her, so I don’t believe in her. How would we get food after delivery? How would we breathe? I don’t know, but I believe we’ll do both.

We know, too, the story of the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly.

Might resurrection itself be an analog of these ideas? Could be. Easier for me to comprehend is the death of a relationship, the period of mourning, then a new one, different from the first, but as good or better. The death of a dream. Having to sell the farm, a period of mourning, then a new career, different, but satisfying, too. The death of a certain belief system. Say, Christianity. A period of confusion and mourning. Then, a new way of understanding. The way things are. Consciousness and cycles. This comes; that goes.

A Minnesota life. Well lived and full. Dies. A period of mourning and confusion. A Colorado life. Different, but satisfying, too. The gardens of Andover. The rocks of Shadow Mountain. The lakes of Minnesota. The mountains of Colorado. The Woolly Mammoths. Congregation Beth Evergreen.

Are there other resurrections? Of course. Is there a resurrection like that of Jesus? Unknown. I choose to celebrate the resurrections that I know, rather than the ones I do not. The purple garden that emerged in the spring. The raspberries on the new canes. Those apples growing larger from the leafed out tree. This marriage with Kate, a notable resurrection of intimacy in both our lives.

What is dying? What are you mourning? What resurrection awaits?

Winter and the Future Moon

Friday gratefuls: Quest labs. Einstein Bagels. Tony’s Market. Walgreens. The Shell station carwash. Ruby, the new Rav4 and its heated seats. The cattle that gave their lives for the meat at Tony’s. Kate’s good seal on her feeding tube last night. Jon and the grandkids coming up for a brisket meal after skiing.

Went to Quest labs yesterday, order in hand for the sensitive PSA test that will tell how well the lupron has worked. As I walked into the lab, everything seemed ordinary, the parking spot behind the Audi, the automatic doors that slid open, the stairs up to the lab. The friendly young lady with the needle.

And, of course, it all was ordinary. Except. This was about cancer. Mine. I’ve become familiar with the dissonance between the ordinariness of these visits and my stake in their outcome. It produces an out of body feeling, not anything dramatic, but a sense that this is happening to someone else. Not true, however.

Will find out soon. My next lupron injection is on January 6th. Great fun. One more in the glutes.

While out I bought bagels, a couple of ribeyes for a New Year’s surf and turf meal, some adhesive bandages, and got the car washed. Just more errands. More ordinary.

Signed up for another kabbalah class, this one using Art Green’s Radical Judaism. Art is a mentor of Jamie’s, still alive in his eighties. His book appeals to me. My own thinking has gone along similar lines though Art’s done a systematic job. Not my style. I lived out my changed attitude toward religion and tradition, writing about it only in shorter pieces. Looking forward to this.

Thought readers of this blog might appreciate these:

The Eleven Awareness Practices of Kabbalah Experience

  1. Pay attention to what shows up as a reflection of what you still need to learn and grow into.
  2. Be present to the moment. This includes fully processing emotions that come from the past and how plans for the future impact your present living.
  3. Accept reality as it is. Live with a deep sense of gratitude. Seek and offer forgiveness in your everyday experiences.
  4. Live by setting intention. Be open to possibility—one door closing opens another. Measure success by effort not by outcome.
  5. Hold opposites and recognize that those qualities you may judge in others are mirrored in you. Seek common ground with others.
    6. Set limits to access greater intimacy and focus in your relationships.
    7. Expand your concern and love for the “other”.
    8. Recognize the multiplicity of masks you wear (so they don’t wear you).
    9. Perceive and understand the metaphors that underlie your life choices.
    10. Witness the masks and metaphors and enter a state of no-thingness.
    11. Flow in the paradox of being and non-being in every moment.

Liberal and Conservative Together

Winter and the Future Moon (it will take us into 2020. expect a flying car on your roof.)

Boxing Day gratefuls: for liberals and conservatives. for the divine ohr within you. for all those who, with Ram Dass, got walked home in 2019. for this still great nation and its painful troubles. for the decade now ending. for pick-up service at King Sooper. for The Happy Camper and Colorado’s marijuana laws.

Columnist Max Boot of the Washington Post wrote, in a column extolling the mores of Downtown Abbey, that it shows:

…a humane, instinctual conservatism that embodies the wisdom of philosopher Michael Oakeshott: “To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to Utopian bliss.” Present-day “conservatives” must rediscover this sensibility if they are to rescue their movement from its populist-nationalist abyss.washington post

This is a crie de couer and I hear it. If we reverse the dialectics, to be liberal, then, is to prefer the unknown to the known, the untried to the tried, mystery to fact, the possible to actual, the distant to the near, the superabundant to the sufficient, Utopian bliss to present laughter.

Not quite. I do not prefer the unknown, the untried, mystery over fact, the possible, the distant, the superabundant, or Utopian bliss. No. I, too, live mostly with the familiar, the tried, fact, the actual, the near, the sufficient. In fact, I live mostly within these “conservative” parameters. It would be difficult not to.

Trump, whom Boot was decrying rather than liberals, is neither liberal nor conservative. He is a reactionary. It’s right there in his motto: Make America Great Again. Unpack Great. He meant then and means now, an America untroubled by women, by visible minorities, by unions, by environmentalists and their regulations, by governmental niceties like taxes and legislation and democracy and, especially, by the rule of law. He meant an America who is a friend to the authoritarian and in struggle with its allies.

The reactionary is a foe of the liberal and the conservative alike. We can join arms because in the end we both want a civil society. Yes, I may want, too, a more just civil society than even Obama’s America. I may be more comfortable with the mysteries of the universe, with the unknown, with the untried, but that is because I know we can be better than we are. That does not mean I prefer them. It means they are tools, time telescopes to see a better future.

Certainly, a future without Trumpian disdain for decency and justice, yes, at least that. But also a future without an upstairs/downstairs division. A future where the old can age with dignity and without fear. A future where the world marks collaboration and opportunity as ascendant values over political competition. Most of all, right now, an anti-dystopian future where the capitalist class is not allowed to rend and tear our planet without regard to human prospects.

I’m with Boot though. First our nation must be delivered from the “populist-nationalist abyss” into which it has sunk. This may not be the Mariana’s Trench of our history, but it’s as far beneath the surface as we’ve been in my lifetime. This maelstrom of greed and envy and unchecked desire is anathema to both those who prefer the familiar and those who yearn for an unfamiliar, but just society. Let’s rise up from this pit together. Then we can argue again, check each other’s baser impulses, and get back a world that has a future.

Merry, Merry Meet

Winter and the Gratitude Moon, waning sliver

Christmas gratefuls: the silence on Black Mountain Drive. Black Mountain itself. The stars above Black Mountain. Shadow Mountain. Our home. This loft, a gift from my Kate, now five years ago, and still wonderful. Kate and her increased health. The sacred side of Christmas. The pagan (also sacred) side of Christmas.

When I went out for the paper this morning, it was dead quiet. No dogs barking. No cars or trucks on the road. No mechanical noises. The sky was the deep black of the cosmic wilderness, lit only by bright lights: planets, stars, galaxies. Silent night, holy night.

Those shepherds out there tending their flock, sheep shuffling around. A baa and a bleat here and there. Visitors on camel back. All that singing. As imagined, probably not a quiet night.

Here though, this dark Christmas morn. The deer are asleep. The elk, too. Pine martens, fishers, foxes, mountain lions might be prowling, but part of their inheritance is silence. Black bears went to sleep long ago. Millions of insects are quiet, too. The microbes in the soil, the growing lodgepole pines, the aspen organisms, their clonal neighborhoods, bulbs, corms, rhizomes all alive, all quiet.

Silent night, holy night. Yes. Sacred night, holyday night. Yes.

I read this long essay on consciousness by the president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. In it he says this:

” Yes, there’s this ancient belief in panpsychism: “Pan” meaning “every,” “psyche” meaning “soul.”…basically it meant that everything is ensouled…if you take a more conceptual approach to consciousness, the evidence suggests there are many more systems that have consciousness—possibly all animals, all unicellular bacteria, and at some level maybe even individual cells that have an autonomous existence. We might be surrounded by consciousness everywhere and find it in places where we don’t expect it because our intuition says we’ll only see it in people and maybe monkeys and also dogs and cats. But we know our intuition is fallible…”

Even silence, since it presumes an awareness of noise, is a proof of consciousness. All that consciousness around us here on Shadow Mountain. The trees and wild animals, grasses and microbes, dogs and humans, all here, all experiencing a self.

I take panpsychism a bit further than Koch with the kabbalistic idea of ohr, the divine spark, resident in every piece of the universe and the process metaphysical view of a vitalist universe creatively moving toward greater complexity.

This waking up mornin’ we can see the baby Jesus as an in your face message that, yes, of course we are holy. Yes, of course the universe sings to us from the depths of the sea, the top of the redwoods, and the person or animal across from us this morning. And, to get downright personal, from within the deep of our own soul.


Winter and the Gratitude Moon’s 3% crescent

Christmas eve gratefuls: Hanukah. Kate’s increased stamina. The mind of Rich Levine. The lights on our drive to Evergreen. Murdoch the happy. Cold weather. Newspapers, the few that are left. Journalists like my Dad. Impeachment. These days of wonder and awe.

A word about the mythic. Long ago, in a faraway time, there was a teacher, a Jewish teacher who wandered Palestine with his followers. His followers loved him and when he died, they loved him so much that they resurrected him in their stories.

Somebody asked one of the followers, where was he born? Nobody had given it much thought. His three years with them had been filled with exciting moments, but no one had thought to ask. Well, the follower said.

You know the story he told. Of a woman, a young woman, maybe a teen, pregnant out of wedlock, and her husband, Joseph. Joseph apparently married her after he knew she was with child. They go on the road. Homeless? Not sure.

But they end up in this town, Bethlehem. No rooms for them there, so the young woman gives birth on the straw of an animal shelter, placing the newborn baby in a feeding trough, a manger.

There were stars in the sky, she said. And, angels. Singing. Visitors from faraway, mages of Persia. There were, too, donkeys and sheep, maybe a lamb.

What had happened? Some said a god, the great god of the Jews, had decided to live in human form. Some said, no, how could that be? The birth was, though, special. In some way. It had to be, didn’t it? Look at who he became.

What we know now is this. The sacred and the holy were manifest. In that animal stall. In the birth. In the woman and in the visitors. They knew, they saw. The divine spark.

Somehow the wonder, the secret of that Christmas story is the revelation of namaste. The god in each of them met the god in that newborn. And they knew that the spark was there. They saw it.

Now the old, old truth of the divine within us had a story. About how it was, again, revealed. This time in a barn out back, in humble circumstance. Why? Because the revelation of the god within us is a humble story, not a grand narrative, a tale to be told over and over.

Told over and over because it is so profound that many refuse to believe it. It has nothing to do with lights and presents and carols. No, it has to do with the awareness that each child born deserves angels and mages and shepherds. It has to do with the truth we block with our bigotry, our violence, our indifference, our casual disregard for the wonder within even our own selves. We each carry not only the sacred spark, but are the actual manifestation of the sacred.

The universe, in each of us, has an observer of itself, by itself. Our birth, mine and yours, continues the amazing story of life in all its glory and messiness. We are part of the unfolding, the becoming. Each. One. Of. Us. That’s what we celebrate tonight and tomorrow.


p.s. from long time friend, Bill Schmidt

Yes, the universe is part of the story.  Here’s a bit of a Christmas carol that expresses the universe’s participation:

Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy!


Winter and the Gratitude Moon

Monday gratefuls: Joe and Seoah landed. An adventure begins. Cousin Diane sent a thoughtful note about my mom. Kate’s nightly feedings. (no, she’s not a vampire. feeding tube.) Murdoch’s first day went fine. Feeling the vibrations of children as Santa loads up. The lights of Hanukah.

Murdoch. He and Rigel spent the night together again. Rigel loves the bed in the guest room. Finally, a bed my size, she must think. Rigel gets along with all dogs and people. She’s also top dog here. My thinking on this is that Murdoch needs a warm body with him at night. He’s used to sleeping with Joe and Seoah. Seoah was around during the day, so being alone was not a frequent thing for him. It’s working so far. (OK. Day 2, but still…)

This is a major change in the morning. I get up at 4:30 or so, but now with just Gertie and Kepler, feed them, take them back downstairs for Kate. No Rigel. Her feeding time has shifted to Murdoch’s, around 8 am. Oh. Realization. That’s why she didn’t eat much yesterday for her lunch. She’d just eaten. Might have to shift her second feeding to Murdoch’s time, too.

Shuttling them all around so Kep and Murdoch are not in the same place at the same time makes the day a bit of a logistical puzzle. We’ve done it before though. With Kep and Gertie outside most recently. They’re ok inside, but outside? Not so much. We also had Tully, a very sweet Irish Wolfhound, who one day decided our whippets were prey. That required care with her presence and theirs until she died.

We’ve been told that once the prey circuit gets switched on in a dog no training will extinguish it. Too deep in the genes. Kep’s aggression is not a prey drive, but a need to control unruly, wild (in his opinion) dogs. Murdoch has the same issues. An Akita thing, probably related to their role as guard dogs. Easier to manage than Tully’s situation.

Dogs. They’re so important to our lives, Kate and mine. We’ve seen many different behaviors, positive and troublesome, over the years. Our experience serves us well.

If it’s your holiday, Merry Christmas! Or, happy Hanukah. Or, hope you had meaningful Winter Solstice and will have a happy New Year. Thoughts about 2020 coming over the next few days.

Up, Up, And Away

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Joe and Seoah found each at San Francisco International, got a seat together. In the air right now. Rigel and Murdoch spent a so-far quiet night together. Hanukah. Which starts tonight. For the United folks at DIA yesterday. A smooth process checking Seoah in. As she might say, Amazing.

Seoah came with Joe on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. More Murdoch time. I took her to the airport yesterday. The short-term lot was full so we had to use Valet parking. Which I didn’t know they had. Not cheap, but in the circumstance, worth it.

We’ll miss her, Good Morning! Her cooking skills. She’s really good. Her willingness to clean. Mostly though her presence. She has a light heart and a cheerful manner. Much like Murdoch.

We’ll also miss our over the stove microwave which chose the holiday season as its death time. It died gradually, losing one function after another. The good news is that over the stove micros are really expensive! And, we’ll have to pay to have it installed. Merry Christmas!’

Odd product information. In a pick-up order at King Sooper I got Simple Truth Organic Seltzer Water as a replacement for my order of another brand. On the can, which is sized like an energy drink, less diameter, but more height, it says: What makes S.T. Seltzer water so refreshing? A. Organic, naturally flavored and free of calories… It’s water! They forgot to add gluten free.