Over the curves and up the hill…

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The waning half Fallow Moon was beautiful this morning. It was the half closed pupil of an eye surrounded by a circle of silvered moonlight within a larger circle of blue moonlight. The eye followed Orion and his dog as they hunted, looking all round Black Mountain for prey.

While Minnesota and points east have been cold, we’ve had a milder, less snowy first half to November. That’s about to change. How much remains to be seen, but it looks like Thanksgiving week will be both colder and snowier.

Kate and I drove up the hill yesterday afternoon after yet another doctor’s appointment. I asked her if she felt different, more at ease with at least the immediate future. Yes, she said. Me too, I agreed. It’s an adjustment to see fewer appointments ahead, less likelihood of drastic news. A good adjustment, yet it also has a when will the other shoe drop tonality. I believe that feeling will pass as long as our mutual health conditions remember stable over a longer period of time.

I ordered a capon from Tony’s last week. Kate decided to get their side dish bundle: gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans. Ruth agreed to make a pumpkin pie. Joe, SeoAh, and Murdoch plan to get here on Wednesday. Annie, too. Jon, Ruth, and Gabe will join us on Thanksgiving. A full house plus.

As many of you will understand, we’re both looking forward to these visits, a lot, and dreading them, a little. Having three extra people and a now larger Murdoch in the house for five or six days presents psychological and logistical challenges. All worth it, but challenges none the less.

Not nearly as big though as the Keaton Thanksgivings. Mom’s family. Muncie, Indiana. Aunt Marjory’s. She was the acknowledged culinary guru and must have worked very hard to feed 18-20 people. There was a kid’s table, lots of comic books (often brought by me). Uncle Ike, Uncle Riley, Dad, Uncle Ray, if they were all there, would retire to Uncle Ike’s den to smoke cigars and watch football. Aunt Roberta, Aunt Virginia, and Mom must have helped Aunt Marjory in the kitchen, but I don’t remember it.

This was a key link in our extended family’s year, the other major one being a family reunion in James Whitcomb Riley park in Greenfield, Indiana. Jane Pauley would occasionally come. Her father Dick Pauley and Uncle Riley were close friends.

Thanksgiving memories. An American tradition. A strong one because it is non-sectarian, focuses on food and family. Probably my favorite holiday of the year after the Winter Solstice. One for the family, one for solitude.

The End of History

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Orion’s dog is chasing him toward the west. His bow points to the northwest. He stands suspended above the western peak of Black Mountain with Canis Major following him as he has done for millions, even billions of years. Castor and Pollux are there, too, anchoring Gemini.

In spite of all the exoplanets discovered we’re still alone. No one has contacted us and we’ve only sent golden records into the far space. Far space, indeed. Both Voyager 1 & 2 have reached interstellar space, beyond the heliopause, the end of Sol’s puissance. I have to reach back to my 9 year old heart to imagine how far away that is, but I can do that. Far, far away.

Strange to consider 10 billion souls alone together, but it’s the truth as we know it. We’re on this planet, of this planet, and we’ll die with this planet unless we kill ourselves first. Which seems possible.

Nietzsche’s abyss has its power through our isolation. I can swear there ain’t no heaven and I pray there ain’t no hell. At some point there’ll be no one left to carry on. (Blood Sweat and Tears, “And When I Die”)

OK, Boomer

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Sprinkling of snow here this morning. 24.

Yesterday did additional cardio on my non-resistance day. Got in 4 days of exercise this week in spite of missing Monday and Tuesday. Feel good about that.

Helped Kate more with her sewing room. Moving this and that. Carrying stuff to the trash, to storage in the garage. Decluttering. She’s working her back. She went to Needleworkers last Wednesday. Gradually.

Grocery store. Contrary to my usual practice I went in and shopped, put my own stuff in my own cart. Went through the checkout line myself. Whew. Took me ten minutes to the find the Chinese five-spice powder. Out of practice.

It was a busy day at King Sooper. A young boy, maybe 4 or 5, sat in the children’s seat of a cart. “Hi,” he said to me. “Hi,” he said to the woman buying tomatoes. “Hi,” he said to the other guy walking by.

Worth it though. Made a Vietnamese beef stew and it was wonderful. Everybody thought so. Ruth helped me. I worked with the chuck roast, cutting it into one inch cubes, browning the cubes after the marinade. Ruth made the marinade, then got to cutting up tomato, lemon grass, scallions, cilantro. She was, literally, my sous chef, doing prep work.

“OK, Boomer,” she said. I laughed. “You’re the only good boomer, I know.” Oh? “Well, you’re the only boomer I know.” Just like you’re my favorite granddaughter? And my only granddaughter. “Yes, just like that.”

Cooking together bonds us. She asks to help and she knows what she’s doing. Wonderful. And, special.

The Abyss Stares Back

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Got a workout in. Some more work on the bagel table. Here’s a couple of quotes I’m using as resource material:

“Paul Ricoeur speaks of the vertigo of “being already born that reveals to me the non-necessity of being here.”” Zornberg, p. 127

“The problem of Sarah’s death is, profoundly, the problem of her life, of chayei Sarah-of the contingency of the already born, the all but dead. Her perception of moral vertigo is displaced onto Isaac’s kime’at shelo nisbhat* experience. In a real sense, as the Sages put it, “His ashes remain piled on the altar.” Zornberg, p.128 *“a little thing decided his fate”

I’m going for the big fish in this bagel table plan. Our own vertigo about our own non-necessity of being here. The abyss into which we all stare. And the reasons to live on in spite of the vertigo.

“And Isaac brought her (Rebecca) to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for the loss of his mother.” Gen. 24:67

Isaac has his own vertigo as Sarah’s only child, the child of her 99th year. He was also the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants like the stars in the sky, the sand on a beach. In spite of both of these his own father, Abraham, agreed to and would have carried out his sacrifice. Could he trust any love from his father?

When Sarah dies, Isaac must have been devastated. She dies before he returns from the Akedah, so he has no chance to talk with her, get her healing. I imagine the abyss was staring back at him. When he finds sexual satisfaction and love with Rebecca though, he is comforted. Perhaps that’s where we all find the courage to stare into the abyss of our own horrors, the non-necessity of our being here: intimacy and commitment.

Safety and Maintenance

Samain and the Fallow Moon


Blizzaks on Ruby yesterday. And, an oil change. Synthetic, first time for me. They recommend changes every 10,000 miles or once a year. It so happens that the last time the oil got changed in Ruby was last December. She was sold back to the dealership not long after and had 4,000 miles on her at the time of our purchase. There’s only 11,800 now, but I got the last free oil change on the Toyota Care service plan. And, it’s been almost a year so it was time anyhow.

Lot of driving. Into Stevinson’s Toyota in Lakewood. Home. Back to Stevinson’s. Back to Stevinson’s. Home. Rental car.

These tires are not cheap, but I decided the year we moved here that for us old folks driving on curving mountain roads and on mountain highways, they’re a necessity. I want to give us all the safety options we can muster. Ruby’s all wheel drive is a revelation to me. Wish Ivory had it, too. (I know, Ruby and Ivory, but I’ve fallen under Kate’s spell.)



The Heart. Until It Stills.

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Discovering that my journey has always been more about the heart than the head. 72 seems like soon enough to know that. Not too soon though. Grateful.

I’ve seen myself as an activist intellectual, a thinker and a doer, since around junior high. Those were outer manifestations of an inner passion, not not me, but not all of me either.

Why act? Why learn? Why write? Because something about my soul is drawn toward the souls inhabiting this miracle, this wonder, this earth, this universe. Because Mom taught me and I learned.

Here’s a moment. When I was eight or nine, our kitchen table sat next to a window overlooking the backyard. That spring, late, towards summer when the air was heating up, a spider began to weave a web over the lower part of the window. Out there was our backyard, not too big, but green with grass as the growing season took hold, and our garage.

Mom always gathered up insects in a tissue and released them outside rather than kill them. So it was not unusual that she wanted to leave the web. This was a garden spider, a beautiful member of that family. Mom and I watched her weave her web, an architectural marvel. We watched her catch insects, spin a web around them, eat them.

I don’t recall how long the spiderweb and its maker lasted. I do know that watching her and her reality with Mom was a pivotal moment for my soul. We watched and loved that spider. While we did, I became, for life, a friend of the other world, the one that is not human, the one that cares nothing at all for ideas and elections. A dog world. A tree world. A tomato world. A bee world. A spider world.

More. I became part of that world in some forever way, not different from it because I am animal, breather of oxygen, eater of meat and plants. Mortal. Joseph used to call me nature boy. If only I’d heard that in its fullness, then.

During spiritual direction, the Reverend John Ackerman listened to me over a period of years. Near the end of our sessions together he said, “Charlie, you’re a Druid.” This was while I was still enmeshed in the ministry. Oh.

There was, too, that time on the quad at Ball State when I walked outside the Humanities building and found myself in golden connection with all, with everything. Strings of brilliant light streaming into me, going back out, I was a caught insect in the web of the universe.

Now I see it was the flowers, the vegetables, the fruit trees, the bees that were my real work. The dogs. All those dogs. And my lover, my wife, whose heart shares this journey. Why we are in fact soulmates.

The writing of the novels. No. The political activism. No. The ministry. Certainly not. Maybe the docent years since art lives in our inner world. Maybe ancientrails. (thanks again, Bill.) Raising Joseph and Jon. Yes. CBE. Yes. The Woollies. Yes. Living on Shadow Mountain. Yes. Congregation Beth Evergreen. Yes. Those three spirit animals, mule deer bucks, who greeted me on Samain, 2014. Welcoming me home.

The heart. Until it stills. Maybe after that, too.

There she goes. On her own.

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Been having a tough time keeping up with my workouts due to morning meetings, doctor’s appointments. If I don’t workout in the morning, our afternoon nap finishes off the rest of the day for exercise. Why? Not sure. But, I’m lethargic when I get up. A non-workout feeling. Why nap if I get up lethargic? It doesn’t last, but it lasts long enough to throw off my wanna exercise motivation. Something I could work on.

Working out makes me feel better in the moment while the net effects of cardio and resistance work to keep my healthspan longer. There are other daily benefits: getting up out of a chair unassisted, able to hold a chainsaw, get outside work done, enough muscle to handle daily domestic chores, stamina, stair climbing. In spite of my two issues: copd and prostate cancer, my sense of good health, even excellent health remains. But, not if I don’t get in my workouts. Gotta get more careful about scheduling mornings.

Used the instapot last night to make round steak. It came out tough and chewy. Hmm. Not the idea. Gotta figure out what the problem is.

Making progress on my painting, IMO. When I do Rothko-like paintings, I’m finding myself closer to the moodiness his produced. Once that comes more easily, I’m going to start playing around with it. Put photographs or drawings or a flower or something metal in them, IDK. Make them mine. I’m imitating a man I consider a master artist, one of the best of the last century, American or otherwise, trying to learn from recreating his work techniques, color combinations, composition, brush work. A long, long way to go, but I’m having a helluva good time.

Gonna finish my bagel table work today and tomorrow.

Starting to feel the beginnings of a new phase here on Shadow Mountain. Not sure what it is, but it feels pretty good.

Example: Kate drove herself to needleworkers yesterday. She stayed till mid-afternoon. When I saw her drive away, I had a feeling similar to taking Joseph to his freshman year of college. There she goes, on her own. Glad, a bit concerned, happy for her.

Why did Sarah die?

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Met with Alan to discuss our bagel table a week from Saturday. Dandelion. A quiet breakfast place off 74 in the northern part of Evergreen. We’re both going to come up with a plan by next Tuesday then we’ll mix and match or choose one.

I’m focused on an interesting midrashic tradition raised by Avivah Zornberg in her commentary on Genesis and the Chayei parsha. Midrash aggadah are torah interpretations by generations of rabbis.They are imaginative, clever, often surprising. The tradition is similar to the notion of hermeneutics with which I am familiar, that is the art of bringing Biblical messages into a contemporary context. I mentioned this in my post on Sunday.

Midrash aggadah are dissimilar in the tools and techniques used. And, in the results.

The midrashic tradition Zornberg mentions in the beginning of her commentary on Chayei Sarah (Gen. 23:1-25:18) began with rabbis wondering about two things: 1. The akedah, or the binding of Isaac. Jewish tradition focuses on the act of binding Isaac for his sacrifice. 2. The death of Sarah which immediately follows the akedah.

Why did Sarah die, they wondered. An interpretation rose up that the akedah was the reason for Sarah’s death, though there is no mention of a connection in the text. In one midrash Isaac returns after the akedah, tells his mother what happened, and she makes shofar like noises, then dies. In another Satan appears to her in the guise of Isaac and tells her what Abraham did. And in yet another Satan comes to Sarah and says Abraham has actually sacrificed Isaac.

From these, then, Zornberg suggests that the problem of Sarah’s life began with her period of infertility, till age 99, ended by Isaac’s birth. The relationship between her and Isaac, then, becomes the central issue for Sarah. It does not resolve, Zornberg suggests, until:

Gen. 25:67 “And Isaac brought her to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And was comforted for (the loss) of his mother.”

This is a direction that would never occur in a Christian exegetical/hermeneutical exploration of these texts. Why? Because the Christian exegete focuses on the words as they exist and critical methodologies helping to clarify their meaning. Speculation about what happened offline so to speak is not encouraged.

This is so much fun for me. I like learning another way of coming at the Bible and I find the midrash aggadah appealing as provocateurs about life and its convolutions. A lot of wisdom in them.

Turn Starwheel Turn

Samain and a full Fallow Moon

Orion was there, but dim. 4:30 am. Full Fallow Moon above Black Mountain outshone his distant stars. Going outside in the early morning, seeing Orion rise, his big dog, too, has somewhat rekindled my interest in astronomy. Enough that I repurchased something I gave away when we moved, a starwheel. Wonderful name. Relearning parts of the night sky.

The big dipper, easy to locate in Andover, often hides behind the lodgepoles to the northeast, but is now rising early enough that I can see it. With that friend I can find Polaris and Arcturus. Follow the arc to Arcturus. Follow the pointer stars to Polaris.

Coming out at 4:30 or so on a daily basis makes me understand how the heavens could have been used not only as a calendar, but also as a clock. Orion ticks over further and further to the west. Others come to his former spot. A person who focused on the stars at night could tell time with this movement.

Living in the mountains surrounded by the Arapaho National Forest gives each day and night a close connection with the changing natural world. On the ground. In the sky.

One outcome of Kate’s good news and my ok news about our lung diseases (geez) is that we’re here to stay. Yes, we’re challenged by the thin air, but we can cope. Better up here for both of us than down in the polluted air of the Denver metro.

Saw Lisa

Samain and the Fallow Moon

COPD. Mild. Shouldn’t progress unless I do something to aggravate it. Like start smoking again. Nope. Good news. Does mean I’m stuck with some shortness of breath, some vulnerability to lung disease. Well within livable parameters.