The religion that is written and elaborated is not religion.

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice. The day of the sun’s maximum presence for the year. On the solstices the day/night balance shifts. On the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year (though if you check the time tables the difference between June 21st and July 21st is only 13 minutes), the night begins to encroach, slowly.

Whatever guides my soul prefers the dark days, the fallow time. I celebrate on this holiday not the victory of the light, but the coming dominance of the night. I do like the bright blue days here in Colorado, not saying I don’t. Just that my soul gains more richness, more depth as darkness grows. Probably one of the reasons I felt so much at home in Minnesota, at the 45th latitude, half-way to the Northpole.

As a gardener, of course, I relished the light for the vegetables and fruits, for the flowers that fed our bees. The summer solstice signals the growing warmth and long days that nourish all plant life. It was also the time, though, that bugs grew more troublesome, when the humid weather encouraged fungus and mold, viral infections in the plants.

In Sweden, Scotland, and other Gaelic and Scandinavian countries the auld religion still calls to its people. Bonfires. Nudity. Parties through the night. Feasts. I like the idea of them. If there were one close by, I might go.

My relationship with neo-paganism is as fraught as my relationship with Christianity. Judaism, too, at the doctrinal level. There’s so much intellectualizing, writing of ideas, logic. I’ve come to believe that elaborating our feelings toward the natural world in a Wiccan or Asatru way, a neo-pagan syncretic way, is as damaging to the soul as the dogmas and laws of other religions.

In the language of Taoism, the one lens which seems to consciously push away dogma, I would say it this way: The religion that is written and elaborated is not religion. Barriers between our soul and its path.

Emerson has influenced me here and he was, in turn, influenced by Taoism. If you’ve read me for any length of time, you’ll have read these words more than once:

“Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also.” Emerson’s Introduction to his essay, Nature.

It is this sensibility that I celebrate as each of the Great Wheel holidays roll round. The sensibility that helps us become native to the various places where we live. The sensibility that finds the soul’s interaction with the seasons enough. The sensibility that drags down, pulls away the words to look directly at this universe into which we are born. The sensibility that does not fight the turning of the wheel, but sees the seasons of our lives as one with the changing seasons. This is my understand of wu wei, conforming our life to what is, not what might be.

What I encourage is the sun on your face. Your hands in the soil. Your feet on a hiking path. Your ears alive to the buzzing of bees, the bugle of the elk, the bark of the dog, the words of your friends. What I encourage is living your life as it comes, knowing that it leads to death, yes, but that until death you are alive.

Hug. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Plant. Harvest. Compost. Be grateful. That’s enough.

Get Your Hands Dirty

Just to show you I’m not only about death and cancer. Here’s a response I wrote to Bill Schmidt after reading this article, “Modernity, Faith, and Martin Buber,” from the New Yorker. He passed it along from his friend Nancy.

Bill, it took me a while, but I did get around to the Buber article yesterday. Interesting. I’d not read a synopsis like this before.

He was a contemporary of Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism and the only rabbi excommunicated by the Orthodox rabbinate in the U.S. My kinda guy.

Martin Buber


I would put Buber, Dewey, Kaplan, and Emerson together. They all questioned received wisdom, hankered to get below the surface of thought to find the substrata. Dewey (and William James) as a pragmatist might be the outlier here, but the pragmatists were a unique American contribution to Western philosophy and as such took issue with the philosophical tradition they had been given from European thinkers. Buber, of course, is the only one of the three that is not an American, but he took Jewish thought in a direction I think is very congenial with Kaplan.

In a quick search I couldn’t find any evidence that Kaplan used Buber’s work, but their mutual insistence on a human centered approach to religion, perhaps even in Buber a human/pagan approach: “When something does emerge from among things, something living, and becomes a being for me… It is for me nothing but You!” and on Judaism’s culture, as opposed to dogma, makes them simpatico. “Buber exhorted his listeners…not to abandon their Judaism but to reinvent it.” Reconstruct it.

This is congruent, too, with Emerson who wanted a book of revelation to us, not the dry bones of revelation to them. Emerson I know had a lot of Taoist influence, don’t know about Buber.

Mordecai Kaplan

We might find a distinctly American twist on religious sensibility by looking at all of these thinkers, even though Buber was German. I’d say my project about reimagining or reinventing faith is in this tradition. That tradition seems to say, take nothing from books as true. Test their ideas against reality, test them against reality at its deepest in your Self and at its broadest in the world beyond the Self. Be ready for the sacred to surprise you in the petals of a flower, the flow of an avalanche, the innocence of a puppy. Find the divine within your Self and bow to the divine within the other, be it rock, animal, fungus, or human.

The gooseberries and me

In my work I’ve found the soil, the power of plants, perfect examples. When we consider our reliance on the first six inches of top soil, on the mystery of photosynthesis, on the divine miracle that is life whether green or furry or pink or barked, then, we don’t need to go to Luke or the Torah. My scripture and its most profound secrets exist in the wonder of rootlets reaching into the dark for the nutrients held for them in living soil.

The Mountain Way

Spring                                                                                 Recovery Moon

Kate, BJ, Ruth, solar eclipse 2017 at BJs Idaho house

Kate, BJ, Ruth, solar eclipse 2017 at BJs Idaho house

Kate’s sister BJ comes tomorrow for the weekend. She and her s.o. Schecky were out here in September, a planned visit to see our house, but they came the day Kate went into the hospital. They took me to a Japanese restaurant for sushi the night Kate had her hemicolectomy. It was a kind thing to do. I needed the break. Look forward to seeing her.

Had lunch with Alan Rubin yesterday. He’s auditioning for a part in Cabaret, another Ovation West production. You might recall he was in “Funny Girl” which Kate and I saw last fall. He’s taken to retirement by becoming a performer. Taking voice lessons, learning music theory, and this year becoming President of the Ovation West board. He and I were teaching the religious school class until I had to quit due to too much stuff going on at home. A good friend.

John came by and fixed my john. Apparently I blew the seal plunging out a clog. Geez. Water under pressure is powerful. Just ask all those folks in Nebraska. Interesting article about the one guy who manages all the Army Corps of Engineers dams on the Missouri River. He chooses whether to let dams fail or send more water downstream to already flooded farms and towns. Another one the next day wrote about the 25 states under risk for extreme flooding as this winter’s cold begins to loosen, melt snow and ice. When a severe winter like this last one thaws, if it comes too soon, the water hits frozen land. No buffer in the land, just like flooding a parking lot.

Walking and Hiking in Bear Country   Your neighborhood is bear country, too!

Walking and Hiking in Bear Country Your neighborhood is bear country, too!

Up here getting a tradesperson out to the house, really tradesmen since I’ve not yet encountered a female plumber, electrician, handyman (though I’m sure they exist somewhere), often depends on a personal relationship. Herb, of H2O plumbing, ignored my phone message. He didn’t remember that I was the guy who lived in Andover when he lived in Nowthen. When I got him on the phone, he remembered and got a guy over here in two hours. Like living in a small town.

The mountain way. Had to take the garbage and recycling bins back inside the garage. The bears are awake. Bears can smell food, the Colorado Dept. of Natural Resources says, from five miles away. I still don’t let the dogs out at dawn or dusk because of mountain lion predation. All the critters are hungry as the snow melts, food’s been a scarce resource for a while now, just like every winter.

Toward Evergreen

Toward Evergreen

Another interesting part of the mountain way, driving up here. Roads in the mountains, except for I-70 are neither straight nor multiple lanes. Hwy 285, a divided four lane now past Conifer, devolves into a curvy up and down two lane (with the occasional passing lane) as it heads toward Bailey and Park County. The rest are two lane, no passing, winding. No sight lines beyond the next curve up and down.

It took a while to learn, but there is a code. Leave the person in front of you a healthy distance since deer or elk might be standing in the road around the next bend. Don’t go too fast or too slow. Stay alert. If somethings ahead, either wildlife or Jeffco sheriff’s deputies, blink your lights at oncoming traffic. This confused me at first since it was the signal you had left your lights on back in the old days before car lights turned off by themselves.

Two sorts of drivers violate this unspoken code. The first, most of us grant license, are tourists. We have two spots on Black Mountain Drive/Brook Forest Drive (same road), Upper and Lower Maxwell Creek, that draw crowds from the Denver area each nice day. There are also folks staying in Evergreen in one of the many cabins or motels who wander out of town for a drive in the mountains. Many of these drivers brake at every curve, even going uphill, which is silly since the mountain will brake for you if you let up on the gas.

Guanella Pass, 2015

Guanella Pass, 2015

The second type are residents who have to get down the mountain thirty seconds faster than you do. They’re the ones who’ll put you in danger. I haven’t seen it, but others write of people who pass them. Passing on these roads is like spinning a roulette wheel with your life and somebody else’s. Others will crowd up on your bumper. As if that changes the physical reality we both face. Flick their lights in your mirror. You know.

Mostly driving here is sedate since the roads don’t really offer a safe alternative. I like that since it gives me a chance to savor the rocks, the trees, the peaks and valleys while moving at a speed safe enough even if I encounter a bouncy young fawn or calf or a whole herd of elk.

 

 

 

 

29 years ago

Imbolc                                                                         Recovery Moon

kate and me in time29 years ago tomorrow Kate and I stepped on a glass* in Federal Court Chambers, the Landmark Building, Rice Park, St. Paul. The next day, just to show how long ago 29 years is, we flew Pan Am to Rome. We wrote thank you notes on the plane and mailed them from the Vatican Post Office. Probably wouldn’t make that decision today, but then it seemed sorta cool. Cousin Diane Keaton was my best person.

The honeymoon followed spring north in Europe proceeding from Rome to Venice, Vienna, Paris, London, Inverness, Edinburgh, and London again. We also made it to Florence, Salzburg, and Bath. Along the way we discovered what it meant to be together.

Pompeii was a revelation about humanity in the face of catastrophe. The Uffizi a revelation about the human creative spirit. Venice showed the adaptive capacity of our species. Vienna. We arrived at 10 pm, hungry after a foodless train ride that passed through the Dolomites from Venice. Wiener schnitzel in a small restaurant with red table cloths. Paulaner non-alcoholic beer. Later Andean musicians played the pan pipes under our balcony at the Hotel Astoria on the ringstrasse. Paris. Of course the Louvre. The Rodin museum. Life as a graceful and elegant soiree. Crossing the English Channel by ferry. Before the Chunnel. London. The Basil Street Hotel had a women’s club like the better known men’s clubs for which England is famous. From there to Inverness where we walked hand in hand along the Ness river at night, fog rolling off it, spilling over the sidewalk. We ate breakfast at the Station Hotel in a large ballroom with a carpeted corner they used for dining. Then, Edinburgh where we ordered room service and stayed in bed watching movies on tv. Back to London. At the Reject China shop where we bought our Portemerion dinner ware the clerk suggested I might like to go to a pub while Kate shopped. I visited antique stores instead. Then, home.

Astoria SignThe last 29 years have seen other adventures. Cruising the Mediterranean. Twice the Panama Canal. Once almost all the way around Latin America. Hawai’i several times. Korea for the wedding. Singapore. New York, of course. New Orleans. Chicago. Other places, too.

Those are frosting on the life we created 29 years ago. The life itself, that’s the cake. We’ve moved three times. Once into the house on Edgcumbe Boulevard in St. Paul. The one with the pool. Where we lived with our first Irish Wolfhounds, Celt and Sorsha. Where Joseph played baseball with the Hasidic kids next door. After that, Andover. 20 years of exurban life. Flower gardens. Vegetable gardens. Bees. An orchard. A firepit. The lives and deaths of many dogs. Joe finishing high school. Jon off to Colorado to teach. Then Joe off to Breckenridge to work and ski for three years before he joined the Air Force. And now, Shadow Mountain. Seeing the grandkids often, the many insults life has thrown us, even so, just life. Joe married. SeoAh in our lives. Congregation Beth Evergreen. A Colorado finish to a life begun at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, an easy stroll to the Landmark Center. Will we stay here on Shadow Mountain? Don’t know. TBD.

20190127_163835I love the arc of our life together, the suffering and the joy. No life has only one or the other. The key factor of our love has been this: support each other in living our best life. We’ve mostly succeeded. Kids, grandkids, dogs, gardening together, harvesting honey together, traveling together. Kate sewing, me writing. The MIA. Music, jazz and classical. Seeing the world. Living in the mountains. Life now in its third phase.

I love her still, always. I know her better, she knows me better, and yet we’re together. That’s proof of the broken glass moment. Till death do us part. And beyond even that.

 

 

*”The fragility of glass suggests the frailty of human relationships. Since even the strongest love is subject to disintegration, the glass is broken as a kind of incantation: “As this glass shatters, so may our marriage never break.” For more interpretations: myjewishlearning.

A Life Temporarily Resectioned

Fall                                                                      Healing Moon

1605–15; < Latin resectiōn- (stem of resectiō) a cutting off, trimming, equivalent to resect(us) (see resect) + -iōn- -ion

pruning gooseberries

pruning gooseberries

Always had trouble with the word resection. Why can’t doctors just say, cut out, excise, remove? After Kate’s bowel resection for her bleeding, I decided to finally figure out this word.

As with most technical language, it’s more precise than removing a piece. Instead of cutting out a piece of the colon, a surgeon resections it. Resecting can mean any degree of alteration in an organ from outright removal, to partial removal, to altering it in some way short even of partial removal. The best synonym I found, the one that helped me finally get it was this. Pruning.

As a former horticulturist, I did a lot of pruning. Cutting this diseased part of a plant away. Removing an errant branch or stem. Thinning blooms to create larger flowers. Resecting all along and didn’t know it. Sometimes there was total resection of a plant no longer healthy, or of plants out of place (otherwise known as weeds).

down the hill and through the woods to Grandma's room we go

down the hill and through the woods to Grandma’s room we go

I’m belaboring this etymology because I realized how useful this word was for describing what I’ve done for the last two weeks or so. I temporarily resectioned my life. I pruned away all that was not essential. That left being with Kate, understanding her medical condition, showing up for procedures and recovery, sitting with her. It left giving the dogs as normal a life as possible. After all, they don’t understand the situation. It left feeding myself and getting plenty of sleep. It left writing Ancientrails and posting on the Caringbridge website about Kate’s progress. Everything else got pruned away.

No CBE work. No writing. No exercise. Minimal grocery shopping, some work outside. Filling the car with gas, getting the oil changed. Necessary maintenance.

2014, Andover

2014, Andover

I chose to prune away parts of my life so I could attend to an unusual occurrence, an anomaly that required most of me. With Kate now in rehab, her bleeding behind her, that severe pruning, like I would do to the raspberry canes at the end of the season, cutting them off to the ground, will fade away. Though. When she comes home, there will still be home care for her, of course. But, the driving and leaving the dogs behind for hours at a time will be over.

Our lives can require these rescections. Sometimes they’re temporary, as this one will have been, sometimes they’re permanent, like Kate’s surgery. If Kate had needed more home-based care, this resectioning might have become more permanent. This can happen in the third phase, when one partner requires a good deal more care.

Feeling level. Lighter.

A True North

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

Still thinking about the north. In 1969 Judy and I left Connersville, Indiana, headed toward Appleton, Wisconsin. In my mind the landscape would be pine trees, glistening lakes, deer, lots of people in plaid shirts. Maybe still a lumberjack or two. Jack London’s White Fang, Call of the Wild, Sea-Wolf, Burning Daylight had made me a distant fan of a place closer to the Arctic, one where the wildness of our planet had not been consumed by factories and roads.

Burning DaylightTurns out the Fox River Valley was not that place. The Fox River which runs from the Green Bay through Appleton and finally into Lake Winnebago had no available oxygen for aquatic life thanks to years of dairies and paper mills, two of the worst polluters, dumping effluent. But you could see this north from there. In the Fox River Valley it manifested itself in a tortured way through snowmobile culture and the annual ritual of the deer hunt. Both were violent and dangerous. On winter nights the lights of snowmobiles rake the roadways and countrysides as riders drive their vehicles alongside the roads from bar to bar for a shot and a beer. It was often said that grudges got settled during deer season.

White Fang’s north also announced itself in the weather. That winter we had two feet of snow in one storm, an amazement to this long time Hoosier, resident of an agricultural and industrial belt that had confused seasons often with slush and ice storms in place of winter, northern winter. I learned about engine block heaters. Temperatures dropped to way, way below zero. And stayed there.

LondonWisconsin was a bad experience for me. Judy and I had married at 21 and 17. I had graduated from college that spring and had no idea what to do next. So. Get married. By Appleton neither one of us were sure why we’d said yes to the other. The long winter nights found us drinking beer by the case and playing sheepshead with Judy’s family. Her father, a convinced alcoholic, and I, just getting started in my addiction, didn’t really get along. He was a snowmobile racer, a deer hunter, an ink salesman and a Packer fan. I had little interest in any of those things. Our only common ground was his daughter.

By 1970 I’d found myself withering in Appleton. Too much alcohol. Judy and I had agreed on an open marriage, it was the sixties after all, but when she acted on it, I discovered I hadn’t meant it. I had three jobs in Appleton: life insurance salesman (never sold a policy, lasted three months), a baker making bread and pound cakes, but getting to work at 4 a.m for $1.50 an hour lost its charm quickly, and, finally, as a rag cutter at the Fox River Valley Paper Company. This was a distinct change from studying anthropology and philosophy, fighting the establishment. And not a good one.

Seminary took me to Minnesota, where I did find my true north, not in New Brighton, of course, but up north in the boreal forest, among the 10,000 glaciated lakes and on the shores of Lake Superior. This was Burning Daylight territory. I stayed for forty-five years.

Burntside Lake, Ely

Burntside Lake, Ely

While up north, from 1969 to 2014, I discovered the insular nature of this land. The long blue ellipse of Lake Michigan made Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Upper Midwest, lack a through route to the West. We were not on the way to anywhere. You had to want to go up there for some reason and most folks in the U.S. chose not to. Nothing there unless you fished or hunted or had business or family. Cold, too. Brutal winters. As far north as most folks got was Detroit or Chicago.

Especially distant, especially unknown were the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota with the Iron Range, the Arrowhead region, Lake Superior, Voyageurs National Park, the BWCA, Warroad. It is a culture that has some common ground, snowmobiles, snowshoes, ice fishing, hiking, mineral extraction, cross-country skiing, but little integration even with the states in which they lie. What integration there is tends to be that of tourist destination and tourist though of course the Iron Range and the copper mines of the Keweenaw, the laker supported transport of the Great Lakes, and such cities as Duluth, Superior, Sault St. Marie, and Marquette attract citizens as well as visitors.

Now living in a region dominated by the story of the vanishing frontier, the Indian wars, the cowboy, mountains, and the false allure of unbridled freedom, the north country has receded from view again. It is far away, not on the way to anywhere most choose to go, and largely unknown. Yet it still feeds my imagination and my memories there are warm and many. No, I never mushed a dogsled to take medicine to a plague ridden village isolated by a blizzard (Sergeant Renfrew of the Canadian Mounted Police), but I did mush a dogsled. I never caught a muskie or a lake trout, but I did spend many happy hours picking blueberries in the late August sun. It was the north of my Jack London induced fantasy and I loved it. As I now do the Rockies.

 

 

A Horticulturist

Imbolc                                                                           New Life Moon

As my melancholy continues to lift, new and old values push themselves forward, wanting to be included or excluded. I didn’t, for example, attend the Democratic caucus last night. Though I did want to be home for Kate, who uncharacteristically has anxiety about her upcoming surgery, Sjogren’s adds an unknown, I also didn’t want to go. Kate pushed back on this, saying the activist has been an important part of me, well, almost forever. True. And maybe, probably, I’ll alter course on this one, but right now I want to focus on other things.

third-plate-dan-barberIn addition to cooking, the sumi-e (ink brush painting), and working out, I mentioned the possibility of a greenhouse. Expensive, so we’ll see about that. But. I began reading a book I’ve had for a while, The Third Plate. It puts me back in the mental and very physical world of Andover. In fact, the feeling, while I was reading it, was so comfortable, a sort of ah, here I am at home feeling, that I recognized it as an old value pushing itself forward.

It’s more than just getting my hands in the soil, nurturing seeds. It’s about being part of the farm-to-table movement, about acting on eating better food, about staying connected, directly, with mother earth. While reading this, I realized horticulture was a deep part of me, one Kate and I spent a lot of time, energy and money on, not because we had to, but because it was significant and nourishing.

carey_reamsBuddy Bill Schmidt will recognize the quote that begins the chapter on Soil: “See what you’re looking at.” Carey Reams, an unlikely looking radical, used to say this. He was the founder of the outfit from which I purchase soil additives, the High Brix Gardening folks in Farmington, Minnesota. He contended, as do many now in the farm-to-table world, that agriculture went astray long ago, moving toward products that fit mechanized food production rather than human nutrition.

There are too many examples that prove this, unfortunately. One is that the bulk of corn grown in the U.S. either goes for corn syrup or feeding cattle. Another is the development of tomatoes with skins hard enough to stand a mechanical picker.

wheatThe vast wheat fields of the Great Plains grow an annual wheat, two varieties that work well in steel rolling mills. Not only have these annual crops destroyed the ten feet or more of top soil that buffalo and deeply rooted grasses developed there, but the steel mills which make this crop profitable separate the germ and bran from the kernel, leaving only fluffy white flour. What’s bad about that? Well, turns out the nutrition in wheat lies in the germ and the bran.

IMAG0619I guess this is the native Midwesterner in me. I grew up driving past corn fields, pastures filled with Holsteins and Guernseys, pigs and beef cattle. The Andover gardens, the orchard and the bees, along with our small woods satisfied this part of my soul. I’m going to investigate local CSA’s, see if that’s a route back into this world. We have to buy groceries anyway, so why not from folks who share a philosophical position close to my own.

This is different, you see, than being attentive to the lodgepole pines and the aspen, the mule deer and the elk, the fox and the mountain lion. These are part of wild nature and beautiful, also important to my soul. But the world of horticulture, of growing and consuming food and flowers, fruits and honey is, too. A reemerging part of me. And I’m happy to see it, to feel it come.

 

Before the Storm

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

Wow. Barely into October and I pushed about 5 inches of fluffy, but still wet snow off the back deck just now. The snow began before midnight last night. Thanks to winds blowing from the east, an upslope storm, we’ll get the bulk of its moisture. We’ll probably be on the upper end of the 7-10 inch forecast. This is a relatively rare event where the eastern Front Range gets more snow than the ski areas further west. Still snowing. Will continue, according to the forecast, through late afternoon today.

by Jeremiah, of Sarah, Kates sister

by Jeremiah, of Sarah, Kate’s sister

The weekend had that urgency before the storm feel to it, the first big storm of the season. On Saturday the fines got mowed and I worked on uncrating our Jeremiah Miller paintings. He’s my brother-in-law and an excellent artist. If you remember our Andover house, these are the two very large paintings that hung in the living room and our bedroom. A1 Movers crated them in December of 2014 and they’ve been in their specialized shipping containers since then.

The crates, very sturdy, are taller than I am and heavy. They were clumsy to move. I could maneuver the smaller one onto a small table made of saw horses and a slab of plywood, but the bigger one was too heavy. Jon helped me with that yesterday. Until I opened them, we had no idea how the paintings had fared. The smaller one is in good shape. I plan to open the bigger one today. The dry air here helps, at least in the short run. Over time it might advance the drying out of the paint and cause craquelure, something I’ll have to look into.

The energy surge I get when the air cools down kicked in a couple of weeks ago. It’s reinforced by 20 years of early fall gardening work in Andover. This was the time when the garlic got planted, the last of the leeks, onions, kale, collard greens, beans, beets, lettuce harvested and flower bulbs dug in. The raspberries were ripening constantly and the apples, too. It was also the time of wood cutting and splitting for our fire pit.

I got out the chainsaw and decided to cut stumps left standing from the fire mitigation work a couple of years ago. An Iraq vet, Julie, who heats with wood, stopped by on Friday and asked if she could have the bucked wood. Kate said yes and Julie carted off all of it, front and back. We still have a few dead trees that need to come down so we’ll have firewood. That left just the stumps and they stood out even more.

 a good and trusted tool for over twenty years

a good and trusted tool for over twenty years

The Jonsered I’ve had for twenty plus years, the one I used to cut down the large stand of black locust to clear the way for our gardens and to keep the woods cleared of snags, is past its usefulness. I should have had it rebuilt several years ago apparently. Chainsaw Bob said it’s not fixable. It’s hard to start and dies suddenly. Frustrating. Got four or five stumps cut close to the ground, difficult to do since it involves bending over and holding the saw level with the soil, as close as possible to the surface. Then I noticed I’d been too close to the soil and the saw blade had gone into it. Instant dullness. Gonna go see Chainsaw Bob and see if he has a rebuilt Jonsered I can buy. I’ve got many stumps to cut and those few dead trees.

Also hung the Arcosanti bell Kate got in Arizona years ago. It tolls when the wind blows and we decided long ago that its peeling memorializes our dead dogs. Noticed that the small diamond shaped windcatcher that makes it toll had fallen off, but couldn’t find it. We’ll have to create something in place of it.

typhonIt was a week of this sort of activity, getting ready for the storm, catching up on errands. My exercise, Jennie’s Dead work suffered, but my choice. This week I’m back at all of that, going to On the Move Fitness on Thursday for a new workout.

Jennie’s Dead is going well. Not sure what I’m doing with it, at least not completely. I’m retelling versions of certain myths and those retellings have become extended. I find them great fun to write, but I’m wondering now if they’re overwhelming the main story line. The Typhon/Zeus fight for control of Olympus has a lot of nuance.

Ancora Imparo. I’m still learning.

Legacy

Fall                                                                              Harvest Moon

A friend is moving and he had me going back to the entries in Ancientrails made during the seven month process of our first deciding to move, then executing the move. Here are two that struck me:

From October, 2014

Going to lay down the broadcast in the vegetable garden and the orchard this morning, then mulch. Kate and Anne planted next year’s garlic crop while I was in Colorado. With no additional effort then, the new owners will have apples, pears, plums, cherries, currants, raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and garlic from their orchard and vegetable garden. In addition they will have daffodils, liguria, monkshood, many varieties of Asiatic lilies, iris and hemerocallis. Clematis, daffodils, tulips and fall crocus will IMAG0683bloom, too. Wisteria, lilac, bushy clematis and snakeroot put fragrance, delicate and sweet, in the air. They will have three different sheds in which to organize their outdoor life and a firepit for family evenings. There are, too, the separated plantings of prairie grass and wildflowers that bracket the front lawn, providing habitat for butterflies and other wildlife.

In addition the property has about 1.5 acres of woods, including a morel patch that shows up in the late spring. With the inground irrigation system this is a place for a person with an interest in living closer to the earth and harvesting the literal fruits of such a lifestyle.

 

From June or so, 2014

Today and until I’m done I will be packing the study in which I work every day. That means the sorting will get harder, green tape boxes outnumbering red tape ones. Probably by a lot. It also means the confrontation between time remaining (in my life) and the projects (intellectual and creative) that keep me excited will come center stage. I’ll try to sort out the ones I feel I can fruitfully engage over the next 20 years from the ones I can’t.

That means I’m considering active intellectual and creative work at least into my late 80’s. That feels like a stretch, maybe, but one I believe my health and potential longevity justifies.

Let me give you an idea of what I have in mind. Complete the translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Write at least four more novels. Write essays or a book on Reimagining My Faith. Write and read much more poetry. Write essays or a book on matters related to the Enlightenment, liberal thought, modernism. Write essays or a book on matters related to the Great Work. Include in this work considered attention to Asian literature, art and thought, especially Chinese and Indian. Continue regular art historical research and write essays about aesthetics and particular art/artists.

Why? Because I can. I’ve no evidence so far that my thinking is strikingly original or unusually deep, but my intellectual maturation has taken a longer time than I imagined it would. So the best may yet be ahead. Or so it feels to me. Under any circumstances such work will keep me alert and focused.

Wherever you go, there you change.

Midsommar                                                             New (Kate’s) Moon

travelIf you’re an alcoholic like I am, you learn early in treatment that the geographical escape won’t work. Wherever you go, there you are is the saying. It’s true that the addictive part of my personality follows me from place to place as well as through time. Even so, this move to Colorado has awakened me to an unexpected benefit of leaving a place, especially ones invested with a lot of meaning.

I lived in Minnesota over 40 years, moving to New Brighton in 1971 for seminary. I also lived in Alexandria, Indiana until I was 18, so two long stays in particular places. In the instance of Alexandria, I was there for all of my childhood. In Minnesota I became an adult, a husband and father, a minister and a writer.

Here’s the benefit. (which is also a source of grief) The reinforcements for memories and their feelings, the embeddedness of social roles sustained by seeing friends and family, even enemies, the sense of a self’s continuity that accrues in a place long inhabited, all these get adumbrated. There is no longer a drive near Sargent Avenue to go play sheepshead. Raeone and I moved to Sargent shortly before we got divorced. Neither docent friends nor the Woolly Mammoths show up on my calendar anymore with rare exceptions. No route takes me past the Hazelden outpatient treatment center that changed my life so dramatically.

2011 05 09_0852While it’s true, in the wherever you go there you are sense, that these memories and social roles, the feeling of a continuous self that lived outside Nevis, in Irvine Park, worked at the God Box on Franklin Avenue remain, they are no longer a thick web in which I move and live and have my being, they no longer reinforce themselves on a daily, minute by minute basis. And so their impact fades.

On the other hand, in Colorado, there were many fewer memories and those almost all related to Jon, Jen and the grandkids. When we came here, we had never driven on Highway 285, never lived in the mountains, never attended a synagogue together. We hadn’t experienced altitude on a continuous basis, hadn’t seen the aspen go gold in the fall, had the solar snow shovel clear our driveway.

jewish-photo-calendarThis is obvious, yes, but its effect is not. This unexperienced territory leaves open the possibility of new aspects of the self emerging triggered by new relationships, new roles, new physical anchors for memories. Evergreen, for example, now plays a central part in our weekly life. We go over there for Beth Evergreen. We go there to eat. Jon and the grandkids are going there to play in the lake this morning.

Deer Creek Canyon now has a deep association with mortality for me since it was the path I drove home after my prostate cancer diagnosis. Its rocky sides taught me that my illness was a miniscule part of a mountain’s lifetime and that comforted me.

This new place, this Colorado, is a third phase home. Like Alexandria for childhood and Minnesota for adulthood, Colorado will shape the last phase of life. Already it has offered an ancient faith tradition’s insights about that journey. Already it has offered a magnificent, a beautiful setting for our final years. Already it has placed us firmly in the life of Jon, Ruth and Gabe as we’ve helped them all navigate through the wilderness of loss. These are what get reinforced for us by the drives we take, the shopping we do, the medical care we receive, the places we eat family meals. And we’re changing, as people, as we experience all these things.

Well over fifty years ago Harrison Street in Alexandria ceased to be my main street. The Madison County fair was no longer an annual event. Mom was no longer alive. Of course, those years of paper routes, classrooms, playing in the streets have shaped who I am today, but I am no longer a child just as I am longer the adult focused on family and career that I was in Minnesota.

Wherever you go, there you change.