Living

Imbolc and the waning crescent of the Shadow Mountain Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Jen. Who called my attention to a lapse in judgement. King Sooper. Who will load my groceries this morning. Tony’s where I’ll get the pork schnitzel. The crescent moon above Black Mountain. The Storm Glass Ruth got me for Hanukah. Jon home from the hospital.

I reported something here said to someone else about yet another person. That was a lapse in judgement and I apologize to Jen for that.

Past the seventy-three marker and heading into another Aquarian year. Might be a good time to get my chart read again. Sorta put all that away after an initial burst of interest. Maybe an annual thing? Like an oil change and vehicle inspection? Time has slipped by, following the trails of Maxwell Creek, Upper Bear Creek, Cub Creek. Running toward the sea of souls.

In another liminal space, a large one this time. After Gertie. After Murdoch. As the wounds heal. Quieter, solemn. Rigel and Kep both subdued, following us, I suppose. No plans. One day in front of the other.

Even Trump seems far away, perhaps only an orange smudge floating out over the Atlantic. Our little family so dispersed. Atomic. Held together by the weak nuclear force. Yet, held together.

The two feet of snow melted in the warm days. Our roof not as layered. Our driveway almost clear. Another round coming, maybe today and tomorrow. Colorado.

This space between, a sacred place, a holy place. Happening on our mountain top. In the Rockies, in the West, in Colorado. The Midwest a humid memory. We’ll see what comes. Living. That’s it right now. Living.

Downsize?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

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.

So Beautiful

Winter                                                                             Waxing Moon

Our snowpack. Needed for the trees and our well

Our snowpack beside the front door. Needed for the trees and our well

Another 6 or 8 inches of snow yesterday. Snowiest January since 1993. The northern half and eastern quadrant of Colorado watersheds have above average snowpack. Critically, the Colorado Headwaters area is at 116%. The south western quadrant of the state though is below average in two spots, including the Durango area where the big fires burned last summer.

So beautiful. The lodgepoles carry snowy covers on their branches. The deer, rabbits, fox that come through our yard leave their tracks.The rising sun colors the snow on Black Mountain, right now a light flush pink. Bright blue sky behind the mountain.

Not so good for those of us animals who need carapaces and wheels. This is the google traffic map from yesterday. Rush hour. Add in altitude and you get a real mess. This is when commuting to Denver from Conifer separates the brave from the foolish.

 

metro roads 1 28

Kate’s initiated a get-out of the house plan. She said last week that she felt isolated and alone, so we’re going to go somewhere each day. Yesterday we went to the post office. Today, the King Sooper Starbucks for Kate while I pick up some groceries. Tomorrow? Who knows?

creation of the waters

creation of the waters

Last week I painted the creation of the universe, the shattering of the ohr. Followed it with the creation of the waters. Next up: land. I tried to show an island in my first attempt. Not so good. I like the first two, I’m starting over today on land. I’m going to get somehow to Eden and humans and that tree. Will take awhile. Hard to say in the abstract paint language I’m using. But, that’s part of the fun.

Astrological learning has been on hold. Painting, exercise, and Kate have gotten my focus along with CBE. Gonna get back to it, though. Probably a reading with Elisa’s astrologer, John, to kick off the next phase of my learning.

Just entered the Chicken soup cookoff at CBE. Gonna get some practice today, picking up soup supplies during the grocery shopping at King Sooper. Taking some to a friend, leaving some behind for Kate and me. Kate loves my chicken soup. My heirloom recipe came off the Golden Plump packages when I bought chickens in Minnesota. Here, I do it from memory.

Seeking the myth beyond reason

Winter                                                                             Waxing Moon

ta phrom

ta phrom

A year theme. I mentioned buddy Paul Strickland’s choice: Bumping into Wonder. A few resolute type sentences* laid out some trails I want to follow in the new year, trails I’m already on, none of them new.

If there’s a thread underlying them, I don’t see it. There is, however, a potential theme occasioned by my reading of Cosmos and Psyche. In it Richard Tarnas taught me that skepticism is a tool, not a lifestyle. He chooses to deploy this insight as he begins an apology for astrology. I’ve followed him down that rabbit hole, ending up in a Wonderland that has Chesire cats, Tweedledees and Tweedeldums, Red Queens, and a few rascally rabbits.

enchanted aliceWhat I’m seeking in Wonderland is a synthesis Tarnas contends is necessary for us now, a different sort of Great Work than Thomas Berry’s, yet related to it, I think. Berry, if you recall, said that the Great Work of our time is the creation of a sustainable human presence on earth. Not goin’ so well. Tarnas wants to take the ancient, ensouled universe that prevailed until the Enlightenment, mash it into the disenchanted universe occasioned by rationalism and the hegemony of science, and come up with a Hegelian synthesis that can move us out of the stuck place created by their tension.

Ensouled and disenchanted, the sequel. Living into the next. Curing metaphysical skepticism. Myth and reason, together at last. Seeking a new enchantment. (note: not a re-enchantment since that implies a return to the old ensouled universe.) This is hard. These two worldviews are so far apart it’s difficult to see the path forward, past them.

Not there. Hmm. Mining for ohr. That’s not bad. Ohr = the primordial light of creation now inhabiting every thing in the universe, fractionated, but wanting to be whole. Dreaming a new world. Also not bad. Seeking a new ancientrail. Well, these are a start.

Unergründlich (The Unfathomable), 1874.

Unergründlich (The Unfathomable), 1874.

Seeking a myth beyond reason. I like that. Might be it.

*Eat no processed meats. Write new novel. (primal ensouled universe/enlightenment disenchanted universe. Next?) Keep painting, learning more techniques. Back to 3 days resistance, 3 days cardio. Learn how to read birth charts. Become a better teacher. Cook Korean and salt/fat/heat/acid. Continue kabbalah and mussar. Hike.

Crullers, Empanadas, Goddesses, and Mussar

Winter                                                                                Waxing Moon

20190104_104318_001Made a big circle yesterday. Drove into Denver on 6, a six lane version of 6th Street between hwy 470 and Santa Fe. Wanted to try LeMar’s Donuts since Kate needs weight and likes donuts. It’s right at the intersection 6th and Santa Fe. I like Bismarck’s and crullers, Kate prefers original glazed. The Bismarck at LaMars was about twice the size of the usual. It was quiet there, mid-morning, after the before work rush. This picture is the counter.

Maybe 6-8 blocks further on 6th is Broadway. Turned right and headed south toward Louisiana Street. Broadway is fascinating. After it passes under I-25, just north of Mississippi, you could call it the Green Mile thanks to the number of dispensaries between there and Englewood. There are also funky bars, used bookstores, antique shops, design studios. Meiningers, the art supply store I mentioned earlier and the Wizard’s Chest, a magic and costume shop fit right in. At Louisiana sits Maria’s Empanadas.

cookingKate wanted more mushroom empanadas, corn, and spinach. Lisa Gidday, our internist, had recommended the spinach. “Your new favorite food.” I got an Argentina which has steak, onions, and red peppers.

The woman behind the counter had a very thick accent, Argentinian, I assume. Even with hearing aids accents often defeat me and with the ambient noise, we had difficulty communicating. I hope, in these situations, that I don’t come off as insensitive because I keep asking, “What?” The bill was more than I expected, but after my discomfort with our interaction, I just paid.

I have the same frustration with Vanessa. She’s a member of our mussar group at CBE who has MAS, a neurological disease that makes it very difficult for her to speak or swallow. It is, for her and me, a perfect storm. She can’t speak very well and I can’t hear very well. Third phase life.

20190104_112922As I drove further on the Green Mile, I came across Goddess Isis books. I thought it was on Colorado. I’d always wanted to stop and this was my chance. I’d accomplished my errands and had some free time.

Goddess Isis books used to be Isis books, but the turmoil with Daesh, or Isis in Iraq and Syria, occasioned the name change. Isis has books on astrology, Celtic magic, love magic, shamanism, Hinduism, chakras, a wall full of different Tarot decks, multiple statues and figures ranging from dragons to Kali to cutesy fairies. There’s also a magical apothecary with jars not of herbs or granola, but ingredients for spells.

I picked up Indian Temple Incense, a coloring book of the Tarot deck (to implant those images in my mind), and a magazine called Witches and Pagans. Wanted to see what the broader community was thinking. When asked how I was doing  by the owner, an older woman in a flower print dress with a flowing outer cover, I replied, as I often do, “I think I’ll make it.” She laughed and said, “I know I will.”

Our mussar groups sponsored a potluck last night. First time I’d been to CBE in a while since religious school shut down for the holidays. Lot of questions about Kate. “She’s improving, but had a setback the last couple of days.”

Still strange to me to be picked out as one of the mussar leaders, but I was, working with a small group to talk about the middot of responsibility. A quick example of how mussar works. When it came my turn to read, I had a long paragraph with a lot of Hebrew. I felt shy since the others all did much better than me at pronouncing it. And, I was leading.

Had a cruller after I came home. Unusual, but hey, it had been a long day.

 

 

Fixed or Fluid

Winter                                                                Stent Moon

joy friends (2)The stent moon is a crescent, 12% illumination, hanging over Eduardo and Holly’s. It’s been everything I hoped. Next, a month focused on getting Kate’s weight up. What would you name the moon for that month? I’ll take ideas until Friday.

At night, before going to sleep, I identify the gifts given to me during the day, the gifts I’ve given and any trouble I’ve caused. Then, on waking I identify things I’m grateful for and things that bring joy. These simple habits, developed in mussar work over the last year, keep me aware of the ongoing miracle of the ordinary.

20181230_064700I woke up. The air is cool. My body’s ok. Kate’s beside me with no nausea or cramping. Kepler’s wagging his tail, ready to go upstairs for breakfast. The power came back on yesterday after a long outage. The generator works. I didn’t even know it was on. The long road to DIA offered good conversation with our second son. He’s going back to Minnesota to spend time with a friend who’s depressed. That gives me joy. Ruth up here painting and giving me tips. Joy. Pure. Gertie’s kisses. Murdoch’s bouncy, smiley presence. Snow. Cold. The black clear night sky with stars and a crescent moon. A car that works. SeoAh’s cooking. Kate’s joy at her relief. Gifts, joys, and gratitude. Everywhere I look.

biopolitics2Are there challenges? Oh, yes. But our human tendency to scan the horizon for threats, be alert for danger often blinds us to everyday wonders. Life is not all about illness, or finances, or legal trouble, or separation from loved ones. Yes, these matters crop up in our lives just like the occasional predatory lion or tiger came upon our ancestors in the veldt or in the forests of India and, yes, we need to see them, understand them, respond. We do not, however, have to build our lives around them.

I’m reading an interesting book by two North Carolina political scientists, Prius or Pickup. It posits a continuum on these very matters with one ended anchored in a fixed worldview and the other in a fluid worldview. The fixed worldview folks see danger and threat wherever they look. Those with a fluid worldview have more confidence in the world, focus more on the richness of life. In between are various blends between the two that the authors call a mixed worldview.  They argue that over the last few decades our political life has gradually aggregated those with a more fixed worldview in the Republican Party and those with a more fluid worldview in the Democratic.

20180720_124756

Stay Calm and Keep on Fracking, Evergreen, 2018

A field I didn’t even know existed, biopolitics, ties these worldviews to neurological differences, our partisan political environment has an increasing gap of understanding. Since that gap has roots in our neurobiology, we find it increasingly difficult to understand, or perhaps more importantly, trust anyone in the other camp. I’ve not finished the book so I don’t know what they propose. Gifts, joy, and gratitude identifying habits might help.

2019 lies mostly ahead of us. Yes, it’s an artificial segmentation of our ongoing orbit around the sun, but it does  mark the end of one orbit and the beginning of another. (though any day of the year would serve just as well) So we might consider, as we set off on another journey of 584 million miles, what, over all that distance, over that pilgrimage on which all us earthlings travel, we’ll choose as our focus. The threats in our life? Or, the joys, the ordinary miracles? Where we put our attention is our choice.

 

 

Homemade

Winter                                                                       Stent Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are in the order in which I painted them.

Here they are:

JUrsa Major

Ursa Major

Felling Ax

Felling Ax

Limbing Ax, 1.0

Limbing Ax, 1.0

Limbing Ax, 1.1

Limbing Ax, 1.1

When the sun is in the 11th house…

Samain                                                                        Stent Moon

Sun

According to Steven Forrest the first step in reading a birth chart is to focus on the location of the sun, the moon, and the ascendant. The sun represents many things, but in his scheme most of all, ego. The house in which it lies and the sign give an overall shape to the personality. The moon is all about feelings, about anima, he calls it the soul. It’s the mood of a life, the way into the depths. Again, the sign in which it lies and the house articulate the internal prods to deep feeling and the arena of life in which those feelings will be most intense.

The ascendant is the first house, counting from left to right, starting in the east, or the left of a chart. The wheel of the sky on a chart turns, according to astrological convention, clockwise, so the first house and its border line with the last, 12th house, tells you what zodiac sign was on the horizon at the time of your birth. The ascendant is the way you interact with the world, Forrest calls it a mask, and if he were a kabbalist, I might agree. I think the better word in his meaning is persona.

astology moonFolks learned in astrology will say, my sun is Aquarius in the 11th house, my moon in Sagittarius in the 8th house, and my ascendant is in Aries. Not, hi, I’m an Aquarian. What’s your sign? Those happen to be my particulars, btw. The complexity of astrology begins right here.

How does the identity building process (sun) get affected by the freedom demanding, rebellious nature of Aquarius? In what worldly realm will I have both the easiest and the hardest time developing my personality? The 11th house tells me. Which focuses on groups (think in my case politics, the church, the synagogue, the MIA, the Sierra Club, Woolly Mammoths), friends, visions and dreams.

Likewise, how will my soul development happen? Through the Sagittarian telos, quoting Forrest here, “To realize the ultimate meaning of life. To find one’s destiny in the cosmic scheme of things. To arrive at the Truth.” Where? The 8th house. Sexual and emotional intimacy. In depth interactions.

astro ariesFinally, what is the persona most congenial to me? Characteristics shaped by the ascendant sign in my chart, Aries. According to Forrest, the Aries archetypes are: warrior, pioneer, daredevil, the survivor. Aries, Forrest says, is the lifeforce, the will to exist. It rules the ascendant, the first house, which makes its impact on my chart even stronger.

An interpretation teases out the strengths and challenges of these archetypal influences, not predicting or asserting, but suggesting, evoking, probing. Just some thoughts. You might say, at least according to astrology, that I’m a natural born rebel, (especially with Mars in Aquarius, too), that I’ll tend to express my rebellious nature in the political and religious and work realms. My feeling life though, the deep core of my life, happens in intimate relationships, in situations where the depth of the interaction is most important. Like, say, family, the Woollys, mussar, art. My Aries inflected persona suggests I will push to assert my will. I will not be a wallflower, a passive participant in my life. So? Sound like me so far?

There are a lot of other things to consider. Aspects. Not clear on them yet. Quadrants of the natal chart. North and South Nodes of the Moon. Planets, their signs and houses. But according to Forrest, the triad of sun, moon, and ascendant are the dominant influences and affect everything. How I spent Sunday morning.

My Inner Five Year Old

Samain                                                                                 Stent Moon

Kate seems to be getting worse. It takes less food to trigger an episode of nausea and cramping. We’re going to work the phones tomorrow. See if we can get this procedure scheduled soon. Sooner. Soonest.

my inner five year old

               my inner five year old

We’re in a warm streak here. 50 yesterday. Not sure about snow totals but it’s been a light season for us so far. We need the snow for several reasons. Fire mitigation. Restore our wells. Beauty. Seasonal spirit. West of the divide though the snow’s been better than good. Many of the resorts like Breckenridge opened portions of their properties a month earlier than usual. Good for the economy. Also, good for the snow pack. 103% of average right now. Means so much downstream.

Impressed by our local King Sooper.  I went yesterday morning. Most of the carts were in use, only 8 of the smaller ones remaining in the huge bay that holds them. The wait for a cashier was minimal. Got done and out. I enjoy grocery shopping, but I don’t enjoy waiting in long check out lines.

20181216_072402

                     How it looks right now

I bought a set of very cheap canvases, 5×8. Less than a dollar each. 10. I’ve painted all ten. I bought another set of cheap canvases, 8×10. I’ve painted one of those. Still color drunk. Working on the larger canvas was different than the smaller one. More expansive, yes, but also more room to fill. Tried to convey clouds. Not so well. Took out the turpentine and edited one cloud away.

What I want to do is to find organic, Western objects, like the strange clouds we have in the mountains, deer antlers, old fence posts, mountains and abstract them, somewhat like Georgia O’Keefe, but with the Rothko sensibility. Throw in a surrealistic touch like the carmine rectangle in a blue sky. Keep the colors simple, the shapes, too. I mean, a guy has to have a direction, right?

Today is work on reading birth charts day. I see Elisa on Tuesday. She’s going to help me with my own chart. Before that I meet with Alan to discuss the religious school curriculum we’ve been doing as early adopters for the national program, Moving Traditions. A mid-year evaluation is coming up and I’ll have to represent both of us. Might head over early and go to Red Herring art supplies where I picked up rice paper and a couple of sumi-e brushes.