A Profound Week

Samain                                                                     Thanksgiving Moon

Bit of winter. 9 degrees here on Shadow Mountain this morning. No snow and little snow for us in the forecast. Though. Across the divide they’re getting good snow. Our snowpack is 119% of normal and way ahead of last year. Important data for so many people.

Friday and Saturday were more or less rest days. The week through Thursday night found me pretty damned tired. Worth it though. Gabe threw himself in my arms after his concert. Ruth leaned in for a hug as I left Swigert headed for home. Jon seems to have gained some important insight about himself and the reality of his situation. Kate learned the cause of her months long struggle with nausea and abdominal pain, weight loss. Enough for one week. Thanksgiving moon, indeed.

20181123_154009I’ve not been idle. Using some small, 5×7, canvases I’ve begun to use oil paints. My first effort is here. Doesn’t pop like I hoped it would. I have three more of these small canvases painted with an undercoat. One yellow, one sap green, and one violet. Trying color field painting. Mark Rothko is my favorite abstract painter, so I thought I’d see what I could make using him as my inspiration.

This is venturing into really unknown territory since I know little about oil paints, about oil paint brushes, how to make colors do what I want, canvas. Since I began messing around with sumi-e a while back, I’ve found myself wanting to extend myself, get way outside my comfort zone. A key motivation for me in all this is regaining some tactile work, hand work. When I was a gardener, a bee keeper, a domestic lumber jack, I got lots of opportunity to use my hands, to interact with the physical world. Since moving to the mountains, not so much after the fire mitigation work.

20181202_070637After 12 years as a guide and docent at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, art became an integral part of my life; yet, I’ve struggled to keep art in my life since moving to Colorado. The museums here are not compelling and driving down the hill takes time. Reading about art, looking at it online or in books has not given me the satisfaction I’ve searched for. Painting myself, which necessitates a look into art materials, theory, and careful looking at artists whose work I’d like to use as inspiration, may. I’m not there yet, but I’m having a hell of a lot of fun.

In addition to trying color field painting, I’m going to use the sumi-e ink and brushes to create bespoke Hebrew letters, astrology glyphs, and alchemical symbols. My work in the second kabbalah class, on the mystery and magic of Hebrew, prompted this. I found working with the symbols and letters directly gave me a way into understanding them. I’m also going to create mandalas.

I’ve also continued my reading about astrology. I continue to vacillate between the long time skeptic and the interested novice. Some of the writing is childish, even moronic. That puts me off. Then, though, there’s Tarnas and the Inner Sky by Steven Forrest. Archetypes, too, by Jung and Hillman. A new book on Jung and Astrology. Still trying to figure out my birth chart, how to read it, understand it. Lots to investigate here.

In spite of the various outside turbulence, or, perhaps because of it, these new areas of learning have helped keep me sane, eager. I’ll be at them for a while yet.


Not Your Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. But, a good one anyhow.

Samain                                                                                  (full) Thanksgiving Moon

(N.B. I love vintage images on the web. I’m including here some of the weird ones I found while checking out Thanksgiving.)

Thanksgiving weirdWe put out our best aluminum tins from Tony’s. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, sage stuffing, green beans almondine. I plunged the plastic bag of turkey gravy in boiling water. The turkey breast went in a shallow pan with a 1/2 cup of water. We have two ovens and the top one, the smaller of the two, did its job well for the potatoes and the stuffing.

The larger, lower oven not so much. After almost an hour in an oven reputed to be at 350 degrees the turkey hardly moved the dial on the meat thermometer. Well. Perfect. No Thanksgiving is complete without some culinary malfunction. Kate suggested I slice the breast and warm the pieces in the microwave. How did we ever survive without microwaves? Many of you remember the primitive past. Today’s kids don’t know how lucky they are.

Thanksgiving camelsOn the table sat our finest paper plates, a big turkey printed on them saying gobble, gobble, gobble. The napkins had pumpkins and vines and stuff. The meal was very good and aside from the now suspect ovens (I won’t mention that the other one went wonky, too.) exceeded my hopes.

We talked about the usual Thanksgiving topics.That dumb#$! in the Whitehouse. The ruination of American culture by technology. No, wait a minute. That was somebody else’s house.

We talked about Annie’s retirement from the Scott County jail after 30 years of public service. Learning how to be retired is not something we anticipate, but it can be a real challenge. She’s working on it. And getting there, I think.

Jon’s car came up. Always a fruitful topic. He’s putting on a new axle today, getting ready to refit several bushings. His hearing next Tuesday for the misdemeanor. Ruth and Gabe. “They eat whole baguettes. I have to hide them.”

Thanskgiving pabstKate’s two months from hell. A modest amount of this excellent meal sent her straight to bed. Not sure where we go from here. Smoothies and Korean food, maybe.

Jon and I talked for awhile after Kate went to bed and Annie went up for a nap. He took home a large chunk of turkey breast, sweet potatoes, sage stuffing and green beans. “Next year my kitchen should be done. We can have Thanksgiving there.” Sounds good to me.

In between all this I’m still learning about planets and glyphs, natal charts, signs, houses. The big task though is not directly astrology related. I’m going to figure out the notion of the archetype once and for all. After reading Tarnas, I’m convinced archetypes are a big clue to the efficacy of astrology, but how does that work? And, just what is an archetype anyhow?

Thanksgiving 2Woke up this morning and did my gratitude practice. At night I consider all the gifts I got during that day, all the gifts I gave, and any trouble I caused. In the morning I start out with what I’m grateful for right now. Both practices seem to soothe me, put me in a place to receive and accept blessings. Life’s a hell of a lot better when I’m in that sorta space.

So. If you’re reading this, I’m grateful you took the time. Thanks.

Not Getting Easier

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

from Bill Schmidt

from Bill Schmidt

Learned from Elisa, my astrologer, that the Hebrew word for dog is kelev, like the heart. Lev means heart, not in a physical sense, but as the mind or spirit. Not sure, but kelev might mean something like, a dog embodies the spirit of a human. This came up when Elisa spoke about the very passionate nature of my chart and its unusually strong emphasis on anima/feminine energy. We talked about love and I said the place where I experience love in the most unmediated, unfiltered way is with Gertie, Rigel, and Kepler. And, Murdoch. And, almost any dog I meet.

Bill sent me this picture yesterday. At my best, and I’m there more and more, I’d have the dog’s bubble, too. I admit staying in the moment is not easy right now. Maybe it never is, but I’ve been finding myself able to stay with the troubles of the day, not projecting where they might go, what they might mean beyond what I’m dealing with. This means that though I’ve been under a good deal of stress, I’ve not added a layer of anxiety to it. Which is keeping me sane in a situation that could spin out of control without much effort.

Having said that the stress itself does get to me, creates situations where I overreact, find slights or issues I might otherwise pass by, get distracted. I’ve found it hard to focus on what I consider work over the last couple of months. Yes, we’re approaching the two month mark, the bleed and the emergency room visit happening on Sept. 28th.

One of the benefits of leaning into astrology, even as far as I have, is that it gives me a new conceptual world to visit, a place to learn new things about myself. I need that mirror right now. I did my usual with a new enthusiasm. I found a reading list on Steven Forrest’s website and I purchased a few of them. Tarnas’ book was on there, btw, Tom.

Coming home from Dr. Rhee’s yesterday, Kate asked me if the visit tired me out, too. I’d asked if the visit used up her stamina. Yes, she’d said. I thought a minute, about her question. Yes, I said. It does. Finding no new direction, no new approach deflated me, made me tired. If, I conjectured, we’d found something positive, we’d both be feeling up right now. She nodded.

FortThere is also a more general, vaguer issue for me. As Kate’s life continues to revolve around pain and nausea, weight loss, it restricts her movements. She’s in the house, often in bed or in her chair or on the bench upstairs at the table. This has a centrifugal force for me, too, pulling me in, keeping me here. No, I do not resent it, that’s not my point. I’m speaking now of a more subtle influence, a coloring of the spirit, a darkening of it. I find myself tired, sleepy, more than makes sense to me unless I factor this in.

(friend Tom Crane sent me this from 2015 at The Fort, a restaurant near us in Morrison. If I recall correctly, this is just prior to my prostate surgery.)

Being with her on this ancientrail of ill-health is my life now. And, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love her and am her husband. Even so, there is a real sense of confinement, of loss, of sadness that goes with this pilgrimage.


What’s My Sign?

Samain                                                                         Thanksgiving Moon

At Bean Fosters Coffee House off Golden Ridge Road I wandered into a new phase of thought. Suitable for birthdays and holiday giving in Korea a red envelope contained money to pay my astrologer. Elisa sat in the back at a large table for four, today’s ubiquitous laptop in front of her; my natal chart, a copy of the one I already have, with handwritten notes on it beside her.

(all astrological symbols used are the work of Lucis)

astrology neptuneastrology Square

astology moonastology mercuryretrograde, 9th House.


These symbols (glyphs) were on the upper left in Elisa’s hand. She had run the current position of the planets, stars and moon and overlaid that information with my natal chart. In my still very limited understanding the first three mean that Neptune squares (is at a right angle with) the moon. The second symbol, Mercury, appears to be going backwards in relationship to the earth (retrograde) for the next three weeks and it is moving from my 9th house into my 8th.

kabbalah magicLike the study of kabbalah with Rabbi Jamie it’s easy to get overwhelmed with all the new information since astrology and kabbalah are centuries, millennia old. Both have multiple competing schools and a good deal of learning necessary to fairly evaluate them. That is, they both require a certain suspension of disbelief in order to get traction. Kabbalah has enriched my understanding of Judaism in many ways, none more important than its insistence that all the Torah is metaphor, but it took me a good ways in to the study to learn this. By undermining a literal interpretation of the Torah, kabbalah gave me a way to appreciate and use the biblical material without having to contort my own thinking. In my world that reopened those old stories that we know so well, made them available for my own growth.

I suspect astrology contains the same sort of insights. I’m so new at it that I can’t say for sure, but I think the equivalent insight (to the one above about the Torah) is about archetypes. Astrology, as Elisa said, is a “gateway.” It can open the mind and heart to the interaction of archetypes on our lives. This close connection between Jungian (and Platonic) thought synchs up with so much of my personal history. Years of analysis with Jungian analyst John Desteian. Studying with aspiring analysts. The Ira Progoff Intensive Journal retreats. Degrees in philosophy, anthropology and theology. The whole reimagining faith project. Even fiction writing and this blog.

crane2To give you a taste of the possibilities here are a few lines from an analysis of mercury retrograding into my 9th house: “Re-examine what you believe as Mercury backs up into the 9th house. Your beliefs create what you experience. It’s time to consider the future. What you do now effects the outcome. What’s your overall philosophy of life? Are your really living it?…During this transit you may be called upon to re-assess what the truth really means.”

I’m going to go back into Jungian thought, too. Focused for the moment on archetypes. Astrology, as Tarnas sees it, opens a window, a gateway (as Elisa said), into the movement of archetypal energies through our lives. It is not predictive; it is illuminating. As Neptune squares the moon, for example, it is a difficult time for certainty, for confidence, for contentment. Knowing that this is part of the archetypal ocean in which I’m swimming helps me not overreact, make rash or impulsive decisions. At least I think that’s what it means. More to come.