We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Recent Workers at Our House

Beltane                                                                          Sumi-e Moon

Recent workers at our house:

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Beezzy

Beltane                                                                            Sumi-e Moon

Snowtires off and away. Oil changed. A/C an issue that took all day yesterday with no joy on finding a leak. Frustrating. Rear brakes had to be replaced, too. That’s fine. Tires and brakes in good operating order are a must for mountain driving. The A/C is also a must with my Nordic Goddess always eager to have the temperature regime of her genetic homeland. Hopefully all will be finished by noon or so today.

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Ruth and Kate made this. Kate’s from yesterday looks as good.

Kate continues to gain stamina and increase range of motion for her right shoulder. She made challah yesterday, and challah rolls. With some tweaking thanks to a high altitude info sheet from King Arthur Flour she’s really got it going on. This is beautiful challah and rolls. She gave one to Tara yesterday and we’ll give the rolls to Sally today when we visit her in Golden.

Yesterday late afternoon we went over Tara and Arjan’s home for a session with their bees. Like Rabbi Jamie and Dan, they’re first year beekeepers. They’ve got the derigeur, for the Front Range, electric fence. Bear strength. Bears really like honey. And we’ve got bears.It was fun seeing their enthusiasm and a healthy hive.

Tara, Arjan and bees

Tara, Arjan and bees

Their Italians are much more docile than my Minnesota Hygienics. The four built out frames I gave them were filling up with pollen, honey and brood. They’re queen right and the colony is growing. They moved slowly, did a hive check looking at each frame while I stood off to the side and examined them, too.

Their home is on Kilimanjaro Drive. You’ll get the naming convention when you know we passed Jungfrau, Annapurna and Zugspitz drives as well. Kilimanjaro is long and winds way back into the mountains east of Evergreen. The views are wonderful with the continental divide just visible to the northeast. Still snowpacked. It was a clement mountain evening with blue sky, lots of rock and pine trees. And friends.

 

Life in the Big Mountains

Beltane                                                                                     Sumi-e Moon

Yesterday at 8 am Kate went to P.T. and I went to On the Move Fitness. They’re next door to each other. While Kate continued rehabbing her shoulder, I went through my new workout for the second time. The previous session had ouched my lower back some, so Deb modified some of the exercises.

I felt so righteous about having my workout done at 8 am, I relaxed until time for mussar at 1 pm. Anyhow new workout under my belt.

Over to C.J.’s Chicago Dogs to pick up a couple of Italian Beefs for supper. Tasty and nostalgic. Good Chicago memories. I’ve always liked Chicago and spent a good bit of time there earlier in my life.

Then, a little t.v., Midsomer Murders and reading a new book, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, a post-modern feminist riff on the story of Jekyll and Hyde. It includes Dr. Moreau and Sherlock Holmes as characters. Fun. Been doing a lot of heavy lifting with books like the Order of Time, qabbalah and the Dead Sea Scrolls, so something just for entertainment.

Today our first Blizzaks go off and away, three and a half winters of service, time to buy a new set for the upcoming winter. Oil change. Air conditioning rejuvenation. Lot of driving today. Going over to Tara Saltzman for tea and bees. She and Arjan want to talk about their bees, maybe I’ll do a hive inspection.

Memorial day weekend. Feels holidayish already. Camper races have started, 285 will be a parking lot later today. Lots of preliminary complaining by locals. Fortunately we don’t have to drive 285 unless we choose to, so we can work around holiday traffic.

D-Day

Spring                                                                    Mountain Moon

kitchen aidToday is D-Day on Shadow Mountain. Dishwasher Day, that is. Sometime between 8 and 12, the cliched “window”, Best Buy, yes, that old home town favorite, will deliver and install our new Kitchen Aid dishwasher. After five weeks plus of hand washing dishes (the horror!) we’ll go back to the way dishes were meant to be washed, with lots of chugging and rushing and whirring. This has been a sufficiently long and frustrating process that I’ll not believe it’s over until the new appliance is snug in its home and has run its first few cycles.

Rich Levine wrote yesterday to say that our bee equipment is out in the wild now, helping other, new beekeepers. Tara Saltzman, CBE’s director of religious education, felt more comfortable using our half body bee suit. A hive tool, twenty of our built out frames, two hive boxes, bee brush, smoker and pellets went to the bee project. It feels good that they’re in use rather than sitting in our garage and it particularly feels good that they’re encouraging others to learn about bees.

IMAG0784We have more hive boxes, more honey supers, plus all the equipment needed to harvest and bottle honey. We brought the bee stuff with us on the chance that we would want to pick up bee keeping here, but now it’s unlikely. With both gardening and beekeeping the challenges altitude presented might have been overcome, they can be, but that first year enthusiasm after the move, 2015, got absorbed by prostate cancer. In 2016 Jon told me he and Jen were getting divorced. That took our attention for a full year and a half to which I added knee replacement surgery and Kate added Sjogren’s. Unless we decide to purchase a greenhouse, our horticultural life will remain muted.

Kate had her third session of p.t. and I took the time to go to King Soopers and get some groceries. She’s a had a small set back with her appetite, but her progress has given her confidence. This will be only a to be expected dip. Nothing’s linear.

Today's work

Today’s work

Meanwhile I have decluttered the loft. As I work, I pile up books and paper, file folders and magazines, creating temporary archival mounds. When I get to a place where I can poke my head up over the transom and see some light, the mounds lose their archival charm and become just clutter. The act of reshelving books, creating file folders for loose papers, organizing magazines has an energizing effect, both in the satisfaction of a more organized space and in the psychic sense of a new time beginning.

Today is filing, organizing magazines and a task new to me, creating storage for my sumi-e work. Most of it is practice, but there are a few keepers. I don’t understand the value of practice work yet, so I’m going to keep almost all of it even though my instinct is to throw it away. This means finding a way to archive large flat pieces of paper in a way that doesn’t fold or mutilate them. I have some ideas, folded cardboard, removing a few maps from my flat file storage. When I get to working on it, I’ll invent something.

That, plus the dishwasher, is what Tuesday will be about.

 

Hiving

Spring                                                                        Mountain Moon

The Levine hive suspension method

The Levine hive suspension method

Drove over to Rich Levine’s in Evergreen, up on Alpine drive. I took with me two hive boxes, twenty filled out frames, a half bee suit and a veil, smoker, pellets, bee brush, and a hive tool. Rich carried the hive boxes and frames up to his deck cum study where his bees live on a wire.

We hived a three-pound box of bees into one of my old hive boxes. This involves spraying down around 10,000 bees with sugar water, removing the tin can that has fed them on their trip from the bee supplier, in this case all the way from the Western Slope, and easing the queen cage out. Once the queen cage was out, we removed a small cork in the end of the tiny wooden container and replaced it with a marshmallow. This allows the workers and queen to eat away at the marshmallow, releasing her gradually and hopefully encouraging the colony to accept her. They may not and if they don’t they’ll kill her. If they do, your hive is queen right.

Queen cage

Queen cage

After putting the marshmallow in the queen cage, we removed four frames from the middle of the hive box, turned the box over so the space for the can faced down toward the hive floor and whacked the can. Since it was chilly and since we’d sprayed them liberally with sugar water, the workers fell into the bottom of the hive. I took my hive tool and spread them around on the bottom. They’re a squirming, moving mass, whirring. With the workers in the base of the hive, the other four frames return to the hive box and the queen cage is placed between two of the frames, marshmallow end down.

BEES 3 poiund package

Since there are no flowers or other blossoms out right now, the colony must be fed sugar water until they can find something to eat. Rich purchase a feeding system new to me. It involves four holes cut into a hive box cover, just the right size for four mason jars put in them upside down. Punch a few holes in the lid, fill the jar with sugar water, invert.

The fifteen or so people there, many of whom would take a hive box and a three-pound box of bees home and repeat the hiving process there, watched with both fascination and a bit of trepidation. Afterward we had lunch, hotdogs, hamburgers, veggie burgers and veggie hot dogs. Rich is a vegetarian.

I left a little early. I’ve become part of Beth Evergreen’s community at the synagogue, but I’m still nascent as part of the community outside of it. At first I thought it meant something negative, the feeling of being an outsider; but, I realized no, it was only a part of the process of coming to belong there, too. I’m an introvert and cast as the expert so being with so many strangers, I knew only four people, and looked to for answers wore me out. Normal, really.

 

Rivers and Mountains, Bees and Kate

Spring                                                            Mountain Moon

fan kuan, travelers among mountains and streams

Fan Kuan (960-1030, a.c.e.), travelers among mountains and streams, Song Dynasty

So my mind is filling with rocks, pines, mountain streams, magpies and mountain lions; a sign that the mountain theme has begun to take hold. I plan to spend this spring and summer sketching and photographing rock formations, mountains, summits, animals, water, trees and other plants, then interpreting them with sumi-e. I’m continuing to read the shan-shui (mountains and rivers) poets, moving back into the world of Chinese classical painting.

Qabbalah study continues. We’re investigating time and the qabbalists have their own unique approach to it. Here’s an example. To experience what I would call sacred time-they use the phrase eternal time-qabbalists want us to pay closer attention to what I would call ordinary time. This is far different from trying to collapse the hold of ordinary time through meditation or koans or mystical experience. The easiest example is the week. In the qabbalist’s world we count six ordinary days, then we experience shabbat. Shabbat is a time out of time, a moment in the week when the observer exits the world as usually experienced and enters sacred time. But. It’s observable as sacred time because of its contrast to the six days that precede it and the six that follow it. Thus we can find sacred time through attention to measured/ordinary time.

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

Getting ready to hive bees for Beth Evergreen on Saturday morning. Had to dig around in all the bee stuff we brought from Andover since Rich Levine, local bee enthusiast, needed a hive box and twenty frames plus accessories. I had enough. Getting out the hive tool, scraping propolis off the frames, moving supers put me right back into beekeeper mode. Still don’t think I’m willing to do it here, too much hassle with the need for a bear proof enclosure which means strong electric fencing. I will enjoy helping others, though.

Singapore, 2016

Singapore, 2016

Kate’s gained almost five pounds! This after a long period of weight loss. I called her my incredible shrinking wife. Our consult with Betsy, the nutritionist for New West Physicians, was a turning point.

Kate’s building momentum. The Sjogren’s conference left her feeling less alone with this nasty disease since there were hundreds in attendance from all across the U.S. who not only have it, but have similar experiences to hers. She also had her second session of physical therapy this morning and continues to be excited and enthusiastic about it.

Makes me smile.

 

 

Homey

Spring                                                                        Mountain Moon

the political side

the political side

Played domestic goddess yesterday. Wash dishes. Make taco meat. Three loads of laundry. Feed dogs twice. Make supper. Pick up. Take out the trash this morning. The duties of an ordinary housewife of the 1950’s, coupled with raising the kids, would have been physically and mentally exhausting. No wonder they wanted to go to work. It’s easier.

Whole process getting simpler, better understood, flowing with the tao of the moment which is nurture and be nurtured.

We went to see Jackie yesterday at Aspen Roots. Better coiffed now. I’m enjoying the well groomed look. It’s all persona. Cut the hair. Let it grow. Trim the beard. Let it flow. Just different. Since this look is less counter cultural, I feel it less. It’s a way of hiding in plain sight.

Cleaned up

Cleaned up

Decided a few days ago that I’d stick, for now, to my resistance workouts and some modest cardio before and after them. That’s three days a week, leaving me four days to do house work or take care of other matters. It’s better because I’m not feeling short changed on those days I usually do my longer and high intensity cardio. I’m good at getting back to the routine after I’ve changed it, so it’s only a matter of time.

Today is a workout day but before that I’m going to fold laundry and wash my bee suit. Hiving some bees on Saturday morning for Beth Evergreen and I want to look spiffy. Part of the well-coiffed thing, I guess. Can’t find my hive tool or my full body bee suit. Gotta be here somewhere, but I can’t find them.

Kabbalah tonight. More on time.

housework_thumbWhich brings me back to housework. Housework, in its earthy, basic realm, is a microcosm of the Great Wheel. It’s a cycle that never finishes, food must be bought and cooked, trash discarded, dishes cleaned. Then again and again and again. Likewise clothing gets soiled and must be washed, folded, put away. Toilets and counters and floors and windows get dirty, then cleaned, then dirty, then cleaned. It’s a great wheel because it relates to the true life needs of us all and is, as a result, repetitive, but powerful.

 

Bees, Dogs, Hearts and Shoulders

Winter                                                                   Imbolc Moon

20180119_095931Rigel’s blood work so far is encouraging. Her liver values are back to normal. This may be a sudden old age shift to intolerance of chicken protein. The rabbit diet food is on its way from Chewy.com. Her appetite is good. If she gains weight on the new diet, that may be all we need to know. Fingers crossed.

Went over to Rich Levine’s yesterday for more bee conversation. He put the flow hive together. It looks very cool. If it works as advertised, it could eliminate the need for honey supers and the back breaking, hot, sweaty work of extraction.

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Kate uncapping a honey frame

I agreed to talk to the religious school about bee symbology since they’re going to decorate their hive boxes in a couple of weeks. When the school, and Rabbi Jamie apparently, hive their bee packages, I’ll assist. And, I imagine, support the hives as they grow over the course of the summer. A good way to keep my hand in without having to do all the work myself.

Snowing today. Yeah! The forests are dry. The Smoky the Bear signs which give us a hint about the future of our homes are all set on High fire danger. In January. That means really bad news for reservoirs and the 2018 fire season unless we get a lot of snow between now and May or so.

We’ve had four, maybe five inches so far and the snow’s still falling. Supposed to last all day. Could be bigger than predicted, which would be more than fine.

2011 01 09_1223

Two Olsons

Kate’s got a big week coming up. Monday she has a nuclear stress test for her heart and a visit, on the same day, with the electrophys doc. Next Monday she has an appointment with David Schneider at Panorama Ortho for a shoulder consult. Her right shoulder is painful and weak. The pain interferes with her sleep, so getting it fixed has become a priority.

We don’t expect the heart work up to show more than normal aging. It’s a followup to the tough times she had at Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Better now. Stress may be a larger factor than we know.

Rigel’s work up on her GI tract will come back next week. Hope it points in the same direction as Dr. Bayliss thinks.

 

 

Metaphor? Of course.

Fall                                                                               Harvest Moon

kabbalah8The tree of life, the tree of immortality guarded by the angel with the flaming sword; the tree itself still growing in paradise, concealed by language, by our senses, by the everydayness of our lives; the path back to the garden often forgotten, the exile from paradise a separation so profound that we no longer know the location of the trail head and even harder, we no longer have a desire to search for it.

Metaphor? Of course. But in these three words lie a trap for the unwary, a trap in which I allowed myself to get caught and held, a mindhold trap. My life seems like a sine wave of grasping, then losing the significance of metaphors.

When young, I felt the mystery behind the communion wafers and the grape juice at Alexandria First Methodist. At the tenebrae service, when we extinguished the little candles with their paper drip guards and the sanctuary went dark, I thrilled to the change from ordinary experience, sensed the power rolling over us as the memory of crucifixion and death came hurtling through the centuries to land in our small Indiana town, in the very spot where I sat.

The sunrise services held on Easter morning lit up my whole inside. The power of the tenebrae had been defeated and life did go on forever, death only a mistake, an illusion, misunderstood as a cruelty when in fact it was a gateway. I suppose on those days, repeated over many years, I had a glimpse of the path back to the garden.

My mother’s death, I think, shattered this instinctive faith. Those feelings occasioned by grape juice soaked squares of bread, darkness and the rising of the sun, were a true path and one I lost when the brutal reality of grief smeared the way.

But the memory of that way remained. So I moved up from the instinctive triad of netzach-hod-yesod, forced by fear and loss to skip the next triad chesed-gevurah-tiferet and go to the one easiest for me to access, hochmah-binah-daat. I know these hebrew words may mean nothing at all to you, I’m still at the base of a steep learning curve with them myself, but they do appear on the illustration above so you can see where they are on the tree of life.

In simple, but not simplistic terms, the triads are netzach-hod-yesod, the realm of instinctual behavior, chesed-gevurah-tiferet, the realm of emotions and hochmah-binah-daat, the realm of the intellect. Movement in the tree of life goes from the keter to malchut and back from malchut up to keter, so there is no real top or bottom, only different spots in an ongoing process of creation.

kabbalahBut here’s the trap. Metaphor, of course! I studied philosophy, religion, anthropology in college. Then, after a few years stuck in unenlightened instinctual behavior-the storied sex, drugs and rock and roll of the sixties and seventies-I moved to seminary. The trap tightened. I learned about the church, scripture old and new, ethics, church history. It was exhilarating, all this knowledge. I soaked it up. I remained though stuck in the intellectual triad, pushing back and forth between the polarity of intuitive wisdom, hochmah, and analytical thought, binah, often not going on to daat, or understanding. I learned, but did not integrate into my soul.

There was a time, after seminary, after ordination, as I groped my way around in the work of ministry, that I found the path again. It was in mystical traditions like the Jesus Prayer, or the use of lectio divina, contemplative prayer. I had spiritual directors who guided my prayer life and I meditated often, daily for years, went on private retreats for days at a time. In those years I found my way back to the netzach-hod-yesod triad, traveling again on the instinctual path formed so long ago.

The trap sprung another time, though, as I got better at my ministry, more able to apply organizational development paradigms to congregational life, more able to pull the levers of political power for the good of various purposes: affordable housing, unemployment policy, economic development for poor neighborhoods, fighting off corporate takeovers of those same poor neighborhoods, more able to navigate the internal politics of Presbytery life. I became stuck in malchut, the material world which we experience everyday. So stuck that eventually I could see nothing else and the path disappeared again.

interior_dante_divinecomedy_inf_01_002My heart knew I had gotten lost, in exile once again. In Dante’s words in Canto 1 of the Divine Comedy:

In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost.

It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death…

I cannot rightly say how I entered it. I was so full of sleep, at that point where I abandoned the true way.”

This time I knew I had to extricate myself from the subtle trap, get out of the thought world that had me lost in the dark wood, the direct way lost. It was a wild, harsh, seemingly impenetrable forest.

It was clear that for me the Christian faith had gotten muddled up with ambition, immersion in the world of power. And, most problematic of all, it had become part of the metaphor trap. The metaphor had gone stale, had become a barrier instead of a koan. Not the fault of the faith itself, but of my journey within it.

IMAG0650croppedAt the time of its crumbling another path had begun to open for me. Fiction writing emerged when, ironically, I began writing my Doctor of Ministry thesis. Instead of working on it I ended up with 30,000 plus words of what would become my first novel, Even The Gods Must Die. Irony in the title, too, I suppose.

In the train of that shift came a decision to look into my Celtic heritage as a source for my fiction. While researching Celtic religion for the fantasy novels I wanted to write, I discovered the Great Wheel.

It grounded me. So to speak. My spiritual life became tactile, bound up in soil amendments, bulbs, corms, seeds, spades and hoes, fruit trees, raspberries and bees. And, of course, dogs. Always dogs.

Meeting Kate enabled me to move gracefully out of the ministry and into a pagan worldview. I was back in the netzach-hod-yesod triad, but now firmly attached to malchut, the queendom of this world.

Writing fiction found me exploring the chesed-gevurah-tiferet triad, having to reach into my heart for believable characters, story lines. Over the course of those years, the years since leaving the Christian ministry and now, I began to gradually integrate the triads, at least the three: intellectual, emotional and instinctual. The combination of family life, the Andover years, writing, and working as a docent at the MIA began to slowly weave them into my soul.

2010 01 19_3454Even so, I sat behind the barrier, the flaming sword, the metaphor trap. Beth Evergreen and Rabbi Jamie Arnold have started me on a journey back to where I began, immersed in the dark. Seeking for the light, yes, but happy now in the  darkness, too. The Winter Solstice long ago became my favorite holiday of the year.

When I left Christianity and took up my earth-bound spirit, I shut off access to the fourth triad, the one subsumed under keter: faith-joy/pleasure-will, and its source of energy, the ein sof, the infinite One, perhaps god in small letters. Today, as I write this, I’m more pagan than I’ve ever been, more embracing of the body, the mountains, the stars, the elk and the mountain lion, than any words from any source.

2011 03 06_3396But. At Beth Evergreen I have begun to feel my way back into the fourth triad, the mystery I first encountered on the hard wooden pews in Alexandria, the one pulsing behind the metaphors of tenebrae, of crucifixion, of resurrection,  and now of Torah, of language, of a “religious” life. I knew it once, in the depth of my naive young boy’s soul. Now, I may find it again, rooted in the old man he’s become.

Bee Alive

Lughnasa                                                                     Eclipse Moon

2010 01 19_3455Trying to seat a new work habit. Write ancientrails, then my 750 words for Jennie’s Dead and after breakfast, do my 30 minutes on reimagining. Still cutting and filing posts. Workout. Lunch. Nap. Then, Latin and reading. After the writing, and before breakfast, catch up on the news. Worked yesterday. Ha. Takes awhile to get the body and mind to expect what I want at certain times of the day.

Kate went in to Jon’s new house on Tuesday after I got my hair and beard cut. New look! She took bedding for the kids. But going down the hill right now is fraught because our air conditioner has decided that above 85 degrees is just too hot for it to work. It blows, but it doesn’t cool. Denver, in the late afternoon, has been hitting the mid-90s.  Kate’s not a warm weather gal. Not in any way. She got overheated and it’s taking her a bit to recover. And, yes, the ac goes to the shop on Tuesday.

Artemis Honey, a good year

Artemis Honey, a good year

I went over to Rich Levine’s house last night for pizza and a salad. He’s the lawyer who did our estate work and a member of Beth Evergreen. He has also put lot of work into the new Beth Evergreen preschool project. The old preschool was about to shut down, taking with it not only the service provided to the kids, but a revenue stream for the synagogue. Rich and a few others, including Hal Stein, the new board president and Rabbi Jamie, who was a preschool teacher, led the effort to keep the preschool going under Beth Evergreen’s aegis.

The evening was cool and his beautiful house, which sits above Evergreen on the aptly named Alpine Drive has a mountain lawn; that is, one filled with boulders and native rock. After supper we walked up from his house, first on a short boardwalk, then on a trail over exposed rock, the mountain side, really, to a large open deck with an enclosed room where he does his academic work. Rich teaches constitutional law at the Colorado School of Mines.

Kate, decapping with the hot knife

Kate, decapping with the hot knife

The preschool’s Bee Alive theme this year correlates to Rich’s bee keeping project, which he began a year ago. We looked at his hives, he wanted my advice. His bee hives hang from a steel cable attached to a roof beam for the deck and about 50 feet away, a large ponderosa pine. This is a novel set up, mimicking, but with beehives, the way many people suspend bird feeders. Bears create the need. They love bird food and honey. A pulley system allows him to raise and lower the hives. Having their homes hanging in the air is just fine for bees.

I’m now, I think, an unofficial consultant and fellow worker in the preschool Bee Alive program. A lot of bee related work ahead. I have to do some research about mountain beekeeping.

 

 

 

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