We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Up in Smoke

Spring                                                                Mountain Moon

A cloud crawls down Black Mountain,

Cotton embraces ski runs, blue above.

A light scrim of snow covers our solar panels,

The sky falls toward us, slowly.

 

four twentyToday is 4/20. In Colorado and elsewhere it’s a pot linked holiday and here’s a brief explanation of its strange origin.* A couple of years ago I was downtown Denver near the National Western Stockshow Grounds on April 20th. Driving to a small taqueria for lunch I passed hundreds of people walking along the road, smoking joints, smiling, lots of dreadlocks under Rastafarian knit saggy caps. Last year the 4/20 crowd made such a mess at a city park that Denver stopped the celebration for this year.

4/20 is also Adolph Hitler’s birthday, my brother Mark reminded me. Hitler is a figure in the childhood dark closet of most Baby Boomers whose parents, like mine, were veterans of WWII. My dad had a beaten up copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. It always seemed strange to me as a boy; but, as an adult, I came to realize how large Hitler loomed over his life, occasioning several years in the military for both him and my mom.

Nazis+on+parade.Now Hitler is mostly a boogeyman, a perfect example of either evil or the potential power of white supremacy. His Nazi party serves a similar function, offered up in movies if an ultimate villain is needed. Just as the Vietnam War, which dominated my life in the late sixties and early seventies, has faded from the memory of millennials, so even the holocaust has begun to fade from memory. Yes, it’s dangerous to lose sight of this horror; but, it’s also human. As an event moves further away from us, it changes, transforms.

Most, all?, religions are an attempt to hold a historical moment close, to keep it vibrant, vital. Easter and Passover. Even these though show the great difficulty in maintaining the urgency of something that has been covered over by distance and lack of direct experience. Max Weber called this the rationalization of charisma. As the charismatic figure or moment recedes, institutions grow up to protect its memory, but that very fact, the institutionalization of a matter of the heart, encrusts the event and eventually depletes it of its power. It becomes covered over by dogma, by tradition, by the ridigities of too much thought.

Emerson'Emerson knew this. “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?” From the introduction to his essay, Nature.

We need to discern not only, perhaps not even most importantly, the facts of the holocaust, though they are incalculably significant, but we need to look evil in the face in our time, confront it now, name it now. Stop it now. Evil, like good, does not stop in a historical moment, but gains new, contemporary expressions. If we keep looking for revelation about what it means to be human in sacred texts or historical tragedies, we can easily miss the revelation appearing in the neighborhoods and rural areas of our own country.

 

*In 1971, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, five high school students[4] in San Rafael, California,[5][6] calling themselves the Waldos[7][8] because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”,[9] used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about,[7][10] based on a treasure map made by the grower. wiki

 

Mall, Art and one emoji balloon

Spring                                                                              Mountain (New) Moon

Went to the Aurora Town Center mall on Saturday to see son Jon’s student’s art. He teaches art at Montview Elementary in Aurora. Over 17 years now.

This first shot is Dillard’s. I realized malls and especially the anchor department stores had design features like old world palaces. It’s just us nobles shopping here, selecting luxury goods for our many roomed homes. Even so, the mall felt dead as an institution, a thing of the last century. Don’t know about you but I haven’t been in a mall in a years.

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This fish, by one of Jon’s fifth grade students, took first place out of all the Aurora elementary schools. I can see why. It’s original, muted colors, sharp definition, suggests dinosaurs and armored fish.

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However, I preferred this one, also from one of Jon’s students. I love the color field artists and this one moves pretty far in that direction. Not bad for an elementary kid. Jon wants his kid’s art to be expressive, not perfect. “I feel bad for those people who want to be artists, but can’t get the emotional expression they want in what they do,” he said. He’s actually teaching art making.

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Aurora has a large Latino population. This store sold kid’s clothes, cowboy boots, hats, leather vests and belts, but all in a Mexican idiom, rather than Western.

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Just loved these overdone baseball caps.

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Finally, this from Gabe’s room. A helium filled poop emoji. Gotta admit I don’t get this one.

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You’re Fired

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

firedSamsung won’t condemn our dishwasher. But I will. It’s a very rotten appliance, not good at its job. It’s FIRED! Which means we have to buy a new one. Oh, well. At least it’s a resolution. So, sometime soon a new dishwasher will appear. We will all (Kate and me) be happy. This one never worked quite right, requiring lots of jiggering and poking.

Kate’s been doing a lot of gettin’ around. She’s out to the mailbox for the paper. More about the paper in a paragraph. She saw Lisa on Wednesday then we drove into Denver to see Ruth. Yesterday we went to Mussar for the first time since the ides of March. It was wonderful to see and be seen. Warm. Uplifting.

We’re both tired today. I wanted to get out there and buy a new dishwasher today, get this saga done; but, we’re both too weary. Tomorrow, maybe. SeoAh comes tomorrow, arriving around five at DIA. It will be great to have her here for a few days.

rocky mountain newsThe Denver Post. Not one of the nation’s great newspapers. Unfortunately, the Rocky Mountain News, which was a really good, if not great, paper succumbed in 2009. We’re left with the Post which is a rather staid, uninteresting example of the journalistic art.

Printer’s ink runs in my veins, having grown up to the rattling, clanking sound of an old Heidelberg letter press churning out copies of the the Times-Tribune in Alexandria, Indiana. I love newspapers and believe in reading local newspapers. It was natural for us to get a subscription. Kate does one or two crosswords every day and we both appreciate the local news.

denver postYet. We got a notice of a change in subscription price. The Post has gone from $30 a month to $59 a month. Nearly $700 a year for a second-rate newspaper. And, to add to that, mountain delivery is like all other services up here, sporadic and unpredictable. My instinct is to chuck it. Too expensive and poorly delivered. Even so, there’s still the local news we’d miss and Kate would definitely miss her crosswords. Not sure what to do.

And. How ’bout those Timberwolves? Led their division almost the entire season only to drop to 4th place as the playoff’s come near. Ah. Minnesota teams. Finding new ways to disappoint. Except for the 1987 and 1991 Twins. Joseph’s growing up years. Made him a baseball fan for life.

The Future of Food

Imbolc                                                                           New Shoulder Moon

third plate Mentioned The Third Plate a few posts ago. A book by chef Dan Barber, owner of the Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan and a principle in the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester County.

SELECT TASTING OR DAILY MENU
Rotation Grains
smoked farmer’s cheese and broccoli pistou
~
Maine Diver Scallop
bacon, winter squash and kohlrabi
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Stone Barns Pig
tsai tsai, horseradish and pickled grapes
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11 day dry-aged bolero carrot steak
mushroom, kale and onion rings
~
blue hill farm milk
yogurt, turmeric and ginger
~
Malted Triticale porridge
White Chocolate, quince and Beer Ice Cream
Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

He uses four big concept areas, pictured at the top: Soil, Land, Sea, Seed to tell a story about what he sees as the future of food. He’s trying to take the conversation about food beyond the now well known critiques of books like Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Aldo Leopold’s The Sand County Almanac, and any number of books published in the late sixties like Eull Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. Throw in Wes Jackson’s Becoming Native to This Place, almost anything by Wendell Berry and the thought world championed by John Muir and Edward Abbey and you can see the big conceptual field Barber has tried to plow.

He seems on to something. Using examples like the dehesa in Spain that produces jambon iberico, The Bread Lab run by Washington State plant geneticist Stephen Jones, the farm of Klaas Martens who teaches him about reading the language of the soil, Veta La Palma, a Spanish aquaculture corporation set up in an estuary of the Gulf of Cadiz, and Anson Mills, a fascinating concept by Glenn Roberts who uses landrace farming to resurrect old grain crops and nurture new ones, he seems to propose a recursion to localized crops, that is, wheat, for example, that grows best in upstate New York.  This recursion includes animals, too, where their rearing takes on the characteristics that oenologists call terroir in wines.

nutrition

This recursion would have chefs take their cues, their menus, from what farmers can grow in their immediate area and from those sites with a focus on sustainability and ecosystem regeneration. The fascinating aquaculture experiment that is Veta La Palma  uses the Guadalquivir River and the salt water of the Gulf of Cadiz to farm high quality sea bass. The focus does not have to be only local or regional but can include instances of food production with ecosystem supportive techniques.

This seems similar to the disaggregation idea in power production, local solar and wind and geothermal and hydro.  Anything that deemphasizes the industrial and the corporate in favor of the local and ecological.

EatLocal

He talks about his idea in agriculture as middle agriculture, that is agriculture smaller than corporate, but larger than the small family farm or the boutique garden. He’s trying to get to scale sufficient that it could actually feed large numbers of people.

It makes me want to cook in the way he suggests. That is, find food grown here in the Rockies, use it along with food sourced from the Veta La Palmas, the dehesas or the Bread Labs, and build our menus at home around it, changing with the seasons. Right now that would take a good bit of work, but it might be possible and it would certainly be worth it.

A continuing theme.

Moody Blues

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

mood ringAs melancholy begins to lift, where does it go? Does it go back into memory, added to a store of melancholic episodes over a life time, each one different, unique, becoming part of the polyvalent stew that is our psyche? What triggers the end or, better, the gradual tailing off of doubt? Of the heaviness? Of the stasis? Where do all those moods and temporary inner states (and, they’re all temporary) go? Do they just float up into some neuronic cloud, then get washed away through the body’s toxic cleansing processes?

Psychic moods are more important than we realize and they’re little understood, little discussed; but, these colorations of our inner world directly influence how we react to others, to events in our lives. A positive mood contributes to resilience, to the ability to take in an insult, large or small, and respond in a constructive manner while a negative mood can take an insult as devastating, catastrophic.

moodsI’m not talking here about depression or anxiety or mania, serious and long lasting mental states; rather, I’m talking about fleeting, sometimes changing moment by moment, atmospherics. Joy. Sadness. Glad. Mad. Eager. Reluctant. Energized. Slow. Crisp or dull. They come and go like the lenticulars over Black Mountain or the high white mare’s tail cirrus. Sometimes they crowd our mind with the darkness of a thunder head or roar through us like a tornado. And then they go, pushed away by a high or low pressure system, perhaps a psychic La Nina.

moodphases

moodphases

Some moods last a bit longer. Melancholy is one for me. I can feel it beginning to leave, pressed out, as it usually is, by a renewed sense of purpose; yet, right now that renewed purpose is not clear. That means the melancholy cannot fully go because its reason for emerging has not been resolved.

Still waiting on the outlines of the new life melancholy seeks. It starts out, I think, with dissatisfaction, usually inchoate, not yet conscious, about some aspect of my life. And, I think, further, that that very inchoate state is what develops into melancholy. A sort of psychic brake gets pressed as the mind tries to grasp both the dis-ease and a route forward. The melancholy lasts as long it takes for the reordering of life’s energy into a new way of being in the world.

 

 

The Inner. The Outer.

Imbolc                                                                                  New Life Moon

visual_field_testGlaucoma stable. Did a visual field exam yesterday, space invaders with a clicker and dots of light flashing off and on, testing peripheral vision.

Kate went with me so we could go to the Village Gourmet and buy a carving knife and a better potato masher. Turns out what I thought of as a carving knife was a filleting knife, a boning knife. What I wanted in spite of its different purpose. It’s in the knife rack now awaiting the time I have to cut up more chunks of beef or a chicken or a capon. Remember the capon saga around Thanksgiving? Found a potato masher, too. With a horizontal grip, easier on old hands.

My birthday present is to change out my wardrobe. That is, get rid of the old work related shirts and suits and shoes and pants and replace them. It’s been a long, long time since I had to show up at the office or appear in a tie, so this is not a sudden decision.

No. Not cowboy boots and shirts with triangle shaped pockets, pearl snaps. Not cowboy hats and big belt buckles. Just not me. But. Part of the motivation is to dress as the Coloradan I now feel myself to be. I’m no cowboy, nor are most of the folks who wear Western style clothing either. My Colorado is more mountains than ranches, more forests and streams than ski slopes. And, in that, my Colorado has definite affinities with my other favorite places, northern Minnesota with its clear lakes and thick forests, Lake Superior, especially its western and true northern shore, and northern Anoka County in Minnesota.

flannelSo. More flannels and plaids. Fleece vests. Another pair or two of blue jeans. Some new hat, though I don’t have a particular one in mind right now. There is a tiny part of me that relates to loggers, lumberjacks. Not the whole lumberjack look that spread out from Minnesota a few years back. That’s not still a thing, is it? But related to it. With all the chainsaw work I’ve done over my lifetime I feel I’ve earned some of that.

Mussar puts a significant inflection on changing outward behavior to change inner attitudes. As part of a strategy for self work, this makes sense to me though it conflicts sharply with my understanding of authenticity. In the case of defining a new look it feels appropriate.

What I want is my costuming, my outer look, to reflect my inner attitude, my changing sense of the place to which I belong. It’s definitely no longer oxford cloth shirts and polished wool pants, silk ties and Cole Haan shoes. Finished with that. For good.

A more comfortable, rumpled, casual look. One with a north woods, mountain feel. We went to a thrift shop yesterday after the Village Gourmet and I found two flannel shirts and a brown fleece vest. $16. I’ve gotten started. My plan is that for each new (new to me) shirt or accessory I buy, I’ll put an existing shirt or pair of pants in a box for the Mountain Resource Center.

This feels of a part with the melancholic turn, not a symptom of the melancholy, but of the inner change struggling to express itself. The who am I now question that has me stalled for the moment. And that’s ok. Maybe when I put on that new(er) Clear Creek Outfitter flannel shirt a piece of this journey will come into focus.

 

 

 

Staying Open. Paying Attention.

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

Got up late today, around 8:30 am so I’m writing this after noon. Feels a little weird since it’s usually dark outside when I work on Ancientrails.

South-ParkColorado-Fishing-MapKate and I went to Aspen Roots today. Jackie tints and cuts Kate’s hair, cuts mine and trims my beard. She’s a good lady. Learned today that she taught her son fly fishing. Her father worked for Eagle Claw and started taking her fishing when she was five. Can’t be too many sons who’ve been taught fly fishing by their moms. Right now he’s logging and had a nasty accident when the saw cut through his boot and into his foot. She hopes he’ll become a fishing guide.

Coloradans and the snow. There were flurries last night, some periods of heavier snow. So most folks stayed home from mussar vaad practice. MVP. Geez. I find myself saying this every once in a while up here: “If Minnesotans didn’t go out when it was snowy and cold, they’d never leave the house from November through March.” It’s definitely better to have Minnesota conditioning for Colorado winters though than, say, Florida or Texas. Both state contribute their share of new Coloradans.

Melon choly. Still ripening though not as pervasive. I’ve not felt this, as near as I can recall, since Minnesota. A certain heaviness, a certain I don’t really feel like getting out of bed. A gray veil.

Bee-guyMy best guess as to why now is a little odd. First year we were moving in, orienting ourselves. Prostate cancer, too. Second year Jon’s divorce, my knee replacement and then Kate’s first bout we identified with Sjogren’s. Since September though Jon moved into his new house. He’s calmed down, a lot. Sjogren’s and its effects, while not pleasant, are at least known and we have strategies to cope with them. After a year plus with the knee, after p.t. and now several different workouts, the knee has no pain and functions, for the most part, as it did before the bad arthritis set in.

So we’ve had since September to adjust to a Colorado which is no longer introducing us to new medical or familial dysfunction. We have friends and a small community now at Beth Evergreen. Rigel doesn’t have liver cancer. Joe and SeoAh are doing well. The grandkids ask to come up here. Things have calmed down, life has tilted toward the positive side of the scale.

Now what? That, I think, is the cause of the melancholy. What do I do now that I’m finally here in Colorado without serious distractions? Are elements of the Minnesota life germane here? Some are clearly not. The Sierra Club scene was disappointing. Sheepshead, too. The Denver museum scene is dull normal. Gardening and bee keeping seem too daunting here, at least for my current energy level and financial resources. (I’d garden in a decent greenhouse, but $$$$.)

agencyWhat is mountain life? Colorado life? Life in the arid West? For me. Sure there’s reading and writing and thinking. The Great Wheel. There’s family and Beth Evergreen. Good jazz. But how does it fit together? What’s the coherence? Where is the tao of this moment?

Apparently my psyche decided that the way to answer these questions is to slow me down. Push pause on the recent past. Let stuff bounce around a while, let different parts clang into each other. Such slowmo has often preceded life changes for me, sometimes after a period of guided reflection like the Ira Progoff Journal Workshops. Sometimes just after time passes. Staying open. Paying attention. Waiting.

Water, water somewhere

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

snowpack 2.19.18Wow. Weather station says the humidity outside is 66%. Inside 2%. Aridity is the norm, humidity a rare phenomenon here. Like most rarities it’s welcome. Most welcome.

4 or 5 inches of snow yesterday. Every flake helps in this dry year. Old timers here are not worried yet because March and April are the big snow months. If the patterns change, we’ve had a big ridge over us for most of the winter pushing cold and snow to the east, north of us, we may recover. In this case recovery means two things, a wetter forest heading into fire season and a snowpack closer to average.

In the land of 10,000 lakes water was abundant and loved, not so much for its quality as water, but for its pleasing manifestation in the landscape. Cabins on the lake. Walleye fishing. Lakes in the cities. The Mississippi rising in Itasca and flowing down toward New Orleans, passing through Minneapolis and St. Paul on its way there. The majesty and wonder of the great lake, Superior.

Here though water is water, aqua vita. Its necessity for human life, for livestock, for healthy more fire-resistant forests is never far from the minds of folks in the West. As I read recently in 365 Tao, the earth breathes out, clouds form and water moves from place to place. This fundamental physiology of our planetary eco-system is, oddly, more apparent in its absence than in its over abundance. The humid east and the arid west.

Since we got just less than 6 inches, it means I blow the driveway. Ted plows six inches and above. Gonna wait another hour or so though since it’s only 6 degrees and I’m more cold sensitive now, both as a Coloradan and a septuagenarian.

Becoming Native

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon

20180211_120056Life still trickling by. A bit of snow over the last few days, colder now, in the Colorado measure of that term. So relative. Saw a facebook meme with Texans in parkas at 70 degrees. Could have countered that with a Minnesotan in shorts at ten below. Meanwhile 11, last night, felt pretty cold after three years here. These gross physical acclimatizations  are easy to spot, but what about the more subtle mental adjustments?

How does the mind change, for example, when it goes up and down mountains, around curves into canyons, rather than coasting across the flat lands of the Midwest? Or, what about looking up and seeing ovular lenticular clouds, high flying cirrus against blue sky? When fall comes and the changes are only in the aspen, a mass of gold variations, what happens to the heart used to deciduous colors?

Political colorations are different here, too. That thick vein of let me alone libertarianism too often gets mined for political results that would make even conservative Minnesotans cringe. Immigrants to the state, like Kate and me, drag along with us expectations that government should be of, by and most of all, for the people. This is a far from universal sentiment in the West. We’re adding new strata to the political geography, but the whole still feels very alien to me.

becoming nativeThis is all by way of becoming native to this place, a key element in my pagan creed borrowed from Wes Jackson at the Land Institute. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? That’s why I love it, the challenging notion that we can be of a new place in a very old, intimate way, through what Rabbi Jamie would call Torah study, close attention, close attention to details and to our own inner world, compassionate attention willing to be shaped by what we find.

IMAG0861Kate and I did it on the Great Anoka Sand Plain. Over the Andover years we listened to the soil, to the rhythms of the growing season. We stuck our hands in the soil, partnered with it. We planted trees and fruit bearing shrubs. There was the open prairie we cultivated on either sides of the more traditional suburban lawn carpet. Bees, with whom we partnered, for honey. Dogs who used the woods as their home and hunting ground. By the time we left we were native to that place. Its rhythms shaped our own and together we created a place to live.

It’s happening here, too. A long and nuanced process, still in its early days, but one that has promise for the Great Work, creating a sustainable presence for humans on this planet.

 

The Rockies, near home

Imbolc                                                                 Imbolc Moon

Looking east from the summit of Kenosha Pass

Looking east from the summit of Kenosha Pass

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Through the Platte Canyon, over Kenosha Pass, onto the highplains of South Park, past Fairplay, into the Collegiate Range and finally to the Liar’s Lodge in Buena Vista on the Arkansas River, not far from Leadville. Picked up Kate and Valerie, two Bernina’s, lots of cloth, a suitcase, cutting boards and other accessories of the sewing life. Also petted Sadie, the dog who greets all who come to Liar’s Lodge, then reversed course through a light snow that made the drive out of Buena Vista picturesque.

About ten miles out of Buena Vista, on a hill, with no traffic in either direction, a man in a black SUV pulled onto the highway into my lane and I had to swerve to miss him. Sent my heart rate up. This is steep, curvy country with so many possible sources of accidents, but this one? Would have been stupid, stupid, stupid. Other than that the drive was uneventful.

Here are a few photographs. I stopped along the way, taking time to look, to see. So much more to explore here in Colorado. And all this is within an hour and a half of home.

The Lazy Bull, South Park

The Lazy Bull, South Park

Tarryall Ranch, now public land. Good fishing.

Tarryall Ranch, now public land. Good fishing.

Tarryall

Tarryall

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