We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

I have been myself

Lughnasa                                                                           Harvest Moon

Friday was a domestic day with laundry and groceries, a workout. Saturday was one of those days when I couldn’t get traction, took two naps, felt tired all day. In the afternoon, after an email from friend Mark Odegard featuring a sumi-e youtube video, a friend of his showcasing some of his work, I told Mark I was going upstairs and pick up my favorite large brush. I did.

20180915_162623 20180915_162727

Somehow draining my self of current concerns, holding the brush, and then in one stroke laying ink down on paper helped me, gave me the sense that the day was no longer chaotic.

A familiar fall feeling had begun to make to itself known. Melancholy. Sleep had not been good for a couple of nights. We’d had a busy week, tiring. The religious school class was emotionally draining. And, we’re heading into the time period, now 54 years ago, when my mom had her stroke and died. I was also feeling my side of Kate’s predicament, the uncertainty, the frustration.

But. Gone after my session with the sumi-e. Art therapy?

IndividuationGot that old debil feeling in this mix. You know. What I have done with my life? Here I am 71 years old, with much less time. Much less time to do whatever it is that floats like a dark cloud out of reach. Too little discipline. Too much fear. Too little desire. Too much distraction. Oh, look, a new book! A movie. TV. Yet this has been my life. Always. Work hard, rest, work hard again, rest.

Things have happened in my life. Housing has gotten built. Greedy corporations turned back. New businesses started. Unemployed folks got jobs and paychecks. Immigrants got enough cash for a green card application. Books have gotten written, stories, too. Gardens have flourished, bees kept, an orchard maintained. Two boys raised into men. A steady, soul supporting love. Friends for life made and retained. New friends made, too. Religion has passed through me like a fire, burning down old values, letting me peek into the world beyond, challenging my ethics and pushing me to be better. Perhaps, no, not perhaps, certainly, this is enough for one life.

Yamantaka

Yamantaka

So why does what have I done with my life arise then? It’s not fear of death. Yamantaka and I resolved this. It seems to emerge when other matters press too hard against my soul, deform it. Then, I’ll look at someone else, like DaVinci or Richard Love or Herman Hesse or Rilke. Look at what they did. Look at what I’ve done. Oh.

Might keep Rabbi Zusya on my computer for a while, just to remember. Rabbi Zusya, when he was an old man, said, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’ They will ask me: ‘Why were you not Zusya?’

I have been and am being Charlie.

 

Tor Returns

Summer                                                                               Monsoon Moon

Had an interesting dream last night. Tor, a 190 pound Irish Wolfhound, and a very sweet boy, had run away from home. I don’t recall the context, but I was doing something away from home, including yet another instance in which South Carolina came up. No idea why South Carolina keeps recurring in my dreams. But, suddenly, there was Tor. He wasn’t wheaten in the dream though, more of a strawberry blonde. We reconnected. He recognized me for sure, but seemed a bit reserved. Why had I abandoned him?

Over the course of the dream I saw him wander off again with a German Shepherd buddy, but he did come back. I couldn’t wait to call Kate and tell her I’d found him.

 

On Time

Beltane                                                                      Sumi-e Moon

out-out-brief-candle“Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day
To the last syllable of recorded time,
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.”  Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5

 

And, then, time. Last qabbalah class on time yesterday evening. Next week presentations. I have to come up with something and I got nothin’. Might go with an hourglass. It’s a nice physical symbol since in it time seems to run out, then be restored with an easy flip. Hourglasses, on their sides, are also shaped like the infinity image. So, there’s measured time, yet measured time that can be reversed, and eternal time, running on past the end of earthly time. Might go with Shakespeare.

time-managementWe’ve been pulling at the strands of various ideas about time, from measured time to eternal time to shabbat moments and the radical obvious, time is only ever the present. The past and the future have no reality, no agency, save in the present.

Rabbi Jamie asked an interesting question last night. Why do any of this? What’s the point? He leans toward the practical, unwilling to dwell only in the abstract. Learning has to count. As readers of this blog know by now, I’m more on the dwelling in the abstract end of the pool, so I appreciate his pulling me back into this life with questions like this.

Look insideThe answer he gave to his own question, with which I agree, was this. I’m not quoting. We do it to hold our notion of self more lightly, to give the ego a rest from its orientation to survival, to making it in the world. At the soul level, the most basic level of our human existence, we all connect. Think the collective unconscious, the divine spark, in the image of the sacred. In effect qabbalah posits an Oversoul, or better, an under or inner soul, the quality of which is the same for all humans.

I mentioned the irony that we spend our time developing a firm sense of self, striving for authenticity and compassion, only, at the end of life to give it up. Yes, we all agreed, that’s a good reason for holding the self lightly. We have to let it go. The soul, if there is such a thing, and I’m not ready to say there isn’t, that links us all to all, does not need the self.

The image, from Rabbi Rami Shapiro, that makes this clearest for me was that of waves on the ocean. Our life is a wave on the ocean. It rises out of the ocean, exists and moves on its own, and at its end, sinks back into the ocean. Never was it anything other than ocean.

Yesterday and Today

Spring                                                                  New Shoulder Moon

exerciseMade it to three sets on my workout. This is slow for me since I’ve had this routine for over six weeks, the time frame in which I usually go back for new exercises. No matter. Things have been busy. Feels good to be have gotten this far given the situation.

Dream last night. I had been called to organize a protest at a factory, Johns-Manville, where I worked during high school. The rationale (which I forget) was good; I saw a clear path to getting folks ready to take on management. The meeting was held at the factory and lots of workers had come. However. Just before I was to get started, everyone suddenly left the room. They came back in, slowly, and while they were coming I looked at my self in a mirror, getting ready to go onstage. My hair was a mess. I couldn’t get it to lie down.

ruins of the old Johns-Manville factory in  Alexandria

ruins of the old Johns-Manville factory in
Alexandria

By the time I got onstage I could tell that management had a plan and it involved disrupting the meeting by distracting the audience. It worked. People kept coming and going. I started out with a question, “Did any of you work here in 1964?” One older man, his back turned to me, raised his hand. “Well, you might have seen me here as a shipping and receiving clerk.” (actual job) That got the reaction I’d hoped for, a mild bond. After that the meeting dissolved.

As I began to leave the dream and wake up, I was frustrated, disappointed. Then I thought. Ah, I see the mistake. We let the meeting happen at the factory. The next one will be in the union hall.

20180408_121101SeoAh made a Korean chicken soup. Her mother’s recipe. It was wonderful. She used the leek, some mushrooms, spring onions, and rice noodles. SeoAh used silver ware and I used chopsticks.

She came at just the right time. Kate’s recovery has begun to accelerate. She’s sleeping better, doing her exercises, getting outside and walking. SeoAh has relieved the pressure on me by cooking, cleaning. Next week Kate starts physical therapy. I can see the arc of this moving up now. Makes a big difference.

But the best part is the deepening relationship with SeoAh herself. “You are my parents. Do you understand?” Yes, we do. And, we feel the same way.

 

OMG

Spring                                                             New Shoulder Moon

anxietySurprising, sophisticated, jawbreakingly awful sign on a conservative church sign board: “Anxiety is just unbelief in disguise.” If you live in Christworld, there is a certain sense in which this appears to be true. If only your belief were strong, you would need have no worries. Look at the lilies of the field.

However, assume for just a moment that your metaphysic is wrong. Then, this sentiment is cruel. It doubles up the anxiety for those of us who are anxious, a whole big bunch of us*, by adding weak faith to the angst we already feel. And, even if God is watching out for you in a way totalizing enough to assure you in every situation, punishing anxiety as weak faith is not going to move you closer to faith. The opposite. It will push you deeper and deeper into the slough of despond.

Now, what’s funny is that I saw this sign on my way to The Happy Camper, the dispensary just over the Park County line near Bailey. Picking up our regular supply of thc, a sleep aid we’ve been using for a while now, is a monthly or so trip. Why do I need it? Anxiety is a bitch goddess who demands sacrifice as soon as my head hits the pillow. Has been true to a greater or lesser degree since high school.

Anxiety is not as much of a problem now as it has been, but the long established habit of chewing over the day once the lights are out has become a regular time for my brain to turn on, consider relational or political or philosophical matters. A habit I’ve been unable to break.

sleepFriend Tom Crane sent me a book, he does that every so often, “Why We Sleep,” by Matthew Walker. This is an excellent review of the latest in sleep science and daunting as a result. Sleeplessness has drastic health ramifications, enough to make the favorite yuppie mantra, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” ironic. What I can’t understand, and Walker says the same, is the lack of attention the medical profession gives to sleep. Many of us are desperate to get to sleep. And by desperate I mean desperate. Yet the help offered is often better sleep hygiene, a good idea, I practice it, doesn’t do the trick for me though. If help is offered at all.

I hate to add this idea to all those others out there, but this is a NATIONAL CRISIS. Especially for those of us in the third phase when sleep becomes harder for a variety of reasons.

SleepDeprivation3We have elaborate protocols for people with pulmonary issues like COPD or emphysema, cardiac issues of many nuances, joint replacements for tired and painful knees, shoulders, hips; but, what do we have for a part of our lives that constitutes a third of our time use each 24 hours? Yes, there are sleep centers, but they’re not on offer often and besides it seems that cognitive behavioral therapy is the current gold standard. Problem is not many CBT folk specialize in sleep and we’re certainly not referred to them anyhow.

It’s enough to make a guy lose sleep.

 

*Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.  AADD

Regress to advance

Imbolc                                                                             New Shoulder Moon

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
– Anatole France

melancholyThe last letters of the Hebrew alphabet now have renderings in sumi-e, lying on my table ready for quotes and the chop. A member of Beth Evergreen last night referred to me as an artist. Oh. I thought he said audience. Artist is not a word I’ve ever associated with myself so my brain heard something else. A revealing moment. How others see us is not always, perhaps often, not the way we see ourselves.

An obituary on Terry Brazelton had this summary of a major finding of his research: “Development does not occur on a linear path, with each skill building on earlier ones. Rather, it unfolds in a series of major reorganizations in which children temporarily regress before mastering a new developmental milestone.” NYT

Well. That explains melancholy, at least as I’ve experienced it. There’s a plateau effect, then a hesitation, a pause while the psyche incorporates a new way of being, one probably not available to consciousness at the time of the pause. Since it’s inchoate, the reorganization seems like a regression, a stutter. The mind and the body both slow down, awaiting something they don’t understand. Result: melancholy.

 Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

If you’ve read my posts over the last month or so, I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. My psyche had moved on, already aware that I needed more tactile moments in my daily life, already aware that it was time to resort my priorities based on a new constellation of possibilities made real by our move.

Last night at the shabbat service a rabbi friend of Jamie’s gave a short reflection. She had us consider an unusual moment in the Torah when the former Hebrew slaves remembered fondly the foods they had in Egypt. Using this seemingly inscrutable nostalgia for a time of bondage, she suggested that during transitions, a time of instability, wandering in the dessert for example, we often want to return to the stable state we know to ease the anxieties and uncertainties of a transition. Thus, when faced with a period of eating manna during an often frustrating movement toward the land promised, but not yet reached, even slavery seemed to have its charms.

That nostalgia, I think, is the root of melancholy, a hope that the past can ease the upset of the present. The psyche knows that’s a false hope, a trap, but is unable to articulate why. So, stasis, moving neither forward nor backward, which the ego interprets as negative without knowing why. Really, the moment is gestational, a new way awaits its birth. Not back to Egypt, but on to the promised land. Not back to the life of forty years in Minnesota, but on to the new life developing in Colorado.

 

 

 

Reconstructing

Imbolc                                                                     (New Life) Moon

valentine birthday71 times Valentine’s Day and I have shared a moment. This was a quiet one, a good one. Decided I would cook Kate a special meal. In all our years together I’d never done that. It felt great. Went to Tony’s Market (upscale groceries, great meat). Bought a ribeye and some model thin asparagus. Kate found some tiny potatoes. Candles and jazz from Kate’s Pandora Satchmo and Ella channel. Just right. Later, a dusting of snow.

Based partly on the Rumi poem* I posted, sent to me by Tom Crane after I wrote about that old debil melancholy,I’ve decided to lean into my uncertainty and ambiguity. Life purpose seems to be up for reconsideration. Or, perhaps, reconstruction, reimagining. Or, best, reenchantment. But, instead of forcing my way into a new life, I’m letting it come to me. Waiting. Testing. Entertaining.

Bits and pieces that have floated in. All my 70’s, barring some very unusual event, will be lived in Colorado, hopefully in the Rockies. So, this decade, the one I’m now firmly in, is a Western, arid lands, mountain decade. It also has a strong Jewish accent, spoken in a Beth Evergreen dialect.

reenchantmentAt one point concentrating on Colorado and the west. At another, more Taoism. Stop writing novels. Read more. A lot more. A year of the Tao or a year of the West. Travel. In our immediate region. As much as possible. Continue with the sumi-e. Take classes? Go to a Progoff workshop?

Not sure where this is going, but for some reason turning 71 has made me unsettled, willing to reject or set aside old purposes, find new ones. Or, possibly, reaffirm current ones. I’ll know when I’m done with this, moving into a new chapter. But, I don’t know when that will be.

 

*”This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all…” Rumi, The Guest House

Glass

Winter                                                               Moon of the Long Nights

As she wanes, the moon of the long nights has gone sliver, showing herself this morning covered in a gauze of clouds over Conifer Mountain, just above the tops of the lodgepole pines. Soon she will fade away and the night sky will be black, the best stargazing.

The language of Judaism. Expressed yesterday evening in stained glass. Rich Levine has been teaching in the religious school at Beth Evergreen for several years. He’s connected with a stained glass artist named Linda Elliot. His students and Linda have collaborated to design and then create three works for the congregation.

stained glassThe first is a star of David made of 108 triangles. This familiar symbol of Judaism has six points creating a triangle pointing up toward the source of all things and another pointing down toward this world, the ancientrails of human and sacred movement. This piece was made with 3rd and 4th graders who wrapped each triangle in copper foil and placed them.

The next window, made with another religious school class, presents Joseph’s second dream. In this dream there are eleven stars, the sun and moon and the eleven stars bow down to Joseph. This dream triggers the theft of his coat of many colors and finds him left for dead in a pit. Since this is the means by which Joseph ends up in Egypt, where his entire family eventually joins him during a famine predicted in his first dream, it is also the start of the Egyptian bondage.

Linda Elliot and Joseph's Dream

Linda Elliot and Joseph’s Dream

This image incorporates the rainbow, the sign of the universal covenant between God and all peoples, all the descendants of Noah. It has eleven stars, more abstract than the star of David, with the moon in the lower right hand corner. The sun joins the image when it rises each day.

The third window, seen veiled in the right of this photograph, created this last year by yet another class of religious school students, focused on abstraction, the expression in form and color of love. To my eye it’s abstract in a manner similar to Joseph’s Dream though Joseph’s Dream focuses on a particular narrative.

In the new work the twelve tribes  emerge from the base line and push up toward the burning bush, spreading their message out, out, out in rays away from the bush.

Linda explained that the glass in this piece was made in Oregon. “They have a recipe, like Betty Crocker, which they use to create predictable colors.” But on Saturdays, she said, the same workers go into the glass making shop and tweak the recipes, creating what this company calls Saturday glass. This piece is made of Saturday glass and is, as a result, unique in its most basic material.

unveiling

unveiling

Love

Love

The burning bush itself has two layers of glass, one more orange tinted that faces in to the social hall and another, red, that faces the outside. When the sun shines directly through the burning bush, the red will appear like flames. This red is one of the finest reds she’s ever seen in glass according to Linda. I’ll take a picture of this panel on Thursday when the sun’s out and add it back into this post.

In the new work I see a beating heart, the pulsing center of generations spreading out into the whole world from the twelve tribes.

These three works, Rich’s work with religious school students and Linda’s help in their realization illustrates my point from a post below about religions as a language of the soul. In them Congregation Beth Evergreen finds particular references to the ancient tradition, yet they also convey the universal power of symbols, the revelatory nature of dreams and the outward extension of a small nation made of twelve tribes, history made by the human family.

20180109_192846

 

 

This. That.

Winter                                                                          Moon of the Long Nights

The elliptical is gone. Sold back to Colorado Fitness. Two guys came in a Pence rental truck, picked it up and carried it down the stairs. Heavy, man. Its footprint is still here, outlined in dust.

Kep and Rigel

Kep and Rigel

Rigel’s liver values have continued to deteriorate. We’re taking her to a specialty diagnostic center for a liver biopsy. Possible liver cancer. She’s 8 going on 9, old in our family for a dog of her size. Makes me want to spend as much time as possible with her now. She’s still alert and responsive, the same dog, really, except for the recent habit of chewing up shoes, paper, boxes, hats. Might be something else. We’ll find out.

We’ve taken a cash infusion from last year, paid off our credit cards, plumped up by lots of Jon and grandkid related expenses, and transferred some more money into our savings. Feels good to start the new year debt free. We’re going back to the usual pattern of paying off the credit cards on the month. We strayed from this last year. Just too much going on and we let our attention wander.

inner childI’m still wrestling with schedules, Hebrew, novels, not in a groove and I don’t like that. Except. I read for much of Sunday, The Fifth Season, a fantasy series, very good. While I did that, my sensibility about what I might be doing began to shift. Not sure how, but I have an internal compass that eventually swings back to my true North whenever I get lost. That’s happening right now, though I don’t know where its headed quite yet.

Meanwhile we’re starved for snow and hoping some comes, a lot. We need it for moist forests with trees not dry like fatwood. Not much in the near term forecasts either. This is the arid West. And remains so.

A busy week ahead at Beth Evergreen. A presentation of stained glass art, the third kabbalah class, and another meeting of the MVP, mussar vaad practice group. Bagel table, too, on Saturday morning. More cooking.

Celebrating the Obverse

Winter                                                              Moon of the Long Nights

sol-invictusThe solstices mark swings to and from extremes, from the longest day to the longest night, there, and as with Bilbo, back again. Darkness and light are never steady in their presence. The earth always shifts in relation to the sun, gradually lengthening the days, then the nights.

Most folks celebrate the Winter Solstice for its moment of change toward increasing light. Sol Invictus, the Roman sun god, added a martial spirit. The ancients feared that the nights would continue to grow in length, and act as a shroud thrown over the earth marking an end to growing seasons, to warmth, to life. It’s no wonder that relief at the return of the sun, revealed by small increases in the length of the day, caused holidays to be born around this subtle astronomical change.

There are also bonfires and songs and drinking and sex on the Summer Solstice. The sun manifests itself as light giver, light bringer, with the longest days. The growing season is well underway then, the miracle of life that the sun’s increasing light creates is the very relief anticipated on the Winter Solstice. Fear and the vanquishing of fear. Sol Invictus, the conquering sun.

Yet even in ancient times there had to be a few outliers like myself. We don’t begrudge the return of the sun, nor deny all the miracles that its return makes possible, that would be silly; but, for some psychic reason, perhaps not clear even to us, we reverse the common sensibility and find succor in the gradual lengthening of the nights that begins at the Summer Solstice and reaches its maximum on the night of the Winter Solstice.

We know that the cold and the darkness, the fallow time whose genesis each year happens on the longest day, is also necessary, also worthy of honor. It is earth’s sabbath, a time for all the generative powers to rest, to regather themselves, to ready themselves for the next florescence. I suspect somehow in our psyches we honor slight dips into depression or melancholy, knowing that in those times we regroup, rest the eager forward creative parts of our souls and the gradual lengthening of the darkness outside mirrors that.

winter solstice4In these long nights the cold often brings clear, cloudless skies. The wonderful Van Gogh quote that I posted a few days ago underscores a virtue of darkness, one we can experience waking or asleep. Dreaming takes us out of the rigors of day to day life and puts us in the realm where ideas and hopes gather. So, the lengthening of the nights increases our opportunity to experience dream time. Whether you believe in Jung’s collective unconscious or not-I do, the rich resources of dreaming are available to us with greater ease when the nights are long and the cold makes sleeping a joy.

It was, too, many years ago when I pushed the notion of transcendence out of my spirituality in favor of immanence, incarnation over a god in the sky. My focus moved to down and in, not up and out. Our inner world is a mystery, a place of fecundity, but also a place often occulted by the demands of the day. When we shift our focus to the night, to the half of the year when darkness grows, we can use that external change as a trigger to lean inside, to find the divine within. If we can make this discovery, the god that we are, we can stiff arm the notion that revelation stopped thousands of years ago.

each birth, always

each birth, always

Every moment of our existence is a revelation, the path of a god, the most fundamental ancientrail of all. No, we are not omnipotent, that’s an illusion created by the idea of transcendence, the need to find validation outside of our own soul. This is the true polytheism, the one that folds its hands, says namaste, bows to that of god in everyone, in every animal, in every plant and stone and star.

When you reach out in love to another person, to a dog, to a crocus blooming in the snow, you bring the finger held out by the white haired floating god in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. That moment of creation is always, ongoing, a joint effort between and among us all, human and inhuman, animate and inanimate, the cosmic dance of Shiva brought into this mundane world. He or She is not out there, waiting to be called by prayer, but in here, waiting to be called by the quiet, by the joy, by the persistence held in the soul container that is you.

 

October 2018
M T W T F S S
« Sep    
1234567
891011121314
15161718192021
22232425262728
293031  

Breadcrumbs

Trails