A Difference Maker for My Heart

Spring                                                                              Rushing Waters Moon

20190420_173752Back to mussar yesterday. First time in quite a while. It was a gift, as was the minyan for Debra Copes’ mother’s memorial the night before.

Odd though, in both instances. I find myself an insider and an outsider. There is no question that Beth Evergreen accepts both Kate and me. I’m of the community, not a Gentile pagan interloper. Yet when the prayers are said and the knee bending and bowing begins, I feel like an outsider. I don’t know the words, nor do I fully understand why we’re bending and bowing. I try to follow the person next to me, but I feel awkward and a bit inauthentic. Also, I don’t wear the kippah during services. Again, it doesn’t seem authentic for me since I’m not of the tribe.

When Alan Rubin and I went to lunch on Wednesday, for example, I ordered a reuben, a pannini. When Alan ordered a salad, I said, “Oh, on your diet, eh?” “Well, yes, but also we can’t eat bread during Passover.” Oh? Oops. Passover, it turns out, is 8 days and eating leavened anything during this time is out. Yet they trust me enough to teach in the religious school.

high holy daysBeing away for a while makes me more aware of these moments. Yet Debra wanted me at her mother’s minyan. She did a universal worship service which consists of lighting candles for Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and a general candle for other witnesses to the divine. Rabbi Jamie said, at a meeting a couple of weeks ago, “This ex-Presbyterian understands Reconstruction better than anybody else around this table.” Around the table were key leaders of the synagogue.

Yesterday I offered what was for me a mussar interpretation of a table of virtues set out by Renee Brown, a favorite author of many in the congregation. Yes, to generosity. But, also, yes to retaining sufficient resources for yourself and your family. Yes, to freedom, but also yes to submission, to recognizing those times when serving others is more important. Yes, to accountability, but also yes to breaking the rules, to recognizing that not all instances of being held to account (even by ourselves) are equal or worthy.

20180316_191858The Jewish approach to death, too. Sitting shiva with someone after a death. Having those in mourning stand and be acknowledged during the mourner’s kaddish at every worship service. Celebrating each year the yahrzeit, the year anniversary of a loved ones death. Calling together a minyan as Debra did for honoring her mother. Those who knew it, repeated the mourner’s kaddish from memory. A vital and key part of maintaining community, acknowledging that the dead live on, not gone, just absent.

When I told Alan about my new reality with the axumin scan and oncologists, he said, “You know you’ve got the whole congregation behind you?” He meant it. Wow. Makes me feel like crying. Because I’ve always chosen an outsiders role, I’ve rarely known complete acceptance in a group; but, I feel it at CBE like I felt it in the Woollies. Profound. A difference maker for my heart.

 

 

 

A hypothesis. The long, very long history of clergy sexual abuse.

Spring                                                                    Rushing Waters Moon

I wrote to the author of this Washington Post column, Pope Benedict shows how the Catholic church went so horribly off-courseHoly_Orders_Picture-cropped2.

Hello, Mr. Drehle,

I’m a retired Presbyterian clergy. I appreciated your comments about Benedict stepping out of the shadows. Problematic to say the least. And, what he said. About all this being the fault of liberals and the sexual revolutions. I mean, come on. Doesn’t pass the most cursory examination.

But. Here’s a matter that has bothered me since the beginning of this latest chapter. It’s my hypothesis that this kind of sexual abuse has existed since the beginning of the R.C. Probably apexed in the Middle Ages.

Sexual abuseWhy? What we know now about sexual abuse is that it often (usually) involves an authority figure and a subordinate. Sexual desire hasn’t waned in the last two thousand years, I’m sure of that. And the Catholic churches presumption of holy authority and that mediated through its bishops and their clergy trumps even the boss/employee relationship, the coach/athlete relationship, and the doctor/patient relationship.

I don’t have evidence for this, just the knowledge that the power dynamics were even worse for congregants from the time of the R.C.’s formation through at least the age of enlightenment.

I’m writing you to see if you know anyone else who’s come to a similar conclusion. And, if not, shouldn’t somebody be on this? If true, and I’m pretty sure it is, it would put the lie to any defense like Benedict’s.

TGIF

Spring                                                                             Rushing Waters Moon

Health south denver cardiology

South Denver Cardiology

Took Kate yesterday to her electro phys (pronounced, fizz) appointment. This one monitors her pacemaker. Unremarkable in terms of her health, really, since it hardly ever fires, but if necessary it’s there. What was interesting to me is the building. It looks like Valhalla for cardiologists. After that final operation, after that final payment on the Maui condo, after that last beat of their own hearts, cardiologists might gather in this Viking long house and feast on Sæhrímnir, the ever dying, ever resurrecting beast that feeds the fallen doctors of the heart. If such a final destination is anywhere, here near the Rockies seems appropriate. May they upcode in peace.

Max Bruckner (1836-1918), The Walhalla, backdrop for the scenic design of The Ring of the Nibelungs by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Bayreuth, Richard-...

Max Bruckner (1836-1918), The Walhalla, backdrop for the scenic design of The Ring of the Nibelungs by Richard Wagner (1813-1883). Bayreuth, Richard-…

Afterward we went to Tony’s Market. I like Tony’s because you can spend a hundred dollars and still only have one bag to carry to the car. We’ve kicked our frequent eating out down two notches and do it at home now. We buy things at Tony’s like a tenderloin roast. Expensive? Yes. Compared to tenderloins at a steak house? Not at all. Tonight with asparagus, home cooked bread, boiled potatoes.

Kate’s much better. Her stamina has improved enough that we went to CBE last night for the Grateful Dead shabbat. Rabbi Jamie loves to perform and the CBE house band is better than good. Steve Posner on lead guitar rips it out. The harmonica player is wonderful. Drummer and bass ditto. Cheri Rubin, my friend Alan Rubin’s wife, an accomplished musician, plays the piano. She made a living in New Orleans before turning to reinsurance. Four singers, two men and two women, provided voice backup.

music dead bearsThis particular Grateful Dead shabbat, they occur occasionally, honored Leah, who recently left her position as synagogue administrator. She’s a Dead-head who sells tie dyed shirts and other craft items at Grateful Dead tribute concerts. She had a small shrine to the Dead over her desk. What was remarkable about this evening was that Leah’s leaving the job was not completely voluntary.

In a small community this could have been cause for bitterness or dissension. Instead folks got up and told Leah how much they appreciated her. Rabbi Jamie altered the words to a Dead song, changing the name of the woman in the song to Leah. She came up and sang with the two women in the backup group. It was delightful, charming, and altogether unlikely (in my experience of leave takings in churches that weren’t voluntary.). And, Leah responded by saying that she looked forward to getting back into the congregation, volunteering. Pretty damn amazing.

A Beloved Community

Spring                                                                              Rushing Waters Moon

Maxwell Creek is full and running. Another bomb cyclone is on its way to the plains and the Front Range, blizzard warnings are up for lower elevations. We’re in a 6-10 inch forecast area. Right now the clouds are below 8,000 feet, meaning Black Mountain is behind a thick fog as I write this. Temperatures will drop fast. Yes, a mountain spring.

Buddy Tom Crane is on his way home to Minnesota after a week plus on Maui. The same storm will welcome him and Roxann with weather similar to what we’ve got coming. Uff dah.

Tara and Marilyn, CBE

Tara and Marilyn, CBE

An interesting evening at Beth Evergreen. Dan, next president of the board, invited Kate and me to come to a session with each of the two candidates for synagogue executive director. We couldn’t go last Thursday since that was Ruth’s 13th, but I made it for this one. Kate stayed home. She’s saving herself. For Friday night’s Grateful Dead sabbath that honors the outgoing exec, Leah, whom we both really liked.

There were about 20 of us. Some had been members since 1979 when CBE was just a twinkle in a havurah’s eyes. Havurah is Hebrew for fellowship and CBE started as a small group of Jews, mountain Jews living in and around Evergreen. Some of us were more recent members. Kate, myself, and Sheri joined in 2016 or so. The rest, including my buddy Alan, had been members for varying lengths of time, though most joined in the 1990’s.

The idea was for us to meet the candidate, this woman is from Bethesda, Maryland, hear her talk about herself a bit, then introduce ourselves and say what CBE means to us. Here’s what was interesting. With no irony or sarcasm at all folks around the table referred to CBE as family, as place where people felt comfortable, where we loved each other. All adults, all older with a couple of exceptions. It was a powerful evening for that reason. I’m not used to adults sitting around describing their love for folks that are not blood relatives, but that’s what happened.

Chicken Soup cookoff, my entry #7

Chicken Soup cookoff, my entry #7

When it came my turn, I referred to CBE as the beloved community that all Christian churches aspire to. A brief article on caregivers in the Denver Post had pointed to some of the problems they experience. I’ve not experienced any of them except stress. The reason, I said last night, is that we were called and offered help constantly. Kate and I have backup and we know it. We’re relatively new members, yet we’re treated like we’ve been around a long time. That’s a characteristic, a cultural norm, of CBE, and it’s rare.

All this is an important reason for us to stay where we are in spite of oxygen related issues. We can get more oxygen up here, but finding another beloved community elsewhere? Unlikely. Today, for example, I have lunch with Alan. Easy from here.

Kate and Seoahs mother, April 10, 2016

Kate and Seoah’s mother, April 10, 2016

Tomorrow Kate has a pulmonology appointment. Unless they close again for the snow. This appointment is with a nurse practitioner since Dr. Gupta is away. Probably on Maui eating next to Tom and Roxann at Mama’s Fish House. Kate wants to get the radiologists reading of the high resolution c.t. she had last week. We’re also looking for an assessment of her fitness for surgery. The J-tube. Don’t know whether a nurse practitioner can give one or not.

Today is Joe and SeoAh’s 3rd anniversary. This picture is one of my favorites of the wedding. A Norwegian in Korea.

Their marriage has been a blessing for Kate and me. SeoAh has helped out in the last 6 months, coming twice, once for a bit more than month in December/January. As a dad, I’m glad Joe has a partner. As a father-in-law, I’m glad he chose SeoAh. She’s a sweetheart.

 

Legendary

Spring                                                                      Recovery Moon

IMG_0612

Tom Crane sent me this street poet’s work, found on Maui. I wrote him back after reading it and said we could go for an epic third phase. I meant legendary, but epic appeared anyhow. He wrote back, said he’d like that, too, but didn’t know how. I agreed. Beginner’s Mind, eh? We’d have to redefine epic, Tom replied. Yes.

And, we don’t want to get stuck in the success trap. That trap can consume the second phase, career and family, but it can be set aside in the third. So the question could be, what would a legendary third phase look like? Better than epic. Epic has that Hollywood feel, doesn’t it? Let’s forget I transmuted legendary into epic and go back to the poem.

Sadhu

Sadhu

What does an open spirit look like in the third phase? What risks might we take if we had one? What risks are particular to the third phase? To get an idea of where this might go, I looked up the Hindu sadhu. A sadhu intentionally creates a fourth phase of life.* Of course in a Minnesota winter like the last one the Jain option of wearing nothing would require modification unless the sadhu phase was to be short.

I wonder if other cultures have similar ideas? Don’t know. What I do take from the sadhu is that they have an open spirit, moving toward moksa means getting free from samsara, the worldly enmeshment that the second phase presses upon us with such vigor.

Part of a legendary third phase might involve letting go, leaving the old desires of life, shaped by education, work, and family behind. But, if they’re left behind we might be left wondering, what else is there? Those desires are the ones that motivated us, got us up in the morning, out the door coffee in hand, ready to do. The old finish line model of retirement pretended that this was as easy as buying a set of Pings, selling the house in Kenwood, and moving to a Del Webb village to drive, chip and putt. Or, head out to Margaritaville, collect umbrellas in the sand next to your beach chair. Doesn’t sound like a sadhu approach, does it?

Song dynasty

Song dynasty

Another image, similar to the sadhu, was the Chinese scholar who would retire from the bureaucratic life, paradigmatic of the second phase in that culture, and move into the mountains to write poetry and live amongst wildlife and forests. This is a Taoist vision, one that took over from the Confucian when either work was over or changes in the political life forced a scholar out of the court. I like this one a little better than the sadhu because I like clothes.

Wu wei: “a state of being in which our actions are…effortlessly in alignment with the ebb and flow of the elemental cycles of the natural world” is the Taoist principle these mountain hermits follow. And, a sound one, though as I’ve written before, I’m also a “take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them” sort of guy. This may be the key attitude that prevents me from fully letting go of success, of my set of Pings, that beach chair.

I’m not talking here about monastics or hermits who take to those lives, as Thomas Merton did, in the midst of their second phase. These are escapist lives, profound in their way of course, but ones that set aside the second phase much earlier. What I want to consider is the legendary third phase possible after the more traditional transition from work and raising a family.

Look forward to any ideas you might have. This preliminary look suggests some things to me. Let go. Seek spiritual liberation. Attune life to the seasons, to the natural world. Live in some seclusion from the old, second phase world.

 

 

“The sādhu is solely dedicated to achieving mokṣa (liberation), the fourth and final aśrama (stage of life), through meditation and contemplation of Brahman. Sādhus often wear simple clothing, such saffron-coloured clothing in Hinduism, white or nothing in Jainism, symbolising their sannyāsa (renunciation of worldly possessions).” wiki

 

Ruach. Breath. Wind. Spirit.

Spring                                                                  Recovery Moon

breath ruachHead. Mostly clear. Lungs. Mostly clear. I’m beginning to feel the illness bidding me goodbye. So long, it was good to know ya. Nah, it wasn’t. And don’t come back, please.

Kate continues to show steady, if incremental, gains. She smiles more, laughs more. Until, that is, she opened the letter from Swedish Hospital advising us that our balance with them was $25,000. Oooff. Our insurance provider has not, for some reason, paid them. I get to chase that down today. Being sick in America. If the illness doesn’t get you, the debt collector will.

If we didn’t have resources, didn’t have enough education and chutzpah to front the insurance company about this, we might end up stuck with the bill. Kate’s experience since September has been long, invasive, and expensive. Without insurance we’d be eating away at our IRA. I don’t think this should be too hard to clear up; but the ominous nature of a letter like that creates an unpleasant frisson. To say the least.

I’m debating going to see my doc about o2 sats. They’re below normal, though not in a dangerous range. The high 80’s a good deal of the time. Normal is above 95, though above 90 nobody worries. Since we’ve gotten here, my sats have been around 90 most of the time. As Tom pointed out, we’ve lost 75% of our available oxygen just by being at 8,800 feet. That would make a normal reading 93 if I’m doing my math and physiology right.

breath in outI really don’t want to confuse Kate’s journey right now, especially since we see the same doc, so I may wait a bit, be sure the flight of respiratory illness I sampled over the last two months has actually ended. In time I would like to know if anything in my lungs compromises my breathing. It’s certainly possible. I smoked for 13 years. Not proud of it, but I did. I also worked in a couple of high particulate matter jobs in my younger days, cutting rags at a paper mill and moving completed asbestos ceiling tiles to pallets. And, Dad had severe asthma, using an inhaler virtually his whole life.

Ruach. The Hebrew word for breath, wind, and for spirit. The Greek word is pneuma. God breathed ruach into the lungs of Adam and he lived. Since the traditional test for death was holding a mirror or a hand up to the nostrils, no moisture on the mirror, no felt breath, it’s not a stretch to equate breath and breathing with life. No breath, no life. Many traditions, especially Hindu and Buddhist, have breathing related practices. So do the Sufi as my friend Debra Cope has taught me.

breath dive reflexWhat impedes breathing, impedes life itself. Impedes the spirit of all life that dwells within us. Like health breathing is unremarkable to most of us until its ease experiences an interruption. Water boarding, or extreme interrogation (not torture as our CIA likes to say), is horrific because it emulates drowning. Our body has reflexes built in, the diving reflex, for example, that protect us in the case of sudden immersion in water. This means that our DNA carries a history of dangers to our breathing.

The pulmonologist treats matters related to breathing. But the pulmonologist, no matter how skilled and learned, deals with the physical challenges to breathing, not the spiritual implications. No, that is up to us and our own way of understanding the body/mind/spirit links.

Breath jacob-wrestling-with-the-angelA breathing issue is not, then, solely the province of pulmonology. It is also the province of theology broadly understood. Theology, for me, is the way you identify, organize, and deal with matters of ultimate importance. Life itself is, of course, a matter of ultimate importance to an individual; therefore, life and how it is for us at any particular point is a directly theological matter. Breath, the spirit of life that fills our lungs, provides our cells with oxygen so that they can carry out the physiological functions that are life in the body, is also of ultimate importance.

Here’s a website devoted to breath meditation.* Note in the second sentence that prana, a Sanskrit word, means both breath and life. No breath. No life.

My journey right now forces me to investigate my breathing at both a physiological and a theological level. It’s all o.k., too. None of us get leave this ancientrail alive. Something takes our breath away. That something shows the fragile nature of even the most master of the universe sort of person. Right now I’m going to attend to my breathing, my o2 sats, the spirit and life they make possible within me. An ancientrail of the third phase, no doubt.

 

*Breath is the universal factor of life. We are born the first time we inspire, and we die the last time we expire. Breath is life itself. In Sanskrit the same word–prana–means both breath and life.

All that lives, breathes–even plants and the bacteria that make bread rise. The process of breath is identical in all, consisting of inhalation and exhalation. It is the most immaterial factor of our existence, being a link-manifestation of the mind/spirit that dwells in all. For this reason, the breath is the natural and logical basis for meditation, the attempt to “enter into life.” The breath is the key to the cultivation of pure consciousness.

The Velveteen Rabbit aspect of human identity

Spring                                                                            Recovery Moon

Bat and Moon, 1930s Takahashi Bihō. MIA

Bat and Moon, 1930s
Takahashi Bihō. MIA

The Recovery moon illuminates Black Mountain this morning. The ski runs carved out on the mountain are white strips reflecting back moon shine. A light breeze moves the lodgepoles and a thin dusting of snow covers the solar panels. Early spring in the Rockies.

Kate made a salad last night. We bumped into each other in our galley kitchen for the first time in months. She also tossed her friendship quilt from the Bailey Patchworkers into the washing machine. She’s beginning to emerge from a long time in the chrysalis of illness. Wow.

Since the recovery moon seems to find us both on the uptick, my doctor’s nurse called with lab results, actually a second call due to confusion there occasioned by a weeks long problem with their computer systems. The first call came when I was still pretty sick and I didn’t pay close attention. This time I did. My PSA has moved up from .o1 to .012. Doesn’t seem like much, but when your prostate’s gone, it’s supposed to stay at .1, which is effectively .0. A recurrence is defined, for those of us who had our prostate’s removed, when the PSA hits .2. Concerning, but not yet a problem. Further testing required.

Rabbi Jamie called last night, wondering how we were. We were both steady and frequent attenders of things at CBE up until Kate’s bleed on September 28th. I continued until my own illness which began in early February. Since then, I’ve only been back for the chicken soup cook-off. Our sudden disappearance from the synagogue’s life caused him to say last time he talked with Kate that the schul isn’t the same without us. Kate was on the board and I was teaching religious school. We both attended mussar on Thursdays. We went to services less frequently, but showed up at education and special events, too. We’ve woven ourselves into the fabric that is CBE.

Chapter House from Notre-Dame-de-Pontaut,12th century French MMA

Chapter House from Notre-Dame-de-Pontaut,12th century French MMA

Community, like friendships, is reciprocal. You put your left foot in, then your right foot, then you shake it all about. With others doing the same thing. Over time we get to know each other, see each other, acknowledge each other. The line between thee and me is both more and less than we usually think. It’s more in that we don’t know our own selves well, our own depths eluding even the most introspective and life examining of us. How could others see into that, then? It’s less in that our perception of ourselves is constantly poked and prodded by interactions with others. In fact, much of our personhood gains definition as we sit down to coffee with someone, engage in critical thought, listen to music, sing with them. In community, in friendships, in family we become who we are.

At CBE, as with the Woolly’s, the docents, the political folks I’ve worked with, and our family, who I am has been in dialectical tension with both individuals and the collective. I’ve had to consider how Frank Broderick’s anti-Catholicism fits into my mostly positive assessment of religious life. I’ve offered ideas at CBE and had them put into action, changing myself and others in the process. As I got to know my fellow docents, I observed how they related to the art, to the art history we learned, to the museum visitors we guided on tours. And, how I was as a docent shaped itself in response.

Woolly Mammoths instructed in glass blowing

Woolly Mammoths instructed in glass blowing

In the instance of the Presbyterian ministry the two millennia plus history of Christianity was a body of thought and actions within which I had to find my particular place just like the thousands of year old history of art demanded I find a personal patch of ground on which to stand in relation to it. Both interactions shaped me and I, in turn, in small, individual ways reshaped both Christianity and the history of art. Not making a big, hubristic claim here, just observing that the dialectical tension affects both parties though not in equal ways.

This is, I suppose, the Velveteen Rabbit part of human identity formation. We rub ourselves up against people, animals, things and in the process we become real. And, we serve that same role for others. It’s an awesome responsibility. How do I, in my interactions, encourage the best in others? Or, do I? But that’s a question for another day.

Spring, 2019

Spring!                                                                       Recovery Moon

ostaraA full recovery moon on the spring equinox. Lot of powerful juju in the air. The season that announces the return of life (except in Nebraska) begins as the moon swells into its most potent form. Of course, this is only meteorological spring, the date we agree on to name the season’s start, so you have to check local listings for time and channel. Here in the mountains spring’s another month away at least. Probably more like six weeks.

Minnesotans are both happy and wary about the coming of spring. It’s been a long, hard winter and to see it in the past will be welcome. As will be the warmth and color. But. There’s a lot of pent up water there, too, just like in Nebraska, water that will get released as the air grows warmer. Could be a major flooding year. The rivers in Nebraska have exceeded historic high water levels by feet. This is the new normal. Extremes.

We’ve got a string of 40+ degree days ahead, including a couple in the 50’s. Then, more snow. Colorado mountain living. As the melting begins here in earnest, Cub Creek, Blue Creek, Bear Creek, Maxwell Creek will all show their might, taking down the mountains from which they run, taking their stony surfaces and moving them toward the plains. It will take a while, but the creeks are patient and wait each year for the spring winds to melt the snow that has fallen and to melt the ice. They’re a wonder in the spring.

Tao4Alan Watts has a book I like a lot called The Water Course Way. It describes the tao as like water, going around obstacles, over obstacles, not stopping, going on its way regardless of what’s in its path, not troubling itself over temporary stoppages, boulders, canyons, even lakes. Soft wins over hard. The soft water slowly picks away at mountains of granite, basalt, gneiss and takes them a grain at a time, over centuries, millennia, eons back to the oceans.

I struggle with this. I’m more, as I think I said here recently, more of a take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them sorta guy. An unreconstructed activist still clinging to the fever dreams of the 1960’s. Yet there is truth in the tao. Is it the only truth? Don’t think so. But in regard to Kate’s circumstances over the last year or so, it has taken a certain let the process work its way out attitude to survive it with our mental health intact. Had we been pushing, pushing all the time (which I am wont to do) then we would have harmed ourselves in the process of making her well. Not only not necessary, but harmful.

20180405_144305

April 5, 2018. Near CBE in Evergreen

Spring will come. The flowers and the grasses of the montane ecosystem will burst forth, bring us their ephemeral beauty. The creeks will run full down Shadow Mountain, down Conifer Mountain, down Black Mountain always gouging, prying at the very thing that created them. The lodgepole pines will green up, the aspens and willows along the creeks will leaf out. There will be mule deer fawns, elk calves, fox kits, bear cubs, mountain lion cubs. Skis and poles and boots will go in storage and rock climbing gear, bicycles, hiking boots come out.

This is our home now. And we don’t want to leave it. Still uncertain. Waiting for the tao to show us the right path.

 

Some Improvement

Imbolc                                                                        Valentine Moon

January

January

Sun rising on Black Mountain, shining through a gauze of light snow. The solar panels have a dusting, enough to impair their function. The setup is for 6-12 inches here, christening March, often a big snow month. The temperatures will drop over the next few days, not into Minnesota territory, but cold for Colorado. Welcome.

Kate’s got a more upbeat attitude. That’s so good to see. She offered to move to assisted living, so I could stay in the house. “That’s not the way marriage works.” Didn’t say it, but I meant, “Whither thou goest, so do I.” Love is a verb, to quote John Mayer.

The folks at Beth Evergreen continue to ask what they can do. This is a difficult question for us to answer. King Sooper delivers. That’s one regular need solved. I like to cook and Kate’s not eating much. Meals don’t make much sense. We have Sandy who comes to clean every two weeks. We’re good there. Most of the care for Kate is related to things she needs throughout the day and maintenance of the tpn process, not really something others can do. Ted plows us if we get more than 5 inches. In other words most of the day to day chores are either taken care of or too frequent to make them amenable to outside help.

A note to Tara (director of the religious school and a friend) suggested three things: 1. Visits from folks who bring lunch stuff along. We miss seeing and talking to our friends. 2. Help with defrosting freezer. Need a couple more coolers. Don’t know why the damned thing (a non-defrost freezer) chose now to seize up, but it did. 3. If we have to move, a general help Kate and Charlie pack day; then, a general help Kate and Charlie unpack day.

bearing the burden of the otherAt CBE we often hear that the essence of Judaism is bearing the burden of the other. These folks live it. They really want to help. With gladness, with chesed (loving-kindness). I contrast this with the much more abstract Christian version, Love thy neighbor as thyself. Judaism emphasizes practical measures. Doing mitzvahs, deeds of loving-kindness. Accepting responsibility. Honoring the self and the other. Taking up the right amount of space. At least in the instance of CBE these are not formulas; they are the reality of this small community.

middotThis could be a lonely, despairing time in our lives as health demands fluctuate, a possible move is in the mix, and we live away from commercial and medical facilities. It’s not though. Our Minnesota friends continue to show up. CBE loves us. We are not alone, nor in despair. We are part of caring communities and caring family. Jon and the grandkids are coming up this weekend. Joe and SeoAh have been here three times since April (Kate’s shoulder surgery) with SeoAh staying for weeks at a time.

As I wrote a while back, adversity unveils gratitude. We are grateful for each other, our dogs, our house, our medical caregivers, CBE, family, Minnesota friends. Lots more, too. I don’t believe the canard that we’re never given more than we can handle, but I do believe that we can learn to handle what presents itself if we have support. And we do. Thanks to all of you.

Hail a New Creation

Imbolc                                                                         Valentine Moon

My life flows on in endless song;
above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.      “How can I keep from singing?”  Robert Lowry

When I opened this page, Robert Lowry’s hymn came to the surface. I could sing this verse with no pauses for personal editing. The rest of them? Not so much. But, no matter. This one has a powerful, here and now message and it came to me from my unconscious.

third phaseThe woes of the body, our lamentations here on Shadow Mountain, are of the tactile world, the one bound up in life and death; but, they are not of the soul, the spirit, the ohr, the imago dei. No. In my soul (a word I’ve come to use more freely of late, meaning that part of me that bows to the god in you, namaste.) I can hear the sweet, though often very far-off hymn. It hails a new creation coming into existence even now, one shaped by the lamentations, but not determined by them.

That new creation is a new sort of intimacy for Kate and me, one forged not in the upbeat, I did it, achievements of the family and career second phase, but in the existential reality of the third phase. In the third phase the body begins to let go of life, gradually, a bit here, a bit there. At the same time the fruits of a lifetime of meditation, awareness, thought, friendship ripens. The soul begins to unfold, ready.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, said that September 29th, the Saint’s Day of the Archangel Michael, is the springtime of the soul. (odd coincidence. Kate’s bleed was on September 28th) What I’ve always liked about this idea is that it marks soul growth as occurring best in the fallow time. The fallow time, especially after Samain, Summer’s End, on October 31st, is that point when the growing season ends. An analogy to the third phase seems apt to me. The fallow time is a time for going within, going deep, finding nourishment in the eternal parts of ourselves, our soul.

That is what is happening for us. Our souls are flowering in the decay of the body. That flowering of the soul (I see a lotus.) is the new creation, perhaps not as far off as it seems.

Blessed be.