A Permeable Self

Samain                                                                  Thanksgiving Moon

Our house in the early morning, light on Shadow Mountain

Our house in the early morning, light on Shadow Mountain

Tarnas uses Jung to make a bridge to astrology. First, he credits depth psychology, especially Freud and Jung, with moving Enlightenment rationality into the realm of a neo-primal worldview. The collective unconscious is a vast sea in which we all swim, our inner life effected by and effecting this outer context. That makes the modern self at least a semi-permeable membrane. Synchronicity, a Jungian notion, encourages us to look to how the outside may be speaking to our inside and vice versa.

I was with him on this line of thinking. It was synchronicity that brought the three mountain spirits, mule deer bucks, to our backyard here on Shadow Mountain the afternoon I closed on the purchase. We spent time together, present to each other, maybe thirty feet apart, seeing each other and being seen. It was clear to me that the mountains welcomed us, had given us their blessing for moving here.

Kate and I saw a stand of aspen that leafed out before all the others. Yes, I wondered about it from an arbor culture perspective, what made them favored over the many other groves? But, I also saw it as an affirmation of growth at different rates, even among members of the same species.

253_Body_Mind_SpiritWhen Orion rises, as he does each year, and I see him for the first time, it is the same feeling as seeing an old friend again. The same feeling. Orion has been with me and I with him since the guard shack in Muncie, Indiana where he graced my night shift attention. Orion is not merely starry objects far away, arranged in a distinctive pattern, though he is that. He is a part of the universe with which I have a personal relation. Is that relationship reciprocated? I don’t know. But, it feels like it.

There is more. Long ago, after reading the Creation of Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner, I saw the perniciousness of transcendence, a move that diminishes the human by placing our ultimate validation outside the Self. Tarnas critiques this, too, as a transcendent god emptied out the cosmos, disenchanting the universe by creating a special creature, humans. Thus, the locii of significance, of vitality, of meaning was either in the godhead, up and away from creaturely existence, or in his creation, humankind. All else was an object created for the pleasure or sustenance of one or the other.

By choosing to locate my spirituality in the garden, its plants, in the animals who were our neighbors, in the community of other humans that I experience and deep within my own self, going in and down into the collective pool of archetypes and symbols Jung called the collective unconscious, I pushed at the boundaries of my Self as an isolate, beginning to break down the formidable, even hermetic, seal around it banged into place by Enlightenment reason.

Bee-guyThe current signature line on my e-mails is from John Muir, “You are not in the mountains, the mountains are in you.” Yes. In this discussion that includes depth psychology it’s appropriate to notice the synchronicity of living on Shadow Mountain, that massif within the psyche that contains all that we fear, that we reject, that we push away. How bout that? And beyond my study window is Black Mountain.

When I got a cancer diagnosis back in 2015, I wrote about the Consolation of Deer Creek Canyon and during Kate’s recent crisis, about the Laramide Consolation. In both cases the mountains spoke to me. I imagined their rootedness, their difficult and wrenching time as they were pushed up, up, up by the tectonic motion of our planet’s crust, the deep geological time that they represent, lives millions of years long already, with millions more before they become low ranges like the much older Appalachians. Our mayfly life compared to these stolid eminences. The particulars of our mortality vanish in the mountains. We are water running down from the peak, coursing through Maxwell Creek, emptying into Bear Creek, then the Platte, onto the Mississippi and the Gulf of Mexico. We join the vast ocean of the dead.

images (6)As we try, some of us intuitively like me, some of us more systematically like Tarnas, to heal the rupture between the human and the living universe, we find a drag chute attached to our thought: 500 or so years of human autonomy, freedom, even liberation, 500 years of human probing, learning, knowing about the world seemingly disconnected from our Selves. The more classically educated you are, the more broad your learning, the more likely you are to feel something wrong with this line of thinking. It doesn’t add up. How can the universe have intention, consciousness? It’s the objective reality we probe with minds like Einstein, Bohr, Sagan, Darwin, Pasteur, Curie. We’ve found its regularities, its laws, its patterns, and we can use them to predict natural behavior and therefore exploit it.

How’s that going? Our hubris is killing us. We can find oil, so we do. We can refine oil for many different uses, so we do. We burn oil and let its byproducts drift off into our atmosphere. You know the end of this tale. An earth too hot for most human life. Would a sensibility that places us in the cosmos AND of it, do something so stupid? Or, perhaps better, once we discovered the implications of what we were doing, would we continue? No.

Tarnas, in the last pages of the second section of his book, suggests astrology as a means of expressing the intricate dance between our selves and the cosmos into which we were thrown at birth. Just how this works in his understanding I don’t know yet; but, I do know that his analysis of the crippling anomie occasioned by our Selves walled off from the rest of the place we inhabit has compelled me to give this idea a fair hearing.

 

Our Place

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

20181111_1718577 degrees this morning on Shadow Mountain. About 10 inches of fluffy powder since Saturday night. Fell yesterday clearing snow off our temporary decking, the palettes and stall mats I’ve shown before. Not hurt. Reminded, again, pay attention.

Cosmos and Psyche, by Richard Tarnas. Recommended by friend Tom Crane. I mentioned it a few posts back when I talked about skepticism as a tool, not a lifeway. This is an important work of intellectual history. I’ve finished the first section and, as I told Tom in an e-mail yesterday, my head is spinning. Tarnas points out, accurately I believe, the fundamental problem of our modern, Enlightenment inflected era. The application of reason and the scientific method created the Copernican revolution. Since that radical shift in humanity’s thousands of years old world view the ongoing advance of reason, buttressed, oddly, by monotheism, has in Max Weber’s wonderful phrase, disenchanted the world.

The primal world view, the one held before Copernicus showed the earth and the other planets orbited the sun rather than the reverse, believed in a permeable barrier between human experience and the experience of an ensouled universe. Our inner world and the outer world, the whole vast outer world, shared vitality, intention, consciousness. Gods. Faeries. Cyclops. Shiva and Krishna and Brahma. The pervasive sense that trees and bears and moose and squirrels and the grasses and buffalo were as alive, in a spiritual sense, as humans. The weather, the climate, the shifting seasons, the phases of the moon.

astrology2But, as the human mind, using its sharpest tools, reason and skepticism, saw through this primitive perspective, and, as monotheistic religions posited a creator who made a special creature, humankind, in their God’s own image, a gap grew between the human and the universe. Now, in the modern era, we look out from within to a morally neutral cosmos, devoid of soul or spirit, moving with randomness according to physical laws that, since we have discerned them, reveal the trapped, the determined nature of, well, nature.

This disenchanted cosmos holds us, God’s special creation, categorically different and detached from the barren vastness that surrounds us. We are, in effect, alone, small, aware of our isolation, but with no purchase on anything outside the Cartesian split between spirit and matter. We have spirit and all the rest, matter, does not.

This disenchantment and isolation, this sense of uniqueness, is, when viewed from above (not from within) a simulacrum of Lucifer Morningstar’s fall from heaven. With our hubris we have challenged the creation and in turn been ejected from it, living our short lives with no sense of our place in the universe. We gradually fought a war against anthropomorphism of the physical world, pulling back first from the notion of the earth as the center of the universe, then from the ensouled moon and the spirits of the our forests and streams and oceans, finally we separated ourselves from the evolutionary process by positing ourselves as conscious and all other living things as mere automatons. We pushed ourselves out of the garden, left ourselves to wander the earth, having to toil under the heat of the faraway sun for our food.

The interesting turn comes next when Tarnas tries for a synthesis between the modern view and the primal view. Not sure where he’s going, but he has convinced me of the necessity to try. In another post I’ll talk about how, in an incoherent way, I’m already some ways down the path toward such a synthesis.

I Know

Fall (last day)                                                                 Healing Moon

Fujinraijin-tawarayaThe weather gods have chosen an apt offering for the last day of fall, 8 inches of snow. In true Colorado fashion it will probably be here tonight and tomorrow, gone by Thursday if not late Wednesday. Looking forward to it. A difference between Colorado and Minnesota exists in forecasting snow. Here in Colorado people pant for the snow, welcome it, do celebratory dances. In Minnesota, not so much. It means work and slick roads in the Gopher State; here snow means beauty, tourist dollars, and will be gone conveniently.

Scheduled my first full chart reading with Elisa on November 16th. I’m curious. The ancientrail to self knowledge never ends.

Having said that. I want to claim what I’ve learned, not keep shuttling it to the back to let new information in. That’s why I’m reluctant to avoidant when it comes to converting to Judaism. I find it compelling in many ways, a practical down-to-earth way of life lived out in a solid community. I love the people at Beth Evergreen and I feel member of the tribe solidarity when anti-Semites shoot up synagogues.

But. I long ago quit molding my perceptions and beliefs to outlines drawn by the dead. Said positively it’s the Emersonian insistence on having revelations to us, not the dry bones of theirs. Doesn’t mean I can’t learn and learn deeply from other faiths, other political beliefs, other gendered views. Of course I can. And I do.

I’ve never found the balance between stating what I’ve discovered, seen, had revealed to me, and the obvious limitedness of it. I know that my knowing is fragmentary, tentative, subject to change. Yet, it is mine and I do have it. On the one hand I seek knowledge like a thirsty desert traveler seeks an oasis. On the other I’ve done so for so long that I have accumulated my own wisdom.

In spite of my logical bent, in spite of my study of systematic thinkers and even my desire to emulate them, I’ve not been able to pull off anything book length. I seem to function best in shorter formats like sermons, blog posts, brief essays. I guess that’s why fiction appeals to me. It’s a medium where my writing can extend itself, dig into the depths of my soul and reveal mySelf, but obliquely.

It’s not that I don’t want to learn new things about myself. I do. It’s just, how do I stop, say that for now this is what I know. It may be different tomorrow, but today, perhaps just for today, I claim this understanding and offer it. Haven’t figured that one out.

Here’s a couple of things I know, at least right now. Death is. As is life. The two are the ultimate dialectic, the ur form of creative tension for all of us. We literally live into death. If we do so without fear or with less fear, then the tension of our end can enliven our present, make it rich and precious. Confronting and accepting death is a key to living well.

This fundamental truth is writ both large and small in the turning of the seasons. Tomorrow we move into the fallow time, the time of a death-like pall on the earth, a necessary pause, rest. During the fallow time, the spring time of the soul, we can dig into our own substrata, let our roots seek nutrients in the collective unconscious. Bloom, even, with new understanding, new acceptance.

With spring the subtle gains of decay will have fed the soil, which will feed the plants, which will feed us.

I also know that love is a rose and you’d better not pick it. Neil Young’s song, made popular by Linda Ronstadt, is a moment of that revelation to us that Emerson sought in each generation. Hear it on Youtube.

(love) Only grows when it’s on the vine.
Handful of thorns and you know you’ve missed it.
Lose your love when you say the word mine.

 

When the moon is in the seventh house…

Fall                                                                                 Healing Moon

astrologyAstrology. Judaism has its weird side. Kabbalah, in particular. Turns out the kabbalist’s support astrology and if you follow the story of creation from a kabbalistic perspective, you can see why they might. At the shattering, the sharding of the divine light, ohr, pieces of divinity divided into minute pieces, atoms you might call them, and since then have created and recreated everything in the universe. That means that all things are connected, as part of the original attempt to create an undivided holy creation. In a sense it means that all things yearn for each other, to be rejoined, made whole again.

Elisa, a member of Beth Evergreen, worked as an astrologer to pay her way through her PhD program in geology. Seems cognitively dissonant, eh? Oil field geology no less. She’s worked as an academic dean for the last twenty years. She is no woo woo, dawning of the age of Aquarius type, but an educated scientist and a practicing academic. Part of her continuing interest in astrology is its validation in Jewish tradition.

She offered a chart for each of us who came if we sent in our birth time, date and place. I did. It impressed me. Elisa’s explanations of rising signs, sun sign and moon sign, and especially the concept of the north and south nodes rang an inner bell for me. Usually this sort of presentation would agitate my bullshit detector, but Elisa’s intelligence and willingness to question encourage me to pay attention instead.

JungThe concept of the north/south nodes has some connection to the past lives notion, which seems far fetched to me, but I got opened up a bit here, so I was listening. The idea is this: the south node is your default approach to life, the one, if you’re a past lives enthusiast, informed by the accretion of knowledge from other lives you’ve lived. It’s comfortable, effective, easy. But. Not growthful.

The growing edge for your life lies in your north node. (I don’t know why.) The north node represents what, in Elisa’s words, you came into this life to learn. My north node is in Gemini.* Where it is makes a big difference, too. When I read explanations of my north node, I find my head nodding. Oh, yeah. Sounds like me.

I’m intrigued enough that I sent Elisa a note asking if she would do a full chart and consultation for me. First time for everything.

 

*”Having the North Node in Gemini in your birth chart means that this lifetime needs to be about true communication for you. Your highest soul-expression is one that is logical, inquisitive, and eager for more information. That is why I call you the curious soul. Deep down, you possess this powerful yearning to just learn more. More than most people, the more you know, the more you grow. But, you need to “know things” in a rational way; by gathering all the facts. Gemini North Node individuals are discovering that, in order to evolve, they need to treat life like an endless classroom, a textbook that never ends. Accessing and embracing your ability to be both a remarkable student and a remarkable teacher is what is going to bring you the most spiritual growth.”  Astrology Arena

The Heat

Fall                                                                               Healing Moon

climate change vollmanThough I haven’t begun to read them yet, William Vollman’s two volume work: No Immediate Danger and No Good Alternative, the Carbon Ideologies paints a bleak picture. So does the IPCC‘s latest report. I also reported here, quite a while back, about a new movement called dark ecology that, like these three works, takes a dim view of our (that is, the world’s) willingness to execute the necessary carbon emissions restrictions.

Much as I hate to admit it, I believe these darker, more hopeless perspectives about the struggle against climate change might be right. If they are, we may be walking down a path that leads to an HG Wellian Time Machine world with the poor morlocks wandering the face of the earth (think the 99%) and the eloi burrowed into her mantle, using their great wealth and power to survive the heat and climatic chaos.

climate change eloi and morlocksIf we cannot slow down the rate of climate change (which is the most we can do, since so much climate change is already baked in), then we move to mitigation and adaptation. Geoengineering will become a buzz word as various strategies are tried. Climate refugees will become more and more disruptive across the world, especially those moving from coastal areas into interiors and onto higher ground. The already underway shifts in plant and animal eco-systems, climate refugees all, will bring them with different disease vectors, disruption to agriculture and sea life.

dark ecologyWe will not be known for Vietnam, civil rights, feminism, ruining health care, electing fascists to high office, but as the generation that allowed an earth compatible with human populations to slip away. Hard as it is to imagine the results of this inaction will be far, far more damaging than all the wars, holocausts and pogroms. How will we explain this to our grandchildren, to Ruth and Gabe in our instance? I understand the political and economic forces that have gotten us here, but explaining them will not alter the misery.

 

 

 

Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow

Fall                                                                              Healing Moon

Hard freeze. 23 this morning with some snow, mostly ice. A neighbor reported on Next Door Shadow Mountain that Shadow Mountain, 285 and even 470 were icy and in thick fog. Bad driving. But, poor conditions for a wildfire. That’s something.

Ode's portrait. At Blue Sky Abbey, some years ago

Ode’s portrait. At Blue Sky Abbey, some years ago

Feeling a bit down this morning. Nothing 12 days of Kate’s hospitalization + general exhaustion doesn’t explain. We’ve both been thinking about death. She told me yesterday if things go south that her friend (and mine) Jamie Bernstein can take care of all her sewing stuff. I handled that poorly. “I don’t want to hear that. That’s not what you want is it?” “No,” she said. But she had breached that barrier and I pushed it away, out of my own fear, I suppose. Gonna rectify that today.

I’ve slept in our bed now for 12 nights without her there. She’s gone from the house and her absence is palpable, a thing in itself. She’s not on the bench in the morning. Not in her chair in the evening. Her sewing machine is back from the repair folks, but sits still in its rolling container. No hugs. No I love you’s before leaving and on return. Nothing can, in fact, be something.

Thoughts of a permanent absence, death, come easily in this situation. I don’t shove them away, I don’t embrace them. I acknowledge them as the mind running scenarios, what ifs, based on current reality. I also imagine her return, negotiating the steps, setting up the bedroom and the downstairs for her. All part of the I don’t like surprises part of the mind. A survival tool that can seem cold, unfeeling. It’s not. Just stuff that needs consideration, not rejecting.

Yamantanka

Yamantanka

Yamantaka teaches us that considering our own death in an unblinking way can cure our fear of it. I both believe that and believe I have reached that point in my own soul. I suppose there’s an analog here about Kate’s death. Hers is as inevitable as mine. And, considering it doesn’t make it more or less likely. It simply means that I’ve accepted an assured reality though the timing is, as always, unknown.

OK. That’s out in the open. Not an obsession. What’s happening occasionally.

Another hard part right now is odd. On Friday we’ll be at two weeks since Kate went into the E.R. Am I supposed to collect myself, get back in the groove, accept this bifurcated existence, her in medical care, me at home? I definitely have to spend time tomorrow sorting through the bills and starting to pay them. Something she does.

I’ve been cooking, doing laundry, keeping the house picked up, feeding the dogs, playing with them, driving in to see Kate, trying to keep up with the medical information. But, I’ve set aside working out. Gonna pick that back up today or tomorrow. I’ve set aside teaching in the religious school, attending mussar or the adult ed committee. I canceled the first Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler.

Vanitas by Jan Sanders van Hemessen

Vanitas by Jan Sanders van Hemessen

I’m struggling with what’s a normal response in an abnormal situation. Is it ok to just focus on the domestic, on Kate and on home? Or, do I rob myself of the emotional support I’d get from being back in the mix at CBE? What about the things I’ve agreed to do?

Or, am I too soon in thinking about any of this? How will I know? A sort of strange twilight right now, matters shrunk down to the nub, life at its most basic with questions of health, the future, even death in every moment.

Let me finish with this. I am not depressed. Even my slight down feeling I mentioned earlier has lifted somewhat as I’ve written myself into my current reality, leaving it all out there, not hiding. This is my life and unless my health changes it will be my life until clarity declares itself either toward Kate’s recovery or a continued decline, perhaps even death.

uncertaintyEnd note. I realized as I wrote that last paragraph that a key sticking point right now is uncertainty. Will Kate’s various medical issues resolve? That is, will she get well enough to leave for rehab? If so, when? If she’s in rehab, how long? How much care will she need when she comes home? I’m not wracked by any of these questions, but they illustrate the fundamental issues in play right now, with no clarity about any of them available. That’s what makes knowing how I might react so difficult right now.

 

 

Follow the WaterCourse Way

Fall                                                                              New (Healing) Moon

Kate in the E.R., September 28th

Kate in the E.R., September 28th

Kate’s improved a lot. Bleeding stopped. Pain mostly gone. She’s getting some nutrition though a nasal tube and has eaten a bit. But, the nausea returned with eating. Damn. That’s so fucking disappointing. And, she’s been in bed so long that she may have to go to a rehab center after all. Not what either of us want, but if she’s too weak, then that’s what we’ll do.

After a visit to Kate last night, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Annie and I went to G.B. Fish and Chips on Broadway, a Ruth and Gabe favorite. Family’s bond in many ways, but attending to a sick or injured member of the family is a strong one. And, it doesn’t stop with visits and care for the patient, but happens, too, in these after visit moments. G.B.’s motto is “In Cod We Trust.” Works for me.

Spent time yesterday in cyberspace, about an hour, with Paul in Maine, Bill and Mark in Minnesota, and, briefly, Tom in Santa Fe. Kate was an important part of our conversation since these guys have known her, and me, for 30 years.

taoismThere was some talk of how Zen my approach to all this has been. Thought about that. Really, wu wei. Often translated, inaccurately, as inaction. It’s a Taoist idea better expressed by Alan Watt’s book title, The Watercourse Way. Taoism and Buddhism in China created Chan Buddhism, the immediate influence on what Japanese Buddhist monks came to call Zen. Wu wei is a critical idea in that mix.

Going with the flow is not far off in understanding it, a direct link with the Watercourse Way notion. Essentially it means not trying to bend situations or force them in ways they won’t naturally go. Said positively it means following situations as they progress, trying to move with them, stay present. It does not mean there is no intervention, rather wu wei acknowledges the givenness of so much of what we encounter. Perhaps judo is a good example, where using the strength of the opponent against them is a main idea.

It doesn’t sound very Manifest Destiny, make the world free for democracy. We Americans, especially white male Americans, have this fantasy that we can bend the world to our will. Taoism is a direct counter to this, a way of revealing the fantasy nature of such impulses.

taoism wu weiInstead with wu wei I try to follow the path of the chi, where vital energy is flowing. If Kate needs medical care now, I take her to the emergency room. If she needs diagnostic procedures or interventionary procedures, I learn what I can about them to help make decisions, to help both of us understand the implications. I interact with and try to make all of this happen as easily and effectively as possible. I’m not trying to force her medical care in a direction in which I think it should go.

A good example right now is the rehab facility decision. I want her to come home. She wants to come home. We could be obstinate, try to bend the physicians to our will, but would that serve Kate? No. We need to know what they believe is best for her healing and to act on that as quickly and fully as we can.

I don’t know whether I’m saying this clearly, and much of it is retrospective, not conscious at the time, but an attitude cultivated over many, many years. Part of the inner posture is also a product of existentialism. That is, take the world as it comes, as it is, not as you might wish it be. See clearly. Listen well. Only then can we make decisions that are human, not dogmatic or blinkered by personal bias.

tao ma linWhat I can observe from this last week plus is that these attitudes, these ways of approaching Kate and mine’s current reality, has allowed me to sleep, not despair, not become anxious. In turn it means I’ve been able to show up in each instance where I was needed. To show up to what is actually going on, not what I wish was going on or what I think should be going on. Much, much simpler to follow the chi.

71 years have taught me somethings. This way of being, this wu wei, this following the chi has proved itself in the battle between my wilfulness and a difficult situation. And I’m grateful for that.

 

Let the day’s troubles be sufficient

Fall                                                                  Harvest Moon

This morning

This morning

A cool 32 degrees this morning. Some snow overnight, wintry mix. Anything to put moisture into these forests. Gray sky. Headed toward Samain. Harvest season slowing, the fallow time with bare deciduous trees is on its way. It is now, said Rudolf Steiner, that is the springtime of the soul.

Annie’s here. Glad she could come, help with her big sis. She got in yesterday morning.

Kate has been through so much since a week ago yesterday. The many tests, procedures, lines snaking in and out of her bed, her body. So much. And though the crisis seems to be over, a long recovery period will follow. The big hope we both have is that all this may have finally knocked back her persistent nausea. She needs to eat and eat routinely, not just when her stomach will allow it. As my great-aunt Mary used to say, “We need to put some meat on those bones.”

Shadow Mountain Drive, yesterday

Shadow Mountain Drive, yesterday

I’ll say a word again for living in the moment. It has been so helpful to me, to my own spiritual health, to stay with the worries of this day, knowing that tomorrow will bring worries of its own. That way, each day matters for its own reasons, its own occurrences, not clouded by fears or even hopes. As the paragraph above suggests, I’m allowing a little hopefulness to creep in, but I am not fooled. Whatever hope I have for tomorrow will only exist if we take action today.

And, a word for the dogs. Yes, they’ve called me home from the hospital, just as Kate has called me back to the hospital from home. Seems like a burden, having to take all four lives into account. But, no. The very act of caring for the dogs is immediate, in the moment. Their appreciation is, too. The house, with Kate’s absence, could have a hollow resonance, but it doesn’t, not with Gertie eyeballing the macaroni and cheese in the kitchen, Rigel jumping eagerly onto her couch after a long day outside, and Kep’s tail waving like a happy flag when I go to bed.  Taking other lives into account is what makes us human and I’m blessed to have each of these lives nearby.

Today: grocery store, yet more gas, business meeting stuff. Tomorrow: move the grandkid’s tv into our bedroom, consider some other logistics for Kate’s homecoming.

 

 

The Laramide Consolation

Fall                                                                          Harvest Moon

Shadow Mtn. Drive, about a mile from home. Black Mtn ahead

Shadow Mtn. Drive, about a mile from home. Black Mtn ahead

Reminded yet again of the evanescence of our human life span. As I’ve driven 285 down the hill into Englewood and back up again, some days two and three times in the last week (today is a week from Kate’s trip to the E.R.), I’ve become aware of the mountains in a new way. Always I pay attention to them, rocky outcroppings of gneiss and marble, sandstone, carved by small, powerful streams and covered with lodgepole pine, ponderosa, aspen, shrubby oak. The exposed layering, sometimes all aslant, sometimes straight up and down, and in at least one very beautiful, curious instance, curved like wooden planks bent for canoe hulls, lies open like a literal book of the ages.

The new part of my experience is this, motion and upheaval. Mountains are stolid, perhaps they define stolid in a way most earthly features do not. They stay there, the same each day, Black Mountain’s peak still in the same place as it has been since we moved here four years ago. But there is that spot, just before Hwy 470, where 285 slices between the hogbacks*, then the mountains are gone, receding in the mirror as I drive on east at the very end of the Midwest, the last hurrah of the great plains.

hogbackIt is there, right there. Between 80 and 85 million years ago the Laramide orogeny found tectonic plates crushing against each other in that slowest of slow dances, continental formation and reformation. The result here at the hogbacks and all along the long collection of peaks and valleys we know as the Rocky Mountains shoved formerly settled layers of the earth’s crust into the air, up from the subsurface. The power and violence of the orogeny ripples past me, past all of us on 285, especially at the cut just before it dips under 470.

Apparently immobile now, the hogbacks steeply upthrust layers show the direction of its unearthing, no longer laid down below an ancient ocean’s floor, but blinking slowly like a lithic lizard gazing at the unexpected sun. I have no trouble seeing it slowly emerge, pushed up, up, up as forces way beyond human imagining tore it out of its dark home. 80 million years ago.

And here we are, tiny creatures in small metal containers passing back and forth through it, living our 70 or 80 or 90 years, then disappearing from existence. Let’s say 80 years for ease of calculation. At 80 million years ago that’s 1,000,000 human lifetimes. I would have to live and die 1,000,000 times to know the earth like those hogbacks.

shiva nata raja, Shiva Lord of the Dance

shiva nata raja, Shiva Lord of the Dance

Four years ago I wrote about the consolation of Deer Creek Canyon during my episode of prostate cancer. It was a similar feeling and I’m calling this the Laramide Consolation. Our days are precious, our lives unique, our presence in the universe irreplaceable. Just like the hogbacks. We, all features of cosmic evolution, wink in and out of existence, even the Laramide Orogeny being a mayfly moment compared to the creation of our planet and its creation a blink compared to the creation of the solar system and so on back in infinite regress until that thunderous blaze of first light.

The consolation here, at least for me, is to know that our life and death expresses what the Hindus call Shiva, the ongoing destructive and creative forces that underlie all. Death is not, in other words, a cruel punctuation, but a delicate force that refreshes and renews. Our consciousness of it, of course, colors our experience but in no way changes its necessity and its pervasiveness. There will never, never be anything like true immortality, nor, if we are sane creatures, should we reach for it.

*In geology and geomorphology, a hogback or hog’s back is a long, narrow ridge or a series of hills with a narrow crest and steep slopes of nearly equal inclination on both flanks.

 

Oh

Lughnasa                                                             Harvest Moon

Black Mountain, yesterday. From Shadow Mtn. Drive

Black Mountain, yesterday. From Shadow Mtn. Drive

Tomorrow we peek over the transom toward the fallow season. Six more weeks of harvest,  the heart of the harvest season is now, then Samain, summer’s end. Up here the temperature cooled off overnight and we’re at 35 degrees right now, getting close to a first frost. There’s even a small hint of snow for next Wednesday. As I wrote earlier, Pike’s Peak and the much closer Mt. Rosalie had snow last week. Happy with the change.

Deb Brown, my personal trainer at On the Move Fitness, really made me feel good yesterday. “You move better than most of the 30 & 40 year olds I see. And, you’re strong.” She was sincere and I was touched. I told her about the odd finding I got from the 23&me folks; I have the same genetic muscle profile as elite power athletes. “Well, you’re capitalizing on it.” “My wife said, ‘What happened?” “Tell to her to ask you that again when you’re 108!” We laughed. Left me smiling.

book of lifeThe book of life closed on Wednesday. It was a fast day, unusual in Judaism which finds asceticism puzzling, but on this day, once a year, there is a fast for the whole of Yom Kippur*. That’s from evening to evening. The point is to make us tune into our bodies, to remember that the body carries our soul, and to make the final push for teshuvah, return to the holy soul our body carries.

OK. I’ll admit I surprised myself, right here, with this keyboard. It happens, but not often like this. I wrote “make us tune in to our bodies.” Oh. It may be, as Bill Schmidt suggested obliquely earlier this month, that this Jewish experience runs deeper than I’m admitting.

*“The purpose of fasting is to bring one to repent, and true repentance brings about a change in actions. However, repenting without fasting is not enough,” Jewish educator Aliza Bulow explains on Aish.com.

Although there are medical exceptions to fasting, the Yom Kippur tradition dates back to biblical times, according to Chabad.org. When the Jewish people were wandering in the desert for 40 years after enslavement in Egypt, they worshiped a golden calf — which is contradictory to the religion’s monotheistic tenets — and Moses went to Mt. Sinai to ask for God’s forgiveness. Moses came down from the mountain after God forgave (them) him, and that day became known as Yom Kippur. The tradition of Yom Kippur continued when the Jews reached the land of Israel — Jews gathered in the first two temples until they were destroyed — and persisted again when they were ultimately exiled and dispersed across the globe.Time