We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

The Blues

Lughnasa                                                                      Harvest Moon

Melancholy 1532 Lucas Cranach the Elder

Melancholy 1532 Lucas Cranach the Elder

The blues follow me right now, the season of the coming darkness reflecting itself in a slight spiral downward, not too far, but enough to shadow my feelings, make me want to duck and cover. I’d forgotten, as we will about pain, that though the gradual darkening of the days excites me, motivates me, it can also pull me toward the drain.

Feelings float close to the surface, sometimes, like yesterday evening at the entrance ramp lights, boiling over. A BMW driver, top down, ran the red light ahead of me and merged. It was hot and so was I. I acted inappropriately, out of proportion. Full testosterone, no filter. No excuses. Out of line, over the line.

Salvador Dalí Uranium and Atomica Melancholica Idyll (1945)

Salvador Dalí Uranium and Atomica Melancholica Idyll (1945)

Reflecting. April of 2015, three months after our move to Colorado, prostate cancer. Surgery. Recovery. May of 2016. Jon invites me to a Mexican restaurant and tells me he and Jen are getting a divorce. A few weeks later he’s in trouble. From that summer until the next October, 2017, Jon lived with us while processing an ugly and contentious divorce. During that time I had a knee replacement, December 1, 2016, and Kate’s Sjogren’s began to manifest. Kate’s health has gradually worsened over the last year and a half. In some ways a continuous series of stressors since that exam in April, 2015.

On the upside we have had the beauty of the mountains, deepening relationships with Jon and our grandkids, Congregation Beth Evergreen and especially mussar, Joe and SeoAh’s wedding and the integration of her into our family. With the exception of Vega’s death our dogs have been mostly healthy and the house has sheltered us, given us a place to call home.

AheadIf you asked me today about our move, I’d say it was one of the best things we ever did. Funny, huh? That’s because, in spite of the stress, we were able to be here for Jon and the grandkids. That’s because, in spite of the health challenges (horrible, but accurate cliche), our lives have gone on and at our ages health issues are no surprise.

Good friends, new and old, silver and gold, have buoyed me up, made me know that I’m not alone, not struggling in a barren patch of cold ocean, but on land and part of a community. Without you this time might just have been unbearable. You know who you are. And thank you. You are all in my heart.

As always, writing helps put a little distance, a shim underneath the door of my soul that lets in the light. Even though the strength of darkness is profound, without the fallow times there is no later growth, I don’t want the door to close, to leave me in that melancholy which makes life a molasses too turbid to negotiate.

On that cheery note, I’ll close for today. Things to do. Places to go.

 

 

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.

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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.

 

The Weekend

Lughnasa                                                                              Waning Summer Moon

religious school kids with Rabbi Jamie

religious school kids with Rabbi Jamie

Up and out the door too early yesterday to write, too tired when I got home around 5:30. A long day. An education training session at Temple Emmanuel in Denver. A huge building, lots of cash there. Flowing cut stone for an outer wall, inside modern metal sculpture, lots of wood, a huge reception area, a Sisterhood Lounge, a more than gymnasium sized hall, divided by foldout doors, and lots of folks milling about.

(just noticed that the full waning summer moon stands about 4 degrees over Black Mountain in the dark early morning sky. Southwest. My cataracts give it four rays, two straight out from sides, two up and down at a slight angle.)

The sessions were ok. The food was great, lots of veggies and fruit and hard boiled eggs. All of us from Beth Evergreen had to leave early because we had an outdoor experience afternoon in Genesee Park, the oldest of the Denver Mountain Parks. Denver owns several parks in the Front Range, especially in and around Evergreen and Morrison. Genesee might mean shining valley.

religious school at Jeffco Action Center, packing Thanksgiving meals

religious school at Jeffco Action Center, packing Thanksgiving meals

This was a ropes course for the purpose of team building. The students who will be in the religious school this fall and their parents came, as did Debra and me. We were the only teachers there. I knew a few of the adults, none of the kids.

No ropes for me. I did put on a harness (reminded me of the harnesses for sled dogs) and a blue helmet. Most of the rope  features were reached by spikes driven into the trees and were high enough to require both a rope attached to the harness and managed by a Genesee Outdoor Adventure employee and the helmet.

Wasn’t the heights or the difficulty of the features that made me not go up. I realized only this morning that it had to do my with introversion and in particular my dislike of having others watch me exercise. That’s why I go to On the Move Fitness for two sessions, then follow the workouts on my own. If somebody watches me, I get self-conscious and screw up. I suppose this is something I could overcome with time and opportunity, but yesterday wasn’t enough of either.

Artemis Hives

Artemis Hives

The day before, Saturday, I went over to Rich’s, also early in the morning to help him harvest honey. We cranked his hives down from the high wire on which they hang, much like a ropes course feature, and checked first his flow hive and then a honey super on another of the four hives he has on his primary line. He has a pulley system with which he lowers and raises the hives. They’re heavy even with the mechanical advantage of a four rope pulley. Unfortunately, for reasons I don’t understand, Rich has no honey in his flow hive or in the honey super. The colonies themselves looked healthy.

Afterward, Rich and I went over to the Muddy Buck and had some coffee. His daughter was still asleep at his house.

Kate had a good day yesterday. Unfortunately, I missed it out gallivanting for Jewish education. We’re investigating medical marijuana, specifically strains used by cancer patients for nausea induced by chemo. Kate may have a bong in her future.

 

Comfy chairs, Elk, Feeling Dull

Lughnasa                                                              Waning Summer Moon

20180408_182236Selling out wall to wall for remodeling! How could we resist? Kate needed a comfortable chair, the old and worn Swedish model no longer matches up with the curve of her back and her head lowered by shrinkage in her spine. We found one at the Stickley sale, not another Stickley piece but a fat comfy leather chair with plenty of back and head support, a nice ottoman, and a sale price far below list. Happy birthday! Every 74 old woman deserves a decent chair, am I right?

On the way over to the Audi Stickley store we drove along Co. 470 East. Which goes south. Confuses me every time. This divided highway, an incomplete ring road around the Denver metro, has been under construction since we got here in 2014. Like many civil engineering projects there is a lot of soil piled up in various places, barriers, zigzagging lanes, changing speed limits and concrete barriers on both shoulders. Trucks move on and off the narrow lanes. Instead of the neverending story, this is neverending road construction.

Kate made peach honey from Western Slope peaches we bought a week or so ago. A big lug. Ha. Looks beautiful. I’ll have to take a picture and post it here.

April

April

Over to Beth Evergreen. Down the mountain, around the curves, into Evergreen. Past the Catholic Church on 74 where a huge elk bull and a harem of maybe 40 cows and calves hung around on the church lawn like bikini clad women on a beach. We’re not to the rut yet, that comes in late September and October.

At the synagogue Rabbi Jamie and Alan were a bit late so I helped Leah, the executive director, unpack the new, padded folding chairs for the social hall. We’re getting new chairs for the sanctuary and will no longer store the additional chairs in the social hall. That will be a big improvement.

Rabbi Jamie, CC, and Alan

Rabbi Jamie, CC, and Alan

When Jamie and Alan arrived, we had a brief meeting with Tara, director of education. Alan and I have a September 5th family session with parents of b’nai mitzvah age kids and the kids. The new curriculum that we’re using focuses on the emotional and developmental needs of the kids rather than emphasizing learning of prayers and Hebrew. This will be, I understand, controversial.

In the teacher workshop that followed that meeting Jamie said something I found very interesting. It went something like this: Public schools focus on subjects, learning math, art, literature. Finding out what content appeals to you. Religious schools should focus on the self. Discovering yourself and how you fit in to the larger world. The new curriculum conforms well to this pedagogy, but as you can see it puts student personal development over particular content, apparently a big change for religious school.

Found myself feeling dull during the workshop. There were five teachers: Karen, Debra, Alan, Cheri, and myself plus Tara and Jamie. I know all these people well except Cheri. She’s new, a former resident of Israel. That carries a certain cache in Jewish life. On reflection my dullness may have been a low grade anxiety. A lot of Hebrew. These are all Jews. A lot of understood subject matter. I’m better there, but still my learning curve is steep. Having to imagine how I’m going to teach and do it well in an environment where education is very important.

I don’t think this anxiety will pass until I’ve actually taught a few classes and have a better feel for how that works, specifically how I will work in that setting. Don’t like feeling dull.

 

Becoming Emo

Lughnasa                                                            Waning Summer Moon

20171202_1925591514204365009Got up with Kate at 2:45 am, went upstairs in the dark (to preserve night vision) and out on the deck attached to the house. We watched the NNE sky for about a half an hour and on the peak night of this much ballyhooed annual running of the Perseids saw 3 meteors. 3. It was a clear, beautiful night and stars dotted the sky. The Milky Way swept across its dome carrying souls of many cultures to the world beyond this one. And we were out there together. Glad the Perseids got us up. Might try again tonight.

My shift to emo continues. Still strange, but becoming more, what, usual? Ruth, Jon, and Gabe came up around 8 pm last night to drop off Gabe for the week. The start of his school year is out of synch with Jen and Jon’s. They’re back at work, but he has another week to go before school starts. Ruth’s school, though in the same Denver school district as Gabe’s, started last week. McAuliffe middle school marches to its own drummer, just like Ruth.

20171217_171626Ruth had a lot to say about school. She’s excited, loves school. And I love her. Her presence warms up my day, makes me very happy to be a grandad, to have a role in her life. She’s in honors math, mindfulness and meditation, Chinese, art, life sciences and will run cross country this year. I couldn’t be more excited about her life if she was my own child.

20171224_091544Jon’s still working out the sequelae from the divorce. He spent, he said, the last couple of years trying to manage the stress. He’s gotten out of shape, hasn’t handled his diabetes as well as he normally does. His house is a work in process and will be, I suspect, for a couple of years, maybe more. Adapting to being a single parent, in a divorce situation where he can only communicate with Jen, his ex, by email is difficult, too. No wonder the U of happiness troughs out in the 40’s and 50’s. Better times ahead.

Gabe’s on a new drug for his hemophilia now. It only requires a weekly subcutaneous injection and keeps his factor level steady with no canyons and peaks. This is brand new medication. He’s only on it because he can no longer have a port. He’s working on a fifth grade project, at his initiation, on racism. Fifth grade culminates in a project and his has a focus on race from the perspective of African-Americans. I’m going to help him with some research.

20171228_190150

This is love. Family is an exercise in life cycles, with various family members beginning or ending cycles that others have been through. The interactions between and among the cycles makes family life dynamic and a reservoir of  wisdom and hope. Struggles and joys, achievements and failures, emerge and subside. During each one we are there for each other. As it has been across human culture for thousands of years.

 

 

 

 

The Sweet Life

Lughnasa                                                                      Monsoon Moon

CBE (1)Discovering an odd phenomenon. My feelings bubble up with less filtering. I don’t feel depressed, not labile. Not really sure how to explain this, though it may be a third phase change? Or, maybe just me, for some reason.

At the MIA last week, for example, there was the strong feeling of grief in the Asian collection. Warm feelings for my friends in Minnesota were also strong. On the way home I was happy on the road. Noticeably. Kate triggers a powerful, more powerful than ever feeling of love. When I watched a TV program in which the main character’s mother died suddenly of a stroke, I was right with him emotionally. Yesterday, at the Bat Mitzvah of Gwen Hirsch, I kept shoving back the occasional tear. Her initial struggle with being upfront, her beautiful voice and the clear joy with which she overcame her fright, so evident when she carried the torah scroll around the sanctuary, made it appear she was becoming a different person, right then. Her transition/transformation was breathtaking and so sweet.

Ruth at DomoIn fact, there’s another example. Over the last few months I’ve been using the word sweet a lot. Our dogs are sweet. Ruth. The folks at Beth Evergreen. Minnesota friends. The loft. My life. I seem to see sweetness more now. I haven’t lost my political edge, my anger at injustice or a willingness to act, but the world has much, much more nuance now at an emotional level.

This change in my inner life has made me more resilient, I think, more able to identify the emotions, accept them, learn from them, respond or not, and move on. Enriched. It’s as if there’s more color in my day to day. Who knows? It might be a phase or I might be melancholy, my feelings are usually closer to the surface then, but I don’t think so. This feels like a permanent change.

Seeing the holy soul, my mussar practice for this month, accentuates this. I saw Gwen’s holy soul yesterday and it was a thing of beauty. I see the hosta struggling with a dry spell, but I know their holy soul makes them strong even in this sort of adversity. Gertie’s blind eye and painful rear quarter, her missing teeth have not dimmed her holy soul, it moves her into a bouncing, happy girl in spite of them.

slash from beetle killed lodgepole pine

slash from beetle killed lodgepole pine

I can, too, see the holy souls with damaged personas. Occasionally, I’ll see an aggressive dog or one that cowers, yet beneath those defensive outer layers, the warm and kind dog soul is still visible although it might be hard to reach. People, too. The young boy with violent tendencies, with a stubbornness that might be on the spectrum, with the sweetness for those who are sick, his holy soul is, even at this young age, hidden, so hard to find. Or, another, her reason so tortured by ideology, her essential kindness most often blocked by bitterness. Or a lodgepole pine dying of pine beetle infestation. Even as its needles turn brown and it begins to dry out, its holy soul keeps it upright as long as it can. We can never err when we search for the holy soul in others.

Look insideI see my own holy soul, now claiming more space, taking back some of the aspects of my life I had given over to achievement, to striving. This is strange because it comes as I’ve begun to reach for achievements I’ve blocked for decades. The work of submitting my writing feels both unimportant and necessary. I’m immersed in a community, Beth Evergreen, which encourages the growth and expansion of my holy soul. This is true religion, with the small r, the connecting and reconnecting of our inner life with the great vastness, our part in it highlighted, made clear at the same time as our limitedness.

 

 

 

 

Fear and Honor

Lughnasa                                                                 Monsoon Moon

After a swim, from September, 2015

After a swim. September, 2015

Yesterday and today are about reentering mountain world. Tired yesterday, probably today, too, from the journey. The electric panel needed a gentle push to return power to the eastern wall of Kate’s sewing room. E-mails needed to be sent back to the auld home, thank yous and follow ups. Pushed Superior Wolf out the door to an agent, the biggest toe I put back in the world of daily life, save one.

The biggest. Mussar Vaad Practice (MVP) group last night. I have three clusters of commitments in Colorado: family/home, Beth Evergreen and the Sierra Club, my writing. The time last night with the MVP was a return to the world of Beth Evergreen. Both Kate and I had significant matters to share.

The practice this last month focused on bitachon, trust. We placed bitachon on a continuum with trust at one end and fear on the other. I chose to concentrate on fear, specifically the fear that has held me back for almost thirty years, fear of submitting my work for publication. While on the Durango trip, I read an essay about setting a rejection goal and, as I said before, I set 100 rejections as my goal for the year. Pushing that article together with my commitment to practice facing my fear resulted in my first organized and disciplined approach to submitting my work.

Aboard the lucky dragon

Aboard the lucky dragon

In group last night I admitted/confessed/shared the results. Each rejection I’ve received, two so far, hurt, made me ashamed of my Self in such a deep way that I can’t describe it. Like the grief I experienced at the MIA last week the shame in this instance came unexpected. Why shame?

At one point last night I buried my head in my hands to emphasize both that searing feeling from the rejections and the less searing, but still real, shame of not facing this fear before now. After I talked, I didn’t disappear, melt down like the Wicked Witch of the East. No one ran out of the room, too disgusted to still talk to me. In fact, the reception of my experience was careful and kind. As I like to think I would be to someone sharing something similar.

Now, in the way of these things, the angst drained out by exposure, I imagine submitting work will become a routine matter. These dates, this agent, that magazine, following up. Writing more work. Continuing the work of writing.

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At the ICE protest. July, 2018

Kate shared an even more profound realization. While it’s really hers to share more publicly, I can report that after she spoke, her confidence level rose and I could hear, see a lighter Kate. Both of us helped ourselves change our own lives. That’s a powerful result for an hour and a half.

Kate remarked that kavod*, honor, is not only person to person, but can be applied to a community. We both regard Beth Evergreen with great respect. That’s the character virtue, soul trait, for next month.

My practice is seeing the holy soul. At the meeting I said my practice would be seeing the holy soul in others, but on reflection, I want to see it also in myself and in animals and plants. This broadening of the practice came when I realized last night that I have a gift for seeing the holy soul of dogs. I relate to all dogs as if they were presenting their most sacred self. I see cows and horses, mule deer and elk the same way, though with much less experience. And, can I treat my own holy soul, my own most sacred self as respectfully as I treat that of others. This last may be the key challenge for the month. We’ll see.

Rigel, being beautiful, July, 2018

Rigel, being beautiful. July, 2018

The term meaning honor and respect is very important in any society, but even more so in Middle Eastern societies. The English word “respect” means “look back (again), regard”; honor means “regard with great respect, dignity.” The Hebrew kavod is related to kaved, meaning “heavy.”* Indeed, until not long ago, the heavier a person was, the more respectable he or she was, for rich people could afford to eat whatever they wished, whereas poor people were undernourished, eating very little and looking light, unimportant. A related word is kibbud, meaning “honoring (parents, teachers)”; as well as “(serving the guests) refreshment” (thus showing them respect).

*Also related to kaved “liver,” the bodily organ assumed to be the source of dignity, just as the heart is the source of emotions and intellect.Jewish Journal

Unexpected

Lughnasa                                                        Monsoon Moon

70+ miles I drove yesterday morning. First over to Oak Grove, close to here, then to Stevens Square where I photographed the first Community Involvement Programs building, then the second one. I lived in both. Forgot the place on 1st Avenue, but I’ll get that. Over the course of the morning I visited streets and neighborhoods I’d come to know intimately, St. Paul, New Brighton, Andover, Minneapolis. More on the feelings from this homecoming later

The biggest surprise of the day came at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I got there about 2:30 or 3:00. Picking up my badge was long in the past, but my body remembered. Passed the guard desk by. The lobby area is completely, well, almost completely different. Tables, a big coffee shop, redone gift store. Pleasant.

I walked all the way back toward the rocks shaped in Lake Tai. Called scholar’s rocks their strange forms, curves, sharp edges, diversity reminded Chinese literati of the mountains, their power and mystery, but most importantly, of the Tao.

Up the first flight of stairs and I was in the Asian arts wing. It holds an extensive collection of Chinese and Japanese art as well as more modest exhibits of Indian, Tibetan, Vietnamese and Thai art. A collection I came to know very well. There were various Buddhas, some calling the earth to witness enlightenment, others with the mudras of reassurance, of wish granting.

A favorite part of the collection for me is the large hall containing Chinese paintings, just off the Buddhas display. Moving from one depiction of mountains to another, often scrolls longer than I am tall, there were the fantastical shapes towering up, up, up, with some small human, usually a lone scholar, sitting watching a waterfall, gazing up at the clouds. The closer I looked, and I examine these painting very carefully, the more an unexpected feeling crept me over me. Grief.

It was subtle at first, felt like simple nostalgia, a sort of sadness mixed with the wonder I’ve always felt among these objects. Slowly though, as I saw the Fergana stallions, the famed blood sweating horses from the area of the ‘stans, and noticed the upcurled lip of the copper sculpture, a rare, fine piece of work, and realized I’d never taken in his mouth before, the feeling became clear. I missed this place so much. It was an ache, a hole in my heart. Unexpected. Very.

The feeling stayed with me as I looked at a long scroll depicting a festival along a river, the Wu family reception hall, the new arrangement of the Japanese collection. It came most into focus when I looked at the tea implements, the tea house.

As I left the Asian collection and went into the excellent rearrangement of the African collection, the feeling dissipated. It did not return while I visited the Native American and Latin American galleries. Nor did it return when I saw a couple of my favorite paintings, Goya’s Dr. Arrieta and the MIA’s Kandinsky. I don’t recall its title. In theses collections I was merely a museum goer, a knowledgeable one, yes, one familiar with the art, deeply familiar in some instances, but no longer experiencing that hole in my heart.

I’m not sure what to make of it, but it was strong, very strong and it has a significance I’ve not yet sorted out.

From the MIA I went over to the Red Stag, sight of many Woolly meals over the years. Tom and Bill were already there. Ode, a colonoscopy prep victim on Monday, got good drugs at the procedure, enough to make him lose a whole day. He forgot. When reminded by Tom’s call, he came down.

It was a good visit, normal in its way. A place we’d been before, together. We’d been together many times, this was one more. Yet it was also abnormal since 900 miles separates me from this normal moment. These are life-long friends and life isn’t over yet.

Losing Daylight

Summer                                                                Monsoon Moon

The big Dodge Ram sits in our garage, so it won’t get hit with hail in case we have a thunderstorm. Nothing says I don’t give a damn like returning a pock marked car to the rental folks. Supposed to go back today.

Kate had a couple of days clear of nausea, then got hit hard yesterday. It’s difficult to describe how debilitating it is to experience this inner discomfort regularly. I can see it. I can sort of imagine it, but she’s dealing with it. No. Fun. At. All. I feel bad for her, with her.

Here in Conifer we’ve already lost 20 minutes of daylight since the summer solstice, 14:59 on June 21, 14:39 today. I go to bed at 9 pm and I can already tell the difference. It’s beginning to get dark now at 9. The darker it gets the happier I am and, as an added bonus, the darker it gets the cooler and wetter it gets, helping sleep and mitigating wildfire probabilities.

Feeling a little sad this morning. Kate and I had an argument last night. It happens, but I never feel good when it does and the feeling lingers. Reminds me that our moods are fickle, sometimes referented, sometimes not, but always changing. Not becoming attached to one mood or another, up or down, being equanimous (yes, it’s really a word. either that or it was made up in our Mussar group) helps level out our moods. Although, I do appreciate both a good up and a good down. Vitality does not lie in sameness.

Looking forward to seeing Minneapolis and friends the first week of August. Groveland Unitarian-Universalist celebrates becoming a Covenanting Community in the UUA on August 4th. They wanted me to come and I’m pleased they do. Like the days in Durango I’ll get a chance to catch up with folks with whom I’ve had long term relationships, seeing Woollies and I hope docent friends as well as the Groveland folks.

Plus, I’m staying at the Millennium Hotel which is on the edge of Loring Park. I lived in Loring Park up on Oak Grove, a wonderful third floor apartment that, thanks to its location on the hill, had a beautiful view of downtown. That was back in 1975/1976. Which is, wait for it, 43 years ago or so. 28. Whoa.

I’ll get to see the statue of famed 19th century fiddler, Ole Bull. When I was chair of Citizens for a Loring Park Community,  we turned down the Daughters of the Sons of Norway who asked us to let them move it somewhere cleaner and safer. Than our neighborhood? Come on. I’ll also get to walk to the nearby Walker Art Museum and the somewhat further away Minneapolis Institute of Arts. When I head to the MIA, I’ll pass through Stevens Park, which was my first home in Minneapolis. I was a live-in weekend caretaker and janitor for Community Involvement Programs. The old Abbott Hospital was right across the street. Lots of Stevens Park stories.

Not to mention that wonderful road trip across the Nebraska plains. Which I actually enjoy when enough time lapses after I’ve done it.

 

Fear and Bitachon, trust

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

article-new-ehow-images-a07-ti-j3-duties-literary-agent-800x800Spent most of yesterday on submissions. I revised School Spirit, taking 2.0 down to 2,700 words from 4,800, and submitted the revision to Mysterion. I developed a table in Word to track my submissions. It has these columns: submission, work, publisher, response, rejection, acceptance, contract, published. Later on today I’m going to begin revision of Superior Wolf, which I want to get out as soon as I can get it where I want it.

I now have an Evernote file for Novel and Short Story markets which contains 25 new markets and I will build that file. I need another log to track reading periods, periods when a particular market opens to submissions. They are often only a month long, so you have to both have work that fits their interests and know when to send it. Once I get a rhythm going here, I’ll get back to agent submissions, arguably more important than submissions to markets.

tumblr_mh1q88lsfr1s19s9xo1_500So, I’m facing my fear, not only that, I’m leaning into it, grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and saying, “Come on, now. Message received. Stop already.” This is partly mussar driven, the practice I wrote about on July 6; but, it’s also driven by self talk that long preceded mussar, though ineffectually, and even a bit by the shame and embarrassment.

What, exactly, has the fear been doing for me? It’s tried to protect me, fence me off from disappointment and failure. It feels the pulse of shame before it rushes through me and says, go another way, that feels bad. Just keep your head down, don’t poke it up, make yourself visible. And, of course, in spite of that self-protective urge, the result has been that for 30 years I’ve felt disappointed and I’ve failed at publishing because I never took the risk.

Fear, like doubt, is good. To not fear the fall from a high cliff is stupid. Getting a flu shot makes sense because fear rightly says the flu is worse. Slowing down around a mountain curve? Sure, fear tells me I’d fly off into the void otherwise. But fear is pluriform, it responds to many things. When on the Savannah, a fear of vulnerability probably sensed a predator nearby, or an enemy. Pay attention. Hide. Be ready to defend yourself against death. Having a red light moment is adaptive, until it isn’t.

2011 05 06_0875Publishers and editors and agents, even critics and readers, are not lions or hyenas on the veldt. The fear I’ve allowed to rule me for the past three decades however has believed them so. The shame then is a complicated emotion which recognizes the self-deception and self-protection. It knows I’ve chosen the critique of intimates, why hasn’t Charlie ever published, to the critique of possible readers. That’s embarrassing, but it’s where I’ve been for a long, long time.

Now, however, a strange, new moment is on the rise. In part I got tired of the narrative I’d been telling myself, been telling others. “I’m just not good at marketing.” I call bullshit on that. In part I read this article about setting a rejections goal and this time it made sense to me, a sort of akido move, use the power of your adversary against them. In part it was this month’s mussar practice of facing fear in order to learn about trust.

Yesterday, for the first time I can ever recall, I felt like I was getting down to the business side of writing. Yes, I’ve made submissions before, but I have never made as organized and concerted an effort as now. It feels good.

But, if I’ve begun to push the fear, tried to educate it that this is not an arena where it’s helpful, which I have, I’ve begun to wonder about it, too, from the mussar perspective. If I face the fear, face it down, then does trust appear? If the student is ready…

CBE (1)I know that fear vitiates trust. If we’re afraid of another person’s motives, we’ll never get to know them well. If we’re afraid of public speaking, no one will hear us. If we’re afraid of our own motives, we’ll take few risks. In these cases, if we face the fear, listen to it, talk it down, choose to act differently, then we may find love, may discover that people want to know what we have to say, may open ourselves to the world’s rich opportunities.

I’m starting from the fear, however, not trust. If I eliminate the fear, if I continue (and I’m pretty sure I will) to organize, revise, submit, and create new work, will trust appear? In what? The question I’m asking is this, does eliminating or modulating fear create trust, always? If so, in what?

20180624_095408

seeing through the fear goggles on

In this instance, for example. If I have pushed back the fear, acknowledged the shame of constant wheedling about submitting my work, and have finally gotten somewhere with both, in what do I now have trust? That eco-system of publishing and readers will therefore embrace my work? Not really up to me beyond getting my work out there. That I’ll be a better person? Maybe. Since the fear has weighed heavily on my psyche for all these years, lifting it might have, probably will have, a positive effect on my sense of self. Perhaps I’ll trust life more, be less reticent. This would be huge, obviously.

Don’t think this is the heart of it though. Somehow the trust that emerges is, more importantly, in acceptance of vulnerability, trusting that when I’m afraid, or even ashamed, that I can still be in this world. We’ll see, of course, if this is true, but it feels right. Fear, then, can be seen as a tool, an important and necessary one, but one to pick up and then set down. It’s not a tool we want to always have to hand and when it is in hand, we need a plan to get it back in the toolbox after it’s done its work.

 

 

 

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