Friendship. Solitude. Memories.

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The 32nd Woolly Mammoth retreat. Or, so. Happening near Stillwater, Minnesota at Dunrovin retreat center. Soon. The topic: Friendship and Solitude. The last full retreat I attended was in 2015 shortly after my prostate cancer diagnosis. Given the recency of our move to Colorado and the shock of that news that retreat was especially important for me.

Friendship and the Woollies. In many ways the Woollies, my men’s group for over 30 years, was a tutorial in alternative methods of male friendship. We did not bond over the Vikings, not even the Packers. We didn’t start out as a poker night or a hunting group or as fishing buddies. The Woollies were an outgrowth of the Men’s Movement, furthered in Minnesota by Robert Bly, yes, that Robert Bly, in particular.

We learned that friendship could be nurtured through intimacy, with each other. Not a shocker, I know, but far from the norm when men gather for just about anything. In the early years we had retreat topics like Fathers, Mothers, Death, Pilgrimage.

During the year we met on the first Monday and the third Monday of every month. That was another learning. Friendship requires commitment and work. Frank always took March so he could serve corned beef and cabbage in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. This honored Frank’s Irish blood, not the Roman Catholic Church. At Scott’s Yin would put out a Chinese meal and until her death, Yin’s mother, Moon, would help. At other homes it was soup, or barbecue, or turkey chili. We would eat together, then have a meeting on a topic the host chose.

On the first Monday we would gather at a restaurant, in the early years at the Black Forest in Minneapolis. We talked about that son, the Asperger’s one, who was difficult. Or, the movie we’d just seen. Might have been Spirited Away or a blockbuster. Sometimes work, but most often about relationships.

At Villanova, a Catholic retreat center on the Mississippi, there was a lunar eclipse. Our retreats then were usually in January. A group of us went outside around midnight and stood in the snow and well below zero weather to watch the moon turn red. Another January retreat at Valhelga, a family retreat center designed by Woolly Stefan Helgeson, the temperature was -30. The Minnesota January was part of our year.

Now I meet once a month with five of these men using Zoom the video conferencing software. These friendships are lifelong. Amazingly, for a group of ten men, none of us have died though two are into their eighties.

Solitude. Mostly introverts. Solitude preferred. One Woolly moved to northern Maine. Paul. I moved to the Rocky Mountains. Jimmie, though not an introvert, is in South Dakota. Another, Charlie, lives on a lake in northwestern Wisconsin. There is a Woolly diaspora and where we chose to live reflects the preference for solitude.

Solitude accepts our inner life as worthy. Necessary. It’s about nurturing a friendship with whoever narrates your life right now. It allows us to grow as individuals, to honor ourselves, and be able to honor others.

Perhaps I would have added memory to this retreat topic. Friendship and Solitude are complementary for sure. But it is the memories that bind us together. The broomball on the ice at Valhelga. The visits to Richard Bresnahan’s pottery studio at St. John’s Monastery. Meals at the Black Forest, Christo’s, Sawatdee. Frank’s ongoing hate affair with the Roman Catholic Church. Warren’s articles on aging written as a reporter for the Star-Tribune. That one guy that got shot at by his wife. The night we ate in what turned out be a former Nazi military commander’s house, ironically in the very Jewish suburb of St. Louis Park.

My friends, my brothers, the Woollies. Then, now. Forever.

Chronic

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Met David yesterday for coffee. He has metastatic prostate cancer, a more serious situation than mine. His doc told him on Tuesday that they were now treating his prostate cancer as a chronic disease. This is more and more the case with cancer, prostate cancer in particular.

Makes me feel more positive. My trajectory is still toward a cure and it’s looking like I might make it there. But, if I don’t. There’s always David’s route. Beginning to sound more and more like prostate cancer will not take me across the threshold to the next world.

David’s a Beth Evergreen friend, as is his wife. They brought us a meal during the hard days at the end of my radiation treatment.

After David and I had coffee, at the Starbucks in Safeway, I took the opportunity to do some grocery shopping. It was busy, odd for 3 pm on Wednesday. The bagger said it was folks getting in ahead of the fog storm. Huh? When I left, I couldn’t see any mountain peaks. All in clouds. Driving home made me wonder how folks who live along oceans and big lakes drive in fog since it’s more frequent.

Second day in a row with no doctor appointments. Feels a bit vacant. A good feeling.

Satisfaction

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Yesterday. Packed with stuff. AM I got out there and began cutting down trees. Got a lot of trees down, many smaller spruces. Managed to hang one smallish lodgepole. Will have to deal with that today. It felt so good. I love manual labor of a certain kind. Logging is one. Working in gardens and orchards is another. There’s something about using my body, working with plants and the soil that feeds me. Chainsaw work has serious man cred, too. With all that lupron swimming around, I need it.

Two of the lodgepole pines I felled, one good sized, had the bluish stain of the pine beetle. Both had been dead for some time. One in the front, also showing the blue streaking, has not been dead over a couple of years. Not sure whether this means an infestation will take out all of our lodgepoles. The beetles don’t seem as pernicious here as on those mountain sides along I-70 out toward Silverthorne. On them whole mountain faces are the rust color of dead lodgepole pine needles. The sight shocked me the first time I saw it.

When I got tired using the chain saw, I put it away and got out my limbing ax. I don’t use the chain saw when I’m tired. However, I also love whacking off tree branches with the smaller of my two Swedish axes. I got the two dead trees limbed. Satisfying.

Susan came around noon. She’s the chair of the mitzvah committee at CBE and has stayed in constant touch with Kate and me over the last year plus. The main thing the committee does is meals and when we needed them what a help they were. However, another thing I love to do is cook, so once I got out from under the radiation fatigue, we stopped the meals.

In conversation Susan teased out of me that fire mitigation had me concerned. She offered to coordinate, if possible, a CBE crew to help. With Derek, neighbor Derek, helping, I don’t need them. She brought lunch and dinner anyhow. We had a good conversation over the meal.

Derek is a really good worker and will be taking the bulk of the logs for heating. He also had a call into Elk Creek Fire to chip slash he had generated from his property. Due to equipment malfunctions the chipping crew has gotten behind. They have 150 slash chipping reservations and they stopped taking reservations on the 10th of October. Derek suggested moving slash from our work onto his piles since they’re not to him yet. Excellent plan

After Susan left, Kate and I took a nap, waiting on the arrival of Jon, Ruth, and Gabe for hamburgers, tater tots, salad, and ice cream. Also laundry.

They got up here around three and we had the usual swirl of Gabe and Ruth. Ruth wanted to bake. She made a fudge and cornbread muffins. Gabe went around to all the dogs, one at a time, talking to them, petting them, then disappeared upstairs to watch TV.

Cooking the meal in the kitchen after Ruth’s baking had some challenges, but we overcame them. Ruth cut up tomato, onion and avocado for the burgers. She also tossed the salad. I took care of the tator tots and the meat.

Ruth’s designing the lighting for her drama classes production of Alice (in Wonderland). She had a self-described mental breakdown when she didn’t get the role of Alice. One manifestation of the breakdown was cutting her bangs short. She got over it.

I asked her if her friends liked to cook. She nodded and said, “Really, we like to eat.” Eighth grade. Next year high school. As they were leaving she put on her sandals and came to me for a hug. “Oh, my, you used to be way taller than me.” Yep. With sandals she’s getting close to my height.

Busy, satisfying, loving day.

A small c convert

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

I had a dream awhile back. Don’t remember much, but I do remember being around the table at CBE. Rabbi Jamie was there, I don’t recall who else. At some point, I said, “I’m a convert.” And, I suppose it’s true enough in some ways.

Definitely a convert to CBE. Both Kate and I are members. She, who is a convert, with her Jewish identity and me, a pagan “suckled in a creed outworn.” to quote Wordsworth in “The World Is Too Much With Us.”*

This community is diverse in its way: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist flavors of Judaism show up in conversation and have persons who either identify with them or used to. There are transgender folk and there must be some gay folks. One or two people of color, rare for the Evergreen/Conifer area. Politically conservative, liberal, and radical. I’ve not met a libertarian, but I imagine there are some of those, too. A lot of former East Coasters, but a number of native Coloradans. Some come from Evergreen, Conifer, but many live in Denver or its burbs. A few from Israel, others who’ve lived in other countries for some period of time.

Nearly all though are at least well enough off to own a car, a home. I don’t know the average educational attainment, but it’s high. Might even tip over into the post-graduate level. Almost all are white. Almost all are Jewish. I’m the only outlier who is a member, as far as I know.

CBE reflects an old immigrant motif in America where folk of similar religion and, often, of country of origin, gather in a religious community. Polish Catholics. Shinto Japanese. Muslims from many countries. Irish Catholics. Puritans. Buddhists from many Asian lands. Up here in the Front Range there aren’t many options if you’re Jewish. You come to CBE or go into Denver which has a large Jewish community. (There is one other small Jewish congregation up here.)

But the dream notion of conversion goes deeper than just the community for me. I’m a convert to the reconstructionist way of approaching religious questions. That is, if it’s working, keep it. If it’s not, change it.

In my pagan turn, which came many years ago when I started researching Celtic lore, I have found most of what passes for pagan these days just plain silly. Much of it comes from rehashing, in not very careful ways, 19th century Victorian fantasies, or grabbing parts of other auld faiths, like Nordic mythology. See Asatru, for example. Some of it tries to revive the Olympic deities in various ways. There’s even a clever Satanist twist which has claimed Lucifer’s rebellion as a model for standing against the established order.

At CBE I’ve found a series of parallels with my own (possibly silly to you) approach to paganism. Jews use a lunar calendar, for example, and much of their liturgical year has its grounding in agricultural practices. In fact tomorrow at CBE a Sukkot ritual will celebrate the harvest, out doors, in a structure that by tradition is open to the sky. There is a ritual for each new moon, not often observed, but it’s there.

There is also in Judaism a distinctive body positive attitude that encourages good eating, good sex, good self care. Asceticism is not Jewish. One of the aspects of Judaism, related to this, is a candor about death, a way of including mourners in the community through sitting shiva, care of the body immediately following death, and including mourners in every worship service.

With the horrible turmoil after my mother’s death I find this approach soothing. Wish we’d had it then. This is, btw, the 55th anniversary of her death this month, her yahrzeit.

In the kabbalah, which I have studied a bit, there’s a universalism that comes from believing that every bit of the universe has a shard of divinity, of ohr the divine light. I can move from this understanding to an animist position very easily.

Here again I’m a convert to CBE. I don’t have to give up or alter any of my beliefs to be a full member. In fact I lead adult education, taught middle-schoolers, and participate as an “out” pagan in all parts of CBE’s life.

Jewish tradition and Jewish civilization has much that is humane, justice oriented, thoughtful. It is, like many faiths, a repository of human wisdom, of poetry, of answers to the big questions. I’m learning a lot at CBE and am glad for the particularity of its Jewish life. So, yes, I’m a convert. A small c convert.

* The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. – Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. 1802

The Wild World

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

A scrim of clouds played with Orion and the Sukkot Moon, revealing and then hiding, hiding and then revealing. The walk to the mailbox is short, but as I take it my mind whirls up to the distant stars, to Greek myths, to the peak of Black Mountain faintly illuminated by the moon. It is a delightful way to start the day, quiet, usually no cars, still a bit early for commuters.

Scattered clouds change the night sky, creating mystery. A lesson in the occult. If you’re an early bird and can see the sky, I recommend this consciousness expanding morning ritual. It places the day in context. The universe observing itself through my eyes. A quiet joy.

We drove down the hill yesterday in the early morning, out of the house at 6 am headed for Corneal Consultants. Kate’s first cataract surgery. On the way she asked me, Do you know why Kirby Puckett was such a good hitter? No. He batted right, but had a dominate left eye. Oh. I see. I was a good hitter. I have left eye dominate and bat right handed. The stuff you learn about someone.

In case you got to wondering, as I just did, about the relationship between eyeball and river uses of the word. Latin cataracta waterfall, portcullis, from Greek kataraktēs, from katarassein to dash down, from kata- + arassein to strike, dash Merriam-Webster. I’ll have to check the OED later.

It went well. She’s wearing a clear plastic eye-shield and the dark pupil of her dominate eye gives little space for the beautiful blue green of her iris. Drops every two hours. A visit to the doctor today.

On the way into Evergreen last night to pick up pizza at Beaujo’s an emergency vehicle came out of the fire house, cutting through the rush hour traffic which lined both lanes of 73. While I drove as close to the slight drop off as I could, an Elk cow looked in at me. Neither Gertie nor Rigel went nuts. Thankful for that.

In a front yard on the other side of Cub Creek nine or ten of her sister cows laid on the grass, eating their cud, looking very relaxed and at home. During the rut and into the winter the elk are more present in Evergreen. Not like Estes Park where they wander into businesses, but still visible.

Today Alan and I have brunch at 11:00. The first time I’ve seen him since my bagel table in late September. Kate had a bad couple of weeks and he had acting in Cabaret, singing at the High Holidays, and the Rotary Club’s recycling day. Looking forward to catching up with him.

Kate’s friend from both Bailey Patchworkers and CBE, Jamie Bernstein, has agreed to take her to her follow-up appointment so I can see Alan. Thanks, Jamie and Kate for setting it up.

Tough Weekend

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

On her birthday

Kate’s had a tough weekend. Short of breath, feeling tired. We didn’t make it to Rosh Hashanah services last night. A year and two days after her bleed. She’s made great progress on weight, nausea, even her Sjogren’s is less problematic. Her stamina, up till this weekend, had increased and she was doing more.

Her daily life involves a lot of tubing and schlepping. At night she carries her Inogen, portable CO2, as well as her pump and feeding supplies. Heavy for her. She does remarkably well with all of it, but this alone takes a toll, too. Hoping for a better day for her today.

Need a lung disease diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. So slow.

Yesterday was Tom and Roxann’s 16th anniversary. At their wedding they featured the mandorla. “In icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the mandorla is used to depict sacred moments that transcend time and space…” Wiki Marriages, good ones at any rate, live into their own mandorla. Happy anniversary! It was also the 7th anniversary of Regina Schmidt’s death. Bill continues to honor her and their love. A mandorla still, I think.

Tomorrow, October 1st, I get my second Lupron shot. 9 am at Urology Associates Swedish offices. In the butt. Thank you, Sherry.

works for both paragraphs

Then, let the fun begin! Hot flashes have become more frequent, a bit more intense. Still only annoying, but, they are annoying. They creep up the body, making it flushed and warm. Last night I had my sweatshirt off and the window open, the cool night breeze a relief.

Extreme fire danger here. Red flag warning yesterday and today. We have a higher fire risk rating than the area around Paradise, California. One of the highest in the country. Good times. I’ve been too nervous about the fire danger to get my chain saw going. Maybe this week.

My friend Dave, personal trainer, had bad news about his brain cancer. The tumor is back after surgery only a few months ago. He’s at the extreme end of survival time for glioblastoma. As he said, it’s a horrible place to be. 53 years old.

You might think I would be stressed and anxious, but I’m not. Living today. Will wait for tomorrow.

Mabon

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.
Irish proverb

Mabon grasses, ripe with seed. Hwy 285 near Morrison

Getting close to the fall equinox. It’s late this year, Sept. 23rd. Meteorological fall began on September 1st. Mabon, the second of the Celtic harvest festivals, is today. And, the whole next week.

Here the last several days have been dry, low humidity and higher temperatures. A red flag day yesterday. Fall colors are running behind, about a week or so. The trees with color have slightly withered leaves and the fainter coloration of moisture deprivation. Makes this old horticulturist sad because it means stressed trees.

Felt worn out, exhausted yesterday. Couldn’t get up the energy to go to Gabe Herman’s shabbat last night. His dad, Dan Herman, is the President of the congregation and a bee keeper. Gabe had his bar mitzvah in Israel this summer; this was a night for him to sing the parshah and give his dvar torah, literally the words of torah. Each bar or bat mitzvah must learn their parshah in Hebrew, sing it, and comment on it. Kate represented both of us.

Drove to Baily in the a.m. for our monthly supply of indica chewables. Met Dana, my budtender. I think budmonger would have been better, classier. Sell cheese too and you could have a cheesemonger and a budmonger working together. Not sure why that appeals to me, but it does.

Later, we finally got the O2 concentrator in the mail to Georgia for warranty work. And the illuminated manuscript page on vellum off to Idaho for BJ’s house there. Birthday gift.

Could have just been a long, engaged week. Or, could be the Lupron. Maybe both.

Old Guy. New Tricks.

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Old guy. New tricks. Took our 2018 Rav4 into the shop yesterday for an oil change. Waited in the Toyota temple as I always do, this time reading Neal Stephenson’s newest: Fall, or Dodge in Hell. These waiting areas are third spaces in architectural parlance, places where strangers gather and potentially meet. Not much meeting going on here as folks tap on tablets, punch the keyboards on laptops or look at their phones. The ubiquitous TV has lost much its allure to the handheld screens.

Alex, my Express Service guy, came in, found me, gave me my keys, a printout of what they’d done. All free because we’re still in the two year Toyota Care period. Back in the Rav4 I looked at the printout, double checking as is my habit. Huh? No oil change.

Walked back to see Alex. Nope, no oil change, just a tire rotation. Uh? Your car had an oil change at 4,750 miles. Oh? Yes. And that means the next oil change isn’t until 14,750 miles. Synthetics go ten thousand miles between changes. I was at 10,100, so I just thought…

The sticker, that little reminder beloved of car service centers everywhere, now lists mileage between tire rotations, not oil changes. What?

After 50 plus years of oil changes and service visits based on 5,000 mile intervals, this old dog was left shaking his head. Not to mention all the strange and wonderful features on this internal combustion engine powered computer. The only constant.

Driving back home through Evergreen, I saw a small herd of elk strung out along Maxwell Creek just after the turn from 73 onto Brook Forest Drive. Some were lounging, others drinking. We’re in the rut now and we’ll see more and more elk as it progresses. No bugling yet.

Back home Kate had managed the installation of our new dryer. Don’t think I mentioned that our old one died last week. The motor. $500 and a one year warranty. Nope. This white Speedqueen with a ten year warranty, a promotion, looks retro. It’s white enamel, sitting low to the floor, with an opaque door. No peeking at the socks as they tumble. Did two loads yesterday. Works fine.

A nap. Then off to On the Move for the second round with my new workout. I needed the second run through. Several of the exercises required me to do things my body found awkward. One of them, a lunge with a set of bands, Dave changed so I wouldn’t get off balance every time.

Over to King Sooper, not far from On the Move, to pick up my online order. In this case King Sooper employers pick your groceries, then bring them out to you on a small wagon filled with plastic totes. I pull into a slot marked Pick Up, call the phone number on the sign, tell them which slot I’m in, “#1.” and a worker brings out the groceries, loads them into the back. Slick.

Back home I cut up the watermelon I’d just bought, put it in a plastic container for Mussar Vaad Practice Group. Kate and I have gotten back, at least semi-back, to the rhythm of Beth Evergreen. I like that because we see friends, talk about ideas.

Soul Doesn’t Have Fear of Dying

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

As friend Tom Crane said in an e-mail, the carnival ride here continues with Gabe’s glove and Kate’s crash. Geez. I’ve never been a fan of karma as anything more than a metaphor, but I’m beginning to wonder…

Read an excellent interview with Ram Dass in the NYT. Ram Dass Is Ready to Die. “Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts: Those are the daily attention-grabbers that make it so that you can’t come from your mind to your heart to your soul… Soul doesn’t have fear of dying. Ego has very pronounced fear of dying.”

Hadn’t considered it that way before, but it seems right. The carnival ride is just that, a contraption meant to cause fear and anxiety. If you can step aside, witness it: Oh, that guy from Denmark ran into Kate. and Oh, that Gabe. Swallowing a rubber glove; you can stay engaged, but not captured.

Yamantaka and my soul

My time with Yamantaka contemplating my own death must have helped me with step aside, be a witness. Not perfect at it, of course. Anxiety and fear about certain things still creep into my life, into our life here on Shadow Mountain. During the most intense days of the last year I really wanted respect for the work I was doing with Kate, with our life. When I felt I wasn’t getting it, I got mad. Demanded it.

In retrospect I can see the flaw in my response. The need for recognition took me away from my love for Kate, the why of my care. It negated the very stimulus that made me stay in the heat, rather than pull away. So, far from perfect.

If I look back over my life, using, as Kate calls it, the retrospectoscope, I can see that need for recognition as a stumbling block. Often. When Dad wanted me to cut my hair or leave, I chose to leave. Why? Because he wasn’t respecting my choices about the war in Vietnam. Big loss for both of us and, from this perspective, unnecessary.

I’ve been stubborn in wanting to live my life my way. Not wanting to be shaped, molded by convention or usual modes of thought. Question everything could be the Latin inscribed on my personal crest. As long as that leads me to step aside from the received way of doing things and question them, decide on my own response, it’s beneficial. When it makes me dig in my heels, be reluctant to change, it’s not. Ram Dass might say when it concentrates on my ego.

Come from your mind to your heart to your soul, Ram Dass says. This, too, feels right though that last move, from heart to soul, is hard to grasp. At least for me. Soul. A big, big idea in my current inner work.

Mind. Sure. My mind has written most of this. It’s active and a source of pleasure for me. Moving to the heart response, compassion for Gabe and his glove, Kate and her crash, Tom and his colonoscopy today (with you in my heart, guy!), I get that, do that. Perhaps not as effortless as thinking, writing, but getting to the heart is a natural move.

On the other hand the move from heart to soul, from engaged actor to witness, to the deeper, the eternal? Harder. Hard because I jettisoned the idea of a soul for so many years. Existentialist, all there is, is right here, right now. Mind and heart, yes. But nothing escapes death. Nothing remains except memories in the hearts and minds of others still living. Over the last year or so I’ve been questioning this nihilist conclusion and that questioning focuses on the soul.

Not saying I’m back to believing in an afterlife, neither heaven nor hell, reincarnation resonate for me. Not at all. But the sense that their is a core part of me, a grain of sand around which the pearl of heart and ego grow, yes, I can see that now.

Why? Namaste. The god in me bows to the god in you. Yes. There is, in you, a god, and I can sense it. Namaste’s reciprocal claim, the god in me, has lead me to nod.

Love your neighbor as you love your Self. (my capitalization) Yes. Love you, because you are in the image of the divine, as I love my own divine image. Yes.

Maybe all the grains of sand, from trees and sharks and eagles and even Donald Trump, roll down the great river of death into the Gulf of Silence, creating there a sandbar, a shifting stretch of land in the water of eternity. Is there a simulacrum of life there? No idea. But I can imagine us all together, equal to each other, all who’ve lived. In some strange way substantial. So, who knows?

Zimzum. All Holy.

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Bam. Rammed by Denmark in a Cruise America RV. Yes, Kate got rear-ended by a Danish couple on the last day of their American adventure. She wasn’t hurt physically, but it shook her up. As well it might. Thank god it was a fellow Scandinavian.

She was on the way to pick up Debra, who has moved to Lakewood and will soon move on further yet to Maryland. Both of them planned to attend the bagel table at CBE. Kate turned around and went back home. The damage to the new car looks minimal, but the rear, hydraulic door and the bumper below it have suffered. Given the way of these things, I’m going to imagine many dollars to fix. Also, the joys of dealing with insurance and body shops.

Kate’s call caught me as I was about unlock the door at CBE. I got there early to set up. Put out the bagels, the lox, the cream cheese. Set up the coffee I bought at Starbucks with cups and cream and sugar. Get out plates and napkins. Set out and collate the resources sheets I’d created.

Isidora Kaufman, One view of Torah

Faith reimagining work showed up as a morning conversation at Congregation Beth Evergreen. The usual content of the bagel table is commentary on the Parshah of the week from the Torah. This week it was Ki Tietzei, Deut. 21:10-25:19.

When I first agreed to do this, it was the week before my radiation began. What was I doing, I thought not long afterward. Teaching Torah to a group of Jews who’ve been immersed in it their whole lives? I have training in biblical literature, it’s true, but Christians use scripture in a very different way than Jews.

At first I took a dive into Ki Tietzei. It has 74 of the 613 mitzvot or laws. Even worse for me. Mitzvot are at the heart of an orthodox Judaism and have been interpreted over and over again in the mishnah and the Talmud. Not my strong suit.

Instead I decided we’d investigate the nature of Torah and the corollary question of the nature of revelation. And, we did, using Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Emerson, and Alan Watts plus four questions.

“If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that…” ~Alan Watts

This quote sums up our conversation. Torah means instruction or teaching. I’d learned from Rabbi Jamie a very broad sense of Torah, i.e. Torah is that which instructs us in how to be human.

The ten of us yesterday got to that point and had a lively discussion on what revelation meant. An expansive understanding emerged. Not God, or not just God in a traditional sense, but finding the holiness dispersed in the world at the time of the zimzum, that initial contraction, then shattering of the creation explained in the kabbalah which embedded holiness in every particle of existence.

It was great fun and the two hours flew by with all participating. Rabbi Jamie was there as were Tara and Alan. Jamie’s sabbatical ends today, but he decided to come anyhow. There were five others: Carol, Diane, Judy, Anne, and Sally. Perfect size for an inclusive discussion.

The eagerness of the conversation, the thanks at the end, the joy of teaching all buoyed me up. Helped with my ikigai. Just as Tom’s visit did. Friendship. Family. The mountains. Intellectual life at CBE. Cook. Workout. Paint. Write. Enough.