We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Mabon, 2018

Mabon                                                                      Harvest Moon

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

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

As I type the heading here, I can look up and see the aspen groves near the peak of Black Mountain. Like golden islands in a dark green ocean. Part of the ever changing beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Mabon is the second harvest holiday and comes on the autumnal equinox. (The rising sun has just hit the aspen grove, now it looks like molten gold.) If you lived in a subsistence farming economy, as most humans did in Europe only a few centuries ago, then what happened on and around this holiday would have meant the difference between life and death in the fallow months ahead. No wonder the market days were so important, so filled with ritual and fun.

mabon-greeting-cardWhat did you plant in the first and second phases of your life that’s coming to fruition right now? Tom. Bill. Mark. Paul. Will you dance around a bonfire? Alan. What will sustain you in the fallow months when work in the fields is done? The loves and passions of your earlier life might do it. Might not. Is there a new field, one that can be worked with the experience and skills available to you? What will you harvest in the third phase of your life?

This harvest holiday I’ve been nostalgic about combines and corn pickers, hay balers and grain trucks, the tall elevators waiting for grain, the train cars waiting to move it. That was my flatlander past. What is the new harvest, the one lived among mountains, streams, mule deer and elk?

mabon8

“The Harvest Moon” by Samuel Palmer

Turns out it has some resonance with crops I’ve planted before. Kate. Family. Friends. Writing. Reading. Religion. Art. Music. Dogs. Closeness to the non-human natural world. But, there are also new crops, most new varieties of old ones, new strains. Judaism. The montane ecosystem. Beth Evergreen friends. Noticeable aging. Submitting work, a true harvest. Making art, sumi-e, playing with colors. This pack of dogs: Gertie, Rigel, Kepler. A married Joseph and SeoAh. A divorced Jon. The grandkids.

Someday, soon or late, the reaper will come for me, harvesting another of this strange fruit, humankind. Each day, think of it, that reaper gathers in a new harvest of souls. And how little we know of that harvest. Do our deaths nourish the universe as our harvests in life have nurtured others? Perhaps.

May you have a pleasant and bountiful Mabon season. Harvest home is near. Enjoy it.

 

 

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.

20180915_162623 20180915_162727

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

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

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

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

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

Yamantaka

Yamantaka

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

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

I have been and am being Charlie.

 

Maybe a New Show?

Lughnasa                                                              Harvest Moon

A Robert Indiana sculpture: Ahava, Hebrew for love

A Robert Indiana sculpture: Ahava, Hebrew for love

At Tu B’av, a minor holiday, now a celebration of love in Israel and dubbed by its restorers as Jewish Valentine’s Day, unmarried women would come together, all dressed in white, dance, and hope to find a partner. Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.

We celebrated Tu B’av on August 15th at Beth Evergreen and Kate won a silent auction for a backstage experience at a local production of Funny Girl. We went last night. It’s tech week for Funny Girl and our friend Alan Rubin is a player.

I had nearly enough theater credits for a minor and acted quite a bit in high school, college and seminary. After that, nada, but Kate and I were regulars at the Guthrie. When I was in high school and middle school, our parents took us several years in a row to Stratford, Ontario, to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. A passion, really, but one that has slowly faded.

TheatreJust before getting up this morning a strange, but somehow obvious thought occurred to me. While on the backstage tour we visited the dresser, an energetic guy who made or altered 490 costumes for the women in this performance. !. We saw the multiple props, a day bed, a drinks trolley, several doors with wheels, a set of steps for musical numbers, a kitchen table, a dressing table. Downstairs we saw the storage areas for costumes and prop making materials. We spoke with the dresser, the stage manager, the director, the actors, several of them, the lighting and sound people. All, to a person, warm and friendly.

We watched the rehearsal through until intermission at 9:30, then these old folks began to tire and went home.

Theatre2Here’s the thought. Going backstage, seeing all the accoutrements for staging a play, especially going into the basement area, made me think of id, ego and superego. Of the masks and personas we wear. Of our brain as backstage, where we store props, costume changes, makeup, where we put together the elements of the show that is our lives. The show itself, and its superego, the director, is the life others see, the one we present as we strut and fret our hour upon the stage, then are heard no more.

Let me extend (overextend) the metaphor in one more significant way. All these various elements costumes, props, actors, the stage itself alter themselves for each new script. In other words it is the nature of the theater to be plastic, to use familiar elements for telling unfamiliar stories.

As our life goes on, we often get stuck in Groundhog Day times when we simply repeat the same script over and over. We don’t hear the audience, we don’t see the repetitiveness, are not aware that we’ve been mounting the same play again and again.

Here’s the takeaway for me. Examine the script. Become aware of the lines you’re delivering, the plot you’re pushing forward. Is it still the one you want? Is there another play you can put together with the props, the roles you’ve already played, the stage to which you’re committed? Could be. We can put on new productions, use familiar elements for unfamiliar stories. Might even be fun.

Sweet

Lughnasa                                                                  Harvest Moon

1514204356436Tomorrow, in our second religious school class, this one unscripted by Moving Traditions, we’re going to do a get to know each other exercise. Your life in 5 objects. Taking my cue from the American History in 101 Objects display at the Smithsonian, I’ll start with my own five objects: a newspaper, a globe, artemis honey and apples, great wheel, family picture.

I’ll ask the kids to bring their objects, 7th graders next class and 6th graders the next. My hope is that as they look back over their life they will begin to reflect on childhood, their childhood and childhood in general. The dominant theme of this year is the huge transition underway for them from childhood to adolescence.

This will also help me get to the know the kids better since they’re all unfamiliar to me beyond names right now. Looking forward to it since the barrier between never having done this and being a rank amateur has been breached. I’m now a novice learning how to help others learn. I can work with that.

20180910_101739Kate and I went in early yesterday morning to help prepare the board’s luncheon for those attending the Rosh Hashanah service. I peeled laser cut lox off salmon fillets while Kate put schmeer on tiny bagels. The lox went on the bagels. Lois and Fran were making egg salad bagels. We set up water, lemonade, coffee stations, put out trays of cookies, dressed round tables with flowers, cutup fruit and vegetables. A platter with sliced apples and honey is traditional for Rosh Hashanah, dipping an apple in honey is symbolic of a wish for a sweet new year.

The service is long, over two and a half hours, so folks are hungry when it’s over. Kate and I got there about 8:50 to help with the prep. That lasted well past the service’s 9:30 start. The prayers and chants, Jamie’s sermon, were all in the background as we worked in the social hall. When we finished, most of us went into the sanctuary. Folks get up and move around, go to the bathrooms, even chat during the service itself. It is, in that sense, more casual than most Sunday morning Christian services.

all dressed up with some place to go

all dressed up with some place to go

Bill Schmidt said something on our zoom session a couple of Sunday’s ago that keeps coming up. You may be more Jewish than you’re willing to admit, something like that. He could be right. I’m in this sort of hokey-pokey relationship to the tribe, one foot in and one foot out, then I shake it all about. I believe he made this comment when I said something like I’m becoming a Jew by osmosis.

We’ll see. I tell myself that I don’t want to join another religion, I’m happy with the earth/solar-centered focus of my own spirituality. And, I am. Further, I got sucked into Christianity by its unexpected (to me) intellectual depth, the beauty of its history. I can feel the same lure every time I encounter new things about Judaism, which is constant. My mind is so open that I can confuse excitement about learning new things with a personal commitment. The difference here, I suppose, is that I’m staying around, getting more deeply involved, not only because of the odd amalgam of tradition and anti-supernaturalism that is reconstructionist thought, but mostly because of the people.

Not sure where all this ends, but for now, I’m excited about my involvement at Beth Evergreen, happy to have new friends, and committed to this congregation. Beyond that? Not clear. Maybe there is no beyond that.

 

 

Oh, really? Hmmm?

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

the loft at 5:30 am this morning. waning crescent waning summer moon.

the loft at 5:30 am this morning. waning crescent waning summer moon.

Slept in till nine yesterday. I was at Beth Evergreen from 3:30 to 10 pm. And, I was anxious/excited for most of it. Tuckered out back home, in bed finally around 11 pm. That’s really late for both Kate and me. Got up at 5:30 to feed the dogs since that’s what they expect, then went right back to bed. Unusual, but effective. Got up rested, though still feeling threads of exhaustion.

We had the mussar vaad practice group after religious school. That’s why the evening went so late. My practice for this month, for the middot (character virtue) of curiosity, is to greet judgement with curiosity. That is, each time I feel a judgement about another come up, I’ll add to that feeling a willingness to become curious about what motivated the behavior I’m judging, what might be the broader context? Am I being reactive or am I seeing something that does concern me? Or, both? Does my judgement say more about me than what I’m judging?

or, the reverse

or, the reverse

I tried this with a member of the mussar class. When I concluded that they were probably acting with little self-awareness from values instilled as a young child, I was still judgmental, wondering how a person could grow old and not gain insight into themselves. Apparently, in this case, quite easily. So that is who they are now. I pushed my circle of curiosity out a bit to ask the question, does our society need people with these attitudes, do we benefit in some way from them?

Important side note here. It’s not the values this person expresses that bother me, though I do disagree with most of them, but the apparent unwillingness to entertain error. No real dialogue can happen then.

When I consider society’s need, I find a different perspective. Since I disagree with most of the values expressed by this person, they make me give pause to my own unexamined ideas. They challenge me to remember the cliched, but valuable: Don’t believe everything you think. What’s the societal advantage here? No democracy can survive capture by one political perspective. That’s the problem with demagogues, autocrats. They represent a calcified political ideology that brooks no challenge, no matter what the ideology. So, the frisson between competing ideas keeps us from accepting the Putin, Xi Jiping, Kim Jong Un style of strongman leadership.

curiosity5Like Charlie H. in the Woollies, this person threatened to leave the group. It struck me that both used their own intransigence and subsequent reaction to it as a means of manipulating the group into reinforcing their willingness to include them. I feel extorted in those situations, like I have to simply roll over and say, oh, please stay. In Charlie’s case I would not have done it, had I been in the Twin Cities and able to face the daily consequences of defying him. In the mussar group instance I only held my hand up half way when asked if we wanted this person to remain in the group. I felt similarly manipulated, but did not feel my cohesion with the group quite strong enough to withstand outright defiance.

In both instances my reaction is not, I’ll say this again, to the values underlying the reactions of these two people, but to the manipulative and my way or I hit the highway ultimatums.

We should question ourselves if another person’s values disturb us enough to want them gone from our presence, or our society. That’s not to say that there aren’t some values so abhorrent as to justify that. Criminal law is filled with examples. But in the political realm, so long as reasoned discourse can occur, then we owe it to ourselves to consider honestly those with whom we disagree. They might just know something we don’t.

 

 

Worn Out

Lughnasa                                                                         Waning Summer Moon

shiviti

shiviti

Oi. Over to Beth Evergreen yesterday morning at 8:30. Alan and I sat down, knocking together our rough draft of the calendar for our sixth and seventh grade class. There will be dream interpretation, several sessions on what it means to become a teenager, understanding Torah, understanding the morning prayer service, making your own Israeli flag, making your own Jewish mandala, a shiviti, a session on Funny, You Don’t Look Jewish, and much more. This took until 11:30 or so.

We met there because Alan said he had some work to do at the synagogue. When we finished, I asked him if I could help. Turns out, yes, I could. I spent another two hours with a power drill in hand, helping him put up the final trim on the yahrzeit wall. First impressions can be weird. The doorbell rang and I let a guy in, first time I’d met him. I had the drill in my hand, so the first time he met me, he saw me as a person who could use a power drill. Oh, my.

yahrzeit-lightingA yahrzeit wall consists of plaques with deceased member’s name, date of death, and a small light to the left of the plaque. Technology allows Leah, who manages the wall, to program the lights so that they come on during the month of the person’s death, following the Jewish calendar. Yahrzeit, literally year time, is the yearly anniversary of a relative’s death, during which mourners say the kaddish, or the mourner’s prayer, during services. I like this idea a lot. It keeps a relative’s memory alive and it honors the living by giving them certain knowledge that they will not be forgotten. Someday it may be Kate’s name will be up there, maybe mine, too.

20180718_141451The surprising part of all this, unpleasantly surprising, was that when I got home around 2 pm, I felt exhausted. Not just tired, but done in for the day. The degree of exhaustion seemed exaggerated. Yes, I’d been gone a long while (for these days), had no lunch and was on task the whole time. Even so. Kate reminded me that working with my hands wears me out. She’s right. The combination of careful, thoughtful work for two and a half hours followed by a roughly similar amount of time with a power tool resulted in sagging. Even a nap didn’t cover it.

It gave me a sense of what Kate deals with nearly every day. Unpleasant. In my next workouts I’m going to focus on stamina.

Alan, demyelination, days with no nausea

Lughnasa                                                            Waning Summer Moon

Alan

Alan

Alan came over for work on the religious school lesson plans. Kate made her oven pancakes (always delicious) and Alan told us stories about early Jewish Denver. West Colfax (think Lake Street) between Federal and Sheridan was an orthodox Jewish community when he grew up. He said on Friday afternoons with folks scurrying from the deli to the bakery to the kosher butcher it looked like, well I can’t recall exactly, but any typical European Jewish community.

His dad was going to be a University professor before the Holocaust. Instead he came here and ended up in the dry cleaning business. In those day Alan’s friends and neighbors were either children of Holocaust survivors or survivors themselves. That old neighborhood, like north Minneapolis, has completely changed. The first synagogue in Denver is now an art museum on the Auraria campus of the University of Colorado. The Jewish community concentrated itself in south Denver, more to the east.

We worked for a couple of hours, putting specific lesson plans on the calendar, deciding which days to do the Moving Traditions curriculum, which days for middah, which days for Jewish holidays, which days for our own lesson plans. I’m experiencing some anxiety about this since we start next Wednesday with the first family session of the Moving Traditions curriculum. This approach to the student preparing for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah will, apparently, be controversial because it doesn’t focus on the ritual of the morning service, but on the students’ social, emotional, and developmental needs. Alan, Jamie, and Tara will deal with that. Not me.

20180408_182236Kate’s had several days in a row with no nausea. Yeah! That means she feels better and can get some things done. In doing so, however, the extent of her loss of stamina, weight loss and Sjogren’s Syndrome, has become apparent. She still needs to rest frequently. If she can modulate the nausea, either through careful eating or an eventual diagnosis or using medical marijuana, the next step is to get some weight gain, some stamina improvement. If possible. Or, we may have to adjust to a new normal.

I’ve been absorbed in lesson planning, training for the school year, climbing my steep learning curve about matters Jewish and matters middle school. That’s my way. Dive into something new, leave most other things behind until I’ve gotten where I feel like I need to be. Not there yet, though I imagine after a few class sessions, I will be. Sort of a head down, blinkers on time. My writing has dwindled and so have submissions.

Over the last couple of weeks, while I work out, I’ve been watching a Teaching Company course on the aging brain. I recommend it. Highly. It’s helped me understand why this approach, head down blinkers on, is developmentally appropriate for me. For example, the aging brain, on average, loses some processing speed, executive functions, and crispness of episodic memory (memory tied to a person or place and seen from a first person perspective.) over each decade, beginning in the twenties.

Myelin Sheath – a layer of fatty cells covering the axon, helps speed neural impulses.

Myelin Sheath – a layer of fatty cells covering the axon, helps speed neural impulses.

The underlying issue seems to be gradual demyelination of the axons which constitute the white matter in our brain. With myelin sheathing over their length axons can carry information very fast, without it somewhere around 2 meters per second, or human walking speed. As our processing speed declines, so do brain functions like the executive management of brain activity by the prefrontal cortex. It’s this one, the decline in executive function, that requires the head down, blinkers on approach to new activity or to tasks we need to complete. As we age, we no longer handle distractions as well, getting pulled away from this to focus on the shiny that.

I like knowing this because it helps me understand my daily third phase life better. The thinking process itself is not impaired, just the speed and our ability to stay with a task. It helped explain a very uncomfortable moment for me at the Genesee Ropes Course on Sunday. Jamie and I were with the 6th and 7th graders. Adrienne, a ropes course employee had just explained the rules of a warmup game. One of the rules was that we had we could not throw a soft toy to someone who’d already gotten one on that round.

geneseeI got the stuffed unicorn on the third or fourth toss. When I tossed it to Alex, Adrienne asked, “Did he break a rule?” All the kids and Jamie nodded. Yes, he had. Why? Alex had already gotten the unicorn. Oh, shit. This was the first interaction between me and these kids as a group and I looked like a doofus. I didn’t remember the rule at all. There were plenty of things to distract me. The continental divide in the distance. A wind blowing through the trees. Trying to concentrate on learning kid’s names. General anxiety about not knowing the kids at all. Whatever it was, my executive function let me go, Oh, fish on bicycle, instead of hearing, no throwing to someone who’s already received it.

It still looks the same to the outsider. I missed the rule, and as a result, screwed up in its execution. But now I understand that this is not a sign of dementia or other deep seating problem, but rather a normal, though irritating, side effect of demyelination.

 

 

Gifts. All day long.

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

Rigel and Kepler

Rigel and Kepler

What gifts did I get yesterday? The first question before I go to sleep. Woke up, emerged from unconsciousness to consciousness. Breathed the whole night long. Kate was next to me, sleeping, my partner. Kepler was, as always, happy to see me wake up. He rolls over so I can scratch his stomach, his tail goes up into happy mode. As the morning service says, the orifices that needed to open, opened, and closed when appropriate. There was water at the tap, always a gift in this arid climate. The meds that my doc has prescribed to help me extend my health span got washed down with some.

Gertie and Rigel were happy to see me, coming up for a nuzzle and a lean. The air was cool and the stars still out. Shadow Mountain stayed stable underneath me. The carrier brought the Denver Post and we read the collective work of its reporters, recorded by the printers on newsprint made most likely in Canada.

the loft

the loft

When I went up to the loft, I got on this computer, using electricity supplied by the Inter Mountain Rural Electric Association. As the sun came up, our own solar panels began translating its energy that traveled 93 million miles, generated by the powerful nuclear fusion of our star. My mind is still sharp enough to put words together, thoughts. My hands still nimble enough to pound the keyboard.

All these gifts and we’re only at about 6 am. The list goes on throughout the day. Kate at the table when I go down for breakfast. The workout created by my personal trainer. Time to nap. A mussar class focused on tzedakah and zaka, how can we purify our soul by gifting resources to others. A car that runs on gas brought here by oil tanker, trucks, a gift from the plant and animal life of long ago, crushed into liquid form by the power of geological processes. Back to Beth Evergreen for the second time for the annual meeting.

There the gifts of people, relationships built and nurtured over the last few years, granting both of us the opportunity to be seen, known, and the chance to offer who we are and what we have. Finally, the cycle ends with a return to sleep, to unconsciousness. Hard to avoid gratitude after doing this sort of exercise each night.

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.

 

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