We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

In A Techno-Desert, Thirsty for Human Interaction

Fall                                                                             Harvest Moon

5:20 am on Shadow Mountain. 43 degrees. 12% humidity. Pressure 22.60. No wind. Crescent moon. All the same without knowing these data points, I know. Still. I like to know them anyhow.

naisbittThis week Thursday I get to see Joe and SeoAh. I’m excited just to see them, to have some high touch in this high tech age. Remember Alvin Toffler? A futurist, he posited that the more complex and sophisticated our technology becomes, the more necessary direct human interaction. (Toffler preceded Naisbitt by at least two years with this idea, but Naisbitt made it a corporate buzz phrase. I find his notion of balance between our physical and spiritual reality an interesting idea.)

True. We exist, at least many of us, especially those younger than a certain age, in a cloud (pun intended) of virtual data. This blog, for example. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Email. Text messages. Twitter. I see, regularly, information and pictures about high school friends, old college friends, friends in Minnesota, family. I don’t use Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, not enough time in a day, but I’m on Facebook at least daily. I send and receive many e-mails, text messages. All this keeps me up to date, to some extent, on people I care about, a gratifying level of connection available, in yesteryear, only to voluminous letter writers.

1954-09 Galaxy Magazine by Ed EmshwillerBut the connection is, of course, partly, maybe mostly, illusory. We get only snippets, usually disconnected snippets. No hugs. No careful listening. No smiles. No touch on the hand during a conversation. No walks. No meals. The further out from our fleshly world, the less real information about another we receive because the context for what we know is very limited.

I don’t happen to see this as bad. I’m grateful for the chance to learn about even parts of the lives of people who once belonged to my fleshly world. But it does create a longing for in person moments, to embrace Joseph and SeoAh, for example. Or, to attend a 55th high school reunion, or show up at a Woolly Retreat in November,which I will not be able to do this year.

High Tech High TouchAs we age and travel becomes more difficult, I imagine this will become an even more poignant issue, extending even into our fleshly world. There’s promise, yes, in telemedicine, for example. We already meet with our financial planner over Skype. How many of our now daily or weekly interactions will become virtual? The key issue here, the one I think Toffler alluded to, though he may not have named it outright, is isolation.

We are on the map of the future where a cartographer might write in florid typescript, “Here there be dragons.” We just don’t know what the combination of high tech and increasingly low touch world might mean. Isolation is deadly, killing the spirit and ravaging the soul. Will we end up in a technological desert, thirsty for real human interaction, seeing it in the shimmering illusions of social media, but not being able to reach it? If so, what can we do about it?

 

Metaphor? Of course.

Fall                                                                               Harvest Moon

kabbalah8The tree of life, the tree of immortality guarded by the angel with the flaming sword; the tree itself still growing in paradise, concealed by language, by our senses, by the everydayness of our lives; the path back to the garden often forgotten, the exile from paradise a separation so profound that we no longer know the location of the trail head and even harder, we no longer have a desire to search for it.

Metaphor? Of course. But in these three words lie a trap for the unwary, a trap in which I allowed myself to get caught and held, a mindhold trap. My life seems like a sine wave of grasping, then losing the significance of metaphors.

When young, I felt the mystery behind the communion wafers and the grape juice at Alexandria First Methodist. At the tenebrae service, when we extinguished the little candles with their paper drip guards and the sanctuary went dark, I thrilled to the change from ordinary experience, sensed the power rolling over us as the memory of crucifixion and death came hurtling through the centuries to land in our small Indiana town, in the very spot where I sat.

The sunrise services held on Easter morning lit up my whole inside. The power of the tenebrae had been defeated and life did go on forever, death only a mistake, an illusion, misunderstood as a cruelty when in fact it was a gateway. I suppose on those days, repeated over many years, I had a glimpse of the path back to the garden.

My mother’s death, I think, shattered this instinctive faith. Those feelings occasioned by grape juice soaked squares of bread, darkness and the rising of the sun, were a true path and one I lost when the brutal reality of grief smeared the way.

But the memory of that way remained. So I moved up from the instinctive triad of netzach-hod-yesod, forced by fear and loss to skip the next triad chesed-gevurah-tiferet and go to the one easiest for me to access, hochmah-binah-daat. I know these hebrew words may mean nothing at all to you, I’m still at the base of a steep learning curve with them myself, but they do appear on the illustration above so you can see where they are on the tree of life.

In simple, but not simplistic terms, the triads are netzach-hod-yesod, the realm of instinctual behavior, chesed-gevurah-tiferet, the realm of emotions and hochmah-binah-daat, the realm of the intellect. Movement in the tree of life goes from the keter to malchut and back from malchut up to keter, so there is no real top or bottom, only different spots in an ongoing process of creation.

kabbalahBut here’s the trap. Metaphor, of course! I studied philosophy, religion, anthropology in college. Then, after a few years stuck in unenlightened instinctual behavior-the storied sex, drugs and rock and roll of the sixties and seventies-I moved to seminary. The trap tightened. I learned about the church, scripture old and new, ethics, church history. It was exhilarating, all this knowledge. I soaked it up. I remained though stuck in the intellectual triad, pushing back and forth between the polarity of intuitive wisdom, hochmah, and analytical thought, binah, often not going on to daat, or understanding. I learned, but did not integrate into my soul.

There was a time, after seminary, after ordination, as I groped my way around in the work of ministry, that I found the path again. It was in mystical traditions like the Jesus Prayer, or the use of lectio divina, contemplative prayer. I had spiritual directors who guided my prayer life and I meditated often, daily for years, went on private retreats for days at a time. In those years I found my way back to the netzach-hod-yesod triad, traveling again on the instinctual path formed so long ago.

The trap sprung another time, though, as I got better at my ministry, more able to apply organizational development paradigms to congregational life, more able to pull the levers of political power for the good of various purposes: affordable housing, unemployment policy, economic development for poor neighborhoods, fighting off corporate takeovers of those same poor neighborhoods, more able to navigate the internal politics of Presbytery life. I became stuck in malchut, the material world which we experience everyday. So stuck that eventually I could see nothing else and the path disappeared again.

interior_dante_divinecomedy_inf_01_002My heart knew I had gotten lost, in exile once again. In Dante’s words in Canto 1 of the Divine Comedy:

In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost.

It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death…

I cannot rightly say how I entered it. I was so full of sleep, at that point where I abandoned the true way.”

This time I knew I had to extricate myself from the subtle trap, get out of the thought world that had me lost in the dark wood, the direct way lost. It was a wild, harsh, seemingly impenetrable forest.

It was clear that for me the Christian faith had gotten muddled up with ambition, immersion in the world of power. And, most problematic of all, it had become part of the metaphor trap. The metaphor had gone stale, had become a barrier instead of a koan. Not the fault of the faith itself, but of my journey within it.

IMAG0650croppedAt the time of its crumbling another path had begun to open for me. Fiction writing emerged when, ironically, I began writing my Doctor of Ministry thesis. Instead of working on it I ended up with 30,000 plus words of what would become my first novel, Even The Gods Must Die. Irony in the title, too, I suppose.

In the train of that shift came a decision to look into my Celtic heritage as a source for my fiction. While researching Celtic religion for the fantasy novels I wanted to write, I discovered the Great Wheel.

It grounded me. So to speak. My spiritual life became tactile, bound up in soil amendments, bulbs, corms, seeds, spades and hoes, fruit trees, raspberries and bees. And, of course, dogs. Always dogs.

Meeting Kate enabled me to move gracefully out of the ministry and into a pagan worldview. I was back in the netzach-hod-yesod triad, but now firmly attached to malchut, the queendom of this world.

Writing fiction found me exploring the chesed-gevurah-tiferet triad, having to reach into my heart for believable characters, story lines. Over the course of those years, the years since leaving the Christian ministry and now, I began to gradually integrate the triads, at least the three: intellectual, emotional and instinctual. The combination of family life, the Andover years, writing, and working as a docent at the MIA began to slowly weave them into my soul.

2010 01 19_3454Even so, I sat behind the barrier, the flaming sword, the metaphor trap. Beth Evergreen and Rabbi Jamie Arnold have started me on a journey back to where I began, immersed in the dark. Seeking for the light, yes, but happy now in the  darkness, too. The Winter Solstice long ago became my favorite holiday of the year.

When I left Christianity and took up my earth-bound spirit, I shut off access to the fourth triad, the one subsumed under keter: faith-joy/pleasure-will, and its source of energy, the ein sof, the infinite One, perhaps god in small letters. Today, as I write this, I’m more pagan than I’ve ever been, more embracing of the body, the mountains, the stars, the elk and the mountain lion, than any words from any source.

2011 03 06_3396But. At Beth Evergreen I have begun to feel my way back into the fourth triad, the mystery I first encountered on the hard wooden pews in Alexandria, the one pulsing behind the metaphors of tenebrae, of crucifixion, of resurrection,  and now of Torah, of language, of a “religious” life. I knew it once, in the depth of my naive young boy’s soul. Now, I may find it again, rooted in the old man he’s become.

Friends and Family

Fall                                              Harvest Moon

The harvest moon and Orion, hanging there in the night sky, suspended as if by magic. No amount of astrophysical knowledge about them, light years away, red giant, suns in themselves, galaxies hidden there, that gray dusty surface now littered with space reaching machines and an American flag or two, can alter the wonder I feel each time, and I mean each time, I see them. This morning. Wonderful. Yesterday. Wonderfull.

Spoke with cybermage Bill Schmidt yesterday. He’s made an interesting circular journey from his days as a novice at St. Bonaventure, through his marriage to Regina and raising a family, back to a spot near that same place where his Jesuit pilgrimage began, now with a lake view and time for contemplation, plenty of time. Those of us who are fine by ourselves, but also love the company of others, don’t need many friends, just good ones. Bill’s a good one.

Kate’s singing the worried song, but I hope she won’t be worried long. Chest x-ray follow-up yesterday. She’s had some more shortness of breath. A medical education becomes a strange sort of curse as aging bears down because each crick and crack can have dire potential. She doesn’t want to worry me, so she keeps her concerns to herself, which amplifies them.

After the x-ray I took her out to lunch at Pho Real, a Vietnamese soup place in “historic” downtown Littleton. It’s a three block, maybe four stretch of older brick stores, much like downtown Stillwater and Anoka in Minnesota. Really just old retail centers before the age of strip malls and Walmart, but beautiful in their pragmatic way and redolent of times not really that long ago, yet culturally far away from Interstate highways, the internet and smartphone, self-contained shopping centers.

Joseph called yesterday. His base commander has tasked him with briefing a two-star Army general in Seattle about JSTAR’s utility. On the 19th. Which is the same day I get to Warner-Robins. He’ll be back later that night or the next morning. Means I’ll have time with SeoAh so we can catch up.

 

 

A Moving Experience

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

This post is for my buddy who’s about to embark on a third phase move. I told him I’d go back through my notes (posts) and see if I could find helpful ideas. This is a very edited sequence, from near the first notion of moving through arrival in Colorado. They’re fragments of longer posts, all from the year 2014, starting roughly in April, when we decided Colorado was in our immediate future. The bold first word indicates an entry.

Two main ideas in here (IMHO) are live in the move and move stupid. Live in the move means, stay focused on what needs to get done, not fantasizing about the future or agonizing about the past. Move the process forward, don’t stew. Move stupid means that the tsunami of decisions, actions, even staying focused takes energy and makes you, at times, dull. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, differences of opinion, problem solving. It goes with the territory.

We used A1 moving, a Stevens Van Line company and were happy with them. We also used a local outfit, SortTossPack, that helped us develop a strategy for eliminating things, then helped us pack early. They took items we didn’t want to move and sent them to their consignment shop. We made a little money from that and got rid of things that were in our way.

Here are the fragments. They end in December 2014:

Since making the decision a little over a month ago, we’ve made concrete step after concrete step, each one headed west toward the Rockies. And each one makes a bit more excited. Living in the move, instead of Minnesota or Colorado, has let me go with the process as it flows, allowing my daily actions to flow with it, rather than struggling against difficulties. So far that seems to be working fine.

William Morris has proved helpful as I make decisions about what to move to Colorado and what we want to sell or donate. His principle, have nothing in your home which is not beautiful or useful, sound on its own in my opinion (and one I’ve honored in the breach for the most part), makes wonderful sense when sorting through, say, crystal.
All of this living in the move means staying in the flow toward Colorado, realizing where the energy naturally goes at this stage and following it. Putting our shoulders behind work at the time it needs to be done means we use the momentum of change to our benefit. Easier than fighting against it, trying to push things to move faster. Then the momentum of change works against us.

Both of us have experienced moving/gardening fatigue this week. Living in the move helps, but it doesn’t eliminate the stress of so many decisions large and small and the feeling of hanging over a precipice neither able to fall or retreat…

It’s a relief to share these feelings, to know that your partner has the slows as well as you. Of course, that’s the definition of a good relationship, sharing the journey, the ancientrail of marriage.

This is a chance to prune my work over the last third of my life, clear out the branches that have grown across each other. Take out that large branch that flourished then died.

 

It’s the decisions that slow me down. And the memories. And sometimes the memories make the decisions hard. Sometimes not.

 

Interesting. I’ve been living in the move. Too much. Pushing to get stuff packed, get the exterior work, house and grounds, underway, looking at movers and thinking about storage. Pushing. Turning on my phone and my jambox, listening to country music, Porgy and Bess, the blues, Coltrane while I fill boxes. Stuffing my life in liquor boxes, slapping on red or green tape, some packing tape, stacking them up. In the move. In it.

 

A weariness has affected both Kate and me. I think I know its source: the move. We’ve pushed in several directions: decluttering, packing, fixing up the house… Yes, we’ve chosen this. And, yes, perhaps even more important, we’re trying to pace ourselves. Which, btw, I think we’ve done pretty well. But the pace has been constant. Add in the growing season and four dogs. You get the picture. Not to mention that we both have had our medicare cards for more than a year.

 

SortTossPack

Kate said this morning that she had surreal moments with the move. Me, too. We both work along, packing, getting other matters taken care of but the move itself feels unreal, as if a mirage.

 

Saw an ad for Army Strong. Well, I’m move stupid.

 

When there’s a lot of details to sort out in something, I focus, a form of move-stupid, and become almost affectless, plowing through things I don’t like to do, but things that stand between here and there.

 

Our process continues to serve us well, keeping us just ahead of looming deadlines and schedules. It’s been a joint effort all the way.

 

Back to packing this morning, but the heart’s not in it. It’s not a reluctance to move on, not at all. Rather, it’s a weariness, evident today. Push, push, push.

 

The trick is to just stay in the moment. Let the day’s packing be sufficient there unto.

 

Packing takes a toll in these last days. Not sure why, but each day I spend a good deal of time packing really wears me out. Not physically, but emotionally. It’s not resistance to the move itself, as I’ve said here before, rather I think it feels as if the packing has gone on too long.

 

Things feel chaotic, not out of control, but easy to tip over in that direction. Then, there’s the I can see the other side from here feeling and things tip back into balance, or as much balance as this part of the move allows…

 

I don’t know whether the speed is good or bad, probably neither, but I do know that once the decision was firm, the desire to execute it swiftly grew. At the same time we have wanted a measured pace, one that allowed us to pack easily

 

Today packers will finish up what we didn’t get done or didn’t intend to get done. Tomorrow, too, if necessary.

 

This is, for me, a difficult stretch. Lots of strangers, lots of activity in the house, details. Unfinished business that has to get done by a deadline. Yikes.

 

Decisions now are summary. Yes, that goes in trash. No, we’re going to put that in the trash, too. Trash wins all ties.

 

The sleep deprivation demon has come out to play the last couple of nights. Wake up for any reason and, wham! … Just like that your mind is awake and generating a list of things you hadn’t even considered up to that point. How energetic of you, mind.

 

I’ve noticed, more in recent years, that physical activity which had once been, if not easy, at least doable, taxes me, makes my muscles quiver slightly. Weakness like this has a similar effect to sleeplessness. A doubled effect in this instance. The lowered ability to do work-decline in muscle strength-also affects my sense of maleness. I’m weak, unable to do (fill in the blank), and therefore less of a man. Do I know this is nonsense? Intellectually, yes. Politically, yes. Emotionally? Not so much.

 

We had help, lots of help. Two different companies helped us pack. Various individuals helped us get our property ready for sale. Realtors have helped us find this house we have now and are helping us sell the one in Minnesota.

 

And always packing. List making. Lots of communicating, mostly with each other, but with wider family and friends. E-mails, phone calls. More packing, always. Up to the day the movers came and finished the packing for us.

 

So many decisions, big and small. Working out how to live in the move rather than constantly projecting ourselves out of the present and into the future, so tempting, so damaging.

 

A major goal of living-in-the-move as an idea was to tamp down the holds and let the anxiety leak out in controlled doses.

Third Phase Thoughts. Again.

Fall                                                              Harvest Moon

birthday dinner at 65

birthday dinner at 65

We had a soaking, all day rain yesterday. Very humid east, not so much arid west. Temperatures were cool during the day and down to 35 degrees last night. After a busy week, having Saturday as a quiet day was good.

The now not as new work schedule has taken hold, at least the before lunch part: Ancientrails, Jennie’s Dead, breakfast, news and e-mails, workout, lunch, nap. The after nap portion, which was to be Latin and reading until 5:00 or so, has still not solidified.

Any schedule has its rhythm broken by errands, medical appointments, maintenance matters like oil changes for the Rav4, scheduling folks to handle things like boiler inspections, circuit breaker fixes, but over time I’ve learned that simply returning to the pattern usually keeps me moving me forward.

caterpillarThat’s especially important for workouts, which are easy to forego. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I do 20 minutes of cardio, then resistance work, then 20 more minutes of cardio. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I do the high intensity cardio plus 50 minutes or so slower cardio. If I miss a Monday, I go on to the high intensity, slow cardio day. If I miss a Monday and a Tuesday, I still go to the 40 minutes of cardio, resistance work day. For me, keeping the same workouts on the same days of the week keeps me from feeling guilty (I’ve missed so many workouts, it doesn’t make sense to even try and get back to my schedule.)  and guilt stops the process altogether.

Of course, there is the question of why keep at it? At 70 it would be possible to argue that the pace of life should slow down. Why keep pushing, especially if self-esteem doesn’t demand it. And mine doesn’t.

retirementThe third phase is new. It used to be that 65 or so meant the end of a working life, retirement happened, then death, often before 70. Those that made it into their seventies were often burdened with serious medical problems that drained energy and created obstacles to doing much else.

In 1960, when I was 13, U.S. life expectancy was 69.7 years. In 2015 it was 79 years. Our perception of age is not shaped so much by our experience of age itself, but by our attitude towards age created when we were not aware they were forming. In the working class community where I grew up until age 17 65 was retirement and death, at least for men, who were the primary workers then, followed 18 months or so later.

In other words, when I learned what being old meant, it was basically work, stop work, die, and the ages around which those latter punctuations occurred were before seventy. Life after seventy had no shape, no coherence, except frailty, nursing homes, dotage. (for, as Kim Jong Un says, dotards.) Though is no longer true, and has not been for some time, by 1990 the average life expectancy had risen to 75 years, my inner image of aging was shaped in the 1960’s world of Alexandria, Indiana.

We try to adjust to changes like these, but the patterns of our childhood often shape our beliefs about what’s possible. If work stops at 65, what comes after that? No work? No ability to work? Or, relief that work is over, so the 1950’s model of an ideal retirement, gold or canasta or bingo or photography. Life after 65 meant hobbies, doing things you’d put off doing, then dying. But in fact life after 65 was so short for most people that getting traction for some new phase of life, a phase with no work and the responsibilities of in-home child rearing completed, didn’t seem to make much sense.

growing-whole-molly-young-brown-219pxw-330pxh70 is not the new sixty. It’s the new 70. What 70 is the new sixty really means is that for those raised in the 50’s, 70 now appears like age 60 did when we were kids. Big difference though…we’re in that sixties range of health, but we’re 70 and work has fallen away, the kids are gone. What do we do?

So far my response has been to do what keeps me physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually engaged. Why? Because the alternative is the Barcalounger, favorite tv programs, the occasional extended family meal, then the funeral home. The old model of retirement, what our financial consultant Ruth Hayden called the finish line model of retirement, was sort of like forever recess, a surcease from the demands of the boss and the day-to-day demanded non-work like activity, otherwise what was the point of retirement?

Now, though, retirement really means (for those of us financially secure anyhow) a change in who determines how we spend our time during the day. We do, not the workplace. If we take on that responsibility with the image of the 1960’s in mind, we take a breath and try to imagine what we always wanted to do when weren’t working. The more pertinent question, it seems to me, is really who do I want to be?

retirementYes, retirement and the life following it, the third phase as I call it, is just that, a new and different time of life, one in which the question of how do I live can have a radically different answer than in the first two phases. Who are you? Who do you want to be? If you want to be a person whose constant focus is recreation, who gets up in the morning for another day of adult recess, you can. If you want to be a dress designer after years as a forensic engineer, you can. Or, as in my case, the work before retirement age was satisfying, self-directed, so there’s little reason to change just because some age-related cultural turning point has been reached.

What this means for me is that as long as I am able, I’ll continue to write, to read, to research, to stay engaged in current happenings. I’ll keep at my spiritual growth, stay connected to friends and family. I’ll work out and do what I can around the house. When I can no longer do these things, if that time comes, I’ll reassess. Death is always ready to greet us, we don’t have to accelerate the process.

Embarrassed

Lughnasa                                                           Eclipse Moon

mussar chartThe mind and heart, so wonderful, so necessary, so amazing, but also so fragile. Take mine for instance. Yesterday was a full day, beginning, as my days do, around 4:45 am. I got the dogs fed, ancientrails written, Jennie’s 750 words written and went downstairs to eat breakfast and make two sugar cream pies.

I met Rabbi Jamie for lunch in Evergreen, drove back to Shadow Mountain and took Kate to Bailey for her Patchworker’s gathering. Stopped by Happy Camper on the way back home. A 30 minute rest, then back to Evergreen for a meeting about the first ever Evergreen Forum.

Here’s the tricky part for me, the tricky part for moving more fully into the space of Beth Evergreen. My responsibility for the meeting was to get the four panelists there. I reminded them all in an e-mail a week plus ago, but only Rabbi Jamie and Rev. Dr. Judy Morley of the Science of Mind church showed up. I was embarrassed. Of course, they’re adults and had plenty of prior notice; still, I felt I failed at part of my task. Not a great feeling. The planning went fine though and we got the work done.

However. This meeting preceded a second meeting, Mussar Vaad Practice leadership, of which I am also a part. (MVP, get it?) At this one I’m part of a group of six taking responsibility for continuing the integration of mussar’s character development work into congregational life. This was the meeting for which I baked the pie.

During this meeting, I fell into a dispirited place. Dispirited is such an interesting and evocative word. Exactly right here. My spirit, my ability to engage as me, waned during the course of the time. Why? Well, MVP intends to lead by deepening our own personal practice of mussar. Part of that practice involves focusing for a month on a particular character trait, last month’s was self-awareness, this month’s is awe.

The practice involves using a focus phrase, mine was be aware, to keep our attention focused on how we are with that particular trait over the month. I said I’d journal my awareness. Others made lists twice a day of how they made choices, another put a note on their car dashboard asking, Where I am going, why, Where I am going, how, and another turned off the radio in their car and used that time to focus, while yet another checked in on how they were eclipsing themselves, hiding their true feelings behind socially expected behavior.

At check in we said how it had gone over the month. Most of the folks had very fruitful months with some behavior changes I would describe as significant. When it came my turn to check in, I couldn’t remember any of the things about which I’d journaled and I admitted that the journaling didn’t last long. As my Woolly friends who read this will know, I love assignments and am diligent about fulfilling them. Comes from all those years as a student. Except I hadn’t this time. Again, I felt embarrassed.

Too, this meeting went until 8:30 p.m. I’m in bed at 8:00 p.m. since I get up at 4:45 or 5:00 to feed the dogs and start my day. I’m not sure, but I think as my mind begins to move toward sleep, at least at this age, my emotional resilience goes down, especially when I’m out.

The end result of this was that I came home feeling like a failure. Too big a word? Not really. The good news here is that I recognize the context for this feeling, why it came over me and that it was contextual, not core. I told Kate I’d feel better after some rest. And I did.

Being older means having gone through this cycle before and being self-aware (hah, ironic, eh, in light of last month’s character trait?) enough to know the feeling will pass. This is so important, though it may not be obvious. If I allow my embarrassment to mutate into shame, then it could well weaken the bonds I’ve begun to develop at Beth Evergreen.

Shame at not being able to fulfill my obligations could make me much more reticent in future meetings and in general with the people involved. It could push me away from Beth Evergreen. But that only happens if I see the embarrassment (my reaction) as being produced by the other’s shaming me. If I understand and own the reaction as my own, and as a reaction to circumstance, not as a character flaw, then I can continue in community.

A tough but good learning.

 

 

Crossing

Lughnasa                                                                      Eclipse Moon

Labor day. The Rubicon of summer for Americans. Once in the past, much like August in Europe, the vacation month, the world turns serious. Schools begin. (though here in Colorado they’ve already begun. which still seems wrong to me.) The pace of the harvest picks up as wheat and corn and soybeans mature. The Federal budget year ends in September, so bluster and shimmying rocks out from D.C. across the land.

As I wrote earlier, I get a distinct boost as fall asserts itself. It’s 46 here this morning and the gas stove in the loft kicked on. My mind, like a trained puppy, sits up and begs to be fed, wants to do tricks like write, do Latin, read. I love this transition, partly because it means the heat of summer is fading, but mostly because parts of me that I cherish come fully alive.

Eduardo and Holly invited us and our immediate neighbors: Jude, Roberta and Jim, Alexis and Troy over yesterday for a Labor Day cookout. Eduardo is an excellent cook, offering black beans, seasoned rice and carne asada from his grill. We brought deviled eggs, Jim and Roberto a spicy shrimp salad, Alexis and Troy homemade hummus. Eduardo and Holly’s house has multiple levels in the back and we ate on the lowest level, a cool breeze gradually replacing the heat of the day.

While writing this, I got an intercom call from Kate. Power’s out, can you fix it? Well… I can go out to the main, check the circuit breakers. I did. There were several breakers thrown, maybe seven altogether. So, I returned them to their on positions and voila! Nothing changed. ? So went back out and did the same thing all over again, essentially rebooting. Hey, it works on computers and modems. Nope. Doesn’t make sense to me, and I don’t like electrical things that don’t make sense.

Sigh. It means I have to start the difficult process of trying to get an electrician out here. I’ve contacted Altitude Electric, hoping that the modest relationship we built during the oh, so drawn out generator installation process will encourage them to come. The mountain way means certain trades are just not reliable up here.

In other news I go to the ophthalmologist today. Hoping, in the strange way of medical care in our time, that my cataracts have worsened to the point that Medicare will pay for their replacement. Improving my vision through cataract removal is, of course, desirable, but mostly I want to see if they can permanently improve my reading correction. I read a lot, in lots of different places and cheaters don’t work since I have an astigmatism. That means I often have to rely on arms out, head back mode.

Out for now, from Shadow Mountain.

Fear and desperation

Lughnasa                                                                      Eclipse Moon

20170821_200301_001The new work schedule is good. It’s essentially writing and workout in the a.m., then reading and other study, including Latin in the afternoon. Plus lunch and a nap. Along with the better sleep I’ve been getting this year thanks to thc and tizanidine, I’m able to do the work that only I can do.

With Beth Evergreen as a place for communal life, Jon and the grandkids as immediate extended family, and our home here on Shadow Mountain, life has a rich texture, perhaps the most substantial I’ve ever felt. In the second phase of my life when I focused on work and raising Joseph, daily life had a fullness, but it also had an undertone of fear and desperation that I don’t feel now.

Fear and desperation can cloud the world of career and family building. These latter two are in conflict, for both resources and time. On the one hand we fear not having enough for our kids and spouse, either of time or money, on the other not spending enough of energy and intelligence on work so that we can earn money, be recognized, move forward in our chosen field. The struggle between these two leads to a sense of mild, or not so mild, desperation, the conflict unresolvable.

alchemyNote that this is not the often discussed work/life balance, there is no such no thing. There is only life, during which we work, love, pass our days.

The third phase, if it allows to us move past family building and career, can put us in a life where the conflict does resolve. In our case here on Shadow Mountain, and before this in Andover, Kate and I have been lucky. We got there. The kids moved out long before she retired. With her 401k, our mutual social security and my pension, earning money fell away as a need. Now life can be, as maybe it could be all along if we figured out how to structure things differently, all quilting, writing, reading, grandparenting and being with friends.

Of course, it does come with death no longer far away, but looming. Still, this is always so, though we push the reality away during the second phase. In fact, the known nearness of death gives life a piquancy I find precious, a sort of flavor to the broth that enhances the others.

 

 

Fellow Traveler

Lughnasa                                                           Eclipse Moon

Arthur_Szyk_(1894-1951)._The_Holiday_Series,_Rosh_Hashanah_(1948),_New_Canaan,_CT.jpg

Arthur Szyk (1894-1951). The Holiday Series, Rosh Hashanah (1948), New Canaan, CT

Judaism as a civilization, a culture, appeals to me on several levels. As practiced at Beth Evergreen it focuses on ethical living through character development, mussar, offers solace to mourners through kaddish at regular services, nourishes a vibrant community where folks actually care for each other and their daily lives, and punctuates the year with the celebration of meaningful holidays.  There are also multiple opportunities for learning. This fall I will participate in the adult education series Words, Words, Words, take Hebrew and later the second kabbalah class.

Mussar yesterday focused on forgiveness. It was timely. Forgiveness couples with the energy of a new year during the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Giving and seeking forgiveness for wrongs committed in the past year is on the hearts of everyone in Jewish communities around the world. There are of course more involved theological reasons for both holidays, but at its humanist level Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, underscores the impulse to punish others in ways great and small for their actions that hurt us. And reminds us forcefully to resist it by forgiving those actions in others and seeking forgiveness for the wrongs we have done to them. In a small community where relationships really matter, like Beth Evergreen, like your extended family, forgiveness makes ongoing community life possible, reducing rancor and hostility while opening relationships up for movement into the next, new year.

 

Bee Alive

Lughnasa                                                                     Eclipse Moon

2010 01 19_3455Trying to seat a new work habit. Write ancientrails, then my 750 words for Jennie’s Dead and after breakfast, do my 30 minutes on reimagining. Still cutting and filing posts. Workout. Lunch. Nap. Then, Latin and reading. After the writing, and before breakfast, catch up on the news. Worked yesterday. Ha. Takes awhile to get the body and mind to expect what I want at certain times of the day.

Kate went in to Jon’s new house on Tuesday after I got my hair and beard cut. New look! She took bedding for the kids. But going down the hill right now is fraught because our air conditioner has decided that above 85 degrees is just too hot for it to work. It blows, but it doesn’t cool. Denver, in the late afternoon, has been hitting the mid-90s.  Kate’s not a warm weather gal. Not in any way. She got overheated and it’s taking her a bit to recover. And, yes, the ac goes to the shop on Tuesday.

Artemis Honey, a good year

Artemis Honey, a good year

I went over to Rich Levine’s house last night for pizza and a salad. He’s the lawyer who did our estate work and a member of Beth Evergreen. He has also put lot of work into the new Beth Evergreen preschool project. The old preschool was about to shut down, taking with it not only the service provided to the kids, but a revenue stream for the synagogue. Rich and a few others, including Hal Stein, the new board president and Rabbi Jamie, who was a preschool teacher, led the effort to keep the preschool going under Beth Evergreen’s aegis.

The evening was cool and his beautiful house, which sits above Evergreen on the aptly named Alpine Drive has a mountain lawn; that is, one filled with boulders and native rock. After supper we walked up from his house, first on a short boardwalk, then on a trail over exposed rock, the mountain side, really, to a large open deck with an enclosed room where he does his academic work. Rich teaches constitutional law at the Colorado School of Mines.

Kate, decapping with the hot knife

Kate, decapping with the hot knife

The preschool’s Bee Alive theme this year correlates to Rich’s bee keeping project, which he began a year ago. We looked at his hives, he wanted my advice. His bee hives hang from a steel cable attached to a roof beam for the deck and about 50 feet away, a large ponderosa pine. This is a novel set up, mimicking, but with beehives, the way many people suspend bird feeders. Bears create the need. They love bird food and honey. A pulley system allows him to raise and lower the hives. Having their homes hanging in the air is just fine for bees.

I’m now, I think, an unofficial consultant and fellow worker in the preschool Bee Alive program. A lot of bee related work ahead. I have to do some research about mountain beekeeping.

 

 

 

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