Things I love to do

Fall and the Crescent Moon

Oh. Achy this am. More mitigation. Closing in on all the trees I intend to take down. Maybe I’ll finish today. For sure by the weekend. In between, we’ll have 8-12 inches of snow overnight tonight. It will be gone Friday. The Solar Snow Shovel.

The density of trees in a lodgepole forest means it’s harder to drop a tree without snagging it. I’ve had several opportunities to practice snag cutting techniques I learned on youtube. They work and I’m glad to know them. Snags cause most deaths in the logging industry. Their often strange lines of force make cutting them an exercise in observational physics. The more upright, the more difficult.

One tree I cut yesterday bounced off the stump to land straight up and down about a foot away. Grrr. An angled cut, watch for the cut to begin to close, pound a wedge in the cut, then complete the cut from below. The tree drops straight down, hopefully away from the branches snagging it. My first cut today.

Decided to hire a landscaper to do the five foot ignition zone around the house. Landscape cloth, stakes, river rock. It will affect how the house looks and I’d like a neater job than I’m capable of pulling off.

When this round of mitigation is complete, I’ll have very little of this sort of work left. I’ll miss it. Weeding and thinning. The plants are big, but still plants.

Of course, I have to release the chain on the saw. It bound up on me right at the end of yesterday’s felling. Not sure what the problem is. I worked on for awhile using my wonderful limbing ax from Gränsfors in Sweden. My felling ax and my log splitter from them have not seen as much use as it has.

Went to Tony’s Market again. Love their food. I could shop there all the time, except it’s pretty expensive. Worth it. Always high quality meats, deli salads, veggies and fruit, baked goods. Realized their secret yesterday. Supermarkets make their money off the goods sold along the walls, not so much off the goods in the aisles. Tony’s only sells items sold on the walls.

After that I spent an hour or so on something else I love to do. Research. Read through the parsha for Nov. 23rd again, focusing this time on geography. Where was Canaan? The Cave of Machpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs? What about Mamre and its oak? Found them. Also read the parsha in RJ Crumb’s illustrated Genesis. Mr. Natural goes to the Middle East.

When I first read the parsha, pen in hand, I focused. My mind was right there, engaged. I felt comfortable, excited. Much like getting ready to cut down trees. Or, cook a meal. I’m treating it as myth, a myth that has shaped not only Jewish traditions, but Christian and Muslim ones as well.

Parshas get their names from the first words in them, in this case, chayei Sarah, the life of Sarah. Chayei Sarah recounts the death of Sarah and Abraham, the finding of Rebecca at the well, a wife for Isaac, and the sons of Ishmael, born to Hagar, Abraham’s concubine.

Days of Awe

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

Here we are, paused between the New Year and the Day of Atonement. The book of life is open, waiting for your next year to be inscribed. This is a new liminal space for me. A holiday(s) in which repentance and forgiveness are the focus, both at the beginning of the new year. It’s location in the early fall (a lunar calendar) makes it a part of the Michaelmas springtime of the year and part of the harvest festivals that end with Samain on the 31st.

Sukkot follows the Days of Awe, coming three days later. Rabbi Jamie says that Sukkot used to be the primary festival at this time of year with the Days of Awe sort of a preparation for it. Sukkot is the big harvest festival in the Jewish liturgical year. It’s fun, ending with Simchat Torah. “Sukkot through Simchat Torah is nine days long. The first two days (Sukkot) and the last two days (Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah) are full-fledged festival days, and the middle five days are Chol Hamoed.” chabad.org

The Jewish month of Tishrei is a holiday filled time for Jews. And, they vibrate between profundity and joy. This feels congruent with the turning of the Great Wheel which has three harvest festivals over the same time period. The middle one, Mabon, on the fall equinox, is a celebratory time followed by Samain, the end of summer when the veil between the worlds thins and the dead can walk among us. (where all the goblins and ghosts and ghouls come from at Halloween)

At least in the temperate latitudes temperatures begin to cool, leaves change on deciduous trees. Farmers and gardeners harvest fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, then prepare gardens and fields for the fallow season. The days grow shorter, frosts and freezes mark, then kill many plants. The bare trees give forests a stark look. A friend was of the opinion that the thinning of the veil came from being suddenly able to see through forests.

Kate and I need all of the spiritual juice available right now and these two holiday traditions, Jewish and pagan, fill that need.

The Equilux

Fall and the Harvest Moon

I’m changing seasons on the equinox, which is today. Learned a new word reading some material for this post: equilux. An equilux happens after each equinox and occurs this fall on September 26th. If you look at a table of sunrise/sunset, on September 26th, at roughly our latitude, the sun rises at 6:59 am and sets at 6:59 pm. After the equilux, for 172 days, until the next equilux on March 17th, the sun will shine for less than 12 hours.

Yeah! Though born in Oklahoma near the Red River, almost to Texas, I’ve always been a child of the cold and snow, influenced by too many Jack London novels. And, Renfrew of the Royal Canadian Mounted. Moved to Appleton, Wisconsin in September of 1969 and lived up north until the Winter Solstice of 2014. In our particular location on Black Mountain Drive, just east of 14er Mt. Evans, we get lots of snow, some cold, but easier winters. Better for septuagenarian bones.

from “What is Michaelmas?”

Six days from now is the 29th of September, the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel. It is, as regular readers of ancientrails already know, the springtime of the soul. At least according to Rudolf Steiner.

Rosh Hashanah, September 30th this year, the Jewish new year (one of four), begins the month of Tishrei in Judaism’s lunar calendar. Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, follows ten days later on October 9th. 5 days later on October 14 and 15 is Sukkot, a harvest festival. A week after the second day of Sukkot is Simchat Torah, joy of the Torah.

On October 31st, 6 weeks from last Friday, the next Celtic holiday is Samain, or Summer’s End. The Celtic New Year comes at the beginning of the fallow season.

I am the hallow-tide of all souls passing,
I am the bright releaser of all pain,
I am the quickener of the fallen seed-case,
I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain.
I am the hollow of the winter twilight,
I am the hearth-fire and the welcome bread,
I am the curtained awning of the pillow,
I am unending wisdom’s golden thread.
~ Song of Samhain, Celtic Devotional:
Daily Prayers and Blessings, by Caitlín Matthews

The transition from the growing season when farmers and gardeners harvest its fruits to the fallow season when plants in mid and northern latitudes rest has ultimate significance for non-tropical humanity. Not so long ago a failed growing season would lead to a limited harvest. Unless adequate stores from years past were kept, starvation over the winter was a real possibility.

7 Oaks garden, 2014

Oh, you might say, well, that doesn’t apply to us in the modern age. Think not? Perhaps one really bad harvest could be accommodated by trade and stored foods. Maybe even two bad harvests. But if the world saw several bad harvests in a row, say because of a dramatically changed climate, starvation over the winter could become a real possibility even in the developed world.

Mabon, Sukkot, Samain. With Lughnasa on August 1st, the first harvest festival, the months August through October have evoked human expressions of gratitude, of thanksgiving for soil, seed, and sacrifice. Certain animals and plants become offerings to feed others, including the now unwieldy population of humans.

The heart of the harvest season, right now, is a deeply spiritual moment. The complex web of life bares itself to our witness. Any Midwesterner is familiar with trucks of yellow corn, soy beans, golden wheat, rye, rolling down highways to grain elevators. Hay gets mowed perhaps a third time and baled either in rectangular bales or huge round ones.

This is also a traditional time for the slaughtering of animals. Now slaughterhouses and intensive livestock farming have allowed slaughter throughout the year.

I’m grateful that farmers and ranchers are able to feed us still. I’m grateful that the soil, that top six inches especially, feeds and stabilizes the foodstuff that we grow. I’m grateful that photosynthesis allows us to harvest the sun’s energy by transforming it into vegetables, fruits, grasses, grains, nuts. I’m grateful for each and every animal that dies for our table. I’m grateful for the grocers who buy and display the food for us to purchase.

It is a time of thanksgiving followed by an increasing darkness. That darkness is fecund, for me at least. Steiner’s idea of Michaelmas as the springtime of the soul, the placement of so many Jewish holidays, in particular sukkot, during this harvest time, and the major Celtic holidays of Lughnasa, Mabon, and Samain offer us many chances to open our hearts to the wonder of this world and its blessings.

Slightly outside of these three months is the Day of the Dead celebrated throughout Latin America and the Feast of All Souls.

WINTER SOLSTICE by Willow, Celtic Lady

As the harvest wanes and summer ends (Samain), we have time to take stock of our lives, of our hopes and dreams. We can lean into the darkness after the equilux, celebrate its fullness on the Winter Solstice. It is in the fallow season that we learn the why of death. In this coming season we can make our peace with mortality.

I Recommend

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Three high quality but very different offerings on TV right now. On Hulu, the least strange show of the three: Veronica Mars 4th season. The first three seasons ended in 2007, so number four is set 12 years later. The show’s first three seasons are also on Hulu, which paid for the late addition.

characters in the 3rd season of Veronica Mars

If you never met Veronica, you’ve missed an iconic character in American television. Smart mouthed, brave, petite, beautiful, and brainy, she’s first in high school solving the problems of students at Neptune High. (California) In the third season she’s in college. Ditto. By season number four she has a Stanford law degree, but chooses to return to Neptune to work as private investigator with her father, Keith.

Four stars out of five. Four only because I like things a little stranger. So, a biased ranking. (But, aren’t they all?)

Amazon Prime Video put up Carnival Row on August 29th, so it’s brand new. Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne star. A British production, it’s loaded with character actors you might have seen on BBC shows and has a fascinating set complete with monorails, gritty streets, and an overall Victorianesque tone.

There’s been a long war between the fae with their human allies and the Pact, a mysterious and brutal enemy to both. There are pixies with wings, trotters with rams horns on their heads, lots of Midsummer Night’s Dream references (this is a British show after all), and yet another take on zenophobia. This last is a bit disappointing though I get it as an of the moment plot device. Disappointing, btw, in its overuse, not in its broader significance.

High production values, great cast, an edgy plot. Four and a half stars. Right now. I’ve not finished it so I may go up to five or down to four when I’m done.

As I said in yesterday’s post, Netflix has taken the biggest chances by funding shows and limited series from a diverse collection of nationalities and story telling traditions. My recent and so far all time favorite is Frontera Verde, the Green Frontier, made by Colombians and filmed in and near Leticia, Colombia’s southern most point. Leticia is the capital of the department of Amazonas, and borders Brazil’s state of the same name.

A detective from Bogota is sent to Leiticia to investigate the murder of four missionaries in the jungle. Helena Poveda was born in the jungle near Leticia, but sent to Bogota as a young girl and has not returned until this trip. The murder of the missionaries, from Edens Church, and the solution to them, does make this a mystery.

Solving the murders is a vehicle that takes us into the botanical mystery that is the Amazonian jungle and the lives of those indigenous communities who live there. The old days of rubber plantations, the current threats of rogue loggers and a secretive group intent on penetrating the mystical center of the jungle for their own purpose provide the villainy.

The story telling has a Gabriel Garcia Marquez inflection, magical realism often taking the story in surprising directions. Early on a hand, covered in black pigment, comes to rest on a root and the root glows and pulses. This is Yua, the eternal slave, and a guardian of the jungle. Ushe is his long time companion, both many decades older than they appear. Ushe’s murder, discovered by Elena while investigating the killing of the missionaries, is the central plot line though it takes a long time for that to become evident.

I love the undercurrents here. An indigenous detective has to choose between his police duties and his community, the Nai. Elena discovers the true depth of her home coming. “The jungle is in your heart,” says the indigenous detective’s grandfather to her. Yua and Ushe navigate the jungle’s essence, sometimes using magic, other times their knowledge of the communities, other times their vast botanical lore. Edens Church has a much different belief system than its predecessor, an order of Catholic nuns.

Ushe and Yua

The videography is wonderful. A slim boat travels quickly up the wide, brown Amazon. Ushe and Yua meet in a cosmic space held together by mother jungle. The jungle itself is by turns claustrophobic, vast, and alive.

I realized last night that by an odd coincidence Colombia is the foreign country I have visited most. Three times. Once in 1989, Bogota. Once in the 1990’s with Kate, Cartagena. And once in 2011, Santa Marta. Long before any of those trips I had found Marquez and his Hundred Years of Solitude.

Santa Marta, Colombia 10/23/2011

With those trips to Colombia, our two transits of the Panama Canal, and the 7 week cruise we took around Latin America in 2011, I feel I’ve had a modest immersion in the often strange world of this continent where the Portugese and Spanish ran headlong into indigenous communities. Might be why I like this so much.

I’ve begun a second watching of Frontera Verde, something I almost never do. It’s mixture of indigenous magic and shamanism with contemporary problems of the “earth’s lungs,” as the Amazon is often referred to in the stories about its many fires, makes it compelling to me.

Five stars. Good acting, wonderful landscapes, strange plotlines. Another world brought to life. Compelling.

Defendable Homes

Summer and the waning (4%) Radiation Moon

Down to single digits. Nine more treatments. Life after radiation (a bit of a joke, ha) is coming next week. Only three bedbugs were ever found. There was a “bubble” of people who sat in that chair at the approximate time Anova suspects the bugs transferred. They’re having them do extra preparation before they can come into treatment. Not me. Nope. No bedbugs here on the mountain. Gratitude. Probably means I’ll finish on August 9th.

My friend Dave, personal trainer Dave, has calmed down the nausea from his brain cancer chemo. Deb told me yesterday that he rode 78 miles last week, 20 miles that day. He’s in phenomenal shape. You might remember my mentioning that he ran a 15 mile endurance race in British Columbia, the Fitzsimmon Mountains. Lots of elevation gain. This was a year ago. Part of the motivation for staying in shape during cancer treatment is to prove you’re still alive, still have agency over your body. Take that, brain cancer. Take that, prostate cancer.

Found all this out when I took in the check for a large lug of Western Slope peaches. There’s a small section of the Western Slope (of the Rockies, in Colorado) that’s perfect for growing fancy peaches. Tents pop up along roads selling Colorado Peaches. On the Move Fitness takes orders from clients and organizes a bulk purchase from Green Barn Produce. Pick’em up next week. Kate’s going to make a sizable batch of peaches frozen in orange juice.

Another Colorado moment yesterday. On the way to Kate’s hearing test (she’s good in both ears. yeah.) we drove past a long dump truck, a side dumper, full of boulders. When I see a large truck here with boulders, I think of the golf carts leaving Minnesota each year for southern courses. Or, the Christmas trees beginning to head out of state by truck in November. Moving rock is a big business here. Including moving those rocks that fall onto roadways.

Sent a note yesterday to Elk Creek Fire District. They have a staff person who does two hour assessments of fire mitigation needs on your property. It’s been three years since I thinned our lodgepoles and I stopped at that. Might be other things I’m missing.

There were 30 wildfires within the Elk Creek District last year. The recent newsletter points out that firefighters “…must focus on evacuations and effectively apply available resources to defendable homes. In these scenarios, it is crucial that homeowners have already implemented Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) best practices.”

In practical terms this defines the triage that firefighters do in case of a wildfire threatening homes. They leave those already in flames and those too difficult to get to, think way up high or very steep driveways or in an unmitigated stand of trees. Those with short driveways, near major roads, who have done mitigation in their HIZ, will be defended. Our house meets all those criteria and I want to make sure it continues to.

Life in the WUI (pronounced woo-eee), the Wildland/Urban Interface. Yes, it makes about as much sense to live here as in a flood plain or in a coastal city waiting for sea level rise or a bad hurricane. But, we love it here, as residents of those other areas must love their home turf. So…

My Ancient Spiritual Trail

Summer and the Radiation Moon

My friend Rich sees mussar as a metaphysical, not a psychological discipline. It’s soul work, deeper and more consequential than therapy.

Over the last year and a half my skeptical view of soul has begun to break up, fade away. First, from the Cosmos and Psyche (thanks, Tom) insight: Skepticism is a tool, not a lifestyle. Second, from a spiritual realization that despite its implication in the arguments over, say, original sin, soul nonetheless points to a felt reality for me, a phenomenological knowing. Not a dogmatic or doctrinal one.

Big deal, right? You always knew this? Or, no way, dude. Either way, so what?

And, of course, you’re right if you follow this often used, little understood idea back to its sources in Judaeo-Christian thought. Its use either assumed-you always knew this, or, so mean and inhuman, eternal hell for a few years on earth-no way, dude.

The Judaeo-Christian understanding incorporated the Greek notion of psyche, “…the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking” with a notion of immortality connected to behavior in this life.

I want to push back, back beyond this narrow conception of soul. There was an assumption among the ancient Greeks that soul had to have a logical faculty, and, that it was the most divine attribute of a human soul. ( The current scientific consensus across all fields is that there is no evidence for the existence of any kind of soul in the traditional sense. Wiki.)

First I want to speak for the trees. Let’s call it the Loraxian understanding of the soul. The lodgepoles in our yard, crawling up Black Mountain, growing along Brook Forest Drive as it winds down the mountain. They have souls. They are both alive and animate, creatures with a telos, or end goal. They interact with their environment and grow strong or weak, tall or short, but they remain lodgpole pines, trees with a particular role in a montane ecosystem, a role which they give all they have to fulfill.

The same is true for the mule deer, the mountain lion, the marsh marigold, the elk, the bear, the fox, the squirrel, the dandelion, the cheatgrass, the Indian paintbrush, the mountain trout, the raven and the magpie. Are their souls more or less than ours? Wrong question. Are their souls more like ours or more unlike? Don’t know. I just know that living things on the planet share the wonder of life, an independent spark. That spark gives us organic matter that moves and does so with intention.

Holy Well, Wales, St Dynfog

I’ve felt this way about the world for a long, long time. Taoism, Emerson, the Romantics, gardening, the Celtic Great Wheel. The mystical moment on the quad at Ball State. Oneness. With it all. I’m even willing to entertain faeries, elves, duendes, daiads, Gods and Goddesses. OK, I know I lost a lot of you with that one, but I’m going with my gut, my revelation to me rather than the dry dusty bones of theirs.

But. I want to push one step further. I believe in the spirits of the mountains. They have visited me here on Shadow Mountain, the mule deer on Samain, 2014, and the elk on my first day of radiation. The mule deer and the elk were angels, that is, messengers of the mountain gods, dispatched by the careful, slow, deliberate entities that are the Rocky Mountains.

I believe in the vitality of rushing water in Maxwell Creek, Cub Creek, Blue Creek, Bear Creek, the North Fork of the South Platte. I believe in the entity that is Lake Superior, that is the great deposit of ores on the Minnesota Iron Range, the ebb and flow of the Oglalla Aquifer.

I believe in Mother Earth, the great Gaia, a living system of ecosystems, biomes watered by rains and the snows, irrigated by streams and rivers, planted by Boreas and Zephryus, and given power to change by the true god, Sol.

Neither animals nor plants can grow without the sun’s energy or the food locked in minerals and vitamin: “Our soils support 95 percent of all food production, and by 2060, our soils will be asked to give us as much food as we have consumed in the last 500 years. They filter our water. They are one of our most cost-effective reservoirs for sequestering carbon. They are our foundation for biodiversity. And they are vibrantly alive, teeming with 10,000 pounds of biological life in every acre. Yet in the last 150 years, we’ve lost half of the basic building block that makes soil productive.” Living Soil film

As it appears, I am an animist, a pagan, a person who has found his spot in the great scheme. I’m a moving instance of matter formed in the great fusion furnaces of stars. I’m a temporary instance, holding together a few atoms for a human lifetime. I’m a significant instance of meaning created by the universe observing itself, throughout my short path, as the dynamic, interlocked, soulful reality that it is.

I need no human word to guide me. I need no idea, no rule. I am and I am within all this. The Arapaho National Forest. The Rocky Mountains. Our nuclear family. Our extended family. The community of folks at CBE. The United States. The Mind of God.

My soul and that of Kepler, Rigel, and Gertie dance with each other. In Andover Kate and I danced with bees, fruit trees, perennial flowers, vegetables, raspberry canes. Here we dance with the mountain spirits.

Long ago I set out on a spiritual journey that went down and in rather than up and out. That is, I would not find validation somewhere outside of myself whether Torah, Gospel, Constitution, or political ideology. I would not privilege the idea of transcendence, or a three-story universe. No god is in heaven, and yet all’s right with the world. My ancient spiritual trail has been to turn within for the source of my revelation. And, I have not turned back.

29 years ago

Imbolc                                                                         Recovery Moon

kate and me in time29 years ago tomorrow Kate and I stepped on a glass* in Federal Court Chambers, the Landmark Building, Rice Park, St. Paul. The next day, just to show how long ago 29 years is, we flew Pan Am to Rome. We wrote thank you notes on the plane and mailed them from the Vatican Post Office. Probably wouldn’t make that decision today, but then it seemed sorta cool. Cousin Diane Keaton was my best person.

The honeymoon followed spring north in Europe proceeding from Rome to Venice, Vienna, Paris, London, Inverness, Edinburgh, and London again. We also made it to Florence, Salzburg, and Bath. Along the way we discovered what it meant to be together.

Pompeii was a revelation about humanity in the face of catastrophe. The Uffizi a revelation about the human creative spirit. Venice showed the adaptive capacity of our species. Vienna. We arrived at 10 pm, hungry after a foodless train ride that passed through the Dolomites from Venice. Wiener schnitzel in a small restaurant with red table cloths. Paulaner non-alcoholic beer. Later Andean musicians played the pan pipes under our balcony at the Hotel Astoria on the ringstrasse. Paris. Of course the Louvre. The Rodin museum. Life as a graceful and elegant soiree. Crossing the English Channel by ferry. Before the Chunnel. London. The Basil Street Hotel had a women’s club like the better known men’s clubs for which England is famous. From there to Inverness where we walked hand in hand along the Ness river at night, fog rolling off it, spilling over the sidewalk. We ate breakfast at the Station Hotel in a large ballroom with a carpeted corner they used for dining. Then, Edinburgh where we ordered room service and stayed in bed watching movies on tv. Back to London. At the Reject China shop where we bought our Portemerion dinner ware the clerk suggested I might like to go to a pub while Kate shopped. I visited antique stores instead. Then, home.

Astoria SignThe last 29 years have seen other adventures. Cruising the Mediterranean. Twice the Panama Canal. Once almost all the way around Latin America. Hawai’i several times. Korea for the wedding. Singapore. New York, of course. New Orleans. Chicago. Other places, too.

Those are frosting on the life we created 29 years ago. The life itself, that’s the cake. We’ve moved three times. Once into the house on Edgcumbe Boulevard in St. Paul. The one with the pool. Where we lived with our first Irish Wolfhounds, Celt and Sorsha. Where Joseph played baseball with the Hasidic kids next door. After that, Andover. 20 years of exurban life. Flower gardens. Vegetable gardens. Bees. An orchard. A firepit. The lives and deaths of many dogs. Joe finishing high school. Jon off to Colorado to teach. Then Joe off to Breckenridge to work and ski for three years before he joined the Air Force. And now, Shadow Mountain. Seeing the grandkids often, the many insults life has thrown us, even so, just life. Joe married. SeoAh in our lives. Congregation Beth Evergreen. A Colorado finish to a life begun at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, an easy stroll to the Landmark Center. Will we stay here on Shadow Mountain? Don’t know. TBD.

20190127_163835I love the arc of our life together, the suffering and the joy. No life has only one or the other. The key factor of our love has been this: support each other in living our best life. We’ve mostly succeeded. Kids, grandkids, dogs, gardening together, harvesting honey together, traveling together. Kate sewing, me writing. The MIA. Music, jazz and classical. Seeing the world. Living in the mountains. Life now in its third phase.

I love her still, always. I know her better, she knows me better, and yet we’re together. That’s proof of the broken glass moment. Till death do us part. And beyond even that.

 

 

*”The fragility of glass suggests the frailty of human relationships. Since even the strongest love is subject to disintegration, the glass is broken as a kind of incantation: “As this glass shatters, so may our marriage never break.” For more interpretations: myjewishlearning.

A Permeable Self

Samain                                                                  Thanksgiving Moon

Our house in the early morning, light on Shadow Mountain

Our house in the early morning, light on Shadow Mountain

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

The Heat

Fall                                                                               Healing Moon

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Refugia

Fall                                                                         Healing Moon

love this idea

love this idea

As Kate’s rehab improves her strength, the middle of the recovery process is underway and underway well. She’ll have gains to make at home, weight gain chief among them, and I won’t consider this incident over until she’s gained at least ten pounds.

In an interesting NYT article on refugia* I began to think about those searing moments of our lives when their landscape changes forever, denuded of the familiar, apparently ruined. Most of us have at least a few, some have many. College often sets loose a wildfire of realizations as the mind encounters strange ideas, ones that can wreck the delicate eco-system of childhood beliefs. Death of someone close, my mom, for example. A failed marriage, or two. Substance abuse and recovery. Children of our own. Moving away from familiar places. (and these are just from my life.) Getting fired. Getting hired. Selling your business. Finding a new, strong purpose.

Kate in the E.R., September 28th

Kate in the E.R., September 28th

In the heat of the fire itself, Kate’s visit to the emergency room and the various procedures, recovery from them, for example, it can seem as if all will be gone, nothing left of the old life, maybe not even anything worth living for. This sense of total destruction is often inchoate, a visceral curling up under one of those fire shelters the hotshots use. But there comes a time when the fire has used up all the available fuel, when it goes out, becomes the past, rather than the present.

In that transition from crisis to life in the burned over section, that’s where the refugia are critical. “These havens shelter species that are vulnerable to fires. Afterward, they can be starting points for the ecosystem’s regeneration.” Our love remains, protected by its watercourse way, cool and flowing even during the heat. The dogs and their rhythms remain, a furry oasis shielded from the fire by distance. This loft remains, a literal haven, not untouched, but intact. The house. Our friends who’ve followed Kate on the Caringbridge, near and far. Our family.

Today

Today

But the old forest, the one that stood when the flames rushed up the hill toward us, is gone. Kate will not return to the same house, not even to the same dogs, for they and she have transformed. The homeness of our house remains, but its configuration will change, how we use it will change, how we see it and understand its role in our future will change. The companionship of the dogs remains, but their lives will have to adapt to the new, and while adapting, will change the new in their way.

I cannot yet see how the refugia will repopulate the forest of our life. The fire is not yet out, the crews of hotshot nurses, physical therapists and occupational therapists are working to find hotspots and put them out, to build fire breaks and clear out old fuel. When their work is done, Kate and I will rebuild the wild forest that is our time together, our small contribution to the ongoingness. There is opportunity here, a chance to reexamine old habits, old dreams, old hopes, to reconsider them in light of the altered landscape. What will it give us? I don’t know. But, when Kate returns home and begins to heal here, on our old forest’s ground, we’ll find out.

 

*”The fires left scenes of ashen destruction, but they did not wipe out everything. Scattered about the ravaged landscapes were islands of trees, shrubs and grass that survived unharmed.

It’s easy to overlook these remnants, which ecologists call fire refugia. But they can be vital to the long-term well-being of forests. These havens shelter species that are vulnerable to fires. Afterward, they can be starting points for the ecosystem’s regeneration.”  NYT