A landmark day

Samain and the Fallow Moon

7 degrees and snowing here on Shadow Mountain. Means I must have a doctor’s appointment today. Yep, COPD follow up with Lisa. I’m interested in staging. I want to have a prognosis and a plan for what I need to do to manage this disease. Perhaps a referral to a pulmonologist. It’s been about two months since my diagnosis.

Yesterday was a landmark day here. We started prepping Kate’s sewing room for her return to this domestic art form. Gathered up cloth, moved embroidery thread, organized papers, put the repaired Bernini back on its table, cleared off her work surface. Exciting to see her willing and able.

Gonna need to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Thought I had SeoAh set up to do it, but turns out they won’t arrive until the day before. She’ll do her Korean holiday meal on Friday or Saturday. At least this Thanksgiving I feel able to do it. Last Thanksgiving, with Kate barely back from rehab, I didn’t. We catered from Tony’s Market.

Capon. I love capon, don’t like turkey. I’ll handle the bird, Kate’s going to organize side dishes and parcel them out to other cooks like SeoAh and Ruth. I might make a stuffing. Not sure yet.

We’ll have a full house with the Georgia three and Annie staying here. Jon, Ruth, Gabe will come up for the meal from Aurora. 8. Just right.

Painting. Right now I’m trying to recreate Mark Rothko paintings. I want to imitate him, figure out how he created the mood, the emotional resonance. At some point I’ll go off on my own, but right now I want to learn from one of my favorites. Autodidact color field painter. That’s me.

Time To Go

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The time clock, the early morning sky, has moved Orion further west. He will move below the horizon only to show up later in the Winter night. With the time shift his movement has become more obvious. I’m up at 4:30 still, but Orion knows not of saving time, only moving as the earth turns, all the while, too, rattling around our star, Big Sol, at speed. This timepiece is all we need; if only we could look up, see what we’re looking at.

I’m comfortable with clocks that tell of a broader version of time, a wider one. This is Samain, so we know the world moves toward darkness, cold. The Solstice of Winter. I could live with no clock, riding along with the seasonal changes. That would be fine. I do not need time. We are always in the moment, in a season, in a particular place. Enough.

Though of course others would counter this. How would I know when to zoom with my buddies? How would I make breakfast with Alan at the Lakeshore Cafe? I say I would know the same way the dogs know when to eat, when to get up, when to get their evening meds. I would say the same the way the cows on Bill Schmidt’s farm knew when to be milked. Why confuse all this knowing with long hands and short hands, digital numbers?

Life begins. We do not need to know the time, only the moment of slipping out of the watery world and into the airy one. Life ends. We will not know the time. The artificial measurements all cease to have meaning then. In between the schools, designed with early factories in mind, have bells and clocks and start times and end times. We go there to learn the constrictions, the tyranny of clocks. And, we learn well. Too well if you ask me. But, you do not.

I prefer the liminal spaces, another way of knowing the moment. When dawn breaks through the clouds turn pink over Black Mountain. I thought, oh, blue sky. Sky is male. Blue for boys. The clouds are pink. Does that connect to girls somehow? Couldn’t see it.

Or, as the sky bruises toward evening, twilight falls. Time to slow down, ease into the rest. No one needs a smart watch to know dawn or twilight.

What about the calendar? Easier, probably, to make notches on a tree branch. Day 1. Day 2. Day 43. Day 350. As Emerson said, the days are gods, so the calendar is their temple.

I could celebrate my birthday on the first morning that Orion is fully in the sky. Or on the new moon after the first big freeze. You could choose a marker for yourself. I’d agree with you.

Tradition is just peer pressure from the dead. (a facebook meme) All this fascination with dates and times, years and months, just peer pressure from the dead. We could work out our lives under other methods. Think of the billions who’ve died before us who did just that. It’s possible.

My stomach, for example, has sent a breakfast signal. That growly sound. Think I’ll replace seven o’clock with that growl.

Four Elements

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Just realized something else. Wildfire = fire. Mountain streams and snowpack = water. Shadow Mountain = earth. 8,800 feet above sea level = air. This is an elemental location, Black Mountain Drive and its surrounding peaks and towns.

Bring Out Your Dead

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The Feast day of All Souls. The Christian version of Samain. Diluted from the original with its tension between the dead/faery realm and the living world. In the Christian version All Souls are those faithful now departed from this plane. It attempts to place a limit, a passport on those dead we know. Only the faithful.

Not so the ancient Celts. They knew both faithful and unfaithful (in whatever way that term might have meaning to them) can return, impact our this wordly lives. Tomorrow on dia de los muertos the Mexicans and Latin Americans remind us again of the Celtic knowing: they, the dead, are here. Those who loved us and those who wished us harm. Those who were indifferent to us and those who desired us. Both. All. Not just those with acknowledged acceptance of creed and savior.

The Chinese festival of hungry ghosts is the inverse of the Christian All Souls, imagining a time when certain dead who’ve committed evil return with an appetite for bad deeds. It is celebrated in the 7th lunar month of the Chinese and Vietnamese calendars.

Contrary to what seems true, all of these celebrations imply, the dead do not leave us. Rather, they remain puissant, able to impact our lives for good and for ill. We know this whether we agree with the metaphysics of the various celebrations or not. That parent who loved you. The one who treated you with contempt. That aunt who sent you books. The friend who knew you well. They do not leave you. And they return at certain times, reminding you you were loved, or held in contempt, or known.

How are your dead remembered, puissant in your life? Do you ever set aside time to visit with them, to let them enter your life consciously? Even the frightening ones, the ones who disturbed and disturb your life need attention. Otherwise they work in the shadows of your life.

Samain 2019

The Wheel has turned full round again. Back now at Summer’s End, Samain. In very ancient times the Celts only had two seasons: Samain and Beltane. The fallow season and the growing season. Beltane on May 1st marked the start of the agricultural year and Samain its end. Later they added Imbolc and Lughnasa when celebration of equinoxes and solstices became more common. Imbolc, February 1st lies between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox while Lughnasa, August 1, is between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox.

The Celts did not begin their year at Beltane, but at Samain, the start of the fallow season. Today. Happy New Year to all of you. Especially to those of you whose heart, like mine, beats to the rhythm of Mother Earth’s changes. And, I would add, to Father Sun’s constancy during her changes.

Rosh Hashanah begins the human new year for Jews as the growing season comes to an end. Michaelmas, September 29th, the feast day of the Archangel Michael, is Rudolf Steiner’s springtime of the soul. It’s not as strange as it may at first sound to begin the New Year in the fall after gathering in the crops.

This was the season in pre-modern times when the flurry of growing, gathering, fishing, hunting that marked the warmer months slowed down or ended. Families would have more time together in their homes. Visiting each other was easier. Time would stretch out as the night’s lengthened, making outdoor work difficult, if not impossible.

This is the season of the bard, the storyteller, the folk musician and it begins with the thinning of the veil between this world and the other world. Harvest and slaughter have the paradoxical affect of sustaining life by taking life, necessary, but often sad. Our need for the lives of plants and other animals reveals the fragile interdependence of our compact with life.

The veil thins. Those of the faery realm and the realm of the dead are close as the growing season ends. The Mexican and Latin American day of the dead and the Christian all souls day point to the same intuition, that somehow life and its afterwards are closest to each other now.

I’m recalling Gertrude and Curtis Ellis. Grandpa Charlie Keaton and Grandma Mabel. Uncle Riley, Aunt Barbara, Aunt Marjorie, Aunt Roberta. Lisa. Ikey. Aunt Ruth. Uncle Rheford and his wife. Uncle Charles. Grandma Jennie. Grandpa Elmo. And so many, many others extending back in time to England, Wales, Ireland. Before that as wanderers up out of Africa, those without whose lives I would not have had my own. Nor you yours.

There are, too, friends and their loved ones. The members of my high school class who have died. Regina, wife of Bill.

The Romantics say it best for me. Here’s the first few lines of Thantopsis by William Cullen Bryant:

     To him who in the love of Nature holds   
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks   
A various language; for his gayer hours   
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile   
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides   
Into his darker musings, with a mild   
And healing sympathy, that steals away   
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts   
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight   
Over thy spirit, and sad images   
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,   
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,   
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—   
Go forth, under the open sky, and list   
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around—
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—
Comes a still voice—
                                       Yet a few days, and thee   
The all-beholding sun shall see no more   
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,   
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,   
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist   
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim   
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again…

Holiseason

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Today is the last day of Sukkot. A notice went out for volunteers to come in and take down the Sukkah. Rabbi Jamie slept in the sukkah a couple of nights ago, putting his sleeping bag on the picnic table inside it. He’s an outdoor guy, loves camping, mountain biking, and skiing.

The last day of Sukkot is Simchat Torah. You’ve probably seen pictures of this holiday where the Torah scroll is unwound and folks hold it up in the sanctuary, then dance. It’s a fun, celebratory holiday, putting a punctuation mark on the holiday month of Tishrei and rewinding the scroll to Bereshit.

The parsha for this sabbath is Bereshit. The beginning. The Hebrew name for the book Christians call Genesis. This first parsha is the beginning of Genesis and also begins the reading of the five books of the Torah through another Jewish year.

The month ends on October 29. Rosh Hodesh, the new moon, starts every Jewish lunar month and is a minor holiday of its own. This will be the month of Heshvan.

This year Samain will be under a new moon. As Tishrei begins the Jewish new year on Rosh Hashanah, so Samain begins the Celtic new year. In the Celtic new year the emphasis is on the fallow season upcoming as Samain literally means summer’s end, the end of the growing season. It’s the last harvest festival.

November 1st is the festival of all Souls in the Christian liturgical calendar and the next day, November 2nd, is dia de muertos, the day of the dead.

Diwali, celebrated on October 27th this year, is a Hindu celebration of the triumph of light over darkness, good over evil, hope over despair, and knowledge over ignorance. It’s a new moon holiday, too. Hindu new moons come in the middle of the calendar month.

Before my time at CBE, I started Holiseason on September 29th, Michaelmas. Now I start it with Rosh Hashanah. It runs until Epiphany, January 6th. Enjoy this holiseason when so many cultures have feasts, days of prayer and offerings, good times. We need these days which exist outside of ordinary time and remind us of the sacred nature of the reality we inhabit every day.

Satisfaction

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Busy, satisfying, loving day.

A small c convert

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Årsgång

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

Årsgång, The Year Walk. According to Swedish folklore, the year walk was a method of divination in which practitioners would, on either Christmas Eve or New Years Eve (I’ll bet on the Winter Solstice, too.), sit in a dark room with nothing to eat or drink until it was night. Then they would set off into the woods with no technology, no flashlights.

As they wandered, they would have supernatural encounters (lots of supernatural entities in the Northwoods.) In one case they would place themselves far enough away so they could not hear the cock’s crow, not eat or drink, and not look into any fire the day before the walk.

After they set off, they would walk until they came to a road. When morning came, they could see funeral processions, including their own if they were to die that year. The village field beyond the road would show if the crops were to be good or not. They might see, too, if a fire was going to break out in the coming year. We could use this info up here on Shadow Mountain.

If we didn’t live in the mountains, I’d be tempted to try this. However. Cliffs and ravines. Oh, my. The Year Walk fits well with my winter solstice night vigil, even though I rarely make it through the whole night. Never thought of divination, but it would be interesting to try. Must have been pretty scary.

In the dark woods with no light. Even with no cliffs and ravines nighttime woods have many obstacles. Fallen trees. Undergrowth. Ponds. Marshes. Perhaps the occasional nocturnal animal. Add to those the supernatural and it would take a hardy or desperate soul to take a year walk. Wanna go?

There’s a cheap, six dollars, video game based loosely on this idea. I bought it. I’ll let you know about the game.

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.