We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

A new moon

Lughnasa                                                                          Harvest (New) Moon

By NASA - Global plate motion 2008-04-17

By NASA – Global plate motion 2008-04-17

The disaster (Eclipse) moon has finally waned completely as we enter two days of new moon, the Harvest Moon. Not, however, without more disaster. Puebla, Mexico got hit by an earthquake, 7.1, that also shook Mexico City. And Maria, the third category 5 hurricane under the Eclipse moon, smashed her way toward Puerto Rico while Jose, a former category 4, may make trouble for New England as a category 1. It’s ironic that an eclipse on August 21st, a sign of doom for many thousands of years, marked the beginning of a month with so much misery. It is confirmation bias, right?

We need the Harvest moon. It’s a sign of hope, a welcome source of light for combines and corn pickers throughout the Midwest. The Harvest moon is the moon nearest the autumnal equinox which occurs this Friday at 2:02 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. Those of us with roots in the agricultural center of the U.S. know this is a time for farmers to work hard, the success or failure of a year often determined right now. In the plains states, if a journey takes you across, say, I-80, you could see wheat fields full of combines, contract crews that go from state to state, province to province, gathering the bounty.

As fall progresses, so do certain sports. Baseball ends its summer and prepares for the Fall Classic. The NFL is now two games into its season, banging brains in major cities across the U.S. College and high school football does the same. It’s also cross country season. Joseph ran cross country for St. Paul Central in his high school days back in the late 1990’s. Granddaughter Ruth continues that family tradition. Here she is, crossing the finish line yesterday afternoon in Sheridan, Colorado.

 

Falling

Lughnasa                                                                     Eclipse Moon

- Nancy Drew, “Morris Louis, 1959″, (96 x 92) acrylic, flock and glitter on canvas, 2002 (This piece was created as an homage to Morris Louis, influenced by his work from 1959) Dana McClure

– Nancy Drew, “Morris Louis, 1959″, (96 x 92) acrylic, flock and glitter on canvas, 2002 (This piece was created as an homage to Morris Louis, influenced by his work from 1959) Dana McClure

The eclipse moon, still in the sky, now three weeks after blotting out the sun at midday, has become a crescent. I just looked up the moon calendar and noticed that the new moon falls on the two days prior to the fall equinox. The beginning of fall on the Great Wheel comes, this year, with the new energy of a rising and waxing moon.

Golden spears have begun to show up among the lodgepole pines on Black Mountain. Fall here announces itself with a subtle show of a single color, gold amongst green. As fall progresses, the subtlety disappears in wide swaths of yellow gold splashed across the mountains as a colorfield artist (Morris Louis, for example) might. Mountains become three dimensional canvases, temporary installations, a visual treat announcing the coming of the white season.

The angle of the sun has changed, it’s lower in the sky now, spreading its considerable energy over wider and wider areas, lowering the amount of warmth we receive over the course of a day. The trees and the birds and the bears and the elk and the mountain lions know this. The elk rut has begun and there are reports of bugling elk with large harems of twenty five cows coming in from many locations. A photograph and video collection on a local facebook group showed two bull moose with their velvet recently scraped off, clacking their wide racks against each other in a marshy area about twenty miles from here.

The Mt. Evans’ road has been closed for two weeks now, not to open again until after Memorial Day, 2018. OpenSnow, a website for skiers, announced the first snow of the season in the Cascades, noting that it should help fight the wildfires burning now in the northwest.

This turning of the Great Wheel brings with it, at least for me, renewed energy, an eagerness to engage the world fully. Heat saps me, makes me want to put on one of those funny hats that has room for two beer cans fitted to plastic hoses for constant cooling sips, sit down, and wait until, well, now.

I’m grateful for this seasonal change, though the growing season has its definite charms, too. It’s just that the temperatures important for plant growth are not so pleasing to me. And, BTW, Kate has pulled off a mountain gardening trick. She has several tomatoes ripening in our single 5 gallon plastic bucket container garden. My Demeter.

How can we remember?

Lughnasa                                                                  Eclipse Moon

Large Wildfires burning now

Large Wildfires burning now

We’re still under the Eclipse moon that brought us totality across the U.S. That same moon has now shone on Harvey, as he devastated the western Caribbean, then Texas, and Irma, as she moves through the eastern Caribbean on her way to landfall in Florida. Meanwhile, Jose, another Category 4 storm is following Irma’s path for now and Katia, a Category 2, is going ashore in the Mexican state of Veracruz. An earthquake 8.1 on the Richter scale struck southern Mexico on the Pacific side shaking much of the nation.

Lost in the darkness of totality, the shaking of Mexico and the powerful winds, rains and storm surge of the hurricanes, at least on national news, are the wildfires rushing through the forests of the West. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 8,081,369 acres had burned in the U.S. from Jan. 1 through Sept. 9. This well exceeds the average from the last ten years for the same time period: 5,558,384 acres. Worryingly, the average number of fires per year over the same Jan thru Sept period is 50,857. The number of fires in 2017 so far is 47,854. Fewer fires and more acreage burned means larger fires with more destructive potential. These are the megafires Michael Kodas has written about in his book of that name, published last week.

Warning today for Irma

Warning for Irma

The Eclipse Moon of 2017, its lunar month, might well change its name to disaster moon. My mind often feels overwhelmed by the magnitude of the catastrophes during the month of the Eclipse Moon. I’m able to notice them as they present themselves, but unable to hold my attention on any but the most recent, most horrific news.

This is a problem because each of these disasters: hurricane, earthquake, wildfire brings devastation to wide swaths of land, over multiple populations, concentrated and rural. The news predicts their coming, at least in the case of wildfires and hurricanes, then sends out pictures and text of their immediate, painful encounter with whatever is in their path. But this season, the wildfire this time has been followed by the hurricane now and the earthquake, then more hurricanes. And the critical phase, the recovery and rebuilding phase, does not begin until the event has finished.

all oneThis means that across North America, in Mexico, the U.S., the Caribbean and Canada we have centers of destruction that have not even begun to pick up the debris and sort through wreckage before the next catastrophe has hit. Millions of people, millions of acres of land, buildings, millions of wild animals are suffering and will continue to suffer. Right now. Which one has priority? How do we marshal our collective resources across so wide a swath of pain?

Perhaps an even better question is, how do hold in our hearts and minds all of these, the burned forests, lost homes and devastated wildlife? The buildings and lives inundated by waters from the Atlantic and Caribbean displaced by wind and rain. The cities and towns and villages gripped by a moving earth. Will we go forward from the month of the disaster moon, watch football, go back to school, prepare our homes for winter and forget about them?

 

End Times?

Lughnasa                                                                 Eclipse Moon

Earth's CirculationEnd times. Remember Harvey? The really big hurricane that hit Houston. Last week. Nope, neither do I. I’ve only got eyes for Irma now. Tracking her path north, a bitch goddess of mother nature’s fearsome pantheon: hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, torrential rains, drought, wildfire, volcanic eruption, tsunami, avalanche is an exercise in awe. So big. She’s so big. So powerful. So demanding and unyielding.

Wider by double than the state of Florida, Irma will make landfall in the Keys as a Category 5, the highest number in the Saffir-Simpson scale. Its winds are higher even than the criteria for Category 5, but as an article explaining why there would never be a Category 6 hurricane said, “Once you reach catastrophic, there’s no more damage more intensive winds and rains can do.”

The Ellis side of my family is basically in Texas and Oklahoma. We have relatives in the Houston area. Joseph and SeoAh are in Macon, Georgia. The cone of Irma’s path north has Macon in the center. Of course, she will have diminished in strength considerably by the time she reaches mid-Georgia, but high winds and torrential rains are definitely coming to Robbins AFB and Macon.

Totality

Totality

On August 21st we went to Idaho to observe eclipse totality. I wrote then that these events may be a key to humility, that our assumptions about the way things are may be fundamentally wrong. The sun does not go dark on a cloudless day. The sun. Oh, wait. It just did. No wonder an eclipse could strike real fear in our ancestors. That fear is similar to the one experienced, but in slow motion, at the Winter Solstice.

The night has overtaken the day. The earth is cold. Will it ever warm again? Will we ever have a spring? This question of the sun’s return, whether light and hope can emerge from the dark, is a sort of abstraction, a conclusion or a fear based on the sun’s apparent disappearance. It makes us philosophical, scientific.

Storms like Harvey and Irma are blunter instruments. They come screaming at us from the world ocean, hurricanes in the Atlantic, typhoons in the Pacific. There is no question about their intent, about their results. Devastation and havoc follow in their wake. Some will wonder why. It is our nature to ask these questions, but our answers too often obscure rather than reveal. Take, for example, Rush Limbaugh who thinks reporting on Irma and Harvey is a plot to convince us about climate change. Or, a pastor who believes the hurricanes are a direct response to homosexuality.

Wild Hunt, Caceria Salvaje

Wild Hunt, Caceria Salvaje

No. These are answers that reveal our fears, take our own Rorschachian temperature, but the why is not about us. The why is the delicate, yet sometimes fragile balance of temperature and humidity added to a whirling planet’s churned up atmosphere. Hurricanes like Irma are goddesses in the oldest sense of the word, creatures of nature beyond our ken and propitiation. We cannot pray to them and expect changed results for their ways are not our ways.

We are, in their presence, revealed as weak and defenseless animals whose only recourse is to flee. Look at the news footage of evacuation traffic out of Florida. Look at the devastation of our burrows and other shelters built on Caribbean islands. Look at Houston in the aftermath of Harvey.

The divinities of this earth are not human, not anthropomorphic and not separated from us by a sacred veil or a hidden world. They are very much of the earth. And they are neither evil nor good. To paraphrase Matthew 5:45, …she (mother earth) makes the sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

So, no. These are not the end times. These violent storms are part of our planet’s readjusting of water and heat, seeking a balance between the frigid polar atmosphere and the heated tropics. Oh, yes, we have meddled with that balance, throwing more heat into the equation. We have increased the fury and power of these earthly beings and in that sense we have brought a kind of judgment on ourselves, delivered by the impersonal forces we do not and can not control.

As for me, I’m in awe. We move out of the way of Irma as the mule deer and elk of the mountains flee human presence. On the days of hurricanes the mountains are a good place to be. When the wildfires come? Not so much.

Family Matters

Lughnasa                                                                   Eclipse Moon

GwangjuJoseph. He and SeoAh were in Gwangju for a week plus during which Kim Jong Un and his hermit kingdom exploded another powerful atomic weapon and were said to have prepared an IBM test. They returned home a couple of days ago to Macon. Which is now, according to the most recent projections, directly in the path of Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane when it passed by Puerto Rico. Wind speeds of 185 with gusts up to 200 mph.

Irma sept. 7Mark. Is in Bangkok on his way to work in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He wrote me yesterday that he went to Chinatown, which is where I stayed in 2004 when I visited Southeast Asia and spent over a week in Bangkok. Mark lived longest in Bangkok of all the places his traveling life has taken him. So far.

Mary. Turned 65 a week ago, but is still going strong as a professor and researcher at the national teachers university in Singapore.

Jon. This is his first week in the new house on Florence in Aurora without the kids. They moved in together a week or so ago. On Monday they went back to Jen’s for 9 days. Ruth’s first cross country meet is this afternoon, a meet which includes, she thinks, all the middle school teams in DPS, Denver Public Schools. The course is 1.8 miles of hills. Gabe thought putting together the Millennium Falcon lego set might take him “a couple of days. Unless I don’t take a break, then it might take 30 minutes. Or, maybe an hour.” No report yet on the actual time.

303Kepler has finished up his meds for the kennel cough and the barking cough (ha,ha) has subsided. Rigel’s second round of youthful predatory behavior continues as she heads to the shed every time she leaves the house and when she returns she sniffs the deck very, very carefully. Something’s down there! Gertie continues to be a rascal. (note the demonic eye) Yesterday we caught her with her front paws up on the side of a chair, her nose against the shofar. Does she know it’s the high holidays? Or, was she just happy to see it?

The Rav4 blows cool air out of its a.c., having been down to 0.09 pounds of coolant when the specs require 1.9. The detailing also left it super clean on the inside. But, we can fix that. The Challenger has returned to its stall.

We got a snowplowing agreement yesterday from Ted of All Trades. A true harbinger of Game of Thrones favorite epithet. Fire danger remains low, as we like it, thanks to cooler, wetter weather over the last month. Consistent cool weather is still some time away, unfortunately.

Now we wait to see what Hurricane Irma will do to Joe and SeoAh.

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.

Elemental

Lughnasa                                                          Eclipse Moon

Indian Paint Brush

Indian Paint Brush

That was the idea I was reaching for in the post below about the West. Wildfire. Precious Water. Mountains and high plains. Blue sky and fancy clouds. Of course versions of these are everywhere, yes, but here they’re in your face, unavoidable and unmissable companions of daily, even hourly life. Not the wildfire, you say? Live in tornado alley? On a hurricane prone coast? In an earthquake zone? You’re always aware.

Earth, air, fire and water. Not a 70s disco band, but the notes of a changing composition of seasonal change. Right now we’re in the transitional movement between the allegro of the growing season to the andante of harvest, the celebration of senescence. Human activity does become more frenetic during the harvest, a sort of false allegro, but only because the plant world knows winter is coming. You can hear those bass notes as seeds form and disperse, plant stalks brown and wither, green fields become tan or golden.

20170814_172230Up here in the mountains the occasional aspen has begun to turn. The grasses in the mountain meadows have lost their intense green. The angle of the sun has already lessened, casting deeper shadows. Orion is visible in the dark, clear night sky. Moose, elk and deer bucks have begun to drop the velvet on their antlers, preparing for the quickening of the rut. The bears become more brazen as their need for calories, more calories, before hibernation makes them feel an urgency.

Somewhere around us in the Arapaho National Forest, up in the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area, over in Staunton State Park, the fox and the marmot and the fisher and the pika, the Abert squirrel and the red squirrel can feel their coats beginning to thicken. The mountain lions know the seasonal changes in their prey and change their hunting patterns.

lughnasa1The orchestra of life plays this symphony all year as it responds to the conductors spring, summer, fall and winter, each with their own favorite tempo. The elemental nature of the West makes the composition here often raw, sometimes going as far as dissonance during the chinooks, or a dry summer month, during a blizzard, yet it is usually majestic with soaring blue notes and the babbling background music of mountain streams and bugling elk.

Just sit back and enjoy the show.

A friend returns

Lughnasa                                                                        Kate’s Moon

alone in the cosmosAbout 5:30 am this morning I left the house for the loft. The sky was clear, unusual over the past few monsoonal weeks. There in the southeast, still partially in the lodgepole pine, was Orion. His shoulder and belt were visible, his sword and feet/legs were not. But he was back. I waved to him.

As I did, I realized this relationship, with a constellation, was really important to me. Not as metaphor. Not as an anchor to my long ago college night-shift memories. But as a friendship. This may seem odd, but I suspect it’s not. I think it’s analogous to a more common feeling, one I identify most easily with crossing Ford Parkway in St. Paul on my way to our house on Edgcumbe. When I crossed Ford Parkway, I felt like I was back in home territory. I had become, at least in that way, native to the Highland Park neighborhood. When we moved to Andover, it was coming up to Round Lake, the marker of our new neighborhood.

Orion is the Ford Parkway of fall and winter for me. In that sense he is a boundary marker between the growing season and the fallow season though right now he is a harbinger. His rising means, look, the seasons will change. You can know that with confidence. This transition, from growing season to fallow one marks an affective moment for me, a moment of change from a time I tolerate with some pleasures, to one I love that has some pains.

beherenow1-eternal-time-spaceThe dangers and pains of ice and snow are real, but manageable. Cold is a blessing as far I’m concerned. The pleasure of snow is real, too. Ice? Well, maybe not so much pleasure there. But the holidays, the beauty of fall and winter landscapes, the times of being isolated with a book to write, well, that’s my best time. And Orion’s emergence heralds its coming.

There’s more than that though. Orion is a friend in the heavens. His reemergence each fall reconnects me to astronomy and the beauty of the dark night skies, the long ones of the fallow season. He is a host who invites me into his world, lifts my heart literally off the earth. Yes, I can connect with the stars during the growing season, but I tend not to, at least not as well, certainly not as often. The night sky comes later then and I don’t have a guide, a host for it.

Like a good friend does, Orion reminds me of an important of myself and nurtures it. He does this silently, of course. But I hear him just the same. No wonder I waved.

Mountain Spirits

Lughnasa                                                                            Kate’s Moon

On Samain of 2014 I came up here to Shadow Mountain for the closing on our home. In the backyard of our new home three mule deer bucks greeted me. They were curious about me and I about them. We stood with each other for some time. The mountains had sent three spirits to welcome me.

They returned yesterday.

20170814_17223020170814_17225720170814_172305

Working

Lughnasa                                                                         Kate’s Moon

hell2Moving forward, slowly, with Jennie’s Dead. Exploring the religion of the ancient Egyptians, trying to avoid hackneyed themes, not easy with all the mummy movies, Scorpion King, Raiders of the Lost Ark sort of cinema. Jennie’s Dead is not about Egypt, ancient or otherwise, but it plays an important role in the plot. Getting started is difficult, trying to sort out where the story wants to go, whether the main conflict is clear, to me and to the eventual reader.

Also moving forward, also slowly, with Reimagining. The pile of printed out posts has shrunk considerably, now filed. As I’ve gone through them, I read them a bit, for filing purposes. One notion that jumped out at me was my turn away from text-based religions, from the sort of quasi-scholastic reasoning that occurs.

image of godAs Emerson said, “Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?”

I guess Emerson and I had the same quandary. We love the ancient texts, their poetry and philosophy, yet do not want to be bound by them. We want our poetry and revelation straight from the source, nature and the human experience of our own time. Yet, it seems to me, we’re both informed in our search for the poetry of existence by the way those seekers of the past found revelation in their time. Surely the logic of wanting our own revelation grounds itself in the stories of Genesis, the work of Moses, the resurrection story of Jesus, even the night flight of Muhammad and the whirling cosmic dance of Shiva.

20-the-map-is-not-the-territoryThis means I’m in a curious position relevant to my own education in the Christian tradition and my new education, underway now, in the older faith tradition of Judaism. Both are normative, in their way, but not as holy writ. Rather, they are normative in a more fundamental sense, they reveal the way we humans can discover the sacred as it wends and winds its way not only through the universe, but through history.

We may not, in other words, be bound by their philosophy and insight, the history of their revelation, yet how the ancients made themselves open to the whispers and shouts of the sacred, how they received its insights and what use they made of it in their lives, those shape us because we are the same vessel, only thrown into a different time.

Arthur_Szyk_(1894-1951)._The_Holiday_Series,_Rosh_Hashanah_(1948),_New_Canaan,_CTThis is a similar idea to that of the reconstructionists, but not the same. Reconstructionists want to work with a constantly evolving Jewish civilization, grounding themselves in Torah, mussar, kabbalah, shabbat, the old holidays, but emphasizing the work of building a Jewish culture in the current day, reconstructing it as Jews change and the world around them changes, too. I’m learning so much from this radical idea.

2695406589_2517d8b0f2What I want to do though, and it’s a similar challenge, is to reimagine, for our time and as a dynamic, the way we reach for the sacred, the way we write about our experience, the way we celebrate the insights and the poetry it inspires. In this Reconstructionist Judaism is a better home for me than Unitarian Universalism. UU’s may have the same goal, but their net is cast into the vague sea of the past, trying to catch a bit from here and a bit from there. It is untethered, floating with no anchor. Beth Evergreen affirms the past, the texts of their ancestors, their thousands of years of interpretation, the holidays and the personal, daily life of a person shaped by this tradition, but also recognizes the need to live those insights in an evolving world.

 

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