Call Brigid

Imbolc and the waning crescent of the Shadow Mountain Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: The cold. Fresh snow. Murdoch. Kep. Rigel. Gertie. Ruth. Jon. Gabe. Seoah. Kate. Joe. This body I inhabit. The idea of soul. Panentheism. Monism. (Priority Monism). The moon and its phases. Mother earth in all her garbs. Fresh water. Sea water. All the seeds waiting patiently for the right temperatures, the right angle of the sun. Those bears huddled up somewhere nearby.

Imbolc is the Celtic cross-quarter holiday between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. In-the-belly. Imbolc. The freshening of the ewes. This meant milk, cheese. It was a sign that the days would warm, the snow melt, grass green, and food crops grow. The triple goddess Brigid presides. She is the goddess of the hearth, of creativity and inspiration, artisanship, and healing.

What pots do you have cooking over the fire? How is the health of your home? What seeds have begun to stir in your psyche? How is your body? Is it well? What does it need? Seek Brigid over Imbolc. She’s active in your psyche right now. Preparing, readying things for the coming spring.

We need her here on Shadow Mountain. Health of the body, healing of the body has taken so much of our time, our energy. Bites. ILD. Tube feedings. Prostate cancer. COPD. The hearth, too. Dogs. Murdoch gone. Gertie dead. Seoah here. Cooking, cleaning, laughing, smiling. The artisanal craft of sewing, quilting lies dormant, awaiting its mistresses return. What will come to me over the next weeks and months? I don’t know, but I know I need to make.

Class this morning, the last section of the Torah chapter. Looking forward to that. Fell far behind on the Daf Yomi during the bites and Gertie’s suffering. Will catch up. Two pages a day, at least.

Seoah and I will visit Murdoch today. No movement yet on a new place for him though Joe’s made some inquiries and so have I.

Back to working out. Resistance with some cardio and high intensity interval training. 3 of the resistance and 2 of the hiit. Using an old workout now, will wait another six weeks before getting a new one. I have several old ones that I could use.

The Day After

Imbolc and the Full Shadow Mountain Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Sleep, much needed sleep. Resolution for Gertie. A peaceful house. No doggy conflict, no tension. Another six inches of snow. Pho with Seoah yesterday. Murdoch’s happiness at seeing Seoah and me. The kindness of the staff at Bergen Bark Inn. Another heart to heart with Kate. Our life together. My healing. Orchid, beautiful and white, from Tom and Roxann.

The day after. Gertie is at peace. Murdoch in the kennel. For the first time in our married life we have only two dogs, Rigel and Kep. The house is quieter. Peaceful. Gertie is no longer suffering on her bed in the living room. Murdoch is no longer here, creating a constant possibility of violence. It feels, good.

Not glad Gertie is dead, but very glad her suffering and pain has ended. We couldn’t control it and that tore at Kate and me.

On Tuesday night last week Gertie still had enough will power to go outside to pee. She came in through the downstairs door and I decided to lift her up into the bed with us for the night. She slept between us for the whole night. At about 3 AM she woke up giving me lots of kisses. She kept at it for a long time. It was unusual. Now I imagine she was saying good-bye, letting me know how much she loved me. I will treasure that memory forever.

Yesterday lack of sleep and grief had me. Both battered my sense of self. Why did you let Gertie suffer? Why did you bring Murdoch into the house? Why did Kate marry me? Why am I such a screw up? Went down into that place we can all go, that dark place where our fears, our anxieties wait to trap us, hold us hostage.

Again, Kate came out, sat in my chair while I perched on the ottoman. We talked. In the way only those long together, long in love, bonded, can. She saw me. And in her seeing me I saw myself again. She challenged how I saw myself. And, then, so did I. Oh. The grief. The exhaustion. The last two years. Oh. Yeah.

Our talk allowed me to feel the peacefulness, the quiet in the house and to take some of that and put in my heart. The needle probe withdrew from my psyche.

This morning I fed two dogs. Went out for the paper. Not here. Snow always deters this delivery person from her rounds. Made coffee. Shoveled a path to the loft stairs. Came up here and wrote.

Final note. You might be interested to know that it was difficult for me, missing two days last week. Writing Ancientrails is part of my morning meditation, a freeing of my heart, a way to stay connected with a wide community of friends and family. So important. Glad to be back at it.

Gertie, a Love Dog

Imbolc and the Shadow Mountain Moon

Following the metaphor one post below. Got knocked off my board, almost carried away by rip tides. Gertie has cancer, maybe a couple of weeks to live. Vet this morning.

Pet euthanasia. I’m an outlier on this one, I know. I realized how opposed I am to it when Buck died in my arms at the UofM vet hospital. The pink liquid the vet injected worked. He died. All I could think: he trusted me.

Since then all of our dogs but two, Orion and Sorsha, have received home hospice care until their death. What I want for Gertie, too.

Climbing down into the dark well that is my aversion. The well is deep and cold, might be bottomless. Might be my Mom’s death is in there. I know for sure the issues of trust and choice are. Our dogs trust me with their lives for their whole lives. They have no ability to enter into the decision.

Lots of folks, the majority I imagine, the great majority, see euthanasia as a final kindness. I don’t. It’s wound up in what’s convenient, less messy, easier.

Gertie has trouble walking now. When Orion reached that stage with his osteosarcoma, we had to euthanize him. I couldn’t pick him up, take him outside, bring him back inside. 190 pounds. 30 pounds more than me at the time. Even though I agreed it needed to be done, I still couldn’t stand to be there.

I was in Kate’s sewing room, hyper-ventilating and crying. Feeling like I had betrayed both Orion and myself. Kate was there. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t support her, or Orion, but, I couldn’t.

Now that Gertie’s home I took her doggy bed down from the loft. Kate suggested it. Gertie stayed up here with me most days since we moved here 5 years ago. Even when her back right leg gave her trouble, a botched operation on a torn acl, she came up here on three legs. Now Murdoch is here, lying right where the doggy bed used to be.

Her diagnosis is neither unexpected, nor unusual. Gertie’s an old dog, our oldest, at 12. And, a rascal for all 12 years. So much fun. Sweet, too. Her kisses were meant. Not random licks for salt or submission. How do I know? I just do.

The well. That holy well. I remember the first time. When the doctor told Dad and me, Mom’s stroke had left her in a vegetative state. No coming back. Damn. 17. 3 in the morning at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis. Hard plastic chairs. Down. Down. Down. I didn’t climb back up out of that well until I quit drinking.

The holy wells of Ireland and Wales are portals to the Other World. A place where rags get tied on trees, flowers left by the opening, or, where the water gushes up from Mother Earth.

Suppose this means I need to go down this well again. Still. Live at the bottom for a while. Greet the darkness, my old friend. Might be where I get my love of fecund darkness, of quiet darkness, of the longest night.

Anyhow, Gertie. We’ll make her comfortable.

Surfin’

Imbolc and the Shadow Mountain Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Ted, who plowed our driveway early. The snow. Temps below zero. Almost a Minnesota June afternoon. Delicious meal last night, SeoAh. (Spring onions, enoki mushrooms, eggplant and thinly sliced, fried beef.) Not having to watch Murdoch. A weird short TV series about teens and Norwegian myth: Ragnarok.

When I picked up SeoAh at DIA on Sunday, it was 74. This morning we have over 6 inches of fresh snow and the temp is -2 on Shadow Mountain.

When I sit on the bench with Kate, hugging her, my heart leaps. Yes, she’s bony, her s-shaped spine protrudes and her ribs are palpable, but she’s over a hundred pounds now. She moves with much less effort and her pencil is still sharp for crosswords.

We’ve come to a new place, an appreciation for the fragility of our bodies tempered by the constancy of our love. Two years in we smile and laugh a lot. We plan for the future. Enjoy meals together. Care for the dogs together.

The snow comes down and its beauty is sweet. The occasional deer and elk in our yard are thank you gifts from the mountain spirits. Our house is bright and cheerful. We live in the Rockies and on Shadow Mountain.

Murdoch has proved a pain in the elbow and wrist, but his eagerness, his teen dog energy, his love, like Kepler, of the snow makes him a joy, too. Everything is polyvalent.

Before she left Singapore for Colorado, SeoAh told Joe she was going home. “Your home is here,” he said. “No,” she said, “I have two homes. One here and one in Colorado.” She will come back at least three more times for a month. She is our daughter.

Here’s the takeaway. No matter the challenges our perspective on them is up to us. We can become drowned in a sea of troubles, resenting misfortune, or we can learn how to surf.

This Rumi poem is a gift from Paul Strickland:


Love Dogs by Rumi

One night a man was crying Allah! Allah!

His lips grew sweet with praising, until a cynic said, “So! I’ve heard you calling out, but have you ever gotten any response?”


The man had no answer to that. He quit praying and fell into a
confused sleep. He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,in a
thick, green foliage.


“Why did you stop praising?”

“Because I’ve never heard anything
back.”


“This longing you express is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness that wants help is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. That whining is the
connection.


There are love dogs no one knows the names of.
Give your life to be one of them.



Downsize?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

Stick to it

Winter and the Full Future Moon shining through the lodgepole pines in the west

Friday gratefuls: for the Mussar group. for the Daf Yomi, now day seven. for the chance to do the Murdoch mitzvah. for the fresh new snow. for the 12 degree weather, what they call here, Stock Show weather. for Black Mountain who watches over me from above. for Shadow Mountain who supports me from below. for the crazy people who go out on Evergreen Lake for ice-fishing. May there always be crazy people.

Kepler to the vet yesterday. No, not bites and rips from Murdoch’s teeth. Rashes and hot spots. Antibiotics and an increased prednisone load for a week or so. Dr. Palmini has lost weight and buffed up. When I asked him if he would go to the Iditarod this year. The jury’s still out, he said. It’s a long time to be gone. But, it’s fun, isn’t it? Well, some of it, but when you get up at 3 am…? He goes as a volunteer vet for the sled dogs in the race. Lots of Iditarod memorabilia on the walls of his practice.

Back to HIIT workouts for cardio. Hi intensity interval training. A new one. Slow, 90 seconds. Fast as possible, 6mph for me, 30 seconds. Repeat four times then 3 minute cool down. I increased the number of intervals and the incline, from 1% to 2%, this week. Intervals are the best workout for cardio and they take a shorter time period that most cardio workouts.

Mussar. Got caught out nodding like I understood something that was said. Had to admit it, because the conversation expected me to say something about I’d already said. Everybody laughed when I told them. First time I can recall being caught in this oh, so usual gambit of not only me, but all folks hard of hearing. Gotta work on the ear wax thing. Seems to bother my hearing aid a lot.

The quality of the day, see Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities, was perseverance. A lot of discussion, an amusing number of examples about math, not unusual in a group with literary inclinations. Perseverance is in my toolkit.

Mostly. I can write novels. Start and finish them. Not easy, often taking over a year. I did not persevere so well with marketing them, though. I enjoy, as I said a few posts back, long books, long movies, long tv series. I can start all of these and finish them. Think War and Peace, Dante’s Inferno, Spenser’s Fairie Queen, Faust, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 10 Commandments, the Irishman, Gone with the Wind. And, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I’m finally in the fifth and last season. It only has 88 episodes.

I can make a commitment and stick to it for years, a lifetime. One of my youthful commitments was to keep reading difficult material. Stay political. College. Keep asking the fundamental questions and don’t shy away from difficult answers. Never work in a setting that compromises your values. Kate, now for over 30 years. The Woollies, about the same. Joseph, now going 39 years. Exercise, since my forties.

When I didn’t persevere, marketing and college German being the ones that come to mind, it was out of fear, I think. Fear is not a guide, it’s a caution, but I let myself get stuck in its glue at least those two times and I regret it. Anxiety grows along with fear and fear increases the anxiety. As I’m learning to be easier with myself, I’ll give myself an “I’m sorry to hear that, but you’re ok now.” bit of self-talk.

Rocking my inner boat

Winter and the Full Future Moon (98%)

Thursday gratefuls: for the Geek Squad guy who came to install our microwave. for his calling out an electrical problem. for Altitude Electric for coming next Monday. for the Geek Squad coming back next Saturday. for the first session in the Human Narrative, the Kabbalah class using Art Green’s book, Radical Judaism. for Zoom which allowed me to both here and there. Bi-location!

Kate and I have been doing sixty second hugs. As Paul Strickland mentioned in his review of a conference he and Sarah attended. What a great idea! We hug anyway, but often short ones. Sixty seconds encourages intimacy. More intimacy is welcome.

Also, we’re dancing with zero negativity. Same conference’s idea. For us, a real challenge. Not so much because we’re negative toward each other, but because both of us have minds that veer easily toward the critical, the analytical. And, we both know a lot so challenging each other’s conclusions comes with breathing. Still. I know where this concept heads and I would like to get there. So…

I describe myself as a neo-pagan by which I mean that my faith is located in this reality, not in some other, supernatural place. And that my faith reads revelation first from the ur sacred text, the book of Nature. This does not exclude other sacred texts as sources of wisdom, inspiration, even revelation, it places them second to seeing what you’re looking at. (Casey Reams) Or, being mindful. Or, deep listening. Or, respectful touching.

It also means that I’ve backed myself into an interesting corner, or, maybe, an interesting geodesic dome. If the cosmos itself reveals the sacred to those who see, the sacred underlies the whole cosmos. If the sacred underlies, is within, permeates the cosmos, then the Kabbalistic notion of divine light, ohr, waiting for us in everything begins to make sense to me.

If that makes sense to me, then the notion of an underlying unity also can come into focus. Is that unity the shekinah? That is, the feminine aspect of the divine said by the Kabbalists to constitute this material world? Not ready to go there yet, not sure I want to put a label on it. But, the idea of the shekinah does work for me at the level of analogy, metaphor.

Challenging. Rocking my inner boat. Yes.

Mountain Strong

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: For Paul’s idea of the 60 second hug and zero negativity. For Bill’s call yesterday. For Rabbi Jamie and Art Green, the class at Kabbalah Experience by Zoom. For Sandy, who cleans with energy and whose tumor has begun to shrink. For all the good dogs everywhere. All dogs are good dogs. For Mountain Waste who takes away the stuff we can’t use, don’t need.

Mountain strong. See that a lot up here. Bailey’s town motto is Mountain Strong. Has a sort of defiant, libertarian meaning to most. Clues: lots of comments about guns as a primary home defense system. About citiots. (city idiots) Griping about service up here when we know the difficulties involved.

Also, though. We can handle it our own. We’re neighbors, let’s help each other. Respect the wildlife. Keep the night dark.

I like it. Mountain strong. That’s how Kate and I feel. We’re mountain strong. Can it be difficult up here? Oh, yes. The thin air has caused both of us problems most of the time we’ve been here. On certain days the snow is so good we can’t go anywhere. IREA, the local electrical company, has miles of lines in difficult to reach, yet sensitive to weather places. Like up and down whole mountains. Outages are not uncommon and Kate needs O2 24/7. Generator. Delivery is episodic rather than consistent though we have an exceptional (for the mountains) mail carrier. Not to mention that it’s far away to all the services we need.

All true. What I call the Mountain Way. Just more molasses to crawl through for certain aspects of daily life.

However. The bare rock, the lodgepole pines, the aspen groves, the cold rushing creeks, the deep valleys and tall mountain peaks, the moose, the elk, the muledeer, the fox, the lynx, the bobcat, the mountains lions, the bears, the magpies and the Canada Jays, the crows and the ravens, the curvy roads, the changing seasons. And the clear, dark nights with the Milky Way and Orion and Ursa Major, Gemini and the whole zodiac. The clouds, the lenticular clouds and the clouds with a long straight front coming over Mt. Evans. When they’re lit by the rising or setting sun.

And for me, the two visits from the mountain spirits. The three mule deer bucks who greeted me when I came to close on the house on Samain of 2014. The two Elk bucks who stayed in our yard for a day eating dandelions. The day before I started radiation treatment.

Mountain strong. They promised that, welcomed me on the close of the Celtic year. They promised that, assured me on the day before the Cyber Knife visits. We are neighbors, mountain spirits and humans. We need mutuality to survive. The mountains themselves have greeted me and come to me as companions. Our mountain journey is now five years old and only just begun.

Mountain strong.

Death and Resurrection

Winter and the Future Moon

Saturday gratefuls: The snow, coming down hard. The temperature, 17. All 8,800 feet above sea level. Two weeks of consistent workouts, 5 days, 3 resistance, two with high intensity training. Ruth’s being here. (she’s sleeping with Rigel and Murdoch right now.) The Hanukah meal last night. Hanukah. Whoever conceived and executed Resurrection: Ertugrul. The internet.

Been thinking a bit about resurrection. Not as in Resurrection: Ertugrul, which is about resurrection of the Seljuk state, but in the New Testament mythology. Birth, life, death, resurrection. Christmas, Ministry, Black Friday, Easter. The Great Wheel. Spring, growing season, fallow season, spring. Osiris. Orpheus.

Death is being overcome every spring. Life emerges, blooms and prospers, then withers and dies. A period in the grave. Spring. Resurrection is not only, not even primarily, about coming back from death. Resurrection is a point in the cycle of our strange experience as organized and awake elements and molecules.

Saw an analogy the other day. Twins in the womb. Talking to each other about whether there was life after delivery. How could there be, one said. What else is all this for, said the other. Do you believe in the mother? Yes, she’s all around us. I can’t see her, so I don’t believe in her. How would we get food after delivery? How would we breathe? I don’t know, but I believe we’ll do both.

We know, too, the story of the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly.

Might resurrection itself be an analog of these ideas? Could be. Easier for me to comprehend is the death of a relationship, the period of mourning, then a new one, different from the first, but as good or better. The death of a dream. Having to sell the farm, a period of mourning, then a new career, different, but satisfying, too. The death of a certain belief system. Say, Christianity. A period of confusion and mourning. Then, a new way of understanding. The way things are. Consciousness and cycles. This comes; that goes.

A Minnesota life. Well lived and full. Dies. A period of mourning and confusion. A Colorado life. Different, but satisfying, too. The gardens of Andover. The rocks of Shadow Mountain. The lakes of Minnesota. The mountains of Colorado. The Woolly Mammoths. Congregation Beth Evergreen.

Are there other resurrections? Of course. Is there a resurrection like that of Jesus? Unknown. I choose to celebrate the resurrections that I know, rather than the ones I do not. The purple garden that emerged in the spring. The raspberries on the new canes. Those apples growing larger from the leafed out tree. This marriage with Kate, a notable resurrection of intimacy in both our lives.

What is dying? What are you mourning? What resurrection awaits?

Merry, Merry Meet

Winter and the Gratitude Moon, waning sliver

Christmas gratefuls: the silence on Black Mountain Drive. Black Mountain itself. The stars above Black Mountain. Shadow Mountain. Our home. This loft, a gift from my Kate, now five years ago, and still wonderful. Kate and her increased health. The sacred side of Christmas. The pagan (also sacred) side of Christmas.

When I went out for the paper this morning, it was dead quiet. No dogs barking. No cars or trucks on the road. No mechanical noises. The sky was the deep black of the cosmic wilderness, lit only by bright lights: planets, stars, galaxies. Silent night, holy night.

Those shepherds out there tending their flock, sheep shuffling around. A baa and a bleat here and there. Visitors on camel back. All that singing. As imagined, probably not a quiet night.

Here though, this dark Christmas morn. The deer are asleep. The elk, too. Pine martens, fishers, foxes, mountain lions might be prowling, but part of their inheritance is silence. Black bears went to sleep long ago. Millions of insects are quiet, too. The microbes in the soil, the growing lodgepole pines, the aspen organisms, their clonal neighborhoods, bulbs, corms, rhizomes all alive, all quiet.

Silent night, holy night. Yes. Sacred night, holyday night. Yes.

I read this long essay on consciousness by the president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. In it he says this:

” Yes, there’s this ancient belief in panpsychism: “Pan” meaning “every,” “psyche” meaning “soul.”…basically it meant that everything is ensouled…if you take a more conceptual approach to consciousness, the evidence suggests there are many more systems that have consciousness—possibly all animals, all unicellular bacteria, and at some level maybe even individual cells that have an autonomous existence. We might be surrounded by consciousness everywhere and find it in places where we don’t expect it because our intuition says we’ll only see it in people and maybe monkeys and also dogs and cats. But we know our intuition is fallible…”

Even silence, since it presumes an awareness of noise, is a proof of consciousness. All that consciousness around us here on Shadow Mountain. The trees and wild animals, grasses and microbes, dogs and humans, all here, all experiencing a self.

I take panpsychism a bit further than Koch with the kabbalistic idea of ohr, the divine spark, resident in every piece of the universe and the process metaphysical view of a vitalist universe creatively moving toward greater complexity.

This waking up mornin’ we can see the baby Jesus as an in your face message that, yes, of course we are holy. Yes, of course the universe sings to us from the depths of the sea, the top of the redwoods, and the person or animal across from us this morning. And, to get downright personal, from within the deep of our own soul.