Not Your Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving. But, a good one anyhow.

Samain                                                                                  (full) Thanksgiving Moon

(N.B. I love vintage images on the web. I’m including here some of the weird ones I found while checking out Thanksgiving.)

Thanksgiving weirdWe put out our best aluminum tins from Tony’s. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, sage stuffing, green beans almondine. I plunged the plastic bag of turkey gravy in boiling water. The turkey breast went in a shallow pan with a 1/2 cup of water. We have two ovens and the top one, the smaller of the two, did its job well for the potatoes and the stuffing.

The larger, lower oven not so much. After almost an hour in an oven reputed to be at 350 degrees the turkey hardly moved the dial on the meat thermometer. Well. Perfect. No Thanksgiving is complete without some culinary malfunction. Kate suggested I slice the breast and warm the pieces in the microwave. How did we ever survive without microwaves? Many of you remember the primitive past. Today’s kids don’t know how lucky they are.

Thanksgiving camelsOn the table sat our finest paper plates, a big turkey printed on them saying gobble, gobble, gobble. The napkins had pumpkins and vines and stuff. The meal was very good and aside from the now suspect ovens (I won’t mention that the other one went wonky, too.) exceeded my hopes.

We talked about the usual Thanksgiving topics.That dumb#$! in the Whitehouse. The ruination of American culture by technology. No, wait a minute. That was somebody else’s house.

We talked about Annie’s retirement from the Scott County jail after 30 years of public service. Learning how to be retired is not something we anticipate, but it can be a real challenge. She’s working on it. And getting there, I think.

Jon’s car came up. Always a fruitful topic. He’s putting on a new axle today, getting ready to refit several bushings. His hearing next Tuesday for the misdemeanor. Ruth and Gabe. “They eat whole baguettes. I have to hide them.”

Thanskgiving pabstKate’s two months from hell. A modest amount of this excellent meal sent her straight to bed. Not sure where we go from here. Smoothies and Korean food, maybe.

Jon and I talked for awhile after Kate went to bed and Annie went up for a nap. He took home a large chunk of turkey breast, sweet potatoes, sage stuffing and green beans. “Next year my kitchen should be done. We can have Thanksgiving there.” Sounds good to me.

In between all this I’m still learning about planets and glyphs, natal charts, signs, houses. The big task though is not directly astrology related. I’m going to figure out the notion of the archetype once and for all. After reading Tarnas, I’m convinced archetypes are a big clue to the efficacy of astrology, but how does that work? And, just what is an archetype anyhow?

Thanksgiving 2Woke up this morning and did my gratitude practice. At night I consider all the gifts I got during that day, all the gifts I gave, and any trouble I caused. In the morning I start out with what I’m grateful for right now. Both practices seem to soothe me, put me in a place to receive and accept blessings. Life’s a hell of a lot better when I’m in that sorta space.

So. If you’re reading this, I’m grateful you took the time. Thanks.


Samain                                                                Thanksgiving Moon

astrology3Wonder what the stars (and the planets) have to say about reading my full chart for the first time today? We could look it up. I’m going to Golden, under Table Mesa, to the Bean Fosters coffee house. Elisa, a petroleum geologist, dean of academics at a consortium of community colleges and a member of Congregation Beth Evergreen has done whatever astrologists do with my birth information. She says the consult lasts as long as I have questions. She really doesn’t have that long, so I’ll restrain myself.

Even after finishing Tarnas the old statistical line, often heard in scientific circles, keeps coming to mind: Correlation without causation. It reminds us that many things correlate with each other, say a line of cars at a stoplight, with no cause behind them. It’s like diagnostics in medicine. A particular complex of symptoms may seem to point to a particular cause, but until the link between the symptoms and a certain cause is identified, all you have is correlation. And, it may be pointing you in the wrong direction.

Francis Bacon mentions four idols of the mind that lead us astray:*

*”Bacon also listed what he called the idols (false images) of the mind. He described these as things which obstructed the path of correct scientific reasoning.

  1. Idols of the Tribe (Idola tribus): This is humans’ tendency to perceive more order and regularity in systems than truly exists, and is due to people following their preconceived ideas about things.
  2. Idols of the Cave (Idola specus): This is due to individuals’ personal weaknesses in reasoning due to particular personalities, likes and dislikes.
  3. Idols of the Marketplace (Idola fori): This is due to confusion in the use of language and taking some words in science to have a different meaning than their common usage.
  4. Idols of the Theatre (Idola theatri): This is the following of academic dogma and not asking questions about the world.”  wiki

maslowBacon also points out that the path of facts and induction may be slow, but it heads in the right direction. No matter how fast you go down a path without facts, you will never reach the truth.

This way of thinking is the grand inheritance of the Enlightenment, follow reason. However, if you look at Bacon’s fourth idol, the idols of the Theatre, you will notice a potential problem. In Bacon’s time of course he aimed his critique at the Scholastics whose main mode of learning was deductive, starting often with scripture. It’s fair, at least to me, that now we consider whether the Copernican Self has become a contemporary idol of the theatre, an explanatory idea with great power, just like Scholastic reasoning, but, much like Scholastic thought, obscuring greater truths.

To summarize. I found Tarnas’ critique of skepticism personally valid. It’s a tool, not a way of life. I found his description of the Copernican Self and the primal Self accurate and helpful. I also took his point about the angst and anomie that infects our age as rooted in the disenchantment of the universe occasioned by thinkers like Copernicus and Descartes. His argument that it is time for a synthesis between the Copernican (modern) Self and the primal Self seems important to me, a correct diagnosis and a possible solution.

BaconsScientificMethodHis emphasis on depth psychology, in particular synchronicity and the collective unconscious, as partial evidence that the modern Self need not be wholly isolate makes sense to me. I had many years of Jungian analysis and find the non-pathological approach of Jungian thought very congenial. I’m not sure how many outside the world of depth psychology would agree with him on this point however. But, I do.

That synthesis between the modern and the primal, perhaps a neo-primal Self, does require some way of convincing modernist thought to make the leap, to create openings in the seal around its Self. This is a difficult requirement since it means setting aside that Self as the center of a disenchanted universe; much, it has just occurred to me, in the manner that Copernicus and Kepler dethroned the earth as the center of the universe.

astronomy 2mass xscNeither an obvious nor an easy matter. “I’m going to have my chart read this afternoon.” “I know.” “Yes, you know, but you don’t approve.” “Oh, I think it’s fine to read your chart. But, believing it?” She shrugged. Kate and I share a strong or high version of the modern Self, reason uber alles. I have flirted, however, for a very long time with a Romantic view carrying an aesthetic and spiritual seeker’s heart inside a rationalist’s body and mind. This is not a synthesis. It’s a carrying of opposites, learning from both, knowing the parallel, never touching rails down which they run.

The synthesis between these two metaphysics, one disenchanted, one ensouled, seems like the task of our time, our Great Work, to use Thomas Berry’s idea. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that his Great Work for our generation, creating a sustainable human presence on earth, may require such a synthesis to succeed. I also think this synthesis defines the inchoate sense that I had about the need to reimagine faith. No, I don’t want to revert to an unexamined enchanted universe, to become a shaman for a world without reason. At the same time I no longer want to live in a disenchanted universe, alone in the cold vastness. Will astrology prove a tool to help with the synthesis? I’m not sure. But I’m gonna give it an honest examination. Starting with the event on 9:30 am on February 14th, 1947, in the small Red River town of Duncan, Oklahoma.




a prepper at work

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

astrology natalOne more turn to Tarnas before my consultation with Elisa tomorrow. He made his move toward a synthesis of   the modern mind and the Romantic–equivalent to the distinction between the self shaped by the Copernican disenchanted cosmos and the primal, ensouled (enchanted) universe that went before. His initial step came through depth psychology, tapping the collective unconscious and the idea of synchronicity to suggest a permeable self influenced by the cosmos and influencing it. Having opened the door between Self and cosmos with depth psychology, he turned toward astrology.

Over three decades ago he began to make natal charts, do the calculations, first for himself and several (40 or so) people he knew well. He began finding uncanny correlations between charts and people’s lives, people with whom he was familiar. He went further, expanding his investigations through students and colleagues to include many more individuals. Tarnas admits the difficult, often subjective nature of determining correlations and seems genuinely interested in an unbiased look at the claims of astrology.

I’ve only read Cosmos and Psyche, but he seems honest in his approach to scholarship, careful, not prone to easy enthusiasm. That counts a good deal for me in assessing his work. He’s an intellectual historian and a depth psychologist, a working intellectual with a Ph.D. Of course, none of that says he’s correct; but, it does mean he’s been vetted by other scholars.  He offers the usual and some not usual objections to the direction of his research.

archetypesHis argument about skepticism as a tool, not an end, was a wakin’ up moment for me. Oh, duh! Of course. Only I hadn’t seen it that way. Skepticism was a way of life for me and I treated the world of ideas as you might expect. I embraced almost nothing, held every philosophical and religious claim at a skeptical arms length. Yes. And no. I had let the tool use me, rather me using the tool.

Opening to the possibility of some value in astrology has not come easily for me and I’m still not sure about it, though I hope Elisa will help me when I see her tomorrow. I’m having an X-File’s moment: I want to believe. Tarnas, recommended by Tom Crane, has helped push me a bit further along the way, opening me. Even if I become convinced of its utility though, I believe there are more ways to heal the disenchantment. Tarnas has leaned into astrology, but why not the tarot, the i ching, using the same arguments.?

There are other, less esoteric methods to open the Self, to mutuality between Self and enchanted cosmos. I mentioned a few of those a post or two ago. Here are a couple more.

Soil Organisms There are millions of microorganisms in 1 tsp of fertile agricultural soil

There are millions of microorganisms in 1 tsp of fertile agricultural soil

Most of you who read this are familiar with my story of mystical atonement after a class on metaphysics in college. It was a moment, maybe a minute, maybe two, in which I stopped and the world beyond became clear to me. I was connected to it and it to me. It was a vital, all engaging other, the other in this case being the whole beyond me, beyond my Self. Yet. It was not beyond me, but within me while I was within it. This was a visceral, embodied experience. It needed no mediation from sacred scripture, natal charts, or card reading. It just was.

Dig. I mean it. Go outside (wait til it’s warmer if you want). Take a trowel or a shovel or use your hand. Scrape away the surface matter, push your hand wrist deep into the soil.* By going down into the earth you can know the thin substrata that literally keeps us alive. Without this living soil we could grow little food. It is outside of us and yet, in what I’ve often called the true transubstantiation, will become not only one with us, it will become us.

mysticismMy only point here is that astrology, especially one linked as Tarnas does to the concept of archetypes, may provide us with aids to self-knowledge, aids that light up an enchanted universe, help it become visible. And if it does, I want to use it, include it in my tool kit. Right there alongside skepticism. But I don’t see it as the only, or even the most important, clue to an ensouled universe.

Mysticism is more important to me. So is the tactile spirituality that requires no charts, no trines or alignments, to show me the way outside of my self and into an enchanted universe. This synthesis between the primal worldview and the modern one is a critical for our time. It’s what reimagining faith wants to build. It’s what reconstructing faith will look like. There is more. Far more.


*According to S.A. Waksman, a microbiologist, in just ¼ teaspoon of fertile soil you could find:

  • 50 nematodes;

  • 62,000 algae;

  • 72,000 amoebae;

  • 2,920,000 actinomycetes;

  • 25,280,000 bacteria!        Youth Guide to Soil


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.


Our Place

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

20181111_1718577 degrees this morning on Shadow Mountain. About 10 inches of fluffy powder since Saturday night. Fell yesterday clearing snow off our temporary decking, the palettes and stall mats I’ve shown before. Not hurt. Reminded, again, pay attention.

Cosmos and Psyche, by Richard Tarnas. Recommended by friend Tom Crane. I mentioned it a few posts back when I talked about skepticism as a tool, not a lifeway. This is an important work of intellectual history. I’ve finished the first section and, as I told Tom in an e-mail yesterday, my head is spinning. Tarnas points out, accurately I believe, the fundamental problem of our modern, Enlightenment inflected era. The application of reason and the scientific method created the Copernican revolution. Since that radical shift in humanity’s thousands of years old world view the ongoing advance of reason, buttressed, oddly, by monotheism, has in Max Weber’s wonderful phrase, disenchanted the world.

The primal world view, the one held before Copernicus showed the earth and the other planets orbited the sun rather than the reverse, believed in a permeable barrier between human experience and the experience of an ensouled universe. Our inner world and the outer world, the whole vast outer world, shared vitality, intention, consciousness. Gods. Faeries. Cyclops. Shiva and Krishna and Brahma. The pervasive sense that trees and bears and moose and squirrels and the grasses and buffalo were as alive, in a spiritual sense, as humans. The weather, the climate, the shifting seasons, the phases of the moon.

astrology2But, as the human mind, using its sharpest tools, reason and skepticism, saw through this primitive perspective, and, as monotheistic religions posited a creator who made a special creature, humankind, in their God’s own image, a gap grew between the human and the universe. Now, in the modern era, we look out from within to a morally neutral cosmos, devoid of soul or spirit, moving with randomness according to physical laws that, since we have discerned them, reveal the trapped, the determined nature of, well, nature.

This disenchanted cosmos holds us, God’s special creation, categorically different and detached from the barren vastness that surrounds us. We are, in effect, alone, small, aware of our isolation, but with no purchase on anything outside the Cartesian split between spirit and matter. We have spirit and all the rest, matter, does not.

This disenchantment and isolation, this sense of uniqueness, is, when viewed from above (not from within) a simulacrum of Lucifer Morningstar’s fall from heaven. With our hubris we have challenged the creation and in turn been ejected from it, living our short lives with no sense of our place in the universe. We gradually fought a war against anthropomorphism of the physical world, pulling back first from the notion of the earth as the center of the universe, then from the ensouled moon and the spirits of the our forests and streams and oceans, finally we separated ourselves from the evolutionary process by positing ourselves as conscious and all other living things as mere automatons. We pushed ourselves out of the garden, left ourselves to wander the earth, having to toil under the heat of the faraway sun for our food.

The interesting turn comes next when Tarnas tries for a synthesis between the modern view and the primal view. Not sure where he’s going, but he has convinced me of the necessity to try. In another post I’ll talk about how, in an incoherent way, I’m already some ways down the path toward such a synthesis.

The End of Summer

Samain                                                                      Healing Moon

SamainSamain. The end of summer. The end of fall. The end of the growing season. The time of quiet and darkness and cold. Ushered in here on Shadow Mountain with 6 or 7 inches of wet snow. Welcome. Winter has come.

The veil thins. The always resonant link between the living and the dead thrums, pulses. A moment to consider those who have died, to remember them, celebrate their lives or appease their spirits. Most present to me right now are 11 lives ended in Pittsburgh, people I didn’t know, but with whom I share a spiritual connection. They left the living under circumstances so horrific as to be unimaginable, except, of course, circumstances also all too common here. All the horror this Halloween needs.

Samain is also the beginning of holiseason (though to be fair with my Jewish inflected life holiseason really begins on the first day of Tishrei with Rosh Hashanah.). This long dormant time causes humans affected by it to want gatherings, lights, gifts, bravery in the face of potential starvation. It is, as a result, peppered with holydays, days of family and friends and feasts, days that encourage both standing over against our fear of bleakness and ample opportunities to pause, reflect, and embrace it.

dias de los muertosThe wings of the angel of death hover, whirring. They brush the air past our souls. We feel it, a faint quiver. He is never far away, never at rest, never near the end of his duty. Murders, catastrophes like Tree of Life, Pulse, Columbine, 9/11 are not awful because people die. We all die. They are awful because these are lives ended too soon, with malice, through hatred and venality.

I prefer the wonderful Day of the Dead with its playful, joyous overtones. Like the Nayarit House in the collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts we all dine with our dead. On the day of the dead we remember that. At each shabbat service near the end kaddish is said for all those mourning a recent loss and for all those celebrating a yahrzeit, the anniversary of a death. In this sense each Jewish service is a rolling Dia de Muertos.

47.2.37On this day, Samain, summer’s end, the season of vitality, growth, the season which replenishes those things we need to sustain life comes to a close for another cycle. As it does, we remember those whose vitality and presence shaped our own lives, just as later, after our deaths, others will remember us. I suppose this could sound grim, but I don’t experience it that way. I’m more of the Mexican, Latin American spirit in this regard.

However you experience it this is a day when memory underscores the unique value of each day, each moment. Ichi-go, Ichi-e. This time, right now, is once in a lifetime. Savor it, don’t gloss over it, don’t let worry blot out your attention. Happy Halloween.



I Know

Fall (last day)                                                                 Healing Moon

Fujinraijin-tawarayaThe weather gods have chosen an apt offering for the last day of fall, 8 inches of snow. In true Colorado fashion it will probably be here tonight and tomorrow, gone by Thursday if not late Wednesday. Looking forward to it. A difference between Colorado and Minnesota exists in forecasting snow. Here in Colorado people pant for the snow, welcome it, do celebratory dances. In Minnesota, not so much. It means work and slick roads in the Gopher State; here snow means beauty, tourist dollars, and will be gone conveniently.

Scheduled my first full chart reading with Elisa on November 16th. I’m curious. The ancientrail to self knowledge never ends.

Having said that. I want to claim what I’ve learned, not keep shuttling it to the back to let new information in. That’s why I’m reluctant to avoidant when it comes to converting to Judaism. I find it compelling in many ways, a practical down-to-earth way of life lived out in a solid community. I love the people at Beth Evergreen and I feel member of the tribe solidarity when anti-Semites shoot up synagogues.

But. I long ago quit molding my perceptions and beliefs to outlines drawn by the dead. Said positively it’s the Emersonian insistence on having revelations to us, not the dry bones of theirs. Doesn’t mean I can’t learn and learn deeply from other faiths, other political beliefs, other gendered views. Of course I can. And I do.

I’ve never found the balance between stating what I’ve discovered, seen, had revealed to me, and the obvious limitedness of it. I know that my knowing is fragmentary, tentative, subject to change. Yet, it is mine and I do have it. On the one hand I seek knowledge like a thirsty desert traveler seeks an oasis. On the other I’ve done so for so long that I have accumulated my own wisdom.

In spite of my logical bent, in spite of my study of systematic thinkers and even my desire to emulate them, I’ve not been able to pull off anything book length. I seem to function best in shorter formats like sermons, blog posts, brief essays. I guess that’s why fiction appeals to me. It’s a medium where my writing can extend itself, dig into the depths of my soul and reveal mySelf, but obliquely.

It’s not that I don’t want to learn new things about myself. I do. It’s just, how do I stop, say that for now this is what I know. It may be different tomorrow, but today, perhaps just for today, I claim this understanding and offer it. Haven’t figured that one out.

Here’s a couple of things I know, at least right now. Death is. As is life. The two are the ultimate dialectic, the ur form of creative tension for all of us. We literally live into death. If we do so without fear or with less fear, then the tension of our end can enliven our present, make it rich and precious. Confronting and accepting death is a key to living well.

This fundamental truth is writ both large and small in the turning of the seasons. Tomorrow we move into the fallow time, the time of a death-like pall on the earth, a necessary pause, rest. During the fallow time, the spring time of the soul, we can dig into our own substrata, let our roots seek nutrients in the collective unconscious. Bloom, even, with new understanding, new acceptance.

With spring the subtle gains of decay will have fed the soil, which will feed the plants, which will feed us.

I also know that love is a rose and you’d better not pick it. Neil Young’s song, made popular by Linda Ronstadt, is a moment of that revelation to us that Emerson sought in each generation. Hear it on Youtube.

(love) Only grows when it’s on the vine.
Handful of thorns and you know you’ve missed it.
Lose your love when you say the word mine.


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.





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.



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

A Life Temporarily Resectioned

Fall                                                                      Healing Moon

1605–15; < Latin resectiōn- (stem of resectiō) a cutting off, trimming, equivalent to resect(us) (see resect) + -iōn- -ion

pruning gooseberries

pruning gooseberries

Always had trouble with the word resection. Why can’t doctors just say, cut out, excise, remove? After Kate’s bowel resection for her bleeding, I decided to finally figure out this word.

As with most technical language, it’s more precise than removing a piece. Instead of cutting out a piece of the colon, a surgeon resections it. Resecting can mean any degree of alteration in an organ from outright removal, to partial removal, to altering it in some way short even of partial removal. The best synonym I found, the one that helped me finally get it was this. Pruning.

As a former horticulturist, I did a lot of pruning. Cutting this diseased part of a plant away. Removing an errant branch or stem. Thinning blooms to create larger flowers. Resecting all along and didn’t know it. Sometimes there was total resection of a plant no longer healthy, or of plants out of place (otherwise known as weeds).

down the hill and through the woods to Grandma's room we go

down the hill and through the woods to Grandma’s room we go

I’m belaboring this etymology because I realized how useful this word was for describing what I’ve done for the last two weeks or so. I temporarily resectioned my life. I pruned away all that was not essential. That left being with Kate, understanding her medical condition, showing up for procedures and recovery, sitting with her. It left giving the dogs as normal a life as possible. After all, they don’t understand the situation. It left feeding myself and getting plenty of sleep. It left writing Ancientrails and posting on the Caringbridge website about Kate’s progress. Everything else got pruned away.

No CBE work. No writing. No exercise. Minimal grocery shopping, some work outside. Filling the car with gas, getting the oil changed. Necessary maintenance.

2014, Andover

2014, Andover

I chose to prune away parts of my life so I could attend to an unusual occurrence, an anomaly that required most of me. With Kate now in rehab, her bleeding behind her, that severe pruning, like I would do to the raspberry canes at the end of the season, cutting them off to the ground, will fade away. Though. When she comes home, there will still be home care for her, of course. But, the driving and leaving the dogs behind for hours at a time will be over.

Our lives can require these rescections. Sometimes they’re temporary, as this one will have been, sometimes they’re permanent, like Kate’s surgery. If Kate had needed more home-based care, this resectioning might have become more permanent. This can happen in the third phase, when one partner requires a good deal more care.

Feeling level. Lighter.