We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Becoming Native

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon

20180211_120056Life still trickling by. A bit of snow over the last few days, colder now, in the Colorado measure of that term. So relative. Saw a facebook meme with Texans in parkas at 70 degrees. Could have countered that with a Minnesotan in shorts at ten below. Meanwhile 11, last night, felt pretty cold after three years here. These gross physical acclimatizations  are easy to spot, but what about the more subtle mental adjustments?

How does the mind change, for example, when it goes up and down mountains, around curves into canyons, rather than coasting across the flat lands of the Midwest? Or, what about looking up and seeing ovular lenticular clouds, high flying cirrus against blue sky? When fall comes and the changes are only in the aspen, a mass of gold variations, what happens to the heart used to deciduous colors?

Political colorations are different here, too. That thick vein of let me alone libertarianism too often gets mined for political results that would make even conservative Minnesotans cringe. Immigrants to the state, like Kate and me, drag along with us expectations that government should be of, by and most of all, for the people. This is a far from universal sentiment in the West. We’re adding new strata to the political geography, but the whole still feels very alien to me.

becoming nativeThis is all by way of becoming native to this place, a key element in my pagan creed borrowed from Wes Jackson at the Land Institute. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? That’s why I love it, the challenging notion that we can be of a new place in a very old, intimate way, through what Rabbi Jamie would call Torah study, close attention, close attention to details and to our own inner world, compassionate attention willing to be shaped by what we find.

IMAG0861Kate and I did it on the Great Anoka Sand Plain. Over the Andover years we listened to the soil, to the rhythms of the growing season. We stuck our hands in the soil, partnered with it. We planted trees and fruit bearing shrubs. There was the open prairie we cultivated on either sides of the more traditional suburban lawn carpet. Bees, with whom we partnered, for honey. Dogs who used the woods as their home and hunting ground. By the time we left we were native to that place. Its rhythms shaped our own and together we created a place to live.

It’s happening here, too. A long and nuanced process, still in its early days, but one that has promise for the Great Work, creating a sustainable presence for humans on this planet.

 

Imbolc 2018

Imbolc                                                                    Imbolc Moon

imbolcImbolc, as long time readers of this blog probably recall, means in the belly. This cross-quarter holiday comes between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. It lies at the most desperate point of the year for an agricultural culture with no refrigeration. If it was a good harvest before the beginning of the fallow season at Samain, all right; but, if it was a poor or even mediocre harvest, then supplies might be running out.

This might mean awful choices must be made. Do you eat the seed grain, which you need to plant next year’s crop? Do you slaughter an animal which you need to breed, because you can’t feed it and your family?

A potential salvation lay in the sheep. The ewes, now pregnant, a lamb in-the-belly, would begin to freshen, produce milk, a source of nourishment that might be enough to get the family, the village, through until spring. Even in good years the freshening of the ewes was a time of celebration. It meant the fallow time was drawing to a close. Spring was near and the growing season would commence.

The Great Wheel turns. The sabbath for the land continues through Imbolc, awaiting the warmer temperatures and rains around the equinox.

imbolc-witch-picturesAn interesting annual spiritual practice I found at Heron’s Rook, but could not relocate even after searching there, begins at Samain. Heron, the witch who writes this blog, calls the annual focus, the great work. I’m going to reimagine it here. The general idea is hers, but the specifics are as I vaguely remember them or as my reimagining suggests they could be.

We go fallow at Samain, too, letting the last year’s work feed us as we consider what might make for a good crop in the coming year. On the Winter Solstice go deep into your own darkness, celebrate what roots in your soul, what is even now gathering nourishment from the soil of your inner garden.

On Imbolc, where we are right now, let the spiritual or creative elements of that which grows within you come to the surface, give you sustenance as you await the fullness of its birth.What you await is a purpose, a project, a great work strong enough to sustain focused energy over the growing season or several seasons. At Imbolc it’s still nascent, unformed, perhaps unrecognizable as what it will become. But its growth has already begun to feed you.

Around the vernal equinox let it out, bring it into the sunlight of the new spring. Let it gambol in the fields of your heart. Feed it. Embrace its newborn animal nature. You might see it as a puppy or a kitten, a lamb. It’s new in the world and must be fed, but just as much as physical needs it has a need to explore, to greet the new world in which it now lives.

imbolc-festival marsdenThis is the moment to run like crazy with that potential new work, examine all the ways it can go, let it loose. See what it needs to explore, to learn. By Beltane, the beginning of the growing season, you will know the skeletal structure of your new work. You will have followed its maturation from the dark of the Winter Solstice through its puppy like eagerness, to the now formed project or direction.

Over the course of the growing season you will give this great work for the year what it needs to thrive. Plenty of sunshine, water. You’ll weed around it. Provide it food. If its completion coincides with Samain, then the process will begin again.

As I wrote this, I realized that for me, I’d probably flip it. That is, I’d start the incubation process at Beltane, let the new great work grow over the Summer Solstice, let its creative energy begin to emerge around Lughnasa, bring it into the world around Mabon, or the fall equinox, and get down to serious work on it at Samain. This is because I find the cold and the bleakness of the fallow time most conducive to creative work.

An interesting idea, I think.

Night and Death. Yes.

Imbolc                                                                      Imbolc Moon

20180131_185045The Imbolc moon has had its night in earth’s shadow, its night as super and blue and red. Hey, up in the sky, it’s Supermoon! And last night it was wonderful again. High, full, behind a faint veil of clouds. Orion and the moon. My two favorite celestial objects. Well, ok, the sun, too, but I can never look at it.

Something in a full moon moves me to the depths of my soul. I can find myself tearing up, a catch in my throat at the sheer extravagance of its beauty. It’s offered over and over, available to all, free.

So, too, Orion. He rises. Greets any who bother to find him. He stands always ready astride the horizon, a hunter and his dog. I don’t know whether he remembers our nights in Muncie while I watched over the entrance gate at the factory, but I like to think he does.

The night sky, in its shorter versions and in its Winter Solstice maximum, offers solace to those of us who want it. The night is, to paraphrase LP Hartley, a foreign country. They do things different there.

caphLast night I went back to Beth Evergreen, more kabbalah. Studying the kabbalah at night, especially under a full moon. Yes. Learning about more double letters: Pey, Caph, Reish, Tav.

I know this Jewish immersion of mine must seem odd to some of you who read this; but, it’s happened over many years, a sort of there and back again phenomenon. In this current instance Kate’s conversion long ago made us seek out a synagogue, just to see. We found Beth Evergreen, a special place, unique I imagine, even among Reconstructing congregations.

It was long ago though I read Isaac Bashevis Singer. Chaim Potok. Later, Rebecca Goldstein. It was long ago that I walked into the synagogue in Muncie for an anthropology assignment. It was long ago that I dated the jeweler’s daughter, Karen Singer, and found her father’s knowledge of philosophy astounding. Over the years many Jews have come into my life and I’ve always felt comfortable around them. As if we shared a common spirit. At Beth Evergreen that feeling surfaced immediately and has grown deeper over time.

green Natural-Burial--275x275Being part of the tribe? No. Not for me. Walking along with the tribe as it wends its way through this moment in time? Yes.

Let me give you an example. The friend I mentioned yesterday, Bonnie Houghton, the green cemetery and burial, rabbi in training, Bonnie, got me going on the Recycle Me idea. It fits so well with my pagan sensibility and it’s something I can act on through this community.

Yesterday was Tu B’Shvat, the new year of the trees. It’s a part of the Jewish holiday year, just like Yom Kippur, Purim and Passover. Kate and I went to the celebration yesterday before kabbalah. Later, as I rested before returning for kabbalah, an image struck me: a Tu B’Shvat celebration in our yet-to-be green cemetery. We would be honoring trees, trees of all kinds yes, but especially, in this celebration, those trees growing from the graves of deceased members of Beth Evergreen.

Can you imagine? An ancient holiday celebrating trees and the gifts that they offer, now including trees with their roots literally in members of the congregation? How mystical, how wonderful would that be. Out there, on the mountain side, perhaps a mountain stream running nearby, a breeze rolling down the slope and my tree, the tree that is a tree and me, our leaves rustling as the gathered folks sing, pray. Yes.

 

 

Cemeteries or the State of the Union?

Winter                                                                        Imbolc Moon

green burialInstead of watching the state of the union Kate and I participated in a presentation on green burial and the possibility of creating a green cemetery. Beth Evergreen has been moving, slowly, toward a Jewish cemetery over the last six years, but Bonnie Houghton, a rabbi in training and former long time Forest Service employee has accelerated the process through her own efforts. In her current work with the Mountain Land Trust she sees properties presented for conservation easements. Some don’t qualify for that purpose, but would work well for green cemeteries, where burials eschew vaults, fancy caskets and backhoes for hand-dug graves, wicker/pine/cardboard/shroud coverings for the corpse, and small, usually flush with the ground grave markers.

Bonnie’s smart and skilled, also dogged. My sense is that her recent work might push this project over the threshold from possibility to actuality. What’s needed is some money, in the range of $250,000 to $350,000, a corporation of some sort, I suggested a co-op, and a plot of land. Bonnie and Rebecca, a CBE member and realtor, showed pictures of three properties ranging in size from 15 acres to 40+ acres.

green burial thanksI found this conversation oddly energizing. Something about the cliched final resting place has more resonance as I move toward my 71st birthday. Having a cemetery which celebrates the natural order of life and death with decay rather than chemicals, concrete, and metal makes so much sense to me. Having a tree planted over my cremains, or in them, feels right. Too, we could bury the remains of our many dogs with us. That would make for a unique family plot.

Now, we could have spent yesterday evening listening to the Donald try to make up for a year of unending bullshit, but we chose something productive, something focused on life and death rather than forehead slapping, groans and despair. Odd, isn’t it, that a discussion of burials and cemeteries would have more life in it than a used-to-be important political moment? The times in which we live now. I wish they’d start to decay. Soonest.

 

 

Humans don’t try to dominate. We listen. We adjust.

Winter                                                                  The Moon of the Long Nights

lunarflow, Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

lunarflow, Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

The full Moon of the Long Nights glows in the west this morning, roughly over Evergreen. Its gentle light blots out many stars, but makes up for that in its own silvery beauty.

The moon is a place alien to us in spite of its ubiquity. We see it most nights, know its facing terrain intimately, most of it visible through good binoculars. We’ve even sent a few humans to walk upon it, twelve all told, but that small number underscores rather than challenges its wildness. Even if humans settle on the moon, its surface will still be no place for unprotected human bodies. We were not made for that place even though it is our closest solar system neighbor. It is the first outpost of the wilderness, the strange and foreign place, that is everything else in the vastness of space.

There are still places on earth where we can experience wildness. High Country News, a magazine that focuses on issues effecting the contemporary West, has become a favorite read of mine; and, in its Christmas issue, featured an article by Outside writer and editor, Christopher Solomon, “In the Home of the Bear.”

mcneil_travelSolomon recounts a visit to the McNeil River Sanctuary. He won a chance to visit this protected spot for the Alaskan brown bear in an annual lottery. The fairly long quote below has rattled around in my mind since I read it a week or so ago. It reveals, at least to me, a path we could walk to accomplish Thomas Berry’s Great Work for our time, creating a sustainable human presence on this planet, our home in the wildness of space.

The he in the first sentence is Larry Aumiller, a manager of the sanctuary for three decades. He “spent three decades studying how humans could live in harmony with Ursus arctos on the landscape.”

McNeil_Falls_in_July, DrewHH - Own work

McNeil_Falls_in_July, DrewHH – Own work

…over time, he learned how humans and bears could reside together.

And what works? First of all, restraint — not bulling into the landscape. Bears don’t like surprises. Moving slow and being predictable are good starts. That’s why humans walk the same trails, about the same times every day, and in the same group size. Over decades of such long and careful practice, the bears here have learned to see humans as another presence on the landscape — neither the source of a meal, nor the cause of pain or fear. They are “neutrally habituated,” in the argot of this place…

Almost everywhere else, the ability for humans and bears to move easily among each other has been lost. What is different at McNeil is that humans don’t try to dominate. We listen. We adjust. We find out how it all fits together, and where we fit in. “Here we learn that we can live among the great bears,” Fair writes. “Here we learn the human behaviors that allow this.””  In the Home of the Bear, High Country News

Humans don’t try to dominate. We listen. We adjust. We find out how it all fits together, and where we fit in. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be…

With Joyful Interpenetration for All

Samain                                                                       Bare Aspen Moon

found in High Country News, by Gary Snyder:

 

I pledge allegiance to the soil

of Turtle Island

and to the beings who thereon dwell

one ecosystem

in diversity

under the sun

with joyful interpenetration for all

There Is No End of History

Samain                                                                           Joe and SeoAh Moon

The moon is a waning crescent. Orion has moved from a position due south of us, when he first rose this year, to a position to the westsouthwest, just beyond Black Mountain toward Evergreen.

Sky, near infrared

Sky, near infrared

This reminds me that planet means wanderer in the original Greek. “Greek astronomers employed the term asteres planetai (ἀστέρες πλανῆται), “wandering stars”,[1][2] to describe those starlike lights in the heavens that moved over the course of the year, in contrast to the asteres aplaneis (ἀστέρες ἀπλανεῖς), the “fixed stars“, which stayed motionless relative to one another.” wiki We know now that even the fixed stars are not fixed, but are in motion relative to each other. Each galaxy moves in relation to the others, our whole solar system is in motion, too.

There is no fixed point. Continents drift, the earth itself wobbles, the moon’s orbit is decaying. In fact, there is no evidence that any of the things contained in the vastness of the universe are permanent. Black holes swallow stars. The eventual-in this case eventual covers a really, really long period-fate of all things, according to the Big Bang theory and its correlate, the expanding universe, is a big cooling, followed by many black holes which suck in and destroy everything. The black holes themselves dissolve due to Hawking radiation. And no thing is left. At least in our universe. Probably. Today’s best understanding suggests something like this as the ultimate end. Of the other, potential universes, the multiverses of string theory, I don’t know.

Space expansionSo what? Death, or at least extinction, is characteristic not only of life, but of the thing in itself, the ding an sich that Kant named the reality beyond our sensory mediation. I suppose this means Ragnarok is the true theological observation about even deity. Nirvana and moksha both promise release from the cycle of death and rebirth. Hmmm. Metaphysically not possible in this universe since the time frames assumed here are infinite. Even heaven. Obliterated. Wings, halos, heavenly choirs. Chilled out in the end.

This leaves us with the compression of time that our human lifespan grants us or forces upon us, depending on your viewpoint. And, it means that all religious speculation is, finally, not about life after death, for we know how that story finishes up, but about living this one life, or these serial lives. Reincarnation is not ruled out by the big bang. Just that it will not, cannot, go on forever.

thrownIt also takes me to Heidegger’s notion of thrownness, that at birth we are deposited into a specific place, with particular parents, in a community in a nation on a continent, in a unique time period, of which we can experience at most 100 years or so, 100 revolutions around the sun. This we know is ours, barring a Trumpian/Kimian nuclear catastrophe or the eruption of one of the world’s super volcanoes or the sudden emergence of a life ending meteor. This life. This brief flash of brilliance that is you.

How shall we live in this, the moment of our existence? This is the question. Many religious and ethical and political and economic systems have arisen as answers. None of them have proved universal, none of them have proved lasting, even in the relatively short historical period. When we peek up over the rim of our fundamental assumptions, we see an anarchic reality, shifting, transforming, its shape guided in part by chance, in part by consciousness.

The world’s religions, in any time, including now, have often suggested that they can peek over that same rim and see order. That they have texts, revelations (the peek), which offer guidance about life as it should conform to that order. Except they conflict. Except we know the physical evidence they see is not ordered at all, at least not in the moral/ethical way they claim, but is, instead, in motion toward dissolution.

taoismTaoism makes the most sense to me in terms of how to live with this understanding. We flow with it, we live on the journey that presents itself to us. Grabbing any tool, political or economic or religious or ethical, and reasoning deductively about what must be is going to result in error, often huge error, at enormous cost in lives.

This is not an argument against religion, or economics, or politics though it may sound like that. It is an argument for humility, for acceptance of our limits, against the hubris of metaphysical certainty. In this view then the teachings of any faith, the hopes of any style of government, the transactional world of any economics, should (and I use this word advisedly) be weighed against their results in the daily life of people and the world that supports them. Bad results equal bad faith, bad governance, bad economy. Good results equal good faith, good governance, good economy. But nothing more than this because even good faith and good governance and good economy has limits. There is no end of history. There is only an ultimate end to everything.

 

Moose

Samain                                                                    Joe and SeoAh Moon

Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA

Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA

The Moose.  Been awhile since I’ve written about my totem animal. I didn’t gain the moose in a sweat lodge or a vision quest. Nor did a psychic or friend suggest it.

Nope. Got to thinking about myself a long while ago. Introverted, wandering the forests by myself, not easily cowed, even by predators. Usually alone. And the moose came to mind.

May not be pretty, but they stand tall and act with vigor. I know no one picks a field mouse as their totem animal and that self-selection is sort of frowned upon; but, moose just seemed to fit.

Up here they live not far away, wandering the Arapaho and Pike National Forests. In fact, a male showed up in the meadow at the base of Shadow Mountain just over a month ago. Their only foe, the wolf, is no longer present here, so their numbers have gone up after a recent re-introduction by Colorado Natural Resources. The moose in Minnesota are in trouble, thanks mainly to global warming. The winters are no longer cold enough to consistently kill off the ticks that plague them. Not sure why that isn’t true here in Colorado.

I guess what appealed to me about the moose is its solitary nature, its home turf in the wilderness, its majesty. Moose are one of the iconic animals of the north along with wolves and loons and ravens. Out here in the Rockies they join the buffalo and the wild horse, the grizzly bear, the mountain lion, the elk. I see myself as a man of the north and now, too, of the west, but especially the mountains, so we share a home range, two of them in fact.

Language of the Dumb

Samain                                                                      Joe and SeoAh Moon

moon-to-the-moonWhen Kate and I came home from the Gary Hart presentation on Sunday night, the moon, nearly full, rode low on the horizon, huge and white, half covered by scudding clouds. It then played with us like a bubble dancer, grabbing this cumulus and that one to cover itself, showing more then less of the old man on its face. After the horizon was no longer visible the moon shone through the lodgepole pines of the Arapaho National Forest, illuminating this home to wild critters as we climbed the mountains on our way to Black Mountain Drive.

The everyday and everynight beauty of these mountains still makes my heart sing, now almost three full years into this move. Yesterday coming up Shadow Mountain Drive, it came to me that I was learning the rhythms here, driving with more confidence because it was daytime and the deer, the elk normally show up at dawn and dusk. At that exact moment, as this thought came to me, a movement on the shoulder caught my eye. A fox. A healthy red-orange fox with a huge bushy tail had started out to cross the road, noticed me coming and paused. The mountains had spoken.

1509361960968The language, the speech of the inanimate and the dumb, is all around us, sending us clear messages. Dogs are an obvious example. The longer you live with dogs, especially multiple dogs, the more their language becomes clear. The lean, the movement toward a door, the excited dance, the playful bow, the bark of warning, the one of joy. Friend Bill Schmidt, a farmer as well a nuclear engineer and cyber mage, has told me of dairy cattle and their affections.

As a gardener, the soil communicated with me through the health or dis-ease of the plants Kate and I grew. If the leaves were less than a deep green, I suspected missing soil nutrients and worked to correct them. The plants themselves told me when they were too dry with droopy leaves, when they needed pruning with too many branches or stalks, when they were ready to yield their work for the season.

On a more mystical level three mule deer visited me on the Samain afternoon when I first came to this house. We stood, eye to eye, for several minutes as they told me they lived here, were my neighbors, that we would be together after that moment, that we were welcome. They came not for feed or attention, but as emissaries, messengers, angels of the mountain and the forest.

The sky tells us what weather comes, then delivers it to us, helping us gauge the nature of our changing climate. In this same way people we meet communicate to us through body language, a hunched shoulder, a slight turn away, eyes that light on some aspect of a room. All around us language, everywhere communication. If only we see.

Kabbalah says so, too

Fall                                                                                  Joe and SeoAh Moon (and Murdoch, too)

from Post Secret.

magical

pope

 

February 2018
M T W T F S S
« Jan    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728  

Breadcrumbs

Trails