We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Wakin’ Up Mornin’

Spring                                                                             Passover Moon

easterEaster morning. Sunrise services somewhere. The celebration of the resurrection and, by implication, the incarnation. As Passover defines Jews, Easter defines Christians. Whether you find the idea of resurrection absurd or inspiring, it heralds, as does Passover, the coming of spring. It’s not difficult, at least for me, to see the power of resurrection in the emergence of spring ephemerals: daffodils, crocus, grape hyacinth, early tulips, snowdrops, pasque flowers, bloodroot.

The same flowers could be seen as passover metaphors, too. Their emergence from the long sleep of winter makes good on promises made the year before as the bulbs, corms, rhizomes all stored up energy from the sun, drank in nourishment from the minerals of the soil and sipped up water from the sky, all gathered below ground after the leaves and flowers of last year withered away. The hiddenness of these promises and the darkness in which they flourish is like the life of the Hebrew slaves in the Egypt of the Exodus.

haggadahMoses reminds the slaves, and God, of the covenant made with Abraham long ago. That covenant is the bulb planted in the hiddenness and darkness of bondage. When God finally forces Pharaoh to let the slaves go free, the bulb begins to push its stalk toward the surface. Though it takes forty years of wandering for the stalk to break the surface in the Promised Land, the beauty of freedom’s flower has dazzled those struggling with their own personal or political bondage ever since.

My sister Mary’s friend, Anitha Devi Pillai, who teaches in Singapore with Mary, posted on facebook about the Kerala new year, Vishu, which is also celebrated right now. This was new to me, but it underscores the number of New Year holidays that honor the same rhythm of mother earth. The spring festivals in Korea and China, which come earlier, also mark the resurrection in fields and gardens.

These human holidays honor the emergent freedom from darkness and cold as each new flower and vegetable breaks the surface. VishuSo on this great wakin’ up morn, I’m greeting the sun, the greening lodgepole pines, the daffodils, the pasque flowers and bloodroot with a religious fervor.

During my cancer season two years ago I wrote about the consolation of Deer Creek Canyon, the stolid, very long term lifetime of the mountains that create the canyon. Today I’ll make note of the consolation of spring, its power to awaken wonder. We will all die, this we know, but the mountains will continue and so will the daffodils. Blessed be.

The Gulf of All Souls

Spring                                                                           Passover Moon

Under the full passover moon Kate and I drove over to Mt. Vernon Country Club for a community seder. There were about 60 people there, sitting in groups of 8 around circular tables. The dining room looked out to the south and east. As the sun set, the lights of Denver began to sparkle around Table Mesa in the distance.

Passover

The tables had platters of oblong chunks of gefilte fish, a bowl of haroset (a sweet mixture that symbolizes the mortar used by Hebrew slaves in Egypt), a small bowl of pink grated horseradish, a stack of matzo covered in a linen napkin, and a seder plate with the traditional passover items: lamb shank, boiled egg seared over a flame, parsley, haroset and maror (horseradish). And an orange. The orange is a recent addition to the passover plate-at least for Reconstructionists-and it symbolizes the fruitfulness of women’s contributions in Jewish history and in the present.passover-seder-plate-cropped-430x245

The haggadah, the telling of the story, contains all the prayers, readings, songs and explanations for the evening. The seder (order) of the passover celebration has 15 steps, symbolizing the 15 steps that led up to the Temple in Jerusalem. The Temple passover celebration had two priest on each of the fifteen steps and they sang the passover ritual as worshippers brought up their lamb for sacrifice.

The evening followed this ancient ritual, commemorated in Christian churches as the last supper and ritualized among them as communion or the eucharist.

Dirk-Bouts-The-Feast-of-the-Passover

Dirk-Bouts-The-Feast-of-the-Passover

As Kate and I got out of the car at Mt Vernon, a young woman asked, “Is this the place for the seder?” It was, I said. Her name was Leah. We walked in together, past the slightly ridiculous pretension of the lobby, its fireplace and the sitting room with the observation deck like windows. Down a set of stairs was a lower level under the sitting room.

We chatted casually with Leah. The room was almost empty then, not many had come. We were early. I went out on the big deck that overlooked Table Mesa and Leah followed. She knew Rabbi Jamie in the synagogue he served previously in Buffalo, New York.

“I’m bi-polar and I went on a road trip, trying to find someplace new. I went to Florida, drove all over and came this way but decided I couldn’t cross the mountains in the winter, so I ended up working in Boulder.”

Oh. I have bipolar illness in my family. Two aunts hospitalized, one died in the state hospital, another came out, but under heavy medication. “Oh. That’s good. Well, I mean it’s not good that you have bipolar in the family, but it’s good you understand.”

And I do. It was as if this ancient ritual, one that gathers the tribe across the world to honor its release from bondage, had found a member of that tribe who also belonged to mine. Leah sat next to me and we dipped our little fingers in the wine, the parsley in the salty water, the tears of those in bondage, ate our matzo with haroset and made our Hillel sandwiches, haroset and maror between two slices of matzo.

river-lb

The ways the universe conspires with us: it lets us paddle along the river of time for a bit, then puts us through some rapids, lets us drift into a clear pool, but always moves us forward through the Grand Canyon of our life, and sometimes helps us to land on shore for awhile, perhaps in a spot that looks familiar, yet is always new. At 70 the river which carries me is much closer to the Gulf of All Souls than it was in my twenties, but unlike then, I can see through the translucent canyon walls to the canoes of my friends, family and new acquaintances.

There are even moments, like an April passover meal in the Rocky Mountains, when we come together on the strand of our common journey, our lives and our rivers joined for a moment. We travel apart but we are not alone.

Sacred Time

Spring                                                                         Passover Moon

20160330_091630“You need a rest day.” “Not for cardio.” This exchange with Kate has reverberated since we had it a couple of days ago. “You need a rest day.” I’d taken Sundays for many years, but recently began doing a longer cardio workout on that day.

Then again. A rest day. A sabbath. Oh. Since early in my seminary days, I’ve been taken by the idea of sacred time. Christianity adopted the word and a changed practice from Judaism. Christians, except for the 7th Day Adventists, shifted the sabbath to Sunday and started the day in the morning, rather than on the night before. This was to emphasize that the Christian sabbath celebrated the resurrection. With the crucifixion recorded as happening on a Friday, three days later meant Jesus rose from the dead on Sunday.

Even in my youth Sunday had a special tone. Just why it should was not well understood intellectually, but it was strong in practice. We had church in the morning with Sunday School then communal worship, in our case sitting in the second pew from the back, on the west side of the sanctuary, under the stained glass window of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Mangas Cafeteria

Mangas Cafeteria

Afterward, we would often drive 7 miles to Elwood, Indiana and eat lunch at Mangas Cafeteria. This was a major event in our week since going to restaurants was a rare occurrence. I don’t recall if the later afternoon had much of a pattern, but we did often visit relatives on Sunday, too.

What I do know is that my body remembers Sunday as a day when doing nothing was encouraged. Even now, at 70, Sundays still have a languid feel, a pull away from the usual, whatever the usual is.

When I was in the ministry, Sunday was, ironically, a day of work, with Monday taking the place of Sunday, as it does for many Christian clergy. After I retired from the Presbyterian church in 1991, leaving behind Christianity for good, Sunday lost any sacred aura it had, but retained the languid overlay.

06 20 10_Garden_6705As many of you know, I began, not long after this time, to follow the Celtic sacred calendar, The Great Wheel, a practice now long embedded in my life as you can see each day on this blog in the upper left hand corner.

Now, with shabbat shalom a familiar greeting on Friday night and Saturday, I’m still fascinated with sacred time and wanting some version of the Jewish sabbath as part of my week. Why? Well, at its simplest, it’s a rest day. But, it’s a rest day with a purpose. The Jewish sabbath emphasizes relationships and torah study.

SabbathTable-1Work is discouraged (forbidden, in the stricter applications). The discipline includes not even discussing work on the sabbath, no planning for the next week. It also emphasizes personal spiritual development, torah study, attending services, private meditation. This is a day, once a week, strictly for being. Being in the here and now.

As I’ve written here before, this makes a lot of sense to me, even in retirement. So, I’m going to take my rest day starting on Friday night and continuing through Saturday night. I’m not becoming a Jew, nor do I want to play one on TV, but I believe I am becoming Jewish. That is, a lot of the cultural practices of Judaism resonate with my own spiritual development. Beth Evergreen encourages that growth and I find it nourishing. Trying out the sabbath, the old, original one, is part of that ancientrail and one I plan to walk on for now.

So, yes. A rest day. Kate was right. And today is that day.

At the Tallgrass Spa

Imbolc                                                                    Valentine Moon

 

tall grass spa

Tallgrass Spa on Upper Bear Creek Road. We had originally intended to go to Maui for my 70th birthday. We wanted to celebrate at Mama’s Fish House, where we’ve had both anniversary and birthday meals. The divorce and its impact on our time created a different focus for this February. Our plan was to celebrate our mutual entry into the 7th decade, Kate having preceded me, as she always does, in things age related.

We decided, instead, to combine our upcoming 27th anniversary (27!) with my birthday and Kate’s of last year by having a couples afternoon at the Tallgrass Spa in Evergreen.

tall grass view

As you drive in to the spa, this is the view toward the west. The mountains give any trip, no matter how short, a sense of majesty. The thirty minute drive from Shadow Mountain to Tallgrass is especially beautiful.

Upper Bear Creek Road begins at Evergreen Lake and continues for some miles. Along it are homes, many of them, that are big, stony or wooden, with elaborate grounds. This one sold recently for $2,300,000.

upper bear creek road

That was getting there. Once in the Spa we were given sandals to wear, shown to a room where we could change into Tallgrass robes (blue, one size fits all) and then taken to a quiet lounge area, beautiful with a fireplace, and a view of the mountains.

First, we had an 80 minute massage lying on tables next to each other with lots of hot oil, slippery hands, the scent of eucalyptus and mint and bergamot and, for me, a heated blanket, not for my Scandinavian wife.

In their relaxation of muscles the hands of the masseuse triggered memories, ones held in the body, not sure how they were resident there, but they were. An obvious one was her treatment of my knee, still somewhat swollen from the surgery. When her hands were on it, the journey of the last three months came forward. At another spot I remembered a moment in Rome on our honeymoon.

The biggest revelation though was the amount of tension, of anxiety I carried. As she relaxed me, I could feel my body tense, trying to get back to the state with which it had become familiar. We both knew the last nine months had been difficult ones for our family, but like all things, even that difficulty can become normal. On that table at Tallgrass my body told me so.

After this was a spa lunch, turkey sandwich for Kate, brie and fig sandwich for me. It was a pleasant time, sharing the lunch in the quiet lounge. We were creating a memory, probably the long time result, perhaps an alternative body narrative, too, for the last few months. That is, it was possible to relax even in the midst of family turmoil.

The last event of our day there was a pedicure. I’ve gone 70 years, literally, without ever having had a pedicure. The process fascinated me. In this room there were four throne like chairs lifted above the floor on risers, two steps up to them. Below the chair is a basin, a small sink, filled with soapy water. The pedicurist sits at the basin. Bare feet go into the water and the pedicurist cleans them, a very biblical, foot-washing moment and surprisingly intimate.

Did I want short or long nails? Short. She clipped my already short nails with a nail clipper. An implement somewhat like a dental pick but with a flattened end went underneath and around the toenails. Cuticle cream, tan and squirted on in small dabs, softened the cuticles, allowing Becky to clip my cuticles. I forgot the emery board which she used to smooth off rough edges.

All the while conversation was going back and forth among Kate, her pedicurist, Becky, me, and the woman getting her feet done in the chair next to Kate. The woman next to Kate was having a spa day paid for by her employer. Her husband was a chef. “I only make reservations,” she said, a line she’d obviously used before.

The talk turned to animals, llamas, dogs, mastiffs and rescues and bulldogs. Kate’s pedicurist, whose name I don’t recall, had a pitbull mix that had been attacked by a mountain lion a month and a half ago, but survived. She and Becky both live in Bailey. Sobering. Kate, whose throne was in the middle, could see out into a meadow across from Tallgrass where a herd of mule deer and several elk bucks wandered.

Exfoliation with a salt scrub came next. Becky rubbed a gently scratchy substance onto my feet, one at a time, sloughed it off with water, foliation and hydration with oil followed.

Touch, human touch, was the theme of the whole day. Where the massage was quiet, the pedicure was chatty, friendly and the lunch was just for us two. I’m now launched into my seventh decade, partnering with Kate as she walks the path, always ahead of me.

Why leave?

Imbolc                                                                            Valentine Moon

facebook1Often on Facebook I see people taking time off, time away. An article on how to cope with the flood of news now available and clamoring for our attention suggested not reading any news online at all. Read a newspaper and when you finish it, throw it away. Of course, the idea of a vacation is not reserved for hypervigilant news consumers-like me, for instance-but has broad application in the workplace, too.

It’s an interesting notion, vacating something we either enjoy too much or have too much of, regardless of its valence for us. The theory is, of course, that we leave something behind for awhile, don’t interact with it. We distract ourselves by going on a cruise, hopping a plane to another state or another country. We “unplug”, an interesting metaphor, from the internet or from Facebook or Instagram or whatever time eater we’ve grown accustomed to using.

good-for-the-soulI’m a bit suspicious of our motivations. We may be solving the wrong problem. I love travel, seeing new places and becoming a stranger in someone else’s world. I love travel not as a distraction from work or home or the current political climate, but for itself, for the fact of being, literally, somewhere else. It seems to diminish travel, at least as I understand it, to use it as escape. Perhaps the differences here are prepositional. In my sense of travel, I travel to places. In the escapist sense we travel away from something.

When we feel a need to escape a cyber world, a work situation, a too familiar home setting, a relationship, is escape the best answer? I’d say no. The more important question is why do we feel the need to escape? What in the current situation seems so unresolvable that only leaving it behind can help?

Those of us who’ve spent any time in AA meetings know about the notion of geographical escape. Alcoholics often convince themselves that only if they were in a new place, a new job, a new relationship, then their troubles would melt away, vanish. The trouble with the geographical escape is the cliched, but true: Wherever you go, there you are. The you addicted to alcohol travels with you.

chiloAddiction is an overused idea, so I’m not going to talk about Facebook addiction or any other, but the issue in all these instances seems the same as a yearning for geographical escape. Something is not working right now, so I need to go. The problem is, there you are.

In other words distractions like new places, new people, new things to do don’t change your inner life. The first question is, what in me needs to be away from this? Is it that this work just doesn’t fit me anymore? Is it that I’ve worked too hard and become exhausted? Have I read and read and read about other people’s lives while forgetting to be in my own? Have I somehow misused the opportunity that this job or this person or this cyberplace has to offer?

Answering these sort of questions before deciding to vacate makes a lot of sense to me. This is not an anti-vacation diatribe, however. Rather, it is a how you define is how you solve sort of diatribe. Identify the true issue and work on that first. Then, figure out someplace or something you can move towards, travel to the beach or the mountains or Korea or the ballgame, not away from wherever you are.

Imbolc, 2017

Imbolc                                                                                 Valentine Moon

 

Feb

Imbolc, or in-the-belly, celebrates the time in Ireland when the ewes would freshen. Their pregnancies meant milk would be available after the long fallow season that had begun at Samain, Summer’s End.

Pregnant ewe

Pregnant ewe

Imbolc lies halfway between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox, what the Celt’s called a cross-quarter holiday since it falls between two quarters defined by the solar year. That milk is also a promise, like the gradual lengthening of days after the longest night of the year in late December, that spring and the growing season will come.

It’s easy for us in our refrigerated, grocery stored world to gloss over these signals of the natural world. It seems like we don’t require them anymore. After all we can buy milk, cow’s milk, at any time of the day or night, 365 days a year. And the growing season particular to our latitude and longitude also seems irrelevant since it’s always the growing season somewhere on earth. The occasional gaps that even modern transportation can’t resolve can often be filled by greenhouse or hydroponically grown produce. We’re good, right?

I’m afraid not. Celebrating Imbolc or any of the Great Wheel holidays will not resolve our alienation from the sources of our sustenance, the sun and mother earth, but this ancient tradition exists to call us back home. The Great Wheel is a reminder that the cycle of life continues, even when the fields and animals are barren. The power of the sun, working in harmony with the soil, with plants, with animals that eat the plants does not disappear. It can be trusted.

awakening

It is though, that alienation, evident in so many ways, that drives climate change, that creates produce modified for harvest and storage, not human well-being, that underwrites the paving over of cropland and wetlands. We imagine that somehow the droughts in California will stop there. We hope they’ll be confined to somewhere else, somewhere where we’re not. Global agriculture means we’ll be affected wherever the damage occurs.

Colorado River Basin

Right here in Colorado we have a key example of the interdependence for which the Great Wheel stands. Our snowpack, high in the Rockies where the Colorado River rises for its journey south toward its ancient destination in the Gulf of California, determines the amount of water available to nine states. Including California. Winter snowfall, melted by the increasing warmth of spring and summer, nourishes millions of people, cities like Las Vegas, Phoenix and Los Angeles.

common ground

In the age of Trump and rising nationalist, right wing populism, the need for the Great Wheel has never been more profound. It softens our in the moment, human conflicts by lifting up the long term, the cycles of life in which all humans, all life participate. The Great Wheel reminds us that there is no other when it comes to living on this planet. We’re all here and bound to one another, connected. My hope is that someday, perhaps someday soon, we’ll all realize that and adjust our politics accordingly.

 

Love Is Still Its Heart

Winter                                                                   New (Valentine) Moon

I turn 70 next month. Not a particularly notable achievement since the silver tsunami includes millions doing the same thing this year, but, hey; it’s my only chance to hit three score and ten. Kate’s been there ahead of me and knows the territory, so have many friends. Thus, the Valentine moon.

kileaua

The old man on Shadow Mountain, that’ll be me after Valentine’s Day. One piece of gathered wisdom from the time so far: life is still precious, love is still its heart.

 

 

 

 

Year of the Rooster

Winter                                                                    Cold Moon

Year-of-the-Rooster_144543

Welcome to the year of the Rooster. Yes, the Chinese New Year is upon us, early this year, coming in late January rather than in February. Sister Mary always reminds me because Singapore has a large Chinese population and the Chinese New Year is a major festival moment there. One of the intriguing things about Singapore is its willingness, often for commercial purposes, to celebrate a diverse calendar of holidays.

Korea and other Asian countries, too, also celebrate the Spring Festival, which begins on New Year’s Day, January 27th this year, and runs for 15 days until the Lantern Festival. Of course, a Spring Festival will have to wait here on Shadow Mountain where the temperature is 15 degrees and our north facing backyard has had snow for a couple of months.

Two years ago I called Joseph and SeoAh during the Spring Festival. They were at the country house, her parent’s home in far southern Korea about 30 miles from Gwangju. SeoAh, in her upbeat way, took the phone around the house and had me greet her parents, her siblings and their spouses, their children. Everybody was home for the holiday.

This is Joseph’s year. He’s a rooster, a metal rooster:

Metal Rooster 1921, 1981 Clear mind and exceptional logic, brave to overcome difficulties.

Seems right to me.

I have one negative association with the year of the Rooster:

trumpster

 

The Year of the Absent December

Winter                                                         Cold Moon

lionTwo good friends, Allison and Tom, have recommended I see Lion, on my list for this week, especially now that I’m mobile, both on foot and behind the wheel. Yes, the knee is becoming much less painful though strength and stamina will take a while to regain. Not sure whether it’s the drug cocktails I’ve been taking or what, but sleep has become a precious commodity again, not easily found in batches long enough to feel rested. Ick.

2016 will be year of the absent December for me. My 20161203_083526surgery was December 1st and much of the first two weeks + I spent in a narcotic haze. Or so Kate tells me. The remainder of the month has been physical therapy and figuring out how to manipulate the meds so they help me rather than hurt me. Not an easy task.

The good part was having the grandkids here for most of Hanukkah. When Kate and I returned them to Jen yesterday, Ruth came back to the car to say goodbye to me. We touched hands and she smiled, a furtive lightning of her face. I said, “Remember what I told you about your audition.” (that I have faith in you) She said she remembered. This is her audition for the Denver School of the Arts. She presents her portfolio and sits for an interview.

Kate after election day

Kate after election day

Next big medical event is Kate’s endoscopy tomorrow. This is a follow-up on an occult blood finding, so it could have serious implications, though I’m not expecting them. I have physical therapy at 7:15 a.m., then we head down the hill on 285 to Swedish Hospital for a 9 a.m. procedure.

A sequelae of the absent December is waking up from it to a New Year. What will I do in 2017? Will it be continuous with the first two years here? Or, will I rethink it all, maybe reshuffle the deck one more time? I’m leaning toward the latter. There will be Superior Wolf, yes. There will be workouts, yes. There will Beth Evergreen. There will, I decided yesterday, be Latin. I’m picking that project up again beginning this week. But, beyond those and how those fit with other potentials? I don’t know. I do know that taking a big insult to my physicality, even for a good cause, has got me in a contemplative mood, wondering, once again, about how life fits together.

I’m going to be in the newspaper!

Winter                                                                 Cold Moon

mechanixsaucerHere we are in 2017. Like many baby boomers now heading into their 70’s, I still find the notion of writing the year with a 20 instead of a 19 challenging. No, not in that I mistakenly put 1917 instead of 2017, but in that 2017 sounds like a year that should have flying cars, a Mars colony and vid implants. Yet, what it really has is Donald Trump, Russian hackers and the neverending war in the Middle East. What a let down.

Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe and I went to Beth Evergreen last night for a 5:30 rededication ceremony sponsored jointly by Beth Evergreen and the local Episcopal church. Jon and the kids were on their way into Denver for the fireworks on the 16th Street Mall, a family tradition for them.

havdalahIt was a short, but interesting service. Rabbi Jamie Arnold did the havdalah ritual to end the sabbath then went into the lighting of the Hanukkah candles. Hanukkah means dedication, so this time as a time of rededication made sense. The end of the 8 day holiday happened to coincide with New Year’s Eve and the end of the sabbath.

In the middle of the service there was an opportunity for renewing marriage vows. Kate and I went up, along with four other couples. It was surprisingly moving. We agreed to take each other as husband and wife again. We held hands and squeezed. Kissed. Got me wanting more of that kind of feeling in 2017.

Afterward, we had latkes and cheese and applesauce made by Leah, the congregation’s administrator. Ruth was excited because a reporter from the Canyon Courier had asked her name after she went up for the menorah lighting. “I’m going to be in the paper!”

20161229_161545Naturally, that meant I came home and subscribed to the Canyon Courier. Our old paper, the High Timber Times, went out of business in October and I’d been meaning to subscribe to the Courier anyway. It covers Evergreen and its immediate area. We get into Evergreen often and feel increasingly connected to it as a community, much more so than Conifer. Conifer is a name only, no municipal government, no downtown, no real sense of identity as a community.

20160410_121351Kate and I spent an hour or so talking about 2017 after we came home, what our hopes were. A common wish was “no more medical crises!” In spite of our real and growing affection for Colorado, the Rockies and our family here, we’ve had a string of medical matters that have given us pause. We also want to get some vacation time in this year, probably in Colorado and also in Georgia.

Joseph and SeoAh have told us they’re going to start trying for a baby as soon as he gets back from Qatar. We’ll visit them in Macon sometime after they return there in April. SeoAh is still in Korea. She says it snowed there last week. She sends me pictures of her time with her nieces and nephews.

April 2017
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930

Breadcrumbs

Trails