We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Waiting for the darkness

Beltane                                                                             Sumi-e Moon

Got an e-mail from Mario Odegard. “…over Loveland pass to Dillon, WOWww mind blowing.” The mountains have that way about them. He was on his way to visit a friend in Frisco.

Summer2Probably not many folks count down to the Summer Solstice, but I do. It marks my favorite turning point in the year, the point when the dark begins to overtake the light. Yes, it’s the day of maximum daylight, but that’s just the point, maximum. After the summer solstice, nighttime begins a slow, gradual increase until my favorite holiday of the year, the Winter Solstice.

This may sound sinister, but it doesn’t feel like that to me. I’ve long been struck by the fecundity of darkness: the top six inches of the soil, the womb, dreams, the silence. In my world darkness is a place of growth and inspiration, a place where insistent vision can rest while other senses, some of them unknown, can take over the load.

winter solstice4Summer and the light has its charms and its importance, too, of course. A warm summer evening. The growing season. The ability to see with clarity. The sun is a true god without whose beneficence we would all die. Worthy of our devotion. And, btw, our faith. So I get it, you sun worshipers. My inner compass swings in a different, an obverse direction.

 

Sad. Conflicted.

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

decoration-day-190x300Memorial day. Means honoring war dead and veterans. Means the 500 mile race in Indy. Means parades.  Means heat and sticky asphalt depressing under the weight of tanks and half-tracks in small towns.

In my immediate family. Mom and Dad both veterans of WWII. Mom overseas in Algiers and Italy. The Casbah, Capris, Johan the ceramic dachshund. Dad flying liaison planes, dropping sacks of flour as “bombs” for training, ferrying Manhattan project scientists, flying under utility wires for fun, getting caught in a thunderhead, wanting to jump but unable to open the door due to air pressure.

Joseph, now a major, serving longer than either one. A weapons officer. Calling a B-1 bomber to overfly North Korea during his deployment there. Directing bombers over Libya during the elimination of Qaddafi’s regime. Meeting SeoAh in Seoul, spilling coffee on her. Training flights, check rides, top secret security clearances. Now considering what his next career move might be. Could be part of any action in Korea.

weapons school graduation

weapons school graduation

And me. In the struggle against the Vietnam War, before Iraq and the forever war in Afghanistan our stupidest military intervention. Embarrassed now at the fact that I took some of my anger out on U.S. military folk. They act under orders and we need them for defense. They don’t choose where they fight. The evil bastards were the McNamara’s, the Cheney’s, Bolton’s, Wolfowitz’s. They were war mongers, playing out their racist, jingoist fantasies with the lives of my son and others like him. Let me say that again. Bastards.

I remember all of this on Memorial Day. The great sadness of rows and rows of crosses decorated with flags. Speeches made in cemeteries where lie those sacrificed to Ares. War planes flying over head, bands playing America the Beautiful, the National Anthem. Old women with sashes and young children waving small flags. The colors marching on before.

memorial day casbahConflicted. Glad beyond words that the Nazi’s dream died and at the hands of some of us, my parents included. Glad that Korea, South Korea, remained free so Joe could meet SeoAh, who grew up in that same Korea. Glad that we are strong, able to defend our homeland. Wary, but sometimes proud, that we can intervene on behalf of others. Angry that we too often spend lives and treasure in pursuit of one ideology or another, ideologies held by crass men like Trump and his kind. The Bannon’s and the Pompeo’s. There is no clear yes, no clear no, only a muddy world in which bad things happen to good and bad people alike.

Yes, I remember. On Memorial Day. These things.

 

Life in the Big Mountains

Beltane                                                                                     Sumi-e Moon

Yesterday at 8 am Kate went to P.T. and I went to On the Move Fitness. They’re next door to each other. While Kate continued rehabbing her shoulder, I went through my new workout for the second time. The previous session had ouched my lower back some, so Deb modified some of the exercises.

I felt so righteous about having my workout done at 8 am, I relaxed until time for mussar at 1 pm. Anyhow new workout under my belt.

Over to C.J.’s Chicago Dogs to pick up a couple of Italian Beefs for supper. Tasty and nostalgic. Good Chicago memories. I’ve always liked Chicago and spent a good bit of time there earlier in my life.

Then, a little t.v., Midsomer Murders and reading a new book, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, a post-modern feminist riff on the story of Jekyll and Hyde. It includes Dr. Moreau and Sherlock Holmes as characters. Fun. Been doing a lot of heavy lifting with books like the Order of Time, qabbalah and the Dead Sea Scrolls, so something just for entertainment.

Today our first Blizzaks go off and away, three and a half winters of service, time to buy a new set for the upcoming winter. Oil change. Air conditioning rejuvenation. Lot of driving today. Going over to Tara Saltzman for tea and bees. She and Arjan want to talk about their bees, maybe I’ll do a hive inspection.

Memorial day weekend. Feels holidayish already. Camper races have started, 285 will be a parking lot later today. Lots of preliminary complaining by locals. Fortunately we don’t have to drive 285 unless we choose to, so we can work around holiday traffic.

Over the last week or so, out

Beltane                                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

Mother's Day at the New York Deli. Not Rudy. Or, is it?

Mother’s Day at the New York Deli. Not Rudy. Or, is it?

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Source of genuine Italian Beef in Evergreen

Source of genuine Italian Beef in Evergreen

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Evergreen, Vienna Beef

The Bean, Evergreen

The Bean, Evergreen

Reenchanted

Beltane                                                                                  Mountain Moon

kilauea fissure 7, opening on May 5th

Kilauea fissure 7, opening on May 5th

Still fascinated by the eruption of Kilauea. The Leilani Estates, houses bursting into flame, residents standing dazed by their vehicles after evacuating, monster movie scenes like the one below, show humans as do many Song dynasty paintings, small and insignificant next to mountains and rivers.

Listening to residents of the Leilani estates describe the shock is a lesson in reenchantment of the world. There were expressions of grief, of course, and bewilderment. All knew this possibility existed, but, like residents of flood plains and the wildlife-urban interface (us here on Shadow Mountain), hoped they would be spared. The lure is beauty. Always beauty. We take risks to live in beautiful places.

At the Columbian Exposition

At the Columbian Exposition

Some said things like, “Well, if madame Pele wants the land…” “Pele goes where she wants.” There was, in these remarks, no irony that I could detect. No wink, wink, you know what I really mean. The native Hawai’ian’s faith in Pele, given witness by the offerings at Halemaʻumaʻu Crater and numerous legends and dances, has, at least partially, reenchanted the Big Island for haoles (non natives). Whether they believe in a real, physical goddess or not, probably not, I sense the feelings of awe and the mysterium tremendum et fascinans that Rudolf Otto associates with the numinous, the essential components of the holy.

What’s happening at Leilani Estates is similar, perhaps the same, as my experience here on Shadow Mountain when I came for the closing on our home. The three mule deer bucks in our backyard, curious and welcoming, were mountain spirits blessing our move. I knew it while standing there with them, present with them in this new, strange place. It is not, in other words, that the numinous has disappeared from our encounters, only that we have unlearned how to know it. The reductive nature of scientism, that attempt to totalize our understanding with numbers and equations and laws, and the restrictive arrogant nature of religions certain that they know truth, has blinded us to the numinous.

numinousReenchantment has a precursor experience, a moment when we embrace the awe and the mystery, a feeling that we each experience, perhaps even experience often (childbirth, death, sunrise, the greening and flowering of spring, a snowstorm, bitter cold, blazing heat, the vastness of the ocean, love), but a feeling we have allowed others to reframe for us. The laws and beauty of scientific understanding do not explain away, as many assume. They are descriptive, a language of their own about the world in which we live. But they have not stripped out awe and mystery though men like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens insist on it. Empiricists, fed by scientism, want to suggest only through data and analysis can we know the truth.

numinous universe-2Or, the experience of the Celts and the Roman Catholic church is instructive here, one faith’s certainty can leave no room for the numinous anywhere but in their dogma, their rituals. Catholics built churches over Celtic holy wells. They deployed words like heretics and blasphemers and pagans to undercut the authority of the old faith. They appropriated Celtic holidays by turning Lugnasa into Lammas, Samain into All Saints. Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism says it well, “It is not the seeking of God that is the problem, it is the certainty of those who believe they have found God that is the problem.”

We can learn from the residents of Leilani Estates. We live in a wild universe, one well beyond our capacity to either control or understand. When we can set aside the certainty of others, the narrow thinking, and open ourselves to awefull and wonder of wilderness home, then we can know the ordinary holy, the secular sacred, the profane faith of those whose revelations no longer come from books or laboratories, but from that wilderness itself. That is reenchantment, that is reconstruction, that is a reimagined faith.

Beltane 2018

Beltane                                                                                         Mountain Moon

cernunnosEarth has come round the sun again to the second half of the Celtic year, marked by Beltane or Mayday, the start of the growing season. I’m going to try something new this Beltane and introduce at least a half year’s emphasis, a theme of sorts. Mountains. Yes, I’m working on Jennie’s Dead and the sumi-e and qabbalah, but I want to extend the mountain moon’s influence to Samain, to Summer’s End, six months away. On that day, the Celtic New Year, I’ll reassess.

Beltane is the day when the horned god, Cernunnos, and the Maiden aspect of the triple goddess consummate their sacred marriage which fertilizes mother earth and gives energy to plant and animal life for the season of sun and warmth. The spring ephemerals lance their way toward the sun daffodils, grape hyacinths, bitter-root, crocus among others. The color palette shifts from grays and whites and browns to wild purples, vibrant yellows, subtle whites, deep blues. Buds come on the trees. Animal babies begin their perilous lives here in the mountains. This is the true easter, the moment of resurrection. Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music.

beltane_2017On this day a market week would commence among the ancient Celts, one where handfast marriages could be performed, women would leap over fires to enhance fertility, cattle would be driven between bonfires to ward off disease and young couples would go into the fields and imitate the marriage of Cernunnos and the Maid, adding their magic to that of the god and the goddess.

I want to take into myself that energy, the fecund moment that Beltane offers us, and use it to enhance my appreciation of our mountain home as the earth blossoms forth with food and flowers, new life of all kinds.

Out and Back Again

Spring                                                                       Mountain Moon

20180422_182925Earth Day. Thanks, Gaylord Nelson. Gabe’s birthday, too. 10 this year. He got a fidget spinner, an infinity box and a red envelope with money, $10 for each year. This year Earth Day is also Kate’s one month mark after surgery. She’s on an upswing in many ways, weight, pain, nausea.20180422_173735

We were at Domo again, the rural Japanese restaurant that was one of Zagat’s five best Japanese restaurants in the U.S. in 2007.

Quite awhile ago I told Ruth that I liked restaurants that transported me to another culture or offered a very different experience than my day to day life. She remembered and asked me last night if Domo was one of those. “Yes. Definitely.”

20180422_174528In addition to having an Akido studio that is one of the oldest in the country, Domo has a museum of rural Japanese objects, many related to farming or carpentry. They also have art hung in many spots, but in an unobtrusive, organic way. It’s located in an older, warehouse looking building in what is now a rapidly growing part of Denver. A brand new apartment building is under construction right next to it.

It’s not surprising, then, that there is a disclaimer on the door that reads, “No. We are not closing. Domo has no intention or plans for closing. We look forward to serving you in the future.” Both Domo and the equally unique Buckhorn, which is about three blocks further south on the same street, have been enveloped by Denver’s hot housing market and its drive for non-vehicular transportation. The Buckhorn, liquor license #1 in the City of Denver, sits in the curve of a rapid transit station and shares with Domo new housing starts, mostly apartments, all around it. The old city, Buffalo Bill Cody ate at the Buckhorn, and the new smooshing together.

20180422_174540It’s been an unusual weekend visually with the suspended bee hives and the elk Saturday, the 4/20 celebration at Happy Camper on Friday and Domo yesterday. There is, too, of course, always the mountains. When we drive down the hill into Denver, we leave them behind for a bit, decanting ourselves onto the terminus of the great plains, still high at 5,280 feet, but flat all the same. Last night when we came home, a mountain in the distance toward Evergreen was a flat, pastel teal with pink ribbons of clouds behind it. Only Cezanne could have done it justice.

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

We go into Denver less and less, remaining in the mountains unless family or medical matters call us. On occasion we do visit jazz clubs, go to a movie, head into a museum, but not often. As a result, each time we drive into the city, I feel a little more strange, a little more estranged from the (relatively) crowded streets, the hurry, the built environment. When we turn west, which from Denver means headed toward the Front Range, I get the same feeling of peace now that I used to get when I turned north on a trip and headed back toward Minnesota.

We can return home three different ways, each offering a different sort of return to the mountains. The most dramatic is to take I-70 to Evergreen. After passing through the first foothills and getting up the rise, the snow-covered (now) continental divide appears in the distance, the sort of mountain scenery that is post-card worthy. We can also turn off 470 and head through the small touristy mountain town of Morrison, up past the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater and onto a windy road with rocky cliffs and Bear Creek tumbling alongside. The most common way home is up Hwy. 285 which enters the foothills through a dynamited opening in the hogback. 285 winds in largely gentle curves up to Conifer. All three take us home by gradually reintroducing us to elevation and the rocky, fir covered slopes where the great plains come to end.

4/20, Dogs

Spring                                                                           Mountain Moon

Just as I imagined I would after I turned seventy, Kate and I drove over to our local marijuana dispensary, The Happy Camper, to celebrate pot’s unofficial holiday, 4/20.

The Happy Camper on the flank of Mount Rosalie. Decorated. Sort of.

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A local food truck offered fried chicken, pulled pork, baby back ribs as part of the 4/20 celebration.

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Rigel and Gertie came along.

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Often when I go up to the loft, these treat loving dogs await me. They push past me to get there first.

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Up in Smoke

Spring                                                                Mountain Moon

A cloud crawls down Black Mountain,

Cotton embraces ski runs, blue above.

A light scrim of snow covers our solar panels,

The sky falls toward us, slowly.

 

four twentyToday is 4/20. In Colorado and elsewhere it’s a pot linked holiday and here’s a brief explanation of its strange origin.* A couple of years ago I was downtown Denver near the National Western Stockshow Grounds on April 20th. Driving to a small taqueria for lunch I passed hundreds of people walking along the road, smoking joints, smiling, lots of dreadlocks under Rastafarian knit saggy caps. Last year the 4/20 crowd made such a mess at a city park that Denver stopped the celebration for this year.

4/20 is also Adolph Hitler’s birthday, my brother Mark reminded me. Hitler is a figure in the childhood dark closet of most Baby Boomers whose parents, like mine, were veterans of WWII. My dad had a beaten up copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. It always seemed strange to me as a boy; but, as an adult, I came to realize how large Hitler loomed over his life, occasioning several years in the military for both him and my mom.

Nazis+on+parade.Now Hitler is mostly a boogeyman, a perfect example of either evil or the potential power of white supremacy. His Nazi party serves a similar function, offered up in movies if an ultimate villain is needed. Just as the Vietnam War, which dominated my life in the late sixties and early seventies, has faded from the memory of millennials, so even the holocaust has begun to fade from memory. Yes, it’s dangerous to lose sight of this horror; but, it’s also human. As an event moves further away from us, it changes, transforms.

Most, all?, religions are an attempt to hold a historical moment close, to keep it vibrant, vital. Easter and Passover. Even these though show the great difficulty in maintaining the urgency of something that has been covered over by distance and lack of direct experience. Max Weber called this the rationalization of charisma. As the charismatic figure or moment recedes, institutions grow up to protect its memory, but that very fact, the institutionalization of a matter of the heart, encrusts the event and eventually depletes it of its power. It becomes covered over by dogma, by tradition, by the ridigities of too much thought.

Emerson'Emerson knew this. “The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?” From the introduction to his essay, Nature.

We need to discern not only, perhaps not even most importantly, the facts of the holocaust, though they are incalculably significant, but we need to look evil in the face in our time, confront it now, name it now. Stop it now. Evil, like good, does not stop in a historical moment, but gains new, contemporary expressions. If we keep looking for revelation about what it means to be human in sacred texts or historical tragedies, we can easily miss the revelation appearing in the neighborhoods and rural areas of our own country.

 

*In 1971, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, five high school students[4] in San Rafael, California,[5][6] calling themselves the Waldos[7][8] because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”,[9] used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about,[7][10] based on a treasure map made by the grower. wiki

 

Ancient Holidays

Spring                                                                       New Shoulder Moon

Chagall, Pesach

Chagall, Pesach

It’s the second night of pesach tonight and tomorrow morning is easter. Liberation and resurrection, or liberation and death’s final bow. Resurrection is hard to integrate since its hard proof lies beyond the veil of this world. Liberation, on the other hand, is much easier to integrate because it applies to so many this worldly situations: slavery, imprisonment, forced poverty, mental illness, racial and gender and sexual preference discrimination, being in Trump’s America.

Both are important to me. I long ago left behind the death is no more school of theology. It seems cruel to me, an assertion confounded at every death bed, every school shooting, every war. Death still rides her pale horse, galloping through the living world and pruning, pruning, pruning.

I do, however, retain my confidence in resurrection; that is, the power of the changing world to incorporate death and decay as precursors for life. Each spring, as our temperate latitude winter fades away, bright green shoots spear their way through the soil’s surface. Flowers bloom. Vegetables grow. Trees leaf out. Lambs and kids and calves and piglets are born. All these are evidence of transubstantiation, the literal changing of grapes and bread into our bodies. This transformation happens regularly and green burial will help us remember that we humans do participate in it, that concrete, water-tight “vaults” and expensive coffins do not shield us from our part in the web of life.

El Greco

El Greco

This weekend presents to us two powerful stories, stories that have changed the world: the exodus from Egypt of Hebrew slaves and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, known by many as the Christ. Narratives have real potency, the ability to change lives, turn the pages of history, answer our deepest questions, quiet our deepest fears. Oddly, you can see this power even more clearly if you take a stance just outside the metaphysical claims, but not in the camp of folks like the new atheists, who are simply boring.

I’m neither Christian nor Jew, my metaphysics is bound up in the ongoing evolution of the universe and literally rooted in the soil of the midwest and the hard rock of these mountains where I now live. Even so, liberation and resurrection, through the stories of the passover and easter, are important to me, tell me about human possibility, about the human capacity to face enslavement and grief with hope, with the chance to turn both into moments of human triumph.

Though it has taken me a while to learn the rudimentary geology of our immediate neighborhood, I now know that we live among three mountains. We live on Shadow Mountain, up a valley that runs from its base to our home. On the opposite side, the west side of this valley, is Conifer Mountain and then, the mountain most visible from our house, Black Mountain.

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

Think of the changes evidenced by these huge landforms. This is rock that was once, millions of years ago, imprisoned far below the earth’s surface, held there by weight and history, perhaps even put there by accretion when another planet slammed into the still forming earth. Yet now I live on it, can see it clearly, far above the surface, pushed out and up by forces wielding power unimaginable, unavailable to us humans.

Is this liberation and resurrection? Not from a human perspective, but from the perspective of our planet, very much so. And yet it does not end there. Once liberated from their stony dungeons wind and water act upon them taking these high mountains gradually down to sea level, then into the ocean itself. In the soil formed in this way plants will grow, animals will feed off the plants. Liberation and resurrection are everywhere, if only we see what we’re looking at.

 

June 2018
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