We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Mabon, 2018

Mabon                                                                      Harvest Moon

Shadow Mtn. Drive, about a mile from home. Black Mtn ahead

Shadow Mtn. Drive, about a mile from home. Black Mtn ahead

As I type the heading here, I can look up and see the aspen groves near the peak of Black Mountain. Like golden islands in a dark green ocean. Part of the ever changing beauty of the Rocky Mountains.

Mabon is the second harvest holiday and comes on the autumnal equinox. (The rising sun has just hit the aspen grove, now it looks like molten gold.) If you lived in a subsistence farming economy, as most humans did in Europe only a few centuries ago, then what happened on and around this holiday would have meant the difference between life and death in the fallow months ahead. No wonder the market days were so important, so filled with ritual and fun.

mabon-greeting-cardWhat did you plant in the first and second phases of your life that’s coming to fruition right now? Tom. Bill. Mark. Paul. Will you dance around a bonfire? Alan. What will sustain you in the fallow months when work in the fields is done? The loves and passions of your earlier life might do it. Might not. Is there a new field, one that can be worked with the experience and skills available to you? What will you harvest in the third phase of your life?

This harvest holiday I’ve been nostalgic about combines and corn pickers, hay balers and grain trucks, the tall elevators waiting for grain, the train cars waiting to move it. That was my flatlander past. What is the new harvest, the one lived among mountains, streams, mule deer and elk?

mabon8

“The Harvest Moon” by Samuel Palmer

Turns out it has some resonance with crops I’ve planted before. Kate. Family. Friends. Writing. Reading. Religion. Art. Music. Dogs. Closeness to the non-human natural world. But, there are also new crops, most new varieties of old ones, new strains. Judaism. The montane ecosystem. Beth Evergreen friends. Noticeable aging. Submitting work, a true harvest. Making art, sumi-e, playing with colors. This pack of dogs: Gertie, Rigel, Kepler. A married Joseph and SeoAh. A divorced Jon. The grandkids.

Someday, soon or late, the reaper will come for me, harvesting another of this strange fruit, humankind. Each day, think of it, that reaper gathers in a new harvest of souls. And how little we know of that harvest. Do our deaths nourish the universe as our harvests in life have nurtured others? Perhaps.

May you have a pleasant and bountiful Mabon season. Harvest home is near. Enjoy it.

 

 

Oh

Lughnasa                                                             Harvest Moon

Black Mountain, yesterday. From Shadow Mtn. Drive

Black Mountain, yesterday. From Shadow Mtn. Drive

Tomorrow we peek over the transom toward the fallow season. Six more weeks of harvest,  the heart of the harvest season is now, then Samain, summer’s end. Up here the temperature cooled off overnight and we’re at 35 degrees right now, getting close to a first frost. There’s even a small hint of snow for next Wednesday. As I wrote earlier, Pike’s Peak and the much closer Mt. Rosalie had snow last week. Happy with the change.

Deb Brown, my personal trainer at On the Move Fitness, really made me feel good yesterday. “You move better than most of the 30 & 40 year olds I see. And, you’re strong.” She was sincere and I was touched. I told her about the odd finding I got from the 23&me folks; I have the same genetic muscle profile as elite power athletes. “Well, you’re capitalizing on it.” “My wife said, ‘What happened?” “Tell to her to ask you that again when you’re 108!” We laughed. Left me smiling.

book of lifeThe book of life closed on Wednesday. It was a fast day, unusual in Judaism which finds asceticism puzzling, but on this day, once a year, there is a fast for the whole of Yom Kippur*. That’s from evening to evening. The point is to make us tune into our bodies, to remember that the body carries our soul, and to make the final push for teshuvah, return to the holy soul our body carries.

OK. I’ll admit I surprised myself, right here, with this keyboard. It happens, but not often like this. I wrote “make us tune in to our bodies.” Oh. It may be, as Bill Schmidt suggested obliquely earlier this month, that this Jewish experience runs deeper than I’m admitting.

*“The purpose of fasting is to bring one to repent, and true repentance brings about a change in actions. However, repenting without fasting is not enough,” Jewish educator Aliza Bulow explains on Aish.com.

Although there are medical exceptions to fasting, the Yom Kippur tradition dates back to biblical times, according to Chabad.org. When the Jewish people were wandering in the desert for 40 years after enslavement in Egypt, they worshiped a golden calf — which is contradictory to the religion’s monotheistic tenets — and Moses went to Mt. Sinai to ask for God’s forgiveness. Moses came down from the mountain after God forgave (them) him, and that day became known as Yom Kippur. The tradition of Yom Kippur continued when the Jews reached the land of Israel — Jews gathered in the first two temples until they were destroyed — and persisted again when they were ultimately exiled and dispersed across the globe.Time

 

Deep in the soul

Lughnasa                                                                 Harvest Moon

yomkippurToday is Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, the day when God seals the book of life for another year. May you be inscribed in the book of life (for the coming year) is a greeting we will hear today. It completes the ten days of awe that began back on September 9th, Rosh Hashanah, New Year’s day and by rabbinic logic the 6th day of creation, the New Year for humans.

The whole sweep of the days of awe reach deep into the soul; the month of Elul prepared us for the chesbon ha-nefesh, accounting of the soul, that culminates today on the metaphorical turning of a page in the book of our life, closing off the last year and opening a blank one, ready for a renewed person, returned (teshuvah) to the original, unique, best we are.

Of course there is no need for the ten days of awe to do what the Jesuits would call examen and I’m sure there is no book on a divine table that determines whether I will live or die in the upcoming year. I am equally sure that schmuz gathers on the soul like creosote gathers on a fireplace chimney or plaque in an artery. From long life experience I know there is no holy chimney sweep I can hire to clean me out, no heart bypass operation for the soul. The examined life requires an inner examiner. The high holidays are a communal reminder to do serious inner work and to give that work outer expression through worship and apology. I’m grateful for the prompt, aware of its necessity not because I believe I’m a deeply damaged person in need of unconditional forgiveness, but because I know I’m an ordinary human with the tendency to shift away from my best person.

1000Kate and Charlie in EdenKate and I had a sweet moment, a grace filled moment, when I sat down with her and asked her forgiveness for the times I’ve wounded her in the last year, for the times I’d been short, thoughtless. Sure, we could do this at any time, but these holidays encourage it. We rested our heads together, aware of the reality that we’re just two folks traveling our journey, doing the best we can. “I’ve not always been at my best.” “Neither have I.”

Cheshbon Nefesh

Lughnasa                                                                  Harvest Moon

tishrei-month-5768As the moon’s change, so does the Jewish calendar. We’re now in the month of Tishrei, its first day, Rosh Hashanah, the new year of the world. All over the world, throughout the diaspora and in Israel, Jews will be celebrating the new year, shana tovah. This is short for l’shana tova tikateyvu, “May you be written [in the Book of Life*] for a good year.”

This is not, as may be inferred from the paragraph below, primarily a message of judgment. Rather, it is a call for cheshbon nefesh, an accounting of the soul. That is, instead of judgment, the focus is on introspection about the last year, honestly acknowledging areas of life where we’ve missed the mark and then, developing a plan for a new year that includes both atonement and teshuvah, return to a path of holiness. This is an iterative process, it happens every year because there is no achievement of perfection; but there is, as one writer said, the opportunity in this life to become very good.

The soul curriculum of mussar, Jewish ethics which focus on incremental gains in character virtues, acknowledges both the strengths we have and the areas where we can improve our character. “My practice, for example, for this month, for the middot (character virtue) of curiosity, is to greet judgement with curiosity. That is, each time I feel a judgement about another come up, I’ll add to that feeling a willingness to become curious about what motivated the behavior I’m judging, what might be the broader context? Am I being reactive or am I seeing something that does concern me? Or, both? Does my judgement say more about me than what I’m judging?”

Happy-Rosh-Hashanah-ShofarI thought about two boys of a man I know. I pictured them both, slovenly and overweight, and thought, what went wrong with them? I had added to those two judgments an assumption that they were lazy, had not fulfilled whatever potential their father, a successful and kind man, hoped for. Since I don’t know either of them, it’s obvious this reaction said more about me than about them.

Arthur_Szyk_(1894-1951)._The_Holiday_Series,_Rosh_Hashanah_(1948),_New_Canaan,_CT

Arthur Szyk (1894-1951). The Holiday Series, Rosh Hashanah (1948), New Canaan, CT

However, I woke up to the judgment and used it as a prod for curiosity. What are they really like? Why did I make those assumptions? What about my own fears did this judgment express? That I’m not in good shape, that I don’t always present my best self? That I had not fulfilled my own potential? Ah. Well, there we are. My judgment was not about them at all, but about me. Yes, I’m curious to know more about them, to learn about their lives because they’re the sons of a man I respect; but, that particular curiosity is not the one most useful here. In this case the curiosity needs to be turned back on my own soul.

So, curiosity is on my soul curriculum. When I’m incurious, I tend to be judgmental. When I’m curious, I learn new things, I can adjust my behavior. Also, when we’re incurious, we simply don’t learn. Because there is no need. That reinforces our judgments and makes us slaves to our biases and prejudices. Curiosity can be a sort of soul broom, sweeping away our assumptions to make room for new insights, new relationships.

It is this hopeful, supportive type of cheshbon nefesh that the metaphor of the book of life and the book of death encourages. We can have a sweet new year, one dipped in honey, if we are honest, acknowledge our strengths, and work to add to them.

 

*The language of our prayers imagines God as judge and king, sitting in the divine court on the divine throne of justice, reviewing our deeds. On a table before God lies a large book with many pages, as many pages as there are people in the world. Each of us has a page dedicated just to us. Written on that page, by our own hand, in our own writing, are all the things we have done during the past year. God considers those things, weighs the good against the bad, and then, as the prayers declare, decides “who shall live and who shall die.”

 

Blood and Soil

Lughnasa                                                       Waning Summer Moon

great wheel3Labor Day. The bookend to Memorial Day. In my youth the end of summer because school started the next day. Labor Day falls between Lughnasa, the first fruits harvest festival and Mabon, the second harvest festival. Mabon falls under the harvest moon, about which I learned this fascinating bit of lunar lore only this week.*

The Great Wheel rolls through the year with an emphasis on agriculture, marking the growing season from Beltane to Samain and the fallow season from Samain to Beltane. That was half of the eastern Indiana in which I grew up. Cornfields planted along dusty gravel roads. Fields full of Holsteins and their milking barns. Herefords and Angus for beef. Soybeans. County fairs. 4-H. In fact, agriculture was the origin of the long summer break for school children, with the farms need for the whole family during the intensity of the growing season.

Labor-DayThe other half though was the antithesis of the Great Wheel. It was time marked off by time-clocks, shift work, assembly lines. Circadian rhythms, so important to plants and animals on the farm, got shoved aside as inefficient. Factories belched and whirred 24 hours a day, seven days a week, winter and summer. The 1950’s and the 1960’s were the post war industrial boom when manufacturing turned to domestic goods, especially cars which needed tires, steel, glass.

The long supply lines for then magisterial Detroit extended out to smoky Pittsburgh for steel, central Ohio for Firestone and BF Goodrich tires, and in our case, Anderson, Indiana for headlights, taillights, and alternators for General Motor’s cars at Guide Lamp and Delco Remy. These factories concentrated blue-collar workers, 25,000 between the two at their peak employment which coincided with my elementary and high school days, the mid-1950’s to the mid-1960’s.

labor uawAt its own peak during this same time period the United Auto Workers (UAW) union was among the most powerful labor organizations in the world. Most of my friends and classmate’s parents, usually fathers, worked at either Guide or Delco. The successful contract negotiations were made possible by a willingness of UAW workers for Ford, GM, and Chrysler to strike. The UAW had a strategy which involved focusing on one of the big three at every contract negotiation cycle, threatening and when necessary, executing a strike against each in turn. If there was a strike, the striking workers for, say GM, in the case of the Guide and Delco workers, would negotiate for the whole industry.

Over time this careful exercise of the power of workers resulted in salary and benefits which allowed folks with less than a high school education to own homes, cars, have good health care, and send their kids to college. Alexandria, my hometown of 5,000, was prosperous. Downtown had a men’s store, Baumgartner’s and a women’s store, Fermen’s, two pharmacies, two movie theaters, the Alex and the Town, the Bakery, Broyle’s furniture store, Guilkey’s shoe repair shop, banks, dime stores, a department store, P.N. Hirsch, Mahony’s shoe store, and two grocery stores. It bustled on Friday nights with shoppers and kids going to the Kid Kanteen located on the second floor of a downtown business.

labor2This is what we celebrate on Labor Day. We lift a cultural glass to the work of Joe Hill, Samuel Gompers, to the unsung organizers who worked in coal mines and gold mines, car factories and farm fields. Labor Day honors the now often forgotten need to balance the power of capital with the power of the worker. No individual worker can stand up to Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Apple, or to McDonalds, Burger King or the hospital and clinic, the hotel and motel, the auto manufacturers of our day. But, there is no UAW equivalent for employees of these industries.

As a result, as a direct result, blue-collar work and even much white collar work, does in fact pit individual employees against their employers when it comes to salary and health care, other benefits. Of course there are a few enlightened employers out there, but they are by far the exception. The rest squeeze the worker as a cost center no different from raw materials or supply chain products.

labor fast foodIn a perverted and socially evil transformation, the former engine of social progress that was labor has morphed into workers without representation, workers who feel their world shifting out from underneath them, or already shifted. These workers and those who depend on them are now the fungible underbelly of American politics, their anger and fear driving a populist revolt.

This Labor Day is no holyday, no holiday. No, it’s a hollowed out thank you for the bravery and strength of a movement now stuttering in its attempt to cope with the disaggregation of workers, with the continual narrowing of those who have plenty, with the bloated salaries of CEO’s and top management, with the unimaginable concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

*September’s Full Moon was called the Full Corn Moon or Harvest Moon by the early North American Farmers. The term “Harvest Moon” refers to the Full Moon that occurs closest to the Autumnal Equinox. The Full Moon closest to this Equinox rises about 20 minutes later each night as opposed to the rest of the year when the moon rises around 50 minutes later each night. This was important to early farmers because they had more nights of bright moon light to gather crops.  Moongiant

 

Food and Animals

Lughnasa                                                                   Waning Summer Moon

Bailey Patchworker chief foodie buying supplies

Bailey Patchworker chief foodie buying supplies

Yesterday was a big day. Kate did an “…awesome job on the food.” I heard this from the Bailey Patchworkers lead, a woman with a great and commanding presence. (the IW breed standard). To do this she got there around 8 am and didn’t leave until 3 pm. She was still in good shape, considering the amount of time she’d spent on her feet and in charge of the kitchen. They sang happy birthday to her, too. She did take a 45 minute nap in the very car I binged on Friday.

20180818_082613Gabe went with us, helping to carry stuff. On the way back from Baily we stopped for “cow watch.” We try to see the cows feeding on the grass in a mountain meadow about half way down Shadow Mountain Drive. They were out and close to the fence so Gabe and I got out for a look. He wanted to go pet them, but wouldn’t brave the tall grass to get close enough to the fence.

Meanwhile, back on Black Mountain Drive, Rigel the wonder dog, was busy. Ever since she dug for, caught and ate a vole last year she has resumed her predator ways. I’ve found shallow holes, often more like trenches, in many spots in the yard. She spends a lot of time with her head under the shed. But yesterday she out did herself.

Her are a few pictures of her exciting adventures ruining our back deck.

With Vega dead, Gertie steps in to help

With Vega dead, Gertie steps in to help

I'll huff and I'll puff

I’ll huff and I’ll puff

Considering next options

Considering next options

Jon picked up Gabe at noon, after a 30-45 minute delay for a pro-bicycle race that had a leg along Hwy. 73. Gabe came up last Sunday. He starts school this Monday, so he’s gone down the hill. Ruth didn’t come up yesterday with Jon because she was with a friend, Eva, watching softball. The pulling away begins.

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?

20180513_111231

Source of genuine Italian Beef in Evergreen

Source of genuine Italian Beef in Evergreen

20180504_160826

Evergreen, Vienna Beef

The Bean, Evergreen

The Bean, Evergreen

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