We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Summer Solstice 2017

Midsommar                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

cropped0017As our habitable space ship races along its track, its tilt gives us seasonal changes and four regular moments, two with roughly equal days and nights, the equinoxes, and two extremes: the solstices. The longest days of the year occur right now with the sun rising early and setting late ignoring Benjamin Franklin’s early to bed, early to rise. Six months from now, in the depths of midwinter, we will have the winter solstice where darkness prevails and long nights are the rule.

Those who love the seasons of the sun find the heat and light of midsommar ideal. Even in northerly latitudes shorts and sandals and t-shirts or sundresses or tank tops can be worn outside. We who move upward by 8800 feet from sea level for the cooling effect of altitude find a different kind of joy at the winter solstice. Either way solstice days and nights, their temperatures, are remarkable.

IMAG0346At midsommar in the temperate latitudes where farms dominate the landscape, the growing season, which began roughly around Beltane, is now well underway. Wheat, corn, barley, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers have risen from seed and fed by rain or irrigation make whole landscapes green with the intense colors of full growth. Midsommar mother earth once again works hard to feed her children.

Extreme weather follows in the wake of these solar extremes with tornadoes, derechos, hail storms and flooding in the summer, bitter cold and driving snow in the winter. Especially around the summer solstice such weather can put crops at risk of flailing by hail, drowning from overflowing creeks and rivers, being ripped out of the soil by rapid vortices. The vast blue skies of midsommar can turn gray, then black, or brackish green. It’s the natural way of moving water from one spot to another.

There can be, too, the absence of this sort of weather, drought. When aridity takes over, when moisture moves elsewhere for a season or a decade or more, these wet weather extremes disappear. Crops wither, food dies.

fire ban croppedOur seasonal dance is not only, not even mostly, a metaphor, but is itself the rhythm of life. When its regularities falter, when either natural or artificial forces alter it, even a little, whole peoples, whole ecosystems experience stress, often death. We humans, as the Iroquois know, are ultimately fragile, our day to day lives dependent on the plant life and animal life around us. When they suffer, we begin to fail.

So this midsommar I’m reflecting on the changes, the dramatic shifts to new high temperatures, more violent weather, less reliable rain. What the Great Wheel once brought to us as a season for nurturing crops and livestock may now become the season when crops and livestock struggle to survive. That means we will have to adapt, somehow. Adapt and reduce carbon emissions.

midsummer1The meaning of the Great Wheel, it’s rhythms, remains the same, a faithful cycling through earth’s changes as it plunges through dark space on its round. Their implications though, thanks to climate change, may shift, will shift in response to new temperature, moisture regimes. The summer solstice may be the moment each year when we begin, again, to realize the enormity of those shifts. It might be that the summer solstice will require new rituals, ones focused on gathering our power to both adapt to those shifts and alleviate the human actions ratcheting up the risks.

Father’s Day

Beltane                                                                                Moon of the Summer Solstice

fatherJon and the grandkids returned from family camp near Estes Park yesterday. This is an annual event for the local hemophilia community. It’s an opportunity for people affected by hemophilia to be together in an informal setting. Ruth was the only lavender haired girl there, she said. Gabe saw a moose and climbed a boulder.

After they came home, took showers and naps, all of us went over to Lariat Lodge in Evergreen, a father’s day dinner. Gabe played games on a cellphone while Ruth read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. In this book a daughter is born into a family for the purpose of providing organs and bone marrow for her older sister. I asked Ruth how she would feel if she were the daughter born to be a donor. “Well,” she said, “They didn’t ask her. Her parents didn’t give her a choice.”

beergardens_resized-495x400We ate in the Bark Garten, two wood-chipped areas, one above the other, where seating is at wooden picnic tables and dogs dine with owners. None of our dogs behave well enough to take them into the Garten. Maybe Rigel, but she’s so friendly and big, a bit intimidating to non-dog people. Our food included swedish meatballs, angry elk sausage, shrimp and grits and a guacamole hamburger.

Just as Kate and I left the parking lot, Joe and SeoAh called to wish me a happy father’s day. We pulled over. SeoAh leaves for Korea on July 4th, her birthday. Joseph has six weeks at Nellis AFB where he went to weapons school.

jstars-037-s

jstars-037-s

As the senior weapons officer at Robbins AFB, Joseph is responsible for how the JSTARs platform could be used in any conflict, anywhere in the world. This means he briefs various other senior officers, updating them on world affairs and how the unique ground focused radar of the JSTAR plane might support troops in particular situations. He says it keeps him pretty busy.

He played golf the other day, “I was the only brown player on the course.” He wants a couple of U. of Minnesota polo shirts so he can represent the Gophers. “All the other players had on college colors.” A familiar poke at the Air Force is that it builds the golf course before it builds a base.

minnesotaSeoAh’s written English is idiomatic and clear now, but she says, “I still can’t speak English so well.” That will come in time. They’re moving into base housing in September from their apartment in Macon and she’ll have a community where she can practice.

They visited physicians last week to make plans for having a baby! Hepatitis B, which is endemic in Asia, affects their plans, but is manageable. Joseph has it and SeoAh has been vaccinated against it.

 

 

Shadow Mountain Seen

Beltane                                                                  Moon of the Summer Solstice

When ancientrails came into being, it was to fill time while I healed from surgery to repain (ha, I meant repair, but this covers it, too) an achilles tendon rupture. I was off my feet for two months, crutches after that.

This morning I enjoyed the results of another surgical procedure, the total knee replacement I had on December 1st of last year. The work out I got from On the Move Fitness has strengthened my abductors and adductors, giving me more ease with hiking over rocks as well as climbing and descending on the trail.

Today Rigel really, really wanted to go with me. I had to get some stuff out of the car and left the door open. She crawled in and sat up, regal Rigel, in the seat, ignoring me when I asked her to come out. She was hurt that I wanted her to give up a spot she’d earned on her own. So, I took her.

As a result, I stopped at a spot where I’ve seen cars parked many times, a spot where there is no trailhead, no named trail. It’s close to our house and I decided to do a shorter hike since Rigel, hardly leash trained, needed to stay in the car. It was cool, low 50’s, but I didn’t want her in there too long.

The trail I found ushered me out, after maybe half a mile, onto a series of rocky cliffs that overlooked Shadow Mountain. It’s the first vantage point I’ve found, in the two and half years we’ve been here, where you can actually see Shadow Mountain. That was exciting. The vista was almost pristine, with very few houses visible. Unusual up here, so close to the city. Here’s what I saw.

Shadow Mountain. We live off to the right and behind what you can see.

Shadow Mountain. We live off to the right and behind what you can see.

Shadow Mountain

Shadow Mountain

Toward Evergreen with Brook Forest Drive/Black Mountain Drive in the distance

Toward Evergreen with Brook Forest Drive/Black Mountain Drive in the distance

Along the trail

Along the trail

Me, amazed or just gasping for

Me, amazed or just gasping for breath

Kate, Judaism and Pine Pollen

Beltane                                                                             Moon of the Summer Solstice

20170405_152848Kate continues to struggle with dry mouth, a very sore throat and other symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome. She’s lost weight as a result. Lab tests don’t suggest anything terminal going on, but her distress is significant. If you know Kate, you know she has an energizer bunny mode, but she’s been on the battery depleted side of that equation for a while now.

Lots of Jewish stuff this week: Star Trek and Judaism on Tuesday, kabbalah on Wednesday, mussar and a meeting with Rabbi Jamie yesterday, and a Grateful Dead shabbat service tonight. I’m learning a lot and slowly integrating into the congregation. When I mentioned the possibility of an Evergreen Forum, a quarterly series of speakers somewhat analogous to the Westminster Forum in Minneapolis, I somehow ended up on the adult education committee, too. In that role I’m now helping coordinate the forum. As I said here earlier, I’m happy to have a place in a religious community with no leadership responsibility. A novel and fun experience for me.

20170613_203228A new seasonal reality for us: pine pollen. All these lodgepole pines insist on involving on us in their reproductive orgy that happens this time of year. A fine yellow dust settles on everything. Coming in easily even through screens, it’s especially apt to settle on things electrical, so the computers and the tv and the microwave all have a coating. It also coats our solar panels, reducing their efficiency. If it rains, a yellow scrim settles over the driveway, pooling where the water does. I wish these pines could figure out a more direct way to make more pines.

 

 

 

Enchanting, My Dear

Beltane                                                                       Moon of the Summer Solstice

first draftWith the first draft of Superior Wolf finished I’m taking this week to do various tasks up in the loft that I’ve deferred. Gonna hang some art, rearrange some (by categories like Latin American, contemporary, Asian) and bring order to some of my disorganized book shelves. I want to get some outside work in, too, maybe get back to limbing and do some stump cutting, check out nurseries for lilac bushes.

After taking advantage of the weekend to do the hike at Staunton, some slower treadmill work in the afternoon, then two sessions on Sunday, both on the treadmill, one faster, one slower, I got to 11,000 plus steps on Saturday as I said and 9,745 on Sunday. I believe once I go back to my personal trainer, in six weeks or so, I’ll be able to hit the 10,000 target regularly and get my resistance work done, too. Feels like I’m moving past the knee surgery, not fully past it yet, but well on the road.

forest and soulEven so, reimagining is beginning to exert a centripetal force on my thinking, book purchasing, day to day. For example, last night as I went to sleep a cool breeze blew in from the north across my bare arms and shoulder. It was the night itself caressing me. I went from there to the sun’s warm caresses on a late spring day. The embrace of the ocean or a lake or a stream. The support given to our daily walking by the surface of mother earth. The uplift we experience on Shadow Mountain, 8,800 feet above sea level. These are tactile realities, often felt (0r their equivalent).

Now, imagine that we stop, take a moment and feel them, as I now feel the attraction gravity affords me while sitting here, writing this. It keeps me grounded, able to stay in place.

febheadNext, eliminate the metaphorical. If we do that, we can immediately jump into a holy moment, a moment when the bonds that tie us to grandmother earth are not figurative, but real. The breeze on my bare arms and shoulders is her embrace. The sun on my face, penetrating my body, is him in direct relationship with me, reaching across 93 million miles, warming me. The ocean or the lake or the pond or the stream cools me, refreshes me, hydrates me, acts of chesed, loving-kindness, from the universe in which we live and move and have our being.

This kind of reframing, reenchanting, helps us reimagine faith, a faith that does not require texts or institutions, just the opening of ourselves to the mystery and magic that are our literal birthright.

 

 

10,000 Things

Beltane                                                                       Moon of the Summer Solstice

Hiking Staunton State Park yesterday launched me on my first day ever of 10,000 steps, actually 11,435. A weird thing to be proud of, I know, but still, I am. My eventual goal is to hit at least 10,000 every day. First though, I had to do it once and yesterday was that day.

A few memories of that hike:

20170610_08375420170610_09011620170610_092514 20170610_094341

Bound

Beltane                                                                     Moon of the Summer Solstice

Second hike at Staunton. Chose the Mason Creek Trail. It goes up, then up and finally it turns into switchbacks, going up. Huff and puff, not at Hogwarts but here in the Front Range. The Mason Creek Trail will provide a consistent challenge, plus it has meadows, waterfalls (see video) and large rock formations.

methodology-sight-size-827x399While hiking and thinking about Reimagining, I realized I’m taking an atelier approach to it. Ateliers train would be artists in the classical mode, using lots of drawing, life models and work with perspective. They’re considered conservative in today’s art world, a sort of throwback to the artist/apprentice studio that dominated art education for so many centuries.

In my case I studied Christianity and the Christian ministry in a seminary, United Theological Seminary, and earned the world’s most outrageous degree, Master of Divinity. In the late 1980’s I took a doctorate at McCormick Seminary in Chicago’s Hyde Park neighborhood. The Presbyterian ministry occupied me for 15 years and afterward I dabbled in the Unitarian-Universalist ministry. Now I’m in my second year of Jewish immersion, not a convert, but a close student of this ancient tradition.

bound to the earthYet what I really want to do is rethink what faith is, why we go to the places that we go to for spiritual nourishment and whether there might be a real faith, an approach to the religious life, that emerges naturally from the world in which we live and carry on our daily lives. That is, one without a charismatic founder or an ethnic base, a faith which would help us see the holy ordinary, that would expose the ligatures that bind us to this planet, to the plants and animals and minerals and atmosphere, expose them and help us see them as the loving embrace that they are, not only as limits to our lives.

 

After

Beltane                                                                              Moon of the Summer Solstice

resilience-Disaster-risk-reduction-Climate-Change-Adaptation-guide-englishAnother short trough of time where work here will focus on moving, rearranging, hanging.

Decompressing after finishing a long project starts now.  The joy of holding the weight of the manuscript in my hand as I passed it to Kate, always my first reader, pleases me in a deep way. Superior Wolf is the first work I’ve finished in Colorado, on Shadow Mountain, yet its bones are deeply Minnesotan.

The inspiration for Superior Wolf came from the last native packs of timber wolves in the USA, those in the Arrowhead region of northern Minnesota. It merged along the way with the Latin work I’d been doing, translating Ovid, which included the story of Lycaon, the king of Arcadia. Minnesota and Ovid, the core of this novel.

There is, too, the usual regret that I couldn’t have done better, written more poetically, created more tension, brought the characters to life more convincingly. These regrets are, strangely, the fuel that will carry me into my next novel, probably Jennie’s Dead. Perhaps it will be the one where my language sings and the plot cannot be put down, where the characters take over the work.

disenchantmentBut not yet. The next period of time belongs to another very long term project, reimagining faith. There is that bookshelf filled with works on emergence, of pagan thought, on holiness and sacred time, on the Great Wheel, on the enlightenment, on nature and wilderness. There are file folders to be collected from their various resting places and computer files, too. Printouts to be made of writing already done. Long walks to be taken, using shinrin-yoku to further this work. Drives to be taken in the Rocky Mountains, over to South Park, down to Durango, up again to the Neversummer Wilderness. The Rockies will influence reimagining in ways I don’t yet understand.

Reimagining is already underway, has been for awhile. The first task is to collect all that work I’ve done, so what comes next will be clear. Maybe in a week or two. First though I want to wander around some, move some books, hang some art.

As the World Burns

Beltane                                                                  Moon of the Summer Solstice

images (2)While the world burns, at least the Trump world, kabbalah suggests a bigger world, more worlds, right next to this one. There is, as Rabbi Jamie said, a bigger picture. I learned a similar lesson from Deer Creek Canyon during my cancer season two years ago. These Rocky Mountains, still toddlers as mountains go, were and will be present when we are not. In their lifetime humanity will likely have come and gone.

It’s tempting to use this perspective-and I believe it’s real, I want to emphasize that-to diminish the swirl of issues like climate change, decent health insurance, jobs that no longer pay a living wage. In time they will be finished, one way or another. We were neither present during the Rockies orogeny, nor will we be present when they become as smooth as the Appalachians. Just so, you may say.

38d9f3b4e2e64361ce68ca237f270a42Yet. We do not live either in the deep geological past nor in the distant geological future, we live now. Our lives, our mayfly lives from the vantage point of geological time, come into existence and blink out, so we necessarily look at the moment, the brief seventy to one hundred year moment into which, as Heidegger said, we are thrown.

This is all we know of life, this moment. In it our whole awareness comes into existence, matures, then winks out. From that mayfly perspective then climate change, decent health insurance and a living wage are not insignificant. Albert Camus spoke of the great river which carries us toward the ocean of all souls. Ram Dass reminds us we’re all just walking each other home. And Lord Keynes famously said in the long run we’ll all be dead.

Time_Clock-620x587Somehow we have to realize that though our lives are small compared to the immensity of the universe and the imponderable nature of time, they are everything while we have them. As for me, I find all this comforting. Putting my efforts in the larger perspective gives me peace, putting them in the immediacy of my life gives me energy. We will not complete the task, no, we will not. But we are not free to give it up either.

 

 

The Road to Mountain Home

Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

roadSign9Came home last night from studying the mysteries of the universe in kabbalah. A nearly full moon of the summer solstice hung high in the sky, giving the lustre of, well, not midday, more like late evening, to the forest below. Brook Forest Road, which becomes Black Mountain Drive, winds along Bear and Maxwell Creeks through a long valley before it gets serious about gaining 1500 feet of elevation. A couple of miles from home, after it has turned to Black Mountain Drive, this two lane asphalt heads uphill through the Arapaho National Forest.

When driving at night, especially at dusk or a bit later, vigilance is necessary since mule deer and elk don’t signal their intent to cross the road. Fortunately, having lived in Wisconsin, I learned long ago to look for the telltale flash of light from a Cervus eye. Turning off the headlights can help the animal see and cross the road rather than stop and stare. Even so, the road curves and the view is often blocked by rock massifs or large stands of trees, so thirty mile an hour is about all you can safely do. It makes me feel good to have to exercise caution for the wildlife here.

The first night I came to 9358 Black Mountain Drive, I just couldn’t wait until morning to see our new house, I left the Best Western Dinosaur Inn in Lakewood and found my way up Hwy. 285. Just as the road begins to rise after the Denver metro plateau there was an l.e.d. road sign that read: Watch for Wildlife and Rocks. I knew I was home when I saw that sign.

June 2017
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