We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

I’ve Seen Fire and I’ve Seen Rain

Summer                                                                  Monsoon Moon

ECFD LOGOForest service fire danger signs look like the tachometer on an engine revving too fast. And, they’re staying there. Just like the tach, the longer it redlines, the more possibility for something bad. The really big fires this season, the Spring Creek and 416 fires, are still burning though the Spring Creek Fire is at 91% containment after having burned 108,000 acres. The 416, now at 54,000 acres, is still only 50% contained, but the firefighters feel confident it’s under control*.

We have entered the monsoon season though it’s not reached us here on Shadow Mountain. Those late afternoon rain storms have hit some of the western and southern parts of the state, which is good. That’s where the extreme drought conditions have persisted all year.

*”If you see smoke on the 416 fire on a hot day, that’s perfectly normal! Its a big fire and it’ll take a lot of rain or snow to put it out completely. But for now, you have rain and by the end of the week, you will have a LOT of it. Please be careful if you live at the outflow of Dyke Creek, Tripp Creek or in the Falls Creek area. The severity of the burn means there could be severe flooding.inciweb

Meanwhile, on the Big Island yesterday:

July 14, fissure 8

July 14, fissure 8

July 14, Kapoho bay

July 14, Kapoho bay

July 14, New Hawai'ian island in kapoho bay

July 14, New Hawai’ian island in Kapoho Bay

July 14, island closeup

July 14, island closeup

 

Different sort of cougars up here from the ‘burbs

Summer                                                            New (Super) Moon

Guy near us posted this photo from last night. Reminder. Wild, wild life here.

mountain lion july 12 2018

A Lunar Month of Significance

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

As the Woolly Mammoth Moon phases away toward a new moon, its month, the same lunar month we always have, yet also a different lunar month from any we’ve ever had, all spiraling through space as we follow the sun while orbiting it, I just wanna say thanks for what happened under its gentle influence.

It rose as a new moon, invisible but watching us, on June 13th, the day Mark, Paul, Tom and I headed out to Durango and the 416 fire. It was a trip both across southwestern Colorado and back into 30 years of friendship. Not to mention back to the days of the Pueblo dwellers of Mesa Verde. It was, in a sense, a way to say to each other that, yes, these friendships are for a lifetime. That this lifetime, whatever it may mean individually includes each other–and Bill. When you think about it, affirming the power of our past and honoring the reality of our future, is pretty damned cool.

Ode lays out the trip

Ode lays out the trip

It was also on this same trip that I read the essays about ground projects by Bernard Williams and about setting a rejection goal. The first one affirmed my existential sense that life gets meaning from our intentions and our labor to fulfill them; the second has transformed my writing life. A big, huge, amazing, wonderful thing.

Also under the Woolly Mammoth Moon, Alan Rubin and I began digging in to developing a curriculum for 6th and 7th graders in the Religious School at CBE. This work has affirmed the depth of my immersion into the Jewish world of CBE and reconstructionist thought. It also underscores my continuing fascination, see posts below, with the supernatural, or at least the fruits of humanity’s speculation about the supernatural.

20180415_155755

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, ballet at CBE

Also under the WMM, I’ve been putting together the Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler series for the 2018/2019 adult education year. This will feature both courses from the Great Courses company and courses from the MOOC aggregator, Coursera plus the odd film or two.

I also met Harv Teitelbaum. He’s the Sierra Club’s lead for their anti-fracking initiative, a big deal here in Colorado. I believe he and I share a similar attitude toward our current political reality and a similar focus on local races while maintaining an emphasis on the Great Work.

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

It’s been a big, big month for me and I want to say out loud how grateful I am to all of you who’ve made it possible. Yes, Kate, especially you. It’s been a very difficult month for you nausea wise, I know, but you picked up a board membership at CBE and guided the food committee for the Patchworkers. All the time you’ve been supportive, though understandably surprised, at my new commitment to finally, finally, finally submitting my work. You’re the gyroscope in all this, keeping us stable and focused. Thanks, Kate.

Learning to Teach

Summer                                                                 Woolly Mammoth Moon

Tu B'shevat Seder, 2018 Religious School, CBE

Tu B’shevat Seder, 2018 Religious School, CBE

I’m neck deep, ok maybe in over my head, in lesson planning, something I’ve not done before. I realized though that I did do a lot of educating over my twelve years at the MIA and I do have good facilitator, process skills. Even so, I’m having to learn about a key moment of Jewish development, the b’nai mitzvah, oddly, a marker of the very same transition Ruth is in right now. There’s as much culture as theology here, a cultural milieu with which I have little familiarity. But I’m picking it up.

Yesterday I finally got an organizational handle on what I was doing. That’s the moment when a lot of study and thinking begins to sort itself out into recognizable components. In this instance it was a religious school year long calendar, each class for which Alan and I are responsible indicated by date. In other columns there are holidays that occur in a particular month, September, for example, has Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and Sukkot; middah of the month, for example, again, September is hitlamdut or curiosity; a column with one of Maimonides 13 articles of faith for each month. There are also Hebrew letters for each class day, a progression throughout the year that will follow the kabbalist’s tree of life and links to the parsha (Torah portion) for each week.

20180315_080213With these elements identified lesson planning will be easier because content can be plucked from any of the columns to enhance a particular class. There’s another move in the process, integrating the b’nai mitzvah curriculum developed by a national organization called Moving Traditions with those classes for which Alan and I have to develop our own lesson plans. Once how we do that is decided and dates for the b’nai mitzvah classes show up on the calendar, we should be able to move fairly quickly to a plan for the year.

I love this stuff, the pulling together of disparate complexities into one whole. This is a big challenge and I like that, too. Not to mention that I really enjoy the people at Beth Evergreen.

A long, hot summer

Summer                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

Fire mitigation, May 2016

Fire mitigation, May 2016

Smoky the Bear’s fat index finger points at Very High on all the fire danger forest signs we drive by. In Evergreen the fire station there says Extremely High. The Spring Creek Fire is at 103,000 acres burned and 35% containment. The 416 is at 54,000 and 45% containment. The Weston Pass Fire has closed 285 at Fairplay and is at 12,000 acres with 17% containment.

There’s a lot of low level anxiety here, knowing all it would take is a careless camper, a lightning strike, an automobile accident to put us in danger, too. The big fires are in the southern and southwestern parts of the state where some areas have passed beyond extreme drought conditions, so the fuel load is tinder dry.

Half of the slash, May, 2016

Half of the slash, May, 2016

We are left not with trust, then, but only hope. Hope that fire will not burn down our houses and upset our lives. Once Kate and I decided that if it burns, it burns and we move on, my anxiety level decreased. We chose to live here, chose to build our Colorado life in an area vulnerable to fire.

August 2016

August 2016

Choices, like our psyches, are never only this or only that. We moved here to be closer to the grandkids, yet to have our own life in the mountains, too. That is, we chose to move from the relatively safe from fire Andover (though the occasional derecho, tornado and hail storms were destructive.) to the wildlife/urban interface of the Rocky Mountains. It’s desirability is captured by its adjectives, we are where the wildlife live, yet urban amenities are also close. We have the beauty of the Rockies, the mule deer bucks and does that visit our yard, the elk that bugle in the fall, the mountain lions that cough in the night, black bears and all manner of other creatures. Yet, we also have the existential danger, especially high in early and mid-summer, of fire. Not an either/or, but a both/and.

Life, too, though not a choice we made (but to continue our life is a choice), puts us in an even more dire dilemma. We were thrown by circumstance into the life/reality interface, knowing that the wildfire of our death grows increasingly less contained as we age. At some point it will engulf us, burn out the wild mind that has carried us from birth. I’m ok with that, too. Not that I have a choice.

 

Sweet. So, so sweet.

Summer                                                                  Woolly Mammoth Moon

20150509_135508Oh. Sometimes the sweetness of life becomes palpable. More and more of late. Not drowned out by the drumbeat of illness, family struggle, heat it underscores that life, our lives, are moveable feasts. The meaning of life itself lies in this realization, not in achievement or wealth or knowledge or belongings. Why? Because no thing in life carries permanence, not joy, not hate, not anger, not even love. All is transitory, the matter of a moment, then it will change.

We are not prisoners of the failed marriage, the drunken mistake, the doomed career, nor are we prisoners of the awards, the fancy house, not even of the loving family. Life moves on regardless of all these. It’s not a game; it’s not true that the one with the most toys wins. No winning, no losing. Just living.

Vega

Vega

This last is the surprise key. Just living. I’ve been thinking about breathing recently, part of my sharpening doubt practice. Breathing and the heart beating. Breath. Beat. Rhythms of life. Sine qua non of life. Breathing takes the outside inside and the inside outside. It’s binary, one, two, one, two, one, two. In, out. Both necessary. Breathing in is not enough. Breathing out is not enough. Both necessary. Breath in and stop and the body will gradually die, poisoned by co2 and starved by lack of oxygen. Breath out and stop. The same. Only the two together, opposites, continuous, unconscious sustain life.

(the watercourse way, Upper Maxwell Falls)

Sometimes, up here at 8,800 feet, breathing becomes difficult, shallow, a struggle. I’m learning to take those moments as doubt sharpeners. How? Well, we’re always only one breath away from death. Always. As you breath in, it could be the last breath you take. Will be at some point. Each breath punctuates the act of faith required to live, just live. We act as if the next breath will always come, but in fact we don’t know that. The same with the beat of your heart. It only needs to stop once. And we’re dead. Yet we live as if the next beat is coming.

We need no more than breathing and the beating of the heart to remind us of the fragility and awe that is life. We are the animation of elements created in the hot furnaces of mighty stars, elements formed since the big bang, now helping us transfer oxygen from the atmosphere to our hemoglobin, then out to the organs and muscles and nerves. No wonder life cannot last. We’re a magic act, the transubstantiation of matter into vitality, elements moving with intent, with purpose. Entropy must rule. The juggler can only keep so many objects in the air at one time.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I know, it was thick, but if you have, here we are at the sweetness. It’s always there since it lies in this, every breath a leap of faith, our willingness to act as if the next heart beat will come. The sweetness is just life, the extraordinary and unexpected animation of items off the periodic table. Let no one, no thing, no thought obscure this wonder, this true miracle. A wonder and miracle we can know with each breath, each pulse.

A Family of Introverts

Summer                                                                              Woolly Mammoth Moon

20170423_091304 (2)Took Gabe to see Avengers: The Infinity War. We both liked it a lot. At various times I have the aesthetics of a 10 year old, a 12 year old and a long time museum docent. Not sure why, but I’m enthralled by comic book storylines and computer graphics. Vermeer, too. Caravaggio. Tolstoy. Wolverine. Harry Potter. Wabi-sabi. Sci-fi in books and on television. Guess parts of me just never grew up.

Ruth said to me yesterday, “You’re random, too.” One of the better compliments I’ve received.

Black Mountain is putting on another show this morning. A fluffy cumulus cloud has wrapped itself over the peak with its ski run scars. I can tell from my weather station that it must be about 39 degrees up there since that’s the dewpoint where I am. It’s 45 here. The world of clouds is no longer thousands of feet above us, as it was in Minnesota almost all of the time. Here we live among the clouds.

20180624_063250Trump. So, George Will wrote a column in the Washington Post urging members of his former party, the GOP, to vote against it in the upcoming election. Somebody has to check the “Vesuvius of mendacities.” Great metaphor. Even better idea. Of course, he believes that a Democratic congress will be as pusillanimous as the current GOP one, but it will not buckle toward the president, but away from him. He’s not become a liberal, hardly, just a pragmatic conservative who finds Trump abhorrent from a different place on the political prism.

introverts-unite-226x300Gabe and Ruth have been here since Thursday night while Jon worked on his house. Somehow we’ve finally sorted out a way of being together that seems ok for everybody. Hallelujah and hosanna. Kate has calmed, I’m not sure how, but she has. Wonderful to see. Gabe’s more attentive, more fluid in his speech, if not more fluent. Ruth cooks, sews, goes to the planetarium, talks about matters both important and funny. We interact, but on our terms, all of us. A family of introverts (though Ruth sees herself as an extreme extrovert) takes a while to find an equilibrium. Especially post-divorce.

Gonna cut down another tree today, oh boy.

 

 

Cleaning the Pine Pollen Off Our Solar Panels

Beltane                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180619_093741According to my weather system we’ve had 1.5 inches of rain this month. That’s 6.8% of  our annual precipitation total of 22 inches. (Conifer does better than the state, precip wise, 22 inches on average with 105 inches on average falling as snow.) And most of it came over the last three days. Pinecam.com is abuzz with hosannas. Things were not looking so good when the four of us left for Durango. Now? Much better.

This morning the dewpoint is 49 and the outside temp is 50. We’re in a cloud, rain falling, air cool. Wonderful for two days prior to the Summer Solstice.

Kate has her first meeting of the Beth Evergreen board tonight. She has management experience, great number sense, and a clear, unflinching view of reality. She will be an asset to both the board and through it, the synagogue. I’m happy she has this opportunity.

Got back into the exercise routine yesterday, planning to go back this week to 5 days with Tuesdays and Thursdays being high intensity interval training. I breath better when I do HIIT, got off it for a while during the intense period of Kate’s recovery.

‘Wild Rabbit in the Headlights 5#’, pencil & acrylic on rejection letter’, 21x29cm (2013) by Louise McNaught

‘Wild Rabbit in the Headlights 5#’, pencil & acrylic on rejection letter’, by Louise McNaught

Also made a commitment to myself, which I have written down on a yellow note stuck to my computer: NO 104 x’s  2018.  This means I want to receive 100 rejections this year from publishers. Sounds a little nuts, I know, but I’ve read the idea several places over the last year or so and I like it.

It recognizes that in any creative work: acting, writing, painting, music auditions you hear no more often than you do yes. And, this can be crippling. It has been for me. But, if you turn the idea around and acknowledge that reality, you can set a rejection goal. Why? Because the more times you’re rejected, the more opportunities you’ve given yourself to hear a yes. It can get somebody like me, who’s grown discouraged, a way of overcoming the negative. So, I have a goal of 2 rejections a week. Which means of course that I have to submit material to publishers. The point of it all.

forest and soulWriting, at least for me, is sufficiently compelling that I’ve continued to write over the years without success in publishing. That’s working without regard to the results. And, I found quite a while ago that that was enough for me. The writing is, itself, sufficient reward.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t like to sell some work, get some recognition. I would. But I’ve let the fear of rejection and the other negative emotions that come with it hamper me. A big psychic hurdle, one I stopped trying to overcome.

I now have enough work I can easily reach my goal of 104 rejections in 2018. Looking forward to the first two. Then two more. Then two more.

Writing has been my ground project since 1992. I’ll talk more about this idea in a later post.

 

 

Venn Merging

Beltane                                                                                  Woolly Mammoth Moon

Yesterday two worlds came into contact, even if only briefly. The first was Kate and mine’s current world, the world of the Rocky Mountains and Reconstructionist Judaism, Evergreen and Shadow Mountain. The other was our old world, the world of the Land of Lakes and the Woolly Mammoths, Andover and the Twin Cities.

First, Ode showed up at mussar. Then, Tom and Paul. The middot of the week is grace and reading Rami Shapiro’s book, The Art of Loving Kindness, carried us into a discussion about shabbat as a “counter-cultural rebellion” which encourages living one day a week as if work and worry are not the point of life. Has always made sense to me, BTW, long before Beth Evergreen, but I’ve never acted on it, never observed a sabbath day.

Anyhow the context of the conversation made me realize what a grace-full moment it was for me when Tom, Paul and Mark showed up here in Colorado. It was, in one sense, perhaps even the best sense, ordinary. I knew they would find the conversation fascinating, because it was a conversation we’d been having for over thirty years. How do you live? What about life is important? How can we move ourselves into a more meaningful, graceful, gratitude filled existence?

So that moment at the synagogue smooshed together two venn diagrams, Minnesota and Colorado. And it felt really good. They met Rabbi Jamie. Debra referred to the four of us as the quadruplets, older white haired white guys of similar size and habitus and life.

Then the party moved over to Shadow Mountain. My slow cooker Irish stew was, well, partly there. The lamb was tender, but the potatoes were not. Neither Kate nor I, though she is much more able at it than me, are big on hosting events at our house. Too busy at one point, now a bit less able. But these were friends who would forgive an underdone potato for the  conversation around the table. And the occasional poking of Rigel’s head under their arms.

Kate went to bed, then got up, came out and said, “You have the best friends.” Indeed, I do.

This morning at 8:30 we’ll take off in the giant SUV that Tom has rented. First stop, the Crow Hill Cafe, then The Happy Camper. Maybe the Sasquatch Outpost? Certainly Kenosha Pass, South Park, Fairplay. On down through South Park. Maybe we’ll look at the Rocky Mountain Land Library, maybe we’ll stop in Pagosa Springs for a soak in the hot springs. Not sure. Doesn’t matter.

We’re headed to Durango in the southwest corner of the state. The 416 fire, north of Durango, as of yesterday:

“While residents in two areas were allowed to return to their homes Thursday, the 416 Fire grew to 32,076 acres with no update on containment.

The fire, burning just 13 miles north of Durango, is still being worked by over 1,000 firefighters who are battling this thing from the air and the ground. Burn out efforts, that is, efforts to burn up the fire’s potential fuel, continued throughout the day.” 9News, Denver.

Here’s a link to a Durango Herald article on fire analysts, very interesting.

Mowing the Fuel

Beltane                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

WildfireOf course, one of the things I forgot to mention about my brief, successful excursion into small engine repair is this. Now I can mow the fuel. That clogged carburetor had given me a pass for a week or so until I decided to tackle it myself. Mowing the fuel is much different from mowing a yard. The purpose has little to do with aesthetics or neighbor pleasing. The fines, as the fire experts call them, are grasses and flowers that, when dry, serve as a fuse so that ground fires can travel from place to place.

That’s why the 10 foot rule on limbing trees. All limbs must be at least 10 feet off the ground when there are fines because flames can leap from ground to tree otherwise. There are also ladder fuels like shrubs and young trees which can ignite from the fines and carry the fire up, like a ladder, to the higher branches of the conifers. Reduce (mow) fines, cut down ladder fuel and limb trees. After creating spaces among and between trees, these are the usual annual chores to make a property as fire resistant as possible. They also include cleaning gutters. Fire mitigation in the WUI is never done. Until, that is, a big fire. Then you can wait a while to return to fire mitigation.

 

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