Early to bed…

Winter and the Future Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Marilyn Saltzman, who works so hard. Rabbi Jamie’s The Human Narrative class. Truly radical religion. Extra sleep this am. (writing this at 9 am. way late for me) Heirloom tomatoes. Honeycrisp apples. Metamucil. The old garden in Andover where I learned so much. The beautiful light illuminating Black Mountain.

Still tired today, but less so. Got back to the house about 9pm last night after a focus group at Beth Evergreen. The first one of several. Part of a five year strategic planning process. They put me in this group with mostly founding members and other long termers. I was the only Gentile in the room. The focus group started at 7 pm, a time when I’m in my jammies and within an hour of going to bed. Not my time for peak performance.

Felt dull on the way home. Don’t like evening meetings anymore. Used to be my bread and butter. Now I fade after 6, 6:30 pm. The pattern we’ve gotten into. Since I get up between 4:30 and 5:00, it makes sense. But it makes evening sessions requiring, as Hercules Poirot says, “…the little gray cells,” hard.

More sleep still needed, but much better.

Fumes

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Debra Cope, who came by for dinner. Safeway for deli salad and the baguette. The E-collar that solved the Murdoch no come in problem. Kate’s advice in that matter, and in so many others. Gertie, who will not let up on being a rascal. Mike who put in a wall socket for our new microwave.

Exhaustion. Creeps up, miss a nap here. Have Gertie chewing on a box in the sewing room after leaping out of the bedroom window there. Murdoch not wanting to come inside. The constant Game of Rooms necessary to keep Kep and Murdoch apart. Also, of course, the long term stress of first Kate’s Sjogren’s and loss of weight, then her bleed, then all that came after. Toss in a dash of cancer recurrence and a soupcon of COPD.

Plain weary. Short tempered. Thoughts not as crisp. Ashamed of myself for not being able to reign in my anger. Not new. Anger is hard for me. It comes, rising red and proud, sudden. Pushing. Demanding release. I do not have the mussar attitude here, lengthening the pause between striking the match and lighting the candle.

Right now. Up. Tired.

Downsize?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

A Certain Woolly Center of Gravity

Winter and the Future Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Snow, at night. Stefan and Lonnie in Colorado. Having plenty of leftovers. Hugs. Tears. This whole miracle the world. Life. Death. All of it. Again, still the mountains. This nation, tested as it is. This nation, for what it still is. This nation, for what it still can be. My heart which fills up, then flows over.

Three clean, sparkly, sweet smelling dogs: Gertie, Rigel, Murdoch. Gotta love it. Do this more often. Kep on Monday.

Kate went into her sewing room! Yeah! She fixed my gray, alpaca wool scarf. It got damaged in the Akita mixed-martial arts match two weeks ago. Lots of holes.

This scarf was born along the west coast of Latin America as Kate sat on our deck chair, viewing the wide Pacific. She made it for me because, as you go further south below the equator, it gets colder. I had it on when we sailed through the Chilean fjords, a remarkable one-hundred and twenty mile long stretch of mostly uninhabited islands, glacial bays. I had it on when we sailed into Ushuaia, the southern most town on the continent, and, in the world. Around Cape Horn. On the Falkland Islands. Now when I go get the newspaper. Or the groceries.

The dogs. With Murdoch added to the mix they require some Tetris like shuffling all day long. Where Kep is, Murdoch cannot be. And, vice versa. When Gertie is out, Kep cannot be. And, vice versa. Lots of intercom calls between upstairs and downstairs. What’s the disposition of the dogs? Where’s Kepler? I’d like to let Murdoch out. And so on until the moment when Murdoch and Rigel go up the stairs to the guest aka dog room for the night.

The payoff. A happy Joe and SeoAh, knowing Murdoch is safe and loved. Murdoch here with his puppy bounce and energy. Lots of kisses and wriggles and smiles. Life in the house with our life. Full. Good. Tiring.

Was gonna go see Stefan and Lonnie today in Avon, near Vail, but the weather out that way was nasty. No need to do that to myself. Gonna try again Friday. Stefan had a hip replacement at Steadman Orthopedics and is recovering at the Westin Spa and Resort. Why not?

There’s a certain Woolly center of gravity gathering energy here in Colorado. Paul’s daughter Kate and her husband, Michael, moved to Boulder. Scott’s son and daughter are both in Colorado: Pagosa Springs and Carbondale. Warren and Frank both have relatives out here. Tom’s visited several times. Mark and Bill and Paul have come out, too. Lonnie and Stefan come to Colorado regularly, this time for a new hip.

Finished my ninth page of Daf Yomi. As I read, I keep thinking of the 60’s, what a long, strange trip it’s been. Gonna keep at it. It’s alternately boring, fussy, and poignant. At some point I’ll do a post about what I’m learning.

Stick to it

Winter and the Full Future Moon shining through the lodgepole pines in the west

Friday gratefuls: for the Mussar group. for the Daf Yomi, now day seven. for the chance to do the Murdoch mitzvah. for the fresh new snow. for the 12 degree weather, what they call here, Stock Show weather. for Black Mountain who watches over me from above. for Shadow Mountain who supports me from below. for the crazy people who go out on Evergreen Lake for ice-fishing. May there always be crazy people.

Kepler to the vet yesterday. No, not bites and rips from Murdoch’s teeth. Rashes and hot spots. Antibiotics and an increased prednisone load for a week or so. Dr. Palmini has lost weight and buffed up. When I asked him if he would go to the Iditarod this year. The jury’s still out, he said. It’s a long time to be gone. But, it’s fun, isn’t it? Well, some of it, but when you get up at 3 am…? He goes as a volunteer vet for the sled dogs in the race. Lots of Iditarod memorabilia on the walls of his practice.

Back to HIIT workouts for cardio. Hi intensity interval training. A new one. Slow, 90 seconds. Fast as possible, 6mph for me, 30 seconds. Repeat four times then 3 minute cool down. I increased the number of intervals and the incline, from 1% to 2%, this week. Intervals are the best workout for cardio and they take a shorter time period that most cardio workouts.

Mussar. Got caught out nodding like I understood something that was said. Had to admit it, because the conversation expected me to say something about I’d already said. Everybody laughed when I told them. First time I can recall being caught in this oh, so usual gambit of not only me, but all folks hard of hearing. Gotta work on the ear wax thing. Seems to bother my hearing aid a lot.

The quality of the day, see Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities, was perseverance. A lot of discussion, an amusing number of examples about math, not unusual in a group with literary inclinations. Perseverance is in my toolkit.

Mostly. I can write novels. Start and finish them. Not easy, often taking over a year. I did not persevere so well with marketing them, though. I enjoy, as I said a few posts back, long books, long movies, long tv series. I can start all of these and finish them. Think War and Peace, Dante’s Inferno, Spenser’s Fairie Queen, Faust, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 10 Commandments, the Irishman, Gone with the Wind. And, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I’m finally in the fifth and last season. It only has 88 episodes.

I can make a commitment and stick to it for years, a lifetime. One of my youthful commitments was to keep reading difficult material. Stay political. College. Keep asking the fundamental questions and don’t shy away from difficult answers. Never work in a setting that compromises your values. Kate, now for over 30 years. The Woollies, about the same. Joseph, now going 39 years. Exercise, since my forties.

When I didn’t persevere, marketing and college German being the ones that come to mind, it was out of fear, I think. Fear is not a guide, it’s a caution, but I let myself get stuck in its glue at least those two times and I regret it. Anxiety grows along with fear and fear increases the anxiety. As I’m learning to be easier with myself, I’ll give myself an “I’m sorry to hear that, but you’re ok now.” bit of self-talk.

Rocking my inner boat

Winter and the Full Future Moon (98%)

Thursday gratefuls: for the Geek Squad guy who came to install our microwave. for his calling out an electrical problem. for Altitude Electric for coming next Monday. for the Geek Squad coming back next Saturday. for the first session in the Human Narrative, the Kabbalah class using Art Green’s book, Radical Judaism. for Zoom which allowed me to both here and there. Bi-location!

Kate and I have been doing sixty second hugs. As Paul Strickland mentioned in his review of a conference he and Sarah attended. What a great idea! We hug anyway, but often short ones. Sixty seconds encourages intimacy. More intimacy is welcome.

Also, we’re dancing with zero negativity. Same conference’s idea. For us, a real challenge. Not so much because we’re negative toward each other, but because both of us have minds that veer easily toward the critical, the analytical. And, we both know a lot so challenging each other’s conclusions comes with breathing. Still. I know where this concept heads and I would like to get there. So…

I describe myself as a neo-pagan by which I mean that my faith is located in this reality, not in some other, supernatural place. And that my faith reads revelation first from the ur sacred text, the book of Nature. This does not exclude other sacred texts as sources of wisdom, inspiration, even revelation, it places them second to seeing what you’re looking at. (Casey Reams) Or, being mindful. Or, deep listening. Or, respectful touching.

It also means that I’ve backed myself into an interesting corner, or, maybe, an interesting geodesic dome. If the cosmos itself reveals the sacred to those who see, the sacred underlies the whole cosmos. If the sacred underlies, is within, permeates the cosmos, then the Kabbalistic notion of divine light, ohr, waiting for us in everything begins to make sense to me.

If that makes sense to me, then the notion of an underlying unity also can come into focus. Is that unity the shekinah? That is, the feminine aspect of the divine said by the Kabbalists to constitute this material world? Not ready to go there yet, not sure I want to put a label on it. But, the idea of the shekinah does work for me at the level of analogy, metaphor.

Challenging. Rocking my inner boat. Yes.

Seven years, five months, 26 days to go

Winter and the Future Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Kate removing my sutures. Shelly for a quick and relatively painless shot of Lupron. Ali Baba for great gyros, hummus. Those who built the mountain roads. Those who built and maintain the mountain power lines. Golden Solar for installing our solar panels.

Fourth day of Daf Yomi. Only seven years, 5 months and 26 days to go. I’ve always liked long books, long movies, long tv series. Daf Yomi has a similar resonance though its length puts it in a class all by itself. Well, wait. Not quite. Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the great Chinese classic novel, is well over 2,000 pages, too. It’s not, however, as dense and clever as the Talmud. It took a long while to read, but not years. Months.

Reading the Talmud, as a first-timer, is a challenging and intriguing experience. It swerves from topic to topic, sometimes in apparently unrelated ways, but seems to come back to a particular issue.

Let me give you an example. The major question since the first page has been when to recite the Shema: Hear o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (longer, but this is the essential verse.) The affirmation of monotheism is bedrock for Jewish faith and practice.

Reciting the Shema during the night, when to do it, has taken up the first four Talmudic pages. The questions are many. When is it night? When is it midnight? When is it morning? How do we know the three (or, maybe four) watches of the night? In a time before precise clocks these were urgent questions if reciting these prayers was critically important. And, their recitation was critically important.

In the discussion about how we know when it’s midnight, one rabbi answers that David got up at midnight to pray and study Torah. How did he know it was midnight? He hung his lyre by his bed and when the north wind blew on the lyre its sounds marked midnight. On the question.

But then the question becomes one of David’s piety. Raised, I suppose, by the fact that he got up at midnight to pray and study. Several paragraphs go back and forth on the question of his piety, then we return to the central issue, how do know when to recite the night time Shema?

This may sound dry, even Jesuitical (eh, Bill?), but it’s actually lively, full of stories and a certain kind of logic chopping that I’m familiar with from philosophy. In short, I’m liking it.

Better than a Lupron shot in the butt. Which I also got yesterday.

But wait. I can hear one of the Rabbi’s say, the Lupron shot was to save your life, how is reading the Talmud better than saving your life? Because its significance goes beyond life to matters of the soul.

This is tricky for me since my belief system shuttles away from particular traditions, but I recognize the questions and love the playfulness with which they are addressed. Reading Talmud for me, like reading Torah or the New Testament is a lesson in metaphor, analogy, not in prescriptions. More on this later, too.

Daf Yomi

Winter and the Future Moon

later Monday gratefuls: The Talmud, the extraordinary reach of Jewish history, CBE, Rabbi Jamie, Alan. Mussar. Kabbalah.

Because the time seemed propitious I’ve embarked on a seven and a half year journey called Daf Yomi. A Daf is both sides of a page, A and B, in the Talmud. Daf Yomi means “daily page.” It’s an old, old discipline of reading through the entire 2,711 pages of the Babylonian Talmud at the pace of Daf Yomi, a page a day.

A cycle begins every seven and a half years. Jews and other interested folks all over the world follow the Daf Yomi schedule. It’s easy in that Sefaria, an online library of Jewish traditional texts, has the entire Babylonian Talmud (there’s a Jerusalem Talmud, too) online. MyJewishLearning has a set of brief e-mails, one a day, that provide a link to the text on Sefaria, and a short commentary.

Not sure what this will bring, but it’s another way of learning about the tribe among whom I live.

Radical Religiosity

Winter and the Future Moon

Sunday after zoom gratefuls: Mark, Tom, Bill, Paul. The technology. The years. The ease of understanding, of knowing. The always new: books, movies, personal learnings. Staying connected. All good, all special.

Thought as a way of preparing for my first class at the Kabbalah Experience, I’d summarize my reaction to starting Art Green’s book, Radical Judaism through to the Torah chapter. I’ve read the introduction, YHWH: God and Being, and the History of God. 78 pages out of 166. Almost half.

A slim, blue book, Radical Judaism contains a new (or, better, a newer) way of thinking about religion. Since I’ve had as a background project for many years now reimagining faith, then reconstructing and reenchanting faith, Green’s work spoke to me in a special, dialogical way.

Here’s an example. In the introduction he explains that theodicy, how can there be evil in the world if god is good? and critical history, the academic study of the Torah, the Hebrew scriptures, and, I would add, the New Testament, pushed him out of a faith he’d readopted in childhood. His parents were atheists.

In the 1980’s it occurred to me that Joseph would have been beyond the pale of salvation if he had been raised in Bengal by his parents, a Hindu. In this case theodicy relates to a god not big enough all of earth’s children. Not a true god, then.

In seminary I’d become fascinated by biblical study. I loved the stories. I loved the application of analytical thinking to sacred text. I saw the bare ground on which the claim of total inspiration rested. When I entered seminary, I was not a believer, and these courses pushed me further away from any normal faith.

I took my faith from the words of Jesus and the prophets about justice. This was the worldview that mattered to me. There was a lot of prayer, contemplative and petitionary. There were many meditative moments, visions, but even with lectio divina, a form of sacred reading of scripture, I never found my way to God, the father, or to God the general. I did have hints of God as immanent, but I found transcendence a bridge too far, taking me out of this world into one I suspected was really fantasy.

The realization about God and Joseph broke the slim rope connecting me to the Christian tradition, making ministry impossible. Christianity is not big enough, though Judaism is, to hold doubts about the central tenets of faith. Neither is Islam for that matter. Judaism is unusual in this regard.

Green made a comment in the introduction that taught me a valuable lesson: “I was no longer a believer, in the usual sense of that term, but I learned rather quickly that I was still a religious person…” p. 3, Radical Judaism. What was the lesson? Obvious to others, I imagine, but not to me. I am a religious person.

What does that mean? It involves a questing spirit, a questioning spirit, seeking through philosophy, poetry, religious texts, for answers to the big questions about life, death, our purpose. It also involves, I’m learning again, some sort of community.

So the first connection with Art Green was a remarkable similarity in our journeys. More on this later.

Undetectable!

Winter and the Future Moon

Friday gratefuls: Mussar. The folks there, the down deep discussions. Yesterday, boredom was the topic. The actors in Resurrection: Ertugrul. For Radical Judaism, by Art Green. That sweet Gertie, who lay with her head on my pillow most of the night. Jon and our dinner at Aki on Broadway. The strange retail store, Orr’s Trading Post. Sleep. Kate’s improvement from New Year’s Day.

Unalloyed good news! Yes. PSA drawn a week ago, undetectable. If I have a similar one in March, then another similar one in June, I believe they’ll declare me cured. I feel cured. No tacit sense of foreboding, no undercurrent of doom. Felt a touch of the relief I’ll feel in June if I get the same results then.

No sense of foreboding, no, but a pressure on the psyche while waiting to discover the results of the radiation? Oh, yes. This June is a long way away (at least to me) from August of 2019 when I drove out to Lonetree for the last time to lie under the Cyberknife. That first PSA in September troubled me. This one buoys me up. May they continue.

Had dinner with Jon last night at Aki, a Japanese place on Broadway in Denver. He’s in a calmer place, less conflicted. So bright. Way brighter than me. I so hope he can ease himself into a better psychic space. We’re going to keep doing this, meeting for dinner. I hope the regularity will give him something of an emotional anchor.

In Mussar yesterday, for a check-in, I recounted the story of the dog battle and my realization of the warrior’s way. When I spoke about warriors putting their bodies on the line for our safety and security, I teared up. Thinking of Joseph.