We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Kate and radiation

Summer                                                                      Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180526_143004Kate’s had a big couple of days. Tuesday night was the Beth Evergreen board meeting. “I feel like I’m among my peers.” And yesterday was the Needleworkers here at our house. She presented food in abundance: cherries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberry muffins, angel food cake with orange icing, brie, cooked shrimp, crackers, coffee both caffeinated and pointless.

Mailed off the 90+ day radon test. The last one a few months ago was over the minimum radon level, but I discovered that the radon system fan had been inadvertently turned off. Decided to try again, but with a longer, more definitive test. If it comes back positive, I’ll have the radon folks out. Duck and cover is no good against radon.

42 this morning as the summer solstice rolled in. 4:07 a.m mst.

 

This and that

Beltane                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

All the Woollies are back in their places with bright shiny faces. Mark and Tom in the Twin Cities, Paul in Robbintson, Maine.

Kate had her first board meeting last night. She dressed up in her serious adult clothes, put on a coat of many colors and went to Evergreen. I stayed home. Felt good after the long drive.

It’s 50 again this morning, cool, but clear. Yesterday the rain continued in the evening. A bit of nostalgia on the weather website, a tornado watch! Felt like the Midwest. Don’t recall having had one while we’ve lived here. Lots of red flag days, flash flood warnings, winter storm warnings, but no tornado watches. A few severe thunderstorm warnings, usually announcing the possibility of killer hail. Colorado has significant hail damage, among the highest in the nation. Climate in the montane region of the Rockies.

With the Durango trip over I’m finished with traveling until early August when I’ll head back to the Twin Cities for Groveland U.U.’s 25th anniversary celebration. Look forward to reconnecting with both Woolly friends and fellow docents from the MIA, seeing the MIA and the Walker, a jucy lucy at Matt’s.

Tan clumps are stump detritus

Tan clumps are stump detritus

We go into Denver less and less, our out of the house time spent either in the mountains themselves or in Evergreen, mostly at Beth Evergreen. Not an intentional thing, though the heat during the summers is a barrier for us, just that our life is now in the mountains and the city seems more and more foreign each time we go. Of course, we lived in Andover for twenty years, well outside Minneapolis, but we got into the Cities with greater frequency there. I had the MIA and the Sierra Club, the Woollies that drew me in; Kate had friends.

The stump grinder did a great job. Feels like we’re beginning to move in, a process attenuated by the medical and familial upsets that came bang, bang, bang after we moved. Jon’s bench is a good step in that direction, placing the fans, adding the light in the living room. Plenty more to do. We spent a lot of money early on installing the generator, a new boiler, solar panels, the new bathroom downstairs, sealing and staining the garage, new kitchen. Decor has waited. I’m close to having the garage organized again, may do some more work on that today.

 

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.

Reconstruct. Remember.

Beltane                                                                    Sumi-e Moon

UNESCO and European Union undertake to reconstruct the cultural heritage of Timbuktu

UNESCO and European Union undertake to reconstruct the cultural heritage of Timbuktu

Had an insight the other day about Beth Evergreen. The reason I like it there, feel comfortable there, is that I’m a reconstructionist at heart. Not a Jew, but a reconstructionist.

If I’d known about the concept when I started my reimagining project, I’d have called it reconstructing faith. Now, I do and I think of it that way. Reimagining and reenchanting are still part of this journey for me, but reconstructionist thought captures me in a particular way.

reconstruct scrollHere’s the key idea, from Mordecai Kaplan: the past gets a vote, but not a veto. That is, when considering tradition, in Kaplan’s case of course Jewish tradition, the tradition itself informs the present, but we are not required to obey it. Instead we can change it, or negate it, or choose to accept, for now, its lesson.

This is a powerful idea, especially when considering religious thought, which too often wants us to turn our backs on the present, get out a prayer rug, put our butt in the air toward the future and stretch out our hands in submission to the past.

LiveWhich brings me to another realization I had this week. Just like environmental action is not about saving the planet, the planet will be fine, it’s about saving humanity’s spot on the planet; the idea of living in the moment is not about living in the moment, it’s about remembering we can do no other thing than live in the moment.

In other words, this moment is all we have and all we will ever have. There is no way to be in the past or in the future, not even for a bit. We only live in the present. Living in the moment is not a choice, it’s a necessity by the laws of physics. What is important is realizing that, remembering it. Which goes back, come to think of it, to sharpening doubt.

ichigo-ichie_6The past is gone, the future is not yet. Always. We can be sure, confident, only of this instance, for the next may not come. To be aware of the moment is to be aware of both the tenuousness of life, and its vitality, which also occurs only in the moment. To know this, really know it in our bones, means we must have faith that the next moment will arrive, because it is not given. Not only is it not given, it will, someday, not arrive for us. That’s where faith comes in, living in spite of that knowledge, living as if the next moment is on its way.

 

Yellow Haze

Beltane                                                                     Sumi-e Moon

an offender

an offender

Winding down Brook Forest Drive toward Evergreen a yellow haze drifted over the road. My nose knows it. This is a two week + lodgepole pine orgy. My night stand had enough pollen on it to change the color of the wood top. We leave our windows open for the cool night air. As with many things unpleasant, this one requires riding out and I’d ride faster if I could. Somehow being in the present moment doesn’t sound quite as appealing right now. Wish I could make a short time jump over this oh so natural phenomenon.

Yesterday was a rest day, catching up on lost sleep, emptying kleenex boxes. At the cliched end of the day I felt better. Pollen counts lower by the end of the day.

Glacier alley, the Chilean fjords

Glacier alley, the Chilean fjords

Kate’s struggling again, still, with her weight. We had her on a positive up tick, but her dogged, and admired, following of the dietitian’s recommendations led back to nausea. Now it seems that each time she eats she becomes nauseated and/or has colon related discomfort. This is aversive conditioning around a basic human need: eating and is a problem we have to solve if she’s to have any quality of life.

Milieu therapy. Last night was a chair-ity event at Beth Evergreen. The old blue chairs, heavy and now showing their age, need replacing before the High Holidays in September. So it was a dunk the rabbi and the congregation president night. Hot dogs (Hebrew Nationals, of course), hamburgers, chicken breasts, potato salad, baked beans, chips. Beer, vodka, mineral water. Salad and condiments. All outside on the back patio.

20180608_181803Over the course of the evening I discussed quantum physics in relation to time, the placing of a second hive box at the Herman’s, travel to Peru, working as a marketing consultant, “In business, as a consultant, you’re always justifying your existence,” and watched Rabbi Jamie’s yarmulke float to the bottom of the dunk tank.

20180608_181810The weather was perfect. 75 degrees, dry and blue sky sunny. It was a good event for both of us. Folks came up to Kate and said they were glad she was going to be on the board. Two other recent shoulder surgery folks attended, their effected arms still attached to their body with slings. Kate has been consistent with her rehab. The pain relief alone has been enough to make it a successful procedure, but now she’s regaining range of motion, too.

The benefits of being seen, remembered, cared for. Huge. Necessary. Welcome.

Living With Father

Beltane                                                                  Sumi-e Moon

father's dayFather’s day is coming. It’s a weak second to the emotional powerhouse of Mother’s day, but for symmetry reasons, I suppose, it exists. My father didn’t know best. He wasn’t the wise, supportive counsel that a struggling, grief stricken teenager needed. Fatherhood as a single father after my mother’s death was a bridge too far for this closed off man, stuck in his tidy traditional understandings.

It was a tough moment for him. When she died, I was 17, my sister 12, and my brother 5. He tried. He had no choice. The house was still there. We were still there, us three kids. We had growing up to do. And now he was in charge of it all. Food, school, counsel, love.

Looking back through the long telescope of advancing age, my own, I can understand that it would have taken a much different man than my father ever was to embrace the difficulties and make a new reality for all of us. This is not a criticism of him, just a statement of fact. Emotional skills needed to handle a grieving family? Nope. Grasp of children’s ordinary struggles? Nope. Awareness of his own pain and an ability to find help with it? Nope. Daily work, cash for the family, that sort of steadiness? Yes. Bless him for that. Without it our little family would have foundered completely.

father's day 3Not all who are called respond to a challenge well. I’m sure he wanted to, sure he tried. Perhaps in a sense this revisits the question yesterday about the universe having our back. My own father didn’t have my back, so it’s tough to see the universe doing better. Like the universe I believe my father offered what he could,  as well as he could. It didn’t measure up. From this distance I’m sure there’s no reason to doubt his good intentions. His intentions were restricted by a fatherless upbringing, by a sturdy German understanding of family and authority, by a belief in his primacy as father in a 1950’s post-WWII household. We needed flexibility, outright love, much patience. As did he.

We all failed. I wish I could write this into a stirring testimony of his secret strengths, the things unknown even to himself that made things ok, but I can’t. It was a tragedy, a long, rolling tragedy, that continues to claim its own pain.

father's day 4Perhaps one incident can stand in for all those years. In 1991 or 1992 my new wife, Kate Olson, Joseph and I rented an RV and took a trip that included a visit to Alexandria, my hometown. By this time, almost thirty years after my mother’s death in 1964, Dad had remarried. When Raeone and I adopted Joseph, I made a concerted effort to reconnect with Dad, believing that Joseph needed to know his grandpa. It was rocky from the beginning, but both of us, Dad and me, tried.

We had a new schism during my divorce from Raeone, harsh words were exchanged and I wrote him a letter pulling back. With Kate in my life I wanted her to meet him, to have another shot at Joe and him developing a relationship, hence the trip. When we got to Alexandria, Dad told us we’d need to meet him downtown. Rosemary wouldn’t let me in the house. I suppose she was taking Dad’s side, trying to be supportive, protective.

But he didn’t challenge her. Didn’t fight to be back in our lives. We took a walk around downtown, he put his arm over my shoulder, clearly wanting to be closer, but unwilling, as he had been most of the time since mom’s death, to reach for the courage to make it happen. He wouldn’t confront Rosemary, make her allow us into the house in which I was raised.

Turkey Run hiking trajil

Turkey Run hiking trail

When we left Alexandria that afternoon, I knew our father and son relationship, as a living thing, was over. We went to Turkey Run State Park, a couple of hours or so from Alexandria, found a spot for the RV and parked for the night. After we’d parked, I put on my running clothes, shut the flimsy aluminum door and took off running the trails in the rain. I cried, I shouted, I protested, I ran and ran and ran until I was exhausted. It was the next to last time I saw Dad before his funeral some 15 years later.

Father rewriteOver the last 8 weeks in the qabbalah class on time we discussed how to rewrite these kind of  narratives of our past so they lose their power to harm us. I believe with Dad I did this long ago by abandoning my notion of him as a superhuman who should (note: should) have been able to heal all our wounds and nurture us into our best selves. I also abandoned my false hero notion of myself or either of my siblings needing to take on that role, covering for his inability. We were all fallible, all wounded by mom’s death and trapped by the stories of our time. We did the best we could, all of us, even Dad. It was not adequate, but that’s the way life turns out sometimes.

I chose to do what I could to see that my sons had an available father, one who showed them love, even in the hard times. It’s not been easy, though it’s been nowhere the emotional drama of my nuclear family. I hope neither Jon nor Joe have a reason at any point to run the labyrinth of their own lives trying to leave me behind. Blessed be.

Ensos and Hot Dogs

Beltane                                                                         Sumi-e Moon

C.C.

Under the sumi-e moon I introduced this ancient art form to the qabbalah class. It was a sight. I forgot to take the aprons from home and asked Tara if Beth Evergreen had aprons. She found some. All but one were bright red aprons with Hebrew Nationals (a hot dog) in prominent blue letters.

That meant that in this class focused on our relationship to time, utilizing insights from the medieval world of Jewish mysticism, a pagan skeptic led an activity rooted in Zen Buddhism, which itself has roots in Chinese Chan Buddhism. This is the beauty of Beth Evergreen and Reconstructionist Judaism. And Rabbi Jamie’s approach to qabbalah. It allows for both a broad and deep mixing of tradition(s), yet focuses on bringing the insights gained from them into daily life.

20180607_203218

Rabbi Jamie, Debra, Alan

In this spirit I introduced the practice of drawing the enso, not only as a profound symbol from the world of Taoist inflected Buddhism, but as a potential daily practice, one that insists on the present, that insists on marrying the body and the mind and achieving that marriage not by intention so much as by letting go of intent, the brush work an extension of the lev, the heart-mind.

It was fun and soulful.

Remember the Shark

Beltane                                                                           Sumi-e Moon

  • I know how well you have succeeded in making your earthly life so rich and varied, that you no longer stand in need of an eternity. Having made a universe for yourselves, you are above the need of thinking of the universe that made you.
  • On every subject, however small and unimportant, you would most willingly be taught by those who have devoted to it their lives and their powers. … How then does it come about that, in matters of religion alone, you hold every thing the more dubious when it comes from those who are experts?
    • Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion: Speeches to its Cultured Despisers, 1799

AbrahamSacrificesIsaacIcon_smFaith. The middah of the month for Beth Evergreen. Emunah. Last night at MVP, the mussar vaad practice group, we talked about emunah. Rabbi Jamie and Marilyn said that in the early days of mussar classes at Beth Evergreen, some time ago, the middah that caused the most consternation was this one.

I can see why. Faith is a word often used, but little understood. Faith is also a word often abused both by religion’s adherents and by religion’s cultured despisers. (Friedrich Schleiermacher) Faith is a sine qua non inside any mega-church in America. Either you have faith or you don’t. Black and white. It was true for me as a clergyman in the Presbyterian church. When I could no longer claim with authenticity that I had faith in God (whatever conception of God I was using at the time), I could no longer serve in that role.

Religion’s cultured despisers, a term coined by Friedrich Schleiermacher in 1799 in his book of the same name, often use faith as a straw concept with which to flog the irrational religious. Faith makes people blind. Faith makes people malleable to cult leaders. Faith makes people believe in a magical world. Faith blots out a person’s capacity to see the world as it is.

universe has your backOne of us in the group last night said, “The universe is for me.” I have other friends who believe the universe is a place of abundance, or, as author Gabrielle Bernstein titled her book, “The Universe has my back.” I don’t buy it. This abundant universe will kill you. It will kill you. This is not a matter of faith, but of oft repeated experience. The universe offers up all we need to live, then takes it all away.

I don’t believe the universe gives a damn. The problem for me is placing a value judgment on the actions of this vast context into which, thank you Heidegger, we were thrown. I don’t believe the universe is out to get me; nor do I believe it has my back. I’m a part of that universe and I can choose to live into my part, follow the tao as it manifests in my life, or I can resist it and struggle, but in either case the universe will keep on evolving and changing. Maybe what I’m saying here is that I’m not willing to shift the religious notion of God’s agency to the universe, no matter how construed.

If the universe is, as I believe it is, neutral to us and our lives, or, said another way, if we are no more privileged than any other part of the world, the cosmos, then what can faith mean? What is there in which to have faith?

nightdiving_titleTurns out quite a lot. Another of us last night told a story of night diving. A favorite activity of hers. She said she turns off her diving light and floats in the night dark ocean. While she’s in the dark, she imagines a shark behind her. The shark may kill her in the next moment, but until that moment she is keenly alive. This is, for me, a perfect metaphor for faith. Each day the shark is behind us. A car accident. A heart attack. A lightening bolt. A terminal diagnosis. Yet each day we float in the dark, suspended between this moment in which we live and the next one in which we are dead. And we rejoice in that moment. There is faith.

SharkThis is the existentialist abyss of which Nietzsche famously said, “If you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back at you.” Living on in spite of its direct glare, that’s faith. This sort of faith requires no confidence in the good or ill will of the universe, it requires what Paul Tillich called the courage to be. I would challenge that formulation a bit by altering it to the courage to become, but the point is the same.

Here’s the interesting twist. Doubt and faith are partners. As a quote Rabbi Jamie offered last night says, they live in the same apartment building. Here’s the big learning I got last night. Doubt is the true sine qua non for faith. And to the extent that we have doubt, I would identify doubt with awareness of the shark, we have faith. There is, and this is the aha for me, a frisson between doubt and faith that makes life vital.

sacred tensionSo. My practice for this month involves, in Rabbi Jamie’s phrase, sharpening my doubt. I will remember the shark as often as I can. I will recognize the contingent nature of every action I take, of every aspect of my life. And live into those contingencies, act as if the shark will let me be right now. As if the uncertainty of driving, of interacting with others, of our dog’s lives will not manifest right now. That’s faith. Action in the face of contingency. Action in the face of uncertainty. Action in the face of doubt.

I want to sharpen doubt because I want to taste what it feels like to live into doubt, to choose life over death, to have the courage to become. If I only use the automatic responses, make money, achieve fame, watch television, play with my phone, immerse myself in the needs of another, or several others, then I blunt the bravery, the courage it takes to live. I do not want a life that’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage. I do not want a life that is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing. (Macbeth, Act 5, scene 5)

I want a life that flourishes not in spite of the uncertainties, the contingencies that are all to real, but because of them.

 

Livin’ Is Easy. Sort of.

Beltane                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

20180604_122702After sledging and searing the meat and softening the vegetables in the fat, I put a three or four pound hunk of chuck roast in the slow cooker along with potatoes, carrots, onions and celery. It cooked all day, coming out fork tender. An easy meal. Jon and the kids got stuck in traffic so they ate later.

Had a visitor, a young mule deer buck with velveted horns, a small knob on top of each one. He loved our front yard, carefully eating only dandelion blooms. Wish I could have gotten him in the back, he’d have loved the delicacies there. In this brave new world on Shadow Mountain, dandelions are a beautiful addition to the late spring, early summer yard. Mowing only to keep down the fuel. Gonna have a go at that today after I put fresh gas in the mower.

Ruth and I are going to practice sumi-e today. I want to mimic my presentation for Thursday night. Enso practice, then a keeper. I also want to learn the kanji for ichi-go ichi-e.

Summer temperatures have come to the mountains, but in the way of heat in this arid climate, it’s not unbearable. The new fans in the loft, bedroom and over the dining room table help.

 

June 2018
M T W T F S S
« May    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
252627282930  

Breadcrumbs

Trails