We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Rivers and Mountains, Bees and Kate

Spring                                                            Mountain Moon

fan kuan, travelers among mountains and streams

Fan Kuan (960-1030, a.c.e.), travelers among mountains and streams, Song Dynasty

So my mind is filling with rocks, pines, mountain streams, magpies and mountain lions; a sign that the mountain theme has begun to take hold. I plan to spend this spring and summer sketching and photographing rock formations, mountains, summits, animals, water, trees and other plants, then interpreting them with sumi-e. I’m continuing to read the shan-shui (mountains and rivers) poets, moving back into the world of Chinese classical painting.

Qabbalah study continues. We’re investigating time and the qabbalists have their own unique approach to it. Here’s an example. To experience what I would call sacred time-they use the phrase eternal time-qabbalists want us to pay closer attention to what I would call ordinary time. This is far different from trying to collapse the hold of ordinary time through meditation or koans or mystical experience. The easiest example is the week. In the qabbalist’s world we count six ordinary days, then we experience shabbat. Shabbat is a time out of time, a moment in the week when the observer exits the world as usually experienced and enters sacred time. But. It’s observable as sacred time because of its contrast to the six days that precede it and the six that follow it. Thus we can find sacred time through attention to measured/ordinary time.

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

Getting ready to hive bees for Beth Evergreen on Saturday morning. Had to dig around in all the bee stuff we brought from Andover since Rich Levine, local bee enthusiast, needed a hive box and twenty frames plus accessories. I had enough. Getting out the hive tool, scraping propolis off the frames, moving supers put me right back into beekeeper mode. Still don’t think I’m willing to do it here, too much hassle with the need for a bear proof enclosure which means strong electric fencing. I will enjoy helping others, though.

Singapore, 2016

Singapore, 2016

Kate’s gained almost five pounds! This after a long period of weight loss. I called her my incredible shrinking wife. Our consult with Betsy, the nutritionist for New West Physicians, was a turning point.

Kate’s building momentum. The Sjogren’s conference left her feeling less alone with this nasty disease since there were hundreds in attendance from all across the U.S. who not only have it, but have similar experiences to hers. She also had her second session of physical therapy this morning and continues to be excited and enthusiastic about it.

Makes me smile.

 

 

Yom ha-Sho’ah

Spring                                                                        Mountain Moon

Holocaust Is Fading From Memory, Survey Finds. NYT

Anti-Semitic Incidents Surged 57 Percent in 2017, Report Finds. NYT

20180415_155755Sho’ah is Hebrew for catastrophe and has come to refer explicitly to the catastrophe for Jews after slavery in Egypt, the Holocaust. On the 27th of Nisan, April 12th this year, Jews celebrate Yom ha-Sho’ah, or Holocaust Remembrance, on the anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising. This is a crucial twist to Holocaust remembrance because it frames the day with a symbol of Jewish resistance to the Nazi’s.

One thing I’ve been privileged to observe over our time so far at Beth Evergreen is the complicated relationship Jews have with the Holocaust. It is horror beyond imagining, yet there are photographs and family memories and its dispiriting constancy in everyday Jewish life. Rabbi Jamie tries, each time he refers to the Holocaust, to inoculate the congregation against an attitude of victimization. Victims have little agency and the worst sequelae of the Holocaust would be a self-enforced powerlessness.

20180415_155411It’s a tragedy so outsized, so without precedent as an act of calculated evil, that how to approach its remembrance, its historicity, is fraught. Words and analysis, though important in certain venues, cannot touch the emotional complex around its reality. Congregation Beth Evergreen, this Sunday, tried another approach. Dance and music.

Beth Evergreen commissioned The Thomas Dance Troupe, five members of the Colorado Ballet who work together outside of the Ballet, to come up with works that could serve as, well, I’d say, a cri de coeur. They performed with a select few members of the Evergreen Chorale, a pianist, and a violinist.

It was a powerful program, aimed straight at the heart and it arrived. Many of the most important truths which we humans can access are not communicable in words, in the language of reasoned discourse. Those we must find in art.

Deepening, Growing Richer

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

20180119_095931

Dogs, too

Thinking about the previous post I celebrated the move to Colorado. We’re here to support Gabe and Jon. Congregation Beth Evergreen is here to support us, SeoAh and Joe, too. In turn the Woollies are there to support Mark and I retain powerful ties to them, too, and him. It’s so gratifying, at age 71, to find ties of family and friendship and community deepening, growing richer.

The Great Wheel turns, the moon rises and sets, day and night follow each other. And we reach out to each other, fellow travelers through the seasons, months, and days.

Gonna Miss Her

Spring                                                                        New Shoulder Moon

In Gwangju, April 2016

In Gwangju, April 2016

SeoAh goes home today. Murdoch misses her and Joe needs her. Her flight is at 11:45, so we’ll leave around 8:30 or so. After I get her checked in, I’ll turn around and drive back past Conifer and on to Littleton to Hearing Aid Associates. My hearing aid no longer takes juice from batteries.

The dishwasher saga is still not over. After substantial research into dishwashers, it’s my conclusion that no one makes one that lasts very long or very well. The combination of swirling water and electronics seems to make them more vulnerable than most appliances. So. If you’ve had a good experience with a particular brand, let me know. Gonna buy one soon. Sigh.

Gwangju, April 2016

Gwangju, April 2016

Joseph’s been running an exercise at Robbins all this week. His wing commander told him on Tuesday, “Brief at 1 p.m.” This was at noon. He usually has much longer to prepare. 500 people. “I knocked it out of the park, Dad.” Baseball metaphors come naturally to this boy who was young when the Twins won the World Series twice. He also told me he still answers the phone, “Capt. Buckman-Ellis,” then has to shift quickly, “No. Major Buckman-Ellis.” 6 years a Captain wears a pretty strong groove in the brain.

Last night was the first night of the new qabbalah series, Time. The first year introductory curriculum covers the three dimensions of the qabbalistic universe: soul, space and time. Time, above all other concepts we think we understand, bends and twists when we try to hold it down, flog some sense out of it. I confess to being more unsettled as to my understanding of time than any other idea except the notion of self.

kabbalah magicThe two have a close relationship. It’s the human observer who brings time into being, I think. We know from Einstein that time and space are inseparable; but, I’m still with Kant, that time and space are actually ways our minds use to make sense of the data we gather from our senses. The implication is that they are constructs of human consciousness and that we cannot know their existence in what Kant calls the ding an siche, things in themselves.

These classes are like one long late night conversation in college. And fun for that reason.

Tarot and Craft Beer

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project

Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project

Went out last night to an Atlas Obscura/Denver event. Yes, this funky website now has local, meet-up like events in various cities. The one last night was on tarot, a presentation at the only in Denver, Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project. The presenter, Joy Vernon, has been reading tarot cards since 1991 and presently works out of the unfortunately named Isis Book Shop. Isis has since changed its name to Goddess Isis Bookshop to distinguish itself from the new caliphate.

20180409_194615Besides the quirky reputation of Atlas Obscura, which draw me in, I also went because Joy said she would discuss qabbalah and the tarot. Only a couple of mentions but they were there. Here’s a for instance in this blurry photograph of one of her slides. In another spot she mentions the correspondence between qabbalah (translation note: Rabbi Jamie says the q is the correct translation) and the qabbalistic Tree of Life with its ten sephirots. Not a detailed examination of the relationship, but enough to make me want to explore it further.

Joy was knowledgeable about her subject and an entertaining speaker. To pass over the “dry” history portion (her word) she suggested a drinking game. We were in a pub after all. Each time she mentioned a place or a Tarot card with Bacchus on it came up, each person had to say Bacchus and take a drink. The crowd, mostly millennials, was into it. So when she mentioned Milan, for instance, someone in the crowd would yell, “Bacchus!” and people would drink. Pretty modestly, but hey!

20180409_194857Tarot by itself has fascinated me for a long time and I have three decks of my own. I like the iconography and the mythical, archetypal leanings of current Tarot readers. That doesn’t mean I put much stock in the readings themselves, though I do believe any sincere examination of self, whether occasioned by a hallucinogen, meditation, an analyst or a Tarot reader can be of benefit.

The next Atlas Obscura event in Denver is a presentation by a crime scene cleaner. Wish I could go but it’s on April 22nd in the evening. On that night we’ll be dining at Domo, the rural Japanese style restaurant, with Ruth and Gabe and Jon in honor of the kid’s birthdays, Ruth on April 4th and Gabe’s on the 22nd, 12 and 10.

 

You’re Fired

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

firedSamsung won’t condemn our dishwasher. But I will. It’s a very rotten appliance, not good at its job. It’s FIRED! Which means we have to buy a new one. Oh, well. At least it’s a resolution. So, sometime soon a new dishwasher will appear. We will all (Kate and me) be happy. This one never worked quite right, requiring lots of jiggering and poking.

Kate’s been doing a lot of gettin’ around. She’s out to the mailbox for the paper. More about the paper in a paragraph. She saw Lisa on Wednesday then we drove into Denver to see Ruth. Yesterday we went to Mussar for the first time since the ides of March. It was wonderful to see and be seen. Warm. Uplifting.

We’re both tired today. I wanted to get out there and buy a new dishwasher today, get this saga done; but, we’re both too weary. Tomorrow, maybe. SeoAh comes tomorrow, arriving around five at DIA. It will be great to have her here for a few days.

rocky mountain newsThe Denver Post. Not one of the nation’s great newspapers. Unfortunately, the Rocky Mountain News, which was a really good, if not great, paper succumbed in 2009. We’re left with the Post which is a rather staid, uninteresting example of the journalistic art.

Printer’s ink runs in my veins, having grown up to the rattling, clanking sound of an old Heidelberg letter press churning out copies of the the Times-Tribune in Alexandria, Indiana. I love newspapers and believe in reading local newspapers. It was natural for us to get a subscription. Kate does one or two crosswords every day and we both appreciate the local news.

denver postYet. We got a notice of a change in subscription price. The Post has gone from $30 a month to $59 a month. Nearly $700 a year for a second-rate newspaper. And, to add to that, mountain delivery is like all other services up here, sporadic and unpredictable. My instinct is to chuck it. Too expensive and poorly delivered. Even so, there’s still the local news we’d miss and Kate would definitely miss her crosswords. Not sure what to do.

And. How ’bout those Timberwolves? Led their division almost the entire season only to drop to 4th place as the playoff’s come near. Ah. Minnesota teams. Finding new ways to disappoint. Except for the 1987 and 1991 Twins. Joseph’s growing up years. Made him a baseball fan for life.

An Amazing Gift

Spring                                                                      New Shoulder Moon

1514204356436Family. Often, our main contribution to the world and its future is simply doing our job as mammals and raising our children, staying in touch with our kin groups. That families can get out of whack, become dysfunctional was almost a mantra of my generation as we baby boomers pushed back against establishment values, upended gender roles and experienced backlash from the so-called greatest generation. (which I think is an unfortunate use of a superlative) So for many of us boomers now careening into old age, trying to slide home before the devil knows we’re dead, family can be problematic. Those of you who understand this know who you are.

It’s this context that makes what might be ordinary in many, maybe most families, so wonderful. SeoAh comes on Saturday to spend a few days with us, help lighten the load. Joseph, too, offered to come. His work schedule makes dropping everything hard, so we agreed that he would stay behind. He has an exercise he’s in charge of this next week.

1514558225692I’ve been proud of my boy for a long, long time, but I was never prouder than when he offered to ask SeoAh if she would come up. “And I can come, too.” She told Joe, he said, that, “She wants to come. She needs to come.” This is family at its best.

At this age there are unknowns lurking. Yes, there always are, throughout life, but in the third phase the probability of something showing up gets higher with each passing year. That means there is an undercurrent of uncertainty; sudden disastrous events can happen in a minute. Literally. No matter how self-sufficient we are a stroke, a heart attack, a fall, a difficult disease diagnosis can push us out of our normal life into one where we need not just some help, but a lot.

Camus one-cannot-be-happy-in-exile-or-in-oblivion-one-cannot-always-be-a-stranger-i-want-to-albert-camus-123-46-22Kate’s shoulder replacement surgery has shown us that we have two immediate resources to soften such a blow. SeoAh and Joseph’s response means we have family we can count on. And, Congregation Beth Evergreen has offered, through several different people, help. The surgery has been a good, non-disastrous moment in that regard. The tao of the time has been deepening relationships, between Kate and me, between us and family, between us and Congregation Beth Evergreen.(I say immediate resources because I know there are still Minnesota friends who would aid us as well if things got dire.)

What the affirmation of these ties means is that the uncertainty of the third phase can be quieted. We don’t have to worry about being alone. This is a peace I didn’t know I needed until this moment. That uncertainty isn’t a top-level anxiety; but, it exists, fuzzed in the background and brought into the present during Kate’s recovery.

The tao flows through this moment in unexpected, powerful ways, allowing us to lean into the future rather than shrink away from it. An amazing gift.

 

 

Liberated and Vital

Spring                                                                        New Shoulder Moon

Tteokguk

Tteokguk

The full new shoulder moon hangs over Black Mountain right now. It’s the middle of Nisan in the Jewish lunar calendar, the first month of the year. Passover is a spring festival, not unlike the ones in Asia that we tend to call Chinese and Korean New Year. It’s especially similar to the Korean Spring Festival. At that festival the whole nation eats tteokguk, rice cake soup. When they finish the soup, they are all one year older. Passover reinforces a sense of tribal (national) identity for Jews all around the world through eating the Seder meal.

Matthias Grunewald

Matthias Grunewald

It was also Easter yesterday. Easter marks out Christianity’s most unusual and defining theological belief, that Jesus died on the cross and rose three days later, defeating death. Strip away all the institutional hoo-hah accreted over the last two thousand plus years, all the dogma spun out of the dross of fevered thought, and this is what Christianity means: death is either an illusion or temporary. Without the resurrection Christianity is a watered down Judaism, a Middle Eastern faith borne of a particular moment in time in a particular ethnic space. Resurrection is its bid for universality and a good one.

It was a big weekend for Middle Eastern religion, two of the three distinctive monotheisms, the Abrahamic faiths, celebrated key events in their sacred years. I feel both part of these events and to the side of them. I have incorporated the secular understanding of liberation and Jewish identity underscored by pesach and the pagan meaning of resurrection found in the rites of spring. They are part of me now.

Happy holidays.

 

Ancient Holidays

Spring                                                                       New Shoulder Moon

Chagall, Pesach

Chagall, Pesach

It’s the second night of pesach tonight and tomorrow morning is easter. Liberation and resurrection, or liberation and death’s final bow. Resurrection is hard to integrate since its hard proof lies beyond the veil of this world. Liberation, on the other hand, is much easier to integrate because it applies to so many this worldly situations: slavery, imprisonment, forced poverty, mental illness, racial and gender and sexual preference discrimination, being in Trump’s America.

Both are important to me. I long ago left behind the death is no more school of theology. It seems cruel to me, an assertion confounded at every death bed, every school shooting, every war. Death still rides her pale horse, galloping through the living world and pruning, pruning, pruning.

I do, however, retain my confidence in resurrection; that is, the power of the changing world to incorporate death and decay as precursors for life. Each spring, as our temperate latitude winter fades away, bright green shoots spear their way through the soil’s surface. Flowers bloom. Vegetables grow. Trees leaf out. Lambs and kids and calves and piglets are born. All these are evidence of transubstantiation, the literal changing of grapes and bread into our bodies. This transformation happens regularly and green burial will help us remember that we humans do participate in it, that concrete, water-tight “vaults” and expensive coffins do not shield us from our part in the web of life.

El Greco

El Greco

This weekend presents to us two powerful stories, stories that have changed the world: the exodus from Egypt of Hebrew slaves and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, known by many as the Christ. Narratives have real potency, the ability to change lives, turn the pages of history, answer our deepest questions, quiet our deepest fears. Oddly, you can see this power even more clearly if you take a stance just outside the metaphysical claims, but not in the camp of folks like the new atheists, who are simply boring.

I’m neither Christian nor Jew, my metaphysics is bound up in the ongoing evolution of the universe and literally rooted in the soil of the midwest and the hard rock of these mountains where I now live. Even so, liberation and resurrection, through the stories of the passover and easter, are important to me, tell me about human possibility, about the human capacity to face enslavement and grief with hope, with the chance to turn both into moments of human triumph.

Though it has taken me a while to learn the rudimentary geology of our immediate neighborhood, I now know that we live among three mountains. We live on Shadow Mountain, up a valley that runs from its base to our home. On the opposite side, the west side of this valley, is Conifer Mountain and then, the mountain most visible from our house, Black Mountain.

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

Think of the changes evidenced by these huge landforms. This is rock that was once, millions of years ago, imprisoned far below the earth’s surface, held there by weight and history, perhaps even put there by accretion when another planet slammed into the still forming earth. Yet now I live on it, can see it clearly, far above the surface, pushed out and up by forces wielding power unimaginable, unavailable to us humans.

Is this liberation and resurrection? Not from a human perspective, but from the perspective of our planet, very much so. And yet it does not end there. Once liberated from their stony dungeons wind and water act upon them taking these high mountains gradually down to sea level, then into the ocean itself. In the soil formed in this way plants will grow, animals will feed off the plants. Liberation and resurrection are everywhere, if only we see what we’re looking at.

 

Not At My Best

Spring                                                                   New Shoulder Moon

caregiverCare giving is tough. In just a week I’ve become a bit fragile emotionally. It’s a combination of Kate’s recovery, which focuses her, naturally, on herself, and the amount of physical labor (astonishing) and the amount of emotional labor on my part. None of this is a surprise. By that I mean things aren’t worse than I imagined, nor are they terrible.

But. I got to feeling underappreciated. And said so. I needed to say that for my own sanity, so that I wouldn’t let resentment build, but when I did say it I felt guilty immediately. How could I feel underappreciated when Kate had this recovery to deal with? Didn’t matter. It was how I felt and after I let it out, in a not very helpful way, I might add, things softened up. I was no longer carrying it and Kate had a chance to deal with what I was dealing with.

More intimacy as a result. Clumsy, yes. Poorly managed, yes. Important, yes.

I’m writing this because care giving is something we all do from time to time, and face more of in the third phase. It’s not a straight shot of empathy and compassion. It’s a muddled mess of self-congratulation, compassion, distraction, love, and sorrow.

SEP020660

I said, and meant, that I don’t mind the extra work. In fact, as I wrote earlier, it is exhilarating. Still is. I’m learning new skills, reinforcing old ones, and caring for Kate. Thing is, it’s a new, difficult role and requires learning, shuffling old priorities, picking up new ones. That kind of learning is fraught under the best circumstances, new job, new marriage, even vacation; but, well worth it.

Finding the tao of healing and caregiving is not impossible, but there are many ways it can go sideways. Trying to tap into that now.

09 11 10_Joseph_0264 (2)A very sweet part of it all. Joseph just called, wanted to know how bad it was, whether he and SeoAh should come up right now. No, it’s not that bad. Could SeoAh come up for a week? I’d come, he said, but I’m running an exercise right now. If it’s real bad, I’ll be there, help out with the daily ins and outs. Cue tears. I’d love for her to come, I said. It would be a real help.

Family. As it’s supposed to work. So the web of caring maybe is another curvature, like the one I talked about below.

April 2018
M T W T F S S
« Mar    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
30  

Breadcrumbs

Trails