We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

One Toke Over the Line Sweet Moses

Lughnasa                                                          Waning Summer Moon

The loft is clean. Sandy does such a great job. And, she does it while living with the after effects of two brain surgeries and the yet remaining tumor which necessitated a round of radiation to shrink. A tough way to earn your daily bread.

marijuana2We tried a Colorado cure for Kate’s nausea symptoms. She toked up yesterday morning, lighting one of the pre-rolled Jilly Belly spliffs. She took four hits. Result: nausea subsided, heartburn began. And, she said, I feel spacy. Which she didn’t like. So she went back to bed anyhow. A work in progress. Next time she’ll try two tokes. If it does reduce the nausea, we will get her a bong and use ice in the water to cool down the smoke. I told her she was one toke over the line sweet Jesus; then added, well, maybe better, one toke over the line sweet Moses.

At mussar Ariel, the defense lawyer turned consultant to lawyers on how to navigate court procedures, gave a powerful and well-researched hour and a half on the concept of tzedakah. Tzedakah boxes are an art form in Judaica and usually have a slot for change or bills. The money collected typically goes to charities, in the American diaspora often charities that support the state of Israel, though the money can go to any good cause. In this way tzedakah has come to be associated with charity, but its real translation is justice, equity.

Tzedakah-1080x675In the packet that he offered, Ariel quoted Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a great friend to Martin Luther King: “There is immense silent agony in the world, and the task of man is to be a voice for the plundered poor, to prevent the desecration of the soul and the violation of our dream of honesty.” And, “Morally speaking there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the sufferings of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty while all are responsible.”

empty-bowlsAfter mussar Kate and I went with many members of the group to a place called Go, Paint in downtown Evergreen. It was the start of an interesting local expression of an international movement called Empty Bowls. (the link is to an Empty Bowls event in Hopkins, Minnesota) Go, Paint has many objects in bisque (the stage for pottery after throwing and before firing when glazes and paints can be applied.). In this case we all had bisque bowls, dull white and maybe 8 inches across. There were various paints and glazes we could apply, even small clay creatures. Kate, for example, put a turtle in the bottom of her bowl.

We paid for the event. The bowls get fired, then distributed to two sites nearby which run Empty Bowl events. One is Mt. Vernon Country Club and the other is a church in Evergreen. At the empty bowl event a meal is served, $65 at Mt. Vernon, $20 at the church. When the meal is over, each participant gets a bowl. The money goes, in this instance, to the Mountain Resource Center. A friend of Kate and mine’s, Marilyn Saltzman, will be the incoming president of the MRC in January. Interesting idea.

A long day for Kate.

Way Back in the Promised Land

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

Into Denver yesterday, saw Jerusalem, the I-MAX 3-D show. (see below)

Qumran, Cave 4 By Effi Schweizer - Own work, Public Domain, https commons.wikimedia.org w index.php curid 3089552

Qumran, Cave 4 By Effi Schweizer – Own work,

When it finished, I left Kate on the museum’s third floor at the entrance to the Dead Sea Scrolls show and went down to find the other members of Beth Evergreen, 25 in all, who had signed up for this adult education event. Russ Arnold, Rabbi Jamie’s brother, came along and answered questions, offered commentary as we toured the exhibit.

The exhibit has actual physical artifacts from a tw0-thousand year span of time that includes Romans, very early Israelites, Christians and several other civilizations like Assyria, Persia, Tyre. In addition to scroll fragments and painstakingly reconstructed earthenware jars, among them actual jars in which scrolls were found, there were Roman mosaic floors, Tyreian silver coins, glass vessels, oil lamps, an altar fragment from an early Israeli home altar, and ossuary caskets like the one found a few years ago with the name Jesus written on it.

scroll exhibit case

scroll exhibit case

It was, unfortunately, a Sunday afternoon and the exhibit overflowed with visitors, making staying with any one object or group of objects a challenge. A very large circular case, maybe thirty feet across. housed the main attraction, the fragments themselves. All of these fragments were from Cave 4. They were tiny, some only a few square inches, and the Hebrew was also tiny. They must have used very small writing implements and had very good eye sight.

The fragmentary nature of these scrolls are the result, Russ said, of the lending library, circulating library purpose of Cave 4. The speculation is that these scrolls were on wooden shelving, there are brackets in the wall though the wood is long gone. When the wood decayed, the scrolls fell to the floor where they were covered in bat guano and layers of dust. Though this did serve to preserve them, it also meant they suffered from more decay and deterioration than the scrolls found in the earthenware jars.

Dead_Sea_Scrolls_013-1Some of the more complete scrolls may have been the equivalent of library reserve. They could also have been retired scrolls which, like Buddha statues in Southeast Asia, are never destroyed. This visit left me wanting to know more, to return to the show before it leaves during the week for a quieter and lengthier visit.

While we were there, Kate got a phone call from Hal Stein wondering if one or both of us would like to be put up for election as board members for upcoming terms. Since I’ve already agreed to develop a curriculum for the religious school, sixth and seventh graders, I told Kate I wasn’t interested, but I hoped she would be. “You’re smart, have management skills. You’d be perfect.” She called Hal later and told him to put her name in.

Afterward we picked up Ruth from her mother’s. She’s out of school now, two weeks ahead of Gabe and a week ahead of her mom and dad. On Wednesday she heads up to Estes Park for a YMCA camp.

A long but satisfying day.


Hebrew Letters and Poetry

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

Working on my kabbalah presentation. Getting further into the sumi-e.



Happenings on Shadow Mountain

Imbolc                                                                         New Life Moon

Single digits. Passes for really, really cold here. Cold enough that I’d forgotten blue jeans are not comfortable at those temps. When I went to kabbalah on Tuesday night, the cold seeped through that cotton as if it wasn’t there. Oh. Yeah. I remember that.

Sjogrens-Syndrome1Kate’s having a Sjogren’s flare. That means symptoms intensify, particularly fatigue and a general feeling of dis-ease. She gets low grade fevers, an annoying sore throat. The good news here is this time we know what it is and she has strategies for coping. It’s not frightening in the way the first flare was back in March or April when she developed thrush and had an ENT guy look at her throat and say, “That looks a little funky.” Doctor speak for, OMG. Fortunately, the funky spot resolved itself. Not throat cancer after all.

Ted, of Ted of All Trades, came by yesterday. Ta dah! Jerry’s paintings, the two big ones you may recall if you ever visited us in Andover, are now hung. 3 years later. One on the wall perpendicular to the fire place and the other in our bedroom. Those damned cabinet hinges? Repaired. We tried to swap out a ceiling fan for a light fixture but when Ted opened the box it had a broken sconce. Grrr. Back to Home Depot.

full disclosure. this is not me.

full disclosure. this is not me.

In the loft Ted repaired my door, a missing bolt to hold one door firmly shut, hung the big map of Hawai’i, the island not the state. Kate got it for me as a consolation prize one year when she went to Maui for continuing medical education and I stayed home. An antique and beautiful. A mirror went up on the wall so I can investigate my form while I work out. Or, just admire my buff body. If it ever comes in the mail! And, a mount for the TRX, a weight suspension workout tool, is now affixed to the ceiling.

Feels good to have those projects finished. Even better to know that Ted is now part of our resource base. He will help us stay here as long as possible by getting small projects done that add up to big improvements in daily living.

abraham_012413_620pxKate and I decided to drop out of Hebrew for this year. We’d not been studying. Doesn’t really reflect lack of interest so much as an unwillingness to dedicate the necessary time we know learning a language needs. May pick it up again in September. My kabbalah class this session though is on the Hebrew letters, so I’m gaining familiarity if not facility.

Still no lifting of the melancholy though I’ve been busy and as I said below it tends to slip away as life pushes itself on me. Last night, for example, I made Grandma’s beef and noodles,  a recipe from the newspaper. Just what it sounds like. Got a 3 pound slab of chuck shoulder roast out of the freezer, unthawed it, cut out the fat and fascia (which took a while), discovered we have a pressure cooker, used it. My first time. Kept hoping it wouldn’t blow up. It didn’t. Whew. Cooking, mindful cooking as I’m trying to remember to do, requires close attention and close attention shuts off the spigot for negative emotions.


Zerizut. Mother letters.

Winter                                                                     Imbolc Moon

mother letters

mother letters

Oh, my. Two nights out again. Bedtime missed by an hour, two last night. Resilience is not what it used to be and hasn’t been for a long time. Even so. Tuesday night was kabbalah, an exciting evening with Allen Rubin and Jamie investigating the mother letters, mem and shin, which appear on the horizontal linkages above and below aleph on the tree of life. (see previous post about aleph)

zerizutLast night Kate and I had adult Hebrew, then, an hour later, tikkun middot havurah. This is the third of three mussar related times during the month, a once a month gathering for those who’d like to study mussar but can’t make the Thursday afternoon class. The topic was zerizut, or the middot (character trait) of enthusiasm.

January has been tough throughout the nation, I believe, with H3N2 devastating many and a general malaise allowing other less severe illnesses to gain a foothold, too. The energy level for our discussion of zerizut was ironically low because of this, I think. A lot of folks seem to have their heads down, shoulders hunched, moving slow and hoping nothing bad happens. Many are waiting for the sun.

Mountain_jewLogoMe, I was just tired. So, the question is, is it worth upsetting my normal rhythms? Yes. Yes, it is. No, not because I’m converting, still not interested. But, I have come to believe that Judaism, at least as practiced in this small mountain synagogue, is about helping humans be better in this life and to use this life to make things better for the other, be the other human or animal or a planet. Synchs up pretty well with my own journey, this ancientrail that has wound from Oklahoma to Indiana, Indiana to Wisconsin, Wisconsin to Minnesota and now, Minnesota to Colorado.

The result of this approach to the religious life is a community where people care about each other, are willing to challenge each other to grow and to support each other in various concrete ways. These long evenings are the energy sources for that work and I’m proud and glad to be part of it. Even if it makes me weary.



Winter                                                                              Moon of the Long Nights



The nearly full moon lit up the snow outside our bedroom last night. Soothing, gentle. This one presides over the longest nights of the year.

Two of our females had imaging work yesterday. Rigel got an x-ray, looking again for cancer since she has continued to lose weight in spite of therapy for chronic hepatitis. She’s eight, old for a dog of her size. Her condition, whatever it is, caused me to roll back through the death of many of our dogs just before sleep. Sad. Grief is the price we pay for love.

Kate had a makeup c.t. scan since the one she had last week was not done according to protocols for pulmonary embolisms. It required a contrast dye. Like the first, no contrast scan, this one showed nothing new, nothing menacing. Dr. Gidday now wants her to do a stress test, checking for possible heart issues. Don’t know when that will be.

She also has an appointment in late January with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss her painful shoulders, investigating possible shoulder replacements. She takes all this with a calm spirit, not bringing doom into the present, rather waiting for information. Her quick intelligence and vast medical knowledge could make it otherwise. An impressive woman, my Kate.

Ruth’s tonsillectomy seems to be loosening its grip. On day 6 or so the scabs fall off as healing progresses. This can be, and was for her, painful. Yesterday evening though she texted that she’s ready for empanadas. A great sign.

soupWe have a cookbook, Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, and I’ve been making soups out of it that Kate thinks sound good. She has a favorite, vermicelli soup, a vegetable soup with noodles. I made some for her last night.

I’ve decided to give Hebrew this month. I’ll work on it everyday and see if I can get myself back to a place where it’s at least enjoyable. Right now, it isn’t. If I can’t get there in a month, I’m gonna drop it. Banging my head against this particular wall isn’t worth it unless I enjoy it.




And life goes on, in endless song

Samain                                                                  Bare Aspen Moon

hebrewFinished chapter 1 in the Hebrew text, about half way through chapter 2. My plan is to keep working on the chapters until I’ve finished. The Hebrew class itself is a bit chaotic, lots of great information, but they’re teaching Aleph and Bet, beginners and next level, together. I’m out to sea at least part of the time. OK. Most of the time. Still, I can now recognize shabbat in Hebrew and pronounce five letters. Slooooowwww. Next class with Joann Greenberg at 4:30. Two weeks ago Bill and Tom were here for the class.

Nut, similar to this

Nut, similar to this

We hung some art in the guest room. Two batik pieces that Mary brought us from
Bali and an image on papyrus of Nut that I bought on the sidewalk outside the British Museum. Kate’s thinking a gray blue for the guest room. She’s beginning to get her interior designer on.

More Jennie’s Dead. Last two scenes were in Selma, Alabama and Denver. High intensity cardio yesterday, slow and long today. New workout tomorrow.

Centurylink comes today to install our new 60 Mbps service. This one requires some work between the box and the house, then a new modem, plus some inside changes at the jack, too. Faster is better and it’s much stronger wifi. That’s good because I bought the grandkids a tv for Hanukkah and it will get its reception with a Roku stick inserted into its USB port.

20171027_161725Kate and I have begun an ongoing effort to help her manage the fatigue which Sjogren’s, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcopenia and reduced available oxygen cause her. We have to be smarter about what mix of activities she does and what ones I do, yet we can’t set up a situation where she becomes housebound. Not good. A delicate balance. Right now we’re looking at the week ahead and trying to imagine how the week will challenge her, then planning for that. A transition to a new phase of life for us.





Samain                                                                        Joe and SeoAh Moon

hebrewI’m taking Hebrew. It’s hard. For me. Even after several years of studying Latin I only achieved a modest level of proficiency. Can I learn a language? Yes, I proved that to myself with Latin study with Greg Membrez. Is it really %$!&ing hard? Oh, yeah. So, is it worth it? Again. Oh, yeah.

Why? Well, in the instance of Latin it allowed me to peek behind the curtain of translation, see the alchemy that has to occur when converting something written in one language into another. It also allowed me, and this was my primary goal, to embed the stories in Ovid’s Metamorphoses deeply into my psyche. As I grappled with Latin and translated the stories of Medea, Lycaon, Baucus and Philemon, Diana and Actaeon, I learned Ovid’s version of these myths word by word, conjugation by conjugation.

Studying Hebrew is different in purpose for me, but one thing remains constant. I want to challenge my capacity to learn, to move outside my comfort zone. And, I’m well outside my comfort zone here. So what’s the point? Well, as I continue to immerse myself in mussar, a Jewish system of thought for character development and kabbalah, Jewish mysticism, and attend shabbat services and holiday services, I encounter lots and lots of Hebrew.

kabbalah2Studying the language and, right now, its alphabet, will allow me to recognize Hebrew words, not having them blur together as odd squiggles and shapes. This is the level at which I’m learning right now. I already recognize many Hebrew words in transliteration: chesed=loving kindness, ohr=light, hochmah=understanding, keter=crown and many others, but I would not recognize these words when written using the Hebrew alphabet. That’s a first step.

A second step will be to peek past the curtain of translation, though in admittedly modest ways. Because much of the focus of adult Hebrew instruction is for reading the prayer book and from the Torah scrolls, the first emphasis is on pronunciation, but even in those instances there will be a certain amount of learning about how translators of Hebrew into English tend to think. This loops especially back to the kabbalists who, it turns out, were very influential in shaping the Jewish ritual tradition.



September 2018
« Aug