2018

Winter                                                                         Stent Moon

January 2018

January 2018

Buddy Paul Strickland, living in Maine very close to New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy, has a year theme: Bumping into Wonder. I haven’t discussed it with him so I’m not even sure what a year theme is and I don’t know why he chose random acts of amazement. (though it’s a wonderful idea)

But. I like the idea of a year theme. Our men’s group, The Woolly Mammoths, of whom Paul and I represent two-thirds of the diaspora from Minnesota/Wisconsin, often had year themes. Pilgrimage. Mothers. Fathers. Like that.

Numa's Janus Temple on a Neronian coin

Numa’s Janus Temple on a Neronian coin

Not sure I’m ready to declare a theme quite yet. Maybe later today. I am inviting Janus to take up residence with my psyche for today only. Today is the gate of my Numa shrine. It closes at midnight until February 14th when it will swing open again for a day. I’m putting on the backward looking face and the forward looking one, try to see the last year as it was and the next year as I hope it can be.

At the VRCC, Jan. 2018

At the VRCC, Jan. 2018

 

2018. September 28th was the date of Kate’s bleed and the events since then dominate my thinking about 2018. The misery of Kate’s illness the nausea, cramping, weight loss, and food aversion existed, and worsened, over the whole year.

She was not the only one in the family with intestinal issues. Rigel had begun losing weight in 2017 and we feared liver cancer. A visit of to the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital however found she had an allergy to chicken proteins. We shifted her to rabbit based food and she began to thrive. A year later she’s bounding around the yard like a puppy. At 9 years old. Very old for a large sight hound.

Rabbi Jamie and Kate, Purim

Rabbi Jamie and Kate, Purim

In February Kate went on a quilting retreat at the Liar’s Lodge in Buena Vista. The drive out was a joy, all the way across South Park, the high plains, past the headwaters of the Arkansas river and into the Collegiate Range which rises to the west of Buena Vista. At Purim Kate got into the spirit of the day and dressed up in the coat of many colors she made for our youngest.

 

Kate’s shoulder surgery in March marked the end of a sleep wrecking, daily life function disrupting arthritic shoulder joint. We met Dr. Schneider, an orthopedic surgeon, and a helluva good guy. He would not be the only surgeon we met in 2018, but the work he did ended a source of constant pain for her. I was deep in my third kabbalah class, this one focused on Hebrew and its mystical qualities. Since I was already playing with sumi-e, I focused on creating Hebrew letters with Japanese brushes, pairing them with quotes focused on that letters deep meaning. I also got to use my chop bought in Beijing in 1999.

Kate at Domo

Kate at Domo

Both Ruth and Gabe are April babies. Ruth on the 4th and Gabe on Earth Day, the 22nd. Ruth loves Domo, the rural Japanese restaurant in Denver, so we took both of them there. SeoAh came out to help with Kate’s recovery, a gift she would give us twice more in the year. The Sjogren’s Foundation had its annual conference in Denver, so Kate went. Gabe was at Children’s Hospital for an operation occasioned by a port problem. April is also an annual art show by art teachers in the Aurora School District. Yam Hashoah, a holiday added to the Jewish liturgical calendar after the holocaust, fell in April. A wonderful ballet memorialized the day at CBE.

Rabbi Shapiro at Alan and Cheri Rubin's, talking about his book, Holy Rascals

Rabbi Shapiro at Alan and Cheri Rubin’s, talking about his book, Holy Rascals

More lumberjacking in May. There was still some fire mitigation to do and I wanted to clear a spot for an outdoor room. Kate recovered well from her shoulder surgery and was able to attend a CBE sponsored tour of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Natural History and Science. May also found controversial Rabbi Rami Shapiro at CBE as a visiting scholar. An important, iconoclastic figure in the Reconstructionist movement (and, therefore, Judaism as a whole) Rami considers himself a Holy Rascal and has a book with that title, among many he’s written.

 

Leaving for Durango

Leaving for Durango

Visiting ancient pueblo dwellings at Mesa Verde with buddies Paul Strickland, Tom Crane, and Mark Odegard was the highlight of June. We stayed in Durango and Mark bought his first legal marijuana in a dispensary there. Our hotel was on the Animas River, recently of Gold King mine spill fame, was running blue and clear. In 2015 it was a sickly mustard color. I finished my fourth kabbalah class with a sumi-e enso drawing exercise for my project. Somewhere in this time period Alan Rubin asked me to co-teach the 6th and 7th grade B’nei Mitzvah class in CBE’s religious school.

ICE detention facility, Aurora

ICE detention facility, Aurora, July

Never written a lesson plan. Started in June, continuing in July. Alan and I started almost weekly meetings, our goal: plan a full year of classes. We did it, though we didn’t finish until late August, just before CBE’s religious school began. Some more lumberjacking, continuing the earlier work. After a powerful presentation on the detention and fragmentation of refugee families by ICE, Kate and I decided to join other Jews from the Denver/Boulder area in a protest outside a Geo detention facility in Aurora. The wonder of it (bumping into wonder, eh?) was rainbow which came to earth right over the detention facility.

Lake Minnetonka. Tom's boat

Lake Minnetonka. Tom’s boat

I’ve been back to Minnesota only twice since we moved. Once in May of 2015 for an annual Woolly Retreat near Ely and August, 2018. Groveland UU invited me back to speak at their 25th anniversary.  I took the opportunity to visit old haunts: everywhere I lived in Minnesota, except for the Peaceable Kingdom near Nevis, the Walker and the MIA, neighborhoods and restaurants in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Also connected with Tom and Bill, plus other Woollies, and some docent friends at a small jazz club listening to Hoaxer, fronted by Grace Goggin’s son.

 

20180928_070847

ER, Sept. 28

September started with the Days of Awe at CBE. Kate and I helped set up and serve the Board’s luncheon during Rosh Hashanah and attended Kol Nidre, then Yom Kippur. It was also the start of the religious school and I had my first encounter with a class of bright Jewish tweens. Oh, boy. I felt exhausted after that class.

The big event though held off until nearly the end of the month. “I’m bleeding.” This at 5:30 a.m. Didn’t know it then, but this was the start of a month away from home for Kate, two weeks at Swedish Hospital and two weeks at Brookdale Rehab. The three days left in September found her in the E.R., then on the 8th (surgical) floor. She had several units of blood, a colonoscopy, a nuclear imaging study of the bleeding, an attempted embolization of the bleed site which failed, and finally a decision to cut out part of her large bowel as the likeliest source of the bleeding.

20181030_121656

Kate at home wrapped in the friendship quilt made by the Bailey Patchworkers

Institutionalization. That was October for Kate. Ten units of blood. Post-surgical disorientation. Deep pain. Nights in a hospital bed, days ruled by hemoglobin results, morphine, and a slow, often literally painfully slow, recovery. Gastric tube for feeding. Slowly back to solid foods. Then, not home, but off to Brookdale, a home, a very nice one, but one that would reveal the limits of even a well-appointed place. She had to learn to walk on her own again, though with the aid of a walker. She did get her diet back to sort of normal.

Installing the new pump

Installing the new pump

SeoAh came again, driven here by Joe with Murdoch. She stayed two weeks and made life much easier for both me and Kate. She cooked, cleaned, smiled, laughed. A joy to have around. One evening she came down and said, “Charlie. There is no water.” What? Sure enough. No water. Kate home now, but still in recovery. Perfect. Quick diagnostics the next day showed it was the pump for our well. And so we have a brand new stainless steel pump installed by the folks at Living Waters.

Near the end of October I went into Dazzle Jazz to hear Frannie and the Jets. Frannie is Alan Rubin’s daughter and this was, at 22, her swan song as a jazz singer. It was a touching evening.

20181022_174724

SeoAh on right. Birthday party at Brookdale. Oct.

SeoAh stayed into November. The bad news in November was that all the medical care Kate received after her bleed had done nothing for her nausea, cramping, and food aversion. She was miserable and weak from the weeks at Swedish and Brookdale. The nausea and cramping meant she couldn’t keep down enough calories to gain weight, even slipping back some.

Jon’s big news in November was an arrest and subsequent court appearances on a violation of a court order charge. I went with him both times, at the preliminary hearing and the hearing where he entered his guilty plea. Gabe had his fifth grade choral concert and because of the restraining order changes made in the last hearing, Jon couldn’t attend, so I went to represent him.

Kate and the machine

Kate and the machine

The good news in November came near the end of the month. After another round of visits to our internist and to Kate’s G.I. doc a last round of imaging studies was ordered, sort of a last gasp. She had two studies, an ultrasound sonography of the arteries feeding her bowels and a small bowel follow through study which checked its efficiency. And there it was at last! A diagnosis. The ultrasound picked up a stenosis, narrowing, in the superior mesenteric artery. A narrowing of this vessel can lead to nausea, cramping, food aversion, and weight loss.

Some frustration after the diagnosis. We saw an interventional radiologist who confirmed the stenosis and offered a procedure, a catheter placed stent in the effected artery. A couple of weeks passed and nothing happened. We decided to push. After a round of phone calls and e-mails, we got a date for the procedure in January.

Our Korean angel

Our Korean angel

Then, on December 19th Kate turned to me in bed and said, “I have news.” An hour later we were once again in the ER at Swedish. She’d had another bleed and determined not to let it to the point it had in September. This one stopped and there was no recurrence. She went again to the 8th floor, this time of observation. After two days of observation, the interventional radiologist decided to go ahead and place the stent while she was already in the hospital. Dr. Mulden positioned the stent without incident on the winter solstice, four years to the day after we moved here.

Going for calories

Going for calories

SeoAh and her husband came for the holidays as they had planned. She’ll be here for another two weeks, maybe three. Their support, and hers in particular, has made this whole unfortunate mess bearable for us. She deserves, and gets, our deepest gratitude.

The nausea and cramping after eating has stopped. The food aversion may take a while to reverse, but Kate’s eating better now. It took a long time for her to decline to her current weight and it will take a while to get it back. She’s visibly less stressed and happier, though still pretty tired.

 

 

Hark, The Herald Angels Sang…

Winter                                                                                    Stent Moon

20161203_083509

Happily in pain.    2016

ChristmasNot long after my December 1st, 2016, knee surgery, I had an odd moment. It was Hanukkah. Gabe and Ruth were plowing through their presents, and I sat on the couch, my leg up and some combination of pain meds circulating, morphine and oxycontin, I think. Ruth lit the menorah. A sudden, overwhelming (undoubtedly drug accelerated) sense of dislocation came over me. Sadness, too. What was I doing in this house? No Christmas tree. No decorations. This exotic holiday had pushed all that away and left me on the outside.

It was true nostalgia.* And it was painful. I swirled down, feeling a deep longing to get back to the seasons with which I was familiar. To push away this foreign intervention. To put myself under the Christmas tree on 419 N. Canal Street. All the way back. Not Colorado. Not Minnesota. Not Wisconsin. Indiana. An old fashioned, true to my culture Christmas.

Meanwhile Gabe was click-clacking a Rubik’s cube. Ruth held a money jar Kate had made for her. A fire crackled in the fire place and the menorah burned quietly on the dining table. No one knew I was somewhere else, sometime else. Here’s something from that day’s post:

                                                   2016

The Christmas spirit that still flows around this secular, pagan heart saw them. (Hanukkah presents) And rejected the moment. What followed was a period of dislocation, the closest analogy I can give is culture shock.

What was I doing in this house with this holiday underway? Mom, Dad, Mary and Mark rose up. I missed them all, a lot. Further the friends from Minnesota. Why was I here in cold Colorado, in the mountains, when my family and friends were dead or far away?

Having experience with the not so subtle influence of drugs on the mind, I knew this was both a false response and a true one. It was false in that I loved these kids, Kate, Jews all, and had begun to get more involved at Congregation Beth Evergreen. It was true in that Christmas spirit is a real thing, a tangible and mostly positive emotional state engendered by the church, by family, by memories of Christmas past, and, of course, by your favorite retail establishments. And at that moment I missed it.

Two years later the knee is fine, better than fine actually. I’m not using any drugs. (except at bedtime) And I’m much further along in the assimilation process I mentioned a few posts ago. My peri-Jewish identity has congealed around my membership at CBE. I’m part of a community I love, surrounded by people who love us and have shown that over and over again in the last few months. Love is a verb, after all.

Angelic host proclaiming the wonder of your birth

               Angelic host proclaiming the wonder of your birth

Last night was the night before Christmas. Today is Christmas day. The festive part of the day will be the big meal at noon and seeing Jon, Ruth, and Gabe at 2 pm. I’m ok with that. It feels like the right amount of celebration for us.

So. Christmas now has two components. One is much more tempered nostalgia than I felt in December, 2016, a warm spot from days now gone by. The second, and more important to me, is as a festival of incarnation, a celebration of the divine and human mixed inextricably together. As the bells ring out this Christmas day and churches the old familiar carols play, I’ll recall the folks I love, the animals I love. I’ll see past the mundane and look into their souls. There is the ohr. There is the divine. There is the sacred. And guess what? When I look in the mirror, I see the same thing.

*”…the term was coined by a 17th-century Swiss army physician who attributed the fragile mental and physical health of some troops to their longing to return home — nostos in Greek, and algos, the pain that attended thoughts of it.” The Guardian, Nov. 9, 2014

The Sacred Marriage

Winter                                                                            Stent Moon

ohrOn the drive over to Tony’s Market to pick up Christmas dinner I got to thinking about ohr, the shards of divine light kabbalists believe actually make up the known universe. When I bow to the divine light in you and you bow to the divine light in me, we say that makes sense in that framework. So there can be the ohr, the light of the divine blasted apart at the moment of creation; but, I thought, there’s also the more immediate light, that of the sun.

It’s correct in every important way to say our life spark comes from and looks back to the sun. Photosynthesis creates the food we eat, whether at its primary source in plants or in a secondary source like meat. So the divine light could also be solar, the power of the fusion engine that is our star.

More and more I see the divine sun in sacred marriage with the holy goddess, mother earth. It is through the constant and intimate play between these two that all life emerges. In this sense then the celebration of the incarnation observed tomorrow can be seen as a holiday created to honor us as children of the sun and the earth. Of course, not just us, but all of the animate creations here.

We differ from the rest of the animate world, as far we know, primarily in our capacity to know our creators, the creature knowing the creator, or, said another way, the creators looking on themselves through their creation.

sacredIt is this dance, the days of the dancing star, that we are thrown into this world to execute. Sure, you could take this and conclude a scientistic flat-earth humanism, minus the divinity, but it seems to me you end up in the same place with a reductionistic refusal to see the simcha, the joy, of life as part of, not separate from. It is the bondedness we have with our star and our planet which is divinity, we are part of a dialectic between power and fertile elements, a fruit, in fact, of its creative tension.

Sure, you could also take this perspective and place a whole pantheon in and around it. Aurora. Shiva. Mithras. Yahweh. Even baby Jesus. But I believe it is this pair, this vital union of star and planet that both makes us and teaches us about our sacred relationship to the whole universe through the example of their intimacy. I see no need to add more deities though I don’t think it hurts. Not exactly. As long as we keep our hearts on the source, we can names its elements as we wish. That creative and destructive nature both sun and earth have. Sure, Shiva. The still point, the apparent stability of the earth below, the mountain above, the ocean spread out. Vishnu. The sun appearing as the earth turns on its axis. Aurora. The dangerous interplay among humans and among humans and the rest of the creation. Yahweh. Your presence as a manifestation of this sacred marriage? Jesus.

I come back now to the Great Wheel, that cyclical turning of mother earth around her sol, how it reflects our lives as they grow and change. It is the great scripture in which we can read of our gods, know their moods, and how we can celebrate their deep meaning in our lives. Blessed be.

Assimilating. In reverse.

Winter                                                                           Stent Moon

Black Mountain, this month, from the loft

Black Mountain, this month, from the loft

Sol Invictus has risen, not daunted by the long night. Unconquerable, life giving, a true light for our world. Black Mountain and its lodgepole pine, its groves of aspen, its slashes of ski runs is visible against a bright white clouded sky. A great wakin’ up morning if you’re a devotee of the two who give us life, Sol and Gaia. Blessed be.

Wanted to make a quick note of something I realized the other day. Assimilation. Assimilation assumes, correctly I think, that each culture is a semi-permeable membrane. Varying levels of porosity create more endogenous, more exogenous groups. Our immigration debate, for example, is an attempt to adjust the degree of porosity of American culture. One side wants less permeability and that only under strict expectations of full assimilation. The other side wants more permeability and a recognition of the vitality that blending and mixing of cultures engenders.

Inside subgroups of a dominant culture, say Latinos in the U.S., Jews in the U.S., for example there’s always a tension between maintaining group norms, those things that keep the subgroup distinctive and recognizable, and the necessity of living and working and loving in a culture different from their own. This is neither bad nor good, it just is. As I understand the American experiment, we’ve intended a greater level of porosity than most other nations, defining ourselves by the American Dream:  “The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.”  wikipedia

An ancestor who lived almost two hundred years after Richard Ellis arrived

An ancestor, Demick Ellis, who lived almost two hundred years after Richard Ellis arrived (1888)

I love China towns, Korea towns, Japan towns, Latino neighborhoods, black neighborhoods, Italian and Greek and Russian neighborhoods. African restaurants, Cuban restaurants, Japanese restaurants. You get the point. Jewish delis.

Since my folks arrived on these shores in 1707, Ellises, and during the American Revolution, Spitlers, assimilation has never been an issue for me. I represent and live in the dominant culture, the one which assimilates, in the dominant world power of our time (until, maybe, right now), again the one which assimilates other nations. So it came as a surprise to me the other day when I realized I had begun, under the radar of my consciousness, probably for the reason of white, long standing US family history and privilege, the process of assimilation. You might call it reverse assimilation, but I don’t. It’s just assimilation.

ChesedI’ve begun to assimilate into Jewish culture. Different from becoming  a Jew, just like Jewish assimilation into American culture is different from no longer being a Jew, my identity is largely intact, but I find myself much more aware of living life through a Jewish lens. Their holidays are now mine. Their community, mine. Their marginal reality, also mine, though this last requires a full choice on my part, not just acquiescence. That is, I choose to stand with my new culture against all elements domestic and foreign and not to retire into privilege when things get hairy.

I’m at a point in my journey where I feel no need for formal conversion. I’m a person of my own religious persuasion and Beth Evergreen allows me to give it full expression even while immersed in Jewish life. Like I said long ago here I’m a fellow traveler, but now a fellow traveler who’s close to becoming a quasi cultural native. Strange, huh?

Playing

Samain                                                                              Stent Moon

Three of astrology’s major planets are visible early in the morning: Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter. Due to the tree line and Black Mountain I could only see Venus, the morning star. Beautiful.

20181214_081606I’m continuing my experiments with oil painting, getting more experience, wondering about all the tricks and tools of the trade. Making it up as I go along right now. Playing. Yes, I’m playing with two shiny new disciplines right now, oil painting and astrology. When I use that word, playing, and it is accurate, what always comes to mind is Magister Ludi, the Master of the Game, by Herman Hesse. (also called the Glassbead Game) This was Hesse’s last novel and is different from the other, shorter works with which you might be familiar like Siddartha, Steppenwolf, Demian, Journey to the East. [just discovered Clifford Jordan has an album called Glass Bead Games. Listening to it right now on Amazon music.]

Astrology continues to challenge my metaphysics, continues to make me wonder about the randomness and meaninglessness of life and everything. Not sure where I’m headed with it yet, but I know a hell of lot more than I did a month ago. Elisa and I are going to get together again and she’ll walk me through reading my birth chart. She’s also going to do a second session at CBE, something I’ve arranged. Trying to remember Tarnas, “Skepticism is a tool, not an end in itself.”

20181212_082912The oil painting. So far I’m imitating, at least in a way, Rothko. Although. I did see some cloud formations that I tried to recreate, or at least evoke. Not in my power yet. Though what I produced I liked for what it  was.

I worked with the yellow from one of the more expensive tubes of color. The first time I used any of them. It was like buttercream icing. So sensuous. Beautiful. Color has me captivated me right now. Not sure how to work with it in terms of producing images, but that almost doesn’t matter. Look at that palette. I’d frame it. Just for the colors.

Interesting bit at the Adult Ed meeting for CBE yesterday. Debra said to me, “You should be an honorary Jew!” A couple of others, “He is!” A long while ago one of the Chinese docents said to me, “You are like the Chinese.” I consider these some of the highest compliments possible.

On the Kate front. Waiting. For some insurance bureaucrat to tick a box, yes or no. Thought about this yesterday. One of the critiques of socialism in general and socialized medicine in particular is the bureaucratic morass of government programs. Well, capitalist bureaucracies are the same. They just serve a different master, profit.

 

 

Protecting.

Samain                                                                       Stent Moon

October, the healing moon. November, the recovery moon. December, the stent moon. A quarter of a year with an intense focus on keeping Kate alive and then making her well. Well, well worth it.

Iloveyouguys2

Last night, an odd, sad, disturbing, necessary evening. If you’ve ever encountered preparedness training for a business, school, or place of worship, the four medallion image above may be familiar to you. It’s now a nationwide safety preparedness program used in thousands of schools, places of work and worship. But it’s origination is local and by local I mean Bailey, Colorado.

iloveemilyThe Platte Canyon hostage situation. Platte Canyon is the long, deep slash between two mountain ranges created by the South Fork of the Platte River. It runs from Baily to roughly the Kenosha Pass. Hwy. 285 runs its whole length. Outside Bailey headed toward Kenosha Pass is Platte Canyon High School. In 2006 a gunman, Duane Morrison, took hostages, all girls. One girl, Emily Keyes, had to speak to the police for Morrison, since he refused to speak to them.

IloveyouguysEmily’s father got to the high school using an old mountain goat trail. 285 had both police barriers and a huge traffic jam. When he arrived, he asked if any person could text Emily. Someone did. She texted back, “I love you guys.” A second text went unanswered. She was dead with a bullet wound to the head.

In her memory her father, John-Michael, and her mother, Ellen created the ILoveyouguys foundation. It is responsible for the Standard Response Protocol, the four medallions above representing its four responses to a crisis.

I learned all this last night at Congregation Beth Evergreen as part an emergency response training. The Squirrel Hill shootings in Pittsburgh heightened the synagogue’s awareness and the board decided to review how we protect those who worship or come to the synagogue. The man who runs the Jeffco Sheriff’s Jefferson County School District School Safety program spoke.

iloveyou3m He started with a tagline: The world we live in isn’t scary, but it is full of uncertainty. He had a reassuring manner, years of experience in protection, and a common sense approach to security. He recommended CBE put a 3M product on the windows, Safety and Security film. “You have a lot of glass.” This film ensures that bullets fired through the glass will not shatter it. The bullets pass through but the glass itself remains intact overall. He also recommended blinds on the windows so a shooter couldn’t see inside and a really good locking system for the sanctuary doors. All of these things made sense to me.

I was there as a teacher in the religious school. We did no drills last night, but we will at some point in the future.

My overall response to this was sadness. Kids in school today learn how to self-evacuate, how to lock, turn out the lights, and hide. They learn how to run like quail if an active shooter is among them. That is, scatter in all different directions. My god. Duck and cover from the fifties, which I do not recall ever doing, seems abstract and silly in light of these very real and immediate threats.

sadnessThat sadness has a special resonance here since Columbine was the ur-school shooting. John, the speaker, said he’d been at a conference in D.C. in the last month where a full day and a half was devoted to Columbine. Why? So many of the school shooters still refer back to Columbine for inspiration, for tips. It’s still relevant. Not only has Colorado had Columbine and the Platte Canyon hostage situation, but we’ve also had the Aurora Theater shooting.

This is, for some, still the wild west where a sidearm and a strong will can solve many problems. It’s also unfortunately a hotbed of libertarian leaning, no government treading on me folks. If they get cranked up by the news, or by groups of white supremacists, or by their neighborhood anti-semite, they can choose to act by heading out to the nearest public school or synagogue, taking their firearms along.

 

A Profound Week

Samain                                                                     Thanksgiving Moon

Bit of winter. 9 degrees here on Shadow Mountain this morning. No snow and little snow for us in the forecast. Though. Across the divide they’re getting good snow. Our snowpack is 119% of normal and way ahead of last year. Important data for so many people.

Friday and Saturday were more or less rest days. The week through Thursday night found me pretty damned tired. Worth it though. Gabe threw himself in my arms after his concert. Ruth leaned in for a hug as I left Swigert headed for home. Jon seems to have gained some important insight about himself and the reality of his situation. Kate learned the cause of her months long struggle with nausea and abdominal pain, weight loss. Enough for one week. Thanksgiving moon, indeed.

20181123_154009I’ve not been idle. Using some small, 5×7, canvases I’ve begun to use oil paints. My first effort is here. Doesn’t pop like I hoped it would. I have three more of these small canvases painted with an undercoat. One yellow, one sap green, and one violet. Trying color field painting. Mark Rothko is my favorite abstract painter, so I thought I’d see what I could make using him as my inspiration.

This is venturing into really unknown territory since I know little about oil paints, about oil paint brushes, how to make colors do what I want, canvas. Since I began messing around with sumi-e a while back, I’ve found myself wanting to extend myself, get way outside my comfort zone. A key motivation for me in all this is regaining some tactile work, hand work. When I was a gardener, a bee keeper, a domestic lumber jack, I got lots of opportunity to use my hands, to interact with the physical world. Since moving to the mountains, not so much after the fire mitigation work.

20181202_070637After 12 years as a guide and docent at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, art became an integral part of my life; yet, I’ve struggled to keep art in my life since moving to Colorado. The museums here are not compelling and driving down the hill takes time. Reading about art, looking at it online or in books has not given me the satisfaction I’ve searched for. Painting myself, which necessitates a look into art materials, theory, and careful looking at artists whose work I’d like to use as inspiration, may. I’m not there yet, but I’m having a hell of a lot of fun.

In addition to trying color field painting, I’m going to use the sumi-e ink and brushes to create bespoke Hebrew letters, astrology glyphs, and alchemical symbols. My work in the second kabbalah class, on the mystery and magic of Hebrew, prompted this. I found working with the symbols and letters directly gave me a way into understanding them. I’m also going to create mandalas.

I’ve also continued my reading about astrology. I continue to vacillate between the long time skeptic and the interested novice. Some of the writing is childish, even moronic. That puts me off. Then, though, there’s Tarnas and the Inner Sky by Steven Forrest. Archetypes, too, by Jung and Hillman. A new book on Jung and Astrology. Still trying to figure out my birth chart, how to read it, understand it. Lots to investigate here.

In spite of the various outside turbulence, or, perhaps because of it, these new areas of learning have helped keep me sane, eager. I’ll be at them for a while yet.

 

Kate’s Inner World

Samain                                                                     Thanksgiving Moon

Up and on the road around 5:30 am. Out to Park Adventist Hospital in Littleton for two more imaging studies. The first one, an ultrasound, looked for narrowing of arteries feeding blood to the bowels. If they are narrowed, food passing through the intestines can put pressure on them and cause nausea and pain. The second, a barium contrast study, combined fluoroscopy, which follows movement in internal organs, with still x-rays. This study was to determine how food moves through the digestive system from top to bottom.

The techs let me stay with Kate for the second study. I sat on her rollator, think walker with a seat, wheels, and a brake. To not expose me to the x-rays I had to sit back in the little booth the technicians use. I got to see the barium she swallowed go down her throat and into her stomach. This was fluoroscopy. Very strange. I’ve gotten to know the inner you, I told Kate.

Afterward we went to Krispy Kreme and got a couple of original glazed to blot out the chalky taste of the barium.

Gabe’s concert is tonight. Big fun.

20180418_154539 (2)Last night, as the kids and I were making pizza over at CBE, I got a call from Kate. Cell service is dicey in the mountains, but I finally understood. The door blew open, again, and all three dogs escaped. Uh-oh. That meant I put on my hat and left, telling Tara on the way out, “Our dogs escaped. It’s more important.” Drove home. Kate tried to call me three times but for some reason I didn’t hear the calls. The neighbor had brought the dogs home while I was on my way. Since it’s 30 minutes each way by the time I got home and found this out, it was too late to return. I’ve not been a reliable teacher this first semester.

As we’ve noticed other times our dogs have escaped, they were pretty damned pleased with themselves. Rigel’s smile would have lit up Broadway. Kate said they came home prancing. Oh, what a good time we had.

Life on the mountain. Never dull.

 

I like this guy

Samain                                                               Thanksgiving Moon

5002011 09 10_1164Happy to have some good news to report about Jon. Went to his court date yesterday. His inner attitude seems to be shifting away from anger about the divorce (understandable, but not helpful) toward getting on with his life, accepting the constraints of the restraining order (unreasonable, but legally enforceable, as he just discovered). He wants to get his art in a gallery or up for sale. This is big because it’s a key part of his identity that lay fallow during the twelve years of his marriage. He needs positive reinforcement and he’s had more than his share of negatives over the last few years.

artistHe’s a very talented, smart guy who can handle all the work necessary to remodel his home, replace an axle in his car, ski a great line down an A-basin bowl, teach elementary age kids how to express themselves. I hope he can organize his life so these thing line up, move him forward, and make him feel good about himself.

Kate had a nausea free day yesterday. She took the ativan and that seemed to help. A day without nausea is like a day with sunshine. It makes her feel good and makes me feel good. May it continue.

breathe thich-nhat-hanh-calligraphyI’m feeling a bit stressed, a lot going on. Religious school tonight. I’m taking pizza makings and teaching a unit on holidays, especially winter holidays. The kids will reimagine, reconstruct a new winter holiday. Tomorrow morning Kate has two imaging studies, looking for zebras. Tomorrow evening is Gabe’s winter concert in Stapleton. A sequelae of the hearing yesterday is that Jon can’t, for the moment, attend. The old protection order carved out an exception to the 100 yards rule for events with the kids, things like parent-teacher conferences, concerts, doctor visits, but the law is a blunt instrument.  Yesterday by default it eliminated those exceptions. Jon wants me to go to represent our side of the family. Important for Gabe. I’ll go.

Stressed, yes, but not anxious. Still. Amazing myself right now. Following the water course way, going with the many changes, leveraging their energy, keeping my feet while wading in a fast flowing river. Not trying to dam it up, divert it, slow it. Finding the chi, aligning mine, taking each day on its own. Most of the time, and this is the part that amazes me, little of this is conscious. Means I’ve integrated something at a soul level, some amalgam of mindfulness, wu wei, and love of life.

tao laoGot reinforced shortly after the move out here when I had to deal with prostate cancer. That shook me. I worked hard to keep myself upright and maybe, in the process, began to consolidate a lot of learning. A major part of that consolidation came from the support I got from family and friends. Oh. Life can be good, even when it’s bad. Weird. Since the move, it’s been one damned thing after another, or it feels that way right now. Those things forced a going deep, being honest, being grateful a lot. Now, four years later, our move anniversary is the Winter Solstice, my Colorado Self, the one born in the alembic of all those insults, has asserted itself.

And I like this guy. This mountain man, man of the West, embedded in family and friends and Congregation Beth Evergreen. Doing ok. Thanks to all of you and some random acts of life.

 

Jewish Identity

Samain                                                                     Thanksgiving Moon

Friend Bill Schmidt sent me this link.  Jewish Identity in America: Assembly Required.

He asked if Adam Platt’s thoughts rang true in CBE.

Here’s my response:

high holy daysInteresting. First, on Dec. 6th I will join all teachers in the religious school, board members, and staff for an emergency response training evening. Stimulated, as you might expect, by Pittsburgh, but always an active consideration.
Second, I read a number of the Jewish responses to the Pittsburgh shooting. All said some version of what Adam Platt emphasizes: believing or not, culturally Jewish or not, anti-Semitism binds us together.
Packing Thanksgiving Boxes at Jeffco Action Center, 2017

Packing Thanksgiving Boxes at Jeffco Action Center, 2017

Only 30% or so of Jews in American attend synagogues. That number grows on the High Holidays, like what we used to call the Christmas and Easter alumni. Most of the Jews that I know, including members of CBE are either outright atheists or find the metaphysical part antique, unnecessary.

Like Adam Platt though, most of the CBE folk place a high value on Jewish civilization, on folkways, on the irl lessons that can be learned from Torah, kabbalah, mussar, Talmud, following birth, marriage, coming of age, and death rituals. I fit in with this thinking even though I’m a good bit to the side of the culture, not to mention the metaphysics.
The Judaism I experience at CBE focuses on what it means to be a better human being. That includes being playful, thoughtful, and, above all, being willing to bear the burden of the other.