Friendship. Solitude. Memories.

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The 32nd Woolly Mammoth retreat. Or, so. Happening near Stillwater, Minnesota at Dunrovin retreat center. Soon. The topic: Friendship and Solitude. The last full retreat I attended was in 2015 shortly after my prostate cancer diagnosis. Given the recency of our move to Colorado and the shock of that news that retreat was especially important for me.

Friendship and the Woollies. In many ways the Woollies, my men’s group for over 30 years, was a tutorial in alternative methods of male friendship. We did not bond over the Vikings, not even the Packers. We didn’t start out as a poker night or a hunting group or as fishing buddies. The Woollies were an outgrowth of the Men’s Movement, furthered in Minnesota by Robert Bly, yes, that Robert Bly, in particular.

We learned that friendship could be nurtured through intimacy, with each other. Not a shocker, I know, but far from the norm when men gather for just about anything. In the early years we had retreat topics like Fathers, Mothers, Death, Pilgrimage.

During the year we met on the first Monday and the third Monday of every month. That was another learning. Friendship requires commitment and work. Frank always took March so he could serve corned beef and cabbage in honor of St. Patrick’s Day. This honored Frank’s Irish blood, not the Roman Catholic Church. At Scott’s Yin would put out a Chinese meal and until her death, Yin’s mother, Moon, would help. At other homes it was soup, or barbecue, or turkey chili. We would eat together, then have a meeting on a topic the host chose.

On the first Monday we would gather at a restaurant, in the early years at the Black Forest in Minneapolis. We talked about that son, the Asperger’s one, who was difficult. Or, the movie we’d just seen. Might have been Spirited Away or a blockbuster. Sometimes work, but most often about relationships.

At Villanova, a Catholic retreat center on the Mississippi, there was a lunar eclipse. Our retreats then were usually in January. A group of us went outside around midnight and stood in the snow and well below zero weather to watch the moon turn red. Another January retreat at Valhelga, a family retreat center designed by Woolly Stefan Helgeson, the temperature was -30. The Minnesota January was part of our year.

Now I meet once a month with five of these men using Zoom the video conferencing software. These friendships are lifelong. Amazingly, for a group of ten men, none of us have died though two are into their eighties.

Solitude. Mostly introverts. Solitude preferred. One Woolly moved to northern Maine. Paul. I moved to the Rocky Mountains. Jimmie, though not an introvert, is in South Dakota. Another, Charlie, lives on a lake in northwestern Wisconsin. There is a Woolly diaspora and where we chose to live reflects the preference for solitude.

Solitude accepts our inner life as worthy. Necessary. It’s about nurturing a friendship with whoever narrates your life right now. It allows us to grow as individuals, to honor ourselves, and be able to honor others.

Perhaps I would have added memory to this retreat topic. Friendship and Solitude are complementary for sure. But it is the memories that bind us together. The broomball on the ice at Valhelga. The visits to Richard Bresnahan’s pottery studio at St. John’s Monastery. Meals at the Black Forest, Christo’s, Sawatdee. Frank’s ongoing hate affair with the Roman Catholic Church. Warren’s articles on aging written as a reporter for the Star-Tribune. That one guy that got shot at by his wife. The night we ate in what turned out be a former Nazi military commander’s house, ironically in the very Jewish suburb of St. Louis Park.

My friends, my brothers, the Woollies. Then, now. Forever.

Consent Given

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

“…he who displays himself does
not shine; he who asserts his own views is not distinguished; he who vaunts himself does not find his merit acknowledged; he who is self-conceited has no superiority allowed to him.”
from Chapter 24, Tao Te Ching, Legge translation

As far as I know, Lao Tzu was not aware of Donald Trump. Still, you gotta admit, he knew him. So does George Will, “Donald Trump, an ongoing eruption of self-refuting statements (“I’m a very stable genius” with “a very good brain”), is adding self-impeachment to his repertoire.” If you have time, I recommend Will’s opinion piece in today’s Washington Post: The spiraling president adds self-impeachment to his repertoire. It’s at once hilarious and damning. A masterpiece of the genre.

In the same issue of the Post seventeen special prosecutors during Watergate say Trump has committed impeachable offenses. Also in the same issue is a recounting of Trump’s amazing, stupefying sermon to his congregation of red-hatted worshipers.

He called Ilhan Omar an America-hating socialist, then went on to denounce the entire Somali-American community. He heralded his recent executive order which gives cities and states the authority to refuse without their express written consent any refugee or immigrant resettlements. He recommended the crowd “speak to their mayor.”

Frey replied immediately on Twitter: “Consent given. Immigrants and refugees are welcome in Minneapolis.” The Minnesota I know well and love.

From the Warring States Period of China to today a person only committed to themselves is unfit to be a leader. We’re in an unusual crisis. This is the Presidency of our country made venal. Such a strong argument for the warning inscribed over the entrance to the Delphic Oracle in the Temple of Apollo: Know thyself.

BTW: if you’re wondering where the illustrations have gone, I’m experiencing a Word Press glitch on uploading images.

Tough Weekend

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

On her birthday

Kate’s had a tough weekend. Short of breath, feeling tired. We didn’t make it to Rosh Hashanah services last night. A year and two days after her bleed. She’s made great progress on weight, nausea, even her Sjogren’s is less problematic. Her stamina, up till this weekend, had increased and she was doing more.

Her daily life involves a lot of tubing and schlepping. At night she carries her Inogen, portable CO2, as well as her pump and feeding supplies. Heavy for her. She does remarkably well with all of it, but this alone takes a toll, too. Hoping for a better day for her today.

Need a lung disease diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. So slow.

Yesterday was Tom and Roxann’s 16th anniversary. At their wedding they featured the mandorla. “In icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the mandorla is used to depict sacred moments that transcend time and space…” Wiki Marriages, good ones at any rate, live into their own mandorla. Happy anniversary! It was also the 7th anniversary of Regina Schmidt’s death. Bill continues to honor her and their love. A mandorla still, I think.

Tomorrow, October 1st, I get my second Lupron shot. 9 am at Urology Associates Swedish offices. In the butt. Thank you, Sherry.

works for both paragraphs

Then, let the fun begin! Hot flashes have become more frequent, a bit more intense. Still only annoying, but, they are annoying. They creep up the body, making it flushed and warm. Last night I had my sweatshirt off and the window open, the cool night breeze a relief.

Extreme fire danger here. Red flag warning yesterday and today. We have a higher fire risk rating than the area around Paradise, California. One of the highest in the country. Good times. I’ve been too nervous about the fire danger to get my chain saw going. Maybe this week.

My friend Dave, personal trainer, had bad news about his brain cancer. The tumor is back after surgery only a few months ago. He’s at the extreme end of survival time for glioblastoma. As he said, it’s a horrible place to be. 53 years old.

You might think I would be stressed and anxious, but I’m not. Living today. Will wait for tomorrow.

The Equilux

Fall and the Harvest Moon

I’m changing seasons on the equinox, which is today. Learned a new word reading some material for this post: equilux. An equilux happens after each equinox and occurs this fall on September 26th. If you look at a table of sunrise/sunset, on September 26th, at roughly our latitude, the sun rises at 6:59 am and sets at 6:59 pm. After the equilux, for 172 days, until the next equilux on March 17th, the sun will shine for less than 12 hours.

Yeah! Though born in Oklahoma near the Red River, almost to Texas, I’ve always been a child of the cold and snow, influenced by too many Jack London novels. And, Renfrew of the Royal Canadian Mounted. Moved to Appleton, Wisconsin in September of 1969 and lived up north until the Winter Solstice of 2014. In our particular location on Black Mountain Drive, just east of 14er Mt. Evans, we get lots of snow, some cold, but easier winters. Better for septuagenarian bones.

from “What is Michaelmas?”

Six days from now is the 29th of September, the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel. It is, as regular readers of ancientrails already know, the springtime of the soul. At least according to Rudolf Steiner.

Rosh Hashanah, September 30th this year, the Jewish new year (one of four), begins the month of Tishrei in Judaism’s lunar calendar. Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, follows ten days later on October 9th. 5 days later on October 14 and 15 is Sukkot, a harvest festival. A week after the second day of Sukkot is Simchat Torah, joy of the Torah.

On October 31st, 6 weeks from last Friday, the next Celtic holiday is Samain, or Summer’s End. The Celtic New Year comes at the beginning of the fallow season.

I am the hallow-tide of all souls passing,
I am the bright releaser of all pain,
I am the quickener of the fallen seed-case,
I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain.
I am the hollow of the winter twilight,
I am the hearth-fire and the welcome bread,
I am the curtained awning of the pillow,
I am unending wisdom’s golden thread.
~ Song of Samhain, Celtic Devotional:
Daily Prayers and Blessings, by Caitlín Matthews

The transition from the growing season when farmers and gardeners harvest its fruits to the fallow season when plants in mid and northern latitudes rest has ultimate significance for non-tropical humanity. Not so long ago a failed growing season would lead to a limited harvest. Unless adequate stores from years past were kept, starvation over the winter was a real possibility.

7 Oaks garden, 2014

Oh, you might say, well, that doesn’t apply to us in the modern age. Think not? Perhaps one really bad harvest could be accommodated by trade and stored foods. Maybe even two bad harvests. But if the world saw several bad harvests in a row, say because of a dramatically changed climate, starvation over the winter could become a real possibility even in the developed world.

Mabon, Sukkot, Samain. With Lughnasa on August 1st, the first harvest festival, the months August through October have evoked human expressions of gratitude, of thanksgiving for soil, seed, and sacrifice. Certain animals and plants become offerings to feed others, including the now unwieldy population of humans.

The heart of the harvest season, right now, is a deeply spiritual moment. The complex web of life bares itself to our witness. Any Midwesterner is familiar with trucks of yellow corn, soy beans, golden wheat, rye, rolling down highways to grain elevators. Hay gets mowed perhaps a third time and baled either in rectangular bales or huge round ones.

This is also a traditional time for the slaughtering of animals. Now slaughterhouses and intensive livestock farming have allowed slaughter throughout the year.

I’m grateful that farmers and ranchers are able to feed us still. I’m grateful that the soil, that top six inches especially, feeds and stabilizes the foodstuff that we grow. I’m grateful that photosynthesis allows us to harvest the sun’s energy by transforming it into vegetables, fruits, grasses, grains, nuts. I’m grateful for each and every animal that dies for our table. I’m grateful for the grocers who buy and display the food for us to purchase.

It is a time of thanksgiving followed by an increasing darkness. That darkness is fecund, for me at least. Steiner’s idea of Michaelmas as the springtime of the soul, the placement of so many Jewish holidays, in particular sukkot, during this harvest time, and the major Celtic holidays of Lughnasa, Mabon, and Samain offer us many chances to open our hearts to the wonder of this world and its blessings.

Slightly outside of these three months is the Day of the Dead celebrated throughout Latin America and the Feast of All Souls.

WINTER SOLSTICE by Willow, Celtic Lady

As the harvest wanes and summer ends (Samain), we have time to take stock of our lives, of our hopes and dreams. We can lean into the darkness after the equilux, celebrate its fullness on the Winter Solstice. It is in the fallow season that we learn the why of death. In this coming season we can make our peace with mortality.

See As Seen

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

42 degrees this morning on Shadow Mountain. Orion standing guard over the Southern gate, the sky black. Walked out to the white Denver Post tube nailed next to our mailbox, picked up the paper, took it back inside. Put it at Kate’s place so she’ll have it when she gets up around 7.

Spent most of yesterday with buddy Tom Crane in from the Twin Cities. We went to the Cutthroat Cafe in Bailey for breakfast. Have to remember that the room there is very live, lots of ambient noise.

front left, Mark, front right, Warren. Back left Jim, Bill, Paul, Tom, Me June, 2012

Catching up. The Woollies, our men’s group, the place we met as sort of initiates well over thirty years ago, continues to age, but with no deaths. Two Woollies turn 75 around now: Warren and Mark. Frank and Bill are 82. Or is Frank a bit older? Can’t recall. Haislet’s over 75 as is Jim Johnson. Paul and I are 72. Tom’s 71 and Scott must be about that. Stefan is the youngster, still in his mid-sixties.

Tom made an interesting comment about friendship, recalling something I’d said about foreign travel. I travel, I said, to see how other cultures eat, love, do the ordinary things of life, and to then, in turn, reflect on the options my own culture has chosen. Long term friendships are the same, he suggested. A way we can see how others live their lives.

Yes. We’re all anthropologists to one degree or another, trying to draw understanding from other cultures and from the lives of others we know well, about ourselves, the paths we’ve chosen.

It was a topic we discussed, our own paths now since we’ve laid aside some of the paths we loved. Tom the pilot is in the past. Tom the CEO, mostly in the past. Charlie the horticulturist, the beekeeper. The docent.

Bill (foreground), Tom. On his boat on Lake Minnetonka, August 2018

We drove up the Guanella Pass, repeating a journey Tom, Bill Schmidt and I took a few years ago. At 11,670 feet it’s almost exactly 3,000 feet higher than Shadow Mountain. And, chilly, with a stiff wind. While up there, I mentioned to Tom how much I love the mountains, their wildness. Later, over ice cream in Georgetown, he said much the same thing about the ocean. These are paths we’ve not given up.

Tom keeps a boat on Lake Minnetonka, a cabin cruiser, that continues his passion for the water. He built a boat, an eight-footer, when he was young. Went to sea as an officer in NOAA’s uniformed service. Spends downtime often in Mendocino, California and on Maui.

To see yourself as another sees you is to receive a gift, a gift of self-awareness stimulated by an honest, loving gaze from outside. A rare and precious thing.

Friendship, family, marriage. And unique communities like Congregation Beth Evergreen, the Woollies. That’s where we go to find out things about ourselves that we’ve overlooked, underestimated, suppressed. In a real sense the examined life is not possible without others, an irony of a sort.

Tom sent me this photograph, Guanella Pass Summit, with a caption, “You’ve found your path.” Not sure if he meant that literally, the path there beside me, or metaphorically, but it hit me in a profound way. Oh, yeah. The mountains. They’re my path. Altitude. Wildlife. Wild and stony places.

A quote often seen here on t-shirts, back windows of cars and suv’s, attached to the ubiquitous Thule cargo carriers on tops of Subarus: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” John Muir. Kate and I chose for Muir, for the mountains.

Gabe, ninth birthday, 2017

While Tom and I ended his visit with a meal at Sushi Win in Evergreen last night, Kate called. Gabe was in the hospital again. This time with a bowel obstruction. He had surgery at 1 am this morning. Seems he had swallowed a couple of magnets that screwed up his small intestine as they danced around each other. WTF.

We’ll see Gabe today after Kate’s pulmonology appointment. This one, we hope, will move us toward a diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan for her lung disease. National Jewish docs this time, not Colorado Pulmonology Intensivists.

Get livin’ or get dyin’

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

The Sword of Damocles

New workout. Met with Dave, personal trainer at On the Move Fitness. He’s a thin, muscled guy, a bicyclist’s physique with a hearty, but haunted manner. The curving scar from just above his left temple to parallel with the middle of his left ear explains the haunted part.

He’s an outlier in the world of glioblastoma patients. His surveillance scans were, up until this April, clear. It looked like he had been cured. Then, boom. A seizure. Then, another one. Trips to the E.R. Another scan. The cancer was back.

Since his journey and mine share a lot of similarities, we’ve bonded. Seeing him yesterday was a chance to catch up. He’s been at home most of the time since his surgery, taking chemo and getting his mojo back. I mentioned the awful decision he and Deb had to make about whether to radiate after surgery.

I didn’t want to take all my cards off the table, he said. Meaning he didn’t want to become cognitively deficient, yet alive. A real possibility if he chose radiation. Not radiating made it more likely the cancer could return. Hobson’s choice*. There are instances when living itself becomes a problem. I talked to a lot of smart people. The chemo is a slow trickle. He shook his head, I didn’t want to take all my cards off the table.

We agreed that this cliche has real meaning for both of us: get living or get dying. There’s a choice even here. Do you face toward your life and the world or do you face the disease and death? How you choose matters. The irony of our being together to make my body strong was not lost on me.

Lodge skillets

Afterward I drove over to Evergreen, where I bought a 12″ cast iron skillet. Been wanting one for a while, mostly to sear steaks and roasts. I had a tenderloin roast in the fridge. Tony’s Market, again. Went to the King Sooper next to the Village Gourmet and picked up some potatoes for the evening meal.

Stopped at Congregation Beth Evergreen and made copies for my bagel table on Saturday. I like that we’re merging back into congregational life there.

Guess who was coming to supper? The eminence grisé of the former Crane Engineering. He even has a card, designed by mutual friend Mark Odegard, that says so. Tom’s here for a visit.

Speed Queen 7000 series

Before that though there were matters domestic to take care of. Had to order a new dryer. A Speed Queen. 10 year warranty. These folks trust their work. Appliance Factory. Buy new sheets for our bed. Amazon. Also had to get the malfunctioning O2 concentrator ready to go off for repair. Harder than it could have been. Or, should have been.

Plopped that tenderloin roast on the heated to high cast iron skillet and seared away. Worked well. Coulda been on a chuck wagon on top of Shadow Mountain instead of in our kitchen.

It was good to share the table with Tom. The dogs clambered around him, saying hi. We caught up on his life. Saw each other as only long time friends can see each other.

He and I head over to Bailey this morning for breakfast. We’ll plan, in a very loose sense, our day. Friendships require nurturing. Tom’s excellent at it.

Thomas Hobson

BTW: The phrase is said to have originated with Thomas Hobson (1544–1631), a livery stable owner in Cambridge, England, who offered customers the choice of either taking the horse in his stall nearest to the door or taking none at all. wiki

Friends

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Got a card yesterday from the Black Forest, Das Schwarzwald. A get well card purchased at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts by my buddies in the Woolly Mammoths. They had gone together to see a show of Native American women artists, one of the more powerful exhibits in recent years my docent friends have told me.

Each man wrote a personal message on the card. I read them all, smiling, seeing this gray head, that gray beard. The old smiles. Hearing the laughter. Knowing the Black Forest, probably outside at a round metal table, traffic whizzing by on 26th Street. Frank ordered a sausage, if memory serves. Maybe some spatzle, weinerschnitzel, lentil soup. St. Pauli Girl drafts.

And, felt sad. Wistful. I love these guys and know them. Well. In the way only 30 + years of being together could allow. It was a sweet sadness, one that told me these relationships still live within me, not extinguished, not weakened by almost 5 years in Colorado.

Ely, 2015

Regrets? No. An affirmation of life, of the power of friendship, of its durability. The sadness is real, as is my gladness at driving up Brook Forest Drive to our home on top of Shadow Mountain.

Both Minnesota and Colorado have wildness and wilderness at their hearts. The Northwoods, the Boreal forest, the lakes, Lake Superior. Wolves, deer, lynx. Muskie and walleye. Mt. Evans, Rocky Mountain National Park, the San Juan Wilderness. Black bears, moose, elk, mountain lions, fox. The Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Tibetan monks at Congregation Beth Evergreen, 2018

Colorado has Congregation Beth Evergreen. A quirky synagogue with a collection of folks who call themselves mountain Jews. It’s where I’m seen and where I see others. Deep moments of human connection, like the Woollies. Glad for both.

Thirty Two

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Number 32 by Jackson Pollock

32 fractions. 3 left! No music yesterday. Not sure why. But. No bedbugs either. I watched the CyberKnife more this time. Wondered about how it worked. Where’s the linear acclerator? What’s in the head and beak part and what does it do? Amazed at the engineering that gets fine movement from such an odd design. Also stared at the wooden ceiling for a bit. Fast.

Afterward I went to Nothing Bundt Cakes, a franchise using the Nordicware bundt cake pan. Bought a cake and 12 buntdtini’s (yes, that’s the actual term. clerk and I had a laugh over it. Like vente, eh? Exactly. Exactly like that.) for the crew at Anova. Gratitude for their kindness and their care.

Went from there, across Quebec, to an Einstein Bagel’s. Got a dozen plus some shmear and lox. Sesame seed and plain.

Realized after that I’d made a brief return to Minnesotaland. When I was a docent at the MIA, one of the women in my class, Linda Jefferies, was a Nordicware heir. Her father or grandfather invented the bundt cake pan.

She told me a story about folks from the Smithsonian coming with white gloves into her attic. They were looking for objects and documents to use in an exhibit about Nordicware and the bundt pan. The link is to Nordicware company records at the Smithsonian.

Caribou Coffee and Einstein Bagels merged while I was still in Minnesota. I frequented a Caribou Coffee in Andover, buying iced coffee for trips into the MIA.

Less tired yesterday. Not sure why. Maybe nearing the end has energized me. Probably it. Still lacking motivation, still fatigued, but not as much yesterday.

Ken from CBE brought pumpkin/turkey chili. Tasty. A good salad, too. We don’t know Ken. That’s the work of the Mitzvah committee.

Failure

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest


Had breakfast with Alan yesterday at the Lakeshore Cafe. Told him about the interesting failure of the bank we tried to create for the poorest of the poor. This was after a 1989 trip to Bogota where we spent a week with staff of the Fundacion Grupo Social.

This group, now a huge corporation, began with Jesuit inspired credit circles for citizens of barrio Jerusalem. In order to give small loans when these folks had no assets the Jesuits conceived of co-signing. If I wanted money to start a small business or build a home (a shack, really), you could co-sign as my guarantor. The default rate on these loans was minimal. Social cohesion is as good as a down payment. This was the start of the micro-credit idea.

We worked hard for a year to put together a Minnesota version, but a recession forced the bank that was working with us to withdraw their generous offer of two million dollars for capitalization.

Alan asked last week over breakfast what I’d done. When I told him a few things: West Bank Community Development Corporation work, Jobs Now, MICAH (Metropolitan Interfaith Affordable Housing Coalition), Minnesota Council of Non-Profits, I surprised myself by being eager to talk about it. Realized that with the exception of Kate and Jon a little bit, no one here in Colorado knew my Minnesota story, my second phase of family and work.

Life is so different here. No contacts. No friends of decades. Only a few places with memories, most tied to the grandkids.

The West has always been a place to start over for Americans from the humid east, guess I’m no exception. No expectations based on prior achievements or prior failures. A new person rising where the sun sets.



My Ancient Spiritual Trail

Summer and the Radiation Moon

My friend Rich sees mussar as a metaphysical, not a psychological discipline. It’s soul work, deeper and more consequential than therapy.

Over the last year and a half my skeptical view of soul has begun to break up, fade away. First, from the Cosmos and Psyche (thanks, Tom) insight: Skepticism is a tool, not a lifestyle. Second, from a spiritual realization that despite its implication in the arguments over, say, original sin, soul nonetheless points to a felt reality for me, a phenomenological knowing. Not a dogmatic or doctrinal one.

Big deal, right? You always knew this? Or, no way, dude. Either way, so what?

And, of course, you’re right if you follow this often used, little understood idea back to its sources in Judaeo-Christian thought. Its use either assumed-you always knew this, or, so mean and inhuman, eternal hell for a few years on earth-no way, dude.

The Judaeo-Christian understanding incorporated the Greek notion of psyche, “…the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking” with a notion of immortality connected to behavior in this life.

I want to push back, back beyond this narrow conception of soul. There was an assumption among the ancient Greeks that soul had to have a logical faculty, and, that it was the most divine attribute of a human soul. ( The current scientific consensus across all fields is that there is no evidence for the existence of any kind of soul in the traditional sense. Wiki.)

First I want to speak for the trees. Let’s call it the Loraxian understanding of the soul. The lodgepoles in our yard, crawling up Black Mountain, growing along Brook Forest Drive as it winds down the mountain. They have souls. They are both alive and animate, creatures with a telos, or end goal. They interact with their environment and grow strong or weak, tall or short, but they remain lodgpole pines, trees with a particular role in a montane ecosystem, a role which they give all they have to fulfill.

The same is true for the mule deer, the mountain lion, the marsh marigold, the elk, the bear, the fox, the squirrel, the dandelion, the cheatgrass, the Indian paintbrush, the mountain trout, the raven and the magpie. Are their souls more or less than ours? Wrong question. Are their souls more like ours or more unlike? Don’t know. I just know that living things on the planet share the wonder of life, an independent spark. That spark gives us organic matter that moves and does so with intention.

Holy Well, Wales, St Dynfog

I’ve felt this way about the world for a long, long time. Taoism, Emerson, the Romantics, gardening, the Celtic Great Wheel. The mystical moment on the quad at Ball State. Oneness. With it all. I’m even willing to entertain faeries, elves, duendes, daiads, Gods and Goddesses. OK, I know I lost a lot of you with that one, but I’m going with my gut, my revelation to me rather than the dry dusty bones of theirs.

But. I want to push one step further. I believe in the spirits of the mountains. They have visited me here on Shadow Mountain, the mule deer on Samain, 2014, and the elk on my first day of radiation. The mule deer and the elk were angels, that is, messengers of the mountain gods, dispatched by the careful, slow, deliberate entities that are the Rocky Mountains.

I believe in the vitality of rushing water in Maxwell Creek, Cub Creek, Blue Creek, Bear Creek, the North Fork of the South Platte. I believe in the entity that is Lake Superior, that is the great deposit of ores on the Minnesota Iron Range, the ebb and flow of the Oglalla Aquifer.

I believe in Mother Earth, the great Gaia, a living system of ecosystems, biomes watered by rains and the snows, irrigated by streams and rivers, planted by Boreas and Zephryus, and given power to change by the true god, Sol.

Neither animals nor plants can grow without the sun’s energy or the food locked in minerals and vitamin: “Our soils support 95 percent of all food production, and by 2060, our soils will be asked to give us as much food as we have consumed in the last 500 years. They filter our water. They are one of our most cost-effective reservoirs for sequestering carbon. They are our foundation for biodiversity. And they are vibrantly alive, teeming with 10,000 pounds of biological life in every acre. Yet in the last 150 years, we’ve lost half of the basic building block that makes soil productive.” Living Soil film

As it appears, I am an animist, a pagan, a person who has found his spot in the great scheme. I’m a moving instance of matter formed in the great fusion furnaces of stars. I’m a temporary instance, holding together a few atoms for a human lifetime. I’m a significant instance of meaning created by the universe observing itself, throughout my short path, as the dynamic, interlocked, soulful reality that it is.

I need no human word to guide me. I need no idea, no rule. I am and I am within all this. The Arapaho National Forest. The Rocky Mountains. Our nuclear family. Our extended family. The community of folks at CBE. The United States. The Mind of God.

My soul and that of Kepler, Rigel, and Gertie dance with each other. In Andover Kate and I danced with bees, fruit trees, perennial flowers, vegetables, raspberry canes. Here we dance with the mountain spirits.

Long ago I set out on a spiritual journey that went down and in rather than up and out. That is, I would not find validation somewhere outside of myself whether Torah, Gospel, Constitution, or political ideology. I would not privilege the idea of transcendence, or a three-story universe. No god is in heaven, and yet all’s right with the world. My ancient spiritual trail has been to turn within for the source of my revelation. And, I have not turned back.