We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

40 years of residence, mostly Minnesota

Lughnasa                                                                                      Monsoon Moon

In between #3 and #5 there was the Peaceable Kingdom in Hubbard County, then the Mark Twain Hotel, now demolished. Following that, Lindstrom. Then back to Community Involvement Programs.

#1, housing at United Theological Seminary, New Brighton

#1, housing at United Theological Seminary, New Brighton

#2, Sims Ave. St. Paul

#2, Sims Ave. St. Paul

#3, Mauna Loa, Community Involvement Programs

#3, Mauna Loa, Community Involvement Programs

#4, Community Involvement Programs (second location)

#4, Community Involvement Programs (second location)

#5, Oak Grove Apartments (NB, #4 not pictured) top floor here

#6, Oak Grove Apartments (NB, #5 not pictured)
top floor here

#6, 41st Ave. Mpls.

#7, 41st Ave. Mpls., Joseph’s first house

#7, Sargent Ave. St. Paul, last house with Raeone

#8, Sargent Ave. St. Paul, last house with Raeone

#8, Irvine Park Condo, top floor

#9, Irvine Park Condo, top floor. St. Paul

#9, Edgcumbe Road, St. Paul. 1st house with Kate

#10, Edgcumbe Road, St. Paul. 1st house with Kate

#10, Andover. Last Minnesota house

#11, Andover. Last Minnesota house

#10, again 1994-2014

#11, again 1994-2014

#1 in Colorado, Black Mountain Drive

#1 in Colorado, Black Mountain Drive

Building a Self

Lughnasa                                                                           Monsoon Moon

The basilica, Minneapolis. From my hotel room.

The basilica, Minneapolis. From my hotel room.

Morning, Black Mountain out the loft window, cool air, dry. Home. Made supper last night. Pork cutlets, tomato, onion, cucumber salad, hash browns from left over tater tots. Put the dogs to bed. Fed and pilled the dogs a half hour ago. Took out the trash and retrieved the Denver Post from the newspaper tube. Sitting down at my desktop, ergonomic keyboard under my finger tips. Checked the calendar for the week and month ahead, plenty to do. Reinserted into mountain life. On the daily level it’s as if I never left. The stuff I do.

But. There’s now the 2018 trip to Minnesota. The one where I went to every place I ever lived in the Twin Cities metro. The one where I saw Tom, Mark, Bill. The one where Mark had his no good, terrible, very bad week. The one where I spoke at Groveland for their Covenanting Community celebration. The one where I discovered a profound grief about art, Asian art in particular. The one where I went into a funky basement room and listened to jazz. You remember. That one.

JazzCentral, Minneapolis

JazzCentral, Minneapolis

This slow accreting of memories is the essence of building a self. The same 4-year old boy who flinched when the dragon in the apartment building on Lincoln called for more coal has been collecting these moments for over 67 years. Throughout, of course, the strange fact of never leaving the present, never able to go back to any of those moments, yet holding them in reserve, as clues available right now about living.

Our Self is the internal agglomeration of that particular, that ultimately particular, set of memories, but not as static moments. No, they are the data we use to respond, to grow, to cry, to laugh, to plan, to hope, to learn what it means not only to be human, but to be the unique human that we are.

Have to go create a new breakfast memory. Gertie says so.



Last Day on the road

Lughnasa                                                    Monsoon Moon

On the road until 7:15 pm last night. Got misdirected (by myself) making the turn south toward Hot Springs. This time, even with maps and a phone that was still charged, I ended up further west than intended. No matter. I drove down 385 on the west side of Paha Sapa, seeing the gigantic Crazy Horse carving on the east side of the road.

Drove through Wind Cave National Park. I took the tour there long ago. There were buffalo right by the roadside and a huge field of prairie dogs. They stood up, looked alert, scampered away on prairie dog business.

I passed into the mountain time zone outside Rapid City, regaining the hour given away on the trip east. At some point I also passed the 100th meridian, too. Until climate change began inching the line eastward the 100th was the point marking the change from the humid east to the arid west. West of the 100th precipitation averages less than 20 inches a year. That’s often not enough for agriculture.

Passing the 100th means a return to my home region, no longer the northland I had just left, but the American West, land of corporate mining, ranching, water wars, and well-armed citizens.

In a few minutes I’ll hit the road again, this time heading out through South Dakota, then Wyoming on blue highways. Along these particular blue highways there will be, off the road aways, small rectangular patches of land protected by high fencing, motion sensors and cameras. Within the fencing lies a missile silo. This land is the contemporary field of dragon’s teeth sown by the ancient king Cadmus. Up from them will emerge mechanical warriors, tipped with nuclear bombs and already targeted for some enemy or the other. I don’t find them reassuring.

There is a freedom to the road, a disaffected and depersonalized freedom though, one populated by unfamiliar landscapes, unknown people and the slight sense (at least in the U.S.) of being far away from help. In this cone of the strange (to us) we carry with us the intimate familiarity of our body and our mind, the memories and quirks that make us who we are.

Been thinking about an article on personalism offered by Tom Bugby, new Woolly whom I met Sunday at the Black Forest. Written by David Brooks, it positions personalism as a middle way between radical individualism (the enlightenment) and collectivism (evil socialists and communists).

It occurred to me that each of these positions commits what Whitehead called a fallacy of misplaced concreteness. That is, each would claim to be the way things are. We are radically individual, unknown to others and knowing others only through their persona, darkly. We are in relationship, cannot know ourselves outside of relationships. We are simply one of the many, important, yes, but the many takes precedence.

No. We are, in turns, a radical individual, highlighted right now for me while I’m on the road, a person in relationship, intimate ones, friendship, casual acquaintances, and, a member of a town, a religious community, a state, a nation. We move along this continuum every day, this activity emphasizing the individual, this one relationships, and this one the larger communities to which we belong.

Totalizing perspectives, we are only individuals or we are only in relationship or we are only part of a broader group, are really finger pointing, blaming this point on the continuum for the problems we face. In fact life is complicated, made up of diverse moments when this facet of ourselves or that one gets to shine.

OK. So I had a long time to think about this.


People, places, art

Lughnasa                                                  Monsoon Moon

Heading west, back home. In just a few minutes. Had my last breakfast in the club lounge overlooking downtown Minneapolis. Saved some real cash with the lounge breakfasts and appetizers in the evening. Food was good, but repetitive.

It’s been a trip big in matters of the heart: friends, good friends, lifelong friends. Woollies, docents, Groveland all. And I got to spend time with all of them.

The round the Cities venture to photograph all my former homes here was equally a matter of the heart, but this time in relation to place and the memories imbedded in specific locations. Playing catch with Joseph in Irvine Park. The brief and ugly time Raeone and I spent in the house on Sargent. The basement apartment where I got robbed in 1972. The statue of Ole Bull which marks a story about how to not get what you want. (story later)

Finally, my visit to the MIA, the Walker and Jazz Central woke up the aesthete. It’s easy for him to go to sleep if he’s not fed. The world is coarser and less meaningful without good and great art. My grief in the Asian collection at the MIA was the biggest surprise of the trip so far. It has something to do with the way Asian artists express their aesthetic visions.

Hoaxer, the jazz band from Friday night, reinforced my longing for more art in my life. Theater, jazz, chamber music, painting and sculpture, poetry, literature, all feed the soul in a way other things cannot. They are, I suppose, another part of a tactile spirituality, perhaps even as central a component of it as hands in the soil, as forest bathing, shinrin yoku.

People, places, art. Here, where I used to be. Substantial, nourishing. Worth the time and the money.


Lughnasa                                                    Monsoon Moon

Another interesting day. Wrote in the morning, then out to Lake Minnetonka for a few hours on the lake riding Falcor, Tom’s lucky dragon. It’s a Sundancer 280, capable of giving Tom a reminder of his youthful boat building days. He built his first boat at 10. He and Bill and I went from his slip over to Lord Fletcher’s, a restaurant that caters to the boating crowd. We all had walleye.

A truly Minnesota experience. A boat. Friends. A lake. And, walleye.

Coming back to the hotel, I took a nap, then went to the club lounge for appetizers. Enough for dinner.

Later, Jazz Central where I heard docent friend Grace Goggin’s son, Peter, play the sax in his band, Hoaxer. He’s good, really good, and Hoaxer is the real deal. They play a hard driving, innovative, energetic, even funny brand of jazz. They were, by turns, raw and sweet and passionate. If you get a chance, listen to them.

I stayed there until 10:30, way past my bedtime, then, for some reason, went back to my hotel and watched tv. Vacation mind, I guess. A little sleepy this morning. In an hour I leave for St. Paul, for the Groveland celebration, inside now due to thunderstorms.

Seeking God Is Not The Problem

Lughnasa                                                     Monsoon Moon

Liberal religion. An odd term. Maybe oxymoronic? I mean, what is more conservative than our human wonderings about death and about how to live? What is older than those questions?

And the variety of answers are endless. Taoism, Buddhism, Southern Baptists, Mithraism, Santa Muerte, Hinduism, Catholicism, Judaism and many, many others. Bahai, Druze, Islam. And, no, they don’t all have the same message, hardly.

Back in 1992 or so, I’d given up on one of those answers, Christianity. My reasons were emotional, the rationale came later. Mostly, I’d begun to find my spirituality in a very different locale, in my interior life and in the soil, in plants, in animals. Didn’t work so well in the pulpit.

I needed a place where I could be who I had become. I found a group of folks meeting in a round room over a library. A library. Worshipping in one of my favorite institutions, artifacts of human searching arrayed below us. This was the early Groveland. 25 years later here we are, celebrating your persistence, celebrating the spot you’ve carved out of humanity’s endless quest for knowing how things are with ourselves, with our planet, with time itself.

“The problem lies not with seeking God, but with those who think they’ve found God.” Mordecai Kaplan, founder of Reconstructionist Judaism. In an odd twist to my own seeking, Kate and I have become members of Congregation Beth Evergreen in Evergreen, Colorado, close to our home on Shadow Mountain. It’s a Reconstructionist congregation. No, I’ve not converted. They’re fine with me being what I call, for simplicity’s sake, a pagan.

“The past gets a vote, but not a veto.” Kaplan again. By this he means, quite heretically within traditional Judaism, that Judaism itself is always changing, always reconstructing itself and that literally nothing is sacred. He was not, for example, a supernaturalist.

I tell people that I’m not a Jew, but I am a reconstructionist. And, I am. Here’s the interesting part. According to Rabbi Jamie Arnold, Kaplan got his approach from, drum roll… Emerson. I don’t know that this quote is the exact place, but it’s sentiment is clearly Kaplan’s and current reconstructionist:

“Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also. There is more wool and flax in the fields. There are new lands, new men, new thoughts. Let us demand our own works and laws and worship.”

I offer this brief excursion into Judaism as a way of underscoring the liberal religious pilgrimage. It is one that says, yes the questions of religion are important because they are deeply human questions, so important in fact that we should hold all of the answers loosely, hold them as clues, as trail markers, not as destinations. That we should remain open to new clues, new trails, new ways of approaching this ancient probing of what matters most.

When we do, as Emerson did, as you here at Groveland do, we can never tell the impact of it. We might transform that Muslim cleric, that Hindu priest, or, that Conservative Rabbi, Mordecai Kaplan.

“It is not the seeking of God that is the problem.” No, as Kaplan says, the problem is with those who calcify the pilgrimage, enshrine the past, stop up their ears, their eyes, close their minds. You, Groveland, are caravan serai on the oldest ancientrail of all. And, a necessary one. Necessary for what? Unclear. And that’s the point.


Lughnasa                                                        Monsoon Moon

70+ miles I drove yesterday morning. First over to Oak Grove, close to here, then to Stevens Square where I photographed the first Community Involvement Programs building, then the second one. I lived in both. Forgot the place on 1st Avenue, but I’ll get that. Over the course of the morning I visited streets and neighborhoods I’d come to know intimately, St. Paul, New Brighton, Andover, Minneapolis. More on the feelings from this homecoming later

The biggest surprise of the day came at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. I got there about 2:30 or 3:00. Picking up my badge was long in the past, but my body remembered. Passed the guard desk by. The lobby area is completely, well, almost completely different. Tables, a big coffee shop, redone gift store. Pleasant.

I walked all the way back toward the rocks shaped in Lake Tai. Called scholar’s rocks their strange forms, curves, sharp edges, diversity reminded Chinese literati of the mountains, their power and mystery, but most importantly, of the Tao.

Up the first flight of stairs and I was in the Asian arts wing. It holds an extensive collection of Chinese and Japanese art as well as more modest exhibits of Indian, Tibetan, Vietnamese and Thai art. A collection I came to know very well. There were various Buddhas, some calling the earth to witness enlightenment, others with the mudras of reassurance, of wish granting.

A favorite part of the collection for me is the large hall containing Chinese paintings, just off the Buddhas display. Moving from one depiction of mountains to another, often scrolls longer than I am tall, there were the fantastical shapes towering up, up, up, with some small human, usually a lone scholar, sitting watching a waterfall, gazing up at the clouds. The closer I looked, and I examine these painting very carefully, the more an unexpected feeling crept me over me. Grief.

It was subtle at first, felt like simple nostalgia, a sort of sadness mixed with the wonder I’ve always felt among these objects. Slowly though, as I saw the Fergana stallions, the famed blood sweating horses from the area of the ‘stans, and noticed the upcurled lip of the copper sculpture, a rare, fine piece of work, and realized I’d never taken in his mouth before, the feeling became clear. I missed this place so much. It was an ache, a hole in my heart. Unexpected. Very.

The feeling stayed with me as I looked at a long scroll depicting a festival along a river, the Wu family reception hall, the new arrangement of the Japanese collection. It came most into focus when I looked at the tea implements, the tea house.

As I left the Asian collection and went into the excellent rearrangement of the African collection, the feeling dissipated. It did not return while I visited the Native American and Latin American galleries. Nor did it return when I saw a couple of my favorite paintings, Goya’s Dr. Arrieta and the MIA’s Kandinsky. I don’t recall its title. In theses collections I was merely a museum goer, a knowledgeable one, yes, one familiar with the art, deeply familiar in some instances, but no longer experiencing that hole in my heart.

I’m not sure what to make of it, but it was strong, very strong and it has a significance I’ve not yet sorted out.

From the MIA I went over to the Red Stag, sight of many Woolly meals over the years. Tom and Bill were already there. Ode, a colonoscopy prep victim on Monday, got good drugs at the procedure, enough to make him lose a whole day. He forgot. When reminded by Tom’s call, he came down.

It was a good visit, normal in its way. A place we’d been before, together. We’d been together many times, this was one more. Yet it was also abnormal since 900 miles separates me from this normal moment. These are life-long friends and life isn’t over yet.


Lughnasa                                                       Monsoon Moon

With gray skies, moisture in the air, lakes not far from any spot in the metro, far horizons, deciduous trees in abundance, no mountain peaks close by or in the distance, I know I’m back in the Midwest. The need to memorialize the coming of the monsoon rains would be pointless here. Lucky here.

Oddly, the club level of this hotel, which I am unintentionally on, has breakfast and substantial enough hors d’oeuvres to eat for a meal in the evening. Last night, over mushrooms stuffed with sausage, honey dew and salami, caesar salad, and a small club sandwich, I engaged one of aging’s priceless treasures. I turned off my hearing aid so the millennial buzz would soften. Ah.

Easing into the week here. Slept in until 7:30 (6:30 at home). Leisurely breakfast overlooking the convention center and Central Lutheran. Gonna get in the car in a bit and take photos of as many of the places I’ve lived in the Twin Cities that still exist. It will take a while. I moved a lot. Later on I’ll see Tom, Mark, and Bill at the Red Stag. Old friends in an old haunt.

Is it a pilgrimage when you return rather than when you seek a far destination? In Judaism the term for repentance is teshuva, return. Is this teshuva to the Twin Cities a form of repentance? It may be because it has the character, this time, of reliving, re-membering. Perhaps the pilgrimage to home literally re-members us, reclaims those pieces important to us that we left there, long ago.

When you make a move, as Kate and I did, to a new, very different place after 40 years, it involves, among much else, severing the physical cues to memory. They are out of sight, perhaps not out of mind, not entirely, but they are not refreshed. Coming back means seeing Central Lutheran and the convention center remind me of the visit of the Dali Lama, the time the Presbyterian General Assembly was here. I helped move a baptismal font, heavy marble, on a small wheeled dolly from Westminster to the convention center, served communion to a thousands. 40 years is a long time in human years.

So this is a voyage, a teshuva to mySelf, my soul, as well as a visit. The whole, at least in biological terms, is more than the sum of the parts, but it is also not less than its parts. I have parts remaining here and I want to return them to their vital place in my soul.



in the gopher state

Lughnasa                                            Monsoon Moon

Computer keyboard problems this am in Chamberlain, South Dakota. No joy when I tried to write this morning. Now, I’m able at least to use the laptop keyboard. The ergonomic keyboard crashes all entry methods. Sigh.

Appropriately for Lughnasa I drove through country with corn, beans, and wheat. The contract combines are out scything their way through early Nebraska, South Dakota and Minnesota wheat. Outside Ainsworth, Nebraska I had a rural moment when I started onto Ne. Hwy 49 and it was filled, both lanes, with a combine.

Right now I’m in the very opposite environment, on the 12th floor of the Millennium Hotel on Nicollet Mall in downtown Minneapolis. I’d have to encounter a big street sweeper or an escaped Zamboni to have a similar experience.

I’m tired. The drive was long. Though I’ve done it many times, my body doesn’t seem to put up with the effort as easily. That’s ok, though. I’m back in Scandinavian inflected country, a place where the plight of each of us counts for something. The architecture here is more familiar. But, I didn’t feel that frisson of oh, I’m back home this time. Instead, I drove into the Welcome Center on I-90 just past the state line and felt like a tourist.

Here there are memories, so many memories. They tumble over each other. The old Chestnut Tree restaurant a couple of blocks from here. The 25 year plan for the year 2000 that I helped guide into existence-in 1975. The IDS which I watched emerge from the ground when I lived in the Mauna Loa apartment buildings across from the old Northwestern Hospital, now gone. Westminster Church and its associations with my work for the Presbytery. Getting married there to Raeone to Handel’s Water Music. And that’s all just in a few blocks from where I sit now, high above my past.

I’ve decided on my brief speech for Groveland. I’ll write out here before I give it.

Gonna go to bed tonight, then get out and start roaming around tomorrow. Probably over to Loring Park, the Sculpture Garden, eat lunch at the Walker. Like old times.

No pics for right now. I forgot to bring the cord that connects my phone to the computer. When I get back.


Summer                                                                      Monsoon Moon

monsoon clouds in Aurora

monsoon clouds in Aurora

The last day of summer. Lughnasa, which starts tomorrow on August 1st, marks the beginning of the harvest season. Though the growing season is not at all over, gathering in has begun and will only increase as we move through Mabon, the second harvest season and then end the harvest on Samain. Samain means end of summer and that name holds the history of the ancient Celtic calendar which had only two seasons, Beltane (the growing season) and Samain (the fallow season).

In the mountains we do not anticipate the beginning of the harvest season so much as we mark the beginning of the monsoon season. The monsoon pumps moisture from the Gulf of Baja and the Gulf of Mexico northwards until it cools and falls over the Rockies. This marks the end of the high fire season.

20180616_133209Taking off today with age nipping. The incident yesterday (see post below) means I have to pay attention to myself in new ways. A bit disconcerting. Not to mention that I occasionally leave the refrigerator door open. A common thread here, oddly, is hearing. The refrigerator has a come back and shut my door melody it plays when the door is left open. Trouble is, I can’t hear it unless I’m right by the door. The truck’s engine is obviously on when I step out with it running, but the call back that its noise would generate for others is only background for me. So a combination of distraction and hearing loss. Time to adapt. Again.

20150911_174834If I go to Indiana, I go home. Home in this case is the place of my childhood, a place, with Heidegger, into which I was thrown without choice by decisions my parents made. Indiana home, the banks of the Wabash, the sycamores, Harrison Street, mom and dad’s graves, the years of growing up, basketball, the Indianapolis 500 and lots of hate has a sort of giveness to it that makes it seem inevitable. Of course I grew up on Monroe Street, called down bats with stones thrown in the air, cheered for the Tigers, worked for the Alexandria Times-Tribune, P.N. Hirsch and Johns-Manville.

Gertie, Vega, Rigel in Andover

Gertie, Rigel, Kona in Andover

If I go to Minnesota, I go home. Home in this case is the place of my adulthood, the second phase of life focused on family and career. Minnesota was a choice and has none of the inevitability of my Hoosier life. I could have chosen differently. I tried New York City for example. I might have gone to graduate school at either Brandeis or Rice, both places where I got accepted in Anthropology graduate programs. I could have headed overseas as did Mary and Mark.

Instead, I chose seminary in New Brighton and continued to choose Minnesota in decision after decision. Now the land of sky blue waters, the western shores of Lake Superior, the northwoods and the timber wolf and the moose, the Twin Cities, two marriages, the adoption of Joseph, years of political work, immersion in its cultural life mean home.

When I stay for 5 nights at the Millennium Hotel on the edge of Loring Park, I’ll be in the midst of my own history, a neighborhood where I chose to live, where I participated in its politics. Within walking distance will be the Walker Museum of Modern Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts two institutions that shaped my aesthetic. Close by, too, is the Minnesota Church Center where I once had an office as an executive of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area.

The Woolly Mammoths, the docent class of 2005 at the MIA, and various political cronies, mostly in the Sierra Club during my last years, the members of Groveland UU are the web of relations that make Minnesota home.

Mountain Home

Mountain Home

When I leave Minnesota, though, and head west again, it will be my used-to-be home once more. I’ll be heading home to the Rocky Mountains, to the land of mountain Jews, lodgepole pine and golden aspen, of black bears and mountain lions, mule deer and elk. Ruth, Gabe, Jon, Kate, the dogs. They’re all far away from Minnesota, in my third phase home.

This is another place of choice, a home determined by decisions that Kate and I made.  We will have been here four years on the Winter Solstice. We will have owned our home here for four years this Samain.

I have three homes: Indiana, Minnesota and Colorado. Each from a different era of my life, a different phase, each shaping me and, being shaped by me, in diverse ways.

Today I’m leaving for home and when I head out on the return trip I’ll be leaving for home.



August 2018
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