We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

A Fool on the Hill

Fall                                                                                        Healing Moon

Ode and me

I will not be attending the Woolly Mammoth’s centennial retreat (just kidding, 31 0r 32, something like that). But Charlie Haislet has proposed the Parsifal legend, the Grail quest, as a theme in the paragraph below. I’m going to write my answer here.

Rosseti Percival

Rosseti Percival

Parsifal and the Grail quest – it still works for me but now I am at a different place in the story. I am not now just stepping into the woods in a dark place where no one has gone before. I am at the end not the beginning of that quest, I either found the Grail or I didn’t. How does that feel, what does that mean? And as Judy, our visiting memoirist says, we have lived that story, now is the time to tell it.

dante canto oneCharlie has conflated two important stories here. The first is the Arthurian story of the grail quest, seen by Jungian analyst Robert Johnson as the quintessential story of masculine development. Note, by the way, that both men and women have a masculine development story.

The second is Dante’s Inferno. Canto 1 begins, famously:

Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself within a forest dark, For the straightforward pathway had been lost.

In our forties or so, in midlife, we tend to find both Percival and Dante as exemplars for the path forward. We go out into life, now grown and in touch with our powers, but find ourselves lost. What was I supposed to be doing here, anyhow? Is medicine right? Is architecture? Engineering? Banking? The ministry?

At forty-two I answered this question, no. The ministry is no longer where I need or want to be. Perhaps I never belonged there in the first place. Kate, like a medieval patronness, came into my life and said, in essence, “If no is your answer, try something else.”

pape_de_abraham-a_hermit_writing_in_his_book

pape de abraham-a hermit writing in his book

Ironically, right at that moment I was writing my Doctor of Ministry thesis. As I worked on it, what I wrote kept coming out as fiction. Also ironically, the title of the story, the novel on which I’d written several thousand words, maybe 40 or so, was “Even the Gods Must Die.” Hmm. See a connection there?

In my Percival naivete I set out on my writing quest. I planned a certain amount of money I wanted to earn each year. About $40,000 if I recall correctly. Hah. In terms of writing itself, I have succeeded. I have written nine novels, thirty or forty short stories, and literally, by this time, millions of words here on Ancientrails.

In terms of publishing my work I’ve failed. Big time. Consistently. A big lump of zero. At first I submitted my work, but I allowed rejections to stoke my fear, rather than my persistence. (which is, I should add, odd, since persistence has otherwise been a strong suit) I stopped submitting. I even stopped writing at one point and spent a year reading the classics, starting with Dante’s Divine Comedy. All of it.

FisherKingPt1Perhaps, in fact I think almost certainly, publishing was my Fisher King wound. Note, not the Grail, but the wound that could be healed by Percival’s question, the question of a fool, “Whom does the Grail serve?” Of course, that begs the question of the nature of the Grail itself. Johnson says that the question heals the Fisher King’s wound because its answer, “You My Lord, the Grail King.” reveals masculine development’s purpose: to serve a cause larger than your Self.

Dante’s quest leads him down into the darkest parts of himself, the layers of hell we each carry in our souls, up through the realm of Purgatory where those hells fall away, purged by coming closer to God, until the Self’s full glory is realized, like Percival, in submission to the Godhead.

Would I prefer to have sold novels and short stories, made money from my writing? Of course. And, at last, I’m in the process of a year long goal to achieve 100 rejections. I’m up to 10 right now. The strange part is that when I achieve publication, and I believe (hope) I will, it will mean little. I’ve already done the writing, I’ve lived the writing life for almost 30 years now and have done so with no encouragement from the business side.

1514204356436So who or what was the thing larger than myself that I have served in the meantime? I have several answers. The first one, love. Kate. Our marriage. The second one, family. Our family and its extensions, principally through Jon and Joseph, but including our nuclear families. The third, religion, small r religion. A life pushed forward by deep questions, ones of meaning and purpose. The fourth, justice. Seeking in the political realm an answer to the dilemmas of poverty, racism, and capitalism. The fifth, mother earth. Seeking in the political and personal realms a close tie to life as it is, life in its plural forms and the inanimate that carries us through space, provides for our needs, the sun and mother earth in particular.

There is another, too, different from the rest. Art. Painting, sculpture, drawing, prints, music, dance, theater. Always there. From the Wagner operas I bought on 331/3 l.p.s and listened to in my room at 419 N. Canal in Alexandria to the time as a docent at the MIA and through many plays and concerts. Literature. Around the time I bought the Wagner operas with my paper route money, I read War and Peace. So many books, poems. Over so many years. And my own writing, my attempt to add to our cultural deposit.

Did I drink from the cup drained at the Last Supper, the last celebration of Passover by that band of Jews in first century Palestine? Yes, I believe I did. Did it change me? Not in the usual theological sense. But, in the psychological sense, it affirmed my journey, my pilgrimage. Not as someone else, not as someone others hoped I’d be, not as a someone even I hoped I might be, but as mySelf, this one unique, irreplaceable guy, both unimportant and ultimately important. Like each Woolly, like each family member, like each tree and snake, like each planet and moon and star.

 

 

Maybe a New Show?

Lughnasa                                                              Harvest Moon

A Robert Indiana sculpture: Ahava, Hebrew for love

A Robert Indiana sculpture: Ahava, Hebrew for love

At Tu B’av, a minor holiday, now a celebration of love in Israel and dubbed by its restorers as Jewish Valentine’s Day, unmarried women would come together, all dressed in white, dance, and hope to find a partner. Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.

We celebrated Tu B’av on August 15th at Beth Evergreen and Kate won a silent auction for a backstage experience at a local production of Funny Girl. We went last night. It’s tech week for Funny Girl and our friend Alan Rubin is a player.

I had nearly enough theater credits for a minor and acted quite a bit in high school, college and seminary. After that, nada, but Kate and I were regulars at the Guthrie. When I was in high school and middle school, our parents took us several years in a row to Stratford, Ontario, to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. A passion, really, but one that has slowly faded.

TheatreJust before getting up this morning a strange, but somehow obvious thought occurred to me. While on the backstage tour we visited the dresser, an energetic guy who made or altered 490 costumes for the women in this performance. !. We saw the multiple props, a day bed, a drinks trolley, several doors with wheels, a set of steps for musical numbers, a kitchen table, a dressing table. Downstairs we saw the storage areas for costumes and prop making materials. We spoke with the dresser, the stage manager, the director, the actors, several of them, the lighting and sound people. All, to a person, warm and friendly.

We watched the rehearsal through until intermission at 9:30, then these old folks began to tire and went home.

Theatre2Here’s the thought. Going backstage, seeing all the accoutrements for staging a play, especially going into the basement area, made me think of id, ego and superego. Of the masks and personas we wear. Of our brain as backstage, where we store props, costume changes, makeup, where we put together the elements of the show that is our lives. The show itself, and its superego, the director, is the life others see, the one we present as we strut and fret our hour upon the stage, then are heard no more.

Let me extend (overextend) the metaphor in one more significant way. All these various elements costumes, props, actors, the stage itself alter themselves for each new script. In other words it is the nature of the theater to be plastic, to use familiar elements for telling unfamiliar stories.

As our life goes on, we often get stuck in Groundhog Day times when we simply repeat the same script over and over. We don’t hear the audience, we don’t see the repetitiveness, are not aware that we’ve been mounting the same play again and again.

Here’s the takeaway for me. Examine the script. Become aware of the lines you’re delivering, the plot you’re pushing forward. Is it still the one you want? Is there another play you can put together with the props, the roles you’ve already played, the stage to which you’re committed? Could be. We can put on new productions, use familiar elements for unfamiliar stories. Might even be fun.

Ancientrails Looks Back: 9/11

Lughnasa                                                                        Harvest Moon

09 11 10_Joseph_0256-1Yes. I remember. Too well. At home in Andover, catching the news. Watching in disbelief as things that never happen happened. Passenger jets flying too low, not stopping, hitting, exploding. A feeling of personal violation and awful grief.

This was no moon landing, more like the Cuban Missile Crisis or the assassination of JFK, something too terrible to watch, yet too fascinating to stop. Would there be more? What did this mean? Who? Why? God, all those people falling. All those firefighters, police, EMT’s in the dust and smoke, as my Jesuit friends said of a comrade in Hiroshima, “…running toward the bomb.”

A young college sophomore was in his dorm or on campus or working, somewhere. He heard the news. Heard a call. A call to a life devoted to this country, one who had given him, in his mind, so much. Years later he would direct bombers over Libya, make plans to protect South Korea against the North, control fighters and bombers over Afghanistan, Iraq. Attend weapons school. Ten years plus and still a warrior, created by Osama bin Laden.

9.11The world, the blood. The thousands dead then, multiple more thousands of dead now, people still dying. Terrorism, asymmetric warfare, has succeeded. They have tested us, found us willing to do exactly what they need. Punish them, disproportionately. Easy recruiting. Soldiers for the caliphate. Break free of the capitalist West, hamstring the great Satan. And, gain glory from Allah.

It was, I think, the invasion of Iraq that made the terrorist’s argument for them. Afghanistan, no. Bin Laden was there. The Taliban sheltered him. We had a right to go after him, after those that aided him. But, Iraq? An unnecessary war, like Vietnam. In this case a war that convinced thousands of disenfranchised youth in the Middle East that death in jihad was more desirable than death by the thousand cuts of poverty and dysfunctional societies.

9.112Will this end? Yes. Even the Hundred Years war ended. The Thirty Years war, too. If climate change doesn’t take us all down first, at some point exhaustion will set in here and over there in the Middle East. Or, maybe a reformed Islam will take root, push out the extremists who read which texts they choose and ignore the rest.

This war, what some call the Forever War, has defined a generation. Sadly. We have learned no good lessons. No home truths. We have experienced and inflicted pain, gotten no where. Might be that climate change will eventually be the enemy that binds us all together. Wishful thinking? Probably.

Anyhow, I remember. Too well.

 

 

The Journey, It’s Always About the Journey

Lughnasa                                                           Waning Summer Moon

The first day of our Latin American cruise

The first day of our Latin American cruise

We may be inching toward a diagnosis for Kate’s nausea. As successive hunches and medical tests have identified nothing wrong with her G.I. tract, trés frustrating, one of Kate’s early notions might turn out to be correct.

She saw her rheumatologist, Dr. Westerman, yesterday and he conceded that gastroparesis may be the cause of her nausea. It’s a bugger. Something, usually unknown, causes the stomach to lose its motility. The result is that the stomach does not empty as well, sometimes, in severe instances, not at all. Weight loss, malnutrition, lack of appetite. All symptoms, all one’s she has.

Still, knowing the cause would mean we can begin to adjust things like diet for her. If gastroparesis turns out to be right, there are other things we can do, too, including possible experimental drugs.

this morning

this morning

Rain and chill here this morning, 43 and gray as the sky begins to lighten. All rain is welcome. Sleeping is much better with the cooler nights.

I zoomed again yesterday, this time with Jen Kraft of Moving Traditions (the b’nai mitzvah curriculum), Alan, Rabbi Jamie, and Tara Saltzman, director of religious education at Beth Evergreen. We were nailing down roles and expectations for the first night of religious school, tonight. My anxiety level has gone down as we approach the actual launch, which means I’ve prepared as well as I can. After that, inshallah.

hiit2Getting back to five days a week exercise. Always feel better. Trying to regain my former high intensity workouts on the off days from resistance work. These workouts increase cardiac fitness, important especially in the mountains. In my case I do two five minute sets, varying speeds each minute from medium intensity (30 seconds), high intensity (20 seconds), and as fast as possible (10 seconds), with a two minute rest between them. I like high intensity because it’s effective and short in duration.

625448_164319917056179_937468223_nLooked into stamina after last week’s exhausting day at CBE with Alan. Discovered that I’m doing, mostly, what can be done. The part I’d let drift away was the high intensity workout. So, I’ll return to that. But, the real message is that stamina decreases with age, even with good sleep, decent diet and exercise.

What’s happening for Kate and me, I think, is a difficult and grudging acceptance of certain physical changes. It’s easy, and understandable, to focus on what’s wrong, to look for the better tomorrow if only we can do this or that. Yet, and it’s a big yet, I feel there may be a tricky, more important, and nuanced reaction available. We need to also concentrate on what we can do well, even given the limitations of stamina and chronic medical conditions.

Back in the long ago faraway I went through a series of therapists, one a guy, Brian, I really liked. He was a former Catholic priest, insightful and well-educated. But, his approach, existentialist psychology, focused on what was wrong. Each session we would identify problems and seek solutions, changes in behavior or inner narrative. Each session. Problems, work for solutions. Always what was wrong, what needed to change.

Abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peaceI finally realized that a problem oriented therapeutic approach kept me trapped in a continuing circle of what’s wrong? What do I need to do? How can I change? In other words my life was always problematic. Like whack a mole for psychological issues. No relief, just unending work on what was wrong. What was wrong was me.

Nope. Needed to get out from under that weight, accentuate the resources I had, the strong parts. I needed a therapeutic approach (and, a concomitant approach to myself) that found strengths, that put my struggles in the broader context of a life that was not a problem, not a puzzle, but a human journey. Jungian psychology and John Desteian did that for me. What a relief and I finally got movement in my inner life.

yourselfKate and I, I think, are at a similar cross roads. We need to accentuate the resources, the strengths that we each have, and they are considerable. Loss of stamina and chronic diseases (which we both have) are part of our lives, yes, but they are not our lives. Our lives are about sewing, quilting, the board at CBE, old friends, grandchildren, sons, our life together. They’re about writing and teaching and hiking and reading. About filling our days with purpose and love. Death is a certainty, but we don’t have to reach for it. It will come for us, in its own time. Until then, carpe diem!

 

Waning Summer Moon and Orion

September 14, 2017

September 14, 2017

Lughnasa                                        Waning Summer Moon

Quite a combination greeted me in the southeastern sky this morning as I made my way to the loft. The Waning Summer Moon’s waning quarter stood just above a faint, but still clear Orion. My first sighting of him since April. I don’t look for him once I stop seeing him since I imagine he’s in the daytime sky, but apparently he’s visible at some time in all months except May through July, just not when I’m awake and outside.

The two of them together, the Waning Summer Moon and the constellation that is my winter companion appearing the day after Labor Day sends a strong autumnal signal in my world. Flecks of gold will start to appear in the aspen groves on Black Mountain.

The meadow at the base of Shadow Mountain Drive had hay bales in it a couple of days ago, all gone now. The sight brought back memories of alfalfa and timothy fields in Minnesota and Indiana, the smell of haylofts, hay rides. Apple picking.

September 17, 2013

In Andover this was the month of garlic planting, of soil amending in the perennial flower beds and the planting of bulbs, corms, rhizomes. Tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinth, crocus, anemone. I would turn on Folk Alley radio, get out the kneeler and the Japanese garden knife. Sometimes the Andover High School marching band would be rehearsing a couple of miles away but still audible. Blue skies, the sun’s angle noticeably lower. The golden raspberries were ripe, too, and the dogs, especially Vega, would pick them off the canes that poked through the fence around our vegetable garden.

Later in the month will come Mabon, the second of the harvest festivals and the fall equinox. After that is Michaelmas, September 29th, the feast day of the Archangel Michael which Rudolf Steiner refers to as the springtime of the soul. I can feel the change, the buildup that begins with the victory of light on the Summer Solstice, the gradual lengthening of the night which will culminate in the Winter Solstice, my high holyday.

Time to get back to work.

A True North

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

Still thinking about the north. In 1969 Judy and I left Connersville, Indiana, headed toward Appleton, Wisconsin. In my mind the landscape would be pine trees, glistening lakes, deer, lots of people in plaid shirts. Maybe still a lumberjack or two. Jack London’s White Fang, Call of the Wild, Sea-Wolf, Burning Daylight had made me a distant fan of a place closer to the Arctic, one where the wildness of our planet had not been consumed by factories and roads.

Burning DaylightTurns out the Fox River Valley was not that place. The Fox River which runs from the Green Bay through Appleton and finally into Lake Winnebago had no available oxygen for aquatic life thanks to years of dairies and paper mills, two of the worst polluters, dumping effluent. But you could see this north from there. In the Fox River Valley it manifested itself in a tortured way through snowmobile culture and the annual ritual of the deer hunt. Both were violent and dangerous. On winter nights the lights of snowmobiles rake the roadways and countrysides as riders drive their vehicles alongside the roads from bar to bar for a shot and a beer. It was often said that grudges got settled during deer season.

White Fang’s north also announced itself in the weather. That winter we had two feet of snow in one storm, an amazement to this long time Hoosier, resident of an agricultural and industrial belt that had confused seasons often with slush and ice storms in place of winter, northern winter. I learned about engine block heaters. Temperatures dropped to way, way below zero. And stayed there.

LondonWisconsin was a bad experience for me. Judy and I had married at 21 and 17. I had graduated from college that spring and had no idea what to do next. So. Get married. By Appleton neither one of us were sure why we’d said yes to the other. The long winter nights found us drinking beer by the case and playing sheepshead with Judy’s family. Her father, a convinced alcoholic, and I, just getting started in my addiction, didn’t really get along. He was a snowmobile racer, a deer hunter, an ink salesman and a Packer fan. I had little interest in any of those things. Our only common ground was his daughter.

By 1970 I’d found myself withering in Appleton. Too much alcohol. Judy and I had agreed on an open marriage, it was the sixties after all, but when she acted on it, I discovered I hadn’t meant it. I had three jobs in Appleton: life insurance salesman (never sold a policy, lasted three months), a baker making bread and pound cakes, but getting to work at 4 a.m for $1.50 an hour lost its charm quickly, and, finally, as a rag cutter at the Fox River Valley Paper Company. This was a distinct change from studying anthropology and philosophy, fighting the establishment. And not a good one.

Seminary took me to Minnesota, where I did find my true north, not in New Brighton, of course, but up north in the boreal forest, among the 10,000 glaciated lakes and on the shores of Lake Superior. This was Burning Daylight territory. I stayed for forty-five years.

Burntside Lake, Ely

Burntside Lake, Ely

While up north, from 1969 to 2014, I discovered the insular nature of this land. The long blue ellipse of Lake Michigan made Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota, the Upper Midwest, lack a through route to the West. We were not on the way to anywhere. You had to want to go up there for some reason and most folks in the U.S. chose not to. Nothing there unless you fished or hunted or had business or family. Cold, too. Brutal winters. As far north as most folks got was Detroit or Chicago.

Especially distant, especially unknown were the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, northern Wisconsin and northern Minnesota with the Iron Range, the Arrowhead region, Lake Superior, Voyageurs National Park, the BWCA, Warroad. It is a culture that has some common ground, snowmobiles, snowshoes, ice fishing, hiking, mineral extraction, cross-country skiing, but little integration even with the states in which they lie. What integration there is tends to be that of tourist destination and tourist though of course the Iron Range and the copper mines of the Keweenaw, the laker supported transport of the Great Lakes, and such cities as Duluth, Superior, Sault St. Marie, and Marquette attract citizens as well as visitors.

Now living in a region dominated by the story of the vanishing frontier, the Indian wars, the cowboy, mountains, and the false allure of unbridled freedom, the north country has receded from view again. It is far away, not on the way to anywhere most choose to go, and largely unknown. Yet it still feeds my imagination and my memories there are warm and many. No, I never mushed a dogsled to take medicine to a plague ridden village isolated by a blizzard (Sergeant Renfrew of the Canadian Mounted Police), but I did mush a dogsled. I never caught a muskie or a lake trout, but I did spend many happy hours picking blueberries in the late August sun. It was the north of my Jack London induced fantasy and I loved it. As I now do the Rockies.

 

 

North

Lughnasa                                                                      Waning Summer Moon

strangerReading two books right now, The Stranger in the Woods and Northland. They are oddly complementary. Northland recounts a three-year long journey by the author following the northern border across the U.S. It starts in Maine. This early part of his journey is through land very familiar to friends Paul and Sarah Strickland who live near the St. Croix River separating the U.S. and Canada. Stranger in the Woods tells the story of Christopher Knight, who grew up in central/northern Maine, graduated from high school, became a burglar alarm installer, then, at age 20 decided to disappear into the woods. He was found 27 years later after having spent the intervening time in silence, living alone in a rocky clearing and subsisting off of raiding cabins near his well-concealed home.

Porter Knox, author of Northland, says that land in the U.S. along the northern border is a land apart, distant from the rest of the country both for its inhabitants and visitors. Having lived in Minnesota for forty years, I know the Northland border there and in Michigan, too. It’s severe country in Minnesota with temperatures the rest of the country read about during the winter, lakes carved by the retreating glaciers of the last ice age and boreal forests. It’s also poor country with soil too rocky and thin for agriculture and too distant from cities for most commercial purposes. Tourism is the main economic driver there and that’s seasonal.

Knight’s family had developed a way of living in the Northland. They had a large garden, hunted, were clever with their hands and spent time with books, not media. It was a subsistence existence that reminded me of the movie Captain Fantastic. Christopher took the northland life style to a logical extreme, becoming isolated not only from the rest of the country, but from human community itself. In Minnesota and Wisconsin his family would probably have been called Jackpine Savages, which refers to folks who live off the land there, often taking multiple jobs while living mostly off game, fish and gardens.

As I write this from the top of Shadow Mountain, I can see how different and faraway this border and these lifestyles must seem to the rest of the U.S. In fact, it strikes me as odd how little known these northern lifeways are. Redneck culture, not the same, but also rural in origin, has a lot of visibility. So does the older Appalachian Scotch-Irish culture from which Redneck culture emerged. Cowboys were similarly isolated from mainstream U.S. culture, but their presence is large in U.S. history, too. Not so for the folks who live in the colder regions along the border with Canada.

 

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.

 

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