Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

Stick to it

Winter and the Full Future Moon shining through the lodgepole pines in the west

Friday gratefuls: for the Mussar group. for the Daf Yomi, now day seven. for the chance to do the Murdoch mitzvah. for the fresh new snow. for the 12 degree weather, what they call here, Stock Show weather. for Black Mountain who watches over me from above. for Shadow Mountain who supports me from below. for the crazy people who go out on Evergreen Lake for ice-fishing. May there always be crazy people.

Kepler to the vet yesterday. No, not bites and rips from Murdoch’s teeth. Rashes and hot spots. Antibiotics and an increased prednisone load for a week or so. Dr. Palmini has lost weight and buffed up. When I asked him if he would go to the Iditarod this year. The jury’s still out, he said. It’s a long time to be gone. But, it’s fun, isn’t it? Well, some of it, but when you get up at 3 am…? He goes as a volunteer vet for the sled dogs in the race. Lots of Iditarod memorabilia on the walls of his practice.

Back to HIIT workouts for cardio. Hi intensity interval training. A new one. Slow, 90 seconds. Fast as possible, 6mph for me, 30 seconds. Repeat four times then 3 minute cool down. I increased the number of intervals and the incline, from 1% to 2%, this week. Intervals are the best workout for cardio and they take a shorter time period that most cardio workouts.

Mussar. Got caught out nodding like I understood something that was said. Had to admit it, because the conversation expected me to say something about I’d already said. Everybody laughed when I told them. First time I can recall being caught in this oh, so usual gambit of not only me, but all folks hard of hearing. Gotta work on the ear wax thing. Seems to bother my hearing aid a lot.

The quality of the day, see Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities, was perseverance. A lot of discussion, an amusing number of examples about math, not unusual in a group with literary inclinations. Perseverance is in my toolkit.

Mostly. I can write novels. Start and finish them. Not easy, often taking over a year. I did not persevere so well with marketing them, though. I enjoy, as I said a few posts back, long books, long movies, long tv series. I can start all of these and finish them. Think War and Peace, Dante’s Inferno, Spenser’s Fairie Queen, Faust, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 10 Commandments, the Irishman, Gone with the Wind. And, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I’m finally in the fifth and last season. It only has 88 episodes.

I can make a commitment and stick to it for years, a lifetime. One of my youthful commitments was to keep reading difficult material. Stay political. College. Keep asking the fundamental questions and don’t shy away from difficult answers. Never work in a setting that compromises your values. Kate, now for over 30 years. The Woollies, about the same. Joseph, now going 39 years. Exercise, since my forties.

When I didn’t persevere, marketing and college German being the ones that come to mind, it was out of fear, I think. Fear is not a guide, it’s a caution, but I let myself get stuck in its glue at least those two times and I regret it. Anxiety grows along with fear and fear increases the anxiety. As I’m learning to be easier with myself, I’ll give myself an “I’m sorry to hear that, but you’re ok now.” bit of self-talk.

The next few months

Lughnasa                                                                        Monsoon Moon

20180315_080213Now that I’m back from Minnesota and September 5th is less than a month away it’s time to focus on lesson plans. Again. Still. Alan Rubin sent me a template with examples of his lesson plans and I’ve finished three in an idiosyncratic format which I will, today, transfer to the CBE lesson plan model. Still several more to create and then weave together with the B’nai Mitzvah curriculum. 22 sessions altogether, though not all will require lesson plans. This work is a priority until Alan and I feel comfortable with what we have.

On October 7th I will start the first of 8 First Sunday Jewish Studies Samplers. On Wednesday night when we went in for the MVP group we saw the new that day bookshelves and fire place that will frame a large screen, internet connected TV. With chairs and couches arrayed around it, this will be a spot in the synagogue for group use of online courses, lectures from companies like the Teaching Company, webinars or films. I’ll get a chance to use this new space for the exact purpose for which it’s intended. Each Sunday I’ll have discussion questions ready so attendees can sample not only the lectures, but the group learning possible through their use.

2010 01 19_3454Meanwhile I’ll keep working on submissions, a hump I’ve gotten over, and writing itself. Jennie’s Dead still has a ways to go, maybe 30,000 words,  and other manuscripts, both novels and short stories that need further editing/revision.

The next project after Jennie’s Dead, a novel retelling the story of Medea, keeps pushing its way forward and I look forward to a chance to get to work on it. Maybe in 2019. Lot of reading to do before then. I want to read as many variations on her story as I can find. Part of the story is the search for the golden fleece, with Jason, her lover, and his Argonauts.

20180716_075524This constitutes the work portion of my schedule through May of 2019 and, with Medea, beyond.

Here at home I still have trees to buck, logs to split and stack, a few smaller trees to fell and another round of stump grinding to organize. There are inside projects of various sorts, too. Cooking and laundry as well. Workouts. Sumi-e. Probably a return to Latin translation, too, since I’ve not completed translating Medea’s story in Ovid.





A Lunar Month of Significance

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

As the Woolly Mammoth Moon phases away toward a new moon, its month, the same lunar month we always have, yet also a different lunar month from any we’ve ever had, all spiraling through space as we follow the sun while orbiting it, I just wanna say thanks for what happened under its gentle influence.

It rose as a new moon, invisible but watching us, on June 13th, the day Mark, Paul, Tom and I headed out to Durango and the 416 fire. It was a trip both across southwestern Colorado and back into 30 years of friendship. Not to mention back to the days of the Pueblo dwellers of Mesa Verde. It was, in a sense, a way to say to each other that, yes, these friendships are for a lifetime. That this lifetime, whatever it may mean individually includes each other–and Bill. When you think about it, affirming the power of our past and honoring the reality of our future, is pretty damned cool.

Ode lays out the trip

Ode lays out the trip

It was also on this same trip that I read the essays about ground projects by Bernard Williams and about setting a rejection goal. The first one affirmed my existential sense that life gets meaning from our intentions and our labor to fulfill them; the second has transformed my writing life. A big, huge, amazing, wonderful thing.

Also under the Woolly Mammoth Moon, Alan Rubin and I began digging in to developing a curriculum for 6th and 7th graders in the Religious School at CBE. This work has affirmed the depth of my immersion into the Jewish world of CBE and reconstructionist thought. It also underscores my continuing fascination, see posts below, with the supernatural, or at least the fruits of humanity’s speculation about the supernatural.


Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, ballet at CBE

Also under the WMM, I’ve been putting together the Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler series for the 2018/2019 adult education year. This will feature both courses from the Great Courses company and courses from the MOOC aggregator, Coursera plus the odd film or two.

I also met Harv Teitelbaum. He’s the Sierra Club’s lead for their anti-fracking initiative, a big deal here in Colorado. I believe he and I share a similar attitude toward our current political reality and a similar focus on local races while maintaining an emphasis on the Great Work.

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

It’s been a big, big month for me and I want to say out loud how grateful I am to all of you who’ve made it possible. Yes, Kate, especially you. It’s been a very difficult month for you nausea wise, I know, but you picked up a board membership at CBE and guided the food committee for the Patchworkers. All the time you’ve been supportive, though understandably surprised, at my new commitment to finally, finally, finally submitting my work. You’re the gyroscope in all this, keeping us stable and focused. Thanks, Kate.

Night on Bald Mountain

Beltane                                                             Sumi-e Moon

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

On Sunday night we had a thunder storm. While growing up and living in the Midwest, close to sea level and in the humid east, we didn’t think about cloud heights much. Clouds are way up there; we’re down here. Straightforward.

But look at this definition: Cumulus clouds are low-level clouds, generally less than 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Well. Here on Shadow Mountain we are at 8,800 feet. Over the last week we’ve been within many cumulus clouds, dense fog advisories being common, not because of an ocean, but because of our elevation.

That thunder storm Sunday night was relentless. Lightning strikes, bright flashes, big thunder. And a lot of the time it felt like it was happening right where we were. It probably was. This was being in a thunderstorm, not under it.

Quite the experience. Naps the next day all round.

It’s All Real Stuff

Imbolc                              Black Mountain Moon

Prep days. Yesterday reorienting my workouts, today moving back into Ovid with the Latin. Prep is important but I find I want to hurry through it, press on, get to the real stuff. But, it’s all real stuff, isn’t it?

When doing the Latin, for example, I want to work fast, translate easily, get it. But, most often I have to work slowly, translate with difficulty, struggle to understand.

In the MOOC I’m taking from McGill University the current section is on physical literacy. An amazing insight for me. Literacy in the alphabetic, language based world, yes. Numeracy in the numbers based, mathematical world, yes. But physical literacy? That is, learning basic moves and physical actions that can later be strung together to play a sport, keep one fit, teach us how to fall, no. The idea never occurred to me.

It apparently surfaced in the 1930’s in America whereas numeracy only emerged as an idea in the 1960’s. It’s not surprising, I guess, since the move from the farm to the town and city was weighted against the old, physical ways that had existed since hunting and gathering gave way to the neolithic revolution.

Perhaps, come to think of it, becoming native to this place is a component of physical literacy, a tactile spirituality. As we move less and less, we interact with the natural less affectively, less often, less well. Perhaps play is a big component of becoming native to this place, wandering aimlessly in the woods or by a pond, in the mountains, on lakes.

Anyhow, I’m excited about this idea, a human trilogy necessary for a satisfying life: literacy, numeracy and physicality.

College on the cheap

Lughnasa                                                                  College Moon

If you read articles about higher education, you will have noticed an ongoing debate about its future. Will there be brick and mortar campuses? This is the same debate that retailers have as online sellers, especially Amazon, but many others, too, among them Walmart, batter the solid walls of American shopkeepers. Will there be brick and mortar businesses at all?

In both cases a process called disintermediation is at work, that is, removing the intermediary between the deliverer of goods and the end customer. In the case of retail businesses economies of scale, snappy delivery and vastly increased inventory (or at least access to inventory) tilt the momentum right now toward the online seller.

In higher education the internet seems to provide the same threat. The MOOC, the massive open online course, threatens to broadcast the best teachers to a wide audience, free. Even inversion, a variation on online education where professors lecture online and then classes meet to discuss assignments and raise questions, could, in theory be used to teach massive numbers of students at the same time.

Rather than elimination of the state university, the less prestigious private schools and community colleges the more likely result is a new paradigm altogether, one that uses the advantage of the best educators broadcast widely and cheaply and the advantage of the brick and mortar campus in delivering the moratorium years.

Education is not, for most, a solo affair. It involves rubbing up against others, their ideas, their prejudices, their spark. And the moratorium years-that time between the teens and full adulthood (which seems to be stretching out longer now)-in our culture need to take place away from home.

The best content offered at the most reasonable price should be a boon to all institutions of higher learning. Maybe the brick and mortar experience is shorter or taken in more discrete chunks. What’s magical about three quarters or two semesters? Why does it all have to be in the same location? Why not two years here, one there? Or two months in the city, two in the country. Or a season abroad, then a season back home. Why not mixtures of all this for the stay at home learner, the adult for whom education is, or at least can be, a solo affair?



Spring                                             Hare Moon

The first of three workshops has finished.  This one, life context, positions you in the current period of your life.  It’s been, as always, a moving and insight producing time.  These workshops move below the surface and defy easy summary, but I have had one clear outcome from this one.  I’m in a golden moment.

I’m healthy, loved and loving.  Kate and I are in a great place and the kids are living their adult lives, not without challenges, but they’re facing those.  The dogs are love in a furry form.

The garden and the bees give Kate and me a joint work that is nourishing, enriching and sustainable. We’re doing it in a way that will make our land more healthy rather than less.

The creative projects I’ve got underway:  Ovid, Unmaking trilogy, reimagining faith, taking MOOCs, working with the Sierra Club, and my ongoing immersion in the world of art have juice.  Still.

I have the good fortune to have good friends in the Woollies and among the docent corps (former and current).  Deepening, intensifying, celebrating, enjoying.  That’s what’s called for right now.


Imbolc                                                              Hare Moon

In that slightly down place that completing a course produces.  Yes, it feels great to have stuck with it, finished.  And, yes, it feels very good to have the new knowledge.  But there’s now a hole where the climate change course was.  This is not the same feeling I had when ModPo and the Modern/Post-Modern courses finished.  That was more like exhilaration.

This one mattered to me.  I’m not sure where or what I’ll do next. There are books to read, several recommended by the professors.  There’s the America Votes work and the possibility of using Great Wheel as some kind of vehicle to further mitigation and adaptation in Minnesota. But right now I feel deflated, a bit overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task that lies ahead for all of us.  This will pass.  But it’s there.

Since I finished earlier than I imagined, I’ll be able to work on my query letters tomorrow. I am also starting a new course focused on personal change that I don’t expect to be as demanding as this course was.  I let Whitman slide, did basically nothing and that’s the first one I’ve done that with, but I had overextended myself and something had to give.


Merchants of Doubt

Imbolc                                                            Valentine Moon


Spent yesterday doing the Climate Change course.  A fascinating series of lectures titled Merchants of Doubt.  Primary author of the book, Naomi Oreskes, is a historian of science at U. Cal. San Diego and a lecturer in this course.  This book and her lectures make a compelling and important case that climate change denial has its roots in the work of a small group of distinguished scientists, three initially:  Robert Jastrow, Frederick Seitz, and William Nierenberg.  All three were cold war physicists working on nuclear arms.  All three distinguished themselves.  Jastrow became head of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies, Seitz was president of the National Academy of Science and Rockefeller University, Nierenberg headed the Scripps Institute for almost two decades.

Read Great Wheel for the expanded story. The three of them worked on an advisory panel for Reagan’s Star Wars Defense Initiative.  When 6,500 scientists refused to take SDI money or work on it in any way by signing a petition stating their intentions, it caused great concern among these three cold war physicists.

The three created the George C. Marshall Institute to challenge the scientific consensus against Star Wars.  Seitz also worked for RJ Reynolds as a consultant.  In 1989 the cold war ended. The U.S. had won the cold war.  This deflated the rationale for the Institute; but, using the strategies developed by the tobacco industry, “doubt mongering”, the Institute went on to attack the science behind acid rain, ozone holes and eventually, global warming.

This methodology, honed in tobacco wars and practiced against acid rain and ozone (unsuccessfully, as it turned out), has been blisteringly effective against climate change science and its policy implications.  Why?  Read the rest of the story on Great Wheel later today or early tomorrow.