We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Up in Smoke

Spring                                                                Mountain Moon

A cloud crawls down Black Mountain,

Cotton embraces ski runs, blue above.

A light scrim of snow covers our solar panels,

The sky falls toward us, slowly.

 

four twentyToday is 4/20. In Colorado and elsewhere it’s a pot linked holiday and here’s a brief explanation of its strange origin.* A couple of years ago I was downtown Denver near the National Western Stockshow Grounds on April 20th. Driving to a small taqueria for lunch I passed hundreds of people walking along the road, smoking joints, smiling, lots of dreadlocks under Rastafarian knit saggy caps. Last year the 4/20 crowd made such a mess at a city park that Denver stopped the celebration for this year.

4/20 is also Adolph Hitler’s birthday, my brother Mark reminded me. Hitler is a figure in the childhood dark closet of most Baby Boomers whose parents, like mine, were veterans of WWII. My dad had a beaten up copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. It always seemed strange to me as a boy; but, as an adult, I came to realize how large Hitler loomed over his life, occasioning several years in the military for both him and my mom.

Nazis+on+parade.Now Hitler is mostly a boogeyman, a perfect example of either evil or the potential power of white supremacy. His Nazi party serves a similar function, offered up in movies if an ultimate villain is needed. Just as the Vietnam War, which dominated my life in the late sixties and early seventies, has faded from the memory of millennials, so even the holocaust has begun to fade from memory. Yes, it’s dangerous to lose sight of this horror; but, it’s also human. As an event moves further away from us, it changes, transforms.

Most, all?, religions are an attempt to hold a historical moment close, to keep it vibrant, vital. Easter and Passover. Even these though show the great difficulty in maintaining the urgency of something that has been covered over by distance and lack of direct experience. Max Weber called this the rationalization of charisma. As the charismatic figure or moment recedes, institutions grow up to protect its memory, but that very fact, the institutionalization of a matter of the heart, encrusts the event and eventually depletes it of its power. It becomes covered over by dogma, by tradition, by the ridigities of too much thought.

Emerson'Emerson knew this. “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?” From the introduction to his essay, Nature.

We need to discern not only, perhaps not even most importantly, the facts of the holocaust, though they are incalculably significant, but we need to look evil in the face in our time, confront it now, name it now. Stop it now. Evil, like good, does not stop in a historical moment, but gains new, contemporary expressions. If we keep looking for revelation about what it means to be human in sacred texts or historical tragedies, we can easily miss the revelation appearing in the neighborhoods and rural areas of our own country.

 

*In 1971, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, five high school students[4] in San Rafael, California,[5][6] calling themselves the Waldos[7][8] because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”,[9] used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about,[7][10] based on a treasure map made by the grower. wiki

 

Rivers and Mountains, Bees and Kate

Spring                                                            Mountain Moon

fan kuan, travelers among mountains and streams

Fan Kuan (960-1030, a.c.e.), travelers among mountains and streams, Song Dynasty

So my mind is filling with rocks, pines, mountain streams, magpies and mountain lions; a sign that the mountain theme has begun to take hold. I plan to spend this spring and summer sketching and photographing rock formations, mountains, summits, animals, water, trees and other plants, then interpreting them with sumi-e. I’m continuing to read the shan-shui (mountains and rivers) poets, moving back into the world of Chinese classical painting.

Qabbalah study continues. We’re investigating time and the qabbalists have their own unique approach to it. Here’s an example. To experience what I would call sacred time-they use the phrase eternal time-qabbalists want us to pay closer attention to what I would call ordinary time. This is far different from trying to collapse the hold of ordinary time through meditation or koans or mystical experience. The easiest example is the week. In the qabbalist’s world we count six ordinary days, then we experience shabbat. Shabbat is a time out of time, a moment in the week when the observer exits the world as usually experienced and enters sacred time. But. It’s observable as sacred time because of its contrast to the six days that precede it and the six that follow it. Thus we can find sacred time through attention to measured/ordinary time.

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

Getting ready to hive bees for Beth Evergreen on Saturday morning. Had to dig around in all the bee stuff we brought from Andover since Rich Levine, local bee enthusiast, needed a hive box and twenty frames plus accessories. I had enough. Getting out the hive tool, scraping propolis off the frames, moving supers put me right back into beekeeper mode. Still don’t think I’m willing to do it here, too much hassle with the need for a bear proof enclosure which means strong electric fencing. I will enjoy helping others, though.

Singapore, 2016

Singapore, 2016

Kate’s gained almost five pounds! This after a long period of weight loss. I called her my incredible shrinking wife. Our consult with Betsy, the nutritionist for New West Physicians, was a turning point.

Kate’s building momentum. The Sjogren’s conference left her feeling less alone with this nasty disease since there were hundreds in attendance from all across the U.S. who not only have it, but have similar experiences to hers. She also had her second session of physical therapy this morning and continues to be excited and enthusiastic about it.

Makes me smile.

 

 

Old Man of the Mountain

Spring                                                                              Mountain (New) Moon

Filling the Rav4 with gas, Legault Mountain behind me

Filling the Rav4 with gas, Legault Mountain behind me

Today the new shoulder moon sets. Since I name the moons each month, either using a traditional name or one I’ve created, I sometimes use them to remind me of something over the course of the month. Without melancholy this time I’ve come to an additional revelation, a sudden insight into who I am here in Colorado. Sorta obvious, but I’m a mountain man, a man of the mountains.

Song dynasty

Song dynasty

However. I’ve been reading a lot of the mountain poetry of China, a very old tradition extending from the Eastern Jin Dynasty into the present. The Eastern Jin Dynasty began in 317 A.C.E. T’ao Ch’ien (365-427) began writing poetry about his mountain life.

I’d long felt these mountains and lakes

Calling, and wouldn’t have thought twice,

But my family and friends couldn’t bear

Living apart…

After Mulberry-Bramble Liu’s Poem, T’ao Ch’ien

I just ordered more books of Chinese mountain poetry and I’m going to start looking for more poetry about mountains. If you know any, I’ll appreciate the reference. Not just poetry though. I’m also looking through my books of Chinese art, especially the (many) paintings that feature mountains, often scholars and poets by streams or in mountain huts. I want to learn from these how to use sumi-e to paint mountains. Lots of them here to serve as subjects and they politely remain in their pose. There are also many paintings in the Hudson School tradition: Bierstadt, Cole, Church, e.g.

Cotopaxi, Frederic Edwin Church

Cotopaxi, Frederic Edwin Church

Too, I’m fascinated by the geology and orogeny of the Rockies. How did they get here? Where are they going? How do they compare to other mountain ranges?

And, even more obvious. Get out there, dude. No use repairing the knee if you don’t use it to wander in the mountains. To be my kinda pagan you need to immerse yourself in the local, the around you. It’s not only the soil, the animals, the plants, the trails, the streams and lakes though they are essential. It is too the human deposit of art about the place to which you’ve become native. Science, too. Also, if you can, adding to the expressive vocabulary that art shares with the world.

So, this is the Mountain Moon and I’m under it, nourishing another new turn in my attention.

 

 

Photo Journal

Spring                                                                         New Shoulder Moon

A few pictures from the last week

In, appropriately enough, Elk Meadow Park:

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The next day, at Robbins Air Force Base, deep in the heart of Georgia, Joseph becomes a major:

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And, finally, a couple of my favorites from my continuing sumi-e adventures:

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20180406_100217

 

You’re Fired

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

firedSamsung won’t condemn our dishwasher. But I will. It’s a very rotten appliance, not good at its job. It’s FIRED! Which means we have to buy a new one. Oh, well. At least it’s a resolution. So, sometime soon a new dishwasher will appear. We will all (Kate and me) be happy. This one never worked quite right, requiring lots of jiggering and poking.

Kate’s been doing a lot of gettin’ around. She’s out to the mailbox for the paper. More about the paper in a paragraph. She saw Lisa on Wednesday then we drove into Denver to see Ruth. Yesterday we went to Mussar for the first time since the ides of March. It was wonderful to see and be seen. Warm. Uplifting.

We’re both tired today. I wanted to get out there and buy a new dishwasher today, get this saga done; but, we’re both too weary. Tomorrow, maybe. SeoAh comes tomorrow, arriving around five at DIA. It will be great to have her here for a few days.

rocky mountain newsThe Denver Post. Not one of the nation’s great newspapers. Unfortunately, the Rocky Mountain News, which was a really good, if not great, paper succumbed in 2009. We’re left with the Post which is a rather staid, uninteresting example of the journalistic art.

Printer’s ink runs in my veins, having grown up to the rattling, clanking sound of an old Heidelberg letter press churning out copies of the the Times-Tribune in Alexandria, Indiana. I love newspapers and believe in reading local newspapers. It was natural for us to get a subscription. Kate does one or two crosswords every day and we both appreciate the local news.

denver postYet. We got a notice of a change in subscription price. The Post has gone from $30 a month to $59 a month. Nearly $700 a year for a second-rate newspaper. And, to add to that, mountain delivery is like all other services up here, sporadic and unpredictable. My instinct is to chuck it. Too expensive and poorly delivered. Even so, there’s still the local news we’d miss and Kate would definitely miss her crosswords. Not sure what to do.

And. How ’bout those Timberwolves? Led their division almost the entire season only to drop to 4th place as the playoff’s come near. Ah. Minnesota teams. Finding new ways to disappoint. Except for the 1987 and 1991 Twins. Joseph’s growing up years. Made him a baseball fan for life.

Ancient Holidays

Spring                                                                       New Shoulder Moon

Chagall, Pesach

Chagall, Pesach

It’s the second night of pesach tonight and tomorrow morning is easter. Liberation and resurrection, or liberation and death’s final bow. Resurrection is hard to integrate since its hard proof lies beyond the veil of this world. Liberation, on the other hand, is much easier to integrate because it applies to so many this worldly situations: slavery, imprisonment, forced poverty, mental illness, racial and gender and sexual preference discrimination, being in Trump’s America.

Both are important to me. I long ago left behind the death is no more school of theology. It seems cruel to me, an assertion confounded at every death bed, every school shooting, every war. Death still rides her pale horse, galloping through the living world and pruning, pruning, pruning.

I do, however, retain my confidence in resurrection; that is, the power of the changing world to incorporate death and decay as precursors for life. Each spring, as our temperate latitude winter fades away, bright green shoots spear their way through the soil’s surface. Flowers bloom. Vegetables grow. Trees leaf out. Lambs and kids and calves and piglets are born. All these are evidence of transubstantiation, the literal changing of grapes and bread into our bodies. This transformation happens regularly and green burial will help us remember that we humans do participate in it, that concrete, water-tight “vaults” and expensive coffins do not shield us from our part in the web of life.

El Greco

El Greco

This weekend presents to us two powerful stories, stories that have changed the world: the exodus from Egypt of Hebrew slaves and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, known by many as the Christ. Narratives have real potency, the ability to change lives, turn the pages of history, answer our deepest questions, quiet our deepest fears. Oddly, you can see this power even more clearly if you take a stance just outside the metaphysical claims, but not in the camp of folks like the new atheists, who are simply boring.

I’m neither Christian nor Jew, my metaphysics is bound up in the ongoing evolution of the universe and literally rooted in the soil of the midwest and the hard rock of these mountains where I now live. Even so, liberation and resurrection, through the stories of the passover and easter, are important to me, tell me about human possibility, about the human capacity to face enslavement and grief with hope, with the chance to turn both into moments of human triumph.

Though it has taken me a while to learn the rudimentary geology of our immediate neighborhood, I now know that we live among three mountains. We live on Shadow Mountain, up a valley that runs from its base to our home. On the opposite side, the west side of this valley, is Conifer Mountain and then, the mountain most visible from our house, Black Mountain.

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

Think of the changes evidenced by these huge landforms. This is rock that was once, millions of years ago, imprisoned far below the earth’s surface, held there by weight and history, perhaps even put there by accretion when another planet slammed into the still forming earth. Yet now I live on it, can see it clearly, far above the surface, pushed out and up by forces wielding power unimaginable, unavailable to us humans.

Is this liberation and resurrection? Not from a human perspective, but from the perspective of our planet, very much so. And yet it does not end there. Once liberated from their stony dungeons wind and water act upon them taking these high mountains gradually down to sea level, then into the ocean itself. In the soil formed in this way plants will grow, animals will feed off the plants. Liberation and resurrection are everywhere, if only we see what we’re looking at.

 

Not At My Best

Spring                                                                   New Shoulder Moon

caregiverCare giving is tough. In just a week I’ve become a bit fragile emotionally. It’s a combination of Kate’s recovery, which focuses her, naturally, on herself, and the amount of physical labor (astonishing) and the amount of emotional labor on my part. None of this is a surprise. By that I mean things aren’t worse than I imagined, nor are they terrible.

But. I got to feeling underappreciated. And said so. I needed to say that for my own sanity, so that I wouldn’t let resentment build, but when I did say it I felt guilty immediately. How could I feel underappreciated when Kate had this recovery to deal with? Didn’t matter. It was how I felt and after I let it out, in a not very helpful way, I might add, things softened up. I was no longer carrying it and Kate had a chance to deal with what I was dealing with.

More intimacy as a result. Clumsy, yes. Poorly managed, yes. Important, yes.

I’m writing this because care giving is something we all do from time to time, and face more of in the third phase. It’s not a straight shot of empathy and compassion. It’s a muddled mess of self-congratulation, compassion, distraction, love, and sorrow.

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I said, and meant, that I don’t mind the extra work. In fact, as I wrote earlier, it is exhilarating. Still is. I’m learning new skills, reinforcing old ones, and caring for Kate. Thing is, it’s a new, difficult role and requires learning, shuffling old priorities, picking up new ones. That kind of learning is fraught under the best circumstances, new job, new marriage, even vacation; but, well worth it.

Finding the tao of healing and caregiving is not impossible, but there are many ways it can go sideways. Trying to tap into that now.

09 11 10_Joseph_0264 (2)A very sweet part of it all. Joseph just called, wanted to know how bad it was, whether he and SeoAh should come up right now. No, it’s not that bad. Could SeoAh come up for a week? I’d come, he said, but I’m running an exercise right now. If it’s real bad, I’ll be there, help out with the daily ins and outs. Cue tears. I’d love for her to come, I said. It would be a real help.

Family. As it’s supposed to work. So the web of caring maybe is another curvature, like the one I talked about below.

Yesterday in Pictures

Spring                                                               New Shoulder Moon

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Looking north from Happy Camper, Mt. Evans

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dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

apres snow, Monday

apres snow, Monday

view from loft balcony

view from loft balcony

Kate Still At Ortho Colorado

Spring                                                                            New Shoulder Moon

Kate, costumed for Purim

Kate, costumed for Purim

Kate had break through pain yesterday and nausea that they couldn’t control well. So, she’s still at Ortho Colorado. Plenty uncomfortable, but problems that seem, at least to me, manageable. Unpleasant sequelae from the meds and the cutting. I imagine she’ll come home today. Still convinced this was the right thing and that her care has been very good.

A strange sense of exhilaration with all the changes occasioned by Kate’s surgery. I find myself whistling on the way into the hospital, generally feeling good. It’s as if the additional load is something I needed. Weird, eh?

As also happens in these situations, often enough to be predictable, a lapse in the daily routine led to Gertie consuming a substantial number of Kate’s thc edibles. My fault. Gertie is, right now, pretty stoned. We had a similar incident with Kepler a couple of months ago and he slid down the stairs, looking confused. Apparently all mammals have a cannabinoid system and cannibis receptors. Gertie seems very unhappy, I imagine because her left leg makes her unsteady to begin with and the mary jane? Adds to it.

Beloved community dr-martin-luther-king-jr-quote-beloved-community-09.16.15-v2-1800Beth Evergreen has reached out to us in several ways. Individual members have offered to bring food or otherwise help. Leah, the executive director, called, wanting to know if we needed anything. Several folks from our mussar group responded to my e-mail on Thursday with love and concern. For both of us. A thought that keeps going through my mind: beloved community. Christian churches aspire to this, Beth Evergreen achieves it. I’m proud to be a member of the congregation.

One other thing I noticed. Both Kate and I were worried about her dying during surgery. Why? Well, it happens. Rarely, but it happens. Jeff Glantz, a member of Beth Evergreen, had a successful operation to remove a malignant brain tumor, then four days after surgery, he died. This was a couple of weeks ago. Jeff’s situation was on our minds, too.

I mention this because neither of us owned up to this concern until the surgery was over. By not talking about it before, by letting the death taboo keep it hidden, we lost a chance to console each other, to go a little deeper into our relationship.

 

 

The Future of Food

Imbolc                                                                           New Shoulder Moon

third plate Mentioned The Third Plate a few posts ago. A book by chef Dan Barber, owner of the Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan and a principle in the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester County.

SELECT TASTING OR DAILY MENU
Rotation Grains
smoked farmer’s cheese and broccoli pistou
~
Maine Diver Scallop
bacon, winter squash and kohlrabi
~
Stone Barns Pig
tsai tsai, horseradish and pickled grapes
~
11 day dry-aged bolero carrot steak
mushroom, kale and onion rings
~
blue hill farm milk
yogurt, turmeric and ginger
~
Malted Triticale porridge
White Chocolate, quince and Beer Ice Cream
Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

He uses four big concept areas, pictured at the top: Soil, Land, Sea, Seed to tell a story about what he sees as the future of food. He’s trying to take the conversation about food beyond the now well known critiques of books like Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Aldo Leopold’s The Sand County Almanac, and any number of books published in the late sixties like Eull Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. Throw in Wes Jackson’s Becoming Native to This Place, almost anything by Wendell Berry and the thought world championed by John Muir and Edward Abbey and you can see the big conceptual field Barber has tried to plow.

He seems on to something. Using examples like the dehesa in Spain that produces jambon iberico, The Bread Lab run by Washington State plant geneticist Stephen Jones, the farm of Klaas Martens who teaches him about reading the language of the soil, Veta La Palma, a Spanish aquaculture corporation set up in an estuary of the Gulf of Cadiz, and Anson Mills, a fascinating concept by Glenn Roberts who uses landrace farming to resurrect old grain crops and nurture new ones, he seems to propose a recursion to localized crops, that is, wheat, for example, that grows best in upstate New York.  This recursion includes animals, too, where their rearing takes on the characteristics that oenologists call terroir in wines.

nutrition

This recursion would have chefs take their cues, their menus, from what farmers can grow in their immediate area and from those sites with a focus on sustainability and ecosystem regeneration. The fascinating aquaculture experiment that is Veta La Palma  uses the Guadalquivir River and the salt water of the Gulf of Cadiz to farm high quality sea bass. The focus does not have to be only local or regional but can include instances of food production with ecosystem supportive techniques.

This seems similar to the disaggregation idea in power production, local solar and wind and geothermal and hydro.  Anything that deemphasizes the industrial and the corporate in favor of the local and ecological.

EatLocal

He talks about his idea in agriculture as middle agriculture, that is agriculture smaller than corporate, but larger than the small family farm or the boutique garden. He’s trying to get to scale sufficient that it could actually feed large numbers of people.

It makes me want to cook in the way he suggests. That is, find food grown here in the Rockies, use it along with food sourced from the Veta La Palmas, the dehesas or the Bread Labs, and build our menus at home around it, changing with the seasons. Right now that would take a good bit of work, but it might be possible and it would certainly be worth it.

A continuing theme.

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