We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Water, water somewhere

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

snowpack 2.19.18Wow. Weather station says the humidity outside is 66%. Inside 2%. Aridity is the norm, humidity a rare phenomenon here. Like most rarities it’s welcome. Most welcome.

4 or 5 inches of snow yesterday. Every flake helps in this dry year. Old timers here are not worried yet because March and April are the big snow months. If the patterns change, we’ve had a big ridge over us for most of the winter pushing cold and snow to the east, north of us, we may recover. In this case recovery means two things, a wetter forest heading into fire season and a snowpack closer to average.

In the land of 10,000 lakes water was abundant and loved, not so much for its quality as water, but for its pleasing manifestation in the landscape. Cabins on the lake. Walleye fishing. Lakes in the cities. The Mississippi rising in Itasca and flowing down toward New Orleans, passing through Minneapolis and St. Paul on its way there. The majesty and wonder of the great lake, Superior.

Here though water is water, aqua vita. Its necessity for human life, for livestock, for healthy more fire-resistant forests is never far from the minds of folks in the West. As I read recently in 365 Tao, the earth breathes out, clouds form and water moves from place to place. This fundamental physiology of our planetary eco-system is, oddly, more apparent in its absence than in its over abundance. The humid east and the arid west.

Since we got just less than 6 inches, it means I blow the driveway. Ted plows six inches and above. Gonna wait another hour or so though since it’s only 6 degrees and I’m more cold sensitive now, both as a Coloradan and a septuagenarian.

Becoming Native

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon

20180211_120056Life still trickling by. A bit of snow over the last few days, colder now, in the Colorado measure of that term. So relative. Saw a facebook meme with Texans in parkas at 70 degrees. Could have countered that with a Minnesotan in shorts at ten below. Meanwhile 11, last night, felt pretty cold after three years here. These gross physical acclimatizations  are easy to spot, but what about the more subtle mental adjustments?

How does the mind change, for example, when it goes up and down mountains, around curves into canyons, rather than coasting across the flat lands of the Midwest? Or, what about looking up and seeing ovular lenticular clouds, high flying cirrus against blue sky? When fall comes and the changes are only in the aspen, a mass of gold variations, what happens to the heart used to deciduous colors?

Political colorations are different here, too. That thick vein of let me alone libertarianism too often gets mined for political results that would make even conservative Minnesotans cringe. Immigrants to the state, like Kate and me, drag along with us expectations that government should be of, by and most of all, for the people. This is a far from universal sentiment in the West. We’re adding new strata to the political geography, but the whole still feels very alien to me.

becoming nativeThis is all by way of becoming native to this place, a key element in my pagan creed borrowed from Wes Jackson at the Land Institute. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? That’s why I love it, the challenging notion that we can be of a new place in a very old, intimate way, through what Rabbi Jamie would call Torah study, close attention, close attention to details and to our own inner world, compassionate attention willing to be shaped by what we find.

IMAG0861Kate and I did it on the Great Anoka Sand Plain. Over the Andover years we listened to the soil, to the rhythms of the growing season. We stuck our hands in the soil, partnered with it. We planted trees and fruit bearing shrubs. There was the open prairie we cultivated on either sides of the more traditional suburban lawn carpet. Bees, with whom we partnered, for honey. Dogs who used the woods as their home and hunting ground. By the time we left we were native to that place. Its rhythms shaped our own and together we created a place to live.

It’s happening here, too. A long and nuanced process, still in its early days, but one that has promise for the Great Work, creating a sustainable presence for humans on this planet.

 

Beautiful View

Imbolc                                                                 Imbolc Moon

One of the continuing joys of our move to Colorado lies in the majestic scenery. It means that even the most mundane of tasks can occasion a journey with evergreen valleys, rugged mountains capped with snow, vistas that stretch for miles, and the Colorado blue sky.

BTW: Buena Vista was an interesting place, somewhere I would return. Another mountain town with a booming tourism industry. It’s not, however, an old mining town, rather it grew as an agricultural center thanks to abundant water, a rarity in many spots in the Rockies, coupled with land level enough to farm. Reminded me of Driggs, Idaho.

Liar's Lodge, Kate's retreat site

Liar’s Lodge, Kate’s retreat site

Heading east, toward home

 

Radon

Imbolc                                                                  Imbolc Moon

radon-elementSort of feeling crummy yesterday, Kate, too. Not sure whether last month’s illness lingers. Or what. Kate said, “Maybe the radon mitigation system’s not working.” Oh. Well. Damn. “I’ll go check.” The radon mitigation system has a fan that disperses radioactive particles, blowing them up and out of the house. If it’s on and the barrier’s intact, the system’s working.

Sure enough, the fan was off. I’d not checked the particulars of this setup before because it had always been running. Off to the crawl space. Not my favorite place because even though I’m very far along in the healing process, my left knee still ouches when I kneel on it. Unavoidable in the crawl space. Still, to prevent radiation poisoning, what’s a little discomfort, right?

radon2Going into the crawl space is a bit like opening the closet to go to Narnia. The makeshift door to the crawl space is in a closet and opens to the world beneath our house. However, even before I removed the door, I reached up to switch on the light. By god, right there, beside the crawl space light switch was another switch. It said, fan. Oh. Could it be this simple? It was. I hit the switch, which was in the off position, then went back outside to listen to the fan. On.

Part of the problem solved. Then, onto Amazon for a radon detection kit. Just to be safe. It’ll be here soon. I did a radon sample in Andover, so I know it’s a relatively simple process. We’re probably not experiencing radiation poisoning, but better to know than not.

Sky. Slope. Rock. Streams. Evergreens. Being in the journey.

Imbolc                                                                               Imbolc Moon

Wanted to mention two internal conversations. Both have occurred while in transit through the mountains.

20150512_141606The first, perhaps the simpler, has been about how to describe our environment in the most economical way possible. I know, I didn’t say it was deep, just persistent. I’ve come to these nouns: sky, evergreens, slope, rock, streams. Yes, it leaves out houses and wildlife, roads and cars. But. The context for life up here can be described using those five words.

The second has been about destinations and journeys. Whenever I leave home, on foot (rare) or in the Rav4, I have a destination in mind. I’m leaving Black Mountain Drive and going to Beth Evergreen or to Jon’s house or to King Sooper or to Dazzle. Something is attractive enough or is needed enough to make me get up, go outside, start the car and go.

Because of these motivations, whatever they are, the journey tends to focus itself on the destination. Not surprising, eh? What do I need to get at the store? Did I remember everything? My wallet. Coffee. Keys. Phone. The destination can infect the entire journey, put us in blinders so that we’re like horses headed to the barn for hay.

Yet. The journey can occupy more time than we spend at our destination. But we view it as incidental and the arrival at the destination the real act. This is not about whether the destination is more important than the journey, the two require each other, rather it’s about intention and attention.

14608842_1689729854679011_2228956598700838196_oIf the present is all we ever have, and it is, then the journeys we take, no matter how mundane, are also the present at the time we are on them. There is no future. We only imagine it. There is no past, it is a memory. There is only this moment, keys clacking, letters and words appearing on the screen, a car going by, Black Mountain and blue sky out the window.

So. What? What I’m trying to do is appreciate the journey for what it is, not as wasted time between this destination and that one, but as an experience sui generis. Our whole life is a journey between emergence and disappearance, how sad it would be if we missed our life along the way.

Getting Into the Mountains

Imbolc                                                                                Imbolc Moon

Bill and Tom, Guanella Pass

Bill and Tom, Guanella Pass

The good of going into the mountains is that life is reconsidered; it is far from the slavery of your own modes of living and you have opportunity of viewing the town at such a distance as may afford you a just view… He who believes in inspiration will come here to seek it. He who believes in the wood-loving nymphs must woo them here. And he who believes in the reality of his soul will therein find inspiration and muses and God and will come out here to undress himself of pedantry…   Ralph Waldo Emerson. Journal, 1833

Night and Death. Yes.

Imbolc                                                                      Imbolc Moon

20180131_185045The Imbolc moon has had its night in earth’s shadow, its night as super and blue and red. Hey, up in the sky, it’s Supermoon! And last night it was wonderful again. High, full, behind a faint veil of clouds. Orion and the moon. My two favorite celestial objects. Well, ok, the sun, too, but I can never look at it.

Something in a full moon moves me to the depths of my soul. I can find myself tearing up, a catch in my throat at the sheer extravagance of its beauty. It’s offered over and over, available to all, free.

So, too, Orion. He rises. Greets any who bother to find him. He stands always ready astride the horizon, a hunter and his dog. I don’t know whether he remembers our nights in Muncie while I watched over the entrance gate at the factory, but I like to think he does.

The night sky, in its shorter versions and in its Winter Solstice maximum, offers solace to those of us who want it. The night is, to paraphrase LP Hartley, a foreign country. They do things different there.

caphLast night I went back to Beth Evergreen, more kabbalah. Studying the kabbalah at night, especially under a full moon. Yes. Learning about more double letters: Pey, Caph, Reish, Tav.

I know this Jewish immersion of mine must seem odd to some of you who read this; but, it’s happened over many years, a sort of there and back again phenomenon. In this current instance Kate’s conversion long ago made us seek out a synagogue, just to see. We found Beth Evergreen, a special place, unique I imagine, even among Reconstructing congregations.

It was long ago though I read Isaac Bashevis Singer. Chaim Potok. Later, Rebecca Goldstein. It was long ago that I walked into the synagogue in Muncie for an anthropology assignment. It was long ago that I dated the jeweler’s daughter, Karen Singer, and found her father’s knowledge of philosophy astounding. Over the years many Jews have come into my life and I’ve always felt comfortable around them. As if we shared a common spirit. At Beth Evergreen that feeling surfaced immediately and has grown deeper over time.

green Natural-Burial--275x275Being part of the tribe? No. Not for me. Walking along with the tribe as it wends its way through this moment in time? Yes.

Let me give you an example. The friend I mentioned yesterday, Bonnie Houghton, the green cemetery and burial, rabbi in training, Bonnie, got me going on the Recycle Me idea. It fits so well with my pagan sensibility and it’s something I can act on through this community.

Yesterday was Tu B’Shvat, the new year of the trees. It’s a part of the Jewish holiday year, just like Yom Kippur, Purim and Passover. Kate and I went to the celebration yesterday before kabbalah. Later, as I rested before returning for kabbalah, an image struck me: a Tu B’Shvat celebration in our yet-to-be green cemetery. We would be honoring trees, trees of all kinds yes, but especially, in this celebration, those trees growing from the graves of deceased members of Beth Evergreen.

Can you imagine? An ancient holiday celebrating trees and the gifts that they offer, now including trees with their roots literally in members of the congregation? How mystical, how wonderful would that be. Out there, on the mountain side, perhaps a mountain stream running nearby, a breeze rolling down the slope and my tree, the tree that is a tree and me, our leaves rustling as the gathered folks sing, pray. Yes.

 

 

A Blue Blood Moon

Winter                                                                   Imbolc Moon

The Imbolc Moon put on a show this morning. I got up just as the first finger of black touched it. Kate and I sat on the loft’s balcony and watched as the finger pushed its way across the moon’s surface. Hints of red began to show up at the moon’s edge as the penumbra of the earth covered more and more. The moon was to the north of Black Mountain, putting it directly in the sight line from the balcony. As it moved north, however, the nearest lodgepole pine got in the way. After the full eclipse, it sank below the treed horizon and out of our sight, so we did not the see the super part of the blue blood moon.

This is the second eclipse, the other being the solar eclipse last August, that Kate and I have been able to observe from a balcony, sitting in comfortable chairs. Astronomy does not often provide such creature comforts and I was grateful in both instances.

The clouds have been amazing this past week. Last night I took the darker photograph of a Ponderosa pine at Beth Evergreen and the soon to super and bloody blue moon.

20180130_18233420180130_06564420180129_174932

 

Cemeteries or the State of the Union?

Winter                                                                        Imbolc Moon

green burialInstead of watching the state of the union Kate and I participated in a presentation on green burial and the possibility of creating a green cemetery. Beth Evergreen has been moving, slowly, toward a Jewish cemetery over the last six years, but Bonnie Houghton, a rabbi in training and former long time Forest Service employee has accelerated the process through her own efforts. In her current work with the Mountain Land Trust she sees properties presented for conservation easements. Some don’t qualify for that purpose, but would work well for green cemeteries, where burials eschew vaults, fancy caskets and backhoes for hand-dug graves, wicker/pine/cardboard/shroud coverings for the corpse, and small, usually flush with the ground grave markers.

Bonnie’s smart and skilled, also dogged. My sense is that her recent work might push this project over the threshold from possibility to actuality. What’s needed is some money, in the range of $250,000 to $350,000, a corporation of some sort, I suggested a co-op, and a plot of land. Bonnie and Rebecca, a CBE member and realtor, showed pictures of three properties ranging in size from 15 acres to 40+ acres.

green burial thanksI found this conversation oddly energizing. Something about the cliched final resting place has more resonance as I move toward my 71st birthday. Having a cemetery which celebrates the natural order of life and death with decay rather than chemicals, concrete, and metal makes so much sense to me. Having a tree planted over my cremains, or in them, feels right. Too, we could bury the remains of our many dogs with us. That would make for a unique family plot.

Now, we could have spent yesterday evening listening to the Donald try to make up for a year of unending bullshit, but we chose something productive, something focused on life and death rather than forehead slapping, groans and despair. Odd, isn’t it, that a discussion of burials and cemeteries would have more life in it than a used-to-be important political moment? The times in which we live now. I wish they’d start to decay. Soonest.

 

 

Snow

Winter                                                                        Imbolc Moon

Cozy. Kate finishing a quilt gift for Sandy, who will have surgery again this week

Cozy. Kate finishing a quilt gift for Sandy, who will have surgery again this week

20180121_172039Well. Finally. A real snow storm. The white stuff started falling around midnight on Saturday and continued through the day Sunday. Maybe 10 to 12 inches. Ted of All Trades plowed us out in the afternoon. I cleared our deck and the path to garage 5 times as the snow fell. It’s easier to clear it before it builds up too much bulk.

When the temperature drops, the clouds roll in over Mt. Evans and the flakes begin to come down in earnest, I feel Shadow Mountain most keenly. Not sure why, but I know we’re on a mountain top then. It feels secure and cozy, the forest and the peaks around us our real home.

Maybe that’s it. When the snow falls, we are intimately linked to the mountains and the forests, all of us experiencing this change, the soft silence that pervades the lodgepole stands, the aspen groves, that covers the iced over Maxwell Creek with more cold water, that drifts in our open bedroom window. Just as the deer and the fox and the mountain lion and the elk have to wade through the snow, so do I on my way out to get the mail or the newspaper.

Beautiful. Important. A gift from the sky to our thirsty plants. We’re all grateful.

February 2018
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