We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Prayer

Lughnasa                                                              Eclipse Moon

The Sacred Wood, Arnold Bocklin, 1882

The Sacred Wood, Arnold Bocklin, 1882

The first Evergreen Forum has happened. Rabbi Jamie Arnold, Imam Mohammad Noorzai, Rev. Dr. Judy Morley, and Pastor Peter Hiett spoke about prayer to forty or so folks at Beth Evergreen. It was a lively evening with great food provided by my oneg Queen, Kate, setup and other help provided by members of the adult ed committee: Tara, Marilyn, Sally and Anshel. A couple of other Beth Evergreeners pitched in, too.

One thing, a happenstance in a way, stood out for me. We had the grandkids, Ruth and Gabe, with us. Mohammad brought his son and granddaughter, Lila. Lila, Ruth and Gabe played while the adults talked about prayer. A major aspect of the adult event was to increase interfaith understanding and comity. The kids did it naturally, punctuating the evening with occasional shrill cries of delight, crossing the Jewish/Muslim barrier with no problem at all. Might be a lesson here.

jackfruit_instructions2Kate was nervous about her food, but it was received well, its disappearance a testimony to its yumminess. Especially the jack fruit. Kate found it at King Sooper this week. She bought a 20 pound one, then she and Ruth performed a fruitectomy on it to retrieve the sweet yellow flesh. This southeast Asian fruit is unfamiliar to most North Americans, but I had it for the first time when preparing to board a water taxi on the Chao Phraya in Bangkok. If you haven’t had it, really good.

Today is a rest day. Tomorrow, back at it.

 

 

Exhaled from the abyss

Lughnasa                                                                    Eclipse Moon

Say awe. My focus phrase for this month’s middot: yirah, or awe. (middot=character trait)

CamusAlbert Camus. One of my favorite theologians. It occurred to me that the abyss Camus mentions may be what gets crossed when we experience awe. Somehow we let the absurd in, or the mute world gives us a shout.

“For Camus … [our] astonishment [at life] results from our confrontation with a world that refuses to surrender meaning. It occurs when our need for meaning shatters against the indifference, immovable and absolute, of the world. As a result, absurdity is not an autonomous state; it does not exist in the world, but is instead exhaled from the abyss that divides us from a mute world. ‘This world in itself is not reasonable, that is all that can be said. But what is absurd is the confrontation of this irrational and wild longing for clarity whose call echoes in the human heart. The absurd depends as much on man as on the world. For the moment it is all that links them together.’ …” 

Here’s another way of thinking about awe from Alan Morinis, a mussar guru:

“Awe is the feeling of being overwhelmed by a reality greater than yourself and greater than what you encounter in ordinary life. A curtain is drawn back and the little human is overtaken by a trembling awareness that life is astounding in its reality, vastness, complexity, order, surprise. Experiences of awe awaken a spiritual awareness.”

yggdrasil

yggdrasil

Immanuel Kant used the phrase ding an sich, the thing-in-itself, to name that from which our senses separate us. We experience the ding an sich, the mute world of Camus, only through our senses, through our sensory experience of certain qualities, qualia, that the thing-in-itself presents. We do not, in other words, experience that which has the qualities, but only its qualia and then only those within the very limited range of qualia accessible to our senses.

The ding an sich, the abyss, a reality greater than yourself all name a something beyond ordinary experience. There are many ways of articulating the gap between us and the ding an sich, the things in themselves.

Here’s one I like.  Bifrost is the rainbow bridge of Norse mythology. As in this illustration, bifrost connects Asgard, the realm of the Aesir (Odin, Thor, Freya), and midgard, or middle earth, the realm of humans. Awe could be a brief moment when we stand not on midgard but on the rainbow bridge, able to catch a glimpse of the realm beyond us.

Or, we might consider the Hindu concept of maya. Among other meanings maya is a “magic show, an illusion where things appear to be present but are not what they seem”” wikipedia

heimdallWhat all of these ideas suggest, I think, is that a gap exists between an individual and the really real. An important religious question is what is beyond that gap, or what constitutes the gap, or what is the significance of the hidden for our spiritual lives.

I don’t know how to answer that question. Camus’ notion of the absurd makes sense to me. If that’s not an oxymoron. What I do know, for sure, is that the only tool we have for answering it is our experience. Awe may help us. It may allow us a momentary peek into the abyss, or place us on bifrost, or pierce the veil of maya.

What has awed you this day? This week? This year? In this life?

work

Lughnasa                                                           Eclipse Moon

thoth writes

thoth writes

Kate finished the first draft of Superior Wolf. In one day. She made a very helpful suggestion which will require considerable revision, but the book will be stronger for it. A quote by Terry Pratchett, a British fantasy author: “The first draft is telling yourself the story.” Yes. Now I know, for instance, that the lead character is really Lycaon, not the initial main character I imagined. Those two things alone point the way toward a good revision.

The new schedule has taken shape, solidified. I write ancientrails first thing, like I’m doing right now. Then, I move onto Jennie’s Dead, which has begun to live and breathe, I’m excited to say. My goal each morning is to finish a post here and write 750 words in Jennie. I get breakfast either during or after I get those two things done. If I have the time, I’ll spend 30 minutes filing posts from ancientrails for Reimagining. Workout, which ends before lunch. Lunch. Nap.

Many monasteries had Scriptoria, otherwise known as writing rooms where monks made hand written copies of important works. The monks copied Christian writings, including the Bible, as well as works from Roman and Greek authors.

Many monasteries had Scriptoria, otherwise known as writing rooms

The after nap part is not so solid yet. I do read then, Arthur Green’s introduction to the Zohar, for example. I have not started translating again and, since I start Hebrew this week, I think, it might absorb that energy. By 4 p.m. or so, I’m moving toward the evening and happily so.

My life is best when I have large blocks of time I can manage and, when I’ve figured out a rhythm for the work I have underway. That’s happening. I’m grateful to Kate for supporting me in this and, for finding this amazing space. I want to have a library dedication sometime in October, in the main to thank her.

 

 

Our Own Personal Idaho

Ruths polariods in the RV

Ruth’s polariods in the RV

8/21/2017         Lughnasa                                            Kate’s Moon

A saga of small proportions, but a saga nonetheless. After a late pickup of the RV due to the previous renter breaking a large outside storage container door, we were cramped in getting stuff into it. Ruth and Gabe slept in it in our driveway on Friday night and we finished packing Saturday morning.

We left around 7:30 am. Due to dire traffic predictions I picked a route that would minimize traffic though it would take a while longer to get there. I don’t mind using time on my own volition, but backed up bumper to bumper on an Interstate? Not so much.

Being a little bleary from the previous day I ended up missing the route I had chosen and finding the exit for an alternate instead. Instead of taking the turn for Empire and Granby, right next to Rocky Mountain National Park, we drove to my first idea, a routed going north out of Dillon on Co. 9. Some of the driving was on roads with narrow to no shoulders and I was still getting used to the hippotamus like wallowing of this big beast. One slight run off the road scared the bejesus out of me.

In an attempt to get back to the Granby route I took off east on Co 14. This was fun because it took us through the vast high plain known as North Park. There are three parks, South Park, Middle Park and North Park. South Park is in Park County, close to our home. We turned north again at Walden, a quaint little town that calls itself the moose viewing capital of the state.

Ruth, above the cab

Ruth, above the cab

Somehow though, after we passed into Wyoming, I missed Wy 130 and in the process took us off through the Medicine Bow National Forest. This was also beautiful, but much further south than I intended. This meandering took us about 100 miles out of the way. All good from a not all who wander are lost perspective, but it had a negative effect later on.

By the time we made it to Jackson, after a trip through another National Forest with mountains blued out as the sun sat behind them, a river flowing north beside the road, it was dark. Both Kate and BJ recommended against taking the Teton Pass at night, so I listened. We found a temporary home for the RV in the Jackson KMart parking lot.

For about three hours. At 12:30 pm a knock on the door and very bright lights outside announced the Jackson police department. Contrary to what we had heard KMart does not welcome overnight stays and “Jackson has an ordinance against illegal camping.” Oh. Well. If you put it that way.

So, again bleary eyed, this time after 12 hours or so of driving I put on pants and shoes, started the hippo and we moved away from KMart. Kate suggested we try the Motel 6, a place Jon stays when he comes to ski. $63 a night. They said rooms were $248 a night, a special rate just for the eclipse. Ha. However, the desk clerk kindly said we could stay in their parking lot for free. We did.

About 7 o’clock Sunday morning we fired up the hippo and drove to, wait for it, McDonalds for coffee, potato type food and an egg mcmuffin. We wanted to get out of Jackson and onto the Teton Pass. Which we did.

It’s not a difficult drive in the light, but it would have been treacherous in the hippo at night. Again, beautiful. Natural beauty surrounds us here in the West, especially following the Rocky cordillera north as we did. Sort of.

Once down the Teton Pass we passed into Idaho at Victor, then turned north toward Driggs. BJ, Kate’s sister, lives a half hour out of Driggs, up the side of the bowl that the mountains create here, a small version of a Park. Her home is rustic with wood flooring, weathered porches and an outbuilding that includes a sauna and a greenhouse. It’s quiet here, the opposite of Broadway and 78th in NYC, where she lives in the Beacon Hotel.

Tomorrow is the eclipse. We’ll see it from a meadow near here. More after that.

Losing the Sun

 

8/22/2017                                    Eclipse Moon

Kate, Jon, and BJ. On BJs deck.

Kate, BJ, and Jon. On BJs deck.

A black sun. Coronal flares shooting out, white against a blue-black sky. No birds flying, a sudden cool silence. Two minutes and twelve seconds passing fast. At 11:35 am, against a clear, just moments before hot blue. Gasps and exclamations came over these lower hills of the Big Horn Range, the ragged Tetons across the Tetonia valley, mute.

A moment of the occult revealed by darkness. The sun always moves across our spinning planet with those vast, hot flames reaching for the edges of the solar system. Unseen. Even the sun itself, except at a quick glance, or in the periphery of vision, stands hidden in its own brilliance. Not yesterday. Not for two minutes and twelve seconds.

A sight reminiscent of a secret society. Only initiates can see the truth. And it is so. It may be a secret society of millions or billions, but it is exclusive, often, as for me, happening, if at all, only once in a lifetime.

Six Olson/Johnsons: Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Anne, BJ, Kate and one Welsh Teuton sat on BJ’s east facing deck, eyes covered in glasses dark enough to make walking with them on impossible. At first we baked, heat from a late Idaho summer crackling down from the sun, naked and fierce as it can be at midday.

Totality

Totality

A small pinch of black intruded on the faded yellow globe we could see through the eclipse glasses. Baily’s beads, sunlight bouncing through valleys created by lunar mountains, shimmered for just a second then disappeared. The small pinch became a bigger one as our usually nocturnal moon, and a new moon, usually invisible, at that, showed up, its shadow cone moving at hundreds of miles an hour, racing across the U.S. from Portland to Charleston, passing us here just across the Big Horns from the vast potato fields of southern Idaho.

That image, black sun, coronal flares across the deeply bruised heaven is now a permanent resident in my memory. Brief though it was, its violation of the natural order so consistent over my life time, much like an earthquake disturbs our sense of the stability of the earth on which we walk, was so intense that it will stay available to me.

How often in a life do we get to shock ourselves in such a way? The sun shines in through the window of the RV as I write this, back to its old dangerously luminous self, too shiny for my eyes. “There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.”

Our common sense philosophy allows us to move through our days without recourse to constant surveillance. The earth is solid. The air breathable. Night follows day. Our heart beats. During the day the sun shines unless obscured by clouds. When our experience deviates from these home truths, our inner world shakes. Can’t get enough oxygen? Heart pauses? Earth moves. Night comes near noon on a cloudless day. Even if we know the why, the empirical fact of such an insult to the received wisdom of our lives alters our confidence in what we believe. Alters it in a deep and profound way.

Alpine glow during totality, looking toward the Tetons

Alpine glow during totality, looking toward the Tetons

Perhaps such events are the key to humility. What we assume is true may be mistaken, mistaken in some fundamental way. Once one pillar of our inner temple is shaken, we may need to examine them all.

 

August 23, 2017   Lughnasa            Eclipse Moon

The day of the eclipse has come and gone. Jon, Ruth, and Gabe left that day for Colorado. The eclipse was on the first day of Gabe’s fourth grade year and Ruth, though already in school for a week or so, missed classes on Monday, too. They had to get back. It took Jon 11 and a half hours to get home.

BJ, Kate, Anne at Kates birthday party apres eclipse

BJ, Kate, Anne at Kates birthday party apres eclipse

Later that day Kate’s two sisters, Annie and BJ, Kate and I, drove into Driggs for a post-eclipse return to this earth. Traffic in that small Idaho farm town was heavy, a traffic jam slowed us down getting to the art fair which was our destination. There were mumblings about how the expected 100,000 people had ended up being only 10,000 and artists seemed disappointed in their sales.

Since we never left BJ’s deck to see the eclipse we escaped any traffic getting into place for a viewing and the traffic coming up from Conifer was never heavy, even on I-80, so that small Drigg’s experience was it for us. Fine with me.

Annie and BJ put together a birthday party for Kate with a happy birthday banner, glow in the dark bracelets, flowers and color changing small candles. We had salmon, potato salad, baked beans and fruit for dessert.

Tetonia

Tetonia

The next morning we had breakfast up at the big house. (what Kate and I from the RV perspective called BJ’s place) Kate ended up feeling crummy and left early to spend the morning resting. I wrote a bit, read, talked with Annie and BJ.

In the afternoon Annie, BJ and I drove 15 minutes over to Tetonia, a smaller town than Driggs, with the same name as the county. As you drive east away from the Big Horn foothills where BJ lives, the Tetons dominate the horizon, especially four jagged peaks that have a distinct alpine feel. The tallest and most severe of the peaks is Grand. Between the Big Horn foothills on the west and the Tetons in the east is a flat plain dotted with fields of wheat, alfalfa and pastures with Angus and horses. There are barns with hay lofts, Harvestor silos, grain elevators and farm equipment dealers on the main road. If you bracketed out the mountains, it could be a location in Iowa or southern Minnesota.

We visited a small shop in Tetonia, a show case for Steve Horn, who makes furniture, carves wood into whimsical fire place mantels with dancing bears or curious elk. The quality of his work is high and the prices reasonable. There were also other local crafts such as white turquoise jewelry and woven pine needle baskets, various rugs of a rustic cabin sort and a few scattered antiques.

Ankole-Watusi Horn, an African breed of cow

Ankole-Watusi Horn, an African breed of cow

There were also four horns, two smaller and two larger, that made me wonder what animal could possibly have worn them. So I asked. The owner came down from her office area above the store. “You know, I’ve been meaning to look them up. Give me a minute.” I did. “Come on up here, I’ll show you.” These were the horns of a central African cattle breed called the Ankole-Watusi. The largest horns of any cattle breed. The pictures she pulled up showed large cattle, perhaps oxen size, with enormous horns.

BJ wanted to eat lunch at the Badger Creek Cafe, a Tetonia restaurant a couple of blocks beyond Steven Horn’s place. “Put together by two chefs from NYC. Really good food.” Also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. We all liked the name of a small woodworkers shop nearby, Mortise and Tenon.

Because BJ’s realtor and friend, Bobbie, had invited us over for dinner, we went back into Driggs to pick up some dessert. The Austrian pastry shop was closed as was Cicerolls, so we went to Broulin’s, a local supermarket. While there, I told BJ I liked it. For those of you familiar with Minnesota supermarkets, it would have been between a Lund’s and a Bylery’s, nicer than Colorado’s King Sooper.

from Bobbie and Barney's deck

from Bobbie and Barney’s deck

Turns out the locals, Bobbie for instance, view it as an intrusion by Jackson Hole prices and tastes into the area over the Teton Pass in Idaho. Probably so.

Later we met Bobbie and Barney at their home which overlooks the large agricultural plain with the craggy Tetons on display on its eastern edge. A very peaceful place.

Working

Lughnasa                                                                         Kate’s Moon

hell2Moving forward, slowly, with Jennie’s Dead. Exploring the religion of the ancient Egyptians, trying to avoid hackneyed themes, not easy with all the mummy movies, Scorpion King, Raiders of the Lost Ark sort of cinema. Jennie’s Dead is not about Egypt, ancient or otherwise, but it plays an important role in the plot. Getting started is difficult, trying to sort out where the story wants to go, whether the main conflict is clear, to me and to the eventual reader.

Also moving forward, also slowly, with Reimagining. The pile of printed out posts has shrunk considerably, now filed. As I’ve gone through them, I read them a bit, for filing purposes. One notion that jumped out at me was my turn away from text-based religions, from the sort of quasi-scholastic reasoning that occurs.

image of godAs Emerson said, “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? Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe?”

I guess Emerson and I had the same quandary. We love the ancient texts, their poetry and philosophy, yet do not want to be bound by them. We want our poetry and revelation straight from the source, nature and the human experience of our own time. Yet, it seems to me, we’re both informed in our search for the poetry of existence by the way those seekers of the past found revelation in their time. Surely the logic of wanting our own revelation grounds itself in the stories of Genesis, the work of Moses, the resurrection story of Jesus, even the night flight of Muhammad and the whirling cosmic dance of Shiva.

20-the-map-is-not-the-territoryThis means I’m in a curious position relevant to my own education in the Christian tradition and my new education, underway now, in the older faith tradition of Judaism. Both are normative, in their way, but not as holy writ. Rather, they are normative in a more fundamental sense, they reveal the way we humans can discover the sacred as it wends and winds its way not only through the universe, but through history.

We may not, in other words, be bound by their philosophy and insight, the history of their revelation, yet how the ancients made themselves open to the whispers and shouts of the sacred, how they received its insights and what use they made of it in their lives, those shape us because we are the same vessel, only thrown into a different time.

Arthur_Szyk_(1894-1951)._The_Holiday_Series,_Rosh_Hashanah_(1948),_New_Canaan,_CTThis is a similar idea to that of the reconstructionists, but not the same. Reconstructionists want to work with a constantly evolving Jewish civilization, grounding themselves in Torah, mussar, kabbalah, shabbat, the old holidays, but emphasizing the work of building a Jewish culture in the current day, reconstructing it as Jews change and the world around them changes, too. I’m learning so much from this radical idea.

2695406589_2517d8b0f2What I want to do though, and it’s a similar challenge, is to reimagine, for our time and as a dynamic, the way we reach for the sacred, the way we write about our experience, the way we celebrate the insights and the poetry it inspires. In this Reconstructionist Judaism is a better home for me than Unitarian Universalism. UU’s may have the same goal, but their net is cast into the vague sea of the past, trying to catch a bit from here and a bit from there. It is untethered, floating with no anchor. Beth Evergreen affirms the past, the texts of their ancestors, their thousands of years of interpretation, the holidays and the personal, daily life of a person shaped by this tradition, but also recognizes the need to live those insights in an evolving world.

 

The Black Sun

Lughnasa                                                                               Kate’s Moon

PutrefactioA week from today we’ll be on the road in a rented R.V., Ruth and Gabe on board, headed to Driggs, Idaho. It will be Kate’s 73rd birthday.  I wrote a post on Ancientrailsgreatwheel.com about dark ecology and the ecocide. It occurred to me just now that the total eclipse might be the perfect metaphor for it.

As the extinction event occasioned by our rapidly changing climate, both already well underway, slides over the face of our inner sun and blots it out, we will not enter total darkness, but the corona of that black sun will flare in our consciousness, the heavens filled with the stars and galaxies of our inner universe will pop into view. We will have a chance then to consider the majesty of all of which we are a part, often hidden. We will see the world without us and know that it can and will be beautiful, more than we can imagine.

alchemyPerhaps this eclipse on August 21st is an opportunity for us all to merge the outer with the inner, to experience the same fear our long ago ancestors did when they imagined the world might die, the sun might never reappear. It may be a chance to integrate this slow motion catastrophe through which we are living, in which we are implicated, and consider it in a new way.

I’m going to try for that experience. Maybe you will, too.

 

 

 

All That Falls Shall Be Reborn

Lughnasa                                                                 Kate’s Moon

lughnasaOh. Right. Slept in yesterday until 7:30 am. About 2.5 hours past normal rising. The guy from Conifer Gutter came by to give us an estimate on needle guards for our gutters. Then, well, I worked out and forgot to post.

But, here we are on Tuesday, 48 degrees outside after a drippy, Midwest-nostalgia day of rain yesterday. Kate sewed; I dithered. Read a bit more on Dark Ecology and responding to the ecocide. That sort of uplifting thing.

Still don’t have the rhythm of the new workout routine and actual work down. This is because I shifted my workout to mornings-cooler and less likely to get distracted. That’s also my best working time, for writing and research not to mention stuff around the house. I’ll get it eventually, but the herky-jerky rhythm I’ve got now feels, well, herky-jerky.

Went to an energizing lecture titled Fifty Shades of Talmud. Yes, it was about sex in this compilation of commentaries and arguments that created Rabbinic Judaism. The woman who wrote the book, Maggie Anton, spoke about talmud study with an infectious enthusiasm. Made me glad. I love to see people living from their passion, deep into something that fascinates them.

lughnasa1

Kate, for example, loves to sew and quilt. She finished a great wall hanging for me yesterday, four moose prints on a field of green. I’ve long considered the moose my spirit animal. Thanks, sweetheart.

Rigel continues to spend her every outdoor moment yearning after jaws against the flesh of tiny critters. She sniffs under the deck and on the deck, presumably following the movements of whatever is under there. She digs and sniffs and barks under the shed, too. She’s rejuvenated and following her doggy passion. In fact, she’s my new third phase role model. I want to be like Rigel. No, I’m not going to start sniffing the deck, barking under the shed, but I want to live my life like she’s living hers, all in.

 

 

 

Less Angry

Midsommar                                                                 Kate’s Moon

johari windowOn the last night of kabbalah a classmate, Cece, chose for her presentation an exercise involving the Johari window. She had this model (illustration) with blank quadrants for each of us. We filled in 3-6 adjectives in the hidden self quadrant, then passed the paper to our left and others added adjectives in the open self quadrant.

It’s a powerful exercise when done in a safe setting. It was powerful here even though many of us had only the other 5 nights of our kabbalah class as baselines for our observations. The information other people give us about ourselves is key to life in groups, but most of the time the feedback involves glances, body language, or indirect observations. Getting direct information about how others see us can increase intimacy and trust. Not to mention that it’s just interesting.

PEACE DYERToo long introduction to the point. One of the others in the group wrote on my sheet, less angry. There were four people in the class who know me from the mussar class on Thursday afternoon and probably remember my agitation after the 2016 election. I was not and am not a happy U.S. citizen, but something has changed for me. I’m not sure what changed, but I am less angry, though I hadn’t realized it.

I did surprise myself a couple of weekends ago when we were in Glenwood Springs with Lonnie and Stefan. Over lunch they both expressed understandable and referented anger at Trump, at the decline of civility, at the danger facing our democracy. “He meets the definition of a fascist.” Stefan said.

“An election can fix most of what’s being done in Washington right now,” I replied. Stefan had quoted an Italian friend from Florence who said, “We had ours (Berlusconi) and know you have yours.” I agreed with that, going on, “Yes, the nativist and alt-right type movements are strong on the continent, but France just turned them back. And, Hillary won the popular vote here.”

peace“Well, what does that mean?” Lonnie asked, “The system elected Trump.” “The electoral college, yes.” I said, “But more people, some 3 million more, rejected him. He does not have a mandate.”

I think the gridlock and deadlock in D.C. right now reflects that rejection. We are a divided people, yes, but we’ve been divided before. We’re still the strongest economy in the world though by some measures China is catching up. Point is, I was voicing a don’t panic, don’t despair attitude toward our current political mess. I agree with the analysis that Trump is a disaster for our country. There’s no question that he and the Republicans are trying to take us to places as a people that are despicable and mean. True that.

But my anger at all of this has been tempered over the last couple of months. I’m just not as reactive. And I like feeling this way. My analysis has not changed, at least not much. I still view both parties as agents of a rapacious capitalism that creates false gods, false gods on whose altars their worshippers would sacrifice the very lives of our citizens. Just look at the idea of “reforming” Obamacare by gutting Medicaid.  With Medicaid expenditures out of the way, their plan goes, draconian tax cuts for the wealthy won’t break the Federal budget. Evil.

soul-mate-heartI still believe that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem. But for me, how to be part of the solution has changed, I think. Long, long ago I realized that my anger toward my father, whether justified or not, was hurting only me. Not him. I set it aside. Somehow the same realization occurred to me about politics and only recently. So, I set that anger aside, too.

Now the question for me is how to be part of the solution. I’ve always had a straight line approach to radical politics. Join up with others, focus on an issue at the root of a social ill and work until something good happens. It’s a strategy that has worked for me over and over since the mid-1960’s. I’m moving in a different direction now.

beautifulThis is in part a third phase change. The angry young radical has aged. I can see the finish line from here and want to make the time before my death as fruitful, loving and creative as I can. Anger interferes. I want to write, to spend time with Kate and Jon and Ruth and Gabe and Joe and Seoah, with friends at Beth Evergreen, friends from Minnesota, Mark and Mary. I want to study Latin, kabbalah, China, art. I want to hike in the mountains, travel this state, see the solar eclipse. Obsessing over the insults to our body politic just doesn’t seem useful to me right now.

spiritual-enlightenment-spiritualityLiving well is a political statement I need to make. Politics, in other words, though crucial to our common life, is not the only component of a life well lived and should not be allowed to interfere with the very goal of politics itself: a decent life for all. In my case I’ve often allowed that interference and right now I’m saying enough. The priority for me, now, is this smaller life, the domestic and semi-public life of family and learning and creativity. Feels calmer, more livable, more age appropriate.

 

Easing Back

Midsommar                                                                          Kate’s Moon

books and cupWith concern about my knee prosthetic assuaged, I’ve gotten a better workout routine going. It’s taken me awhile to match my new workout time, start between 9 and 10 am, with productivity on other projects like reimagining and a new novel, but I’m getting there.

Yesterday I printed out work on Loki’s Children, the second part of the Missing trilogy, and the Protectors, a nugget about a group called the Carthaginians. That gives me three stories to consider. I’m also going to through a file I have in Evernote called story ideas. Check out what I’ve been squirreling away for the past couple of years.

Reimagining work right now consists of scissors and a stapler: cutting up the printed out pages from ancientrails, stapling individual posts together, then filing them under the conceptual (chapter?) headings I’ve defined. I ended up with well over 200 printed pages so this is no small task.

kabbalahThe kabbalah class is over until after the high holidays, but I plan to read in both the first volume of the Zohar and the key work by Isaac Luria. No idea right now about how to organize that reading, but Rabbi Jamie will help. Kate and I continue to study mussar, the Thursday at 1 pm group grounding us in both Jewish ethics and a small community.

Sister Mary and her s.o. Guru will be here Tuesday through Thursday. They’re flying here from Tamil Nadu where Mary and her friend Anitha were presenting at a conference. Mary has a conference in L.A. beginning on Friday. She’s got lots of air miles to her credit.

Leaning in

Midsommar                                                                  Most Heat Moon

Strange times in the inner world of Mr. Ellis. Feeling peaceful. Leaning into life rather than pushing against it, struggling. Feels. Weird.

The move from Minnesota, which we did for love of Jon, the grandkids, adventure and the mountains has had a more drastic effect than I could have imagined. I thought the chief task here on Shadow Mountain would be becoming native to this place, instead it was becoming native to myself.

It’s ironic, isn’t it? We move, then I have prostate cancer in a place where I know almost no one, with a doctor known from one or two visits. Not the best setup for entering a new place. But I got good care, came to know Lisa much better and have prostate cancer in the rearview so far.

Sometime after that Kate read an article about a study of King David at a local synagogue, Beth Evergreen. We went on a cold winter night and had a challenge finding our way, but we got there. Bonnie, who would become a friend, led the session and we met many others that night, including Marilyn and Tara Saltzman, who would also become friends.

Kate’s long ago conversion to Judaism, when she was in her early 30’s, had been dormant for the most part though firm. Here we were in a new place and Beth Evergreen had people who seemed friendly, the synagogue greeted us warmly. Both of us. I decided to attend further events to support Kate and, besides, I’d always enjoyed my relationship with Jewish folks over the years.

Since then Kate has deepened and lived her Jewish life, taking Hebrew classes, getting to know more members of the congregation through mussar (Jewish ethics). Joan Nathan has become her culinary heroine and she’s made many recipes from King Solomon’s Table including a seven-species salad for a holiday whose name I don’t recall.

Meanwhile I’ve been taking it all in, an experience I’ve taken to calling Jewish immersion. Each faith tradition has its own culture, its own way of being for those who participate. The whole, the gestalt of this, can be seen as a language, a language unfamiliar, even foreign, to outsiders. Without intending to I’ve been learning the language.

I think about conversion, about becoming a member of the tribe in the way Kate did, but somehow it doesn’t feel right for me. I keep myself open, however, not closing either heart or mind. The study of kabbalah has cracked open a door, a door I thought I had closed, the door of a faith reaching beyond the sensible world.

We’ll see where that goes.

 

 

September 2017
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