We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

A Public Service Message

Spring                                                                             New Shoulder Moon

Threatened: A Green-Haired Turtle That Can Breathe Through Its Genitals   NYT today

Tarot and Craft Beer

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project

Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project

Went out last night to an Atlas Obscura/Denver event. Yes, this funky website now has local, meet-up like events in various cities. The one last night was on tarot, a presentation at the only in Denver, Intrepid Sojourner Beer Project. The presenter, Joy Vernon, has been reading tarot cards since 1991 and presently works out of the unfortunately named Isis Book Shop. Isis has since changed its name to Goddess Isis Bookshop to distinguish itself from the new caliphate.

20180409_194615Besides the quirky reputation of Atlas Obscura, which draw me in, I also went because Joy said she would discuss qabbalah and the tarot. Only a couple of mentions but they were there. Here’s a for instance in this blurry photograph of one of her slides. In another spot she mentions the correspondence between qabbalah (translation note: Rabbi Jamie says the q is the correct translation) and the qabbalistic Tree of Life with its ten sephirots. Not a detailed examination of the relationship, but enough to make me want to explore it further.

Joy was knowledgeable about her subject and an entertaining speaker. To pass over the “dry” history portion (her word) she suggested a drinking game. We were in a pub after all. Each time she mentioned a place or a Tarot card with Bacchus on it came up, each person had to say Bacchus and take a drink. The crowd, mostly millennials, was into it. So when she mentioned Milan, for instance, someone in the crowd would yell, “Bacchus!” and people would drink. Pretty modestly, but hey!

20180409_194857Tarot by itself has fascinated me for a long time and I have three decks of my own. I like the iconography and the mythical, archetypal leanings of current Tarot readers. That doesn’t mean I put much stock in the readings themselves, though I do believe any sincere examination of self, whether occasioned by a hallucinogen, meditation, an analyst or a Tarot reader can be of benefit.

The next Atlas Obscura event in Denver is a presentation by a crime scene cleaner. Wish I could go but it’s on April 22nd in the evening. On that night we’ll be dining at Domo, the rural Japanese style restaurant, with Ruth and Gabe and Jon in honor of the kid’s birthdays, Ruth on April 4th and Gabe’s on the 22nd, 12 and 10.


Stuff From Out There

Imbolc                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

A few random finds. The first one sent by sister Mary. It appeared in the Guardian.

Romanian court tells man he is not alive      Constantin Reliu, 63, fails to overturn 2003 death certificate because he appealed too late.  Read the whole story at Guardian

And, two from Post Secrets.  The second because it breaks my heart. The first because I recognized the sentiment of feeling guilty because I did not suffer more. The thing to remember is that ignored mine would have done what all cancers do, take over my body and kill me.


What Was I Thinking?

Samain (last day for this year)                   Long Nights Moon


sometimes we steal it ourselves

I’m having a crisis of sorts, it will pass and life will return to normal, probably later today, but right now I’m having an identity crisis. Remember those?

Here’s a Psychology Today article about identity. As I took the short quiz at the bottom, I had two achieved statuses, politics and gender roles, one moratorium status, career choice, and a difficult to assess religious status. This latter status, religion, is perhaps more achieved than my current feelings suggest since I’m deep into a context which challenges my commitment regularly.

I’ll bracket the religious question for this post since I do have a position, one I’ve established over many years of thought and with which I’m comfortable. I think the oscillation, tension there is reasonable to expect given my current immersion in Judaism.

The other moratorium status, career choice, is a different matter. It may seem odd to have a career choice moratorium* at 70, but it is so. Unlikely to change now, too. Having this realization again, (it’s not new) is the emotional side of this crisis.

careerI thought I had my life direction nailed down. College, graduate school. Some sort of professional career, perhaps lawyer, perhaps professor, perhaps something not visible from within the boundaries of an Alexandria, Indiana horizon. Then, my mom died. That threw my final year of high school into turmoil. God, this hurts just writing about it.

No one’s fault. A random event, but one with devastating emotional consequences for me. I hit my first year of college, just about a year after her death, with high hopes, probably even fantasies. I’d gone through GQ issues over the summer and picked out a navy blue blazer, charcoal pants, oxblood shoes and a madras sport coat. I had a vested herringbone suit from my junior year. These clothing choices symbolized my desire to become someone new at Wabash.

madrasMost kids heading off for college, especially in the fifties and mid-1960’s, had a similar desire. Shape that adult self. Live into an adult role. The expectation was that college would provide room for exploration, trying on this and that persona, in effect researching skills and passions, until something coalesced. Then, earning money and work would merge into an expression of who you were. That’s why college was called then, the moratorium years. College was explicitly a time to be low on commitment, but high on exploration.

Didn’t happen for me, in terms of career. At Wabash I picked up three bad habits: drinking, smoking and self-doubt. The first two were fraternity based, lots of drinking and smoking. This was 1965, just before the emergence of the drug scene, so I was conventional in those choices. But, I was also an addictive personality so drinking and smoking would require much time and energy later to overcome.

Self-doubt happened in a way not uncommon, I imagine, for small town valedictorians. Wabash, at the time, was highly selective, only 200 in each class, all male and each bright, accomplished. I was not only not the smartest person in the room, I wasn’t even in the middle. Over time I imagine this would have sorted itself out, but I was too emotionally fragile, still grieving. My dad tried to understand, tried to be supportive, but I didn’t let him into my agony.

identity-cover socionic

identity-cover socionic

And so began a pattern. I left Wabash the next year, putatively over financial issues though I had a partial scholarship, but really it was the combination of drinking and feeling overwhelmed by the academic demands. I did well enough, mostly A’s, except for German, which almost resulted in my first D or F until I dropped it, but my nights were spent in anxious dreams, waking up with sweaty palms. I didn’t fit in. I hated the fraternity, but had no choice except to be in one due to odd Wabash rules for freshmen.

In 1966, a time of tumultuous change in the country, especially for college students and especially male, draft eligible college students, I chose, for reasons I don’t recall, to go to Ball State. It was close to home. That may have been the reason.

In another odd circumstance my love affair with philosophy, begun at Wabash, found me only a few credits shy of a major after four semester long philosophy courses I took in my freshmen year. That meant I could take a couple of philosophy classes, secure my major and move onto something else. Anthropology.

anthroI loved anthropology, too. Enough, it seemed, to make it a career. I combined my interest in philosophy and decided to enter the narrow field of theoretical anthropology, thinking about how anthropology works, how it could work, how it should work. That turned out to be a mistake and one I didn’t recover from. I applied to, and was accepted, at Brandeis and Rice, for graduate programs. But because my field was theoretical anthropology, I got no financial awards. That meant I needed a fellowship and I was nominated for a Danforth. In the end though, the end of college and of a political career based on radical politics at Ball State, I chose to do nothing. Just. Nothing.

Judy came into my life right at that point. A someone. Another mistake. For both of us. I did end up in Appleton, Wisconsin with her, moving there after a disastrous few months as a manager trainee for W.T. Grant and Company. What was I thinking?

This question, relevant to career, would become synonymous with my choices, one after the other. Seminary. I stayed in and got ordained. WWIT? I worked as an administrator. WWIT? I became a church executive. WWIT? I left the church to write. In this case I knew what I was thinking, but never got all the way there as a writer so, WWIT? For a moment I went back to the ministry as a UU. I was serious enough to intern at a UU church in St. Paul where I agreed to be the development minister. In this case, a really, really big WWIT?

what-was-i-thinking-webAnd so, here I am at 70, no career I really chose except writing and that one I couldn’t have sustained had it not been for the grace and love of Kate. There’s my identity crisis. Who have I been? What have I wanted to do with my life? Late in the game to ask these questions though to be honest they’ve surfaced right along since Wabash.

I could use help reframing all this. It’s not like I’ve drifted through life, doing nothing at all. I just never wrapped it up in a social role to which I felt like I truly belonged. Don’t know what that makes me at this point in my life. In a sense the third phase is the point when this question ceases to matter. That particular race finished a while ago and I’ve come into the pits. No more laps. Yet. What does, what did it all mean? I really don’t know at this point.

In yet another sense, and one I fully support with most of my being (ha), the answer doesn’t matter. I’ve lived. I’ve loved. I’m still doing both. The essentials. And, enough. I know. I know.

Yet the question lingers. What did I do?


People high on exploration but low on commitment are in a category that Marcia called “moratorium.” This means that they have placed a hold on making the major decisions in their lives.  They’re thinking hard about what they want to do but aren’t ready to commit.” from the article linked to above.


In A Techno-Desert, Thirsty for Human Interaction

Fall                                                                             Harvest Moon

5:20 am on Shadow Mountain. 43 degrees. 12% humidity. Pressure 22.60. No wind. Crescent moon. All the same without knowing these data points, I know. Still. I like to know them anyhow.

naisbittThis week Thursday I get to see Joe and SeoAh. I’m excited just to see them, to have some high touch in this high tech age. Remember Alvin Toffler? A futurist, he posited that the more complex and sophisticated our technology becomes, the more necessary direct human interaction. (Toffler preceded Naisbitt by at least two years with this idea, but Naisbitt made it a corporate buzz phrase. I find his notion of balance between our physical and spiritual reality an interesting idea.)

True. We exist, at least many of us, especially those younger than a certain age, in a cloud (pun intended) of virtual data. This blog, for example. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Email. Text messages. Twitter. I see, regularly, information and pictures about high school friends, old college friends, friends in Minnesota, family. I don’t use Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, not enough time in a day, but I’m on Facebook at least daily. I send and receive many e-mails, text messages. All this keeps me up to date, to some extent, on people I care about, a gratifying level of connection available, in yesteryear, only to voluminous letter writers.

1954-09 Galaxy Magazine by Ed EmshwillerBut the connection is, of course, partly, maybe mostly, illusory. We get only snippets, usually disconnected snippets. No hugs. No careful listening. No smiles. No touch on the hand during a conversation. No walks. No meals. The further out from our fleshly world, the less real information about another we receive because the context for what we know is very limited.

I don’t happen to see this as bad. I’m grateful for the chance to learn about even parts of the lives of people who once belonged to my fleshly world. But it does create a longing for in person moments, to embrace Joseph and SeoAh, for example. Or, to attend a 55th high school reunion, or show up at a Woolly Retreat in November,which I will not be able to do this year.

High Tech High TouchAs we age and travel becomes more difficult, I imagine this will become an even more poignant issue, extending even into our fleshly world. There’s promise, yes, in telemedicine, for example. We already meet with our financial planner over Skype. How many of our now daily or weekly interactions will become virtual? The key issue here, the one I think Toffler alluded to, though he may not have named it outright, is isolation.

We are on the map of the future where a cartographer might write in florid typescript, “Here there be dragons.” We just don’t know what the combination of high tech and increasingly low touch world might mean. Isolation is deadly, killing the spirit and ravaging the soul. Will we end up in a technological desert, thirsty for real human interaction, seeing it in the shimmering illusions of social media, but not being able to reach it? If so, what can we do about it?


Painted Ladies on Shadow Mountain

Lughnasa                                                                     Harvest (new) Moon

Belle-dame_(Vanessa_cardui)_-_Echinacea_purpurea_-_Havré_(3)Under the category of awe. In passing I noted a reference to butterflies being around in some numbers. One commenter on pinecam.com referred to them as painted ladies migrating.

This might have passed in and out of my attention, but I noticed a butterfly on Black Mountain Drive. Curious, I walked up the driveway to the road.

Sure enough, spread out sort of like the cross country runners in Ruth’s meet last night, there were butterflies going toward Evergreen, all of the ones I saw using the open space created by the road as a flight corridor.

I watched for a bit and they kept coming, isolated individuals, groups of two or three, sometimes more, flapping their apparently fragile wings, moving, just in my observation, great distances for their body size.

In Europe they migrate from Africa to Britain, as far as 9,000 miles. In our case they’re headed for New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico, just like the snowbirds who leave temperate climes for those warmer stretches of mother earth during the winter.

That such tiny creatures can travel so far, flying the whole way, then turn around and do it again, made me pause for a moment of awe. In retrospect it would have been appropriate to have crowds along Black Mountain Drive, cheering, applauding, “you can do it!”, “all the way to Mexico.”, maybe little sugar stands set out.

Those were the painted ladies on Shadow Mountain.

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.




Turtles All the Way Down

Midsommar                                                                   Most Heat Moon


It’s a wonderful morning. Blue sky with high wispy clouds over Black Mountain, lots of sunshine. Solar panels soaking up energy direct from the source. Temperatures have cooled a bit.

The sun, risen again after our mountains spun away from it last evening, shines. But, upon what does it shine? Read this surprising conclusion:

“Many (flat earthers) subscribe to the “ice wall theory,” or the belief that the world is circumscribed by giant ice barriers, like the walls of a bowl, that then extend infinitely along a flat plane. Sargent envisions Earth as “a giant circular disc covered by a dome.” He likens the planet to a snow globe, similar to the one depicted in “The Truman Show,” a fictitious 1998 existential drama about an insurance salesman unknowingly living in an artificially constructed dome.”

flat earthTurns out that among other distinctions Colorado has a central spot in the Flat Earth movement:

“The Centennial State has been the cradle of the American flat earth renaissance since birth. The first Flat Earth International Conference, which will be in Raleigh, N.C., in November, features a number of Colorado-based Flat Earthers, including Sargent, Knodel and Matthew Procella, or ODD Reality, a Denver-based rapper and YouTuber with 75,000 subscribers and nearly 7 million video views.”  These Coloradans Say The Earth Is Flat.

Now if you’re under the continuing delusion that the earth is a globe, here are Youtube channels that will correct your misguided perspective, Jeranism and Globebusters. (Get it?)



Baphomet Among the Hay Rides of Belle Plaine

Beltane                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

On occasion I would drive on Mn. Hwy. 169, not often, but once in awhile. What I remember most about this exurban community to the south of the Twin Cities is Emma Krumbee’s Restaurant. It’s a country style dining experience cohabiting with an apple orchard, hayrides and lots of cute candles, apple related gifts and smiling waitresses. It always reminded me of Morristown, Indiana where my mother was raised. Downhome, rural comfort food.

Emma Krumbee’s is in Belle Plaine, not a place I expected to see in the New York Times and, in particular, not a place I expected to okay a Satanic Temple Veteran’s Memorial. Read some material* about if from the Satanic Temple’s website.

This is a photograph of the proposed memorial from the same website.


I like it. It’s spare, a bit ominous, but so is war.

I’m not sure what to make of the Satanic Temple itself. It looks a bit tongue in cheek with its Shop Satan webstore. Here are a couple of items from their webpage.





*”The path was paved for this historic event when Belle Plaine displayed a distinctly Christian veterans’ memorial in their ‘remembrance park.’ In response to claims that Belle Plaine was preferencing one religion over others, the 2-foot steel cross was removed. Some residents protested the removal and urged the City to find a legal means to bring back the statue. The City responded by opening the park as a “limited public forum” where anyone, including Satanists, are welcome to donate monuments of their own.”


“The Belle Plaine city council was professional at all times. They adopted a clear set of guidelines which they adhered to. There was no push-back,” Greaves explained, “unlike some other localities where public office holders have wasted public funds in losing lawsuits, trying to gain unconstitutional exclusive privilege for their own prefered religious viewpoint. Belle Plaine recognized the legitimacy of our request and followed the law as it applies to public forums.”


“The Satanic veterans’ monument, a black steel cube adorned on each side with a golden inverted pentagram and adorned at the top with an empty soldier’s helmet, is expected to be installed on park grounds within the next couple of months.”

Semiotics. Up Close and Personal.

Spring                                                                              Passover Moon

Female Golden Stag Beetle

Female Golden Stag Beetle

In a long ago TV program, the name of which I can’t remember, a character said of his Porsche, “It’s my carapace.”  Yes. The vehicle we choose is a statement about us, carmakers learned this from the carriage makers. Kate and I drive a Rav4. It’s functional, unexciting, and a mostly serviceable way of moving from point A to point B. We bought it in a hurry when our Tundra had a fatal seizure not long after I’d given the Celica to charity.

But we’ve added a bit to it. First, there’s that damage to the front end, unrepaired. Long unrepaired now, maybe 2 years. That’s a statement. We also have two stickers on the back: Our House Runs On Clean Energy and Fin Del Mundo: Ushuaia. During the presidential campaign, we also had a Bernie Sanders sign. There is a small sticker on the side window for the planetarium in Boulder. Gertie and Rigel ride with us from time to time. Another statement.

fishI mention the Rav4 and the Porsche first because these thoughts often occur to me while I’m driving. Vanity license plates. Fancy wheels. Political bumper stickers. Coexist. Rainbow pride. If you’re going to ride my ass, at least pull my hair. Keep honking I’m reloading. Flagpoles on the back of the pickup: the red white and blue on one side, the yellow, Live Free or Die flag on the other. Gun racks. Lowriders. Bentleys and Priuses. The occasional Maserati or Ferrari. Maybe you’re on a motorcycle wearing colors. Maybe you’re pulling a boat, or a camper, or a horse trailer.

As a culture we have chosen our vehicles as a prominent way to signal to others who we are, or who we would like to be.  I read an article that said the political leanings of a particular area could be sussed out by the number of pickup trucks on the road, the more pickups the redder the politics. I’m sure you could find a similar metric by counting Cadillacs or Hummers or expensive sports cars.

I used to have a ponytail and I’ve had a beard almost all of my adult life. Look at a woman’s nails, at earrings, necklaces, bracelets. All semiotics.

evolvedAt home. Even the dogs with whom we live. Semiotics. Furniture. Art. Books. Rugs and window treatments. Semiotics. Both to others, but also, and often more importantly, to ourselves. Reminders of who we are. Or aspirational signals about who we want to become. Or, false flags, representing how we wish others to see us. The solar panels on our roof. The well maintained exterior of our home. Even the stumps of the trees cut down for fire mitigation. All messages to the world.

We are opaque. Who we are, what we mean in the world, is not evident from our bodies. We want to know, need to know, what others are like, but we’re very poor judges. That’s why stereotyping exists. It attempts to add semiotics to skin color or body shape. Because we want some advance clue as to the nature of the other. Are they are a threat? Are they a potential mate? Might we agree with them on something important? Could they be trusted?

grateful deadWe all know this, at least at a subconscious level, so we offer clues. Those Grateful Dead Dancing Bears. The menorah lit in the window. The stylized fish. The stylized fish with legs and Darwin in the middle. A Bronco’s sticker. A Viking’s sticker. A lacrosse stick. Somehow we feel these things reveal a portion of who we are. Make us less opaque, perhaps a bit more transparent.

As a long ago student of anthropology, these kind of things fascinate me. I offer no conclusions, other than what they reveal about our essential opacity and our desire to be known in spite of it. The wide range of these semiotics are perhaps more necessary in a diverse nation with no tribal traditions, no single ethnic heritage, no long history as, say, Franks or Germans or Spaniards.


April 2018
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