We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Celebrating the Obverse

Winter                                                              Moon of the Long Nights

sol-invictusThe solstices mark swings to and from extremes, from the longest day to the longest night, there, and as with Bilbo, back again. Darkness and light are never steady in their presence. The earth always shifts in relation to the sun, gradually lengthening the days, then the nights.

Most folks celebrate the Winter Solstice for its moment of change toward increasing light. Sol Invictus, the Roman sun god, added a martial spirit. The ancients feared that the nights would continue to grow in length, and act as a shroud thrown over the earth marking an end to growing seasons, to warmth, to life. It’s no wonder that relief at the return of the sun, revealed by small increases in the length of the day, caused holidays to be born around this subtle astronomical change.

There are also bonfires and songs and drinking and sex on the Summer Solstice. The sun manifests itself as light giver, light bringer, with the longest days. The growing season is well underway then, the miracle of life that the sun’s increasing light creates is the very relief anticipated on the Winter Solstice. Fear and the vanquishing of fear. Sol Invictus, the conquering sun.

Yet even in ancient times there had to be a few outliers like myself. We don’t begrudge the return of the sun, nor deny all the miracles that its return makes possible, that would be silly; but, for some psychic reason, perhaps not clear even to us, we reverse the common sensibility and find succor in the gradual lengthening of the nights that begins at the Summer Solstice and reaches its maximum on the night of the Winter Solstice.

We know that the cold and the darkness, the fallow time whose genesis each year happens on the longest day, is also necessary, also worthy of honor. It is earth’s sabbath, a time for all the generative powers to rest, to regather themselves, to ready themselves for the next florescence. I suspect somehow in our psyches we honor slight dips into depression or melancholy, knowing that in those times we regroup, rest the eager forward creative parts of our souls and the gradual lengthening of the darkness outside mirrors that.

winter solstice4In these long nights the cold often brings clear, cloudless skies. The wonderful Van Gogh quote that I posted a few days ago underscores a virtue of darkness, one we can experience waking or asleep. Dreaming takes us out of the rigors of day to day life and puts us in the realm where ideas and hopes gather. So, the lengthening of the nights increases our opportunity to experience dream time. Whether you believe in Jung’s collective unconscious or not-I do, the rich resources of dreaming are available to us with greater ease when the nights are long and the cold makes sleeping a joy.

It was, too, many years ago when I pushed the notion of transcendence out of my spirituality in favor of immanence, incarnation over a god in the sky. My focus moved to down and in, not up and out. Our inner world is a mystery, a place of fecundity, but also a place often occulted by the demands of the day. When we shift our focus to the night, to the half of the year when darkness grows, we can use that external change as a trigger to lean inside, to find the divine within. If we can make this discovery, the god that we are, we can stiff arm the notion that revelation stopped thousands of years ago.

each birth, always

each birth, always

Every moment of our existence is a revelation, the path of a god, the most fundamental ancientrail of all. No, we are not omnipotent, that’s an illusion created by the idea of transcendence, the need to find validation outside of our own soul. This is the true polytheism, the one that folds its hands, says namaste, bows to that of god in everyone, in every animal, in every plant and stone and star.

When you reach out in love to another person, to a dog, to a crocus blooming in the snow, you bring the finger held out by the white haired floating god in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. That moment of creation is always, ongoing, a joint effort between and among us all, human and inhuman, animate and inanimate, the cosmic dance of Shiva brought into this mundane world. He or She is not out there, waiting to be called by prayer, but in here, waiting to be called by the quiet, by the joy, by the persistence held in the soul container that is you.

 

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

Winter                                                           Moon of the Long Nights

“Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.”  William Ernest Henley, Invictus

Moon_944x708

astronomy today, formation of the moon

The Winter Solstice. Today and tonight. 23.4 degrees of tilt. Explanation for the tilt is not settled science though at least part of the answer seems to lie in the accretion of matter and the occasional outright collisions that occurred during our planets formation early in the history of the solar system. Another interesting theory, perhaps part of the answer too, is that any large imbalance, say a supervolcano with a huge mass, could have caused the earth to tilt so that mass ended up near the equator.

Whatever the exact reason, the current tilt, which remains constant as the earth revolves around the sun, creates our seasons. As the earth orbits, the tilt causes a reduction and increase of the energy of the sun’s light by either concentrating it during the summer solstice (leaning toward the sun) or by spreading the light over a wider area (leaning away from the sun) during the winter solstice. Today at 9:28 MST the northern hemisphere will be at its maximum tilt away from the sun while, of course, the southern hemisphere is thrust toward the sun and celebrating its summer solstice.

All of this is a continuing evolution caused by forces set in motion by the big bang over 13 billion years ago. The fact that I’m sitting at 8,800 feet on a chunk of rock thrust up by the Laramide orogeny, watching snow drift down as the air up here cools toward below zero temperatures, waiting for the longest night of the year, 14 hours and 39 minutes here in Conifer, showcases the violent origins and their ongoing impacts on earth and her sister planets. When we settle into the chair tonight, or hike outside with a headlamp, or listen to some quiet jazz or Holst’s The Planets, the darkness enveloping us is an in the moment result.

As the earth leans away from the sun, we can lean into the darkness, the long night when the woods are lovely, dark and deep. As we do, we have the opportunity to sink into the fecund darkness within us, a soul link with the darkness all around us and our tiny solar system. In it we can recall sleeping animals in their dens, beneath chilled lake waters, in their lodges made of sticks and branches. In the darkness we can rest a moment beneath the surface of the snow and cold covered soil where roots and microbes work feverishly transmitting nutrients and available water into plants slowed, but not killed by the seasonal temperatures.

anchor deepIn the darkness we can attend to the dark things within us, the places in our souls where our own origins and their ongoing impacts create a climate for our growth, down below the conscious considerations of our day-to-day lives. We can embrace this darkness, not as a thing to fear, but as a part of life, a necessary and fruitful part of life.

I’ll sit in my chair this evening as the night unfolds (I love that imagery.) and consider death, my death, my return to the woods, lovely dark and deep. And, I’ll hug close to my heart the life I’ve been given and this opportunity, granted by the stars, to meditate on it.

 

 

Saws and Paws

Samain                                                                    Bare Aspen Moon

20151013_112839Down the hill to Aurora yesterday afternoon. Newly spruced up (ha) chainsaw, limbing ax, pole saw, loppers, Swede saw, fuel for the chainsaw and bar and chain oil were on a tarp in the Rav4. Cleared out some overgrown shrubbery, cut down three scrubby trees and trimmed up small trees grown into the chain link fence on the south side of Jon’s new place. Also removed some dead wood. Had to leave a couple of dead trees. I didn’t know how to take them down without taking out the neighbor’s wooden fence at the same time.

Rigel went with me, sitting in the backseat, sometimes her head between the front seats, looking, looking, always looking. She spent most of the time I was there with Ruth, who was reading on the bed in her room. Gabe came out and helped me move a dead tree limb. He also offered advice on cutting limbs off a tree in the corner of the property. “Use the chainsaw, grandpa.” “Using a chainsaw overhead is dangerous, Gabe. I might cut my head off.” “Oh.”

Jon had lumber out, building a table in his backyard. He ran boards through a planer, nailed pieces together. Measured twice. Cut once with his power saw. In his kitchen there are no appliances. He and his friend Max deconstructed the kitchen a month or so ago and moved the appliances into the living room. Jon is at the point of installing douglas fir strips from a former museum as a new kitchen floor. In Ruth’s room he’s building a loft bed, in Gabe’s a desk. He loves making things and he’s good at it.

20170928_172531At 5 pm Jen came and picked up Ruth and Gabe for their week with her. “Bet it’s lonely when they leave, Jon.” “Actually it’s sort of a relief.” Single parenting is hard. I remember that feeling of relief when Joseph returned to Raeone’s, though my joy at his return was much greater.

Rigel and I drove back as the clouds turned red, then pinkish-orange, gray, then disappeared in the darkness of night. The lights of the Denver metro twinkled from the vantage point of Highway 285. The large lit cross positioned on the side of a mountain where the foothills begin shone out at us, a familiar landmark now. The humorists at the Colorado D.O.T. are at work again. The led sign just before 285 begins to climb read its usual: Watch for rocks and wildlife. But, it then blinked, changing the wording to: “Be aware. Falling rocks have the right-of-way.” Mountain humor.

 

 

The Spinning of the Wheel

Samain                                                                    Bare Aspen Moon

Tony's

Tony’s

The capon is in the house, 7.8 pounds of frozen, atesticular rooster glory. Kate and I went to Tony’s Market yesterday, Gertie and Rigel in the back. Tony’s is the sort of grocery store where the pounds fly off the shelves and around your waist even before you check out. It’s a gourmet shop, full of Devon custard in a can, various pickled vegetables, cases filled with ahi quality tuna, plump white scallops, seasoning rubbed filet mignon, frozen bearnaise, hollandaise, au poivre sauces made in house, expensive salami, and puff pastries created with only filo dough and powdered sugar. One of those ten minute super market sweeps from the 1960’s would yield a cart full of scrumptious and clock in well north of a thousand dollars. A good place for holiday shopping.

sephirothshiningonesI spent time before the trip to Tony’s working on my kabbalah presentation for December 6th.  This will take some doing since kabbalah is a quintessentially Jewish discipline and I want to focus, somehow, on the Great Wheel. According to the Tree of Life, the sephiroth (spheres) arranged as in this illustration reveal a path by which the sacred becomes actual and the actual becomes sacred. The bottom sephirot malkuth is the world which we experience daily, the place where all the power in this universe (there are many others), funnels out of the spiritual and into the ontological. It is also the realm of the shekinah, the feminine aspect of god. In kabbalistic terms malkuth is the place where the limits of things allow the pulsing, living energy of the other spheres to wink into existence.

great wheel3In one sense then the Great Wheel, focused as it is on this earth, can only be of malkuth, that is, of the sphere of the actual, the bottom circle below the hand of the kabbalist in the illustration. In another sense, since all sephiroth contain all others, what is of malkuth must also be of the others, the spiritual dna of the whole universe. So, if we take the Great Wheel as a metaphor for the creating, harvesting and ending of life, a cycle without end, then the Great Wheel is, too, a Tree of Life. That is, the inanimate becomes animate, the animate lives, then dies, returning its inanimate particulars to the universe which, through the power of ongoing creation, rearranges them in living form so the cycle can go on.

The Great Wheel has a half circle for the growing season and a half circle for the fallow season. It can be seen as half day and half night. It can also be seen as the cycle of the virgin goddess who, impregnated by the god, gives birth to the growing season as the Great Mother and then, during and after the harvest becomes the crone. The life cycle of each of us.

Not sure yet how I’m going to articulate this for the class. Still in the gestation period.

 

Language of the Dumb

Samain                                                                      Joe and SeoAh Moon

moon-to-the-moonWhen Kate and I came home from the Gary Hart presentation on Sunday night, the moon, nearly full, rode low on the horizon, huge and white, half covered by scudding clouds. It then played with us like a bubble dancer, grabbing this cumulus and that one to cover itself, showing more then less of the old man on its face. After the horizon was no longer visible the moon shone through the lodgepole pines of the Arapaho National Forest, illuminating this home to wild critters as we climbed the mountains on our way to Black Mountain Drive.

The everyday and everynight beauty of these mountains still makes my heart sing, now almost three full years into this move. Yesterday coming up Shadow Mountain Drive, it came to me that I was learning the rhythms here, driving with more confidence because it was daytime and the deer, the elk normally show up at dawn and dusk. At that exact moment, as this thought came to me, a movement on the shoulder caught my eye. A fox. A healthy red-orange fox with a huge bushy tail had started out to cross the road, noticed me coming and paused. The mountains had spoken.

1509361960968The language, the speech of the inanimate and the dumb, is all around us, sending us clear messages. Dogs are an obvious example. The longer you live with dogs, especially multiple dogs, the more their language becomes clear. The lean, the movement toward a door, the excited dance, the playful bow, the bark of warning, the one of joy. Friend Bill Schmidt, a farmer as well a nuclear engineer and cyber mage, has told me of dairy cattle and their affections.

As a gardener, the soil communicated with me through the health or dis-ease of the plants Kate and I grew. If the leaves were less than a deep green, I suspected missing soil nutrients and worked to correct them. The plants themselves told me when they were too dry with droopy leaves, when they needed pruning with too many branches or stalks, when they were ready to yield their work for the season.

On a more mystical level three mule deer visited me on the Samain afternoon when I first came to this house. We stood, eye to eye, for several minutes as they told me they lived here, were my neighbors, that we would be together after that moment, that we were welcome. They came not for feed or attention, but as emissaries, messengers, angels of the mountain and the forest.

The sky tells us what weather comes, then delivers it to us, helping us gauge the nature of our changing climate. In this same way people we meet communicate to us through body language, a hunched shoulder, a slight turn away, eyes that light on some aspect of a room. All around us language, everywhere communication. If only we see.

Metaphor? Of course.

Fall                                                                               Harvest Moon

kabbalah8The tree of life, the tree of immortality guarded by the angel with the flaming sword; the tree itself still growing in paradise, concealed by language, by our senses, by the everydayness of our lives; the path back to the garden often forgotten, the exile from paradise a separation so profound that we no longer know the location of the trail head and even harder, we no longer have a desire to search for it.

Metaphor? Of course. But in these three words lie a trap for the unwary, a trap in which I allowed myself to get caught and held, a mindhold trap. My life seems like a sine wave of grasping, then losing the significance of metaphors.

When young, I felt the mystery behind the communion wafers and the grape juice at Alexandria First Methodist. At the tenebrae service, when we extinguished the little candles with their paper drip guards and the sanctuary went dark, I thrilled to the change from ordinary experience, sensed the power rolling over us as the memory of crucifixion and death came hurtling through the centuries to land in our small Indiana town, in the very spot where I sat.

The sunrise services held on Easter morning lit up my whole inside. The power of the tenebrae had been defeated and life did go on forever, death only a mistake, an illusion, misunderstood as a cruelty when in fact it was a gateway. I suppose on those days, repeated over many years, I had a glimpse of the path back to the garden.

My mother’s death, I think, shattered this instinctive faith. Those feelings occasioned by grape juice soaked squares of bread, darkness and the rising of the sun, were a true path and one I lost when the brutal reality of grief smeared the way.

But the memory of that way remained. So I moved up from the instinctive triad of netzach-hod-yesod, forced by fear and loss to skip the next triad chesed-gevurah-tiferet and go to the one easiest for me to access, hochmah-binah-daat. I know these hebrew words may mean nothing at all to you, I’m still at the base of a steep learning curve with them myself, but they do appear on the illustration above so you can see where they are on the tree of life.

In simple, but not simplistic terms, the triads are netzach-hod-yesod, the realm of instinctual behavior, chesed-gevurah-tiferet, the realm of emotions and hochmah-binah-daat, the realm of the intellect. Movement in the tree of life goes from the keter to malchut and back from malchut up to keter, so there is no real top or bottom, only different spots in an ongoing process of creation.

kabbalahBut here’s the trap. Metaphor, of course! I studied philosophy, religion, anthropology in college. Then, after a few years stuck in unenlightened instinctual behavior-the storied sex, drugs and rock and roll of the sixties and seventies-I moved to seminary. The trap tightened. I learned about the church, scripture old and new, ethics, church history. It was exhilarating, all this knowledge. I soaked it up. I remained though stuck in the intellectual triad, pushing back and forth between the polarity of intuitive wisdom, hochmah, and analytical thought, binah, often not going on to daat, or understanding. I learned, but did not integrate into my soul.

There was a time, after seminary, after ordination, as I groped my way around in the work of ministry, that I found the path again. It was in mystical traditions like the Jesus Prayer, or the use of lectio divina, contemplative prayer. I had spiritual directors who guided my prayer life and I meditated often, daily for years, went on private retreats for days at a time. In those years I found my way back to the netzach-hod-yesod triad, traveling again on the instinctual path formed so long ago.

The trap sprung another time, though, as I got better at my ministry, more able to apply organizational development paradigms to congregational life, more able to pull the levers of political power for the good of various purposes: affordable housing, unemployment policy, economic development for poor neighborhoods, fighting off corporate takeovers of those same poor neighborhoods, more able to navigate the internal politics of Presbytery life. I became stuck in malchut, the material world which we experience everyday. So stuck that eventually I could see nothing else and the path disappeared again.

interior_dante_divinecomedy_inf_01_002My heart knew I had gotten lost, in exile once again. In Dante’s words in Canto 1 of the Divine Comedy:

In the middle of the journey of our life, I came to myself, in a dark wood, where the direct way was lost.

It is a hard thing to speak of, how wild, harsh and impenetrable that wood was, so that thinking of it recreates the fear. It is scarcely less bitter than death…

I cannot rightly say how I entered it. I was so full of sleep, at that point where I abandoned the true way.”

This time I knew I had to extricate myself from the subtle trap, get out of the thought world that had me lost in the dark wood, the direct way lost. It was a wild, harsh, seemingly impenetrable forest.

It was clear that for me the Christian faith had gotten muddled up with ambition, immersion in the world of power. And, most problematic of all, it had become part of the metaphor trap. The metaphor had gone stale, had become a barrier instead of a koan. Not the fault of the faith itself, but of my journey within it.

IMAG0650croppedAt the time of its crumbling another path had begun to open for me. Fiction writing emerged when, ironically, I began writing my Doctor of Ministry thesis. Instead of working on it I ended up with 30,000 plus words of what would become my first novel, Even The Gods Must Die. Irony in the title, too, I suppose.

In the train of that shift came a decision to look into my Celtic heritage as a source for my fiction. While researching Celtic religion for the fantasy novels I wanted to write, I discovered the Great Wheel.

It grounded me. So to speak. My spiritual life became tactile, bound up in soil amendments, bulbs, corms, seeds, spades and hoes, fruit trees, raspberries and bees. And, of course, dogs. Always dogs.

Meeting Kate enabled me to move gracefully out of the ministry and into a pagan worldview. I was back in the netzach-hod-yesod triad, but now firmly attached to malchut, the queendom of this world.

Writing fiction found me exploring the chesed-gevurah-tiferet triad, having to reach into my heart for believable characters, story lines. Over the course of those years, the years since leaving the Christian ministry and now, I began to gradually integrate the triads, at least the three: intellectual, emotional and instinctual. The combination of family life, the Andover years, writing, and working as a docent at the MIA began to slowly weave them into my soul.

2010 01 19_3454Even so, I sat behind the barrier, the flaming sword, the metaphor trap. Beth Evergreen and Rabbi Jamie Arnold have started me on a journey back to where I began, immersed in the dark. Seeking for the light, yes, but happy now in the  darkness, too. The Winter Solstice long ago became my favorite holiday of the year.

When I left Christianity and took up my earth-bound spirit, I shut off access to the fourth triad, the one subsumed under keter: faith-joy/pleasure-will, and its source of energy, the ein sof, the infinite One, perhaps god in small letters. Today, as I write this, I’m more pagan than I’ve ever been, more embracing of the body, the mountains, the stars, the elk and the mountain lion, than any words from any source.

2011 03 06_3396But. At Beth Evergreen I have begun to feel my way back into the fourth triad, the mystery I first encountered on the hard wooden pews in Alexandria, the one pulsing behind the metaphors of tenebrae, of crucifixion, of resurrection,  and now of Torah, of language, of a “religious” life. I knew it once, in the depth of my naive young boy’s soul. Now, I may find it again, rooted in the old man he’s become.

populus tremuloides

Fall                                                                     Harvest Moon

Aspen in our yard

Aspen in our yard

Lower down, toward Evergreen, many of the aspen have retained their gold leaves, but up here many of the leaves formerly known as gold have turned brown and black, then begun to fall off. When the aspen leaves fall, their gray-white bark still makes them stand out against the green of the lodgepole pine, but the effect is stark, skeletal.

Aspen’s are interesting. If you’ve ever had one in your yard, their most distinctive characteristic can be quite a pain. They reproduce from roots, sending up new trunks at different spots. This means that in aspen groves the trees are genetically identical, or, said another way, they’re all the same tree spread out over a considerable distance.

This has prompted a curious competition between my adopted home state of Colorado and our immediate neighbor to the west, Utah. Which one has the world’s largest living organism? Aspen groves can be quite large, large enough to qualify by mass as the world’s largest living organisms. For example, from this article: “…the Pando grove in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest contains around 47,000 trunks, which collectively weigh more than 13 million pounds.” That’s pretty damned big.

20170923_065501When I post a picture like this one, in other words, you think you’re looking at many aspen trees on the side of Black Mountain. In fact you’re looking at only a few distinct trees with many, many trunks.

I’m going to investigate this a bit further because it has just occurred to me that this doesn’t, at first glance, seem to be a wise evolutionary strategy. Each trunk of the aspen grove requires nutrients from the soil which means to me that each trunk of this widely dispersed single tree has to compete with the other for a limited amount of nutrients. Over time it would seem they would deplete the soil of the nutrients they need. Curious.

The aspen grove did a lot of heavy lifting at Beth Evergreen over the High Holy Days. The comparison of a synagogue to an aspen grove meant we were all connected to each other, our communal life linked in an intimate way. A somewhat strained idea in my opinion, but you see the point.

aspensThe aspen grove is a wonderful example of the confusion our senses can bring to us. When we look at the grove, we see individual trees. But, no. There is an occult connection, hidden below the earth’s surface, that binds them together and makes them one. It’s not hard, when contemplating the aspen grove, to return to the angel with the flaming sword guarding the gates of Eden. As I suggested a few posts below, that angel can be seen as language, which both conceals and reveals; it reveals itself as language, but conceals the pathway to the Tree of Life. Behind the angel lies paradise.

In a similar way our senses give us individual trees in an aspen grove, but that perception conceals the aspen’s true nature as one organism. Each time you see an aspen grove, you experience in miniature the true experience our senses give us: Where there is an underlying unity, we see discrete things. The aspen grove can help remind us that our senses lie, if not by commission, then certainly by omission.

 

 

Mowing the Fines

Fall                                                                 Harvest Moon

January, 2017

January, 2017

As the post below shows, we’re setup to get our first winter storm. We’ve had some snow, though it came and went in Colorado fashion, fast. This one will likely change things here by chilling the ground and preparing the way for snow that actually hangs around a bit. It’s early October, so that’s a bit of a surprise. Looking forward to it, in the way only retired folk can. No commute down the hill, slipping and sliding as everybody tries to remember how to do this. It is way too early to put on the snow tires, isn’t it?

Yesterday was beautiful and today is predicted to be the same. Highs in the 60’s. Mowed the fuel yesterday. Four times this year, I think. We don’t really have a lawn, just lodgepole pines, a few aspen, some rock and bunch grass, though the leach field has a nice plot of green. All those nutrients we send out each day. Reason to mow is to keep what the wildfire folk call “fines”, as in fine fuel, not trees or shrubs, from growing too high. When the fines dry out, they can spread a fire quickly and if there are low hanging branches (below 10 feet) fire can spread from fines to trees. This is known as ladder fuel. The grass burns, a branch catches, then the tree, then its neighbor. After that. Forest fire.

Mitigation, 2015

Mitigation, 2015

Wildfire mitigation has been a primary concern for me since we got here, but after reading Megafire, by Michael Kodas, I have a different perspective. Most of the wildfire mitigation strategies are for ecosystems lower than ours where the ponderosa pines predominate. They tend to have the lower branches, though they are also much more fire resistant than lodgepoles. Much thicker bark and generally bigger, more widely spaced trees. Kodas points out that lodgepole/aspen forests,  dominant in the higher elevations of montane ecosystem between 6,500 and 9,500 feet (we’re at 8,800.), tend to have forest clearing fires every 100 to 300 years.

That means we have less frequent fire risk than the lower elevations, but, when the fire comes it will likely be a crown fire, jumping from treetop to treetop in the closely spaced groves of lodgepole pine. No fire mitigation will protect against a crown fire. When I had the deputy chief of the Elk Creek Fire Department out here to talk about fire mitigation, he said when it comes, a fire will sweep up from the valley through which we drive to get to Evergreen. “Nothing will stand in the way of it,” he said.

crown fireIn a localized fire, mitigation can help a lot. Our house is now pretty well protected with the ignition zone, about 30 feet out from the house, cleared of trees and the trees just at that zone and somewhat further out have had their branches cut to above 10 feet. We have fire-rated shingles and I mow the fines. I’ve not had the gutters cleaned, which is a potential problem, but we’ll get to that next spring. With a flat, short driveway, access from a well tended county road and mitigation our house stands a very good chance of survival. In a crown fire though, no combination of mitigation strategies will keep it standing.

All this means we’ve done what we can. There’s not been a burn here for over a century so our risk, though not high, does exist. We have a lower risk of fire at any one point in time than our lower neighbors. But, when it comes, better be out of here.

So, the key for us now is to have a good disaster plan, a way to make sure we get out what we want and need if we have to evacuate. On Oct. 15th a member of Beth Evergreen is doing a presentation on just that. We’re somewhat of the way there, but we could use some sharpening up.

Gasthaus

Fall                                                                                     Harvest Moon

Bull and doe, Evergreen Lake, 2015

Bull and doe, Evergreen Lake, 2015

Coming out of Beth Evergreen last night the full harvest moon hung over the town, silver and wonderful. It limned the mountains, highlighted the blue in the spruce tips on the drive back up Shadow Mountain. Earlier in the evening we saw several mule deer on the way down the mountain, does and bucks, then five or six of the much larger elk wandering around, ironically, right below a flashing Elk Crossing sign.

The Arapaho National Forest wraps around Black Mountain Drive/Brook Forest Drive so as we make our way up and down the mountains into Evergreen we’re surrounded not by residential development, though there is some, but mostly by forest, lodgepole pines, aspen higher up, Colorado blue spruce and ponderosa pine lower down that come right up to the road, as does the slope of the various mountains we pass.

Black Mountain, 2017

Black Mountain, 2017

At night this drive activates my fantasy life. I imagine the mountain lions and bears, the mule deer and the elk, the skunks, pine martens, pikas, Abert and red squirrels, an occasional bull snake all living there, either in hiding or bedded down or up and stealthily pursuing their next meal. Though the portion of the Arapaho National Forest where we are is not wilderness, it does abut the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area and Staunton State Park. Once in awhile moose come through our area, too, though they’re mostly toward the west, in Staunton and toward Bailey. This is the WUI, pronounced wooee, the wildlife/urban interface.

You could say we don’t belong here, we humans, that this mountainous land belongs to the mountain lion and the bear, the magpies and the Great Horned Owls. And you would be right, of course. Yet the truth is we humans do not have a place uniquely ours. We’re an adaptable species, able to live on islands, on the coasts of great oceans, lakes and rivers, on deserts and vast fertile plains. We’ve spread from Africa, where we roamed the veldt, hunting and gathering over vast stretches of land, to colder climates in the north and to all the continents of the planet.

Black Mountain, September, 2017

Black Mountain, September, 2017

I say we do belong here, but only as guests, as itinerant cousins of the wild animals, the sturdy pines. But, then, we are guests, too, on the Great Plains stretching north and south in the center of North America. Guests, too, on Iceland, Greenland, Britain. Guests as well in the Himalayas, in the jungles of the Congo and on the Sahara. Guests in the high Andes and on the distant lands of Tierra del Fuego.

As guests we have to realize we share our living space with species not as adaptable as we are. As guests we owe it to our neighbors to make our presence as unintrusive as possible, as honoring as possible. One manifestation of this honor is driving with care, going more slowly than perhaps we might want because our neighbors could need to cross the road. Another part of it is to see that the land we own (ha. that we temporarily inhabit) is as friendly to the locals as it can be. That we don’t poison the land, that we don’t build more than we need.

I tend to think of it as living in a vast apartment building. Our noise level, our lights, our motors, our driveways all impact the folks living in the next place. So we need to be considerate. When we leave our apartment, when our time as guests of Shadow Mountain and the Arapaho Forest is over, the neighbors remain. They own the condos and they can’t move. Leaving the place better than we found it is the least we can do.

Awe

Lughnasa                                                                        Eclipse Moon

20170821_113508Totality in Tetonia, Idaho

20170814_172230

Mountain Spirit at home

20170826_105648

Bristlecone pine cones, Mt. Pennsylvania, outside Fairplay, Colorado

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