We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

You are the only you. Ever.

Lughnasa                                                                      Harvest Moon

authentic do who you areAuthenticity. The honest and fearless expression of the life within. A life lived without guile and pretense, one focused on the difficult challenge of finding out who we really are, then living from that knowledge. This is the examined life that is worth living. It counters cultural expectations, pushes aside parental and family pressure, demands knowing yourself.

Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.) Walt Whitman

Authenticity does not expect or insist on logical coherence as proof of a valid self. “Consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.” Emerson. Instead it insists on not hiding, not cutting and fitting conclusions, actions, to another’s template. It insists on the dangerous act of knowing and speaking truth from within the universe inside you.

multiverse2Last night as I was going to sleep an odd conflation occurred to me. The multiverse is a standard hypothesis of string theory. It is not fantasy, it is also not proven. What we do know is that we live our lives inside our own skin, a barrier between ourselves and the rest of the world. The deep web of our own thoughts, experiences, physiological tics, the vast bulk of our life experience hides within us and dies when we do.

multiverse quiltedHere’s the conflation. What if each of us, in our truest and fullest sense, is the pressed into this particular universe unique representative of another multiverse? Our unrepeatable uniqueness really a reaching out, a cosmic attempt to connect all those sundered, also totally unique realms. In this admittedly wild and unlikely situation, our genetic code could write us into existence with the hand of another reality tweaking the GATCs.

Earth then would be a place where the unimaginable complexity of the big bang expansion attempts some sort of reconciliation, a synergy based on the interaction of otherwise disconnected, isolated realities. And, Earth would probably not be alone in this.

OK. This is weird, I admit. But it seemed like an interesting notion.

Waning Summer Moon and Orion

September 14, 2017

September 14, 2017

Lughnasa                                        Waning Summer Moon

Quite a combination greeted me in the southeastern sky this morning as I made my way to the loft. The Waning Summer Moon’s waning quarter stood just above a faint, but still clear Orion. My first sighting of him since April. I don’t look for him once I stop seeing him since I imagine he’s in the daytime sky, but apparently he’s visible at some time in all months except May through July, just not when I’m awake and outside.

The two of them together, the Waning Summer Moon and the constellation that is my winter companion appearing the day after Labor Day sends a strong autumnal signal in my world. Flecks of gold will start to appear in the aspen groves on Black Mountain.

The meadow at the base of Shadow Mountain Drive had hay bales in it a couple of days ago, all gone now. The sight brought back memories of alfalfa and timothy fields in Minnesota and Indiana, the smell of haylofts, hay rides. Apple picking.

September 17, 2013

In Andover this was the month of garlic planting, of soil amending in the perennial flower beds and the planting of bulbs, corms, rhizomes. Tulips, daffodils, iris, hyacinth, crocus, anemone. I would turn on Folk Alley radio, get out the kneeler and the Japanese garden knife. Sometimes the Andover High School marching band would be rehearsing a couple of miles away but still audible. Blue skies, the sun’s angle noticeably lower. The golden raspberries were ripe, too, and the dogs, especially Vega, would pick them off the canes that poked through the fence around our vegetable garden.

Later in the month will come Mabon, the second of the harvest festivals and the fall equinox. After that is Michaelmas, September 29th, the feast day of the Archangel Michael which Rudolf Steiner refers to as the springtime of the soul. I can feel the change, the buildup that begins with the victory of light on the Summer Solstice, the gradual lengthening of the night which will culminate in the Winter Solstice, my high holyday.

Time to get back to work.

Alan, demyelination, days with no nausea

Lughnasa                                                            Waning Summer Moon

Alan

Alan

Alan came over for work on the religious school lesson plans. Kate made her oven pancakes (always delicious) and Alan told us stories about early Jewish Denver. West Colfax (think Lake Street) between Federal and Sheridan was an orthodox Jewish community when he grew up. He said on Friday afternoons with folks scurrying from the deli to the bakery to the kosher butcher it looked like, well I can’t recall exactly, but any typical European Jewish community.

His dad was going to be a University professor before the Holocaust. Instead he came here and ended up in the dry cleaning business. In those day Alan’s friends and neighbors were either children of Holocaust survivors or survivors themselves. That old neighborhood, like north Minneapolis, has completely changed. The first synagogue in Denver is now an art museum on the Auraria campus of the University of Colorado. The Jewish community concentrated itself in south Denver, more to the east.

We worked for a couple of hours, putting specific lesson plans on the calendar, deciding which days to do the Moving Traditions curriculum, which days for middah, which days for Jewish holidays, which days for our own lesson plans. I’m experiencing some anxiety about this since we start next Wednesday with the first family session of the Moving Traditions curriculum. This approach to the student preparing for their Bar or Bat Mitzvah will, apparently, be controversial because it doesn’t focus on the ritual of the morning service, but on the students’ social, emotional, and developmental needs. Alan, Jamie, and Tara will deal with that. Not me.

20180408_182236Kate’s had several days in a row with no nausea. Yeah! That means she feels better and can get some things done. In doing so, however, the extent of her loss of stamina, weight loss and Sjogren’s Syndrome, has become apparent. She still needs to rest frequently. If she can modulate the nausea, either through careful eating or an eventual diagnosis or using medical marijuana, the next step is to get some weight gain, some stamina improvement. If possible. Or, we may have to adjust to a new normal.

I’ve been absorbed in lesson planning, training for the school year, climbing my steep learning curve about matters Jewish and matters middle school. That’s my way. Dive into something new, leave most other things behind until I’ve gotten where I feel like I need to be. Not there yet, though I imagine after a few class sessions, I will be. Sort of a head down, blinkers on time. My writing has dwindled and so have submissions.

Over the last couple of weeks, while I work out, I’ve been watching a Teaching Company course on the aging brain. I recommend it. Highly. It’s helped me understand why this approach, head down blinkers on, is developmentally appropriate for me. For example, the aging brain, on average, loses some processing speed, executive functions, and crispness of episodic memory (memory tied to a person or place and seen from a first person perspective.) over each decade, beginning in the twenties.

Myelin Sheath – a layer of fatty cells covering the axon, helps speed neural impulses.

Myelin Sheath – a layer of fatty cells covering the axon, helps speed neural impulses.

The underlying issue seems to be gradual demyelination of the axons which constitute the white matter in our brain. With myelin sheathing over their length axons can carry information very fast, without it somewhere around 2 meters per second, or human walking speed. As our processing speed declines, so do brain functions like the executive management of brain activity by the prefrontal cortex. It’s this one, the decline in executive function, that requires the head down, blinkers on approach to new activity or to tasks we need to complete. As we age, we no longer handle distractions as well, getting pulled away from this to focus on the shiny that.

I like knowing this because it helps me understand my daily third phase life better. The thinking process itself is not impaired, just the speed and our ability to stay with a task. It helped explain a very uncomfortable moment for me at the Genesee Ropes Course on Sunday. Jamie and I were with the 6th and 7th graders. Adrienne, a ropes course employee had just explained the rules of a warmup game. One of the rules was that we had we could not throw a soft toy to someone who’d already gotten one on that round.

geneseeI got the stuffed unicorn on the third or fourth toss. When I tossed it to Alex, Adrienne asked, “Did he break a rule?” All the kids and Jamie nodded. Yes, he had. Why? Alex had already gotten the unicorn. Oh, shit. This was the first interaction between me and these kids as a group and I looked like a doofus. I didn’t remember the rule at all. There were plenty of things to distract me. The continental divide in the distance. A wind blowing through the trees. Trying to concentrate on learning kid’s names. General anxiety about not knowing the kids at all. Whatever it was, my executive function let me go, Oh, fish on bicycle, instead of hearing, no throwing to someone who’s already received it.

It still looks the same to the outsider. I missed the rule, and as a result, screwed up in its execution. But now I understand that this is not a sign of dementia or other deep seating problem, but rather a normal, though irritating, side effect of demyelination.

 

 

Ancora imparo

Lughnasa                                                                      Waning Summer Moon

January moon at Beth Evergreen

January moon at Beth Evergreen

The full Waning Summer Moon hung just above Black Mountain yesterday, so I watched as it disappeared behind the peak. It surprised me how fast it sank. I watched only for 2, maybe 3 minutes, then it was gone. At its last it was a bright line among the Lodgepole pines marking the rocky contours where it had been. This morning it’s well above the peak, looking much like the earth in the earthrise photographs from the Apollo missions.

The moon and the sun remind us, as do the stars, that we are not only alone on this rock, but alone for millions and millions of miles. At least. That simple fact could bring us together as a species, but it doesn’t. And, frankly, I don’t understand why, since it means that this little spinning piece of debris from the formation of the solar system is our home and any other possible home is way too far away to move to in any numbers. If at all.

curiosity9When we were at the Beth Evergreen teachers’ workshop last week, Tara asked us what we thought we brought to the classroom. “I bring a spirit of inquiry, of curiosity,” I said, then surprised myself by voicing an insight I didn’t realize I’d had, “I’ve always lived the questions, not the answers.” True that.

Sometimes, not often, I wish I could lean into answers, just accept a few, take them as settled law, stare decisis for the soul. But, no. Conclusions in my world are tentative, preliminary, awaiting new information. I think this is what the long ago psychiatrist meant when he said I had a philosophical neurosis. If so, so be it. As a result, I’ve been unendingly curious, never lacking something new to consider, never taking yes for an answer. Or, no.

I’ve modulated my approach so it’s not as acidic, not as relentless since I now realize that most people don’t share my intense, but actually (in my mind) playful attitude toward truth. Playful, I should note, in this age of “fake presidents,” but not stupid.

Ancora imparo.

 

Gifts. All day long.

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

Rigel and Kepler

Rigel and Kepler

What gifts did I get yesterday? The first question before I go to sleep. Woke up, emerged from unconsciousness to consciousness. Breathed the whole night long. Kate was next to me, sleeping, my partner. Kepler was, as always, happy to see me wake up. He rolls over so I can scratch his stomach, his tail goes up into happy mode. As the morning service says, the orifices that needed to open, opened, and closed when appropriate. There was water at the tap, always a gift in this arid climate. The meds that my doc has prescribed to help me extend my health span got washed down with some.

Gertie and Rigel were happy to see me, coming up for a nuzzle and a lean. The air was cool and the stars still out. Shadow Mountain stayed stable underneath me. The carrier brought the Denver Post and we read the collective work of its reporters, recorded by the printers on newsprint made most likely in Canada.

the loft

the loft

When I went up to the loft, I got on this computer, using electricity supplied by the Inter Mountain Rural Electric Association. As the sun came up, our own solar panels began translating its energy that traveled 93 million miles, generated by the powerful nuclear fusion of our star. My mind is still sharp enough to put words together, thoughts. My hands still nimble enough to pound the keyboard.

All these gifts and we’re only at about 6 am. The list goes on throughout the day. Kate at the table when I go down for breakfast. The workout created by my personal trainer. Time to nap. A mussar class focused on tzedakah and zaka, how can we purify our soul by gifting resources to others. A car that runs on gas brought here by oil tanker, trucks, a gift from the plant and animal life of long ago, crushed into liquid form by the power of geological processes. Back to Beth Evergreen for the second time for the annual meeting.

There the gifts of people, relationships built and nurtured over the last few years, granting both of us the opportunity to be seen, known, and the chance to offer who we are and what we have. Finally, the cycle ends with a return to sleep, to unconsciousness. Hard to avoid gratitude after doing this sort of exercise each night.

Becoming Emo

Lughnasa                                                            Waning Summer Moon

20171202_1925591514204365009Got up with Kate at 2:45 am, went upstairs in the dark (to preserve night vision) and out on the deck attached to the house. We watched the NNE sky for about a half an hour and on the peak night of this much ballyhooed annual running of the Perseids saw 3 meteors. 3. It was a clear, beautiful night and stars dotted the sky. The Milky Way swept across its dome carrying souls of many cultures to the world beyond this one. And we were out there together. Glad the Perseids got us up. Might try again tonight.

My shift to emo continues. Still strange, but becoming more, what, usual? Ruth, Jon, and Gabe came up around 8 pm last night to drop off Gabe for the week. The start of his school year is out of synch with Jen and Jon’s. They’re back at work, but he has another week to go before school starts. Ruth’s school, though in the same Denver school district as Gabe’s, started last week. McAuliffe middle school marches to its own drummer, just like Ruth.

20171217_171626Ruth had a lot to say about school. She’s excited, loves school. And I love her. Her presence warms up my day, makes me very happy to be a grandad, to have a role in her life. She’s in honors math, mindfulness and meditation, Chinese, art, life sciences and will run cross country this year. I couldn’t be more excited about her life if she was my own child.

20171224_091544Jon’s still working out the sequelae from the divorce. He spent, he said, the last couple of years trying to manage the stress. He’s gotten out of shape, hasn’t handled his diabetes as well as he normally does. His house is a work in process and will be, I suspect, for a couple of years, maybe more. Adapting to being a single parent, in a divorce situation where he can only communicate with Jen, his ex, by email is difficult, too. No wonder the U of happiness troughs out in the 40’s and 50’s. Better times ahead.

Gabe’s on a new drug for his hemophilia now. It only requires a weekly subcutaneous injection and keeps his factor level steady with no canyons and peaks. This is brand new medication. He’s only on it because he can no longer have a port. He’s working on a fifth grade project, at his initiation, on racism. Fifth grade culminates in a project and his has a focus on race from the perspective of African-Americans. I’m going to help him with some research.

20171228_190150

This is love. Family is an exercise in life cycles, with various family members beginning or ending cycles that others have been through. The interactions between and among the cycles makes family life dynamic and a reservoir of  wisdom and hope. Struggles and joys, achievements and failures, emerge and subside. During each one we are there for each other. As it has been across human culture for thousands of years.

 

 

 

 

Meteors, Around the World Solo, 430,000 mph!

Lughnasa                                                                   Monsoon Moon

While the Golden Globe sailors round Africa, (see below), the night sky for the next three nights will give each sailor a spectacular show, the Perseid meteor showers. The moonless sky will be optimal for viewing this annual event.

perseid-meteors-2018-radiant--e1533672930772
Meteors in the annual Perseid shower radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. Chart via Guy Ottewell.

So grab a lawn chair with a view of the NNE sky, maybe some hot cocoa and watch.

Golden Globe Race. 1968 was the first sailing of this world solo navigation competition. It featured nine competitors, only one of whom finished the punishing task. A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols recounts the race and participants who ranged from a man who decided to learn to sail during the race and a man who’d already logged 20,000 solo miles in a yacht. It was not run again. Until this year, its fiftieth anniversary.

golden globe2

Golden Globe 2018. This Golden Globe has already clocked 41 days, 2 hours and 40 minutes. Of the eighteen entrants, twice the 1968 number, three have already quit. Jean-Luc Van Heede’s pace, he’s the current leader, has an estimated finish date of January 30th, 2019. The sailor in last pace, Abhilash Tomy, will finish on May 29th at his current pace. The lead boats are nearing the horn of Africa.

parker solar probeFriend Bill Schmidt alerted me to the launch of the Parker Solar Probe, scrubbed yesterday, now scheduled for tomorrow. “Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.” At its top speed this probe will reach 430,000 miles per hour!

 

A Family of Introverts

Summer                                                                              Woolly Mammoth Moon

20170423_091304 (2)Took Gabe to see Avengers: The Infinity War. We both liked it a lot. At various times I have the aesthetics of a 10 year old, a 12 year old and a long time museum docent. Not sure why, but I’m enthralled by comic book storylines and computer graphics. Vermeer, too. Caravaggio. Tolstoy. Wolverine. Harry Potter. Wabi-sabi. Sci-fi in books and on television. Guess parts of me just never grew up.

Ruth said to me yesterday, “You’re random, too.” One of the better compliments I’ve received.

Black Mountain is putting on another show this morning. A fluffy cumulus cloud has wrapped itself over the peak with its ski run scars. I can tell from my weather station that it must be about 39 degrees up there since that’s the dewpoint where I am. It’s 45 here. The world of clouds is no longer thousands of feet above us, as it was in Minnesota almost all of the time. Here we live among the clouds.

20180624_063250Trump. So, George Will wrote a column in the Washington Post urging members of his former party, the GOP, to vote against it in the upcoming election. Somebody has to check the “Vesuvius of mendacities.” Great metaphor. Even better idea. Of course, he believes that a Democratic congress will be as pusillanimous as the current GOP one, but it will not buckle toward the president, but away from him. He’s not become a liberal, hardly, just a pragmatic conservative who finds Trump abhorrent from a different place on the political prism.

introverts-unite-226x300Gabe and Ruth have been here since Thursday night while Jon worked on his house. Somehow we’ve finally sorted out a way of being together that seems ok for everybody. Hallelujah and hosanna. Kate has calmed, I’m not sure how, but she has. Wonderful to see. Gabe’s more attentive, more fluid in his speech, if not more fluent. Ruth cooks, sews, goes to the planetarium, talks about matters both important and funny. We interact, but on our terms, all of us. A family of introverts (though Ruth sees herself as an extreme extrovert) takes a while to find an equilibrium. Especially post-divorce.

Gonna cut down another tree today, oh boy.

 

 

Book of Life, Black Holes

Summer                                                                    Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180622_193239Yesterday was a big day. Up early to write, workout. Lunch with Alan Rubin to start planning for the 6th and 7th grade religious school at Beth Evergreen. Home for a fitful nap. Left at 5:30 pm with Ruth for Boulder. We had a reservation at Japango on the Pearl Street Mall before seeing the Fiske Planetarium show on black holes. Driving home under the waxing gibbous moon with Jupiter below it, Mercury and Venus visible, too, as well as Mars and Saturn. A planetary moment. No twinkling please.

A highlight from the Alan Rubin meeting was deepening my relationship with him, learning more of his history, sharing some of my own. I agreed to take on the task of researching Jewish Liturgical history.

Rosh-HashanahWe want to reframe the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, in a reconstructionist way, then help the kids come to their own way of reframing. In the traditional understanding, taken here from the Chabad website, each year on Rosh Hashanah “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die … who shall be impoverished and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.” After ten days to seek repentance from those we have harmed in the previous year, God closes the Book of Life, sealing the fate of each worshiper.

book of lifeThe tradition implies a white bearded, Santa Claus like God who checks on the naughty and the nice. He takes out his celestial quill pen and starts scratching. He pauses, waiting to see what you have to say for yourself, then after a reasonable interval (the ten days), he writes fini.

How did these holidays come to be celebrated in the first place? Why? Who observed them and how? Have the observances and meanings of those observances changed over time? How? This is the exegetical move, gathering as much data as possible about the historical holidays. The hermeneutical move comes after it, asking what in our current circumstance, our present moment, if anything, corresponds to the original intentions. There is, too, a theological move here, asking if the metaphysics of the holiday can still be plausible. If not, that informs the reframing, too.

japangoIn my peculiar little world this is great fun. Looking forward to engaging similar research throughout the upcoming liturgical year.

Contrast this with my evening with Ruth. (Ironically, she is exactly the target audience for the above work, being a Jewish girl about to enter 7th grade.) We went to a sushi restaurant in Boulder where she had a sushi Tokyo plate. I had a sashimi plate, chef’s new choices. Green tea, too, for both of us. Ruth said, “You know me so well.”

black-holeAfter the dinner we drove back up Broadway to the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado, about 5 minutes. At the planetarium, where we’ve gone many times, we saw a presentation on black holes. It covered the usual topics of star death, neutron stars, supernovas and the formation of black holes with their extraordinarily deep gravity wells. It also covered recent observation of the long pursued gravity waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

From the book of life to the heat death of the universe in one Friday. Quite the journey.

 

 

 

Sweat, Black Holes and Sushi

Summer                                                                       Woolly Mammoth Moon

49 this morning.

HIITEasing back (if that’s the right phrase) into high intensity interval training (HIIT), up to 9 minutes of 30 second, 20 second, 10 second intervals, moderate for 30, higher speed for 20, as fast as possible for 10. Once I get back to 10 minutes, two 5 minute sessions in a row with a two minute break, I’ll start increasing the incline on the treadmill. I’m only at 2% right now and I’d like to get to 4%.

I can already tell an improvement in my breathing. This is cardio at its quickest and best. The whole workout takes 20 minutes, though because of my knee I add 15 minutes of icing. I’m now back to the five day pattern I want to retain. I used to go 6 days, but decided I need the two days off for psychic reasons.

pearl-street-then-and-now Photo from Silvia Pettem's book Positively Pearl Street. Historic photo from the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History. Current day photo taken by Casey A. Cass.

pearl-street-then-and-now Photo from Silvia Pettem’s book Positively Pearl Street. Historic photo from the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History. Current day photo taken by Casey A. Cass.

Ruth and I go to Boulder tonight, leaving around 5:30 pm. We’ll hit the 8 pm show at Fiske Planetarium, Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity. Before that I’m taking her to a sushi restaurant, Japango, that Mark Odegard and I found last week. It’s on the Pearl Street Mall, an urban spot among the best I’ve found in Colorado.

When Mark was here, I found an article from 2008 in the NYT that referred to Boulder as 25 square miles surrounded by reality. Here it’s known as the Republic of Boulder. We would have chosen to live there, but housing is very, very expensive, in the near million dollar range for an average purchase price. Too rich for us.

Even though we had over an inch of rain last week the fire danger signs here seem stuck on high. Not sure how they determine the fire risk ratings. Not even sure who determines them though the fire danger signs themselves are National Forest Service issue. A piece of information that remains in memory because they’re located frequently enough that every trip takes us past at least one. The point I suppose.

eudaimonia and makarismosJon’s working on his house, creating maps of wiring he intends to install and getting ready to rewire much of it. He’s got so many skills and he’s very bright. He seems to be gradually getting his balance though it’s been a tough slog. Ruth and Gabe both have become much less reactive. Neither of them will ever be normal kids, just fine with that.

Like most parent/grandparents we want to them to choose for themselves, live a life that makes them productive and fulfilled. Personally I think happiness overrated, preferring for them eudaimonia, flourishing, and resilience. Those are my goals, too.

makarismos=blessed, from Homer

 

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