We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Staying Open. Paying Attention.

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

Got up late today, around 8:30 am so I’m writing this after noon. Feels a little weird since it’s usually dark outside when I work on Ancientrails.

South-ParkColorado-Fishing-MapKate and I went to Aspen Roots today. Jackie tints and cuts Kate’s hair, cuts mine and trims my beard. She’s a good lady. Learned today that she taught her son fly fishing. Her father worked for Eagle Claw and started taking her fishing when she was five. Can’t be too many sons who’ve been taught fly fishing by their moms. Right now he’s logging and had a nasty accident when the saw cut through his boot and into his foot. She hopes he’ll become a fishing guide.

Coloradans and the snow. There were flurries last night, some periods of heavier snow. So most folks stayed home from mussar vaad practice. MVP. Geez. I find myself saying this every once in a while up here: “If Minnesotans didn’t go out when it was snowy and cold, they’d never leave the house from November through March.” It’s definitely better to have Minnesota conditioning for Colorado winters though than, say, Florida or Texas. Both state contribute their share of new Coloradans.

Melon choly. Still ripening though not as pervasive. I’ve not felt this, as near as I can recall, since Minnesota. A certain heaviness, a certain I don’t really feel like getting out of bed. A gray veil.

Bee-guyMy best guess as to why now is a little odd. First year we were moving in, orienting ourselves. Prostate cancer, too. Second year Jon’s divorce, my knee replacement and then Kate’s first bout we identified with Sjogren’s. Since September though Jon moved into his new house. He’s calmed down, a lot. Sjogren’s and its effects, while not pleasant, are at least known and we have strategies to cope with them. After a year plus with the knee, after p.t. and now several different workouts, the knee has no pain and functions, for the most part, as it did before the bad arthritis set in.

So we’ve had since September to adjust to a Colorado which is no longer introducing us to new medical or familial dysfunction. We have friends and a small community now at Beth Evergreen. Rigel doesn’t have liver cancer. Joe and SeoAh are doing well. The grandkids ask to come up here. Things have calmed down, life has tilted toward the positive side of the scale.

Now what? That, I think, is the cause of the melancholy. What do I do now that I’m finally here in Colorado without serious distractions? Are elements of the Minnesota life germane here? Some are clearly not. The Sierra Club scene was disappointing. Sheepshead, too. The Denver museum scene is dull normal. Gardening and bee keeping seem too daunting here, at least for my current energy level and financial resources. (I’d garden in a decent greenhouse, but $$$$.)

agencyWhat is mountain life? Colorado life? Life in the arid West? For me. Sure there’s reading and writing and thinking. The Great Wheel. There’s family and Beth Evergreen. Good jazz. But how does it fit together? What’s the coherence? Where is the tao of this moment?

Apparently my psyche decided that the way to answer these questions is to slow me down. Push pause on the recent past. Let stuff bounce around a while, let different parts clang into each other. Such slowmo has often preceded life changes for me, sometimes after a period of guided reflection like the Ira Progoff Journal Workshops. Sometimes just after time passes. Staying open. Paying attention. Waiting.

Water, water somewhere

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

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

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

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

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

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

Life opens forward if you let it

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon

Jim

Jim

Friend Jim Johnson had an opening of his work in Aberdeen, South Dakota the other night. His new work is lots of colors, strings, leaves, nice bright colors as Simon and Garfunkel sang. Jim, and his long time friend Mark, have both taken their art with them into the third phase. Mark has written one book, an initiation tale, about his time in Vietnam and is at work on another, a hero’s quest tale of his time in Fiji and on the road. He also had a show of new work a couple of years ago, his bridge series. I admire them, keeping Bridgit’s hearthfire lit. Life opens forward if you let it.

Bridgit is the triple goddess in the auld Celtic faith, patroness of poetry, of song, of craft, of the creative spirit. At the double monastery in Kildare, Ireland (men and women), Christians kept her eternal fire burning even after the church absorbed her as a saint. This is Bridgit’s time. She’s the goddess of Imbolc, the cross quarter holiday when the magic of life in the womb brought hope to ancient Celts after the long fallow season.

bridgit's holy well, Killdare, Ireland

Bridgit’s holy well, Kildare, Ireland

This is my creed outworn (see Wordsworth in the post below). Or, part of it. James Hillman, a very interesting Jungian analyst, said we find the gods in our pathologies. I believe that, too. Jung said we find the gods in our diseases. I believe we find them, too, in passions, in new art, in turning over old life like a furrow in which to plant the divine seeds of a new one.

A while back I talked about doing the work that only I can do. Jim and Mark are doing theirs. Over the last few weeks, reading Emerson and Deng Ming-Dao in daily meditations, I’ve found resonance with this idea. Emerson said, for example, in his essay, Success, “Each (person) has an aptitude born with (them). Do your work…It is rare to find a (person) who believes their own thought or who speaks that which (they were) created to say.” Ming-Dao, in his 365 Days of the Tao, says, in his entry #40, subconscious: “Everything to be understood is within us. All that must be transcended…is within us. All the power of transcendence is within us. Tap into it and you tap into the divine itself.”

Approa39It is axiomatic that each person is unique, a particular example of the human, of life, of the creative process that began at tzimtzum or the big bang, thrown into a particular time and a particular place. It is that particularity that Emerson elevates. It is that particularity which formulates within us, as instantiations of the whole, our own work. When we tap into the sacred, the shard of ohr (divine light) lodged within us, we come to know our work. And, the world needs it because you are the only one with this spark of the divine and the only one in the whole history of the universe who has it. If you don’t express your ancientrail, it will die with you and the world will be poorer.

We need you. As you are. Not as a bearer of tradition. Not as a follower of rules and laws, no matter what their claim to authority. Not as a sycophant to the culture in which you were raised. No, none of these. Instead we need the you that dances among the stars, the you that drinks from the deep holy wells within you. We need the you that only you can be.

Yes, it’s a scary prospect that you might be worthwhile just for what you are. Not for the degrees you’ve earned or the children you’ve had or the job you do, but for the you that carries a singular vision, a once in eternity vantage point on the universe. Tell us what you see. Tell us what you know. Tell us who you are. We need you, all of us need you.

 

 

 

Becoming Native

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Reconstructing

Imbolc                                                                     (New Life) Moon

valentine birthday71 times Valentine’s Day and I have shared a moment. This was a quiet one, a good one. Decided I would cook Kate a special meal. In all our years together I’d never done that. It felt great. Went to Tony’s Market (upscale groceries, great meat). Bought a ribeye and some model thin asparagus. Kate found some tiny potatoes. Candles and jazz from Kate’s Pandora Satchmo and Ella channel. Just right. Later, a dusting of snow.

Based partly on the Rumi poem* I posted, sent to me by Tom Crane after I wrote about that old debil melancholy,I’ve decided to lean into my uncertainty and ambiguity. Life purpose seems to be up for reconsideration. Or, perhaps, reconstruction, reimagining. Or, best, reenchantment. But, instead of forcing my way into a new life, I’m letting it come to me. Waiting. Testing. Entertaining.

Bits and pieces that have floated in. All my 70’s, barring some very unusual event, will be lived in Colorado, hopefully in the Rockies. So, this decade, the one I’m now firmly in, is a Western, arid lands, mountain decade. It also has a strong Jewish accent, spoken in a Beth Evergreen dialect.

reenchantmentAt one point concentrating on Colorado and the west. At another, more Taoism. Stop writing novels. Read more. A lot more. A year of the Tao or a year of the West. Travel. In our immediate region. As much as possible. Continue with the sumi-e. Take classes? Go to a Progoff workshop?

Not sure where this is going, but for some reason turning 71 has made me unsettled, willing to reject or set aside old purposes, find new ones. Or, possibly, reaffirm current ones. I’ll know when I’m done with this, moving into a new chapter. But, I don’t know when that will be.

 

*”This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all…” Rumi, The Guest House

Radon

Imbolc                                                                  Imbolc Moon

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

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

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

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

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

Imbolc                                                                               Imbolc Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Night and Death. Yes.

Imbolc                                                                      Imbolc Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Snow

Winter                                                                        Imbolc Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bees, Dogs, Hearts and Shoulders

Winter                                                                   Imbolc Moon

20180119_095931Rigel’s blood work so far is encouraging. Her liver values are back to normal. This may be a sudden old age shift to intolerance of chicken protein. The rabbit diet food is on its way from Chewy.com. Her appetite is good. If she gains weight on the new diet, that may be all we need to know. Fingers crossed.

Went over to Rich Levine’s yesterday for more bee conversation. He put the flow hive together. It looks very cool. If it works as advertised, it could eliminate the need for honey supers and the back breaking, hot, sweaty work of extraction.

IMAG0873

Kate uncapping a honey frame

I agreed to talk to the religious school about bee symbology since they’re going to decorate their hive boxes in a couple of weeks. When the school, and Rabbi Jamie apparently, hive their bee packages, I’ll assist. And, I imagine, support the hives as they grow over the course of the summer. A good way to keep my hand in without having to do all the work myself.

Snowing today. Yeah! The forests are dry. The Smoky the Bear signs which give us a hint about the future of our homes are all set on High fire danger. In January. That means really bad news for reservoirs and the 2018 fire season unless we get a lot of snow between now and May or so.

We’ve had four, maybe five inches so far and the snow’s still falling. Supposed to last all day. Could be bigger than predicted, which would be more than fine.

2011 01 09_1223

Two Olsons

Kate’s got a big week coming up. Monday she has a nuclear stress test for her heart and a visit, on the same day, with the electrophys doc. Next Monday she has an appointment with David Schneider at Panorama Ortho for a shoulder consult. Her right shoulder is painful and weak. The pain interferes with her sleep, so getting it fixed has become a priority.

We don’t expect the heart work up to show more than normal aging. It’s a followup to the tough times she had at Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Better now. Stress may be a larger factor than we know.

Rigel’s work up on her GI tract will come back next week. Hope it points in the same direction as Dr. Bayliss thinks.

 

 

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