Blue

Fall                                                                                Healing Moon

ballot-e1476388826824Kate and I got coffee, sat down at our beetle-kill pine dining table, cracked open the mailers from the state of Colorado, and voted. Not a complicated ballot in terms of candidates, though the retention questions for judges left us both scratching our heads. Guess which way we voted? Blue wave, blue wave, blue wave. At least two water particles added.

On the other hand there were several referendums on the ballot. Some obscure, like changing the way judicial candidates are presented on future ballots to a measure eliminating slavery and involuntary servitude. Some not so obscure but frustratingly necessary because of Colorado’s TABOR, a long ago referendum which passed requiring all tax increases to be voted on by the general public. These referendums are attempts to squeeze out more funding for education and transportation, both victims of TABOR’s constrictive grip on Colorado’s public economy.

taborThen there were two that make creating both federal and state legislative districts non-partisan. Like campaign funding gerrymandering is currently a cancer in our democracy, both in their own way as serious as the orange tumor in our body politic. Voting yes.

A controversial measure this year involves setbacks for drilling pads as frackers go after natural gas and oil often inconveniently located. One of the biggest oil and natural gas deposits lies in Weld County, part of the Denver-Aurora Metro. Prop. 112 would increase the setback from dwellings and businesses to “a 2,500 foot buffer zone between new oil and gas development and occupied buildings like homes and schools, as well as water sources, playgrounds and other vulnerable areas.” prop 112 website We voted for the setback.

libertarianColorado continues to be a strange political environment to this native Midwesterner. The libertarian streak in all American politics colors issues with a let me alone and don’t make me pay swoosh, here it’s a swoosh often as big as the entire running shoe. That can drive electoral decisions. There’s also the even more dramatic than in most states divide between the liberal Front Range and the remainder of Colorado. Rural and mountain Coloradans often complain that their views are ignored. True, too, to some extent. The rural vote is often reflexively against candidates and ballot measures that seem to reflect Front Range values.

We’ll see how much in-migration has altered the politics here on November 6th.

 

The Heat

Fall                                                                               Healing Moon

climate change vollmanThough I haven’t begun to read them yet, William Vollman’s two volume work: No Immediate Danger and No Good Alternative, the Carbon Ideologies paints a bleak picture. So does the IPCC‘s latest report. I also reported here, quite a while back, about a new movement called dark ecology that, like these three works, takes a dim view of our (that is, the world’s) willingness to execute the necessary carbon emissions restrictions.

Much as I hate to admit it, I believe these darker, more hopeless perspectives about the struggle against climate change might be right. If they are, we may be walking down a path that leads to an HG Wellian Time Machine world with the poor morlocks wandering the face of the earth (think the 99%) and the eloi burrowed into her mantle, using their great wealth and power to survive the heat and climatic chaos.

climate change eloi and morlocksIf we cannot slow down the rate of climate change (which is the most we can do, since so much climate change is already baked in), then we move to mitigation and adaptation. Geoengineering will become a buzz word as various strategies are tried. Climate refugees will become more and more disruptive across the world, especially those moving from coastal areas into interiors and onto higher ground. The already underway shifts in plant and animal eco-systems, climate refugees all, will bring them with different disease vectors, disruption to agriculture and sea life.

dark ecologyWe will not be known for Vietnam, civil rights, feminism, ruining health care, electing fascists to high office, but as the generation that allowed an earth compatible with human populations to slip away. Hard as it is to imagine the results of this inaction will be far, far more damaging than all the wars, holocausts and pogroms. How will we explain this to our grandchildren, to Ruth and Gabe in our instance? I understand the political and economic forces that have gotten us here, but explaining them will not alter the misery.

 

 

 

A Lunar Month of Significance

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

As the Woolly Mammoth Moon phases away toward a new moon, its month, the same lunar month we always have, yet also a different lunar month from any we’ve ever had, all spiraling through space as we follow the sun while orbiting it, I just wanna say thanks for what happened under its gentle influence.

It rose as a new moon, invisible but watching us, on June 13th, the day Mark, Paul, Tom and I headed out to Durango and the 416 fire. It was a trip both across southwestern Colorado and back into 30 years of friendship. Not to mention back to the days of the Pueblo dwellers of Mesa Verde. It was, in a sense, a way to say to each other that, yes, these friendships are for a lifetime. That this lifetime, whatever it may mean individually includes each other–and Bill. When you think about it, affirming the power of our past and honoring the reality of our future, is pretty damned cool.

Ode lays out the trip

Ode lays out the trip

It was also on this same trip that I read the essays about ground projects by Bernard Williams and about setting a rejection goal. The first one affirmed my existential sense that life gets meaning from our intentions and our labor to fulfill them; the second has transformed my writing life. A big, huge, amazing, wonderful thing.

Also under the Woolly Mammoth Moon, Alan Rubin and I began digging in to developing a curriculum for 6th and 7th graders in the Religious School at CBE. This work has affirmed the depth of my immersion into the Jewish world of CBE and reconstructionist thought. It also underscores my continuing fascination, see posts below, with the supernatural, or at least the fruits of humanity’s speculation about the supernatural.

20180415_155755

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, ballet at CBE

Also under the WMM, I’ve been putting together the Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler series for the 2018/2019 adult education year. This will feature both courses from the Great Courses company and courses from the MOOC aggregator, Coursera plus the odd film or two.

I also met Harv Teitelbaum. He’s the Sierra Club’s lead for their anti-fracking initiative, a big deal here in Colorado. I believe he and I share a similar attitude toward our current political reality and a similar focus on local races while maintaining an emphasis on the Great Work.

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

It’s been a big, big month for me and I want to say out loud how grateful I am to all of you who’ve made it possible. Yes, Kate, especially you. It’s been a very difficult month for you nausea wise, I know, but you picked up a board membership at CBE and guided the food committee for the Patchworkers. All the time you’ve been supportive, though understandably surprised, at my new commitment to finally, finally, finally submitting my work. You’re the gyroscope in all this, keeping us stable and focused. Thanks, Kate.

Baked In

Lughnasa                                                                      Kate’s Moon

earth first“Earth rapidly is approaching the point where the amount of warming locked in by human pollution exceeds the limits nations set last year at the international climate meeting in Paris, according to government-backed research unveiled Monday.

The planet faces “committed warming” by 2.7 degrees before 2100 if fossil fuels are burned at current rates for another 15 years, the scientists based in Colorado and Germany determined.”   Denver Post 7/31/2017

When I took a serious Climate Change MOOC three years ago, the scientists who taught in the course referred to this committed warming as baked in. It was clear three years ago that the attempt to limit warming to 2 degrees would fail for two reasons. One, that amount is baked in by the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere. Second, the rate of emissions continues to grow overall, not stabilize or decline.*

dark ecologySo there is not only the Donald to wreak havoc with the future, but the already emitted carbon dioxide and other gases like methane.

Yes, we need to make clear to any who will listen that these are the facts, not the fake news of our current government or self-interested fossil fuel barons. And, yes, we need to work toward as much mitigation of emissions and their effects as we can. But. We also need to face the coming changes as they will be and, even, as they probably will be, worse than we imagine.

This means taking a doubled view into the world with us. The first view sees what we can do now as necessary, as critical, yet realizes the messiness of global politics is not going to push over the line to sensible policy. The second view absorbs the first and sees the future clearly rather than through solar powered/wind energized eyes. It’s going to be bad, probably not too bad for those of us with less than thirty years to go in our remaining lifespan, but for our children and their children? Bad, trending to worse.

beltane2017gorbachevHow can we work now to help them be resilient, proactive in their adaptive strategies? How can we work now to help them develop psychological/spiritual tools for coping with the cultural stresses that are inevitable? We cannot brush away the bad effects by magical thinking. Oh, the world will catch on and act in time. No, it won’t and it hasn’t. We need sober work on how to live with changed weather, increased heat, moving targets for animals and crops in terms of altered seasons, the disruptions of sea level rise, spread of insect borne diseases and the like.

This doubled view, pragmatic when looking at the long run, yet hopeful enough to maintain action in the short term, is critical so that we do what we can now, yet plan realistically for our next generation’s life.

*“The annual growth rate has increased since record keeping began in 1960 from just under 1 ppm in the 1960s to more than 2.4 ppm through the first half of the 2010s. The past two years have set a record for the fastest annual growth rate on record.”  Climate Central.org

Base Instincts

Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

2000_Year_Temperature_ComparisonI wish I thought it was cynicism, the gratuitous act of a calculating politician, this latest, perhaps species’ ending decision. “I’m deciding for the citizens of Pittsburgh, not the citizens of Paris.” I wish I didn’t think it was a faulty mind at work, but I do. By faulty in this case I mean stupid. Trump may not be I.Q. stupid, though I don’t imagine he’s top of the class, but he’s unlearned, uninquisitive and lacks critical thinking skills. This is the functional equivalent of stupidity.

He seems to have base instincts (a political pun, intended) which he marries to advice from people who have ideological blinders he doesn’t understand. He clearly loves being the decider so he takes in certain streams of information, then chooses what he believes will Make America Great. What will put America First. In this case, as in so many others, he doesn’t seem to understand that the U.S.A. is no longer, if it ever was, separate from the world as a whole.

GOP-Oil-Above-AllClimate change does not care about boundaries. It does not care if you’re a resident of Paris, Pittsburgh, Timbuktu or Katmandu. The rain, as the proverb goes, falls on the just and the unjust. So with a ratcheting up of the earth’s temperature. Trump thinks he’s putting Pittsburgh ahead of Paris when what he’s really doing is pitting this generation against the next, saying that this one deserves more attention than the next. There is no hint, none at all, of seven generations thinking in his choices. Today is all that matters. Right here in the U.S.A. is all that matters. Right here in the U.S.A. all that matters is the effect on my base. (which he badly misreads, by the way)

He sees the fate of the white working class and the fate of America’s energy corporations tied together, a grim marriage and one doomed to fail and in its failure to scour humanity from the planet. So much for a sustainable future.

Outer, Inner

Beltane                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

rumiOur next Sierra Club meeting will be on June 19th, one day before the summer solstice. Sierra Club work is paganism stripped bare of its mythic content. There is passion for sure, but not the poetry, no ritual, no inner work. It’s all outer work: hike, lobby, analyze, network, persuade. We may, for example, show the next Al Gore movie, Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. See trailer below.*

The work is good, necessary. It is even, as Thomas Berry said, the great work of our generation, but it often feels mechanical to me. Pull this lever. Have this meeting. Create this sign. Monitor Polymet. Call the governor. Write your Senator. Hike this trail. In its mechanistic form this does not feel like my love for our home, this earth, this planet, third rock from the sun.

tree_of_lifeSomehow I need to find a way for my inner work to imbue my outer work. Todd, a long-time member of the Mt. Evan’s local group to which I belong, talked about a hike he took yesterday in Reynold’s Park. He named a particular orchid that he found and his face lit up. “A bullsnake, too.” It may be that these folks, tied to the very local region encompassed by our borders, find their inner work in being on the trail, hiking Mt. Bierstadt, taking the Mt. Evan’s road, helping clear trail.

The hike I took at Flying J Ranch (see posts below) was shinrin-yoku, forest bathing. Perhaps that’s a way to combine the inner work with the outer work. Or, perhaps I could follow the mussar notion of outer work affecting the inner work. Not sure. But, there is a need for me to more closely match my spiritual journey with this work. Maybe the mountain art notion will fit here, too. More to come.

 

 

*

Naturally

Beltane                                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

Upper Maxwell Falls

Upper Maxwell Falls

I’ve found the Colorado equivalent of Minnesota’s Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA’s). Here they’re called Colorado Designated Natural Areas. “Designated Natural Areas contain a wide representation of Colorado’s ra​re plants and animals, unique plant communities, rich fossil locations, and geological features.” I enjoyed visiting these areas in Minnesota. Sounds like they’re a little more diverse here. Road trip!

CNS and Social Change

Spring                                                                   New (Rushing Waters) Moon

book-coverToday I’m making chicken noodle soup and Kate’s making Vietnamese pho. We’ll serve this at a Beth Evergreen leadership dinner for Rabbi David Jaffe, author of Changing the World from the Inside Out, a Jewish Approach to Social Change. Along with our friend Marilyn Saltzman, chair of the adult education committee, who is making a vegetarian squash soup, we’ll provide the soups for a soup and salad meal. I really like this low key involvement. It feels manageable.

Although. I am hoping that Rabbi Jaffe’s time here at Beth Evergreen, tomorrow through Saturday as a visiting scholar, will spur the creation of an activist group focused on some form of response to the Trump/oligarch era. In that instance I’m willing to move into a more upfront role, though I would prefer to remain a follower.

Then, there’s the Sierra Club. I wrote here about my excitement with Organizing for Action, Conifer. That was back in January, I think. Lots of people, lots of energy. Good analysis. I thought, wow. Here’s my group. Then, I never heard from them again, my e-mails went unanswered. Weird, but true. Weird and disqualifying for a group that’s organizing political work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I renewed my effort to connect with the Mt. Evans’ local group of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club. Colorado seems to work more through these regional clusters than as a whole. There are nine of them, covering the entire state. The Mt. Evans’ group includes our part of Jefferson County, Clear Creek County and a northern portion of Park County. It’s titular feature, Mt. Evans, is a fourteener (over fourteen thousand feet high) which has the highest paved road in North America leading to its summit. According to locals here it’s also the weathermaker for our part of Conifer.

I finally made it to a meeting a couple of weeks ago. When I came back, Kate said, “You seem energized.” I did. And, I hadn’t noticed. Something about that small group plugged me back into my reigning political passion of the last six or seven years: climate change. Oh, yeah. With OFA I’d tried to head back toward economic justice, my long standing motivation for political work, dating back to the UAW influences I picked up as a teenager in Alexandria. Guess the universe understood me better than I understood myself. Not much of a surprise there.

buy this here

buy this here

My mind began ticking over, running through organizing scenarios, figuring out how we could (note the we) raise the visibility of the Mt. Evans group, gain more members, influence local policy. This is my brain on politics. I might be willing to play a more upfront role here, too, though I want to explore other ways of being helpful first.

Anyhow, between these two, I’m sure I’ll get my political mojo working in some way. And that feels good. Want some soup?

 

 

Magnum opus

Imbolc                                                                            Valentine Moon

great workDon’t know why it took me so long, but I know how to make America great again. It will not require red baseball hats or xenophobic bluster. No, it only requires listening to the ideas of a Passionate priest, Thomas Berry. Berry wrote a small book, The Great Work. It influenced a turn in my political activity from economic justice to environmental concerns.

This 258 page book is a quick read and it introduces The Great Work. Civilizations, according to Berry, have a quintessential role that only they can perform. The one he identifies for our civilization is this: Creating a sustainable existence for humans on this earth. That is our Great Work. It is the way to make America Great again.

guestsThe phrase, the Great Work, comes from medieval alchemy. The primary, original material of the universe, the prima materia, in the alchemist’s lab can create the philosopher’s stone. The philosopher’s stone could turn base metals into gold or silver and extend the alchemist’s life.

We can take the prima materia of the U.S., its citizens and its land, put them in the alembic created by our need for survival and our need for economic  justice, and turn up the heat until we have our philosopher’s stone. When we have it, we can use it to heal the earth and create good-paying jobs for all.

Then, then America will be great. Not only again, but still and not only still but into the future as well. May it be so.

 

Varoom or Whoosh?

Fall                                                                               New (Hunter) Moon   also, a black moon

Not everyone will like this. But I know Bill and Tom will.