We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Hey, Teach

Lughnasa                                                                      Waning Summer Moon

maybe not quite like this

maybe not quite like this

Tanya. Carla. Kenya. Mom. Mary. Mark. Grandma Ellis. Jean. Others whose names I can’t remember. Teachers. All of them. Now, for one night, me. Well, I’ve taught adults in various formats over the years, but never kids. Last night I sat down with 13 kids, 6th and 7th graders, and talked with them about what makes them anxious or worried about their bar or bat mitzvah. “Falling off the chair. I watch a lot of fail videos.” “Chanting the Torah and my voice cracking.” “Having to give a speech.” “Being the center of attention.” “I can’t afford the outfit.”

It was a sweet moment and I got so into listening to them that I forgot the beach ball toss game we were supposed to do. We went from that question to what Jewish values do you want to express at your b’nai mitzvah? What values do both you and your parents share and want to express? “Being a good host.” “Honoring my friends.” “Honoring my family.” “Learning the Jewish tradition and passing it on.” “Throwing a good party.” “Learning Hebrew.”

fiddlerontheroofIt was the kickoff event last night for the religious school and it was well attended. Each kid came with one or both parents. Usual glitches. Somebody forgot to order food. Solution: Dominoes. I forgot the beachballs. Solution: listen. Facilitation was by committee. Alan did the introduction. Jen Kraft, the regional person from Moving Traditions, spoke about the development of the curriculum. Jamie facilitated a piece about what the sages thought was appropriate for ages from 5 to 100. Tara facilitated a group exercise in which adults and kids called out descriptors for child, teen, adult.

There were some gumups, but on the whole I thought it went well. I dressed up, which always means I’m nervous. Realized last night that I’ve been doing that long enough that wearing fancier clothes make me nervous, rather than more confident. Makes sense. Learned behavior.

21 sessions still ahead. Most of them won’t be this complex. I have a different sort of respect for all you teachers out there. Will have even more, I imagine, as the school year continues.

One Toke Over the Line Sweet Moses

Lughnasa                                                          Waning Summer Moon

The loft is clean. Sandy does such a great job. And, she does it while living with the after effects of two brain surgeries and the yet remaining tumor which necessitated a round of radiation to shrink. A tough way to earn your daily bread.

marijuana2We tried a Colorado cure for Kate’s nausea symptoms. She toked up yesterday morning, lighting one of the pre-rolled Jilly Belly spliffs. She took four hits. Result: nausea subsided, heartburn began. And, she said, I feel spacy. Which she didn’t like. So she went back to bed anyhow. A work in progress. Next time she’ll try two tokes. If it does reduce the nausea, we will get her a bong and use ice in the water to cool down the smoke. I told her she was one toke over the line sweet Jesus; then added, well, maybe better, one toke over the line sweet Moses.

At mussar Ariel, the defense lawyer turned consultant to lawyers on how to navigate court procedures, gave a powerful and well-researched hour and a half on the concept of tzedakah. Tzedakah boxes are an art form in Judaica and usually have a slot for change or bills. The money collected typically goes to charities, in the American diaspora often charities that support the state of Israel, though the money can go to any good cause. In this way tzedakah has come to be associated with charity, but its real translation is justice, equity.

Tzedakah-1080x675In the packet that he offered, Ariel quoted Rabbi Abraham Heschel, a great friend to Martin Luther King: “There is immense silent agony in the world, and the task of man is to be a voice for the plundered poor, to prevent the desecration of the soul and the violation of our dream of honesty.” And, “Morally speaking there is no limit to the concern one must feel for the sufferings of human beings, that indifference to evil is worse than evil itself, that in a free society, some are guilty while all are responsible.”

empty-bowlsAfter mussar Kate and I went with many members of the group to a place called Go, Paint in downtown Evergreen. It was the start of an interesting local expression of an international movement called Empty Bowls. (the link is to an Empty Bowls event in Hopkins, Minnesota) Go, Paint has many objects in bisque (the stage for pottery after throwing and before firing when glazes and paints can be applied.). In this case we all had bisque bowls, dull white and maybe 8 inches across. There were various paints and glazes we could apply, even small clay creatures. Kate, for example, put a turtle in the bottom of her bowl.

We paid for the event. The bowls get fired, then distributed to two sites nearby which run Empty Bowl events. One is Mt. Vernon Country Club and the other is a church in Evergreen. At the empty bowl event a meal is served, $65 at Mt. Vernon, $20 at the church. When the meal is over, each participant gets a bowl. The money goes, in this instance, to the Mountain Resource Center. A friend of Kate and mine’s, Marilyn Saltzman, will be the incoming president of the MRC in January. Interesting idea.

A long day for Kate.

The Queen of Shadow Mountain, Spliffs, Spring Rolls

Lughnasa                                                                     Waning Summer Moon

20180828_185716Kate’s birthday present came yesterday. It has excellent lumbar and neck support, plus it inclines with the press of a small lever. She’s the queen of Shadow Mountain.

Went down the hill yesterday to the Native Roots dispensary. I wanted something Kate could use to quickly attack nausea, perhaps eliminate it. Research suggested Durban Poison, Northern Lights, Lemon Haze, or a strain like those.

Native Roots is a franchise operation, very slick and a little cold in their approach. Like all the dispensaries they check i.d. Here they made me take off my hat and glasses so the camera could get a shot of me. Inside I made a mistake when the budtender (silly, silly name) called me forward. I told her my wife had nausea and I wanted something that might help. “Never tell a budtender you’re buying for someone else. That’s illegal.” Oh, ok. “Well, I have nausea, then.” “OK. We’re good there.”

They didn’t have any of the particular strains I wanted, but she recommended a strain called Jilly Bean, one they grow themselves. I wanted a bong, but they “…don’t sell glass.” She offered me pre-rolled joints. Oh, the distance from the late sixties and its furtive culture, wrapping papers, sorting seeds and stems out on the kitchen table. These joints, spliffs, blunts have a spiral filter on the end to cool the smoke and neatly wrapped wrapped paper twisted off at the end. Very producty looking. And, not cheap. $7 each.

I bought two. She’ll try them when the nausea hits next time. If it works, we’ll get her a bong and some flower rather than pre-rolled joints. Can you believe I just wrote that sentence? This is truly the new millennium.

native roots

Kate wanted spring rolls for supper using some of the mushrooms she grew. (I know. This sounds like a back to the sixties day for us.) I sauteed the mushroom at noon. Kate got some shrimp out to defrost. After her throne arrived, I got busy. Cut up cucumber into matchstick sized pieces. Mix chopped nuts and carrots, shredded. Add fish sauce, juice of two limes and sugar. Mix. Heat water to boiling, pour over rice noodles. Mint leaves. Cilantro leaves. Lettuce leaves. Run the rice paper under the tap. Put on plate, assemble.

These were our first spring rolls, so they weren’t as elegant as, say, the Jilly Bean prerolls, but they tasted great. A successful beginning from the new Asian cookbook.

Alan is coming today and we’ll work on a calendar for our lesson plans. Classes start a week from today. Oh, my. Lots more to say about that, but not now.

 

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.

Brain Tumors, Cute Baby Videos and Climate Change

Lughnasa                                                          Waning Summer Moon

Sandy came yesterday. She’s now four weeks or so out from the last of the radiation treatments for her brain tumor. A difficult medical story with an unsatisfying partial resolution. They couldn’t remove the tumor all at once, left much of it in place after the first surgery, then nerves grew into the tumor meaning it couldn’t be removed at all. Hence, radiation to shrink it. It’s benign, stretching the meaning of that word, but it has knocked out her hearing in one ear and seems to have left her in a permanent state of slight dizziness. She’s young, late forties I imagine, so a lot of her life is ahead.

Gabe

Gabe

Gabe’s been watching cute baby videos. His words. I asked him if he might want a baby of his own someday (he’s 10). He said, “I don’t know. Maybe.” We’re going to a movie today.We can do that because Kate wisely decided to skip needleworkers today.

This book is the culmination of more than 125 years of tradition and countless “Documentation Days,” during which quilting council members record the block technique, age, batting, backing, and color of each quilt their fellow quilters trust them to preserve.

This book is the culmination of more than 125 years of tradition and countless “Documentation Days,” during which quilting council members record the block technique, age, batting, backing, and color of each quilt their fellow quilters trust them to preserve.

On her 74th birthday, this Saturday, she’s organizing food for an interesting event. The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden offers a documentation service for quilts. They have teams that go to quilt clubs (and other venues, too, I suppose). The teams collect archival data like maker, history, description and photograph the quilts. Those records become part of the ongoing collection of the museum. The Quilt museum folks are coming to the Bailey Patchworkers meeting place, the Catholic church in Bailey. It’s before Crow Hill, the steep decline that goes into Bailey proper.

Her stamina seems to be decreasing, too. I really hope the ultrasound for her gall bladder and the new upper GI look find something. She needs to be able to gain weight. Soonest.

Thunderstorm yesterday. Nice rain. Lots of noise. Wildfire fears have eased for this year. This article in my favorite publication about the West, the High Country News, explores the angst that many of us who live out here feel. “One truism about the future is that climate change will spare no place. Still, I suspect the threat of warming feels more existential in New Mexico than it does in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. Drought has gripped the Southwest for 19 years, more than half my life.” In this rapaciously dry year, a quiet question grows louder: What are we doing here? HCN, Aug. 6, 2018

fire mitigationCalifornia fire seasons, which have grown longer and longer, producing worse fires, the Mendocino Complex Fire is now the largest ever in the state’s history, keep us always aware that what’s happening there can certainly happen here. Damocles. Closer to Shadow Mountain there are, too, the 416, the Spring Creek, the Buffalo Pass fires now out, but active this year in Colorado.

I agree with Cally Carswell, the author of the article, that our experience, our Western experience, is a foretaste of what is to come for most if not all of the planet. Her article says out loud what lurks just below the surface for Westerners. When might the fire or the water shortages be too much? When might the increasing heat dry us out or burn us down?

As the Donald might say, sad.

Teshuva

Lughnasa                                                       Monsoon Moon

With gray skies, moisture in the air, lakes not far from any spot in the metro, far horizons, deciduous trees in abundance, no mountain peaks close by or in the distance, I know I’m back in the Midwest. The need to memorialize the coming of the monsoon rains would be pointless here. Lucky here.

Oddly, the club level of this hotel, which I am unintentionally on, has breakfast and substantial enough hors d’oeuvres to eat for a meal in the evening. Last night, over mushrooms stuffed with sausage, honey dew and salami, caesar salad, and a small club sandwich, I engaged one of aging’s priceless treasures. I turned off my hearing aid so the millennial buzz would soften. Ah.

Easing into the week here. Slept in until 7:30 (6:30 at home). Leisurely breakfast overlooking the convention center and Central Lutheran. Gonna get in the car in a bit and take photos of as many of the places I’ve lived in the Twin Cities that still exist. It will take a while. I moved a lot. Later on I’ll see Tom, Mark, and Bill at the Red Stag. Old friends in an old haunt.

Is it a pilgrimage when you return rather than when you seek a far destination? In Judaism the term for repentance is teshuva, return. Is this teshuva to the Twin Cities a form of repentance? It may be because it has the character, this time, of reliving, re-membering. Perhaps the pilgrimage to home literally re-members us, reclaims those pieces important to us that we left there, long ago.

When you make a move, as Kate and I did, to a new, very different place after 40 years, it involves, among much else, severing the physical cues to memory. They are out of sight, perhaps not out of mind, not entirely, but they are not refreshed. Coming back means seeing Central Lutheran and the convention center remind me of the visit of the Dali Lama, the time the Presbyterian General Assembly was here. I helped move a baptismal font, heavy marble, on a small wheeled dolly from Westminster to the convention center, served communion to a thousands. 40 years is a long time in human years.

So this is a voyage, a teshuva to mySelf, my soul, as well as a visit. The whole, at least in biological terms, is more than the sum of the parts, but it is also not less than its parts. I have parts remaining here and I want to return them to their vital place in my soul.

 

 

Home(s)

Summer                                                                      Monsoon Moon

monsoon clouds in Aurora

monsoon clouds in Aurora

The last day of summer. Lughnasa, which starts tomorrow on August 1st, marks the beginning of the harvest season. Though the growing season is not at all over, gathering in has begun and will only increase as we move through Mabon, the second harvest season and then end the harvest on Samain. Samain means end of summer and that name holds the history of the ancient Celtic calendar which had only two seasons, Beltane (the growing season) and Samain (the fallow season).

In the mountains we do not anticipate the beginning of the harvest season so much as we mark the beginning of the monsoon season. The monsoon pumps moisture from the Gulf of Baja and the Gulf of Mexico northwards until it cools and falls over the Rockies. This marks the end of the high fire season.

20180616_133209Taking off today with age nipping. The incident yesterday (see post below) means I have to pay attention to myself in new ways. A bit disconcerting. Not to mention that I occasionally leave the refrigerator door open. A common thread here, oddly, is hearing. The refrigerator has a come back and shut my door melody it plays when the door is left open. Trouble is, I can’t hear it unless I’m right by the door. The truck’s engine is obviously on when I step out with it running, but the call back that its noise would generate for others is only background for me. So a combination of distraction and hearing loss. Time to adapt. Again.

20150911_174834If I go to Indiana, I go home. Home in this case is the place of my childhood, a place, with Heidegger, into which I was thrown without choice by decisions my parents made. Indiana home, the banks of the Wabash, the sycamores, Harrison Street, mom and dad’s graves, the years of growing up, basketball, the Indianapolis 500 and lots of hate has a sort of giveness to it that makes it seem inevitable. Of course I grew up on Monroe Street, called down bats with stones thrown in the air, cheered for the Tigers, worked for the Alexandria Times-Tribune, P.N. Hirsch and Johns-Manville.

Gertie, Vega, Rigel in Andover

Gertie, Rigel, Kona in Andover

If I go to Minnesota, I go home. Home in this case is the place of my adulthood, the second phase of life focused on family and career. Minnesota was a choice and has none of the inevitability of my Hoosier life. I could have chosen differently. I tried New York City for example. I might have gone to graduate school at either Brandeis or Rice, both places where I got accepted in Anthropology graduate programs. I could have headed overseas as did Mary and Mark.

Instead, I chose seminary in New Brighton and continued to choose Minnesota in decision after decision. Now the land of sky blue waters, the western shores of Lake Superior, the northwoods and the timber wolf and the moose, the Twin Cities, two marriages, the adoption of Joseph, years of political work, immersion in its cultural life mean home.

When I stay for 5 nights at the Millennium Hotel on the edge of Loring Park, I’ll be in the midst of my own history, a neighborhood where I chose to live, where I participated in its politics. Within walking distance will be the Walker Museum of Modern Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Arts two institutions that shaped my aesthetic. Close by, too, is the Minnesota Church Center where I once had an office as an executive of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area.

The Woolly Mammoths, the docent class of 2005 at the MIA, and various political cronies, mostly in the Sierra Club during my last years, the members of Groveland UU are the web of relations that make Minnesota home.

Mountain Home

Mountain Home

When I leave Minnesota, though, and head west again, it will be my used-to-be home once more. I’ll be heading home to the Rocky Mountains, to the land of mountain Jews, lodgepole pine and golden aspen, of black bears and mountain lions, mule deer and elk. Ruth, Gabe, Jon, Kate, the dogs. They’re all far away from Minnesota, in my third phase home.

This is another place of choice, a home determined by decisions that Kate and I made.  We will have been here four years on the Winter Solstice. We will have owned our home here for four years this Samain.

I have three homes: Indiana, Minnesota and Colorado. Each from a different era of my life, a different phase, each shaping me and, being shaped by me, in diverse ways.

Today I’m leaving for home and when I head out on the return trip I’ll be leaving for home.

 

 

And God placed a rainbow in the sky

Summer                                                                              Monsoon Moon

Stage two fireban lifted. Rains have been remarkable the last few days. We’ve gone from fire restrictions to flash flood and small stream flooding advisories. Yay. Feels safer here now and I’ll feel less worried when I leave for Minneapolis on Tuesday.

Kate and I went to a protest yesterday at the Aurora ICE detention center. The Moral Minyan sponsored it. A Moral Minyan is a local group organized through bendthearc. In Jewish practice a minyan is ten (men in the past and still in Orthodox communities) Jews together so public instead of private prayers can be offered. There were about fifty people there, perhaps a bit more. Too cerebral, too speaky, but only the second one of what the Moral Minyan plans as a monthly gathering. It needs guitars and better music, more chants, maybe some songs in Spanish.

There was one remarkable moment for a Jewish gathering.

double rainbow over ICE detention center, Aurora

double rainbow over ICE detention center, Aurora

There was brief moment of defiance when a protest leader asked those of us who were willing to block the only road into the facility. Many of the group chanted, “We will not be good Germans.” as we moved onto the drive. Maybe 15 of us were there when an ICE employee, heading home from work drove up. And began honking. Impatiently. After less than a minute, the group dispersed.

The Democratic candidate for state attorney general, Phil Weiser, spoke, as did his primary opponent, Joe Salazar. Salazar, who lost the primary, gave an impassioned speech as a Latino whose roots go back 500 years in the land now known as the United States. A young pediatrician, a woman, gave a moving speech, referencing, as did many of the speakers, the holocaust. As I wrote here a week or so ago, Renee, a Beth Evergreen member, said that as a child of holocaust survivors, she could call these detention centers what they were, concentration camps.

Here are a few more photos from the event.

20180725_17140420180725_17221420180725_17214420180725_17171320180725_17493220180725_175304

 

Moral Minyan

Summer                                                                             Monsoon Moon

justice

Suggested to the woman who organized the immigration talk that perhaps the Beth Evergreen Social Action committee should be doing this kind of work. She passed my e-mail on to the Rabbi and to the chair of the Social Action committee. Lengthy response from the Social Chair chair amounts to, we do small things because they’re not political. Sigh. Same ol, same ol. Heard this all the time as a clergy in the Christian church, less so in the UUA. Say the word politics and you’ve touched the third rail.

Uncharacteristically, however, I intend to stay back from this conversation. I’ve got Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler and 6th grade religious school to prepare for. Perhaps the slight nudge will create a larger conversation. Hope so.

justice2

Kate and I are going to a protest at the Aurora ICE detention center next week. It’s led by the Moral Minyan*, a project of bendthearc. Family separation, though attenuated by the court ruling last week, remains a reality. Immigration is a distinctive American good, mixing our polity with new citizens from all over the world. It’s always been fraught with tension, with nativism, xenophobia, chauvinism, and, our record as a people with regard to persons of color is still miserable, but that French gift, Lady Liberty, with the poem by Emma Lazarus, represents the ideal toward which many of us strive. I believe most of us.

This notion that only a certain kind of person, usually white, can be a good U.S. citizen is racist at its core. The obvious rejoinder is the facebook meme of Indians confronting immigrants on the Mayflower. As Valentina said Tuesday night at Beth Evergreen, “Immigrants work hard. Immigrants pay their taxes, raise families.” Immigrants contribute to our national well-being and always have. In fact, immigrants created our nation.

justice obama

This current politics of meanness, of grudge-settling, of honoring foreign strongmen over our own government BY OUR PRESIDENT, the unleashing of the American id typified by the Charlotte rally and the way too many video clips of various individuals calling out persons they suspect of being “illegals” or “terrorists”, makes us all smaller. He who shall not be named is spending the capital accumulated since World War I which made this country a superpower. Shame on him.

Justice theodore-parker-bend-the-arc-email1

Parker was a Unitarian clergy, an abolitionist, and an activist who kept a loaded gun at his desk in case slave catchers showed up. Be like Theodore.

 

*In Jewish tradition, acts of public prayer require at least 10 people to gather to form a minyan.

In this moment of political crisis, we’re calling on progressive Jews across the country to gather to form Moral Minyans for acts of public protest, solidarity, and organizing as part of a national network of Jewish Resistance.

People who become leaders of Moral Minyans have a variety of skills and experience levels. We provide trainings and support for activists in our network who are organizing their Jewish community in living rooms and in the streets.

 

A Mountain Summer

Summer                                                                         Monsoon Moon

Coming back up 285 from visiting Dr. Gidday yesterday there was one of those temporary l.e.d. signs with orange cones around it. It read: High Bear Activity. Secure trash and lock cars. It was just after the big overhead l.e.d. sign saying fire ban in Jefferson County. Its usual message is: Watch for Wildlife and Falling Rocks. Summer in Colorado. In our now three and a half years here this is the first time I’ve seen the High Bear Activity sign. Those redlined fire danger signs are stuck at Very High, one notch below extreme.

Red sky in the morning. That's my weather station in the lower left.

Red sky in the morning. That’s my weather station in the lower left.

Dawn tints

Dawn tints

 

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