We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

The Future of Food

Imbolc                                                                           New Shoulder Moon

third plate Mentioned The Third Plate a few posts ago. A book by chef Dan Barber, owner of the Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan and a principle in the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester County.

Rotation Grains
smoked farmer’s cheese and broccoli pistou
Maine Diver Scallop
bacon, winter squash and kohlrabi
Stone Barns Pig
tsai tsai, horseradish and pickled grapes
11 day dry-aged bolero carrot steak
mushroom, kale and onion rings
blue hill farm milk
yogurt, turmeric and ginger
Malted Triticale porridge
White Chocolate, quince and Beer Ice Cream
Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

He uses four big concept areas, pictured at the top: Soil, Land, Sea, Seed to tell a story about what he sees as the future of food. He’s trying to take the conversation about food beyond the now well known critiques of books like Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Aldo Leopold’s The Sand County Almanac, and any number of books published in the late sixties like Eull Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. Throw in Wes Jackson’s Becoming Native to This Place, almost anything by Wendell Berry and the thought world championed by John Muir and Edward Abbey and you can see the big conceptual field Barber has tried to plow.

He seems on to something. Using examples like the dehesa in Spain that produces jambon iberico, The Bread Lab run by Washington State plant geneticist Stephen Jones, the farm of Klaas Martens who teaches him about reading the language of the soil, Veta La Palma, a Spanish aquaculture corporation set up in an estuary of the Gulf of Cadiz, and Anson Mills, a fascinating concept by Glenn Roberts who uses landrace farming to resurrect old grain crops and nurture new ones, he seems to propose a recursion to localized crops, that is, wheat, for example, that grows best in upstate New York.  This recursion includes animals, too, where their rearing takes on the characteristics that oenologists call terroir in wines.


This recursion would have chefs take their cues, their menus, from what farmers can grow in their immediate area and from those sites with a focus on sustainability and ecosystem regeneration. The fascinating aquaculture experiment that is Veta La Palma  uses the Guadalquivir River and the salt water of the Gulf of Cadiz to farm high quality sea bass. The focus does not have to be only local or regional but can include instances of food production with ecosystem supportive techniques.

This seems similar to the disaggregation idea in power production, local solar and wind and geothermal and hydro.  Anything that deemphasizes the industrial and the corporate in favor of the local and ecological.


He talks about his idea in agriculture as middle agriculture, that is agriculture smaller than corporate, but larger than the small family farm or the boutique garden. He’s trying to get to scale sufficient that it could actually feed large numbers of people.

It makes me want to cook in the way he suggests. That is, find food grown here in the Rockies, use it along with food sourced from the Veta La Palmas, the dehesas or the Bread Labs, and build our menus at home around it, changing with the seasons. Right now that would take a good bit of work, but it might be possible and it would certainly be worth it.

A continuing theme.

Regress to advance

Imbolc                                                                             New Shoulder Moon

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
– Anatole France

melancholyThe last letters of the Hebrew alphabet now have renderings in sumi-e, lying on my table ready for quotes and the chop. A member of Beth Evergreen last night referred to me as an artist. Oh. I thought he said audience. Artist is not a word I’ve ever associated with myself so my brain heard something else. A revealing moment. How others see us is not always, perhaps often, not the way we see ourselves.

An obituary on Terry Brazelton had this summary of a major finding of his research: “Development does not occur on a linear path, with each skill building on earlier ones. Rather, it unfolds in a series of major reorganizations in which children temporarily regress before mastering a new developmental milestone.” NYT

Well. That explains melancholy, at least as I’ve experienced it. There’s a plateau effect, then a hesitation, a pause while the psyche incorporates a new way of being, one probably not available to consciousness at the time of the pause. Since it’s inchoate, the reorganization seems like a regression, a stutter. The mind and the body both slow down, awaiting something they don’t understand. Result: melancholy.

 Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

If you’ve read my posts over the last month or so, I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. My psyche had moved on, already aware that I needed more tactile moments in my daily life, already aware that it was time to resort my priorities based on a new constellation of possibilities made real by our move.

Last night at the shabbat service a rabbi friend of Jamie’s gave a short reflection. She had us consider an unusual moment in the Torah when the former Hebrew slaves remembered fondly the foods they had in Egypt. Using this seemingly inscrutable nostalgia for a time of bondage, she suggested that during transitions, a time of instability, wandering in the dessert for example, we often want to return to the stable state we know to ease the anxieties and uncertainties of a transition. Thus, when faced with a period of eating manna during an often frustrating movement toward the land promised, but not yet reached, even slavery seemed to have its charms.

That nostalgia, I think, is the root of melancholy, a hope that the past can ease the upset of the present. The psyche knows that’s a false hope, a trap, but is unable to articulate why. So, stasis, moving neither forward nor backward, which the ego interprets as negative without knowing why. Really, the moment is gestational, a new way awaits its birth. Not back to Egypt, but on to the promised land. Not back to the life of forty years in Minnesota, but on to the new life developing in Colorado.




The Work of Sadness. Of Grief.

Imbolc                                                                        New Life Moon

Melancholy, Munch 1894

Melancholy, Munch 1894

The melancholy has done its work. Still listening, paying attention, but here’s what I’ve discovered this time. My life was out of balance. I needed more time working with my hands, using my body. Also, I had neglected reading of certain kinds, especially reading that advances my reconstruct, reimagine, reenchant project.

This latter work has gotten quite long in the tooth, has become more of a forever, at least until I die thing. And I don’t want that. I want to write at least some essays, preferably something book length.

20171217_175903It was also time to slough off some of the Minnesota based, second phase lingering work. Especially the political. I am going to the caucus this Tuesday; however, I no longer see myself as a dedicated activist. But, and I consider this great news, Ruth told me she was walking out on April 9th, standing outside Mcauliffe, her middle school, for seventeen minutes, one minute for each of the Parkland victims. She’s doing it in spite of the fact that adults tell her no one will listen. Go, Ruth!

And writing. Not giving that up, yet I feel the need now to shift at least some of that energy to the three R’s. I’ve felt this way before, yes, but something feels different now. Not sure what exactly.

20180303_171938The melancholy also uncovered a tension I’d been feeling between leaning in to the domestic, cooking, for example, and Kate and mine’s presence in the Beth Evergreen community, and what I consider my work. Recalibrating second phase expectations about work, which I have not yet fully done, feels like a task for this time. In fact, I enjoy the domestic part of our lives and it feels good to devote more energy to it.

Recalibrating. More on this as it continues.



The Inner. The Outer.

Imbolc                                                                                  New Life Moon

visual_field_testGlaucoma stable. Did a visual field exam yesterday, space invaders with a clicker and dots of light flashing off and on, testing peripheral vision.

Kate went with me so we could go to the Village Gourmet and buy a carving knife and a better potato masher. Turns out what I thought of as a carving knife was a filleting knife, a boning knife. What I wanted in spite of its different purpose. It’s in the knife rack now awaiting the time I have to cut up more chunks of beef or a chicken or a capon. Remember the capon saga around Thanksgiving? Found a potato masher, too. With a horizontal grip, easier on old hands.

My birthday present is to change out my wardrobe. That is, get rid of the old work related shirts and suits and shoes and pants and replace them. It’s been a long, long time since I had to show up at the office or appear in a tie, so this is not a sudden decision.

No. Not cowboy boots and shirts with triangle shaped pockets, pearl snaps. Not cowboy hats and big belt buckles. Just not me. But. Part of the motivation is to dress as the Coloradan I now feel myself to be. I’m no cowboy, nor are most of the folks who wear Western style clothing either. My Colorado is more mountains than ranches, more forests and streams than ski slopes. And, in that, my Colorado has definite affinities with my other favorite places, northern Minnesota with its clear lakes and thick forests, Lake Superior, especially its western and true northern shore, and northern Anoka County in Minnesota.

flannelSo. More flannels and plaids. Fleece vests. Another pair or two of blue jeans. Some new hat, though I don’t have a particular one in mind right now. There is a tiny part of me that relates to loggers, lumberjacks. Not the whole lumberjack look that spread out from Minnesota a few years back. That’s not still a thing, is it? But related to it. With all the chainsaw work I’ve done over my lifetime I feel I’ve earned some of that.

Mussar puts a significant inflection on changing outward behavior to change inner attitudes. As part of a strategy for self work, this makes sense to me though it conflicts sharply with my understanding of authenticity. In the case of defining a new look it feels appropriate.

What I want is my costuming, my outer look, to reflect my inner attitude, my changing sense of the place to which I belong. It’s definitely no longer oxford cloth shirts and polished wool pants, silk ties and Cole Haan shoes. Finished with that. For good.

A more comfortable, rumpled, casual look. One with a north woods, mountain feel. We went to a thrift shop yesterday after the Village Gourmet and I found two flannel shirts and a brown fleece vest. $16. I’ve gotten started. My plan is that for each new (new to me) shirt or accessory I buy, I’ll put an existing shirt or pair of pants in a box for the Mountain Resource Center.

This feels of a part with the melancholic turn, not a symptom of the melancholy, but of the inner change struggling to express itself. The who am I now question that has me stalled for the moment. And that’s ok. Maybe when I put on that new(er) Clear Creek Outfitter flannel shirt a piece of this journey will come into focus.




A Very Jewish Weekend

Imbolc                                                                            New Life Moon

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains

In psyche news. The heaviness seems to be gone, that drug down, want to keep going down feeling. When I’m in it, my soul seems more attracted to weight, willingly binding itself to a fall. The heaviness is a major physical clue to melancholy for me, a way I know to check for other signs. Its absence does not mean the melancholy has lifted, but does usually precede it. May it be so.

A very Jewish weekend. On Saturday we attended bagel table, an informal sabbath worship with conversation and, you guessed it, bagels. The presenter this week though wasn’t Rabbi Jamie, but Rabbi Evet of B’nai Havurah, a reconstructionist synagogue in Denver proper.

A congregant of Beth Evergreen, loved and respected, a mensch, had died suddenly, just that morning. The conversation about his death after operation for a malignant brain tumor was hushed, shocked. When Rabbi Evet started the service, the conversation quieted, but the looks, the feeling of it was still palpable. She stopped the service and had us focus on his death. It was a powerful moment, one in which what was being suppressed got lifted up. People told stories about Jeff, about what he meant to Beth Evergreen.

Evette_Lutman2-350x247Rabbi Evet teased out characteristics from those stories after a bit and suggested that a way to honor his memory was to figure out how to put back into our little community the attributes lost by his death. His smile. His willingness to help. His commitment to education.

Steve turned to Marilyn and said, “Marilyn, I really appreciate everything you do here. We don’t say those things out loud while people are alive. Maybe we could.” And, later, after the service was over, Marilyn came up to Kate and me and said, “I want to tell you both how much you mean to me.”

“And you to us,” I said. “Through having met you and found Beth Evergreen, we feel like we’ve finally moved to Colorado. This is our community now.”

“Makes a difference, doesn’t it?” Marilyn replied.

“It makes all the difference.”

Lev_Poster_LBI meant that and this experience with Rabbi Evet illustrates it. Beth Evergreen is a place where the heart and the mind both get their due. In fact, lev, the Hebrew word for heart, is also the word for mind. There is no other word for mind. Mind and heart are lev.

On Sunday we drove over to North Turkey Creek, up Peaceful Hills to Meadow View Road. The occasion was a new member/prospective member gathering at the home of Dan and Kristin. 40 or so folks, some board members, Rabbi Jamie and Tara, folks I knew and many I didn’t gathered around, yep you guessed it, bagels and lox and fruit and veggies.

The energy was good. There were little kids and older adults, all milling around, getting to know each other. I enjoyed the time. As is now usual for me though, I felt a sense of relief when we left and I got outside, to the quiet. Like the candidate event at the Friedman’s a couple of weeks ago I can hear in these settings, but it’s hard and stressful. I don’t always notice the stress until it’s absent.




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.

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.



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

Inching toward 71

Imbolc                                                                  Imbolc Moon

As any who’ve paid attention to the top line of these posts over the years know, the moon has always been important for Ancientrails. The Imbolc moon, at 2%, will preside over my 71st birthday. I’ve just received a copy of Lunar Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao, meditation that follow the traditional Chinese lunar calendar.  I’m looking forward to both reading Ming-Dao’s work and considering how a similar book based on the Great Wheel might look.

The silly season is well underway. Caucuses here in Colorado are on March 6th. I drove over to Dorothy Lane in Evergreen yesterday for an event at Nancy Friedman’s. It was for Lisa Cutter, a candidate for the State assembly. She’s running against Tim Leonard who has the opinion that the government should not be involved in k-12 education. He’s part of the weirdo branch of Colorado politics, but a branch that includes many voters here, a Libertarian variant that has redolence of the range wars and anger about far away corporate control of Colorado.

After walking into Nancy’s, I remembered a reason I stopped going to these events. I couldn’t hear. Even with my hearing aid, the crush of people and noise, her dining room, living room and kitchen were full, hit me like a flood, physically repulsing me. I spoke to Lisa, put my check in the bowl, greeted other members of Beth Evergreen that were there and left.

Kate’s been gone since Friday. This morning I’m driving back to Buena Vista to pick her up. The road there is beautiful, a drive I look forward to.



Beautiful View

Imbolc                                                                 Imbolc Moon

One of the continuing joys of our move to Colorado lies in the majestic scenery. It means that even the most mundane of tasks can occasion a journey with evergreen valleys, rugged mountains capped with snow, vistas that stretch for miles, and the Colorado blue sky.

BTW: Buena Vista was an interesting place, somewhere I would return. Another mountain town with a booming tourism industry. It’s not, however, an old mining town, rather it grew as an agricultural center thanks to abundant water, a rarity in many spots in the Rockies, coupled with land level enough to farm. Reminded me of Driggs, Idaho.

Liar's Lodge, Kate's retreat site

Liar’s Lodge, Kate’s retreat site

Heading east, toward home


March 2018
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