We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

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.

Police Treating Blacks Awfully

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe opened up his large notebook yesterday and showed me a page empty except for a sort of title: Police treating blacks awfully. This is his project. Jon wanted me to help him with some research so we went up to the loft. I suggested to him that we put his title into google. We did that. He chose several articles ranging from an essay on prison brutality to a Gallup poll on how blacks perceive their treatment by the police.

To put a generational spin on it, he said, “We could just add these to Googledocs.” Oh. Well, ok. Do you know your Google account information? He got up and typed it in, commenting, as Ruth always does, that he doesn’t like my track ball mouse. We then added links to all the articles he chose to a blank Google doc that will show up wherever he has access to a computer. No library involved, at least so far. He will also interview black friends and adults. This is all interesting not least because this project isn’t due until May/June, 2019. Pretty long range thinking for a 10 year old.

Love

Love

Meanwhile corned beef simmered on the stove, awaiting the addition of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Sounded good to Kate and these days I try to cook whatever sounds good to her. I still can’t get it moist like Frank does. Gotta ask him his secret. Tasted ok. Today. Corned beef hash. A real favorite for my palate.

Kate had a consult with a gastroenterologist, a Korean/American, Dr. Rhee. He’s going to look at her gall bladder and do another upper GI endoscopy to look for a possible stricture below her stomach. She sounded hopeful, but weary. Easy to understand. This is like torture. Her nausea is episodic, but always looming.

She was tired last night and so was I. She asked me to clean up after the meal and I said,”No.” Felt bad immediately. I was tired, too, but I don’t have her inner fatigue. So, I cleaned up. This is tough stuff because it creates tension where tension only exacerbates.

I’m lucky to be in relationship with such an intelligent and confident woman. Have been. Am. Will be. I see that woman every day; she often doesn’t. Painful.

Muddy BuckThere’s a sort of sneaky self-satisfaction that comes from holding a business meeting on the boardwalk in Evergreen. Alan Rubin and I met at the Muddy Buck in the morning, sitting outside on its veranda, really a wide spot on the couple of blocks long board walk that I mentioned a few posts ago. On a Monday morning discussing the religious school class we start teaching on September 5th, we saw the usual flow of cars on Hwy 74, the main street of this tourist destination portion of Evergreen. This is a place people come to visit for an afternoon or a weekend or a week. And we live here.

 

 

Becoming Emo

Lughnasa                                                            Waning Summer Moon

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

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

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

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

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

20171228_190150

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

 

 

 

 

The Sweet Life

Lughnasa                                                                      Monsoon Moon

CBE (1)Discovering an odd phenomenon. My feelings bubble up with less filtering. I don’t feel depressed, not labile. Not really sure how to explain this, though it may be a third phase change? Or, maybe just me, for some reason.

At the MIA last week, for example, there was the strong feeling of grief in the Asian collection. Warm feelings for my friends in Minnesota were also strong. On the way home I was happy on the road. Noticeably. Kate triggers a powerful, more powerful than ever feeling of love. When I watched a TV program in which the main character’s mother died suddenly of a stroke, I was right with him emotionally. Yesterday, at the Bat Mitzvah of Gwen Hirsch, I kept shoving back the occasional tear. Her initial struggle with being upfront, her beautiful voice and the clear joy with which she overcame her fright, so evident when she carried the torah scroll around the sanctuary, made it appear she was becoming a different person, right then. Her transition/transformation was breathtaking and so sweet.

Ruth at DomoIn fact, there’s another example. Over the last few months I’ve been using the word sweet a lot. Our dogs are sweet. Ruth. The folks at Beth Evergreen. Minnesota friends. The loft. My life. I seem to see sweetness more now. I haven’t lost my political edge, my anger at injustice or a willingness to act, but the world has much, much more nuance now at an emotional level.

This change in my inner life has made me more resilient, I think, more able to identify the emotions, accept them, learn from them, respond or not, and move on. Enriched. It’s as if there’s more color in my day to day. Who knows? It might be a phase or I might be melancholy, my feelings are usually closer to the surface then, but I don’t think so. This feels like a permanent change.

Seeing the holy soul, my mussar practice for this month, accentuates this. I saw Gwen’s holy soul yesterday and it was a thing of beauty. I see the hosta struggling with a dry spell, but I know their holy soul makes them strong even in this sort of adversity. Gertie’s blind eye and painful rear quarter, her missing teeth have not dimmed her holy soul, it moves her into a bouncing, happy girl in spite of them.

slash from beetle killed lodgepole pine

slash from beetle killed lodgepole pine

I can, too, see the holy souls with damaged personas. Occasionally, I’ll see an aggressive dog or one that cowers, yet beneath those defensive outer layers, the warm and kind dog soul is still visible although it might be hard to reach. People, too. The young boy with violent tendencies, with a stubbornness that might be on the spectrum, with the sweetness for those who are sick, his holy soul is, even at this young age, hidden, so hard to find. Or, another, her reason so tortured by ideology, her essential kindness most often blocked by bitterness. Or a lodgepole pine dying of pine beetle infestation. Even as its needles turn brown and it begins to dry out, its holy soul keeps it upright as long as it can. We can never err when we search for the holy soul in others.

Look insideI see my own holy soul, now claiming more space, taking back some of the aspects of my life I had given over to achievement, to striving. This is strange because it comes as I’ve begun to reach for achievements I’ve blocked for decades. The work of submitting my writing feels both unimportant and necessary. I’m immersed in a community, Beth Evergreen, which encourages the growth and expansion of my holy soul. This is true religion, with the small r, the connecting and reconnecting of our inner life with the great vastness, our part in it highlighted, made clear at the same time as our limitedness.

 

 

 

 

Fear and Honor

Lughnasa                                                                 Monsoon Moon

After a swim, from September, 2015

After a swim. September, 2015

Yesterday and today are about reentering mountain world. Tired yesterday, probably today, too, from the journey. The electric panel needed a gentle push to return power to the eastern wall of Kate’s sewing room. E-mails needed to be sent back to the auld home, thank yous and follow ups. Pushed Superior Wolf out the door to an agent, the biggest toe I put back in the world of daily life, save one.

The biggest. Mussar Vaad Practice (MVP) group last night. I have three clusters of commitments in Colorado: family/home, Beth Evergreen and the Sierra Club, my writing. The time last night with the MVP was a return to the world of Beth Evergreen. Both Kate and I had significant matters to share.

The practice this last month focused on bitachon, trust. We placed bitachon on a continuum with trust at one end and fear on the other. I chose to concentrate on fear, specifically the fear that has held me back for almost thirty years, fear of submitting my work for publication. While on the Durango trip, I read an essay about setting a rejection goal and, as I said before, I set 100 rejections as my goal for the year. Pushing that article together with my commitment to practice facing my fear resulted in my first organized and disciplined approach to submitting my work.

Aboard the lucky dragon

Aboard the lucky dragon

In group last night I admitted/confessed/shared the results. Each rejection I’ve received, two so far, hurt, made me ashamed of my Self in such a deep way that I can’t describe it. Like the grief I experienced at the MIA last week the shame in this instance came unexpected. Why shame?

At one point last night I buried my head in my hands to emphasize both that searing feeling from the rejections and the less searing, but still real, shame of not facing this fear before now. After I talked, I didn’t disappear, melt down like the Wicked Witch of the East. No one ran out of the room, too disgusted to still talk to me. In fact, the reception of my experience was careful and kind. As I like to think I would be to someone sharing something similar.

Now, in the way of these things, the angst drained out by exposure, I imagine submitting work will become a routine matter. These dates, this agent, that magazine, following up. Writing more work. Continuing the work of writing.

20180725_171404

At the ICE protest. July, 2018

Kate shared an even more profound realization. While it’s really hers to share more publicly, I can report that after she spoke, her confidence level rose and I could hear, see a lighter Kate. Both of us helped ourselves change our own lives. That’s a powerful result for an hour and a half.

Kate remarked that kavod*, honor, is not only person to person, but can be applied to a community. We both regard Beth Evergreen with great respect. That’s the character virtue, soul trait, for next month.

My practice is seeing the holy soul. At the meeting I said my practice would be seeing the holy soul in others, but on reflection, I want to see it also in myself and in animals and plants. This broadening of the practice came when I realized last night that I have a gift for seeing the holy soul of dogs. I relate to all dogs as if they were presenting their most sacred self. I see cows and horses, mule deer and elk the same way, though with much less experience. And, can I treat my own holy soul, my own most sacred self as respectfully as I treat that of others. This last may be the key challenge for the month. We’ll see.

Rigel, being beautiful, July, 2018

Rigel, being beautiful. July, 2018

The term meaning honor and respect is very important in any society, but even more so in Middle Eastern societies. The English word “respect” means “look back (again), regard”; honor means “regard with great respect, dignity.” The Hebrew kavod is related to kaved, meaning “heavy.”* Indeed, until not long ago, the heavier a person was, the more respectable he or she was, for rich people could afford to eat whatever they wished, whereas poor people were undernourished, eating very little and looking light, unimportant. A related word is kibbud, meaning “honoring (parents, teachers)”; as well as “(serving the guests) refreshment” (thus showing them respect).

*Also related to kaved “liver,” the bodily organ assumed to be the source of dignity, just as the heart is the source of emotions and intellect.Jewish Journal

Building a Self

Lughnasa                                                                           Monsoon Moon

The basilica, Minneapolis. From my hotel room.

The basilica, Minneapolis. From my hotel room.

Morning, Black Mountain out the loft window, cool air, dry. Home. Made supper last night. Pork cutlets, tomato, onion, cucumber salad, hash browns from left over tater tots. Put the dogs to bed. Fed and pilled the dogs a half hour ago. Took out the trash and retrieved the Denver Post from the newspaper tube. Sitting down at my desktop, ergonomic keyboard under my finger tips. Checked the calendar for the week and month ahead, plenty to do. Reinserted into mountain life. On the daily level it’s as if I never left. The stuff I do.

But. There’s now the 2018 trip to Minnesota. The one where I went to every place I ever lived in the Twin Cities metro. The one where I saw Tom, Mark, Bill. The one where Mark had his no good, terrible, very bad week. The one where I spoke at Groveland for their Covenanting Community celebration. The one where I discovered a profound grief about art, Asian art in particular. The one where I went into a funky basement room and listened to jazz. You remember. That one.

JazzCentral, Minneapolis

JazzCentral, Minneapolis

This slow accreting of memories is the essence of building a self. The same 4-year old boy who flinched when the dragon in the apartment building on Lincoln called for more coal has been collecting these moments for over 67 years. Throughout, of course, the strange fact of never leaving the present, never able to go back to any of those moments, yet holding them in reserve, as clues available right now about living.

Our Self is the internal agglomeration of that particular, that ultimately particular, set of memories, but not as static moments. No, they are the data we use to respond, to grow, to cry, to laugh, to plan, to hope, to learn what it means not only to be human, but to be the unique human that we are.

Have to go create a new breakfast memory. Gertie says so.

 

 

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.

 

 

Pilgrimage

Summer                                                                                    Monsoon Moon

St. Croix River, September, 2016

St. Croix River, September, 2016

Returning to the auld sod. September of two years ago was my last trip to Minnesota, that one for a day long Woolly Mammoth retreat in Stillwater. This time it’s Groveland UU’s 25th anniversary and their acceptance as a covenanting community of the UUA. Kate and I were part of Groveland from very near its inception, meeting in the round upper room of the Highland Park Library. I had just left the Presbytery and needed a religious community that did not make my mind go into reverse in order to remain.

The UUA proved to be a caravan serai for my longer journey, a spot where I could consider the contradictions of monotheism in friendly company. Groveland gave me a chance, over the years, to write out and present a travelogue of my own soul. This was a rare and welcome opportunity, one where I could say out loud what would have been heresy in my Presbyterian robes.

Mom, Dad, Me

For a while in those years I thought I would return to the full time ministry, perhaps even settle as a clergy in a small congregation. My analyst, John Desteian, later helped me identify this wish as a regression, a return to my back then profession to pick up something I’d left behind. In the retrospectoscope of many years now I think it was a need to say goodbye to that world, the world of the religious professional, to acknowledge that I no longer belonged in it, perhaps never did.

The notion of vocation is powerful. When triggered, as mine was in a complex mix of politics and renewed interest in spirituality, it becomes self-defining. Called, some say. I never felt called to the ministry; though I did come to feel that the peculiar mix of politics and institutional leadership of my short, fifteen year, career was my vocation. Ordained first to my work as manager of Community Involvement Programs apartment living training program for the developmentally disabled, moving from there to the political work of the West Bank Ministry and finally onto Presbytery staff where I had broader responsibilities for mission and congregational development, I was able to pursue a commitment I made to myself during high school.

Industrial ruins of the Johns-Manville plant, 2015

Industrial ruins of the Johns-Manville plant, 2015

While working as a managerial intern for Johns-Manville corporation, the CEO of the factory where I worked offered me a full ride scholarship. In return I would work for the corporation as a manager for five years after college.

I needed the money because my SAT scores, though good, were not competitive for the best financial aid. I even found the work I’d done as an intern interesting. My summer project was to develop a diagnostic tool for the factory, defining and then developing a method to track what Jim Lewis, the CEO, called key operating indicators, koi’s. It was fun, digging around in the data to find a group of numbers that indicated the ongoing health of the work, then developing a method to track them on a regular basis.

When it came time to reply to Jim’s offer though, I had a very strong gut response. No. I would not, I said to myself then, ever work in a setting that compromised my values. At that point I was a strong labor advocate and attuned to the damaging, psyche cramping, even soul destroying power of corporate America.

Ye young radical, 1968

When I went to United Seminary in 1971, I gave myself a year. I wanted to get out of Appleton, Wisconsin, out of Fox River Paper company’s rag room. I needed to use my mind, not my back. When I got to United, I discovered a campus and, at the time, a profession, pushing back against the war in Vietnam, in solidarity with the civil rights movement, and intellectually rigorous. I liked my classmates and was able to continue the radical political life I’d begun, like so many, in the late sixties college movement against the war.

As I went deeper into the spiritual tradition of Christianity, I found contemplative prayer, long retreats, an inner world of great depth. Intellectual curiosity kept me coming back for more. And, that commitment I made was not challenged, not at that time.

It was only after adopting Joseph in 1981, five years after my ordination, that I began to find cracks in the metaphysics I’d accepted. If Joseph had been raised in his birth home, in Bengal, he would likely have been raised Hindu. And, as a Hindu, he would have been beyond the pale of salvation. No. The same sort of gut response I’d had to the Johns-Manville offer hit me. No. If I could love this boy now, I would love him as a child devoted to Shiva or Vishnu or Kali. And, if I could do that, and the god I served could not. Well.

09 11 10_Joseph_0271Was that the real trigger? I’m no longer sure. It was a contributing and significant one, that I know. I believe now that it was the rationale I could explain to others. The true inner shift was a different one, a result of the contemplative and spiritual work that I first found in seminary.

I read the Creation of the Patriarchy by Gerda Lerner when it was first published in 1986. It opened my mind and heart to the power of metaphor, how metaphor could be used as an oppressive tool, one so subtle that what appeared as spiritual might actually be enslaving. In particular Lerner’s work convinced me that transcendence, with its up and out of the body, up and away from the natural order move, reinforced, even helped create patriarchy. The best, the most sublime, part of us was not in our embodied form, but in our ability to leave the body for a higher spiritual plane, to merge with God. This was a move that reinforced that the three story universe where true power, the most real, was above us, literally, in the realm of God, the father. Heaven.

Instead, I came to believe that true power, the most real, was right here, in our bodies, on this earth, in the amazing web of life in which we participated along with the rest of the animate world. Transcendence became, for me, a concept that smuggled in a world ruled by men and kept the world that way through constant repetition and its anointing as the way to true spirituality.

IMAG0680croppedAgain, NO. See a pattern here? When I made the turn from up and out of the body to down and in, my religious worldview shifted permanently. My spirituality became an embodied one, one that found the universe in my hands, my feet, my skin, the very fleshy things that are of this world. When gardening and beekeeping and orchard tending occupied a lot of both Kate and mine’s time, it was easy to see the link between the soil and this embodied, non-transcendent spirituality.

This was the core move, the one I could explain theologically, intellectually, even emotionally through the Joseph story; but, which was in fact a metaphysical shift away from spiritual realms other than the one into which we are thrown at birth. I’m still in that place. I’m still anti-transcendent, pro-body, pro-earth. I find God an unnecessary idea, but, oddly, I find religion itself compelling. Still.

Judaism, reconstructionist Judaism, is, unexpectedly, a comfortable home. It requires no dogma, requires no belief, and has an establishing principle of skepticism toward the past, yet an acceptance of the power of tradition. Beth Evergreen in particular is a place that allows, encourages deep exploration of self, of community, of our obligations to each other as fellow creatures, and to the gritty world that supports us. All I ever wanted, really.

 

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.

Can I hear you now?

Summer                                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

Went to the Hearing Rehab Associates shop today for a hearing test, hearing aid cleaning and tune up. An old folks event. First order of business, shine a bright plastic wand in my ear and make my ear drum go owwiiee. Then, into the Scott Pruitt sound proof booth. I felt like I was right there at the EPA, protected from those damned environmentalists.

The booth has two outlets, but I only need one, for my right ear. My other ear goes along, because, what’s it gonna do, but it doesn’t have to participate. That stopped a long time ago. First words. Then, beeps. Finally, staticky sounds with the hearing aid on. Result? Hearing is in the same place as a year ago. Good news. The hearing aid needed some adjustment to clarify higher range sounds. A few clicks of a mouse and that was done.

I also checked in, as I do from time to time, to see what’s new for us single sided hearing loss folks. Since the left ear went dark when I was 38, 1975, last millennia, there’s not been a sufficient advance to make my situation better. “That’s one thing we can’t fix,” said Katie, the audiologist. She did give me information on a BAHA device, Bone Assisted Hearing Aid. Might look into it. Still, she seemed rather doubtful that it would do more than alert me to sound coming from the left. Nothing new.

Also, as long as I’m on health matters, I made an appointment with Lisa, my internist, for a back pain consult. I work out, with work outs from a personal trainer, and have done for a long, long time, but I still tweak my back. Tramadol helps. I’m in a bit of an odd spot since my kidney disease makes taking NSAIDS inadvisable. Don’t want to go to opoids and acetaminophen doesn’t always knock down severe pain. I hope she’ll give me a prescription since I don’t know when it’s going to happen.

Meanwhile, though it’s way cooler here than Denver, it’s still too freaking hot. OK. Rant over.

 

August 2018
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