We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

work

Lughnasa                                                           Eclipse Moon

thoth writes

thoth writes

Kate finished the first draft of Superior Wolf. In one day. She made a very helpful suggestion which will require considerable revision, but the book will be stronger for it. A quote by Terry Pratchett, a British fantasy author: “The first draft is telling yourself the story.” Yes. Now I know, for instance, that the lead character is really Lycaon, not the initial main character I imagined. Those two things alone point the way toward a good revision.

The new schedule has taken shape, solidified. I write ancientrails first thing, like I’m doing right now. Then, I move onto Jennie’s Dead, which has begun to live and breathe, I’m excited to say. My goal each morning is to finish a post here and write 750 words in Jennie. I get breakfast either during or after I get those two things done. If I have the time, I’ll spend 30 minutes filing posts from ancientrails for Reimagining. Workout, which ends before lunch. Lunch. Nap.

Many monasteries had Scriptoria, otherwise known as writing rooms where monks made hand written copies of important works. The monks copied Christian writings, including the Bible, as well as works from Roman and Greek authors.

Many monasteries had Scriptoria, otherwise known as writing rooms

The after nap part is not so solid yet. I do read then, Arthur Green’s introduction to the Zohar, for example. I have not started translating again and, since I start Hebrew this week, I think, it might absorb that energy. By 4 p.m. or so, I’m moving toward the evening and happily so.

My life is best when I have large blocks of time I can manage and, when I’ve figured out a rhythm for the work I have underway. That’s happening. I’m grateful to Kate for supporting me in this and, for finding this amazing space. I want to have a library dedication sometime in October, in the main to thank her.

 

 

After

Beltane                                                                              Moon of the Summer Solstice

resilience-Disaster-risk-reduction-Climate-Change-Adaptation-guide-englishAnother short trough of time where work here will focus on moving, rearranging, hanging.

Decompressing after finishing a long project starts now.  The joy of holding the weight of the manuscript in my hand as I passed it to Kate, always my first reader, pleases me in a deep way. Superior Wolf is the first work I’ve finished in Colorado, on Shadow Mountain, yet its bones are deeply Minnesotan.

The inspiration for Superior Wolf came from the last native packs of timber wolves in the USA, those in the Arrowhead region of northern Minnesota. It merged along the way with the Latin work I’d been doing, translating Ovid, which included the story of Lycaon, the king of Arcadia. Minnesota and Ovid, the core of this novel.

There is, too, the usual regret that I couldn’t have done better, written more poetically, created more tension, brought the characters to life more convincingly. These regrets are, strangely, the fuel that will carry me into my next novel, probably Jennie’s Dead. Perhaps it will be the one where my language sings and the plot cannot be put down, where the characters take over the work.

disenchantmentBut not yet. The next period of time belongs to another very long term project, reimagining faith. There is that bookshelf filled with works on emergence, of pagan thought, on holiness and sacred time, on the Great Wheel, on the enlightenment, on nature and wilderness. There are file folders to be collected from their various resting places and computer files, too. Printouts to be made of writing already done. Long walks to be taken, using shinrin-yoku to further this work. Drives to be taken in the Rocky Mountains, over to South Park, down to Durango, up again to the Neversummer Wilderness. The Rockies will influence reimagining in ways I don’t yet understand.

Reimagining is already underway, has been for awhile. The first task is to collect all that work I’ve done, so what comes next will be clear. Maybe in a week or two. First though I want to wander around some, move some books, hang some art.

A World Complete

Beltane                                                                 Moon of the Summer Solstice

Lycaon, jan cossiers, museo del Prado

Lycaon, jan cossiers, museo del Prado

On this day, 12 days from the summer solstice, the first draft of Superior Wolf came to an end. It’s printing right now.  This part of the work is done.

Once the formatting and other elements of the draft, like the dedication and an initial quote, were in good order, the laser jet printer set itself in motion taking bits and bytes and transforming them, Ovid style, into black words on white paper.

A first draft, of course, is not finished.   It requires editing, checking for continuity, grammar, conceptual mistakes like plot holes, differing character descriptions and the other 10,000 things that make up a world created from my head over many years. I first began writing on Superior Wolf in 1999. This is my eighth novel. Some are better finished than others.

I’ve failed, in a significant way, as a writer. I can’t escape that fact. I’ve not sold my works, not labored in the fields of publishing, at least not hard enough. I’ve succeeded, too, and there’s no diminishing that fact. I have begun the creation of 8 different worlds filled with their own populations and places, carrying them through to completion.

lycaon2-9912Over the last 12 years or so I have written literally millions of words on Ancientrails. There have been, too, short stories, sermons and partial drafts for even more novels, perhaps four. Some work has been done as well on an ecological history of Lake Superior and Reimagining Faith. I now intend to turn myself toward Reimagining, writing as clearly as I can about what I believe is a critical perspective for our time. This perspective, one taken from close to the ground, but still seeing the sky might help us create a sustainable presence for humans on this earth, the great work of our time. I want to contribute in a way that I can.

That Other Project

Beltane                                                                     Moon of the Summer Solstice

120305_Writer-comparison_small-23497_200x200Back at Superior Wolf. After a month or so of focusing on other things, chiefly that presentation for the mussar class, I’m writing again. The end of the first draft for this novel is near. Once I get it done I’m going to print it out and give it to Kate, then I’m going to move away from it for a while, perhaps three/four months, while I try to push Reimagining Faith further along.

I’d like to get a book length draft of Reimagining done this year or at least get one well started. My sense is that it requires a concentrated effort, not one done with other writing projects. I need to spend time in research and writing on it alone. I do best when I can focus on a single project for hours at a time.

fireShiva_smallYes, mussar and kabbalah require a lot of reading, too, but that’s its own concentrated effort, not competitive with Reimagining. In fact I find the mussar and kabbalah work reinforcing for Reimagining, especially in a Reconstructionist environment. There’s a lot of energy and permission for rethinking fundamentals at Beth Evergreen.

Kabbalah may require a return to my Hebrew studies of over forty years ago. I learned functional Hebrew, enough to look up words and evaluate translations, but never had the goal of understanding grammar or building much of a vocabulary. I certainly never had the intent of using it for worship. A major component of kabbalah is gematria, a sort of numerology that focus on numerical values of Hebrew letters and words. To understand this aspect of kabbalah I’ll need to increase my Hebrew proficiency.

Not sure right now where Latin fits into all this. I’ve fallen away from it, but at the same time I miss it. Need to ponder this one for awhile.

 

 

Cultural Appropriation

Beltane                                                                           Rushing Waters Moon

Transformation Mask, Richard Hunt, 1993

Transformation Mask, Richard Hunt, 1993

Cultural appropriation. I’m not sure I understand this argument, but this wikipedia entry contains a long summary. I get it when the issue is the Redskins as a football team name or Indians as the basketball team name in Anderson, Indiana with its related arena named the Wigwam. I understand it when the issue is blackface, Aunt Jemima, the wearing of war bonnets as fashion statements. I fully understand and appreciate, for example, the Northwest Coast First Nation’s desire to own their artistic heritage, a good example of which is the Transformation mask at the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

The argument begins to fray for me when I see complaints about using traditional cloth in new and different ways or even when others choose to reinterpret traditional art. Or, particularly, when I read books that create characters from different cultural traditions, gender perspectives, or ethnicities. I don’t understand how the life of art can go forward without all kinds of cultural appropriation.

culturalIf, as a Western white male, a U.S. citizen of mostly European genetics, I cannot create characters in my novels that are outside that narrow slice of the world’s reality, my work is restricted in ways that make no sense to me. Would I always get it right? No, of course not. But how do we understand other’s understanding of their others unless we can see it or read it or watch it? And is not the fraught interaction between and among cultures important to understand from all perspectives?

Of course intentionally stereotypical representations are abhorrent, but should not the critique of them be left up to the reader or the viewer? At least in the way I write self-censorship is the ultimate enemy, a foe to be fought off. This notion seems to introduce so large an element of self-censorship that an artist could find themselves crippled. This does not create cross-cultural understanding, it undermines it.

Minstrel_PosterBillyVanWare_editAs a former student of anthropology, I know that cultural diffusion is always happening. Look at pidgin languages. Look at the appreciation of art in the different departments of encyclopedic museums. Look at the cultural diversity within the fabric of our nation. Go to Singapore and see the merging of several South Asian cultures into one nation.

I’m interested in reactions to this piece since I’m sure I don’t have a complete understanding.

Snow, And Lots of It

Spring                                                                      Passover Moon

20170405_144607Switched my work routine around, now writing on Superior Wolf in the early morning, breakfast, Latin, workout, lunch, nap. So Ancientrails comes later in the day. Like now, at 3 pm.

We got somewhere between 12 and 20 inches of snow last night. Our house looks like an old cabin in Switzerland after a heavy snow. When I cleared the deck early this morning, it was challenging. Kep stood at the door when I opened it, looked outside, looked at me, then delicately put a foot outside. A few seconds later he was bounding through the white, a black and white blur.

In the way of mountain weather, our driveway, plowed at 4:30 am by Ted, is now clear. The sun, beating down on it at altitude, transfers heat quickly to the asphalt. This aspect of weather here is a real joy. You can have snow, lots of it, and still find mobility pretty easy not long afterward.

Kate had her first infusion of Remicade, an anti-rheumatoid arthritis biologic, on Monday. We hope it will reduce the pain in her hands, shoulder and back while also reducing the fatigue that RA also creates. The infusion takes two hours, sitting quietly in a chair with up to 8 other people in the room, undergoing the same sort of procedure. It’s hard to know in advance whether these things will work, but we expect good results.

Over at Beth Evergreen tonight Kate’s going for her last or next to last Hebrew class, then to a cooking class for a new approach to the passover meal. At 5 pm, Rabbi Jamie will teach a class, Exodus From Boring Seders. We’re attending a community seder next week on April 12 at Mt. Vernon Country Club. Maybe it won’t be boring.

Jon plans to look at mortgages this month, houses in May. We both hope it goes smoothly for him.

 

 

 

Life on Shadow Mountain Yesterday

Spring                                                                       Passover Moon

The big storm comin’. 8-16″ of snow. Ended up around 2. Of course, all moisture is good moisture, so we’re happy we got that, but we’d hoped for more. More storms are on the way though. Maybe one of them will hit the sweet spot that carries water up from the south.

It was housecleaning day yesterday. Sandy drives up from Littleton every two weeks. She even does windows.

20170326_103558The loft is near it’s final configuration, at least for now. I do get the urge to move things every once in awhile, but I’m liking this setup. Just some art hanging and rearranging, pull-up bar installation, book reordering, a bit of moving boxes down to the garage below and it will be complete. Two and a half years later it feels wonderful.

This is the best space I’ve ever had all to myself and I love it. Thanks again, Kate, for finding this. This last push, refiling and rearranging, getting the shelving up (thanks, Jon) has me given me a place that inspires me, pulls out of me my best scholar/writer self. That’s the mask I don when I walk in here.

 

At An Undisclosed Location

Winter                                                                          Cold Moon

There’s a bright golden haze on Black Mountain. The clouds presaging the storm pile up over the continental divide to the west, then begin to slip over to our side. The sun’s rising and it has painted those clouds with a brush from Raphael’s palate. Over the course of the day they will slump this way, graying the sky and carrying the moisture necessary for what Weather5280 now estimates as 10-20 inches of new snow. And so we rest in those delicious moments before the heavy snow arrives, estimated to be around 9:30 a.m.

New information in divorce matters. Jen has moved out of the house on Pontiac Street to an “undisclosed location.” Ruth apparently knows where it is, but didn’t offer to tell Jon and he won’t ask. That’s part of the restraining order which is still in place, no using the kids as communication conduits. This is a positive moment for Jon though because it means he can get in the house and get the remainder of his stuff.

Kepler has astounded Kate and me. He tore off the outside nail on his left front paw, leaving the quick exposed. Pretty painful. We took him to the vet on Monday. They sedated him, cleaned up the nail, put a bandage on it, then wrapped the whole foot in a bandage and some leopard spotted coban. He has not touched the foot bandage. Not at all. Every other dog we’ve had would have had that damn thing off the same night without an e-collar.

I’ve rethought turning my life over again. The threads I’ve got established are substantial and nourishing: novels, working out, Latin, this blog, mountain living, friendships, Beth Evergreen. I want to sustain the momentum I have in all these areas, so my life will remain much the same. Two changes I do want to make. I want to include more reading time, reading non-fiction on such topics as: the West, American political life, magic, science. Also, I need to find, sometime in the next month or so, a platform for the anti-Trump work.

It will be awhile before the rhythms reestablish and the new changes take hold. Though the knee is no longer painful, there’s still a long way to go before it’s rehabbed. That means distractions related to the knee will continue. Also, I have to wrestle this sleep demon to the ground and exorcise it. These things will happen.

 

The Year of the Absent December

Winter                                                         Cold Moon

lionTwo good friends, Allison and Tom, have recommended I see Lion, on my list for this week, especially now that I’m mobile, both on foot and behind the wheel. Yes, the knee is becoming much less painful though strength and stamina will take a while to regain. Not sure whether it’s the drug cocktails I’ve been taking or what, but sleep has become a precious commodity again, not easily found in batches long enough to feel rested. Ick.

2016 will be year of the absent December for me. My 20161203_083526surgery was December 1st and much of the first two weeks + I spent in a narcotic haze. Or so Kate tells me. The remainder of the month has been physical therapy and figuring out how to manipulate the meds so they help me rather than hurt me. Not an easy task.

The good part was having the grandkids here for most of Hanukkah. When Kate and I returned them to Jen yesterday, Ruth came back to the car to say goodbye to me. We touched hands and she smiled, a furtive lightning of her face. I said, “Remember what I told you about your audition.” (that I have faith in you) She said she remembered. This is her audition for the Denver School of the Arts. She presents her portfolio and sits for an interview.

Kate after election day

Kate after election day

Next big medical event is Kate’s endoscopy tomorrow. This is a follow-up on an occult blood finding, so it could have serious implications, though I’m not expecting them. I have physical therapy at 7:15 a.m., then we head down the hill on 285 to Swedish Hospital for a 9 a.m. procedure.

A sequelae of the absent December is waking up from it to a New Year. What will I do in 2017? Will it be continuous with the first two years here? Or, will I rethink it all, maybe reshuffle the deck one more time? I’m leaning toward the latter. There will be Superior Wolf, yes. There will be workouts, yes. There will Beth Evergreen. There will, I decided yesterday, be Latin. I’m picking that project up again beginning this week. But, beyond those and how those fit with other potentials? I don’t know. I do know that taking a big insult to my physicality, even for a good cause, has got me in a contemplative mood, wondering, once again, about how life fits together.

Superior Wolf

Lugnasa                                                               Superior Wolf Moon

Luna in snow (International Wolf Center)

Luna in snow (International Wolf Center)

So, you might ask, why Superior Wolf Moon? Well, I’m in the Superior Wolf world now and plan to stay in it until I have a new first draft. I conceived this story idea back in 1999, have picked it up and put it down several times. Now though I’ve got traction, I’m having fun and I’m finally going to finish it, probably around this time next year, maybe a bit sooner. Every one’s a little different. Superior Wolf Moon is a device to remind me of that commitment every day for the the duration of this moon cycle.

 

 

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