We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Mary, Mark, Superior Wolf

Summer                                                                         Monsoon Moon

Mary, Diane and Mark. Andover, 2011

Brother Mark drove up yesterday. He’s back in the U.S.A., back in the U.S.A. He loves being in his home country, but he doesn’t love the price of life here. Definitely cheaper in Southeast Asia. He’s a wanderer of note, having traveled the world for most of his adult life, living in various spots for a while, then moving on. At 59 I’d have to say he’s a pro at living a cheap life that enables his traveling habit. He also has the mental stamina to take a life lived often alone, most often alone. Not something all of us have.

We talked about family. Both Mary and Mark, perhaps because they’re both expatriates, spend more time connecting to our extended family than I do. Mark knows about our new grand-nephew in the Three Rivers area of Washington state. Cousin Kathy was with him when he had a medical procedure in Indianapolis. Cousin Diane and he connected again when he was in the Bay area last week. Mark stays in touch and I admire that about him.

Mary, Singapore Cricket Club, 2016

Mary, Singapore Cricket Club, 2016

Mary is still in Kobe, Japan. She found, improbably, a Frisch’s Big Boy and had an Indiana nostalgia meal there. She says there are many large Japanese in the Kobe area, maybe the beef? Mary, like Mark, travels a lot, often in the past few years to conferences where she’s either presenting or headlining. Athens shows up on her itinerary often, Australia and Indonesia, too. She returns to Singapore after Kobe.

Up here in the Rocky Mountains we’re enjoying more rain and cooler temperatures. The too long at very high fire danger signs now point Smokey’s finger at moderate, a blue stripe, not the angry reds and oranges of high, very high and extreme. This is welcome news for us since the wildfire season has been compared to 2012 and 2002, both years in which thousands of acres burned.

Fishing advisories are in place for many mountain streams and rivers. The low snow pack and resultant desultory melt has streams often below 50% of normal flow. That means the water heats up and limits available oxygen for the trout fly fisherfolk go after.

August 2016

August 2016

The big fires, the 416 and the Spring Creek Fire, have both been contained and most of the smaller ones are under control, too. We’ll all be sending petitions, in whatever way, to the snow gods. Please cover us this year. We need it.

I leave for Minnesota on Tuesday morning in an Enterprise Rental Car. Since 2011 Kate and I have used rental cars when taking trips. Got to get over to the Evergreen Library today and load up on audiobooks. Need to pack tomorrow. Easier when going by car.

An agent I think might really like Superior Wolf opens again for submissions on August 1st. I’ll be in Minneapolis, but I’m preparing to be able to send her my query letter and the first fifty pages as the clock ticks over. I wrote my query letter yesterday. Here it is:

superior wolfSuperior Wolf

Dear Ms. Moore,

Superior Wolf needs representation and your client list suggested to me that you may find this 95K fantasy/horror novel compelling.

 

Christopher’s father dies in a whiteout, attacked on a frozen northern lake, his head wrenched off, leaving Christopher alone in the dogsled. Who or what killed his father?
His obsession with finding an answer, returning to northern Minnesota time after time even though only 10 years old, causes his godparents to send him away, separating him from their daughter, Diana, who loves him.

 

His determination to find and kill the man responsible for his father’s brutal death leads him back to Diana, now a MacArthur grant geneticist, back to northern Minnesota, and to the immortal Lycaon.

 

Did Lycaon, king of ancient Arcadia, kill his father? Does he hold the key to life extension that Diana seeks on behalf of a mysterious group of hedgefund CEO’s who want to live forever?

 

I wrote Superior Wolf because northern Minnesota had the only intact wolf population left after decades of their successful extermination in the rest of the lower 48. Given that, why hasn’t there been a werewolf novel set there? Superior Wolf remedies this curious lack.
Research for Superior Wolf included a week of intensive study at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota in January. We went out and howled with the wolves one bitter cold night. They howled back.

Thank you so much for your consideration.

In My Dreams

Summer                                                                   Monsoon Moon

AbrahamSacrificesIsaacIcon_smThe strange things that come to me before I drop off to sleep. Thinking about Lycaon, the anti-hero protagonist of Superior Wolf. He sacrifices his own son, Nyctimus, at a once every four year festival, the Lykaia, to Zeus Lycaeus (Wolf Zeus). Stray thought then. Sounds like Abraham and Isaac. Oh. Wait. Abraham was a polytheist before his covenant with G-d.

moloch william blake

Moloch william blake

What if? What if the Abraham and Isaac story recorded a very different intention than the one we Westerners, long infected by the idea of monotheism, have imputed to it? What if the context was one of child sacrifice? In other words, the religions around Abraham, perhaps even his own previous to the covenant, might have required child sacrifices. I know about Moloch who certainly did.

In the context of gods requiring child sacrifice, the story would read more like this. This new God requires sacrifice, his beloved son Isaac. Nothing new there. Many gods require the sacrifice of children. Yes, it’s always fraught with heartache and pain, but that’s just what Gods do. What’s new here is that this God relents, aborts the sacrifice and accepts an animal in place of a human child.

In this reading then Abraham’s new God evolves from a ruthless eater of human flesh to one who says, no, we no longer do that. The story becomes one of triumph and joy, this new god is better, much better.

The Grail and the Veil

Winter                                                               Moon of the Long Nights

Sumi Brush“The more I have looked into the Quest for the Grail, it is clear it is a Western form of Zen. There is no grail, it is understanding that the veil is the mystery of existence, it is nothing, but our interactions with everyone and everything.” Woolly and friend, Mark Odegard

Mark is an artist, an author, a sweet guy and a friend of 30 years. He’s done many retreats at a Zen Buddhist retreat center in Minnesota and done calligraphy with that giant brush Zen monks use. He has an ability to come at ideas from the side, or behind, seeing what cannot be seen; the Zen work has informed his sight in substantive ways.

He’s asking the Woolly Mammoths this New Year’s question for their next meeting:

“What personal tool/skill do I need to refine for my quest for the grail’? I will write down your answer to this, and ask you again at the end of the year.

The story represents our own encounter with the mystery of life (often occurring in our late teen years). The meaning is veiled for us, what do you need to lift the veil.”

Mark’s question made me start because I’d just written this, only two or three days ago here on Ancientrails:

“Torah study is about loving attentiveness. It is a way of engaging the sacred world which we can know first from within our own person and which permeates that which we encounter throughout our lives…

God lit up for me. Ah, if I do Torah study, if I engage in loving attentiveness to my Self, my own Soul, and those of others and of the broader natural world, then I can find the knowledge which permeates all things, that very same shards of the sacred that shattered just after the tzimtzum to create our universe. That is God being available everywhere. This is far different from the Latinate imponderable of omnipresence, sort of an elf on the shelf deity lurking in every spot, finding you everywhere. And judging.

No. God is another word for the intimate linkage between and among all things, from the smallest gluon to the largest star. God is neither a superparent nor a cosmic Santa Claus writing down your behaviors in the book of deeds; God is a metaphor for the sacred knowledge which permeates the perceivable, and the unperceivable, world.” Ancientrails

I’m not trying to revive the word God here, nor am I trying to reinsert myself into the thought world which includes God. I’m on the same grail quest I started years ago in Alexandria First Methodist sitting beside the huge stained glass window of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Back then I read the Bible as history, not as mythology. Back then it mattered if there was a Jesus who prayed in that Garden that the burden of crucifixion be lifted.

I pushed those beliefs away long ago, passing through a moment, a long moment of second naivete with them, then moving into the world of the Great Wheel and the cyclical, spiraling time through which all life moves, in fact, all things. Over the last year or so my intense program of Jewish immersion has taken me another big step along this ancientrail, a true Grail quest began when, as a sixteen year old, I began to doubt the stories I’d heard growing up.

Frederick J. Waugh, The Knight of the Holy Grail, c. 1912

Frederick J. Waugh, The Knight of the Holy Grail, c. 1912

 

 

My true philosophical (qua religious) home, existentialism, found me in the aftermath of that doubting and my first encounter with philosophy at Wabash College. When I went into my Christian immersion, through seminary and in the Presbyterian years, my faith went mystical, seeing the divine as divinely personal, as a bright light shining within the darkness of my inner world, a light whose purpose was not to dispel the darkness, but to integrate, Taoist style, both of them.

Now, with Rabbi Jamie, I’m studying the kabbalah. Like Zen it insists on not seeing with eyes alone, but with the heart, with a poetic sensibility that understands religious language, I think all religious language, as metaphor, even and especially for the kabbalists, the written Torah.

The veil is a very important metaphor in kabbalistic thought. Like Mark observed above the kabbalists know there is a veil between us and the mystery of existence. The veil underscores the humility necessary for this work and without humility the quest will fail.

canterbury pilgrims

canterbury pilgrims

This idea is ultimately significant. Or not. We cannot penetrate the veil. Ever. Yet we all stand together on the other side of it. To see through the veil, to actually find the Grail, is not given to us, yet that place which we see through a glass darkly is the place where we stand right now. Yes, right now the Grail is in our hands, a cup from which we can drink at any moment.

This ancientrail, the quest for the Grail, the turning of the Great Wheel, the lifting of the burden of our crucifixion, flowing up and down with divine energy through the Tree of Life, is our life, is the life of this world, this cosmic pulsing brilliant reality. Yet we let so many things: work, fear, hope, pride blind us.

winter solstice3The Woolly Mammoths have been my companions, fellow pilgrims, on the way to Canterbury. Or, fellow Tibetan Buddhists inch worming their way around the sacred mountain, Meru. Or, my fellow Torah scholars, davening as we read the sacred texts. Or, fellow Lakotas, our skin pierced and tied to the world tree during the Sun Dance. Or, friends traveling through this life together until it ends.

“What personal tool/skill do I need to refine for my quest for the grail?” Out of far left field, I’m going to answer, “A Sumi brush, rice paper, an ink stone. And the courage to use them.”

 

 

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.

 

August 2018
M T W T F S S
« Jul    
 12345
6789101112
13141516171819
20212223242526
2728293031  

Breadcrumbs

Trails