Hózhó

Samain and the Fallow Moon

A fellow MIA docent posted a Navajo rug and it had this explanation of hózhó:

Hózhǫ́ is a foundational concept in the Navajo world, encompassing ideas of beauty, harmony, balance, order, grace, health, and happiness. It is a state of being, thinking, and acting. Navajo artists embody hózhǫ́ as they weave, and textiles are imbued with and become works of hózhǫ́.

Not a human being. No. A human becoming. Becoming with hózhó, with knowing ichi-go ichi-ge as the rich moment, with an ikigai of life as it is, not as we might want or wish it, but as it is, hózhó always. No matter what.

With wabi-sabi as a preferred way of seeing the world. Tarnished often, broken, yes. But even so a Velveteen Rabbit place. Repaired with gold where the cracks are. Walking this ancientrail of becoming which never ends. Walk along with me, friend.

Reading Zornberg on Genesis (see below), The Beginning of Desire. She found this title in a poem fragment from Wallace Stevens, his Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction:

“And not to have is the beginning of desire.
To have what is not is its ancient cycle.
It is desire at the end of winter…

It knows that what it has is what is not
And throws it away like a thing of another time…”

Sat down this morning to read Zornberg, but I printed out this poem, 23 pages long, yesterday. Thought I’d check where her fragment fit in the whole. Wallace Stevens is a giant to me though I know only a few of his poems. He hits me in a place I do not recall exists until I read him.

Anyhow an hour later I looked up. Read the whole thing. Yowzer. Let me repeat that. Yowzer.

A few lines:

The death of one god is the death of all.

Phoebus was a name for something that never could be named.

…the future casts and throws his stars around the floor

There was a myth before the myth began, Venerable and articulate and complete

The bear, the ponderous cinnamon, snarls in his mountain At summer thunder…

Stevens kept throwing in beautiful lines filled with the horror of nothingness and whether the Supreme Fiction can counter it. I’ve got to read it several more times. But, wow. This poem is something. It’s apparently considered his master work and I can see why.

Reading it reminded me that reading poetry, ancient texts, philosophy has a sustenance all its own. A castle of temporary meanings lodged in stony rooms, waiting for a visitor. Part of life now. Not what’s next. But, now.

Hózhó in this once in a lifetime moment and the next one, a wabi-sabi vision sufficient for ikigai.

Change it up, dude

Fall (last day of) and the Fallow Season Moon

-8. That’s right. -8 degrees here on Shadow Mountain, the day before Halloween. In October. We’ve had a taste of Minnesota winter the week before Halloween.

Been changing my morning routine a bit. Read an article that said the first three hours of your day are the most important. Mine starts between 4 am and 4:30 am. I wake up, the dogs get restless, Kep rolls over for a tug and tussle. Gertie comes up to check that I’M REALLY GETTING UP. Gives me a quick kiss to be sure. Rigel raises her head, looks at me. She requires a personal request to get out of bed.

That first half hour is dog feeding, getting the newspaper, and, on Wednesdays, today, taking out the trash. The trash has to be wheeled out through whatever has fallen on the driveway. Some snow today, not too bad.

One of the containers, the green one for recycling, testifies to America’s changed economy. It’s filled with cardboard from Amazon orders, Chewy dogfood boxes, boxes from Kate’s tube feeding supplies. Each home is now a shipping and receiving depot with the resulting obligation to handle no longer needed shipping materials.

After this work finishes, I go upstairs in our garage, to my loft, a 900 square foot space filled with books, art making supplies, exercise equipment and my computer desk. Over the last 14 years the first thing I’ve done in the morning is read e-mails, then write Ancientrails. That’s what I’d call a habit.

But, when learning is needed, the teacher appears. A writer whose blog I sometimes read suggested the first three hours make your day notion. He was making the common millennial complaint about spending too much on social media: facebook, instagram, snapchat, tiktok, whatever the latest is. That’s not me, but I took his point.

Ready for a change I switched up. First, back to meditating. Having done that on a regular basis in a long while. Goal is for 20 minutes. Up to 10 this morning. Then, I read. I’ve been wondering about why I’m not reading more. Oh, I read science fiction, the occasional novel, Tears of the Truffle Pig right now, but serious reading has become a difficult task. Fitting it in. Being able to sustain attention. Turns out the early am is wonderful for that kind of attention.

Reading this morning in the Beginning of Desire, by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. Subtitle: reflections on Genesis. She’s amazing. A new thing under the sun of biblical commentary. Her method, which I’ll write about here at some point, is so subtle, so profound, so intimate, and very learned. I got hooked on her by plucking a book of hers somewhat by random off the library shelf at CBE. I opened, read a couple of sentences, and knew this was genius. Not a term I use lightly.

That was a year ago during the High Holidays, Yom Kippur, and Rabbi Jamie had just finished the whole High Holidays. A lot of work. He sank into the chair next to me. Nobody else there. All had left.

I enthused about Zornberg. He brightened. Yes, he’d met here. Yes, she was the best Torah commentator, maybe ever. He and his brother Russ, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, and professor at Regis University in Denver, who lives in Evergreen, had talked about a joint class using one of her works, a series of essays on biblical interpretation. Hasn’t happened yet, but when things normalize here, I’m going to see if I could give the idea a boost.

Anyhow, I got into her this morning and combined with some other thinking I’ve been doing, got into a revery about myth, fairy tales, long books, the true anchors of my inner life. This is my work, my lifelong work and fascination, the attempts we humans make to discern the occult, the hidden, the other world, the that beyond the this. This is my heart’s labor. Politics was reasons labor, fueled by the heart, too, of course, the misery of oppression, but calculating, power oriented, perhaps a diversion?

I’m writing this now, an hour and a half later than I would have in the past 14 years. So, changes. More to come.

Done and dusted

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Finally. Ancientrails. All 2,000,000 words, through May 26th of this year, printed. It’s a lot of paper and ink. Now I have to sort it into years, get it three-hole punched, and buy those three ring binders.

Kate comes home today. I’m leaving to pick her up right now.

Ikigai

Beltane Cancer Moon

This Morning

It’s been this kind of May. And it looks as if June will be cooler and wet, too, according to Weather5280. Good news for us, not so much for those lower down when the huge snowpack starts to melt.

Got further along on print Ancientrails. Am now in late 2017, quite a ways in. Then, print spool error. Again. Well. Gotta go back to whatever I did that solved it once. Tried so many things I’m not sure which one worked. Something did. For a while. Soon though. Then, I’ll take everything for three hole punching and decide what kind of binders I’m going to buy. Each folder with month tabs.

Also figured a way to unzip Superior Wolf and focus on Lycaon’s story. Don’t know whether I’ll follow up later on Christopher and Diana. The hunt for immortality is almost a cliche these days. And the central conceit of their story, a hedgefund group that funds Diana’s research, is not fiction anymore. Geez.

That means I’ve got months of work ahead, maybe years. My ikigai. A Japanese word that means reason to live. This article talks about ikigai in more depth as an explanation for Japanese longevity. Squares with my own intuition. Purpose keeps you alive and flourishing.

The Japanese have a lot about life figured out. Ichi-go, ichi-e is another favorite of mine. It comes from the Japanese tea ceremony and means each moment is once in a lifetime. No such thing as an insignificant experience with another person.

Sekkyakushi, 15th century, Muromachi period, Metropolitan Museum of art

Reading a book right now by the wonderful travel writer, Pico Iyer: Autumn Light, Season of Fire and Farewells. It’s a follow-up to his The Lady and the Monk, which I have not read, in which he recounts meeting Hiroko, the Japanese woman who would become his wife. He had moved to Kyoto to immerse himself in Japanese culture, sensing, as I do, that their approach to life is worth learning, perhaps adopting. Twenty-three years later he lives in Japan with Hiroko six months out of the year and six months in the U.S., caring for his mother and working for the New York Times. Recommended.

Each time I dip into some aspect of Japanese culture I find I want to know more. The MIA’s Japanese collection gave me a chance to interact with tea bowls, tatami mats, sumi-e, Buddhist and Shinto sculpture, put me deeper into my own Asian pivot.

Zen itself has not intrigued me, but I did follow Zen back to its roots in Chinese Chan Buddhism, a melding of Taoism and Buddhism. The Taoist aspect of Zen, and Chan. Yes.

Tomorrow. The CT scan. Probably the last of the imaging work. It will either show metastatic disease or a localized recurrence in the prostate fossa. If the former, one kind of treatment. And, prognosis. If the latter, 35 days of radiation and a possible cure. Hopeful, of course, that it will be localized, but aware that it might not be. In either case I’ll know. That’s been the hardest part of this time (well, no, that’s not right. The hardest part has been dealing with insurance and the hospital’s “benefits” office.), knowing the cancer has reasserted itself, but not knowing what that means for my life.

Will be glad to have this work done so I can move onto what’s next.

The Right Thing for Us

Beltane Cancer Moon

Things I think about while falling asleep. Life. A stream rushing down the mountain of time, a branch into a tributary, tributary to river, river to the gulf of eternity, a small part of the sea of infinity.

Project print ancientrails update. Got into May of 2015. Then, printer spooling error. Spent an hour on it yesterday, got tired. Learned long ago to quit at a point when I’m doing the same thing over and over. Come back the next day with fresh eyes. Later this morning I’ll be back at it.

Looked out the bedroom window this morning. Frost. Rained over night and the temperature is just below freezing. A nubbly ice covered the deck and the stall mats, but the driveway was only wet. Saw a mule deer crossing Eduardo and Holly’s yard.

The sun is now well up at 5:30. The victory of the light will peak in three weeks. I look forward to the Summer Solstice as the moment when night begins to claw its way back into prominence.

Jon and Ruth left Gabe here yesterday while they went skiing. A-Basin. It still has peak snow cover, may be open until July 4th. Unusual. When they got back, Ruth and I made spaghetti and meatballs. She’s turning into a sweet, loving person. A real pleasure to see.

While walking back to the house after getting the paper this morning, I thought about her and Gabe. We moved here to have these kind of interactions with them, casual and frequent. It was the right thing for us to do.

50th High School Reunion, Alexandria, Indiana

When I was in school in Alexandria, Memorial Day marked the end of the school year. Summer begins! Days of freedom wandering alleys collecting pop bottles for small change. Going to the field with Rick Meyers and the Kildow boys to play army. Playing blackjack every weekday afternoon in the paper boys shack of the Times-Tribune. The occasional pickup softball game. Riding bikes around town. Outside until well after dark. No thoughts of pedophiles, school shooters, terrorists. No climate change worries. No computers. No cell phones.

Here in Colorado school typically ends in June though Ruth, because of McCauliffe’s schedule, got out a couple of weeks ago. This is Gabe’s last week. They will both start school again in the second week of August, both at McCauliffe for this one year, Ruth in the 8th grade and Gabe in the 6th.

Ruth, as do most of her friends, has a season pass to Elitch Gardens, an amusement park that serves as summer day care for many Denver teens. They have rides named Brain Drain, Mind Erase. You can see the attraction after school’s over.

2,000,000 Words

Beltane Cancer Moon

Half of Ancientrails on the right, both stacks. Missing, Superior Wolf, and Phantom Queen out for editing

A long quest for me has ended. I’ve been searching for a way to print out Ancientrails for a couple of years. Not an insignificant undertaking at well over 2,000,000 words. Found a plug-in for WordPress, the software I use (thanks, Bill) called Print My Blog. Prior to Print My Blog the only way I had discovered to print posts was a repetitive process of copying each blog post and then pasting it into a Word document. With over 10,000 total posts that was enough to make the process difficult and time consuming.

Print My Blog has its problems. It only allows starting at the beginning of your blog and printing sequentially from that point. If you have a printer or software issue, as I did twice a couple of days ago, Print My Blog resets to the beginning. Sigh. I was at February 22nd, 2013 on Saturday when I got a printer error. That was about half of the total pages I needed to print. That was the good news. The bad news was that if I wanted to finish I’d have to start all over again, at the beginning. And hope nothing would interfere.

Then it hit me. I can run Print My Blog, get its formatting of all of ancientrails and its content, do a select all, and copy the entire blog into Word. Which I did yesterday. Easy peasy. Printing is much easier in Word with multiple ways to divide a document. I may finish printing it out today. Then, I’m going to get thirteen notebooks, 2007-2019 and have those pages three hole punched at Staples. There will be a written copy of my work on ancientrails except 2005-2007. They exist somewhere in the cyberether, but I can’t find them anymore.

Why are you doing this, Charlie? Kate asked. I have three reasons. I have a cloud backup of Ancientrails using Updraftplus and I’m grateful for that. If my web host crashes or I get attacked by a hacker, I can restore everything. But, when I die, it’s probable that no one will pay my web host and/or no one will be able to use the backup because they don’t know it exists. I’ll leave instructions, but after my death protecting my blog won’t be a top priority. A printed copy solves that problem. If, that is, anyone wants to keep it.

Second reason. My cousin Diane thought some folks might like to read what I’ve written here. At 2,000,000 plus words no one, not even me, has that much interest. A volume devoted to Ancientrails will require editing. A lot of editing. WordPress is good software for writing and posting on the web, that’s what it’s for, but not so good if you want to go back and read, then edit, multiple entries. Pretty clumsy. Reading ink on paper and marking it up? Easier. This is a long term project, but one made simpler by the hoary art of printing.

Third reason. I want to see it printed out. Very satisfying to see all that work in one physical location. The cyber copy of it all is invisible, most of it. Hard to reify. This will make it real in a Velveteen Rabbit way.

Anyhow I’m pretty far along with this now. Word pushes pages out of my laserjet printer even as I write this. The written word has occupied me for the last thirty years. Still does. This is one not so small part of that focus.

Life Goes On, In Endless Song, Above Earth’s Lamentations.

Beltane                                                                                  Cancer Moon

cancer songSpent yesterday and Saturday reorganizing the loft, continuing work in the Intensive Journal. Oh, and made a meatloaf. Better than my mom’s. I printed a copy of Jennie’s Dead as it is so far, about 50,000 words, found my third draft of Superior Wolf, and pulled out the Phantom Queen which I haven’t seen in years. Today and tomorrow I’m going to file the remaining documents from CBE religious school, mussar, First Sundays. Then, I’m going to take each book that is piled up near my chairs, give the top ten priority for reading, and shelve the rest.

In order to create the revised Superior Wolf I’m going to read books featuring werewolves, about wolves and the middle ages, about wolves. I want this draft to be more like The Historian or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel in its scope, perhaps with a bit of Moby Dick. I had this ambition for Superior Wolf to begin with, but let the task of finishing get in the way. This time, more patience, please.

Today is Kate’s appointment with Dr. Gupta. The lung diagnosis and the fitness for surgery assessment. A big deal, in other words. Later in the day is her coronation, four permanent crowns. Queen Kate.

cancer pet scanTomorrow the whole rising PSA matter gets lit up and scanned by the hospital’s p.e.t. machinery. Takes about 30 minutes, slowly moving from pelvis to head. This moves me from an indicator based concern, PSA, to the reality of where the cancer is now, in my body. I’m hopeful there are no metastases, of course, that whatever has returned is confined to the prostate fossa. I’m not ready for my expiration date, but, then, I suppose nobody ever really is. The best result in this case is a localized reemergence treatable with the Cyberknife.

Today I have to eat a high protein, low carb diet. No exercise 24 hours before. No caffeine 12 hours before. No food six hours before. Only water. Kate’s been going through these high stakes test for almost 8 months now. There’s a rule here. If you look, you’ll find something. Whether that something is important or not, well… It will be up to the radiation oncologists to define the significance of the pet scan. That comes on Friday at 2 pm. I feel fine, no symptoms.

 

 

Onward

Beltane                                                                                 Cancer Moon

20190509_124939Go now, the workshop has ended. Paraphrasing the end of the Catholic mass. Appropriate in this case having just come Mother Cabrini’s shrine. The experience of being at Mother Cabrini was familiar in its physical surroundings. In college I would always retreat to Catholic sanctuaries to be still, to reflect. I always found them/find them, soothing.

I have my Intensive Journal beside me as I write this. I left it at the workshop over the last week. It’s filled with thoughts, meditations, exercises. The tabs in the journal, some of them, have esoteric names like Peaks, Depths, and Explorations or Twilight Imagery. Others more ordinary. Daily Log. Dreams. Meditation. The workshop itself both teaches how to use the journal on an ongoing basis and creates a gestalt of life now, as considered as it can be. This latter, for the other three workshops I attended, has been enough for me. Not this time. Not sure what changed, but I’m feeling a need to keep using the journal outside the workshop.

20190511_082432Here are two examples of next steps that have me excited. The first is to do a dialogue with reading. In the dialogue section of the journal, orange tabs, there is a method for developing one to one conversations with people important to you, living or dead, fictional or actual. That seems to makes sense. But the other four tabs in the orange section: Works, Events, Society, and the Body perhaps not so much. It works though. The journal method posits that a dialogue can be had with work you’re doing. I wrote a dialogue with Superior Wolf and in it realized I needed to pull the novel apart and focus one story only on Lycaon. In the Body section I’m in the midst of a dialogue with cancer.

Back to reading. Here’s the method. Each discrete entity under these tabs has a conception, a period of growth, then a waning, perhaps even a death. I’ll write a focusing statement, a short introduction to whatever it is: cancer, my mom, alcoholism, reading. Then, I’ll do steppingstones that move my experience with reading from its conception, through its history in my life, and finally where reading is for me right now. (also in the focusing statement.) When those are done, I re-read them, make a comment about how it felt to write them, anything new that has occurred in the re-reading. At that point I’ll enter a meditative place, a twilight place, that will allow me to engage reading in a dialogue, not from my intellect, but from deeper within what Progoff calls my well. Then I write a conversation, a back and forth between me and reading. I’m eager to see what will come of that. Also, in completing the dialogue with cancer.

My Intensive Journal from 2014

My Intensive Journal from 2014

The second example is another dialogue, a dialogue with ancientrails that will both focus on where I want to go with this fourteen year old project and how it and the intensive journal can work together. Again, I’ll write a focusing statement, write steppingstones, re-read and comment, go into the twilight place, and write a dialogue between me and ancientrails as a work.

This week, the follow on week after the workshop is going to see a cleaning up in the loft, a tidying. After that I’ll develop a routine with the intensive journal and ancientrails, do some of the deep work that I left undone in the workshop like the dialogues with reading and ancientrails, but some more work in the dream log, twilight imagery log and in the section labeled testament. Probably others, too.

Mother Cabrinins confirmation

Mother Cabrini’s confirmation

I’ll need both ancientrails, the intensive journal, and caring bridge to weather the critical medical work that faces both of us next week. Kate’s lung disease. Her four crowns. My axumin scan. My glaucoma check. My visit with the radiation oncologists. This time a week from now we should both have a much clearer understanding of where our respective health challenges will take us.

Down for breakfast, then back up here to get some of that work begun.

In a room off the chapel there were several windows that recounted the life and work of Mother Cabrini. It just occurred to me that those windows are steppingstones in her life. All up there with beautiful stained glass for others to see.

Not yet

Beltane                                                                             Cancer Moon

20190510_064922

from my computer, this morning

5 or so inches of snow over the night before and yesterday. Looks like winter again here. Solar panels covered. Black Mountain hidden in the clouds. The drive down the hill yesterday took some skill. Slick spots, long runs snow and ice covered while going down. Wouldn’t want to have to do that everyday for work. On occasion it’s interesting, different. Our workshop leader, Joanne, lives in Fresno where it gets hot, and in Hawai’i, where it never gets cold. This weather is not to her liking.

This is the last day of the workshop. Now considering how to continue this work on my own. Each other time, three before this one, I’ve come back and not continued the journal. This time it feels like I finally understand the method enough to do it unguided, or at least with the help of Progoff’s main book, At a Journal Workshop. The week long retreats have been sufficient for me to gain new insights, position myself in my life at the moment, and chart out a path forward. That’s why I’ve come to back to this experience.

One thing I’ve not touched on yet in this new journal is reading. I want to read more, more methodically. This desire comes over me from time to time, right now it’s coming in strength. I read a lot anyhow, you know that, but I want to take specific time for more difficult reading. Gotta figure out how to work that in.

There is, too, some overlap between ancientrails and the intensive journal. Sometimes they’re covering the same or similar ground. Will have to work out the relationship between them.

20190506_084930It’s a bit strange to be at May 10 and have the temperature at 24, snow covering the driveway, the roofs, the walkways. In Minnesota the safe time for planting was typically May 15. Don’t think it would work here, at least not every year. We warm back up next week. For now, though. Winter wonderland. Like, I wonder why it’s still winter?

Next week will test the equanimity. Monday am. Kate’s appointment with Gupta. Lung disease diagnosis and fitness for j-tube surgery. Later in the day, her new crowns. Tuesday, axumin scan to determine the extent and location of my cancer. Wednesday, a visit with my ophthalmologist. Retinal photography. Thursday, mussar. Friday, all-season tires and dye into the air conditioning system. A visit to Anova Cancer care for a treatment plan. A jump shift from this quiet week.

One important thing the journal workshop has underlined for me is that I’m not ready to die. I have family I want to care for, see grow up, grow older. Friends I want to know better. I have books to write. Places to visit. Deep work still ahead of me. This is not new, of course, and the journal workshop hasn’t made me aware of it, no. But, it has put me in touch with the gestalt of these things and my desire to keep at them all. The feeling level.

Death will come, but as I heard someone else say, let it be tomorrow.

 

 

Jettison Some Shame

Beltane                                                                          Cancer Moon

plowRead yesterday in the group. Iam asked me afterwards if I was a professional writer. Well, I write novels. But, I’ve not sold any so I don’t know if I’m a professional. Drina, who works for a website connected with the founders of Findhorn, said I was a “bright light.” Not sure what that meant, but it was a compliment. Nice to get feedback.

The intensive journal is a plow for the psyche. It turns over the soil, reaching well below the surface, often down into what Progoff called our well. Up pops things hidden, things repressed and suppressed. I worked yesterday with my one year at Wabash. I’ve always been proud of going to Wabash, ashamed of going to Ball State. Yes, even now 50 years later, still ashamed. Enough of that. Shame is not a big part of my inner world, but in this case it’s stuck around.

What I realized yesterday was that I went to Wabash because I believed in a liberal arts education, in studying what was important to me, not what was useful for a career. Its brick buildings, main quad, great library, and 150 year old traditions gave that sort of education a physical manifestation. It was liberal arts. When I transferred to Ball State, primarily a teacher’s college that got big and became a university, I kept up with the liberal arts. I continued my philosophy major from Wabash, picked up an Anthropology major and almost enough credits for a minor in African Studies. I got my liberal arts education. And am still getting it, yet today.

the_foolWe wrote spiritual steppingstones, what experiences in our life have led us to our current spirituality. Those of you who know me know that it’s been a long journey. An ongoing one, too. I would characterize my current spirituality as a tablespoon Taoist, two tablespoons existentialist, a teaspoon Christian, a teaspoon and a half Reconstructionist Jew, and a half cup of paganism (of the earth, the sun, the starting of the universe, aware of it and finding it enough). Mix together and bake until dead. Then, we’ll see.

We also wrote about ultimate concerns, those things which excite us, motivate us, about which we have passion. I had several: the Great Work, Economic Justice, Writing, Painting, Reimagining Faith, Horticulture. Each of these continue in my life, some more prominently than others, but they are the core. Economic justice work proceeded them all. Writing came next. Then, horticulture at Andover. The Great Work. Reimagining Faith. And, most recently oil painting.

The third day of creation

The third day of creation

We’ll work with these today and tomorrow in this last of the three segments, Life Integration. My experience with these workshops is that it’s often days, weeks later that the fruits of the work begin to manifest. I already know I’m going to revise Superior Wolf, separating out the two story lines I merged in it and giving them their own books. I’m going to focus as much as I need to on getting well, on the scan results and potential treatment options. And, obviously, continue taking care of Kate as long as she needs it. Beyond those things, tbd.

It’s been more exhausting than I imagined it would be, commuting. I’m tired, but glad I’m doing this, weariness a small cost.