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.



33 foot Jesus

Beltane                                                                            Cancer Moon

progoffMeet up in cyberspace. My old friends Paul, Mark, Tom, and Bill zoomed into the bits and bytes yesterday from the land of first light to my spot among the purple mountain majesties. We spoke of those things that matter now. Mark is done with his second book. Bill’s going to Tanzania next year as his long term project, U-Face Me, takes off. Paul’s about to join the joint replacement club with a new hip. Tom’s adjusting to life as an eminence grisé.

Woke up yesterday realizing I’d not prepared any food for Kate. After breakfast I made her a pound of sloppy joed hamburger and a couple of quarts of vermicelli soup, a favorite of hers from our Monastery Soups cookbook. Got ready to go to Progoff.

At noon I headed down the hill toward Evergreen, hopped on I-70 for a short run to the Genesee Exit. U.S. 40, the old cross country national highway which I-70 more or less parallels has a short run between that exit and Golden. Gonna stop this afternoon at the buffalo overlook, just off that same exit. An article in the Denver Post says there are buffalo calves. Makes sense. It’s spring/summer.

Progoff cabrini

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue at the Shrine

Down old 40 toward Denver you can access Lookout Mountain, Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave, museum plus giftshop, and the world famous, to Catholics, shrine of Mother Cabrini. The most prominent feature at the shrine is a 33 foot high statue of Jesus, set at the shrine’s highest point. When I left last night at 9, Denver’s lights twinkled below me and Cabrini Jesus stood lit up and proud above.

If you’ve ever been on a retreat at a Catholic retreat center, you’ve been to the Cabrini set up. Hallways with one bedroom rooms on either side, large kitchens, kitschy paintings, and furniture bought with comfort not fashion in mind. A chapel. And, since this is the Rocky Mountains, vacationland U.S.A., a big gift shop.

When I arrived yesterday, the large parking lot was about three quarters full and most of the visitors I saw were Latino. The retreat center cum chapel cum giftshop is at the end of a switchback road that climbs several hundred feet up a rounded peak, one of the first of the foothills. It overlooks Golden, then Denver, to the east and the continental divide to the west.

Joann Hackett, the workshop leader, flew in Saturday from Hawai’i. Quite a shift from humid, warm Hawai’i to the dry, 60 degrees Rocky Mountain foothills. She was the workshop leader in Tucson, my last Progoff workshop. She began this work when she went to a Journal workshop lead by Ira Progoff. She got to know him very well, found his intensive journal idea compelling.

progoff2There are seven of us, a small group by workshop standards. Two folks from Denver, one from Berthoud, another from Boulder, one from Ft. Collins, and one man from Santa Fe. One other commuter. This first segment, all the segments are two days in length, begins with identifying the current period of your life. Mine had an obvious starting point, the move to Colorado. You spend time fleshing out what makes this the current period of your life, then move on to an exercise called steppingstones. Steppingstones, in the Progoff work you get 12, are key moments in your life that led you to this period of your life.

As I wrote them this time, mine were roughly, polio, mom’s death, participating in the 60’s, adopting Joseph, marrying Kate and leaving the ministry to write, becoming a docent at the MIA, working on the Great Work, the move to Colorado, cancer, Jon’s divorce and Kate’s illnesses, cancer’s reemergence. The steppingstones, I’ve discovered, change according to the perspective you bring to the exercise, a perspective shaped by what you’ve defined as the current period. Over the course of the workshop you expand on each of these, writing about them, following the memories and the feelings they evoke.

Gotta get ready for today’s session. Talk to you later.




Swimming in da Nile

Spring                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

axiumSwimming in denial. That’s me. I sent an apology e-mail to Dr. Eigner saying I had misstated my PSA. I wrote it to him as 1.2, but it was really .12, I said. Just got a call from Anna Willis, his PA. Nope. I had it right. It was 1.2. Guess I wished it to be .12 so I decided it was. Nope. The second PSA I had was, in fact, 1.3. Well.

Numb. In shock. Doing what I do to sort things out, write.

I’ll be getting an axumin scan, a relatively new pet scan procedure that can identify active cancer cells and locate them. This not only helps target therapy, a very good thing, but can also say whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) or is confined to the prostate fossa, the area where my prostate used to be. After the scan, I’ll visit the cancer care folks at Anova. They’ll discuss what treatments, probably radiation, might work.

20181011_181109I have a sort of buzzing in my head, a feeling of my body as more of a barrier to the world, heavy. Staring, sort of off into the distance. As I’m writing, I stop. Then, realize I’m stopped. Go again.

Black Mountain is gone, disappeared in the fog, or the cloud surrounding us right now. Appropriate. What’s going on in my body right now is covered in the fog of unknowing. I’ll have to wait, as I  will for Black Mountain, to see what can be seen.

Sighing. Distracted. This will pass, this feeling. Then reality will settle in, take another bit of time to figure out, to feel into this changed circumstance.

And, of course, the continuing weirdness of having a terminal condition (if left untreated) with no symptoms. I feel fine. Good. Healthy. Except…

Good thing Kate got good news from the scale this morning. 94! Some of it no doubt due to the prednisone burst she’s on right now, water retention, but not four pounds. She’s gaining weight, feeling more optimistic. Thank god. She said, “After your radiation or whatever treatment, we’re going to board the dogs and go on a cruise.” An excellent idea.


Spring                                                                         Rushing Waters Moon

three weeks ago

three weeks ago

Things we think about here. The snowpack, in all regions of the state, is way above average, nearly 150%. That means three things: an easing of the drought that has plagued the state, especially the southwest corner, a solid supply of water for the Colorado River basin states, and a much lessened fire danger over this summer. So much nicer to go into the summer months with good water supply. The arid west.

It means one other thing, too. Rushing waters. As the snow melts, our mountain streams will swell, spill over their banks. Our waterfalls will peak, like the ones just below us, the Maxwell Falls. The sound of these streams racing toward the South Platte (up here, anyhow) is one of my favorite mountain sounds. The soughing of the winds. The bugling of the elk. Late spring streams full and bubbling, babbling, crashing.

These are the Rockies now and have been the Rockies for thousands upon thousands of years. We’re here for a moment. We living things witness. It may be our most important act. We are the universe aware of itself and its wonders.

April, 2016  Gwangju. Just before the wedding

April, 2016 Gwangju. Just before the wedding

Kate had a not so good day yesterday. Some nausea. A Sjogren’s flare, maybe related. I hate to see her that way. I wish her recovery was one smooth arc from 77 pounds to 100, 105. It’s not and it will not be, but I wish it anyway.

Ruth had her third or fourth Destination Imagination state contest appearance yesterday. D.I., as she calls it, is a national program that has kids join with 4 or 5 of their peers, invent plays, and, this year, respond to improv challenges. There are judges and her team has placed at state the last couple of years in their age bracket. Don’t know how she did yet.

Jon says he’s tired of living in an unfinished house. Due to remodeling at his school, he gets done much earlier than normal this year, April 21st. He plans to use the long break to get a lot of work done. He’s done rewiring, replumbing, cleared out the old kitchen and purchased newer appliances. He’s done work on the kid’s rooms first, building Ruth a platform bed and Gabe a desk.

The first glimmers of new work. I’m taking my cousin Diane’s idea seriously. She wrote: “I think your writings deserve a wide (wider?) daily audience — they so compellingly chronicle daily life along with stretching the readers’ mind — and also possibly they could be gathered/edited in to a book that would appeal to our age group. Have others suggested any such to you?”

marble-mainMy plan is to print out all of ancientrails. I started a while back, but gave up pretty far from completion. That way I can fuss with them in the physical world, compile sheets and posts. Much harder to do, ironically, on the computer. Not sure what I plan to do, but that’s the place to start.

Probably going back to Jennie’s Dead. It’s unfinished and I want to complete it. Though. I may take time, too, to start the book Elise and I talked about, the one that comes from the heart. Main point, work is beginning to reassert itself after the long barren period.

Painting? Yes, that too. Not yet, but soon.

Ta for now. Gotta go down and take Kate off her feed bag. She’ll be free for 10 hours. She sounds much better.



What To Do?

Imbolc                                                                                             Valentine Moon

relaxMy birthday month passed in a blur of illness and caregiving. February, my seventy-scond February, got underway two days after a difficult day, a full day. I felt exhausted around noon and had several more places to go. Like moving through jello, thick jello on the way home.

The next two weeks was a symptom buffet. Somebody was spinning a large wheel and where it stopped? That was the new insult. Hit me like a freight train. My memory of those days is absent, therapeutically so, I think. Pneumonia came after that. And after pneumonia, recovery from three weeks of misery. Mostly back to normal now, just a bit of stamina to regain.

However. A month, a whole month, even if it’s a short one, mostly erased. No painting. No writing. No visits to CBE. No exercise. Having to rethink life. Again. Home now, no more regular CBE obligations. Being available for Kate’s needs is top of my list. Doesn’t consume all of my time, not even close, so I’m beginning to itch, to want some fruitful self-directed activity.

A new novel? That one I’ve been mentioning? More painting? Reading about art, astrology. Judaism. I need a focus, an outlet for my own work. Nothing sticks right now. Guess I’ll just mosey along like I have been, see what comes. Maybe I’ll try some free writing a la Natalie Goldberg. Painting equivalent.

No big deal here, trying to get myself reoriented, start the engine. Sputtering. Too much choke.

The Days of Our Ancientrails

Winter                                                                       Waxing Moon

Chez Kate and Charlie under snow

Chez Kate and Charlie under snow, yesterday

Never thought of it this way before, but Ancientrails is a soap opera of sorts. Or, ugh, a reality show. We have recurring characters: Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, SeoAh, Murdoch, Murdoch’s dad, Jen (boo), Rabbi Jamie, Mark, Mary, Tom, Bill, Paul, Mark O., Alan, Rich, Tara, Marilyn, Sally, Areil, Anshel, CBE, the religious school. Differing locales: Shadow Mountain, Evergreen, down the hill, Minnesota, Maine (through the magic of zoom), Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Korea, Georgia. Various story lines: Mark and his ESL adventures in Saudi, Mary and her jet setting life, Kate’s illness, the bees at CBE, wildfire danger, Tom’s business, Ode’s art, the dogs and their escapades (comic relief), the Rocky Mountains, the occasional bout of world travel, SeoAh and Murdoch, my meandering through various thought worlds and aesthetic ones, the nature of my soul. What will happen next?! Don’t change that dial. Or, better, don’t touch your remote. Something new, something unexpected is coming up.

Went to mussar yesterday. Only Ariel and Sally showed up. Three former Midwesterners braved a modest snowfall. I find myself saying often up here, “If we didn’t go out in weather like this in Minnesota, we’d never go anywhere in the winter.” Coloradans are weather wimps, especially when it comes to cold, icy conditions. It’s like the meme I reposted yesterday on facebook from a Florida weather station: Limit your children’s outdoor time. Dress warm. Temperature of 53 tomorrow.

camelsBrother Mark, whose grasp of Saudi culture has become nuanced, reported a couple of days ago on a visit to a new camel herd cared for by Bedu. (Bedouins, I think, in local parlance) In his own words: “There was a stud white bull camel, many brown and white female camels,, and gamboling young camels. Gamboling, stretching their young legs out. One poor fellow had lost the lower part of his left front foreleg, but, was getting by on three legs. I met this Bedu fellow. I said I was from America. He said, “Donald Trump.” He then sort of urged me to see the camels. I went forward a bit, but stopped, as I did not want to invade the camel’s space. The Bedu said the stud bull was Saddam Hussein.  The camel with the shortened foreleg was Trump.” Humor is cross cultural and international.

Bought this at last year's show

Bought this at last year’s show

Jon and his fellow art teachers in the Aurora school system have a gallery show once a year. He’s had new work, his prints of found metal objects, in it last year and this one. He figured out a new method for using Intaglio inks that allows him a lot of the same opportunities for color, color blending afforded by oils. He’s a true artist, committed to his vision, a vision that is unique as is his method. Jon finds crushed metal objects along the roadside, takes them home, cleans them up, inks them up, then runs the roller of his press over them with a sheet of print making paper between the roller and the object. Like the best art the result is surprising and beautiful.

Kate got to work on a jigsaw puzzle yesterday, folded laundry, watered the plants. She’s also talking about getting out more. This is taking arms against a sea of troubles. May she, by opposing them, end them.

Tomorrow’s post: a visit to H-mart without SeoAh.


On Working at Your Best

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

20181214_081606Painting. A long, long ancientrail. Walked by so many. A few well, more journeypersons, and the rest of us.

Mediocre. An interesting idea, mediocre. If you’re working to your best capacity, your work is wonderful. Mediocre arrives on your doorstep when you begin comparing your work to others. I’m a writer of wonderful novels and short stories. I create wonderful paintings. Am I going to be hung in the National Gallery? No. Any gallery? Probably not. Am I going to make the NYT times best seller list? Unlikely. Have I done less than my best? No.

Success, I’m gradually beginning to learn, is not about the other. It is about yourself. If Michelangelo painted like me, he’d be mediocre because he had the skill to paint well. If Tolstoy wrote like me, same. Where do I fit? Hell if I know. I’ve had the chance to work at my best level in two fields where criticism is a given. I’ve learned to quiet my inner critic, to stay away from sweeping generalizations about my books, my paintings. Now you may read them, look at them, and say, “He’s no Song Dynasty landscape artist.” Or, “He’s no Marquez.” And you would be right. I’m just and only me.

breathe thich-nhat-hanh-calligraphyThis does not mean I’m uninterested in the quality of my work. Hardly. I want it to be the best I can do. Do I always work at my best level? Of course not. But I do as often as I can. Which is most of the time. I’ll leave the judging to others. I did write that novel. Several, in fact. I did create that painting. Several, in fact. Enough for me. Could I have done this without Kate? No. But Kate is in my life and I in hers. Both of us have sought the best for each other, have sought to create a home environment that encouraged our best work.

Quilting, making clothing, writing novels, and painting are not the only things we’ve done. Kate healed children. I worked hard at social justice, at following a small r religious path. Both of us have raised kids, learned how to be grandparents. Grew much of our own food, our own flowers, our own fruit, our own honey. There is no accounting, no form of critique that can measure these things. They are past. And we don’t live then. We live forward, on the ancientrail that leads into the time beyond this moment. What we have done is not what matters anymore. What matters now is what we do today, right now. As my buddy Bill Schmidt says, “Show up.”

crane2Life allows no do overs. We can reconsider, reframe, reevaluate, remember, but we cannot change yesterday, or any yesterday. We can make choices right now.

Today I chose to use turpentine to wipe out, literally, work I did yesterday. And, I’ll do new work on that painting today. I’m not doing over what I did yesterday. I’m going in a new direction today.

It feels to me like I’m beginning to get this, to accept the truth of the past, of my intentions, and to find a path with no attention to results. Not sure why but this excites me. A form of liberation, I guess. Not giving up, just going forward. Working at my best. Nothing else is possible, except apathy. And that’s not me.

Feliz Ano Nuevo

Winter                                                                            Stent Moon

20181230_180856Here we are in another year. Took second son to the airport at 7 am. Big traffic jam about 10 minutes from the airport on Pena Road. Took 20 minutes to clear. Lot of pissed off people.

Went out to get gourmet food for New Year’s Eve. The whole family was here. KFC Littleton. I was the only customer. Drove down the hill, cussing at the Colorado drivers who don’t understand snow. Still seems weird to me, but there you are. Snowing, some snow on roads, a normal winter evening for Minnesota. Of course, add in altitude and it does change the equation some. But not down to 30 mph. Sigh.

Cold here. -9 last night. Some snow. Maybe 3 inches or so. Better than none.

On the drive last night I thought about year themes and resolutions. Not a big resolution maker anymore. Nonetheless, I made some anyhow. In short form they are eat, write, paint, exercise, read, teach, cook.

Long form. Eat no processed meats. Write new novel. (primal ensouled universe/enlightenment disenchanted universe. Next?) Keep painting, learning more techniques. Back to 3 days resistance, 3 days cardio. Learn how to read birth charts. Become a better teacher. Cook Korean and salt/fat/heat/acid. Continue kabbalah and mussar. Hike. Not resolutions so much as continuing, ramping up activities from 2018.

Having the whole family here for New Year’s Eve and morning made the house feel like a launching pad for the future. Us two old folks, our two kids, SeoAh and the grandkids. This family, these memories will live on into the hot future. Though Kate and I won’t be there; we will.

20190101_155858Ruth has paint brush in hand working on a black and white version of a SeoAh and Murdoch photo. It’s so much fun to have her up here painting while I write this. Creativity bonds us. She’s using my oil paints, a medium with which she has little experience. She does have a lot of experience in acrylics, watercolors, photography. Her training has helped me a lot, too.

Ruth, SeoAh, and I have a trip planned tomorrow to Red Herring Art, then over to Stanley Marketplace for sushi. We all love sushi. I’m going to buy Ruth some paint and maybe a brush or two. Red Herring is the Denver art supply store that has the most sumi-e materials. This time though I’m going for its oil painting brushes and paint.

Ruth chatters on about her painting process. She’s a perfectionist, not necessarily a bad thing in an artist, but demanding. She did help me with one of my favorite tool paintings. This is the chef’s knife I use a lot. Top is mine before I finished filling it in, bottom is after I filled it in and Ruth helped me with blending on the knife.



Mile High Comics

Winter                                                                                Stent Moon

20181228_135344Went to Mile High Comics yesterday. They advertise as America’s largest and friendliest comics dealer. When we went in, a staffer, maybe the owner, hipster beard and comic icon t-shirt, greeted us. “This place is big. 1983 to 3 months ago is all here. He gestured toward row after row of white boxes on tables, “All alphabetized by title regardless of publisher.” To our left, along the wall of this cavernous 45,000 square foot warehouse, “…are variants (particular issues of a comic with different cover art from the original). Marvel and DC work with us, so many of them are unique, only available here.” The new comics, in the last three months, had tables and chair in front of them for friendly perusing.

20181228_141214“Back there, where the Help Desk sign is, we have our inventory. Customers can’t go back there, but it’s all searchable and staff will bring you anything you want to see. 8 million comics in inventory. 2 million on display. 10 million all together.” He seemed sincere, but the numbers seem pretty damned high to me. Even so, there’s no doubt there were a vast amount of comic books.

It’s not a fancy place. Bare concrete floors with gray sealer paint, carpet squares laid down in front of the new comics. The fixtures were used, bought at auction, I imagine. A ten foot ceiling and the only walls marked off bathrooms, a utility closet and a small backroom area. A long outside wall, one that runs along now disused railroad tracks, had the silver and golden age comics, 1930-1983. Many of them, the rarest editions, sat under clear plastic covers that reached to the ceiling. Many of the prices were impressive. $2,000 was not an unusual price point.

20181228_142947In addition to the 10 million comics several different displays featured toys related to the various universes represented in the comic book world. A true multiverse of the mind. There were Star Wars toys with death stars and yodas, Empire fighters and Millennium Falcons. Star Trek toys with Data, Captain Picard, models of the Enterprise. A large Ironman statue. Intricate modeled scenes from Batman, Superman, the Marvel comics sat alongside small action figures. There were chess pieces made of comic book figurines, including one full chess set with pieces modeled from Batman characters.

There weren’t many people there at 1 pm on Friday afternoon. But of those that were thick glasses, unkempt hair, and a distracted look was common. Nerd stereotypes that would fit well in the Big Bang Theory.

I didn’t buy anything. The size of the place and the vast number of things on offer overwhelmed me. I went to the chairs and tables in the new comics section, sat down, and closed my eyes.

When the moon is in the 7th house…

Samain                                                                         Stent Moon

astrologyMercury-RetrogradeMercury retrograde. Elisa said this would be a time when I would remember my dreams. I have recalled some, definitely more than usual. I’d also reassess my life, letting new things in, chucking the no longer useful.

Well. Over the last month plus I’ve read a lot, and I mean a lot even for me, on astrology. Letting it in. Gradually. Still. Those color field paintings by Rothko that I’ve always admired. Doing it myself, learning oil paints, what to do with oily rags, how to glaze, mixing colors, thinking and seeing in color. Last night I did my first instant pot meal with a rump roast, potatoes and carrots for Jon, Ruth, Gabe, and Kate. I’m also gestating a new style (for me) novel, a novel of ideas that will focus on the great crisis of our age, creating a synthesis between the ensouled primal universe and the disenchanted universe of the enlightenment.

artrothkoYou might say, oh, the power of suggestion. Could be a bit, I suppose. But recalling dreams when I haven’t been is big for me. Years of Jungian analysis, you know. Running toward something like astrology is a definite change in mindset. And, oil painting? I mean, come on.

It’s a fertile time for me in spite of (or, because of?) the upset with Kate. We’ve never been closer. Jon’s shift toward acceptance and moving on makes me glad. Ruth and I have a growing, deepening relationship. We’re going to paint together over her winter break. She comes to me with new books she’s reading, new art she’s making, her life at school. Gabe runs up and gives me a hug right away when he sees me. Rigel runs through the yard like a canine modern dancer, flexing her muscles, a smile on her face.

maslowHoliseason underlies and inflects all of this, creating moments of reflection and quiet, reinforcing attention to the Great Wheel. Feeling as positive about life as I have in a long, long time.

In the conversation last week at mussar vaad practice group, MVP, Tara said to me, “Maybe you’re just self actualized.” Not in jest. And you know, I think she might be right. Not enlightened. Not nirvana bound, not karmaless, but easy with myself, easy with others. Doing those things that make my heart sing. Loving and being loved. Setting aside the past, living today, knowing tomorrow will be as it is. Feels like the journey as destination. Whoa. Can’t believe I wrote that. Still, feels right to me.