We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Blogged

Beltane                                                                            Moon of the Summer Solstice

bloggingYou may not know I have a second blog, ancientrailsgreatwheel.com. I plan to post on it regularly now, on Sunday mornings. It’s a blog focused on the great work, on reimagining faith, on climate change, all related in my world. Give it a look if you’re interested.

I know, blogging is so last millennia, right? Still, I got started back in 2005 with the help of buddy Bill Schmidt and just haven’t been able to stop, anachronistic as it may be. There are, right below me in fact (in the garage), shelves full of journals I’ve kept over the years, handwritten. It’s a habit of long standing and the work here continues it though with the added implication of readers.

blogging (1)These are bread crumbs, usually no more than that, of the predilections I have, of the circumstances of my life. I say I  do it for the grandkids or for folks I know, but really I do it for myself, to have a chance to speak out loud, to be able to follow my own life. So much of our daily life disappears (and probably should) under the onward spiral of time, but I find it interesting to know what June 18th in 2006 or 2010 was like for me.

Anyhow, like I told Rabbi Jamie last week, I don’t think I’m going anywhere, not away from Beth Evergreen or from ancientrails. So if you’re interested, you know where to find these fragments of my story.

Us, not them

Beltane                                                                            Moon of the Summer Solstice

Minnesota remains my home, even as I acclimate to a second home in the Rockies. I’ll always be proud and relieved that Minnesota political culture exists and includes this familiar strain, captured in a song about mining near the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. This was the culture I wish had been heard in the Castile trial.

Fatherhood

Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

09 11 10_Joseph_0256Fatherhood. Sharp knives. Explosions. Football. Muscle cars. PBR. Fishing. Fixit. Harsh discipline. Stuffed feelings. Dutiful, not loving. Nope. None of us all the time, some of us some of the time. Men and boys.

It’s complicated. Motherhood has obvious physical triggers: pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding. Can’t beat those for intimacy. Too, the stereotypical domesticity of wives/mothers, challenged but not diminished much, means early childhood intimacy as well. Where does a dad fit in?

The push of the culture of Alexandria pressed and presses fathers into work, outside to the lawn and the garage, into the military, away from the kids. Men earn, protect, fix. Except when they don’t, as is now the case for many of the white working class men in my hometown in eastern Indiana. The whole county, region.

Dad

As many of you know, my father and I were estranged from my age 21 until his death in 2003. We made efforts to reconnect, especially during regular visits after Joseph came into my life, but the damage was too deep, too long lasting. Whether my mother’s early death forced us into a level of intimacy we couldn’t sustain, or our mutual pride during the difficult years of the Vietnam War wounded us both more than we could mend, or the distant father role he shared with most of his peers were most to blame, I don’t know. It was, no doubt, a toxic mix of all three.

At this vantage point, now an older man myself, the anger is long dissipated and what remains is sadness, a certain wistfulness for what might have been. But wasn’t. We were, as all of us are, flawed. At perhaps the crucial juncture, during a time period when I got ejected from campus for public drunkenness and had to live back home during my junior year for a bit, I was ashamed. He reached out, bought me a car, let me come home. But a war was raging.

fuck-the-draft-anti-war-poster-1960s

Vietnam. We were on different sides. He was a WWII veteran of the Army-Air Force, a Roosevelt liberal, and deeply anti-communist newspaper man. I was young, radical, counter cultural and deeply anti-war. One afternoon he came up to me and asked, “Charlie, are you a homosexual?” I laughed. “No, why do you think that?” He indicated my long hair. Long hair then was for classical musicians and gays in his thinking. “Cut it.” “No.” “Cut it or get out.” It was ten years before we spoke again. Pride. On both our sides.

It may be that adopting Joseph was an attempt for a do over on father and son. If that wasn’t a primary motivation, it certainly became a primary preoccupation. My father was not a bad father, just a father of his generation. I was probably a worse son than he was a father. The obedience and dutifulness that he expected, partly a result of his German upbringing, partly a result of lack of parenting by Elmo, my grandfather whom I never knew, was not possible for me. And I didn’t even try. At this point, he’s been dead 14 years, I’ve forgiven both of us.

20170615_075104

Joseph is the redemption. He’s a fine man, a loving son and husband, dedicated to a life of service. He will, I’m sure, make a great father. Healing the disruption that my experience with Dad created in both me and him was a constant drum beat in me during Joseph’s childhood. And, yes, I made many mistakes raising him. Not possible to raise a kid and not make mistakes. The key though, at least I think it’s the key, is to sustain the relationship, to realize that love bonds us even through deep disagreement.

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When I had lunch with Joseph a couple of weeks ago during his unexpected visit to Colorado Springs, I knew we’d made it past the storms of mid-life. There was my boy, the one I carried home from the airport in a wicker basket, the one I held on my shoulders so often, the one I went to baseball games with, the one who calls me when life gets hard or scary, the one who asked me to perform his marriage to SeoAh, the woman he loves. He was there at the Black Bear Cafe. He was there with Pikes Peak craggy and snowy looking on. He was there and we were father and son and it was good.

 

Kate, Judaism and Pine Pollen

Beltane                                                                             Moon of the Summer Solstice

20170405_152848Kate continues to struggle with dry mouth, a very sore throat and other symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome. She’s lost weight as a result. Lab tests don’t suggest anything terminal going on, but her distress is significant. If you know Kate, you know she has an energizer bunny mode, but she’s been on the battery depleted side of that equation for a while now.

Lots of Jewish stuff this week: Star Trek and Judaism on Tuesday, kabbalah on Wednesday, mussar and a meeting with Rabbi Jamie yesterday, and a Grateful Dead shabbat service tonight. I’m learning a lot and slowly integrating into the congregation. When I mentioned the possibility of an Evergreen Forum, a quarterly series of speakers somewhat analogous to the Westminster Forum in Minneapolis, I somehow ended up on the adult education committee, too. In that role I’m now helping coordinate the forum. As I said here earlier, I’m happy to have a place in a religious community with no leadership responsibility. A novel and fun experience for me.

20170613_203228A new seasonal reality for us: pine pollen. All these lodgepole pines insist on involving on us in their reproductive orgy that happens this time of year. A fine yellow dust settles on everything. Coming in easily even through screens, it’s especially apt to settle on things electrical, so the computers and the tv and the microwave all have a coating. It also coats our solar panels, reducing their efficiency. If it rains, a yellow scrim settles over the driveway, pooling where the water does. I wish these pines could figure out a more direct way to make more pines.

 

 

 

Hmm. I love the smell of irony in the morning.

Beltane                                                                Moon of the Summer Solstice

Rattled by shooting, lawmakers want more personal protection

1982

Beltane                                                                  Moon of the Summer Solstice

Found these while hunting for files for the reimagining work. Fuzzy but beautiful all the same. I was 35, exactly half a lifetime ago. Joe was one and half or so.

20170615_074947 20170615_075104

Gematria

Beltane                                                              Moon of the Summer Solstice

gematria chart

Wandered into strange territory last night at Beth Evergreen. Gematria. Each Hebrew letter has a corresponding number. The chart shows the correspondences. Kabbalists, especially, use these numbers to determine the numerical value of words. After calculating a word’s value, it can be used to compare that word to another with the same value.  This comparison is another method of peeking under the garment of the torah.

An example comes from the story in the garden of Eden. The snake is the usual suspect in an ancient story of how humanity lost its way. But. In Hebrew the numerical value for the word snake and the word messiah are identical. Early Kabbalists used this correspondence to suggest that the meaning of eating from the tree of knowledge was very different from the usual interpretation, that in fact it was the first step in humanity’s liberation.

Rabbi Jamie had asked us to do some reading on gematria, discover some things on our own. When he asked us what we’d learned, I said, “This whole idea seems strained, strange.” Not being one to mince words, as some of you know. A history professor in the class agreed with me that her reading had produced the same thought. Others were intrigued.zodiac

Staying open, of course, is the only way new learning can occur, so I attended to the ideas in spite of my skepticism. As the evening progressed, I began to find the idea a bit less odd. The kabbalists use gematria as a tool, a tool similar to the Zen koan. At first its results may not make sense,; but, that’s the point, the frisson between the snake and the messiah which opens a new mode of thought about the story. It also undermines any tendency to take the torah literally, an essential first step toward searching for the primordial torah.

Garden of Eden, Lucas Cranach the Elder

Garden of Eden, Lucas Cranach the Elder

So although I find the method strained and strange, I still do, I believe I understand at least part of its purpose. That’s enough for now. I’ll learn more as we go forward.

Live long

by Gage Skidmore

by Gage Skidmore

Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

Pushing myself. Up to 10,000 steps on the four days I don’t do resistance work, 5,000 on those days. Feels good, so I’ll probably stay at it. The resistance work is helping, too. Less knee pain, less stiffness, better balance.

Looked at lilacs on Monday. After reading some material online, it looks like Syringa vulgaris (guess what? common lilac) and Syringa x prestonia, a Canadian cultivar, work well at our altitude. Gonna put in two bushes this year and see how they do. If they do well, I’ll add more next year. Cautionary note: don’t add fuel where it might feed a fire in the trees. They both need full sun and at least some amended soil. That we can provide.

Blessing that is the origin of the Vulcan salute

Blessing that is the origin of the
Vulcan salute

Last night I went to an interesting session, Star Trek and Judaism at Beth Evergreen. Several original cast members were Jewish, most prominent among them William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

A fascinating take away was the origin of the Vulcan salute. Nimoy, as the sole Vulcan in the main cast, got to have a lot of say about developing Vulcan culture. He attended a service in which the shekinah, the feminine aspect of God, gets invited in. She’s so powerful that everyone shields their eyes and a group of men upfront were wailing, according to Nimoy in a video clip. He decided to peek and noticed that they were holding their fingers in what you would immediately recognize as the familiar Vulcan greeting. It’s the Hebrew letter shin, the first letter of shekinah, shalom, sabbath.

 

 

 

Home Schooling

Beltane                                                                      Moon of the Summer Solstice

2011 03 06_3396The shift to Reimagining has happened faster than I thought it would. My mind is like Kepler, our only dog who likes toys. He has a whole box of toys and he goes into it, noses around, finds the one he likes (why that one? no idea.), takes it out and carries it over to a place he’s decided is his toy stash area. I have several ideas that I’ve been playing with for years, e.g. becoming native to this place, emergence, tactile spirituality. In ways I don’t understand my mind goes over to the box of these ideas, hunts around, selects one and puts it front and center for maybe a second, maybe longer. Sometimes I pick up and play with one for awhile.

Right now just prior to sleep seems like a cue to start digging in the toy box. Last night it was an idea I had long ago, back when I started moving away from Christianity and toward a pagan perspective. I got to wondering about origins, about where certain things came from.

VadnaisIn the shower one day I began to wonder where our water came from. At the time Kate and I lived on Edgcumbe Avenue in St. Paul so the question really was, where did St. Paul get its water? I had no idea. Turns out St. Paul public works pumps water out of the Mississippi and into a chain of lakes including Pleasant Lake and Sucker Lake just across the Anoka County border in Ramsey County north of St. Paul.

At that point I began meditating in the shower (what can I say?), following the water flowing over me back to its source in the Mississippi, then back up river all the way to Itasca State Park and the headwaters there in Lake Itasca. Sometimes I would include the watershed, imagining rivers and streams emptying into the Mississippi on its way south toward the Centerville pumping station. Rainfall, snow and ice melt contribute, too.

LakeIt78Though I haven’t done it, it would be possible to track back much further to the arrival of water on earth. This is a very interesting topic which I raise only to demonstrate the potential in this kind of thinking.

Last night I recalled this early meditation on water and began to consider what it would be like to homeschool ourselves on the other inputs that come into our apartments, condominiums or single family homes, i.e. electricity, gas, broadband, telephone service (yes, some of us still have landlines). In other words what modes of generation produce the electricity in your home? Where are those power stations located? You might even ask yourself, what is electricity anyhow?

Contemporary life, especially since the early 1900’s, has distanced us further and further from the vast variety of things necessary to keep us alive. Do you know, for example, where the power comes into your house? Or the water? Most of us treat electricity, gas, and water as if they just show up in our taps, our outlets, our furnaces. This is understandable, it doesn’t seem important. As long as they show up reliably, we don’t consider them.

vintage-refrigerator-adOpen the refrigerator. Where did the food come from? How about the carpet on your floor? The roofing material. Concrete. Paint. How about the car in your garage? Where was it built? What sort of materials go into making it? Where do they come from?

Each and every article of clothing, toothbrush, plate, door knob, seat covering, bicycle tire is a rearrangement of elements secured from somewhere by mining or forestry or chemical engineering. We twenty-first century Americans, even those living in poverty, rely on a vast web of resources, each of which had to be gathered, transported, processed and delivered to our home. While this allows us to live in comfort unknown to most people on earth, even the very wealthy, throughout history, it also literally blinds us to the complex web of activity and materials that make it possible.

One way of reimagining faith is to open ourselves to the way that web of activity actually functions to help us live. Holy water. Holy gas. Holy wool. Holy garlic. Holy stone. Holy sewage. If we take to time to notice, to attend to the wood beneath our feet, the plaster over our heads, the water in our glass, the food on our plate we can begin to reinsert ourselves in that complex web, to be an active part of it, not a dumb recipient.

ElectricityThe incredible complexity of this web has put a thick wall between our daily lives and the earthiness of all that is around us. We start the car, shift into drive and head out to work or the store or on vacation dulled to the effort expended on the gasoline that fuels it, the rubber in the tires, the precious metals and the not-so precious metals in the body and frame and engine. I’m not talking right now about a car’s implication in climate change, or economic injustice, or urban planning. I’m focusing on getting to know how it came to be, what of our world made it possible.

landWhy? Because focusing on these things, deconstructing our things, begins to break the spell of modernism. Modernism offers us in the developed world a world prepackaged for our needs, organized so that we don’t have to till the field anymore, or hitch up the horse, or drop a bucket down a well. In so doing it waves the wand of mystification over our senses, blinding us to the mines, the aquifers, the oil fields, the vegetable fields, the landfills, the seeds and chemicals required to sustain us. This enchantment is the first barrier to a reimagined faith, to placing ourselves once again in the world.

It must go.

 

 

Enchanting, My Dear

Beltane                                                                       Moon of the Summer Solstice

first draftWith the first draft of Superior Wolf finished I’m taking this week to do various tasks up in the loft that I’ve deferred. Gonna hang some art, rearrange some (by categories like Latin American, contemporary, Asian) and bring order to some of my disorganized book shelves. I want to get some outside work in, too, maybe get back to limbing and do some stump cutting, check out nurseries for lilac bushes.

After taking advantage of the weekend to do the hike at Staunton, some slower treadmill work in the afternoon, then two sessions on Sunday, both on the treadmill, one faster, one slower, I got to 11,000 plus steps on Saturday as I said and 9,745 on Sunday. I believe once I go back to my personal trainer, in six weeks or so, I’ll be able to hit the 10,000 target regularly and get my resistance work done, too. Feels like I’m moving past the knee surgery, not fully past it yet, but well on the road.

forest and soulEven so, reimagining is beginning to exert a centripetal force on my thinking, book purchasing, day to day. For example, last night as I went to sleep a cool breeze blew in from the north across my bare arms and shoulder. It was the night itself caressing me. I went from there to the sun’s warm caresses on a late spring day. The embrace of the ocean or a lake or a stream. The support given to our daily walking by the surface of mother earth. The uplift we experience on Shadow Mountain, 8,800 feet above sea level. These are tactile realities, often felt (0r their equivalent).

Now, imagine that we stop, take a moment and feel them, as I now feel the attraction gravity affords me while sitting here, writing this. It keeps me grounded, able to stay in place.

febheadNext, eliminate the metaphorical. If we do that, we can immediately jump into a holy moment, a moment when the bonds that tie us to grandmother earth are not figurative, but real. The breeze on my bare arms and shoulders is her embrace. The sun on my face, penetrating my body, is him in direct relationship with me, reaching across 93 million miles, warming me. The ocean or the lake or the pond or the stream cools me, refreshes me, hydrates me, acts of chesed, loving-kindness, from the universe in which we live and move and have our being.

This kind of reframing, reenchanting, helps us reimagine faith, a faith that does not require texts or institutions, just the opening of ourselves to the mystery and magic that are our literal birthright.

 

 

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