We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Our Place

Written By: Charles - Nov• 12•18

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

20181111_1718577 degrees this morning on Shadow Mountain. About 10 inches of fluffy powder since Saturday night. Fell yesterday clearing snow off our temporary decking, the palettes and stall mats I’ve shown before. Not hurt. Reminded, again, pay attention.

Cosmos and Psyche, by Richard Tarnas. Recommended by friend Tom Crane. I mentioned it a few posts back when I talked about skepticism as a tool, not a lifeway. This is an important work of intellectual history. I’ve finished the first section and, as I told Tom in an e-mail yesterday, my head is spinning. Tarnas points out, accurately I believe, the fundamental problem of our modern, Enlightenment inflected era. The application of reason and the scientific method created the Copernican revolution. Since that radical shift in humanity’s thousands of years old world view the ongoing advance of reason, buttressed, oddly, by monotheism, has in Max Weber’s wonderful phrase, disenchanted the world.

The primal world view, the one held before Copernicus showed the earth and the other planets orbited the sun rather than the reverse, believed in a permeable barrier between human experience and the experience of an ensouled universe. Our inner world and the outer world, the whole vast outer world, shared vitality, intention, consciousness. Gods. Faeries. Cyclops. Shiva and Krishna and Brahma. The pervasive sense that trees and bears and moose and squirrels and the grasses and buffalo were as alive, in a spiritual sense, as humans. The weather, the climate, the shifting seasons, the phases of the moon.

astrology2But, as the human mind, using its sharpest tools, reason and skepticism, saw through this primitive perspective, and, as monotheistic religions posited a creator who made a special creature, humankind, in their God’s own image, a gap grew between the human and the universe. Now, in the modern era, we look out from within to a morally neutral cosmos, devoid of soul or spirit, moving with randomness according to physical laws that, since we have discerned them, reveal the trapped, the determined nature of, well, nature.

This disenchanted cosmos holds us, God’s special creation, categorically different and detached from the barren vastness that surrounds us. We are, in effect, alone, small, aware of our isolation, but with no purchase on anything outside the Cartesian split between spirit and matter. We have spirit and all the rest, matter, does not.

This disenchantment and isolation, this sense of uniqueness, is, when viewed from above (not from within) a simulacrum of Lucifer Morningstar’s fall from heaven. With our hubris we have challenged the creation and in turn been ejected from it, living our short lives with no sense of our place in the universe. We gradually fought a war against anthropomorphism of the physical world, pulling back first from the notion of the earth as the center of the universe, then from the ensouled moon and the spirits of the our forests and streams and oceans, finally we separated ourselves from the evolutionary process by positing ourselves as conscious and all other living things as mere automatons. We pushed ourselves out of the garden, left ourselves to wander the earth, having to toil under the heat of the faraway sun for our food.

The interesting turn comes next when Tarnas tries for a synthesis between the modern view and the primal view. Not sure where he’s going, but he has convinced me of the necessity to try. In another post I’ll talk about how, in an incoherent way, I’m already some ways down the path toward such a synthesis.

Protected: The Journey So Far

Written By: Charles - Nov• 11•18

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Written By: Charles - Nov• 11•18

Samain                                                                         Thanksgiving Moon

15 degrees here on Shadow Mountain with a light, fluffy snow falling. Hard. Could be as much as 8 inches. Let it snow!

20181022_155416First full day yesterday without SeoAh and Murdoch. SeoAh texted last night and said they’d made it back home.

Kate’s feeling a little low. Her stomach has been giving her fits again, not as often, but that it happens at all is dispiriting. Her weight gain is positive; but, it’s hard for her to see from the inside the progress she’s made since September 28th. And, really, from well before that. Her color is better. She’s moving more easily. Her friends are bringing food, reaching out to her. She’s home.

Not sure, but it might be that we’re reaching a psychological trough. Kate’s gains have calmed down the initial shock of her bleed and the long troubles it created. Now life’s about what I anticipate will be a long recovery. Without the urgency of a crisis small problems can loom, low hills can become mountains. A different phase. Weight gain plus stomach calming. Those are the keys to a successful end to this episode.

20181110_164103Kate’s tough, willing. I admire her and her ability to stay with the daily routines eating small meals, more of them. Getting up and moving, doing her exercises. Engaging the tasks that she can. Her mind is sharp, the crosswords still get done, her advice is as sensible and acute as ever.

I’m encouraged by her color, her brightness in the morning, the fact that she’s not outright depressed. My sense is that she will not only recover from this crisis, but that she’ll come out of it better than she went in. Also, she’s not lost her sense of humor. I got her the hat at Krispy Kreme yesterday.

Life is good.

Written By: Charles - Nov• 10•18

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

moon4As the moon gains presence in the sky, waxing until November 23rd, Kate’s weight has started to increase. May it continue. Here’s some interesting information about the November full moon.*

Big hugs all round. SeoAh and Joe and Murdoch left yesterday at 10 am. We’ll miss them. The house feels less energetic without SeoAh and Murdoch who were here almost three weeks. She got us through a potentially tough transition, wonderful Korean food, a big smile. Murdoch ran around, wanting to play, picking up toys, often making himself known. Licking a hand. Looking up at us at the table. His tail up. Happy.

20181107_121715Gertie, Kepler and Rigel can settle into their first normal days since September 28th when Kate went into the E.R. Since then, they’ve had to put up with long times outside or inside, meal times off their usual times, being unable to be outside when Murdoch was out, not able to be inside the house with Murdoch. Doggy dynamics. They adapt, but they prefer the world as they know it. Like people.

Sandy came yesterday. Cleaned the loft for the first time in a while. It looks great. Ken, a mechanical engineer who runs Boiler Medics, came, too. He inspected our boiler, one he installed when our original boiler stopped working. He’s a Diné I learned yesterday, “Spanish and Navajo.” from near Shiprock. All three of his sons are Marine Corp vets, like him.

The boiler’s ok. The house is clean. The kids have gone home. New water pump pushes water out of the well and into the pipes. Snow tomorrow and Monday. Food from Holly and Marilyn in the fridge. Life’s good here on Shadow Mountain.


*November’s Full Moon

“With the changing of the seasons, November’s full moon marks the beginning of the end. This year, it is the very last full moon before the winter solstice, which makes it the Mourning Moon according to Pagan tradition. In many different cultures, November’s full moon is intimately connected with death and loss, on both a literal and symbolic level. The Celts, for instance, called it the Reed Moon, comparing the mournful music made by wind instruments to the ghoulish sounds of spirits being drawn into the underworld. And not without good reason – the Full Mourning Moon marks a dangerous time of the year where people could easily slip into the underworld with a single misstep.” Moongiant

Dark Though It Is

Written By: Charles - Nov• 09•18

Samain                                                                      Thanksgiving Moon

Extraordinary ordinary days. Yesterday. Two things in particular.

20181023_194120SeoAh and I picked up Joe from the airport. On the way back we laughed and talked and told stories about the small things. Murdoch and Kepler’s tooth and claw moment. No blood was drawn and Murdoch learned about pack hierarchy. He rolled over. Kate and SeoAh’s illness on Wednesday. Going to H Mart. The fact that Joe had a room in Vegas this time with no room renovation going on directly above him.

SeoAh wanted to go to Wendy’s. We did. While eating a hamburger and a milkshake that would later sit in my gut like a heavy boulder, SeoAh continued the spirit of that ride, then suddenly said, “We’re a tight knit family.” Joseph and I both paused, then nodded. Yes, we are. Tight knit. Coming from a family atomized after my mother’s death, not dysfunctional exactly, but not functional either, those words melted my heart. Made me feel as if Kate and I had done something right. Something important. Putting a barrier, a barrier of love, between us and our past, not changing the past, nothing can do that, but letting us see that same, often painful past, in a different light, one that illuminates the future rather than darkens it.

my-peopleThen. Mussar Vaad Practice. It was an extraordinary evening. I got to have a second conversation about the Pittsburgh killings, one in which we wondered about compassion for the killer, why this shooting felt different, personal. As a WASP for most of my life, I felt as if I’d crossed another barrier. I could not only see, understand, empathize, but I felt this was my experience, too. I felt rage. Wanted wrath. For my people. A totally new feeling for me, not one on behalf of others, I’ve done plenty of that, wanted justice for others, but a sense that this was about me and mine, a tragedy in which, though even in a small, distant way, I was implicated.

We moved from this conversation to one about gratitude. There, too, the conversation went deep, got personal. Ron found a poem by W. S. Merwin, “Thanks”, that ends with this:

“…we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is”                                   Thanks, by W.S. Merwin

I recommend the whole poem. It summed up the evening. Kate and I wandered into Beth Evergreen a while ago now. I can now say Merwin’s closing lines and the we exists. It’s our tight knit family and our friends at Beth Evergreen. The Woollies.

Can you see me waving, dark though it is?



The Fool’s Journey

Written By: Charles - Nov• 08•18

Samain                                                                      Thanksgiving Moon

skepticism 6Skepticism is a tool, not an end in itself. This is the big idea of the moment for me, gleaned from Cosmos and Psyche by Richard Tarnas, recommended  by friend Tom Crane.

Tom recommended this book as an introduction to astrology and since I’m meeting Elisa Robyn next Friday to see my full chart, I thought I’d read a couple of books in preparation. The second, The Night Speaks: How Astrology Works by Stephen Forrest, I’ve not started.

That skepticism is an intellectual tool is obvious in one sense. Waiting for evidence. Doubtful of evidence provided. Suspicious of the purveyors of an idea. Suspicious of the bias of even respected presenters of an idea. Doubt is the essence of critical thinking, the need to weigh support for an idea, to not say yes too soon, perhaps not at all.

skepticism 5But. It also can serve as a crutch, a way to push aside acceptance of a new idea, one that challenges existing paradigms. In an argument borrowed, I think, from Thomas Kuhn, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Tarnas points to the troubled acceptance of the heliocentric theory of the solar system. In this case skepticism engendered by adherence to the Ptolemaic universe held back reception of the Copernican model for decades, even centuries. Skepticism, in other words, has its biases, too, its basis not always as objective as a skeptic believes. As Rabbi Jamie quotes often, “Don’t believe everything you think.”

I haven’t gotten far enough into Cosmos and Psyche to see how Tarnas uses this idea, but I, and I imagine you, too, can easily guess. The usual intellectual bias against astrology is just that, a bias. We’ll see about that, I say, skeptically.

I wonder how often my skepticism it has robbed me of  comfort, of new ways of understanding. As a tool, skepticism offers critical distance. As a way of life, as it has often been for me, it reinforces avoidance.

When I was in college, studying philosophy/religion and anthropology, I recognized that those disciplines were corrosive to faith, in particular a Christian faith I had already abandoned. Knowing that, I decided to wait until  college was over to once again take up the consideration of faith. That was how, in a small house on Washington Street in Appleton, Wisconsin that I picked up Soren Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling. In it the story of Abraham and Isaac is told and retold, searching for an explanation, a reason this noble patriarch of three world religions could have given himself for offering his first born son as a sacrifice.

skepticismOut of this sensitive examination Kierkegaard offers a way into faith, acting as if. Abraham acted as if God’s request was God’s request, a desire by the ruler of the universe that he, Abraham, do this otherwise unthinkable thing. Abraham acted as if God’s request was legitimate and therefore beyond question, a matter of faith. He chose to act as if faith was the necessary response. I went with Kierkegaard and set aside my philosophically informed skepticism for acting as if faith in the Christian God was my faith.

It worked for awhile. Until Joseph. Until I had to reexamine my faith in monotheism based on raising a boy who would have been Hindu. I loved him. Why couldn’t the Christian god love him if he were raised at home, in the Hindu tradition? My old skepticism came back full force, never fully vanquished I know now.

skepticism 3Since then I’ve pared back my acceptance of things outside reason’s ambit. Yes to quantum mechanics. Yes to the red shift. Yes to the hard problem of consciousness. Yes to the cyclic spirals of seasons and orbits and galactic movement at speeds unimaginable. Yes to the infrared. No to the supernatural. No to bending the knee toward old and contradictory texts. No to the authority of religious institutions. No to astrology. No to the tarot. No to the I Ching. No to the runes.

Someone asked me recently how I described myself and I said, “Pagan. But, really I say that to signal what I’m not, rather than what I am.” I do not define myself in terms of a God in whom I no longer believe. I’m not an atheist nor an agnostic nor a believer. I’m a guy thrown into a particular time and place, gifted with consciousness and doomed thereby to awareness of his own end.

pagans-baseball-softball-t-shirtExistentialism. This life, as lived, with no metaphysical frills. Taoism. Live with the world as it is, flow with it, stop trying to bend things to your will. The Great Wheel. Know the seasons. Of the garden, of the state, of the continent. Of earth’s position in its orbit. Celebrate their gifts. Appreciate first the cyclical nature of time. Only after that consider chronos.

Now though, I’m pressed to consider my own skepticism skeptically. It’s a tool after all. A hammer, not the house built with the hammer. Sometimes we put away our tools, declare a work finished, acceptable. A work that, until we used our tools, had never existed. Perhaps astrology will be one of those works for me. Perhaps not. But I’m holding the door open, not closed. Trying to acknowledge the limitations of skepticism even though it is, perhaps, my favorite tool of all.

Come Home

Written By: Charles - Nov• 08•18

Samain                                                                    Thanksgiving Moon

restaurantsI’m at Dino’s on far west Colfax, near Kipling. This is an Italian place that my friend Alan Rubin used to visit when he grew up on west Colfax, further east, into Denver. The old orthodox neighborhood. Much like, I guess, the northside of Minneapolis at about the same time. His dad was a brilliant immigrant who ended up running a string of dry cleaners, doing very well. Dino’s, founded in 1963, hasn’t changed its decor since then, we both guessed. Great pizza.

Kate calls. “SeoAh and I are sick.” OMG. Both had a stomach bug. Something neither one needed, Kate least of all. “Can you come home and take care of the dogs?” Sure. “Alan, this seems to be my life right now.” “That’s because it is your life right now.” I missed packing Thanksgiving dinner boxes at the Jefferson County Action Center, something Kate and I did last year. This time though Alan and mines religious school class was there.

November, 2017, Action Center

November, 2017, Action Center

Alan and I went at Dino’s, close to the Action Center, to plan for next week’s class. We’ll be using a wonderful graphic rendition of the Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of the Fathers*. Each student will pair up with another and we’ll give them a copied page. They’ll help each other learn about the text, then color them. This paired learning is called havruta.** After they’ve studied and argued over their page, they’ll teach the class. At least that’s the plan.

After we finished our sausage and mushroom pizza, I got in the Rav4 and headed back to Shadow Mountain. 6 pm. The heart of rush hour. Fortunately I only had to travel a small chunk of 470 with all the folks going back to the southern burbs from downtown Denver. At this hour it can be stop and go past 285. Which is where I turn west into the mountains.


*”Pirkei Avot (literally, “Chapters of the Fathers,” but generally translated as “Ethics of Our Fathers”) is one of the best-known and most-cited of Jewish texts. Even those who claim to know little about Jewish literature are familiar with maxims such as “If I am only for myself, who am I? (1:14)” and “Say little and do much (1:15).” Popular Hebrew songs take as their lyrics lines such as “The world stands on three things: Torah, service, and acts of loving kindness (1:2)”  and “You are not obligated to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from it (2:21).”” My Jewish Learning

**”Jews seldom study alone; the study of Torah is, more often than not, a social and even communal activity. Most commonly, Jews study Jewish texts in pairs, a method known as (“fellowship”). In havruta, the pair struggles to understand the meaning of each passage and discusses how to apply it to the larger issues addressed and even to their own lives.” My Jewish Learning

Adversity and Gratitude

Written By: Charles - Nov• 07•18

Samain                                                                      Healing Moon

kate 1200Kate’s recovery got started under the waxing healing moon. Her weight gain will, I hope, get an equal boost under the waxing Blue Moon which starts tomorrow. She’s doing so much better, still weak and often tired, she’s eating more, smiling, bustling around a bit. The trough of recovery from the bleeds and the surgery has given way to the upslope. May it continue. In the month of gratitude, a lot to be thankful for.

Talking with Kate about gratitude and its strange alliance with adversity. Cue Job. Over the last month plus we’ve had many discrete things to be grateful for: Swedish Hospitals E.R., the trauma surgeon who worked on Kate’s gut, the nurses and aids on the 8th floor, the visitors and flowers from friends and family. Annie’s visit. CBE members offering help, food, love. The nurses and ot/pt folks at Brookdale. Joe and SeoAh offering us themselves, with SeoAh being here almost three weeks. Murdoch enlivening our house. Kate’s own doggedness, her endurance, her spirit. Notes from Woolly Mammoths, from the Ladies Who Lunch. Comments and visits, so many of both, on the Caringbridge site. Even the weather which has cooled down enough to help our sleeping.

gratitude1Of course, we’d prefer Kate had not had the bleeds, needed the surgery and the rehab. Of course. But it did happen and in its train came so much human caring, love, food. We could choose to focus on how awful the bleeds were and how painful the treatment necessary to stop them. We could still be locked into the incident as a medical incident; but, with all the acts of loving kindness, we choose to focus on them and on the upward trajectory of Kate’s strength and weight. It was the adversity that unveiled the depth and solidity of Kate’s friendships and family. Without the adversity it would have been there, true, but much less visible.

In this sort of rally lies a hope for the future, a feeling that no matter what we will not be abandoned or lonely. That may be the most important outcome. Gratitude for a future without bleakness, even though we know the future ends in death. What an amazing gift.

Claim it

Written By: Charles - Nov• 07•18

Samain                                                                           Healing Moon (2%)

trump3Claim a victory. An old political maxim and one I’m going to use this morning. It wasn’t a cleansing victory, not a whole field, run the bastards out victory, but a win. Yes. Control of at least one house of Congress. Yes. 22 governorships. Yes. Reduction in Senate margin. Sigh. Hands over head. Trump still in office. Duck and cover. Here in Colorado we elected the first openly gay Governor, Jared Polis. Looks like Democrats will have control of the state house and senate, too. Minnesota elected Democrats in key races. And Indiana. Well. And Oklahoma. Not much better.

The states of my childhood continue to remind me why I no longer want to live in either one. My second phase home, Minnesota, seems slightly more blue than in the recent Pawlenty stained past. Colorado, our third phase home, has pushed itself solidly into blue. Politics is cyclical, but Trump, I hope, is a unicycle.

I feel a bit lighter. Will take some time to assess, learn what all this means. But Colorado looks very hopeful.

I do not know myself

Written By: Charles - Nov• 06•18

Samain                                                                           Healing Moon

1968Just a quick note about election day. I’m holding my psychic breath, not giving in to watching returns, following exit polls. I’ve peeked a bit on the NYT and Real Clear Politics, but when I feel myself drawn in, I move on. Perhaps it’s a very mild from of post-traumatic stress. Not the disorder, but a real aversive conditioning based on 2016. My understanding of American politics betrayed me that day. And the reality and depth of that betrayal has morphed into the lived reality of Trump’s awful Presidency. So, a trauma based stress reinforced daily in ways I still cannot believe.

Politics in this two year time frame have become repugnant to me. I consider myself clear eyed about the nature of politics. It was, ante-Trump, neither wholly good nor wholly evil. It was human, rooted in hopes and ideals, greed and self-interest. It was malleable. Politics was a way of sorting through our public dreams, deciding which ones to nourish, which ones to kill off.

Vietnam cured me of any illusions about the essential decency of politics, but it did not leave me jaundiced. Instead I felt the Vietnam protests and the counter-culture of that era made a real difference. No, not in a straight line from hopes to policies, but in the way American life took notice of new ways of thinking about war and its justification, about gender, about careers, music, art.

antislavery_medallion_largeOf course there was always the KKK. The Minutemen. The Posse Comitatus. Waco. Ruby Ridge. But they were fringe actors, limning the boundaries of decency by their cross burnings, cult indoctrination, creation of strange understandings of the law. Now these fringe actors have moved center stage. Their abhorrent doctrines have currency, no longer defining boundaries decent folk will not cross, but helping define policy emanating from the White House. Build that wall. Send troops to “defend” America against poor people fleeing their homes, families with children just hoping to live out their days in peace. Give aid to our enemies and the finger to our allies. This is way, way beyond anything I ever imagined.

crueltyWhat will I do if it’s not repudiated at the polls today? I really don’t know. Perhaps retreat into isolation, even though the idea would close off a long dedication to social change. Perhaps recommit to some kind of radical vision. Don’t know. And in not knowing I do not know myself, do not know the one who feels that way. That scares me, BTW.

Wanted to get this down before the results finally roll in. Where I am now.