We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Dance, Twirl, Leap

Written By: Charles - Jun• 15•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Monday gratefuls: Old friends. Ancient friends. The Sky. Roads and their romance. Saudi Arabia. Singapore. San Francisco. The Rocky Mountains. The Clan. Newspapers. Headlines. Journalists. Freedom of the Press. Freedom of Assembly. Freedom. Both from and for. July 4. Seoah’s birthday. Lululemon. Seoah’s favorite store. The fans here in the loft.

Spent most of yesterday working on my presentation for the kabbalah class. Wednesday morning. Hard time. I knew what I wanted to say, but I couldn’t find a way in to it. Several false starts. One with double spading forks. One with the dark world I entered after Mom’s death. One with Becoming Native to This Place. Couldn’t get purchase. Kept slipping off with interesting but beside the point narratives. Decided to go right at it. No metaphors. No build up. No explanation. Claims. How I see the world. This is the first draft. It won’t change a lot. Some though. I’ll post the second draft

                          The Grammar of Holiness

All right. This Land is holy Land. That Land is holy Land. All Land is holy Land. The world Ocean is a holy Ocean in a vessel made of continents of holy Land. The Atmosphere is holy. All of it, not just the oxygen we need to breathe, all of it.

We spin and dash around the holy Sun, pushing our way further and further away from the holy Milky Way, traveling though holy Space.

We came from this holy World, are made of this holy World, and return to It the very elements It loaned us.

We are of this wide, large, Universe. And our World will return to It the elements loaned to it at the beginning.

This then is Israel.

When I put my hands in the Soil, the living Land that sustains us, I touch the holy. The sacred gets under my fingernails. When I drink water from the aquifer on Shadow Mountain, I bring holiness into my body, my sacred body.

That Tomato is a holy Tomato. That Cow is a sacred Cow. The Moose a sacred Moose. The sacred Elk Bucks who jumped our fence, ate holy Dandelions and holy Aspen leaves, and lounged among the holy Lodgepole Pines. Angels. Messengers of the holy Mountains.

Holiness means a necessary, unique part of the whole. Sacred means the same.

The One spans this holy Reality, is this sacred Reality, contains that Land and this Land, that Ocean, this Atmosphere, this World, that Galaxy. Whenever we move through the Atmosphere, on the Land, or on the Ocean, we are on pilgrimage to a holy place.

The same for the Blue Whale, the Krill, the Pine Marten, the Mosquito, the Mountain Lion, and the Mule Deer. The same for the Brook Trout, the Staghorn Beetle, or the pollen of the Ponderosa Pine. All on pilgrimage to a holy place.

My faith is this simple. It has neither God nor Bible, neither Savior nor Torah though it can be found through them.

What is faith? Confidence. Acknowledgment. Attention. Focus. Seeing what you are looking at. Touching what is in front of you. Hearing the sacred music of the Land, the Sky, the Waters. Smelling the odor of sanctity in a flower bed or a landfill. Tasting the food that sustains you. And knowing you belong.

Make your puja. Offer yourself. Offer your life. Light incense. Daven. Bow your head. Throw your hands above your head. Shout hallelujah. Prostrate yourself on the holy Land. Say yes. Say no. Dance, twirl, leap.

May as well. This holy World’s for you and you are for this holy World.

Who knows?

Written By: Charles - Jun• 14•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Sunday gratefuls: The freezer lives. Swapping out the meat. Juicy Lucy’s from Ebony and Vine. Protests. Protesters. Our antebellum plantation owner President. Rain. Problem solving. Sjogren’s. Rigel’s prance. Kep’s nuzzle in the morning. Seoah helping with the meat swap. Covid. Holy land.

The compressor soldiers on, gave us time to switch out the contents of the refrigerator freezer and the garage freezer. Next on my gotta get this done list is a backyard clean up. Those pallets that solved the irregular surface problem for Kate. Fire hazard. Likewise the cedar boards. The extra pallets. Then, there’s all those downed trees that need limbing and bucking. Rigel has dug up and knocked over things that need to get into a different place.

Two steps here. Clean out the yard. Then, have stuff hauled away. The Elk Fire Department will chip the slash. I’ll have to hire somebody to take the rest to the landfill. The wildfire danger has been high since early June and will get worse. Looks like a dry summer. I’ve done a lot of mitigation, but not everything I need to do.

Thought Father’s Day was today. Nope. Next week. Been thinking about my Dad. Maybe that’s why I made the mistake. The day after the Summer Solstice, June 21, that’s the day this year.

Been pulling on a single thread from my Dad’s story. Don’t recall who told me this, Mary? Mark? Dad? After he earned his journalism degree from Oklahoma State University, Dad planned to buy a boat, sail along the Mexican Coast and write about the trip. Instead, WWII. Then, Mom. Then, kids. No boat. No book. No articles.

I long ago forgave him for his part in the troubles we had. I still didn’t like him after that, but at least he saw Joseph, met Kate. Now, so much later, I’ve begun to hold this dream of his as a family trust. Mary and Mark have gone on to their Mexico’s. I’ve been writing the story of my ancientrail in this life.

When a world war comes, when Covid comes, when slavery and racism come, we can’t count the loss of dreams. The slammed chances to rise above life and become extraordinary. Who knows what would have become of Dad if he’d gotten that boat? Made that trip. Maybe our little family wouldn’t exist at all and you’d know his name for his contribution to literature.

Mark Twain said the best playwright who ever lived was an illiterate share-cropper in Tennessee. Who knows, maybe Dad was the Paul Theroux of his generation. Or, its Richard Burton. How many great poets and novelists and painters and singers never realized their true worth due to slavery, Jim Crow, institutionalized racism? Or, what scientific discoveries, inventions, leaders were likewise never made?

In the land of the free.


Written By: Charles - Jun• 13•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Saturday gratefuls: Our Kenmore 19 Frostless Freezer. Its good years of service. A good temporary solution to its imminent demise. Crowhill Appliance. Dave, the tech. Seoah’s help. Kate’s smile when Rigel lay down on her quilt. The gift of pleasant days. Pine pollen. Fish. Curtis Spitler Ellis. Gertrude Eliza Ellis. Judy. Raeone. Saturdays.

Symptoms of a pandemic. Remember all those folks buying toilet paper? Even though Covid doesn’t have g-i effects? Or, the whole PPE scandal with no masks for medical personnel? Out of stock items on Amazon like hand sanitizer, toilet paper? Discovered another one yesterday.

On Wednesday Seoah told me about an alarm going off in the garage. I spent my usual minutes of frustration trying to find it. Not the cars. What else could it be? Oh. The freezer. Temperature alert. Red light flashing. Uh-oh. Remember those meat bundles I bought from Tony’s? Yep. In danger.

I looked at it. Opened the door. No frost buildup. The meat might have just started to defrost. I pushed the quick freeze button, shut the door, and the alarm went off. OK. On Thursday it was beeping again.

We bought this freezer near the time we moved to Andover. That was 1994. It’s been a good mechanical servant for all those days. I even hit it with the car once and it kept on ticking. Had an incident last year when it frosted up. I removed everything, left it open for a day, and the frost melted. I loaded it back up and it continued to work. Until Wednesday.

Time for a new freezer, it seemed. I started looking first at Consumer Reports. OK. GE makes good freezers. I hunted for them online. Looked at Best Buy. Ah. They have it. $900. Reasonable. Wait. That button changed from yellow to gray. Oh, out of stock. Well, understandable. It’s a good one.

I checked Lowes. It was out of stock there, too. Appliance Factory. Out of stock. Specialty Appliances. Home Depot. All out of stock. Ok. I looked for one of the others Consumer Report recommended. Out of stock, too. Decided to check for any old freezer. Out of stock. Kate suggested I look for a chest freezer. Out of stock.

There is nowhere in Colorado that you can buy either an upright or chest freezer. I suspect that’s true everywhere. According to a salesman I talked to, only two manufactures of freezers remain, Amana and Frigidaire. They make all the other brands. Not sure what that means for all the Consumer Reports subtle gradations. Anyhow, they’ve told all their customers there will be no stock again until early to mid-fall.

That put me in a funk yesterday. I like to solve problems and when I have a problem that seems unsolvable. Not good. Hundreds of dollars of top quality meat in a dying freezer. Damn.

Went to bed for a nap. See if some sleep might refresh the circuits. While waiting to go to sleep, I remembered the freezer in our refrigerator. It’s a pull-out bottom freezer and has a fair amount of space. I imagined the packages of meat I’d bought from Tony’s. Huh. They should fit.

My funk lifted. Today Seoah and I will switch the lower value foods stored in the refrigerator with the meats in the dying Kenmore. When I asked Dave, the tech from Crowhill, how long he thought the freezer would last, he said, “A day. A month. Several months.” And shrugged.

They don’t do compressor repairs anymore. That’s because at $900 to $1,000 they’re more costly than a new unit. If, of course, you can find one. I thought briefly about going ahead, but then realized I’d have a brand new compressor in a freezer over twenty years old. Other stuff in it is old, too.

We’ll continue using the Kenmore until the compressor ceases to function. If we lose some popsicles, frozen veggies, or tater tots (yes, sue me. I like’m.), that’ll be ok. It was the thought of losing all that meat and not being able to do anything about it…

And, when Amana and Frigidaire crank back up, we’ll get ourselves a new freezer. Sometime this fall.

Waiting for Darkness

Written By: Charles - Jun• 12•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Friday gratefuls: Our loyal freezer, now needing aid. Crowhill Appliance coming to fix it. All the Animals, each one, who gave their body for our food. Exhaustion. A clue for rest. Seoah’s help with the freezer. Kate’s feeding tube, jevity, pump. Sjogren’s, that sneaky disease. Mussar on zoom. Bathroom humor. Our property. Dark dreams last night. Murder and body disposal. Betrayal. Coverups. Anguish. Winter.

Staring into the abyss. The USA. If you stare into the abyss long enough, Donald Trump looks back up at the you. It goes something like that. Doesn’t it?

Each year I want the Summer Solstice in the past. I want the darkness to begin asserting its dominion. I yearn for the time when the night takes up more hours in the day. Seeing in the dark is more important to me than seeing in the light. This year I need it more than ever.

A related desire, one unlikely to get find much relief here in the West, finds me hoping for rain, for thunder, for lightning, for long stretches of cloudy weather. As a Midwesterner, a flatlander, I could live into this sort of weather. Write. Read. Think.

No longer in the Middle West. I’m now in the West, past the 100th meridian which divides the humid East from the arid West. Fewer clouds. Significantly less precipitation. Lots of sunny, blue sky days.

The abyss and I are old friends. Maybe that’s why I value the dark and gloomy more than the bright and cheerful. There was that one evening, 1965, when I had an argument with Dad. I ran out of the house, down Garfield, across Canal, up the alley and into a dark swirling land of grief.

No, this is not about depression or lack of joy. It’s about a journey through, as Joseph Conrad put it, the heart of darkness. Life, the Mexica say, is a dream between a sleep and a sleep. Perhaps it is in our dreams that we wake up to the sleep world. It was, for the Mexica, the real world, this one being an illusion, maya.

Somehow I’ve found myself more drawn to this journey, this ancientrail, than the usual ones. My path follows Dante as he and Virgil head off from the dark woods into the depths of hell. Except where Dante and Virgil scramble up the massive head of Lucifer to reach purgatory on their way to heaven, I’m digging down, trying to find what he’s standing on.

An archaeology of the soul. Of course our soul moves toward the light, perhaps it even is light, the ohr, the shards of divinity shattered and spread out through all at the very beginning. I want to retain my soul, my shard of the light, but I want to know what came before the shard, the time of the ayn sof, the Endless One. I suspect that’s where Lucifer’s feet find purchase.

In that place, in the realm of what early Church Fathers called the Ineffable, in that place there may be the energy to transform my personal grief and the greater grief of our time.

Mountain Angels

Written By: Charles - Jun• 11•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Thursday gratefuls: Seoah’s trust. Kate’s improvement. Three Elk in the back this morning. Religion. Philosophy. Analysis. Mystical experience. Dandelions that bring Elk and Bees. Lungs. Gas Exchange. Oxygen concentrators. Joe and his baseball cards. China. Japan. Korea. Cambodia. Vietnam. Our suffering nation. Change.

Two full days. Weary. Good sleep last night, cool again.

Three Elk came to our house this morning, including one with only one antler. The same guy from last year, pre-radiation? Seems like it. This is our sixth summer here and the first four saw no Elk. Last year there were two, who stayed for a day and a night. Two on Sunday who stayed all day, clearing most of our Dandelions. These three have stopped to rest in the shade of our northeastern Lodgepole grove.

Sanshin has gifted us with these wondrous Creatures. Wild, yet here. Inside our fenced yard because of their wild power. I’m not sure why we gave up on the idea that wild animals are messengers, angels you might say, but I think it’s time to reconsider the idea.

To see a full grown Elk buck rise up right outside your bedroom window to grasp a branch full of Aspen leaves. To watch as his long tongue grasps the branch, pulls it into his mouth so he can strip it clean. This 900 pound animal subsists on Aspen leaves, Dandelions, and Grass. Awe. Yirah.

We and our neighbors have embedded ourselves among the Elk, Black Bear, Mountain Lion, Mule Deer, Fox, and a multitude of other Creatures large and small, yet we seem them mostly on trail cams or chance photographs. In the fall, during the rut, Elk are more visible, but not now. Except in our own backyard.

I’m still processing the Hummingbirds and the Sunday Elk visit. There is a message for me, for Kate and me, but I haven’t sussed it out yet.

BTW: angel=messenger


Written By: Charles - Jun• 10•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Wednesday gratefuls: Kate’s interstitial lung disease is stable. Now for almost a year! Her stamina let her, yesterday: go in for her pacemaker check, her blood work for her physical, and into Joann Fabrics to shop for mask making materials. She also got up early and got on the Clan call. Can’t imagine her doing this six months ago. The snow came. The snow went. Still cool though.

Yesterday was busy. Got up for the Clan call, ate breakfast, then talked with Michele, the home health care nurse, about Kate’s feeding tube. Nap. Then 4 hours plus going to Kate’s heart doc, the lab for her bloodwork, and finally to Joann Fabrics. No time to write.

Still tired this morning. My stamina’s not what it was either.

Understanding what’s going on right now? Priceless. And, impossible. The strong ropes of disruption woven by the coronavirus, the economic crisis, and, now, the rising and welcome wave of unrest will weave themselves together into a hawser capable of hauling us all into a new future.

There will be discontinuities with the past. Masks and social distancing will persist for months, as will staying at home for the older ones among us. How we can care for the hourly wage workers displaced, for the small businesses that go bankrupt or are severely damaged, for the economy as a whole could take years to sort out. The Black Lives Matter movement may unlock the biggest changes of all. And, of course, climate change continues its role as a disrupter of the past.

I’m excited about all of this. America, the world’s indispensable nation, has failed to live into its dreams of a racially diverse nation. That may be changing right now. We’ve never valued the low wage worker, dismissed them from our health care system and a path forward. These same workers saved our lives at risk to their own. Not by choice in most cases, but that’s the point. They work where they do because these are the jobs of our day. Important jobs. Each and every day. Small businesses, not Walmart or Target or Kroger’s or Wendy’s or McDonalds, make a place unique, local. They’re in deep trouble now which could mean a greater homogenization of our retail businesses unless economic reforms gain more traction.

Yes, it’s scary. No, the change will be neither consistent nor smooth. But it’s happening. We are responsible for guiding it in productive and valuable ways. Making sure we rid ourselves of the great divider is most important, but even a Democratic sweep in November won’t ensure success. A change of governance is essential, but insufficient. You and I need to watch, pay attention, act. For the rest of our lives.

Wow. What a time.

What’s Next?

Written By: Charles - Jun• 08•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Monday gratefuls: Ancient friends, well-spoken. Ali Baba Grill, their gyros. Seoah loves it. So do I. Maria’s Empanadas. Kate’s choice. All ordered takeout. Those two Elk. Kate’s sisters on Zoom. Ruth, with mask on, protesting with Black Lives Matter. The protests, violent and non-violent. Bunkerman. The military standing up to Bunkerman. Cool mountain mornings. Dandelions. Grass.

Where might all of this protesting go? Reparations? Always a controversial topic. For those with white privilege. David Brooks has an interesting column on reparations.

Defund the police? What does that even mean. Here’s a Washington Post article that gives some ideas. This idea is new to me and I’ve got to read more about it.

I have a good deal of experience with neighborhood organizations, neighborhood level economic development, housing policies, social programs conceived and delivered at the neighborhood level. The diagnosis in Brooks’ article makes sense to me. The solution less so.

Got started with this, went down to eat breakfast, worked out. Forgot it. I’ll get back it tomorrow or so.

Sanshin Speaks

Written By: Charles - Jun• 07•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Sunday gratefuls: Two Elk bucks, eating dandelions in our backyard. Kep, stepping on my eye in his surprise at seeing them. Seoah, bleary eyed, “I got video!” Sanshin reminding me of the reassurance he sent last June, just before I started radiation therapy. Reassuring me now. Wild neighbors. Who go where they want, when they want. For whom humans are at best a nuisance. For my heart, which follows my wild neighbors

Kep likes to get up, then lay down on me in the morning. It’s part of our getting up ritual. When he does, though, he can see out our bedroom window. This morning he let out a bark and lunged forward, putting his right foot on my right eye. Ouch. Good thing eyelids move fast.

As I let Rigel and him outside, I saw what had caused Kep to react. Two Elk bucks stood on our drainage field, eating dandelions. Talk about the web of life. They are huge, as big as the Cow Moose I saw last week, perhaps a bit bigger.

Neither Rigel nor Kep barked at them. The two Dogs and the two Elk eyed each other. Kep and Rigel went off to pee and wander around the yard. The Elk continued eating dandelions. Elk Bucks, healthy ones anyway, can fend off Wolves and Mountain Lions, so Kep and Rigel were no threat to them. Kep and Rigel seemed to get that, too.

At first I thought these couldn’t be the two who came last June 17th to reassure me before my radiation therapy started. One of those had only one antler. Then. Oh. Yeah, the horns grow back each year. Could well be the same two, back to their secret stash of the yellow flower. Right now they’re resting among the lodgepoles in the northeast corner of our property. Last year they stayed the night.

Yes, the radiation has been on my mind. It was a year ago this month that my imaging work was complete, the new diagnosis finished. I knew the radiation would start, but I wasn’t sure quite when.

These two Elk, come again for our dandelions, have also come again to soothe the part of me that remains anxious, uncertain. No definitive news on the effectiveness of the radiation until November. Dave died last week and a needleworker friend of Kate’s died last week, too, also of glioblastoma. Cancer always wants to kill you.

A Change in the Weather

Written By: Charles - Jun• 06•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Saturday gratefuls: Gray rain Clouds over Black Mountain. The blue Sky behind and above them. The two young Bucks dining on our grass yesterday. This weakened body, ready to be free from Lupron…and cancer. Protests. And, the protesters. The police. Those whose lives have been damaged in the last six months whether by Covid, or job loss, or police brutality. Each Black life heartened. A new day dawning. I fervently hope.

Ghosts. During my workout yesterday I did a triceps exercise, close-grip on workout bench. I could hear Dave telling me, “If you want to make it harder, just take your chest closer to the bench.” It was as if he were in the room, encouraging me. The reality of the experience shocked me.

All day yesterday and still this morning a gray cloud like the one over Black Mountain hangs in my inner world. Not quite to melancholy, but close. This world is too much with me, late and soon.

I wonder, why am I not like this all the time right now? That’s an encouraging thought. Why? Because it means I’ve learned to accept the reality around me, the moments of grace as well as the moments of sadness and sorrow. I’m not pushing either of them away, nor am I letting any of them dominate me. They come and they go.

Shadow Mountain is far away from Lake and Hiawatha in Minneapolis. Far away from my friends joining with others there. Far away from the folks with whom I worked over many years. It feels strange to not be there. Just another of the wispy clouds floating in the sky of my inner world.

The outer winds blowing here this morning are coming from the east, not usual. It’s as if the power of change sweeping through the Twin Cities has caused a change in our Front Range weather. May it be so for us, and the rest of our country, the rest of our world.


Written By: Charles - Jun• 05•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Friday gratefuls: George Lloyd. Derek Chauvin. Dave. This wonderful country, naked and bleeding in its streets. Rabbi Jamie, speaking truth. Slavery. If any one is in chains, can any of us be free? Even with AK 47’s? Our hearts, filled with sorrow. All-season tires on Ruby. Sitting on the lawn outside Stevenson Toyota, watching the clouds over the Front Range. Seoah, finally with a date to go back to Joe

The descendants of the enslaved have not yet crossed the Red Sea. Even the Civil War did not part the waters. Pharaoh’s bureaucrats stole the victory and what it could have meant. The African-American community in the U.S. has been wandering, not on the Sinai, but caught between the powerful armies of their former owners and a sea of despair.

Perhaps, just perhaps, George Floyd, executed by the knee of Derek Chauvin, will be his people’s Nahshon. In rabbinical lore it was not Moses who initiated the parting of the Red Sea-our image of Charlton Heston with his staff held out over the waters notwithstanding-it was Nahshon.

According to a midrash, when the exodus from Egypt reached the sea, the former slaves fell into despair, already doubting, and stopped on the shore. Nahshon alone walked into the water and not until he was neck-deep did the waters part.

Neck-deep. Quoted in this NYT article, Mylan Masson, a former trainer for the Minneapolis Department says, “We try to stay away from the neck as much as possible…because of the vulnerability.” Until the water lapped around Nahshon’s neck, he was not in any danger. The ruach, the breath, the spirit of life, finds its way into the lungs through the neck. Without breath, without the spirit which the one breathed into us at the moment of our creation, we are still born. Or, we die. As George Floyd did.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the waters that lap on that other shore, freedom’s shores will part after George Floyd entered them neck deep. Perhaps he will resurrect in a great rising up morning as slavery’s chains finally fall away.