We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

The Sacred Marriage

Written By: Charles - Dec• 24•18

Winter                                                                            Stent Moon

ohrOn the drive over to Tony’s Market to pick up Christmas dinner I got to thinking about ohr, the shards of divine light kabbalists believe actually make up the known universe. When I bow to the divine light in you and you bow to the divine light in me, we say that makes sense in that framework. So there can be the ohr, the light of the divine blasted apart at the moment of creation; but, I thought, there’s also the more immediate light, that of the sun.

It’s correct in every important way to say our life spark comes from and looks back to the sun. Photosynthesis creates the food we eat, whether at its primary source in plants or in a secondary source like meat. So the divine light could also be solar, the power of the fusion engine that is our star.

More and more I see the divine sun in sacred marriage with the holy goddess, mother earth. It is through the constant and intimate play between these two that all life emerges. In this sense then the celebration of the incarnation observed tomorrow can be seen as a holiday created to honor us as children of the sun and the earth. Of course, not just us, but all of the animate creations here.

We differ from the rest of the animate world, as far we know, primarily in our capacity to know our creators, the creature knowing the creator, or, said another way, the creators looking on themselves through their creation.

sacredIt is this dance, the days of the dancing star, that we are thrown into this world to execute. Sure, you could take this and conclude a scientistic flat-earth humanism, minus the divinity, but it seems to me you end up in the same place with a reductionistic refusal to see the simcha, the joy, of life as part of, not separate from. It is the bondedness we have with our star and our planet which is divinity, we are part of a dialectic between power and fertile elements, a fruit, in fact, of its creative tension.

Sure, you could also take this perspective and place a whole pantheon in and around it. Aurora. Shiva. Mithras. Yahweh. Even baby Jesus. But I believe it is this pair, this vital union of star and planet that both makes us and teaches us about our sacred relationship to the whole universe through the example of their intimacy. I see no need to add more deities though I don’t think it hurts. Not exactly. As long as we keep our hearts on the source, we can names its elements as we wish. That creative and destructive nature both sun and earth have. Sure, Shiva. The still point, the apparent stability of the earth below, the mountain above, the ocean spread out. Vishnu. The sun appearing as the earth turns on its axis. Aurora. The dangerous interplay among humans and among humans and the rest of the creation. Yahweh. Your presence as a manifestation of this sacred marriage? Jesus.

I come back now to the Great Wheel, that cyclical turning of mother earth around her sol, how it reflects our lives as they grow and change. It is the great scripture in which we can read of our gods, know their moods, and how we can celebrate their deep meaning in our lives. Blessed be.

Assimilating. In reverse.

Written By: Charles - Dec• 22•18

Winter                                                                           Stent Moon

Black Mountain, this month, from the loft

Black Mountain, this month, from the loft

Sol Invictus has risen, not daunted by the long night. Unconquerable, life giving, a true light for our world. Black Mountain and its lodgepole pine, its groves of aspen, its slashes of ski runs is visible against a bright white clouded sky. A great wakin’ up morning if you’re a devotee of the two who give us life, Sol and Gaia. Blessed be.

Wanted to make a quick note of something I realized the other day. Assimilation. Assimilation assumes, correctly I think, that each culture is a semi-permeable membrane. Varying levels of porosity create more endogenous, more exogenous groups. Our immigration debate, for example, is an attempt to adjust the degree of porosity of American culture. One side wants less permeability and that only under strict expectations of full assimilation. The other side wants more permeability and a recognition of the vitality that blending and mixing of cultures engenders.

Inside subgroups of a dominant culture, say Latinos in the U.S., Jews in the U.S., for example there’s always a tension between maintaining group norms, those things that keep the subgroup distinctive and recognizable, and the necessity of living and working and loving in a culture different from their own. This is neither bad nor good, it just is. As I understand the American experiment, we’ve intended a greater level of porosity than most other nations, defining ourselves by the American Dream:  “The American Dream is a national ethos of the United States, the set of ideals (democracy, rights, liberty, opportunity and equality) in which freedom includes the opportunity for prosperity and success, as well as an upward social mobility for the family and children, achieved through hard work in a society with few barriers.”  wikipedia

An ancestor who lived almost two hundred years after Richard Ellis arrived

An ancestor, Demick Ellis, who lived almost two hundred years after Richard Ellis arrived (1888)

I love China towns, Korea towns, Japan towns, Latino neighborhoods, black neighborhoods, Italian and Greek and Russian neighborhoods. African restaurants, Cuban restaurants, Japanese restaurants. You get the point. Jewish delis.

Since my folks arrived on these shores in 1707, Ellises, and during the American Revolution, Spitlers, assimilation has never been an issue for me. I represent and live in the dominant culture, the one which assimilates, in the dominant world power of our time (until, maybe, right now), again the one which assimilates other nations. So it came as a surprise to me the other day when I realized I had begun, under the radar of my consciousness, probably for the reason of white, long standing US family history and privilege, the process of assimilation. You might call it reverse assimilation, but I don’t. It’s just assimilation.

ChesedI’ve begun to assimilate into Jewish culture. Different from becoming  a Jew, just like Jewish assimilation into American culture is different from no longer being a Jew, my identity is largely intact, but I find myself much more aware of living life through a Jewish lens. Their holidays are now mine. Their community, mine. Their marginal reality, also mine, though this last requires a full choice on my part, not just acquiescence. That is, I choose to stand with my new culture against all elements domestic and foreign and not to retire into privilege when things get hairy.

I’m at a point in my journey where I feel no need for formal conversion. I’m a person of my own religious persuasion and Beth Evergreen allows me to give it full expression even while immersed in Jewish life. Like I said long ago here I’m a fellow traveler, but now a fellow traveler who’s close to becoming a quasi cultural native. Strange, huh?

Sol Invictus

Written By: Charles - Dec• 22•18

Winter                                                                                 Stent Moon

Sol Invictus by Jake Baddeley

Sol Invictus by Jake Baddeley

The long night began to fall as I drove home from Swedish Hospital. It was only 4:30 or so, but the darkness had already come calling. It is not over yet, still dark here on Shadow Mountain. Black Mountain, out the window, is visible through a very gradual lightening of the sky.

The Winter Solstice marks the deepest immersion we mid-latitude folks have in the night and that’s the reason I love it, embracing the long slow slide into short days. It also marks another important moment, the victory of the light. Like the Summer Solstice which marks the shortest night, but also the point where darkness begins its gradual, yet inevitable return, so the Winter Solstice marks the point when light becomes the victor, again gradually, yet inevitably headed toward Summer.

In this case, not usual for me, but apt right now, I’m celebrating both the long nights and the return of the light. I want Kate’s long journey into misery to have seen it’s demise over the long Solstice night. I want the gradual return of light and lightness to her being and her becoming. I want to see, over the next six months, as light progresses toward Beltane and the start of the growing season, Kate’s health and weight follow a similar path.

Whatever lessons this illness had to teach were learned long ago. It’s time now to move forward. Appropriately, as I write this sentence the sky behind Black Mountain has gone from dark gray to a slightly rosy hue. May Kate’s recovery be the same.


Written By: Charles - Dec• 21•18

Winter                                                                            Stent Moon

stent3The stent went in easily. No pain for Kate, only a local anesthetic at the insertion site in her groin. Whether the procedure solved the problem only time and many meals will tell.

I drove home under a quickly darkening sky at 4 pm. The long night is about to fall.

May the news be good.


Written By: Charles - Dec• 21•18

Winter                                                                          Stent Moon

Christmas, 2014

Christmas, 2014

4 years ago today we moved to Colorado. Yes, we moved in on the Winter Solstice, my favorite holiday of the whole year. It was snowy and cold, well below zero. We thought, oh, this is familiar. Seemed just like what we’d left. And, for four years now it has never been that cold again. Strange.

As readers of this blog know, it’s been an eventful four years. We both hope that events will stop whipping by like Randy Johnson heaters. A nice, calm boring 2019 would be a good thing. Let us catch our breath before Johnson switches to curve balls. If not. Well. It’s been growth inducing. Still. I’m ready to stop growing for a bit.

urukIn ancient Uruk residents opened all city gates, lit bonfires and sang hymns timed to the rising and the setting of certain stars in the sky. This all night vigil honored many Sumerian deities, but most of all Anu, king of the gods, and special protector of the city. In the Congo the Mbuti hunters clap, sing, and dance around a fire at night, the Molimo Ceremony. This is not only a solstice observation, but for significant events. If there has been a death, they sing to the forest: “If darkness is, and the darkness is of the forest, then the darkness must be good.” from the Lapham Quarterly, Winter 2019

Today, four years after the move, Kate gets a stent placed in her superior mesenteric artery, hopefully ending the reign of terror instigated by its stenosis. The placement, done by catheter inserted into her femoral artery, is not without risks. The probe can dissect the artery (open it), letting blood flow out, possibly causing death. The probe can dislodge plaque (causing the stenosis) causing a stroke. A thrombosis can form at the stent placement site, a blood clot that also cause a stroke or bleeding. We both agree that the risks are worth the chance to return her to a normal diet and life.

The guys who’s doing it, Dr. Mulden, has the praises of all those who work with him and know him well. Dr. Kooy, whom we saw at the interventional radiologists, said if anyone in his family, wife or kids or parents, needed a stent placement, he would choose Mulden. May his hands be steady, his eye clear, and his knowledge adequate to the task.

winter solstice 10Then Kate can heal over the longest night of the year. Fecund darkness, calm and quiet night, holy night, sacred night. A 98% full moon. With all the energy of a still waxing moon, one very near fullness, she will receive the best energy this long night can offer. If you have a moment once the darkness falls, feel your way into it, perhaps in the moonlight, and remember Kate.

It will be the most significant solstice for me in a long time, perhaps ever. Candles and silence. A walk outside, here on Shadow Mountain, to view the moon. I will remember the darkness, the emptiness which precedes our birth and the darkness, the emptiness which follows our death. Life grows from the night and flourishes under the sun. We need light and dark, cold and warm, life and death. Blessed be.


Written By: Charles - Dec• 20•18

Samain                                                                           Stent Moon

stentFinally. The stent goes in tomorrow. God, I hope it does what we want. The guy, Dr. Mulden, is the senior guy in the metro on this particular kind of work. Lucky to have him. She’ll be in the hospital tonight, maybe tomorrow night if they feel observation is necessary after the stent placement. Home by Saturday lord willin’ and the creek don’t rise.

Please let this be the end of this 18 month saga. Let a new chapter of our Colorado life begin.



Written By: Charles - Dec• 20•18

Samain                                                                          Stent Moon

Kate, also, Nov. 29th

Kate, Nov. 29th

Kate’s once again on the 8th floor at Swedish, the general surgery floor. This, I imagine, in case she needs another bowel resection due to this most recent bleed. God, I hope not, but… I’m going in in an hour or so to see her, find out what we now know. Her hemoglobin level has been around 10.4 and she had had no new bleeds since the first one as of last night. Both good news. I hope we will get that stent in today or at the latest tomorrow.

I’m distracted and stressed, yes, but not dysfunctional. Ate a good dinner, slept well, put a little paint on my newest work. Fed the dogs, that sort of thing. Not dispirited. Hopeful. That the stent will go in well and solve her nausea and stomach cramping. That she’ll finally be able to gain some weight. Those two things would be wonderful holiday presents.

winter solstice3Tomorrow is the winter solstice. I haven’t gotten yet to the six new rituals I found in Lapham’s, but I will either later today or tomorrow. The dark, the long night, to me symbolizes healing, fecundity, a depth experience for the Self, a soulful journey. It’s what I need right now, a time out of time, time with the ancientrail that winds in and down, following the shamans toward the center of the earth, the center of the soul.





Damn. Damn. Damn.

Written By: Charles - Dec• 19•18

Samain                                                                            Stent Moon

Damn it. Kate’s bleed has kicked up again. Literally the day after we got a date for her procedure, Jan. 2nd. I’m sure she’ll end up in the hospital again. Just what will happen there, I have no idea. I wish they’d place the stent now. Stop the cause. Then, heal the bleed. Then, send her home so we can fatten her up and get her started on cardio rehab, some resistance work.

This is dispiriting. Which is an interesting word. This news will try to push the spirit out of both of us, leaving us without ruach, without vital spirit.

No choice here but to go forward, do what comes next. Like Churchill famously said, “When you’re going through hell, keep on going.” Just so.

Success, or…

Written By: Charles - Dec• 18•18

Samain                                                                                Stent Moon

The post below, written before this one, has pushed me to finally get this out, down. Success. That bitch goddess. That awful demanding god. Subtle. Get good grades. Make a difference. Make a name for yourself. As if the name you already have isn’t enough. Graduate valedictorian and have expectations laid on you, absorb them, make your own. Don’t slip up. Don’t fail. Don’t succumb. Keep at it. Do well. Do better. Do best. Do. Do. Do.

Here’s the rub for me. I set myself up when I left the Presbytery. Success now would look like published books, a little shelf beside all the books by others that I’ve collected. My own shelf. My name on the spine. Money. Maybe a touch of fame. Hasn’t happened. At least not yet. Will it? Probably not, but, you never know.

Are the only two options success or failure? Don’t think so, but it feels that way. A binary choice means if not this, then that. No publication, no success = failure. Maybe.

No question I’ve failed at getting books published. That’s the facts, not fake news. At all. So. Let’s assume I don’t ever succeed at getting a book or books published. I’m not conceding, not at all. This is both a hypothetical and the reality for me right now.

Just reread my Percival post, A Fool On The Hill. Can’t seem to shake this question. Does not publishing mean I declare my life, at least the last 30 years, a failure? I failed at publishing. Yes. Does that somehow stain me, all of me? Make me a Self no longer able to put a trophy up on the shelf? Doesn’t seem to make sense, but my mind keeps circling around, circling around, gathering my long-winged feathers, gathering my long-winged feathers.

Wish I could put this matter to rest. It bugs me, keeps returning. Should I just yes, I’m a failure, now I’m going forward anyhow? Or, should I reframe success? Abandon the idea as a bourgeoisie conceit? Figure out why the subject continues to resurface?



My dreaming

Written By: Charles - Dec• 18•18

Samain                                                                               Stent Moon

dreamsThe dreaming. Elisa told me I’d start remembering dreams during Mercury in retrograde. And, I have.

A recurring theme has shown up, one that’s occurred several times over the last few months. It puzzles me, so I’m going to write about it here, see what writing has to tell me.

The theme, present in several variations, is this. I go somewhere, often to a hotel in a large city, maybe for a conference, maybe for a temporary move. Last night I was somewhere, perhaps a college, but with friends, a new addition to the theme.

I never know the reason but I have moved boxes and boxes of stuff, mostly books, into the rooms I’m occupying. After some time I have to go. But I never seem to have enough time to remove all the stuff I’ve brought, especially the books. I become frantic, trying to find boxes, get stuff moved. In some dreams I worry about the hotel bill, will I be able to pay it if I can’t get my stuff out by the time my reservation is up. Last night I had books scattered over different spaces, but there were friends that offered to help me pack up. Even with the help I felt trapped. I can never get done in time. This is just too hard. Why did I bring so much stuff? The dreams never resolve. They finish with me still running through all the things I need to do to move my stuff. (btw: George Carlin.)



Last night’s addition of friends did lower my anxiety level. I had offers to help pack. A group of African-American street guys offered to move some boxes in the trunks of their cars. Friends at the college, or whatever it was, packed a whole room full of books. Another group had a pick-up truck. Some were going to help me find boxes. It occurred to me for the first time in any of these dreams that I could go to a day labor place and hire folks to help me.

Obvious associations. The move to Colorado. It took weeks to pack all my books, even with eliminating about a third of my library. Each time I’ve moved since college, since 1969, I’ve moved more and more books onto the next place. It can feel overwhelming. And, book boxes are heavy. Each day now I come into the loft and the books are here, on shelves, on stands next to chairs, on desktops, open next to me on the table or the small laptop desk I use for holding things I’m using for writing.

I don’t want to move. Ever again. There’s a threshold effect, one I apparently exceeded in the move out here. I don’t want to do it again. It just feels like too much. And that feeling synchs up pretty well with the feeling I get as these dreams fade. Too much. I can never get done. What can I do?



Another association. The learning of a lifetime. All that knowledge stored in the neurons blinking on and off in my brain. Stuffed full. Like a crowded attic. Can I get any real use from it, crammed in and over abundant as it is? Or, is that the exact question? What if I can’t get any use from all the boxes of knowledge I’ve stored? Even as I write this I feel a slight tension in my abdomen. My feet went up on the chairs legs. Anxiety.

A realization as I wrote. This might be about death, about legacy, about “success.” Have I added so many boxes to my life that I can never use them all before I go home, the home Ram Dass says we’re all walking toward together? Could this be reminding me that check-out time is coming and I’m not done yet. That I need to figure out a way to get done? What would that mean?

I’m open to thoughts on this.