We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Seeing the forest for the trees

Written By: Charles - Feb• 27•20

Imbolc and the Leap Year Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Sliver Leap Year Moon last night. Awakening to the forest around me. The beauty and warmth at CBE. Kate’s healing fingers, her growing stamina. Her mood. Wiggly Murdoch at Bergen Bark. Time with Seoah. All those dinosaurs and trees and shrubs that died so we might have oil. Keep it in the ground. Yes. For the Great Work.

How things work in my mind. About a year ago my buddy Alan Rubin came up here. His first comment was, “You live way back in the forest.” Huh. Well, yeah. The Arapaho National Forest. Those words tucked themselves away only to emerge a couple of weeks ago while I drove back up Shadow Mountain from a turn down the hill. Lot of trees. More than the drive up. Oh. Alan was right. We live way back in the forest.

We live in a forest. Oh. I see. Yes. All those trees. A forest. For five years I’ve been focused on the mountains. Their bulk. Their altitude. Their visual presence as I drive to Evergreen, to Aspen Park. We live in the mountains we tell ourselves and count ourselves so lucky. The Rocky Mountains. Guess what I’ve just realized. We live in the mountains, in a forest. It’s all around me now, this forest. I feel it, too.

In Minnesota we lived on the Great Anoka Sand Plain, groves of oak trees, iron wood, elm, black locust, cottonwood, but, no forest. Had to drive up north for the Boreal Forest or over to Carlos Avery Wildlife Preserve. We had a small woods on our property. Which I loved. But it was not a forest.

Here the lodgepole and aspen climb the mountains, show up in the valleys, surround our house and our neighbor’s houses. Here elk and mule deer and fox and mountain lions and bears and rabbits and pine martens and moose live in the forest, too. All us mammals in a place that feels like home, the forest. On mountains.

Makes me wonder what else I’m missing. Probably a lot.

Life in the ohr mines

Written By: Charles - Feb• 26•20

Imbolc and the Leap Year Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Sleep. Up at 6:45. Cold nights. Electric blanket. Perfect. The sun and blue sky. Fresh, brilliant white snow. A quiet house. Latvia, a nation of introverts. Reincarnation possibility? Art Green and his student, Rabbi Jamie. Chocolate. Pretzels with a zing. My treadmill. Kettlebells. Stall mats. Roku. Netflix. Prime Video.

Twice this week I’ve slept past 6 am. Way late for me, but I feel rested. When Seoah came, in the midst of the Gertie/Murdoch/Kepler time, I had deflated, running mostly on will power and sense of duty. With her here cooking, taking care of the kitchen, brightening up each day I began to feel better. After Murdoch went to Bergen Bark Inn, some of the tension drained away. Then Gertie died, ending a week plus of suffering. Sad, but relieved for her. Also reduced tension.

A week later I’m building up my reserves. Seoah leaves on March 7th. We’ll miss her.

Life deep in the ohr mines. That’s what I want. Seeking the light, the glint of revelation, the living pulsing oneness. I want to touch it, stroke it with my index finger, do that opposable thumb thing. I want to flick it with my middle finger, hard. Listen. Hear the music of the spheres, the sound of all in all. No names, please. Certainly not hashem or adonai, nothing between the ohr there and the ohr here. Definitely not God or Elohim or YHWH. Not even mind or consciousness. Maybe oneness, maybe. It could come, then quickly go. Leaving us alone, ohr to ohr, ohr in ohr.

On my computer desk, above my desktop and my screen, is a printer shelf. On it, from left to right are Hannuman, a gargoyle, a colorful ceramic bee, a Chinese lion candle, a metal box from Barcelona, a model, an ancient clay man from indigenous Chileans, a bull rhyton, a blue bottle labeled Bromo-Caffeine for Brain Workers, A Sandy Koufax baseball card, a birthday present from Joe, and a storm glass, a Hanukah present from Ruth. The ohr is strong with each of them.

So too with the print of the Ford Parkway bridge done my buddy, Mark Odegard, on the wall to my left. And, the Ojibwe birch bark basket with the bear skull. Ruth’s painted elephant and her I am a wedge chunk of wood. The baseball mitt I used when playing catch with Joseph in Irvine Park. The hippy peace and love elephant from Singapore, a gift from Mary. The deer skull hung over the deer hide gifted to me during a Woolly retreat long ago by buddy Tom Crane. The three glass angels, Charlie’s Angels, from the urban ministry students that I taught. The arcosanti metal container, a gift from Kate after a trip to Arizona. This is just nearby, close to my computer.

All buzzing with ohr. It leaks out so easily from each of them. The sacred ministry of love. Love is a good electron microscope for ohr. Whatever you approach with love will reveal its light, its raiment. The oneness of it will look into you, see you approaching with love, your ohr unveiled. In that instant tikkun olam, the repair of oneness shattered at the beginning, happens.

Monday, Monday

Written By: Charles - Feb• 25•20

Imbolc and the Leap Year Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Kep’s stoicism at the vet. Gertie’s paw print and ashes. Her blessed memory. Joe. The gas heater here in the loft. Faithful. The Dell screen that shows me what I’m doing. What other’s have done. Time. Now. Now. Now. Now. No past. No future. Now. Apply Zeno’s paradox to time. Huh? The naked groves of Aspen among all the Lodgepoles.

Kep’s all set. New rabies tag. Looking healthy in his 8th or 9th year. He tucked his tail between his legs for the whole exam though. Not his favorite time, but he put up with it. Picked up Gertie’s ashes in a nice wooden box, a final paw print in baked clay included. Sad on the way home remembering her in those final days.

Rigel pranced in the other day. Perhaps her grieving for Gertie beginning to loosen its grip.

Kate had a bad morning, extreme nausea. She hates nausea. No one likes it, but she’s had so much of it over so long a time. Got it back under control. She’s come so far from September, 2018. These setbacks hurt.

Back to three sets each in my resistance work. Doing high intensity interval training as my cardio in between sets. Makes it all harder. Which, paradoxically, is a good thing. Put me to sleep last night. Woke up late.

Still pondering Bernie. If he or Elizabeth Warren could become president and then, govern, I would be so happy. Not sure it’s possible though. Without a Democratic Senate and House their policies stand little chance of enactment. Even with a clean sweep of both houses there would be great difficulty in passing the most radical measures. We’re a center right nation and they’re full left candidates. Tough.

Family Time

Written By: Charles - Feb• 24•20

Imbolc and the new Leap Year Moon

Monday gratefuls: Gabe, who wants to be an actor. Seoah leafing through a furniture catalog. Lunch with Ruth, Gabe, Jon, and Seoah at the Yak and Yeti. Seeing the Highlands neighborhood in Denver. Discovering University Ave. in Denver. Coffee. Coffee growers. The coffee plant. Laborers who grow, roast, and grind coffee.

Took Seoah and Gabe into Denver yesterday. Seoah wanted to exercise her military discount at Lululemon, a chic athleisure clothier. And, she did. Seoah is in great shape. She regularly runs 20 minutes at 6.5 or 7.0 mph, does 300 squats, yoga. Her fashion sense is also highly developed from 20 years in the upscale Gangnam neighborhood of Seoul. Lululemon is a natural for her.

Three things that make Seoah happy: a discount, pho, and Indian food. After the visit to Lululemon, we drove south through Denver. I’ve gotten my sea legs in the Denver street system now, I can navigate. Chose University Avenue to take us south to Hampden. Had not driven on it before. It runs by the University of Denver, Iliff Seminary (Methodist, as is UD), and past blocks of college type retail. Around UD the streets have names like Harvard, Yale, Bates, Cornell.

Hampden is the main east-west street for the southern part of Denver, which has no ring road that makes it easy to traverse the city. Hampden is also Hwy. 285, a Federal highway that runs out of Denver to the west, into the mountains, then south all the way to Santa Fe. It’s also the primary road we take when we need to go down the hill. I know it very well since it runs close to Swedish Hospital and is on the route to Jon’s house much further east in Aurora.

We met Jon and Ruth at the Yak and Yeti, an Indian, Nepalese, Tibetan restaurant. Wanted to eat at India’s Restaurant, the oldest Indian restaurant in Denver, on Hampden like Yak and Yeti, but on Sundays they don’t open until 5:30 pm. Yak and Yeti’s food is undistinguished, but plentiful. Attracts folks who want to eat cheap, the buffet is $12.95, and who want to eat a lot. A lot of family time this weekend.

Today Kep goes in for his physical and his rabies shot. His vaccination, good for three years, expires on the 27th of this month. Given our recent history we don’t want a dog with an out of date rabies vaccination. We’ll also pick up Gertie’s ashes.

No new word on Murdoch. We’ll visit him a couple of times this week. He’s having a great time there so far. Always happy and wiggly to see us. No idea he’s in exile.

13.8 Billion Years

Written By: Charles - Feb• 23•20

Imbolc and the 1% crescent of the Shadow Mountain Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Family. All of’em. Snow. Kep. Rigel. Murdoch. Gertie in memory. Roast chicken. Tater tots. Caesar salad. Water. As snow. As Maxwell Creek. As ice. As from our well. As in Lake Superior and the wide Pacific. Oxygen. Rocky Mountain high. All the dinosaurs and carboniferous plants that died so we could drive to Denver.

Went to sleep last night with a warmth of good feeling. When Jon and Ruth go skiing, Gabe comes here to stay for the day. Après ski I make dinner. It’s usually fun, but last night was special. Seoah’s here. Joe called from Singapore. Lots of casual conversation, laughter. Hugging of the dogs. Not special, which is the point. It was an ordinary, happy evening. A family time. Not enough of those in anyone’s life.

Beginning to think of revelation as the central religious idea. Wanted to give an example of how ubiquitous revelation can be. Friend Tom Crane found this video. That sense of awe you feel watching it? Yep. Revelation.

Changing World

Written By: Charles - Feb• 22•20

Imbolc and the waning sliver Shadow Mountain Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Kate’s stitches out. Her toughness. Seoah cleaning. Rigel, grieving. Chinooks (snow eater winds). Gabe, who comes at 10. Jon and Ruth skiing at A-basin today. My Aeron chair. The split key-board I use. This Dell computer. The engineers and laborers who designed and built all three. The pretzel factory. Lodgepole evolution that allows them to withstand heavy snow and high winds.

Took Kate in for hand therapy. It’s a burn and reconstruction clinic, directed by Benson Pulikkottil. I thought at first he might be Finnish, given the last name. When I saw his burnt umber skin, however, I was pretty sure that was a wrong guess. Looked him up. Kerala. A state in India with 100% literacy.

He looked at Kate’s fingers, said they were doing well. Take the stitches out. A nurse came in and removed them. Kate winced and teared up. Unusual. She’s stoic, so the pain must have been exquisite. Made me wince, too.

Quieter here on Shadow Mountain. A good thing, but also strange. Both of us have the sense that we have too few dogs. Two. Just not enough. Unsure whether we’ll do anything about that, though a puppy or two would enliven the house.

Rigel has been subdued since Gertie died. When we’re not around, she’s also regressed to grabbing things off the table and moving them to her spot near the fire place. Kep’s tail is down more than up. The pack has changed and they don’t know why. Murdoch disappeared, too. Dogs don’t like change.

Speaking of change. The Munich security conference, a gathering of world diplomats had as its theme, Westlessness. A play, I suppose, on restlessness since organizers meant attendees to consider a world without the West as a dominant force. China’s rise spurred the conversation though Trump’s abdication of global leadership made it bite. The concern lies in diffuse centers of influence both in Asia and in the Middle East. The article points to Russia, Iran, and Turkey as core figures in Middle East politics now.

Wow. If dispersed centers of power become the norm, the post-WWII world will vanish like human space travel did. A wondrous achievement winking out. Not sure how I feel about this.

The US led West has dominated world politics since the end of World War II. Over 70 years. My entire lifetime. History though is the record of these tectonic changes, some taking hundreds of years, think the rise and fall of Rome or the changing dynasties of China, India, some taking much shorter times. The end of the cold war. The invasion of Turtle Island. Indian independence.

A world shaped by the U.S. and its odd brand of imperialism: We’re invading you to make you free. Oh, and here’s a ticket to an American capitalist economy, too.

My fellow leftists and I have been and are critical of these policies. Election interference, for example. Take a ride down south to Latin America. We’ve been engaged there for years. Meddling in the politics of others has been a hallmark of our “soft” control.

In that sense I’m happy to see other centers of power emerge, grow strong. We will have neither the responsibility nor the burden of global hegemony. It would, however, be a dramatic and drastic change. It is though a direct result of an America First policy, a policy wedded to xenophobia and white supremacy.

A world in which we are a valued member, one among many, not America First, but America With, would be my preference. Perhaps we need to go through Westlessness to reach this place. But. It can’t happen as a denial of a world already connected in so many ways. It needs to happen as a result of our humility, not our arrogance.


Written By: Charles - Feb• 21•20

Imbolc and the thin waning crescent of the Shadow Mountain Moon

Friday gratefuls: Kate’s increased stamina. She went to mussar in the afternoon and a board meeting at night. Seoah’s Italian potato pancakes. Hearing happy Korean when I returned home last night, Seoah on the phone with her Virginia friend. Joe’s working with dogsondeployment. Might be a break through for Murdoch. That older, repurposed workout. The solar snow shovel. John Muir.

First step in reconstructing paganism. Be clear. Thinkers whose words give shape to what paganism means for me.

“There is a love of wild Nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love ever showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties.” ― John Muir

Creating a sustainable presence for humans on this earth is the Great Work for our time. Thomas Berry

Becoming native to this place. Wes Jackson

“See what you’re looking at.” Carey Reams

Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Ralph Waldo Emerson

Evolution can be seen as an ongoing process of revelation or self-manifestation. Art Green, p. 20, Radical Judaism

Expanding Green’s idea backwards is Big History: Big History tells the story of the Universe starting from the Big Bang, the formation of stars, planets, life on Earth, modern civilization — and what might exist in the future. Big History Project

The pagan (and many others, too. this is/will be important.) reads the natural world as a book of revelation, insisting, whether she knows Emerson or not, on a religion of revelations seen now, not willing to rely on the history of others. or, perhaps better, not having the need.

How do we know one when see one? That is, how do we know revelation? Whatever activates that “ancient mother-love”, whatever moves us to work toward a benign human presence on the planet, whenever we “see what we’re looking at.” What gives us a sense of awe? Of mystery? Of wonder? What moves in the deep inner sea of your Self?

I’m choosing a deliberately broad understanding of revelation. Why? Because in the holy of holies of our inner temples, we feel sparks of revelation often. And their source is not predictable, not even reliable.

How could I have known that day I left my metaphysics class in 1968 that I would walk out of the Humanities Building into the center of the universe? And, I walked out of it again and again over my college years and never experienced that moment of golden connection with all, a pulsating living moment where I stood not alone, but within the fabric of our cosmos.

We’re on our way here. Getting ready for my March 11 presentation in my class. More to come.

A Task

Written By: Charles - Feb• 20•20

Imbolc and the waning crescent of the Shadow Mountain Moon

When I first began reading Art Green’s Radical Judaism, I thought maybe my job would be to think Christianity through from his truly radical, non-supernatural perspective. Look at Christian civilization in the manner of Mordecai Kaplan with Green’s theology as a pathway, a halakha. The way to walk. Couldn’t get any energy up to start. Why?

Ah. I left Christianity behind long ago now. Of course, it still informs me and my life as the Torah informs the life of a Jew whether secular or religious. But, I don’t feel shaped by it in the distinctive manner my friends at CBE exhibit. Even if G-d no longer requires the hyphen, they still bow during the Amidah, wear the kippa, show up for High Holidays. I have no interest in Christmas or Easter services, that old life.

Huh, I thought. That’s weird. I spent all that time in sem, 15 years in the ministry, and I’m a product of Western civilization, profoundly shaped by Christian belief and thought. I like big projects. Why wouldn’t I want to go back and rethink all that?

It came to me slowly. Somewhere in Green’s book, I can’t find it right now and that frustrates me, he casually dismisses neo-paganism. It’s not clear what he meant, whether he’s taking a substantive jab at pantheists from his panentheistic position, or knows the shallow roots of Wiccan’s, witches, and druids. If it’s the latter, I agree with him. Silliness abounds in contemporary pagan practice and what passes for thought.

If it’s the former, he and I are in conversation with each other. In either case though it triggered a realization. I’m a pagan. Maybe not the best word with all its freight, but one I use intentionally. The pagans of the middle ages, rural folk (classical Latin paganus: rustic, villager, rural folk, peasant, unlearned, countryman, bumpkin), held onto their older religious practices and beliefs because the church had a more tenuous connection with them, less power over their daily lives.

In contemporary usage pagan is a very broad umbrella: Wiccans, latter day Druids, Asatru, Dianists, polytheists of many shades all fall under it. There are also pagans, see this page, who use the term much as I do, as a placeholder for a religious position outside the usual suspects of Christianity, Judaism, and Islam as well as outside other traditions, in particular Buddhism, Hinduism, and most shamanisms.

That’s it, I realized. My task is to use the theological tools of Art Green and the civilization leaning thought of Mordecai Kaplan to reconstruct paganism for a contemporary audience. That I have energy for. Stay tuned.

Hello, Hello, Hello

Written By: Charles - Feb• 20•20

Imbolc and the waning crescent of the Shadow Mountain Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Bergen Bark Inn, Murdoch’s wiggly happy greeting. Seoah eating pho. “I’m a happy girl.” The cold, clean and sharp. Powder all day yesterday, a snow globe day. The Jeffco snowplowers who clear our road. Evergreen. This mountain, Shadow Mountain, on which our home rests.

When we drove into Evergreen, Seoah and I saw a honey wagon. Oh, she surprised me with: hello, hello, hello. A usual greeting for them in Korea, she says. Gives you good luck for the day. Also, if we see a dead people car. A hearse? No, a dead people car. That’s what we call them, a hearse. Oh. Well, she folds her hands together, we say a prayer for them. Good luck for the whole day. What do you pray? Good trip? Yes, we pray go to heaven. She uses pray and heaven though she’s a Buddhist. Still not clear exactly what she has in mind in either case.

Realized yesterday I’ve seen far more of Seoah than Joe over the last few years. She’s come four times and stayed around a month each time. Joe never stays more than a week to ten days. Of course, he’s got this job… And, I can’t leave home.

Call Brigid

Written By: Charles - Feb• 19•20

Imbolc and the waning crescent of the Shadow Mountain Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: The cold. Fresh snow. Murdoch. Kep. Rigel. Gertie. Ruth. Jon. Gabe. Seoah. Kate. Joe. This body I inhabit. The idea of soul. Panentheism. Monism. (Priority Monism). The moon and its phases. Mother earth in all her garbs. Fresh water. Sea water. All the seeds waiting patiently for the right temperatures, the right angle of the sun. Those bears huddled up somewhere nearby.

Imbolc is the Celtic cross-quarter holiday between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox. In-the-belly. Imbolc. The freshening of the ewes. This meant milk, cheese. It was a sign that the days would warm, the snow melt, grass green, and food crops grow. The triple goddess Brigid presides. She is the goddess of the hearth, of creativity and inspiration, artisanship, and healing.

What pots do you have cooking over the fire? How is the health of your home? What seeds have begun to stir in your psyche? How is your body? Is it well? What does it need? Seek Brigid over Imbolc. She’s active in your psyche right now. Preparing, readying things for the coming spring.

We need her here on Shadow Mountain. Health of the body, healing of the body has taken so much of our time, our energy. Bites. ILD. Tube feedings. Prostate cancer. COPD. The hearth, too. Dogs. Murdoch gone. Gertie dead. Seoah here. Cooking, cleaning, laughing, smiling. The artisanal craft of sewing, quilting lies dormant, awaiting its mistresses return. What will come to me over the next weeks and months? I don’t know, but I know I need to make.

Class this morning, the last section of the Torah chapter. Looking forward to that. Fell far behind on the Daf Yomi during the bites and Gertie’s suffering. Will catch up. Two pages a day, at least.

Seoah and I will visit Murdoch today. No movement yet on a new place for him though Joe’s made some inquiries and so have I.

Back to working out. Resistance with some cardio and high intensity interval training. 3 of the resistance and 2 of the hiit. Using an old workout now, will wait another six weeks before getting a new one. I have several old ones that I could use.