We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Almost there

Written By: Charles - Dec• 18•18

Samain                                                                          Stent Moon

Kate and the Machine

Kate and the Machine

Well. The blitz worked. With e-mails and phone calls Kate and I hit several different buttons in the local medical establishment. Kate first called the interventional radiologists. Yes, the request for the procedure had gone in, nothing yet. No, they can’t push the insurance company. E-mail to Dr. Gidday, our internist. “Kate needs our help.” Phone call to the referral folks at New West Physicians. “We can’t see the specialists request. But let me take the information and have Desiree (Dr. Gidday’s nurse) get back to you.” With this person I pressed urgent, urgent, urgent. Several times. Later Kate got a call back with a positive signal. She contacts the radiologist today to set up at time for the stent placement. And may the congregation say, amen.



When the sun is in the 11th house…

Written By: Charles - Dec• 17•18

Samain                                                                        Stent Moon


According to Steven Forrest the first step in reading a birth chart is to focus on the location of the sun, the moon, and the ascendant. The sun represents many things, but in his scheme most of all, ego. The house in which it lies and the sign give an overall shape to the personality. The moon is all about feelings, about anima, he calls it the soul. It’s the mood of a life, the way into the depths. Again, the sign in which it lies and the house articulate the internal prods to deep feeling and the arena of life in which those feelings will be most intense.

The ascendant is the first house, counting from left to right, starting in the east, or the left of a chart. The wheel of the sky on a chart turns, according to astrological convention, clockwise, so the first house and its border line with the last, 12th house, tells you what zodiac sign was on the horizon at the time of your birth. The ascendant is the way you interact with the world, Forrest calls it a mask, and if he were a kabbalist, I might agree. I think the better word in his meaning is persona.

astology moonFolks learned in astrology will say, my sun is Aquarius in the 11th house, my moon in Sagittarius in the 8th house, and my ascendant is in Aries. Not, hi, I’m an Aquarian. What’s your sign? Those happen to be my particulars, btw. The complexity of astrology begins right here.

How does the identity building process (sun) get affected by the freedom demanding, rebellious nature of Aquarius? In what worldly realm will I have both the easiest and the hardest time developing my personality? The 11th house tells me. Which focuses on groups (think in my case politics, the church, the synagogue, the MIA, the Sierra Club, Woolly Mammoths), friends, visions and dreams.

Likewise, how will my soul development happen? Through the Sagittarian telos, quoting Forrest here, “To realize the ultimate meaning of life. To find one’s destiny in the cosmic scheme of things. To arrive at the Truth.” Where? The 8th house. Sexual and emotional intimacy. In depth interactions.

astro ariesFinally, what is the persona most congenial to me? Characteristics shaped by the ascendant sign in my chart, Aries. According to Forrest, the Aries archetypes are: warrior, pioneer, daredevil, the survivor. Aries, Forrest says, is the lifeforce, the will to exist. It rules the ascendant, the first house, which makes its impact on my chart even stronger.

An interpretation teases out the strengths and challenges of these archetypal influences, not predicting or asserting, but suggesting, evoking, probing. Just some thoughts. You might say, at least according to astrology, that I’m a natural born rebel, (especially with Mars in Aquarius, too), that I’ll tend to express my rebellious nature in the political and religious and work realms. My feeling life though, the deep core of my life, happens in intimate relationships, in situations where the depth of the interaction is most important. Like, say, family, the Woollys, mussar, art. My Aries inflected persona suggests I will push to assert my will. I will not be a wallflower, a passive participant in my life. So? Sound like me so far?

There are a lot of other things to consider. Aspects. Not clear on them yet. Quadrants of the natal chart. North and South Nodes of the Moon. Planets, their signs and houses. But according to Forrest, the triad of sun, moon, and ascendant are the dominant influences and affect everything. How I spent Sunday morning.

My Inner Five Year Old

Written By: Charles - Dec• 16•18

Samain                                                                                 Stent Moon

Kate seems to be getting worse. It takes less food to trigger an episode of nausea and cramping. We’re going to work the phones tomorrow. See if we can get this procedure scheduled soon. Sooner. Soonest.

my inner five year old

               my inner five year old

We’re in a warm streak here. 50 yesterday. Not sure about snow totals but it’s been a light season for us so far. We need the snow for several reasons. Fire mitigation. Restore our wells. Beauty. Seasonal spirit. West of the divide though the snow’s been better than good. Many of the resorts like Breckenridge opened portions of their properties a month earlier than usual. Good for the economy. Also, good for the snow pack. 103% of average right now. Means so much downstream.

Impressed by our local King Sooper.  I went yesterday morning. Most of the carts were in use, only 8 of the smaller ones remaining in the huge bay that holds them. The wait for a cashier was minimal. Got done and out. I enjoy grocery shopping, but I don’t enjoy waiting in long check out lines.


                     How it looks right now

I bought a set of very cheap canvases, 5×8. Less than a dollar each. 10. I’ve painted all ten. I bought another set of cheap canvases, 8×10. I’ve painted one of those. Still color drunk. Working on the larger canvas was different than the smaller one. More expansive, yes, but also more room to fill. Tried to convey clouds. Not so well. Took out the turpentine and edited one cloud away.

What I want to do is to find organic, Western objects, like the strange clouds we have in the mountains, deer antlers, old fence posts, mountains and abstract them, somewhat like Georgia O’Keefe, but with the Rothko sensibility. Throw in a surrealistic touch like the carmine rectangle in a blue sky. Keep the colors simple, the shapes, too. I mean, a guy has to have a direction, right?

Today is work on reading birth charts day. I see Elisa on Tuesday. She’s going to help me with my own chart. Before that I meet with Alan to discuss the religious school curriculum we’ve been doing as early adopters for the national program, Moving Traditions. A mid-year evaluation is coming up and I’ll have to represent both of us. Might head over early and go to Red Herring art supplies where I picked up rice paper and a couple of sumi-e brushes.




Written By: Charles - Dec• 14•18

Samain                                                                              Stent Moon

Three of astrology’s major planets are visible early in the morning: Venus, Mercury, and Jupiter. Due to the tree line and Black Mountain I could only see Venus, the morning star. Beautiful.

20181214_081606I’m continuing my experiments with oil painting, getting more experience, wondering about all the tricks and tools of the trade. Making it up as I go along right now. Playing. Yes, I’m playing with two shiny new disciplines right now, oil painting and astrology. When I use that word, playing, and it is accurate, what always comes to mind is Magister Ludi, the Master of the Game, by Herman Hesse. (also called the Glassbead Game) This was Hesse’s last novel and is different from the other, shorter works with which you might be familiar like Siddartha, Steppenwolf, Demian, Journey to the East. [just discovered Clifford Jordan has an album called Glass Bead Games. Listening to it right now on Amazon music.]

Astrology continues to challenge my metaphysics, continues to make me wonder about the randomness and meaninglessness of life and everything. Not sure where I’m headed with it yet, but I know a hell of lot more than I did a month ago. Elisa and I are going to get together again and she’ll walk me through reading my birth chart. She’s also going to do a second session at CBE, something I’ve arranged. Trying to remember Tarnas, “Skepticism is a tool, not an end in itself.”

20181212_082912The oil painting. So far I’m imitating, at least in a way, Rothko. Although. I did see some cloud formations that I tried to recreate, or at least evoke. Not in my power yet. Though what I produced I liked for what it  was.

I worked with the yellow from one of the more expensive tubes of color. The first time I used any of them. It was like buttercream icing. So sensuous. Beautiful. Color has me captivated me right now. Not sure how to work with it in terms of producing images, but that almost doesn’t matter. Look at that palette. I’d frame it. Just for the colors.

Interesting bit at the Adult Ed meeting for CBE yesterday. Debra said to me, “You should be an honorary Jew!” A couple of others, “He is!” A long while ago one of the Chinese docents said to me, “You are like the Chinese.” I consider these some of the highest compliments possible.

On the Kate front. Waiting. For some insurance bureaucrat to tick a box, yes or no. Thought about this yesterday. One of the critiques of socialism in general and socialized medicine in particular is the bureaucratic morass of government programs. Well, capitalist bureaucracies are the same. They just serve a different master, profit.



The Flame Narrative

Written By: Charles - Dec• 13•18

Samain                                                                                Stent Moon

20181211_115152Bought this ceramic container a few years back, probably during a Woolly Mammoth retreat at Valhelga, the Helgeson’s family retreat on a lake close to Collegeville, home of St. John’s Monastery. It reminds me of the modest clay cylinders that held the Dead Sea Scrolls and I loved the brown to black glaze, the whoosh.

On the St. John’s campus, Richard Bresnahan fires up the huge Johanna Kiln every fall with the help of students and volunteers who come to feed it wood 24 hours a day while the firing continues. Richard, who hosted us Mammoths several times at his pottery studio on the north side of the large St. John’s campus, introduced me to the idea of flame narrative.

In a kiln like the Johanna, wood-fired, the flame and the heat travel from the firebox at the front up through the dragon like body, hence the name dragon kilns. As the heat and the flame move through and up the various chambers, they pass over the bisque shapes of hundreds of tea-pots, tea cups, storage containers, plates, anything that can be made from clay.

Burned into this container is the narrative of the flame’s passage on that fall day when it sat inside the Johanna Kiln and the dragon’s breath made its way past the wooden platform on which it sat. Literally baked in to the surface of this beautiful pot.

Johanna Kiln Steve Basile photo

Johanna Kiln Steve Basile photo

It’s my choice of a final resting place. I hope whoever cares for my cremains will put them in it and either keep them somewhere, bury them, put them in a mausoleum, or seal the top with wax and cast the whole into the nearest moving water like the Tibetan monks do to their mandalas. I’m fine with any decision.

Not sure why but over the last couple of days the flame narrative idea and my death have been on my mind. They merged. After our deaths, the memory of our life, whatever it is, is like the flame narrative on the ceramics that come out of the Johanna Kiln. The fiery tongue of the dragon breathes life into us, gives us motive energy for our brief sojourn as organized, sentient star dust. As that fire moves through the gigantic kiln of our years, it burns the story of our journey into the universe, never to be gone, never to be repeated. Then, as Beowulf says, “Heaven swallows the smoke.”



Just One Tree.

Written By: Charles - Dec• 12•18

Samain                                                                             Stent Moon

AfforestationBeen thinking about actions to fight climate change. The inversion of the Great Work championed by his Satanic Majesty, the orange tumor on our democracy, threatens human genocide. Intentional mass murder of potentially billions. Hitler and his crowd? Pikers.

Realizing that at least for now the country at the Federal level is going to be not only an obstacle, but an active proponent of carbon emissions, what might an ordinary person do? It has to be something that’s got some heft, but doesn’t require political sophistication, or political activism. What simple thing might fit the bill?

Oddly, I think I know one. When I first started getting to know Jews, now long ago, something that kept coming up in conversation involved trees. Plant a tree in Israel. “With over 240 million planted trees, Israel is one of only two countries that entered the 21st century with a net gain in the number of trees. Due to massive afforestation efforts, this fact echoed in diverse campaigns. Israeli forests are the product of a major afforestation campaign by the Jewish National Fund (JNF).”

Johnny Appleseed

       Johnny Appleseed

That word alone, afforestation. Deforestation and desertification, no. Afforestation. “Afforestation is the process of planting trees, or sowing seeds, in a barren land devoid of any trees to create a forest. The term should not be confused with reforestation, which is the process of specifically planting native trees into a forest that has decreasing numbers of trees.” matteroftrust.org I like replacing the prefix de.

If you click through the link on the Jewish National Fund, you’ll find a page that enables, with a click and a credit card, the opportunity to plant a tree in Israel in memoriam. $18. What if we created a Gaia Global Fund where, with a click and a credit card, you could plant a tree in memoriam or just because. What if each continent identified large areas available for afforestation and, of course, for reforestation, too? Then, continent specific organizers could locate seedlings, planters, and develop a plan for using Gaia Global Fund dollars to get started.

Why might it work? Read this Scientific American article: The Best Technology for Fighting Climate Change Isn’t a Technology.

Not sure about next steps for this. I suppose seeing if anybody else is actively pursuing something similar, but this feels like an idea that could inspire children and grandchildren around the world to participate in saving their own future. By nagging the adults in their lives to plant a tree for them. Just one tree. Imagine.


The Great Work Inverted

Written By: Charles - Dec• 11•18

Samain                                                                                                Stent Moon

satan“The United States has an abundance of natural resources and is not going to keep them in the ground,” Mr. Griffith said. “We strongly believe that no country should have to sacrifice their economic prosperity or energy security in pursuit of environmental sustainability.” Wells Griffith, Trump’s international energy and climate advisor, NYT, Dec. 11, 2018

Sacrifice is an interesting word in this quote. It imagines money and safety too important to sacrifice. Griffiths can’t understand what environmental stability means. If he did, he would understand that the real result of his stance is the sacrifice of humanity itself for temporary pleasures.

This sort of logic I’ve heard before, recently, in a Trump report that said since climate change was inevitable reducing car emissions wouldn’t make any difference. So, jettison them. This attitude is not new, of course. It’s been the world’s de facto position toward carbon emissions, plastics, water shortages. Today is more important than tomorrow.

It is a problem with be here now. If we only focus on the now, then Flint’s lead laced water coming tomorrow is somebody else’s issue. If we only focus on the now, then rapid temperature rise and radical climate change is far off, not ours. So wrong.

Anyone with children or grandchildren knows this. The Iroquois looked seven generations ahead. We can’t get past the Dow Jones movement this week.

This is evil. Griffith’s may be banal, as Hannah Arendt thought of Eichmann, but he and his kin seem committed to a permanent solution for our own species. Why? Short term political advantage.

Sad that any human can make these calculations. Angry that we’ve elected an administration that does.


Ensouled or Disenchanted or…?

Written By: Charles - Dec• 11•18

Samain                                                                           Stent Moon

astrology3Astrology is a thicket of wild claims, unjustified certainty, and intriguing utility. Sorta like religion. In my reading so far I’ve found sensible, modest intellectuals who lean on the utility, using this ancient discipline (Mesopotamian in origin.) to promote self-knowledge. I’ve also found, as you might expect, a number of at least charlatanesque figures who are only one step away from the traveling potion wagons of the early frontier. OK, maybe not one step away.

Learning how to read a natal chart is the base line of astrology and I’m working on how to do it for myself. It’s not easy. Many symbols to learn, planets, houses, signs, aspects. Also, for understanding it in a way that makes sense to me, I’m still pursuing the nature of archetypes. That requires a lot of refreshing from my Jungian salad days. Still not sure it will be worth it in the end, but I’m committed to giving it a fair look. I had a similar fascination for a time with psychometrics like the MMPI, the Big Five, Meyers-Briggs, Eneagram, and career choosing tests. Fiddling with the dials of the self, trying to tune in, see inside. All part of the journey of self-discovery. I’ve learned something from each of them, but I found the psychometric approach judgemental in its attempt to sort the normal from the abnormal.

The evolutionary and psychological astrologists have the most potential for utility and explicitly eschew judgement. In the older, predictive style of astrology, still common, there are, for example, malefic and benefic planets, aspects, even charts. Malefic = bad and benefic = good. Mars and Saturn, malefic. Jupiter and Venus, benefic, for example. These two schools see instead psychic forces, archetypal influences that can create, say, energy for transformation in the case of Mars and Saturn. Or, misapplied, the beneficial aspects Jupiter and Venus can impede personal growth.

mmpiIn the later days of my interest in psychometrics there was a similar change from seeing certain personality characteristics as bad or good, especially those characterized as abnormal. Two instances from my own testing. I spiked both the 4 and 5 scales* of the MMPI when tested in the mid-1970’s in seminary. In the original uses of the MMPI these two scales supposedly determined whether you were a psychopath, 4, or a homosexual, 5. The new (then) understanding became: 4 spike = non-conforming, rebellious, angry, creative, family problems, impulsive and 5 spike =  lacks traditional masculine interests. This testing was also done while I was still drinking and some of those 4 scale attributes reinforced my addiction. Though I may have lacked masculine interests (not quite sure what that means), I did have one clear masculine interest. Women.

I suppose you could frame this like Tarnas frames the major problem of our time: an ensouled primal universe and a disenchanted enlightenment universe in conflict, needing, very much needing a synthesis. On my mind all the time these days. Imagining ways through this conflict, ways to reconcile, to use the tension as a creative force for a new metaphysics. Reimagining. Reconstructing. Reenchanting.


*Scale 4 (AKA the Psychopathic Deviate Scale) Measures a person’s need for control or their rebellion against control.    Scale 5 (AKA the Femininity/Masculinity Scale) Measures a stereotype of a person and how they compare. For men it would be the Marlboro man, for women it would be June Cleaver or Donna Reed.



The Duke

Written By: Charles - Dec• 10•18

Samain                                                                          Stent Moon

Marijuana prerolledJon, Ruth, and Gabe came up Saturday evening. The Instapot proved capable of turning a rump roast into a more tender cut of meat. Using a pressure cooker at elevation makes a lot of sense. Almost of all the roast plus potatoes, carrots and parsnip disappeared down mostly functional gastro-intestinal tracts. The gi tract with difficulty got help from Maryjane. (Grandma took 3 hits on a prerolled joint.) That went well.

We passed out Hanukkah gifts, lit the candles, said the prayers, then Ruth, Kate, and I sat around the table and talked while the candles burned down. Ruth has a piercing plan. When she’s 13, she’s adding a third stud to both ears, then, when she’s 14, a nose stud. After that? Lots of body parts available. Why? I don’t really know. I’m going to ask her next time she’s up.

Jon and Ruth took off early Sunday morning for A-basin. Good powder there. Snow in the mountains has been good, but across the divide to the east, where we are, much less so. So much less so that Denver is about to have its 12th year of under 30 inches. 2 of those 12 will be last year and this one unless a big storm arrives before Jan. 1. Not in the forecasts right now. 1/6 of the driest snow years in all weather records for Denver in the last two years!

Gabe made pinch hitter pizzas for lunch. This from a recipe in a Hanukkah gift, Boys Can Cook! The pizzas were on English muffin slices with red sauce, soppressata slices, and cheese. Not bad.

Alan, third from the right

Alan, third from the right

After a nap we drove over to Evergreen High School for a Jazzy Yule holiday concert by the Evergreen Chorale. My friend Alan Rubin sings in the chorale and is on the board of Ovation West, the company that includes the Evergreen Chorale and Ovation West Musical Theater. The quality of both the chorale and the theater are good, high for amateur performing arts with skilled musicians and talented actors.

The first half of the concert took me by surprise. Alan had told me that the first half was music from Duke Ellington’s Sacred Concerts songbook, but I had expected something more beboppy, more holiday jingly. Uh-huh. This was serious music, jazzy with a little bebop in there, but music with an edge, especially the last piece, “Freedom.” I’ve included a full you-tube video of a performance of it below. If you have time, and like complex choral pieces, you may find it interesting. I found it compelling, a work of art that challenges what that word means in the American context, today in particular.

In Kate news we’re going to press for a date for Kate’s procedure. Wanting to get on with it for obvious reasons.


When the moon is in the 7th house…

Written By: Charles - Dec• 09•18

Samain                                                                         Stent Moon

astrologyMercury-RetrogradeMercury retrograde. Elisa said this would be a time when I would remember my dreams. I have recalled some, definitely more than usual. I’d also reassess my life, letting new things in, chucking the no longer useful.

Well. Over the last month plus I’ve read a lot, and I mean a lot even for me, on astrology. Letting it in. Gradually. Still. Those color field paintings by Rothko that I’ve always admired. Doing it myself, learning oil paints, what to do with oily rags, how to glaze, mixing colors, thinking and seeing in color. Last night I did my first instant pot meal with a rump roast, potatoes and carrots for Jon, Ruth, Gabe, and Kate. I’m also gestating a new style (for me) novel, a novel of ideas that will focus on the great crisis of our age, creating a synthesis between the ensouled primal universe and the disenchanted universe of the enlightenment.

artrothkoYou might say, oh, the power of suggestion. Could be a bit, I suppose. But recalling dreams when I haven’t been is big for me. Years of Jungian analysis, you know. Running toward something like astrology is a definite change in mindset. And, oil painting? I mean, come on.

It’s a fertile time for me in spite of (or, because of?) the upset with Kate. We’ve never been closer. Jon’s shift toward acceptance and moving on makes me glad. Ruth and I have a growing, deepening relationship. We’re going to paint together over her winter break. She comes to me with new books she’s reading, new art she’s making, her life at school. Gabe runs up and gives me a hug right away when he sees me. Rigel runs through the yard like a canine modern dancer, flexing her muscles, a smile on her face.

maslowHoliseason underlies and inflects all of this, creating moments of reflection and quiet, reinforcing attention to the Great Wheel. Feeling as positive about life as I have in a long, long time.

In the conversation last week at mussar vaad practice group, MVP, Tara said to me, “Maybe you’re just self actualized.” Not in jest. And you know, I think she might be right. Not enlightened. Not nirvana bound, not karmaless, but easy with myself, easy with others. Doing those things that make my heart sing. Loving and being loved. Setting aside the past, living today, knowing tomorrow will be as it is. Feels like the journey as destination. Whoa. Can’t believe I wrote that. Still, feels right to me.