Be Content

Fall and the Michaelmas Moon

Friday gratefuls: Michelle and David. Also prostate cancer engaged. Rabbi Jamie. The Sukkah. Getting my own plaque on the yahrzeit wall. Turning in my CBE legacy confirmation form. Chili cheese dogs and nachos at the Chi Town food truck in Evergreen. Workout, cardio. Fatigue. Orgovyx.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Thar’s gold in them thar Mountains!

Tarot:  Four of Cups, Wildwood


Cardio yesterday. Joined a prostate cancer online site. Inspire. They asked what inspired me. Here’s my answer:

The sound of a Mountain Stream. The Wind through the Lodgepole Pines. That herd of Elk with the 12 point Bull. The love of Rigel and Kepler, my two old Dogs. The three Elk bulls who visit me each June to eat Dandelions. Ruth and Gabe, my grandkids. The Sun in the Day and the Moon at Night. My friends, lifelong and new. The sturdy Rock of Shadow Mountain on which I live.

More convinced now that cinching up my Soul into some dogmatic strait jacket makes no sense. See what you’re looking at. Admire and respect the 10,000 things. Walk tall and with others so you can go far. Be honest with yourself and with family, friends, and acquaintances. Wash dishes. Cook food. Celebrate.

If you want more on this Way, read Chuang Tzu’s inner chapters. Or, the Tao Te Ching. Or, Mary Oliver. Wendell Berry. Rilke. Thomas Berry. The Grammar of Animacy in Braiding Sweetgrass. Or, open yourself. Let the world in. Be part of it, be with it.

Maybe this is just a pragmatist’s Way. Truth is in what works for you. Not what you have to figure out through some sort of self-imposed Scholasticism.

Here’s a clue: if you have a adjust yourself to fit an ideology or a theology or psychology, think twice, three times. What do you understand? What do you see? What do you want?

Is it really this simple? Yes, I think it is. Another way of saying the same thing, “Living until you die is to live long enough.” Lao Tze

Four of Cups

“Sitting quietly, doing nothing, Spring comes, and the grass grows, by itself” – Zen Proverb

“The Four of Cups can also indicate a time when you are turning your attention and your energy internally, to realign to this new phase of your life. You know that you need to be standing on terra firma before you can decide your next steps…You are creating the space within yourself so that you are ready to accept new opportunities later and give them the best possibility of success. Use this time for inward reflection, grounding, and contemplation before accepting the next ‘big thing’.”  Biddy Tarot



Posted in Aging, Dogs, Feelings, Fourth Phase, Great Wheel, Health, Kabbalah, Reimagine. Reconstruct. Reenchant., Shadow Mountain, Tarot | Leave a comment

Are You One of the Workers?

Fall and the Michaelmas Moon

Isidor Kaufman Child with Lulav

Thursday gratefuls: Sukkot. The kids. Brahm’s Violin Concerto in G. Social Security. Almost there. Finding a snowplower. Underway. Yaktraks for traction up the stairs this winter. Problem solving. The sukkah. The ertrog. The lulav. The four species: ertrog, date palm, myrtle, and the willow. Confirmation bias. Openness to new information. Yanmar. The girl last night who asked if I was one of the construction workers.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Brahms

Tarot: The Lady, #3 in the major arcana, Druid


Full workout.

Tried to get in touch, twice, with the local Social Security office. Twice I waited, heard the line ring, stop, then go to two rings followed by: If you want to make a call, please hang up and try again. Click. Arrggh.

house April 2016

The search for a snowplower continues. A guy named Josh gave me a quick reply. He came up. Said it was a long drive from his usual spots and I’d need to sign up a couple more folks to make it worth his while. Back on to Nextdoor with that news. We’ll see. It was far from his home off Richmond Hill Road. Got a private message about somebody else just this morning. Workin’ on it.

Went to Pizza in the Hut last night at CBE. The sukkah had a busy group of elementary age kids making paper chains. Kids have such innocent energy. A young boy, maybe 8 or 9, said, “You want to help?” He had scotch tape stuck to his nose. “Do I have to stick tape on my nose?” He laughed. I cut some tape for him.

“Where is the ertrog?” I asked a young girl. She went to a box, opened it up, and in the box protected by styrofoam sat the fist sized yellow ertrog. It looks like a bumpy lemon and smells similar.

It goes together with the other three species (see gratefuls) to make the lulav. It gets shook in the six directions to make a blessing for Sukkot.

When I got my pizza, I sat on rose tinted concrete blocks. The amphitheater construction has moved the boulders, cut into the hillside, still underway. A girl, maybe 10 or 11, came up to me, “Are you one of the workers?” Oh, sweet girl. Yes, at 74 I’m running the backhoe and placing concrete. “No, I’m not. Would you like to run the backhoe?” An eager yes! “Me, too. Wish we could.” “Why can’t you?”

The Sukkot pizza crowd had a distinctive youthful flair. Kids and their forty something parents. Not many folks I knew. Tara. Rabbi Jamie. Mindy Nitkin. I hung out for a bit, said  hi, ate my pizza, then went home. About forty-five minutes. Since the pizza started at 6 pm, I could go for a brief time and return home. Which I did.

Harvest festivals fit well with this pagan’s idea of a holiday.


Tarot: The Lady, #3 in the major arcana

I’m beginning to get it. Lean into my anima. Nourish her.

Meaning: Opening to love, trust, abundance.

A new cycle of stability and abundance, or the conception of an idea or desire. The warm caring attributes of motherhood. Joe called last night. Might be the energy expressed here. I’m as much his mother as his father.

Though I’m tired today, not sure why, I continue to sense the changing nature of my life moving forward, carrying grief and enthusiasm. Something new still in gestation.


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Winter is Coming

Harvest Home and the Michaelmas Moon

A Rockies Game. downtown Denver

Wednesday gratefuls: Jon. Healing, in some ways. Ruth, in Spirit week at her high school. Having fun. Anxious. Gabe, with his first pimple, Nosy. That squash soup I made last year for Kate. Still good, fed us all. Jodi and kitchen ideas. Cold nights. Kep and Rigel beside me.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Autumnal Equinox

Tarot: Four of Bows, Wildwood


Monday night we had frost. Tricky. Moisture dripped from the garage eve onto the steps up to the loft. Had on my tennis shoes. Not yet winterized, my mind left out the part where that small amount of Water could freeze, become slippery. Especially on the sole of a tennis shoe. Grabbed the railing, steadied myself. Oh, shit. Went to the results of my recent DEXA scan, bone density. Hoping I have enough bone strength to fall and not break something important. Like any bone in my body.

That Worm. The one about handling this place in the Winter. Bit into the Apple of my paradise. This is something I have to face, deal with. Choose ways and means to keep myself safe and happy. Rigel, too.

Not a big deal. Yet. And there are options.

Our house in the early morning, light on Shadow Mountain

This is where I want to be. Kate’s last Home. Our Mountain Home. I’m willing to think this through, come up with solutions. One of which entails finding somebody to plow my driveway. Starting again on that one this morning.

Jodi came. She’s from Blue Mountain Kitchens. I want to inspire my cooking. Make the kitchen a place I want to be. Functional, yes. Beautiful, too. Rustic, fit the house, its location. We talked cabinetry, counter tops, backsplash, storage, prep. I liked her. She had some good ideas.

Next week Bear Creek Designs, who did our downstairs bathroom, putting in stone and tile, creating a zero entry threshold for the shower, comes out. I’ll see what they have to say. I like them, too.

Lucas Cranach the Elder, Living in Paradise

Money can answer many of the questions about that Worm. Protect the Apple. And, I have enough. Not more than enough, but enough, to tackle most of the issues.

Also needing to get strong bodies up here to move furniture. Table from downstairs to the old sewing room. Kate’s recliner up to the living room. Figure out what to do with the big wooden display cabinet and its glassware. The smaller one and its rocks, including the nice gneiss Tom sent me a while back.

As I often whisper to myself, I’m getting there. Slow and steady. The tortoise. Not the rabbit.

Jon, Ruth, and Gabe came up last night. Jon has to get Jen to sign the title to the Subaru so he can donate it CPR. This is happening. Very slowly, but it’s happening.

Andover orchard in winter
2011, Andover

Today though is a holiday. Let’s not forget. Mabon. The Autumnal Equinox. The time of the Harvest Moon. The combine contractors are working their way through the Wheat Fields of the Great Plains. Corn pickers are out in Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Illinois. Soy bean harvest. Apples in the orchards.

Those gardens with Squash, last Tomatoes, Beans, Onions, Raspberries, wild Grapes. Wicker and wire gathering containers filled, carried into kitchens. The canning equipment taken down from its high shelves. Oh, what a time. Fresh vegetables and fruit, nuts.

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

Mabon is a late name for this harvest holiday: Feast of the Ingathering, Harvest Home, or simply Fall. Meteorologists say Fall when September 1st comes. Most of us still follow the old ways, though we may not think of them that way. Celebrating equinoxes and solstices, in their reversed forms in the Northern and Southern hemispheres, constituted a religious rite in many ancient cultures. Anywhere agriculture followed the seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter, the Sun and its relation to Earth’s orbit evoked awe and wonder.

Sukkot, 2016, Beth Evergreen

No accident that CBE has a sukkah up, open to the sky. A prominent Harvest holiday on the Jewish calendar. And, I learned a year or so ago, once the primary holiday at this time of year, not the High Holidays. Bounty in the form of first Fruits, unblemished Animals came to the Temple in Jerusalem. Sacrifices to the most high god. Think I’ll head over there this evening. Pizza in the hut.

A week from today we celebrate Michaelmas. The traditional beginning of the academic year in England, the Michaelmas term. The feast day of the Archangel Michael. Tom and Roxann’s anniversary. And, as you’ve often heard me say here, the start of the Springtime of the Soul.

Guess I’ve had a Jewish sensibility all these years. This does feel like the beginning of a new year to me. I celebrate one at Samain and on January 1st as well. Multiple new years. Multiple opportunities to examine life. In fact, I think I’ll do a Fall Tarot spread to see what this wondrous season has in store for me.



Posted in Anoka County, Family, Feelings, Fourth Phase, Friends, Garden, Great Wheel, Holidays, Judaism, Memories, Minnesota, Mountains, Myth and Story, Our Land and Home, permaculture, Plants, Shadow Mountain, Tarot, Weather +Climate | Leave a comment


Lughnasa and the Michaelmas Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Kitchen redesign. Jodi coming at 10. The cleaning crew. A clean house. Check arrived at CBE. Finally. Diane in the knotty pine bedroom formerly used by Uncle Riley and Aunt Virginia. Her meeting with the cousins today in Muncie, Indiana. Mary. Ruth, Jon, Gabe. Coming up. Soup.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Freeze last night. 29 right now.

Tarot: Ten of Cups, Druid


On CBE’s schedule to take up chairs, clean up after the High Holidays. Luke did it. Got a call at 9:30 saying volunteers would not be needed. Did my full workout instead. I’d planned to use the CBE time to count as my workout.

The cleaners came and powered through the house. They’re good.

No medical appointments this week. That’s good. Little going on away from home. Also good.

Not feeling it right now. Gonna go down and have some breakfast.

Ah. Eggs. Bacon. Sourdough toast. Tomatoes. Coffee. Back.

China. Love it or loathe it. Or, both. As in my case. I consider myself at least 14% Taoist (or so). Song dynasty ceramics and painting are among my favorite art forms from any age. Romance of the Three Kingdoms has pages and plots and twists enough to keep the story interesting. For over 2,000 pages. Yes, I like Wushu and Kungfu movies. And modern ones like Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

On my one visit to China it was still in the bicycle traffic-jams and charcoal briquette era for Beijing. Most buildings we visited had no heat. It was winter. Granted we visited historic buildings for the most part, but we did go to a cloisonne factory. No heat and little light where the cloisonne workers spent their time.

Obama pivoted our nation’s military toward Asia. Joseph now works in the Asia-Pacific command for the Air Force, stationed on Oahu at Hickam AFB. He manages air force relations with the Philippines. China looms over everything they do.

A buddy of his, whose house I visited, manages the Australia desk. Big changes there this week. Nuclear submarines, not diesels from France. Siding with the West. Seems obvious until you look at Australia’s trading ties with China.

Contemporary China puzzles me. It seems to mount the steep wall of the third millennium with the careful precision of an ice climber.

OK. Gonna leave this one unfinished, too. Not there today. Not sure why. Just not. Maybe later.



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Tradition a longer conversation summarized

Lughnasa and the Michaelmas Moon

Tarot: Nine of Stones in the Wildwood Deck

Meaning (according to the Wildwood Tarot book-WTB):

Reverence for past wisdom and sacrifice. The ability to relate to ancient knowledge and pass on the lessons of ancestral memory and ritual.

Let me throw in here, too, Ovid. And, my interest in pre-Socratic philosophers like Thales, Anaximander, Heraclitus. Dante. The Tao. The early world of Hinduism. Christianity and Judaism. Those very early shamanic faiths of the Mongols, of the Japanese (Shinto), the Koreans.

Even anthropology. My interest in anthropology was to find the way of other peoples, to know and understand them as much on their own terms as possible. Travel as well. The learning inherent in being the other.

I’m not a syncretist. I’m not an everybody has something to teach us sorta guy. Though there’s a sense in which that’s true. I’m not trying to find the one truth that snakes through all the traditions. There isn’t one. And, yes, I’m pretty sure of that.

There is though this truth. The human body, its limitations and potentials, does remain pretty much the same over time. The brain and its evolution has hardwired certain ways of responding to the world around us. Though there have been dramatic climatic changes like the ice age, the sorts of challenges the world provides in its various regions remain at least similar even today.

What I’ve done, often without knowing it, is to immerse myself in the thought ways, the life ways, the ritual ways of so many different cultures over long periods of time and in very different geographical and geological conditions that I feel like a citizen of multiple cultures, yet beholden to none of them. Including, perhaps most of all, my own.

The tricky part for those of us raised in the West and in the Judaeo-Christian tradition can be capsulized in one word: progress. Progress assumes linear time. Progress assumes one culture can evaluate others qualitatively. Nineteenth century France is better than, nineteenth century England. Or, China’s civilization is superior to everyone else’s outside the Middle Kingdom. Or, we, the USA, will make the world safe for democracy, the obvious best form of government.

Progress both puts blinders on us, makes jingoists of us all, and imagines an unproven and unprovable idea: that next year, next day, next minute things will get better. By whose standards? Mine? Yours? Theirs? The citizens of ancient Ephesus? Of X’ian. Of Kyoto.

Of course, central heating beats a fire in the middle of the hut with a hole in the top to let smoke out. Of course, driving in a motorized vehicle is easier than walking or riding a horse. Of course, air conditioning is preferable to suffocating heat. You can extend this list.

But. Is central heating progress? Depends on the fuel, in one way of looking at it. Natural gas, propane, and heating oil are all common fuels. Think. Climate change.

Same question about driving and air conditioning.

Humans tend to favor the thing they have and know. So, today is better than yesterday.


Meaning (according to the Wildwood Tarot book-WTB):

Reverence for past wisdom and sacrifice. The ability to relate to ancient knowledge and pass on the lessons of ancestral memory and ritual.

As a 1960’s radical, anti-establishment, pushing for new political, military, economic, sexual, intellectual mores, to consider myself one who reveres past wisdom, ancient knowledge? No. No. No.

Yet. There I was studying Socrates. Zoroaster. Ovid. Greek history. Biblical literature. Dante. Taoism. The history of ancient civilizations like Assyria, the Qin dynasty, Middle Kingdom Egypt. Not only studying. Learning. And in that learning, unbeknownst to me, at least partially, being shaped by that learning.

When I went to seminary, I saw the utility of the prophetic tradition in Judaism and Christianity. It could be used to press for change on behalf of the widow and the orphan, the enslaved, the oppressed, the poor and the hungry. I considered this tradition, that of the prophets of Ancient Israel, the real gem in the long years since the death of Jesus.

It was. And, is. But. There is another jewel there, too. One only accessible to the meditator, the reader of scripture, the ascetic, the one willing to face the root of the faith. To get burned by its heat. This is the faith of the Russian Starets, the Welsh peregrinators, mystics like St John of the Cross and Meister Eckhart. And, not faith. Not really.

Why? Because it involved and affirmed an actual experience of the numinous.

My inner world got shaped, in the end, more by this strain of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Though. Again, I was only partially aware of that at the time.

When I fell too far away from the very idea of theology, of religious institutions, I went into a long period of quiet. I sold my commentaries, no longer engaged in lectio divina, or used the Jesus prayer.

Camus came back to me. Life is absurd. Without meaning. Death is final, extinction. To live is a choice. One that can be altered.

The Great Wheel came into my life sort of through a back door, a way of understanding Celtic thoughts and motivations. But when Kate and I moved to Andover and our long horticultural, beekeeping, canine loving life really began, the Great Wheel slowly seeped into my thinking about the garden, about the life of dogs and people, about the hives and their superorganism.

That was what I had been prepared for. Staring at the root of an ancient faith. I had the inner tools to accept the Great Wheel as the genius of a culture, one that had clear application to what I did every morning with hoe and spade.

Gradually I came to see that this ancient religious calendar spoke as forcefully to my spirit as the Gospel of Luke, as the prayers of Meister Eckhart. More forcefully at that point.

That was what led me to a bare knuckle spirituality, stripping away the accretions to the Great Wheel that had come from well-meaning, but in my view, silly, Wiccans and Druids.

I saw the Great Wheel, and when I did I saw it through Taoist influenced eyes, as not a belief system but as a metaphor with its feet planted in my garden. It was there, right before my eye. Beltane to Lughnasa. To Samain. To the Winter Solstice.

I had embraced an ancient way, a way I had learned from study and practice. I am, sort of, a traditionalist.

So, Nine of Stones. Hear ye, hear ye. Yes, sir!




Posted in Commentary on Religion, Fourth Phase, Garden, Great Wheel, Holidays, Kabbalah, Memories, Minnesota, Mountains, Our Land and Home, Plants, Reimagine. Reconstruct. Reenchant., Shadow Mountain, Tarot, Torah, Translating Metamorphoses, Writing | Leave a comment

An Ordinary Pagan

Lughnasa and the Michaelmas Moon

Monday gratefuls: My sisters: Mary, BJ, Sarah, Anne. My brother: Mark. My ancient brothers: Tom, Paul, William, Mario. Family. It is both what you make it and part of what made you. Three-hole punch. Internet recipes. Cooking. Inogen. Rain and a cool night. Living on the Mountain top.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Rain on the deck

Tarot:  Nine of Stones, Wildwood Deck


The Wildwood deck bases its suits and major arcana in Celtic myth and lore. And, it correlates them to the Great Wheel. I’m learning from the deck, deepening my own thinking about the Great Wheel, about this World, this Earth onto which I was thrown along with each of you reading this.

My interest in the Great Wheel ignited during my search for a theme, a focus for writing. Kate suggested I look into my heritage. At the time I knew about Richard Ellis, my indentured servant ancestor who arrived in the U.S. in 1707. His father, a captain in William and Mary’s occupying army in Ireland, came from Wales. Denbigh. I also knew that the Correls, also on my father’s side, immigrated during the Great Potato famine in the late nineteenth century.

So, things Celtic. I expanded my reach later on into Northern European myth and legend. Genetics put this strain of my family history as more significant than the Celtic, but I was well into the Celtic material before I got genetic information through 23andme.

This learning coincided with my leaving the Presbyterian ministry and moving toward Unitarian-Universalism. I found(find) the UU movement liberating, but thin soup. It’s a nice refuge for folks fed up with traditional religious institutions, but in itself it offers only a bland diet of warmed over religious thought disconnected from its roots, decent poetry, and a laudable willingness to take action for social justice.

Though I transferred my credentials to the UU, I found my attempts to enter its ministry regression. After a couple of embarrassing and unnecessary attempts. (Kate told me I was making a mistake.) I needed to write, to be away from religious institutions. Not try again in a profession which did not fit me from the beginning.

After I left my ministry monkey back in its theological jungle, I became a flat-earth humanist. Atheist. No afterlife. Death=extinction. No world beyond the phenomenal one. And that one only as it can be understood through science. Logic. Yes. Data. Yes. Facts. Yes. Myth. No. Other World. No. Spirituality. No. Learning from poetry and the world’s religious traditions? No.

Oh, I used the Celtic and Northern European folk traditions in my writing, yes. But, did I believe it? No. How could I?

Yet. The Great Wheel. Fit so well with my Thomas Berry inflected view of climate change work: creating a sustainable future for humans on this planet. It helped me into the thought world, the faith world of the early Celts.

When Kate and I moved to Andover in 1994, I’d already written three novels using the faith worlds of early Irish, Welsh, Scots, Cornish, and Breton folk. And, one using the Ragnarok idea from Northern European faith worlds.

We wanted to grow perennial flowers. Have fresh cut flowers every day. So, I learned about spring ephemerals, corms, tubers, bulbs. Food for them. The culture they needed in terms of soil, light, protection.

Then vegetables. A degree in horticulture by correspondence from a university in Guelph, Ontario. An orchard. Bees. A fire pit.

At the Andover firepit

Our life together, Kate and mine, had Irish Wolfhounds, Whippets, and plants. Lots and lots of plants. We worked together, sweated together. Got sticky harvesting honey. Steamed from canning. Drying and freezing became a usual part of our fall.

It was hard manual labor and I loved it. So did Kate. We also loved each other and who each other was when working outside. When putting food by.

As the life of our gardens became our lives, the Great Wheel began to make deeper and deeper inroads into my heart. The Winter Solstice became my High Holiday. Or, my Deep Holiday. I celebrated the Celtic holidays, wrote e-mails and blog posts about them in addition to using them in my novels.

At some point I realized I had become a pagan. Not in any particular sense like Wicca, or Druidry, or Witchcraft, just an ordinary pagan, a person who found his religious life adequately nourished by the turning of the seasons, by the natural world, by love.

I’ll get to the nine of Stones later, but it supports this journey in a very specific way.



Posted in Bees, Commentary on Religion, Dogs, Family, Feelings, Fourth Phase, Friends, Great Wheel, Holidays, Kabbalah, Memories, Minnesota, Mountains, Myth and Story, Plants, Shadow Mountain, Tarot | Leave a comment

Underneath the bones, my wings are pushing out

Lughnasa and the Michaelmas Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Susan. The Woolly Retreat. Pruning. Yet more of Kate’s jewelry. Satisfaction at getting things done. Subway. Stinker’s gas. Lodgepoles. Black Mountain. That one forerunner Aspen. Golden. The Stars. The blackness of Space. Four amateur astronauts. New hearing aid. Roger.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: The house on Shadow Mountain

Tarot:  Ten of Swords, Druid.  King of Stones, Wildwood. (not sure about these two. for the first time. maybe it’ll hit me later.)


Rigel and Kepler

Met with Susan yesterday. She’ll house sit for Kep and Rigel when I drive to the Woolly retreat the first of November. We had a long chat. Dogs. Drivers in the mountains. Cars. She’s a Mountain type. Making a living anyway she can. She cleans houses and dog sits, lives in a rented room in King’s Valley. Almost 70.

Living in the Mountains has a strange and strong attraction for certain folks. Kate was one. She refused to consider moving. I’m one, too. Though. Once in a while, recently, I get twinges of, oh, this might be too much for me someday. Usually in the morning when I’m still sleepy, still not warmed up. But that worm is there.

Still remember the first days up here in the loft. I’d write, then look out the window at Black Mountain. Write. Look. A sense of being in the right Place. Yirah. Awe. When I’m down the hill, hot and bothered by all the traffic, I can turn the car West, head back up into the Front Range. I become peaceful again.

BJ, Kate, Anne at Kate’s birthday party apres eclipse

Kate’s here now. Forever. In the Iris bed. In Maxwell Creek. On the Yahrzeit wall at CBE. In my heart. In the bones and stones of this place. She died a Mountain Woman. Fits with the Earth Mother persona she nourished for over 20 years in Andover. A powerful attractant for me. Keep the memories, the torch for her going.

The running of the fence line is underway. Zeus. Boo. Kep. Thor. Rigel. Rigel. Boo. Thor. Kep. Yip, yip, yip, yip. Neighbors kept friendly by a fence. Yup, Robert Frost.

The day got away from me. I had to change the sheets on the bed, always a good workout. That damned Tempurpedic weighs 120 pounds and concentrates all of its weight right where you’re trying to lift it. Got it done so I laid down for a nap.

In my zoom meeting with my ancient buddies Paul, Tom, Mario, and Bill I checked in. Well. As near as I can tell, I have no tale of woe. For the first time in six months. They all laughed and clapped. Me, too. Yeah.

Of course. Cheer up, things could be worse. I cheered up and sure enough things got worse. Hope not though.

This is six months later. After a lotta upset. Kate’s death, grief, and the return of my prostate cancer. Jon’s various illnesses. Which continue. Sorting through the necessaries after Kate’s death occupied more time than I would have thought. Normal, though. Still not quite done.

As I’ve written, I can feel the tidal forces running with me now rather than pulling me out sea. Provided I can stay well, I think that will continue. Gonna get a flu shot and a vaccine booster in the next couple of weeks.

I also contacted Elisa Robyn’s, my astrologer friend from CBE. She’ll do a new reading for me on Monday, September 27th. I’m leaning in to the Tarot, astrology, Kabbalah world. Letting it speak to me. Call to me. Challenge me. Inspire me. That old skeptic me would pooh pooh all this. Showed him the door. What helps is what helps.

Tom had an interesting exercise for us this morning. He gave each of us a poem earlier in the week. We read them aloud and told the others what we thought.

Here’s mine:


The Phoenix Again

On the ashes of this nest
Love wove with deathly fire
The phoenix takes its rest
Forgetting all desire.

After the flame, a pause,
After the pain, rebirth.
Obeying nature’s laws
The phoenix goes to earth.

You cannot call it old
You cannot call it young.
No phoenix can be told,
This is the end of the song.

It struggles now alone
Against death and self-doubt,
But underneath the bone
The wings are pushing out.

And one cold starry night
Whatever your belief
The phoenix will take flight
Over the seas of grief

To sing her thrilling song
To stars and waves and sky
For neither old nor young
The phoenix does not die.

May Sarton

My reaction: I can feel, underneath the bone, my new wings pushing out. And I await the cold starry night when my new Phoenix self will take flight.



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Country Roads. Pruning.

Lughnasa and the Michaelmas Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Zeus, Boo, Thor. Rigel, Kep. Running the fence. Happy. Susan, who will care for Rigel and Kep during my time at the Woolly retreat in November. Social Security. Orgovyx. The rolled over IRA. My pension. This house. This life. More pruning.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Alan in Fiddler. Taking Jon, Ruth, Gabe.

Tarot: Ten of Wands, Druid. Queen of Stones, Wildwood. Question-what can I do today to move my new life forward?


Happy Camper. On the way I pass King’s Valley where Marilyn and Irv live. The intersection of King’s Valley road and 285 is deadly. Each year people die. No light. No overpass. Left turns into heavy cross traffic.

Fire mitigation, May 2016

When I finished up my first round of fire mitigation, I hired a teenager from down the block. A good worker. On the last day of our work together he got a phone call. His Uncle John, a Harley rider, died in a wreck at the King’s Valley crossing.

Further on 285 winds down into a Mountain Valley. A right turn takes you to Staunton State Park. I see the eastern Slope of Black Mountain out my loft window; its western Slope is the eastern boundary for the park. 45 mph down the Mountain to the Valley.

Later, after a steep climb, up yet another Mountain, 285 snakes past Pine. It has a short shopping mall with coffee and gift stores at the intersection with Pine Valley road. Down the Pine Valley road winds the North Fork of the South Platte River, opening out into wide swaths of Pasture, boiling over Rocks. Tom and I drove Pine Valley road to Manitou Springs and the Pikes Peak Railroad.

Up. Down. Colorado Mountain roads. At Pine the Continental Divide shows up in the distance, well beyond Bailey.

Happy Camper has a narrow, bumpy, dirt road that winds up a Hillside. At the top is a metal industrial building where Happy Camper grows Maryjane and creates their own branded products. The retail shop is on the right as you drive in.

When I went in yesterday, there were 8 men of my age, some with masks, some not. They’re all together, so I can help you, said one of the budtenders. Yes, that’s a thing.

Eight of the Indica Cheeba Chews, please. The black ones? Yes.

Back home for a full workout. A few tasks. Called Jackie and changed my October 2nd hair appointment. My Tarot and the Tree of Life spread class interfered. Lunch and a later nap.

It’s been what qualifies as a busy week for me. Glad the weekend is here. It always amuses me that I feel different on the weekends, looser, less driven. I mean, I’ve been retired from a regular work week since 1992. But the weekend, even though I often worked on Sundays, still feels freeing. Yay. Friday’s over! Reminds me I want to experiment with keeping the Sabbath.

Still working on cooking for one. Sometimes good. Sometimes not. Last night. Not. I had cheese and crackers.


Ten of Wands, Druid.  Queen of Stones, Wildwood

Until today I have not asked a question of the cards I turn over in the morning. It is usual to ask a question, but the daily “oracle” card can also be read in light of the general trends in your life.

what can I do today to move my new life forward?

The ten of wands has shown up a lot for me. It’s about carrying a burden, keeping on keeping on. Staying the course. The Queen of Stones in the Wildwood deck evokes a different, but complementary sensibility.

The Queen is a Cave Bear, guarding the entrance to her home as dawn paints the near sky. The Wildwood book suggests she raises these questions: How can you best promote well-being at home? Where can you make space to care for yourself and others? What needs to be preserved?

The ancient Cave Bear is now long extinct. I saw a Cave Bear skeleton, it might have at the Science Museum in St. Paul. They stood fifteen feet with their upper limbs extended. Big. Strong. Master and Mistress of their domain. An apex Predator.

This Bear Queen has a home, one she uses to raise her cubs, for hibernation in the winter, for shelter in other seasons. So do I. And, as I went to bed last night I had thoughts about what I needed to do next. Pruning?

Yes, some of that. The bookcases in the bedroom, the still cluttered living room area. The recipe book I have to create out of recipes printed from the internet. I also got the file folders I needed to organize my financial papers.

Another thought last night focused on reading books about the Tarot, reentering the world of astrology. That research and scholar mode.

Today the Bear suggests I focus on space. Making it a caring space for myself, for Jon and the grandkids, for guests. So. I will.

The Ten of Wands reminds me though that I need to put down the pruner and the book, take a break. I no longer need to have my head down, pushing forward. That time died with Kate. I can relax, do something fun.

Deciding to go to the Woolly Retreat is an aspect of this. Road trip. I’m going to drive. First long trip on the road since 2016. Excited.




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Strong Women

Lughnasa and the Michaelmas Moon

Friday gratefuls: 36 degrees. 88% humidity. RBG’s yahrzeit. Sukkot. Fall equinox. Hearing aid tune up yesterday. Workout. Happy Camper. Spread last night about writing and painting. Astrology. Evocative mirror, like Tarot. The Other World. Ruth. Seoah and Joe.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: THC

Tarot: Hanged Man, Druid Craft. Queen of Bows, The Hare, Wildwood Tarot


RBG’s yahrzeit. She died on September 18th, 2020. Her yahrzeit begins when three stars are visible in the sky tonight. The Israeli Orchestra will play a tribute performance. And I will mourn her, as will many. She was, like Kate, a strong, determined woman who persevered in spite of misogyny and the structural barriers our patriarchy puts in the way of women and girls. Both of their memories is for a blessing.

Here is a paragraph about grief from RBG’s Rabbi. In my experience, true.

Kate. Standing up for what she believes. Confident.

“Grief is a complicated animal. I have often described its presence to my congregants as a mountain — sometimes it is across from you and you can see it, sometimes you are climbing it, sometimes you have summited it and sometimes it is just right on top of you. We do not control it, we live with it.” Rabbi Lauren Holtzblatt 

Yes. For strong Jewish women. For strong women and girls everywhere, here are two role models.

These two held up their half of the sky. So might we all.

A week’s use, then a tune up on my hearing aid. Saw Amy yesterday. We tweaked the volume, a bit softer. The ambient noise filter. A bit stronger. Both helped a lot. My ear has stopped complaining about a new device. OK, it’s gonna stay, I’ll get used to it.

Afterward I dropped off Kate’s death certificate to Social Security. Then, noticed I got a deposit from Social Security. In the wrong amount. Sigh. Not quite done, I guess.

Put my new tab on Ruby’s license plate. Looked at the grill where the Deer glanced off on Wednesday. The fiberglass has a small crevice on the front left. She almost made it around me. I sure hope She’s ok. If not, Her memory will help me pay closer and better attention.

I’m sleeping well. Some of it may be fatigue from the Orgovyx. Not as bad as it was last week, but still significant. Hot flashes still few, but daily. Manageable. Feels like the workouts are fighting sarcopenia and muscle aches. Another transformation. As Rich Levine’s mentor said, “These days you don’t die from prostate cancer, you die with it.”

That seems to be true, but it doesn’t capture the consequences of having it. Cancer riding in your body, an antagonist who wants to eat you from the inside out. Medical visits, decisions. Various treatments. Each of which has their own knock on effect. Bladder issues from the prostate removal. Colon bleeding from the radiation. The effects of low to no testosterone from the androgen deprivation therapy. It’s not, at least for those of us for whom the primary treatments don’t work, a free ride.

No good cancer.

I’m off in a moment for the Happy Camper to buy my next 80 day supply of Indica edibles. I’ve slept better ever since I started using them. 10 milligrams a night. And, I get a beautiful morning drive toward the Continental Divide, further into the Mountains.




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Fourth Phase

Lughnasa and the Michaelmas Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Happy Camper. Kol Nidre. Yom Kippur. CBE. Marilyn and Irv. Cool(er) nights. Alan. The Wildflower. Colorado DMV. Ruby. Her new tabs and title. Workout. Black Mountain. Maxwell Creek. That Deer I hit. Shadow Mountain. All the Critters. National Western Stock Show. Bees. Evergreen. Black Mountain and Brook Forest Drive.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Draft Horse Shows

Tarot: 8 of Swords, Druid


Yom Kippur. The Day of Atonement. The sealing of the Book of Life for the next year. It is written. Choose life.

I didn’t attend any of the High Holidays though I tried last night on Zoom. I don’t have the same childhood memories of these holidays that bring so many back to the synagogue. Sorta like Christmas and Easter if they were in the same week. Also, I still don’t feel comfortable in large groups, masked or not. In addition I’m tired. Orgovyx still saps my energy, leaves me achy and flashy. (hot flashy, that is)

Sukkot, on the other hand. I’ll go next Wednesday unless I’m still worn out. Sukkot is a harvest holiday and fits with the Pagan Great Wheel Taoist guy that I am. Ruth and Gabe may come up, too. I hope so. We’ll sit outside, spend some time in the Sukkah, see friends. Eat pizza. It will have no meat. Meat and cheese, nope.

Marilyn called last night before Kol Nidre, the first Yom Kippur service. Checking up on me. I appreciate that. That’s Alan, Tara, Rich, Jamie, and Marilyn. All since Sunday. I have friends here.

Interesting to consider the impact Judaism has had on me. Significant, for sure. I still feel no desire to convert, but the way of the Torah is now part of my way. Torah means learning, but learning in a particular way. With keen attention. With observance of details and mistakes and embellishments. With all we have. With others. Rabbi Jamie has taught me that Torah study is the way. And, I try to follow that way. See what you’re looking at.

My investment in applying Torah to biblical and Jewish liturgical traditions is slight, but I appreciate the opportunities. Applying it to Kabbalah, Tarot, poetry, my backyard, my inner world, the lives and times of my friends and family, the Critters that live up here, politics, on the other hand. My investment is high.

The wonderful aspect of Judaism, especially reconstructionist Judaism, is that I fit right in anyhow. I don’t have to try to shoehorn my actual beliefs into some ragged conformity. I can let them hang out, to be seen by all.

Rabbi Jamie, my first true mentor, has taught me a worldview that can accommodate my peculiar religious/spiritual/philosophical bent and add to it. It is Torah. It is grounded in the now. It is communal. It does not find tradition oppressive, nor does it find tradition authoritative.

In the simplest terms it is a hermeneutic. A method of interpretation that insists we be faithful to our experience, that we open ourselves as broadly as we can to the world around us and within us. That we learn with a bias toward merit in all that we study. This means not always going in with the sword of reason or the bludgeon of logic. It does not mean, however, excluding them.

In philosophy and anthropology, even in seminary, I found academics more a blood sport than anything else. What does that mean? How do you know? Who says so? Where’s the evidence? Correlation is not causation. Let’s wrassle!

Rabbi Jamie has taught me a gentler way of approaching learning. It does not neuter the intellect, but it does insist on giving sources a chance. On giving others a chance. On giving your self a chance. It does insist on openness.

In that process I have discovered tarot as a mirror for my soul, a guide for my journey. And, in discovering that, I have reached into my rib cage, spread it out, and exposed my heart. I can feel my way past the veil, again. I can let the totality of the universe, seen and unseen, in. I can feel my presence in Malkut, yes, but I can also feel my presence in the Crown, the Keter, and, yes, I can also feel the ayn sof.

My grief and my past six years at CBE and my own dogged searching has prepared me for this time. My fourth phase. My life has begun to withdraw from the hurly burly toward the spiritual, the soulful, the unseen. I’m thinking of myself right now as a hermit and of Shadow Mountain as my Mountain Hermitage. We’ll see if that lasts, but I think it will. I hope it will. This is the last journey of my soul here in Malkut. May it be a fruitful one.


Eight of Swords



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