• Mary Jane Hits Number One

    Beltane and the Moon of Shadow Mountain

    Friday gratefuls: Ginny. Marilyn. Rick. Luke. Sally. Carol. Fran. Mussar Thursday. Mediguard. My phone/handheld computer. Mark in Bangkok. Mary in K.L. Me on Shadow Mountain. Distributed siblings. A new laptop. Bonobos. USA cleaners. Shirts. Breakfast. Fountain Barbecue. Chicken. Mac and cheese. Barbecue beans. New tires. Big O.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: These two

    One brief shining: The snow has melted in the back, on the ski runs of Black Mountain, the Streams carry Water from the melt, from the Rains of this week; the Grass turned green, inviting Mule Deer adults and young ones over for a quick bite, loving too the dandelion delights all yellow and waiting.

     

    Cannabis is now number one, passing even sturdy alcohol as America’s drug of choice. See this NYT article for more. I recall being in Colorado in 2012 when dispensaries first opened. I went into one, a strange transgressive thrill passed over me. Marijuana! Legal? Nah. Now, a short twelve years later, this news. I suppose all us old folks, each who bought his or her or their share of oregano no doubt, were already primed. Lots of articles too about seniors-neither high school nor college, but demographic-adopting cannabis for regular use.

    Folks who visit me still want to go to the dispensaries. Colorado figured out to how make this transition first and did it pretty well. I used edibles for sleep for a year or two, but no longer. Though I am finding that after a day when my back pounds at me, 5 milligrams of a chill pill (indica) calms me. Of course, that’s not much use when I travel.

    Amtrak reminded us several different times that its trains and stations were Federal property on which Federal law enforcement would snag riders who got off the train at a stop and lit up a joint. Since state law and federal law are in an odd balance, one ignoring the other, manifesting mostly in the now obviously silly Federal ban on banking for dispensaries, it leaves those of us in the many states where cannabis is now legal: 38 for medicinal, 24 for medicinal and recreational, in an odd patchwork of jurisdictions when leaving our home states.

     

    Just a moment: three weeks to my bar mitzvah. Learning goes well. Torah portion learned. Readings for leading the morning service getting there. Need to work on my prayer shawl moves, bending the knee.

     

    Memorial day weekend. The Indianapolis 500. The 108th running. Used to be in the Formula 1 circuit way back. Basketball and the Indy 500, Hoosier sports. Hard to credit how completely the 500 (as we called it) takes over life and news in an Indiana May. Race car trivia, time trails, practice runs. Gossip about the drivers. About the probable size of the crowd. The Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Capped at the end with the chugging of milk from a glass bottle. A nod to Indiana’s dairy farms and the wholesomeness of the Midwest. (spare me on this last one)


  • Mussar and Kabbalah and Talmud

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Tara. Covid. Chill pills. Great Sol. Bringing the morning. Good workout. Studying Perkei Avot, Chapters of the Fathers to present in mussar today. Practicing torah portion. Reading Judaism without Tribalism by Rabbi Rami Shapiro. Wow. Finishing the third book of the Three Worlds Problem trilogy. Cooked last night.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Summerweight Comforter

    One brief shining: With a twinge of guilt I separated the one pound of lean beef into patties, hit the induction button and turned it to 8 under my Lodge cast iron skillet, waited a bit and tossed the seasoned patties on its hot metal, yes, a steer killed by proxy for me, yes, red meat with cholesterol, but oh every once in a while a burger sure tastes good.

     

    My workouts go well. I’ve figured out how to navigate cardio and resistance with my back. Can do as much as I need without having to quit. Mostly. If I do feel my hip beginning to ouch very much, I will stop, having learned that if I don’t things get worse quick. Now using oxygen in the evenings as well as at night. Waiting on a call for a new P.E.T. scan.

     

    Prepping right now for mussar class this afternoon. Perkei Avot. The Chapters of the Fathers. For example:

    Pirkei Avot 1:14

    (14) He [Rabbi Hillel] used to say: If I am not for me, who will be for me? And when I am for myself alone, what am I? And if not now, then when?

    (16) He [Rabbi Tarfon] used to say: It is not your responsibility to finish the work, but neither are you free to desist from it.

    (1) Ben Zoma says: Who is the wise one? He who learns from all men…

    Who is the mighty one? He who conquers his impulse…

    Who is the rich one? He who is happy with his lot…

    Who is honored? He who honors the created beings…

     

    Not sure what tact I’m going to take with all this. Traditionally studied in the six weeks between Pesach and Shavuot. Passover and the giving of the torah at the foot of Mt. Sinai.

     

    Also this period includes counting the omer. I mentioned this a while back. The omer, the grains, counted between Pesach and Shavuot, are a kabbalistic ritual involving blessing the omer each night and correlating those nights with sefirot from the tree of life.

    For example, today is the gevurah of hod. Gevurah is the recognition of limits and boundaries. It is strength to enforce godly values. With its immediate counterpart, Hesed, loving kindness, Gevurah recognizes the power to enforce justice.

    But today is the gevurah of hod. Hod is humility. Taking up the right amount of space. The strength of humility, the gevurah of hod, lies in our ability to be in the world as we are, not as other people or our culture believe we should be.

    Somewhere in all this there’s some kind of lesson. Right?

     


  • Gettin’ Real

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Shirley Waste. Great Sol yet again. All the Water falling down the Mountain toward Bear Creek. Reconstructionist Judaism. Irv and the Ancient Brothers. Taxes. Tom and his test. Ruth and her gift. Domo. I-70, experiencing Crash Week. David. Kristie. Learning Hebrew. Learning the Morning Service. Pushing on through to the other side. New tires Thursday.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Driving in the Mountains

    One brief shining: Velveteen Rabbiting so many things: that Stickley couch with naps, the Stickley chair with books of all sorts, the living room with its Garden Path paint and Jerry’s painting, Joseph’s self-portrait, Ruby with every nick and scrape, Judaism with each Hebrew word and phrase I learn, Great Sol and my driveway, my lev each time I write a post or go see a friend, becoming, changing participating in the One.

     

    “God is that aspect of reality which elicits from us the best that is in us and enables us to bear the worst that can befall us.” Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, Reconstructionist Prayerbook

     

    Shadow Mountain. Rubbing it each time I drive up and down the hill, each time I get up in the Morning, say the Shema, touch the mezzuzah, cook a meal, read a book, see it whole from the Safeway parking lot. It is the literal foundation of my world. Its rocky, knobby forehead posed toward the West, its long flank running from my house all the way downhill to Hwy. 73, and then, too, toward the north and the Valley of Cub and Blue Creeks. Its broken Rock Aquifer holds Rain and Snow for the Lodgepoles, the Aspens, and my shower, dishwasher, toilets and sinks, and boiler. Shadow Mountain also lifts me up to 8,800 feet above sea level. Making Oxygen less available. How big it really is I do not know for it shades into Black and Conifer Mountains. Mountains, at least in the Front Range, do not live isolated lives, rather they brush against each others’ Valleys, Meadows and often join together below the surface, stand together in runs of Peaks and Valleys. Yes. It is Shadow Mountain Home.

    Kate’s Creek and Valley: Also shabby from an abundance of love. Where I first dispersed some of Kate’s ashes, where I later distributed them all. A spot I’ve used for hiking for several years in all seasons. I know where the Strawberries and Raspberries and Wild Roses grow. Kate’s Creek Waters its banks. A White Pine grows straight and tall. Perhaps a ship’s mast in another century.

    Congregation Beth Evergreen. Rubbing shoulders. Literally. Mussar. Evening Services. Outdoor performances. B’nei Mitzvahs. Classes of all sorts. So many years with Kate. She rubbed it, too. And is part of what has become real, alive for me there. Breakfasts and lunches.

    The loft. Where I workout. Where I paint, store my books, most of them, read and used to write. Everyday for so many years until Kep’s illness. A place made real.

    What, I wonder, are you Velveteen Rabbiting right now?


  • Considering Cancer. Ten years in.

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

     

    Just got off the line with Kristie Kokenny, my P.A. oncologist. I started seeing her a month after Kate died. A bit over three  years now.

    She’s ordering another PSMA scan. This is the one that uses the tracer that binds to a protein found to stick up out of 95% of prostate cancer cells. I was wrong about the cutoff for this PET scan. It’s between .2 and .5 PSA. Since my new PSA is .48, I’m a candidate.

    It’s been a bit over a year since my last PET scan of this sort. If the scan is negative, a distinct possibly, we’ll continue monitoring my PSA and testosterone. No drugs.

    In fact, and here’s an oddity, it’s possible my PSA could go down. The reason? The radiation I had on my spine last year. Irradiated cancer cells do not die immediately. Their DNA suffers damage from the radiation and they die over a period of two years. It’s possible some of my PSA comes from damaged cells not yet dead. Depending on the proportion of those to active cancer cells, it’s possible for a decrease. Not counting on it, but, hey…

    Now that I understand what’s going on my anxiety titer (Kate’s phrase) has vanished altogether. It wasn’t high to begin with, though it was there.

    I’m now in my tenth year of cancer and Kristie still says no matter we see on the imaging we can manage it. And I believe her. Trust your doctors and zip up. Kate to me on her death bed.

    Though it’s never gone from my mind, how could it be, I’ve adapted and remained mostly calm by having treatments that work. I can’t say, as I hear some cancer patients say, that it has dramatically affected my understanding of life. Rather, it’s added a piece of luggage to the journey. Sometimes heavy, mostly light.


  • Life. Challenges to it.

    Beltane and the Moon of Shadow Mountain

    General Sherman

    Tuesday gratefuls: Sarah’s back home. Her visit. Ruth tonight at Domo. Kristie today for update on my recent labs. Meeting David to talk prostate cancer. Great Sol beaming. All those Wild Neighbor babies and young ones. Good workout yesterday. Good practice for my bar mitzvah: torah portion and service leading portions. Ordering a few things: new laptop, new laptop stand, a summer weight comforter. Giving on Colorado Jewish Giving Day.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Enough to share

    One brief shining: Can you imagine General Sherman under attack, the largest single Tree in the world, 274.9 feet high, 102.6 feet circumference at ground level, height of first branch above the base, 130.0 feet, by Beetles, Bark-Beetles, possibly aided by the climate tragedy; more, can you imagine being a researcher for the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition climbing General Sherman this week, this great Wild Neighbor,  because “We really feel like it’s our duty as stewards to take a closer look.” I can.

    Quote from Christy Brigham in a San Francisco Chronicle article by Kurtis Alexander, May 20, 2024. Courtesy of Diane.

     

    I feel suddenly protective of these Trees, this Tree. The Redwoods, too. And the Bristlecone Pines. Taller than three blue whales. I mean…

    Gonna add the Giant Sequoia Lands Coalition to my donation list. Just donated. What a good feeling. Loving sharing Kate and mine’s money with organizations living out our values. Southern Poverty Law Center. Wild Animal Sanctuary. Kabbalah Experience. CBE. ADL. The Land Institute. The Ancient Forests Society. Makes me happy.

    No, we cannot make much of a difference, but we can add our names and our money to those spots of human activity where social justice, the Great Work, Judaism, the Land, and our Wild Neighbors get attention and progress forward.

    Not sure why the heart connection with these Trees. Mostly Muir Woods, I guess. Standing next to, among. Shaded by. Overshadowed by. A wild amazement that such beings exist, life so strong and vital. Godliness found. Commitment to a location. Perseverance. Majesty. Silence. Love of place, of the Soil. Soul creation.

     

    Today at 11 I talk with Kristie for the first time in a while. My PSA went up a bit, as I wrote before, and my testosterone down. PSA under 1.0 which is the point beyond which imaging can pick up metastases. So no P.E.T. scan. Still off the drugs with my drug holiday. Feeling a bit unsure, unsteady about cancer right now. Will be good to talk to Kristie and get her take, her advice about where we go from here. Back on the drugs, I’m sure. But when?

    Almost all of the time I’m ok with the cancer, letting it go on its way, taking the steps my doctors recommend. Living today. When I get a bit anxious about it, I’m not sure what’s going on. Like now. Hardly crippling, yet also there.

     

    Have supper with my favorite (and only) granddaughter tonight at Domo. There I’ll give her the present from Kate and me. Enough cash to travel somewhere interesting before starting college. Also, some chocolate. I am so proud to be her grandpop. Glad for her that she was able to complete high school and graduate with her class. CU-Boulder this fall. Studio Arts. Her Dad and Grandma are proud.

     

     

     

     

     


  • Sex and babies!

    Beltane and the Shadow Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Sarah. Healthy salad. BJ and Pamela. Ruth and Gabe. Pollen. Tree sex. Shadow Mountain. Working out. Staying strong. PSA. Testosterone. James Webb Telescope. Writing. Painting. Learning torah. Rabbi Rami  Shapiro. Rabbi Michael Strassfield. Rabbi Toba Spitzer. Breaking new ground.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Life, mystery and miracle, ordinary

    One brief shining: The season of rampant sex in the Plant kingdom has begun, trees leading the way up here Elm, Juniper, Maple of which we have few, but when it comes time for the yellow dust to settle all round the house, to line the puddles when it Rains, to coat the furniture and make housekeeping hard, then it will have well and truly begun for us above 8,000 feet, and my windows will have to close so I can sleep.

     

    This is also the time of birth. Wild Neighbor nurseries filled with Mule Deer Fawn, Elk Calves, Mountain Lion and Fox Kits, Black Bear Cubs. A lot of youngsters learning the way of things in the Mountains. Plenty of water for them right now with Streams still full and fast. Fresh young grass and new plant shoots. Prey, too, for the Predators as the cycle of life offers no free passes in the Arapaho National Forest.

    Easy. Too easy to drive down the hill toward Evergreen, passing Maxwell Creek Trailhead, Cub Creek, Black Mountain, Shadow Mountain, Kate’s Creek and Valley and forget the busy and wonderful community of Wild Creatures living, thriving just out of sight. Their lives as palpable and momentous to them as ours are to us, as wonderful and fraught.

    I found new grass! Good water! Let’s go back to the den. I want to play. Be careful. See, you hide here and wait. Where are my babies?

    In short or long lives the gathering of molecules and atoms into sentient beings brings to our Planet joy and diversity and playfulness. As we all move through this world with eyes, bodies, feathers, fur, wings, legs, we participate in a bacchanal of sensory stimulation. Gaia showing herself to herself. Gaia celebrating the multiple inventions, mutations, and transformations she can engender. What a show.

     

    Just a moment: Then of course there’s a helicopter crash in the foggy Elburz Mountains of northern Iran. There is, too, the International Criminal Court seeking warrants against Netanyahu and the Hamas leader Sinwar. Makes sense to me.

    Here in our benighted republic the election of 2024 grinds on in its caricature of a Presidential election year. The good President reviled and unloved; the bad President on trial in many courts, still the nasty racist son-of-a-bitch he’s always been, yet somehow leading in the polls. I can only shake my head, then stop and put that same head in my hands.

    That ship, the Dali, that took out the Francis Scott Key bridge has headed back to port.

    Meanwhile war continues in the Ukraine and in the Gaza Strip.

    I could go on, but you know, too. May you live in interesting times.

    BTW*

     

     

    The Phrase Finder website says: “‘May you live in interesting times’ is widely reported as being of ancient Chinese origin but is neither Chinese nor ancient, being recent and western.”

    According to the site, the phrase was originally said by the American politician, Frederic R. Coudert, in 1939. He referred to a letter Sir Austen Chamberlain wrote to him in which he stated:

    . . . by return mail he wrote to me and concluded as follows: “Many years ago, I learned from one of our diplomats in China that one of the principal Chinese curses heaped upon an enemy is ‘May you live in an interesting age.’”

    Despite this, it does not appear to actually come from China and is not clear to have existed before Sir Austen Chamberlain allegedly said it.

    grammarpartyblog

     

     


  • Ruth

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Ruth. Jen. Gabe. Sarah. Northfield Nighthawks, class of 2024. Ritchie Center. Pomp and Circumstance. Elgar. Mortarboards and gowns. Rituals. Rites of Passage. Alexandria High School, 1965. Nuggets v. Timberwolves. Battered Fish and chips. Bangers and mash. A perfect post graduation meal.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Ruth, the graduate

    One brief shining: Up from the gymnasium floor, above the first two tiers of smooth concrete seats, we found four in a row, sat down and waited through an excruciating band warmup, a practice presentation of the colors, other family and friends streaming up even higher past us, until Elgar’s piece* used for the inauguration of Edward VII, and the Northfield High School Class of 2024 began to file in, mortarboards turned to art projects with glitter and team symbols, their teen wearers torn in that liminal space between serious moment and unrestrained hilarity.

     

    Yes. It happened. Ruth graduated! Sarah and I drove down, I chose to park faraway and Uber in. To save a lot of walking. In that sense it worked well. However, I did park faraway. Further than I thought. Yeah, sure, maps. Who needs a map? I knew where I was. And, I did. It just wasn’t close to Denver University. Oh, well.

    The whole ceremony, once it began, ran right at two hours. Done pretty well. Things moved right along. It was one of thousands of high school graduations that day. Just one. But it was the one. The one that mattered for us. Ruth’s day.

    We tried to locate her. Hard even though we knew she’d sit in the fourth row from the back and on the right side facing front. I mean, there were all those blue gowns and faces obscured by unfamiliar funny hats with tassels. Plus, just to give it another degree of difficulty the girl who sat next to her had the same curly hair. Oh. There she is. We waved. She didn’t see. How could she?

    There were many speeches. A lot of flying high. A lot of you will succeed against any diversity, will persevere, will find your dream if you work hard and stay kind.

    Then, Ruth crossed the stage: Ruth Elizabeth Olson. Her moment. Our moment. Diploma and Nighthawk metal feather in hand she went down the steps and back to her seat next to the curly haired girl and that was that. Well, in another 30 to 45 minutes.

    Dinner after was at a British Pub themed fish and chips joint where Ruth and Gabe and I have eaten many times. Where we ran into more graduates, in particular Wilson, a former friend of Ruth’s from her Macauliffe days.

     

    *BTW: Elgar’s composition

    The title is taken from act 3, scene 3 of Shakespeare‘s Othello:

    Farewell the neighing steed and the shrill trump,
    The spirit-stirring drum, th’ear-piercing fife,
    The royal banner, and all quality,
    Pride, pomp, and circumstance of glorious war![1]


  • Donner Party Picnic Area

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Shabbat gratefuls: Ruth. The class of 2024. Denver University. High School. Still high school. Sarah. My son. Seoah in pink. Helping with the Rice planting in Okgwa. Graduation ceremonies. Rites of passage. Alan. His new Beemer. Electric. Venturing into adulthood. Airmen and women. My son as uncle or para-father.  The USAF. Radar. Islands.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Seeing and hearing my son

    One brief shining: Stepped up to the cash register, ordered Bolognese Sour Dough Toast, a Lemonberry tart, a fancy pastry with a melted sugar halo, and a Cuban coffee, gathered in the number, 47, for the order and went back to the table in the Bread Lounge overlooking the Mountains west of Evergreen including the completely Snow covered Continental Divide.

     

    Speaking of the Continental Divide. On my train ride to San Francisco the conductor, who came on speaker from time to time with historic or geographic points of interest, indicated the River flowing beside the train. The Colorado. I’d crossed it before on a long ago trip to Colorado from Phoenix, but never had a chance to really see it. Muddy with Spring runoff it flowed fast and full, a River of so many dreams. Las Vegas. Tucson. Phoenix. Even far away Los Angeles. Then. Wait it a minute. It’s going the wrong way. Jumped to the first time I crossed the Red River near Fargo. Same sensation.

    What? Oh. The Continental Divide. This mud roiled river flowed west and south, toward the Baja, toward the great Pacific Ocean, not the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic. Even though I got this intellectually my brain kept feeling tricked each time I looked at the Colorado. My limbic system was not sure what to do with this fundamental change. One it did not understand.

    Another odd point of interest. The Donner Party Picnic Area in the Tahoe National Forest. I mean, they had to know what they were doing when they named that, right?

    At midnight on the 28th of April I woke up and wandered down stairs. The train, the California Zephyr, had stopped, and I wondered where we were. There in the distance was Salt Lake City. The Mormon Tabernacle. The angel Moroni. Twinkling in the intermontane night. A cool breeze came in from the open door of my sleeper car.

     

    Just a moment: Alan, yesterday, said rather than being in a long Pause that I had moved into the inner Charlie. A student. A scholar. A friend. Living alone and loving it. Hmm. I think both are true. I have privileged my introverted, scholarly side, no doubt. And, as he pointed out, he and I have taken many acting classes together. So I was engaged. True. However, it’s also true that my life has had mostly external guide rails in spite of that. In the last year especially Jewish immersion, mikveh, sure, but Jewish home life, too, for example. Shabbat. The Shema. The mezzuzahs. And the classes with Jamie.

    The Pause is a time of collecting experience, integrating it, letting it change me. Then, living the change. I feel like I’m moving toward that moment. Perhaps this year.


  • Cookin’

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Irv. Tom. The Ancient Brothers. Rabbi Jamie. The hidden me. Great Sol ablaze in morning glory. Kate, always Kate. Her Creek and her Valley. Kep, my sweet boy. The Redwoods. Bechira points. A long Pause. This Jewish life. Tara. Luke. Rebecca. Ginny and Janice. Back among my peeps. Alan and Joan this morning. Friendships. Music.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: a Pause

    One brief shining: Driving down the hill toward Evergreen, Black Mountain Drive becomes Brook Forest Drive, a couple of miles after what used to be the Brook Forest Inn a shallow cutout, good for maybe two or three vehicles, provides parking for a short Valley with a small Mountain Stream carving its way through, White Pines and Ponderosas, Wild Rose and Wild Strawberry and Wild Raspberry grown along its banks and up the steep Valley sides, this is Kate’s Creek running through Kate’s Valley, where her last physical remains began their journey to the World Ocean.

     

    Yesterday was session ten of ten conversion sessions with Rabbi Jamie. I will miss these. My Rabbi. There’s a phrase I would not have expected to come out of my mouth. Ever. Yet now I can’t imagine life without Rabbi Jamie in it. He’s a backstop. A validator. A friend. A guide.

    He opened me up again yesterday. I shared my guilt. Jewish guilt? About being a hermit by preference these days. Not wanting to engage politically. Or in any way really that’s not personal. As he often does, he went to what appeared to be tangent.

    “I researched creativity a couple of years ago. Prepping for a Kabbalah Experience class. I learned then that a creative block, or Pause, can be long. And you never know how long.”

    I had used a string of phrases: Not over, Not finished, Not complete, Not done to describe how I felt about my life. While affirming my joy at being alone within a crowd of friends.

    Slowly. Oh. I see. Kate’s illness intensifying in mid-2019. Her long, slow decline. Covid. Her death. Grief. Going this way into redecorating the house, that way into moving to Hawai’i, over there to empty the house of stuff, adjusting to my son and Seoah living so far away, taking the plunge into the mikveh and my year of living Jewishly. The trip to Korea and my back’s emergence as a limit. Feeling overtaken, if not overwhelmed, by all the learning, the focus required for conversion and my bar mitzvah. The trip to San Francisco.

    Like a caterpillar in its chrysalis, an imaginal self reorganizes for renewal, reemergence. Its container the years of a   whole life-lived experience, vital nutrient for a transformed nefesh. This paused version of me lives day to day. Happy. Joyful. Yet unfocused. Unlike the Great Southern Brood I have no 13 year clock ticking; the timing is uncertain. This Pause. A moment. Now five years or so in length.

    So freeing. So liberating. As Rabbi Shapiro said (I think.), “It’s all about freedom.”