• It’s a New Day, It’s a New Life…

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Shirley Waste. Taking out the garbage. Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. 46 degrees this morning. The Mule Deer Doe resting in my back yard. The shema. Lunch with Ruth and Gabe. Insurance and cancer. Sullen Sky. Gyros. Kafta Kabob. Irv. Ode. Bill. Zoom. Guns at CBE. Concealed carry? Rich. Tara. Veronica. Diane’s great card.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The Summer Solstice tomorrow

    One brief shining: On the Summer Solstice Swedes get naked and dance around huge bonfires, a form of sympathetic magic I suppose, celebrating Fire with Fire, heat with heat, the growing season still needing Great Sol; sure and I get that, but I celebrate it in a quieter, less obvious way since the Summer Solstice, the longest day, also marks the gradual triumph of the dark-the night grows minute by minute after this sweaty Solstice, moving toward the longest night of the year.

     

    Each morning I wake up and look out in the back. Hoping for an Elk or a Mule Deer to be there. This morning, far back in the tall Grass growing over my drain field lay a Mule Deer Doe, gently gazing around, comfortable and quiet. I find a satisfaction in these instances. Unearned, of course. Even so. For a while my temporary property feels safe enough, welcoming enough for a rest, a moment in a life lived on the move hunting for nourishment, avoiding Mountain Lions, drinking from our Mountain Streams. Ichi-go, ichi-e.

    May our lives as we live them provide safe harbor for the souls of others, Mule Deer and humans alike.

     

    Conversation with Ruth yesterday over lunch. She’s pro-Palestinian, anti-IDF war, pro-Israel, anti-Hammas. Same as me. She’s frustrated because her peers, even her Jewish peers, reduce thought about the war in Gaza to slogans and simplistic analysis. As she says, it’s complicated. Luke, of Leo and Luke, has become so pro-Palestinian that he bridles at the mere mention of a pro-Israeli sentiment. Others at CBE want the IDF to eliminate Hamas and do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Easy to see where eliminate Hamas no matter what it takes and the River to the Sea have taken root as contrasting driving forces.

    As I talked with her, I imagined her in her dorm room holding these debates with her roommates, others from down the hall. A teeny bit of envy crept up. I loved that part of college. Loved it so much that I never quit with the radical questioning of that time. She’s so bright and thoughtful. A rapidly maturing mind at work. Amazing and gratifying to see.

     

    Just a moment: Willie Mays is dead. 93. Baseball back when. Back when I listened to the Brooklyn Dodger’s games on the transistor radio I clipped to my belt while delivering the Alexandria Times-Tribune. There was a purity in my love of the game which Willie Mays played so well. My son still has it, bless his heart.

    I imagine in fact that some of the MAGA nostalgia comes from remembering those days of the 1950’s, the time after World War II when American life exploded with children and UFO sightings. And the next decade with NASA and high-finned cars. Easy to remember the 104 stolen bases of Maury Wills and forget the budding war in Vietnam, the Jim Crow south, women in the kitchens and gay folks in the closet.


  • Life of June 18 2024

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: My phlebotomist. Blood draws. The drive to Evergreen. Beauty everywhere. Wild neighbors, too. Like the Mule Deer Buck with velvet on his antlers. Eating some of the luxuriant green Grass. Healthy green Meadows, Leaves on Aspens and Willows, Needles (leaves) on Lodgepoles, Ponderosa, Spruce. Streams running at non-melt speed.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The look on the Mule Deer Buck’s face. Curiosity.

    One brief shining: A rubber tourniquet tied above my right elbow the phlebotomist reaches for the cannula, inserts the needle with practiced care, venipuncture achieved, she takes a test tube with a rubber cap and inserts it into the cannula, my median cubital vein continues pumping blood back toward my heart unaware that my venous return has been rerouted for a different purpose, dark red blood fills the test tube; the cannula needle comes out, a swipe with alcohol, a tuft of gauze, some tape, and Bob’s your uncle, I’m done.

     

    One solution to my sagging spirits. Focusing on the resurrection of awakening and the new life it portends. For now anyhow I’m living my life one day at a time. Within that day I live ichi-go ichi-e, each moment unrepeatable, unique. I will never again write this blog on June 18 2024 at 10:38 am. This is the only time I have, this day. This moment. No matter what my cancer decides to do or is able to do I still have right now, right here.

    Even the blood draw this morning, so ordinary and repetitive, gave me an opportunity to tell the phlebotomist how much I appreciated her skill. The Evergreen Medical Center has switched from Quest Diagnostics to Lab Corp for their lab work. I told her I hoped she got the job. She smiled. That means a lot.

    As I drive down Brook Forest Drive toward Evergreen I pass Kate’s Creek and Kate’s Valley. Of late I’ve begun to chat with her as I get near there. Sometimes newsy sort of talk. Finished my bar mitzvah! You would have loved the service. Other times. This last P.E.T. scan. Ouch. Has me a bit drug down. What would you say? Oh. Trust your doctors. Yes, I have. And, as you knew, it does help my obsessing. Yes. Yes. I do zip up, too. Each time passing the Valley or hiking up alongside Kate’s Creek is an ichi-go ichi-e moment.

    I can feel it. The knowledge of ichi-go ichi-e infusing me. Giving me the grace I need to stay anchored to this June 18th life. If I lose touch and project out the whac-a-mole thoughts about radiating metastases, I can feel the finger on the keys, the elbow on the arm rest, see my Lodgepole Companion dining on the morning Light. Remember that this life, this June 18th life is the only life I have.

     

    Just a moment: Where the Sycamores stand along the Wabash and the sound of the 500 roars through May and high school basketball comes as close to religion as anything secular, the Republican party broke ranks and put a MAGA stooge in as their Lieutenant Governor nominee over the wishes of the gubernatorial candidate.

    Guess what this MAGA candidate said on the day after January 6th? “…Beckwith said that God had told him: “Micah, I sent those riots to Washington. What you saw yesterday was my hand at work.” He also claimed that the “progressive left has taken over the Republican Party in Indiana.”   read more in Michelle Goldberg’s piece in today’s NYT.

     

     

     


  • Wrasslin’

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Marilyn. Irv. Salaam. Slumps. End of the bar mitzvah pilgrimage. A Colorado morning with Great Sol lighting up a blue Sky, wisps of Clouds float above Black Mountain. My Lodgepole Companion’s Branches sway a bit. Primo’s. The view of the Continental Divide on the way to King’s Valley. Mountain roads. Ruby with her summer shoes.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Salaam

    One brief shining: Ruby’s tires whisper as I downshift to fourth for the turn onto King’s Valley Drive, thoughts of breakfast with Marilyn whom I haven’t seen for a while, and wondering whether I’ll talk about the P.E.T. scan results since Salaam will be there, the first time I’ve had a chance to talk to her, or might we talk about the bar mitzvah which Marilyn missed because of a Covid concern, then later I find out Paul has Covid and I check myself out. Feeling ok.

     

    Wrasslin’ over the weekend. With the slump post-bar mitzvah, post the celebration with Tom and Paul, post the new results from my P.E.T. scan. A big push to the finish line and past it always leave me with an emotional vacuum. Inner attention to what must get done in order to reach completion drops away. No little self ignited flares for this task or that one. This reading. That memorization. Emails back and forth. All fade. Spaciousness opens up. All those things set aside bubble up, but not with much force. Wait and see.

    The emotional buttressing I find necessary to work at long and complicated tasks has exclusion as a primary tool. This is not the time to wonder about writing. About what I’m up to with the remainder of my life. About cancer even. About that full inbox. About home maintenance. All set aside. Focus on the Hebrew, on the service, on writing the d’var torah.

    Over. Then, it’s over and the torah portion has been read, the d’var torah presented, the bar mitzvah service is in the past, grayed out of my Google calendar. Tom and Paul have gone home.

    A void of purpose. Of self-motivation. Of something to look forward to, something to bend the will in a particular direction. Feels like an existential abyss. A nothingness which leaves me mildly stunned. I know this abyss will not stare back at me, but the feeling remains.

     

    Added to it. That still. Still manageable. Creating in me a sense of the end. Not imminent but probably closer than I thought. Death. Hearing for the I don’t know how manyeth time those hoof beats. No. Not zebras, but the pale horse ridden by a dark figure. I’ve learned how to stand my ground as she approaches. The horse not breathing as it gallops toward me, dust kicked up behind.

    Here’s what Yamantaka taught me. Have an apple or a sugar cube. Greet the rider. Welcome, friend! Ask, are you sure? If not, then leave me. I’ve got lives to lead.

    This is the life of June 17th, begun around 8 am when I got up. Resurrected from the 1/60th of death. Ready to live this June 17 life as well and fully as I can.

    I’ve already had breakfast with Irv, Marilyn, and Salaam and run these thoughts through my head again. Feeling the feelings but not getting swamped by them.

     


  • Matters of the Lev

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Tom and Paul home safely. Though not without travel angst. Shavuot. Veronica. Great Sol. That three hour nap yesterday. My boy. Seoah. Murdoch. Fatherhood. A joy. Trees. Mill Valley. Irene. Irv. The Mountains. Smiling Pig barbecue. Marilyn. Torah. Reverberations from last week. Basketball. Caitlin Clark. Angela Reese. Life.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: My boy

    One brief shining: And on the seventh day of the Bar Mitzvah week I found the bed and slept for three straight hours in the middle of the day, worn out from the joys and gifts, yet satisfied in a deep part of my soul, life knitted together in a new, unexpected way, my lev and my soul vibrating together, one with the one.

     

    My boy. Fatherhood. Read a couple of articles about how fatherhood changes the brain. How parenting affects our personality, even our nervous system. I believe it. Even before the child.

    Looking back I wonder what it was that made me so certain at age 32 that I had to have a child? I remember, vaguely, the impelling and compelling force. That feeling, that drive was clear and certain. Much like that moment when I realized I no longer believed in the Christian metaphysics. And, the confidence I had that moving to Colorado was something Kate and I needed to do. Or, more recently, the decision to convert. Falling in love.

    Guess I have those moments when my subconscious does all the heavy lifting, then presents a key life decision as an already concluded matter. What’s left is altering my life in some major way. Perhaps it’s a proof for the lev, the heart-mind. For sure it’s a proof that logic and careful planning often come along only after the big choices have already been decided.

    Which presents a conundrum for a guy like me. In philosophy education you will sometimes hear the term logic chopper. That is when a person follows logic like some of us follow our GPS-even when it’s taking us down a road that has a barrier across it. I can, I know, be a logic chopper. And I also know that when I’ve taken that route in an argument I will not feel good afterwards. I’ve too often won the argument and lost my humanity. Less and less so these days, yet my days of logic chopping are, I know, not behind me.

    I have, over the course of my life, privileged intellect, learning, knowledge. Which, as I write this, seems to be contrary to the way I’ve lived of late. Over the last few years, perhaps since Andover, relationships, with Kate, with dogs, with vegetables and fruits and flowers and trees, with friends and family began to take precedence. Or, maybe that’s not quite right. I’ve not set aside intellect, learning, knowledge, but I have gradually learned the secondary role they play in a life well lived.

    When I talk to my son. Reflect on my marriage to Kate. On my long affair with matters religious, I know that my primary path has always been guided by my lev.

     

     


  • Do you feel different?

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Shabbat gratefuls: Shabbat. Paul. Tom. Veronica. Jamie. Luke. Leo. Irene. Ginny. Janice. Air travel. Travel. Pride. Pride Shabbat. Soul. Lev. Humility. Kavod. Colorado Blue Sky. Old Friends. Friends who are old. Friends who are young. Ruth. Gabe. Kate, always Kate. Money. Having enough. Orgovyx. Cancer. Spinal stenosis. The body as it declines. Sarah and her recovery.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Leo

    One brief shining: Coffee black, chai latte, black tea the cups set down with a light click and thud vapor steaming, do you need a few more minutes, eyes back on the menus, the silence of choice making, the clinking of silverware, plates lifted and carried away, the way old friends ended another time together before disbursing back to Shadow Mountain, the Twin Cities, Robbinston, Maine.

     

    The week of the Bar Mitzvah has been full. A full lev. A full home. A fullness of presence and transformation and initiation. Now it’s fading into memory with only Shabbat left. Paul and Tom came as witnesses, as bearers of memory, as Woolly Mammoths. Veronica came as my partner in conversion and bonei mitzvah. Jamie as my rabbi. All of these relationships deepened. Made more by the ancient ritual of becoming part of a tribe, a tradition, a local community.

    Realized last night at the Pride Shabbat service, that a key facet was oh so simple, perhaps not seen for what it is. The brief conversations after. The turning and moving and encountering one you know only slightly. Saying each others names. Then a longer time, plate of strawberries and humus and pretzels and cookies in hand, talking with those known better. The casualness of it all. Yet really. Seeing and being seen. Knowing and being known. Each time we gather. Layering on the glue of community. Being bound a bit more to each other, casual acquaintance and dear friend.

    Do you feel different? A fair question. Hard to answer. Yes! Not really, no. Oh, wait. Maybe. Rites of passage like conversion and the bonei mitzvah have a critical function for the individual and the community. They test willingness to embrace the other as a full and complete member of the same organism.

    Yes, I do feel different. I passed through the semi-permeable membrane of Jewish identity when I first submerged in the mikveh. When I talked with the beit din about my Judaism. When I studied with Tara for my Torah portion. When I got my new name, Israel. When I read stanzas of Marge Piercy’s poem. And my Torah portion. When I gave my d’var torah. When I listened to Rabbi Jamie talk about me. When we finished the service. When people heard about all this, or witnessed it for themselves.

    Really, the magic of the mikveh. After, I had been Jewish my whole life. And that feels true. I stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai on that original Shavuot, watched Moses come down, received the torah.


  • Rites of Passage

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Retrieving my phone. Smiling Pig Saloon and Barbecue. Irv. Paul and Tom. Mussar. The Perkei Avot. Letting us heal ourselves. Kristie. Prostate cancer. Mets. Radiation and Orgovyx. Gabe and baseball. Ruth’s dinner.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: P.E.T. scans

    One brief shining: Bathing in the presence of friends and family, no not that kind, the kind where folks see you, come to your Bar Mitzvah, give you presents, and say nice things about you, how significant, how important, so appreciated.

     

    Two rites of passage this week. The Bar Mitzvah. Which continues to reverberate in my soul. Wild thought about that. Veronica and I did our conversions at the same time. Now we’ve done our bonei mitzvahs together. She’s 28, beautiful, talented, smart. I’m 77. Together, it occurred to me we represent youth, promise, the feminine, and the elder, maturity, the masculine. A whole person.

     

    Second rite of passage. The drug holiday P.E.T. scan results. Not what I wanted. Three or four new metastases. Spinal column, pelvic lymph node. Which means. Meds. Orgovyx starting early next week. Then, radiation at some point this summer. Yet again. I will glow.

    Kristie, who takes good care of me, said this is still manageable. And that she would tell me if it was not. That’s reassuring. Sort of. Still manageable made me go, huh.

    Each iteration of treatment and recurrence adds up, carries its own weight. Yet I remain positive about the management and care I receive. My cancer seems hardy, able to withstand the best we can throw at it while each time there’s been something to do, something to put it back in quiescence.

    That still manageable though. There may come a time. But it has not come yet.

    So I will not dwell on it. As the rabbi’s say, each sleep is 1/60th of death and each morning a resurrection into a new life. Today is a new life, a chance to begin again. And that will be always true. Until death does me part from this world.

     

    Just a moment: To all those embryo’s resting in cryogenic slumber. The Southern Baptists care about you. Like Alabama’s Supreme Court. Well, that’s what they’d like you to think. Actually ‘Bama and the Southern Baptists want to reach into the culture and impose on it their particular understandings of what it means to be human.

    The Jewish position on this issue is clear and has been for centuries. Life begins with the first breath. Like Adam and Eve. Further. Because of this, if a problem occurs during pregnancy, the mother’s life is always given priority.

     

    Another instance of religious certainty damaging human beings. Noticed Catholic Bishops have apologized for the treatment of Indians in boarding schools. That happened because Catholics of the time believed with certainty in the truth of Catholicism, the necessary dominance of Christianity over native beliefs, and the manifest destiny of American civilization. Very, very toxic confluence.

    The message? Think about those things about which you are certain. Do any of them lead to harm for other people or for the world which sustains us all? Discard them now and learn humility.


  • Now I am a man

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Bar Mitzvah done. Tom and Paul here. CBE. My sacred community. Sarah and the Moose. Maine. Minnesota. California. Tree sex. Rabbi Jamie. Veronica. Rebecca. Joanne. Tara. Mindy. Presents. Finishing. All the Trees in the Arapaho National Forest.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Veronica

    One brief shining: Veronica and I pulled open the doors of the ark, Rabbi Jamie lifted each Torah scroll and handed one  to each of us and we took the Torah scrolls throughout the congregation, prayer shawls in hand or with prayer books, folks touched the dressed scroll.

     

    As you may have noticed, I missed yesterday. A busy day. Up and out of the house at 7:30 am. Over to Evergreen with Paul to meet Tom at the Bread Lounge. Breakfast. Corned beef eggs Benedict. A Cuban coffee. Conversation with two old friends.

    Realized that their presence here added the experience into the long memory of our friendship. How long term relationships remain strong and fresh. It also reveals the limits of Zoom. 3-D, high touch has room for casual interaction, for direct care, for hugs. For meals eaten together. Having said that I’m still a fan of Zoom. It maintains connection in a much more direct way for me than the telephone.

    After breakfast we drove over to the synagogue. It was only 9:30 so we had a half an hour to wait. I introduced Tom and Paul to various folks, we chatted.

    At tennish we began. Rabbi Jamie gave Veronica and me a pep talk. Clumsiness makes it more human. This is a celebration of something that has already happened. Enjoy yourself.

    Because Veronica sings and chants like the music major she is, she and Rabbi Jamie ended up doing most of the service. As agreed, I only came in on the parts I’d practiced.

    Reading my Torah portion had its hiccups, not the best rendering of what I had learned. Not a big deal however.

    I did feel clumsy about when to bow, when to rise up on my toes. And, boy was that Torah scroll heavy. By the time I’d made my circuit my left shoulder let me know it was ready to be done. Rabbi Jamie took it from me when I got back to the bimah.

    We read a Marge Piercy poem at two stanzas each. I introduced the Mah Tovu and the Shema. Veronica chanted her Torah portion which was much longer than mine.

    Our d’var torahs came next. Mine was predictably intellectual, hers much longer and heartfelt. Why the parish was never a good fit for me.

    Veronica might make a good rabbi if she decided to go that direction. Right now she’s a mechanical engineer working for Lockheed Martin on spacecraft.

    I did not realize how much standing would be involved. By the time the service ended, at about 2 hours, I was exhausted. More limitations of the body.

    At this point I’m glad to have this done. Finished. It puts a cap on the whole year. I’m finished with preparation, ready to live as a Jew.

    It was so good to have Ruth and Gabe there. In a way this was a pivotal moment for the three of us. Grandpop now firmly in their tribe. Ruth cried a bit, remembering Jon. And that too was good.

    I did leave my phone at the synagogue. Got some gifts which I’ve not yet opened. Had some deep conversations. A special, sacred day.

     

     

     

     

     


  • The Leaning Lodgepole, Tree #4

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

     

    Leaning

    The leaning Lodgepole is in my back. It’s not in any danger of falling, but it definitely has an angle other than 90 degrees with the soil. Makes it distinctive within its small cluster. All these Trees benefited from the thinning I did in 2015 for fire mitigation. They’ve grown bigger and stronger. I’m tempted to say leaner, too. But that would be a groaner, right?

    Unlike my Lodgepole Companion and the Tall Tree in Elk Meadow Park, today’s Tree has branches all around its trunk, taking advantage of a 360 degree opportunity for solar capture. It’s also thicker at the base than those two, an altogether bigger tree in terms of volume. Not sure about height. Tough to compare yesterday’s Tree since it’s not nearby.

    Bearberry growing on the north side of Leaner

    Unlike Companion it has plants around its base, in this shot Bearberry. A hardy Evergreen ground cover that produces red berries in the fall. Leaner has other plants, too. One proving a bit of woodlore.

    North side of Leaner. In the moss itself are varieties of lichen

    This Tree joins its many similar neighbors to create a Lodgepole Grove around my drainage field.

    Part of the Grove


  • Penultimate

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Friends. All of them. Near and far. Family. Ruth and Gabe. My son and Seoah and Murdoch. Mark. Mary. Diane. Tara’s help with some additional Hebrew I got for tomorrow. Tara. Irv. Tom. Paul. Marilyn. Heidi. Alan. Jamie. Veronica. Mindy. Kat. Lauren. Elizabeth. Kate and Mike. Kate’s Creek. Kate, always Kate. Great Sol. Exuberant this morning.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Completing a long journey

    One brief shining: The Shema in the morning, I cover my eyes: Listen, God-Wrestler. YHWH is our God. YHWH is one, touch the mezuzah, still sleepy I pick up my phone, take my morning pills, put in my hearing aid, check for dishes and empty cans of mineral Water, try to remember when I took my synthroid, then upstairs to see Herme still lit from the night and turn him off. A new life has begun.

     

    Bar Mitzvah day tomorrow. Today is penultimate, one of Kate’s favorite words. I’ve practiced. A lot. I’m as ready as I can be. Within one year I have converted, completed the studies necessary for conversion, learned my torah portion in Hebrew so I can read it with no vowels and no punctuation from the torah scroll, practiced leading portions of the morning service, gotten my tallit from Joanne and learned how to use it. Tomorrow the Hebrew meets the scroll as we say. Ha.

    It’s not been easy. At times I felt I might founder under the expectations, the constant study. Like learning a new language. The religious language of an ancient people. Yet each step has deepened my conviction about becoming a Jew. Even with the whole Israel/Gaza mess and the aborted trip to Israel.

    Each time I go in the synagogue, if I remember, I wear my kippah. I say we when discussing matters Jewish. My lev, my heart-mind, has shifted allegiances to this oddly rigorous, yet undogmatic spiritual path. My inner pagan remains intact, nurtured now by Rosh Chodesh, the Jewish lunar calendar, Sukkot, Passover, Shavuot, Tu Bishevat as well as the Great Wheel and the unitary metaphysic I claim every morning and evening when I say the Shema. Reconstructionist Rabbi’s like Jamie, Art Green, Toba Spitzer, Rami Shapiro, and Michael Strassfield continue the radical project of Mordecai Kaplan. In doing so they have, for me anyhow, opened my lev to the intimacy of teshuvah and the world-embracing power of tikkun.

    Yes. But that’s not where it started for me. First with Kate. The convert. A slumbering Judaism that got reignited when we moved to Shadow Mountain and found Congregation Beth Evergreen. Rabbi Jamie made it easy for us to be there, even pagan me. Friends that we made made it home.

    It was those friends who engendered the aha that decided me. Those who enter the sanctuary, the mah tovu implies, make the sanctuary sacred. Our friends. Now, after Kate’s death, my friends. My sacred community. Here in the Rocky Mountains. Among the Mountain Jews. Which now include me.

     


  • Taller than its neighbors at Elk Meadow Park, Tree #3

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Occurred to me today that I can honor any tree I want. Doesn’t have to be in my yard though I imagine the bulk of them will be.

    Today I had a blood draw in Evergreen so I drove up Stagecoach Road to one of the many trailheads for Elk Meadows Park. Got out of the car and walked over to the main path. On the left side of the main path was a stand of Lodgepole Pines. Though the elevation was only 7,700 feet they seemed to be doing fine.

    Probably influenced by reading Wild Trees I chose the tallest of those in the grove for my honoring.

    A sense of the Park
    The tallest in this shot

    This Tree grows in a small Grove on a slightly sloped area. A Colorado Forestry website says Lodgepoles prefer a slight slope and this Tree has found one. Like my Lodgepole Companion most of their Branches push out from the Trunk toward the Southeast. Also like my Companion this tall Lodgepole has almost no branches toward the Northwest.

    Its lower Branches contained fewer male sex organs than my Companion, but shared this characteristic with its neighbors. Further up they began to proliferate. About two thirds of the way up a row of Branches had female Strobilus that were taller and fuzzier than the others. Don’t know what that means, but some of Tree #3’s neighbors had the same pattern.

    The softer, yellowish pine cones are the male organs. The more erect one in the middle is female which will transform over time into serotinous cones. Serotinous cones have heavy pitch sealing the precious seeds inside. Only the heat of a Forest Fire will cause the pitch to melt and allow the seeds to disperse onto the scorched earth.

    When you live in the Mountains, it is so easy to drive past the Trees, seeing them only as a barrier to accessing the slope of the Mountainside. Or, to see them and think they’re all alike. If you’ve seen one Lodgepole, you’ve seen them all. They do share many characteristics. Altitude and soil preferences. Monoecious reproduction. A thin bark. A susceptibility to Fire, especially Fires that advance from Crown to Crown. The hardest for smoke jumpers and hotshots to control.

    Yet they are all different. All unique individuals expressing their full potential in that one spot where they grow, adapting their Branching strategies to the microclimate of other Trees, position on a Mountain, shelter or not from Storms, the nutrient value of the Soil.

    The bark of Tree #3