I Think I’m Alone Now

fogwalking: Nicoletta Bruma.

Fall and the Michaelmas Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Hit and Run, Netflix. Sourdough toast. The freezer. Ruth at her first homecoming dance. Jon, Gabe, Sarah, BJ. Zooming. Jon’s antifungal meds. George Will. Whatta mind. Eggs at 8 pm last night. Max. All the babies, the true Replacements. Shelf pruning in the bedroom almost finished.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Fall.

Tarot: The Lady, #3 of the Major Arcana. Again.


Moments. Decided to cook myself fried eggs last night about 8 pm. As I stood there waiting to turn them over, I had a sudden feeling of lonliness, of aloneness. I could cook myself dinner (breakfast?) late because I live alone. Oh, yeah. So I do. Without. Kate.

Grief seems more insistent. Rigel barks upstairs each evening. I think she wants Kate to come down and go to bed. Sometimes Rigel paces. Into the bedroom, around the coffee table, upstairs, back down into the bedroom.

Thought about equanimity practice. Name the context. Name the feeling(s). Choose whether to experience them.

Realized I’d zoomed with Sarah, BJ, Jon, and Gabe at 4. Oh. Yes. Churning the still soft soil of Kate’s life. So. Aloneness. A twinge of sadness. Real. True to my situation. I lived into it a minute, got out my spatula, turned the eggs over, waited. Plated them and had a late, quirky meal.

Also. wearing out toward the afternoon. One guy said, in essence, “No T, no energy.” Maybe. This feels like more. I’ll have a better idea this week.

Blood draw on Monday. PSA. Testosterone. A blood panel. A metabolic panel. I see Kristie on Friday. Orgovyx can raise blood sugar and triglycerides. In addition to hot flashes and fatigue.

Ordinary life now with the manageable cancer. The good cancer. Though from my perspective? Still cancer.

Once in a while I brush my left hip with my hand. Think of those prostate cancer cells in the lymph nodes. Weird having a predator living inside your body. Not a great feeling.

Oh, dude. Painting with the gloomy brush here, eh? Nah. Life and its permutations. Mine for now.

The news happens outside my awareness right now. Even though I read the Denver Post, the NYT, and the Washington Post each day. Not sticking. Like the Teflon Don, that crucial information slides right off.

A Mountain Path in Spring, Ma Yuan, Song Dynasty

Cancer. Grief. New life aborning. Tend to push attention inward, away from the blooming buzzing confusion. (W. James) Down into the realm of the Tarot, Kabbalah, the Ocean of our collectivity.

Again. OK. Not permanent, nor would I want it to be.

Agency is critical to life. Right now, my agency has an inward, personal bent. Makes sense to me.


Tarot: The Lady, # 3 of the major arcana





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Mountain People

Fall and the Michaelmas Moon

September 14, 2017

Saturday gratefuls: Coyote HVAC. Bear Creek Design. Bread Lounge. Sourdough bread. Breakfast out. Golden Flame Aspens. Against the Evergreen Lodgepoles. On Black Mountain. That Deer I hit. Hope she’s doing ok. That twelve point Bull Elk and his Gals. The mysterious trail off of Brook Forest Drive. The Mountains. Shadow Mountain.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Max. A tall Sunflower in a Rocky Garden bed. A Dog in the back of an SUV ahead of me, wagging his tail.

Tarot: going to invent a Harvest Home spread. Will report.


Deviation from the norm. Got up and drove to Evergreen after feeding the Dogs. Didn’t come up to write Ancientrails which is my every morning habit. Why? Wanted to get a Pullman loaf of the Bread Lounge’s Sourdough. They sell out fast. Took my new book, Four Lost Cities. Sourdough French toast, applewood smoked bacon, black coffee. While learning about the reasons civilizations have abandoned their urban centers. Gonna be an interesting read.

I can do this because I’ve got workout mojo. 4.5 hours this week, M-F. I take the weekends off. Always enjoyed breakfast out, but Kate didn’t. At least not as much as I did. Bittersweet moment when I remembered this as I ate a piece of French toast dipped in syrup. Kate wouldn’t be back home either. How grief sneaks back into your day.

Reconsidering my estimates for the mini-split system of a/c. Talked to friend David Jordani who installed one in his second home in Evergreen. His first home is in Orono, Mn. Prices were comparable though mine was a bit less. Sticker shock is less now that time has settled on the bids.

Redo the kitchen and add a/c? Pricey, but why not? If it gets burned up, I’ll rebuild.

On the drive back from Evergreen I turned off the radio. My usual habit, but I started listening to NPR again. Realized I’d slipped into always on. Not what I want. I noticed the light, small Aspen torches lighting my drive with golden Fire. Rocky outcroppings with brave Lodgepoles clinging to their crevices. Maxwell Creek pummeling the rocks. That mystery trail that seems to disappear into a Canyon.

Back and forth. Move because it will all be too much for me? Spend money on a nicer, prettier kitchen and a/c? Hunker down in the Shadow Mountain hermitage until death do us part?

David at Simchat Torah

A stay here reinforcer. When I went to the Parkside Cafe in Evergreen yesterday for lunch with Alan, I got there before he did. Not unusual for Germanic me. There at an outside table were David Jordani and his son Adam. I greeted them, they invited me to sit down and chat. I did.

Alan came. David and his wife and Adam have been members of Beth Evergreen here and Beth El in St. Louis Park for quite a while. Spent a good hour batting the conversational shuttlecock.

I love this casual encounter with people I know. Stopping for ten minutes or an hour, catching up. Seeing each other. My guess is it’s my small town roots. In Alexandria if you went to get gas, buy groceries, pick up a prescription, you’d run into somebody you knew.

Not on a phone. Not on zoom. Not on purpose.

Bull and doe, Evergreen Lake, 2015

Another reinforcer. Driving up Brook Forest, then Black Mountain. Winding around the curves, watching (more carefully) for Deer, Elk, Fox. Smiling at the huge number of cars at Lower Maxwell Falls trailhead. They come up here for the same reason I live here. Upper Maxwell Falls trailhead, much closer to Shadow Mountain, was also full to overflowing. What a nice day to be out in the woods with half of a Denver neighborhood.

Black Mtn. Drive, toward Evergreen

Somehow Kate and I became Mountain people. She died here and I belong here now. This is home, where my people are, where the Natural World is close, yet wild.

So I’ll find my yaktraks for the climb up the loft stairs. I’ll find a snowplower. Get the mini-split system and fancy up the kitchen. Write. Paint. Live until I die.


Posted in Colorado, Family, Feelings, Fourth Phase, Friends, Judaism, Memories, Mountains, Our Land and Home, Plants, Shadow Mountain, The West | Leave a comment

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



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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.



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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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