• The Alexandrian’s Library

    Imbolc and the almost full Ancient Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Tom. My Lodgepole companion waving their branches with an early Morning Breeze. That faint blush of Great Sol on the peak of Black Mountain. Senate Navy Bean soup. Pretty good. Famous Dave’s cornbread. My kitchen. Dr. Jill and her needles. Acupuncture. Mourning and grief. Evening and Morning, the first day. Safeway pickup.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: My Lodgepole companion

    One brief shining: Stripped down to my underwear I crawled up on the massage table, stuck my face in the small ring jutting out from it, and lay there as Dr. Jill placed needle after needle after needle after needle, most with barely a prick, some though a bit more, as Dr. Ma says, she must have forgotten to sharpen those.

     

    Yes, another round of needling with no laughter. No Whale noises, thirty/forty minutes of lying down being one with the Chinese way. Dr. Jill felt up and down my spine, pushing here and there, then inserting a needle, a few in my leg. Sounds like something I will do every two weeks for a while, then maybe once a month. Stenosis doesn’t get better, the only treatment for it outside of surgery is symptomatic relief: physical therapy, acupuncture, NSAID’s, Lidocaine patches, steroid injections. Though I’ve ruled out that last one.

     

    Ana came yesterday, spiffed up the house. Having my house cleaned helps me in ways beyond sanitation and hygiene. Self-care. A clean house concentrates the mind, removes a distraction. An anxiety prophylactic. Same thing with organizing, re-organizing. Going to have Ana and Lita do my loft next time. I’m ready to get back up there for more than workouts.

    Had an interesting experience up there yesterday morning. I decided to look at my library as an outsider, what did it say to me about me? I started on the shelves devoted to Minnesota, the Great Lakes, natural history, glanced at my Civil War collection. Onto Hawai’i and the U.S.A. Biographies of Tesla. Oppenheimer. Einstein. Atomic era history. American history, the West. A shelf of books about the Enlightenment, natural theology, emergence, the American Renaissance. A few on Astrology. So many books. Plays. Emerson’s complete works. A few Russian novels. Reference books including the OED and the Grove Dictionary of Art.

    Of course there’s poetry, religions, especially Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, and philosophy. Roman and Greek works. Latin texts. A shelf of Ovid related books. Celtic history, mythology. Magic. Great Britain. Novels, a whole bookshelf. Travel guides, military history, gardening and horticulture. Meteorology. And, of course, Art.

    As I walked slowly around the perimeter of the loft, I began to feel my self emerging, the one knit together over all these years, all those interests. Yes. This is me, or the tapestry of selves that through memory constitute my ever changing identity. A koan. If all these are my self, who now am I?

    This felt good, warm, self-acknowledging. Whether they have any practical benefit, my books, my passions have enriched my life, taking me to places I would not have been able to go alone. They have nourished my soul.


  • A Vital Reality

    Imbolc and the Ancient Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Early to bed, early to rise. Sacharit, the morning service. The Shema. Waking up. New life. Hello Darkness, my old friend. Shadow Mountain Home. February. Family. Murdoch. Kepler, of blessed memory. Kate, always Kate. Ruby, who needs a shower. Workout yesterday. Cardio. Labs this week. Snow. Warm weather. Books. Words.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Words

    One brief shining: My son came on the screen and we talked across nine thousand miles as if he were in the room or I was in his, Seoah bounced in smiling, Murdoch came over and put a paw on the table, now a dog of some years, gray showing on his muzzle.

     

    Prana. Love. Ruach. Neshamah. Chi. The Sacred. The Divine. Consciousness. Life Force. Psyche. Soul. Other words to add? Please. No syncretism or leveling here. No these do not mean the same thing. It is not the case, for example, that all religions have love as their main principle. We’d be better off as a species if they did, but no they don’t. I offered these words yesterday during the Ancient Brothers conversation about pan-psychism*.

    My point in this list lies not in their particular definitions but what, in my opinion, they point to. That is, many cultures, probably all though I don’t know how to know that, have an intimation of a reality somehow charged with vitality. Some have explicit views. The Celts, for example, had the Other World which sits alongside this one, permeable both ways. Jews see the world as one, interconnected and vibrating with energy. Some in Judaism call that vibration, God. Not me, but some. In Taoism chi animates and flows through everything. Chardin sees love as the essential oil of the universe.

    We live in a peculiar moment of history. Yes, in all those ways, too, but not my point here. In this instance I mean a world leveled by the forces of empiricistic and scientistic distortions. No God. No chi. No soul. No prana. Just what we can experience either through our senses or scientific apparatuses. In the Unitarian-Universalist movement this position had a nickname, flat-earth humanism. A world drained of color, meaning lost in a random number generator of a universe. Often with the added sea anchor of determinism, no free will. Automatons coming to life, then leaving it.

    John Dewey in his book Reconstruction points to this unresolved dichotomy between science and religious views that arose say before Francis Bacon. Dewey wants to reconstruct philosophy by using it to introduce scientific method to the consideration of ethics and morals. In the wrong hands this project could end up in the flat-earth camp. On the other hand if we admit to our conversation the wild world of quantum mechanics, the possibilities of string theory’s multi-verses, and as Tom mentioned yesterday, the dominant stuff of the universe, dark matter, dark energy, too, I imagine, we might find a way forward.

    A final point here. All of this requires a turn from the static ontology of being to the vital ontology of process.

     

    *Panpsychism is the view that mentality is fundamental and ubiquitous in the natural world. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy


  • Prepping

    Imbolc and the Ancient Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Pan-psychism. The Sacred. The Divine. Consciousness. Chi. Prana. Ruach. Neshama. Soul. Life force. A Mountain Night. The Moon casting light on the Snow, shadows of Lodgepoles. The neighbor’s security light. Cassiopeia. The Great Bear. Pleiades. Orion. My friend. The Mule Deer and the Magpie. Love.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Shadow Mountain Night Sky

    One brief shining: Each night I arrange my cache of blankets just so, switch on the electric one, wiggle in and wait for everything to warm up, while doing that I look up out my window to the northern sky and see Cassiopeia peek out from behind the same Lodgepole and find that comforting, some stability, predictability before entering sleep when, the rabbi’s say, your soul is taken from you which is why we Jews pray a prayer of gratefulness when we wake up, thanks for returning my soul. Resurrection.

     

    Preparations for the B’nai Mitzvah service began yesterday. The four of us studying the morning service together, the liturgy we will use on Shavuot. I attended by Zoom, wish I’d gone in person. Everybody was there but me: Rabbi Jamie, Kat, Laura, Veronica, and Laura Berman. Kat, Laura, Veronica, and I will celebrate our b’nai mitzvahs together. B’nai mitzvah = children of the commandments. Reflecting of course its more usual occurrence at puberty.

    At 77 I’m the oldest of the group by a good 10 years I’d guess. We’ve not exchanged ages. Initially, each of us would have had our ceremonies in Jerusalem, Veronica and me our conversions, Kat and Laura their bat mitzvahs. Now Veronica and I have been through the beit din and mikveh so we can proceed with our b’nai mitzvah.

    My torah portion is coming along. I’ve gotten reading it down. With vowels. On the day of though the torah has no vowels, so there’s more learning yet to do. How to read the same text without the pronunciation aid of vowel markings.

    Part of the preparation will involve choosing parts of the service we each will do in addition to our torah portions. I’m more than a bit nervous I might have to chant, or god forbid, sing. Not. My. Thing. I hope we can find a work around for me.

    This preparation fit well into my shabbat practice which includes torah study and reading for my conversion classes with Jamie. Last night I lit the candles at 5:16 pm, five minutes later than the week before. I’ll have the blessing memorized by this week or next.

    It may seem surprising that I’m as focused on ritual observance as I am, which is not very compared to what it could be. I find ritual does what it’s designed to do. Establishes a mood, separates a time or an event out from the mundane. After I light the candles, shabbat has begun for me. I settle into a quieter, more relaxed space. Immediately after I light the candles I go to my chair and read the week’s parsha. Perhaps some commentary. My shabbat has begun.

     

     

     


  • Shtetl Life

    Imbolc and the Ancient Moon

    Shabbat gratefuls: The Ark of the Covenant. The Tabernacle. The very detailed instructions from Hashem for it. Hoarfrost on the Lodgepoles. Thousands of flocked Trees within my field of vision. My companion Lodgepole glistens as Great Sol reappears on this cold Mountain Morning. Kai, Seoah’s nephew. His writing. Asia. Fan Kuan. Taiwan.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Hoarfrost

    One brief shining: Family reaches across oceans, over national boundaries and time zones, does not diminish with distance: Mark writes from Hafar in the desert of the Arabian Peninsula, Mary from Kuala Lumpur, I see Seoah and my son, their dog Murdoch, in their 12th floor apartment in Songtan, Korea, I talk to Diane once a week from San Francisco, all these precious people so, so far away.

     

    Breakfast yesterday with Alan and Joanne. Always a treat. I handed over Lamb to Joanne. She’s also reading, she says carefully, my copy of Emily Wilson’s Odyssey. We discussed Joanne’s upcoming warts and all early history of CBE which she presents next Wednesday night. She’s well known in the congregation for her wit and rightly so. Should be an entertaining experience.

    Alan’s daughter, Francesca, who lives and works in Manhattan, returns to Denver Monday. She’ll be doing some work here, schmoozing donors for the Jewish charity she works for. I can’t remember its name. Something to do with organs and organ transplants, I think. Then on Sunday she will perform with a trio in the second of Alan and Cheri’s Inspire concerts held in their penthouse apartment on the 38th floor of Inspire Towers. All of the condos from the 38th floor to the 42nd received the appellation, penthouse. Marketing, eh?

    Joanne and I will head down to what she calls the pandemonium for a second time to hear Francesca. Joanne tutored Francesca for her bat mitzvah and loved working with her. These are the sort of intricate and intimate ties that make synagogues so personal, more like a village. Or, a shtetl.

    That may be, come to think of it, what appeals to me so much about CBE. It has characteristics familiar to me from growing up in a small town. I know some of the people very well. I know a larger number casually, some on sight only, yet there are times when see each other, acknowledge each other. The total number is not so big that I feel distance, at least not much.

    Very similar to walking downtown in 1950’s/60’s Alexandria. I’d see folks I knew well. I’d wave at the parents of kids I knew. Some store owners, clerks. We were important to each other whether we knew it or not. Our faces, our bodies, even our repeated locations added stability and confidence to our day-to-day lives. We lived embedded lives, lives where we were seen and known. Sure, this has its downsides, too. Folks gettin all up in your business. Having to interact with folks you despised or, worse, that despised you for some reason. Perhaps forgotten. Never feeling off stage. Yet I’ve found over the years that I gravitate back to contexts that provide this sort of experience.

     


  • Asia

    Imbolc and the Ancient (77) Moon

    Friday gratefuls: New theme. Korea. Fried Fish restaurants. Barbecue and hot pot. The Fish market in Seoul. Gyeongbokgung palace Seoul. Sejong the Great. Okgwa, Seoah’s home village. Gwangju. Hutongs in Beijing. Firewalking in Singapore. Chinatown in Bangkok. Scorpions at Angkor Wat. Asia. Kanji. Hangul. Ideograms.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Asia

    One brief shining: The colorful ceremony of the changing of the guards at Gyeongbokgung palace preceded my unfortunate discovery that I had spinal stenosis; walking across the cobblestones and up steps into the palace buildings, a pain began to take shape, to flare over my lower right back, becoming so fierce that I hobbled, then sat down, willing to stay in that spot except the car was not in the palace but far, far away in the parking lot.

     

    Asia. Long now my focus. Brother and sister living in Southeast Asia for many years. Mary in Malaysia and Singapore, Mark in Bangkok. My son from the subcontinent. His wife from Korea. The Asian art at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts. Reading Chinese, Japanese, Korean fiction. K-dramas.

    Funny this Asian pivot. When I married Kate, of blessed memory, we honeymooned from Italy to Austria, Austria to France, France to England, England to Scotland. Seeing the great sites. The Colosseum. The Vatican. The Sistine Chapel. Pompeii. Venice. Florence and the Uffizi. The Vienna Opera and the Ringstrasse, Salzburg. The Louvre. Small cafes. London. Bath. Edinburgh. Inverness. All European, Britain. Not even Scandinavia.

    In the thirty plus years since then, I returned only once, in 1995, to stay in the residential library of Hawarden, Wales. I did write my novels from within the Celtic mythic universe, yet I was even then beginning to spend time with the teaware and bronzes, the Song dynasty ceramics, the mandalas and Buddha’s of the MIA’s Asian collection. Well before that Mary had moved to Kuala Lumpur, then Singapore and Mark taught in Bangkok.

    And that Asian kid grew up in my house, in my life and heart. He then married Seoah, a native of Korea. Kate, my son, and I flew to Beijing in 1998 or 1999. That was my first time in Asia. After Dad died, I used some of my inheritance to visit Mary in Singapore, see Bangkok, then Angkor Wat in Cambodia. In 2016 Kate and I went to Korea for my son and Seoah’s wedding, then onto Singapore where Mary graciously housed us in the largest hotel suite (the only hotel suite) in which we ever stayed. Last year I flew to Incheon, then stayed in Songtan for five weeks with my son and Seoah. Europe has faded from my awareness as a destination, a place I yearn to go.

    I didn’t mention several trips with Kate to Hawai’i, then even more trips there to see my son and Seoah after Kate’s death. Hawai’i, especially Oahu, has a definite Asian inflection.

    Here’s the thing. Obama declared an Asian pivot in our foreign policy and my son’s career has reflected it, but as a nation we know little of Asia. Did you have ever take a class, even have a lesson on Chinese history, Indian history? Outside of Mao and possibly Xi Jingping, maybe Kim Jong Un can you name three other significant Asian leaders. Make it even harder. Asian leaders, any nation, from history? Do you know any works of fiction written by Asian authors? Have you been in any Asian country?

    I know a few of you who read this will answer yes to some or all of these questions, but you are in the minority. This glaring gap in our base knowledge is not our fault. Asia simply didn’t show up in our curriculum at the public school level. Except as exotic enemies. Anti-Asian racism began for us with the Chinese who came to build the railroads and the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor. Beyond that, we know little of Asians in our own history.

    Why is all this important? Mostly because these cultures are so rich, have figured out ways to be human that have not occurred to us. Also, of course, because Asia especially India, China, Japan, and Korea have begun asserting themselves in contemporary geopolitics. If you haven’t, take some time to learn. You’ll find Asia fascinating.

     


  • The Technocene

    Imbolc and the Ancient Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Luke. Sushi Win. Birthdays. Feeling seen. Darkness. Reading. Mussar. Fountain Barbecue. Their Chicken wings and pork ribs. Fingers. Toes. Heart. Mind. Lev. Exercise. Alan and his funny ecard. Weird Al Jankovich. Sympathy for the Devil. Rolling Stones. Beatles. And, Beetles. The Who. Credence. Jefferson Airplane. The Doors. Led Zeppelin. Early Music. Gregorian chant.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Sushi Win

    One brief shining: Ordered green tea yesterday at Sushi Win, waited a bit for it to show up, when it came it was on a delivery robot which rolled up to Luke and mine’s table with a smiley face, a button that said finish, and a pot of green tea, two cups, styrofoam plates for our order, chopsticks, and wasabi/soy sauce mixers; when Luke pressed finish the robot smiled, said thank you, and rolled away back to the place from which it came.

     

     

    Robots. AI. Space based nuclear weapons. Private sector launches from NASA launch sites. Private sector Moon projects. We have suddenly, yet chaotically (not slowly but surely) moved into a new era. The technocene. (my neologism. at least I thought of it just now.) OK. I looked it up. Though original in my head, several others got there ahead of me.

    What I mean by it. Our technoworld today surpasses almost everything I saw in science fiction movies as boy. Have you seen the robot do back flips? Or the new one that can learn from a video of a human doing a task, then improvise? Even, silly as it is, that delivery robot at Sushi Win? Properly programmed it could replace a wait staff. Order from your phone. Which Luke and I did. Wait a bit, here comes the food. These are not tomorrow. These are capacities that have made it into the retail level of robotics.

    AI. Can you say Kurzweil? The Singularity is near. I find it useful. Its capacity to summarize and simplify complex material amazes me. It’s fast, too. But again this is the AI that you can access through Bing or ChatbotGPT. It’s not the stuff that’s in development. Where serious arguments over sentience have become common place.

    Space based nuclear weapons. Banned fifty years ago it looks like Russia has a satellite killing nuclear weapon they could or have deployed. Of course, nobody commented on whether the U.S. has a similar capacity in waiting. Or, China.

    Private sector space. Colorado School of Mines offers an asteroid mining degree. Several private companies have attempted, all unsuccessfully so far, to land on the moon. The most recent launch happened early this morning. See video above. Remember the Coca-Cola in 2001? Or, Bruce Willis taking oil drilling technology to prevent an asteroid from hitting Earth in Armageddon?

    Others. Recent advances in nuclear fusion. The incredible space-based telescopes. CRISPR. Smart phones. Zoom and its ilk. Video phone calls! Self-driving cars. Electric vehicles. You can add your own items to this list.

    If there was an anthropocene, it will have been brief. Perhaps a hundred years when we burned dead ferns and dinosaurs to heat our homes, generate electricity, power our cars and airplanes. Fateful, perhaps apocalyptic yes but much like Hobbes describing human life: nasty, brutish, and short. Now we hope to rely on the wind and those giant windmills. Or the tides, or geothermal or Great Sol directly. Now the world shaping ideas and catastrophes are in the realms of computers, robotics, renewable energy.

    We have no idea how they will impact us or the planet we live on. Why? Because as humans, we go one step further than we can understand. That’s the genius of our species and its curse.

     


  • Still Here

    Imbolc and the Ancient Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: My birthday. Waking up. Soul returned. A new life ahead of me. 77. Made it. Whew. Friends and family greeting me. Cards in the mail and in email. Jacquie Lawson cards are so great. All the ones I got were different. Valentine’s Day. An odd holiday, but one near and dear to my heart. (ha) Being alive at 77 is its own present. One I am grateful for. Thanks to all of you.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Living

    One brief shining: My sister reminded me of early birthdays when our mom would make me a heart-shaped cake and decorate it with red-hots; poignant since this year will be the sixtieth anniversary of mom’s death at 47.

     

    No. No. I don’t have anything to say. What? Oh, well. If you insist.

    Birthdays, eh? Seen one you’ve all of a sudden seen 77 of them. Not a big deal to my Octogenarian and Nonagenarian friends, but to me? A big deal for some reason.

    77 has a certain je ne sais quoi. Two sevens to begin with. Threes and sevens. You know. Sacred numbers. Sevens doubled. So, 14! And my birthday is on the 14th. Think of that.

    My fellow super septuagenarian (anyone past 75) Paul did some research and found 77 was a special birthday in Japan.* I’m liking the age of happiness idea. Squares with my experience. Yes, in spite of this week’s slightly downer posts. Rabbi Jamie says that in Nepal when a person reaches 77 the whole village has a parade for them. After that birthday, the village takes care of you. Fine with me, but I’ve not gotten notice of any parades in my honor. Maybe it’ll come in today’s mail.

    Of course surviving is the main thing to celebrate at this phase, the fourth phase, of my life. Or, maybe not. I mean sure, survival is the sine qua non of reaching any age, but maybe the lessons on offer? Maybe that’s the point? Or, maybe finally having learned some lessons long available? For me, surrender is the key lesson making itself known right now. At 77.

    Surrender. Acceptance. Ceasing to strive. Suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Taoism. Wu Wei.

    Here’s a definition of wu wei that resonates for me:

    Concept in various Chinese philosophies, referring to a…state of unconflicting personal harmony, free-flowing spontaneity and savoir-faire

    Not sure how that French snuck in there. a bit jarring, neh? Still, helpful.

    Wu wei is often translated as inaction or nonaction, but this captures its spirit much better for me. Perhaps it’s not surrender that is the key lesson for me at 77, but wu wei in this definition. Inner calm, a willingness to go with the currents in my life, and a certain knowing about how to exist in any situation.

    I’ll finish with this. Whether 77 or 7, 80 or 8, we’re all living lives of forced isolation in a body and with an inner life which cannot be shared. For this very reason we need each of those around us to be kind, understanding, accepting. It is only in relationship that the true beauty of our isolated selves can grow and bloom. So be kind to yourself. Love yourself. That’s where love for the other must begin.

     

    *The seventy-seventh birthday is the occasion of kiju (喜寿), “happy age”, because the kanji 喜 is written in a way similar to seven-ten-seven or seven-seven-seven in the sōsho calligraphic style. (See Handwritten styles)

    In Japanese culture, turning 77 is also a cause for celebration. Because this is the “joyous year” or “age of happiness.” It is a rare occurrence for someone to live to this age. It’s known as ga no Iwai, or rite of passage.


  • It’s a New Day. It’s a New Life. And I’m feeling good.

    Imbolc and the Ancient Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Tara. Hebrew. Snowless Lodgepoles. Those ski runs on Black Mountain. Hubris. Who can own a Mountain? Mark in Saudi. Mary in K.L. Diane in San Francisco. Tom in Shorewood near the lake. Shadow Mountain. Irv and Marilyn. Rabbi Jamie. Torah. Parsha Bereshit. Aleph. Mem. Shin. The Mother letters. Blizzaks. Mountain roads. Sue Bradshaw. Health. Energy. Past values.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Great Sol lighting up Black Mountain as Dawn breaks

    One brief shining: Been gradually clearing and organizing books, piles of papers, the way I have to do it now since my energy and my back bail out on me sooner than in former times; in defense of myself I’ve learned to pick up things when they fall, put things away in their place when they’re out, even so books and documents and magazines continue to appear in stacks, placed there to be read or consulted, both habits of long standing, ones I don’t seem to want to break, so I gradually clear and organize. You know?

     

    As I approach 77 tomorrow, I admit to breaching my own commitment to surrender. Several times. Most recently this morning after saying the shema and before I got out of bed. Since each day is a new life and each waking a resurrection, early breaches like this can impact my whole new life.

    Here’s the breach. It started in the usual way. What am I doing with my time? I write Ancientrails. I study. I go out to eat and to the synagogue. I watch TV. I read. I buy groceries and make myself meals. These thoughts came up like a pilot’s checklist. Oh, there’s medical stuff and working out. Taking care of the house. Yes. And. Well, that’s it. Or 99% of it.

    Next step toward the breach. What am I not doing? I’m not working on any political efforts. (though there may be a bit going on) I’m not volunteering for anything. No docent work. No work on hospice like my buddy Paul. No Sierra Club or other climate focused work. I’m not writing a novel. I’m not hunting for a relationship. (don’t want too, either)

    Critical moment. Still lying in bed as I do my personal inventory. So. What could I be doing? No. Let’s be honest here. What SHOULD I be doing?

    And the barrier wall of acceptance of my life as it is cracks. A cascade of possibilities. Become a docent at DAM. Accept the educational committee chair at CBE. Write that novel about Lycaon that keeps surfacing. Get back to work on Charlie’s list. Do more research on regenerative farming, innovative ways to adapt to climate change. Organize the neighborhood around wildfire mitigation.

    The problem here is not with the possibilities. Sure, I could do one or all of them. That’s not the breach. The breach is feeling I’m not enough if I don’t. The feeling is that if I don’t do at least one of these then I’m wasting my life. And honestly? What does that even mean? Wasting my life would be not having lived my life; yet, I have. As well and powerfully as I was able. Sure I stumbled and followed wrong paths, but so what? That’s life as a human being.

    That’s no way to start a new life. What was I resurrected today for? Not to find myself as less than. But to accept myself as fully human, fully alive, fully loving. To accept others in the same way. If I want to write a new novel, then I will. If I want to do more work on Charlie’s List, then I will. And if I don’t. Then I won’t. And that’s it. Enough.

    Now I’m ready to start this new life. This day. Tomorrow inshallah I will resurrect as a 77 year old man with friends and family. A life, a long life, fully lived and still underway.

     

     


  • I’m Scared!

    Imbolc and the Ancient Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Those two kids who wanted to shovel my driveway. Snow. Cold night. A Mountain Dawn. Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce. Oh, my. Those Chiefs (sic). Mahomes. Football. Still a danger to so many. The Ancient Moon. Being a man. Men. White men. Black men. Red, yellow, and brown men. Cultural influences on manhood. Testosterone. Women. Sure. Women, too. And all other spots on the gender and sexuality spectrum.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Genitals

    One brief shining: A soft knock on my front door, a boy and his sister stood there in winter coats holding red plastic snow shovels, we do driveways, the boy said, how much I said, thirty dollars, ok, and they got started.

     

    One of the more human moments. These two kids started on my driveway with their plastic shovels. Worked hard. Older than his sister the boy, ten, got more done. Both stayed at it until I noticed them walking away. She has to go the bathroom, the boy said. Well, she can come in here. They were headed home. She did. At the top of the stairs, reminding me of Kate, she said I don’t remember which way is right. I showed her and signaled the way to tell with her hand.

    As she went back outside, I told them both they could come inside if they got cold. They got back to work. I got more money. Wouldn’t pay them less than Vince gets if they finished. Which I doubted they would. Vince was on a remodel in Bailey and forgot to plow me. Otherwise I would already have had a cleared driveway.

    I sat down to finish reading Lamb. Which if you haven’t read it. OMG. LOL.

    A bit later the girl came inside, softly opening the door. My brother went away to get my sister and he said he’d be gone 10 minutes and he hasn’t come back and I’m scared! Her eyes were wide. I want to go home!

    All right, I said. Where do you live? I don’t know. OK. Do you know your phone number? No, sobbing.

    You know. I get scared when I get lost and can’t find my home. Do you know the street you live on? Chalet. Pronounced Cha-let as in let go of my eggo. I looked it up. Not too far away. What’s your last name? Estrada. I had her sitting down at the table with me.

    I felt so sad for her, wanted to hug her. But. Well, old man living alone. Eight year old girl. Damn I hate what these times have done to men.

    I put the blind up so she could she if her brother came back. I was prepared to drive her down to Chalet, sure she’d know her house if we were on her street when her brother showed up. She ran out to him and he hugged her. Big brother. Everything ok now.

    They worked a bit longer, got maybe a quarter of the driveway done. We have to go home. We have to take a shower. I gave them $15 for their work and waved good-bye.

     


  • A Man of Constant Sorrow. And Ecstasy.

    Imbolc and the Ancient Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Birthdays. 77. Big Snow. Cold. All the Wild Neighbors hunkered down somewhere. Great Sol brilliant against the new Snow. Rain in the Desert. Brother Mark and the Storm near Hafar. Diane and the Atmospheric Rivers. L.A. and Southern California. Creating a sustainable human presence on the Earth. Thomas Berry. The Great Work. Shadow Mountain. Torah.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Snow, bright white new Snow

    One brief shining: Velcroed Snow boots, check, Leki hiking pole, check, watch cap, check, phone, vest, coat, gloves check and I’m ready to head out across my backdoor deck, take the few steps to the garage, then head up the stairs to the loft where it’s time to workout.

     

    A quiet river has flowed beneath my waking hours this week, a river of sorrows and modest angst. Not sure the genesis, the bereshit, of it. Has colored my moods when inner life calms down and the river touches consciousness. Enough to make me feel glum at times, off. Not enough to send me into melancholy, but a sea anchor on any up, energetic feelings. I don’t like it. Yet I can’t ignore it.

    I’ve not gotten serious with it though. By that I mean, welcomed it as a visitor, a guest worthy of hospitality if not affection. Perhaps that’s why it’s stuck with me. Going to put out the welcome mat after the Ancient Brothers call.

    I suppose it could be the ghost of birthdays future. At 77 their number is fewer than at 20. Or, it might be the looming lab test, PSA and testosterone I take next week. Well, enough. I’ll wait until we’ve sat down in the tent with our hookah, reclining on pillows on a brilliant rug.

    Gonna invite Rumi to the conversation.

     

    Just finished a conversation with the Ancient Brothers on what it means to be a man. These conversations increase my positive energy, buoy me up. This one pushed my mood up a lot. I think because the topic was one we had not explored before. And yet it was one around which we formed ourselves as a men’s group. I am going to post my private post here, the conversation convinced me it was an important part of this long running river of words.

    Perhaps it was my thinking about being a man that raised the river of sorrows close to the surface. Pardon this cliche, but there is agony and ecstasy in being human and the particular agonies and ecstasies are often meted out according to gender(s). When I think about being a man, I have to consider both. The agony of my shortcomings as a cisgender man, as a white man, as a white educated man, as an American white educated man. As husband, father, seeker of justice, as a seeker of the sacred. Then, too. The ecstasies. As husband, father, seeker of justice, seeker of the sacred.

    As I write, and this often happens for me, I’m certain thoughts about what it means to be a man caused this river of sorrows and angst to approach the surface from its usual stream bed deeper within my psyche.