• Category Archives Bees
  • Entheos

    Beltane and the Mesa View Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Curiosity. The Ancient Brothers. Mark and Dennis. Coming May 23rd. Yet more Rain. Even more swollen Streams. Ancientrails as a life project. Tom and his time with Charlie H. Bill and his time with Bella. Mark and his time at the gym. Anytime Fitness. My treadmill. Marilyn. Ginnie. Josh. Jane. Kat. A banker. Vulcan Centaur.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Rocket Scientists

    One brief shining: A beautiful woman with a long braid dangling over her t-shirt down to her space themed spandex had, on the back of the blue t-shirt an outline of the Vulcan Centaur rocket, on the front ULA and I asked, I’m too ignorant to know but is that a real rocket ship?


    Yes. She answered. And I was working on it until I quit my job a year and a half ago. What was your area of expertise? Vibration and acoustics. Oh. I see. Not sure why I keep running into engineers. But I do.

    CBE is amazing. All these smart people. This was at the Dismantling Racism class yesterday afternoon. Looked up the Vulcan Centaur and it’s been under development since 2014. Supposed to fly for the first time in July. Had a setback a month ago though with a second stage explosion during preparation for a launch.

    The class has gotten better. Taking a mussar approach to the work. I like it for the inner work though I chose an opponent for my practice this week. Four areas of possible practice each week: with HaShem (God), with Self, with a fellow, especially a victim of anti-black racism, or with an opponent.

    My practice involved an e-mail to a person with whom I’ve had long standing differences. Sent it last night and got a reply this morning. A sweet one. Maybe there’s something to this approach. The middah this week is kavod, or honor. Honoring self and other. The theological idea is the all made in God’s image trope. Said another way, we’re all human, all riding this blue spaceship our only home together with all the other critters and plants. Honor it all.


    During the Ancient Brothers session on curiosity I identified curiosity as my defining characteristic. And naming what I call the valedictory lifestyle. As a valedictorian myself I’ve occasionally become curious (see!) about what happens to others who graduate first in their class academically. Turns out usually nothing spectacular. Sure a lot go into academics. Some have successful careers in business or the sciences.

    But usually no stars. No one off achievements. No amazing inventions. Why? Because we’re generalists. We easily get sidetracked by something new and shiny. If purity of heart is to will one thing, we’re not at all pure.

    I call them enthusiasms. My enthusiasms can last a long time. Religion has turned out to be the longest lasting, but inside that broad category I’ve been all over the place. From existentialist atheist to Christian to Unitarian-Universalist to Pagan and wanderer with the tribe. There’s a piece of each of these, often substantial pieces that remain intact within me. All somehow glued together with Taoism.

    There’ve been many others. Art, my twelve years at the MIA. Politics, lasting almost as long as religion, but again all over the place in terms of action. Islam which I studied after 9/11. Horticulture. Cooking. Heating with wood. Beekeeping. Dogs. World travel. F1. Science. Tarot and Astrology. Cinema. Acting. Writing. Getting degrees. Tea. Korean and now Spanish. Oh, and one that actually has been lifelong, reading. Not sure when I learned but I’ve never ever stopped. Buying books, too. To feed the habit. I’ve dabbled in painting and sum-e.

    Enthusiasms in my life are more than dabbling but less than enough to gain full mastery. But I must admit it’s been, is being, a hell of lot of fun.





  • Waiting To Cross

    Imbolc and the Waiting to Cross Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Dr. Eigner. Dr. Simpson. Kep, the early. Snow. More Snow. Mild temperatures. The Ukraine. Biden. The James Webb. Tom and Bill, the science bros. Max, getting older. Ode, the well-rooted wanderer. Paul, the steadfast. Alan, the cheerful. The Ancient Brothers, a true Sangha. Zoom. Korean fried chicken. Jon, a memory. Kate, always Kate. Ivory. Ruby. Oncology.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The Ancient Brothers


    So I said it out loud. My reaction to mom’s death turned me from a confident, ready to take on the world teenager to a frightened, hesitant young adult. One who dropped German because he was failing it. Shame. One who convinced himself there was not enough money for Wabash because he was afraid to go back. Shame. One who entered then a great teacher’s college, but a mediocre university. Ball State University. Shame.

    Not a lot of shame in my life. Very little. That’s where it lies. Perhaps now having put it out there. So late. 76. It will fall away. It took me years, nearly three decades, to put the pain of her death in perspective. Treatment for alcoholism. Quitting smoking. Quitting the ministry. Years of Jungian analysis. Finally. Meeting Kate. 26 years later. I finally passed the threshold of grieving mom’s death.

    And started living my life. As a writer. A gardener. A dog lover. A beekeeper. An anachronistic blogger. With a woman who loved me as I was and one whom I loved as she was. A love where we wanted and supported the best life for each other. We traveled. A lot. We stood with both sons fully.

    Abundance. Yes. Ode’s word for our Andover home. Yes. Flowers. Meadow. Fruits. Nuts. Berries. Grapes. Honey. Plums. Pears. Apples. Cherries. Iris. Tulips. Spring ephemerals. Roses. Hosta. Gooseberries. Beans. Heirloom tomatoes. Leeks. Garlic. Onions. Kale. Collard Greens. Lettuce. Carrots. Ground Cherry. Raspberries.

    The fire pit. The woods.

    The dogs. So many dogs. Celt. Sorsha. Morgana. Scot. Tira. Tully. Orion. Tor. The Wolfhounds. Iris. Buck. Hilo. Emma. Kona. Bridget. The Whippets. Vega and Rigel. The IW/Coyote Hound sisters. Gertie, the German Short Hair. And Kep, the Akita.

    It was so good. Until the work became burdensome. Until I visited Colorado one year and Ruth ran away from the door because she didn’t expect me. A surprise visit. Then we had to come. The two. A push. The work of Seven Oaks had become too much. A pull. We wanted, needed to be there for Ruth and Gabe.

    So we packed everything up. And on the Winter Solstice of 2014 moved here, to the top of Shadow Mountain. 8,800 feet above sea level. Into the Wildland/Urban Interface, the WUI. With four dogs: Kep, Gertie, Rigel, and Vega. Again, thanks to Tom for helping with the dog move.

    When the time came, we put away Andover and envisioned a life together in the Rocky Mountains. Kate felt like she was on vacation every day until she died. Where she found the Jewish life she had always wanted. Where we both found ourselves immersed in the lives of our grandchildren, of their parents.

    Now Kate is dead. Vega is dead. Gertie is dead. Rigel is dead. Only Kep and I remain alive. I’m at another threshold, waiting to cross.

  • 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.



  • Movement

    Summer and the Lughnasa Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Tony’s Market, always a treat. The receptionist at Hearing Aid Associates who fixed my hearing aid. A walk around my neighborhood. Kate, always Kate. Tom, coming for a visit. The Post Office. Mail. Money. Sarah and her organizing for the 18th. Rigel. Her funny character. Cool mornings.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Tony’s.

    Tarot card drawn: Seven of Pentacles



    I’ve been intending to get out and hike more. Decided to try a walk around the neighborhood. Could have done this a long time ago, but hadn’t. Nice homes. Meadows with white, yellow, and blue Wildflowers. Green thanks to the Rain. The route goes up and down with good variety, past my neighbors’ properties. Some with Horses. Most with Dogs. Views of Black Mountain. By the time I got back I was worn out and my leg, the p.t. focused right upper leg had begun to complain. That’s ok. Cardio.

    Hearing aid stopped working a couple of days ago. Nothing. Happened once before. Tried to clean it, but my tools were inadequate. Over to Hearing Aid Associates. “We have a little vacuum tool. That’s how we clean them. Try it out.” Ah. Words came into focus.

    Thought about aging. Lenses in my eyes to replace my cataracts. A hole through my iris to drain fluid creating pressures. Glaucoma. An aid to my hearing. That five-year old titanium knee on the left side. The repaired Achilles tendon on the right. A missing prostate. This old car’s been in the shop many times, but keeps on running. May it last for a while longer.

    Mailed out money to Sarah for the Beatle’s cover band tickets. Red Rock. Kate’s family celebration. Checks to Diane, my cousin, to send on to Mark. Checks I mailed to him in Saudi Arabia last December. Got them back last week with a note in Arabic from the Saudi Postal Service. Maybe it said, Return to Sender? Also $9 to Ramsey County Marriage Records to get a certified copy of Kate and mine’s marriage license. Need it for Social Security. Can’t get spousal benefits unless you’re the spouse. And, yes, I have a copy. I know I do. But where?

    An errandy day.

    2014, Andover

    Pine pollen still driving me nuts. Sneezing, dripping, clogging. Ick. A gift from my father I forgot to mention last Sunday morning.

    Red snapper, salad, and sourdough bread for dinner. Or, lunch. Depending on.

    Seven of Pentacles. As you can see, a gardener. Leaning on a stave as I leaned on a hoe or rake many times in Andover. I felt an affinity for this guy. He’s admiring, with some fatigue, the results of his work. A healthy vine, heavy with Pentacular fruit. He’s harvested one as a reward to himself, but knows that the better wisdom right now is to let the bush or vine grow.

    Each minor arcana suit: pentacles, swords, wands, and cups has an association with one of the four elements. Wands Fire. Swords Air. Cups Water. Pentacles Earth.

    This particular card sends a slight tingle up and down my arm. One of my avatars, horticulturist Charlie. An avatar I love, with whom I spent a lot of time, and an avatar who shared with Kate the wonder of Plants and Bees. To see a horticulturist, leaning on what could be, probably is, a gardening tool, admiring the plant. I know that guy!

    Gardening, like marriage, only flourishes with cooperative relationships. The plants, like spouses, need tending, nurturing. With thoughtful, regular care amazing things become possible. It allows for the wonderful moment depicted in this card where the work has gone well and the Plant flourishes. The relationship between Plant and gardener has succeeded. Will succeed. That’s the message of the six pentacles remaining on the vine. Further growth will come. A bigger harvest.

    Guess I’m an Earth guy. At least this avatar of mine is an Earth guy. Following the Great Wheel has made me sensitive to the changing of Earth’s seasons, what they mean, can mean, will mean.

    Song dynasty

    In the flow of cards over the last week we’ve come to a culmination. The seven of pentacles suggests investment and effort pays off. Or is about to. I don’t think it’s in my immediate future, but perhaps in my near term future. My investment in Kate’s life, in our relationship. My efforts with her up to and after her death. My investment in my own worldview, nurturing a pagan, earth-centered way, one influenced by the ten thousand things. My willingness to learn, to adapt, to change, to transform.

    Worth it. Even with the struggles that the transition has created. Not yet finished, but the seven of pentacles suggests the next phase may not be far off. May it be so.





    *”The meaning of the Seven of Pentacles relates to investment and effort. It follows the Six of Pentacles which refers to the end of financial or material hardship. If you have been putting in time and effort in your work, it signifies that your efforts are paying off and they are going to pay off in the future as well.

    If you are looking to invest, the Seven of Pentacles suggests that you are ready to put in a lot of effort, time and work into whatever you want to achieve. It reaffirms you of your long-term vision and helps to show that you are not confined to seeing results in the short term only. It shows how much you value the investment because of the effort that you are willing to put in.” Labyrinthos

  • Hey, Pardner

    Beltane and the Moon of Mourning

    Saturday gratefuls: Kate, sticky with the honey harvest. Kate, shepherding me into a shower, giving me antihistamines after multiple bee stings. Kate, Celt, and I at the St. Kate’s art fair in St. Paul. Cody Wise, a Wells Fargo Banker. Rich Levine, bee keeper. Rabbi Jamie. Mark Koontz, of Primitive Landscaping. He will extend and replant the Iris bed and put in three Miss Kim lilacs in the back. BJ live on the radio with Schecky.

    Sparks of Joy: Beekeeping. Getting tasks done.

    Wild grapes waiting for Kate to turn them into jelly

    Yesterday afternoon I pulled out all the honey harvesting equipment: uncapping knife and rake, solar wax renderer, motorized extractor, buckets, and filters. Took it to the driveway so Rich could pick it up for our work this morning with Sofia.

    As I moved these objects, each last touched by us in 2014 when we moved, a wave of sadness and longing swept over me. Kate and I were partners. We grew flowers, picked fruit in our orchard, planted and harvested vegetables, managed a pack of dogs. My partner is dead. I missed her so much in that moment. Went back inside, sat down, cried for a bit. Not paroxysmally, but tears running down my face.

    We were bound together by those things of the soil, of the four-leggeds, of the six-legged. It was a good life until the physical burden of became onerous. The move to the mountains, here on Shadow Mountain, came at a time when we needed to set down those tasks, pass them onto the younger couple that bought our Andover home.

    We partnered again, living in the move. It took us most of 2014 to get ready and we worked hard. Once here in the Rockies we found ourselves tested by cancer, by Jon’s divorce, by Kate’s medical issues. Through it all. Partners.

    Even to the last. Death with dignity. Yes, the right choice for you, I said. Even beyond the last. I’ve hired a landscaper who will fulfill two of Kate’s last wishes, a larger Iris bed in front and Lilacs planted in back. Half of her ashes will go into the Iris bed in August when family gathers to honor her on her birthday, August 18th.

    Those tears, that sadness. It was for the good stuff. The way we lived together, always. Yes, I miss my pard, as we might say here in the West, but the knowledge and memory of how we were together does and will sustain me as I move forward.

    Grief is the price we pay for love.


  • Here’s to Thee, Old Man Apple Tree

    Winter and the Moon of the New Year

    Christmastide, day 7: New Year’s Day

    Friday gratefuls: Sherlock Holmes. Cribbage. Ribeye and lobster. Mashed potatoes. Deli salad. Tony’s. Cold. Snow. Low wildfire risk. Rigel between us, sharing her head. Kate’s pillow. Mine. Kep at his spot. 19 days til 1/20 at 9 am. See the back of his head. Tom’s mother, Evelyn. Tom. His sister.


               Andover, 2012, Bees and Apple Blossoms


    Paul, here’s an English New Year’s ritual for you. Wassail. You may have heard the word used in relation to wild parties. That’s good too of course. But. In England folks go out to the oldest apple tree in their orchard, usually around noon, and pour cider from a bowl around this tree.

    In Devon and Cornwall they add bowing three times to the “Apple-Tree Man.” I like this. The idea is to encourage a large and healthy crop for the fruit season. Pieces of cake and toasted bread were hung from the branches. This was called wassailing the tree. Wassail comes from wase haile, or good health.

    They sing:

    Here’s to thee, old apple tree

    Whence thou may’st bud and

    Whence thou may’st blow.

    And whence thou may’st

    Bear apples anew.

    Hats full, Caps full, Bushel,

    Bushel sacks full.

    And my pockets full too?



    Blow, bear well,

    Spring well in April,

    Every sprig and every spray

    Beat a bushel of apples against

    Next New Year’s Day.   

    Matthews, 193 for both


    Another New Year’s custom from the Faery Faith involves dressing the wells. In the ancient Celtic way artesian springs were considered dwelling places for faery folk and pathways to the Otherworld. Like some Native American nations, prayer rags tied to trees and shrubs near the well were common. Also, bouquets of flowers, small candles.

    In 1995 I visited St. Winifride’s Holy Well in Holywell, Flintshire, Wales. Called by some Catholics the Lourdes of Wales, her well has a stone well casing about three feet high and a large pool which the well fills. When I was there, wheelchairs and crutches lined one of the walls.

    St. Winifride’s Holy Well is one of the few locales mentioned in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Sir Gawain goes there on his journey to find the Green Chapel. Winifride was a Celtic legend long before the Roman Church and the connection to the tale of the Green Knight involves her beheading by Caradoc, a jilted lover.

    The spring rose from where her head hit the ground. Her uncle Beuno, probably a Druid, reattaches her head, and healing became associated with her well.

    May the healing power of Beuno and the well of Winifride wash over this new year, this new decade. May our 2021 heal as much as it can, cheer as many as it can, especially on January 20th at noon.

  • Greenman

    Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

    Tuesday grateful: The Lughnasa moon just setting below Black Mountain. That one violet volunteering near our front steps. The daisies. The faint whoosh of folks going to work. Ruth. Her eagerness to see us. Their garden and her joy in it. Seeing Patty yesterday. Banking. Socrates, the teller.

    Gardening. At the end of my time on the Ancient Ones zoom, I surprised myself by summing up my life as having one regret. Gardening. That we hadn’t pursued it here on Shadow Mountain. I miss, I said, growing our own food. Working with soil and plants. I do. Miss it.

    Once Kate and I moved to Andover a transition began for me from city boy to horticulturalist. I wouldn’t have predicted that necessarily. We’d done some perennials at our home on Edgcumbe road. Starting with the small bed I planted in the front yard, finishing during the great Halloween blizzard of October 31st, 1991. Daffodils and Iris, if I recall correctly.

    It’s true I had a big garden back in 1974 on the Peaceable Kingdom, my failed attempt, with Judy, to develop a spot for the movement to have respite care. My only Psilocybin journey happened there. I watched our Potato plants growing. But the Peaceable Kingdom did not last and neither did gardening.

    A bit of gardening at the first house, the one on 41st Avenue, but Slugs took over. There was no gardening at home in Alexandria. A few Flowers maybe, but nothing to remember.

    Andover, though. When we got there, the front yard was bare, as was a sloped area behind the house in the back. About an acre of Woods were doing fine, as undisturbed Woods will do. In between was a large patch of weedy, scrubby Grass with a large grove of Black Locust. They didn’t look good, some of them were dead. BTW: many of the Weeds were actually Hemp plants seeded during a World War II field planted in it.

    We hired a landscape architect who helped us with the bare Land. I wanted to sow a Prairie on all of it. Kate said no, we could never sell it. We settled on two large areas of Prairie with sod and some new Trees in between them, directly in front of the house. On the sloping area behind the house we decided to do a terraced garden. Irrigation went in with all of it.

    In the beginning I wanted to do only perennials. I imagined our house overflowing with fresh cut flowers throughout the growing season. I had a lot to learn. Having flowers blooming from spring into fall requires so many skills.

    I did not want to do annuals. And, I didn’t. Along the way I learned about soil amendments, spading forks and gardening spades, trowels, and hori-hori. Killed a lot of plants. Cussed at Rose Chafers, Japanese Beetles, Colorado Beetles. Along the way I fell in love with the families Lily and Iris and crocus. Learned the amazing recovery powers of Hosta.

    The Black Locust and their small swords taught me caution and how to use a chain saw, a commercial grade chipper, a Peavey, a Swede saw. Hired stump grinders. I cleared, with Jon’s help, enough area that we could imagine a vegetable garden. Jon built us raised beds from the start, anticipating the day when bending over would not be easy. He made some in whimsical shapes, others square, some rectangular. I filled them with top soil and compost.

    We had various compost piles, none of which worked very well. We built one that used split rail fencing and a large metal gate to keep the dogs out. Tully, one of our Wolfhounds, kept finding her way in. But she couldn’t get back out. Strange.

    Speaking of Wolfhounds. Jon built a fence around the raised beds to keep them out. They loved to dig in soft garden soil.

    More on this later. This has gotten long.

  • My Ancient Spiritual Trail

    Summer and the Radiation Moon

    My friend Rich sees mussar as a metaphysical, not a psychological discipline. It’s soul work, deeper and more consequential than therapy.

    Over the last year and a half my skeptical view of soul has begun to break up, fade away. First, from the Cosmos and Psyche (thanks, Tom) insight: Skepticism is a tool, not a lifestyle. Second, from a spiritual realization that despite its implication in the arguments over, say, original sin, soul nonetheless points to a felt reality for me, a phenomenological knowing. Not a dogmatic or doctrinal one.

    Big deal, right? You always knew this? Or, no way, dude. Either way, so what?

    And, of course, you’re right if you follow this often used, little understood idea back to its sources in Judaeo-Christian thought. Its use either assumed-you always knew this, or, so mean and inhuman, eternal hell for a few years on earth-no way, dude.

    The Judaeo-Christian understanding incorporated the Greek notion of psyche, “…the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking” with a notion of immortality connected to behavior in this life.

    I want to push back, back beyond this narrow conception of soul. There was an assumption among the ancient Greeks that soul had to have a logical faculty, and, that it was the most divine attribute of a human soul. ( The current scientific consensus across all fields is that there is no evidence for the existence of any kind of soul in the traditional sense. Wiki.)

    First I want to speak for the trees. Let’s call it the Loraxian understanding of the soul. The lodgepoles in our yard, crawling up Black Mountain, growing along Brook Forest Drive as it winds down the mountain. They have souls. They are both alive and animate, creatures with a telos, or end goal. They interact with their environment and grow strong or weak, tall or short, but they remain lodgpole pines, trees with a particular role in a montane ecosystem, a role which they give all they have to fulfill.

    The same is true for the mule deer, the mountain lion, the marsh marigold, the elk, the bear, the fox, the squirrel, the dandelion, the cheatgrass, the Indian paintbrush, the mountain trout, the raven and the magpie. Are their souls more or less than ours? Wrong question. Are their souls more like ours or more unlike? Don’t know. I just know that living things on the planet share the wonder of life, an independent spark. That spark gives us organic matter that moves and does so with intention.

    Holy Well, Wales, St Dynfog

    I’ve felt this way about the world for a long, long time. Taoism, Emerson, the Romantics, gardening, the Celtic Great Wheel. The mystical moment on the quad at Ball State. Oneness. With it all. I’m even willing to entertain faeries, elves, duendes, daiads, Gods and Goddesses. OK, I know I lost a lot of you with that one, but I’m going with my gut, my revelation to me rather than the dry dusty bones of theirs.

    But. I want to push one step further. I believe in the spirits of the mountains. They have visited me here on Shadow Mountain, the mule deer on Samain, 2014, and the elk on my first day of radiation. The mule deer and the elk were angels, that is, messengers of the mountain gods, dispatched by the careful, slow, deliberate entities that are the Rocky Mountains.

    I believe in the vitality of rushing water in Maxwell Creek, Cub Creek, Blue Creek, Bear Creek, the North Fork of the South Platte. I believe in the entity that is Lake Superior, that is the great deposit of ores on the Minnesota Iron Range, the ebb and flow of the Oglalla Aquifer.

    I believe in Mother Earth, the great Gaia, a living system of ecosystems, biomes watered by rains and the snows, irrigated by streams and rivers, planted by Boreas and Zephryus, and given power to change by the true god, Sol.

    Neither animals nor plants can grow without the sun’s energy or the food locked in minerals and vitamin: “Our soils support 95 percent of all food production, and by 2060, our soils will be asked to give us as much food as we have consumed in the last 500 years. They filter our water. They are one of our most cost-effective reservoirs for sequestering carbon. They are our foundation for biodiversity. And they are vibrantly alive, teeming with 10,000 pounds of biological life in every acre. Yet in the last 150 years, we’ve lost half of the basic building block that makes soil productive.” Living Soil film

    As it appears, I am an animist, a pagan, a person who has found his spot in the great scheme. I’m a moving instance of matter formed in the great fusion furnaces of stars. I’m a temporary instance, holding together a few atoms for a human lifetime. I’m a significant instance of meaning created by the universe observing itself, throughout my short path, as the dynamic, interlocked, soulful reality that it is.

    I need no human word to guide me. I need no idea, no rule. I am and I am within all this. The Arapaho National Forest. The Rocky Mountains. Our nuclear family. Our extended family. The community of folks at CBE. The United States. The Mind of God.

    My soul and that of Kepler, Rigel, and Gertie dance with each other. In Andover Kate and I danced with bees, fruit trees, perennial flowers, vegetables, raspberry canes. Here we dance with the mountain spirits.

    Long ago I set out on a spiritual journey that went down and in rather than up and out. That is, I would not find validation somewhere outside of myself whether Torah, Gospel, Constitution, or political ideology. I would not privilege the idea of transcendence, or a three-story universe. No god is in heaven, and yet all’s right with the world. My ancient spiritual trail has been to turn within for the source of my revelation. And, I have not turned back.

  • The religion that is written and elaborated is not religion.

    Beltane and the Recovery Moon

    Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice. The day of the sun’s maximum presence for the year. On the solstices the day/night balance shifts. On the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year (though if you check the time tables the difference between June 21st and July 21st is only 13 minutes), the night begins to encroach, slowly.

    Whatever guides my soul prefers the dark days, the fallow time. I celebrate on this holiday not the victory of the light, but the coming dominance of the night. I do like the bright blue days here in Colorado, not saying I don’t. Just that my soul gains more richness, more depth as darkness grows. Probably one of the reasons I felt so much at home in Minnesota, at the 45th latitude, half-way to the Northpole.

    As a gardener, of course, I relished the light for the vegetables and fruits, for the flowers that fed our bees. The summer solstice signals the growing warmth and long days that nourish all plant life. It was also the time, though, that bugs grew more troublesome, when the humid weather encouraged fungus and mold, viral infections in the plants.

    In Sweden, Scotland, and other Gaelic and Scandinavian countries the auld religion still calls to its people. Bonfires. Nudity. Parties through the night. Feasts. I like the idea of them. If there were one close by, I might go.

    My relationship with neo-paganism is as fraught as my relationship with Christianity. Judaism, too, at the doctrinal level. There’s so much intellectualizing, writing of ideas, logic. I’ve come to believe that elaborating our feelings toward the natural world in a Wiccan or Asatru way, a neo-pagan syncretic way, is as damaging to the soul as the dogmas and laws of other religions.

    In the language of Taoism, the one lens which seems to consciously push away dogma, I would say it this way: The religion that is written and elaborated is not religion. Barriers between our soul and its path.

    Emerson has influenced me here and he was, in turn, influenced by Taoism. If you’ve read me for any length of time, you’ll have read these words more than once:

    “Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also.” Emerson’s Introduction to his essay, Nature.

    It is this sensibility that I celebrate as each of the Great Wheel holidays roll round. The sensibility that helps us become native to the various places where we live. The sensibility that finds the soul’s interaction with the seasons enough. The sensibility that drags down, pulls away the words to look directly at this universe into which we are born. The sensibility that does not fight the turning of the wheel, but sees the seasons of our lives as one with the changing seasons. This is my understand of wu wei, conforming our life to what is, not what might be.

    What I encourage is the sun on your face. Your hands in the soil. Your feet on a hiking path. Your ears alive to the buzzing of bees, the bugle of the elk, the bark of the dog, the words of your friends. What I encourage is living your life as it comes, knowing that it leads to death, yes, but that until death you are alive.

    Hug. Smile. Laugh. Cry. Plant. Harvest. Compost. Be grateful. That’s enough.

  • The Weekend

    Lughnasa                                                                              Waning Summer Moon

    religious school kids with Rabbi Jamie
    religious school kids with Rabbi Jamie

    Up and out the door too early yesterday to write, too tired when I got home around 5:30. A long day. An education training session at Temple Emmanuel in Denver. A huge building, lots of cash there. Flowing cut stone for an outer wall, inside modern metal sculpture, lots of wood, a huge reception area, a Sisterhood Lounge, a more than gymnasium sized hall, divided by foldout doors, and lots of folks milling about.

    (just noticed that the full waning summer moon stands about 4 degrees over Black Mountain in the dark early morning sky. Southwest. My cataracts give it four rays, two straight out from sides, two up and down at a slight angle.)

    The sessions were ok. The food was great, lots of veggies and fruit and hard boiled eggs. All of us from Beth Evergreen had to leave early because we had an outdoor experience afternoon in Genesee Park, the oldest of the Denver Mountain Parks. Denver owns several parks in the Front Range, especially in and around Evergreen and Morrison. Genesee might mean shining valley.

    religious school at Jeffco Action Center, packing Thanksgiving meals
    religious school at Jeffco Action Center, packing Thanksgiving meals

    This was a ropes course for the purpose of team building. The students who will be in the religious school this fall and their parents came, as did Debra and me. We were the only teachers there. I knew a few of the adults, none of the kids.

    No ropes for me. I did put on a harness (reminded me of the harnesses for sled dogs) and a blue helmet. Most of the rope  features were reached by spikes driven into the trees and were high enough to require both a rope attached to the harness and managed by a Genesee Outdoor Adventure employee and the helmet.

    Wasn’t the heights or the difficulty of the features that made me not go up. I realized only this morning that it had to do my with introversion and in particular my dislike of having others watch me exercise. That’s why I go to On the Move Fitness for two sessions, then follow the workouts on my own. If somebody watches me, I get self-conscious and screw up. I suppose this is something I could overcome with time and opportunity, but yesterday wasn’t enough of either.

    Artemis Hives
    Artemis Hives

    The day before, Saturday, I went over to Rich’s, also early in the morning to help him harvest honey. We cranked his hives down from the high wire on which they hang, much like a ropes course feature, and checked first his flow hive and then a honey super on another of the four hives he has on his primary line. He has a pulley system with which he lowers and raises the hives. They’re heavy even with the mechanical advantage of a four rope pulley. Unfortunately, for reasons I don’t understand, Rich has no honey in his flow hive or in the honey super. The colonies themselves looked healthy.

    Afterward, Rich and I went over to the Muddy Buck and had some coffee. His daughter was still asleep at his house.

    Kate had a good day yesterday. Unfortunately, I missed it out gallivanting for Jewish education. We’re investigating medical marijuana, specifically strains used by cancer patients for nausea induced by chemo. Kate may have a bong in her future.