• Category Archives Holidays
  • The American Day of Atonement

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Marilyn and Irv. Rabbi Jamie and the American Day of Atonement. Black-eyed Peas. Hoppin’ John. A cold snap. The Winter Carnival. St. Paul. Irvine Park. The Aurora. Great Sol. Journeys around Great Sol. Birthdays. 77 for me next month. Minnesota. Up North. Lake Superior. Duluth. Ely. The Boundary Waters. Andover and its time in Kate and mine’s life. Kate, my sweet Kate.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Long journeys (77 x 584 million = 44 968 000 000 miles around the sun by age 77)

    One brief shining: About ten days late I have the ingredients for Hoppin’ John Black-Eyed Peas, Salt Pork, Hot Peppers, Garlic, Onion, Black Pepper, Chicken Stock, Ham, Kosher Salt and when I get back from seeing Irv I’m going to make it in the Dutch Oven now clean of hard Water scales and shiny like the day I bought it so Happy New Year!

    Looking forward to cooking up the Hoppin’ John. I also got Corn bread mix. Famous Dave’s. Gonna cook up some frozen Collard Greens, make Corn bread. Have myself a Southern Happy New Year’s meal tonight.

     

    Going over to see Irv in rehab. He’s been there since he left St. Joe’s after his surgery. An odd fact. His rehab place requires a left turn on Lone Tree’s Lincoln Avenue. When I went to have my prostate removed and for all my radiation sessions, I turned right on Lincoln. Old folks pathway I guess.

     

    Got my beard trimmed yesterday at Jackie’s. It never got bushy, just scraggly. Decided to give up on it. I think she was relieved.

     

    Attended by zoom the American Day of Atonement at CBE. Luke worked on it along with Rabbi Jamie. The concept comes from Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. Doing it on the 10th of January puts it close to Martin Luther King Day while duplicating the ten days after the Jewish New Year of Rosh Hashanah. Wanted to be there in person but I find going out at night something I don’t want to do. Especially in Winter. I feel bad about not showing up yet I also honor my reluctance.

    So. Zoom. Which has its difficulties. Last night speakers who zoomed in were loud and clear. Bishop Robert Martin talked about working together to give each other the internal strength to face racism and anti-semitism. Rabbi Jamie invoked Abraham Lincoln. Attorney General Phil Weiser gave what I considered the best speech of the evening calling on us to embrace the American Dream of a diverse nation of citizens equal before the law. We can and we will, he said, overcome our divisions. May it happen soon.

    If the American Day of Atonement could catch on in other cities, focused on at least bringing together African-American and Jewish activists, it could have a major impact. This is the third one. The weather timing is against it. Not many folks showed up at CBE. Not sure how to overcome that. I appreciate all the energy Luke and Rabbi Jamie have put into it so far.

     

     


  • Shadow Mountain Christmas Morning

    Winter and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Christmas gratefuls: Hanukah. Bright, sparkly Snow. Flocked Lodgepoles. Black Mountain white. My son. Seoah and her family. Murdoch. Christmas in Korea. Shadow Mountain. My support and foundation. Tom and Roxann on Kauai. Washington County, Maine. Robbitson. Max. Paul and Sarah in Burlington, Vermont. Covid. Lingers still. Christmas. Incarnation. Imago dei. B’tzelem Elohim. Saturnalia. Christmas Trees and Yule Logs. Eggnog and Mistletoe. Holly and Ivy. Krampus. Great Sol lighting up Black Mountain

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The almost full Winter Solstice Moon last night

    One brief shining: T’was the night before Christmas and I got up at 2 am before I could get up and go to the bathroom the scene outside my bedroom window caught my eye and in spite of the 3 degree temperature streaming in through the slight opening I left I could not look away as the Lodgepole shadows, the Arcosanti bell’s shadow, the shadow of the shed created negative space around the sections of sparkly snow between and among them. A scene in which, if Santa had landed, I would not have been at all surprised.

     

    Christmas morning on Shadow Mountain. 8-10 inches of fluffy, twinkling Snow. 3 degrees. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, and Rosemary Clooney might swing by on a sleigh pulled by draft horses. Great Sol throws low angle sun beams at the Trees, lighting us up but not heating us up too much. Though. This is Colorado. We’ll see high thirties and low forties later on this week. Odd how a snowy, cold Christmas has been sold as quintessential for the celebration of a Levantine savior. That manger would not have been a safe place for a baby today in the Rockies.

    I’m listening right now to the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols. This King’s College tradition is a staple of the Anglican Church and a Christmas Eve program. A musical entrée into the long fate of a Jewish boy born millennia ago. Irony, too. The Anglican Church hollowed out decades ago though as a state church its clergy still fill its remaining parishes drawing a government salary. Read this week that about 10% of them have formed a union. Godspeed.

     

    I might go out later today for Chinese food. A Jewish tradition that Kate and I followed for many years even before moving to Colorado. Usually includes a movie, too. My hearing has declined enough that movies are not as much fun as they used to be. I miss a lot of the dialogue, making the whole a muddle. Much better to be at home with closed captions turned on. Thanks to Christmas there are several first rated movies available: Saltburn, Maestro, and Rebel Moon by Zack Snyder to name three. I’ll get takeout, come back to Shadow Mountain. I have the best seat in the house.

     

    Talked to my boy last night. His morning, Christmas day while I was still in Christmas Eve. Always weird. Learned that the painful tests he had for compartment syndrome last week were diagnostic, not a treatment. The treatment is a fasciotomy, a 30% success rate. And, the surgeon who would perform the procedure is passionately against it. It’s also very painful. Probably not gonna happen.

    Saw Seoah’s sister, Seoah in pigtails. Murdoch. The oldest boy came on the Zoom and looked at me for a long time. Not sure what that was about, though I did meet him briefly in September. A bit of snow on the ground in Songtan. A sorta white Christmas. Seoah’s family wanted to go on base for good tacos at Taco Bell and good pizza at Pizza Hut. Not common foods in the Korean diet. And just as well if you ask me.

     


  • A Bar Mitzvah Boy!

    Winter and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Friday gratefuls: The brit of Mt. Sinai. Of Abraham. Of Noah. Torah. Midrash. Emunah. Clouds. Mussar. This Jewish journey. Wandering with the diaspora. Rabbi Jamie. Bar Mitzvah. June 12! Shavuot. The Winter Solstice. The Fire last night. Orion and the three quarter Winter Solstice Moon. Jupiter. Darkness. Immanence. Our journey as Earthlings. All my wild fellow Earthlings. And the Earth herself, the Shekinah to Great Sol’s power.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Gabriella, my adopted axolotl

    One brief shining: Put on my kippah and walked up the sidewalk to the synagogue where Rabbi Jamie let me in (everybody has to be let in thanks to anti-semitism), he looked at my kippah, pointed at his, “We have the same hat!”

     

    Yes indeed. A bar mitzvah boy! On June 12th, the holiday of Shavuot, I will read from the Torah with Veronica, Kat, and maybe Lauren. Finally coming of age. Shavuot celebrates the giving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai, the making of the Sinai covenant with all Jews of all time. We stood at Mt. Sinai, we stand at Mt. Sinai, we will stand at Mt. Sinai. We will all honor that mystical moment and be honored in return as children/adults of the covenant.

    Moving sorta fast into the whole megillah. This is an adult Brit Mitzvah.* Often for those who did not have a bar/bat mitzvah when they were young, it’s also a way for converts to have the full experience of a Jewish life cycle. I’m excited to deepen my Jewish learning and to expand my circle of friends at Beth Evergreen.

    If you read this and want to come, I’ll post details here later about the day of. For insight into this rite of passage you might want to watch the Adam Sandler film, You’re So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah! on Netflix. It’s funny.

     

    We now have exhausted all the big holidays but two: Christmas and New Years. Holimonth has worked its magic on all of us whether we wanted it to or not. We’ve seen the lights. Lit the candles. Heard the songs. Tasted a cookie or two. Smiled at children excited. We’ve had a quiet moment or two wondering again whether all this bother is worth it, does it really mean anything?

    I come down on the side of yes, oh yes indeed. It’s worth it and it has deep meaning. Maybe not the ones visible on the surface of the Santa Claus gauze thrown over this family holiday called Christmas. Maybe not the story of the brave Maccabees recapturing the Second Temple. Maybe not the story of light returning triumphant on the darkest night of the year.

    Here are meanings I find in Holimonth. We ache for sweetness and love in our lives, for the light of others. We want to share ourselves with family and friends, have them share with us. Sometimes that’s hard to do without prompts. Like Jingle Bells. Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel. A Christmas tree. Services at the synagogue or church or living room or bar. Reasons to get together, clasp hands, hug. Be merry. Kwanza. New Year’s eve parties. We come together to see the sacred beings in our lives and to be seen as the sacred, unique being we are. These are learnings we can use later in the year during what the Catholics charmingly call Ordinary Time.

    No such thing to me. It’s all sacred time, but I get what they mean. We can’t be on this high all year. Too exhausting.

    So party like the climate is changing, like we’ll see each other next year in Jerusalem, like we’re all the only ones of our kind ever.

    *KAVANNAH [intention]

    The adult bar/bat mitzvah phenomenon is a recent and inspiring trend in American Jewish life.  Since every Jewish adult is regarded by halacha (traditional Jewish law) as a bar/bat mitzvah when they come of age (12 for girls, 13 for boys), the adult bar/bat mitzvah rite of passage is completely volitional.  Those who feel compelled to prepare for a Bat/Bat or Brit Mitzvah as an adult do it by choice, and for a great variety of reasons.  Given the diversity of kavannot (intentions), the program at CBE strives for enough structure to be both formal and flexible — formal enough to facilitate the invaluable dynamics of a group working together, towards shared goals while rooted in tradition, and flexible to accommodate different dispositions, intentions and expectations. Congregation Beth Evergreen


  • Note from the Long Night

    Winter and the Waxing Gibbous Winter Solstice Moon with Jupiter

    Solstice gratefuls: The Fire. The dark. The Night Sky. Elohim.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Jupiter dancing with the Winter Solstice Moon

     

    The Pine in my fireplace burns up so fast throwing heat, casting light, consuming wood. Such a passionate element. While the three quarter Winter Solstice Moon lights up my Lodgepoles and my Aspen, my driveway with a quiet secretive light. Makes her partner in the Solstice gavotte look small, mighty Jupiter giant of planets moves with the slow grace of one so, so distant.

    A Shadow Mountain night in late December throws off little sound. Except a star scraping by another galaxy that wants it to play. Or, a slight Mountain Wind moving the soft Needles of the Lodgepoles. A faint shushing sound. I stood in it, a temporary visitor. Glad to return to the heat of my living room. So soft at 76.

     

     

    God Speaks To Each Of Us

    Rainer Maria Rilke



    God speaks to each of us before we are,
    Before he’s formed us — then, in cloudy speech,
    But only then, he speaks these words to each
    And silently walks with us from the dark:

    Driven by your senses, dare
    To the edge of longing. Grow
    Like a fire’s shadowcasting glare
    Behind assembled things, so you can spread
    Their shapes on me as clothes.
    Don’t leave me bare.

    Let it all happen to you: beauty and dread.
    Simply go — no feeling is too much —
    And only this way can we stay in touch.

    Near here is the land
    That they call Life.
    You’ll know when you arrive
    By how real it is.

    Give me your hand.


  • The Winter Solstice

    Winter and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: The Solstice. My favorite holiday. Bastien’s Steak House. Alan. 50 in Denver 32 on Shadow Mountain last night. I-25 clogged with cars. The city lights. Glad to be home where it’s dark. Lights on the City Center, the Capitol Mall. Colfax Avenue. Families. My family. Friends. My friends. Shadow Mountain Home. Herme. Ruby. That puppy in my dream. Snow for Christmas. Life. Surrender.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The longest night of the year

    One brief shining: A new quiet has settled over me this Holimonth as Hanukah ended and the lights of Christmas, Christmas music, the whole runup to the gift extravaganza leave me with no nostalgia or wistfulness, rather a sense that Hanukah itself was enough for that sort of celebration though the Winter Solstice, tonight, remains my favorite Holimonth holiday.

     

    Long ago before the age of reason and Francis Bacon, before the Greek astronomers and the Hindu astrologists, the Chinese sages we humans understood little about the world beyond our planet. Few were probably aware of living on a planet at all. As the longest day of the hot season faded into the past, our distant ancestors noticed that the nights grew longer and the days shorter. Was the sun going into a waning mode? Would it return for the longer days necessary for warmth and growth? On this night, this Winter Solstice night, that question would have loomed over those huddled together before a fire in a smoky dwelling. So it’s understandable that the big news for most on the Winter Solstice is the beginning of the sun’s reemergence, Great Sol slowly but surely reclaiming dominance over the forces of darkness and cold.

    I have a different perspective. I celebrate at the Summer Solstice as the night begins to grow, as darkness expands its hold. It’s not that I’m a light Grinch, not at all. I love the growing season, air warm enough for short sleeves and picnics. Sure. I need to eat and my body loves a temperature suited to its native state. And yet.

    Darkness. Where the roots and rhizomes and microbes live. Where the imagination comes alive, filling the night with faeries and ghosts and goblins. Where rest happens. Where preparation for the growing season goes on under the surface of the soil. Where preparation for personal growth goes on in the recesses of our psyches. Where the heat of the day calms, allowing a cool time for sleep. Where all is calm and nothing is bright. Fecund. Quiet.

    Darkness does have its, well, dark side. Of course. The Forest gives itself over to the nocturnal Predators. The city, too. Criminal time.  Deaths occur at the Hour of the Wolf, around 4 am. Sleep might be fitful or hard to find. Wrecking the day. Fears can come out to play havoc with our inner peace.

    Even so. I’ll take some time, perhaps a lot of time, to go inward. To acknowledge the fecundity in darkness. Not to ignore the difficulties of the night, but to reclaim it from those who see it only as something to avoid with light or sleep or intoxicants.

    The longest night. I’ll light a candle or two. Probably have a fire. Read poetry. Contemplate life and its complexities, its simplicities. Remember Winter Solstices past. What will you do?


  • Surrender Charlie

    Samain and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Heidi. The Dragonfly Sign. Colorado Supreme Court. Psilocybin. Nahuatl Gods and Mayan hieroglyphics. Surrender. Irv. Rider. Mt. Logan. Crooked Top Mountain. The Grandfather Tree. Park County 43. Buggy Whip Road. Hangman’s Road. Washington County Maine. Climate change. Shadow Mountain. The Rockies. The Front Range. Alan. Bastien’s Steak House. The Winter Solstice. Holimonth.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Colorado Supreme Court

    One brief shining: A cloth with Native American colors marking the four directions, circular, laid on it cut white Roses, small Pine Tree Branches, red Roses, Cinnamon, Coffee beans, Star Anise, Aspen Leaves arranged for a Peruvian gratitude ceremony in which I picked up a small Branch of Pine Needles, inhaled its essence three times and exhaled my love and gratitude before placing the needles gently in the center.

     

    OK, nation! See Colorado go. I loved living in Minnesota and in the Twin Cities for forty years. The North Woods. Wolves. Lake Superior. So many Lakes. Liberal to radical politics. Not perfect, no. Witness George Floyd. But no place is. And Minnesota seemed as close as they come while I lived there. Then Kate and I moved to Shadow Mountain.

    As the Dead said: What a long, strange trip it’s been. Many of you know my story over the now 9 years exactly since my buddy Tom and I drove straight through from the Twin Cities with Kepler, Vega, and Rigel in the back. And, yes, that story has its definite peaks and valleys. But that’s not my reference here.

    No where else in the country, this divided and often pitiful land of ours, could I have had a legal psychedelic journey on Crooked Top Mountain then come home to Shadow Mountain and read the wonderful news that the Colorado Supreme Court had called a crook a crook, an insurrectionist an insurrectionist and kicked Trump off our ballot. I mean, whoa! What a day.

    I shifted my inner identification a few years back from Minnesotan to Coloradan, my Mountain home become just that. Home. Yes, we elected a gay Governor. How bout that. And of course the wild Neighbors and the Mountain Streams and the Black Bears. The Snow and the spectacular Autumns with gold and green. Over the time I’ve lived here Colorado has shifted from red to blue. Not without some Western weirdness along the way, but that makes it interesting. All that’s true.

    But in one day to take a psilocybin journey with a good friend on property so evocative of a sixties commune and then learn we Coloradans had taken a firm stand, saying what all clear eyed non Trump bedazzled folks already know but somehow cannot communicate, that insurrectionists should not, in fact,cannot hold office. Well, I’m busting with state pride right now. Colorado is the California of the new Millennia. OK. Enough local chauvinism. Still, pretty damned cool. Gives this aging radical a boost.

     

    Short note on the psilocybin journey about which more later. Ate the mushroom after the gratitude ceremony. Mixed with a little lemon juice supposed to make it come on quicker and go sooner. Sat outside in the glass enclosed shelter where we held the gratitude ceremony, the others going inside. Watched the curved Snowy Bowl of Mt. Logan as my inner weather shifted under the power of the mushroom.

    Went inside and lay down on a heated pad. Soon Nahuatl Gods and Mayan hieroglyphics began to move across the ceiling. Sometimes two dimensional sometimes three almost down to my face. I love hallucinations. So fun. I told my guide I might be under utilizing the experience; it was so entertaining.

    Turned out no. I hadn’t. I had two intentions going in, the one I wrote about yesterday, how to live fully, and the second to continue my exploration of the sacred.

    During some brief conversation after being asked if we had any insights I said, yes, I had one. In living more fully I’ve pushed, thought about things to do, about acting in my life to live more fully. Answering Shakespeare, I have always chosen to take up arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing end them. Now I need to learn surrender.

    To live fully I need to open up, accept what’s coming. Greet the new year with arms spread wide for what it brings rather than what I can make happen. Well, not rather than. I mean, I’ll still take up arms, of course I will, but I learned yesterday that I have another option. To embrace, to wait, to listen, to let the world and its wonders come to me. As the Wicked Witch of the West might say, “Surrender, Charlie!”

     

     


  • All the grandchildren will need them

    Samain and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: The Geminids. The Sky. Outer Space. The James Webb. Orion. Aquarius. Polaris. The Crab Nebula. Fusion power, may its potential become reality. The Darkness before a Winter Dawn. Fog. Driving through a Cloud. Prostate cancer as a chronic disease. Phonak. Split keyboards. Wireless mice and keyboards. My desktop, old faithful. With me since 2016. Cernunnos.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: My sibs

    One brief shining: On the seventh day of Hanukah I will take out eight beeswax candles, small tapers, and starting from the right place them one at a time until all but two candle holders have a candle, the eighth candle, the shamash, lies in front of the menorah ready for its servant role as bringer of fire and light to the other seven candles, when the others burn the shamash will go in its central holder, ready if needed.

     

    Still learning. Supposed to light the candles from left to right, always start with the new light. This festival honors a small group of Maccabean soldiers who liberated the temple in the second century b.c.e. The Temple menorah had only six lights plus a shamash, the helper and, in addition, the Mesopotamian Sun God. An interesting conflation.

    The Temple menorah burned oil and was to be kept lit always. The Seleucid’s occupying the Temple had let the Temple menorah go out. The only oil that could be used in the menorah was oil that had been blessed. There was only enough for one day. Yet it burned for eight days so the story goes. Enough time for the priests to return and bless more oil.

    Jews celebrate this holiday to honor the Maccabees and their small force that returned the Temple to the Jewish community. Thus, it’s a holiday signifying the power of even a small group of dedicated people. Yes, the miracle of the oil. But for most, not the main point. A minor holiday in most ways except for its confluence with the Christmas season and its emphasis on lights.

     

    Another interesting confluence. My beeswax candles for the menorah and the climate conference in Dubai. 200 nations agreed to transition away from fossil fuels. Cynical me: Finally. Probably not in time. Glad me: Finally. The right direction.

    We must emphasize adaptation, too. Adaptation to the results of climate change will have to proceed apace with the efforts to rein in carbon emissions. My own energy and money will focus there. I used to have a front line seat and intention to stop coal, get legislation passed, keep the oil in the ground. No more. There are plenty of young activists doing that. May they succeed.

    Me? I want the axolotl population to increase. Perennial food grains to go into the soil all over the world. Institutions like the Land Institute to get more and better attention, funding. I want those farmers willing to wrestle the land back to its non-fertilized, non-Roundupped state to start buying land back from corporate farms and feed lots. I want the DNA of all food crops to diversify again, away from the monocultures sold and owned by seed companies and pharmaceutical giants. I will support all of these efforts in my own way, both financially and politically.

    Why? Because a world changed by a climate heated beyond our experience will need all of them. My grandchildren will need all of them. All the grandchildren will need them.

     


  • Ho, Ho, Ho

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Monday gratefuls: The Ancient Brothers on faith. Leo. Luke on his way to Florida. Scott and Rene. Snow. Christmas music. Klezmer music. Nepalese food. Gabe, Ruth, Mia coming up on the weekend. Hanukah. My Dog menorah. Holiday gifts. For Mark and Ana and the Shirley Waste folks. The lights on Black Mountain/Brook Forest Drive. Especially that one tall Spruce. Fusion energy. Coming, I hope. The long arc of a life.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Leo asleep beside me

    One brief shining: Took a peppermint flavored chocolate ball as I entered the sanctuary, kippah in place, popped it in my mouth while finding a seat on the left side so my good ear would be toward the piano, a crowd of unfamiliar people in the seats to hear a local pianist, a transplanted Australian, play seasonal music, that is Christmas music mostly, a somewhat dissonant experience.

     

    Relearned a lesson yesterday evening. I still have neurons caching memories of Silver Bells, Hark the Herald Angels Sing, and Silent Night. Hearing these songs in the same sanctuary where I held the Torah scroll on Friday night was. Strange.

    Memories of Christmas past came floating up like visitors to Scrooge, sort of unwelcome yet also precious. And important. Teaching me that I am whole, not part. Not just this new Jew, welcomed home by CBE, but an old, well not really Christian, but American immersed in the Christmas tree, holiday lights, Santa Claus and candy cane world of December in the U.S. And, Singapore. Yet I also believe in the miracle of the mikvah, that I have always been a Jew, and so my slight outsider status to the candy cane world even long ago.

    Will watch a silly Christmas movie or two. No tree. Not for a long time. Perhaps I’ll listen to some Christmas music. Each year for the past several years I’ve purchased the Jacquie Lawson Advent calendar, an English themed dive into a Victorian or Edwardian or London Christmas spread out over the season of Advent. Frustratingly this year I’ve had difficulty opening the damned thing. But I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the retro Christmas feeling these calendars have to offer.

    What I’m saying here is that I don’t miss celebrating that most confusing of theological ideas, incarnation of a great God in one person (all people, yes, sure. but one person?); however, the Christmas season even with its crass buy me, buy me, buy me emphasis still warms my heart. Sleigh bells jingle. Rudolf mounts the skies. That Grinch gets foiled.

    Folks put up lights in brave attempts to recall Great Sol from an apparent disappearance. Down the hill from me are inflatable moose lit with inner light, snowmen, Santa Claus, trees across Evergreen Lake, three of them the same height with wonderful blue bulbs, a Christmas light lined fence, more than one.

    On Friday night when I drove to CBE for the celebration of mine and Veronica’s conversion downtown Evergreen had barriers to cars. The Christmas parade. Drawing shoppers and kitschy Mountain lovers from Denver to give local folks some cash. I like it.


  • How to Become a Pagan and a Jew

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Monday gratefuls: The Ancient Brothers on gratitude. Snow melted off the Lodgepoles. Great Sol working magic. Black Mountain green again. Seven Stones cemetery. Israel. Becoming a Jew. Sleeping in. Tinned fish. Rice. Cosmic Apples. Holimonth. Advent. Hanukah. Winter Solstice. Christmas. Posada. New Years. Rituals and holidays. Celebrations of deep moments. Christmas lights up along Black Mountain Drive. Gifts, giving and receiving. Those folks who paid for my Thanksgiving meal.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Rituals and holidays

    One brief shining: Books have invaded my house, creeping downstairs from my library a few at a time, insinuating themselves on chairs, coffee tables, anywhere a flat surface offers them purchase, oh and I should say, they also come to the front door in boxes, mailing bags of paper and plastic, insisting on being brought inside out of the cold, warmed up before they get read.

     

    “And when I die / and when I’m gone / there’ll be one child born, in this world / to carry on / to carry on.” And When I Die, Laura Nyro

    This song has been ear worm the last couple of days. Blood, Sweat, and Tears is the version I remember. I like the message. And, I believe Max was that child for Kate.

     

    Tomorrow at my beit din, court of judgment, Rabbi Jamie, Joan Greenberg, and Cantor Liz Sacks will convene. Here is Rabbi Jamie’s heads up:

    “For the beit din, you will be asked to reflect upon your journey, why you are taking this step at this time, and other open ended questions (to which there are no ‘right’ answers). Your essays have been shared with the other members of the beit din. Let honesty and a playful humility be your guides and you’ll be just fine.”

    Here is my “essay:”

     

    How to Become a Pagan and a Jew

     

    Start religious life on a hard wooden pew under a stained-glass window of Jesus praying at Gethsemane. You know, father if you’d just as well, I’d prefer to pass on the whole crucifixion thing. Years and years of sermons, Christmas eve services, Easter services. Enough to create a solid if unremarkable Christian theology. Small town religion in the 1950’s Midwest. What else were you gonna be?

     

    As your brain develops and your education expands, you might find yourself beginning to ask questions. Resurrection? Really. How does that work? Methodist. Nazarene. Missouri Synod Lutheran. Synod? Roman Catholic. Bible Church. So many brands. Why is that? Couldn’t they just agree?

    How about that Reverend Steele who ran off to California with the organist?

    We haven’t even hit 1965 yet. Maybe in a search for more information you go to the Roman Catholic priest in town and ask for instructions in how to become a Catholic. If he’s smart (yes, he, always he. I mean, Jesus was a guy, right?), and noticing the kind of questions you’ve come with he might introduce you to some proofs for the existence of god.

    Like that one where this thing causes that thing and we spend a lot of time going backwards, if this thing caused this then what caused this? Until we reach the universe itself. Bingo! Has to be god, right? Who or what else has the metaphysical moxie to be the cause behind the whole universe. The Prime Mover. Or that other one for example by that guy Anselm: God is that which there is nothing greater than can be conceived. Sort of obvious that one.

    Maybe college comes next and you choose to enroll in Philosophy 101. The professor smokes a pipe with tobacco pre-rolled in paper covered plugs. Wears tweed. Quotes whole passages from Plato. In Greek no less. None of those high school teachers held even a small votive candle to this guy.

    And he demolishes Anselm and the Prime Mover. Who wants to worship a first cause? I mean, come on. So what if there is something greater than anything else that can be conceived? What does that prove? It’s just an exercise in fuzzy thinking.

    Oh. You say. Well. I see. And wander off to Albert Camus who’s much more appealing than Jean-Paul Sartre. Camus later will remind you of Ram Dass who said we’re all just walking each other home. Sorry. A digression there.

    After a while the whole Christian story doesn’t add up. Too many contradictions. Too much bloodshed. Too much bigotry. And it gets shoved off to the side while other matters, more immediately germane, take precedent.

    Like the Vietnam War. Or feminism. Or Anthropology. Or dope. Or alcohol. Or contract Bridge.

    Wait though. Kierkegaard. He was an existentialist, right? Like Camus. Interesting. Well, maybe you decide, I’ll give it a look after all this college stuff finishes up.

    Later, say a year or so out of college, drifting from a department store job to selling life insurance to cutting up underwear in a papermill to make rag bond paper, Kierkegaard comes back. Leap of faith, wasn’t it?

    Yes. Instead of figuring faith out, act like you have it. See what happens. Before your 7 am shift starts at Fox River Paper, you take to reading the Bible. Writing verses down on notecards and sticking them in your shirt pocket to be read over a baloney sandwich at lunch.

    Then this minister. United Church of Christ. Didn’t have that one back home. Turns out he’s opposed to the war, too. That’s a head twister. Not your small-town religion anymore.

    You’re really, really bored. Cutting up underwear was not your dream job. OK, maybe you didn’t have a dream job, but that wasn’t it for sure. That wife you married in a rush on that Indian Mound turns out to be sleeping with other guys.

    Ooff. You need to get out of this small conservative slice of Wisconsin. Joe McCarthy’s buried in a nearby cemetery.

    That minister says. Try seminary. Nah. Why would I do that? Cutting rags no. But minister. Not a chance. Do you even know me? Drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Why not? If you don’t like it, quit. But at least you’ll be somewhere else.

    Well, maybe. The application comes in the mail. They offer you housing and food and tuition for the first year. Huh. That wife gets the Volkswagen van. You sell the house, make a little bit. You get some cash and off you go to Minnesota.

    Five years later you’re working as a Presbyterian minister. Building affordable housing. Supporting labor unions and immigrants in search of green cards. Challenging standard philanthropy practices. Taking food out to Wounded Knee. Organizing the unemployed to create new jobs, legislation.

    Not bad. Making money, hardly anything, but doing things you find important, worthwhile. Significant, in a small way.

    Decide to get an advanced degree. A Doctorate. While writing your thesis discover you’ve written one hundred and twenty pages of a novel instead. Even the Gods Must Die. Oh. A clue there.

    Your spiritual director, a fussy little guy, but insightful says during one session, “You’re a Druid!” You’ve been reading Celtic mythology, remembering that professor with the pipe. Slipping away from the fold.

    One morning you wake up and realize you really don’t buy it anymore. Probably hadn’t bought it for a while. The political work was too good, too solid, too in synch with your heart. You stuffed the doubts and the fact that you represented this religion.

    Skip forward a few years. A new wife. Flower gardens. Vegetable gardens. An orchard. Bees. A woods. Wolfhounds and whippets. No longer a minister.

    Thinking about a tactile spirituality. A spirituality that goes in and down rather than up and out. You realize the life you nurture in the gardens, the dogs, your small family. That’s real. No fancy philosophy required. Right here. Hands in the soil digging up carrots and beets and onions. Life. Its cycle.

    The seasons. The Great Wheel of the Seasons. Putting away apocalyptic linear time for good. Everything has its season. Yes. Everything.

    The bees. Are you more important than they are? Is Celt, that 180 pound goofy, loving dog less significant than you? Oh.

    Life begins to look less complicated.

    Later, much later, that wife dies. And that’s part of the Great cycle. Maybe you get cancer and find solace in the Mountains of your new home. How short your life is compared to theirs.

    You begin to live with the seasons, with life as it comes. Not pushing against it, not privileging that life over that. Extending your understanding of life to include the Mountain on which you live. And the ones which surround it.

    You find your wild neighbors communicating to you. Welcoming you, including you.

    That’s how.

     

    Jewish Coda

    King David. That’s why. My wife, Kate Olson, a convert at 30, and I searched the Canyon Courier. New to the mountains in 2014. Oh, an education session on King David at Congregation Beth Evergreen.

    Folks we met that snowy, bitter cold night came to Kate’s shiva in 2021. Tara, Marilyn. Many others, too, whom we met later.

    Kate sat on the board, dressed like a jester for Purim. We attended services, holidays, education events. Got to know people. Studied mussar and kabbalah with Rabbi Jamie.

    Made friends. Brought food. Carried tables. You know. The work of community.

    Assimilation. Happens so slow. So many Seders, Simchat Torahs. Love that holiday! The dancing and the simcha. Meals in the sukkah. Learning late at night on Shavuot. Breakfasts and lunches with friends from the synagogue.

    Teaching in the Hebrew School with my buddy Alan. 6th and 7th graders. Doing the occasional bagel table lesson. Discovering Avivah Zornberg, my favorite.

    Two and a half years after Kate’s death. Still a member, still hanging with my friends from the synagogue.

    Rabbi Jamie’s lesson on the Mah Tovu. This summer. It hit me. The truth of this Mordecai Kaplan commentary on p. 141 of the Prayerbook: It is only a true and close community that develops associations, traditions and memories that go to make up its soul. To mingle one’s soul with that soul becomes a natural longing.

    I had long ago mingled my soul with this sacred community. These people are my people. I am one of them.

    The next day I called Jamie. I want to convert. What do I need to do. To bring myself into full alignment with this community.

     

     

     

     


  • The Kindness of Strangers

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Friday gratefuls: The kindness of strangers. Prime rib. Mashed potatoes. Corn bread stuffing. Green salad. Charcuterie plate. Urban Farmer. Downtown Denver on Thanksgiving. A solid workout. Snow and cold. 11 degrees this morning. Flocked Lodgepoles. Black Mountain obscured in fog. Fog last night driving home. Snow falling gently. Good sleeping. BJ and Pammy. Diane. Recovering. Mark in Hafar. Mary in K.L. My son and Seoah in Songtan. Me on Shadow Mountain. A good Winter storm.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Snow and Snow Plows

    One brief shining: After parallel parking for the first time in a while, poorly, I closed Ruby’s door, looked over at Union Station and walked away from it toward the Urban Farmer which sits at 17th and Wazee, downtown Denver had cars in almost all parking spaces, lights were bright, and folks walked the streets hurrying to this meal or that bar when I went in and said, Buckman-Ellis for one.

     

    Thanksgiving day, 2023. I had decided a month ago that I wanted to eat a good meal in a fine restaurant downtown Denver. Why? Jon died a year ago and we had Thanksgiving up here with Jen, Barb, Ruth and Gabe. My usual Thanksgiving was with Jon and the kids, sometimes my son and Seoah joined us. I didn’t feel like repeating last year’s meal, but I wanted to do something special. So. Downtown, fancy restaurant.

    Though. Ruth called and invited me to Thanksgiving dinner. Her last at home before heading off for college. She cooked. Mia, my granddaughter from another mother came, too. It was a quiet meal. I couldn’t hear well so I didn’t join the conversation as much as usual. I enjoyed the food and the company.

    Afterward we played a hand of Uno. I said I needed to get home before dark, so I left a bit early. As I walked out, everybody came with me. Ruth gave me a hug. Gabe ran in and hugged me. Reminded me of that awful night when Ruth found Jon dead. Mia gave me a hug. Ruth and Gabe gave me another one. Sweet. Jen watched, much as she had when Ruth and Gabe ran to me when I arrived the night Jon died.

     

    The Urban Farmer buzzed. Silverware clanked. The hostess asked me if I would be ok with a hightop? No. She led me to a two top down a corridor beyond the bar. In my imagination I sat at a two-top in a quiet corner, eating, reading. Nope. A family on my left, an odd couple on my right. Three tables across the way with families. A busy, busy place. Wait people, bus persons, bartenders, chefs moved in and out of swinging doors. Every table in the place was full and before I left they lifted two sliding doors and opened yet another whole room for guests. Not quite the intimate, secluded meal I had fantasized.

    I did not want Turkey. Why I went to a steak house. Prime rib. Decided on it because I like it and it was Kate’s favorite. I could imagine her being pleased with it as much as I was. Delicious. The Corn bread stuffing equaled any I’d ever had. It was a fixed price meal. $90. Reasonable with all the sides and the salad and the charcuterie plate and the chocolate cake at the end.

    My waitress, a Latina, took good care of me. I noticed a young girl working as a bus person who moved fast, taking plates over here, clearing tables there. Always moving. I gave my waitress a five and told her to give it to her because I enjoyed her work ethic. My waitress smiled, said, “We call her Speedy Gonzalez!” A very sweet part of the evening because Speedy Gonzalez beamed the next time she came past my table. Thank you she mouthed.

    Took out my credit card after the last bite of the cake. My waitress sat down next to me and said, “You’re good. A table already paid your bill.” Wha…? I slipped her a tip and said, “Well. That’s something.” Didn’t say why. Maybe because I was an old guy eating alone on Thanksgiving? Or, just a kind gesture… I’ll never know because they were gone. At least I think so. I was a bit flustered. Left me smiling on Thanksgiving. Something to be grateful for.