• Category Archives Minnesota
  • New Identities

    Spring and the Purim Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Yet more Snow! Today. Blue Colorado Sky with scattered white Cumulus Clouds. The Ancient Brothers. Hafar. K.L. S.F. Maine. Minnesota. Jackie in Bailey. Aspen Roots. Kissing Frogs. Movies. Nights. Days. Resurrection. A new life. The Shema. Full days. Travel. Dogs. Marilyn and Irv. The Socrates Cafe. Meeting new people.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Questions

    One brief shining: Each month I drive eight minutes from Shadow Mountain to Aspen Park, going by the new bakery the Wicked Whisk and my old personal trainer at On the Move Fitness, past the physical therapists who got me through knee surgery, to the never in my time up here full suite of offices and business that contain the Pinball place, the massage folks, a live theater, Thai 202 which makes the wonderful Crying Tiger, and hop up the stairs to Aspen Roots where Jackie cuts my hair and tells me she loves me which I say back.


    Long enough now. Long enough for relationships to have come and gone. And for some to remain. My tenth year on Shadow Mountain, begun last Winter Solstice. This is where I live, a Coloradan, a Westerner, a Mountain dweller. All distinct identities created by geography and geology and the human imprint on both.

    As a Coloradan I inhabit a former red hate state, transitioning to a blue progressive state. As a Westerner, I have heeded Horace Greeley and gone west though not as a young man, but as an older one. Greeley, Colorado* is named after him. The Western identity has a good deal of complexity to it as does Mountain dweller.

    To be a Westerner means to enjoy the benefits of manifest destiny, of the push west of the frontier, the railroads, those seeking gold, those fleeing law or custom or poverty in the the East. Of those who slaughtered the bison and the indigenous populations who lived here before we arrived. Those who clear cut the Front Range to build Denver and the many, far too many, hard Rock mines that pollute the Creeks, Streams, and Rivers here. The Western U.S. We who arrived later are not innocent. Yet no one is innocent. Either here or there.

    What happens now. What we do today. Who we are in this moment matters, too. We are the stewards, the fellow travelers in this magical wide open place. We are responsible for what happens here as are the Wild Neighbors, the Forests and Streams. The descendants of all those who lived here long ago and all those who altered the landscape not so long ago. We must build the sustainable way for humans to live here for as long as human beings can live.

    The Mountain Dweller is the most personal of these three identities and the most narrow, representing that place where I live and love and have my becoming. Each day my eyes open to the top of Shadow Mountain, to the taller prominence of Black Mountain, to the Lodgepoles and Aspens that cover them both. My lungs take in the scarce air of 8,800 feet as I set aside my nighttime oxygen canula. Often Mule Deer will be around, hunting for grass.

    To go anywhere. To see Jackie at Aspen Roots. To get groceries at Safeway. To breakfast with friends. To the synagogue. To the doctor. I drive on Mountain roads. Two lanes, blind curves, sudden changes of altitude, vistas opening and disappearing.

    Mountains whose names I do not know rise on either side, the Streams that drain them flowing often near the road itself. Sometimes I am up high and able to see for miles, then I go down into constricted views of only Rock and Trees. All the while, not far off the road Wild Neighbors living their wild lives. Beavers damming Streams, their Ponds. The Mountain Lion on a rocky shelf waiting for Elk or Mule Deer to walk below. In my own way I appear and disappear from view around curves, into a valley, only to suddenly reappear in Evergreen.

    How have these three identities changed me from the sea level view of life that was my birthright as a Midwestern boy? I’ve become more of a spectator of life outside of the Mountains. Back east. Or on the coasts. They are not close to me, and their struggles seem far away. My world has become more focused. There are fewer people out here, less urbanization, less agriculture. In those senses the Colorado/Western/Mountain world was unfamiliar to me.

    I live within a smaller world altogether. My fourth new identity, that of a Jew, makes this world, this more narrow and circumscribed world, a friendly and friend full one. As has the nine years plus of living here, making connections like Jackie. And now the Socrates Cafe. This is important because, like most of us who live up here, going down the hill is not appealing. And that’s where the bon vivant of urban life plays out. Even for those things I enjoy I have to factor in a long drive in and a long drive back. Most often the positive gain is too weak to justify the hassle.

    For me. Today. This Colorado guy, this Western guy, this Mountain Man has found his spot and become one with it.



    *Greeley began as the Union Colony of Colorado, which was founded in 1869 by Nathan C. Meeker, an agricultural reporter for the New York Tribune as an experimental utopian farming community “based on temperance, religion, agriculture, education and family values,” with the backing of the Tribunes editor Horace Greeley, who popularized the phrase “Go West, young man”.[7][8][9] wiki

  • Big Storms

    Imbolc and the Purim Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Snow. A lot. More on the way. The generator. Good sleeping. Mountain late winter. The cold. Still there. Tired. Less sneezy. Mostly fatigued. Reading. New Joe Pickett novel. Jewish holidays. Come and Get It by Kiley Reid. Politics. So consequential, so out of whack. My storm larder. Bean soup. Pork steaks. Plenty of food for body and soul.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: A Winter Storm

    One brief shining: Sure enough, around noon Snow started off and on, tailing off around three, coming back an hour later in a steady, straight down imitation of a good drenching Rain, continuing all night with today predicted to add 9-13 inches and tonight another 6-10 both on top of the overnight last night total perhaps putting us past even the predicted three feet.

    Nota bene: At 7:30 am I took a yardstick out to my deck. I measured 21 inches of Snow.


    Around 3 am I awoke to jazz and my medical guardian announcing that it was “charging”, something it does each time I put it in its charging cradle at night. The rumble of the generator going off told me what had happened. Power had gone out, perhaps twice, and when it shifted this time back to the grid the guardian figured it had just been plugged in and the cd player with a Dave Brubeck disc in it somehow turned on. Late Winter/early Spring Snow storms with their wet, heavy snow often take out Mountain electrical lines. Not unexpected.

    Even so, the cool sound of Brubeck’s jazz confused me as did the mechanical voice repeating, “charging.” It took me a minute to orient myself to the storm and the generator.

    We’ve been prepped for this storm since last weekend. A big one. At first, maybe 2 feet of Snow! Then, no, more like 3. Giving what I’ve seen so far and what’s predicted we might exceed that. So many of the Snow forecasts this season have busted or been underwhelming. Not this one. We’ll remember where we were on March 14th in 2024.

    Big Snow Storms are like irregular holidays. Anticipated with either eagerness or dread. Often preceded by trips to the grocery store. A reason to stay home from work or school. The bigger they are, the more memorable. That Halloween blizzard in 1991. Minnesota. If you were in the state then, you remember that one. Over 2 feet of snow. The arc of this storm is far from over so just how big it will be is still unknown. But it seems well on its way to the history books.


    Just a moment: Well, my plea for Joe Biden to step aside fell on deaf ears. Mine included. He cinched the Democratic nomination. As has 45. We’re getting our dream matchup for the election that may determine the fate of democracy in the U.S. That dream, BTW, is, yes, a nightmare. A repeat of 2020. And the third time 45 has been on the ballot. Three times too many if you ask me.

    My nudge to the President did come before his State of the Union speech. He caught some air with that. Still not sure he’s the right one to carry us past the golden haired boy. But I gotta hope so.

  • “Higher” Criticism

    Winter and the Cold Mountain

    Shabbat gratefuls: Parsha Beshalach: Exodus 13:17-17:16. Shabbat candle holders. Shabbat. Joanne. Alan. His BMW in Oxnard, Ca. Breakfast with Marilyn and Irv next week. Irv and his recovery. Jazz concert tomorrow at Alan and Cheri’s in Denver. Snow yesterday. 52 on Wednesday. Colorado. The Rocky Mountains. The Atlantic Ocean. The Pacific. The South China Sea. The Yellow Sea. Sailing.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: A day of joy

    One brief shining: A millennia ago I lived in student housing at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton Minnesota and walked through the then still fierce Winter to the classroom building a block away where I would go through the cafeteria, down past the mailboxes collecting anything to me on the way and the bookstore to the small stainless steel elevator, get in, push 3, get out on the top floor of the library, head to my carrel, sit down and sink into both the expansive view and my intent to learn. Ah.


    That was 1970. There were electric outlets at each of our outdoor parking places so we could plug in our engine block heaters. I recalled these memories because I added Parsha Beshalach to my gratefuls this morning. A through line between seminary and this Jewish life I’m now living is my excitement about study of scripture. I loved those “Old Testament” classes with Art Merrill and the New Testament classes with Henry Gustafson. A month or so ago I asked to have Torah study added to the adult education program at CBE. Of course, I ended up in charge of it. That’s the way of religious institutions. If you volunteer, you lead.

    You might think the several classes I took at UTS would give me some expertise for Torah study, but you would be mostly wrong. Not sure if I wrote about this before, but here are the big differences. First, Jews focus on the Torah, the first five books of the Tanakh which also includes the Nevi’im, the prophets, and the Ketuvim, writings. T for Torah. N for Nevi’im. K for Ketuvim = TaNaKh. The Tanakh has most of the same material as what Christians insist on calling the “Old Testament.” My education at UTS covered the whole of both Testaments, “Old” and New. So much, much less attention to the Torah itself.

    Second, the exegetical methods I learned, that is, the methods of getting at what the text meant and its interpretation (hermeneutics), differ significantly from the Jewish approach to exegesis. I learned redaction criticism, how the texts were edited; form criticism, whether the text had liturgical or other formal construction; textual criticism, how did the variant editions and translations differ; how to translate from the Greek and Hebrew for myself though mine was a limited introduction; historical criticism, what was happening at the time the text was written; and, reception criticism, how had the text been received and interpreted over church history.

    We learned two steps. First, exegesis using the best tools we knew, the various critical methodologies and any other analysis we could bring to the text. Second, the hermeneutical task, taking our best understanding of the meaning of the text, exegetical work, and applying that meaning to a contemporary situation. This usually meant writing a sermon.

    Third, a lot of what I learned about the “Old Testament” had a definite Christian inflection. That is, finding those parts of the Tanakh which prophesied the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.

    The Jewish approach is much different and I’ll go into that in a later post. Tomorrow if I remember.

  • Neither Trump nor Biden

    Winter and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Marilyn and Irv. Lila and Liks. Ryder. 12 degrees this morning. A good Snow overnight. Spelling Bee. Black Mountain not visible. Still Snowing. The Ancient Brothers. Aleph. Lamech. Bet. Tav. Mem. Nun. My torah portion. Unboxing my cd player. The Brothers Sun. El Ninõ. Furball Cleaning. Ana and Lita. Music. Black-eyed peas. Soup. Crackers. Sardines and Salmon, Tuna.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The waning crescent Winter Solstice Moon

    One brief shining: If Kate and I were still in Andover, we would be sitting at our long kitchen table, pages opened in many Seed catalogues, discussing planting for the upcoming year should we try Leeks again, what was that Iris you saw, pages riffle, oh, that’s a beauty, look at this Garlic, these heirloom Tomatoes, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, and wondering if the Bees survived the winter so Artemis Honey could fill up more jars and bottles.


    I ordered a couple of Seed catalogues this year. Maybe Harris and Seed Savers. They came. I looked at them briefly, but without the promise of planting, tending to the plants, harvest. I put them away. No regret. It was time to let the Gardens and the Orchard pass to other younger hands. And they did.

    The memories and photographs of those times though. Rich and lush like the early May Flower beds, the late August Garden beds, a Tree weighted down with Honeycrisp Apples. Like a hive humming with Bees, flying in and out, making honey and propolis and wax. Like an Irish Wolfhound at play. Tor gently reaching through the Garden fence in September to pluck golden Raspberries straight from the Cane.

    Cool fall evenings around the firepit with Kate, hot chocolate, some Oak or Ironwood crackling with orange and blue. A good life.


    Yesterday the Ancient Brothers made four predictions each. Perhaps unsurprising in one instance. We all predicted Trump would lose. Two of us predicted unrest and chaos. I hadn’t thought of that but, yes, I imagine so. 45 has dominated and shaped an ugly era of American politics and civic life. You know that. Yet my final prediction was that, even if the worst happens, ordinary life will go on. People will get up in the morning. Go to work. Raise children. Buy assault rifles. Probably at Walmart.

    Will those predictions about the election come true? Hell if I know. Our poor political system has had the stuffin’ kicked out of it. The primaries hold little suspense. The choices already seem self-evident. Old and older. Though of course that can change. I hope it changes. I would prefer neither Trump nor Biden on the ticket in the fall.

    I say that because I want Trump gone and I can see several different scenarios where he gets knocked aside by a health issue or legal peril. I say that because Biden, who has performed way above expectations, guiding the ship through turbulence of all sorts, does not have what we need. Youth. Energy. Vision. A statesperson who can lift us all up, remind us of the ideals that have made this flawed nation a great nation. TBD.

  • The Holy Land

    Samain and the Winter Solstice Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Heidi. Irv. Luke. Money. Rich. Leo, the sweet boy. Cooper. Who may join me here. Sleep. Restoration. Resurrection. A new life, this day. Paul’s photo of the sardines. But, Paul, I’m stuck on lobster pots. Tom’s found sign. (right) Bill working with the paper marblers. Ode and the Stars. Diane getting ready for Taiwan. All the wound up little kids out there. Santa Claus. Norad. Christmas Trees. Eggnog. Lights. Yule Logs. All those pagan rooted parts of the celebration we call Christmas. Incarnation

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The ohr in everything

    One brief shining: Wanted a piece of jewelry a necklace as a constant reminder of my conversion but no to a mogen David, the six pointed star, no to a chaim searched could not find anything until an Etsy artist from Israel with handmade metal Alephs showed up, loved it the beginning of the Hebrew alphabet, makes no sound, a symbol for ayin nothingness, the ein sof from which Lurainic kabbalah says all creation has its origin, now around my neck, making no sound, under my shirt, talking in quiet whispers to me of origins and nothingness.



    Sorry for wearing my sacred heart on my sleeve these last few posts. No, I’m not. Well, I don’t want to weary you with it. May not be your thing. Or, you may wonder about my mental stability. Which of course you might anyway. But to me I feel sane, just fine. As they all say, right?

    Have been re-reading Radical Judaism by Jamie’s mentor, Arthur Greenberg. The Radical piece comes from the Radical Theology movement that sprang up from the death of God conversation. Radical theologians wrote in honest recognition of the wreck on modernist shores that the God of old had become. He expired there, perhaps holding his long white beard in wrinkled old man hands.

    In Greenberg I find a soul companion, one who’s journey and mine took the road less traveled to much the same destination. A reimagining of sacredness utilizing the tools of other ancient seekers, especially focusing on the Western religious traditions. I took the Christian turnoff, then the liberal religion loop, stayed a long while in earth centered paganism, but, like Greenberg ended up on the path to the Holy Land.

    That may be the best short hand for this work, come to think of it. The Holy Land. Not just for the Middle East anymore. My Holy Land. The drive between Shadow Mountain and Evergreen through the Arapaho National Forest. Your Holy Land, maybe the Waters of Lake Minnetonka, or a Regional Park, or a pond near your townhome, or the cold Atlantic and the Waters and Lands of Down East Maine. Lucky Street and its domestic neighbors.

    Bloom where you are planted. Yes, a cliche for sure. And yet profound. Who knows when this phrase entered my archives, too common to pin down. But as an ethic, a call to action, a daily motivator it has stuck with me. Sort of like the shema: Listen up, Israel. The One is our God. Our god is the one. Brought to mind often, shaping a world in its simple resonant logic.

    When Kate had to move to the exurbs to be within 15 minutes of the hospital, I resisted. I had lived in the Twin Cities for 30 years. My working life had focused on urban issues, urban politics. What was I gonna do in conservative Anoka County? But there was no choice. She needed the new job. We needed the new job. So. We bought a model home on 2.5 acres of land. About 40% wooded, some scrub Oak and Black Ash with long grass, the rest stripped bare by bulldozers in the process of construction.

    Those of you visited our Andover home know what we did. We quite literally bloomed, over and over again, where we were planted.

    I’m going to continue this idea later.




  • Softball, Korea News

    Lughnasa and the Korea Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Labor Day weekend. My son has Friday and Monday off. The Minnesota State Fair. A not so faded remnant of the Lughnasa festivals of the old Gaeltacht. A Minnesota Fall. Brilliant colors, blue Waters, trips up North. A Rocky Mountain Fall. Aspens gold against Lodgepole Green on Black Mountain. Clear cool Skies. A Korean Fall. Will find out.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Seasons

    One brief shining: My son came home last night in a bright t-shirt with Aladdin 02 on the back and a Cobra on the front his left arm bruised at the bicep after he threw a pitch and a hard hit soft ball came right back to him full of joy at playing and having an injury.


    My son plays on his squadron’s soft ball team. The Cobra signifies their squadron. His first time up a few weeks ago he hit a homer. Now he’s hooked for the season. He’s an athlete, has been since middle school. Cross country in the fall. Ski racing in the winter and track in the spring. High school. He also raced on the UofM’s ski team.

    He and Seoah both have the athletic gene, now expressed most often in workouts and golf every weekend. Makes dad glad. Ha. Good for health and for their marriage.


    Used the apartment’s gym again yesterday. Feel better already. More limber and a regular dose of endorphins. The same three buff middle-aged Korean women were in the weight room. Seemed like chatting had as much to do with their reason for being there as the weight machines.

    Noticed, again, that I tilt to the left. Scoliosis. Polio. Beginning to have some soreness in my right hip and lower back. Not often, not always. Usually after a lot of time on my feet.

    Still not sure how it will affect my stamina when I get into serious sight-seeing. May be limited to mornings. Maybe less than that. Or, maybe rest at intervals will be enough. I’m sure to find out this weekend since we’re going to Seoul for the first time.


    Big news here. War games held for both North and South Korea. Every year a war game called Freedom Shield unites South Korean and U.S. militaries in a display of force designed as a response to a hypothetical North Korean invasion. Such exercises enhance the ability of two command structures to blend when faced with actual conflict.

    North Korea launched an unsuccessful spy satellite last Wednesday in response. Then two more short range ballistic missiles this week. Today North Korea announced military exercises simulating the occupation of all of South Korea. Tit for tat.

    This annual saber rattling makes both sides a bit nervous, jumpy. My son has had some extra work as a result.

    On the streets of Songtan this causes no reaction whatsoever as near I can tell. The taxis pick up passengers. Folks go into the coffee shops. Buy meals in restaurants. It’s not that people don’t care. All Koreans want unification. Just not through military means. It’s more that the specter of war hangs so heavy here that it has become a backdrop to daily life. Not ignored, but not engaged daily.

    Sort of like having cancer it just occurred to me. You can’t pretend it’s not there. And, yes, it could kill you. But, if it occupies your heart/mind all the time  you give up life. Which doesn’t make sense. So  you make an uneasy peace and go on about your day.

  • Old skills

    Lughnasa and the Herme Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Janet. Her name is Janet. Mussar. Leading a discussion. Metaphor and the sacred. Thinking. Feeling. Lev. Luke and Ann. Ian. Carol. Gracie and Leo. Sarah and Elizabeth. Judaism. Reconstructionist. Finding religion again with no reservations. Hallelujah. Conversion in Jerusalem. Prostate Cancer. Irv. Marilyn now home. Tara in Europe. The Trail to Cold Mountain. Final edits. Now it’s a script for me to learn.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Leading

    One brief shining: In a far away state at a time now long ago I used to sit down often at a table or stand in front of a room knowing my job was to take a conversation with those present through difficult terrain, perhaps deciding how to take on unemployment or a recalcitrant landlord or an obdurate city hall or one of the many corporations that wanted to reach into people’s lives and take away their agency, then make a turn from conversation to action. Oh how I loved it.


    Yesterday for an hour and a half. I led the mussar group through the most difficult terrain of all, those things that matter to our interior, to our souls. I’d forgotten how satisfying it is to do that. I avoid leadership roles these days. Saying no rather than yes. Saying been there. But as a substitute for the Rabbi. A one time thing. I said yes.

    I miss it. Reading the pulse of a group, guiding in a gentle way or a forceful way depending on the need of the moment, offering my own thoughts lightly or not at all or for the purpose of digging further into the topic. Yesterday’s topic was the purpose of metaphor and the application of that purpose to language we use about God. Also, strangely and powerfully, the question: What is God for? A lot to be said on this. We spent a fun hour and half doing just that.

    Perhaps I could find these moments a bit more often. I don’t want to chair a committee. Nope. But I sure did enjoy the time yesterday. Though. I did fuzz up Janet’s name. Conflated her with Marilyn who sat beside her. Because the group has three Marilyns and Janet’s name, for some reason, skipped my mind. Don’t you love that phrase, skipped my mind? Janet danced away from available attention, played hopscotch in another corner just out of reach.

    She came up to me afterwards and said, “My name is Janet, Charlie.” Oh. Oops. Ian, a visitor from California gave me a fist bump.  He’s my age. Luke came up and gave me a big hug. There was a buzz in the room, the conversation spilling over past the end of the meeting.

    On my way out to the car Ginny came up to me and asked if I was converting. Yes, I said. Could I talk to you about it sometime? Ginny’s an Arkansas farm girl turned opera singer then stage actor then nurse. I told her I’d love to. Maybe the Blackbird? Which is in Kittredge where she lives with her partner.

  • Alexandria in the 50s

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon (waning crescent)

    Saturday gratefuls: Ruth. Her driver’s license! Gabe. Mary on her way. Mark in Hafr. Mom. Dad. Alexandria. Growing up in a small town. The 1950s. Sputnik. John Glenn. Elon Musk. Heavylifter. Tesla. The genius. And the car. Alan. Tom. The Parkside. The Royal Gorge Railroad. Canon City. BJ and Sarah. Their truck. Moving West. BJ and Schecky. Violins and cellos. Classical music. Jazz.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Family

    One brief shining: Mom brought to memory by Mark’s questions about her dead now 59 years so long ago yet I remember her red lipstick, her smile, her embrace and the kindness she brought into any room a woman of her time with a 1940’s hairdo, a stay-at-home mom whose cooking was memorable, who took each of us as special and unique, who volunteered at church, whom everyone in town knew as Trudy or Tudy.


    A different time. When life felt slower. Alexandria in the 1950s and the early 1960s. Jobs were good. 3 shifts at Delco Remy and Guide Lamp gave the southern diaspora who populated Alexandria jobs that paid well. The Alexandria Times-Tribune where Dad worked  came out 5 days a week with an extra big Thursday edition to carry the grocery ads for the upcoming weekend.

    We lived first in an apartment building on Lincoln, then a small house on Monroe, and finally the bigger house on Canal. 419 N. Canal. From my age 12. 1959. Mary had come seven years before and we needed more space.

    On Harrison Street, our main street, there were two grocery stores, Coxes and Krogers, two dime stores, Danner’s and Murphy’s, Broyle’s furniture, Guilkey’s shoe repair and newsstand, Fermen’s women’s store, Bailey’s drugstore, and a P.N. Hirsch Department store. Further down was the Town Theater one of two movie theaters, the Bakery, Mahony’s shoe store and Baumgartner’s Men’s Shop. A bar, too, whose name escapes me now. Always a source of mystery since kids weren’t allowed in there. A barber shop. A tailors on a side street. As was a bowling alley with pin spotters.

    Lots of churches. Alexandria First Methodist. The Baptist Church. The Roman Catholic Church. The Church of the Nazerene. Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. The Church of God-Anderson, Indiana. You were known in town by which church you attended. We were members of Alexandria First Methodist and had our spot on the right side of the sanctuary under the huge stained glass window of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Kneeling, hands on a large rock. My best friend, Ed Schmidt, went to the Catholic church. Also a source of mystery.

    Life focused on church, school, and work. And on certain holidays, patriotism. The big Decoration Day parade for example. The tanks would come out from the local National Guard Armory and pit the asphalt softened by summer heat with tread marks. The color guard insisted on wearing the shirts that fit them back then. Not so much at this point. Firetrucks. Police cars. Young women doing the wave from the backs of convertibles.

    Vital and personal 1950s small town life had an innocence about it that sheltered us kids from the currents affecting the world outside. We went to school, played with our friends, came home and ate supper, watched TV, went to bed. Rinse and repeat. It was good.




  • Regression

    Beltane and the Shadow Mountain Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Gabe and Seo. Aspen Perks. Twist and Shout. Denver. My circuitous route to it courtesy of my GPS. Denver East. High school freshmen. Ruth. A senior in one week. Sounding good. Working two jobs, Starbucks and Rocketfizz. Mia. Leslie, may her memory be for a blessing. Regression? Organizing. Mark and Dennis in Aspen at the Psychedelic Symposium. Then coming here. Leo, quite a good boy. Israel. Korea. Ecuador. Seeing the world again. Mark teaching nurses in Saudi Arabia. Mary winding down the semester in Eau Claire. My son and his wife, their first days back in Korea.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Ruth’s voice last night when we talked

    One brief shining: A modern horror story in one long sentence would be my friend Leslie going into the hospital for a hepatitis workup, coming out with a diagnosis of liver cancer that had metastasized, returning home not to continue her interesting life as a docent at the Denver Art Museum and a retired city planner and a long time member of CBE but to hospice cared for by her daughter Megan and dying yesterday in her sleep, winking out of her world and our world with little more than a week gone by from her visit to the hospital.


    The world is too much with us late and soon. Until suddenly it isn’t. Leslie’s death shocked our mussar group and CBE as a whole. So fast. And from a seemingly healthy state. Ye know not the day nor the hour. If she follows Jewish custom, the chevra kadisha committee from CBE will sit with her body around the clock for the three days before her burial. Jews believe the soul doesn’t leave the body for three days after death. A pine box and a grave follow. Shiva for the family. These days, as with Kate, often only one or two days rather than the traditional seven.

    Don’t know Leslie’s age, but she was a rough contemporary.


    Spent the morning and early afternoon with Seo and Gabe. Breakfast at Aspen Perks. A drive into Denver to go to the Twist and Shout vinyl record store. Gabe picked up Dark Side of the Moon. Dropped them off at their homes and went back to Shadow Mountain for a brief, thirty minute lie down, then over to CBE for the last of Dismantling Racism classes. At which we discussed next steps. An odd feeling came over me as this discussion went on. I found myself pulling back, listening to the ideas thrown back and forth, no one settling on a direction, a plan. My inner organizer winced, felt tired.

    As I drove home, I wondered if this might be a regressive activity for me. I had one before when I tried to reenter the ministry as a UU clergy. Spent a long time getting through the process, then to an internship in Unity at St. Paul. Kate said it was a mistake. I couldn’t see it. Then I made the very stupid decision to say yes to a job there as their minister of development. Again Kate said it was a mistake. It was. About as far from what I’m good at as I can imagine. I resigned, finally, to everyone’s relief.

    Regressions find us wanting to go back, pick up something we left behind, something that was unfinished. These feelings made me return to the Marginalian to pick up this paragraph, a summary of Karen Horney’s thoughts in her last book.* The organizer is one of those Russian nesting dolls that lives now deep within me. Followed by the writer, Kate’s husband, the dog lover, the horticulturist, the cook, the docent, the Coloradan, the mourner and the griever, the Grandpa, the camp follower Jew, the Hermit on Shadow Mountain, the lover of deepening relationships, the traveler. He’s of the past, still loved and appreciated, held in a position of honor among my past selves, but really not me anymore. He likes to feel he could still flex his muscles, stand in front of a group of strangers and call out from them a course of action that would give them at least a partial remedy to the pains of their lives.

    He was good at what he did and his work satisfied the me of my thirties and early forties in a profound way. Making a substantial difference for at least a few people for a particular moment in time. Some differences still at work like the Jobs Now Coalition, The Minnesota Council on Non-Profits, The Metropolitan Interfaith Coalition for Affordable Housing, many businesses and affordable housing units on the West Bank in Minneapolis. And many others in fact.

    But his time is past. Not sure where that leaves me now. More investigation required. Fortunately, the future of CBE’s antiracism efforts do not depend on me.



    *The measure of growth is not how much we have changed, but how harmoniously we have integrated our changes with all the selves we have been — those vessels of personhood stacked within the current self like Russian nesting dolls, not to be outgrown but to be tenderly incorporated. True growth is immensely difficult precisely because it requires befriending the parts of ourselves we have rejected or forgotten — what James Baldwin so memorably called “the doom and glory of knowing who you are and what you are”; it requires shedding all the inauthentic personae we have put on in the course of life under the forces of convention and compulsion; it requires living amicably with who we have been in order to fully live into who we can be.

  • Political Follies

    Spring and the Mesa View Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Israel. Korea. My son and his wife. Travels in the future. Taking the Mesa view. Dismantling Racism. Anti-semitism. Racism. Justice. Love. Compassion. Paul and Sarah Strickland. Gary Stern. Luke and Leo. CBE. Shadow Mountain. The end of the endings. A beginning. The threshold. The Ancient Brothers, a family. Falling loons in Wisconsin. Mary. Mark in Saudi Arabia. Arabian Nights, my next long read.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Serious wrangling with Racism

    One brief, shining moment: Radicals often mistake boldness for victory, stubbornness for analysis, and often confuse fantasy for reality, leaving themselves open to dismissal by history and bemusement from their contemporaries.


    As I’ve delved deeper into the American far right, I’ve had to confront my own follies when acting while radical. I want to give  you a few examples because I see some of myself in those exercising the right to exit mainstream American culture.


    In the early seventies, not long after I had moved to Minnesota for seminary, I joined a group called the Wild Goose Collective. There were twelve of us, if memory serves. Two lawyers, one of whom would become a close friend, Howard Vogel, the leaders of Clergy and Laity Concerned about the War, two strong women whose names I don’t recall, two local guys Paul Anderson, who would go on to become an abbot in a Buddhist Monastery, and a fellow Scandinavian whose name is on the tip of my neurons but won’t release. He ended up in California as a therapist. And others whom I don’t remember. This was a long time ago.

    We conducted guerilla theater actions throughout the Twin Cities. One instance. A pro-war (Vietnam) rally along the Mississippi would be visited by a boat made to look like the aircraft carrier, USS Enterprise. Howard and Rebecca and the Clergy and Laity women would set off in canoes to intercept the boat and prevent it from landing. This was to draw press.

    Meanwhile those of us on the shore passed out press releases about the number of Vietnamese killed by bombing sorties from the Enterprise. In this instance we called ourselves P.U.K.E. People Upset about the Killing Enterprise.

    I do not consider this action a folly. It got press action and allowed us to get our message out. The point.

    The folly came as the Wild Goose Collective began to imagine bigger plans. Specifically, and how very Marjorie Taylor Greene of us, we began to imagine a balkinization of the U.S. Why? Because the United States, when acting as a hegemon, proposed to police the world. Couldn’t do that if it had become, say, broken up into different nations. Texas. California. The Upper Midwest. The grain and corn and cattle Belt. The South. The Northeast. Something like that.

    Not much different from imagining Christian Nationalism in northern Idaho or a takeover of all the Federal lands in the West.


    Second instance. After a bunch of us Minnesota progressives had helped get Paul Wellstone elected to the Senate, we also knocked off a twenty year Hennepin County commissioner and got our guy elected. We decided to form the FLA. The Farmer-Labor Association. Our motto: put the FL back in the DFL.

    Again. This was not the folly. We did elect other progressives to city council seats, the legislature, and helped set the Twin Cities on a progressive path.

    However. As we began to succeed, we got ambitious. And decided to push for state level progressive programs to build affordable housing, make health care available for all, free job training, and expand a state version of food assistance. The best became the enemy of the good. We ignored the political realities of our situation and tried to get the whole pie all at once rather than accept the incremental change that is how policy changes get made in a democracy.

    We failed. Energy sank. And, like the Wild Goose Collective, we all went our separate ways. Some of us, of course, remained politically active, but the cohesion and energy we had dissipated because we wanted too much, too fast. Look at the Freedom Caucus in the House of Representatives.


    Third instance. Judy Merritt and I bought a farm in northern Minnesota. Near Park Rapids and Lake Itasca. We named it the Peaceable Kingdom. It would be a place of refuge and later training for those wanting to dismantle the system. Except. Judy and I weren’t getting along.

    She took off with the guy who farmed our land as a renter. I sold the farm and moved back to the Twin Cities to finish seminary. We had exercised our right to exit without realizing how important personal relationships are when executing big plans.


    My point here is that a lot of the Far Right action I’ve seen and read about suffers from similar problems. It’s in the realm of political fantasy. And, it doesn’t reckon with the facts of human relationships or how change gets made in a democracy. Not all of it. But a substantial portion. Like the Christian Nationalists. Like the folks who believe they can force the Federal Government to turn over lands to the states. Who, BTW, don’t want them.

    Might be cold comfort, but I can see the same seeds of self destruction sown in the West today that my colleagues and I sowed in those oh so remarkable days of the early seventies in Minnesota.