• Category Archives News of the Strange
  • Certainty

    Spring and Kate’s Yahrzeit Moon

    after the election, 2016

    Saturday gratefuls: Hoo, boy. Workout on Friday. Good, but hard. Two sets. Wondering whether I need to go to 3. Got my cardio up. Well up. 300 minutes in the last week. 5 hours. Love the energy boost a working or partly working thyroid gives. Jackie. Haircut. She’s a sweetheart. She said of Kate, “I miss her flipping you off.” Me, too.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: April



    Decided two things. 1. Write Ancientrails and workout. See where the day goes after. 2. Make one new recipe and one new salad each week. On 2. Still trying to navigate cooking for one, yet liking to cook. Difficult. Finishing the first phase of kitchen reassemble today and tomorrow. Gonna. Get. It. Done.

    Even though my energy level has improved a lot, my stamina is still not great. Plus I find myself easily overwhelmed with trying to imagine a good way of replacing items in the cabinets. Plan to push past that and finish. Things can always get moved later if I don’t like their location.

    I would also like to get the remaining common room papers at least moved out of the room, set up the Roomba. Let the common room enter its useful period. May hang some art if I have energy left. Still have to call Dave for the couch reupholstery. And Peter needs to come and hang two lamps. Chandelier coming later.

    Plan to get some firewood today, too. Not a lot, enough for two or three fires. See how my lungs handle it. Should be ok, but…


    To Speak for the Trees is a feminist work of top order. Also a work about claiming and owning your own gifts. And, not coincidentally, a powerful expression of the Celtic cultural deposit. Very similar to the First Nations in kind and quality. In fact, the Celtic experience in the British Isles has many similarities to the Native experience in the U.S.

    Although their near genocide happened much further back in time. The Romans drove them into Wales and up into Scotland, down into Cornwall. The Vikings attacked what is now Ireland. Where the red hair comes from. Then the Roman Catholic Church, allied with the Anglo-Saxons, drove the ancient Celtic faith often literally underground, building their churches over holy wells and other sacred spots. The bastards.

    The old Celtic culture lasted longest in Wales, parts of Scotland, and in the Gaeltalk part of Ireland. Brittany and Galicia, in France and Spain respectively, as well.

    Beresford-Kroger writes of her education in the old ways in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s as the final waning of Druidic lore and the old Celtic culture. She is in my pantheon of heroines. Be like Diana.


    Setting out on another semester of classes at the Kabbalah Experience: Sefer Yetzirah III and Diving Deep into the Stars or Astrology and Kabbalah III. Having fun with these. Guess you could call it a quasi-hobby. Quasi because it’s too serious for fun and too much fun to be serious. I really like these classes, the strange world they open up. And, as David says, even if you’re agnostic about astrology you’re still learning something about yourself, aren’t you? I am.

    Because I’ve dipped a foot (way more than a toe by this point) into Kabbalah, astrology, and tarot, when I saw the sign for new moon intuitive readings, I thought, what the hell? $20 for 15 minutes. Just down from Jackie’s hair salon.

    Put my money down. Get quiet, then when you’re ready, say your name three times. Charles Buckman-Ellis. Charles Buckman-Ellis. Charles Buckman-Ellis. You’re at a big turning point. Well, yes. You’re a strong psychic, you could do this work. Oh? I need to lean into certainty. That’s probably true. Ha ha.

    After I told her Kate died a year ago, she said Kate reassures me, wants me to know that’s she fine, better than fine. Dancing. She taps me on the left shoulder sometimes. She wants me to live my own life. I have a strong core and that new life has begun to blossom. Mary, the psychic, mentioned a rose, but I saw a lotus opening.

    Not sure what to make of it. Some of what she said made me think she had read something of me. The part about certainty in particular. And, the time of a big turning point. Though I suppose we’re all always at some turning point or another. Still. I liked hearing  Kate reassured me even if I doubted it. Because I’d like it to be true. An odd time, definitely worth $20.






  • Still here. Still ok.

    Winter and the beautiful waning crescent of the Moon of the New Year

    Ordinary time. Is there any such thing right now?

    Saturday gratefuls: Kate. A good night’s sleep. For both of us. Much needed. Rigel keeping me warm. Kep the good boy. Impeachment. 25th Amendment. Resignation. January 20th. All. Subway last night. Beef stroganoff tonight. Easy Entrees, thanks Diane and Mary. Life. Its wonder even amidst its difficulties.




    Whoa. Yesterday was tough. I slept from eight last night to seven this morning. All the way through. Thankfully. Feel rested and ready for today. Grateful, really grateful.

    Kate’s still worn out though the oxygen situation has resolved. She’s already fatigued from whatever has been going on for the last three weeks, then to have an insult like the oxygen concentrators gave her was hard. She’s still asleep. I’m glad.

    As long as I can stay rested, healthy, get my workouts in, see friends and family on zoom, I am ok. Though on occasion I get pushed right up against my limits. I imagine Covid is helping me since I don’t get out, am not around sick people. Or, when I am, I’m masked. Odd to consider, but I’m sure it helps.

    Life continues, no matter. Until it doesn’t, of course. That is, even when an evil bastard like Trump is in office, we still have to eat. When a rampant virus rages, we still have to sleep. When a family member is ill, we still love each other, support each other. Life is a miracle and wasting it, well, please don’t.

    Got an article about building a computer. Something I’ve always wanted to try. Might just do it. Also read about an experiment that proved quantum entanglement is not instantaneous. And one about the lost merry customs of Hogmanay. And about lyfe, the idea that life might be, probably is, existing in forms we carbon based life forms might not recognize, even if it’s in front of us. And another on why water is weird. And another on why the universe might be a fractal. (thanks, Tom)

    No matter how proximate or distant disturbances in the force, science goes on, literary folks write books and articles, the past remains a source of inspiration, and the future a source of hope. No matter whether life has meaning or whether it is absurd (as I believe) the secondary effects of this strange evolutionary push into awareness persist. And, yet they persisted.

    Lucretia hangs in the Minneapolis Institute of Art, ready for witnesses to her dignity, her sense of honor, and her tragic fate. Goya’s Dr. Arrieta, not far from her, documents gratitude for healing and the comfort of ancestors. Van Gogh’s Olive Trees teach us that perspective differs from person to person, yet each perspective can be beautiful while remaining unique. Beckman’s Blind Man’s Buff embraces the mythic elements of life, helps us see them in our own lives. Kandinsky. Oh, Kandinsky. His colors. His lines. His elegance.

    Mt. Evans and its curved bowl continues to deflect weather toward us here on Shadow Mountain. The light of dawn hits Maine first, as it has for millennia. The polar vortex slumps toward Minnesota.

    Roman Ephesus. The last standing pillar of the Temple of Diana. Delos. The Temple of Apollo at Delphi. The ruined temples of Angkor Wat. Chaco Canyon. Testimony to the ancientrail of human awe. Of an eagerness to memorialize wonder.

    It is, in spite of it all, a wonderful world.


















  • Oh. We live in interesting times.

    Samain and the Moon of the New Year (and the great conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter)

    Saturday gratefuls: 32 days. 32! Nearly finished with the cds. A snowy, snow globe day. Rigel and Kep, our bed warmers. Kate. A wise woman. Smart, too. Vaccines. Coming to an arm near you. Soon. That light in the tunnel went up a bit in brightness. The star over Bethlehem explained? The Winter Solstice. Soon. Staycation.


    Complex feelings. Friend Tom Crane talked a couple of days ago about the feelings that come up when considering climate change. Made me think about all of us right now. I’ve been labile this week, up and down. Unusual for me. If I get melancholy, I stay there a while. Up and bright? Ditto. But. Covid. Trump. Kate’s long illness. Climate change plus the long road ahead for our nation. Isolation from friends and loved ones.

    Bet I’m not the only one experiencing complex emotions. Up. Vaccines. Down. 377,000 deaths. 250,000 + new cases a day. Up. 32 days! Down. Still 32 days left. Up. Renewable energy. Back into the Paris Accords. Down. Baked in heat. Record carbon emissions this year. Up. Jon and Ruth and Gabe on Google Meet. Down. Having to see them on Google Meet. Up. Many good days in a row for Kate. Down. Sudden fatigue yesterday. Up. Good days mean no nausea, no fatigue beyond the usual. Down. Stamina poor.

    And these are the big drivers. Every day has mood changes. That unexpected money from the oil well! That crabby e-mail from a relative. Work or relationship stress. Kids. Dogs. Weather. Feelings of self-worth or self-worthlessness. Whatever triggers you. And we all have triggers.

    Point. A complex web of stressors has us all dangling in our silken cocoons and each shake of the web warns us that the spider might be coming for her next meal. This is not normal. Where do we go? Out to eat? To a movie? Have friends over? A sabbath service? Take a vacation? Not for most of us. What’s the right metaphor? See-saw. Spider web. Thin ice with cracks. Fingernails on chalkboards. Whatever it is, this is a fraught time. An interesting time.

    I’m giving myself permission to feel these movements, up and down, and to react to them. To not be hard on myself for not maintaining an up feeling in down times. Perhaps you need this permission, too.

  • Neurotic

    Summer and the Moon of Justice

    Sunday gratefuls: A mowed and less cluttered backyard. Jon and the grandkids coming tonight. Pick-up groceries. Safeway. Even though. Kate’s feeding tube. Her appointment with an ostomy nurse. House cleaning. The dishwasher. The final days of our freezer. This pulse of energy I have for domestic work. May it last. Cool mountain mornings. Trump and his racist ways.

    Not all who wander are lost. This Tolkien quote could be my family crest. Mary and Mark living the expat life. Kate and I finally come to rest, like Noah, on a mountain top in the Rockies. And that’s the external reality.

    A few days back I surfaced the wandering going on in my inner life. Last night, as my plugged up nose kept me awake, an old shard of psychiatric shrapnel worked its way up again. Philosophical neurosis. Diagnosed with this in 1969. After, I think, the MMPI and one or two visits with a doc. Neurosis got ejected from the DSM in 1980, but not before it struck me with the force of a hidden mindmine.

    Nowhere in searches on Google or in any book on psychology have I found the term. The psychiatrist who diagnosed me is lost to memory, as well as any explanatory information from him. Those two words, philosophical neurosis, have many synaptic threads attached to them and they tug out of the basement every once in a while.

    Philosophical neurosis. It had the unusual impact of pathologizing a key aspect of my personality. I take nothing for granted. Discovering there was an entire, storied academic tradition of people who did the same transformed me over the course of a semester. Even though I came to love anthropology as much as philosophy, philosophy shaped me, made me a critic and theorist at heart.

    When I was a young boy, my bedroom adjoined my parents. My father and I would “talk about tractors” for a while before going to sleep. As I recall, this meant talking about a diverse range of topics. Early on though it exposed me to critique. Even at age 7 or 8, I would pursue the logic of a topic to its fullest extent. Dad never had dad authority. He could tell me something, but I would as often say, I wonder about that, as I would nod my head.

    He called me tech. As in, technical. I always argued about the mechanics, the structure of an observation. Wish I could give you an example from that time, but my main memories around being “tech” was Dad’s growing frustration with me. He had been raised by his German physician grandfather, Jonas Spitler. My impression is that Jonas had dad authority. Always.

    It came to me from the womb. I had, and have, an instantaneous realization of a contradiction or a flaw in an argument. It was no surprise to me when I took the Meyers-Briggs personality inventory and discovered my letters: INTP, an introverted intuitive thinking perceiving type.

    “Logicians are known for their brilliant theories and unrelenting logic – in fact, they are considered the most logically precise of all the personality types.” on the INTP personality, 16personalities. Poor dad. I came with this mental equipment, discovered philosophy and politics. Our relationship was over right about then. He had strong, definite opinions. With which, unfortunately for us, I often disagreed.

    Then, that psychiatrist nailed me with what I now believe was a made-up diagnosis. Maybe he was an incarnation of my father’s persona. I do remember he told me I had to find values that I could embrace or my life would be, well, shit.

    Embracing or conforming to a belief system defines blasphemy and anathema for me. If it makes sense to me, sure. I can go there. But if it doesn’t, now or later, then I’m on another path, another ancientrail.

    This explains why I’ve always felt like an outsider in any job I’ve ever had. Even the ministry. In the end, it has to make sense, the assumptions, the framework of the job. And the world does not divide logically. So, Charlie out. Sorry.

    Philosophical neurosis. As much as I hate to admit it. Fair enough. I have to approach the world as I am and that does seem, at least at 73, to be who I am, one who can’t turn off the analytical part of his mind. Doesn’t I mean I’m not loving, caring. I am. But don’t expect me to buy the shiny new religious or political system you’ve discovered. I probably won’t.

  • Mystery

    Spring and the Corona Luna

    Saturday gratefuls: Nurse Michele from Mt. Evan’s Hospice and Home Health Care. A night without leaking for Kate!!! A new protocol for her feeding tube. Masks. Personas. No, masks, soft cloth masks. No, it’s all masks. Even our body. Mystery. The peaks of the mountains. Cirrus clouds racing high above them. Lodgepoles with hoarfrost. Woolly’s on Zoom.

    Zoom. Zoom. Zoom. Talk about mysteries. How does this really work? I mean, seeing old friends, family members who are far away. Maine, Saudi Arabia, Singapore. Shorewood. Anoka County. Downtown Minneapolis. While up here on Shadow Mountain. Talking to them. They hear me and respond. I see facial expressions, room settings. All on zoom settings. Wow.

    The O.E.D. Mystery. Definition #1: hidden from human knowledge or understanding; impossible or difficult to explain, solve, discover; obscure origin, nature, or purpose.

    A psychonaut. This friend. He’s done psychedelics. He’s done ayahuasca, the shaman’s drug from the rain forest. Living in mystery, living into mystery, life’s mystery. What’s behind door number 3? Is there a wizard in oz or just a traveling salesman pulling levers and pushing buttons? He’s stayed level, working, drawing, imagining. Pushing himself, his art, his words as he ages. A beautiful thing to see. Inspirational.

    Speaking of beautiful things. Michele, the Mt. Evan’s home health care nurse came yesterday. She showed us how to clean Kate’s tube feeding site with warm, soapy water and sterile pads. How to apply a zinc oxide cream below the disc. How to cut a gauze bandage to fit under the disc and one to fit over it. Since that time, around 11 yesterday, Kate’s been leak free. Hallelujah. Really.

    A guy I knew at CBE, Howard, had a brain hemorrhage this week. And, died. Echoes of mom, that week in October. I spoke with him at Purim, the last time I was at CBE. Nothing apparently wrong then. No TIA evidence. Just normal Howard, talking about his wife’s leukemia and their tennis doubles. They played competitively even though she was in treatment. The cancer took her a while ago. It’s not only Covid-19 out there. It’s cancer and brain bleeds and feeding tubes, too.

    My point here is not a gloomy one. It’s just that life, and death, goes on unrelated to the viral victory march. And will continue.

  • Ättestupa

    Spring and the Corona Luna

    Wednesday gratefuls: Garbage collectors, workers at power plants, cleaners in all places, showing us how important “menial” labor can be. Kate in her sewing room!! Yeah. Sewed on some buttons, made some mug rugs. Seoah doing grocery shopping for us. Brenton and his many pictures, videos, obvious joy being with Murdoch. Concerned friends. Upcoming PSA blood draw, Lupron, visit with Eigner.

    Another, grimmer topic. Wanna sacrifice yourself for the economy, grandpa? Any of my readers of a certain age going with Dan Patrick? “‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?…If that is the exchange, I’m all in,” Patrick said.” Patrick is Lt. Gov. of Texas, Dan Patrick. The quote is from a Fox News interview with Tucker Carlson.

    Patrick made his senicidic comment after Trump declared he wanted to get the economy going by Easter, “This country’s not made to be shut down.” Only after being told that if he did, deaths would be in the hundreds of thousands, and his lackey Lindsey Graham said, “You would own those deaths.” did he pull back. OK, we’ll open it up on April 30th, he decided. Why April 30? Who knows?

    Last year when Kate had a period of feeling better we went to see, first, “The Kitchen”, a women take over the mob movie with Elizabeth Moss and Melissa McCarthy, in return Kate agreed to go see Midsommar. “It’s Scandinavian,” I said.

    Hmm, yeah. Sorta. I’m a fan of horror movies (not slasher flicks. Ugh.). Hammer Films. The Thing. The Fly. Rosemary’s Baby. The Exorcist. The Shining. The Omen. Creature of the Black Lagoon. Not many get made that are thoughtful, even beautiful. The Horror of Dracula, a 1958 Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee movie in the Hammer Film series, was beautiful. So was Polanski’s 1967 The Fearless Vampire Killers.

    There are now two that are both beautiful and thoughtful: The Wickerman (1973) and Midsommar (2019). The Wickerman has a Celtic folklore background while Midsommar uses Swedish themes. I’ve learned in doing some research that these are folk horror movies. A new genre to me by name, but not by preference.

    Anyhow, in Midsomar, Ari Aster, director and writer, draws on Swedish folklore. Some of the ideas there are familiar to you like the Maypole, the colorful Swedish garments, white trimmed in flowers and runes, all that blond hair, and festive bonfires outdoors. And, yes, naked Swedes can be seen dancing around midsommar bonfires. Look it up on your interweb.

    Aster also draws on one aspect of Swedish folklore embedded enough in the culture to give a name to certain high cliffs and promontories: Ättestupa. In prehistoric times, Swedes believe, elders threw themselves from the attestupa when they were no longer able to care for themselves or assist around the camp. Senicide. Though attestupa may have been challenged among folklorists, senicide is/was real. Elders wandering away from the village to starve, active euthanasia of the elderly, or, as Lt. Patrick suggests, economic senicide.

    The most disturbing scenes in Midsomar come during the attestupa. The Harga collective using seasonal language for life’s stages: Spring: 1-18, Summer: 19-36, Fall: 37-54, and Winter: 55-72. This last season, Winter, is the mentoring season. At 72 Winter ends, and so do you. That, for the Harga, was when you headed for the attestupa.

    Midsomar is on Prime Video right now, free. If these kind of movies fit into your cinema way, I’d encourage you to watch it. It’s a very good example of the folk horror genre. If you watch it, let me know what you think of the last scene.

  • Going to the movies

    Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

    In the spirit of the holiday weekend I’m relaxing before school starts, religious school that is. Getting ready has occupied my mind on some level every day since mid-June. Now that Alan and I have a plan, I’m giving myself these three days as a break. Feels great.

    Yesterday Kate and I went to BlacKkKlansman. I’m sure many of you who read this have seen it, so we’re a little late. Several folks from Beth Evergreen have seen it. The story is a bit thin. The KKK in Colorado Springs was not historically significant and though hateful were, even as presented in the film, inept. What Spike Lee has done is take that thin story and use it as the core of a biting criticism of the Trumpstate and the folks he encourages.

    He begins with a satirical short film of Alec Baldwin playing a fictitious race “scholar.” He also includes clips from Gone With the Wind and Birth of a Nation, both of which smuggle in a great deal of cultural commentary on race relations and the historical context that created and sustains white supremacist ideology. He also has several Trump related jibes. For example, after a Klan initiation ceremony, David Duke has a screening of Birth of a Nation. The berobed stand up and shout “America First!” According to a Colorado Springs reporter at the time, Nancy Johnson, this happened. There were also references to making America great again.

    The Adam Driver character was not Jewish in reality, so Spike Lee’s casting of him as Jewish was a vehicle for commentary on anti-semitism. Driver’s comments about being raised as a secular Jew who had not thought much about his heritage are a critique of passing, whether by blacks or Jews. The frisson between Stallworth’s blackness, which undergoes a transformation when he goes undercover to a Stokely Carmichael, by this time Kwami Ture, speech and Driver’s gradually emergent Jewish consciousness was a key feature of the film for me.

    The film does not end in the Stallworth era Colorado Springs. Instead Lee cuts to actual footage from the “Unity” march for white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Included are several different perspectives of James Alex Fields Jr driving his silver Dodge Charger into a crowd of counter protesters and killing Heather Heyer. Following those news clips and cell phone videos are scenes from Trump’s infamous, “There were good people on both sides.” reaction to those events.

    A profound scene, which interlaces with the Klan initiation in which Adam Driver participates as Stallworth, has Harry Belafonte sitting in a Huey Newton chair, telling the story of the  lynching of Jesse Washington in Waco, Texas in 1916.

    The ongoing satirical edge of the film, begun with the Alec Baldwin short, lulls the viewer into the same sort of “oh these buffoons aren’t a serious threat.” mentality that pervades our cultural perception of not only the Klan but other white supremacists, too. Until, that is, we see Fields’ Dodge Charger smash into unprotected protesters. Until we see our President giving aid and comfort not to the victims but to the perpetrators. Then we’re forced to go back and consider Scarlett O’Hara wending her way through wounded Confederate soldiers and the blackfaced actors in the Birth of a Nation footage. We’re forced to consider that the America First shouts with the right arm salutes was not an artifact of an era now past, but with us now and not only with us now, but with us at the highest levels of our government.

    The other turn that the movie makes is the implicit correlation between the America Love it or Leave it slogans embraced by the Klan and the same cultural tensions existing now. The era of the 1960’s lives on. Here’s a quote from a woman I know, an email she sent after I commented on a friend’s positive post about this movie:

    Unless i have misinterpreted your comment on Ron S.’s FB, I didn’t know you are anti our country, our flag, and no doubt have always been. If so, how come you and the others are not moving to another country? Seems hypocritical that you all are still here. To me, this is not at all free speech ala the 1st Amendment.


  • O.K. Weird.

    Beltane                                                                      Sumi-e Moon

    In other news:  “…Mar-a-Lago, which is owned by the Trump Organization, was once a National Historic Landmark.”*  NYT article on folks who visit all 417 national parks and monuments. Including some, like Mar-a-lago, that have been decommissioned.


    *Mar-a-Lago (/ˌmɑːrəˈlɑːɡ/) is a resort and National Historic Landmark in Palm Beach, Florida, built from 1924 to 1927 by cereal-company heiress and socialite Marjorie Merriweather Post. wiki


  • Aickman

    Beltane                                                                              Sumi-e Moon

    AickmanTrying my hand at a short story in the style of Robert Aickman. If you appreciate strange fiction with a literary style, then you’ll love Aickman. His work is as distinctive as Kafka and some use the term Aikmanesque to reference it, as the word Kafkaesque references Kafka’s unique style. Aickman uses dense description of place and characters to lull the reader into a sense of the narrative, but he subtly tweaks certain aspects that color a character’s mood or personality and the apparently normal world in which they live. At some point in the story, a line gets crossed between this world and a surreal one that you then notice lurked behind even the first few paragraphs.