• Category Archives Translating Metamorphoses
  • Oh, the Wonders We’ll See

    Beltane and the Beltane Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Deb. Robbie. Tal. Gretchen. Alan. Terrence. Jill. Nights. Lunar red. The full red Moon. Cloudy skies. Skipping Sefer Yetzirah. Learning things in astrology. Not enough. Reading plays. Loving it. Art is not only sculpture, prints, paintings, metal work. Literature. Theater. Music. Oh. Remembering.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Alfieri and Felix

    Tarot: #8, The Stag


    “The Stag shows our connection to the universe and…organic life on this planet. The hatchet is a symbolic image of the human will to alter the environment. In order for the environment to change more positively, we need not only more effective actions but also (to accept) our responsibility to nature. On the shield, the picture of a great Oak tree reminds us that we must preserve and protect natural resources.” tarotx.net


    Wow. Up at 9:22 am this morning. To bed at 10:30 pm. Acting class and pre-bed routine. Woke up and felt great. I went, huh? No time to write Ancientrails before Astrology class. No time to exercise so I skipped Sefer Yetzirah. Skipping class. For me? Hardly ever. I loved doing it this time.

    Had brunch, then exercised. Felt and feel great. Pay attention to accidents. Like the fall, yes, but in this case a late night, late morning. Well. I could do this, I guess. Just because for the last 30 years I’ve gone to bed early and gotten up early does that mean I still have to? No. It doesn’t

    If my acting lessons take me anywhere, which I’m not expecting, but if they do, rehearsal? At night. Performances? At night. Services at CBE? At night. It would open up a different lifestyle for me.

    On that note. I got stuck. My Minneapolis Institute of Arts experience led me to a Johnny-one note approach to the arts. Painted. Sculpted. Printed. Sewn. Splattered. Photographed. Videoed. Yes. If I couldn’t regularly see high quality art of this kind, well…

    Then my buddy Alan suggested I take an acting class. Sure. Why not? At the very least a reminder of a different art form. One I’d engaged in the long ago far away. Whoa. Heart work. Body work. Get the mind out of the way work. Reread some contemporary work like The Odd Couple, View From the Bridge, next American Buffalo. Act scenes from them. Develop the Self in a new way.

    I mean. Like the proverbial 2×4. Oh. Yeah. And music, too. Gotta get somebody, maybe Alan, to help get my audio world turned on here on Shadow Mountain. Will begin again to read classical literature. Metamorphosis first, I imagine.

    As Ode said, routines. The only difference betweeen a rut and a grave are the dimensions. Yeah.

    So I may become a later to bed, later to rise guy. For art’s sake.


    Here’s a realization I had today. When I take something from Taoism, I take it as a Taoist.When I take something from Christianity, I take it as a Christian. When I take something from Judaism, I take it as a Jew.When I take something from Islam, I take it as a Muslim. When I take something from Hinduism, I take it as a Hindu.

    Furthermore. When I take something from Japanese culture, I take it as a Japanese. From Colombia as a Colombian. From the Celts as a Celt.

    Syncretism and appropriation are dirty words in most intellectual circles. I’m not trying to create a new, smashed together religion, nor am I lifting ideas from their living culture to reorient in mine.

    Nope. When I say I’m a follower of Shiva, which I am, I mean I’m aware of and beholden to the cosmic dance of creation and destruction and Shiva is its name. When I say ichi-go ich-e is important for me, I’m saying this moment, this one while I’m typing on the keyboard, throwing these ideas out into the cyberether, will never happen again. And, is precious for that reason. When I say I follow the Great Wheel, I’m an ancient Celtic thinker noticing the stars and the changing of the seasons, tying them together in a long, yet repeating spiral.

    I don’t pick and choose. Nope to that either. Some ideas and concepts that come to me as I read, listen, see change my way. When they change my way, they become part of me, part of my ancientrail.

    Neither striving for nor hoping for a neat package tied up with a bow. Nicely systematized. Not important to me. Insights into life and how to live it? Very important to me.

  • Intense, Dude

    Samain and the Holiseason Moon

    Saturday gratefuls: Cincinnati Chili. Cooking. Learning how to again, on induction. Mini-splits at work. Experimental month with the hot water heat all off. Kate. Missing her sweetness. Holiseason well underway. Exercise finally back all the way. Core exercises. Diaphragmatic breathing. Kabbalah. Tarot. The Eel. Alan.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Seeing Jon, Ruth, Gabe today

    Tarot: The Knight of Vessels, the Eel.  Wildwood Tarot


    Parkside in Evergreen for breakfast with Alan yesterday. Took my new Roger with me. Had Alan clip it to his clothing. At least if I forgot Roger he would go home with somebody I know. Alan’s having cataract surgery in December. He drove me to mine last October. Seeing a friend in person, two actually, since Rebecca Martin was there, too, is so important.

    I told Alan about my Hermit neon sign that is underway. We got a good laugh out of the Master Benders. He wanted to know why. Because I see myself a hermit now, I said. We can fix that, he said. No, thanks, but I appreciate the thought. Maybe I should have gone with the Fool. The beginner’s mind. Setting off on the journeymen’s pilgrimage. Each morning. Maybe that will be one for the loft next year.

    Honey baked ham. Drove over to their shop in Littleton, near Tony’s. Lots of hams in the coolers. Just one of hundreds of these shops. Had an instant vision of all the Pigs. A moment of sadness. Bought half-a-ham. Sealed in gold foil. Sitting in the frig.

    Put in a pick-up order with Safeway. All the ingredients for chili. Now including chili powder for the first time in three years. I love Cincinnati chili. Chili on spaghetti with sour cream, shredded cheddar, and sliced green onions. And, of course, oyster crackers.

    Bought some fancy spaghetti at Tony’s for the chili. Also some salted caramel tiny beignets for dessert.

    Back home for a nap. Then, workout. I have, at last, gotten back to my old intensity. Been going at reduced speed and intensity since late June when I pounded my IT band into high tension on the sidewalks of Hickam Air Force Base.

    Probably a bit more than the old intensity. Two HIIT sessions with lower body resistance and core. Two cardio sessions with upper body and core. Over 5 hours a week now and I can tell the difference. My stamina’s better as is my breathing.

    Here’s the conundrum though. I know I need this level of exercise to keep myself healthy, or as healthy as I can be. But that means it has to be routine.

    I plan to reduce my week total to four days since I can get all the exercise I need in that time. I’ve had trouble when going for five days a week since I’ve kept the weekends exercise free. With exercise five days a week and writing Ancientrails I use up my mornings.

    After I workout, I go downstairs, eat lunch, have a nap. Often I don’t feel like doing anything after the nap. Easy, you might say, stop napping. Yeah. Except. Started napping in 1989. Continuous then to now. That’s what, 32 years? Pretty much a habit.

    That’s why four days. The HIIT makes getting my exercise quotient in quick. Wednesdays I plan as my off days. Then, I’ll be able to get phone calls, errands run on Wednesday, necessary work for the admin side of life. When I use up my mornings, and feel done in the afternoons it is not so easy to handle that stuff.

    Brother Mark asked in an e-mail this morning if I’d gotten back to my Latin. No. I haven’t. But I appreciated the nudge. I want to get back to Ovid, to Latin, to the writing that flows from it. Painting, too. Slowly, slowly. Taking life at a pace that works. Wu wei.

    Well. Just drove over to Evergreen, to CBE. Was going to attend a Torah study session with Rabbi Jamie. I love studying scripture. It’s fun. And, sometimes insightful. However. I need to learn close reading. Of the invitation to the Word and Deed time. Which clearly said, when I brought it up on my phone in the empty CBE parking lot: Zoom only. Sigh.

    Back in the car. Over to Safeway to get chili makings. Pickup. Back home now. A day of work inside the house. Moving this and that. Starting to clear out the kitchen for the remodel. Making chex mix, chili.


    The Knight of Vessels: The Eel


    Promoting harmony. Welcoming. Coming Together.

    Perhaps a key part of the Hermitage will be welcoming, coming together, even hosting. My idea of cooking family dinners at 5 pm every Saturday, y’all come, feels good. Today will be the first and already Ruth wants to come early to make cookies. Yes!

    The eel, according to Caitlin Matthews, see below* for more information, is a protector. One who could, in Celtic myth, be transformed into a sword.

    As a protective animal in the suit of the emotions, vessels, and living in the water way, the knight of vessels is welcome in my home as family comes. Help us realize love and unity as we gather, eat.




    *Eels have the most mysterious life cycle and make the longest journey of any of the court card beasts. Spawned in the Sargasso Sea near the Bahamas, the young, transparent elvers make their way across the North Atlantic to European river-mouths. Making their way between water-courses, they often wriggle overland to find another waterway. When they are mature as silver eels, they return to the Sargasso Sea to spawn.  The birch tree was one of the first native British trees to emerge from the ice after glaciation.

    Caitlin Matthews, Wildwood Blog





  • Tradition a longer conversation summarized

    Lughnasa and the Michaelmas Moon

    Tarot: Nine of Stones in the Wildwood Deck

    Meaning (according to the Wildwood Tarot book-WTB):

    Reverence for past wisdom and sacrifice. The ability to relate to ancient knowledge and pass on the lessons of ancestral memory and ritual.

    Let me throw in here, too, Ovid. And, my interest in pre-Socratic philosophers like Thales, Anaximander, Heraclitus. Dante. The Tao. The early world of Hinduism. Christianity and Judaism. Those very early shamanic faiths of the Mongols, of the Japanese (Shinto), the Koreans.

    Even anthropology. My interest in anthropology was to find the way of other peoples, to know and understand them as much on their own terms as possible. Travel as well. The learning inherent in being the other.

    I’m not a syncretist. I’m not an everybody has something to teach us sorta guy. Though there’s a sense in which that’s true. I’m not trying to find the one truth that snakes through all the traditions. There isn’t one. And, yes, I’m pretty sure of that.

    There is though this truth. The human body, its limitations and potentials, does remain pretty much the same over time. The brain and its evolution has hardwired certain ways of responding to the world around us. Though there have been dramatic climatic changes like the ice age, the sorts of challenges the world provides in its various regions remain at least similar even today.

    What I’ve done, often without knowing it, is to immerse myself in the thought ways, the life ways, the ritual ways of so many different cultures over long periods of time and in very different geographical and geological conditions that I feel like a citizen of multiple cultures, yet beholden to none of them. Including, perhaps most of all, my own.

    The tricky part for those of us raised in the West and in the Judaeo-Christian tradition can be capsulized in one word: progress. Progress assumes linear time. Progress assumes one culture can evaluate others qualitatively. Nineteenth century France is better than, nineteenth century England. Or, China’s civilization is superior to everyone else’s outside the Middle Kingdom. Or, we, the USA, will make the world safe for democracy, the obvious best form of government.

    Progress both puts blinders on us, makes jingoists of us all, and imagines an unproven and unprovable idea: that next year, next day, next minute things will get better. By whose standards? Mine? Yours? Theirs? The citizens of ancient Ephesus? Of X’ian. Of Kyoto.

    Of course, central heating beats a fire in the middle of the hut with a hole in the top to let smoke out. Of course, driving in a motorized vehicle is easier than walking or riding a horse. Of course, air conditioning is preferable to suffocating heat. You can extend this list.

    But. Is central heating progress? Depends on the fuel, in one way of looking at it. Natural gas, propane, and heating oil are all common fuels. Think. Climate change.

    Same question about driving and air conditioning.

    Humans tend to favor the thing they have and know. So, today is better than yesterday.


    Meaning (according to the Wildwood Tarot book-WTB):

    Reverence for past wisdom and sacrifice. The ability to relate to ancient knowledge and pass on the lessons of ancestral memory and ritual.

    As a 1960’s radical, anti-establishment, pushing for new political, military, economic, sexual, intellectual mores, to consider myself one who reveres past wisdom, ancient knowledge? No. No. No.

    Yet. There I was studying Socrates. Zoroaster. Ovid. Greek history. Biblical literature. Dante. Taoism. The history of ancient civilizations like Assyria, the Qin dynasty, Middle Kingdom Egypt. Not only studying. Learning. And in that learning, unbeknownst to me, at least partially, being shaped by that learning.

    When I went to seminary, I saw the utility of the prophetic tradition in Judaism and Christianity. It could be used to press for change on behalf of the widow and the orphan, the enslaved, the oppressed, the poor and the hungry. I considered this tradition, that of the prophets of Ancient Israel, the real gem in the long years since the death of Jesus.

    It was. And, is. But. There is another jewel there, too. One only accessible to the meditator, the reader of scripture, the ascetic, the one willing to face the root of the faith. To get burned by its heat. This is the faith of the Russian Starets, the Welsh peregrinators, mystics like St John of the Cross and Meister Eckhart. And, not faith. Not really.

    Why? Because it involved and affirmed an actual experience of the numinous.

    My inner world got shaped, in the end, more by this strain of the Judaeo-Christian tradition. Though. Again, I was only partially aware of that at the time.

    When I fell too far away from the very idea of theology, of religious institutions, I went into a long period of quiet. I sold my commentaries, no longer engaged in lectio divina, or used the Jesus prayer.

    Camus came back to me. Life is absurd. Without meaning. Death is final, extinction. To live is a choice. One that can be altered.

    The Great Wheel came into my life sort of through a back door, a way of understanding Celtic thoughts and motivations. But when Kate and I moved to Andover and our long horticultural, beekeeping, canine loving life really began, the Great Wheel slowly seeped into my thinking about the garden, about the life of dogs and people, about the hives and their superorganism.

    That was what I had been prepared for. Staring at the root of an ancient faith. I had the inner tools to accept the Great Wheel as the genius of a culture, one that had clear application to what I did every morning with hoe and spade.

    Gradually I came to see that this ancient religious calendar spoke as forcefully to my spirit as the Gospel of Luke, as the prayers of Meister Eckhart. More forcefully at that point.

    That was what led me to a bare knuckle spirituality, stripping away the accretions to the Great Wheel that had come from well-meaning, but in my view, silly, Wiccans and Druids.

    I saw the Great Wheel, and when I did I saw it through Taoist influenced eyes, as not a belief system but as a metaphor with its feet planted in my garden. It was there, right before my eye. Beltane to Lughnasa. To Samain. To the Winter Solstice.

    I had embraced an ancient way, a way I had learned from study and practice. I am, sort of, a traditionalist.

    So, Nine of Stones. Hear ye, hear ye. Yes, sir!




  • Let go (Note: correction below)

    Lughnasa and the Michaelmas Moon

    picture by Mary

    Monday gratefuls: Tara. The Ancient Ones, holding space for my eventful life. Peregrenatio. Rigel, lying down with me last night. A long night asleep. Orgovyx. Exhaustion. Hot flashes. Cousin Riley, his wife. Diane and Mary in Indiana. Bailey Patchworkers. Kitchen remodelers. House stainer. Jon, Ruth, and Gabe.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Death

    Tarot: Death, #13 of the Major Arcana


    So many help me. Jon, Ruth, Gabe came up Saturday. We had chicken pot pie and I sent them home with two. They also went to Upper Maxwell Falls to scatter some more of Kate’s ashes. I didn’t feel quite up to going and I wondered if it might be better anyhow. Allow them their own time, their own way of saying goodbye.

    And, it was so. Here are Gabes’s (correction) words about it:


    “Grandma’s metaphorical ashes. The ashes that stuck to the bottom were the parts of grandma that will stay with us forever. The cloudy ashes that eventually dispersed to go to the Atlantic Ocean were the parts of grandma that were temporary and that we don’t need to remember like pain and suffering. And, the glass was the vessel like our bodies, useful but not permanent.”

    Leaving for Durango, Bill not pictured. Tom, Paul, me, Mario

    The next morning I take a walk with my Ancient friends: Paul, Mario, Bill, and Tom. We spoke to each other in our minds, through the spirit air waves as Mario suggested. We gathered afterward. They’ve allowed me a lot of time to process my ongoing, eventful life. And, I love them for it.

    Afterward I went over to an organic breakfast spot, Taspen’s. Been here almost seven years and it was the first time. Meeting Tara, my friend from CBE.

    Marilyn, Tara, the Burning Bush

    We talked. Tara is a great listener and an empath. When I told her I felt I’d expressed self pity when Jon and the grandkids left on Saturday, she said it sounded like love. Ruth had said, See you, grandpop. And, I said, my voice catching, I hope so. Sounded needy and self-pitying to me at the time.

    After talking with Tara, I thought. No. I was vulnerable, sadly hopeful. And I don’t experience vulnerability with them too often. Maybe that’s changing now.

    Today I’m going to the meeting of the Bailey Patchworkers. Kate’s stash and other sewing accessories will be given away to her friends there. I asked for a couple of minutes to speak. I’ll tell them that Kate loved them. That they gave her friendship and motivation for sewing. And, right after we got here. She went faithfully as long as she could.

    They were a very different crowd from her ordinary social circles. She spoke her political truth often, to folks who didn’t agree. As Lauri, her engineer friend said, “I should have disliked her, but I adored her.” That was Kate.

    These are those who helped me just in the last three days. A lucky guy, I am. And, of course, Rigel and Kepler.


    Tarot: Death, # 13 in the Major Arcana

    I’ve been drawing cards in what some call a daily oracle. Pick out one card, see how it speaks to the day. Oracle is a poor choice of words in that it has a predictive connotation. I don’t find the tarot useful as prophecy. I’ve found it astonishingly useful as a mirror to my inner world. It shows me things I ignore, or overlook, or diminish, or things I didn’t know were there.

    Let’s see. I’d call it, I guess, The Daily Mirror. Ha.

    Anyhow my point here is that I’m doing my own thing with these daily cards and I’m not only reading the day, but the trends. I’ve had so many cards that spoke to my anima. I’ve remarked on this before. I’ve also had cards like the Hanged Man that speak to a transformation in values, in beliefs, in life way.

    The Death card is the apotheosis of that trend. Yes, indeed, it refers to death. But, to death as transition, as transformation, as a severance with the ways of the past (including life, eventually. for Kate, already), an entry way to the new. If you recall the High Priestess from yesterday, she blocked the way on the path. She encouraged waiting, going down into the depths. I’d call it wu wei.

    The death card opens the way, suggests I embrace the changes that the anima cards have hinted at, the inner knowledge that the High Priestess wanted me to attain before going on. It also suggests letting go.

    Let go, Charlie, of the flat-earth humanism of your post-ministry years. Let go, Charlie, of the old life you had with Kate. (note: this does not mean an end to grief or a diminished view of life with her.). Open yourself to the tarot, to astrology, to kabbalah, to the other world. Open yourself again to the creative life of writing and painting. Live into it. Live with it. Live. Let go of the caregiver, let go of the inner skeptic, the inner editor, the inner cynic. Embrace the mystical, the soulful, the beautiful. Let go.

    Die to the old ways and be born again into a fourth phase of life. One focused on creativity and the other world. Let go.



    “Meaning: Initiation and transformation.  The core structure of initiation involves an experience of death followed by an experience of rebirth…We often have to die to our old ways of thinking, feeling, or behaving before we can open to our new life.” DTB

    * “After a period of pause and reflection with the Hanged Man, the Death card symbolises the end of a major phase or aspect of your life that you realise is no longer serving you, opening up the possibility of something far more valuable and essential. You must close one door to open another. You need to put the past behind you and part ways, ready to embrace new opportunities and possibilities. It may be difficult to let go of the past, but you will soon see its importance and the promise of renewal and transformation.

    Similarly, Death shows a time of significant transformation, change and transition. You need to transform yourself and clear away the old to bring in the new. Any change should be welcomed as a positive, cleansing, transformational force in your life. The death and clearing away of limiting factors can open the door to a broader, more satisfying experience of life.” biddy tarot


  • Change it up, dude

    Fall (last day of) and the Fallow Season Moon

    -8. That’s right. -8 degrees here on Shadow Mountain, the day before Halloween. In October. We’ve had a taste of Minnesota winter the week before Halloween.

    Been changing my morning routine a bit. Read an article that said the first three hours of your day are the most important. Mine starts between 4 am and 4:30 am. I wake up, the dogs get restless, Kep rolls over for a tug and tussle. Gertie comes up to check that I’M REALLY GETTING UP. Gives me a quick kiss to be sure. Rigel raises her head, looks at me. She requires a personal request to get out of bed.

    That first half hour is dog feeding, getting the newspaper, and, on Wednesdays, today, taking out the trash. The trash has to be wheeled out through whatever has fallen on the driveway. Some snow today, not too bad.

    One of the containers, the green one for recycling, testifies to America’s changed economy. It’s filled with cardboard from Amazon orders, Chewy dogfood boxes, boxes from Kate’s tube feeding supplies. Each home is now a shipping and receiving depot with the resulting obligation to handle no longer needed shipping materials.

    After this work finishes, I go upstairs in our garage, to my loft, a 900 square foot space filled with books, art making supplies, exercise equipment and my computer desk. Over the last 14 years the first thing I’ve done in the morning is read e-mails, then write Ancientrails. That’s what I’d call a habit.

    But, when learning is needed, the teacher appears. A writer whose blog I sometimes read suggested the first three hours make your day notion. He was making the common millennial complaint about spending too much on social media: facebook, instagram, snapchat, tiktok, whatever the latest is. That’s not me, but I took his point.

    Ready for a change I switched up. First, back to meditating. Having done that on a regular basis in a long while. Goal is for 20 minutes. Up to 10 this morning. Then, I read. I’ve been wondering about why I’m not reading more. Oh, I read science fiction, the occasional novel, Tears of the Truffle Pig right now, but serious reading has become a difficult task. Fitting it in. Being able to sustain attention. Turns out the early am is wonderful for that kind of attention.

    Reading this morning in the Beginning of Desire, by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. Subtitle: reflections on Genesis. She’s amazing. A new thing under the sun of biblical commentary. Her method, which I’ll write about here at some point, is so subtle, so profound, so intimate, and very learned. I got hooked on her by plucking a book of hers somewhat by random off the library shelf at CBE. I opened, read a couple of sentences, and knew this was genius. Not a term I use lightly.

    That was a year ago during the High Holidays, Yom Kippur, and Rabbi Jamie had just finished the whole High Holidays. A lot of work. He sank into the chair next to me. Nobody else there. All had left.

    I enthused about Zornberg. He brightened. Yes, he’d met here. Yes, she was the best Torah commentator, maybe ever. He and his brother Russ, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, and professor at Regis University in Denver, who lives in Evergreen, had talked about a joint class using one of her works, a series of essays on biblical interpretation. Hasn’t happened yet, but when things normalize here, I’m going to see if I could give the idea a boost.

    Anyhow, I got into her this morning and combined with some other thinking I’ve been doing, got into a revery about myth, fairy tales, long books, the true anchors of my inner life. This is my work, my lifelong work and fascination, the attempts we humans make to discern the occult, the hidden, the other world, the that beyond the this. This is my heart’s labor. Politics was reasons labor, fueled by the heart, too, of course, the misery of oppression, but calculating, power oriented, perhaps a diversion?

    I’m writing this now, an hour and a half later than I would have in the past 14 years. So, changes. More to come.

  • Mary, Mark, Superior Wolf

    Summer                                                                         Monsoon Moon

    Mary, Diane and Mark. Andover, 2011

    Brother Mark drove up yesterday. He’s back in the U.S.A., back in the U.S.A. He loves being in his home country, but he doesn’t love the price of life here. Definitely cheaper in Southeast Asia. He’s a wanderer of note, having traveled the world for most of his adult life, living in various spots for a while, then moving on. At 59 I’d have to say he’s a pro at living a cheap life that enables his traveling habit. He also has the mental stamina to take a life lived often alone, most often alone. Not something all of us have.

    We talked about family. Both Mary and Mark, perhaps because they’re both expatriates, spend more time connecting to our extended family than I do. Mark knows about our new grand-nephew in the Three Rivers area of Washington state. Cousin Kathy was with him when he had a medical procedure in Indianapolis. Cousin Diane and he connected again when he was in the Bay area last week. Mark stays in touch and I admire that about him.

    Mary, Singapore Cricket Club, 2016
    Mary, Singapore Cricket Club, 2016

    Mary is still in Kobe, Japan. She found, improbably, a Frisch’s Big Boy and had an Indiana nostalgia meal there. She says there are many large Japanese in the Kobe area, maybe the beef? Mary, like Mark, travels a lot, often in the past few years to conferences where she’s either presenting or headlining. Athens shows up on her itinerary often, Australia and Indonesia, too. She returns to Singapore after Kobe.

    Up here in the Rocky Mountains we’re enjoying more rain and cooler temperatures. The too long at very high fire danger signs now point Smokey’s finger at moderate, a blue stripe, not the angry reds and oranges of high, very high and extreme. This is welcome news for us since the wildfire season has been compared to 2012 and 2002, both years in which thousands of acres burned.

    Fishing advisories are in place for many mountain streams and rivers. The low snow pack and resultant desultory melt has streams often below 50% of normal flow. That means the water heats up and limits available oxygen for the trout fly fisherfolk go after.

    August 2016
    August 2016

    The big fires, the 416 and the Spring Creek Fire, have both been contained and most of the smaller ones are under control, too. We’ll all be sending petitions, in whatever way, to the snow gods. Please cover us this year. We need it.

    I leave for Minnesota on Tuesday morning in an Enterprise Rental Car. Since 2011 Kate and I have used rental cars when taking trips. Got to get over to the Evergreen Library today and load up on audiobooks. Need to pack tomorrow. Easier when going by car.

    An agent I think might really like Superior Wolf opens again for submissions on August 1st. I’ll be in Minneapolis, but I’m preparing to be able to send her my query letter and the first fifty pages as the clock ticks over. I wrote my query letter yesterday. Here it is:

    superior wolfSuperior Wolf

    Dear Ms. Moore,

    Superior Wolf needs representation and your client list suggested to me that you may find this 95K fantasy/horror novel compelling.


    Christopher’s father dies in a whiteout, attacked on a frozen northern lake, his head wrenched off, leaving Christopher alone in the dogsled. Who or what killed his father?
    His obsession with finding an answer, returning to northern Minnesota time after time even though only 10 years old, causes his godparents to send him away, separating him from their daughter, Diana, who loves him.


    His determination to find and kill the man responsible for his father’s brutal death leads him back to Diana, now a MacArthur grant geneticist, back to northern Minnesota, and to the immortal Lycaon.


    Did Lycaon, king of ancient Arcadia, kill his father? Does he hold the key to life extension that Diana seeks on behalf of a mysterious group of hedgefund CEO’s who want to live forever?


    I wrote Superior Wolf because northern Minnesota had the only intact wolf population left after decades of their successful extermination in the rest of the lower 48. Given that, why hasn’t there been a werewolf novel set there? Superior Wolf remedies this curious lack.
    Research for Superior Wolf included a week of intensive study at the International Wolf Center in Ely, Minnesota in January. We went out and howled with the wolves one bitter cold night. They howled back.

    Thank you so much for your consideration.

  • In My Dreams

    Summer                                                                   Monsoon Moon

    AbrahamSacrificesIsaacIcon_smThe strange things that come to me before I drop off to sleep. Thinking about Lycaon, the anti-hero protagonist of Superior Wolf. He sacrifices his own son, Nyctimus, at a once every four year festival, the Lykaia, to Zeus Lycaeus (Wolf Zeus). Stray thought then. Sounds like Abraham and Isaac. Oh. Wait. Abraham was a polytheist before his covenant with G-d.

    moloch william blake
    Moloch william blake

    What if? What if the Abraham and Isaac story recorded a very different intention than the one we Westerners, long infected by the idea of monotheism, have imputed to it? What if the context was one of child sacrifice? In other words, the religions around Abraham, perhaps even his own previous to the covenant, might have required child sacrifices. I know about Moloch who certainly did.

    In the context of gods requiring child sacrifice, the story would read more like this. This new God requires sacrifice, his beloved son Isaac. Nothing new there. Many gods require the sacrifice of children. Yes, it’s always fraught with heartache and pain, but that’s just what Gods do. What’s new here is that this God relents, aborts the sacrifice and accepts an animal in place of a human child.

    In this reading then Abraham’s new God evolves from a ruthless eater of human flesh to one who says, no, we no longer do that. The story becomes one of triumph and joy, this new god is better, much better.

  • The Grail and the Veil

    Winter                                                               Moon of the Long Nights

    Sumi Brush“The more I have looked into the Quest for the Grail, it is clear it is a Western form of Zen. There is no grail, it is understanding that the veil is the mystery of existence, it is nothing, but our interactions with everyone and everything.” Woolly and friend, Mark Odegard

    Mark is an artist, an author, a sweet guy and a friend of 30 years. He’s done many retreats at a Zen Buddhist retreat center in Minnesota and done calligraphy with that giant brush Zen monks use. He has an ability to come at ideas from the side, or behind, seeing what cannot be seen; the Zen work has informed his sight in substantive ways.

    He’s asking the Woolly Mammoths this New Year’s question for their next meeting:

    “What personal tool/skill do I need to refine for my quest for the grail’? I will write down your answer to this, and ask you again at the end of the year.

    The story represents our own encounter with the mystery of life (often occurring in our late teen years). The meaning is veiled for us, what do you need to lift the veil.”

    Mark’s question made me start because I’d just written this, only two or three days ago here on Ancientrails:

    “Torah study is about loving attentiveness. It is a way of engaging the sacred world which we can know first from within our own person and which permeates that which we encounter throughout our lives…

    God lit up for me. Ah, if I do Torah study, if I engage in loving attentiveness to my Self, my own Soul, and those of others and of the broader natural world, then I can find the knowledge which permeates all things, that very same shards of the sacred that shattered just after the tzimtzum to create our universe. That is God being available everywhere. This is far different from the Latinate imponderable of omnipresence, sort of an elf on the shelf deity lurking in every spot, finding you everywhere. And judging.

    No. God is another word for the intimate linkage between and among all things, from the smallest gluon to the largest star. God is neither a superparent nor a cosmic Santa Claus writing down your behaviors in the book of deeds; God is a metaphor for the sacred knowledge which permeates the perceivable, and the unperceivable, world.” Ancientrails

    I’m not trying to revive the word God here, nor am I trying to reinsert myself into the thought world which includes God. I’m on the same grail quest I started years ago in Alexandria First Methodist sitting beside the huge stained glass window of Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane. Back then I read the Bible as history, not as mythology. Back then it mattered if there was a Jesus who prayed in that Garden that the burden of crucifixion be lifted.

    I pushed those beliefs away long ago, passing through a moment, a long moment of second naivete with them, then moving into the world of the Great Wheel and the cyclical, spiraling time through which all life moves, in fact, all things. Over the last year or so my intense program of Jewish immersion has taken me another big step along this ancientrail, a true Grail quest began when, as a sixteen year old, I began to doubt the stories I’d heard growing up.

    Frederick J. Waugh, The Knight of the Holy Grail, c. 1912
    Frederick J. Waugh, The Knight of the Holy Grail, c. 1912



    My true philosophical (qua religious) home, existentialism, found me in the aftermath of that doubting and my first encounter with philosophy at Wabash College. When I went into my Christian immersion, through seminary and in the Presbyterian years, my faith went mystical, seeing the divine as divinely personal, as a bright light shining within the darkness of my inner world, a light whose purpose was not to dispel the darkness, but to integrate, Taoist style, both of them.

    Now, with Rabbi Jamie, I’m studying the kabbalah. Like Zen it insists on not seeing with eyes alone, but with the heart, with a poetic sensibility that understands religious language, I think all religious language, as metaphor, even and especially for the kabbalists, the written Torah.

    The veil is a very important metaphor in kabbalistic thought. Like Mark observed above the kabbalists know there is a veil between us and the mystery of existence. The veil underscores the humility necessary for this work and without humility the quest will fail.

    canterbury pilgrims
    canterbury pilgrims

    This idea is ultimately significant. Or not. We cannot penetrate the veil. Ever. Yet we all stand together on the other side of it. To see through the veil, to actually find the Grail, is not given to us, yet that place which we see through a glass darkly is the place where we stand right now. Yes, right now the Grail is in our hands, a cup from which we can drink at any moment.

    This ancientrail, the quest for the Grail, the turning of the Great Wheel, the lifting of the burden of our crucifixion, flowing up and down with divine energy through the Tree of Life, is our life, is the life of this world, this cosmic pulsing brilliant reality. Yet we let so many things: work, fear, hope, pride blind us.

    winter solstice3The Woolly Mammoths have been my companions, fellow pilgrims, on the way to Canterbury. Or, fellow Tibetan Buddhists inch worming their way around the sacred mountain, Meru. Or, my fellow Torah scholars, davening as we read the sacred texts. Or, fellow Lakotas, our skin pierced and tied to the world tree during the Sun Dance. Or, friends traveling through this life together until it ends.

    “What personal tool/skill do I need to refine for my quest for the grail?” Out of far left field, I’m going to answer, “A Sumi brush, rice paper, an ink stone. And the courage to use them.”



  • work

    Lughnasa                                                           Eclipse Moon

    thoth writes
    thoth writes

    Kate finished the first draft of Superior Wolf. In one day. She made a very helpful suggestion which will require considerable revision, but the book will be stronger for it. A quote by Terry Pratchett, a British fantasy author: “The first draft is telling yourself the story.” Yes. Now I know, for instance, that the lead character is really Lycaon, not the initial main character I imagined. Those two things alone point the way toward a good revision.

    The new schedule has taken shape, solidified. I write ancientrails first thing, like I’m doing right now. Then, I move onto Jennie’s Dead, which has begun to live and breathe, I’m excited to say. My goal each morning is to finish a post here and write 750 words in Jennie. I get breakfast either during or after I get those two things done. If I have the time, I’ll spend 30 minutes filing posts from ancientrails for Reimagining. Workout, which ends before lunch. Lunch. Nap.

    Many monasteries had Scriptoria, otherwise known as writing rooms where monks made hand written copies of important works. The monks copied Christian writings, including the Bible, as well as works from Roman and Greek authors.
    Many monasteries had Scriptoria, otherwise known as writing rooms

    The after nap part is not so solid yet. I do read then, Arthur Green’s introduction to the Zohar, for example. I have not started translating again and, since I start Hebrew this week, I think, it might absorb that energy. By 4 p.m. or so, I’m moving toward the evening and happily so.

    My life is best when I have large blocks of time I can manage and, when I’ve figured out a rhythm for the work I have underway. That’s happening. I’m grateful to Kate for supporting me in this and, for finding this amazing space. I want to have a library dedication sometime in October, in the main to thank her.



  • After

    Beltane                                                                              Moon of the Summer Solstice

    resilience-Disaster-risk-reduction-Climate-Change-Adaptation-guide-englishAnother short trough of time where work here will focus on moving, rearranging, hanging.

    Decompressing after finishing a long project starts now.  The joy of holding the weight of the manuscript in my hand as I passed it to Kate, always my first reader, pleases me in a deep way. Superior Wolf is the first work I’ve finished in Colorado, on Shadow Mountain, yet its bones are deeply Minnesotan.

    The inspiration for Superior Wolf came from the last native packs of timber wolves in the USA, those in the Arrowhead region of northern Minnesota. It merged along the way with the Latin work I’d been doing, translating Ovid, which included the story of Lycaon, the king of Arcadia. Minnesota and Ovid, the core of this novel.

    There is, too, the usual regret that I couldn’t have done better, written more poetically, created more tension, brought the characters to life more convincingly. These regrets are, strangely, the fuel that will carry me into my next novel, probably Jennie’s Dead. Perhaps it will be the one where my language sings and the plot cannot be put down, where the characters take over the work.

    disenchantmentBut not yet. The next period of time belongs to another very long term project, reimagining faith. There is that bookshelf filled with works on emergence, of pagan thought, on holiness and sacred time, on the Great Wheel, on the enlightenment, on nature and wilderness. There are file folders to be collected from their various resting places and computer files, too. Printouts to be made of writing already done. Long walks to be taken, using shinrin-yoku to further this work. Drives to be taken in the Rocky Mountains, over to South Park, down to Durango, up again to the Neversummer Wilderness. The Rockies will influence reimagining in ways I don’t yet understand.

    Reimagining is already underway, has been for awhile. The first task is to collect all that work I’ve done, so what comes next will be clear. Maybe in a week or two. First though I want to wander around some, move some books, hang some art.