• Category Archives Tea
  • Entheos

    Beltane and the Mesa View Moon

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

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Rocket Scientists

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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





  • Dushanbe Tea House

    Winter and the Valentine Moon

    Monday gratefuls: A good night’s sleep. Cool temps. Light Snow keeping things fresh. Mike and Kate. Dushanbe Tea House. Lapsang Souchong sausage. The brewing tea at altitude dilemma. Central Asia. Boulder. A drive. Ode in Rarotan. DAVA fund raiser for the kids. California. Now another mass shooting. See that adjective? Another. C’mon. Relationships. Friendships.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Travel


    What fun. Brunch at the Dushanbe Tea House with Mike Banker and Kate Strickland. On so many levels. First, the drive. Getting down the hill, yet driving very close to the Hogbacks that mark the beginnings of the Laramide Orogeny. The Flatirons, too. Sheets of Rock thrust up.  Going past the Rocky Flats Site. Then down into Boulder. As the wags like to say, 25 square miles surrounded by reality.

    On the way into Boulder on 93 you pass a big campus with NOAA, National Weather Service, and an experimental laboratory for the Dept of Commerce. Further on is the CU Boulder planetarium where I’ve taken Ruth many times. Before downtown by about a block is the Tea House.

    When I got there, I parked and saw a large crowd outside. 45 minute wait. I was a little early so I put my name for a table for three and went to sit at the bar. Ordered silver needle white Tea. Mike and Kate showed up as I poured my first cup. They ordered Darjeeling, Kate in memory of her trip to Darjeeling before her time in Japan, and Matcha, Mike likes the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

    The second level. The wonderful coffered ceilings, all ceramic, a riot of colors. Plants in the center of the large open seating area. A crowd, young for the most part, Boulder’s a college town. The Tea. I should say, the Teas. A thick bound book has five pages with different Teas listed front and back. You can buy Tea there, too. Loose and in satchels for ease of use. When your small white teapot comes, the waiter places a tiny three minute hour glass down with it and tells you how to long to let your choice steep. Three minutes for the white Teas.

    The third level. The brunch menu. I had the Swiss Raclette. Eggs in a dish of melted fondue cheese with small chunks of ham and Yukon gold Potatoes. Toast on the side. Kate ordered a side of lapsang souchong sausage so we could taste it. Delicious. Mike had the lapsang souchong flavored bulgogi! And Kate had the Indian Dosa. An exotic menu. Great tastes to go with wonderful Teas.

    The fourth and most important level. Being with Kate and Mike. A bright young couple. Kate engaged in the Great Work, creating a sustainable presence for human beings on this planet, Mike now at work with a documentary film company that had him most recently in Kyiv. The table conversation was witty, wide ranging, and fun. I told them how much I appreciated spending time with folks their age. Most of my friends are further along in the aging process. Ahem.

    We agreed to meet again in Evergreen. Sometime soon. I felt they genuinely enjoyed hanging out with me. Honored.


    DAVA. The annual Aurora art teachers art show is this week. They’re having a fund raiser for Ruth and Gabe. This is the first year Jon won’t have any work in the show. I’ve been to the show many times over the years. The art teachers have donated art for sale, the proceeds going to the kids. I’m going with Jen, Ruth and Gabe.


    My buddy Ode is on Roatan, an Island off the coast of Honduras. Continuing healing for his new knee. Enjoying the sun.


    Last. How bout those mass shootings, eh? They just keep on coming like the Blue Light specials at the old K-Mart stores. When I opened the NYT yesterday and saw that, my heart shriveled. Again. Another. Then my mind went to the good guys with guns. Like the one here in Aurora who shot a perpetrator only to be killed by police. With their guns. Guns. For god’s sake. Can’t we see the problem is the damned guns?

  • Wobbly

    Summer and the Radiation Moon

    Something’s making me wobble. I thought it was a too eager use of bowel prep. When I got back from picking up our groceries, I came in the door with three plastic bags in hand, rushed past Kate, “I think I’m going to be sick.” I retched. Then, went to bed. Sunday.

    Monday am was ok, even my treatment was ok, but when I got home, I felt off. A little nauseated, a little fatigued, generally uncomfortable. My body wanted food; but, my stomach said, go slow, so I stuck to ramen. Kate made me ginger tea, which helped, and some chicken flavored ramen. Felt better afterwards.

    This morning I’m sleepy, tired. Stomach not quite right. I have a team meeting today, I think, with a nurse and Dr. Gilroy. Will check if these seem like side effects to them. Hope not, but they never promised a smooth experience.

    Kate’s new choppers

    Kate went to a Bailey Patchworkers meeting in the white Toyota. And, she has Needleworkers on Wednesday morning. She’s venturing out on her own, not carrying much, but at least showing up. Big, big advances. CBE’s annual meeting is Thursday night.

    There’s progress here. Kate’s stamina has improved over an already big leap. Her weight is in the zone she wants. Perhaps not quite as much as she would like, but ok. We’re kidding and joking. She had enough energy even after a long day to make me some food last night.

    Today is day 15 for me. When I get to day 17/18 (Th/Fr), I’ll be halfway done. Beatles yesterday. Stones today?

    We’re getting afternoon rains, the monsoons. They help keep the wildfire threat down. Very grateful about that.

  • Ikigai

    Beltane Cancer Moon

    This Morning

    It’s been this kind of May. And it looks as if June will be cooler and wet, too, according to Weather5280. Good news for us, not so much for those lower down when the huge snowpack starts to melt.

    Got further along on print Ancientrails. Am now in late 2017, quite a ways in. Then, print spool error. Again. Well. Gotta go back to whatever I did that solved it once. Tried so many things I’m not sure which one worked. Something did. For a while. Soon though. Then, I’ll take everything for three hole punching and decide what kind of binders I’m going to buy. Each folder with month tabs.

    Also figured a way to unzip Superior Wolf and focus on Lycaon’s story. Don’t know whether I’ll follow up later on Christopher and Diana. The hunt for immortality is almost a cliche these days. And the central conceit of their story, a hedgefund group that funds Diana’s research, is not fiction anymore. Geez.

    That means I’ve got months of work ahead, maybe years. My ikigai. A Japanese word that means reason to live. This article talks about ikigai in more depth as an explanation for Japanese longevity. Squares with my own intuition. Purpose keeps you alive and flourishing.

    The Japanese have a lot about life figured out. Ichi-go, ichi-e is another favorite of mine. It comes from the Japanese tea ceremony and means each moment is once in a lifetime. No such thing as an insignificant experience with another person.

    Sekkyakushi, 15th century, Muromachi period, Metropolitan Museum of art

    Reading a book right now by the wonderful travel writer, Pico Iyer: Autumn Light, Season of Fire and Farewells. It’s a follow-up to his The Lady and the Monk, which I have not read, in which he recounts meeting Hiroko, the Japanese woman who would become his wife. He had moved to Kyoto to immerse himself in Japanese culture, sensing, as I do, that their approach to life is worth learning, perhaps adopting. Twenty-three years later he lives in Japan with Hiroko six months out of the year and six months in the U.S., caring for his mother and working for the New York Times. Recommended.

    Each time I dip into some aspect of Japanese culture I find I want to know more. The MIA’s Japanese collection gave me a chance to interact with tea bowls, tatami mats, sumi-e, Buddhist and Shinto sculpture, put me deeper into my own Asian pivot.

    Zen itself has not intrigued me, but I did follow Zen back to its roots in Chinese Chan Buddhism, a melding of Taoism and Buddhism. The Taoist aspect of Zen, and Chan. Yes.

    Tomorrow. The CT scan. Probably the last of the imaging work. It will either show metastatic disease or a localized recurrence in the prostate fossa. If the former, one kind of treatment. And, prognosis. If the latter, 35 days of radiation and a possible cure. Hopeful, of course, that it will be localized, but aware that it might not be. In either case I’ll know. That’s been the hardest part of this time (well, no, that’s not right. The hardest part has been dealing with insurance and the hospital’s “benefits” office.), knowing the cancer has reasserted itself, but not knowing what that means for my life.

    Will be glad to have this work done so I can move onto what’s next.

  • Tajikistani Comfort

    Winter                                                                Waxing Moon

    20190118_104419Quick geopolitical quiz. Where is Tajikistan? No googling, no globe, no world map. Where is it? If you know, you get the sister city of Boulder appellation, Friend of Dushanbe. Friend of what? Oh, you didn’t know that Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan? No, we’re not revoking your nametag. Not only are we not revoking your nametag, we’re inviting you over to tea at a traditional Tajikistan Tea House donated to Boulder by the citizens of Dushanbe. And, it’s a stunner.

    The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse was fabricated in Tajikistan and then reassembled in Boulder, much like the Teahouse exhibited in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Japanese galleries. The result puts you in another place. The intricate, colorful glazed tiles and the carefully hand carved wooden pillars lit by floor to ceiling windows makes the dining room seem both familiar and exotic, intimate, yet expansive. 20190118_123043Though we didn’t sit on one of them, there were also raised platforms with cushions and short tables. Looked like fun to me.

    The menu has an assortment of dishes ranging from Lapsang Souchong Bulgogi to a Russian Beet Salad. We spent a leisurely hour and a half eating hummus, samosas, and the Russian Beet Salad. The deserts were wonderful, too.

    I picked up an ounce of white tea, Silver Needle. My disappointment with the physics of boiling water at 8,800 feet sorta knocked me out of the tea making habit I’d developed in Andover. The Teahouse inspired me to suck it up and get back to it. Starting today, I plan to add tea-making back into my daily routine.

    Fellow Travelers
    Fellow Travelers

    While we ate a gentle snow fell, visible through the large windows. Could have been a morning in Dushanbe. After our meal, we drove over to McGuckin’s. It’s a hardware store, but so much more. First, it’s the size of a big box retailer. It’s aisles have that distinctive hardware shelving and signage, but they include furniture, fly fishing equipment, art supplies, humidifiers, a dizzying range of power tools, garden tools. The atmosphere was laid back, many folks meandering around, like us, taking in its immensity. I found a large brush to paint backgrounds and some tape to use for outlining. A few sponges, too.

    Dark Lane, Southowram, England
    Dark Lane, Southowram, England

    The drive back home, about an hour in normal conditions, took almost two. Tom did his usual masterful, calm job as helmsman. Unfortunately the timing meant that he and Mark dropped me off, then headed back down the mountain to make their 7:00 pm flight. DIA is far from our house and you have to traverse the whole of the Denver metro to get there. Not a fun drive.

    Ram Dass sums it up: We’re all just walking each other home. Tom and Mark came out and we hiked another few miles toward that final destination, the most ancientrail of all. The precious value of knowing we’re not walking alone turns us into fellow pilgrims. Life without travel companions is a burden; with fellow pilgrims it’s a rich, exciting journey toward the unknown.


  • Book of Life, Black Holes

    Summer                                                                    Woolly Mammoth Moon

    20180622_193239Yesterday was a big day. Up early to write, workout. Lunch with Alan Rubin to start planning for the 6th and 7th grade religious school at Beth Evergreen. Home for a fitful nap. Left at 5:30 pm with Ruth for Boulder. We had a reservation at Japango on the Pearl Street Mall before seeing the Fiske Planetarium show on black holes. Driving home under the waxing gibbous moon with Jupiter below it, Mercury and Venus visible, too, as well as Mars and Saturn. A planetary moment. No twinkling please.

    A highlight from the Alan Rubin meeting was deepening my relationship with him, learning more of his history, sharing some of my own. I agreed to take on the task of researching Jewish Liturgical history.

    Rosh-HashanahWe want to reframe the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, in a reconstructionist way, then help the kids come to their own way of reframing. In the traditional understanding, taken here from the Chabad website, each year on Rosh Hashanah “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die … who shall be impoverished and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.” After ten days to seek repentance from those we have harmed in the previous year, God closes the Book of Life, sealing the fate of each worshiper.

    book of lifeThe tradition implies a white bearded, Santa Claus like God who checks on the naughty and the nice. He takes out his celestial quill pen and starts scratching. He pauses, waiting to see what you have to say for yourself, then after a reasonable interval (the ten days), he writes fini.

    How did these holidays come to be celebrated in the first place? Why? Who observed them and how? Have the observances and meanings of those observances changed over time? How? This is the exegetical move, gathering as much data as possible about the historical holidays. The hermeneutical move comes after it, asking what in our current circumstance, our present moment, if anything, corresponds to the original intentions. There is, too, a theological move here, asking if the metaphysics of the holiday can still be plausible. If not, that informs the reframing, too.

    japangoIn my peculiar little world this is great fun. Looking forward to engaging similar research throughout the upcoming liturgical year.

    Contrast this with my evening with Ruth. (Ironically, she is exactly the target audience for the above work, being a Jewish girl about to enter 7th grade.) We went to a sushi restaurant in Boulder where she had a sushi Tokyo plate. I had a sashimi plate, chef’s new choices. Green tea, too, for both of us. Ruth said, “You know me so well.”

    black-holeAfter the dinner we drove back up Broadway to the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado, about 5 minutes. At the planetarium, where we’ve gone many times, we saw a presentation on black holes. It covered the usual topics of star death, neutron stars, supernovas and the formation of black holes with their extraordinarily deep gravity wells. It also covered recent observation of the long pursued gravity waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

    From the book of life to the heat death of the universe in one Friday. Quite the journey.




  • One meeting, one moment

    Beltane                                                                                    Sumi-e Moon


    enso-zen-circleMy presentation on time falls under the sumi-e moon and I plan to use sumi-e. I’m taking my brushes, ink, ink stones, red ink pad, Kraft paper, and rice paper. As well as my hourglasses. I will do Shakespeare’s soliloquy from Macbeth as a counter point. Each person will first practice an enso on the Kraft paper, then do one on rice paper.

    icho.go.ichi.e3What is an enso? The word means circle in Japanese. In Zen it has a much more expansive meaning.* Zen is, of course, Chan Buddhism, a curious blend of Taoism and Buddhism created in China. Monks from Japan went to China to learn about Chan and brought it back to Japan. They also brought back the practice of drinking tea, which initially was a stimulant to help with long meditation sessions. It later transmogrified into the Japanese tea ceremony with its beautiful idea of ichi go ichi e, or once in a lifetime.

    *”In the sixth century a text named the Shinhinmei refers to the way of Zen as a circle of vast space, lacking nothing and holding nothing in excess. At first glance the ancient ensō symbol appears to be nothing more than a miss-shaped circle but its symbolism refers to the beginning and end of all things, the circle of life and the connectedness of existence. It can symbolize emptiness or fullness, presence or absence. All things might be contained within, or, conversely, excluded by its boundaries. It can symbolize infinity, the “no-thing”, the perfect meditative state, and Satori or enlightenment.  It can even symbolize the moon, which is itself a symbol of enlightenment—as in the Zen saying, “Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.” In other words, do not mistake doctrines, teachings or explanations, which are intended to guide one toward enlightenment, for enlightenment itself. Ensō can also represent the moon’s reflection on water, thereby symbolizing the futility of searching for enlightenment outside oneself.”  Modern Zen

  • This, That

    Beltane                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

    altitude and oxygen levelsSo. Because physics. No black tea up here, at least not at a proper temperature. Thanks Tom and Bill for your help. When you relieve the pressure, the water reverts to the pressure of the air and the temp goes down as it does. Sigh.

    Black Mountain is covered in cloud, hidden behind an opaque scrim of greyish white. Bishop Berkeley would suggest it’s not there at all, but I think it is. We’ll find out sometime today.

    6702011 01 20_0603Went into Kate’s hairstylist with her yesterday and got my ears waxed. Jackie put hot wax on my ears, then pulled it off, removing those hairs that seemed to follow receipt of my Medicare card. This is my second time. She says if we do this often enough, the follicles will not push up hair. I mean, hair on the ears is so last iteration of our species.

    Kate spent the rest of the day at Bailey Patchworkers. This is a sewing group that meets at the Bailey Library. Kate joined in our first year here. Another group with some of the same members, a needleworkers group, invited her to join them. As a result, she’s had two circles of friends here for almost the duration of our time in Colorado. This is a woman who listens to lectures and does counted cross-stitch or needlepoint. She’s sew into it.

    IMAG0674 Planted a tomato plant yesterday in a five-gallon plastic bucket. When I opened the bag of garden soil (we don’t have anything a Midwesterner would recognize as soil), the smell of the earth almost made me cry. I miss working in soil, growing plants and my body told me so. A greenhouse went up higher on the priority list.

    I love living at altitude, among the Rockies and all their flora and fauna. See the post below. I also loved living in Andover where horticulture, in retrospect, was so easy. It is possible to recreate that experience in miniature, inside four walls and a roof. I want to do that.

  • A Graphic Problem

    Beltane                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon


    Gong fu cha requires specific temperatures for different sorts of tea. Black teas like pu’er, lapsang souchong, iron buddha require water temperatures of at least 203 degrees F. Unfortunately, these are some of my favorite teas. Unfortunately is easy to understand from this simple graph. We’re at 8,800 feet above sea level, call it 9,000 for this instance. Follow the line and you’ll see the problem.

    Oolong teas require water temperatures between 194 and 206 F. I haven’t tried oolong yet, but it’s obvious that its needs are right at the cutoff point for our elevation. Water boils at around 195 F up here.

    If any of my engineering oriented friends have an idea about how I can get water to the higher temperatures, barring use of a pressure cooker (too clunky), I’d love to hear it.


  • Ichi-go ichi-e Once in a lifetime

    Beltane                                                                                   Rushing Waters Moon

    Fog this morning over Black Mountain. It comes in and out of view as the mist moves toward us. Now it’s gone altogether. There’s a thin scrim of icy snow on the solar panels. Colder last night.

    Kanō Eitoku (1543–1590), Cypress Trees
    Kanō Eitoku (1543–1590), Cypress Trees

    My Japanese informed aesthetic often finds resonance here in the mountains. The ponderosa pines that surround Beth Evergreen’s synagogue present heavily crenulated bark, twisted branches and a sturdy calm. From the sanctuary, looking south and east, one window pane has an especially crooked branch that reaches up like a hand. When the snow comes, it looks like a portion of a Kano school gold screen. Ravens and crows land on these branches, too, also emulating the scenery that inspired so many Japanese painters and printers.

    Moon watching, a Japanese pastime, has its analogue here as well. The moon rising and setting among the mountain peaks, clouds placing a thin gauze in front of it, the stars as its context, emphasize the moon’s romance. I can stand on my deck here off the loft and watch clouds cross the moon’s face. Its silvered light makes beautiful shadows of the lodgepole pine.

    Hokusai (1760-1849), Boats and Moon, an ukiyo-e print
    Hokusai (1760-1849), Boats and Moon, an ukiyo-e print

    Big eared mule deer and thick, tall elk come down to Maxwell and Cub creeks, lapping up the cold fresh melted snow. Mountain lions slip noiselessly through the undergrowth, lie prone on rock cliffs waiting for them to pass nearby. Bears root up tubers. Minx, bobcats, pine martens, smaller predators, hunt for prey. Rabbits and squirrels and mice feed, look over their shoulder. The web of life is vibrant.

    Bull Elk, Evergreen, 2015
    Bull Elk, Evergreen, 2015

    Ichi-go ichi-e is a Japanese phrase often associated with the tea ceremony. The tea master arranges art in the tokinama, chooses teas and sweets, decides which tea bowls and tea pots and tea utensils to use, then greets their guests as they arrive, often no more than one or two. He does this to create an ichi-go ichi-e, a once in a lifetime moment or for this moment only. It connotes the treasure of each meeting between or among people.

    Each moment of the day Black Mountain offers ichi-go ichi-e to those of us who live near it, if only we stop and look. To appreciate ichi-go ichi-e though we need to pause, or as mussar teaches us, put a space between the match and the flame. If we slow down our glance, our gaze, let it come to rest, if we take a breath and consider what is right there in front of us, then we find once in a lifetime moments happening throughout our day.

    Ponderosa Pine, Beth Evergreen, April, 2017
    Ponderosa Pine, Beth Evergreen, April, 2017

    These do not, as you might think, cheapen or dilute over time, rather they enhance our experience of the world. We recognize the fleeting nature of life, of this moment and that moment, of the unique and precious and irreplaceable flavor to each encounter. Nothing is old, all is new, always.

    In fact, to the extent that we can gain an appreciation of ichi-go ichi-e, then we never age.