• Category Archives Judaism
  • Liberal Arts, their necessity

    The Mountain Summer Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Gabe and Ruth. Beau Jo’s. Pizza. Cool nights. 22 degree difference: Lakewood to Shadow Mountain, 92-70. Abert’s Squirrel and Red Squirrels running. Chipmunks. Rabbits. Marmots. Fishers. Pikas. Prairie Dogs. Mice. Ravens. Crows. Magpies. Corvids.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Family

    One brief shining: Outside along the fence, there, peripheral vision alerted me, found it, a hopping form, bushy tail, then another, Red Squirrels, smaller all black pointy ears, running between the Lodgepoles, an Abert’s Squirrel, a very squirrely morning.


    Excited. I got a new translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Plan to read it through as part of Herme’s Pilgrimage. Stephanie McCarter from the University of the South. Not as ground breaking as the new Iliad and Odyssey by Emily Wilson, but fresh eyes and a woman’s perspective. Looking forward to grounding myself again in Ovid’s world of epic poetry, shapes changed into bodies, metamorphosis.

    You could call me a classicist. Not in the academic sense, I don’t have the languages, but religious and ancient classical texts do have a gravitational pull for me. In translation I’ve read and returned to the Bible, Homer, Chinese literary classics like Romance of the Three Kingdoms, Greek philosophy, the Talmud, Roman and Greek playwrights and poets like Ovid, Beowulf, the Norse sagas, Dante.

    When I say I’ve returned to them, I mean I will read them more than once. Which I don’t tend to do with more modern works. Say after the Renaissance.

    You could call me, too, conservative. I also keep returning to religious institutions and religious life. There’s a strong part of my inner journey that’s fed by books like the Torah, the New Testament, Tao Te Ching, Chado: the Way of Tea. Even the Great Wheel emerges from the long ago past.

    The vast deposit of human literature allows us to hop into a Jules Verne’s contraption of the mind, find long ago cultures like the Zhou Dynasty, Renaissance Florence, the Shogunate in Japan, village life in the old Celtic world, and for a time live in them, seeing the sights, considering the patterns of thought, the imaginative creations of other ways for being human.

    The wonder and magic of reading.

    Our era has begun to focus education away from the liberal arts which introduce us to philosophy, history, literature ancient and modern, languages, music and theater, poetry. We have a science and business tropism, a tendency to bend our institutions toward technology, toward business, toward matters concerning the practical arts like engineering, medicine, corporate agriculture.

    Of course those practical paths undergird our day to day lives. Necessary to us all. Yes. But, and here’s where the classical world, the conservative nature of the liberal arts and religion comes into play, to what end do we sustain human life? For what purpose do we earn profits? What is a humane approach to political economy?

    Without poetry and chamber music, without the voyage of Odysseus, without the journey of Dante, without the often ancient debates over the purpose of community, of nationhood, of war, of humanity itself, without Lao Tze and Confucius, without Zen and animist faiths like Shintoism and Western paganism we have no compass points to guide our white coated brethren, our C-suite compatriots, our decisions between a Trump and a Biden.

    Aimlessness leads to corruption, mendacity, and general rot. We are, right now, reaping the whirlwind of this shift in basic education.

  • Tree Time

    Summer and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Flonase. Tree sex. Grass sex. Make me sneezy. Leo the gentle. Luke. With family in Florida. Mark dealing with loss in Hua Hin, Thailand. Seoah turning 46 this July 4th. Murdoch. My son, who cares for those who work for him. The unconscious. The collective unconscious. Archetypes. Dreams. Depth Psychology. Rollo May. Marie von Franz. James Hillman. Robert Johnson.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Sleep

    One brief shining: A mystery this slipping into the unprotected, vulnerable hours, extinguishing the busy scanning of the everyday for a nighttime swim in the inky waters of just our Self, a time for only you, only me, rummaging through the storehouse hunting matters that need healing or celebration or acceptance, speaking the language of symbol and emotion, of the deep you, attending to your Self in the inner cathedral.

    On my Lodgepole Companion the yellow male Flowers, catkins, have disappeared. The female ovulate Cones, red and swollen, fertilized, now dot the Branch ends, beginning the transition from female Flower to Pine Cone. These serotinous cones require fire to open them, a hot fire like one produced when the Crowns burn. Crown Fires burn fast, destroying acres of Trees at once. Stopping them tests the mettle of current Fire suppression techniques. Often the Crown Fires burn until they burn themselves out. As once they did always.

    Fire does not destroy the Lodgepole; rather, it opens their seeds to newly fertile soil. One Forest dies that another may be born. Not a lot different from the way death burns through a generation of humans, one generation dying, the other growing up in its stead.

    Annie Novak, the instructor in my Tree Communication class, cautioned us to notice our anthropocentric tendencies when talking about Trees, Plants. An example. We consider seconds, hours, months, years, decades, as important measures of time. How does a Tree experience time? Or, does a Tree experience time?

    Dendrochronologists may use Tree growth rings to accurately place an individual’s life span in our human history. The Tree growth rings themselves? Dead. The heartwood of a Tree functions as a Tree’s columnar support essential to support the Crown as it grows up and up. A key Tree strategy for access to Great Sol’s Light.

    Trees do move, up from their Seed toward the Sky, out toward the space around them, and down into the soil beneath them. But they do not move from their chosen location. They also grow in girth, expanding as the cambium produces xylem cells which push the width of the Trunk out as they die and form the heartwood.

    (NB for the Ancient Brothers. I misspoke about xylem cells. They die and become the strong support for the trunk. In the center of the heartwood xylem cells transport water from the roots to the leaves through capillary action.) The phloem cells, between the bark and the cambium (growing part of the tree), take sugars down from the Leaves and Branches to other parts of the Tree. It is the phloem and cambium that measure only a few human hairs in width.

    Since the heartwood and bark are dead (bark not always, see Aspens for example, but mostly), and the living part of the tree-phloem and cambium-have only a few hairs width presence in the huge structure of the Tree, what of the Tree might experience time? Do we consider the whole organism, which consists of mostly dead tissue, or do we consider the living cambium and phloem only? Perhaps the whole Tree and its growth rings simply are time itself measured in a Treecentric way?

    Lots to think about and I’m only one or two strides into Herme’s Pilgrimage. Where will Herme go?


  • The Tree the Realtor said to cut down, Tree #7

    Summer and the Bar Mitzvah Moon


    Too close to the house, she said. And, not growing straight. That was nine and a half years ago. I cut down forty or fifty Lodgepoles for fire mitigation. Another few for the solar panels. Shading them in the crucial hours of the day. But I cut down no Aspens. “Trees like aspen naturally have a higher water content and do not usually contain the volatile chemical compounds that can make trees like pine so flammable.” International Association of Fire and Rescue. The title of the article refers to Aspen stands as natural firebreaks.

    Not why I left it alone. I felt sorry for him/her. Looked like it had had a tough life.

    Aspen Trees are dioecious, meaning male and female reproductive organs grow on separate Trees. Not educated enough yet to know which is which. Though. If it has no catkins, it’s a male. We’ll see. I think he’s a guy. Don’t recall catkins.

    Pando Aspen Clone 2017 photo by Lance Oditt

    Whichever is not too important because reproduction by seed does not drive Aspen increase. Aspen Seedlings do not do well in shade and since Aspen grow in clonal Groves, usually within and around Coniferous Forests, they rarely grow very well. Populus tremuloides, the quaking Aspen, and other species of Populus like big-toothed Aspen (Populus grandidentata) common in the Eastern U.S., reproduce mainly through their root system. It throws up suckers around a Mother Tree and produces clones of Her. You may have heard of Pando, the Utah Aspen Colony cited often as the world’s largest Tree.

    The more closely I examined him my affection for him grew. I wondered why he had this big scar, dead heartwood exposed. Looked like burn scar with all the black Bark around it, but that same coloration existed in many spots on the Trunk. Then I moved around the tree and found this pattern of discoloration on the side opposite the scar. What was that?

    Oh. I see. An Elk, maybe a larger Mule Deer, scratched themselves here. Wait. Yes, the probable explanation for the big scar and maybe for his angled growth. An Elk or Mule Deer dining on his tender and nutritious Bark when he was young. Makes sense to me.

    That’s not all of the insults. Two years ago his Leader cracked off and fell during high Winds. This in spite of the adaptive advantage of quaking Leaves which reduces the force of Wind gusts. I worried it might kill him, but no. He continues to grow. Sadly, I may have to cut him down sooner rather than later. He’s leaning too close to the house in the same direction from which the Winds come.

    I admire Trees, Animals that take injury and accident and disease yet do not give up. Three legged Dogs, for example. Vega. And this crippled Aspen. I hope that when I do cut him down that suckers will grow further from the house. I’d be happy to see him live again in a different spot.


  • Herme’s Journey

    Summer and the waning Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Monday gratefuls: The Ancient Brothers. Great Sol. Shadow Mountain. TV. Books. CD’s. Jazz. Mozart. Telemann. Bach. Coltrane. Monk. Parker. Gregorian Chants. Rock and roll. CD player. K-dramas. Netflix. Amazon Prime. Mhz. Starlink. Conversation. Listening. Seeing. Really listening. Really seeing. The Aspen out my bedroom window. The dead Lodgepole.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The lesser light-the Moon

    One brief shining: When I go now to an airport, when I even imagine going to an airport, I recoil, seeing the old Native American punishment, running between rows of TSA employees, airline boarding agents, and crabby fellow sufferers all diminished by the experience, yet needing to pass along, like some fraternity hazing ritual, the same misery to the pledges not yet seated in their too narrow and too jammed together seats. And paying often thousands of dollars to do it.


    Still enjoying a post bar mitzvah push sense of opening, of new possibilities. Herme’s Journey, which I imagined after the dream workshop last month, got sidelined a bit by the week of the ritual, guests, celebration, and the week of physical recovery that followed that one. Though. Kavod for the Trees (Honoring the Tree) has kept it alive.

    Herme’s Journey followed thoughts and feelings triggered by my Wabash dream. That dream encouraged me to reenter the life vision I had when I started college almost 60 years ago. To embrace that dream of a long period, lifelong in my hopes of those years, as a student, then a scholar. With libraries and writing instruments my primary tools. With ideas and their expression as my life work.

    Herme, you may recall, is the name I gave to the neon sign I had made of the Hooded Man Card* from the Wildwood Tarot Deck. The name I gave to myself in the wake of Kate’s death, of a mourner then a griever, then… I wasn’t sure what.

    Herme’s Journey blends the Hooded Man Card with the first card of the Tarot Deck: The Fool. The major arcana of a tarot deck tells a story of the Fool’s journey, begun blithely, a bindlestaff over one shoulder, a dog alongside, stepping off into the unknown. In the Wildwood deck** the Wanderer’s journey is through the Wildwood. Yes. My journey, too.

    The Wanderer is a beginner, the beginner’s mind at play in the fields of the psyche. Herme’s Journey is my Wanderer’s path, a beginner’s path, but one begun with the age and experience of an old man. So, Herme’s Journey.

    What lies along this path? Still unclear though Trees play a central role. As does the Great Wheel of the Year and the Jewish Lunar Calendar. As the pilgrimage unfolds, I plan to explore Kabbalah, my long period of work with Ovid’s Metamorphosis, poetry and literature, myth and legend, fairy and folk tales, religion, and the arts: music, painting, sculpture, theater, dance, opera.

    What will come? Again, unknown. It will be the path, not the destination. What I will do is read a lot, write, travel, think, listen, see, taste. Talk.


    *The Hooded Man stood at the winter solstice point on December 21, along with the earth and the sun in the night. This is the time to be alone and contemplate life. This card describes the gates of death and rebirth, deep inside the Earth.  Hooded Man

    **A central theme of the Wildwood Tarot is the interconnection of humans with the wild, with animals, and with the calendar cycle.

  • A Doubled Trunk, Grown Over Tree #6

    Summer and the Bar Mitzvah

    Tree number 6 grows near the dead Lodgepole. Like the Lodgepole Companion it lacks Branches at certain points on its trunk. The most notable feature of this tree though is what appears to be two Trunks grown together, fused now, and joined as one.

    Around the Trunk opposite to this photo another, less obvious obtrusion suggested to me that my hunch was correct. When Splintered Forest came through and marked Lodgepoles for Fire mitigation, they always marked those Trees with two Trunks. They have a tendency to split apart under the pressure of high winds.

    I also found several instances of what looked like Fungus, maybe Lichen. I didn’t see this on other Trees nearby and it made wonder what about this Tree attracted them.

    Tree number 6 grows in a small cluster of other Lodgepoles though at some distance from its neighbors. While it is similar to the other Lodgepoles it, too, has distinctive features-Fungus, double trunk grown together, its location.

    As I’ve worked on this project, somewhat episodically, a strange thing has begun to happen to me. As I drive down the hill toward Evergreen, I don’t always see the Forest. Now I see its individual Trees. Not always, but often.

    I love photographs of Animals that show their distinctive personality, their uniqueness. Yes there are Dogs. But only one Kepler, Gertie, Rigel, Vega. Cattle, Horses, Sheep, Mule Deer, Elk, yes, but each one has their own history, their own unique way of being in the world.

    There is an interesting foreground and background awareness going on related to this. Individual Lodgepoles. Individual Aspens. Individual Willows and White Pine and Ponderosa. That Mule Deer, curious about me, who looked in my bedroom window. I find identifying and appreciating unique individuals a good balance to the tendency to lump members of a species together.

    Yet. There is a deeper oneness in which all individual, unique beings participate. We are constitutive of that oneness even as we are unique and identifiable. Our change and growth is the change and growth of the one. We are, at a deeper level, part of each other in a profound, yet too often invisible way. Somewhat like the Root system of the Trees I’ve met.

    Honoring ourselves can lead us to honor what appears to our limited senses to be an other.



  • Honoring the Dead, Tree #5

    Summer and the Bar Mitzvah Moon


    Tree #5 is a dead Lodgepole in the back yard. Its Bark has faded in color to a dull brown and become brittle. Where the Bark has peeled off dead Wood shows traces of Critters that left small trails along its surface. Looking up toward the Crown and the Lead ghost Branches project out, no Needles, no flexibility, like fingers stretched out in pleading. Remember me as I once was.

    A long, deep crevice runs up and down the Trunk allowing a glimpse inside. Reminds me of the necropsy on the dead collared Timber Wolf during my Wolf intensive in Ely, Minnesota. Several Januaries ago. The crevice and the biologist’s opening of the Wolf’s thorax and abdomen provided a sight not available in life except under rare circumstances. In both cases the Lodgepole crevice and the Wolf laid open I could imagine galaxies and local clusters whirling in this not meant to be seen space. Inner space, not outer space, the one suggesting the other, by the wonder of life gone from its home on the one hand and the vastness of the universe on the other.

    The dead Tree stands where it grew, a corpse remaining in place. Made me wonder about the idea of death itself. We imagine death as a clear and distinct state from life. In terms of agency I suppose it is. But consider the dead tree. Birds rest on it. Woodpeckers eat from it. Squirrels may build a home there. Its roots have begun decomposing, feeding already the living Trees, Grasses, Soil microbes. When it falls, were it to remain in the yard, it would decay slowly while offering homes for Voles, Chipmunks, Rabbits and other Animals.

    So death in nature has many phases, all of them useful in some way to other Creatures and Plants. Perhaps death is not so clear and distinct. In Muir Woods there were fallen Coastal Redwoods that will take decades, maybe centuries to complete their death. And throughout those Woods as in the yard here death actively supports life. Is not its enemy but instead its friend.

    Does that help us, frail mammals that we are? We can certainly formaldehyde a body, put it in a box and surround that box with cement or even steel vaults. But why? To defeat the natural processes which Elk, Mountain Lion, Aspen, Willow, and Meadows filled with lush Grass not only go through themselves, but need so that others of their kind can survive? We have set ourselves apart from our Mother, rejected her ways, and visited upon her insult after insult. Perhaps the dead Lodgepole can teach us a different, better way.

  • It’s a New Day, It’s a New Life…

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Shirley Waste. Taking out the garbage. Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’. 46 degrees this morning. The Mule Deer Doe resting in my back yard. The shema. Lunch with Ruth and Gabe. Insurance and cancer. Sullen Sky. Gyros. Kafta Kabob. Irv. Ode. Bill. Zoom. Guns at CBE. Concealed carry? Rich. Tara. Veronica. Diane’s great card.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The Summer Solstice tomorrow

    One brief shining: On the Summer Solstice Swedes get naked and dance around huge bonfires, a form of sympathetic magic I suppose, celebrating Fire with Fire, heat with heat, the growing season still needing Great Sol; sure and I get that, but I celebrate it in a quieter, less obvious way since the Summer Solstice, the longest day, also marks the gradual triumph of the dark-the night grows minute by minute after this sweaty Solstice, moving toward the longest night of the year.


    Each morning I wake up and look out in the back. Hoping for an Elk or a Mule Deer to be there. This morning, far back in the tall Grass growing over my drain field lay a Mule Deer Doe, gently gazing around, comfortable and quiet. I find a satisfaction in these instances. Unearned, of course. Even so. For a while my temporary property feels safe enough, welcoming enough for a rest, a moment in a life lived on the move hunting for nourishment, avoiding Mountain Lions, drinking from our Mountain Streams. Ichi-go, ichi-e.

    May our lives as we live them provide safe harbor for the souls of others, Mule Deer and humans alike.


    Conversation with Ruth yesterday over lunch. She’s pro-Palestinian, anti-IDF war, pro-Israel, anti-Hammas. Same as me. She’s frustrated because her peers, even her Jewish peers, reduce thought about the war in Gaza to slogans and simplistic analysis. As she says, it’s complicated. Luke, of Leo and Luke, has become so pro-Palestinian that he bridles at the mere mention of a pro-Israeli sentiment. Others at CBE want the IDF to eliminate Hamas and do whatever it takes to accomplish that. Easy to see where eliminate Hamas no matter what it takes and the River to the Sea have taken root as contrasting driving forces.

    As I talked with her, I imagined her in her dorm room holding these debates with her roommates, others from down the hall. A teeny bit of envy crept up. I loved that part of college. Loved it so much that I never quit with the radical questioning of that time. She’s so bright and thoughtful. A rapidly maturing mind at work. Amazing and gratifying to see.


    Just a moment: Willie Mays is dead. 93. Baseball back when. Back when I listened to the Brooklyn Dodger’s games on the transistor radio I clipped to my belt while delivering the Alexandria Times-Tribune. There was a purity in my love of the game which Willie Mays played so well. My son still has it, bless his heart.

    I imagine in fact that some of the MAGA nostalgia comes from remembering those days of the 1950’s, the time after World War II when American life exploded with children and UFO sightings. And the next decade with NASA and high-finned cars. Easy to remember the 104 stolen bases of Maury Wills and forget the budding war in Vietnam, the Jim Crow south, women in the kitchens and gay folks in the closet.

  • Wrasslin’

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Marilyn. Irv. Salaam. Slumps. End of the bar mitzvah pilgrimage. A Colorado morning with Great Sol lighting up a blue Sky, wisps of Clouds float above Black Mountain. My Lodgepole Companion’s Branches sway a bit. Primo’s. The view of the Continental Divide on the way to King’s Valley. Mountain roads. Ruby with her summer shoes.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Salaam

    One brief shining: Ruby’s tires whisper as I downshift to fourth for the turn onto King’s Valley Drive, thoughts of breakfast with Marilyn whom I haven’t seen for a while, and wondering whether I’ll talk about the P.E.T. scan results since Salaam will be there, the first time I’ve had a chance to talk to her, or might we talk about the bar mitzvah which Marilyn missed because of a Covid concern, then later I find out Paul has Covid and I check myself out. Feeling ok.


    Wrasslin’ over the weekend. With the slump post-bar mitzvah, post the celebration with Tom and Paul, post the new results from my P.E.T. scan. A big push to the finish line and past it always leave me with an emotional vacuum. Inner attention to what must get done in order to reach completion drops away. No little self ignited flares for this task or that one. This reading. That memorization. Emails back and forth. All fade. Spaciousness opens up. All those things set aside bubble up, but not with much force. Wait and see.

    The emotional buttressing I find necessary to work at long and complicated tasks has exclusion as a primary tool. This is not the time to wonder about writing. About what I’m up to with the remainder of my life. About cancer even. About that full inbox. About home maintenance. All set aside. Focus on the Hebrew, on the service, on writing the d’var torah.

    Over. Then, it’s over and the torah portion has been read, the d’var torah presented, the bar mitzvah service is in the past, grayed out of my Google calendar. Tom and Paul have gone home.

    A void of purpose. Of self-motivation. Of something to look forward to, something to bend the will in a particular direction. Feels like an existential abyss. A nothingness which leaves me mildly stunned. I know this abyss will not stare back at me, but the feeling remains.


    Added to it. That still. Still manageable. Creating in me a sense of the end. Not imminent but probably closer than I thought. Death. Hearing for the I don’t know how manyeth time those hoof beats. No. Not zebras, but the pale horse ridden by a dark figure. I’ve learned how to stand my ground as she approaches. The horse not breathing as it gallops toward me, dust kicked up behind.

    Here’s what Yamantaka taught me. Have an apple or a sugar cube. Greet the rider. Welcome, friend! Ask, are you sure? If not, then leave me. I’ve got lives to lead.

    This is the life of June 17th, begun around 8 am when I got up. Resurrected from the 1/60th of death. Ready to live this June 17 life as well and fully as I can.

    I’ve already had breakfast with Irv, Marilyn, and Salaam and run these thoughts through my head again. Feeling the feelings but not getting swamped by them.


  • Matters of the Lev

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Tom and Paul home safely. Though not without travel angst. Shavuot. Veronica. Great Sol. That three hour nap yesterday. My boy. Seoah. Murdoch. Fatherhood. A joy. Trees. Mill Valley. Irene. Irv. The Mountains. Smiling Pig barbecue. Marilyn. Torah. Reverberations from last week. Basketball. Caitlin Clark. Angela Reese. Life.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: My boy

    One brief shining: And on the seventh day of the Bar Mitzvah week I found the bed and slept for three straight hours in the middle of the day, worn out from the joys and gifts, yet satisfied in a deep part of my soul, life knitted together in a new, unexpected way, my lev and my soul vibrating together, one with the one.


    My boy. Fatherhood. Read a couple of articles about how fatherhood changes the brain. How parenting affects our personality, even our nervous system. I believe it. Even before the child.

    Looking back I wonder what it was that made me so certain at age 32 that I had to have a child? I remember, vaguely, the impelling and compelling force. That feeling, that drive was clear and certain. Much like that moment when I realized I no longer believed in the Christian metaphysics. And, the confidence I had that moving to Colorado was something Kate and I needed to do. Or, more recently, the decision to convert. Falling in love.

    Guess I have those moments when my subconscious does all the heavy lifting, then presents a key life decision as an already concluded matter. What’s left is altering my life in some major way. Perhaps it’s a proof for the lev, the heart-mind. For sure it’s a proof that logic and careful planning often come along only after the big choices have already been decided.

    Which presents a conundrum for a guy like me. In philosophy education you will sometimes hear the term logic chopper. That is when a person follows logic like some of us follow our GPS-even when it’s taking us down a road that has a barrier across it. I can, I know, be a logic chopper. And I also know that when I’ve taken that route in an argument I will not feel good afterwards. I’ve too often won the argument and lost my humanity. Less and less so these days, yet my days of logic chopping are, I know, not behind me.

    I have, over the course of my life, privileged intellect, learning, knowledge. Which, as I write this, seems to be contrary to the way I’ve lived of late. Over the last few years, perhaps since Andover, relationships, with Kate, with dogs, with vegetables and fruits and flowers and trees, with friends and family began to take precedence. Or, maybe that’s not quite right. I’ve not set aside intellect, learning, knowledge, but I have gradually learned the secondary role they play in a life well lived.

    When I talk to my son. Reflect on my marriage to Kate. On my long affair with matters religious, I know that my primary path has always been guided by my lev.



  • Do you feel different?

    Beltane and the Bar Mitzvah Moon

    Shabbat gratefuls: Shabbat. Paul. Tom. Veronica. Jamie. Luke. Leo. Irene. Ginny. Janice. Air travel. Travel. Pride. Pride Shabbat. Soul. Lev. Humility. Kavod. Colorado Blue Sky. Old Friends. Friends who are old. Friends who are young. Ruth. Gabe. Kate, always Kate. Money. Having enough. Orgovyx. Cancer. Spinal stenosis. The body as it declines. Sarah and her recovery.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Leo

    One brief shining: Coffee black, chai latte, black tea the cups set down with a light click and thud vapor steaming, do you need a few more minutes, eyes back on the menus, the silence of choice making, the clinking of silverware, plates lifted and carried away, the way old friends ended another time together before disbursing back to Shadow Mountain, the Twin Cities, Robbinston, Maine.


    The week of the Bar Mitzvah has been full. A full lev. A full home. A fullness of presence and transformation and initiation. Now it’s fading into memory with only Shabbat left. Paul and Tom came as witnesses, as bearers of memory, as Woolly Mammoths. Veronica came as my partner in conversion and bonei mitzvah. Jamie as my rabbi. All of these relationships deepened. Made more by the ancient ritual of becoming part of a tribe, a tradition, a local community.

    Realized last night at the Pride Shabbat service, that a key facet was oh so simple, perhaps not seen for what it is. The brief conversations after. The turning and moving and encountering one you know only slightly. Saying each others names. Then a longer time, plate of strawberries and humus and pretzels and cookies in hand, talking with those known better. The casualness of it all. Yet really. Seeing and being seen. Knowing and being known. Each time we gather. Layering on the glue of community. Being bound a bit more to each other, casual acquaintance and dear friend.

    Do you feel different? A fair question. Hard to answer. Yes! Not really, no. Oh, wait. Maybe. Rites of passage like conversion and the bonei mitzvah have a critical function for the individual and the community. They test willingness to embrace the other as a full and complete member of the same organism.

    Yes, I do feel different. I passed through the semi-permeable membrane of Jewish identity when I first submerged in the mikveh. When I talked with the beit din about my Judaism. When I studied with Tara for my Torah portion. When I got my new name, Israel. When I read stanzas of Marge Piercy’s poem. And my Torah portion. When I gave my d’var torah. When I listened to Rabbi Jamie talk about me. When we finished the service. When people heard about all this, or witnessed it for themselves.

    Really, the magic of the mikveh. After, I had been Jewish my whole life. And that feels true. I stood at the foot of Mt. Sinai on that original Shavuot, watched Moses come down, received the torah.