• Category Archives Torah
  • So much to see. To learn.

    Winter and the Wolf Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: 8 years in Colorado. On the Solstice. The long dog ride with Tom. Memories. Challenges. Family. Death. Divorce. Mental and physical illnesses. Beauty. The Rocky Mountains. The Wild Neighbors. Mountain hiking. Deep snow. Sudden. Then, suddenly gone. Living at altitude. Becoming a member of CBE. Elk and Mule Deer visiting our back. Blue Skies. Black Mountain. Vega. Gertie. Rigel. Kep. Kate, always Kate. Who loved the Mountains.

    Sparks of joy and awe: That dog ride 8 years ago. Talking story.


    Back of the car anthropology. Two vanity plates. YAHWEHS. ODACIOUS. The first on a jet black fancy Audi. The other on a Lexus sedan. Also. Stickers. I heart Aging and Dying. No baby on board. Feel free to ram me. Toyoda. With yoda ears on the T and the a. I love the way we express ourselves on the back of our vehicles. So revealing. Full disclosure. I have a large decal of Lake Superior on the back window of Ruby. And, an ADL Dissent is Patriotic on a side window. There are too the cars seemingly held together by stickers like the occupants got started on the project and just. couldn’t. stop.


    On December 20th, 2014 Tom Crane and I loaded Rigel, Vega, and Kep in Ivory. All three trazodoned. Tom drove straight through. We talked the whole way. Talking story. The conversation continues now, eight years later. Gertie rode with Kate in the rental van filled with stuff we didn’t want the movers to take. I remember Kate telling me she bought Gertie a hamburger at one of their stops. A satisfied dog.

    These have not been easy years. No. They have been fulfilling, satisfying years though. Deep intimacy between Kate and me, especially as she began her long decline. Putting cancer in the chronic illness box. Being here for the kids and Jon after the divorce. Now for Ruth and Gabe after Jon’s death. Becoming part of the CBE community. Making friends. Learning from the ancient civilization of the Jews. Kabbalah. The Torah. Mussar. Talmud. Mitzvahs.

    The Wild Neighbors. The Mountains. The Streams. The hiking. Mountain adjustments. Four Seasons. Eight Seasons. The Mountain Fall. Golden Aspens. Against green Lodgepoles. Black Mountain punctuated with gold, then green. Snow flocked in Winter. Wildflowers in the Mountain Spring. Fawns. Kits. Cubs. Elk and Moose Calves. The long Summers. Beautiful in their own right, yet also angsty with the ever present threat of Wildfire.

    Living here has been, is an adventure. In relationships. In deep learning. An immersion in the world of Mountains. After the world of Lakes and Rivers and rich Soil.

    So much more to see. To learn.


    Visited Carmax yesterday. The Jeep. Prepared to sell it, then Uber home. A first for me. But. Can’t take a North Carolina power of attorney. Colorado makes it difficult. Do you want me to get you the necessary papers? Yes. Talked to Sarah while the nice lady in the blue Carmax smock did that. Took fifteen minutes. Many pieces of paper. Post it notes. Sign here stickers. OK. Thanks. Back up the hill.


    Got two calendars as presents.  Aimed at different parts of me. A Zen Calendar from Tom. A New Yorker Cartoons calendar from Sarah and Jerry. Yep. I recognize both of those guys as resident within me. Wonderful to be seen.



  • Where am I going?

    Fall and the Sukkot Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Diane. Coming to help me prune. Jogging. Sleep. Acting. Chekhov. The Seagulls. Cool. Shirley Septic and Waste. Kep. Poor guy. Bumping into stuff. Ukraine. Putin. Missiles. Will. Minnesota. Hawai’i. ? Lab draws this morning. Flu shot.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Hawai’i


    Picked Diane up at the Federal Center Station of the RTD yesterday afternoon. Drove back to the Natural Grocers where we picked up supplies. Apples. Aloe Vera juice. Organic fish sticks. Mixed vegetables. Raspberries. Blueberries. Bananas. Tomatoes. Lettuce. Headed back home.

    At the Natural Grocers we got into a conversation with the cashier. Where’re you from? San Francisco. Here. Oh, I’m from Hawai’i. Oh, I’m moving to Hawai’i. What Island? Oahu. Oh, I’m from Oahu. The North Shore, where all the surfing is. Yes, I’m going to that side, too. Oh, Kailua, Kane’ Ohe’? Yes.

    Diane picked up on my answer and asked about it, given my recent blogs. Oh, just trying to bond with the cashier, I said.

    More I thought about it though I realized Hawai’i is still top of mind when I think about moving. And, I’ve been telling people I’m moving to Hawai’i for quite awhile now. An interesting, unbidden piece of information about the move.

    Not sure what it means. If anything. But there you are.


    Mussar tonight. My turn to lead. Anavah. Humility. A key idea in mussar is taking up the right amount of space. That’s the idea of humility. Neither self-deprecating nor self-aggrandizing, being who you are.

    Here’s a Rabbi’s take on anavah.*


    How do you experience anavah in your own life? Do you ever take up too much space? Too little? If so, why? How can you create a you that takes up the space you deserve?

    One of my favorite stories from the Torah. Jacob and the Angel at the Jabbok Ford.** I see it as an example of anavah. Jacob wrestled with God/the Angel/a man to determine the right amount of space between him and the sacred.

    One interpretation is this. Jacob was on a journey, fleeing his brother Esau. He had divided his livestock and servants in two, reasoning that he might escape with half his wealth if his servants encountered Esau. God had come to him in a dream and told him to go to the land of his fathers and God would be with him.

    As they crossed the ford of the Jabbok River, Jacob stayed behind. While he was alone, a man came and wrestled with him. Jacob was alone as a result of his struggles with his father-in-law Laban and his brother, Esau.

    Jacob had experienced rejection by his father-in-law and his own brother. He had fled them. Who was he now? Was he a man who fought with his closest relatives, made them angry, divided his family? Or, was he a man of the sacred, following a path that was his pilgrimage?

    That night beside the river at a ford, places known for their magical qualities, Jacob had to decide who he was. He struggled within himself, trying to decide whether he was a bad brother and a bad son-in-law or was he a good man who had done what was necessary?

    In that struggle he learned that he was neither. Or both. When the inner jihad was over, he had a new self-awareness. he was now Israel, for he had experienced the sacred within himself and survived to gain a clear identity, an authentic Self.


    *Just as the Torah begins with Parashat B’reishit, Mussar practice begins with the middah of anavah. All other middot are accessed through this core character trait. The middah of anavah is essential for living with integrity. When we think of humility, we may imagine someone who is the picture of modesty and meekness. However, in Mussar, humility is not defined as being so humble that you disappear; rather, it is about having all of your character traits in balance so that the inner light of the soul shines pure and clear as originally intended. As Mussar teacher Alan Morinis puts it, “Being humble doesn’t mean being nobody: it just means being no more of a somebody than you ought to be.”
    …In our own lives, we hide our authentic selves from the truth of our lives. When we live out of balance, despite the fact that we may be falling apart on the inside or on the outside, we betray our lives. We take up either too much or too little space; either we take away space from others, or we abandon them when they need us. Our sacred connection to anything important—our families, our communities, our work—all suffer when we neglect to live life with anavah in balance. Celebrated with intention, Shabbat provides the time, space, and opportunity to reconnect to our core essence, reacquire a sense of proportion, and connect anew with the people and projects in our lives with both humility and presence. Anavah, approaching our lives with humility, means not taking up too much space in the Garden, not trying to fool others with some disguise of our true selves; but to honestly offer our truest selves to the people and work we encounter in our lives. Humility: Shabbat as a Return to Our Authentic Selves” by Rabbi Michelle Pearlman and Rabbi Sharon Mars in Mussar Torah Commentary, p.3, 6


    **22 The same night he arose and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok.23 He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had.24 And Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until the breaking of the day.25 When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he touched the hollow of his thigh; and Jacob’s thigh was put out of joint as he wrestled with him.26 Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.”27 And he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.”28 Then he said, “Your name shall no more be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.”29 Then Jacob asked him, “Tell me, I pray, your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him.30 So Jacob called the name of the place Peni’el, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.”31 The sun rose upon him as he passed Penu’el, limping because of his thigh.32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the sinew of the hip which is upon the hollow of the thigh, because he touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh on the sinew of the hip.


  • Vayigash and Gaetanos

    Samain and the waxing Winter Solstice Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Shabbat. The Morning Service. Rabbi Jamie and his grief. The Minyan. The Snow. The cold. Rigel and Kep try to understand the kitchen remodel. Jon. His long nap. Gabe. Ruth. Sarah and Annie. BJ. Tom. The Ancient Brothers and the gift. Herme. The kitchen. Lower Gas bill.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: A teachable moment. Maybe.

    Tarot: Seven of Bows, clearance.  wildwood


    No chicken pot pies. Yep. Not at Conifer Safeway or the Evergreen Safeway. My favorite. Marie Callender. Confirmed this on the way home from CBE after the Shabbat morning service. Laying in a supply of frozen entrees as the kitchen remodel goes into a caesura while more cabinets get made and the quartzite fabricated.

    Jews read, then reread, then reread, then reread the Torah, the first five books of Moses: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy. After Sukkot in the fall comes Simchat Torah, joy of the Torah. The reading of the five books ends, then picks up again at Bereshit, Genesis.

    This is a qualitative difference between Judaism and Christianity. Christians parse up the “old testament” and the New. Often three short readings readings on a Sunday morning. The result, and I did it for years, is a disjointed sense of the scriptural narrative. The power lies in the hands of the liturgical calendar makers.


    Even in progressive synagogues like Beth Evergreen a new parsha is read every Sabbath, in a regular sequence. Parsha’s are long. For example, the December tenth parsha was Genesis 47:28–50:26. Vayigash. The result of this reading and reading is to create a shared story, a shared mythology, a tradition that joins all Jews. Cain and Abel, Babel, the Reed Sea, Pharaoh, the Golden Calf, Mt. Sinai, the 631 mitzvot, Moses watching from Mt. Pisgah as others enter the promised land. Each character from Abraham to Aaron has a lesson or lessons to teach, not as dogma but as human choices made in contexts that we still find in our contemporary humanness.

    The morning service which I attended yesterday had some wonderful and memorable moments. After six years I still have almost no Hebrew so the chanting and singing in Hebrew appeals to me as music mostly. Rabbi Jamie’s haunting chants take me to a deep place whether I read the English translation or not.

    At one point a note suggested we think of a person who loves us and imagine ourselves loved by them. I chose Kate. It helped me. Seeing myself through her eyes gave me a sense of breadth to my life, a sense of what loyalty means to a woman betrayed, a sense of my possibilities as real, rather than hoped for.

    Jamie talked about Tony Haas, his mother-in-law, her death last Sunday, the work she did in rural education policy. He lived with her and she died with him and the grandkids around her bed. His love and affection for her was clear, as was his sense of loss. Even 9 months later, today actually, that early grief is so present and available to me. I was with him and his family.

    After my unsuccessful journey to the frozen food aisle, I drove back home, up the Snowy and Icy road. Going up is so much easier than going down in those conditions.

    At 4:20, after feeding the dogs, I took off for Gaetano’s and Jon’s 53rd birthday dinner. Still feeling a little rough, but much better than Thursday night and Friday. Got there about 5:10 after a puzzling traffic delay on i-70 and surprisingly good memory about how to get to the restaurant without navigation aids.

    Jon never came. Later he texted an apology. He had gone to sleep around 2 pm and didn’t wake up until 7 in spite of having set the alarm. His medications and illnesses have variable affects on him. This may have been one.

    I had a nice meal on my own, testing something I had not realized I needed to. Eating a nice meal without Kate. I enjoyed the food, but the combination of her absence and the cacophony made me not want to repeat that anytime soon.

    Same on the way home. I drove back up Brook Forest and Black Mountain. It was cold and there was snow on the ground. Returning from Evergreen at night in the first couple of weeks we were here. Kate and me. I reached over to her seat, held her hand for a while, felt sad.

    It was good to get back home to Kep and Rigel, to the new life I’m making here on the mountain.


    Seven of Bows

    “This is the time to make decisions and select your priorities. Focus on what you really need in life and things that it’s time for you to drop and cut down, especially if it’s old and broken, no longer fulfilling your needs on a life journey.” The Wildwood book

    This is my journey right now. Pruning. Reshaping relationships. Leaning into the good ones. Ameliorating the effects of the not so good ones. Remaking the physical space here. Refining my life over all.

  • A Mentor, a teacher

    Fall and the Moon of the Thinned Veil

    Rabbi Jamie and congregant

    Friday gratefuls: Mussar. Rabbi Jamie. Luke. Mario. Tom. Paul. Bill. Mark and Mary. Diane. Second Fall. Jodie. Blue Mountain Kitchens. Joseph, 40 on Sunday. Seoah and Murdoch. Making things beautiful. Pruning, slow but steady. Kate, always Kate.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: My boy turning 40

    Tarot: The Wheel, #10 in the Major Arcana


    Good exercise yesterday. Cardio. Not yet on the HIIT, gonna plan it a bit more. Had more than half of the time near heart rate max. What I need more of.

    Got a call from Isaac, Coyote HVAC coordinator. David is still sick. Start up again on Monday, hopefully give him the weekend to recover. This is the nicest, kindest contractor with whom I’ve ever worked. The owner said he believed it was good business. Me, too.

    For a long time I’ve wondered about mentors and teachers. Everybody I know seems to have at least one that affected their direction in life. That saw them, identified something others didn’t see. Not me. I appreciated the Gaither’s casting me as the lead in Our Town. And, Miss Hull’s calling in chits to make me President of the 1965 Model U.N. for Indiana. But neither one changed my life. Greg Membrez was a wonderful Latin teacher, gentle and understanding. But, no.

    On me, I know. Self-directed. Moi. Perhaps guarded, too? Which is not to say that I failed to learn from or appreciate many of the teachers I had. To the contrary. Philosophy. Anthropology. J. Harry Cotton. Dr. Scruton. Dr. Larry Hackestaff. Bob Bryant in constructive theology. Art Merrill in the Hebrew scriptures. I learned from them, appreciated their knowledge, and their teaching. But, at the personal level? No.

    Raphael. School of Athens 1509-1510

    Until Rabbi Jamie. He’s taught me about appreciative inquiry, learning from whatever you read, whoever you meet, wherever you are. Going in with the attitude that though this book may have things I don’t like, it can still have things to teach me. I’m not saying this well, because it sounds obvious.

    Let’s see. With appreciative inquiry you can find positive and important ideas even in works, people, or places you might otherwise gloss over. This is about radical acceptance of the other.

    He’s also the best question asker I’ve encountered in a classroom or learning situation. His questions, his style of dialogue encourages going further with an idea, deeper.

    I’ve taken several classes from him: Kabbalah, Tarot, Torah study. In each one he includes a presentation session, the last one, where each student can do whatever they want to show what they’ve learned.

    In his tutelage I’ve become a less combative learner, (less, not passive), willing to hear the sentences of the Orthodox Jew on Jewish values and find the middot there. He has subtly reinforced my own beliefs, by supporting me when I express them in his classes. Since I’m a goyim in a synagogue, pagan me finds this amazing.

    I told him all this. This week. I’m trying to not let time go by without telling people I care about how I feel. Yes, partly Kate’s death. Yes, partly my own mortality. Mostly though just trying to be more transparent, easier to know.

    Found after I told him that I was shy, a little embarrassed to see him again. Almost skipped mussar. Decided no. Silly. Weird. And, not weird. Going beyond the veil of Rabbi and congregant. Not often done in synagogues. Or, churches either, though more so in synagogues.

    Lucky to have met him. And, Beth Evergreen.

    Jodi from Blue Mountain comes with the cabinetmaker at 11:00. I want to live in a beautiful space. I’m doing the things I can to make that happen. Pruning. Staining the house. Installing ac for a delightful indoor climate. Remodeling the kitchen. Planning to rearrange all the furniture, create conversation areas, reading areas. TV space. Probably paint some inside walls, definitely rehang art.

    Next year there will be other projects. Outside. Perhaps another bathroom remodel. Seeking a hermitage with inspiration and aesthetic value.





  • 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!




  • Simple Gifts

    Summer and the Lughnasa Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Rigel eating and running. Mary’s pictures from the Van Gogh show and the Beach. Hsieh Ling-yun. Shan-shui poetry, creative sensibility. Wabi sabi. Fermented foods. Korea. The United States, as a vision. The United States, broken.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The cool Wind off Black Mountain yesterday afternoon.

    Tarot card drawn: The Lovers, number 6 of the Major Arcana


    The gifts of our parents. The Ancient ones theme for our Sunday conversation. As it happened, Bill and Ode went first. Happy childhoods, role model parents. Smiles and good feelings. Tom, a thoughtful assessment of what his parents inherited from their parents and how that made him more accepting of what they had to offer him. Paul found gifts. There must be a pony in there somewhere.

    We described our mothers as gentle and well-liked. We recognized from our childhood the post-depression, post-World War II definition of motherhood, realized in the women who birthed us.

    Fathers were different. More individual in our telling. More difficult, sometimes, but also more formative. My father, from whom I was estranged most of my adult life, gave me a willingness to express contrary opinions in the public square. A willingness to use analytics to solve problems, to understand political life. A tendency to wander, to find the curious and the unusual. A conflicted version of hard work. That is, he modeled hard work. Always. But he expected it of me just because he was my father.

    My mom modeled compassion, a desire to meet each person without judgment. She supported me, honored my gifts, which my father challenged, belittled. To this day I don’t know why he did that.

    Mom, Dad, Me

    They were both conventionally Protestant; not overly affected by their faith, but committed to it. Both of them prized intelligence and learning though my father denigrated it in me. Why? Don’t know. They kept in touch with their extended families, Mom’s in Indiana, and Dad’s mostly in Oklahoma.

    At 74 I love learning, love figuring out how and why things work, what the facts and the possibilities are. I try to meet each person without judgment and to exercise compassion for their journey. A radical analysis of our economic, educational, health, religious, and political systems, mine since college, represented a working out of my father’s liberal views carried to what I consider their logical conclusions.

    My impact from both parents seemed less profound than any of the other four in our group. That may be because my mother died young. I never got to know her after I became an adult. And Dad and I never overcame the distance between us.

    We all agreed though that whoever we are now, in the elder stage of life, came through choice, intentionality. We are not the sock puppets of our parent’s gifts or their curses. Yes, they shaped our lives, no doubt, but how we use compassion, a sense of humor, a genius for invention, gentleness, a hard-edged approach reflects how we have chosen to incorporate them in the now long stream of our life.

    A touching conversation.


    The Lovers. A sequelae. As a change, a transformative wave, pulses through my life, as it creates difficulties, struggles, it does point toward a new creation. What will that new creation be like? Not sure yet. My sense, if I have to choose between important and unimportant (see below), I’m thinking of the difference between the Chinese literati role model and the engaged political and religious life I have known. Perhaps between passive and active. Learning and doing. Which will inflect my next path more?

    There is a distinct and strong part of me that would read, write poetry, paint, listen to music, dine with friends, go for hikes, travel some. That has always felt like a lifeway that needed to wait. Come the revolution, maybe that would be ok. Come publishing. Then. Yes.

    Now. In the wake of Kate’s death I’m once again reexamining my primary inclinations. When I met her, I leaned into writing, a definite change from life as clergy/activist. Perhaps I could see that change as a step toward a more reclusive, monastic life, a way only partially taken.

    Is now the time? There’s a Trappist/Benedictine soul in this body. With those words referring to lifestyle, not content. There’s a Taoist soul in this body. One which does not take up arms against a sea of trouble, but rather flows around them, with them. There’s a mystical soul in this body. One that finds nourishment in odd places: tarot, torah, astrology, astronomy, poetry, paintings, sculpture. There’s a Great Wheel soul in this body, one that desires only a place in the natural process, a moment of birth, a short life, a long death. There is, too, a Jewish soul in this body, one committed to others, to community, to justice, to learning.

    Will I try to rebuild my past life, only at a different age and place? Will I listen to the murmurings in my soul? Will I follow what I believe to be the deeper path for me? Deeper at this moment in time. The Lovers card suggests I will need to choose. Are these the choices? Not sure. Are these the best choices? Again, not sure.


    *”This is one of the times when you figure out what you are going to stand for, and what your philosophy in life will truly be. You must start making up your mind about what you find important and unimportant in your life. You should be as true to yourself as you can be, so you will be genuine and authentic to the people who are around you.” Labyrinthos

    “There is an approaching conflict that will test your values. In order to progress, you are going to have to make a decision between love and career. Neither will disappear forever, but the choice will shape your priorities.”  Trusted Tarot


  • Psalm for a Wednesday

    Imbolc and the Megillah Moon

    Friday gratefuls: No lupron. Good PSA’s. Dog warmth, cold night. Kate and her sisters. Pickup at Safeway. Bright Snow. Lodgepoles. Black Mountain. Bunch Grass. Wild Rugosa. Mushrooms. Friends, old and new. Covid. Purim today.

    Sparks of Joy: Vaccines. Purim shpiels. Dr. Thompson.



    The Days Are Gods.

    (attr. Ralph Waldo Emerson)


    A Psalm for Mittwoch


    Woden. Odin. Ooinn, Master of Ecstasy. How do you fill our mittwoch?

    Ecstasy. Fill our poetry with heat, intensify our lives.

    Days swelling with your power. Ours, too. Our days. Oh. Ooinn.

    Never quit us. Never again hang from the great tree, never again die for knowing.

    Ecstasy. Learning flames within our hearts in your honor.

    Shaman, seer. Poet, warrior. See with the empty socket. Let me.

    Dance with Mimir who slaked your thirst. And took your eye.

    And water the great tree Yggdrasil with your blood

    You, Odin. One-eye. Trickster. Seeker of knowledge. On this, your day, we let you in to quicken our lives.




    This was gonna be my megillah post, but I’m going to have to do that tomorrow. I needed the time this morning for my assignment for Psalm’s class. We had to write a psalm for a day of the week.

    Makes me want to go through all the days, seek out their divine names and powers, honor them as they seep into us, over and over and over again. Not sure I will, but the idea’s there.



  • 100 Days

    Imbolc and the waning Wolf Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Wolves and their moon. Deb Brown and her workouts. The Monk Manual. A better afternoon and evening for Kate. Buddy Mark’s swallow test. A Fib and its treatments. Vaccines. Covid. The writers for the Alienist, Titans, Gomorrah, 30 Coins. Writers, books, printers, ink, distributors. Podcasts. Oh, came back up here to mention: 45 gone.

    100 days. Another tradition. A lot of juice for an incoming president and their administration. How they use it often determines the effectiveness of their presidency. Biden has made moves worthy of a change agent President. His long time in the senate, 36 years, could make him an LBJ lite. I say lite because he doesn’t have the Democratic majorities that Johnson did, nor does he have Johnson’s personality.

    The leavening aspects for Biden’s presidency are the long reign of error and mendacity, rampant stupidity and cupidity that preceded him. The Covid crisis in both its medical and economic forms. The final triumph of climate science. Now policy must follow. The George Floyd stoked rise of Black Lives Matter and the surge of Black and Latino voters. They provide a platform for strong, effective reform of policing.

    The $%!!@#$%^ Republicans cannot bring themselves to do more than slap Marjory Greene on the wrist. Bad girl. This means the slime, the Thing still covers GOP minds, corrodes any hope it has of returning to normal political party status. We need Trump’s Patriot Party. Carve off these deluded folks and clump them together.

    Rabbi Jamie wanted me to be part of a class on the Psalms, “Psalms Resung in a Kabbalistic Key.” Called me twice. I’ve missed three classes, but I decided to give it a try. Tomorrow morning will be my first time. Zoom, of course. Something hard, mind-bending, scholarly. Yes. Much needed.

    Yesterday, as I cleaned off my art table which I had allowed to become loaded with filing, I turned on Pandora. Bette Midler, the Rose. Lacrimae. On the Wings of an Angel. More tears. Guess I’m carrying a load of sadness not very far from conscious awareness. Surprised me. Then, it didn’t. Felt good.

    Kate seems to be having a good start to her day, down to make her breakfast, get her some coffee. Tomorrow.











  • Unanswerable Questions.

    Fall and the RBG Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Orion, clear and distinct, like Descartes wanted his ideas. The night sky, visible again! Meatloaf from Easy Entrees. Learning to sleep all night on my side. The lens in my left eye. Kate, waiting for relief. Ruth will watch Kiss the Ground. Groveland wanting to hear me again after all these years. It’s Beyond Me.

    Three days post-op now. Biggest surprise so far was Orion, there. No longer several bursting flares, but his own, distinct self. Rigel there, too, his left foot, bright and clear. Ah. It’s good to see an old friend looking well.

    I no longer need glasses for television. But, I did order three pair of 2.5 cheaters off Amazon. I can still read now with my right eye, but that goes away on the 8th of October. With the artificial lens I can’t focus anymore.

    This surgery is such a good metaphor I wonder why it’s not deployed more often. Our vision gradually becomes clouded, the world becomes less and less easy to see. What do we need to remove our political cataracts and gain a humane vision? Those cataracts that have developed over years of lesser evils and disappointing politicians. Do we all come with the cataracts of racism and classism or do we develop them over time? Who will be our surgeons?

    Shifting. It’s Beyond Me. I’ve had fun gathering answers to Groveland UU’s question: What are the origins of religious beliefs?

    Finding an anthropologist, Harvey Whitehouse, has worked on the subject pleased me. He’s a cognitive anthropologist, a specialty that had little footing when I studied anthropology back in the late 1960’s. They study the way our mind shapes our understanding, rather than the understandings themselves. Whitehouse’s work is bloodless, but it has high points.

    This presentation has to be a discussion. It asks an unanswerable question, my favorite kind. Each of us has an intuition about the answer. It will be interesting to learn what others have concluded. I have several notions to throw into the pot, but the answer is lost in the long ago, far away.

    Doing presentations is a delight. I get to do research. I get to think about a topic. My ideas and conclusions get an airing. Feedback comes. On occasion cash, too.

    It’s also unsettling. The research has to stop. The thinking must end. No matter how tentative, the ideas must be articulated. Exposed. Naked. And, in person.

    My work doesn’t include the realm of the certain. I cannot say what the origin of religion is. No one can. Then I here Wittgenstein, of that about which we cannot speak, we must be silent. I only speak about such matters. A challenge, for sure.

    So right now I’m anxious, teeth a bit clenched. Zoom adds another layer of uncertainty. Also a layer of experiment, of trying something new.

  • A New Covenant

    Summer and the Moon of Justice

    Wednesday gratefuls: Mountain Waste. The Claussens, coming for my pallets. The much improved back. Mowed. Most of the detritus picked up and moved. Photographs from Scott of the Woollies at George Floyd’s death site. Sjogren’s, not Covid. Pork ribeye. Napa Cabbage. The heat. The coolness of the morning. Garbage bags.

    And then the world came crashing back into my consciousness. Been following the coronavirus spikes, unable to shed the schadenfreude that accompanies the horror. All those people sick and dying because of Trump, Fox News, sychophancy. The Master Race putting its own head on the guillotine. Fixated on this, like looking at a fire in the fireplace or a gently moving fan.

    Opened up the email from Woolly Scott. Pictures of my long time friends at the site of George Floyds’ death. Long arcs of dead and withering flowers freshened up by new bouquets. A line of soft toys, teddy bears and rabbits, looking both sad and sweet. Mark Odegard in an orange shirt, a mask, looking at the George Floyd mural. These are friends who lived through the sixties, who understand this holy site in the context of MLK, Malcolm X, the Civil Rights Act, The Voter Registration Act. All that.

    Statues falling. Folks going after not only the Confederate memorials, but Founding Fathers like Washington and Jefferson. Or, later, Woodrow Wilson. The screeches of foul play coming from the dotard in chief. His allies revving up their motorcycles, donning their leathers, taking their automatic weapons off their racks and out of gun safes. Heading out to protect the constitution and their way of life. Their white privilege. A complicated time.

    Here I am on the mountain top. Moved, but unmoved. A latter day Noah on his ark, Ararat below me. Can this earth flooded with hate and hope create a new world? Maybe I need a dove.

    What might be the sign of a new covenant? A bonding among all humans agreeing to live sustainably on our only home, in peace with each other. I can still see the double helix as the trunk of a tree of life, its crown, its keter, in the heavens, its roots dug deep below the soil. This covenant I can feel.

    Let’s all cut our fingers, slash our palms, swear a blood oath that we will live as if all of it, you and me, the Lodgepole, the Whale, the Mountain, the Ocean are holy. Worthy. Precious. Loved. That should do it.