• Category Archives Humanities
  • The Day After

    Spring and the Purim Moon

    Monday gratefuls: And yet more Snow today. Sigh. Yay! The day after Easter. Incarnation. Another big religious idea. April Fool’s day. The Fool in the Tarot deck. April. The cruelest month. Dawn. Spring. Choice points. Choice points that build community. Talking Story. Clan Keaton. San Francisco. Amtrak. Defeating inertia. Lucille’s New Orleans cafe. Alan.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Ruth turning 18

    One brief shining: The day after Easter has a dawn, too, can you imagine that day when the disciples and others gathered around the resurrected Jesus, wanting to touch him, to deny, to embrace, to wonder, to laugh, you’re back, and we thought, well, we thought…


    No. Again. Does not have to be a historical event anymore than the story of Persephone and Hades, or the Bremen Town Musicians, or Hansel and Gretel. We can still lean into the story, imagine what it might have been like. Use that imagining to flesh out our own response to the idea, in this case, of resurrection.

    Wouldn’t you want to test resurrection? Kick a tire? Look under the hood? See if the idea could unwrap dead selves, dead gifts, dead hopes? I would. I did. Many years of Jungian analysis found me sifting through dreams, through active moments of my imagination, reexperiencing the traumas of Mom’s death. Of the strained and then withered relationship with Dad. Of that moment when I dropped German for fear of a low grade. Of fear itself trapping me in its silk web, bound and trussed, waiting only for the spider to finish its work.

    Then there came that dream, a big dream, as Jung called them. In front of a large crowd I held a sword, lifted it with both hands above my head. He has the power they whispered. He has the power. And I knew I did.

    Yet this use of resurrection is not one and done. No. Throughout our lives we continue to let fear or regret or guilt or shame wrap key moments in a soft protective shell, imagining it’s better that way. There, there. You don’t have to worry about that. We’ll just put a bow on it and place on the shelf here.

    The Easter story says, hey! Unwrap that box. Roll that stone. Take your shears and cut that web, let it drop away. Though your fear sought to protect you it’s time now to say its work is over.

    This is the work of the day after Easter. Work that can only be done in the light of a day when resurrection has become a settled reality for us.


    Just a moment: My Midwestern heart loves basketball of all sorts including the reigning NBA champs the Denver Nuggets and the plucky women of Iowa, especially Caitlin Clark, and it beats strong today as Iowa faces LSU, replaying the NCAAW championship game from last year. Go, Hawkeyes!

    My American heart grieves for the people of Baltimore, an already difficult urban area hit with a one hundred thousand ton body blow.


  • Tradition

    Spring and the Purim Moon

    Shabbat gratefuls: My son and Seoah and Murdoch. Kathy. Cancer. Morning darkness. Taxes done. Ruth and Gabe. Barb. Alan. Joanne. Tallit. 77. Blood pressure low. Ruth’s graduation on May 18. Surrender. Dreams. Irene. Mountain melting. Slow. Snow. Graupeling.* Yesterday. Spring. The scent of Soil, the odor of sanctity. Mountain Streams ready for their big show.

    *A precipitation that forms when supercooled droplets of water condense on a snowflake.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Taxes

    One brief shining: Heated up the simple Pinto Beans, got out some crackers and a mineral Water, peeled a Tangerine, carried them downstairs, and sat down weary from a day of writing, working out, dreams, and rituals. Ah.


    The days of our lives. Three days with Ruth and Gabe. They come, deposit their various shoes at the door. Gabe purple Converse tennies. Ruth oxblood boots. Go to their respective rooms, designated by long habit. Gabe in the mural painted “children’s” room. Ruth in the guest room.

    Ruth drove them up in her Subaru, the official car of Colorado. They stopped at King Sooper’s to buy groceries. I thought they’d buy food for meals. Forgot they’re teenagers. Mostly snacks. In addition vegetarian corndogs, a box of mac and cheese.

    Gabe is an early riser; Ruth a night owl like her dad. We talk. Laugh. Go out to eat.

    At the 202, a Thai spot in Aspen Park, I ordered a spiciness level of 1. They both went with 4. Jon would have, too. Ruth remembered and wanted the Sticky Rice Custard. Oh, so good.

    The two of them have been coming up here since Kate and I moved here in late 2014. Ruth was eight and Gabe six. Jon brought them up here frequently, often to avail himself of our washer and dryer, but we got to see the kids.

    When Jon and Ruth went skiing at A-Basin, many times Jon would drop Gabe off with us and pick him up later that night after a full day of skiing. Ruth told me she finished her first Harry Potter on those trips.

    Skiing bonded Jon and Ruth. As did art.


    Just a moment: Timber framing. Traditional carpentry. The route of an American Jew to the restoration of one of Roman Catholicism’s most well-known cathedrals, Notre Dame. Found this article fascinating. Timber framing is a traditional form of carpentry that any one familiar with Japanese or Chinese woodworkers would recognize. It uses mortise and tenon joints, wooden pegs to hold joints together. It was also the most advanced form of construction available when Notre Dame was built. The restoration of this Paris landmark has focused on original materials and methods, meaning work for timber framers, stone masons, stained glass artisans, sculptors, and metal workers focused on techniques of the high middle ages.

    Hank Silver’s story fits in with Charlie’s List. These pre-modern building technologies could reduce the currently heavy carbon footprint of contemporary construction. Let’s build homes from stone and timber framed roofs. Stores and office buildings, too. Let’s employ, at a living wage, those folks for whom college holds no interest, but working with their hands does.

  • No Brass Ring

    Imbolc and the Purim Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Cold already receding. Tired. Hebrew homework. This new day. This new life. Resurrection from 1/60th of death. Ramadan. Mary and Mark both in Muslim countries, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. Reading the Quran. Fasting from sunup to sundown. Breaking the fast at the mosque. The Soul. You. You as only you. Taxes today.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Taxes

    One brief shining: The tax preparer resides in its envelope, questions and boxes to fill in with numbers from the various reports: Vanguard, Presbyterian Pension, Social Security, the oil well proceeds, mortgage at Wells Fargo, you know the paths and the pencil pushing: I approve of taxes, of sharing responsibility for my county, my state, and my nation.


    Sometimes the heart, or better, the lev wants to splash itself on the path of my life, say somethings happening here, but it’s not exactly clear. Don’t mind the fog. Don’t mind the man with the sign over there. Listen to that wisp of she’s not afraid of sadness. The jiggle of Jeff Koons’ work on Odysseus. The casual bump of Joe Pickett’s latest well written adventure. Those moments when encounters speak to the pilgrim soul in me, the one that sets out on paths with no particular goal, no particular rationale. Except something lightly felt that struck deep anyhow.

    These moments have changed my course many times. Over decades. There was that ill-fated one where I saw the Manhattan skyline in a movie and decided I had to move there. 1968. Draft eligible. Did it anyhow. Lasted three months when no one would hire me. I might get called up. Or a bit later that time when I took care of a young girl named Judy, she was sick. And I married her later on an Indian Mound to the sound of the Cream’s “I’m so Glad!”

    Even ending up studying Anthropology and Philosophy. Because they piqued my interest. The common thread to these moments is no goal, no real agenda, acting on impulse yet seeing things through at the same time. That feeling when I turned 32 that I had to have a child. Be a dad. Wowzer. That was a life changer.

    Going to seminary to escape the rag cutting floor at Fox River Paper. Ending up in the ministry. Gosh.

    Meeting Kate. Writing novels. Earning an AA degree in horticulture. Keeping Bees. The whole Andover experience over twenty years.

    Ira Progoff workshops. Listening to my lev, not in terms of what I’d like to accomplish but in terms of what I needed to do next. That one in Tucson, Arizona that opened me up. Followed by a visit to Colorado on the way back to Andover. Ruth running from the surprise of me at the door. Oh. We need to move to Colorado. On the Winter Solstice of that year we did.

    Living in the Mountains. Tuning into the Jewish signal from the heart of the universe. The Wild Neighbors. The Mountains ever changing nature. Friends. Never a real goal for my life. Following the chi as it flowed. At least I like to think that’s what I’ve done.

    This has been my life. No grand plan. No brass ring. Odd I never noticed this until recently.

  • Ontario

    Imbolc and the Purim Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: DST. MST. Songtan time. Hello, darkness. Stratford Festival. Mark’s reprieve until April 16th. Seoah and Murdoch and my son. Zoom. Janice and Ginny. Scott. Shabbat. Adar II. Leap years Gregorian and Jewish. Aspen Perks. Kat and Travis. Reading. My great joy. Computer glitches. Ancient Brothers. Mario and Babette on the road.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Stratford, Ontario

    One brief shining: Those trips to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Ontario involved camping on the shores of Lake Huron, listening to the long trumpets with banners blare out a fanfare for the start of each play, Shakespeare on the stage, the lovely Avon wandering near by and the Black Swan Coffee House where I first encountered criticism of the U.S. role in Vietnam.


    When having breakfast with my friends Ginny and Janice, both theater folk, we discovered our mutual affection for the festival in Stratford, Ontario. I haven’t been back since my honeymoon with Judy, my first wife. 1969. A long time. But in talking with Ginny and Janice I reignited my interest. Much as I did last week with my passion for creating a sustainable presence for humans on our only Planet. Guess I should start paying attention. The psyche is a changin’.

    Those were highlights for me with our family. Driving into Canada, a foreign country! Crowns on top of the speed signs. Familiar cars with unfamiliar grills and looks. Colorful money. Crowns again. It all felt very exotic to me. The farm houses in distinctive shades of blue and yellow. Kincardine. A Scottish town. Ipperswich Provincial Park. Provincial. Not state. Provinces. When our time in Stratford finished, we would drive on north to Tobermory on the Bruce Peninsula.

    There we would motor on to the Chi-cheemaun, a car ferry run by the Owen Sound Transportation Company, and cross the Georgian Bay. The Flowerpot Islands in the distance. No car ferries in Alexandria, Indiana. It was all wonderful. Strange. Not in the U.S. We traveled to a foreign country. I didn’t know anybody else at home who’d done that.

    Until the War. The Vietnam War. That bastard child of anti-communist fever dreams. Classmates began to disappear overseas. Dennis killed. Richard Lawson wounded. The Native American guy whose name I don’t recall right now killed. A few of us. Very few went to college. Exempted. The rest. Fodder for the meat grinder of an unnecessary war.

    This was the early 1960’s. They all blended together. Shakespeare. Coriolanus. The Black Swan. Lake Huron. The cranking sound of the Chi-cheemaun’s open maw closing. The quiet vanishing of young men my age. The end of high school. Mom’s death. The start of college. So long ago. So far away in time as to be of another century. Even another millennia.

    Which all segued into the movement. The anti-war movement. The days of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Which describes my experience well. As the Grateful Dead said, “What a long strange trip it’s been.”

  • Asked and Answered

    Imbolc and the last crescent of the Ancient Moon

    Shabbat gratefuls: The Socrates Cafe. Irv and Marilyn. The dark of a Mountain morning. Cold night. Sleeping through the night. Morning blessings. Fiery Joe Biden. Criminal 45. Parsha Vayakhel. Art Green. The Shema. Mah Tovu. Ritual. Lighting the candles. Choosing shabbat. Tom’s knowledge of cars. Creativity. Painting. Writing. Thinking. Acting.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Morning blessings

    One brief shining: Tara pops up on zoom, her curly hair trying as it always does to escape, smiling, and we get down to it, saying my Torah portion, she has me repeat vowel sounds I flub but mostly she’s positive even agreeing with me that learning this stuff is boring.


    A friend asked me a question I don’t often get. Like never. Who’s your favorite philosopher? Fair enough. I did study philosophy and it’s never far from my awareness all these years later. Over 54 years. I guess it stuck with me.

    Anyhow, I immediately said when he asked, Camus. Another friend said he thought I would say Alfred North Whitehead. Well, ok. Two favorites. And there are even more.

    Camus though has pride of place in my pantheon. After Philosophy 101 had dismantled for good the naive theology developed in my home church, I flopped around for a while. No oar. No direction home. Not unusual for those bitten by the philosophy bug. When I found Camus, I gave existentialism, existence before essence*, a glad embrace.

    As the Stanford article I quote below says, no essence given in advance, we create ourselves as we go. There are other facets to existentialism summarized in this helpful article, but this is what caught me. Meaning and purpose come from engagement with the world.

    Also, Camus had a way with words: “What is a rebel? A man who says no.” “Do not wait for the Last Judgment. It takes place every day.” “In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.” “Nothing can discourage the appetite for divinity in the heart of man.” “For if there is a sin against life, it consists perhaps not so much in despairing of life as in hoping for another life and in eluding the implacable grandeur of this life.”

    No matter where I’ve ended up in my life, I’ve always found existentialism an ally, a ground truth. Why? Because it reminds me to act, to learn my own truth, to stay in touch with the day-to-day wonder of living. I find Judaism very compatible with existentialism in its eschewing, for the most part, an afterlife, for insisting that religiosity demands engagement, for its focus on character and social justice.

    That’s why I said Camus. No other philosopher has impacted my life as much.

    Brief note on Alfred North Whitehead. The primary metaphysician for me. Existentialism, by its nature, ignores metaphysics. But Whitehead found a way to turn thousands of years of philosophical thought on its head when he proposed his process metaphysics. Prior to Whitehead ontologists had focused on being, a static understanding of reality. Whitehead says no, becoming is the nature of ontology. Change is the underlying nature of reality. Everything is always in the process of changing into something new.

    I’ve loved this idea since I first encountered it in 1968. Seems obvious to me. But it’s radical in so many ways.

    So, yes Whitehead is a favorite, too, but in a more abstract realm than Camus’ influence.


    *Existence Precedes Essence: Existentialists forward a novel conception of the self not as a substance or thing with some pre-given nature (or “essence”) but as a situated activity or way of being whereby we are always in the process of making or creating who we are as our life unfolds. This means our essence is not given in advance; we are contingently thrown into existence and are burdened with the task of creating ourselves through our choices and actions. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

  • Intention

    Winter and the Winter Solstice Moon

    January 1 gratefuls: 2024. A new year fresh and out of the box. Great Sol. Luna the magnificent. Orion. The Great Bear. Polaris, the true North Star. Each and every Lodgepole, Aspen, Ponderosa. 2023. With all its troubles. Climate change. Gabriella. Axolotls. Regenerative farming. Soil. Microbes. Roots. Rhizomes. Bulbs. Corms. Potatoes. Heirloom Tomatoes like Cherokee Purple. Steak Diane. Cooking.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: 2024

    One brief shining: Without a sound at least here on Shadow Mountain a new year slipped across Black Mountain without notice to my wild neighbors or even to me as I went to bed at 9 o’clock having eaten my steak Diane, mashed Potatoes, and a Corn/Bacon/Red Peppers side washed down with my favorite beverage, water, and slept through the transition from midnight 2023 to an election year.


    No resolutions this year. A few intentions. Kavanah.

    Listening to music more. Something I let slide as computers and Alexa pretended to fill that void in my life. They don’t. Buying a good cd player, amplifier, speakers. I so love chamber music and Renaissance music. Both of them move through my body with gentle and nuanced vibrations, drawing me into and up from my inner world to another world filled with sound, changing sound.

    Each Friday night, at least most Friday nights, of the concert series for the year, I went first to the auditorium at St. Catherine’s when Dennis Russel-Davies was the conductor and after to Rice Park in St. Paul, to the Ordway, found my subscription seat, sat down, and let myself open to the music of the evening. For over 20 years. I met Kate there.  Like many of us as we got older, the drive in from Andover made each Friday night turn in to the occasional night, then the very occasional night until we failed to buy a series. After that those wonderful nights faded away.


    Turning my political energies toward the not so distant future. With papers like the Washington Post declaring 2023 as the year climate change arrived, adaptive strategies that can feed the World, restore Animals and Plants to their original habitats or help them move, and heal the devastation of our petroleum addicted economy must come on line. In my way I will discover and promote organizations and individuals working to those ends. I’ve already mentioned some like perennial crops, regenerative farming, and ecosystem restoration. But I’ve only just begun.

    This is a shift for me away from front line justice work or the work of laws and politicians, and even away from work on climate change itself. Though I’ve done little of any of that of late. I’m leaning into Thomas Berry’s Great Work for our generation, creating a sustainable human presence on Mother Earth, not by working against carbon emissions or anything immediate, rather by focusing on the sustainability of future human life.


    Painting and sumi-e. Grief. The idea of a move to Hawai’i. Desuetude. Faded on this one. Clearing and cleaning my loft this month will get me ready to return. Not because I’m good, but because I love color and shape and creating.


  • How to Become a Pagan and a Jew

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Monday gratefuls: The Ancient Brothers on gratitude. Snow melted off the Lodgepoles. Great Sol working magic. Black Mountain green again. Seven Stones cemetery. Israel. Becoming a Jew. Sleeping in. Tinned fish. Rice. Cosmic Apples. Holimonth. Advent. Hanukah. Winter Solstice. Christmas. Posada. New Years. Rituals and holidays. Celebrations of deep moments. Christmas lights up along Black Mountain Drive. Gifts, giving and receiving. Those folks who paid for my Thanksgiving meal.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Rituals and holidays

    One brief shining: Books have invaded my house, creeping downstairs from my library a few at a time, insinuating themselves on chairs, coffee tables, anywhere a flat surface offers them purchase, oh and I should say, they also come to the front door in boxes, mailing bags of paper and plastic, insisting on being brought inside out of the cold, warmed up before they get read.


    “And when I die / and when I’m gone / there’ll be one child born, in this world / to carry on / to carry on.” And When I Die, Laura Nyro

    This song has been ear worm the last couple of days. Blood, Sweat, and Tears is the version I remember. I like the message. And, I believe Max was that child for Kate.


    Tomorrow at my beit din, court of judgment, Rabbi Jamie, Joan Greenberg, and Cantor Liz Sacks will convene. Here is Rabbi Jamie’s heads up:

    “For the beit din, you will be asked to reflect upon your journey, why you are taking this step at this time, and other open ended questions (to which there are no ‘right’ answers). Your essays have been shared with the other members of the beit din. Let honesty and a playful humility be your guides and you’ll be just fine.”

    Here is my “essay:”


    How to Become a Pagan and a Jew


    Start religious life on a hard wooden pew under a stained-glass window of Jesus praying at Gethsemane. You know, father if you’d just as well, I’d prefer to pass on the whole crucifixion thing. Years and years of sermons, Christmas eve services, Easter services. Enough to create a solid if unremarkable Christian theology. Small town religion in the 1950’s Midwest. What else were you gonna be?


    As your brain develops and your education expands, you might find yourself beginning to ask questions. Resurrection? Really. How does that work? Methodist. Nazarene. Missouri Synod Lutheran. Synod? Roman Catholic. Bible Church. So many brands. Why is that? Couldn’t they just agree?

    How about that Reverend Steele who ran off to California with the organist?

    We haven’t even hit 1965 yet. Maybe in a search for more information you go to the Roman Catholic priest in town and ask for instructions in how to become a Catholic. If he’s smart (yes, he, always he. I mean, Jesus was a guy, right?), and noticing the kind of questions you’ve come with he might introduce you to some proofs for the existence of god.

    Like that one where this thing causes that thing and we spend a lot of time going backwards, if this thing caused this then what caused this? Until we reach the universe itself. Bingo! Has to be god, right? Who or what else has the metaphysical moxie to be the cause behind the whole universe. The Prime Mover. Or that other one for example by that guy Anselm: God is that which there is nothing greater than can be conceived. Sort of obvious that one.

    Maybe college comes next and you choose to enroll in Philosophy 101. The professor smokes a pipe with tobacco pre-rolled in paper covered plugs. Wears tweed. Quotes whole passages from Plato. In Greek no less. None of those high school teachers held even a small votive candle to this guy.

    And he demolishes Anselm and the Prime Mover. Who wants to worship a first cause? I mean, come on. So what if there is something greater than anything else that can be conceived? What does that prove? It’s just an exercise in fuzzy thinking.

    Oh. You say. Well. I see. And wander off to Albert Camus who’s much more appealing than Jean-Paul Sartre. Camus later will remind you of Ram Dass who said we’re all just walking each other home. Sorry. A digression there.

    After a while the whole Christian story doesn’t add up. Too many contradictions. Too much bloodshed. Too much bigotry. And it gets shoved off to the side while other matters, more immediately germane, take precedent.

    Like the Vietnam War. Or feminism. Or Anthropology. Or dope. Or alcohol. Or contract Bridge.

    Wait though. Kierkegaard. He was an existentialist, right? Like Camus. Interesting. Well, maybe you decide, I’ll give it a look after all this college stuff finishes up.

    Later, say a year or so out of college, drifting from a department store job to selling life insurance to cutting up underwear in a papermill to make rag bond paper, Kierkegaard comes back. Leap of faith, wasn’t it?

    Yes. Instead of figuring faith out, act like you have it. See what happens. Before your 7 am shift starts at Fox River Paper, you take to reading the Bible. Writing verses down on notecards and sticking them in your shirt pocket to be read over a baloney sandwich at lunch.

    Then this minister. United Church of Christ. Didn’t have that one back home. Turns out he’s opposed to the war, too. That’s a head twister. Not your small-town religion anymore.

    You’re really, really bored. Cutting up underwear was not your dream job. OK, maybe you didn’t have a dream job, but that wasn’t it for sure. That wife you married in a rush on that Indian Mound turns out to be sleeping with other guys.

    Ooff. You need to get out of this small conservative slice of Wisconsin. Joe McCarthy’s buried in a nearby cemetery.

    That minister says. Try seminary. Nah. Why would I do that? Cutting rags no. But minister. Not a chance. Do you even know me? Drugs, sex, and rock and roll. Why not? If you don’t like it, quit. But at least you’ll be somewhere else.

    Well, maybe. The application comes in the mail. They offer you housing and food and tuition for the first year. Huh. That wife gets the Volkswagen van. You sell the house, make a little bit. You get some cash and off you go to Minnesota.

    Five years later you’re working as a Presbyterian minister. Building affordable housing. Supporting labor unions and immigrants in search of green cards. Challenging standard philanthropy practices. Taking food out to Wounded Knee. Organizing the unemployed to create new jobs, legislation.

    Not bad. Making money, hardly anything, but doing things you find important, worthwhile. Significant, in a small way.

    Decide to get an advanced degree. A Doctorate. While writing your thesis discover you’ve written one hundred and twenty pages of a novel instead. Even the Gods Must Die. Oh. A clue there.

    Your spiritual director, a fussy little guy, but insightful says during one session, “You’re a Druid!” You’ve been reading Celtic mythology, remembering that professor with the pipe. Slipping away from the fold.

    One morning you wake up and realize you really don’t buy it anymore. Probably hadn’t bought it for a while. The political work was too good, too solid, too in synch with your heart. You stuffed the doubts and the fact that you represented this religion.

    Skip forward a few years. A new wife. Flower gardens. Vegetable gardens. An orchard. Bees. A woods. Wolfhounds and whippets. No longer a minister.

    Thinking about a tactile spirituality. A spirituality that goes in and down rather than up and out. You realize the life you nurture in the gardens, the dogs, your small family. That’s real. No fancy philosophy required. Right here. Hands in the soil digging up carrots and beets and onions. Life. Its cycle.

    The seasons. The Great Wheel of the Seasons. Putting away apocalyptic linear time for good. Everything has its season. Yes. Everything.

    The bees. Are you more important than they are? Is Celt, that 180 pound goofy, loving dog less significant than you? Oh.

    Life begins to look less complicated.

    Later, much later, that wife dies. And that’s part of the Great cycle. Maybe you get cancer and find solace in the Mountains of your new home. How short your life is compared to theirs.

    You begin to live with the seasons, with life as it comes. Not pushing against it, not privileging that life over that. Extending your understanding of life to include the Mountain on which you live. And the ones which surround it.

    You find your wild neighbors communicating to you. Welcoming you, including you.

    That’s how.


    Jewish Coda

    King David. That’s why. My wife, Kate Olson, a convert at 30, and I searched the Canyon Courier. New to the mountains in 2014. Oh, an education session on King David at Congregation Beth Evergreen.

    Folks we met that snowy, bitter cold night came to Kate’s shiva in 2021. Tara, Marilyn. Many others, too, whom we met later.

    Kate sat on the board, dressed like a jester for Purim. We attended services, holidays, education events. Got to know people. Studied mussar and kabbalah with Rabbi Jamie.

    Made friends. Brought food. Carried tables. You know. The work of community.

    Assimilation. Happens so slow. So many Seders, Simchat Torahs. Love that holiday! The dancing and the simcha. Meals in the sukkah. Learning late at night on Shavuot. Breakfasts and lunches with friends from the synagogue.

    Teaching in the Hebrew School with my buddy Alan. 6th and 7th graders. Doing the occasional bagel table lesson. Discovering Avivah Zornberg, my favorite.

    Two and a half years after Kate’s death. Still a member, still hanging with my friends from the synagogue.

    Rabbi Jamie’s lesson on the Mah Tovu. This summer. It hit me. The truth of this Mordecai Kaplan commentary on p. 141 of the Prayerbook: It is only a true and close community that develops associations, traditions and memories that go to make up its soul. To mingle one’s soul with that soul becomes a natural longing.

    I had long ago mingled my soul with this sacred community. These people are my people. I am one of them.

    The next day I called Jamie. I want to convert. What do I need to do. To bring myself into full alignment with this community.





  • Dissonance and the Classics

    Samain and the Choice Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Echocardiograms. Dilation and dysfunction. PSA not there. Testosterone still low. Medicine. A nuisance until it’s not. Early trauma. Myth of Normal. Tom. Diane. Mark and Mary. Computers. This old desktop. The laptop. The phone. Starlink. Brother laserjet. This digital life. Zoom. The internet. Chatbotgpt. AI. Altitude and Tea. Weak Tea. Mary for p.t. today. Mussar. Pamela. BJ. Sarah. Anne. Jewish life cycle with Rabbi Jamie today.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Pamela

    One brief shining: Put filtered water in my red Tea kettle, pushed the button for P-power on the induction stove, waited until the whistle, poured boiling water over a tea bag given to me by Diane and Dan in Korea, took it upstairs in my World’s Best Grandpa cup, and drank a weak and almost unidentifiable beverage because altitude boiling sucks.


    Went to Jackie’s for a cut and a beard trim. It was dark! 5:30 pm. First time I’ve ever had a haircut after dark in 76 years. That Jackie. A sweetheart. She always gives me a hug and says she loves me. Ronda, too. Extended community that makes life rich, buoyant. The Mountains. A special place. Kate introduced me to Jackie.


    Online discussion of Israel-Hamas war last night at CBE. By turns tedious, sad, boring, infuriating. No new light. The grind of a nation acting out, a nation we feel identified with and in some inchoate way responsible for. The awful news of casualties in the thousands. Pictures of Palestinians picking through yet another building reduced to rubble by Israeli airstrikes. Still smoldering anger at the murderous invasion which killed Israeli’s in their beds. Now watching Israel do the same. Over and over. The history. The Nakba, the catastrophe. First with the Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia at the turn of 19th century. Then in 1948 with the foundation of Israel. Palestinians feeling or actually displaced by Jews moving onto land they occupied. Jews feeling safe for once. A place a Jew can go and feel secure. At last. At long last. The might of Israel ensuring that safety and security. Then its discordant use for slaying thousands in the name of defeating Hamas. All bad news.

    At the same time contemplating my choosing Judaism, my ritual on the 28th. Becoming an intimate part of this whole reality. What I want. I already feel the anguished split between love of Israel and justice for the Palestinians. Both, yes. Both. Without compromise. With liberty and justice for all. Now.


    Enjoying a re-immersion in the classics. Started Fagles’ Iliad yesterday. Achilles. Agamemnon. Ajax. Patroclus. Odysseus. Troy. Priam. Hector. Helen. Menelaus. Hollow-ships and the wine-dark Sea. Ordered a hardback copy of Moby Dick. After the Iliad. May reread the Divine Comedy after that. I love these stories, their ability to challenge expectations, hold up and put down characters, run fast and hard, then calm down.

    My reading chairs have different roles. Upstairs by the fireplace I read what I consider serious books. The classics, yes, but works on Judaism, philosophy, non-fiction. Downstairs by the wonderful map of the Island of Hawai’i that Kate got me I read non-literary fiction like Jack Reacher, Joe Pickett, and my current jag, a series about a land of fairies and high fae.



  • Ars longa, vita brevis

    Samain and the Summer’s End Moon

    Friday gratefuls: Alan and Joan. Rabbi Jamie. Ginny. Nancy. Bright, bright Great Sol, a blue Colorado Sky, and Snow capped Lodgepole Branches. No myeloma. Yeah! All those gobulins in the green. Mary. A together gal. Sarah. Annie. A brain bleed. Jerry with foot surgery. BJ and Schecky. In their own personal Idaho. The Minnesota gang. The Ancient Brothers. Community. Burning away everything but love.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Mary

    One brief shining: Mary said, yeah I’ll chase a little white ball in the grass for three or four holes then I start throwing it.


    Pieter van Steenwyck (Dutch, b. ca. 1615–d. ca. 1654),  Ars longa, Vita brevis



    Back to the humanities for a second. See yesterday’s post. Even if the humanities get pushed out of higher education or so cut back they’re unrecognizable, they will never die. Ars longa, vita brevis. Art is long, life is short. Museums will hold the rich deposit of artists long dead and maintain their curatorial and conversatorial roles. Operas will be sung. Classic music will be played. Libraries will remain. Books will get written and read. Poetry, too. Jazz clubs will buzz with food and improvisation. Movies will get made.

    There are even now artists painting. Sculptors sculpting. Writers writing. Composers composing. Off in some elementary school somewhere some boy has become enchanted with the cello, a girl with drumming. An old man hits the keyboard writing books. An old woman takes up her paint brush and begins. That video camera for Hanukah inspires a Cannes winner.

    Jacob Wrestles the Angel, Odeon

    Art expresses the soul and cannot be banished or diminished. Sure, the Bonfire of the Vanities in Florence. The Nazis and their Fahrenheit 451 moments. Those dimwits banning books from public schools. Of course. But the great flood of human imagination and creativity runs over them, through them, in spite of them. When I feel moved to write or read, I do it. I’m a drop in that flood. Perhaps you are, too.

    Art will out. To paraphrase Jeff Goldblum from Jurassic Park: Art will find a way.

    Here’s a related subject. Or, perhaps the same subject. Revelation. Talked with Marilyn and Irv yesterday about revelation. Marilyn said she touched the Western Wall in Jerusalem and felt a shock, a moment of dissolution (my word). In that moment she realized this was her history, her place in the world.

    What is the source of revelation? Is it the sacred? Whatever that is. Is it something beyond our ordinary perceptions momentarily revealed? Where is its locus? Out there? Or, in here? In the rock of the Western Wall or in Marilyn? In the great Bull Elk I saw in the rain or in me? Or is revelation like the Christian Orthodox icons? The Orthodox pray through the icon, not to it. Are these revelatory moments iconic, that is, a moment we can see through, or, maybe better, that sees through us?

    The book God is Here by Toba Spitzer pushes us to find God or the divine or the sacred by employing different metaphors: water, voice, rock, fire, clouds. She roots her exploration first in the Jewish tradition. The pillar of fire and the pillar of smoke. Rock of ages. Let justice roll down like an ever flowing stream. Suggesting as she does that water or rock or fire as metaphor can help us experience different facets of God, that we’re not stuck with God as judge, God as patriarch, God as angry old man. Though those metaphors can be useful, too. Her point lies in broadening our palette of metaphors.

    icon:    archangel michael

    I think she’s provided us with tools for experiencing revelation. For opening ourselves to the world around us as a conduit for the sacred. Not about God. No, it’s about what God is about. We could say God is an artistic rendering of the power and the beauty and the mysterium tremendum that we too often, all too often lose in our pursuit of wealth or fame or in the dulling grind of daily life. God is a poetic expression of the jolt from the Western Wall, the strangeness and awe of seeing a Bull Elk watching me in the rain, the wonder revealed in the James Webb images, in the fantastic realms of quantum mechanics, of the love in a young girl’s heart. Or that jazz riff that grabbed your soul. Mary Oliver asking you, what will you do with your one wild and precious life?

    Don’t you want to embrace the wonder?

  • Nothing new

    Samain and the Summer’s End Moon

    Saturday gratefuls: Albert Greenberg’s yahrzeit. Joan. Kat. Lauren. Anne. Quest Diagnostics. Feelings. Veronica. Becoming a Jew by choice. Israel. Hamas. Gaza. Palestinians. Darkness. Standard Time. The days of our lives. Wembanyama. Basketball. The Potluck. Berry Pie. Good Chicken. Good conversation. Helen. Ellen. Mark. Bill. Robbie. Sally. Creme brulee truffles. Ruby’s cracked windshield. The Shadow Mountain life.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Becoming a Jew

    One brief shining: Spent the day yesterday waiting on diagnostic results that remain, yet this morning, in progress leaving me with no new information, making my lev, my heart-mind, spin through scenarios of impending doom and how to cope with bad news without having any real data then remembering and calling myself back to the present, to this moment, in which I feel fine and am living my life.


    Made me wonder about having my own Quest Diagnostics account. Trust your doctors. Kate. I’ve tried to be true to her advice while not abrogating my responsibility. A delicate balance. Having my test results come to me before Kristin sees them, interprets them helps me though. I like data. To know what’s going on. But. As Kate knew, I can use the internet to my full disadvantage. Reading this. Pondering that. Working myself into a tizzy as we used to say.

    Yesterday and now still today. An in-between space. Waiting. Not knowing. Most of the time I carried on. Read. Watched some TV. Ran errands. Cooked. Got ready for the potluck and last night’s service. Yet I obsessively ran the Quest site, too. About once an hour or so I’d walk upstairs and crank it up. Again. And again. Nothing. Nope. Nada. Still nothing.

    Not feeling anxious. Not much anyway. A bit buzzy and distracted at times. I slept well which tells me I’m handling my self-induced situation o.k. Reminding myself that the results will be what they are. Talk about high-stakes testing. Geez.


    Enough of that. Let’s talk about Israel and Gaza. Nah. Enough of that, too.

    I regularly do three games on the NYT site. Flashback, a history quiz. Spelling Bee. And, Connections. I’ve never like crosswords, having to guess how a person has tricked me is not my idea of fun. Kate loved them. Connections is the hardest of the three. Sometimes. There’s an element of trickery involved. The puzzle creator Wyna Liu produces a grid of sixteen words with four words grouped according to some theme. Figuring out how she’s chosen to group the words is the challenge. Most of the time I can suss out the connections but on occasion she uses themes that make no sense to me. Too esoteric or too niche. Fun anyhow.

    The lift that comes from solving the puzzles is nice. An atta boy handed out by the puzzle folks. I’m a words guy. Spelling Bee is a challenge, but one I can usually master. Not always, but often enough to keep me coming back for that top rank glow.


    Not going to get started on it today, but one of my ongoing concerns is the plight of the humanities. Vocational education? Sure. But education on how to live, how to think, what the folks who have gone before us thought and how they lived? That’s still the ideal of a college education to me. But it’s gotten to a dollar and cents equation. Does this degree make me money? That’s an ok question and one many will want to ask. That question though turns education into vocational education and pretends that the humanities therefore don’t matter. No monetary prize in a philosophy or an anthropology degree. For instance.