The Alembic

Summer and the full Lughnasa Moon

Saturday gratefuls: A wonderful dinner with Tom at the Bistro last night. Tom’s help in pruning Kate’s clothing and sewing stuff. Friendship. Judgement card. Rain and cooler weather at night.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: A close friend

Tarot card: Judgement, 20th card of the Major Arcana



Tarot? So far, remarkable. I apologize if this particular journey of mine doesn’t resonate with yours. I understand. But when, after weeks and months of mourning, grieving I pull a card that one interpreter says: “…represents the results of the fruits of your spiritual work. In an upright position, it’s relief from a difficult journey.”, it jumps out at me.

Or, this: “To see this card can…indicate that you are in a period of awakening, brought on by the act of self-reflection.”

Grief, in its most profound sense, is a period of forced self-reflection, a mental and emotional (lev) upheaval that begins with a hurricane of pain and tears, mourning, that gradually dissipates in intensity. As the shock and horror of mourning fades, grieving can begin.

What pronouns do I use now? Is it still our house? Our car? Her clothes? Our life? How do I react when I see the toothbrush, the hair brush, the favorite t-shirt? The picture? When someone speaks kindly of her, of me, what emotions surface?

What does it mean, in other words, that I’m alive and she is dead? That’s a first and critical theme of grief. Another, equally critical theme is, who will I be? And, how will I be?

Kate, Glenwood Springs

Tom helped me with pruning Kate’s belongings. I know I’m making changes. Necessary changes. Some hard, some less hard. My life now continues without Kate’s physical presence.

A remodeling of the kitchen, the upstairs bathroom, perhaps a few smaller projects, feels like a right expression of this new life. Yesterday I contacted two remodelers for bids. We’ll see where all this goes. Changing the outer to affect the inner. A mussar principle. Not the only way of affecting the inner, of course, but a valid one.

Working out, I hope, will let me get some hiking in. Right now I’m under-oxygenated and sore hipped when I walk outside. If that continues, I’ll have to reexamine my assumptions, especially about staying here.

Studying, learning, writing. All within the next month or so. I can feel it. Is this is a new person? No. Is it a person I want to be? Yes.

Reading more would insert an older, longed for avatar back into the present day. I’ve been a caregiver, with my first and last energy, and that guy fell by the way. More TV, less reading.

Is Hawai’i off the table? How about Korea? Or, Taipei. What about travel, a cruise maybe when it seems safe? More Jewishness? More Kabbalah? More Tarot?

Matthias Grunewald

“It’s a card of resurrection, conclusions, renewal, and evolution.” This makes sense to me. Resurrecting dormant avatars, renewing my life given drastically changed circumstances, evolving into the third phase widower guy.

The streak of cards I’ve had since a week ago Wednesday have challenged my flat-earth humanist skeptic heart. And, mind. Keep on rollin’. I’ll learn about spreads at some point, too. Maybe more information.



“To see this card can also indicate that you are in a period of awakening, brought on by the act of self-reflection. You now have a clearer idea of what you need to change and how you need to be true yourself and your needs.

Judgement is the twentieth card of the Major Arcana. Its order is significant: it’s the last card before the completion of the Major Arcana’s numerical cycle. It’s a card of resurrection, conclusions, renewal, and evolution.” Labyrinthos


“The Judgement card is a powerful harbinger of spiritual metamorphosis. Like the Justice card, it’s a card of karma —although of the spiritual variety. It represents the results of the fruits of your spiritual work. In an upright position, it’s relief from a difficult journey.

When the Judgement card shows up in a reading it can signal a spiritual awakening or time of profound insight. You’ll find yourself having powerful epiphanies regarding parts of your life that are holding you back from growth. It’s an affirmation: that know, you aren’t crazy, you aren’t alone, and it was all worth the effort.

Arthur Waite in the Key to the Tarot connects this card to personal evolution. It can certainly usher in a period of transformation and rebirth in your life.”  tarotluv


Posted in Family, Feelings, Hawai'i, Mussar, Tarot, Third Phase, Woolly Mammoths | Leave a comment

You Are Approaching a New Phase of Life

Summer and the almost full Lughnasa Moon

Friday gratefuls: Tom. The Cog Railway. Pikes Peak. Oxygen. Rigel. Kep. Patient dogs. Zelle. Joseph coming. Hearing appointment. Pine Valley Road. The North Fork Fire. The North Fork of the South Platte River. Colorado. Becoming Coloradan and Westerner.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Pikes Peak

Tarot card: Three of Cups


OK. There’s a streak here that’s inexplicable. At least by me. Granted that all perceived coincidence has a rootedness in the fact of personal experience and its interpretation. This close a hit feels unlikely without a bit of woo-woo in the air.

Here are three short interpretive excerpts about the three of cups:

“What it signals most strongly, however, is being with those who are emotionally in tune with you and you with them.”

“Three of Cups Tarot Card, in its core, represents finding yourself in a community of people who you can trust and rely upon.”

“There is abundant energy gathering around this moment that signifies you are approaching a new phase of life.”

Having read those would it you surprise you to know that my well-over thirty year friend, Tom Crane, came to visit yesterday? And, that we spent the day breakfasting, Happy Camping, and riding a cog-railway to the top of Pikes Peak?

Tom himself, the smaller group of Ancient Ones: Bill, Mario, and Paul, and the full herd of the Woolly Mammoths are exactly those with whom I am most emotionally in tune. Congregation Beth Evergreen folks, too, but to a lesser degree because of a shorter period of time together.

I do have a community of people I trust, two such communities: The Woollies and CBE.

Given the salience of the drawn cards to my actual life, hard for me to grasp, but there nonetheless, I’m intrigued by that third excerpt. It suggests I’m approaching a new phase of life.

I can feel it. As I move Kate’s clothing out of the closets and dresser, her jewelry out of its many different locations, and sort her cosmetics, I can feel spaces opening in my life. When the sewing room empties out, August 13th, I’ll feel more free.

No, not of Kate. Not at all. But of the stuff that she used in her daily life, no longer needed, and occupying emotional territory in my psyche. Her belongings are not a huge burden, but they are one and removing them feels good. Tom’s going to help me with that today. This is part of the pruning, the right-sizing, of my life, which includes my stuff, too. I plan to donate clothing of mine, as well.

Talked with Tom yesterday about my ideas on remodeling the kitchen and the bathroom. He was positive about it, about making the house as pleasant and useful a space as I can. I’m going to go forward with them, maybe a couple of more things, too. Like a fan in the downstairs TV room and in the guest room, and maybe a few touches in the main room. Not sure what right now.

Our house in the early morning, light on Shadow Mountain

When I’m done with all this, presumably sometime this fall, there will be a kitchen I love to cook in, an upstairs bathroom that no longer looks tired, a conversation area with chairs in front of the fireplace, a new dining room, sitting area in the old sewing room, and a newly arranged downstairs TV room.

Plan to follow Kate’s example and live here until I die. This excites me, feels appropriate as a marker for a new life.

Kate will still be everywhere, going with me, her quilts and jewelry and art adorning what will always be our house.



Posted in Family, Feelings, Friends, Kabbalah, Minnesota, Mountains, Our Land and Home, Shadow Mountain, Tarot, Third Phase, Travel | Leave a comment

Tarot and Kabbalah

Summer and the Lughnasa Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Cog railway at Pikes Peak. Tom’s visit. Ancient Friends. Each Woolly: Tom, Bill, Paul, Mario, Charlie H., Stefan, Frank, Warren, Scott, Joe, Tom B., Jimmie. Pruning. Kate, always Kate. Saigon Landing. Downtown Evergreen. Black Mountain/Brook Forest Drive.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Friendship

Tarot card: Justice,#11 of the Major Arcana, reversed


Tarot and Kabbalah class #2. The four worlds of Kabbalah, represented in the four suits of the Tarot: Pentacles, Cups, Swords, and Wands. And, by extension, in the four suits of regular playing cards: Spades, Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs which represent (in that order) the suits of the Tarot.

The four worlds are sometimes characterized as a ladder, moving from Malkut, the physical and action oriented world, to Yetzirah, the plane of desire and emotion, to Briyah, the plane of creation and conception, and, finally, to Atzilut, the plane of connection to the ayn sof, the nothingness from which all comes and to which it all returns. The ladder also moves in the other direction.

In the human the four worlds correspond to Body, Emotion, Intellect, and Spirit.

I’ve been studying Kabbalah for four years or so now, not rigorously, but episodically. Taking side roads into the Hebrew alphabet and now the Tarot. Kabbalah links both into a complicated conceptual world of energies sparking up and down a so-called Tree of Life. As I’ve gone on longer with my study, I’m beginning to see the gestalt, the whole of it. Not well yet, but the image has begun to form.

Still not sure how much to integrate into my own worldview. At a metaphorical level Kabbalah makes a lot of sense to me. There is a dark, ancient world out of which a universe is made. A singularity. Then, a pulsing, vibrating world that continuously sends energy coursing up and down, or in and out, this changing to that and back again.

There seems to be a lot of crossover with Taoism, oddly enough. The Way, chi, the ten thousand things, the I Ching. Ch’an Buddhism, or Taoist inflected Buddhism which later becomes Zen. Death and before birth = darkness out of which comes new worlds.

In life, the inbetween birth and death, our energy, our spirit travels a long road, sometimes focused in the world of action, of Malkut, sometimes in the world of desire, sometimes in the world of creation, and sometimes in the world where nothingness reigns. This in and out journey takes energy, gains energy and loses energy as we jump from this shell to another and back again, changing our elemental structure as we do.

Whether Kabbalah is the true or correct version of this journey we make from nothingness to nothingness, I don’t know. And don’t care. I’m no longer searching for the Truth, but for truths that help me understand and in understanding to live. Kabbalah has a lot to offer. A sort of pragmatic metaphysics.

Brief note on justice reversed. I’ve had a huge loss in my life, as you all know. I’m in the midst of moving on with living and grieving. I do trust that there is a new life, one that will build on and include the one just finished with Kate.

That new life is so necessary and yet also so unobtainable by intention. My kavanah, my intention, has to be living into the new life, not reaching up and grabbing it out of the chaos of mourning and the sad joy of grief. A pilgrimage from the nothingness realm I entered when Kate died to the action oriented realm of Malkut has taken me through, is taking me through, all of the worlds and up and down the Tree of Life.

The reversed Justice card reminds me this pilgrimage has a destination, just one I can’t yet see.


*When Justice appears reversed it may be indicating an injustice or loss in your life. Move on regardless and trust that there is better to come…

When Justice appears reversed it tells of a need to stop worrying, and to direct your energies elsewhere. It may indicate that in a situation where there is a deadlock, a completely new approach is needed in order to work through the problem and make progress.” The Royal Road

Posted in Family, Feelings, Health, Kabbalah, Myth and Story, Reimagine. Reconstruct. Reenchant., Tarot, Third Phase | Leave a comment

Gettin’ Weird

Summer and the Lughnasa Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Shirley Waste. Rigel’s head on my pillow. Tom’s visit. Tarot and Kabbalah class. Blackened Red Snapper, heirloom Tomato and Onion salad, Sweet Corn. Salads. Diane. Mary. Mark. Eduardo and Holly, packing up. Pollen.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Old Friend.

Tarot card drawn: Strength, #7 of the Major Aracana, reversed


Achy. Even after workout. I told Rebecca I thought I was 90% better. 70% or 60% more like it. She gave me this time off to see. Wise for such a young woman. They’ve bought their first house, a townhouse, and moved in two weeks ago. A reminder that the cycle of life does not stop. Like Claire and her new person under construction.

This tarot stuff is getting a little weird. In the upright Strength card Mother Nature, garland and a belt of flowers, with the infinite compassion and acceptance of the natural world takes the lion as a friend and companion. His predatory strength becomes allied to a strong anima. They complement each other.

Reversed could be awful. That is, the lion could attack Mother Nature, even devour her. Infinity dies. I like the interpretations below because they are more subtle and more in line with what I’m sensing about myself.

At times I feel like I’m pushing myself too hard to get Kate’s stuff either donated or thrown away. At other times that I’m going too slow. At times I feel like I’m failing at cooking for myself. At times, when my body feels achy like it does today, I start ticking off the problems I have, rather than experiencing myself as in excellent health, as I normally do.

Overall I’m feeling a bit untethered, as if the will to move forward gives way to fatigue. When I move Kate’s stuff, sort it, I find I can only do so much, then I’m mentally weary.

Also, I’m feeling detrained and weak. For example there are two full boxes of canned feeding liquid I can donate to Mt. Evans Hospice and Health Care. But when I think about lifting the boxes… And, when I think that way, I feel generally weaker, emotionally and physically.

This reading of the card: “When Strength appears in reverse it does not indicate that you are not strong; on the contrary, it indicates typically that there is more strength in you and in your immediate situation than you are likely to be seeing at this time.” feels right. Underneath all of this I do feel strong, resilient, capable. It’s easy to forget though.

This why I think the Tarot stuff is getting weird. I needed to have this reading to counter my feeling of malaise this morning. Wouldn’t have had it had I not drawn the card. Strange. It feels like the deck has counseled me. Not sure how I feel about this. Grateful? Yes. Odd? That, too.

I suppose the cards are a way of taking me away from the immediacy of any one situation, taking me both away from it, but also offering a vantage point from which to consider it. Like a good therapist.

Why do they work? Uncertain. But so far, that is for a week, they have helped. When I needed it.

Felt a similar way about astrology a couple of years ago. Let that fall by the wayside. May pick it up again.

Releasing my flat earth humanism, my dogmatic empiricism. Letting it go. Even though it’s my first instinct, I’m learning to challenge it. I may not buy the woo-woo side of tarot and astrology, but I’m also honest enough with myself to see the good in them, at least for me.

Still learning. As Michelangelo said.





*”This can mean that you have forgotten all about your passions and the kind of joy, happiness, and fulfillment that came with doing what you love.” Labyrinthos

“Reversed tarot cards can also represent the excessive energy of a card. In the case of Strength, it could suggest an approach that’s way too aggressive. The Strength card represents a measured, gentle resolution to a conflict. Take a step back and see if you’re coming at this from a place of fear or anger. Forcing the issue with someone else isn’t going to move you forward.” Tarotluv

:The implication is that the strength and will are there, but something is preventing them from manifesting. I often think of someone constrained by courtesy or peer pressure from speaking up or doing the right thing. It is not that the person doesn’t want to take control, or can’t, but rather that something is keeping them from doing it (either something within or something without) and so the lion remains untamed.” Acletic

“When Strength appears in reverse it does not indicate that you are not strong; on the contrary, it indicates typically that there is more strength in you and in your immediate situation than you are likely to be seeing at this time. If you’re having trouble “feeling” where the strong points are at the moment, get with a trusted and honest friend and make a list…

Spirituality: The reversed Strength card does not mean that you are weak or weak spiritually; on the contrary, it is a reminder that you have strength within you that likely goes far beyond what you would tend to imagine. If you have difficulty seeing and sensing that about yourself and your life, spend some time in nature. Find a natural thing that you find awe-inspiring, whether that’s a beautiful vista, a waterfall, or an old tree. Then remember that the strength and beauty in that scene or object is an integral part of who and what you are as well. Keep getting in touch with your strength.   Psychic Revelation

Posted in Astrology, Family, Feelings, Friends, Health, Kabbalah, Shadow Mountain, Tarot, Third Phase | Leave a comment


Summer and the Lughnasa Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Tony’s Market, always a treat. The receptionist at Hearing Aid Associates who fixed my hearing aid. A walk around my neighborhood. Kate, always Kate. Tom, coming for a visit. The Post Office. Mail. Money. Sarah and her organizing for the 18th. Rigel. Her funny character. Cool mornings.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Tony’s.

Tarot card drawn: Seven of Pentacles



I’ve been intending to get out and hike more. Decided to try a walk around the neighborhood. Could have done this a long time ago, but hadn’t. Nice homes. Meadows with white, yellow, and blue Wildflowers. Green thanks to the Rain. The route goes up and down with good variety, past my neighbors’ properties. Some with Horses. Most with Dogs. Views of Black Mountain. By the time I got back I was worn out and my leg, the p.t. focused right upper leg had begun to complain. That’s ok. Cardio.

Hearing aid stopped working a couple of days ago. Nothing. Happened once before. Tried to clean it, but my tools were inadequate. Over to Hearing Aid Associates. “We have a little vacuum tool. That’s how we clean them. Try it out.” Ah. Words came into focus.

Thought about aging. Lenses in my eyes to replace my cataracts. A hole through my iris to drain fluid creating pressures. Glaucoma. An aid to my hearing. That five-year old titanium knee on the left side. The repaired Achilles tendon on the right. A missing prostate. This old car’s been in the shop many times, but keeps on running. May it last for a while longer.

Mailed out money to Sarah for the Beatle’s cover band tickets. Red Rock. Kate’s family celebration. Checks to Diane, my cousin, to send on to Mark. Checks I mailed to him in Saudi Arabia last December. Got them back last week with a note in Arabic from the Saudi Postal Service. Maybe it said, Return to Sender? Also $9 to Ramsey County Marriage Records to get a certified copy of Kate and mine’s marriage license. Need it for Social Security. Can’t get spousal benefits unless you’re the spouse. And, yes, I have a copy. I know I do. But where?

An errandy day.

2014, Andover

Pine pollen still driving me nuts. Sneezing, dripping, clogging. Ick. A gift from my father I forgot to mention last Sunday morning.

Red snapper, salad, and sourdough bread for dinner. Or, lunch. Depending on.

Seven of Pentacles. As you can see, a gardener. Leaning on a stave as I leaned on a hoe or rake many times in Andover. I felt an affinity for this guy. He’s admiring, with some fatigue, the results of his work. A healthy vine, heavy with Pentacular fruit. He’s harvested one as a reward to himself, but knows that the better wisdom right now is to let the bush or vine grow.

Each minor arcana suit: pentacles, swords, wands, and cups has an association with one of the four elements. Wands Fire. Swords Air. Cups Water. Pentacles Earth.

This particular card sends a slight tingle up and down my arm. One of my avatars, horticulturist Charlie. An avatar I love, with whom I spent a lot of time, and an avatar who shared with Kate the wonder of Plants and Bees. To see a horticulturist, leaning on what could be, probably is, a gardening tool, admiring the plant. I know that guy!

Gardening, like marriage, only flourishes with cooperative relationships. The plants, like spouses, need tending, nurturing. With thoughtful, regular care amazing things become possible. It allows for the wonderful moment depicted in this card where the work has gone well and the Plant flourishes. The relationship between Plant and gardener has succeeded. Will succeed. That’s the message of the six pentacles remaining on the vine. Further growth will come. A bigger harvest.

Guess I’m an Earth guy. At least this avatar of mine is an Earth guy. Following the Great Wheel has made me sensitive to the changing of Earth’s seasons, what they mean, can mean, will mean.

Song dynasty

In the flow of cards over the last week we’ve come to a culmination. The seven of pentacles suggests investment and effort pays off. Or is about to. I don’t think it’s in my immediate future, but perhaps in my near term future. My investment in Kate’s life, in our relationship. My efforts with her up to and after her death. My investment in my own worldview, nurturing a pagan, earth-centered way, one influenced by the ten thousand things. My willingness to learn, to adapt, to change, to transform.

Worth it. Even with the struggles that the transition has created. Not yet finished, but the seven of pentacles suggests the next phase may not be far off. May it be so.





*”The meaning of the Seven of Pentacles relates to investment and effort. It follows the Six of Pentacles which refers to the end of financial or material hardship. If you have been putting in time and effort in your work, it signifies that your efforts are paying off and they are going to pay off in the future as well.

If you are looking to invest, the Seven of Pentacles suggests that you are ready to put in a lot of effort, time and work into whatever you want to achieve. It reaffirms you of your long-term vision and helps to show that you are not confined to seeing results in the short term only. It shows how much you value the investment because of the effort that you are willing to put in.” Labyrinthos

Posted in Anoka County, Asia, Bees, Dogs, Family, Garden, Great Wheel, Memories, Minnesota, Myth and Story, Our Land and Home, Plants, Tarot, Third Phase | Leave a comment

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


Posted in Aging, Astrology, Family, Great Wheel, Kabbalah, Memories, Politics, Reimagine. Reconstruct. Reenchant., Shadow Mountain, Tarot, Torah, Travel, Woolly Mammoths | Leave a comment

Still Changing

Summer and the Lughnasa Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Rigel’s bad leg. Her sweetness. Fire mitigation and a moderate Smoky the Bear wildfire risk. Staples. Envelopes. Colorado Furniture. Subway. Radiation induced proctitis. Cool mornings. Kate, always Kate.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Black Mountain, stolid.

Tarot card drawn: Reversed Ace of Wands*


Rigel and Kepler

Low energy. I get up, feed the dogs, go up to the loft, write Ancientrails, workout, eat breakfast. After that, errands or pruning. The usual nap. After the nap, sometimes nothing. Just. Don’t. Feel. Like. It.

My five days a week, seven weeks worth of radiation created an inflamed and bleeding lower bowel, radiation proctitis. Most of the time it’s not a big deal. Last couple of days has made me wonder if I need to see my G.I. doc.

An odd circumstance makes me hesitate. When Kate was alive, I could ask her opinion at times like this. Should I wait for it to declare itself? A doctorism of Kate’s. Or, perhaps abate on its on? I trusted her and almost always followed her advice. She would laugh reading this, I know, because she’d say I never followed her advice.

Our 20th, I think

I have to revert to the situation all of us find ourselves in, at least those without a doctor in the house. Does this rise to a level of concern? Or is it a nuisance? My own sensibility is my guide now. And, I don’t trust it as much as I did Kate’s.

Added to this is a desire not to start down the path Kate found herself on. This one is irrational. This is about a bleed, an intestinal bleed. Which marked the beginning of Kate’s long decline. I’m not Kate. I know that. But I do not  want to follow her into a long, slow deterioration. No indication that I will, but I worry about it anyhow.

Also, Rigel’s been a bit down the last couple of days, not eating as well. She’s been holding her right rear leg up, as if it hurts too much move it or it’s too weak to use confidently. Same issue. In the past I would ask Kate. Should Rigel be seen? And, by whom, a neurologist or an orthopedist?


Together these questions and conditions put me in a low state for a while yesterday. Low energy. Proctitis flaring up. Rigel’s leg. No Kate. All on me. That’s the downer insider thinking. Untrue. Not all on me. I have choices and support with physicians and veterinarians.

Just fussin’. I’ll make a decision tomorrow morning about both.

Not a surprise then to draw a reversed Ace of Wands. It fits with the general direction of life right now as the other cards I’ve drawn have underlined, too.

Reshuffling. Reimagining. Reconstructing. Me. Me alone. Me without Kate. Learning how to be me without her counsel, her love (well, no, not without her love, without her physical, loving presence), her support. The task of grief.

Tiring. Dispiriting. Exhilarating. Exciting. Back and forth. Some fear, too. Will I ride this out, find another path? Or will I wander, like Dante, in the dark wood lost?

I’m trying to move forward and rest at the same time. Tough. Taoism has some insight here. Let it be. Flow with the uncertainty, the challenges. Neither try to stop them, nor hurry them to resolution. Live in the reversed Ace of Wands space. It will not last.

This is evident in the illustration. Both upright and reversed the ace of wands has a wand with leaflets. It’s alive and growing, not stopped, not dead.

The cards let me see my psyche in a mirror, to reflect on it from a perspective I might have not noticed, or avoided. And, I admit, they’re doing a damn good job. Yes, a major change. Yes, perhaps the deep grieving is past (mostly) and, perhaps, yes, it is a time when I can close off the Kate (a living Kate) chapter of my life. Perhaps it is a time of big change. Yes.

What these cards have helped me see is that this is not an on/off time. I’m neither done completely with life with Kate, nor am I ready to move into a fully realized life without her. I’m in the transition space. Draining, hopeful. Energizing, scary.

Conclusion? Be easy with myself. Work at things in increments, but keep working. Pruning. Don’t get stuck in the mud.


*”The reversed Ace of Wands indicates trials and tribulations that you will face in the near future. You might not have any direction, which leads to being uninspired or unmotivated. At this point of your life, you might not know what you really want to do. You don’t know how to get out of the slump.

…When you draw a reversed Ace of Wands, you should consider taking some time off to allow inspiration to come to you. You feel so weighed down by your current commitments and responsibilities that you can’t come up with new ideas, or muster the passion to push forward in your projects.” Labyrinthos

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Summer and the Moon of Lughnasa

Saturday gratefuls: Claire and her new life. Good sleep. Cool mornings. The Chrysalis of grief. Kep and Rigel, companions, angels. The six Mule Deer Bucks in the yard and across the road this morning. Sacred Shadow Mountain. Shan-shui. Maxwell Creek. Pollen. Marriage License, Ramsey County. Rebecca. P.T.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: The Tarot

Tarot Card drawn: Five of Wands


a photoshop effort of mine

Floods in Europe. A condo collapsing in Florida. Wildfires in the Pacific Northwest along with a crippling heat wave. Palm Springs 123 degrees when a friend visited. The 17 year Cicada emergence. The draining of Lake Mead. Diminishing Snow Pack. Not to mention of course, the pandemic.

Well. Biblical and climatological have begun to converge. Last week Tom suggested the Future as our topic for the Ancient Ones. When I spoke, I discovered an odd inner condition. I am not sanguine about the intermediate or long term future. Climate change and the seemingly impossible politics of grappling with it. But, I’m optimistic about the near term future as my life continues to go through changes.

Let me say it another way. “In the long term,” Lord Maynard Keynes once said, “We’re all dead.” Climate change may see to that in a more complete way that we’ve ever experienced. I suppose some adaptation will happen. Some rich people, rich nations will figure out ways to ameliorate coastal flooding, souped up Hurricanes and Typhoons, the wilting Heat, the advancing droughts, but most of us will find ourselves outside the wall, the compound.

I hope I’m wrong; but, when I look at the world’s response to Covid, a clear and present danger, it’s difficult to imagine a dramatic response to the Climate crisis, a more subtle one, though becoming less so every week.

We will try, are trying. The scope of the work and the scope of the results necessary to simply control the worst, bad is already “baked in”, seem beyond our collective decision making. As authoritarian regimes take hold. As democracy stumbles with the election of Trump-like figures. As simple justice for people of color, for immigrants lands in the media, but somehow evades public policy.

Geez. Debbie downer today. The 5 of wands might reflect this undercurrent: “Conflict, disagreements, competition, tension, diversity.” “The Five of Wands meaning could also be a personal struggle that you are dealing with on your own. This can be on a number of issues that affect you, hence you need to address them and find a solution for them.” Or, a more positive note: “…the Five of Wands in the present position is a validation of all your planning and confirms what you have earned.”

This feels true to me. And the potential meanings do not, in this instance, conflict. There is tension and conflict in my life, in my inner life too, since transformation, pupating, involves intense change. However, I also believe that my current reality does validate the spiritual path I’ve followed for many years.

Through immersion in the natural world as guided by the Great Wheel and through immersion in the ten thousand things as guided by the Tao, I have become nimble, yet solid. Able to feel a wave, even a tsunami like Kate’s death, wash through me and experience cleansing rather than high anxiety.

Perhaps when I break the chrysalis and get my wings, I’ll find a more optimistic way to understand the Climate crisis. I hope so.

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The Death Card

Summer and the Lughnasa Moon

Friday gratefuls: Alan and the Parkside breakfast spot. Rabbi Jamie, Ellen, Marilyn (x2), Carol, Sally, Diane, Rebecca. The hot dog lady. The drive up Brook Forest to Shadow Mountain. The still rapid Maxwell Creek along the roadside. The Rock faces, the Ponderosa and Lodgepoles and Aspens and Willows and Dogwoods. The Cow Elk that sauntered across the road in front of me.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Getting up only one time last night.

Tarot of the Morning: Death, 13th card of the Major Arcana


We’ll get to the Tarot later, but let me say before we do that it’s good news to me.

Yesterday I met Alan for breakfast at the Parkside. A large patio offers outside dining. A cool morning when I got there at 9:20, the Sun crept around until, as in the parable, I took my jacket off and hung it on the chair.

Before I left for Evergreen, the boys of Grant Property Medic came to weed whack the lawn. That’s the way they do it. A little strange, but ok. They were only response I got to a request on Nextdoor Shadow Mountain for lawn mowers.

Not cheap. But, it’s done. The grasses in some spots were thigh high thanks to the rain we’ve gotten. They had gotten ahead of me while I was in Hawaii. Gotta get my own mower repaired, but I needed to get the place mowed once before I do that. Only two, three times a year anyhow and done for fire mitigation, not for house beautiful.

Still hacking away at budget stuff. A busy week, busier than I thought it would be. Knowledge level about the budget, our assets, cash flow increasing. Not there yet though. Have to keep weed whacking my way through the underbrush. As I often say under my breath, you’re getting there, Charlie. You’re getting there.

At 7:30 this morning I have another round of p.t. Rebecca has me gradually ramping up my exercise routine. My leg feels much better, about ready to get back to cardio. Want to include at least a hike a week. I’ve wanted to do this for years, literally.

Mussar, Thursday afternoon version, met. Good to be back there on a regular basis. As with Alan, I enjoy seeing folks, being with them, thinking with them.

Before the meeting I went over to the yahrzeit wall and found Kate’s plaque, newly installed. A bit of a shock, seeing it there, even though I expected it. I still have the occasional, oh, I gotta tell Kate moment, so it’s good to have the reminders that she is dead. That may seem weird, but it’s true. Acceptance is a process, a learned state, and it takes repetition.

For example, Eduardo told the other day that he’s sixty. Wow. Would not have guessed that. I immediately thought, Kate will be surprised. Who knows, maybe she is.

Had to break off writing this morning. P.T. at 7:30 am. Rebecca furloughed me next week based on good progress. We’ll see how I do and adjust if necessary the week after. A rational choice. Not a maximum revenue approach. Salute Rebecca.

Down the hill to Hwy 470 to Kipling, up Kipling to Chatfield, Wells Fargo. Safe Deposit box. Hunting for our marriage license which I will need to finish my application for Social Security survivor benefits. Also picking up the remainder of Kate’s jewelry connection to pass on to Jerry Miller, Sarah’s husband. Kate’s wish.

I’m holding back two pieces, one an emerald ring I had made for Kate when she had a breast cancer scare 20 years or so ago. I’m going to wear it in memory of her. Also, a gold and lapis lazuli necklace Kate bought in Santorini on our cruise of the Aegean. Again, a memory piece.

After sifting through the papers and boxes, throwing out some no longer needed, like my receipt for Blizzaks from (no idea why it was there in the first place), I concluded that the marriage license was not there. Have to get one from Ramsey County vital records.

On the way home I stopped in to see Jackie, my hair stylist, and changed my appointment to the next week. Tom’s coming and we’re gonna be out doing things.

Time to revert back to the death card. The most feared card in the Tarot deck. This came up on many of the commentators websites. For example: “First things first, don’t be afraid if you’ve pulled the death tarot card! Along with the Tower and the Devil, Death is one of the most feared cards in a Tarot deck. This is normal since most people fear dying and any card representing such a thing would naturally be viewed as negative.”  A little spark of joy. 

The same website offers these words to describe the significance of the upright Death card: “Ending of a cycle, transitions, getting rid of excess, powerful movement.” If you put this together with the six of cups I drew yesterday: “With the Six of Cups reversed, you can finally close accounts with the emotional undertow that has been part of your life.“. it’s not tough to recognize the pattern.

We’ll go into the major arcana/minor arcana distinctions once I’m clearer on them, but for now it’s enough to observe that the Death card is one of the Major Arcana, the 13th of 22. My life since Kate’s illness and decline finished on April 12th with her death. A long, difficult, and often painful journey. A shift in life style to one more reclusive and focused on medical matters, uncertainty, angst. Around 3 years or so total. A distinct intensification over the last year.

As the last three months have passed, a month for each year?, a storm of emotions has crossed my inner world. Horror, terror, fear. Abandonment, loss. Tears and a heart rent by anguish. Mourning. Beautiful and rooted rituals, most from the Jewish perspective, held me in an alembic, a place where the fire of those emotions could drive away the dross and leave me with the gold of Kate’s memory, not as a source of torment, but as a source of sustaining wisdom and love.

That gradual change has brought a punctuation to the last three years, a period, or perhaps better, a semicolon, not jettisoning it as too awful, but making it an and. There were those three years; and, there is the next phase of my life. The Death card and the six of cups underline that change for me. I see it in them and they, somehow, see it in me.

What the effect of that transition, the end of the Kate cycle of my life, means is not yet apparent. Nor could it be. I’m a new born. A different life will grow from the fertile soil of this change. I know it. And, I trust it will be a good one.

So. Yeah, Death card! Thanks six of cups.







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I’m Still Learning

Summer and the Lughnasa Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Grant Property Medics. The Wildflowers in the back. Their Pollen. Tarot and Kabbalah. Loki. Rain. Cool night. Alan. Breakfast out. Mussar. Its folks.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: I’m still learning.

Tarot card drawn this morning: 6 of cups


Rider-Waite six of cups

As you can see, I’ve added a new section. Rabbi Jamie’s Tarot and Kabbalah class started yesterday. A guy named Luke, a Tarot reader and scientist, has a co-teacher role.

The first class involved introductions and brief comments about the Tarot and its relationship to Kabbalah. Rabbi Jamie talked about the evolution of the standard deck of 52 cards used in various games in the U.S. He sees a direct line between the Tarot deck and the Bicycle cards shuffled and dealt thousands of times everyday. Probably millions of times.

Luke and Jamie suggested drawing a single card each morning, looking at it, considering its meaning, then doing an internet search for interpretations.

One way of reading Tarot cards involves an intuitive consideration of the art on the card. There are many, many decks designed over centuries and Luke’s guidance invited us to pick a deck whose illustrations speak to us.

Marseilles six of cups

The three decks I own, a reproduction of a very early deck, the Tarot of Marseilles, an Aleister Crowley designed deck, and one whose origins I don’t know, don’t appeal to me as reading decks. For example. I selected the six of cups from the Marseilles deck. It has six medieval style chalices, three on side and three on the other, separated by an abstract floral motif. Didn’t send my imagination into overdrive.

The Rider-Waite deck, however, which I ordered yesterday from Amazon, has the delightful scene above. With just a gentle nudge from the interpretations online I can get going with it.

For example: “The VI of Cups is rooted deep in the past, but it is also a card closely bound to your happiness. It suggests that your family, your old friends, perhaps even past lovers, are in the process of adding greatly to the joys in your life.”

Chilean Fjords

Or, “With the Six of Cups reversed, you can finally close accounts with the emotional undertow that has been part of your life. You can now revisit those wounded places calmly, without the fear that you will be drawn back in.

There is no lingering emotional residue or entrenched nostalgia remaining. You have finally digested those past experiences. They can now be put to rest.”

Whether the card is right side up or reversed influences the meaning. This morning I drew the six of cups reversed.

When I look at the Rider-Waite card with these ideas in mind, I see first the man walking away from the main scene, staff in hand. Perhaps the mature fool (the first card in the major arcana) setting out on a journey. He’s walking away from the pleasant associations in the foreground. A boy and girl enjoy a flower, a star shaped flower, perhaps one they grew together, as Kate and I used to do in Andover.

The man, a pilgrim?, has had to leave this wonderful memory behind and now walks alone. Perhaps not wholly alone though. The card suggests to me that as he’s leaving, it is this memory that he’s carrying with him. A pleasant, joyful one. A time of innocent love made clear through a link to the natural world, to flowers and stars and attractive scents.

He’s headed toward buildings of an antique style, but I imagine him only passing through them on a path. Perhaps they represent the past that innocent love created, a life of joy in small things. Flowers. Dogs. Music. Creating quilts and novels. Cooking. Traveling to foreign lands. A past he’s now able to leave behind, yet also a past that sustains his present and gives him joy.

What’s beyond the buildings? Unsure. A future though. One that sustains the joy of unconditional love in new ways and in new places and with new people, new events.

New land created by Pele, Kilauea

I find the notion of synchronicity, or no coincidences, difficult to swallow. My reason and logic say, hooey. On the other hand each instance in our life has a direct connection to whatever shows up in it.

That sounds obvious, is obvious, but it may obscure that these links are always known through our world of meaning. We interpret them through that world, our idiosyncratic web of associations. Each event and each particular in the event has meaning within our understanding, our way of making sense of this blooming, buzzing confusion we call consciousness. There are never any coincidences then, only new contexts for the worldview we take us with on our journey.

This six of cups card, drawn from a deck shuffled repeatedly, is not then a coincidence, but a direct link to my immediate past of mourning and grief, now resolving in favor of joy. A profound and innocent love, expressed often in our life together through nurture of the plant world, remains with me, sustaining me, as I head out towards an unknown future.



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