• Music to My Ears

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Monday gratefuls: Names. Old names and new ones. Yisrael. Adonai. Names and concealment. Lobster pots. Humor. Hazel Miller. Her band. That parking ticket. Alan and Cheri. Their condo concerts. The 38th floor. Their balcony. Where are all the green roofs? The Front Range in the distance. Snow covered Blue Sky Mountain. The couple I met whose names I don’t recall. Surrender. Music.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Driving down the hill and back up again. With Joanne.

    One brief shining: Joanne gave me a precooked Rock Cornish Game Hen and revealed something that shook me; there are no such things as Rock Cornish Game Hens, instead we buy immature chickens of a cross between two breeds, the Cornish and the White Plymouth Rock, so you can think of them as the veal or the lamb of poultry.

     

    You probably knew that. I didn’t. Not sure why it shocked me but it did. In spite of an interesting day that news will stick me.

     

    Over to Joanne’s place and picked her up at 10 for a trip down the hill to Alan and Cheri’s condo smack in downtown Denver. Joanne’s driveway is well known at Congregation Beth Evergreen due to its one way, curvy final approach to her house. You drive up and back down a fair way to a turn around. Alan got hung up in the snow there three weeks ago and had to call a tow truck. Marilyn Saltzman has implored Joanne to make it a turn around. Joanne told me yesterday, “I’m going to fix this.” Many people will be happy, including, I imagine Joanne.

    We drove down I-70 and took 6th into the belly of the Denver urban jungle. Turned left on Santa Fe and drove through the arts district where I sometimes go on the first Friday of the month. Food trucks. All the galleries are open. Up to Speer Avenue, left toward the Convention center with its iconic blue Bear poised against it, then right on 14th to the Spire.

    Joanne is a delight to be with. So quick. And funny. We both laughed at the same time when, just as I finished grousing about I-25, my GPS said, “Take I-25 north on your right.” Her husband of many years, Allen, died a year and some months ago. May I reach 92 and be as with it as she is.

    The in-home concert, first in a monthly series, featured Hazel Miller. She’s in the Colorado Jazz Hall of Fame and a friend of Alan and Cheri’s. Cheri booked the Evergreen Jazz Festival for many years. Thirty people attended. Met some interesting folks.

    Back on Shadow Mountain after coffee at Joanne’s. Not till 2:30 pm. Out of the house at 9:15. One tired puppy when I got home. Also had my required maximum of human interaction for the week. But the week’s just gotten started.

     

    Ancient Brothers this morning. Workout. Acupuncture appointment this afternoon.

    When Kate and I went on cruises, my appreciation for the days at sea surprised me. Restful, focused on the Ocean. Realized this morning that I now have the same appreciation for days alone on my calendar. Restful, focused on being in the Mountains. Surrender.

                                                                                  Yisrael

     

     

     

     

     


  • Expectations

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Alan and Cheri. Joanne. Denver. Downtown living. Down the hill living. Shadow Mountain home. Domo. Buckhorn. Sushi Den. Jerusalem. Ali Baba. The Bistro. The Fort. Bread Lounge. Angry Chicken. Katsu Ramen. Fountain Barbecue. Restaurants. Meals out with family and friends. Chamber music. Charlie Parker. Thelonius Monk. Herbie Mann. Dave Clark Five. Dazzle.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Shabbat

    One brief shining: Bought a weighted blanket last summer and in these now cold winter nights it’s part of the layered system that keeps me warm; some mornings of late I’ve taken to enjoying not sleeping in but lying in, wrapped in those layers and happy with my head in the cold, just right, wondering why it all felt so good and I realized the other day it was the embrace of that weighted blanket.

     

    One of the reasons I’ve taken to these occasional surrender moments, to being awake but staying in bed, is the time it gives me to think. To ponder without distraction. I can follow a thought down an ancientrail and back again. This morning the notion of expectations had me going.

    Over the last couple of weeks in mussar we’ve been discussing an example given by Rabbi Toba Spitzer in her book, God is Here. Which I highly recommend, btw. Her example comes from a silent retreat, an annual event for her. She sits down to lunch, imagining the taste of the food, enjoying the view, settling in for a pleasant lunch. A man sits down near her and begins to eat an Apple. Each bite explodes in her ear. She’s completely thrown off the wonderful lunch she’d imagined. She ends up with a ruined lunch. The obvious culprit here is her expectation of how her lunch would go. As long as she held onto the quiet, contemplative meal, she experienced torment from the Apple eater.

    Taking the learning here. Expectations can sabotage our experience. Bad expectations. Bad. Down expectations.

    Then I began to wonder. What are expectations? The shorthand we use so we can navigate our day. Cars will stop at stop signs. Eating two eggs, bacon, and home fries will not only taste good, but satisfy my hunger. Leo will make me happy when he comes to stay. The stove will turn on. Expectations help us by routinizing parts of our lives. So we’re not always thinking through what’s going to happen next.

    Then it hit me. Expectations are the mental habit behind curiosity. Not obvious, right? Why? Because when something happens that defies or upsets our expectations, we have two choices. Choice one. Do our best to return our experience to its anticipated path. Which makes sense if the stove won’t turn on or we decide to wait out the guy who just ran the stop sign.

    But even in those mundane instances we have to stop and consider the second choice. Why? Why won’t the stove turn on? Why did that guy run the stop sign? In these cases the answers will probably not rock our world.

    However. Imagine that you assumed the earth was the center of the universe and you expected the data from your telescope would confirm that. Or on a less exalted plain. Traffic had caused me to stop beside three large Willow Trees. I looked at them, all gnarly and twisted, thick, old. Then I thought. Wait a minute. These are Willows. There’s no creek here. What’s going on? I’ve never seen Willows up here except by a stream. I don’t know the answer. But I’d like to.

    Here’s the aha. Curiosity arises when something breaches our expectations. Why did she say that? What’s going on with my dog? Why is she limping? Why has the climate begun to change? What would happen if I put this and this together rather than that and that? Does the Apple eater have to ruin my lunch?

    What this suggests to me. Greet breaches of your expectations with wonder. With awe. Because the world and your experience has given you a chance to learn something new.


  • “Higher” Criticism

    Winter and the Cold Mountain

    Shabbat gratefuls: Parsha Beshalach: Exodus 13:17-17:16. Shabbat candle holders. Shabbat. Joanne. Alan. His BMW in Oxnard, Ca. Breakfast with Marilyn and Irv next week. Irv and his recovery. Jazz concert tomorrow at Alan and Cheri’s in Denver. Snow yesterday. 52 on Wednesday. Colorado. The Rocky Mountains. The Atlantic Ocean. The Pacific. The South China Sea. The Yellow Sea. Sailing.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: A day of joy

    One brief shining: A millennia ago I lived in student housing at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton Minnesota and walked through the then still fierce Winter to the classroom building a block away where I would go through the cafeteria, down past the mailboxes collecting anything to me on the way and the bookstore to the small stainless steel elevator, get in, push 3, get out on the top floor of the library, head to my carrel, sit down and sink into both the expansive view and my intent to learn. Ah.

     

    That was 1970. There were electric outlets at each of our outdoor parking places so we could plug in our engine block heaters. I recalled these memories because I added Parsha Beshalach to my gratefuls this morning. A through line between seminary and this Jewish life I’m now living is my excitement about study of scripture. I loved those “Old Testament” classes with Art Merrill and the New Testament classes with Henry Gustafson. A month or so ago I asked to have Torah study added to the adult education program at CBE. Of course, I ended up in charge of it. That’s the way of religious institutions. If you volunteer, you lead.

    You might think the several classes I took at UTS would give me some expertise for Torah study, but you would be mostly wrong. Not sure if I wrote about this before, but here are the big differences. First, Jews focus on the Torah, the first five books of the Tanakh which also includes the Nevi’im, the prophets, and the Ketuvim, writings. T for Torah. N for Nevi’im. K for Ketuvim = TaNaKh. The Tanakh has most of the same material as what Christians insist on calling the “Old Testament.” My education at UTS covered the whole of both Testaments, “Old” and New. So much, much less attention to the Torah itself.

    Second, the exegetical methods I learned, that is, the methods of getting at what the text meant and its interpretation (hermeneutics), differ significantly from the Jewish approach to exegesis. I learned redaction criticism, how the texts were edited; form criticism, whether the text had liturgical or other formal construction; textual criticism, how did the variant editions and translations differ; how to translate from the Greek and Hebrew for myself though mine was a limited introduction; historical criticism, what was happening at the time the text was written; and, reception criticism, how had the text been received and interpreted over church history.

    We learned two steps. First, exegesis using the best tools we knew, the various critical methodologies and any other analysis we could bring to the text. Second, the hermeneutical task, taking our best understanding of the meaning of the text, exegetical work, and applying that meaning to a contemporary situation. This usually meant writing a sermon.

    Third, a lot of what I learned about the “Old Testament” had a definite Christian inflection. That is, finding those parts of the Tanakh which prophesied the coming of Jesus, the Messiah.

    The Jewish approach is much different and I’ll go into that in a later post. Tomorrow if I remember.


  • Clever Business Model

    Winter and the Cold Moon with Snow

    Friday gratefuls: Marilyn and Irv. Irv’s resilience. Snow. Black Mountain gone. Alan. The jazz concert in his and Cheri’s condo on Sunday. Going with Joanne. Jazz. Mozart. That new CD player. Late night sessions with Coltrane and Miles Davis. (Late night for me, around 8 pm) Phone calls. Email. Text. A Snow day. A Fire later. While practicing my Hebrew. Tara. Rabbi Jamie. Janet. Anshel.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Irv

    One brief shining: Dr. Timothy O’Leary has tortoise shell glasses, a mask, and a kind heart as he takes his magnifying glass to this spot on my arm, then to another on my chest, oh this one we’ll freeze so it doesn’t become precancerous; taking the blue nitrogen pump off its spot on the table, he shields my eye, then sprays liquid nitrogen on my cheekbone which hurts a bit but not for long, that will scab over, otherwise everything looks good, make an appointment for a year from now, ah, I thought, an optimist.

     

    Annual skin checkup. Never a worshiper of Great Sol in the let this body bake on the beach as a tender sacrifice kind of guy I have less likelihood of skin cancer but you never know. Annual skin checks take about five minutes. And cost $10 with my current insurance. Cheap for the peace it gives.

     

    Went to Fountain Barbecue afterward. A new place located close to the medical building where I was already. An interesting setup. You come in and there are three computer screens. Like ordering from home online. You decide what you want, tap on it and add that item, 3 ribs for me. Then, mac and cheese. Oh, and Aunt Polly’s Pecan dessert. Swipe or insert your card on the right side of the screen.

    Part of the same business but up a couple of steps to the right as you come in is the Lazy Butcher. Not sure what the Lazy part means, but their cases are not pristine and carefully laid out. Maybe that’s it. Not dirty or haphazard just not that almost clinical look you find at the grocery store meat department. Didn’t look too closely but they have uncured bacon, perhaps I’ll get some later on for my next Hoppin’ John batch, steaks of various kinds. No fish. Just beef and pork. After I did a quick scan of the Lazy Butcher, I walked down the wheelchair ramp back to the barbecue.

    My name with #103 showed up on an l.e.d. screen under in process. Other names and numbers were in a column to the left.  Ready. A somewhat husky guy with a lazy or blind eye called out names. Charlie. When I got mine, it felt a little bit like encountering someone from the underworld offering you food.

    This is a clever setup. There was a hostess. The kitchen. And the guy handing out the food who probably works in the kitchen. No waitresses. The hostess cleaned tables and helped anyone who needed it with the computer ordering. About as low overhead as a restaurant can be. And, with the Lazy Butcher money can be made after processing the meat that comes in for the restaurant. One backroom feeding two businesses. Smart.

     


  • Mountains

    Winter and the full Cold Moon

    Thursday gratefuls: Cold Moon. The night landscape through my bedroom window when the Moon is full. All dogs, everywhere. All Wild Neighbors. The Lodgepoles of Shadow Mountain. Its Rocky presence and its height. Living on Shadow Mountain. Gary and the Torah. Bereshit. Zornberg. Hevruta. Lamb by Christopher Moore. Tinned Albacore. Bartlett Pears. 34 degrees Rosemary crackers.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: The night landscape with a full moon

    One brief shining: Hard to miss the steady confident support of Shadow Mountain yet it can fade into the background of the trash and the dishwasher and the television and the sleeping through the night though when on occasion I awake I do look outside and see the Lodgepole shadows thrown against the white Snow by the gentlest of lights and somehow Shadow Mountain rises up, gentle himself, to receive the Moon’s gift.

     

    We tend to think of Mountains as rugged stony prominences, all yang in their stolidity, their solidity. Yet live with one long enough and its mellow side emerges. It wants to cradle you, support you as a mother does her child. It says yes to the Trees that wish to grow on its flanks. The Mountain greets the Waters as they run down its side whether Rain or Snow Melt or Hail. Even though Water carries away part of the Mountain itself. The Mountain provides nooks for weary Mule Deer and Elk. Ledges on which Mountain Lions can rest while waiting for supper to walk by. Dens for hibernating Black Bears. Dens, too, for the Fox. The Mountain also shares its height with those who climb it for the long view possible at the summit.

    Mountains prefer the company of other Mountains. Sometimes in huge family gatherings we call ranges. Though self-contained Mountains share Roots, Passes, Valleys with their companions. They have similar origin stories with their companions, too. Geologists call it orogeny, Mountain building. Which of course is not building at all, but a rude thrust from an eon or two spent happily beneath the Earth’s crust, cracking the surface and slowly mounting into the Air and the light of Great Sol, feeling the Wind and the Rain, the Ice and Snow.

    Mountains will surprise you. They change their appearance. Sometimes suddenly as when Black Mountain disappears in the Fog. Or more slowly as Great Sol rises, dispersing the darkness of a Mountain night. In the Mountain Fall the gray-white Aspens leaves turn gold, creating a contrast with the green Needles of the Lodgepoles and the darkness of exposed rock. The Elk bugle then, too, and the Black Bears go into hyperphagia needing 20,000 calories a day. In Winter Snow flocks all the Trees and the Creeks freeze up. While in the Spring, the Snow melts and the Creeks run full, often overflowing their banks. Fawns and calves and kits and pups abound on the Mountainside.

    But Summer. Summer has a red flashing light. Danger ahead. Here in the arid West the Lodgepoles become desiccated, their needles dull. Sometimes the grasses turn brown, only a lightning strike away from Wildfire. All of us Mammals in the Mountains have to pay attention, be aware.

     

     


  • A bit of health, a dab of politics

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Wednesday gratefuls: Lab results. Darkness. Shabbat. Rabbi Jamie. Anshel. CBE. Marilyn and Irv. Leo. Gracie. Luke. Anne. Mussar. Handling my back pain. Pythons in Malaysia. In Kuala Lumpur. Torah study. Taxes. Cernunnos. The senses. Our link to the world around us. Wild Neighbors. Here and there. Water. Altitude. Coffee. Breakfast. With friends. Ruth. Gabe and his learner’s permit.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: January

    One brief shining: Ruby has bangs and dings, rarely finds herself in the carwash, yet she runs as well now as when we purchased her on that hot June day because she had air conditioning and our old Rav4’s had long ago quit working; only seemed fair since on the 6th those three Bull Elks would visit to eat our dandelions and I would start 35 sessions of radiation in a second vain attempt to cure my prostate cancer.

     

    Labs. My phlebotomist and I exchanged information about Japanese restaurants in Denver. Her daughter-in-law is Japanese. I mentioned Domo and she talked about Sushi Den. She might go there for her 40th anniversary. Yes, I know her that well. She slides the needle in with years of practice, swapping out tubes for various tests, showing them to me to check my name, then comes the gauze and the band-aid or piece of cloth tape.

    When I got the results back yesterday, they dumbfounded me. All green. Best labs I’ve had in years. Kidney disease no longer. Cholesterol low. Anemia resolved. How bout that? Made me feel good about, well, all of it. Means my diet’s ok. I no longer suffer from iron poor blood. Throw away the Geritol. And no kidney disease? Well. Always good to drop something off the list.

    In other medical news. I know you’re dying to hear this. I have an appointment at Evergreen Medical Acupuncture. Prophylactic, mostly. I want this in my tool kit for my back pain. Sue Bradshaw agreed with me on no injections, no surgery. That leaves p.t., acupuncture, lidocaine patches, acetaminophen, and continued resistance work. Bought some lidocaine patches. Acupuncture may help, too.

    Just to complete the organ recital. On February 12th I have my next PSA and testosterone labs. Probably my testosterone will be moving up which could mean my PSA will, too. Or, not. Never far away.

     

    The New York Times map of New Hampshire with red for Trump and green for Haley (Merry Christmas America!) looks like a whole ham. Sorta fits. If he were less dangerous, less cruel, less authoritarian, I’d say Trump was a ham. Loves an audience, any audience. Loves to stress his elbow while patting himself on the back. A cartoonish man with a puzzling, yet real anchor in the world I live in.

    So he won. So he might win the GOP nomination in South Carolina. Ironic for Haley, eh? All too much. Even Heather Cox Richardson gave commenting a pass, instead she posted a photograph by her s.o. Buddy Poland. Sans the Poland photo, I’ll do the same.

     

     

     


  • Civil War?

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Tuesday gratefuls: Learning the Hebrew alphabet and vowels. Decoding my bar mitzvah portion. Tara teaching me. Joann. Alan. The dark of a Mountain early morning. Aspen Perks. Sue Bradshaw. Evergreen. Conifer. Our alphabet. Comes with vowels. Saudi. Mark and the Desert Sunrise. And, Camels. Mary and the 10 foot long reticulated python on the sidewalk. Wild neighbors here and there.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Sue Bradshaw

    One brief shining: Whenever I do certain self-care things, like a physical, I take myself out for a nice meal afterwards, and this time I discovered I go to Evergreen for meals with friends but when dining alone, at least for breakfast after a fasting blood draw, I wanted Aspen Perks where people know my name.

     

    Thought about Cheers when I had this realization. Where everybody knows your name. Which took me to the decline of third spaces, places neither work nor home where social interactions can occur. Bowling alleys. Churches and synagogues. Bars. Parks. Beaches. Theaters and museums to a lesser extent. Certain restaurants. It was UU minister and scholar Robert Putnam who wrote the essay, Bowling Alone, in which he discussed the decline of the third space in American life. Covid put the pedal to the metal. Churches and synagogues have been losing members for a long time. My doctoral dissertation in 1990, for example, was on the decline of the Presbyterian church U.S.A.

    Our cultural obsession with work. Quality time with the kids or the wife or a partner. Down time, leisure time is not common. Smart phones and the laptop accelerate this trend, too. Go into a busy coffee shop anywhere in the U.S. Most folks are either working on their laptop or consulting their phones. I’ve often seen all four people at a table for four immersed in either their laptop or phone.

    A good third space. The Bread Lounge in Evergreen. The buzz of conversation, folks seeing people they know, then bumping into other people they know. Alan and I might eat breakfast there. The owner will come over to chat. Ron Solomon might walk in. Tal. Somehow the way the tables are laid out and the culture that has grown up there makes it feel like a common space. The place to be at certain hours.

    CBE. On any given day or Friday night if I’m there I’ll see many people I know, some casually, some between casual acquaintance and a friend, close friends.

     

    Been thinking about this, too. An interesting article on the science of polarization in our benighted country. Science is revealing why America politics are so intensely polarized. This Washington Post article says something sort of obvious, yet crucial. We need to belong. The rugged individual so beloved of American fantasy life is a lie. We need family. We need institutions, friends. We need third spaces. Being a MAGA person is such an identity. So is being one who opposes the MAGA identity.

    I thought about this and my conversion to Judaism. Yes, I needed a group, a third space. Somewhere outside my daily life where I was known and appreciated for who I am. CBE is such a place for me. And my identity as a Jew, too. I have a people.

    Is the religious life led there key? Yes, in a way. It offers multiple markers, symbols for belonging. Reading Torah. Attending shabbat services. Observing shabbat. Wearing a kippah. Going to a synagogue. A rabbi. Having Jewish friends. Prayer shawls. The ark. On the other hand, Judaism also has cultural significance outside the strictly religious. Just ask any anti-semite. Were these factors front of mind for me when I converted? No. What was front of mind was my sacred community of friends.

    Being part of any group requires, as the WP article says, knowing who’s not in the group. Boundaries. That’s the sadness and trouble we have now. We have citizens of the U.S. who believe other citizens are not legitimate parts of the nation. A recipe for disaster. For civil war.


  • Health

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Monday grateful: Traveler’s Insurance. Car and House. I’m grateful I still have it. Deaf old guy t-shirts. The Ancient Brothers on healers and healing. Sue Bradshaw. Annual Physical this morning. Great Sol lightening the morning Sky. The shema. Hashem in letters of fire. Getting laundry done. Groceries in the house. Self care. Agency. Independence. Cognitive awareness. Physical mobility. Healthy.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Ruth, Gabe, Mia

    One brief, shining: These days I often peel back the metal lid of a can of Wild Caught Sardines, put them on a plate, open up my current package of #34 crackers, this week they’re Rosemary, reach in the fruit compartment of the refrigerator to select a cold Pear or maybe a Tangerine, prepare the fruit by slicing or peeling, add it to the plate, pour myself a cup of coffee, place it all on the table and start to read my breakfast book, right now Democracy Awakening by Heather Richardson, while enjoying a protein rich morning meal.

     

    Annual physical today. My PCP, Kristen Gonzalez, retires next month for medical reasons. Apparently very bad headaches. As a result, I’m seeing a nurse practitioner, Sue Bradshaw, who has worked with Kristen for over twenty years.

    Kristen may have been the best doctor I’ve ever had. She and Charlie, whose last name I can’t recall, were about the same, but she’s older and wiser. Which I imagine he is at this point, too. She’s kind, empathetic, put me first always in our encounters. And she’s medically humble. Says when she doesn’t know. I trust her, trusted her, completely.

    Her retirement makes me sad on two levels. First, that such a competent physician and decent person has something so wrong that she must leave her work. Which she clearly loves. Second, I’ll miss having her in my corner, the backstop for my health.

    As I scan myself at almost 77, I don’t have anything that jumps out, says Tell Your Doctor About Me. Yes, prostate cancer. But it’s being managed. New labs next month. Yes, altitude and funky diaphragm induced shortness of breath. Yes, slacker thyroid gland. All part of the world for me, nothing that causes me worry. Well, maybe one thing. This damned back. It’s been flaring. Yet I do my exercises, take some acetaminophen and it behaves. Sort of.

    It bothers me not so much because of the pain itself, which most of the time I don’t notice, but because of the limits it puts on exercise and travel. Exercise I need to maintain my overall health. And travel. Well. I want to travel.

    I think.

    I say I think because I’m not getting out and doing it. I have nothing planned and don’t know what I could do if I did. Which is partly why I have nothing planned. A combination of physical discomfort and inertia. Some days I imagine this is my life. Here on Shadow Mountain. Out some during the day, reading, meals with friends and family. Staying in at night. Sometimes I push against that idea; sometimes it feels like what I want.

     

     


  • Sweet. And frustrating.

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Sunday gratefuls: Gabe. Ruth. Mia. Domo. Luke. My son and Seoah. The Roger. Learning to navigate Denver on my own, sans GPS. Kristen Gonzalez. Sue Bradshaw. Annual physical. Evergreen Medical. Israel. Hamas. The rules of war. Palestinians. The Ancient Brothers. Tal. Spicy Tuna Sushi bowl. Shabbat. Surrender. Irv and Marilyn. Hebrew. My bar mitzvah portion. The shema.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: A new, resurrected life this day

    One brief shining: Domo has reopened and since it has a special place in Ruth’s heart for the many birthday meals she’s had there she and Gabe and Mia, my granddaughter from another mother, drove over there and met me; we sat down at the stone table on the logs topped with leather held on by rope underneath lamps made from fish skins for our rural Japanese meal.

     

    A sweet and frustrating evening. Drove down the hill for my rendezvous with Ruth, Gabe, and Mia. Coming into the city at 5:15 on a Saturday night. Not so much fun. However. I made up for that by navigating by feel to within a block of Domo, avoiding I-25. The west side of Denver now makes sense to my inner compass. Somewhat anyhow. It’s taken a while to get there since I don’t drive in Denver all that much.

    Parked in a narrow spot between two other diners, squeezed out of the door, and went inside. A text from Gabe told me they were finding parking. Inside in the waiting area were three families of Asians, probably Japanese. I put my name on a waiting list, first in cursive then in block letters so the hostess could read it.

    Domo shut down during the pandemic and only reopened not long ago. The menu has fewer items, by a lot. The owner said he wants to rebuild it slowly. He’s an interesting guy who uses profits from the restaurant to feed people around the world. He’s also an akido sensei and part of Domo’s building houses his dojo. He said he didn’t want to reopen until his staff would be safe from Covid.

    Mia and Ruth are good friends, both artists. Mia and I bonded for good on Kep’s last day. She was so helpful and kind. As was Ruth. Since then Mia’s been in my family. Gabe likes to hang with them and they’re good with him. Last night they tried to teach him how to use chopsticks. He ended up eating with a fork.

    Conversation around the table was, as usual for me these days, the frustrating part. Too much ambient noise. Amy, my audiologist suggested I use my Roger more. She’s right. I used it at mussar last week and it helped a lot. It would have helped last night. Without it, in the midst of plates and bowls clinking, happy conversations blending together, doors opening and closing, waiters taking orders and delivering food, I understood very little. Which made me feel as if I wasn’t in the room at all. Distanced. Apart from. Aggravating. Especially when I have at least a partial solution. At home.

    When we finished, I paid the bill and we got up to leave. Ruth held her arms out and we hugged. Gabe joined in, then Mia. All four of us in a huddle. Right in the hallway going out. A sweet, sweet moment. Reminded me of the night of Jon’s death when Ruth and Gab ran to me, hugged me in the same way. We belong together.

     


  • The Most Precious Treasure

    Winter and the Cold Moon

    Shabbat gratefuls: How do I feel? A mood changer. Thanks, Tal. Joan, such a bright lady. Alan in his tie dyed t-shirt for the Beatles shabbat. Luke’s dvar torah. His playing and singing in the service. A testament to his courage and growth. Breakfast at Dandelions, reopened under new ownership. Ackerman’s pick up of the couch. Reupholstering. Fixing Rigel’s deep hole. My son and Seoah.

    Sparks of Joy and Awe: Breakfast with friends

    One brief shining: Got the new menu for Dandelions, three of them, one for Alan and Joan and me, went back to the table and took my time with it since I was still alone, noticed corned beef hash as an entree, two eggs, found a side of berries, and I had made my decision so I slid my menu away from me, picked up the cream and added it to the coffee, waiting.

     

    A quote from the Zen calendar gifted me by Tom. From the Upanishads:

    “God made the senses turn outwards, man (sic) therefore looks outward, not into himself. But occasionally a daring soul, desiring immortality, has looked back and found himself.”

    Don’t know the context of this quote but by itself it tells a truth and a half-truth. The truth is this. Our physicality forces our attention out and away from ourselves. Oh, look! See that! Wow. Did you hear what she said? Hey, can you smell that? OMG. This is the best avocado toast ever. Yes, again. Right there.

    The half-truth is only occasionally is there a daring soul who turns to the inner cathedral, that alembic of memory and thought powered by the fiery heat of the emotions. And that when they do they seek immortality. Some may, of course, search for the secret to life beyond life. But most of us stumble through the doors of our inner cathedral when a shock like grief, major illness, addiction, rejection, or several days in a row of gloomy inner weather force us down the steps into our vast private universe. We all go there from time to time over the course of a life. And look back, in rather than out. Unknown how many find themselves.

    How can we learn from the experience? Socrates. The unexamined life is not worth living. I believed that the first time I encountered it and believe it now. That examen as the Jesuits call it is not for the timid; as any cartographer can tell you, here there be monsters. Yet it is those shadowy winged creatures of our soul who guard the real treasure.

    Which suggests to me that Gandalf might well be our guide. I think of him in his encounter with the Balrog in the mines of Moira. Gandalf could have turned and run or at least not advanced toward the menacing creature. Instead he walks onto the narrow bridge that will carry him straight into the Balrog’s path.

    Gandalf walked toward the bomb, toward the fight, toward the pillar of smoke and in so doing earned the opportunity to face a great obstacle rather than force it back down and away from consciousness. In the ensuing battle Gandalf the Grey dies but only after killing the Balrog. Later, he reemerges as Gandalf the White.

    Whether Gandalf or Virgil or Moses or Tiresias or even Ignatius of Loyola, we need a guide, a companion as we wander the labyrinths of our heart/mind. I found John Desteian who walked with me through the tunnels and traps of my 28 years. I’ve found Ira Progroff and his journal workshops. Now Moses and the Torah. I’ve found Gandalf and Virgil, too. But the key companion all along has been the then existing version of myself.

    I invite you to find the entrance to your mines of Moira. I invite you to take a deep breath and set your foot on the steps that lead down and in to your inner cathedral. Yes, there be monsters there, but they’re your monsters and they guard the most precious treasure of all: self-knowledge.