• Tag Archives Stefan
  • Woolly Mammoths, 6 pm

    Samain                            Moon of the Winter Solstice

    First time at the Marsh, out on Minnetonka Blvd.  The Western burbs version of a California health spa.  In a small room off the dining area for their food service was a sign:  Woolly Mammoths, 6:00 pm.

    Inside were Bill , Warren , Frank , Stefan and Mark.  Tales of the trip, yes, but mostly we were there to support Warren whose mother received a cancer diagnosis two days before Thanksgiving.  She’s now in hospice care at an assisted living center, asking only for palliative care.

    Warren has been intimately involved with both his parents and his wife’s parents in their aging and decline.  They represent a degree of love and concern in that situation seen all too rarely.

    On the way back I couldn’t find any music I liked, so, as I’ve done a lot lately while driving, I turned the radio off and entered into a road trip state of mind, a little bit country and a little bit Zen.


  • Each Others Lives

    Lughnasa                                                                       Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

    “Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

    Five men came together tonight at the Black Forest.  Brothers.  Men who have stood shoulder to shoulder for over twenty years, through marriage and divorce, through conflict and calm.  We sat outside, under a clear plastic roof that sprayed water on us while we talked when the wind blew up.  The usual conversation.  Mark’s knee.  Getting better.  Frank’s trip to Ireland.  Everyone had a great time.  Stefan’s sons.  My brother.  Bill and I talked computers, how to back up ancientrails, whether I might mine it for a book, or two.  How I might redesign it.

    We went over each others lives, we know the history, the background, the context.  We listened and nodded, ate our polish sausages and sauerkraut or lentil and sausage soup, felt the late heat of a stormy day begin to creep out from under the clouds.

    We see each other twice a month at least, sometimes more.  Always we stay alert to each other, exchanging e-mails, funny and serious.

    I’m proud to call these men my friends.

  • Grasshopper, You Are About To Be A Grandfather

    Spring                                                                           Full Bee Hiving Moon

    Men.  Emotions surprise us, batter us into consciousness, wake us up.  Hello, grasshopper, you are about to be A GRANDFATHER. Huh?  How did that happen?  Of course, you know exactly how it happened, but it still reaches inside and turns on the amazement switch.

    Some old man, dimly known, shambles out of your past and you say, “Could that be me? That old fella?”

    “Nah, I’m too young,” you say.

    The event comes to pass and there you are with Ruth or Dave or Holly or Ava, a tiny pink wonder, yet, too, the most common event of all among us, a baby, a fledgling human, vulnerable, needy.  Somehow ours.  Somehow not ours.

    Shaken but perhaps not yet stirred a gong sounds somewhere, a genetic clang or a cultural bong, but whatever deep, resonant, compelling and there you are at the door reserved for Elders Only.  This door, this torii, guards the pathway to the future, a divided path on which your grandchild will walk as a living memory in one direction while you stride resolute toward our last great journey.

    Here’s the joy.  We can walk along this path a ways, maybe even a long ways, together.

    What’s the nature of this walk?  Who knows?  One grandparent, one grandchild.  A unique way, created by the two, reserved for them alone.  Another grandchild, another way.

    We spoke of these things tonight at Tom Crane’s house.  Mark, brother Mark, went along.  Warren, Charlie, Bill, Scott, Tom, Frank, Mark, Stefan were there.  We remembered our grandfather dying in front of us at four, of grandfather’s disappeared by distance and alcohol, of grandfather’s willing to play along with a silly joke, a grandfather who drank and drank and drank, having his last jug delivered the day after he died, of a grandfather with green flannel underwear that buttoned, puzzlingly, in the rear, who poured coffee into a cup, then a saucer and drank from the saucer, who made syrup from water and sugar, of grandfathers in the house, there to talk to, to go to, grandfathers abused by fathers.  We spoke of all these things nestled inside our own hopes, our joys, the wonders of our own journey through the torii of  generation.

    Men wonder about these things, dream about them, hope for them.  See themselves with a tiny hand in theirs, walking along, picking dragons and mermaids out of the clouds.  Whistling.

  • The OWM

    Spring                                                    Waning Bloodroot Moon

    The Order of Woolly Mammoths, or OWM, the sacred sound that created the world, met tonight at Frank’s for our annual corned beef and cabbage feed.  Bill Schmidt gave us an insiders perspective on the nuclear crisis, explaining the safeguards in place and said, with some emotion, that if called and if he could contribute, he would go.  It gave me a personal connection to the brave, even heroic effort that engineers and other workers at the Fukushima facility have already offered and confirmed what I suspected.  These are men and women who have a wartime level commitment to their jobs, knowing that if doing them costs their lives; it’s a sacrifice both necessary and worthwhile.  They deserve our deepest admiration and respect as humans tested in a type of cauldron most of us will never, thankfully, see.

    Tom, a new grandfather-to-be, asked for advice, stories, thoughts from current Woolly grandfathers.  He has chosen to devote his meeting, our next one, to the topic.  Gray heads discussing gray-headdom.

    Stefan and I discussed a possible visit to Aerquipa when our cruise hits Peru.  It would involve a plane flight from Lima of about an hour and a half.  I want to make it work, seeing Lonnie and her folks at work, visiting someone I know.  Some planning to be done.

    These men, this crowd of silverbacks, men I knew when our hair had color are a central part of my life.  It was good, as it always is.

  • Friends

    Samhain                                        Waning Harvest Moon

    Talking with the woollies at the Black Forest.  Scott, Frank, Warren, Stefan.  Eating here at this lasting monument to Gemütlichkeit we lived it.  Sharing with each other in our cozy, intimate way, a way borne of decades now together.  My claustrophobia, anothers workshop on codependence, Frank’s tooth, Scott’s restructuring of his hours at work, Warren’s cold.  All of these and the usual commentary on the upcoming election, the Vikings and the waiver of Randy Moss.  Friends eating together, putting another layer of mortar on the linkages among us.

    Yet another trip through the night from downtown Minneapolis to the exurbs, from bright lights and people jaywalking, biking, loitering to the dark drive north of Coon Creek Road, past the eutrophying Round Lake and the vast peat bog across the road from it, the basis for Field’s large truck farm.

    Now home, letting the dogs out, a note here, then upstairs to read, watch TV, relax.

  • The Patio of the Schwarzwald

    Beltane                                        Waning Planting Moon

    The Woolly brethren gathered yet again at the Black Forest, sitting outside near the fountain with the metal sculpture, a twisted geometric of aluminum.  Warren, Frank just back from Ireland, Bill, Paul, Tom, Stefan and myself shared the stories and the shorthand that comes from having been together for so long.

    When Tom and Paul ordered Erdingers beer, we had a laugh about the restaurant with a rock, a very large rock, in a conspicuous location near the entrance.   We discovered this restaurant, this rock and Erdinger’s beer in Hot Springs, South Dakota during our pilgrimage to the Woolly Mammoth site there.  It seems the rock just wouldn’t give way to the folks building the restaurant, so they said the hell with it and built the hotel and restaurant around the rock, leaving about four feet or so of rock exposed through the floor.

    Paul has experienced, so far, positive results from his iron chelation and looks appreciably better.  Stefan recounted stories from his trip to Arizona to see Taylor and announced that he and Lonnie have purchased or in the process of purchasing land in Peru.  Frank had a good trip to Ireland, all but one day without rain, which is unusual.  Warren and I talked about his articles on the GAMC mess which has all but defunded health care for the poorest of the poor in Minnesota.

    What was it Humphrey said?  You can tell the quality of a society by how it deals with the most disadvantaged?

    This gathering of the clan keeps our friendships and our bonds alive.  It is important, even essential to our ongoing health as a group.

  • A Yellow Moon

    Lughnasa                        Waxing Green Corn Moon

    A yellowed moon hung in the sky tonight, almost full.  It made the drive back in from Minneapolis a delight as it sailed in and out of view.

    In tonight for the Land Use and Transportation Committee meeting.  What a dynamic group!  They are still fighting the Stillwater Bridge issue after all these years.  They also have transit oriented development on their agenda as well as a new issue called Complete Streets.  In essence Complete Streets wants street planning to have all users in mind (pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and the handicapped in particular)

    A crisp meeting that ran on time.

    Thunder has begun to roll in so I’m going to have shut down soon.  After the Sierra Club meeting, I drove over to the Black Forest where the Woolly’s first monday meeting had just begun to wind down.  I saw Mark and Frank and Stefan before they left.  Warren and Scott stayed and we talked about Moon, Scott’s 95 year old Cantonese mother-in-law who lives with them.  She’s having a show of her calligraphy and painting at the Marsh.  It goes up on August 16th.  There will also be a book of her work available at the show.  Amazing.

    China tour tomorrow for 7-8th graders.  I added a tour this Friday of Chilean students connected with St. Johns who want a tour of American art.

  • Woollys, Grandkids

    Summer                     Waxing Summer Moon

    Tomorrow we get the full on Summer Moon.  We’ll have a warm, but not hot night with a brilliant satellite.  No good for astronomy, but great for moon viewing, a favorite activity among the Japanese.

    Woolly’s met tonight at the Black Forest.  Mark, Stefan, Bill, Tom, Frank and myself showed up.  Mark got the dam site job.  He reports next Monday morning to Lock and Dam #1, the first official lock on the Mississippi River.  The job runs until the river ices over and the barges cannot come.  Stefan’s been giving himself fits over his children.  A potential liability of parenthood.

    I showed off the Kindle.  I’m a fan.

    Jon, Jen, Ruth and Gabe are back from a weekend in Chicago.  There was a Bandel family reunion with rooms at the Doubletree and visits to Grandma and Grandpa, Ruth and Gabe’s great-grandparents.  They are back here for four days, then they strike out for home in Denver.

  • A Bit of Literary Criticism

    Spring                  Waning Seed Moon

    “This is what I believe: That I am I. That my soul is a dark forest. That my known self will never be more than a little clearing in the forest. That gods, strange gods, come forth from the forest into the clearing of my known self, and then go back. That I must have the courage to let them come and go. That I will never let mankind put anything over me, but that I will try always to recognize and submit to the gods in me and the gods in other men and women. There is my creed.”   D.H. Lawrence

    And a damn fine creed at that.  I might just worship at this church.

    I’ve noodled over a criteria for reading that Stefan put forward last Monday.  Something along the lines of If I don’t come away changed or with an altered perspective, then it’s not worthwhile.   He made this comment in relation to the Bill Holms’ essay, Blind is the Bookless Man.  Stefan found the essay too quotidian, too reportorial and, perhaps most important, too small.  The content of the essay concerned Bill Holms’ youth in Mineota, Minnesota and a couple of solitary Icelanders, friends of his family, who shaped his education, especially through books.

    Holms’ follows a strategy I would call thick description, an almost ethnological narrative in which details pile upon details, in this case details about the homes and the reading habits of Stena and Einar.

    I did not come away from the essay much changed, nor did I have my perspective altered.  Instead, I had my world expanded to include the early days of a young Icelandic boy growing up in unusual circumstances.  I now have Holm’s memories to include with my own.

    Stefan’s criteria is a valid criteria for good literature, but not the only criteria.  Another criteria, also valid, gives us empathy, expands our sense of what it means to be human.   We may admit to our small clearing in the forest a god we had ignored.  We may see, for the first time, the god in another’s small clearing, clasp our hands together and say, “Namaste.”  Or, we may simply sigh, settle in to ourselves or to the quirks of another and say, “Well, interesting.”

    I have a different reason altogether for liking the Holm’s piece.  That lies in the peculiar journey I have followed since college, that of a regionalist.  I did not set out to walk this ancient trail, that of one who loves the place of his days and dedicates himself to its expression in diverse ways.  But I ended up there anyhow.

    The regionalist finds the universal in the particularities, the idiosyncrasies of their homeland.  Willa Cather.  Sherwood Anderson.  Henry David Thoreau.  Annie Dillard.  Wendell Berry.  Zane Gray.  Faulkner.  James Joyce.  Mark Twain.  Robert Frost.  All of these are either wholly or in good part regionalists.  Bill Holms.  Garrison Keillor.  James Whitcomb Riley.  Marquez.  Octavio Paz. Isaac Bashevis Singer.

    This crowd often receives a gentle wink and a nod from the high literary crowd, but so what?  In the galactic context the whole of our planet is but a region.  All literature, all art must spring from some person, a person formed in some environment.  That some choose to focus their art on the way of the Mississippi River or the plains of Nebraska,  the ghettos of the Hasidim or uplands of Colombia is a matter for their heart.  Whether it speaks to you is a matter for yours.

  • A Locked Car Mystery

    Imbolc    Waning Wild Moon

    The Woolly’s met tonight at the Jasmine across from the Black Forest.  Food is noveau Vietnamese, French accents.  I had spring rolls and mangoes on sticky rice.  Just right.

    Got to give everyone a head’s up on labyrinthitis.  Tom has a friend who visited him yesterday and may be dead from multiple myeloma in two months.  Whoa.  Paul and Sarah have purged their home, shined up and have neared the day of the first open house.  Changes.

    Stefan locked the keys in his car while x-skiing at Hyland Park.  He asked a cop if he could help.  The cop said sure and gave Stefan a ride down.  When he got out to work on Stefan’s car, he inadvertently locked his keys inside as well as Stefan who was in the back seat.  In a police car.  A locksmith had to be called for both cars.

    The trip in is always worth it, a chance to connect and renew the connection.  Got several happy birthdays.  Guys just don’t remember birthdays well.