Thursday, November 13, 2014

B & J Landing, Part 1

Well, sort of. 

Our lulav is in the magazine photo.  Tap on photo to read my post.

Yom Kippur.  We felt very welcomed by the Jewish community in Durango, Colorado.  Rabbi Elliot Baskin from Denver was terrific.  He provided a warm and meaningful prayer experience. He also asked if anyone could offer Yoga, to get into the body on Yom Kippur afternoon.  Yours trulies offered Qigong, and it was very sweet doing Qigong L'Tovah with folks.  Following Yom Kippur, we decided it would be good to land somewhere for the winter.

We seriously considered Durango. However, we wanted to be close to Rocky Mountain National Park that we so loved during the two months we hiked and explored there. So we headed back over the mountains to Boulder, visiting the ideallic town of Telluride, the west rim of the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, the historic town of Salida (every town in Colorado seems to be historic), and along the long drive we listened to several hours of Yiscah Smith from Jerusalem discussing the deep ideas of the Peasetzna Rebbe regarding emotional autonomy and emotional proficiency. We also listened to a cd of sweet melodies sung by Arik. 

It was the Season of our Joy, Succoth, so we shook the lulav daily.  Our lulav was assembled from sprigs of trees on a beauty trail above Telluride, from Quaking Aspen, Wild Rose, Cottonwood, Pine, and a small apple from a volunteer tree along the trail (ok, really five species!).

The first few days of Succoth were in Telluride.  Pictures come from larger area, including south of Lizard Pass.





We spent a couple days of Succoth at the South Rim of Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park.


Gambel Oak is the predominant Scrub Oak species along the rim.


We spent a number of nights in various Walmart parking lots along our journey, including one night of Succoth.  This was in Salida, Co.  Not our favorite camping option, but helpful in a pinch.  We felt it important to shake the lulav and send positive energy to such places.

Back in the Boulder area, we camped at the Longmont Fairgrounds.  We looked at a wide range of rentals, including a charming little house that had an historical building designation in Longmont, an ultra industrial looking apartment in Boulder that was promoted as stunning and was anything but "stunning", and a lovely place in a canyon that was owned by the city and overlooked red rock formations   We ruled out place after place.  Some were musty.  Almost all had extensive carpeting or recent paint that outgassed. Most "hardwood floors" were vinyl look alikes.  Two weeks we looked full time.  Winter was approaching and we were getting anxious.  All three synagogues had water intrusion during the disastrous flood of 2013, which almost certainly meant mold. We found this to be true of other buidings. We avoided them.  With a heavy heart we finally left the Front Range, and traveled back over the mountains towards Durango.  And along the way, we discovered Crestone.

Crestone was magical.  We camped at 8500 ft in a Forest Service campground.  Crestone has been a spiritual magnet or vortex for thousands of years.  Today there are Hindu, Tibetan Buddhist, Zen, Shintu, Carmelite Catholic, and others, all nestled on the lower slopes of the majestic Sangre de Cristo Range (Blood of Christ - named for the rock color), and overlooking a great valley below.  There is a wonderful article about ths mystical place at:

The first day we prayed with the monks at the Ashram of the Babaji.   Aside from the incense, it was a beautiful experience.  Back at their bookstore the monks offered water and tea.  One lovely young woman was from Lebanon.  She first arrived a few days ago, and was staying.  The other two monks were long timers, and had met the guru Babaji (meaning Venerable Father), during his most recent incarnation in India, which ended in 1984.  Babaji is believed to be the manifestation of three Hindu gods.  He reportedly would mirror whatever you brought to his presence, eg faith, doubt, love, and provide great insight, and rarely with any words.  The monks Ramloti (cup of the Divine), Jonathan, and Nura (Arabic for light), invited us to share dinner with them.  I have a card with Babaji's delightful smiling countenance that I placed under the dashboard.  After the Ashram, we got some different local flavor at the Halloween party in the high school.

The second day we find the Carmelite chapel.  This gorgeous yet humble chapel had the most splendid infusion of light through stained glass windows.  We were the only ones there, and so we did our spiritual practice of Qigong.  

The third day we find the Zen retreat. We enter a large dome structure, that is both inviting and austere, with stone floor and no heat.  We meet Doug from West Seattle, who has become a resident, after years of travel in a Volkswagen camper.  We certainly connected with that story.  He showed us the Zendo and told many stories.   We'd have returned for meditation, except for incense that is burned.  And the morning meditation at 4:30 am is a wee early....

Later we visit the Institute of Shumei International, a progressive Japanese Shintu movement that started before the Second World War.  All the residents are from Japan and speak little English.  Momoko, a young woman, takes us on a tour.  In the sanctuary she leads a short service, and instructs us on chanting.  Then she performed jyorei,  sending healing energy as in Reiki, actually more closely resembling Fachi in Qigong.  Earlier, I tried telling her about our Qigong prctice, which she didn't understand.   However, we came to an overlook, and I did a little practice, and she said Oh!  Qigong....Che! 

Still later we take a hike to the end of Baca, the spiritual area outside of Crestone, to a Tibetan Buddhist stupa.  It is like an obelisk symbolizing the body of the Buddha, revealing the central principles of the faith, It is a sacred temple, and a repository of many thousands of relics and prayers.  Great lamas have come here, and commented on the similarity of this land and Tibet.  We do circumambulations around the stupa, chanting prayers.



Meanwhile, each morning we warm up at the local coffee shop.  We meet Ben, owner of Cloud Station - as well as of the adjacent natural grocery. He hobbles with crutches,  having torn an Achilles tendon, but that doesn't stop him from being a great host. We find out he's Buddhist, then later that he's also Jewish. We find out there are many Jews in Crestone.  We begin to think of settling here for the winter.  Even though it can dip to minus 30 on some days.  But locals assured us that was only occasional.

NOAA tells us temperatures were dropping the next day so we hurry to find a place to rent.  Many interesting places, earth ships, straw bale, and the like. We think we may fare better than in Boulder.  We find a beautiful conventional house, with older carpets and paint, with views of a 14,000 ft peak, and of the great valley below, of large Pinyon trees on both sides, with a wonderful land lady, and with rent and terms unheard of in the cities.  We signed a lease.  Later that day, after a not so good reaction to the carpets. we cancelled.  The landlady was most gracious and kind hearted.

That night at the campground was gorgeous, and also frigid cold.  You can see one of the not so happy campers in the drivers seat, behind an ice encrusted windshield,  preparing to leave Crestone that morning.  A few hits of glancing at the Babaji card, with his effusive smile were helpful.

That's it for Part 1.  Please come back for Part 2 shortly.  You will learn what our landing has to do with a very different sort of landing that happened yesterday, Nov 12 - the first landing in history of a spacecraft on a comet. Oh, and you'll find out where we actually have landed, more or less. No, it's not a comet.  One request, please if you read this, say hi.  It doesn't have to be a megilla.  It's great to hear from you.

Love and Blessings,

Friday, October 3, 2014

Magnificence in the Ocean

This first posting, on the afternoon preceding Kol Nidre (Erev Yom Kippur), I dedicate to my beloved Eitz Or community in Seattle.  Joe and I have been on this road journey with our dog Iena, and with our little 1985 Burro travel trailer, since Nov 1, 2013.  We have been mostly in wilderness and mountain areas in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado.  We came down from the Rockies to the high desert town of Grand Junction, and there celebrated Erev Rosh Hashanah with the local shul.  It was short and sweet, and people were very welcoming...   and I found myself deeply missing the spirit, beauty, music, poetry, inspired leadership, and mostly the sweet fellowship at Eitz Or.  Ok, I was seriously depressed the day of RH.

We are preparing to join the community here in Durango, CO for Yom Kippur.  They have meditation prior to services, and offer Mussar practice during the year, so hopefully a good match. I want to share one story with you, and maybe I'll be lucky enough that you will see this and think of us during Yom Kippur!

This is one of many stories told by a gregarious older lady driver and guide, of a shuttle bus from  Aspen to Maroon Bells Lake, surely one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  There was a New York Jewish quality to her voice, but I may be just imagining.  Anyhow, the Aspen trees were at their prime with their brilliant gold of Fall, and our driver could not withhold her emotion.  "Ach, my heart melts seeing this...."   I imagine she has driven this route for forty years; it doesn't change the emotion, the love she has for this place.

She tells us that there is a place not far away in the Rockies, where there is an ocean of Aspen trees.  These trees are one magnificent organism, as this forest has propagated by sending up genetically identical shoots.  This ocean could be seen by the astronauts in the Space Shuttle.  The place, accessible by a well-maintained dirt road, is called Kebler Pass.  Later that day, a local hiker at Maroon Bells told me Kebler Pass is not to be missed.

A few days ago, there was a break in the rain, and we headed out for Kebler Pass.  I share these photos with you (more will come later), with the words of our wonderful song...


There is so much magnificence

in the ocean

Waves are coming in

Waves are coming in


I want to bless all my dear chevra with a sweet New Year, with Gamar Chatima Tovah, and with the blessing, that like the dear bus driver at Maroon Bells, we may infuse our prayer with emotion.

I leave you with these words of the Piaseczner Rebbe, also known as the Rebbe of the Warsaw Ghetto (thanks to Yiscah Smith for her inspiring teaching):

"The human soul loves to be emotional (lehitragesh).  Not just with joy, rather it simply (stam) loves to be emotional.  It even desires to be emotional with pain and crying..  Only a person who fulfills this law through his spiritual practice (avodah) and through emotionality (hitragshut) in Torah study and prayer preserves his soul.

I interpret "Torah study and prayer" to mean any study and practice of the heart.

Blessings from Joe and me,