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Musings From Freedom Ridge Ranch

Updated: 2017-11-14T08:16:29.397-07:00


Is Les Deplorables the Mark of the Regeneracy?


As those who read my blog and Facebook know, I am a student of the Strauss and Howe generational theory. I find it useful in thinking about what is happening with our beloved America and with us in this last turning of the Millennial Saeculum. Today I opened up my Facebook and saw an image of the street urchin with the flag from the French Revolution. Except that the flag was the American flag. And under the image the caption read: Les Deplorables. And I realized two things immediately. The first is that election 2016 is the regeneration of the Fourth Turning Crisis. And, secondly, Trump has won the election. Continuing Obama’s penchant for lecturing the American people about how terrible we are, Hillary made a serious mistake. In her screechy, scolding tone, she called Trump supporters “deplorable.” In other times, Trump supporters might have gotten angry, called names back or complained about Hillary. Not this time. This time, the Trump supporters picked up the gauntlet, and waved it in Hillary’s face. They started to call themselves “The Deplorables.”             The Trump Campaign picked up on this, and over the weekend just past, an artist created a backdrop that looked like this: At a rally in Miami, Trump came on stage in front of this image, as music from Les Mis' was played. The audience heard these lyrics: Do you hear the people sing?Singing a song of angry men?It is the music of a peopleWho will not be slaves again!When the beating of your heartEchoes the beating of the drumsThere is a life about to startWhen tomorrow comes.  With this performance, Trump has effectively won the election, barring any tragedy or serious misstep. First instead of calling names as Hillary did, his followers labeled themselves as Les Deplorables. By using this set from the French Revolution, Trump and his followers cast Hillary Clinton as Queen Marie Antoinette, the elitist who placed herself above her people, scolding them, and calling them names. Like the French queen, Hillary is unable to relate to the people she would like to rule, to the point of calling them “deplorable.”Following Strauss and Howe’s Generational Theory, what we are seeing here is the regeneration of the present Crisis period, and it looks like it will be revolutionary in nature. At the end of the last Crisis (the Great Depression and WWII), the GI Generation brought in a restorative order, implanting the values regime of the Third Great Awakening period that “began with the Haymarket Riot and the student missionary movement, rose with agrarian protest and labor violence, and climaxed in Bryan’s revivalist candidacy” in 1896. If all goes well, the Millennial generation will implant a revolutionary values regime based on the values of the Consciousness Revolution, 1964-1984, which Strauss and Howe say:   Began with urban riots and campus fury, swpointelled alongside Vietnam War protests and a rebellious “counterculture.” It gave rise to feminist, environmental, and black power movements—and to a steep rise in violent crime and family breakup. After the fury peaked with Watergate (in 1974), passions turned inward toward New Age lifestyles and spiritual rebirth (LifeCourse Associates, Website Resource Library, retrieved from:    In their generational theory, Strauss and Howe describe the course of a Crisis Period. A crisis period begins with a catalyst—some spark, an accident or event in history that changes the general mood of a society and increases its desire for social order. In our case, Strauss and Howe believe the catylist was the global financial crisis of 2008. Once provoked, the change in mood pushes the society toward regeneracy in which events cause members to draw together around some symbol or event and develop purposeful plans to overcome the emergency. This regeneracy creates a mood of re[...]

LNC, We Have a Problem


18 NotificationsAccount SettingsFriend RequestsSee AllFriend RequestsLauren StealmanGeorge PaulSteven HardinMomohjimoh AbdulGafarAlbert WillieDavid AlbertEnglish (US) · Русский · עברית · Español · Português (Brasil)Privacy · Terms · Advertising · Ad Choices · Cookies · More Facebook © 2016  News FeedElisheva Hannah Levin1 min · It just keeps on coming. During a conversation on a Facebook Page, I stated that I cannot give my sanction to the Johnson-Weld ticket. In response, someone wrote: "You can't say I am not a Libertarian." I responded with a discussion of reality and values. Really, what I ought to have said is this: When did everything become about you? I never even knew you existed. Whether you are a Libertarian or not has absolutely zero influence on my voting decisions. What I am concerned about is whether or not the ticket nominated by the Convention is living up to the standards of the Libertarian Party. It is not as if those standards are not well publicized. They are easy to find. Our vision (the goal) is: Our goal is nothing more nor less than a world set free in our lifetime, and it is to this end that we take these stands.(Preamble of the Libertarian Party Platform) Our purposes are: ARTICLE 2: PURPOSES The Party is organized to implement and give voice to the principles embodied in the Statement of Principles by: functioning as a libertarian political entity separate and distinct from all other political parties or movements; moving public policy in a libertarian direction by building a political party that elects Libertarians to public office; chartering affiliate parties throughout the United States and promoting their growth and activities; nominating candidates for President and Vice-President of the United States, and supporting Party and affiliate party candidates for political office; and, entering into public information activities.(From The LP By-Laws). Even our governing body, the LNC is not required to carte blanche support candidates who do not promote the vision and mission of our party. Furthermore, if the party continues to support those who not only do not support them, but in fact, in their speech and actions promote and support the opposite of them, we have a problem. The question the self-involved critic did not ask, but may have been attempting to imply is, how do we know know when a candidate or a ticket has crossed the line? After all, it is one thing to support a ticket that is aiming in the right direction--toward liberty--but that expresses differences of opinions about strategy and tactics. One may in fact support such a ticket because it has integrity and it does not compromise one's own integrity to do so.Thus, I supported Gary Johnson even though I completely disagree with his stance on the Nazi Cake issue, and I will not obey nor ask anyone else to obey such an unconstitutional edict. I did so because it was my understanding at the time that Gary allowed that he might be wrong and he stated that he did not want to make this a prominent part of his legislative agenda. That is, he was not running on this issue. I believed that he was speaking in good faith, and that allowed me to support the campaign. However, it is one thing to support a ticket that may be shaky on the goals, but still aiming in their direction, it is quite another to blindly support a ticket that is deliberately aiming in exact opposite direction of the goals. Such a ticket has no integrity, because a person running for office who can integrate principles would recognize that he or she should not be running on a platform that aims in the opposite direction of his or her goals. To continue to support such a ticket, means being out of integrity with one's own goals and principles. The means you are employing will not get you to the goals you say you want. At this point, to remain integrated, it is necessary for you to either recognize that you want different goals, or stop supporting the ticket. Somet[...]

Thoughts on the 2016 Election and the Regeneracy of the Fourth Turning


On June 5, 2009, I posted a blog entry here entitled: Of an Ominous Financial Crash, An Ordinary National Election, A Trivial Tea Party. That entry celebrated how I found a book I had been looking for, Strauss and Howe's The Fourth Turning: An American Prophecy: What the Cycles of History Tell Us About America's Next Rendezvous with Destiny. I wrote:As the strange and apparently ominous events of the past half-year have been accruing, I have wanted to re-read The Fourth Turning, but all my rooting in the accessible boxes in the garage came up wanting. So I was anxiously on the lookout for the book as I began the task of making my library as planned in the Chem Geek Princess's old room (now the Guest Room/Library). Thus I was amazed when finally, I found the book and read the page that fell open, and that last, pregnant sentence:" . . . the spark might seem as ominous as a financial crash, as ordinary as a national election, as trivial as a Tea Party."The context Strauss and Howe were referring to is the spark that sets off the transition into the Fourth Turning, the Crisis period of our time. In the summer of 2014, while writing my Ph.D. Comprehensive Exam Paper, I checked in on the Fourth Turning Discussion Groups that I have been a part of since 2002. There, I saw a link to a Neil Howe blog post ( in which he stated that he and Strauss had decided that the Fourth Turning of our era, the Millennial Saeculum, had likely begun with the Global Financial Crash in the fall of 2008. I believe that this timing may well prove to be right. The ages of the generations was right, with the Millennials fully occupying young adulthood, Generation X fully in mid-life, the Boomers fully occupying elderhood, and the very elder GIs leaving the planet. The generational archetypes were also aligned: the Prophets in elderhood, the Nomads in middle-age, the Heroes in young adulthood, and the young Artists arriving as children. Recently, I have noticed that people are beginning to talk about the dire nature of the current election. I have also heard forebodings about another economic shock to the system from people I am talking to for my dissertation research and from those involved in other projects with me. These premonitions of dire events to come are not directly a part of my research, but the Strauss and Howe theory may explain some of what I am finding. This was unexpected. I have also been anxious and upset about this election, and I have had to take a short break from Facebook in order to keep my focus on my dissertation work. I have been thinking about the election as part of a linear trend toward some totalitarian future, a fascist or socialist dystopia. So I pulled out The Fourth Turning and read it again, paying attention to the cyclical nature of Awakenings and Crises it describes. This gave me hope for the future despite the stresses to the current system that seem to be reaching a saecular maximum.In the Strauss and Howe Generational Theory, a saeculum is a cycle in time that "spans the length of a long human life, roughly eighty to one hundred years. Each cycle is comprised of four Turnings which are eras that come in the same order, saeculum after saeculum since the end of the Middle Ages. Strauss and Howe define the turnings as:The First Turning is a High, an upbeat era of strengthening institutions and weakening individualism, when a new civic order implants and the old values regime decays.The Second Turning is an Awakening, a passionate era of spiritual upheaval, when the civic order comes under attack from a new values regime. The Third Turning is an Unraveling, a downcast era of strengthening individualism and weakening institutions, when an old civic order decays and the new values regime implants.The Fourth Turning is a Crisis, a decisive era of secular upheaval, when the values regime propels the replacement of the old civic order with a new one. (Strauss & Howe, 1997, p. 3)In my re-reading, I noticed that some of wh[...]

Sukkot: Fragile Dwelling Place


  “The land of Israel is not rich in water resources. . . For this reason, a special prayer for rain was inserted into the [Sukkot] service. Since the rainy season starts approximately at Sukkot, it was the appropriate time to pray for rain. Jews are realists. One prays for rain during the rainy season, not during the dry summers. One walks across water by stepping on rocks . . .” -- Rabbi Irving Greenberg, The Jewish Way   I saw the full moon of Sukkot, Season of Our Joy, rising over the mesa in the east, into the white and misty clouds of hail that had just fallen over Freedom Ridge Ranch and was now falling out toward the Red Hill and Cimarron Mesa.  On the ground by the roses, on the porch, and over on the cabin and barn roofs, drifts of pellet-sized hail lay, melting slowly into the waters running off of the hills and mesas, downcutting into rills, rapids and even falls, as they sang their way down to Red Hill Draw.   There will be no Sukkah at Freedom Ridge Ranch tonight. Rain was still falling intermittently as Tippy and I picked our way across to check the chickens, jumping across a stream and its smaller tributary, both coming down from the dirt tank west of the barn. The other dogs were not the least bit interested in leaving the shelter of the living room. They were shell shocked from lightning, thunder, downpour and then hail. A sudden appearance of the setting sun lit up a rainbow over Freedom Ridge, and then curtains of rains covered it again, until the clouds passed to the east and the moon rose into them.   In the pattern of the Holy Days this year, building a Sukkah was called due to rain. The damage to the landscape, the flooding, the car bottoming out in standing water in Red Hill Draw by the shipping pens, all these things together made the typical Sukkot not only difficult, but unimaginable. Sukkot celebrates not only the Ingathering Harvest, the last of the Israeli year, but it also commemorates the years of wandering in the desert. It is a reminder of the fragility and impermanence of life.   For so many people in New Mexico, Arizona and Colorado, this impermanence is very real, as they realize what the floodwaters took, and clean up what is left, much of the stuff of their lives washed away like the stuff of our hillsides, roads and driveways. Normal life will not come for weeks or even months for friends of ours who live in Coal Creek Canyon. There house is high and soggy, but they will not see a return of drinking water and natural gas for a long while. They know the fragility of their dwelling place on real terms this Sukkot. For us, the damage is in a bottomed out car, washed out roads and rilling and gullying in our harsh but fragile landscape. We’ve come through lightly, really. But on another level, we are also confronting impermanence without the need to build a Sukkah this year. Although this is now our permanent dwelling here at Freedom Ridge Ranch, we are in the midst of completing repairs requested by the buyers of the house up in Sedillo, the beautiful house we both thought would be our last. And we are buying a casita, a small and comparatively inexpensive house on a hill north of the Sedillo house a good ten miles by road. The casita will be a place for the Cowboy to live while he finishes his degree and certifications in welding and metal technology. It will be a place for me to stay this fall and next spring, as I focus intensively on finishing my coursework so I can take my comprehensive exams. It will be a place for the Engineering Geek to land when he comes up to Albuquerque and Sandia Labs on business, for he has contracts that require his intermittent presence. It will not be home. But we will be back and forth between home and not-home a lot, all of us. And while this is the case, we hope to be completing the additions and renovations that will make the [...]

High Holy Days 5774:Who Causes the Wind to Blow and the Rain to Fall


Ordinarily, on Shemini Atzeret--the eighth day of lingering--at the end of Sukkot, we add t'filat ha-geshem--the prayer for rain--to the Amidah, which is the standing prayer in the daily services.  It is considered bad luck when the rains come early, and make it difficult to dwell in the Sukkah--the harvest booth--as is commanded during the Feast of Ingathering Harvest.  Geshem continues to be said across the winter until the spring Festival of Pesach is celebrated, when the summer blessing for Tal--Dew--is added and Geshem is retired until the next Sukkot Holiday. This corresponds to the seasons of Israel, wet in the winter and dry in the summer. This year. even as the Holy Days came early in the solar year, Rosh Hashanah starting on the evening of the 4th of September, so too did the rains come early. Or in our case, the monsoon stayed late, making holiday travel as difficult for Jews in Catron County, New Mexico, as it was for the Jews of Judea in the days of old when farmers were expected to build their Sukkot on the hills surrounding Jerusalem.We had planned to attend High Holy Day Services in Flagstaff, at the little Heichal ba-Oranim synagogue, where we had gone last year. I was looking forward to finally being able to join that congregation, now that the house in Sedillo is under contract, and we are able to make the necessary contributions. We have been without a home synagogue for more than a year, and we were looking forward to making a commitment and enjoying a pleasant holiday in a very haimish shul. Alas, it was not to be. As September came, a new and very wet monsoon plume settled over the Southwest. Predictions of thunderstorms and flash floods became a daily reminder that our roads could become impassible in no time at all.  Rosh Hashanah itself was partly cloudy, but the threat of rain made us decide to stay home lest we not be able to get back should the rains come.  We had a festive meal with all of the traditional foods on Erev Rosh Hashanah, and we prayed the evening service on the porch. The next morning, we again prayed on the porch, the sun dancing with the clouds as I proclaimed: Ha-yom harat olam!  This is the day of the world's birth! And the Engineering Geek blew the intricate set of Shofar calls three times: once for Creation, once for Memory, and once for Revelation. The sound of the Shofar rang out across Freedom Ridge, and the horses raised their heads, the dogs barked, and the cows began lowing. The hawk soared and circled on the wind, unconcerned. In the afternoon, we did leave for a drive around Big Lake, where the EG and my nephew skipped stones on the water after we cast our bread upon them in the ancient and fanciful ceremony of Tashlich, a casting away of the old and inviting in of the New Year. I have always thought that Tashlich is simply an excuse to take a walk on Rosh Hashanah afternoon, after a long morning service. It began to rain as we drove back along the county road to the ranch. Second day, and thunderstorms near candle-lighting for Shabbat. We missed the Sacred Assembly on the first and second days of the Seventh Month entirely. On Sunday after a day of rain, I drove out with the EG behind me in the Dodge Ram in case he had to pull me out. After slipping and sliding down the county road,  I went to Albuquerque for class, and to take care of some business. And on Tuesday, the rain set in there. It rained all day. ALL DAY. A record rainfall. I came home Wednesday, between storms. The road was soft, and there was water in the arroyo, and I drove on the high spots between ruts. Thursday, the rain began in our part of the state, and we knew that there would be no travel to Flagstaff for us. Friday, as I prepared the pre-fast meal, I read about the flooding in Colorado on the internet.Just before sunset, we invited Yitzak Pearlman to perform Kol Nidre via YouTube. All vows that we make between this Yom Kippur and[...]

9-11: She Stands


    I will never forget that day. It marked me just as surely as Pearl Harbor, Gettysburg and Valley Forge have marked previous generations of Americans.   I close my eyes and I see the images:  A tower burning in a clear, blue September sky. An airplane flying into a building. People falling along the side of a building. Towers falling, one floor into another. People running through what were once streets.   Papers falling from the clear blue September sky. All in silence. Like a dream.   And out of the dust and ashes, I see the image:  She stands. “Just when you think it might be over Just when you think the fight is gone Someone will risk his life to raise her There she stands  . . .” (10 I remember this as if I had been there.   Twelve years. And the tears still come.  We are wounded in spirit.  For a clear September sky still evokes the frozen images as if no time had passed.  But through the tears we see another rising to a new and taller stand. For Americans still rise to greatness, and there she stands. . . (2)   There she stands. It took longer than expected. And we look back and count the cost. 1776 feet she rises, There she stands. (2) The greatest monument to American dead is to rebuild the alabaster cities of their dreams. Out of the rubble, we raise them up: higher, prouder, stronger than before. She stands. When evil calls itself a martyr When all your hopes come crashing down Someone will pull her from the rubble There she stands. (1) Both of them-- the flag and the Freedom Tower (3) we raise to remind ourselves of who we are and to what we commit ourselves.     “Oh, beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years. Thine alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears. . .” (4) Click through to see a time-lapse video of the rise of the Freedom Tower. (3) NOTES: 1. There She Stands by Michael W. Smith 2. My words in the spirit of There She Stands, with apologies to Michael W. Smith. 3. I know they changed the name, but for me, it is and will always be Freedom Tower. 4. America the Beautiful by Katherine Lee Bates. Technorati Tags: 9-11,Memory,American Exceptionalism,Times and Seasons [...]

Walking the Thin Line: Elul 5773


  “I, I Am the One that comforts you; who are you, to be afraid of man that shall die, and of the son of man that shall be made as grass. . .?” --Haftorah Shoftim, Isaiah 51:12   “Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue . . .” --Parashat Shoftim, Devarim 16:20   “Walking the thin line, between fear and the call; one learns to bend and finally depend on the Love of it all.” --Noel Paul Stookey, For the Love of It All The month of Elul started last Monday at sundown, on Rosh Chodesh, the sixth New Moon from the New Year for months. My Elul dream this year came late, on Wednesday night, and without clarity or drama. In fact, I really don’t remember it at all, except that I dreamed of the current rabbi at our former synagogue, and of a neighbor in need of help finding a lost cat. I awoke to Tippy, my guardian Border Collie cross, pawing at my shoulder in the middle of the night. She feels it is important to awaken me when something unusual is going on. I went out to see an elk buck with eight points standing in the meadow in the deep darkness under a setting Big Dipper handle. Tippy did not bark at the elk this time; she seemed to think the elk belonged exactly in that place. She just wanted me to know he was there and awakened me to see him standing.   I don’t have a ready interpretation for the fragment of a dream or the meaning of seeing the elk standing in his place. Their significance escapes me, except that as I stood gazing at the elk in the starlight, I remembered that it was now Elul.  This Shabbat, as the Engineering Geek and I sat down to study Torah, I was struck by two statements that jumped off the pages and into my mind, one from the beginning of the Parashat of the week, and one from its Haftorah. As I turned them over in my mind, I realized that the two of them together represent that place I have been for the last half-decade: I have been “walking the thin line between fear and the call” as Emmy Lou Harris sings in the Paul Stookey song, The Love of it All.   The Torah portion for the first Shabbat in Elul is Shoftim, which means “judges” or “chieftans” in Hebrew. In the first paragraph, which deals with how judgment must conform to justice, we read: “You shall make for yourselves judges and officers in all your gates, which Adonai your G-d gives you, tribe by tribe; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment: you shall not pervert justice; you shall not respect persons; neither shall you take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the  eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and possess the land that Adonai your G-d is giving to you.”   צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדּף Tzedek, tzedek, tirdof The call at the beginning of the Month of Elul—the beginning of the season of our turning, is to pursue justice or righteousness. In Hebrew, the words are the same. Justice means to make a judgment according to honor, standards or the law, meting out to every individual what is right according to his or her rights and actions. Our rabbis taught that there is the justice of the streets—the righteousness with which we must treat every person—and the justice of the courts. If we fail to act with justice in all of our dealings on the streets, then justice must be adjudicated in the courts. In his commentary on the Torah, Joseph Hertz, Ph.D., who was the Chief Rabbi of Britain in the early 20th century, points out that in this sense, the Hebrew understanding of justice differs from the Greek. He wrote that in the Greek, justice implies: “[A] harmonious arrangement of society, by which every human peg is put into its appropriate hole, so that those who perform humble functions shall be content to perform them in due subservience[...]

Lie in August’s Welcome Corn!


     “Join in black December’s sadness, lie in August’s welcome corn, stir the cup that’s ever blending with the blood of all that’s born . . .” -- Jethro Tull,  Cup of Wonder, from Songs from the Wood                           Pesach took me by surprise and then there was a long silence on this blog. So many things happened in April and May and then summer was upon us, and now the Monsoon and the first hints of autumn are already showing themselves here in the high country. Elul is also upon us, early this year just as Pesach was. But in order to begin looking to the year ahead, I need to look back at least a bit to see what brought me from there to here.   April, Come She Will: The post-Pesach Spring Term was divided between Freedom Ridge Ranch and the house in Sedillo. Both the Cowboy and I were taking classes, he at CNM and me at UNM. In April, we drove up to Albuquerque every Monday morning and returned late Thursday night. It was a hectic busy time, make more do-able by the increasing light and warmth, although it was a cool spring in New Mexico. In April, I:   Edited a dissertation for my Ruby Slipper friend, doing both APA Style formatting, grammar and spelling, and helping with writing style. Worked on a literature review for a class I was taking, as well as a research proposal and presentation.   Enjoyed down time hanging out at Barnes and Noble in Albuquerque, and began planning the summer work at the ranch. May Days: The term ended for the Cowboy and I at the end of April,  and he returned to the ranch and stayed. However, I was still back and forth there, and on up to Aurora, Colorado, mostly on Libertarian Business. In May, I:   Helped plan and attended the LPNM annual convention, where I was termed out as Vice Chair and began a term as Secretary. There was a lot of politicking involved this time as we had a take-over threat and I really wanted our current Chair to remain Chair, although he wasn’t so sure.   Continued final editing on the Ruby Slipper’s dissertation, which reported a kick-ass study he did.   Drove up to Aurora one weekend for the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance meeting, held in conjunction with the Colorado State Convention. This was great—more relaxed than the bi-annual National Convention—there was plenty of time to talk to Libertarians. It always feels like coming home!    With the pressures of committee and comps preparation over for the semester, I had a chance to spend time with Excel Manufacturing friends after a long hiatus.   At the ranch, we welcomed our only baby calf of the spring (we had shipped some of the older cows and the bull earlier in the year). We also had water-pipe problems and had to work on the system, and install a new French drain in the irrigation system as well. We got the fencing complete for the greenhouse/garden area. June is the Hottest Month: June is hot and dry in New Mexico. Every living thing begins to long for water, and people slow down. We had several weeks of very hot weather, and late in June, temperatures climbed to a record 106 degrees. During late May and June, we had a number of serious wildfires in New Mexico and Arizona, and we saw some smoke at the ranch and in Albuquerque. In June: I picked up my nephew, the Illinois Boy, at the airport as his parents moved to Texas and he came to try out life at the ranch. Once he adjusted to the altitude, he took to it very well. The day I picked up the IB, I had a long talk with my realtor, and we brought the price down for the Sedillo house, my beautiful Hobbit Hole. It was a painful decision, but important. We knew we need[...]

Pesach: This Kept Us Standing


  “And this Covenant is what kept our ancestors standing, and ourselves as well: That in every generation more than one enemy has arisen against us, to annihilate us, but the Covenant of the Holy One has stood and delivered us from their hands.” --Vehi Sheamda, Hagaddah shel Pesach “Rashi comments that this declaration of Vehi Sheamda is the reiteration of the promise that Ha-Shem made to Avraham of "V'gam as hagoi asher ya'avdu, dan anochi..." The nation that enslaves you will also be judged by Me..." This promise, which has stood for our forefathers, stands for us as well. Anyone who comes upon us, Ha-Shem judges them and saves us from their hands.”  --R. Yehuda Prero, The Passover Hagaddah Commentary Part I: Maggid ( Passover time seems to take me by surprise when it comes early in the solar year. This year, it begins this Monday evening, March 25, and getting myself motivated to do the cleaning, get the chametz out, and turn the kitchen over has been difficult. With everything that is going on in our lives right now, I kept hearing that voice in my head saying: “I don’t want to do it this year. This year, I think I’ll skip it. After all, how important is that I, a little person, observe all the rituals and complete the slaving cleaning for Pesach. Surely, the Universe will not be disturbed by my decision not to participate.”   And then a friend sent me this beautiful rendition of Vehi Sheamda with commentary by the chief rabbi of South Africa:   And when I saw the translation given for the first line of the Vehi Sheamda: “And this COVENANT is what kept our ancestors standing, and ourselves . . .” I got it. Of course it matters that I clean and remove the chametz from our little house, here on the edge of the Mogollon Rim, far from the centers of power in the world. From the point of view of those who hate us, who denigrate the beautiful heritage of Torah, it does not matter what I do. In fact, they would rather that I did nothing. They would rather that I, that we, forget the Covenant and disappear like all the other nations, becoming a footnote to a footnote in the reaches of history. “For in every generation, more than one enemy has arisen to destroy us.” This statement is undeniably true. Never in our long and tumultuous history, have the Jewish people been ignored and been allowed to freely exercise the observance of our Covenant unopposed. Although America has become home and our greatest sanctuary, it is uncertain at best, given the hatred directed at the Land of Free and the Home of Brave, and at those of us among her people who are Jews. And yet we persist. Out of sheer cussed stubbornness, we insist on going on existing despite the depredations of our enemies. And why do we persist? That is a miracle of the most Hebrew kind. For no natural laws have been suspended for us, and many of Jews have gone up in smoke, or have had rockets rain down upon their heads in their own lands, or have been forced from their homes in Egypt, in Yemen, in Iran—from those days at this season, to this day when we live under the threat of being bombed back to the stone age by mullahs from the stone age. But the signs and wonders are there, and the evidence of the mighty hand of the Eternal, for those with eyes to see them. Unlike Moses, most of the world has no patience to sit and watch a bush aflame until they can see that it is not consumed. And so most human beings miss the signs and wonders that they walk past every day. Among them, is this sign. Once again, all over the world, Jewish women retrieve the mops and brooms, fill their pails with water, and begin the ancient ritual of clearing out the chametz—the leaven—from their homes. We kneel down to sweep it away w[...]

Lady Macbeth is a Racist: Newspeak, Self-Censorship and Withdrawing Sanction


  A good deal of the literature of the past was, indeed, already being transformed [ideologically]. Considerations of prestige made it desirable to preserve the memory of certain historical figures, while at the same time bringing their achievements into line with the philosophy of Ingsoc. Various writers, such as Shakespeare, Milton, Swift, Byron, Dickens, and some others were therefore in process of translation: when the task had been completed, their original writings, with all else that survived of the literature of the past, would be destroyed. --George Orwell: Principles of Newspeak   Simply put, if you are . . . for Constitutionally limited government, free market capitalism, equality under the law, and freedom for all Americans, then you are a racist. If you are for unlimited government and increasing dependency on the Democrat Party, then you are not a racist. Any questions? -- Kyle Becker: The Politically Correct Guide to Racism for Idiots    I saw that there comes a point, in the defeat of any man of virtue, when his own consent is needed for evil to win—and that no manner of injury done to him by others can succeed if he chooses to withhold his consent. I saw that I could put an end to your outrages by pronouncing a single word in my mind. I pronounced it. The word was “No.” --Ayn Rand: John Galt’s Speech, Atlas Shrugged   There has been much discussion on the internet of the Progressive Democrat’s tendency to avoid constructing an argument or to shout down a painful truth by accusing others of racism. On the punditry level, such accusations has gone from the ridiculous to the outright idiotic as black Democratic Party hacks have gone from accusing libertarians and conservatives of racism for criticism of the president for his ideology and policies to accusing us of racism for the use of certain otherwise neutral words in our political speech. It has come to the point where one can neither criticize Obama for his general ineptitude, foreign policy or domestic policies, nor use certain words (“golf,” “apartment,” “anger,” “socialist” and “crime” all come to mind) in reference to any administration official whatsoever, without being accused of being a racist. In the political arena, we know the purpose of this tactic: it is to silence and isolate the opposition without the bother of actually constructing an argument. Such demonization is a shortcut to winning through intimidation, in order that certain ideas become impossible to talk about at all, ensuring the Democratic party an unearned hegemony over public discourse. In short, it is Newspeak in the Orwellian sense: The purpose of Newspeak was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. It was intended that when Newspeak had been adopted once and for all and Oldspeak forgotten, a heretical thought -- that is, a thought diverging from the principles of IngSoc -- should be literally unthinkable, at least so far as thought is dependent on words. --George Orwell: Principles of Newspeak Thus the accusation of racism in response to political speech in this fashion is the tool of the demagogue, pure and simple. Even more troubling is the use of the tactic by progressives against their “friends” during personal and public conversations on any topic in which someone lets a political (but not necessarily partisan) statement slip out. Here again, the purpose of the accusation is to demonize someone who does not agree on some issue, and to  silence opposition in order to evade an unwanted truth. Since we live in a society that conflates accusation with guilt, such an attack is difficult to recov[...]

Of Bullies, Trolls, Curmudgeons and Aspergers


“ ‘The Kid’ never races anybody. He just sits there and scares the hell out of ‘em.” --- Paul Stookey, Paultalk "Who is more foolish? The fool, or the fool who follows him?” --Obi Wan Kenobi, Star Wars: A New Hope Yetzer ha-Ra: That Troll hole sure looks interesting . . . Yetzer ha-Tov: Stay on target. Stay on target!Yetzer ha-Ra: Maybe we can have a productive conversation, he can’t be ALL bad!            Yetzer ha-Tov: Negative, Captain. That Troll’s female hatred index is 78%,  and the diction analysis indicates a high level of cruel cynicism. Recomend aborting the diversion and heading straight for an Objectivist bulletin board.  Yetzer ha-Ra: Poor troll, there’s probably just a scared little boy inside. You can bring out the . . Yetzer ha Tov: Do NOT feed the troll! Do NOT feed the . . . . Damn. She’s gonna . . . there it goes! Libertarian Trolls are NOT rational. It’s gonna be ugly . . .                                     Ship: Ping! Brrrrwahahahahahaharhrhrhrh! Pow! Yetzer ha-Ra: Beetle-bomb!                      Yetzer ha-Tov: Captain, impulse engines still operating. What are your coordinates, Ma’am? Ship: (Coughing slightly and waving smoke away). Where is that Objectivist site, again?  I think maybe a fuel change is in order.  Earl Gray. Hot! ---- Fragment of Internal Dialogue   On the internet, bullies are people who derive a certain sense of power by sneering and whining, deliberately targeting those who take a discussion seriously or literally, and taking conversations off-track. In short, petty cyber-bullies—often called trolls—will do anything to keep a conversation from evolving in order to keep themselves at the center of attention, even as the circle of that attention becomes smaller and smaller.  Outside of the cyber-world, the way to stop a bully is to call him out. A bully is generally  a coward with an aversion to picking on someone who will fight back. Running in and slashing at others, then retreating like a hyena is the typical bully style. This is why I taught my son that the manly thing to do is never to start a fight, but always finish it. Decisively.   But in the cyber-world, where people have been intimidated by a false definition of censorship, and where the only person with any freedom of speech is the bully himself, what most often happens is that bullies are not confronted or removed. Instead, conversation at a site or page dwindles to just the few bullies, who jockey and sneer at imaginary foes, and the utility of the place is lost. This is a problem for site owners and administrators, who have often spent a good deal of time building a place for a certain kind of conversation, only to have it devolve into endless and meaningless bickering over tangential details, while the point—and the pleasure—is lost. Although we all know that “feeding the troll” is pointless, most of us from time-to-time foolishly do it anyway, whether out of a misplaced sense of respect for the humanity of the little shit, or the transparently naive hope of breaking through to have a real conversation. And sometimes, we hope that by so doing, somebody else on the page will be drawn out of their silence and the page will become what it was. This seldom works, and the page generally continues its bully-induced slide into silence and obsc[...]

A Line in the Sand


When liberals talk about "gun culture" . . . It isn't about the guns really, though gun control culture is worried about having that much personal autonomy in the hands of people who don't share their values and like their independence, it's about rural America. And rural America, like guns, is another symbol that stands in for traditional America. --Daniel Greenfield, Sultan Knish Blog: Gun Culture and Gun Control CultureMolṑn labéis ( Molon Labe) is a classical expression of defiance reportedly spoken by King Leonidas I in response to the Persian army's demand that the Spartans surrender their weapons at the Battle of Thermopylae. . . So what does molon labe mean? Well, it is an invitation -- and a challenge -- all rolled into one. From the original Greek molon labe means: "Come and take 'em." -- JD Longstreet, Right Side News Blog: Americans Won’t Give Up Guns, Law or NotTechnorati Tags: Liberty and Tyranny,Constitution,Individual Rights,Second Amendment As we end the year here in the rump end of flyover country, we have been talking about the new and even more insidious threats to our liberty and our way of life.   Americans of a certain bent are fond of talking about “wars” that are not shooting wars. From the Obama administration we have heard that if we do not like our tax money going toward someone else’s contraception, we are perpetrating a “War on Women.” Ronald Reagan brought us the “War on Drugs” (which has become a shooting war down on the border), and LBJ brought us the “War on Poverty” all those years ago. We do not appear to be winning either of these ersatz wars. I am sure there are other “wars” that are not wars out there, and as a Libertarian, I am deeply suspicious of “wars” on inanimate objects or conditions, because they are generally used as an excuse to limit our liberties. In rural America, however, we have known for some time that the executive branch of the federal government has plans to wage a war on our way of life. It started in 2008 when presidential candidate Barack Obama told his supporters at a San Francisco fundraiser about rural Americans bitterly clinging to “guns and religion.” ( This war isn’t only about guns and religion, both of which the progressive leftists of the Obama administration despise, it is also a war on rural small holders and is being waged by the government against us with bureaucratic weapons such as land use policies, sweeping EPA regulations, and farm bills such as SB 1050, which set the stage for regulations on what we can sell and even what we can consume from our own farms and ranches.  But the war on “flyover country”—that vast interior of the North American continent that is terra incognita to the progressive city dwellers on the coasts—is heating up because of the fear this administration has of law-abiding, armed citizens. Their maps are not labeled “Here there be Dragons” in fancy, medieval print; rather they say: “Here there be GUNS.” And as Daniel Greenfield pointed out at the Sultan Knish Blog (quoted above), those guns are a symbol to the progressives. They represent  people who do not need or want federal government help, and who often refuse it, knowing from bitter experience that when the Feds come marching in, local interests are no match for the interests of outsiders such as environmentalists and bureaucrats. In the rump end of flyover country we understand that government “help” really means government interference, the destruction of our local economies, and ultimately, tyranny by a metro-majority that doesn’t know a thing about our way of life, fears it, and wishes to force us to conform to an alien and un-Ameri[...]

Slowing Down: Thanksgiving at Freedom Ridge


I blinked, and Thanksgiving has come and gone, special baking done, leftovers packed and sent back to school with the Catron Kid, and quiet has now descended on Freedom Ridge Ranch. Last I looked, it was September, and the High Holy Days just finished. We were looking forward to Sukkot, and suddenly we are on Standard Time, the leaves have fallen, the Sukkah is long down and the days are alarmingly short. How did the fall days get away from me? The election, that’s how. From the day after Yom Kippur until election day, I was caught up by the needs of the Gary Johnson Campaign. As the New Mexico State Director for Gary Johnson 2012, I felt as if I was swept away for the month of October, with the High Holidays serving as the deep breath before the final lap. The rest of the week of the election was spent in Albuquerque, too, doing the post-mortem on the campaign with senior campaign officials, and the Libertarian Party of New Mexico, along with spending time with my new primary dissertation advisor, getting myself primed for The Next Big Thing. I intend to write about the last weeks of the campaign—I really do!—but I need to let it all settle. It was exciting, maddening and exhausting. I learned so much, and I need to let it all settle before I decide which lessons are lasting. I arrive home on Veteran’s Day, and by the following Thursday—Rosh Chodesh Kislev, for I seem to have missed Cheshvan entirely!—we were in Show Low, the Engineering Geek and I, shopping for Thanksgiving. On Friday morning, I began my baking, and then after a weekend adjusting to not needing to be glued to the computer, it was Elisheva’s All Kitchen, All the Time Station right up through Thursday. After several months of neglecting my family in order to be mom to various and sundry Gary Johnson volunteers, I felt the need to s-l-o-w down and bake and cook, and bake  and cook some more. We also deserved some time to talk, to study, to do a slow dance in the kitchen to a Hank William’s Jr. tune, and read to one another in bed in the morning until the sun comes over the mesa. So I cooked for five days of leftovers, and made everything from scratch: from crescent rolls to pumpkin pie. (I made my own filling for those from the pie pumpkins we grew in the garden). The weather has been wonderful. Short, late fall days of sunshine with those heartbreaker turquoise blue New Mexican skies, that fade into deep blue as the sun goes behind the mesas by four in the afternoon. Afternoons at 60 degrees are followed by cold, star-filled nights that cry out for a fire. Since he had a late class on Wednesday in Albuquerque, the Catron Kid had driven down early on Thursday morning, and rode El Chapo in the early afternoon, when I chased everyone out of the kitchen—everyone, including dogs and cats.We ate our Thanksgiving dinner as the sun slipped behind Power Line Mesa, slowly and with great attention to the goodness of our fortunes. Elections, war, and scandal notwithstanding, our little family is truly blessed and we know it. After dinner, we settled down to watch Monumental, Kirk Cameron’s film about the Pilgrims. We were reminded that  this election and the challenges it will bring to our freedom are grave difficulties, the door seemed to be slammed repeatedly on the Pilgrims, they did not give up, cry foul or fall into despair. They persisted in believing in their 500 year plan. And since we have a bit more than 100 years to go on that, we should be strong and resolute as were they. Friday, the Engineering Geek and I took an afternoon’s lazy drive up into the mountains behind the Little Colorado over in Arizona. We worked our way up into the cal[...]

Yom Kippur: The Day of Decision


“This is the Day of Decision . . .” “ . . . in the camps and streets of Europe mother and father and child lay dying, and many looked away. To look away from evil: Is this not the sin of all “good” people?” “Turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why should you choose to die, O House of Israel?” --Sha’arei T’shuvah: The Reform Machzor   Our lives are fleeting, like a leaf that rides on the river of time, for a while, and then subsides, while the river flows on. This is one theme of Yom Kippur and the High Holy Days in general, timed as they are in the month of autumn, from the dark of the moon to its waxing. This year the Engineering Geek and I felt this acutely, as our daily household has shrunk to just the two of us, with both children up and out. This gives us both pause about where we are in our lives, with more years behind us than ahead, but it also confers a certain freedom, and one way that we expressed it was to choose to spend Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur differently, cutting ties to the synagogue where the children were raised. We went to the small, eclectic and egalitarian shul in Flagstaff, taking a hotel room in order to experience Yom Kippur free of the distraction of long distance driving. Of course, in the odd way of the Jewish world, where smaller degrees of separation abound and bind across continents, we found connections with the president of the congregation, another member who remembers me as a very pregnant cantorial soloist, and the rabbi herself, with whom I share a mentor, a study partner, and a course of study.   And for the first time in our ten years of marriage, the EG and I also were free to really spend some time on the Day of Atonement studying the Machzor—the High Holy Day Prayer Book—free of distractions. This was a boon we had not counted upon, and it worked out because the little shul has an organized morning service followed immediately by Yizkor (the Memorial Service), after which there is a long break until Neilah, the evening service just before breaking the fast. Not wanting to put ourselves in places of commerce nor to go back to the hotel, we went instead to Buffalo Park—a huge open space under the San Francisco Peaks—and there we found a lone marble bench facing the mountains, cloud-shadowed beyond a field of yellow daisies, where we prayed the afternoon service for ourselves, stopping to discuss and comment upon it along the way. And as is always true for me, themes that match what is going on in my inner and outer life fairly jumped out of the pages of the Machzor, demanding to be confronted. Yom Kippur is, as the prayer book says, a day of decision. The image is the Book of Life being open at the Seat of Judgment, as every human being chooses between good and evil, life and death: You open the book of our days and what is written there proclaims itself, for it bears the signature of every human being. . . This is the Day of Judgment . . .” But the problem for many Jews is that we have taken a concept of judgment from the dominant culture, one that is foreign to our own world view. This idea is that human beings should eschew judgment altogether, that it is wrong to make a judgment—which I cannot help but point out, is a judgment itself. For because human being have the capacity to make decisions, we must necessarily make judgments between good and evil, between right and wrong, between life and death. Judgment is not an option, and it is also not something to be feared: Your love is steadfast on Judgment day, and you keep your covenant in judgment . . . You penetrate mysteries on Judgment Day, and you free you[...]

Shabbat Shuvah: The Foreign Gods of Today


Technorati Tags: Times and Seasons,High Holy Days,American Exceptionalism,Torah Study “The Eternal said to Moses: You are about to sleep with your fathers, and this people will rise up and go astray after foreign gods, where they will go to be among them, and break my Covenant . . . and many troubles and evils shall befall them.” Devarim 31: 16, 17 As Jews, we are now in the midst of the Ten Days of Turning, the days between Rosh Hashanah, when we celebrate the Birthday of the World, and Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, the most solemn holy day of the year. The Sabbath that falls between these two holy days is Shabbat Shuvah, the Sabbath on which rabbis and maggids (preachers) commonly give a sermon on the art of turning and returning to the path of righteousness. When the Engineering Geek and I took a few moments for Torah Study on Shabbat, with all of what had happened in the past weeks in mind, we noticed a part of Parashat Vayelich that the Women of Reform Judaism’s Torah Commentary remained silent about. Devarim  (Deuteronomy) is set as Moses’ last speech, with some interpolations that move the story along. In Vayelich (He Went), Moses learns that he has reached the end of his long life, and that he will die before the people Israel enter the promised land. The Women’s Commentary therefore focuses on what this means for Moses, and the reasons given and implied for his death at the moment of his people’s freedom. But given the stark choices that confront us all in the world today, and the contradictory and craven behavior of our Executive  Branch in the face of the renewed attacks on the United States through our embassies--attacks used to threaten our most basic freedoms--the Engineering Geek and I focused on the passage that the commentary passed over. In it, a prediction is made by the Eternal. The people will cross over, and they will build lives in the land, and become complacent (“. . . they shall have eaten their fill and waxed fat. . .”, 31:20), and that is when they will be vulnerable to turning away from their heritage and their purpose, and follow after foreign gods that they have not experienced. When this happens they will, the story predicts, forsake the Covenant, and bring upon themselves many “troubles and evils.” In encountering this story, we ask ourselves, what are foreign gods in the context of our identity as Americans today? Most of us do not literally bow down to idols of wood and stone made by our own hands. And many of us bow down to no gods at all. Further, this passage is about what happens when many members of a society make a choice to change their basic beliefs about their civil identity, and forsake the heritage given them by previous generations. In Hebrew, the United States is known as Artzot ha-Brit shel Amerika, ( ארצות הברית של אמריקה) the Land of the Covenant in America. This is a recognition that our unique identity is forged not by blood ties, but that who we are is based on our choice to abide by a set of ideas that are protected by an contract, the Constitution of the United States. On September 11, 2001, many of us were rudely made aware for the first time in a generation that our ideas about who human beings are and what we define as the good life in our civilization were under attack; that another set of ideas opposes ours, and that proponents of those alien ideas are willing to make war upon us, and to fight and die to see that their ideas prevail in the world. On that day, as the towers fell, we instinctively drew together, and the day after, we put up our flags and re[...]

Rosh HaShannah: The Turning of the Year


New Mexico Sunflowers in Rock Garden     "I have set watchmen upon thy walls, O Jerusalem, they  shall never hold their peace, day or night."  Isaiah 62:3This morning we awoke to a sunny and cool, early fall day, mists rising from the ground, and the sky in the south and east milky white in contrast to the deep blue New Mexico sky to the northwest. After a week of wind, clouds and rain, we were happy to see the sun. As the Catron Kid went riding on Chapo, the Engineering Geek and I started out of the front gate with three of the dogs, anticipating a Shabbat walk along the western fences of Freedom Ridge Ranch. The cool morning turned into a warm and sunny day as we climbed up the mesa to the northwest, greeting the other two horses, grazing up there in the high pasture. We noted how the year is turning, talking about some of the things we want to do this coming year on the ranch: putting a windmill and solar combined tower up along the ridge behind the house, divide the high pasture, and divide the front pasture, get the solar completely installed, and take more walks like this one, enjoying the beauty of the place.Early fall on the Continental Divide is different in appearance from what I grew up with and even from what we experienced in the East Mountains. Here, instead of bold oranges and browns, with the grass of soft wheat color, we see water in the stock tanks, and pooling in the draws and washes, a gift of the late days of a good Monsoon. The grass is green from the water, and the sky soft blue, like spring in more conventional parts of America. The boldest colors come from the yellow Black-Eyed Susans and New Mexico Sunflowers, the orange and pink of Globe-Mallow, and the blues and purples of various clovers, gilias and penstemons, and the rare orange-red of Indian Paintbrush on the high mesa tops and along the washes in the canyons. Fall steals into this high country on the heels of the late summer wildflowers, color dotting the gray-green of the range subtly, as the days grow shorter and sunshine replaces the late-afternoon Monsoon rainfall. The days grow shorter, the shadows deepen and the nights grow even cooler. And with the turning of the year, we mark the New Year for Years, Rosh Hashannah, which falls on the first day of the seventh month in the Jewish Calendar. As the heat of summer fades, we welcome a new beginning just before the harvest: 5773. As we took our walk, we savored the peace around the Sabbath noontide, and we did not speak of our fears and concerns, heightened this week by the world's slide into chaos, and threatened Israel's complete isolation as it deals with the threat of annihilation.  It is easy, way out here, to move with the turn of the earth, the comings and goings of the herds and flocks, and the blowing of the wind. It is quiet, and the nature of the place and its solitude knows not of human strife, chaos and wars. New Mexicans outside the three cities we have in the state are accused of being provincial, and we are, being far removed from the goings on beyond our mesas and mountains. "The mountains are high," we say, "And the king is far away." But even without television (we have one, but we don't get broadcast TV --or radio--in our canyon), we do hear of what is happening "out there," although it seems far away. So inevitably, when we returned from our two hour hike up the mesa and around and down, and turned to the Haftarah, the perils our country and our people face stared up at us from the printed page, the words of a prophet writing  more than two-and-a-half millennia ago. There is nothing new under the sun in the affairs of men, I [...]

Eleven Years Later: My September 10th Persona


“Oh beautiful for Patriot’s dream that sees beyond the years;Whose alabaster cities gleam, undimmed by human tears.America, America, God mend thy every flaw, Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy Liberty in Law.” As I write tonight, two shafts of blue light rise into the Manhattan sky. Three quarters of a continent away, they commemorate the last time that September 11 fell on a Tuesday, when our country was attacked out of a clear, blue sky, and when a generation lost its innocence. I was teaching that morning, and my car pool driver and I were very nearly late for work. I had a head-ache and a heart-ache after a weekend of conflict with my sixteen year old daughter, and we had agreed not to listen to the radio, so the drive in was peaceful that morning as we listened to Vivaldi’s Autumn. I remember thinking that our fellow Albuquerque drivers were unusually polite that morning, as my friend skillfully maneuvered in traffic, and parked so that we could each dash to our respective classrooms. Stopping by my own classroom to pick up my lesson plans and basket, I arrived at the demo bench for my Physics for Poet’s class just as the final bell sounded. I put my basket of teaching materials on the bench and remained standing as the intercom clicked on, and I expected to hear a Senior’s voice say: “Please stand for the prayer and the Pledge . . .” (I was teaching science in a Catholic High School at that time). Instead, I heard the chaplain across the air, his voice shaking as he said: “Because our country is under attack, I have been asked to give the prayer. . .” I remember looking questioningly at my students, who looked back at me, big-eyed and solemn. And I knew that we had all turned a corner at that moment, although I had no idea at all what had happened. The ubiquitous “they” say that now that we have passed the tenth anniversary of that day, we need to get over it, to move on. But every year, when I tune into the morning radio show I listen to, I hear a montage of the sounds of that day, and I know that “getting over it” is not something that I want to do, or could if I tried. Moving on is something that we have all done, although that movement has been a journey down an unfamiliar road, to a different trajectory. There are some moments that bind us together, that change us irrevocably, that replace the easy familiarity of how we think things will always be in the instant that a plane struck a tower on a clear, blue Tuesday morning. Today, some of us across the country have chosen to use this day as a day to reflect on who we were on September 10, 2001, and on how the events of that day, seared into our brains, have changed us, spun us around on our paths, and put us on a path to become September 12 people. So tonight, as the rain falls on the metal roof of a house in a place that I had never expected to live, I resolved to do this, to begin to sort out how I got from there to here. September 11 did not sweep me from one reality to another; that process had already begun, brought about by a more personal crisis a few years before. But it did irrevocably change so many things, although those changes were gradual and hard won.   On September 10, 2001, my life was already in flux. A cancer had already turned my head around and caused to me question the choices that I had made and was making. In the two years since I had a lump removed and prophylactic radiation done, I had chosen to buy a house for me and my two kids and to leave my marriage. It was not that life was easy before. I had taken sole responsibility for the support [...]

Like Losing My Religion


Technorati Tags: Change,Judaism,Times and Seasons,ValuesThat was just a dream . . . That’s me in the corner, that’s me in the spot. light. I’m losing my religion . . . REM, Low(Bootleg) Album             A few days ago, I awoke from a dream to find myself here at the ranch, sun pouring across the mesa outside my window and finch traffic at the birdbath. The dream was one of those weird ones that signal the changes of seasons and even deeper changes in me. And as I sat up in bed, feeling not quite awake yet, I thought: It must be Elul. I have these numinous dreams rarely, and when I do it is at this time and this season. In this dream, there were no transitions, just sudden change of scenes, as if I had been dropped into the middle of filming an ongoing movie. There are two parts I remember quite vividly, and the rest is a blur of impressions that faded immediately upon my awakening. First, I am suddenly inside our synagogue, in the social hall, floating among people, and I realize that I don’t know a single soul among them, and then I see that their faces are all the same. Later, I am in the parking lot, down on the level of the pavement, and I  was looking at  two outdated jeeps parked against the wall, one listing away from the other, and both sitting on their frames, no tires. The plates are tagged with dates in the 5750’s. I reach out to touch the jeep on the right, and instead find myself placing my open hand on a pile of clothes. I know that I need to pick them up, take them inside, because somebody there has need of them. As I lift each article, I notice that one item belonged to me once, a red skirt I wore at my Bat Mitzvah, and I fold it up because it doesn’t fit me anymore. . . That morning as we had our morning coffee in bed, I turned to the Engineering Geek and told him that it was the first of Elul and that we had to think seriously about the upcoming Holy Days, and make some decisions. He nodded. He knew. We’ve been putting it off for a long time. I said that there are two issues, and I think need to be considered separately. The easiest is the issue of dues. The hardest is whether we should end our membership altogether and what we should do for the Holy Days. The EG nodded. He said that we cannot afford the dues we are expected to pay. This is a problem we had thought we resolved in March of last year, three months after the EG retired from Sandia. We made a personal visit with administrator there to put our dues in abeyance until we could see how long it would take us to begin bringing in money with our businesses, and what it would be like to live on the pension and our investments out here at Freedom Ridge. But despite the arrangement, the synagogue kept sending bills for the amount we paid before, and at membership renewal, they continued our membership at the old rate. They have a policy, I have been told, that if members do not renew and do not formally resign, we are continued at the previous rate. I don’t know what happened to our arrangements in labyrinthine depths of the computers where such transactions are preserved,  but I think it would be fairly easy to get this resolved. Before we resolve it, though, we have to decide the hard question: should we continue membership? Even to consider this is almost like losing my religion, like relinquishing that which reconnects me again and again to my own past, our past and that of the people Israel who gather, learn and pray in that place. All of my ad[...]

Summer Sabbath Days


Time here at Freedom Ridge has a different quality. One day slips into another as the season advances almost unnoticed, governed by the needs of people and animals, rather than by the calendar and clock. Dogs wake us at sunrise, the horses call to one another on their way to the feeder, and cows come down the August green hillsides, loitering outside the corral, ready to be fed. There is more than enough work to fill the days, and much of it is the work of the sweat of the brow. It is easy to lose track of the date on the calendar. but never the progression of the season, now marked by the explosion of wildflowers watered by the monsoon rains, telling us that fall is in the offing. In the weekly round of work, there is never routine and one project leads to another,and news from over the mountains and far away comes to us on the invisible airwaves to our radio receivers and sweeps down from satellites to be made solid on our computers. Breaks come from necessary trips to town for supplies, for local news. and to see and speak to familiar human beings. And for us, each week also progresses towards the Sabbath, which here takes on a timeless quality when the round of work and chores is interrupted and another week is ended with time out of time, marked by ritual and suffused with its own quality of living. Here, nothing intrudes as it did in the city. The phone does not ring, the computer is not fired up, and the radio is not turned on, as we deliberately turn away from the inexorable march of information, much of which we don’t need any day, but certainly not on Shabbat. Friday evening, the urgent voices from the outside give way to music, and the cool breeze off the mountains give life to the flames of the Sabbath candles, lit just before sunset, ushering in our own little sanctuary in time. In the morning we feed, we water, but no projects beckon. After a leisurely breakfast, prayer and study are the only agenda. As the heat grows towards afternoon, and windows are opened and closed to catch the breeze and shut out the heat, we appreciate the weekly ritual of the nap on the couches, the leather cool and soft and supportive. Often I read and doze, choosing more contemplative books, and I gaze out the windows where the dogs snooze, catching a breeze on the porch. The Engineering Geek, guarded by the cats, begins an article in Sky and Telescope, but is soon asleep, and with the regular deep breathing from him and from the animals, I soon join him. By mid-afternoon we wake slowly, deliciously, and taking out wine and Challah bread, make Kiddush and lunch on hummus and pita and cucumber and tomato. A summer repast, as the clouds build in the southwest, providing cover and a cool breeze that invite a walk and talk, and a sit on the porch swing at the cabin while showers make their music on the metal roofs. Every week we find different variations on the theme of Shabbat, but the summer Sabbaths have a particular quality of ease and abundance brought about by the long, leisurely trip of the sun from east to west, the heat of the day, and the cool refuge of the porch and the house from the unrelenting light of the desert sun at zenith. It appears as if all of nature around us was only waiting for us to slow down and join with a summer afternoon’s leisurely being, there everyday, but only joined by us once in seven. As the Sabbath afternoon slides into evening, often accompanied by early evening thunderstorms, we come out of the Shabbat somnolence, kindle light and w[...]

August Cross Quarter Day



Already, it is the August Cross Quarter Day. This is the day halfway between the Summer Solstice and the Autumnal Equinox in the Northern Hemisphere. In the old calendar of Europe, it is Lughnasad and Lammastide—the beginning of the Chase of Lugh, the Celtic sun god—when the first harvests begin far north of the Equator. It is the beginning of the Fall season of old.

For us here at Freedom Ridge Ranch, we see the season beginning to shift. Even as far south as we are—in the horse latitudes—our elevation is high, and summer is fleeting. Here, on the west slopes of the Continental Divide, the hot season is already gone. With the start of the Monsoon in July, we saw the greening begin, with its cool nights, hot mornings and cloudy and rainy afternoons.

(image) Now, as the daylight is noticeably shorter, we see chilly, misty mornings, with dew on the blooming sunflowers, and dripping down from the metal roofs of house and barn and cabin. Already, the Aspens begin to show yellow in the leaves, and the sun appears south of where it rose at the Solstice. The shadows are deeper. The season is changing.
Already, we have put the feather comforter back on the bed.

Here at Ragamuffin Studies, we have just passed the Fast of Tisha b’Av, a day of mourning for the loss of Temple and a going into exile. Last Shabbat, we began the seven weeks of Comfort, when we read Haftarah Nachamu –“Comfort, O, comfort my people, says your G-d.” Autumn is coming, and with it the New Year of Years, Rosh Hashanah, and the Season of Repentance, Renewal, and the Ingathering Harvest. The Wheel of the Year turns once again to its end and beginning, and in the seasons of our lives, we have seen the last child grown and graduated, moving out for a while to study and practice for the time when he will come back to run Freedom Ridge Ranch.

Blessed is the One who makes the years pass and the seasons alternate . . .

Branding Day


This year we have two calves, one born in June and one in early July who needed branding. The little black one was a little bull, and the white one under her white mother is a little heifer. So last Sunday, with the help of three cowboys—who are calling themselves Adam, Hoss, and Little Joe—we had a branding. The CIT—who is now ‘Adam’—got the cows together on Sunday morning when we fed them in corral. Except that three were missing. Lucy Longhorn, her steer from last year, and Freckles’ steer from last year. The guys were able to get Lucy Longhorn in, and we figured the young‘uns would come in sooner or later. In any case, we didn’t need them until it was time to dose them up with Ivermectin against parasites. This year’s calves were the stars of the first half. Since he is the most experienced, ‘Hoss’ was assigned to roping. The cowboys had moved the cows into the arena, and there, the roping came pretty easily. Just a few rounds, and the little bull was roped by the hind leg. Immediately after he was roped, ‘Adam’ (left) and ‘Little Joe’ (right) ran in to flank him. One took the leg while the other lifted the rope, bringing him down on the correct side. ‘Hoss’ dismounted his, and ran in with the branding irons. Then ‘Little Joe’ cut the earmarks, ‘Hoss’ made the bull into a steer, and ‘Adam’ administered the Black Leg vaccination. After that, the little guy was given a fly tag in the ear and sent back to his mama. The calf was down less than three minutes. It pays to have several experienced cow boys. The little white heifer was down even less time as she didn’t have to be cut. The most exciting part of the day happened after the branding itself. As they were branding, the charlaite (the color of cafe au lait) and the Black steers showed up, wondering what was going on. There was a great deal of mooing across the arena stockade as they greeted the herd and were greeted in return. But the cowboys with the help of ‘Hoss’s’ dogs had to bring them into the chute for the Ivermectin treatment. There was some fancy riding, as ‘Little Joe’ on the Paint and ‘Hoss’ on the Sorrel brought the Black around the corral several times. We got the Charlaite in, but the black ran around the hill. ‘Hoss’ roped him there, and then we treated him in situ. After the job was done, there was only one Rocky Mountain Oyster given to the dog, Tipy, who belongs to ‘Adam.’ Then it was back to the house for hamburgers—from a steer killed in 2011—and a nice cold one for the working boys. This fall, we will be slaughtering the black steer and the charlaite born in February and March of 2011. In the spring, the little black bull born just before branding last July, will go, unless we decide to sell him as stud. That is the way of life on a ranch. The males are for food, and the females to get new calves. This month, we will deciding about the direction of our herd. Our bull, Studley Do-right is getting old, and although we have none of his older female offspring here on the ranch, we think he might be getting past his prime. We may need to “ship” him (sell him) and get a new bull. We are also considering reducing this herd, and bringing in a new breed—possibly Dexters—which are smaller and easier for us to handle. This is a weighty decision, and however we do it, we will be saying good-bye to some of our cows. This is also part of ranching. It is not the easiest part, since we have very ge[...]

Americanas and Chicken Little


During the month of June, we added six Auricana/Americana pullets to the stock at Freedom Ridge Ranch. Auricana/Americana chickens are a South American breed, very hardy and calm, but with good preservation of predator avoidance and they are also very good layers. They are the famous “easter-egg” layers, and their eggs vary from sky blue to turquoise to green, and more rarely, pink to brown.  Our hens are now about 8 weeks old, and we moved them outside weeks ago, after raising the little chicks in the bathtub over at the cabin for a few weeks. I had not had chickens since we raised three chicks given to us when I was a child, and I have become fascinated watching our hens. When we arrive at the chicken coop in the morning, they are chirping and clucking behind the closed door, already awake and ready to come forth into the daylight, to scratch and eat, chase insects and take dirt baths. We move their portable pen called the chicken tractor around the yard every day, so that they have access to weeds and flowers, as well as vegetable scraps from the kitchen. The “ladies”—as the Engineering Geek calls them--are used to us, and to their hanging waterer, but whenever a shadow passes overhead, they immediately huddle under the raised chicken door to their coop and become very quiet. Once the threat passes, they go back to their clucking and eating, but with a watchful eye toward the sky, where a hawk or eagle might swoop down and take them for dinner. Drops of rain, or even vegetable scraps pitched into the chicken tractor sends them scurrying under shelter, even though the chicken wire top on the chicken tractor prevents any predator from entering. “The sky is falling!” the EG jokes, as they run for cover and grow silent. Those of us of a certain age remember those classic animal fables from our childhood, The Little Red Hen, Chicken Little, the Ant and the Grasshopper. All of them were intended to teach a moral lesson: how those who work have earned the fruit of their labor, why one drop of rain does not a deluge make, and why it is important to plan for the future in the present. These tales inculcate and strengthen classic American virtues: hard work, common sense, and being prepared for the inevitable tough seasons. But in watching my Americanas, I have come to reconsider how the tale of Chicken Little is understood by the newer generations of American children, if they have heard it at all. For some American children today are being raised almost as hot-house children, protected from every bump, bruise or danger while simultaneously being given the sense of enormous entitlement, so that they grow up with little experience of how to handle deprivation, danger and fear. For these privileged children, does the story of Chicken Little resonate differently than for those raised on the farm, or in the “duck and cover” era of the Cold War? I think so, because twice last week I saw Jewish Libertarians insulted and ridiculed for pointing out the dangers of ignoring and appeasing the new, virulent anti-Semitism coming simultaneously from the left and from the Islamists of the world. In one case, several of them were called “Chicken Littles” and their concerns were ridiculed as if they were constantly running around proclaiming that “the sky is falling!” A farm kid growing up in the ‘50’s and ‘60’s was aware of the context of the story of Chicken Little in ways that citified America[...]



Technorati Tags: Meanwhile Back at the Ranch,Weather,Geography On a quiet Shabbat morning as I took a rare cup of coffee on the porch I noticed it. I was looking across at LB, who had left the corral and was grazing on the bank of Freedom Ridge Draw. Because of last year’s drought we are still feeding the cattle at the corral, and usually they stay there all morning, moving across to water in the early afternoon. But here was LB, grazing in the morning. The valley and the hillsides are greening finally, after three weeks of monsoon winds bringing moisture over from the Gulf of California, lifting it up across the Arizona desert,  building the clouds heavy over the Mogollon Rim, and dropping the monsoon rains down upon the Mogollon Slope and Continental Divide. This year a good monsoon season has begun, the clear, cool mornings with a hint of moisture and the clouds beginning to build to the west-southwest by 10 o’clock. In the afternoon, wave after wave of heavy clouds begin to move across our ridges and valley, some of them dropping showers and on some days, a cloudburst. It is a good start for the monsoon, clouds every afternoon, and showers and storms three or four days out of seven. The greening season here in Southwestern New Mexico is different from where I grew up in Central Illinois. In Illinois, spring is the season of tender green shoots and new grass, with the deep yellow of dandelion flowers hailing the end of winter in March. The corn grows high, there, each plant cycling a quart of water or more a day, bringing the muggy dog days of August, the hottest part of the summer. As the corn matures, the days dry out, gold and brown in the fall. In New Mexico, the spring is windy and dry, brown with dust and sand—Arizona blowing over to Texas—one of the two dry seasons, following the winter snow that falls mostly over the mountains. The warming days and wind, the return of the birds are harbingers of summer. But here on the Mogollon slope, there is no green, no soft colors. The land is hard and bright, straw and brown.  When the winds die down in June, we have our hottest summer days. The heat comes up from the desert, south winds from Mexico, and descends into the valleys. Ours is a dry heat, and you can get relief in the shade, if you can find any. In good years, by the end of June, the winds shift, coming from the southwest, and we see towering white clouds forming in the southwest, moving slowly across the Continental Divide to the north. Nights become humid, and our evaporative coolers don’t work for a week of two. But if all goes well with the trade winds coming up from the tropics and across these horse latitudes, in a few weeks the afternoon humidity will become afternoon thunderstorms, making coolers unnecessary as they wash the humidity into the dusty earth, clearing the air, and greening the land. Some years are La Nina years, and the Monsoon winds fail, and we have drought. Last summer, the clouds built and we got a few feeble showers in July, and then it stayed dry until September. The feeble trades dropped their sparse moisture quickly over the Mogollon Rim but did not reach New Mexico. Last year, we had late rains and early snows in September and October, as the days grew shorter, and so the land never greened up, and the grasses did  not grow tall. We had drought and fires, drought and fires. This year, the monsoon seems full of promise. T[...]

A Season of Losses and Gains: Part II-Gains


Yesterday, I began the process of catching up with myself after a three-month blogging hiatus. That entry was all about the losses we experienced over that time and how one of them affected my desire to blog at all.  Today, is for the gains. Firstly, we have gained a baby burro. Petunia and Ruger presented us with a little jill, whose picture graces the title of Ragamuffin Studies, so iconic of spring is she. Little Priscilla is watched over by both of her parents, and spends her time gamboling and playing while her parents focus on the mundane activities of getting food and water. Young mammals are a delight, and this one is no exception. She is getting used to our hands, although she does not  take sweet feed from us yet, as her parents do. It is funny to watch her traveling four and five times the distance from the corral to the stock tank than her parents do!  This season has also been one of frustration and growth for me. When I determined that I would never finish my current doctorate studies at all if I continued with a quantitative study, my advisor and I thought about a combined qualitative-quantitative study. This meant I had to learn how to do “qual'”, which requires a very different approach. This spring I took a heavy-duty Qualitative Case Study course with an expert in the field who is also a very demanding teacher. And it very nearly killed drove me to drink. The problems began with coming up with a question, and continued as I tried to shoe-horn a literature I knew well into a question that was very different. Stubborn as I am, I finally saw that my whole approach had to change. I allowed forced myself to write the introduction as a first person (horrors!) narrative that demonstrated how I had come to my question. In the process, I learned how bringing myself into the research itself is one of the characteristics of qualitative research, and I saw how my narrative approach helped not only define the question, but also find the gaps in the literature that my study would address. I am quite pleased with my research report, although I did revert to the ablative (this was done, that  was shown, etc.) in reporting my results. Still, I gained a new perspective and new tools, two very important things to keep this “grandmother” brain from hardening up to a stultifying degree. And the coolest gain, I saw a theme in the data that I had seen in data during a more congenial (to me) course that I took last spring. And in talking it over with my expert, demanding professor, I realized that this is the theme that will likely occupy me through the dissertation: resistance. “ Resistance? You’re interested in resistance? Who’d have ever thunk it?” was the Engineering Geek’s somewhat acerbic observation. The Engineering Geek himself has been working on some important projects for the ranch, and these projects require all of his engineering skills. The whole irrigation system needed an overhaul, having been put in by “rank amateurs” (his words) and used for 18 years. He has been busy designing a manifold for delivery of water, French drains for getting rid of unwanted water, and general improvements to efficiency and design. He is also designing a solar well pump system, and a solar system for the house in order to make us more self-sufficient as “energy prices necessarily skyrocket” as our dictator president promised they would in [...]

A Season of Loss and Gain: Part I-Losses


I have not written anything at all here since Purim. Part of the reason is that we have been busy with our work on the ranch, and my work with the Gary Johnson campaign, with classes and courses, training and all the business of life. If I had thought that as the children grew up and began leaving home my leisure would increase, I have been shown to be wrong. The days are still just as packed as they ever were, if not more so.   But another, deeper reason is that I have been challenged and tested this spring of 2012 with losses and gains that I was reluctant to write about because I had not yet resolved some of them in my own head and heart, and in some ways still haven’t. We lost a total of four animals this past spring. The one calf born so far this year, was taken by coyotes, and a heifer died one night for reasons that we will never know, about two months after we transferred her to our partner’s farm on the Rio Grande. These losses caused momentary anguish and questioning, but not the anguish that two others created. In late January, while we were away, the eldest of our two house cats died unexpectedly. Cloudy, our most beautiful cat—the one with the unique aquamarine eyes--laid down in his favorite winter sleeping spot and never woke up again. He was found by the CIT, who saw him born 11 years before. It seemed the  circle was closed that night and the next day when we buried him on the sunny south-facing hillside behind the house, under a twisted pinyon tree in view of his favorite window perch.   But the hardest loss by far happened on February 8, 2012. It was a sunny, early spring morning, when I fed the dogs, and as was my habit, hugged Umbrae—our big, black Newfie cross hard so that he would “talk” to me. Later that morning, busy with computer work for a class that I was leaving to attend in Albuquerque, I did not notice that he and Lily had gone on walk-about. When he did not return, I drove the county road looking for him, returning empty to the ranch. After Lily returned, I reluctantly left for two days, hoping that he would return that evening. He never did. And I am left with a huge hole in my heart, wondering what happened to him, and thinking about what I could have done differently that morning. He may have been stolen, he may have been attacked by a wild animal. He may be alive still, and he may not. We just don’t know. And that is the hardest loss of all. As I drive around the Red Hill area, I still have one eye on the pastures and roads, the hills and the houses, hoping to catch a glimpse of my big, black dog. In my mind’s eye I see him, in the periphery of my vision, dancing on the big rock on the hill above the house.   More than any other reason, I  think I have not posted here for so long because on some level, I wanted to wait for good news about Umbrae. Writing about his loss, I knew, would open up the wound of not knowing, to bring that awful sinking feeling in my gut, the pain of loss that seems unendurable even as it must be endured. And it would make his loss seem final and permanent in my mind. There have been other losses, but they are smaller, less permanent, more reconcilable. There have also been many gains, some wonderful and amazing, and some small and satisfying. The gains, I think, deserve their own entry and their own honors. Tomorrow. I have u[...]