We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

More Health Stuff.

Written By: Charles - Feb• 21•19

Imbolc                                                                  Valentine Moon

Gradually getting more stamina. Felt good enough to go in and pick up Kate from Swedish yesterday afternoon.

She’s home now, again. Trying to imagine what this whole ordeal must be like from within her frame of reference. Difficult. So many procedures, hospital and doctor visits. So many different interventions. And the needle sticks. She has rotten veins and it often takes four, five times to put an iv in or draw blood. Sounds medieval.

Home health from Mt. Evans’ Home Health Care comes by today to hook up the tpn. They offered to come last night around 7, but Kate was too weary. A delivery guy from an outfit called Medspeed dropped off two thermo insulated white boxes and an ordinary cardboard one, supplies. We’re entering new territory here with home health care and medical apparatus on site on Shadow Mountain.

Kate has had an important insight. Now that she’s well hydrated through the tpn nutrition her dry mouth is much, much better. We need to figure out how to keep up that level of hydration for her. This is a big deal because the dry mouth makes eating difficult.

We see Edwin Smith on the 28th about placement of the feeding tube. He wanted her on the tpn to get her stronger. Since medicare has severe restrictions on the use of tpn, we were lucky to get the ten days granted to us. Somebody was a good advocate.

I’m feeling incrementally better each day. Able to stay up longer, do more. Still watching it because I want, need, to stay healthy. Follow up chest x-ray today, probably. I have my annual physical on Monday. There will be lots to talk about.

I’m over my foot on our neck whine. Back to head down, move forward, take it as it comes.

Of course this whole process, starting with Kate’s bleed on September 28th until now, has been stressful. As near as I can tell, I’ve not added to the stress by becoming anxious about outcomes. Not sure the toll the stress has taken on me, though I imagine it did lower my immune response to whatever viral truck slammed me down to the pavement.

Grateful for all the care and time and thought given to Kate, and to me. Grateful for the snow and the cold, more like Minnesota this last week or so, and welcome. Grateful for those dogs who wag their tales and put up with our chaotic schedule. Grateful for the Valentine Moon, for 72 years. Grateful for my recovery that’s underway. Grateful we live Rocky Mountains. Yes, adversity unveils gratitude. Strange. True.



Written By: Charles - Feb• 20•19

Imbolc                                                                             Valentine Moon

FortThree weeks ago I drove through Denver around 8 pm exhausted and wondering why I was so damned tired. Getting home was hell. Today, thankfully, I’m able to be up  and get things done. Still operating at about half to three-quarters power, stamina not great, but improving. Stronger today is my day phrase.

Kate sounds great. Needing to recover I’m still at home. One thing I learned over the last three weeks is that if I’m not healthy, it makes our life here very difficult. I’m going to get back to normal so I can help her as much as she needs. A difficult balance, especially with her in the hospital.

They may insert the feeding tube while she’s at Swedish, too. This will give her two sources of nutrition, one intravenously and the other by drip directly into the gastrointestinal tract. She will able to eat meals as well. Several advantages here.

First. She’s been stuck at 78-82 pounds for months. Nothing nudges her out of that range. She needed a different approach.

Two. Electrolytes and other necessary nutrients will be carefully balanced in both the tpn and the feeding tube. Her diet up to now has been what she could tolerate with an emphasis on calories and protein, not overall nutrition.

Three. This will reduce, hopefully eliminate, her always nagging feeling that she wasn’t eating enough. This should help her get back to eating normally, without the attendant anxiety of trying to gain weight.

Four. Since she’s wanted this for several months now, these supplemental feeding tools give her a psychic boost, which she needs.

Five. Our big hope with this intervention is that it will lift her into a normal weight range where her diet and her stamina can both improve while the secondary effects of malnutrition drop away.

We’ve seen plenty of false dawns in Kate’s journey to this point. I’m hoping this is the one we’ve been waiting for.


Written By: Charles - Feb• 20•19

Imbolc                                                                              Valentine Moon

A question for the Woolly Mammoth meeting of this Monday: “…think back over time – older and newer – was there a piece of music, a song, or a musical video that had an impact on you, or that shaped your thinking, or who you are in some way, at some important juncture in your life, or time in your life.” Scott Simpson

Here’s my reply:

protestI can still hear the others singing, feel the resonance of my voice joining theirs, marching, marching, marching. So many times. The song was the old spiritual, We Shall Overcome. I sang it in protests again Vietnam, in labor solidarity rallies, on the occasional Sunday morning. I sang it alone, in the shower, driving in the car.
Whenever I hit the line, we shall over come someday, and even writing this, I tear up.
This song could be my heart’s theme song. It’s a musical answer to Shakespeare’s famous query, “To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.” I’ve always been on the take arms side.
Though, parenthetically, I’m also a follower of the Tao which suggests wu wei, or non-doing as an answer. Both seem true to me. In the end I cannot just let things happen to me, or to the people and the society that I love.

Black Mountain White

Written By: Charles - Feb• 19•19

Imbolc                                                                         Valentine Moon

I’m just gonna say this. May be a little whiny, but it’s on my mind. Hey, universe! Would you get your foot off our necks? Or, at least let up long enough for us to catch our breath. Geez. OK. There.

Kate’s collapsed lung resolved with concentrated oxygen therapy. Thankfully. The picc line went in yesterday and she’s getting her first infusion of nutrition through it as I write this. She’s very happy that, as she said, “Something’s happening.” She’s dealt with the weight loss, the fatigue, Sjogren’s, food aversion for so long. As one just coming out of a still debilitating illness, I can only imagine what it would be to feel the way I feel now everyday. With no change maker on the horizon. This picc line may be the beginning of a turn around. I sure hope so.

Meanwhile I’m weak, still. Feel like the diseases of the past two weeks plus have left the field of battle, but the wreckage is still under repair. I’m 10 pounds behind now, limited stamina, and less energy. I’ll improve over the next few days, I’m sure. I look forward to getting back to things.

Lot of learnings, most not consolidated yet. They will be over the coming weeks.

Here’s something uplifting, at least I think so. Black Mountain white.


Health Cares

Written By: Charles - Feb• 18•19

Imbolc                                                                              Valentine Moon

Feeling much better. All except my bowels which took a beating. I’ve eaten very little over the last two plus weeks, down 10 pounds. Not as hydrated as I normally am. Result: intractable constipation. Since Saturday afternoon, my recovery has been interrupted by this. Beginning to resolve this morning, I think. Sure hope so, misery after misery.

I’ve lost about two weeks. By that I mean, I don’t recall events during the time when illness dominated my body. It’s an odd feeling, but I’m grateful for it. I remember blurs of discomfort, but little else.

Kate went back to Swedish E.R. yesterday. Jon had to take her due to my severe cramping and general dis-ease. They admitted her, though I don’t know exactly what for. She has an appointment with a home health company today to insert the line for her tpn feeding, don’t know what’s going to happen to that.

This was not the most festive birthday week I can recall. Maybe the least? Either way the earth keeps spinning and racing along its orbit.


The Death of Opportunity

Written By: Charles - Feb• 16•19

Imbolc                                                                        Valentine Moon

Hendrick Andriessen (1607–1655)

Hendrick Andriessen (1607–1655)

So here’s my summary of the last 17 days. I got ill. My doc thought it was influenza A. That lasted 10 days, then I got really sick. The pneumonia is clearing. I have more energy each day, though I’m still weak. Eating and sleeping. Still the main activities.

All these mortality signals keep whizzing by. The third phase is an existentialist phase no matter your theological orientation. Somewhere in the no longer so distant future is a personal and permanent extinction event. Made me read the news of Opportunity with a pang I might not have otherwise felt.

The struggle we have over these deep questions in our own day to day has gotten interlaced with our creations. It seems like taffy or a Chinese finger puzzle. The more we try to answer them the tighter the puzzle grips our finger. And when a plucky, brave, dogged machine just keeps on ticking, year after year, moving and sensing and communicating, all on a planet not our own, we see its slow, but confident progress, its unwillingness to stop until the last trickle of current ran from its batteries, as life itself. Until we say it out loud. Do we put quotations marks around death? What do we do with the emotions we feel for something made of silicon and metal?

death and friend“Our beloved Opportunity remained silent,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said Wednesday… Her power dropped to a trickle, and she was last heard from on June 10…Keri Bean was among those who helped send that last radio signal. Losing Opportunity, she says, is like a death in the family…But at least it was Mars that killed her — it wasn’t the rover failing or something else. It was Mars. And I feel like that’s really the only appropriate death for her at this point.” NPR

It’s possible that we’ve been making a category mistake all along about death. We assume that we are individuals, clothed in an impenetrable skin with a mind mysterious and often hidden even from its self. What if that is too narrow? Way too narrow. What if we are also those things in which we invest our life? That is, I am not only the meat sack that turned 72 yesterday, but I am also Kate, our house, the dogs, even our Rav4. I’m not making a weird boundary issues statement here. I’m trying to point to what Buber calls the I-thou*. Buber saw the I-thou as a relationship with another that is permeable. I love this idea, but want to say that we can extend it, in some instances, even into the realm of what Buber calls I-it relationships.



Those instances are not as few as we might think. Yes, family. Yes, friends. Yes, members of a community important to us. Yes. But also the dog who sleeps in your bed. The tree you care for each spring and fall. The flowers that you plant. And, yes, the machines that extend your self into the wider world. These machines, like Opportunity, do function independently from us, are definitely an it in the usual understanding of the term, but perhaps we misunderstand the distance, the separateness. “Our beloved Opportunity remained silent.” “Like a death in the family.”

Opportunity was not only the physical entity on Mars. It was also a literal physical extension of those who made it, those who guided it, interacted with it, and gathered its data. It was like a hand or an eye, an arm or a leg, not separate, though able to operate independently. As such Opportunity’s death was just that, a death, the loss of an I-thou relationship.

How do these relationships happen? I believe this quote says it very well:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”    chewy.com



*Buber’s main proposition is that we may address existence in two ways:

  1. The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience.
  2. The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds.

One of the major themes of the book is that human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships. In Buber’s view, all of our relationships bring us ultimately into relationship with God, who is the Eternal Thou.  wiki



Written By: Charles - Feb• 15•19

Imbolc                                                                       Valentine Moon

I had an influenza strength virus for ten days, then I really got sick. That’s my summary.


Year 72.1

Written By: Charles - Feb• 15•19

Imbolc                                                                       Valentine’s Moon

rag cutter with bales of cloth scraps

rag cutter with bales of cloth scraps

Starting my 73rd year feeling better. Better, of course, is relative. In this case relative to a lost two weeks. I mean that almost literally. The last two weeks were a fog. I know things happened. I know I did things. But what were those things? Mushed together in a perceptual porridge put through a blender. Indistinct.

Saw the doc yesterday. Left lobe cleared of pneumonia according to stethoscope. None in the right lobe. But wait! There’s more! Yes, another “incidental” finding. Atelectasis in my lower right lobe. Sounds ominous, right? Could be old, probably is. It means that some of the aveoli have collapsed.

When Tabitha listened to my lungs, she thought she heard pneumonia in my lower right lung. It was the atelectasis. So it’s significant. It can be the precursor to other bad things like lung cancer. Hope not. Still, when you consider my history. Smoker in my 20’s and early 30’s. Working in two different factories where asbestos and fiberglass were used. Cutting rags to make fine rag bond paper. I did this last job for a year or so and worked in a room filled with the dust from, of all things, Munsingware scraps from making underwear.

SEX-DRUGS-ROCK-N-ROLL-1”I’ve known for years that something like this could come up. If I could go back and change the choices I made while my chooser was broken (grief, alcoholism, lack of wisdom, plus general youthful stupidity), I would. But, I can’t. In my own vernacular, those problems are bought and paid for. That is, I did things that may cause serious problems for me physically, now, later in life. Can’t deny it, ignore it, or wish it away. It’s not clear right now of course whether this will be a serious issue or not, may not be clear for some time, though I imagine there will be a follow-up CT to more closely i.d. the causes of the atelectasis.

We all have to die of something. If this is mine, well, so be it. Not gonna dwell on it, but I do acknowledge it. I don’t blame anyone, not even myself. My 20s, as they are for so many of us, were a time of transformation, mutation, evolution. I learned so much, felt so much, did so much. There was another path for me through that thicket, many paths, I’m sure, but the one that transpired is the one I followed. And, it may be beginning to have consequences.

In other news Kate’s stent is open. CT proved that. Hopefully today she’ll get a pic line put in and get started on some nutritional supplements by iv. TPN, total parenteral nutrition. This should help her overall and make any surgical procedure, like the feeding tube placement, more likely to succeed. A home health service will send nurses here to set it up. Eventually, I’ll manage it. A step in a good direction for her.

Sun. Blue skies. Black Mountain standing tall. All things that will be here no matter how any of this turns out. And, again, I find this a source of deep consolation.


Valentine’s Day on Shadow Mountain

Written By: Charles - Feb• 14•19

Imbolc                                                                      Valentine Moon

Well, no matter what else happens I can say I made it to 72. Valentine’s Day on Shadow Mountain. Black Mountain obscured by low lying clouds, but still visible. A thin dusting of snow on the solar panels and the driveway. 32 degrees.

The pneumonia continues. Rattling in the chest, coughing, back to night sweats, shortness of breath, some fever. Not how I imagined my birthday, but there you are. I go to see Tabitha, Dr. Gidday’s p.a. today. Hopefully I’ll learn some more. Kate’s ct is today, too. I scheduled my appointment close to hers so I can take her to the imaging center at Porter Adventist, then scoot over to Dr. Gidday’s office for my 11:30.

I’ve been sick 15 days now. Figured out the last time I was this sick was not Austria, but when we lived on Edgcumbe Drive in St. Paul. Never diagnosed. Kate thought it might have been myocarditis. That was 29 years ago. It’ll be ok with me if it’s another 29 between bouts like this.

I’m up in the loft early. Feels nostalgic after 15 days of mostly miss on the mornings. I’m ready to get back to my old life, resume painting, teaching, writing. Not yet. There’s this big bump in the road.

A while back I read an interesting article about snow. A heavy snow eliminates boundaries, covers fences and streets, rocks, even mountains. The world becomes white, curvilinear, jagged edges smoothed. The affective mood of the landscape undergoes a transformation, becomes more connected.

Illness has a similar totalizing affect. The landscape recedes. Old linkages like grocery stores, schools, churches, synagogues fall away. The house, or even a room, becomes a world. In this world there is struggle, the body trying to hang on to life, an invader not caring about that life, but wanting the resources the life has to offer. It’s a raw, pitched battle, tough to watch, tough to experience. Not all illnesses are this extreme of course but pneumonia at 72 is a life or death matter. Either the pneumonia is defeated or the body dies. High stakes.

Like a heavy snow the world around this struggle transforms, becomes homogeneous. Can it help? It exists. No help? It disappears.

Writing from inside that shrunken world.


Shrinking World

Written By: Charles - Feb• 13•19

Imbolc                                                                            Valentine Moon

The fun continues. See doc tomorrow to check on lungs. Still coughing, still some fever. But! I am now 138 pounds. Back to my 20’s weight wise. Weird.

Kate has a ct tomorrow to check on the stent, see how it’s positioned, if it’s functional. That’s necessary because the feeding tube placement needs a good stent to produce the results we hope.

Strange how the world shrinks when you’re sick. Your body demands attention, often full attention. It wants to know where the bathrooms are, where the bed is, and the approximate time necessary to navigate between them. It knows other things are going on in the world, Trump’s still the president, right?, but doesn’t really give a damn. How can I get out from under this damned thing. That’s on the top of list.

Discovered King Sooper delivers! Whew. That made things a lot simpler. Got the first order this morning. A few missed beats, but not too bad and the young lady brought the stuff into the kitchen. $12 to avoid the trip, the trek through the store, checkout. Way, way worth it. Especially with my old bud pneumonia dogging my every breath.

From my home based hospital ward to yours, cheers.