We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Colorado

Written By: Charles - Oct• 22•20

Fall and the Moon of Radical Change

Thursday gratefuls: Kate’s stoma site looking good. Rigel off antibiotics. Her gut can relax. Rigel early in the morning, barking as loud as she can. Why? Oh, why. No idea. Mac and cheese with ham. Comfort food. The East Troublesome Fire. The Cameron Fire. The Calwood Fire. Reminding us that climate change is real and not tomorrow.

Wildfires are us. The West is burning. Precipitation blocked by warming oceans. Trees dried by low humidity, killed by pine bark Beetles. Grasses squeezed dry, lying ready for ignition. Rabbi Jamie’s home in Granby. The East Troublesome Fire. Evacuated. He posted pictures on Facebook. Scary.

Clouds this morning red from the Wildfire refracted Sun. We have moisture on the way. Hope it comes in time to wet down our Very High fire hazards. The National Forest Service closed the Arapho National Forest, the one in which we live, citing dry Trees and strained fire-fighting resources. This means no Denverites, no other out-of-towners at Lower and Upper Maxwell Falls. Well, it means there should be none.

Speaking of Colorado. Here’s a video from near Telluride.

Could have been worse. Think if the Jeep with the camera was a tiny bit further along on the trail. The woman who drove the falling Jeep is in a Grand Junction hospital with serious injuries. She bailed just before it went over.

Then, too. An election is coming. Like Winter. Did I say vote? Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.

Fattening, Not Flattening

Written By: Charles - Oct• 21•20

Fall and the Moon of Radical Change

Wednesday gratefuls: New wheelchair. #19! Better comfort for Kate. Covid days and Covid nights. With the flu on its way. Hunker down, USA. A gift from Ancient One, Tom Crane. Safeway. Picking up groceries in my jammies. Cool weather ahead. And, snow! Drive down that fire danger. Yeah.

On the drive down the mountain to Safeway the Sun angle, the brown and gold Grasses, naked Aspen among the Lodgepole sent me back to trips to Aunt Marjorie’s house for Thanksgiving. Over the hills and through the woods.

Picked up some squash today. Yum. Also, thought I indicated I wanted 5 tomatoes. Got five pounds instead. Chili tonight. Safety wise pickup is the gold standard. As it is in terms of limiting impulse purchases. However.

The third surge of the first wave has come up hard against the rocky shore of pandemic fatigue. We have fattened the curve, instead of flattening. And, we are at it again. This time though with a broader reach in regions. That dovetails with three accelerants: the seasonal flu, cold weather and more indoor gatherings, winter holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah.

By the time 2021 arrives two months plus a little from now we might be ready to skip ahead to 2022.

The fall after college, 1969, Judy and I moved to Appleton, Wisconsin. My bakery job had me up at 4 am as my first Wisconsin winter closed in. The owner, almost joyous for a Norwegian (I now know.), used to sing, “I’ve got my love to keep me warm.” Yeah. But, he was the boss, you know. I can still hear him. Seems like the perfect song now.

Or, this. The weather outside is frightful, the fire is so delightful, and since we’ve GOT NO PLACE TO GO, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow! (caps mine, ya know.)

Did I forget to mention the election? An election is coming. Like winter. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote. Vote.

Local satellite gathers dust from meteor. The Lockheed-Martin works off Deer Creek Canyon Road celebrated as their designed and built OSIRIS-REX blew on asteroid Bennu and collected (they hope) dust in an extended ring.

There is a robust space industry in Colorado and it will get much bigger if Trump’s Space Force decides to permanently locate its headquarters here. It has a temporary headquarters in Virginia but there are already several sites here: Buckley AFB, Peterson AFB, Schriever AFB with 10 of its fifteen units in the state already.

Back to writing. Kate read the first half of Jennie’s Dead and her response to it jarred me back to the keyboard. I can’t exercise until next Monday so the time is easy to find. I feel good, like I know I should. Writing buoys me up.

Third Phase

Written By: Charles - Oct• 19•20

Fall and the Moon of Radical Change

Monday gratefuls: Beau Jo’s pizza. Stephen King. He inspires me. The Ancient Ones. Male intimacy. Safe space. Tom and Roxann. Pam, Roxann’s sister. Joe and Seoah. Mary. Margus. (Mark, in Arabic) Diane. Drought and fire danger. The burning of the West. Covid. Trump.

A fortnight. That’s all that separates us from a soul reckoning, an accounting of the American heart made large. Here’s a help to guide your news consumption over the next two weeks: 8 tips to stay sane in the final fifteen days of the campaign. Nate Silver at 538.

Me, I’m going wild, believing the lead. Planning for a celebration. One like our normal New Year’s. At home. Quiet. Wonderful. If I’m wrong, well… So be it.

The third phase. Haven’t mentioned this much of late. For those of you to whom the phrase is new. I divide life into 3, or maybe 4, stages. Education/learning: birth to mid-to-late twenties. Family and career: mid-to-late twenties to mid-sixties. Third phase: mid-sixties to death. Maybe a fourth phase just before death.

We have little consensus on the third phase. What’s it for? Who are we after family and career? The old finish-line model of retirement suggested golf, bridge, barbecue. Leisure activities in the time between stopping work and death. Sounded boring to me way back when.

Growing up in a bedroom community for two large General Motor’s factories, I knew the class bias in this model and the big lie. GM workers lived 18 months after retirement. On average. My friend Rick’s dad retired from his job on the silvering tank for GM head lamps. A year later he crashed over forward in the living room, broke his nose in the fall. Dead of a heart attack.

Grandparents then did not have as much time with their grandkids. We’re living longer after retirement. Our healthspan has increased. But for what?

A friend said he couldn’t watch television on Saturday morning. He needed to be productive. He’s 73. Like me. And long out of the day to day work world. He volunteers. Hospice work. Clears brush. Doubt he’ll be watching Saturday morning cartoons. Maybe ever.

Another friend spends good chunks of time on his art. Two days a week he plays with his granddaughter. Yet another ponders the transition from running his company to caregiver. Reads poetry. Waits.

Another of the Ancient Ones lives from moment to moment. Always ready to show up. He rescues ducklings, walks by the river, in the woods. Reads. Visits his kids and grandkids. Does code for a startup business. He’s 82.

Though we are at higher risk in this pandemic, those of us in the third phase have advantages. We can stay home. We can limit our exposure to others. Zoom has made that just bearable. But the question remains, who are we in this last phase of life?

I see patterns as I listen to others, watch their lives, now from afar. Paid work might get replaced by volunteer work. Work around the house may take up more time. Others have a family focus, but as grandparents, back-up, not as parents in a nuclear family. (Of course, there are exceptions.) Some find creative work, either continued from their second phase or developed in the third. Others find themselves in caregiving roles when a partner contracts a serious illness.

An unfortunate number go numb, wait out the end, if not fully depressed, at least dysthymic. This might be the largest group since financial resources create severe limits for many elderly U.S. citizens.

If you’re in the third phase, how are you in it? What are your strategies for a meaningful life?

Soul

Written By: Charles - Oct• 18•20

Fall and the Moon of Radical Change

Sunday gratefuls: Jon, Ruth, Gabe. Kate. Jon’s drawing for the gate at the bottom of the loft stairs. Ruth’s Apple fritters. Easy Entree’s beef stew. Borgen. Kate reading Jennie’s Dead, what’s written. The 8 point Buck in the back yard. Kep trying to decide what to do.

“When I think of soul of the nation,” Joy Harjo, the United States poet laureate and a Muscogee (Creek) Nation member, said, “I think of the process of becoming, and what it is we want to become. That is where it gets tricky, and that is where I think we have reached a stalemate right now. What do people want to become?” Elizabeth Dias, NYT, 10/18/2020, Biden and Trump Say They’re Fighting for America’s ‘Soul.’ What Does That Mean?

Highly recommended. Elizabeth Dias is smart and knows her soul history. Of all the wonderful reflections on what the soul of the country might mean, I found Joy Harjo’s the most cogent.

Our soul, our American soul, becomes knowable in the thousands of tiny decisions, and big ones, that we make every day. Where do we live? With whom do we live? What do we drive? What do we eat? For whom do we vote? Who deserves our attention?

It’s possible, in a country as affluent as ours, to get lost in the tiny decisions. Will we wear a mask? Whose mail do we read? Whose products do we buy? Where and how do we get our healthcare? These are all important questions in our daily lives, but we often forget that the aggregate of our choices has enormous consequences for our mutual well-being. If we don’t pay attention, we forget the other, imagine that our choices matter only to us, only to the ethical framework of our family, our work, our small community.

One way to infuse those tiny decisions with broader meaning is to become intentional about them. Remember think global, buy local? If you want peace, work for justice? Do I buy the gasoline powered car or do I buy the electrically powered car?

Our national soul gathers force, gathers power, gathers momentum for change in these choices. Easy to forget. And, I agree with Harjo that we’ve reached a stalemate of sorts now. Our attention has been distracted by 2020.

What’s next? Locust? Volcanoes? Asteroids? No. What’s next is November 3rd. This is a big decision. But it will be our collective choices that make it. America will announce to the world the state of its soul’s health on November 3rd.

Is our soul just an enlarged continuation of the white male project? Or, do others have a voice? Do those who value community, diversity, globalism have the strength to redefine our soul. We will see.

Ready?

Written By: Charles - Oct• 17•20

Fall and the Moon of Radical Change

Saturday gratefuls: Voted. Voting. Democracy under threat. Polls. Nate Silver: Democrat chances of winning Senate have increased. Kate’s really good day yesterday. Her reading the first half of Jennie’s Dead. Down to 2 drops of yellow stuff in my right eye. Can start resistance work again after next week. Vision. Clarity. Not going blind.

Close. Covid’s getting close. Jacquie, our hair stylist and friend, called on Friday. We had appointments at 10:30. I’ve got Covid. Oh, s***. Kate said, What if our appointments had been Thursday? Yikes. A wake-up slap in case our attention had drifted. It has not.

We have entered double jeopardy for the Covid pandemic. Now, coming to a sneezer and cougher hopefully not near you: the Flu! Until late next Spring there are two viruses that seek lodging in your lungs.

How we play this Jeopardy round will make history. My guess? On the down side of good. Are you ready to die?! The key: don’t move on to Final Jeopardy.

A day without appointments. Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow. And, the whole next week! Yes. New wheelchair comes Tuesday. Bought a good one. A taste of socialized medicine for us. We waited 5 weeks for a referral to a Medicare approved vendor. We called. We waited. We heard nothing. We called. Nothing. We were renting a wheelchair. Waiting. Hell with it.

We do have a choice, bureaucracy or capitalism. I still choose bureaucracy. If we all had to wait five weeks, well, that’d be ok. We’d know in advance. Expect it. This hybrid version those of us over 65 have has its merits, but it also has a lot of demerits. The biggest? The referral system.

Political observers, long time ones like myself, have a phobic response to polls this election cycle. Nate Silver, 538, whom I said before I trust, says that the polls in 2016 were not that far off. Within the margins of error. We ignore those margins at our peril. That’s the 2016 lesson. Not to ignore polls. Several polling companies made changes anyway to reduce complicating factors in 2016.

As I have reviewed what Silver says and read NYT and Washington Post articles about current polls, I believe not only is Trump headed for a loss, but the GOP, too. This could be their Whig moment.

Not so far away.

VOTE

New Attitude

Written By: Charles - Oct• 15•20

Fall and the RBG Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Pressures perfect. A bruise on the inside of my left elbow. Blood draw. KFC. Once in a great while. Kate’s new I-pad. Her new wheelchair coming tomorrow. Shrimp, soba noodles, green beans amandine. 27 degrees. Dark, cloudy sky. American medicine. Sometimes. Joe Biden/Kamala Harris.

Quest diagnostics. An every three months visitation location. This PSA. That PSA. Trying for a new attitude. Cancer as a chronic disease. Terminal, yes, but possible to keep in a chemical cage, unable to do harm.

I wanted a cure. Wanted to be cured. Thought I might know with this PSA. The Lupron last injected in April. It has a three month half-life. That would mean October and its effects dissipated. Hot flashes infrequent now. Testosterone on the rise.

Without Lupron’s PSA suppression this blood draw would unmask the radiation’s effectiveness. The rising PSA was in February of 2019. The radiation June through August. 7 weeks. The Lupron’s work kept my PSA down and I had my first injection June 2019. Whatever work the radiation did could not be known until the Lupron was gone.

Do not know whether I did not pay attention or could not, but I understand now that I will be getting PSA draws for the rest of my life. As long as they show undetectable readings, I am cancer free. But. If the next quarterly draw shows a rise, it’s baaaaaacccckkkk.

This means I have to accept ambiguity, uncertainty. Tough. Even in the instance of another “recurrence” I will get put back on androgen deprivation therapy, Lupron. That should slow the cancer down enough that I will die of something else.

The new attitude entails living with this ambiguity. Accepting that this inner predator will not slip out of confinement. Or, best case, might now be a trophy head on Nova Cancer Care’s wall. Working on it.

Nothing is lost.

Written By: Charles - Oct• 14•20

Fall and the RBG Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Cheaters. Again. Stephen King. The Institute. Dr. Gustave. Makeshift eye protector. PSA’s forever. The Wind. Golden Aspen. Blue Sky. Black Mountain. The loft. My library. This computer. Amber. Kate. Her Jevity.

The spirit of Fall has come into me, rests with me. The Trees of my inner Mountain have changed color, taken gusts of wind, and lost most of their leaves. The bare, fallow time Soul needs this transparency for its work.

Perhaps each fall I grieve the loss of those leaves, wish for a while longer with their food making, their feeding. Mom’s death in October, the 25th Mary writes, came amongst this seasonal loss. Added to it. The feelings around her death seem to reemerge eachFall, making my mood sad, reflective, inward. Melancholic.

Seasonal synchronicities reach deep, help us experience the Great Wheel as a reality in our life. As Mom’s death created this strong Fall resonance for me, I can walk my ancientrail of grief and death as Trees lose their leaves, Grasses brown, Meadows turn gold.

The experience though has more sides. The seasons are never just this or that. It is the Elk rut. The Mule Deer rut. The Black Bear’s final eating, hyperphagia, before hibernation. Roots store the sugars and proteins from a Summer’s sun and rain. The Mycological world begins absorbing and repurposing the fallen Leaves, the dead Animals, increasing the depth of duff and topsoil.

Life literally in the midst of death. Melancholy might be the Mycology of the soul. It grabs onto our fallen persons. The withered dream. The gathering dark. Changes them. Makes from them compost for the growth we need. Nothing is lost. Nothing.

Shadowed Mountain

Written By: Charles - Oct• 13•20

Fall and the waning RBG Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Our money. The house on Shadow Mountain. The loft. Ivory in a new home. Jon’s Subaru, now planted in our garage. Mary, Mark, Diane, Kate: the clan. Sleep. Movies. Hamburger.

Kate reminded me, after a rant, that October is my season of melancholy. Mom’s death came this month, in 1964. Couldn’t remember the exact date, I think it was October 5th.

Anyhow that’s the date I gave CBE for recalling Mom’s Yahrzeit. Yahrzeit’s occur according to the Hebrew Calendar. October 5th, 1964 fell on the 29th day of Tishrei. This year the 29th of Tishrei is on October 17th, so her Yahrzeit will be celebrated in service on that day.

I bought a 24-hour Yahrzeit candle that we will burn on Saturday. Maybe I’ll make hamloaf, mashed potatoes, and canned peas. Get out the albums from her war years. Remember this woman who carried me for nine months, gave birth to me, loved me through polio, elementary school, and almost all the way through high school.

Not sure why I decided this was the year to acknowledge her Yarhzeit, but it feels appropriate. And, good.

Cancer. Tomorrow my first psa after the lupron should have vanished from my body. My last lupron shot was in April. If the psa comes back undetectable, it will suggest that the radiation did kill the recurrence. If not, well…

This instance of my prostate cancer was a recurrence though I’ve come to question that word. Some small remnant of cancer cells survived the removal of my prostate and are now a second clinical manifestation of the same cancer.

Recurrence or new clinical manifestation of the old cancer my cancer did not go away, did not stop trying to spread out, grow bigger. And, it succeeded. We tried a second time to cure it: 35 doses of radiation plus nine months of androgen deprivation therapy, the lupron. 60/40 chance of a cure according to both Eigner and Gilroy.

Even if this psa is clear, 5 years have to go by without a higher reading to make a statement. Then, you have 5 years of clear tests. Not, oh, you’re cured!

The burden of cancer is its ambiguity, the layer of uncertainty it adds to daily life. Stubborn, resilient, recalcitrant to treatment cancer stays with you.

So, melancholy. Yes. a time of the year, a time of life, a time of a disease’s journey.

Mountain Recluses

Written By: Charles - Oct• 12•20

Fall and the RBG Moon. Orion, Mars, Venus, and the Great Dog

Monday gratefuls: Ancient friends. Their journeys. Learning and education. Life. All those drops for my eyes. Peanut butter and Rigel. Carne asada, twice baked potato, and salad. Safeway pickup. That snow yesterday. Mom’s yahrzeit on the 17th.

A bright, sunshiny day in the high 50’s. I worked at my computer. Turned around. A gray day. Snow blizzarding down, swirling. 39 degrees. Colorado. An hour later. No snow. Blue sky. Sunny. Black Mountain absorbed it all.

My ancient friends keep talking about the Ground Hog day nature of their lives. Not so for me. Each day has its own challenges. Our meal times vary. Sure, there are equivalent actions at familiar times: feeding the dogs, a.m., coming up to the loft, writing this blog. Breakfast, change Kate’s bandages. Noon or so nap. Evening dog feeding, some television. In between these though I could be reading, painting, writing.

Our life had a cloistered feel even before the pandemic. That’s intensified, for sure. We don’t have the occasional meal out. No movies. No CBE. Zooming with family, friends, synagogue classes. Yes, not the same as in person, as we all know now.

Both of us though are introverts. Kate even more so than I. Happiness is a book, a project, a downtime hour painting or sewing, watching a movie. Of course we love our kids, our grandkids, our friends, the folks at CBE. We would like to see them more often. But, not too much more often.

Mountain recluses. That’s us. Just got a novel, A Life of Li Bai. Either at retirement or upon banishment Chinese literati took up mountain living, usually as recluses. Li Bai, a Tang dynasty poet exiled in the time of the An Lushan rebellion is a mountain poet.

Here’s one of his memorized by generations of Chinese schoolchildren:

Thoughts in the Silent Night (静夜思)

床前明月光,   Beside my bed a pool of light—
疑是地上霜,   Is it hoarfrost on the ground?
舉頭望明月,   I lift my eyes and see the moon,
低頭思故鄉。   I lower my face and think of home.

And another famous poem (in China) by Han-Shan, or Cold Mountain, Poem 302:

出生三十年, I’ve been in the world for thirty years,
當遊千萬里。 And I must have traveled a million miles.
行江青草合, Walked by rivers where the green grass grows thick,
入塞紅塵起。 And entered the frontier where the red dust rises.
鍊藥空求仙, Purified potions in vain search for immortality,
讀書兼詠史。 Read books and perused the histories.
今日歸寒山, Today I return to Cold Mountain,
枕流兼洗耳。 Pillow myself on the creek and wash out my ears.

The pandemic has changed our lives, but not that much. Li Bai or Han Shan could have lived here.

The Consolations of the Mountains. Our wild Neighbors. The dark night Sky filled with Stars and Planets and Galaxies. The Lodgepole Pine and the Aspen. The dancing, sparkling Streams. The sturdy Rock. The thinner Air. Shadow Mountain home.

America, America

Written By: Charles - Oct• 11•20

Fall and the RBG Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Peanut butter and bread. For Rigel’s pills. Working for now. Kate’s conversation with Annie and her other sisters. The polls. The bugs me a lot distrust I have of them. The black, black sky and the stars, the millions, the billions of stars. Clear now.

Been thinking about America, this land I love, this nation, my nation. Our nation. Will we transform into a large simulacrum of Britain? A once mighty country brought low by its own perfidy and a too rapidly changing world? I hope not. The Plastic Hour article by George Packer gives us this one chance to turn away from that fate. We need to take it.

Not sure when I first knew I was an American. Maybe during one of the Decoration Day parades in Alexandria? Or, when Mom or Dad would talk about World War II. Mom on Capri. In Algiers. Her signal corps job. Dad dropping flour bombs on troops in training, flying folks on the Manhattan project. Air taxi. Talking about flying.

Maybe it was late at night when the TV stations turned off and the flag would wave, the National Anthem playing in the background, then the ironic screen image of a bonneted Indian Chief. Not sure.

I do remember the first day I learned our nation could be bad. It was in the summer of my seventeenth year, the same year my mother would die. We were in Canada again, Stratford, Ontario. The Shakespeare festival with its then new theater shaped like a crown. Those road signs with a crown on top of the number.

The Black Swan Coffee House sat near the Avon River in a green sward. Before Starbucks, before Dutch Brothers, before Caribou Coffee. Back then coffee houses had folk music, tables with candles. Were often dark, gloomy places. No chains that I recall. Independent small businesses dedicated to a counter culture before the one that emerged later on those same 1960’s.

I went alone. A place filled with foreigners. I felt brave. Got hot chocolate, coffee hadn’t entered my life. Sat down at a table by myself, took in the atmosphere. No coffee houses in Alexandria.

A singer came on stage and sang a protest song. Against the U.S. presence in Vietnam. It shocked me. An electric jolt. They’re criticizing my country. MY Country! I was an outsider there. An American. No one was thanking us for beating Hitler or stopping Japan. The singer said leave Vietnam to the Vietnamese. I did not know we had troops in Vietnam. I did not know that two years later my voice would speak the same words.

There were those other ways I learned my country. Watching American TV. Going to drive-ins for a hamburger, fries, and a milkshake. Paying close attention to the Greatest Spectacle in racing, the Indianapolis 500. Listening to the Dodgers on transistor radio while I delivered the Alexandria Times-Tribune.

Those times I got on the Greyhound bus at Mr. Stein’s Tailor Shop. Fruit on my lap. Headed across the vastness of this country to Oklahoma. On the train later headed to Arlington, Texas. This nation filled my nostrils as bus exhaust. As a conductor checked tickets. As I watched Illinois and Missouri roll by the window. Merrimac Caverns. Frankoma Pottery. The Tulsa Turnpike.

The United Auto Workers Union represented the parents of most of my classmates. Its decisions, its bargaining had a direct and positive effect. A house, a vacation place, a car, medical care, retirement pension, affording college for their kids. I left town before the U.S. Auto industry began to shrink in the wake of foreign competition. But, even those troubles reinforced my vision of American life.

Our life in these United States has been the envy of the world. Now journalists from other countries write articles pitying us. My early immersion in American culture, we each had our own, feels warm and fuzzy, a cloak of identity that wrapped around my psyche, shaping it, nurturing it, so a vital part of me feels sad when I read these opinions.

There’s more but I’m written out for this morning. What do you think of as the American Way?