We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Brain Tumors, Cute Baby Videos and Climate Change

Lughnasa                                                          Waning Summer Moon

Sandy came yesterday. She’s now four weeks or so out from the last of the radiation treatments for her brain tumor. A difficult medical story with an unsatisfying partial resolution. They couldn’t remove the tumor all at once, left much of it in place after the first surgery, then nerves grew into the tumor meaning it couldn’t be removed at all. Hence, radiation to shrink it. It’s benign, stretching the meaning of that word, but it has knocked out her hearing in one ear and seems to have left her in a permanent state of slight dizziness. She’s young, late forties I imagine, so a lot of her life is ahead.

Gabe

Gabe

Gabe’s been watching cute baby videos. His words. I asked him if he might want a baby of his own someday (he’s 10). He said, “I don’t know. Maybe.” We’re going to a movie today.We can do that because Kate wisely decided to skip needleworkers today.

This book is the culmination of more than 125 years of tradition and countless “Documentation Days,” during which quilting council members record the block technique, age, batting, backing, and color of each quilt their fellow quilters trust them to preserve.

This book is the culmination of more than 125 years of tradition and countless “Documentation Days,” during which quilting council members record the block technique, age, batting, backing, and color of each quilt their fellow quilters trust them to preserve.

On her 74th birthday, this Saturday, she’s organizing food for an interesting event. The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden offers a documentation service for quilts. They have teams that go to quilt clubs (and other venues, too, I suppose). The teams collect archival data like maker, history, description and photograph the quilts. Those records become part of the ongoing collection of the museum. The Quilt museum folks are coming to the Bailey Patchworkers meeting place, the Catholic church in Bailey. It’s before Crow Hill, the steep decline that goes into Bailey proper.

Her stamina seems to be decreasing, too. I really hope the ultrasound for her gall bladder and the new upper GI look find something. She needs to be able to gain weight. Soonest.

Thunderstorm yesterday. Nice rain. Lots of noise. Wildfire fears have eased for this year. This article in my favorite publication about the West, the High Country News, explores the angst that many of us who live out here feel. “One truism about the future is that climate change will spare no place. Still, I suspect the threat of warming feels more existential in New Mexico than it does in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. Drought has gripped the Southwest for 19 years, more than half my life.” In this rapaciously dry year, a quiet question grows louder: What are we doing here? HCN, Aug. 6, 2018

fire mitigationCalifornia fire seasons, which have grown longer and longer, producing worse fires, the Mendocino Complex Fire is now the largest ever in the state’s history, keep us always aware that what’s happening there can certainly happen here. Damocles. Closer to Shadow Mountain there are, too, the 416, the Spring Creek, the Buffalo Pass fires now out, but active this year in Colorado.

I agree with Cally Carswell, the author of the article, that our experience, our Western experience, is a foretaste of what is to come for most if not all of the planet. Her article says out loud what lurks just below the surface Westerners. When might the fire or the water shortages be too much? When might the increasing heat dry us out or burn us down?

As the Donald might say, sad.

Traffic Jam, Evergreen Lake

Lughnasa                                                     Waning Summer Moon

photo credit  Pamela Farmer Yelmer

photo credit Pamela Farmer Yelmer

Ah. Finally. An emergency where I could be of assistance

Lughnasa                                                                  Waning Summer Moon

die

Police Treating Blacks Awfully

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe opened up his large notebook yesterday and showed me a page empty except for a sort of title: Police treating blacks awfully. This is his project. Jon wanted me to help him with some research so we went up to the loft. I suggested to him that we put his title into google. We did that. He chose several articles ranging from an essay on prison brutality to a Gallup poll on how blacks perceive their treatment by the police.

To put a generational spin on it, he said, “We could just add these to Googledocs.” Oh. Well, ok. Do you know your Google account information? He got up and typed it in, commenting, as Ruth always does, that he doesn’t like my track ball mouse. We then added links to all the articles he chose to a blank Google doc that will show up wherever he has access to a computer. No library involved, at least so far. He will also interview black friends and adults. This is all interesting not least because this project isn’t due until May/June, 2019. Pretty long range thinking for a 10 year old.

Love

Love

Meanwhile corned beef simmered on the stove, awaiting the addition of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Sounded good to Kate and these days I try to cook whatever sounds good to her. I still can’t get it moist like Frank does. Gotta ask him his secret. Tasted ok. Today. Corned beef hash. A real favorite for my palate.

Kate had a consult with a gastroenterologist, a Korean/American, Dr. Rhee. He’s going to look at her gall bladder and do another upper GI endoscopy to look for a possible stricture below her stomach. She sounded hopeful, but weary. Easy to understand. This is like torture. Her nausea is episodic, but always looming.

She was tired last night and so was I. She asked me to clean up after the meal and I said,”No.” Felt bad immediately. I was tired, too, but I don’t have her inner fatigue. So, I cleaned up. This is tough stuff because it creates tension where tension only exacerbates.

I’m lucky to be in relationship with such an intelligent and confident woman. Have been. Am. Will be. I see that woman every day; she often doesn’t. Painful.

Muddy BuckThere’s a sort of sneaky self-satisfaction that comes from holding a business meeting on the boardwalk in Evergreen. Alan Rubin and I met at the Muddy Buck in the morning, sitting outside on its veranda, really a wide spot on the couple of blocks long board walk that I mentioned a few posts ago. On a Monday morning discussing the religious school class we start teaching on September 5th, we saw the usual flow of cars on Hwy 74, the main street of this tourist destination portion of Evergreen. This is a place people come to visit for an afternoon or a weekend or a week. And we live here.

 

 

Becoming Emo

Lughnasa                                                            Waning Summer Moon

20171202_1925591514204365009Got up with Kate at 2:45 am, went upstairs in the dark (to preserve night vision) and out on the deck attached to the house. We watched the NNE sky for about a half an hour and on the peak night of this much ballyhooed annual running of the Perseids saw 3 meteors. 3. It was a clear, beautiful night and stars dotted the sky. The Milky Way swept across its dome carrying souls of many cultures to the world beyond this one. And we were out there together. Glad the Perseids got us up. Might try again tonight.

My shift to emo continues. Still strange, but becoming more, what, usual? Ruth, Jon, and Gabe came up around 8 pm last night to drop off Gabe for the week. The start of his school year is out of synch with Jen and Jon’s. They’re back at work, but he has another week to go before school starts. Ruth’s school, though in the same Denver school district as Gabe’s, started last week. McAuliffe middle school marches to its own drummer, just like Ruth.

20171217_171626Ruth had a lot to say about school. She’s excited, loves school. And I love her. Her presence warms up my day, makes me very happy to be a grandad, to have a role in her life. She’s in honors math, mindfulness and meditation, Chinese, art, life sciences and will run cross country this year. I couldn’t be more excited about her life if she was my own child.

20171224_091544Jon’s still working out the sequelae from the divorce. He spent, he said, the last couple of years trying to manage the stress. He’s gotten out of shape, hasn’t handled his diabetes as well as he normally does. His house is a work in process and will be, I suspect, for a couple of years, maybe more. Adapting to being a single parent, in a divorce situation where he can only communicate with Jen, his ex, by email is difficult, too. No wonder the U of happiness troughs out in the 40’s and 50’s. Better times ahead.

Gabe’s on a new drug for his hemophilia now. It only requires a weekly subcutaneous injection and keeps his factor level steady with no canyons and peaks. This is brand new medication. He’s only on it because he can no longer have a port. He’s working on a fifth grade project, at his initiation, on racism. Fifth grade culminates in a project and his has a focus on race from the perspective of African-Americans. I’m going to help him with some research.

20171228_190150

This is love. Family is an exercise in life cycles, with various family members beginning or ending cycles that others have been through. The interactions between and among the cycles makes family life dynamic and a reservoir of  wisdom and hope. Struggles and joys, achievements and failures, emerge and subside. During each one we are there for each other. As it has been across human culture for thousands of years.

 

 

 

 

Music of the Counter Culture

Lughnasa                                                                Monsoon Moon

long black veilListening to some music on youtube while cleaning/rearranging. One clip leads to another. I’d started out on the Band’s “Long Black Veil” and youtube ratcheted me along to a guy named Blake Shelton. He’s a country guy, well known in areas where he’s well known, I gather. The song was, “Kiss My Country Ass.”

This was a slick video production, an official version. It featured Blake at the Carnegie Hall of Country, The Grand Ole Opry, and shifted often to videos of fans singing along and acting out the words. As I watched it, about the last half, I noticed the glee and fervor of Shelton’s fanboys and fangirls. I thought back to my own fanboy days with Steppenwolf, the Stones, Velvet Underground, the Doors, Creedence, the Band. I sang along (quietly in less I was alone) with equal passion.

kissThen it hit me. Much of country music is protest music. It’s the protest music of the blue collar worker, the southern working class, and the white supremacist (these are not conflatable categories though they may cross over.) You may have noticed this a long time ago, but I hadn’t.

Set apart by reason of counter cultural norms, this protest differs in content, but not in sociological significance. We are not like you, and, guess what? We don’t wanna be. If you don’t like that, well, you can kiss my country ass.

The Sweet Life

Lughnasa                                                                      Monsoon Moon

CBE (1)Discovering an odd phenomenon. My feelings bubble up with less filtering. I don’t feel depressed, not labile. Not really sure how to explain this, though it may be a third phase change? Or, maybe just me, for some reason.

At the MIA last week, for example, there was the strong feeling of grief in the Asian collection. Warm feelings for my friends in Minnesota were also strong. On the way home I was happy on the road. Noticeably. Kate triggers a powerful, more powerful than ever feeling of love. When I watched a TV program in which the main character’s mother died suddenly of a stroke, I was right with him emotionally. Yesterday, at the Bat Mitzvah of Gwen Hirsch, I kept shoving back the occasional tear. Her initial struggle with being upfront, her beautiful voice and the clear joy with which she overcame her fright, so evident when she carried the torah scroll around the sanctuary, made it appear she was becoming a different person, right then. Her transition/transformation was breathtaking and so sweet.

Ruth at DomoIn fact, there’s another example. Over the last few months I’ve been using the word sweet a lot. Our dogs are sweet. Ruth. The folks at Beth Evergreen. Minnesota friends. The loft. My life. I seem to see sweetness more now. I haven’t lost my political edge, my anger at injustice or a willingness to act, but the world has much, much more nuance now at an emotional level.

This change in my inner life has made me more resilient, I think, more able to identify the emotions, accept them, learn from them, respond or not, and move on. Enriched. It’s as if there’s more color in my day to day. Who knows? It might be a phase or I might be melancholy, my feelings are usually closer to the surface then, but I don’t think so. This feels like a permanent change.

Seeing the holy soul, my mussar practice for this month, accentuates this. I saw Gwen’s holy soul yesterday and it was a thing of beauty. I see the hosta struggling with a dry spell, but I know their holy soul makes them strong even in this sort of adversity. Gertie’s blind eye and painful rear quarter, her missing teeth have not dimmed her holy soul, it moves her into a bouncing, happy girl in spite of them.

slash from beetle killed lodgepole pine

slash from beetle killed lodgepole pine

I can, too, see the holy souls with damaged personas. Occasionally, I’ll see an aggressive dog or one that cowers, yet beneath those defensive outer layers, the warm and kind dog soul is still visible although it might be hard to reach. People, too. The young boy with violent tendencies, with a stubbornness that might be on the spectrum, with the sweetness for those who are sick, his holy soul is, even at this young age, hidden, so hard to find. Or, another, her reason so tortured by ideology, her essential kindness most often blocked by bitterness. Or a lodgepole pine dying of pine beetle infestation. Even as its needles turn brown and it begins to dry out, its holy soul keeps it upright as long as it can. We can never err when we search for the holy soul in others.

Look insideI see my own holy soul, now claiming more space, taking back some of the aspects of my life I had given over to achievement, to striving. This is strange because it comes as I’ve begun to reach for achievements I’ve blocked for decades. The work of submitting my writing feels both unimportant and necessary. I’m immersed in a community, Beth Evergreen, which encourages the growth and expansion of my holy soul. This is true religion, with the small r, the connecting and reconnecting of our inner life with the great vastness, our part in it highlighted, made clear at the same time as our limitedness.

 

 

 

 

Meteors, Around the World Solo, 430,000 mph!

Lughnasa                                                                   Monsoon Moon

While the Golden Globe sailors round Africa, (see below), the night sky for the next three nights will give each sailor a spectacular show, the Perseid meteor showers. The moonless sky will be optimal for viewing this annual event.

perseid-meteors-2018-radiant--e1533672930772
Meteors in the annual Perseid shower radiate from a point in the constellation Perseus the Hero. Chart via Guy Ottewell.

So grab a lawn chair with a view of the NNE sky, maybe some hot cocoa and watch.

Golden Globe Race. 1968 was the first sailing of this world solo navigation competition. It featured nine competitors, only one of whom finished the punishing task. A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols recounts the race and participants who ranged from a man who decided to learn to sail during the race and a man who’d already logged 20,000 solo miles in a yacht. It was not run again. Until this year, its fiftieth anniversary.

golden globe2

Golden Globe 2018. This Golden Globe has already clocked 41 days, 2 hours and 40 minutes. Of the eighteen entrants, twice the 1968 number, three have already quit. Jean-Luc Van Heede’s pace, he’s the current leader, has an estimated finish date of January 30th, 2019. The sailor in last pace, Abhilash Tomy, will finish on May 29th at his current pace. The lead boats are nearing the horn of Africa.

parker solar probeFriend Bill Schmidt alerted me to the launch of the Parker Solar Probe, scrubbed yesterday, now scheduled for tomorrow. “Parker Solar Probe will swoop to within 4 million miles of the sun’s surface, facing heat and radiation like no spacecraft before it. Launching in 2018, Parker Solar Probe will provide new data on solar activity and make critical contributions to our ability to forecast major space-weather events that impact life on Earth.” At its top speed this probe will reach 430,000 miles per hour!

 

The next few months

Lughnasa                                                                        Monsoon Moon

20180315_080213Now that I’m back from Minnesota and September 5th is less than a month away it’s time to focus on lesson plans. Again. Still. Alan Rubin sent me a template with examples of his lesson plans and I’ve finished three in an idiosyncratic format which I will, today, transfer to the CBE lesson plan model. Still several more to create and then weave together with the B’nai Mitzvah curriculum. 22 sessions altogether, though not all will require lesson plans. This work is a priority until Alan and I feel comfortable with what we have.

On October 7th I will start the first of 8 First Sunday Jewish Studies Samplers. On Wednesday night when we went in for the MVP group we saw the new that day bookshelves and fire place that will frame a large screen, internet connected TV. With chairs and couches arrayed around it, this will be a spot in the synagogue for group use of online courses, lectures from companies like the Teaching Company, webinars or films. I’ll get a chance to use this new space for the exact purpose for which it’s intended. Each Sunday I’ll have discussion questions ready so attendees can sample not only the lectures, but the group learning possible through their use.

2010 01 19_3454Meanwhile I’ll keep working on submissions, a hump I’ve gotten over, and writing itself. Jennie’s Dead still has a ways to go, maybe 30,000 words,  and other manuscripts, both novels and short stories that need further editing/revision.

The next project after Jennie’s Dead, a novel retelling the story of Medea, keeps pushing its way forward and I look forward to a chance to get to work on it. Maybe in 2019. Lot of reading to do before then. I want to read as many variations on her story as I can find. Part of the story is the search for the golden fleece, with Jason, her lover, and his Argonauts.

20180716_075524This constitutes the work portion of my schedule through May of 2019 and, with Medea, beyond.

Here at home I still have trees to buck, logs to split and stack, a few smaller trees to fell and another round of stump grinding to organize. There are inside projects of various sorts, too. Cooking and laundry as well. Workouts. Sumi-e. Probably a return to Latin translation, too, since I’ve not completed translating Medea’s story in Ovid.

 

 

 

 

Kate, mussar

Lughnasa                                                                        Monsoon Moon

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

Forward and backwards for Kate these days, but yesterday was a forward day. Her spirit was as good as it’s been for quite some time. She’s recovering a sense of her self as an agent, a confident person and it’s a delight.

We have a routine on Thursdays. Go to mussar, get a new character trait to practice or continue work on one. Yesterday we discussed the chesed of chesed, or the loving kindness of loving kindness. It’s an odd idea, but Rami Shapiro, author of the book we’re using right now, compared it to a brush stroke and a painting. An act of chesed gives shape to the whole picture of chesed, one only created over time, by brush stroke after brush stroke.

In a typically Jewish and mussar move intent is not key. It is better to perform an act of loving kindness for a base or less charitable reason than not to perform one at all. Why? Because in doing so, the one who performs the act will discover the personal reward that comes from acting on another’s behalf. That opens the way to look for opportunities for choosing chesed.

20180504_160826After mussar, we take the back way through Hiwan Hills and enter the commercial district of Evergreen, the part for tourists, from the east and drive up to the Vienna Beef shop. It’s on a board walk that extends maybe two blocks and has art galleries, coffee shops, clothing stores and Mountain Man fruits and nuts. I buy two Vienna Beef sandwiches, equivalent to the ones you can purchase in Chicago, and we have them for supper. Up till yesterday afternoon it was a bland, but tasty source of protein for Kate. There was something a bit spicier on either the bun or the the beef yesterday and it made her mouth hurt. We’ll try again, just to see.

 

 

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