We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Red Moon

Written By: Charles - Aug• 14•20

Lughnasa and the crescent Lughnasa Moon (with Venus below)

Friday gratefuls: Kate’s more comfortable. Her Michelle William’s hairdo done in reddish blonde. Jackie, a sweet woman. Note from Seoah. Jon, Ruth, Gabe coming up Saturday next to celebrate Kate’s 76th. Weather. The beautiful moon and its pendant planet. A nice note from Diane. Wildfire. The smoke. The red moons at twilight. CBE.

There’s a smoky haze over Black Mountain. Its source is far west of us, on the other side of the Rockies, but still in Colorado. The Pine Gulch Fire mainly, over 69,000 acres burning, 7% containment. Near Grand Junction, the big city of the Western Slope.

Smelling smoke makes everybody nervous when you live in the WUI, the wildland urban interface. We look out the windows, search the skies for local red. Only on the Moon at night, the particulates refracting moonlight. We feel relief, but we also have fellow feeling for those in the path of the Pine Gulch Fire.

When Kate and I got our haircuts yesterday, she had great difficulty walking from Aspen Roots, Jackie’s salon, to the car. Maybe two hundred feet. She had to stop and rest. It’s an orange day for air quality with ozone and particulates as the primary pollutants. Yesterday, too. Seems to affect Kate a lot. In additional air quality news the pollen alerts are high, too, with Ragweed and Sage Brush along with chenopods like Amaranth, Pigweed, and Lamb’s Quarters.

While Kate hair color set, I did errands. Picked up an albuterol inhaler for her at the King Sooper pharmacy. Bought her a box of Pinot Grigio. The owner of the liquor store and I had a conversation about his task today, taking his son to C.U. I’m anxious and sad, he said. Called to mind for me taking Joe to kindergarten. He’s not going very far. (C.U. is in Boulder, about 34 miles away, but an hour or so by car.) Yes, I said, but he’s going on with his life away from you. That’s tough.

From the liquor store I drove over to Oyama Sushi and Ramen, a brand new Japanese place near King Sooper. Take out. In keeping with the times I sat outside on some steps while they prepared the order. Mr. Charlie? That’s me. With the brown, stapled bag I drove back to Aspen Roots.

Kate’s 76th is next week on the 18th. As Earth races around Sol, she brings us back to that spot in Her orbit where life outside the womb began.

Just a brief thought. Kamala Harris.

Due to the nature of politics mine never get represented at the presidential level. Those of us on the fringes have to watch our policy favorites get diluted, misshapen, and ignored for the sake of a coalition big enough to win a national election. I get it. Really. I’ve been a political observer since the Eisenhower/Stevenson election when I was five.

When centrists like Biden float to the top, I sigh. Choosing Kamala makes it a little better, since she’s a progressive with roots in Berkley’s radical political community. That she’s a Black woman and only fifty-five, bonus.

The orange tumor has cast off the thin, transparent cloak of his commitment to democracy. He’s now full on acting like a fascist, admitting he’s holding up funds that would facilitate voting by mail to win the election. Yes, he has to go and may his seat be filled by Kamala in four years. And, may she lead the legal team that puts his fat ass in jail.

The Good News

Written By: Charles - Aug• 13•20

Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Tara. Taryle. Kelly, the gutter cleaner. Ruth and Gabe, the snail wranglers. Claretin. Jackie, our hair stylist. The fan in our bedroom. Kate’s capacity to adapt to new realities. Her microwave bowls. Kamala Harris. The excitement over the Democratic ticket. The chance to dethrone the naked emperor in November.

And so. The pulmonologist. Dr. Taryle is a gnome, an old gnome, older than either one of us, I’m sure. He works as a pulmonologist for National Jewish Hospital, the premiere respiratory hospital in the U.S. He’s been clear, focused, and attentive to data and detail. He knows his specialty and cares about Kate.

He also said her lung condition is stable. That’s good, right? Well. Yes. Sorta. He looked at her CT, listened to her lungs, heard her story about recent shortness of breath. Among the other things going on, I can say the lungs are stable. Well, can you give me something, anything to help? I don’t think it’s called for. Those meds cause nausea, diarrhea, fatigue. Oh, well.

Which leaves us in a weird place. Her cardiologist, after an echocardiogram, says her heart is not the issue. No pulmonary hypertension. Her pulmonologist says her interstitial lung disease is stable. Yet she’s still out of breath after coming up four stairs or going out to her sewing room to water her plants. Not sure what to do next.

A positive is Kate’s new, more regular use of Zofran, an anti-nausea drug. It seems to help with her eating. She lost weight over the last couple of weeks, down to 90 pounds. If she can add some calories by mouth, we should be able to get her up to her target range between 95 and 105.

Rigel’s foot, now wrapped in a neon pink bandage, has gotten better. Her gate is normal. The bandage comes off this evening. Kep goes in for another grooming session on Sunday. As a double-coated breed, Akita’s shed a lot. And, by a lot, I mean, a lot. The only antidote is regular grooming.

Kelly, the gutter guy, came by yesterday. He put a ladder up on the roof, then climbed up and walked around cleaning the gutters. He did this on the garage, too. A much taller roof. Would have scared me. An ice dam and fire mitigation service. The same company sends us window cleaners next week.

Debating right now whether resurfacing our driveway and extending the asphalt to the garage makes sense. About seven grand. Or, should we stain the house? Probably about the same. Or, should we do neither? Like a new roof these are big ticket maintenance items that have to be done on occasion. Is this the time?

It’s Baaaackk

Written By: Charles - Aug• 12•20

Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Getting Ancientrails back. (It was lost somehow.) The lovely cool morning. Kate’s experiment with zofran. Kate’s appointment with the pulmonologist today. The cow that gave its life for our dinner last night. Potatoes. Our new mailbox. Jon. Ruth. Gabe. For the wonderful Saturday. Edging my way toward a new normal: Covid safe, Kate gaining weight, writing, painting, working out, seeing friends and family on Zoom.

Ancientrails got lost in some cyber realm. When I wanted to access it yesterday, all that happened was little balls going back and forth on my browser tab. To show how seriously I took this, I contacted Ionos, my web server, for technical help. Reminded me why I never do that.

Had to take Rigel to the vet on Monday. She ripped a nail part way off. We had noticed a limp and both sucked in our breath. Rigel’s eleven and a half, the longest lived by far of all our big dogs. Which is great. But it also means something could happen to her at any time. Too often a limp, especially in a big dog, means bone cancer. Relief when we discovered her injury.

I have to go because it took Windows 10 forty minutes to update this morning and we have an 8:45 appointment in Englewood. Breakfast, stuff like that. I solved the Ancientrails issue by completing rebooting everything. That’s how I got stuck in the endless update loop.


Written By: Charles - Aug• 10•20

Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

Monday gratefuls: Feeling loved. Ruth. Jon. Gabe. Chuck roast in the instapot. Pull apart good. The Maids coming tomorrow. The cool nights. Having the lawn furniture up closer to the house. The Ancient Ones. The duckling rescue. The heart of Bill Schmidt. The openness of Mark Odegard. The sensitivity of Tom Crane. The doggedness of Paul Strickland. My buddies for over thirty years.

Remarkable. Yesterday was remarkable. That is, I will re-mark it again and again as a special day. Let me tell you why.

Ducklings in the sewer. When I meet on zoom with my ancient friends, mentioned above, Tom, Bill, Mark, and Paul, we have a topic chosen by each of us in a rotation. Yesterday was Bill’s day and he gave us this song to investigate, especially it’s lyrics.

This was his prompt: “Bob Dylan is an insightful writer/singer.  Here’s a link to his song, It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding) and the lyrics are attached in a pdf file. It was released in early 1965 and every verse is for this time, right now.  Listen, reflect, and share.  Hi light for us any part of this song that says something to you.”

It’s the task of the topic creator to sort of gently guide the discussion, so it was strange when Bill didn’t show up on the call. When we’d all popped up on the screen except Bill, Tom told us Bill had called and said he had discovered a distraught duck mother quacking and looking into a sewer grate. 6 of her ducklings had fallen into the storm sewer.

Bill. I called 911. I said this, This isn’t an emergency, but it’s important. A bit later three trucks and six men show up. A fire and rescue truck among them.

These men didn’t quit. They took the sewer grate off, climbed down. Meanwhile, I talked to the duck mother, tried to calm her down. Eventually I sat down on the curb beside her.

They got five ducklings up and returned them to the mother, who then stopped quacking and waddled off with what she thought was all of her ducklings.

No. I hear another one. One of the rescue guys. One of the ducklings had gone the opposite way from the others, sewer drain pipes lead off in both directions. I hear him. I’ll get him. They flushed out the sixth duckling.

When they got out of the sewer, the mother had disappeared. Four of them took the sixth duckling and began searching for the mother to reunite them all. They found her.

Bill made it back to his apartment before we finished and told us this story. What you do to the least of these, you do unto me. Yes. Bill. Yes.

The mailbox. Jon installed our new mailbox. It took an hour plus, but he worked away at it. I helped a little bit, but not much. My help really consisted of trying to get the old one removed. I told you yesterday how that turned out.

This morning I went out to get the Denver Post, an every morning jaunt. The new mailbox was there and I opened the road facing door. Was it smooth? Yes. It was.

Oh, wait. What’s that? There were two cloth bags inside it, one labeled grandma and the other grandpop. I put Kate’s at her place at the table and brought my bag upstairs with me.

Inside it were several small items. A Donald Duck stuffed animal, a Pokemon card, a picture of a smiling gap toothed man glued to a piece of paper, a small iron coyote baying at the moon, a bracelet, and, a piece of lined note paper.

Ruth. Dear Grandpop, I wanted to do something for you that would help to brighten your day and mood. I collected and made all of these things to make you happy. I made the bracelet of these colors because they reminded me of the sun which I think of as a very bright and happy thing in our solar system, so I hope that when you see it you will feel happy.

Her note goes on this spirit. She found the coyote in a box of her special things, Donald Duck was her favorite Disney Character. “I figured he could be your buddy in the loft.”

“I hope this brightens your day, and mood! Love, Ruthie.” How about my life? She’s brightened it from the beginning.

As I said, a remarkable day.

A Good Saturday

Written By: Charles - Aug• 09•20

Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Kate, always. Jon. Ruth. Gabe. Joe. Seoah. Tara. Alan. Bill. Tom. Paul. Mark. Diane. Mary. Mark. Rigel. Kep. Derek. Those in close. Grateful for each of you this week. Different reasons, same love.

Driving Shadow Mountain Drive early yesterday. Like a vacation morning, getting up early to hike Haleakala. A patina of light and shadow played over every thing. A mist rose from the small pond where the grass feeding cows drink and where Kate and Gabe saw a female moose. (yes, repetitive, but so wonderful.)

Strangely equivalent to the shopping experience at Safeway. Only employees there, masked, putting up produce, stocking shelves. My cart rattled over the floor. I found it exciting (literally) to be able to shop. Just shop. Wander, consider my choices. Look at stuff I didn’t want to buy like those crab legs sticking up out of crushed ice in the butcher’s glass display case. The sushi guy putting out his first creations of the day. I felt safe while outside and in public. A rush.

So what if I bought some things I might not have had I not been thrilled to be alone. You know, wienies. Bacon. Drove home feeling righteous anyhow. 7 a.m. and I’d already done my grocery shopping. Ha.

Kate had just gotten up when I got home. After putting away the groceries, I made Malt-o-Meal for both of us. Alan and I had a call at 9:00 so I finished up a bit early. Alan’s doing a strategic marketing plan for our Democratic state representative, Lisa Cutter. She needs to play up her bipartisanship, he says, in our purple leaning toward red district.

Kate rested all morning for the coming of Jon and the grandkids. In addition to shortness of breath she experiences a deep fatigue most days. Lying down is easier on her breathing and the fatigue. She’s reading, reading, reading. She just started Sport of Kings after having finished Ralph Ellison’s classic, the Invisible Man, in a couple of days.

After Alan, I fed the dogs their second breakfast, then began prepping and setting out food for the visitors. A text from Ruth came in saying they were at the King Sooper in Conifer buying chips. They brought blueberries and several avocados. Jon made guacamole. He’s a good cook.

Thought I’d help Jon out and remove the old mail box. We’ve needed a new one for a year or so. He planned to install the new one. Got very part way into it and couldn’t figure out how to finish. Those damn screws. Typical. I think some project like this will be easy only to discover it requires some skill I never bothered to learn.

I left it knowing Jon could get it off quickly. He did. But. The old mailbox sat there, half ripped from its platform. Derek drove by, noticed it, and texted me that he was sorry about the vandalism and did I need help fixing it? I am my own vandal. A life achievement.

Ruth has her eyes fixed now on Cornell. Her Grandpop, the Brandel side, went there for computer engineering, so she would be a legacy and get some discounts. Biology and poli-sci right now. Being a freshman in high school these days pushes college right up in your grill. Her high school, Denver North, a newer one, has a specialty focus for bio-med track students. Part of why she’s going there. The other part that it’s walking distance from her mom’s home.

She’s also becoming more politically savvy, understanding the difference between progressive and liberal politics. I told her she may not be my biological grandchild, but she might be my ideological one. She loved it. We have a great relationship, built up over painting, cooking, and a love of learning.

Gabe always loves to see the dogs. He’s an animal person. Ruth and Gabe befriended a snail which now lives in Gabe’s room, eating leaves and blueberries. He even crawls on our hand, Ruth said.

The difficult decisions around opening schools affects all four of the Denver Olsons. (Jen kept the name.) Jon and Jen work for the Aurora school system while Gabe and Ruth attend Denver schools. Jon spent the last week putting together 700 blank pizza boxes, filling them with crayons and other art supplies. Those will go home with kids for online art education. Their first assignment? Decorate the pizza boxes. How cool is that?

Denver schools have set September 8th as a decision point about how to open. Not sure about Aurora, but when to open is still undecided there, too. Come back in pods? Do only online learning? Some combination? One way hallways, better ventilation. Some kids this day, other kids the next day? What’s safe? Wouldn’t want to be a school administrator right now.

After Jon and the kids left, Kate and I decompressed. We love these visits, need them, but they wear us both out. Old folks.

We live here

Written By: Charles - Aug• 09•20

Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Beef stroganoff and egg noodles from Easy Entrees. Waking early. Rigel sleeping, wouldn’t get up. Safeway open at 6 a.m. Nobody there. The Mountains at dawn. Muted behind the tree cover, with the sun coming up as glory, rays leading the way over the peaks to the east. We live here. I kept thinking as I drove. We live here. Then, I realized, we live here.

A word for the dawn. I don’t drive much in the early a.m., but I did this morning. Off to Safeway. Which was clear of unmasked people and almost all shoppers. I felt safe, able to wander a bit. Like B.C. Mostly though I luxuriated in the drive there and back. The Sun sent its emissaries, angels of Light appearing as a crown, streaming high and proud over the eastern foothills. The few Angus Cattle being fed out on the grassy Meadow about a mile down the hill from us. Shadows and darkness still in the Lodgepole and Aspen Forest on the slopes of Black Mountain and Conifer Mountain. Few cars.

We live here, I kept saying to myself. Which changed. We live our life here, we are alive here. Even with Covid. Even with illness and infirmity. Even with Trump in the Whitehouse. Even with the climate changing, moving swiftly toward tragedy. We are alive here.

Forgot to post this

We smiled.

Written By: Charles - Aug• 07•20

Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

Friday gratefuls: No pulmonary hypertension. Kate’s echocardiogram. Big grateful. The Maids, coming next week on Tuesday at 10. Yes. Easy Entree. Fancy restaurant meals frozen. And very close. Seeing Jon, Ruth, Gabe on Saturday. Talking with Tara. Kep, sitting beside me, smiling. Rigel, on our way to Easy Entree, head out the window, ears streaming back. Video call from Joe and Seoah.

A big part of the recent downness was the possibility that Kate’s pulmonary hypertension had decided to take hold. It’s a bad actor (as doctors say) and could have meant a bleak future.

Even though she didn’t feel like it, Kate got up, and we drove into New West cardiology for her echocardiogram. In their very large lobby, the chairs were over six feet apart, a nurse took our temperatures, and had us look at a typed list of maybe 15 symptoms. Had any in the last two weeks? Nope.

Noah came out. The echo tech. I had an echo several years ago and still remember his kindness, professional demeanor. Comforting when a test can give life or death information. Kate went back, pushing her bright green Rollator.

While she was back there, Joe and Seoah called from Singapore. The electronic connection was terrible, but the heart connection was strong. Seoah was bubbly. Joe serious. Normal. Love you both. We love you! What a gift. What a timely gift.

Heartened I went back up to the lobby. Kate came out. I asked Noah about the hypertension. He can’t say. Oh, well. He said it might be a week to get the results. Damn.

Back home Kate went down for a nap while I ordered medical supplies, looked up Easy Entree, put an order together. Answered e-mails, finished yesterday’s blog. Then a nap for me.

At 3 I logged onto Zoom for a chat with Tara Saltzman, a CBE friend. Ahh. What I needed. A one-on-one. Systemic racism came up first and I remembered why I love CBE. Authentic, smart people, open. And, why I love Tara. We talked about my fears, Kate’s illness, the pressure here. Her family. Her struggles with a friend’s early death. Catching up, hearing each other. Holding our hearts out in the space between us.

During the talk Kate intercommed me. I have the Maids scheduled for Tuesday at 10 a.m. Thought you’d like to know even though you’re talking to Tara. Tara smiled. So did I. One pressure lifted.

We signed off after an hour and a half. Agreed to do it again next Wednesday.

Picked up car keys and Rigel, who loves to ride in Ivory. Easy Entree is surprisingly close, basically at the base of Shadow Mountain. We got down there in 5 minutes or so. Went in for the first time to find banks of freezers with food in them. Two rooms full. Got my food and told the clerk I wanted to order a fresh produce box for next week. They have shares with a co-op farm. Easy.

Back home I showed Kate the frozen egg noodles, broccoli, and Toscana soup. The phone rang. Wait, I’ll put you on speaker. It was Tatiana, the cardiologist. She went through the results, both of us holding our breath. Pulmonary b.p. 37, almost normal.

We both smiled. I pumped my fist.

So. Darkest before the dawn and all that. A housecleaner. A source of good food, fresh produce. The call from Seoah and Joe. A talk with a friend. And, a good report from Tatiana. We needed every bit of it.

Hard Stuff

Written By: Charles - Aug• 06•20

Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Amber. Lisa and the humming bird feeder. Dr. Pullikottli. Kate’s fingers healing. Ruby and her a.c. Mule Deer Buck. The intimacy of difficulty. All those carboniferous trees and plants that gave their lives so I can drive my car. Electric Cars. Go, Tesla. Echocardiograms. Chicken breasts. Read to eat meals.

Two weeks of no workouts. Marking a slow down or at least different focus for daily life. Dug down into my psyche. Like a retreat. Still surfacing. Yesterday I found myself up against it. I can’t keep cleaning the house, I said. I can’t manage the cooking in the way I have been. More tears.

I felt like I was letting Kate down. No, she said. You have been my pillar, my strength. I don’t say it often enough. Oh.

This, she said, is why people downsize. Yes. There’s a moment when you realize, no, I can’t take care of all this anymore.

Is this that time for us? No. We can afford a house cleaner. Kate will find one. I can buy meal kits, ready to eat food. Cook much less. Occasional take-out. Relief.

Derek has done a fabulous job in clearing up our downed trees. The pallets are gone. The front stumps have been ground. The place looks so much better. Will James will take down the remaining fire mitigation marked trees. Next week the gutters get cleaned and the week after the windows.

Ordered beef stroganoff with egg noodles from a chef run ready to eat meal business with an unlikely location. It’s at the base of Conifer Mountain, about 5 minutes away. Ezentrees.com. Looks pretty good.

We both love mountain living, even with its obvious drawbacks for our mutual lung issues. This house suits us. Large enough to house family on occasion, small enough to feel homey for us. The loft for me. These decisions are so fraught, so wrapped up in the past, in our expectations, in cultural values around home. And, independence.

We’ll keep jiggering with paid work, family help, and our own efforts. Hard stuff though.

Not One Thing

Written By: Charles - Aug• 05•20

Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Amber. Stat locks. Kate’s healing stoma site. Rigel, whose love buoys me up. Kep and his steadfastness. Kate’s reading. Invisible Man right now. Ellison’s classic. The almost full Lughnasa Moon, red over Black Mountain this morning. Our more organized upstairs. Needing more blankets. The kindness of CBE.

Cancel culture. from Merriam-Webster: “To cancel someone (usually a celebrity or other well-known figure) means to stop giving support to that person.” I’m giving the definition because I’ve been reading this term for a while now and didn’t know what it meant. Once I found the definition I immediately thought of a recent change I’d made in my e-mail signature:

“There is a love of wild Nature in everybody, an ancient mother-love ever showing itself whether recognized or no, and however covered by cares and duties.” ― John Muir btw: Yes. I know about his racism. And, I deplore it. But, I also know about his love of the natural world and I love it. None of us are all one thing.

Other items I read pointed to the #metoo movement as a starting point as well as the more recent protests around George Floyd. It goes deeper and further back than that, though. Sinners don’t get into heaven. How much sin denies you entrance through the Pearly Gates? Never real clear. I’m speaking as a theologian here. Martin Luther famously said, “Hate the sin and love the sinner.” I’ve always found that an important idea.

Taboo. Kapu. Karma. Sin. Religious ideas that get social traction. In the Christian tradition the idea of sin, hamartia, missing the mark, plays an outsized role. IMHO. So outsized that it can cancel your heavenly bliss.

But who decides if your sins are too much? Or, just this side of the line?

In Christianity, God decides. But who knows how God views a particular person? Especially yourself? This question has dogged Christian apologetics for centuries. How can we know whether or not we stand in God’s favor? Clearly an important question if the afterlife is in play. Eternity.

The Protestant Ethic* is a good example of how this question can lead to corruption and blasphemy. Calvinists especially felt a need to know where they stood since predeterminism, in some cases double predestination, was a cornerstone of Reform theology. Double predestination says that God not only predetermines all actions in the universe, but also (the double part) determines who goes to hell and who gets salvation.

Since the race was all over at the starting line, the finishing places of everyone already known, it became critical to see if there were signs in this life that could identify which direction you were headed after death.

The Protestant Ethic came to identify hard work and success, financial success in particular, as evidence of God’s favor. A golden ticket.

What was not to be known was God’s judgment. Among believers in the Protestant Ethic who bought pews and clergy, a surety of salvation arrogated to themselves the power of God. That is blasphemy. You could even call it a form of witchcraft, using spells and incantations to bind divinity. For that was surely the expectation. I lived right, I did well. Reward me.

Cancel culture uses similar logic to discover who is damned. Commit a sex crime. Cancel them! Woody Allen. Harvey Weinstein. Bill Cosby. Commit an act of racist hatred. Cancel them. Lindsey Graham. DJT. Derek Chauvin. George Wallace. Bull Connor. And so many unnamed yet. The perpetrators of police murder. Cancel them! The reinforcers of systemic racism. The apologists for wealth and power. Their insurers.

Let me be clear. These are heinous crimes, sins against humanity, and deserve punishment. Prison. Public diminishment. The ignominy of seeing yourself in history books as bad examples.

But. All of these people, like John Muir, are not one thing. Not only sexual predator, not only racist cops or politicians or creepy entertainers. I don’t know any of them well, but there might be a good father there. A devoted son.

Cancel culture condemns the whole person for one aspect of their personality. I understand the impulse. That wrong is, in my eyes, so awful, so often neglected, that those who get caught must be pilloried in the square forever.

But we can’t do that. If so, we’ll need to get someone to make each of us stocks and lock ourselves in them. These bad impulses, the yetzer hara as Judaism names it, are attempts to gratify the ego. And that’s all they are.

Each person also contains a yetzer hatov, an impulse to bear the burden of the other, to love the neighbor as the self. We all let our yetzer hara out to play. Perhaps not as egregiously as the canceled, the left behind of our culture, but perhaps so, too.

We need, no, must, see each human, including ourselves, as working our way through this life, this one wild and precious life, as well as we can. Some choose a slack hold on their impulses, hoping gratification will lift them up. Some choose to struggle, to work with the selfish impulse as a means for motivating change, achievement.

We all, always, have this choice. Even Cosby. Even Chauvin. Even Wallace.

Let’s not have any more left behinds in this damaged and broken nation. We’ll need all our resources to come back from Covid and Trump.

*”Protestant ethic, in sociological theory, the value attached to hard work, thrift, and efficiency in one’s worldly calling, which, especially in the Calvinist view, were deemed signs of an individual’s election, or eternal salvation.” Encyclopedia Britannica


Written By: Charles - Aug• 04•20

Lughnasa and the Lughnasa Moon

Tuesday grateful: The Lughnasa moon just setting below Black Mountain. That one violet volunteering near our front steps. The daisies. The faint whoosh of folks going to work. Ruth. Her eagerness to see us. Their garden and her joy in it. Seeing Patty yesterday. Banking. Socrates, the teller.

Gardening. At the end of my time on the Ancient Ones zoom, I surprised myself by summing up my life as having one regret. Gardening. That we hadn’t pursued it here on Shadow Mountain. I miss, I said, growing our own food. Working with soil and plants. I do. Miss it.

Once Kate and I moved to Andover a transition began for me from city boy to horticulturalist. I wouldn’t have predicted that necessarily. We’d done some perennials at our home on Edgcumbe road. Starting with the small bed I planted in the front yard, finishing during the great Halloween blizzard of October 31st, 1991. Daffodils and Iris, if I recall correctly.

It’s true I had a big garden back in 1974 on the Peaceable Kingdom, my failed attempt, with Judy, to develop a spot for the movement to have respite care. My only Psilocybin journey happened there. I watched our Potato plants growing. But the Peaceable Kingdom did not last and neither did gardening.

A bit of gardening at the first house, the one on 41st Avenue, but Slugs took over. There was no gardening at home in Alexandria. A few Flowers maybe, but nothing to remember.

Andover, though. When we got there, the front yard was bare, as was a sloped area behind the house in the back. About an acre of Woods were doing fine, as undisturbed Woods will do. In between was a large patch of weedy, scrubby Grass with a large grove of Black Locust. They didn’t look good, some of them were dead. BTW: many of the Weeds were actually Hemp plants seeded during a World War II field planted in it.

We hired a landscape architect who helped us with the bare Land. I wanted to sow a Prairie on all of it. Kate said no, we could never sell it. We settled on two large areas of Prairie with sod and some new Trees in between them, directly in front of the house. On the sloping area behind the house we decided to do a terraced garden. Irrigation went in with all of it.

In the beginning I wanted to do only perennials. I imagined our house overflowing with fresh cut flowers throughout the growing season. I had a lot to learn. Having flowers blooming from spring into fall requires so many skills.

I did not want to do annuals. And, I didn’t. Along the way I learned about soil amendments, spading forks and gardening spades, trowels, and hori-hori. Killed a lot of plants. Cussed at Rose Chafers, Japanese Beetles, Colorado Beetles. Along the way I fell in love with the families Lily and Iris and crocus. Learned the amazing recovery powers of Hosta.

The Black Locust and their small swords taught me caution and how to use a chain saw, a commercial grade chipper, a Peavey, a Swede saw. Hired stump grinders. I cleared, with Jon’s help, enough area that we could imagine a vegetable garden. Jon built us raised beds from the start, anticipating the day when bending over would not be easy. He made some in whimsical shapes, others square, some rectangular. I filled them with top soil and compost.

We had various compost piles, none of which worked very well. We built one that used split rail fencing and a large metal gate to keep the dogs out. Tully, one of our Wolfhounds, kept finding her way in. But she couldn’t get back out. Strange.

Speaking of Wolfhounds. Jon built a fence around the raised beds to keep them out. They loved to dig in soft garden soil.

More on this later. This has gotten long.