We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

The Beat Goes On

Midsommar                                                                    Most Heat Moon

20170426_163517The dogs keep the rhythm familiar here even with Kate gone. They get up at 4:45 to 5:00 a.m. and so do I. I feed them, leave them inside due to the possibility of mountain lion attack, then head up to the loft for work on ancientrails, reading the news, staying in touch with friends and family. Around 7 a.m. it’s breakfast time and I let them out. Around 10 a.m. the dogs get their second feeding, so that’s back downstairs for me. In the interval between breakfast and noon I work out, read, write.

The dogs get outside in this kind of weather and we leave a door open for them. They like that. This still seems weird to me, but there aren’t the bugs up here we had in the humid East.

We nap in the early afternoon, a longstanding habit picked up during my visit to Bogota in 1989.

The afternoon is more reading, catching up on chores, then supper. The dogs go to bed around 6:30, 7:00 p.m. with Gertie and Rigel in their crates in the garage. Kepler stays up until Kate and I go to bed around 8 p.m. A Benjamin Franklin day. And the dogs follow it, too.

With the Wrong People In It

Midsommar                                                                       Most Heat Moon

imagesJuly is the hottest month, on average, on Shadow Mountain, hence the Most Heat Moon. Yet, this morning the temperature is 38 degrees. Admittedly we’re still in June, but June is hardly the heart of fall. I’m loving the cooler weather, but I feel for the folks experiencing record heat, especially those with inadequate cooling options.

Can you imagine being in a senior citizen high rise with a poorly functioning air conditioner? Or, in an apartment in L.A. or Chicago or New York or Dallas or Atlanta with only fans to keep you cool? In neighborhoods where crime makes you keep your windows closed for safety reasons. Now, take away health insurance, even inadequate health insurance. Hell is city living for the poor in Trump America, only with the wrong people in it.

 

 

Destined for War

Midsommar                                                                      Most Heat Moon

masthead800

“The City of Nevada offers the best in small town living to all who treasure its “hometown” charm.” says its own website

Kate’s driving down to Iowa today with her sister, Anne. Back to Nevada, that’s with a long first a. High school reunions are odd affairs. If you attended one, you know. Funny how the social cues of 50 years ago resurface. I didn’t think she’d be able to travel last weekend, but her recovery from the thrush infection has made a huge difference. Her affect is back to normal, her diet improving. I imagine many who attend their 55th reunions face some health challenge or another before they go. Have a great trip back in time, Kate. And Anne, too.

Severe-hotweather3-MEM-170619_4x3_992The dew point and the temperature are close this morning on Shadow Mountain. We’re in a cloud with moisture leaking out of it. Black Mountain is invisible, covered by a gray, wet mass. 47 degrees. The same cannot be said of Arizona or California.

It’s strange being in the house without Kate, Jon, or the kids. An unusual confluence has left me the sole Homo sap on the premises. Three canids do a good job of keeping me company however.

I began reading Destined for War on Monday. It’s one of two recent books I purchased that look at the China/U.S. superpower relationship. While Destined for War tries to place this fraught dynamic in a western diplomatic history frame, Everything Under Heaven by former NYT Asia correspondent, Howard French, goes deep into Chinese history for its frame.

Songtan, near Osan AFB where Joseph deployed

Songtan, near Osan AFB where Joseph deployed

Not sure how it happened for me, but as I’ve said before my life took an Asian pivot at some point. One starting point was adopting Joseph, of course, but there’s been more than that: Asian design and aesthetics, especially Japanese, Asian art, Japanese and Chinese in particular, Mary in Singapore and Mark so long in Bangkok, tea, Asian cinema, Asia literary classics like the Tale of Genji, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Monkey’s Journey to the West, Dream of the Red Chamber, contemporary Asian authors. Then SeoAh and the wedding trip to Korea. A lot of my thinking and reading tilted that way and I spent several years at the MIA immersing myself in the Asian art collection there.

Now, in a peculiar manner, adopting Joseph has ultimately reinforced this pivot. My grandchild(ren) from Joseph and SeoAh will be 100% Asian, as will be then, my branch of the Ellis family name. Too, South Korea, where Joseph spent a year deployment and where he would like to return someday, is in a continuing dangerous pickle with its evil twin, North Korea.

So I like to stay informed about what’s going on over there. I can recommend Destined for War, but I haven’t started Everything Under Heaven.

 

 

Ohr

Midsommar                                                                      Moon of the Summer Solstice

ein sofKabbalah. Reread Genesis 1-2:3. Now, ask yourself a question that occurred to a long ago kabbalist. What is the light created on the first day of creation? We know it’s not the sun or the moon or the stars because they don’t blink on until the 4th day, 1:14-19. So what is the ohr (light) of verse 3. “And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.”?

Kabbalists pay close attention to details like this. They poke and tease at them, using reason-it can’t be the sun-and playing with gematria. In this instance an equivalence is discovered between the 207 of ohr’s three Hebrew letters and raz, also 207. Raz means hidden. Aha! Rabbi Jamie would say. This ohr could be a hidden light. I’m not going to follow this thread much further because the argument quickly becomes nuanced and frankly still not altogether clear to me, but it moves quickly toward the many-worlds hypothesis of string theory and an early intuition of quantum mechanics. All this from some early medievalists.

Remaining open to new ideas can be frustrating, confusing, but as a quote I discovered a while back says, confusion is the sweat of the intellect. Right now I’m sweating a lot as we review the very basics of kabbalistic thought. I did buy a copy of the first volume of Daniel Matt’s translation of the Zohar, kabbalah’s bible. This is a brand new translation from the original Aramaic and one done by a preeminent scholar of Jewish mysticism. It’s both clear and very difficult.

Here’s an example. In his translation Matt quotes an early kabbalist who retranslates the first verse of Genesis to this: With beginning the ein sof (the infinite ohr-light or energy) created God. Now that’s unexpected.

bonfireIt’s a very bright group around the table: a historian, a Berkeley trained lawyer, an organizational consultant, a Hebrew scholar, a rabbi in training, a second lawyer, a teenager with a good grasp of theoretical physics, two retired hospital administrators. This makes the conversation sparky, inspirational.

Rabbi Jamie’s pedagogy is excellent. He asks questions, probes answers, supports new directions, invites us to retrace the pattern of thinking used by these early rabbinic radicals. It’s fun. Too, the kabbalistic project was exactly reimagining faith. It’s giving me a prod for how to go about the task in my own work.

 

 

 

The Daily

Midsommar                                                                 Moon of the Summer Solstice

20170423_090148Jon and the grandkids took off yesterday for the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde and the Dinosaur National Monument. Sounds like a great summer vacation to me. Kate leaves Thursday morning for her 55th! high school reunion in Nevada, Iowa. She’ll fly into Minneapolis, pick up a rental and drive down to Nevada with her sister Anne who also has a reunion the same day. That leaves me here with Rigel, Gertie and Kepler until next Tuesday. Batchin’ it as the old lingo suggested.

Reimagining work is underway. Yesterday I went through Ancientrails and copied posts related to it into a Word file. 200,000 words. That will take a while to wade through. I’m considering printing it out, around 400 pages worth, so I can work with it more easily. After I’ve revisited my earlier work, dug out all the file folders and examined my Reimaging bookshelf carefully, an outline will be the next step, then a research plan to support the outline. A timeline will come, too, I suppose; but, my writing timelines have a way of being wrong. Still, the discipline of having one is good, so I’ll make one.

Any day the Sun will return to shineIt’s been hot here, but the normal summer sort of hot, not the cringe worthy temperature spikes of other spots. A friend from Tucson posted their 5 day forecast on facebook the other day. The lows in that forecast were higher than our highs. It’s not so bad here. And, it turns out, dry heat is more bearable than the moist heat of a Minnesota summer, even at a higher temperature.

Tonight I have kabbalah, tomorrow the far more mundane 90,000 mile service for our Rav4 after I take Kate to the airport for her trip. Mussar at 1pm. Then, a quiet house until Tuesday.

 

 

Hallelujah

Midsommar                                                                                     Moon of the Summer Solstice

Kate a year ago

Kate a year ago

Kate, thankfully, is feeling much better. Susan Braun, a physician’s assistant to our internist, Lisa Gidday, correctly diagnosed thrush and prescribed an antifungal that has beaten it back. Kate’s eating more easily, in less constant distress and has an overall better mood. Combined with the increased dosage of omeprazole, recommended by James Chain, an ENT, the sore spot in her throat has also diminished. Even some of her taste is returning.

Sjogren’s Syndrome has many faces and the troubles in Kate’s mouth and throat are among them. This was, apparently, a flare in this chronic condition, one that we now understand better and will know how to treat more effectively-and earlier. The struggle to get some solution, some relief was difficult, but it does feel like we’re a good deal further along in understanding how to care for the symptoms. It’s not going away, so that’s the optimum.

Summer Solstice 2017

Midsommar                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

cropped0017As our habitable space ship races along its track, its tilt gives us seasonal changes and four regular moments, two with roughly equal days and nights, the equinoxes, and two extremes: the solstices. The longest days of the year occur right now with the sun rising early and setting late ignoring Benjamin Franklin’s early to bed, early to rise. Six months from now, in the depths of midwinter, we will have the winter solstice where darkness prevails and long nights are the rule.

Those who love the seasons of the sun find the heat and light of midsommar ideal. Even in northerly latitudes shorts and sandals and t-shirts or sundresses or tank tops can be worn outside. We who move upward by 8800 feet from sea level for the cooling effect of altitude find a different kind of joy at the winter solstice. Either way solstice days and nights, their temperatures, are remarkable.

IMAG0346At midsommar in the temperate latitudes where farms dominate the landscape, the growing season, which began roughly around Beltane, is now well underway. Wheat, corn, barley, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers have risen from seed and fed by rain or irrigation make whole landscapes green with the intense colors of full growth. Midsommar mother earth once again works hard to feed her children.

Extreme weather follows in the wake of these solar extremes with tornadoes, derechos, hail storms and flooding in the summer, bitter cold and driving snow in the winter. Especially around the summer solstice such weather can put crops at risk of flailing by hail, drowning from overflowing creeks and rivers, being ripped out of the soil by rapid vortices. The vast blue skies of midsommar can turn gray, then black, or brackish green. It’s the natural way of moving water from one spot to another.

There can be, too, the absence of this sort of weather, drought. When aridity takes over, when moisture moves elsewhere for a season or a decade or more, these wet weather extremes disappear. Crops wither, food dies.

fire ban croppedOur seasonal dance is not only, not even mostly, a metaphor, but is itself the rhythm of life. When its regularities falter, when either natural or artificial forces alter it, even a little, whole peoples, whole ecosystems experience stress, often death. We humans, as the Iroquois know, are ultimately fragile, our day to day lives dependent on the plant life and animal life around us. When they suffer, we begin to fail.

So this midsommar I’m reflecting on the changes, the dramatic shifts to new high temperatures, more violent weather, less reliable rain. What the Great Wheel once brought to us as a season for nurturing crops and livestock may now become the season when crops and livestock struggle to survive. That means we will have to adapt, somehow. Adapt and reduce carbon emissions.

midsummer1The meaning of the Great Wheel, it’s rhythms, remains the same, a faithful cycling through earth’s changes as it plunges through dark space on its round. Their implications though, thanks to climate change, may shift, will shift in response to new temperature, moisture regimes. The summer solstice may be the moment each year when we begin, again, to realize the enormity of those shifts. It might be that the summer solstice will require new rituals, ones focused on gathering our power to both adapt to those shifts and alleviate the human actions ratcheting up the risks.

Father’s Day

Beltane                                                                                Moon of the Summer Solstice

fatherJon and the grandkids returned from family camp near Estes Park yesterday. This is an annual event for the local hemophilia community. It’s an opportunity for people affected by hemophilia to be together in an informal setting. Ruth was the only lavender haired girl there, she said. Gabe saw a moose and climbed a boulder.

After they came home, took showers and naps, all of us went over to Lariat Lodge in Evergreen, a father’s day dinner. Gabe played games on a cellphone while Ruth read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. In this book a daughter is born into a family for the purpose of providing organs and bone marrow for her older sister. I asked Ruth how she would feel if she were the daughter born to be a donor. “Well,” she said, “They didn’t ask her. Her parents didn’t give her a choice.”

beergardens_resized-495x400We ate in the Bark Garten, two wood-chipped areas, one above the other, where seating is at wooden picnic tables and dogs dine with owners. None of our dogs behave well enough to take them into the Garten. Maybe Rigel, but she’s so friendly and big, a bit intimidating to non-dog people. Our food included swedish meatballs, angry elk sausage, shrimp and grits and a guacamole hamburger.

Just as Kate and I left the parking lot, Joe and SeoAh called to wish me a happy father’s day. We pulled over. SeoAh leaves for Korea on July 4th, her birthday. Joseph has six weeks at Nellis AFB where he went to weapons school.

jstars-037-s

jstars-037-s

As the senior weapons officer at Robbins AFB, Joseph is responsible for how the JSTARs platform could be used in any conflict, anywhere in the world. This means he briefs various other senior officers, updating them on world affairs and how the unique ground focused radar of the JSTAR plane might support troops in particular situations. He says it keeps him pretty busy.

He played golf the other day, “I was the only brown player on the course.” He wants a couple of U. of Minnesota polo shirts so he can represent the Gophers. “All the other players had on college colors.” A familiar poke at the Air Force is that it builds the golf course before it builds a base.

minnesotaSeoAh’s written English is idiomatic and clear now, but she says, “I still can’t speak English so well.” That will come in time. They’re moving into base housing in September from their apartment in Macon and she’ll have a community where she can practice.

They visited physicians last week to make plans for having a baby! Hepatitis B, which is endemic in Asia, affects their plans, but is manageable. Joseph has it and SeoAh has been vaccinated against it.

 

 

Midsommar Eve

Beltane                                                                     Moon of the Summer Solstice

midsommarThis is the last day of Beltane, the Celtic season marking the start of the growing season. Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice and in the way of the Celts, actually mid-summer. I plan to start calling the season midsommar, after its Swedish spelling since the Scandinavians do this season right: bonfires, family gatherings, great food, lots of naked dancing. Out here in the moisture starved West and up here on fuel rich Shadow Mountain, there’ll be no bonfires. Just too dangerous, but we’ll be with the Swedes in spirit tomorrow.

 

Shadow Mountain Seen

Beltane                                                                  Moon of the Summer Solstice

When ancientrails came into being, it was to fill time while I healed from surgery to repain (ha, I meant repair, but this covers it, too) an achilles tendon rupture. I was off my feet for two months, crutches after that.

This morning I enjoyed the results of another surgical procedure, the total knee replacement I had on December 1st of last year. The work out I got from On the Move Fitness has strengthened my abductors and adductors, giving me more ease with hiking over rocks as well as climbing and descending on the trail.

Today Rigel really, really wanted to go with me. I had to get some stuff out of the car and left the door open. She crawled in and sat up, regal Rigel, in the seat, ignoring me when I asked her to come out. She was hurt that I wanted her to give up a spot she’d earned on her own. So, I took her.

As a result, I stopped at a spot where I’ve seen cars parked many times, a spot where there is no trailhead, no named trail. It’s close to our house and I decided to do a shorter hike since Rigel, hardly leash trained, needed to stay in the car. It was cool, low 50’s, but I didn’t want her in there too long.

The trail I found ushered me out, after maybe half a mile, onto a series of rocky cliffs that overlooked Shadow Mountain. It’s the first vantage point I’ve found, in the two and half years we’ve been here, where you can actually see Shadow Mountain. That was exciting. The vista was almost pristine, with very few houses visible. Unusual up here, so close to the city. Here’s what I saw.

Shadow Mountain. We live off to the right and behind what you can see.

Shadow Mountain. We live off to the right and behind what you can see.

Shadow Mountain

Shadow Mountain

Toward Evergreen with Brook Forest Drive/Black Mountain Drive in the distance

Toward Evergreen with Brook Forest Drive/Black Mountain Drive in the distance

Along the trail

Along the trail

Me, amazed or just gasping for

Me, amazed or just gasping for breath

June 2017
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