Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.
Irish proverb

Mabon grasses, ripe with seed. Hwy 285 near Morrison

Getting close to the fall equinox. It’s late this year, Sept. 23rd. Meteorological fall began on September 1st. Mabon, the second of the Celtic harvest festivals, is today. And, the whole next week.

Here the last several days have been dry, low humidity and higher temperatures. A red flag day yesterday. Fall colors are running behind, about a week or so. The trees with color have slightly withered leaves and the fainter coloration of moisture deprivation. Makes this old horticulturist sad because it means stressed trees.

Felt worn out, exhausted yesterday. Couldn’t get up the energy to go to Gabe Herman’s shabbat last night. His dad, Dan Herman, is the President of the congregation and a bee keeper. Gabe had his bar mitzvah in Israel this summer; this was a night for him to sing the parshah and give his dvar torah, literally the words of torah. Each bar or bat mitzvah must learn their parshah in Hebrew, sing it, and comment on it. Kate represented both of us.

Drove to Baily in the a.m. for our monthly supply of indica chewables. Met Dana, my budtender. I think budmonger would have been better, classier. Sell cheese too and you could have a cheesemonger and a budmonger working together. Not sure why that appeals to me, but it does.

Later, we finally got the O2 concentrator in the mail to Georgia for warranty work. And the illuminated manuscript page on vellum off to Idaho for BJ’s house there. Birthday gift.

Could have just been a long, engaged week. Or, could be the Lupron. Maybe both.


Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Hmmm. A bit over eager again. For all my equanimity about cancer I’ve made some moves that reveal a reservoir of anxiety. When I wrote my urologist initially about my PSA rise, I convinced myself that I’d overstated it, moved the decimal point in error. I said this out loud to Dr. Eigner and his PA, Anna Willis. They had to call me a couple of weeks later and say, nope. It’s ten feet high and risin’. Oh.

Apparently I bounced out of the blocks ahead of the gun in the PSA I mentioned below. Supposed to be at three months. I imagine they told me that but when I got the lab order in the mail I went in to do it now overdrive. So I got’er done. It is three months, almost, from the start of the Lupron, but it’s only a month and a half from the end of the radiation. Not sure if it I’ll need another one later. Maybe.

Got reassurance yesterday from Carmela. She said, “Those are great numbers!” Feeling a little sheepish here, but it does speak to my eagerness to have information about the state of my cancer. Forgivable, I think.

Kate and I are on the lookout for joy. Simcha. Been in short supply here for a while and we’re both missing that middah. This PSA result brings me joy. Kate’s going off to the CBE board meeting last night, on her own, brought me joy. Rigel’s nose this morning as she pushed against my hand. The softness of Kep’s coat. Gertie’s wiggly desire to get outside. The waning gibbous Harvest moon this morning has shining Aldebaran beneath it. Orion is there, too. The night sky with Black Mountain below lifts me into the broader universe. Joyful.

Drove down to Caliber Collision. Got there at 7:30 am. The guys were still in a conference so I had to wait a bit. Ryan came out, beefy guy with a thick beard. Hmmm. We’ll have to replace those three panels. And, good news, it looks like the dent in the door hasn’t impacted the rest of the door. Back in five minutes.

Coulda been worse

Ryan returned bearing several pages stapled together. It looked like a hospital bill. Now this number is before we’ve looked inside. If there’s any damage to the robotics, for example, there will be supplemental work. Traveler’s requires review of all supplementals.

How long once we’ve got approval? 7 days, I’d say. That’s without supplementals. If we have to do more? Ryan shrugged. The work and the bureaucracy. Yeah. I get it.

Back up to Evergreen where I had breakfast at the Dandelion. Home. New workout in the home space. Oh, those one legged squats. My quads burned. And, those bicep curls into a shoulder press? Shoulders feeling it.

Dr. Gidday said the other day, “You have to retire to have enough time for all the doctor appointments.” All this other stuff takes time too and my stamina is not what it once was. I’m feeling crowded in my schedule with fewer things to do.

First Post-Radiation PSA

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

First post radiation psa is in: 0.03. Very low, the test becomes inaccurate at 0.029. Had to get the number at my primary care doc because nobody called me with the result. Think I’m between the cracks right now. Done with radiation and out of Anova Care, but not seeing Eigner, my urologist, until November. Just sent a note to my oncologist asking him his interpretation of this result.

In my mind any result other than zero (which is frustratingly hard to define) would have been bad news. Since the Lupron suppresses PSA and I’ve just had radiation to kill the cancer, anything other than zero would mean trouble. IMO. Problem is I can’t tell if this is effectively zero or a very slight signal of still existing cancer. Probably just anxiety based thinking.

I’m able to retain my equanimity, that is hold space for this moment rather than get embroiled in what might be or what could have been, but in the initial moments after new information I can easily swing into OMG mode. What I’m doing here.

This ride is not over, not for several months, perhaps longer. Cancer seems to have a habit of not giving up. Me, too.

Old Guy. New Tricks.

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Old guy. New tricks. Took our 2018 Rav4 into the shop yesterday for an oil change. Waited in the Toyota temple as I always do, this time reading Neal Stephenson’s newest: Fall, or Dodge in Hell. These waiting areas are third spaces in architectural parlance, places where strangers gather and potentially meet. Not much meeting going on here as folks tap on tablets, punch the keyboards on laptops or look at their phones. The ubiquitous TV has lost much its allure to the handheld screens.

Alex, my Express Service guy, came in, found me, gave me my keys, a printout of what they’d done. All free because we’re still in the two year Toyota Care period. Back in the Rav4 I looked at the printout, double checking as is my habit. Huh? No oil change.

Walked back to see Alex. Nope, no oil change, just a tire rotation. Uh? Your car had an oil change at 4,750 miles. Oh? Yes. And that means the next oil change isn’t until 14,750 miles. Synthetics go ten thousand miles between changes. I was at 10,100, so I just thought…

The sticker, that little reminder beloved of car service centers everywhere, now lists mileage between tire rotations, not oil changes. What?

After 50 plus years of oil changes and service visits based on 5,000 mile intervals, this old dog was left shaking his head. Not to mention all the strange and wonderful features on this internal combustion engine powered computer. The only constant.

Driving back home through Evergreen, I saw a small herd of elk strung out along Maxwell Creek just after the turn from 73 onto Brook Forest Drive. Some were lounging, others drinking. We’re in the rut now and we’ll see more and more elk as it progresses. No bugling yet.

Back home Kate had managed the installation of our new dryer. Don’t think I mentioned that our old one died last week. The motor. $500 and a one year warranty. Nope. This white Speedqueen with a ten year warranty, a promotion, looks retro. It’s white enamel, sitting low to the floor, with an opaque door. No peeking at the socks as they tumble. Did two loads yesterday. Works fine.

A nap. Then off to On the Move for the second round with my new workout. I needed the second run through. Several of the exercises required me to do things my body found awkward. One of them, a lunge with a set of bands, Dave changed so I wouldn’t get off balance every time.

Over to King Sooper, not far from On the Move, to pick up my online order. In this case King Sooper employers pick your groceries, then bring them out to you on a small wagon filled with plastic totes. I pull into a slot marked Pick Up, call the phone number on the sign, tell them which slot I’m in, “#1.” and a worker brings out the groceries, loads them into the back. Slick.

Back home I cut up the watermelon I’d just bought, put it in a plastic container for Mussar Vaad Practice Group. Kate and I have gotten back, at least semi-back, to the rhythm of Beth Evergreen. I like that because we see friends, talk about ideas.

Soul Doesn’t Have Fear of Dying

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

As friend Tom Crane said in an e-mail, the carnival ride here continues with Gabe’s glove and Kate’s crash. Geez. I’ve never been a fan of karma as anything more than a metaphor, but I’m beginning to wonder…

Read an excellent interview with Ram Dass in the NYT. Ram Dass Is Ready to Die. “Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts: Those are the daily attention-grabbers that make it so that you can’t come from your mind to your heart to your soul… Soul doesn’t have fear of dying. Ego has very pronounced fear of dying.”

Hadn’t considered it that way before, but it seems right. The carnival ride is just that, a contraption meant to cause fear and anxiety. If you can step aside, witness it: Oh, that guy from Denmark ran into Kate. and Oh, that Gabe. Swallowing a rubber glove; you can stay engaged, but not captured.

Yamantaka and my soul

My time with Yamantaka contemplating my own death must have helped me with step aside, be a witness. Not perfect at it, of course. Anxiety and fear about certain things still creep into my life, into our life here on Shadow Mountain. During the most intense days of the last year I really wanted respect for the work I was doing with Kate, with our life. When I felt I wasn’t getting it, I got mad. Demanded it.

In retrospect I can see the flaw in my response. The need for recognition took me away from my love for Kate, the why of my care. It negated the very stimulus that made me stay in the heat, rather than pull away. So, far from perfect.

If I look back over my life, using, as Kate calls it, the retrospectoscope, I can see that need for recognition as a stumbling block. Often. When Dad wanted me to cut my hair or leave, I chose to leave. Why? Because he wasn’t respecting my choices about the war in Vietnam. Big loss for both of us and, from this perspective, unnecessary.

I’ve been stubborn in wanting to live my life my way. Not wanting to be shaped, molded by convention or usual modes of thought. Question everything could be the Latin inscribed on my personal crest. As long as that leads me to step aside from the received way of doing things and question them, decide on my own response, it’s beneficial. When it makes me dig in my heels, be reluctant to change, it’s not. Ram Dass might say when it concentrates on my ego.

Come from your mind to your heart to your soul, Ram Dass says. This, too, feels right though that last move, from heart to soul, is hard to grasp. At least for me. Soul. A big, big idea in my current inner work.

Mind. Sure. My mind has written most of this. It’s active and a source of pleasure for me. Moving to the heart response, compassion for Gabe and his glove, Kate and her crash, Tom and his colonoscopy today (with you in my heart, guy!), I get that, do that. Perhaps not as effortless as thinking, writing, but getting to the heart is a natural move.

On the other hand the move from heart to soul, from engaged actor to witness, to the deeper, the eternal? Harder. Hard because I jettisoned the idea of a soul for so many years. Existentialist, all there is, is right here, right now. Mind and heart, yes. But nothing escapes death. Nothing remains except memories in the hearts and minds of others still living. Over the last year or so I’ve been questioning this nihilist conclusion and that questioning focuses on the soul.

Not saying I’m back to believing in an afterlife, neither heaven nor hell, reincarnation resonate for me. Not at all. But the sense that their is a core part of me, a grain of sand around which the pearl of heart and ego grow, yes, I can see that now.

Why? Namaste. The god in me bows to the god in you. Yes. There is, in you, a god, and I can sense it. Namaste’s reciprocal claim, the god in me, has lead me to nod.

Love your neighbor as you love your Self. (my capitalization) Yes. Love you, because you are in the image of the divine, as I love my own divine image. Yes.

Maybe all the grains of sand, from trees and sharks and eagles and even Donald Trump, roll down the great river of death into the Gulf of Silence, creating there a sandbar, a shifting stretch of land in the water of eternity. Is there a simulacrum of life there? No idea. But I can imagine us all together, equal to each other, all who’ve lived. In some strange way substantial. So, who knows?

Heavy Breathing

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Below the license plate and just above the black band. Not bad, but not desirable either

Yesterday morning I filed accident reports with Colorado State Patrol and Traveler’s. Their forms don’t anticipate a foreign national driving a rented RV. Made for an interesting session. Opened the Rav4’s back door. Works fine. The damage is superficial, but probably enough to make them replace the whole door and bumper.

Since we missed seeing Debra on Saturday due to the accident, we took her out for lunch. Ohanagrill. A Hawai’ian eatery on the shore of Sloan Lake. It was hot, a bit muggy. Felt like Maui just a little bit. I had kalua pork and cabbage. We shared four Portuguese donuts.

Debra’s headed to Uganda for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. She’s sixty and wants an adventure. Sure she’ll get one there. Business development. Unless. She also picked up her ESL credentials and might try to get work in that way.

Coming back from Lakewood where Debra lives the battery on Kate’s portable O2 concentrator died. She was not worried as long as we were at the relatively low Denver altitude (still a mile high, though), but when we began to climb the mountains toward home her chest felt heavy and she started to get a headache.

I drove faster than the speed limit, which I rarely do, getting her back to our home concentrators. I ran in, turned one on, and got her the tubing as she came in the door. Much better. Not gonna let that happen again.

Pretty tired today. It was a busy, overly busy, week. Lots of driving here and there with Gabe’s glove crisis and Kate’s pulmonology appointment plus Tom’s visit. Good tired, though. Friends and family.

Zimzum. All Holy.

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Bam. Rammed by Denmark in a Cruise America RV. Yes, Kate got rear-ended by a Danish couple on the last day of their American adventure. She wasn’t hurt physically, but it shook her up. As well it might. Thank god it was a fellow Scandinavian.

She was on the way to pick up Debra, who has moved to Lakewood and will soon move on further yet to Maryland. Both of them planned to attend the bagel table at CBE. Kate turned around and went back home. The damage to the new car looks minimal, but the rear, hydraulic door and the bumper below it have suffered. Given the way of these things, I’m going to imagine many dollars to fix. Also, the joys of dealing with insurance and body shops.

Kate’s call caught me as I was about unlock the door at CBE. I got there early to set up. Put out the bagels, the lox, the cream cheese. Set up the coffee I bought at Starbucks with cups and cream and sugar. Get out plates and napkins. Set out and collate the resources sheets I’d created.

Isidora Kaufman, One view of Torah

Faith reimagining work showed up as a morning conversation at Congregation Beth Evergreen. The usual content of the bagel table is commentary on the Parshah of the week from the Torah. This week it was Ki Tietzei, Deut. 21:10-25:19.

When I first agreed to do this, it was the week before my radiation began. What was I doing, I thought not long afterward. Teaching Torah to a group of Jews who’ve been immersed in it their whole lives? I have training in biblical literature, it’s true, but Christians use scripture in a very different way than Jews.

At first I took a dive into Ki Tietzei. It has 74 of the 613 mitzvot or laws. Even worse for me. Mitzvot are at the heart of an orthodox Judaism and have been interpreted over and over again in the mishnah and the Talmud. Not my strong suit.

Instead I decided we’d investigate the nature of Torah and the corollary question of the nature of revelation. And, we did, using Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Emerson, and Alan Watts plus four questions.

“If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that…” ~Alan Watts

This quote sums up our conversation. Torah means instruction or teaching. I’d learned from Rabbi Jamie a very broad sense of Torah, i.e. Torah is that which instructs us in how to be human.

The ten of us yesterday got to that point and had a lively discussion on what revelation meant. An expansive understanding emerged. Not God, or not just God in a traditional sense, but finding the holiness dispersed in the world at the time of the zimzum, that initial contraction, then shattering of the creation explained in the kabbalah which embedded holiness in every particle of existence.

It was great fun and the two hours flew by with all participating. Rabbi Jamie was there as were Tara and Alan. Jamie’s sabbatical ends today, but he decided to come anyhow. There were five others: Carol, Diane, Judy, Anne, and Sally. Perfect size for an inclusive discussion.

The eagerness of the conversation, the thanks at the end, the joy of teaching all buoyed me up. Helped with my ikigai. Just as Tom’s visit did. Friendship. Family. The mountains. Intellectual life at CBE. Cook. Workout. Paint. Write. Enough.

Under the Harvest Moon

Lughnasa and the full Harvest Moon

You can imagine the old reaper and threshing machines working throughout the night, the dusty project lit by the harvest moon. A moon that stays up a bit longer, is often fuller and brighter than a normal full moon. Now the combines (combine reaping and threshing) move through the wheat fields with horse power generated by an internal combustion engine, headlights and floodlights for use if necessary. Contractors come in droves to bring in the nation’s wheat harvest.

Up here on Shadow Mountain the full Harvest moon makes hunting easier for predators like the mountain lion, the ferret, the bobcat. No fields flat enough for a reaper though I did see a guy mowing alfalfa at the bottom of Shadow Mountain Drive where it hits 73. There’s an irregularly shaped piece of land, beloved by deer, elk, and moose, that has grass, hay. Once a year a small harvest.

Kate and I went to see Gabe yesterday. Much improved. Talking, holding a plush baboon. “Did you fart yet?” “Yes.” “Good.” That’s important. He had bowel surgery and the intestines have to get back to work after a shock. He will be at the hospital until he poops, showing they have full function.

Afterward we ate at a small restaurant, The Hungry Wolf. Southern cooking. Ribs, pulled pork, greens, red beans and rice. Peach cobbler and sweet potato pie. Our waitress, a co-manager, was as attentive as if we were at a fine dining restaurant and more kind. She let these two old folks move to a booth that opened up, getting us off the rickety high chairs.

Forgot to mention in all the news from yesterday that I took my lab order to Quest laboratories, sat down in the phlebotomist’s chair, rolled up my left sleeve, and received a painless stick. My first post-radiation PSA.

Hokusai Says

Lughnasa and the full Harvest Moon

“Hokusai says Look carefully.
He says pay attention, notice.
He says keep looking, stay curious.
He says there is no end to seeing.
He says Look forward to getting old.
He says keep changing,
you just get more of who you really are.
He says get stuck, accept it, repeat
yourself as long as it’s interesting.
He says keep doing what you love.
He says keep praying.
He says every one of us is a child,
every one of us is ancient,
every one of us has a body.
He says every one of us is frightened.
He says every one of us has to find
a way to live with fear.
He says everything is alive –
shells, buildings, people, fish,
mountains, trees. Wood is alive.
Water is alive.
Everything has its own life.
Everything lives inside us.
He says live with the world inside you.
He says it doesn’t matter if you draw,
or write books. It doesn’t matter
if you saw wood, or catch fish.
It doesn’t matter if you sit at home
and stare at the ants on your verandah
or the shadows or the trees
and grasses in our garden.
It matters that you care.
It matters that you notice.
It matters that life lives
through you.
Contentment is Life living through you.
Joy is life living through you.
Satisfaction and strength
is life living through you.
Peace is life living through you.
He says don’t be afraid.
Don’t be afraid.
Look, feel, let life take you by the hand.
Let life live through you.”

~ “Hokusai Says” by Roger Keys

You Know the Words

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Gabe and his dog, Sushi

It wasn’t a set of magnets after all. What the surgeon found in Gabe’s small intestine was, wait for it, a rubber glove! When asked how it got there, Gabe said, “I don’t remember.” I texted Ruth, figuring she’d have an idea, “Don’t know. We’re all confused by that.”

At University of Colorado Children’s yesterday afternoon, Gabe was still in first day post-op pain. Not very happy, as you can see in this photograph. Ironically, just above his bed on the wall of his room were three boxes. Three sizes of rubber gloves.

We moved to Colorado to be here for family. Ruth’s tonsillectomy. Gabe’s appendectomy, port change. School events. Jon’s divorce. His art shows. To be in their lives in a direct, immediate way rather than one mediated by phone calls and videos.

In the morning Kate and I went to see a new pulmonologist, one from National Jewish Hospital, renowned nationwide for its pulmonary expertise. What a contrast to Colorado Pulmonology Intensivists. The nurse was upbeat, kind, knowledgeable in gathering vitals and other information. The doctor, David Taryle, had the air and appearance of a wise gnome.

He had read all of the charts, seen the cd of her cat scan. Yes, she has interstitial lung disease. No, we don’t know which of the two kinds. Diagnosis is especially important because the treatments are very different. He decided to redo her pulmonary function test and the ct scan. Get another data point. But, when asked, “Yes, I’ll probably want a lung biopsy.”

A funny moment. Dr. Taryle was explaining things in the lungs, using medical nomenclature. I don’t recall the exact terms. Kate responded to him with a couple of terms of her own. He looked up, mildly startled, “You know the words!” She had outed herself. “Yes, I’m a retired physician.”

Jackie also cut our hair yesterday. I left right after mine was done and went to the hospital. Kate came home and rested. Going all the way to Aurora and back would have been too much for her after being out all morning.

Another day filled with physicians, parking lots, and family.