We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

A Cottony Indistinctness

Samain                                                      Moon of the Winter Solstice

Let me see. A salmon colored patch of sky off to the north gives romance to the stand of lodgepole pines in our backyard. I’m working on the Stickley side table we bought in early 2015 and looking north. It served as our family dining table over the last couple of years, giving way partly now to the beetlekill table we have upstairs.

Trying to find a metaphor for this stage of recovery. Walking on a path, let’s call it the ancientrail of healing, I’ve passed through a rocky, but beautiful valley. Now the weather has cooled down, the sky gone gray. I’m still moving but the pleasure in it has receded. This, I imagine, is a plateau.

Mobility and extension have both increased, but I seem stuck. The mood that accompanies this portion of the ancientrail is one with the sky and the weather, gray and cool. This will pass, yes, it will.

But. Right now. I’m in it, surrounded by its cottony indistinctness.


Samain                                                 Moon of the Winter Solstice

Trying to get the cobwebs woven by dilaudid and sweet lady morphine cleared out. Hard to do since I still need the dilaudid. And I do.

Still the pain in the knee. A week to go until I see the PA and they remove the bandage. Until then, at least, I’ll need the narcotics.

The insult is like somebody took a knife to my knee, cut the bone and hammered metal spikes into my tibia and femur. Then stitched it back up and hid the damage under a water tight, air permeable bandage.

Oh, wait.

Now I’m sleeping, following my nurse/doctor/wife’s recommendations, waking up and doing it again. Though. The general trajectory is up. The pain less, the meds fewer, a bit of appetite returning. By a week from today I’ll be in a much better place.


Samain                                                             Moon of the Winter Solstice

The longest I’ve been dark in the last 11 years. Drugs and pain and rehab. Computer problems. Knee much better, still a long way to go.

P.T., in the form of Pat, the Irishman, comes to the house 3 times this week and 3 times next week. I have excellent range of motion, walking ability, overall doing well.

Lots of drugs however which make mentation difficult. Lots of pain which fuzzes everything. Sleeping difficult.

Kate’s a champ. She’s smart about the meds, caring, loving. Good cook, too, but I’ve got almost no appetite. My blood pressure is low, my 02 saturation low, so there are places to improve.

More later, pain returning.

Getting a Knee

Samain                                               Moon of the Winter Solsticed

Friends. I last posted on Thursday, thinking I’d be  back by Saturday. Didn’t make it. By the time I got home yesterday, about 2:30 pm or so, I was way too knackered to even type the least bit of a post.

So, here I am on Sunday afternoon, after a nap. The sky is clear; the air cool. I’ve had a shower and brushed my teeth twice. And, BTW, I have a new knee. On Thursday Kate and I sat in the Orthocolorado lobby waiting for a nurse to introduce us to the mysteries of surgery in this place. Eventually, Mac came out to get me. Mac was a fifties, early sixties woman with high hair and a casual manner.

She collected my answers to the first of what she assured me were redundant questions. She was right. Yes. 2/12/1947. Yes. Charles Buckman-Ellis. It was also true that it was the left knee. Sure, put your initial right here. Later on Dr. Pagel came in and told me about the anaesthesia. Spinal. Conscious sedation. Fine with me. Better than fine really. Less risk. Dr. Peace dropped by, too. He initialed the knee. Very collegiate.

Then, they hit me with the versid and the next moment I was in room #366, new knee in place, smiles all around. I had just played a totally unconscious role in several peoples’ workday and recalled nothing of it. The sky had begun to bruise. My surgery was at 11 am and it was now 5 to 5:30pm.

My nurses and CNA’s were delightful. We discussed pain using the familiar 1-10 scale. My pain seemed to hang around 3 or  4 for much of the evening and night. It was a liberating experience to have my pain well controlled. In the early morning hours of Saturday, between the shift transition, my pain got up and strolled around a bit. It hit 7 or 8 and my new nurse, Stacy, was late getting to me, so I suffered for the early afternoon.

Later on though, when Amy from the night before came on duty (12 hour shift) we worked together to see the pain reduced. I’m still basically taking that pain regimen. It includes dialudid, long acting morphine and occasional doses of acetaminophen. It’s effective for pain reduction, but not so hot for linear thought.

Gabe and Kate came to pick me yesterday since Jon and Ruth were skiing. Once back home we had to get home oxygen set up because narcotics suppress the lung functions. I went straight to bed and slept on my stomach.

I’ll get back to you later, maybe this evening, maybe tomorrow morning.




Samain                                                Moon of the Winter Solstice

Ancientrails will be dark tomorrow. As will I. Sedated. See you on Saturday.

Acquainted with the Night

Samain                                                           Moon of the Winter Solstice

“I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.”    Acquainted with the Night, BY ROBERT FROST

The month of the winter solstice has come. The world itself, at least in the northern latitudes, has begun to go dark since the fall equinox. That cycle, repeated each year, reaches its zenith, or nadir depending on your perspective, on Wednesday, December 21st. That will be six months before the longest day on the Summer Solstice.

winter-solstice3During holiseason many cultures celebrate holidays of light: hanukkah, diwali, christmas, for example. They are rituals that stand against the primal fear occasioned by the winter solstice; that the sun will never return, that the world will continue to grow dark. Even last night at mussar we spoke of the light of the candle, finding the light reflected in unusual places, the light that can get us through this period.

I want to speak a word for darkness. I eagerly await, each year, the darkening. On the long night of the winter solstice, I am at my most peaceful, my most tranquil, wrapped in the silence. Darkness is home to fecundity: the seed sleeping in the soil during winter’s cold, the babe in the womb, the slow decay on the forest floor, the next poem or book or painting waiting in the mind’s dark places.

We can, on that night, become one with the darkness. We do not have to banish it with brave strings of light or loud parties or burning huge bonfires. No. We can sit in it, quiet as it is quiet, fecund as it is fecund, joyous as it is joyous. We can let go of our need to see, to touch and embrace the outer darkness just as it is.

This is not to say that I prefer the night to the day. I don’t. I do prefer the alteration, the relief from the day that comes when night falls and, in turn, the rising of the sun.

It does bear mentioning that life is a journey between two profound darknesses, the womb and death. In this perspective the winter solstice can be a holiday to celebrate the beginning and the end of life. And to rejoice in both of them.




Samain                                                      Moon of the Winter Solstice

weeping-buddha-1As these things happen, my main computer decided to go on an internal walkabout yesterday. It’s up in the loft, a place I won’t be spending much time for a few weeks, so not a big deal in that sense. But.

It is the computer that has most of my stuff on it, though it’s well backed-up. I’ve had it a long time, five years or more, and it’s not gone round the electronic bend on me very often. This one feels more permanent, perhaps a sign that the time has come for a new desktop.

I’ve used up all the tricks I know, usually enough, but not this time. It feels like a sign. This is a time for recovery, change. Leave some of the old habits behind, build new ones.

Fortunately, I have this little Lenovo that I take on trips. It functions just fine, but it doesn’t have the apps and stored data that my loft desktop has. It will work until I can get a new desktop.

Taking a Knee

Samain                                                             Moon of the Winter Solstice

orthocoloradoIn two days I go bionic. Metal in my body and a song in my heart. Or something like that.

Panorama Orthopedics and Orthocolorado, principles in this knee replacement, have been by far the most organized, patient centered medical folks I’ve ever encountered. We’ll see how the procedure goes before I declare them outstanding, but so far they have been.

Dr. William Peace, surgeon

Dr. William Peace, surgeon

Right now I’m in the time before a big storm comes, waiting for it to hit, anticipating it, getting things ready. We’ve moved the couch upstairs and two chairs downstairs. I’ll be occupying this red leather chair for the duration of my recovery, at least the part where I’m deeply medicated. That’s roughly the first two weeks.

P.T. folks from Mt. Evans Home Health Care will come to the house during that time since rehab is key to a good long term result. After the first two weeks, I should get the ok to drive. At that point I’ll transfer to Conifer Physical Therapy where I hope Dana will see me through this latest adventure. She helped me a lot during my shoulder episode a year ago.

I hope to not use the hospice services for some time.

I hope to not use the hospice services for some time.

Surgery time is 11:00 am on Thursday, arrive at hospital at 9 am. Two days there so back home on Saturday. I’m motivated and want to hike, workout, walk without pain so I anticipate a positive experience.

I’m ready.






The Ancientrail

Samain                                                                   Thanksgiving Moon

Worked in this Johns-Manville factory for two summers for Stephanie's dad

Worked in this Johns-Manville factory for two summers for Stephanie’s dad

As we grow older, there are many times when we realize, sometimes even say, boy, that makes feel old. I’m sure you’ve had one of those moments. If you’re older, that is. Not assuming. I remember the first time somebody called me sir. It puzzled me, made me turn my head to see who was behind me. Or, there was the time in Hot Springs, South Dakota when I noticed a ten-percent reduction on my bill. The cashier at the front explained, “Oh. That’s our senior discount.” Oh. The list could go on. Easily. Signing up for medicare. Even, for me, that very early, late thirties, instance of going deaf in one ear. Made me feel my imminent mortality in a way nothing else had other than the death of my mother.

All of these incidents, some funny, some bemusing, all trail markers on the third-phase path, have been, so far, just that, sort of funny, at worst bemusing. One that came the other day was neither funny nor amusing.

Reading through facebook posts, which I do with less angst these days because I know it helps me stay connected to folks I’d otherwise miss completely, I found a note that says Stephanie Lewis died of complications from dementia. Stephanie was my first serious girlfriend, my first kiss and she helped me a lot during the death of my mother. We parted before college. I don’t recall why. She was 1 year younger than me.

Now she’s dead. From complications of dementia. According to her mother, it had something to do with an extreme low sodium diet and seizures.

I did reconnect with Stephanie three or four years ago, mostly to say thanks for helping after Mom died. I couldn’t remember if I’d ever done that. We did communicate a couple of times through e-mail. I’m very glad I did that now.

This crooked path we call life carries us along, always in Charon’s boat, just not knowing when it will bump against the other shore. Steph has landed. And I know, once again, that I’m in that boat, too, and the muddy river Styx flows just below the gunnel. I hope if anything greeted her on the other shore that it is a pleasant and peaceful place. She deserved it.



Samain                                                                      Thanksgiving Moon

daplI’ve not written here about the Standing Rock protests. At least not much. Neither have I posted about them on Facebook though many, many of my friends have. Several people I know, including ex-wife Judy Merritt, have been out there. She’s going a second time this week.

The issues are complex because they deal with pipelines, fracked oil, climate change and the string of broken promises that have been U.S./Indian treaty relations. The simple issue concerns the possible contamination of water for the Standing Rock Reservation. The current route of the pipeline takes it under the Missouri River near the res. Pipelines break. This is common knowledge and documented well. The objection is reasonable and has not been refuted by the developers of the pipeline.

Then, there are burial grounds. The Standing Rock folks don’t want the graves of their ancestors dug up for a project that will add to the growing carbon load in the atmosphere. What if the project’s economically feasible path took it through any of the many National Cemeteries around the country? Easy to see the problem from that perspective.

Building more pipelines and fracking in the North Dakota oil field for more oil actively contributes to the climate change problem. Keep it in the ground would solve the Standing Rock problem and aid in carbon sequestration.

Most poignant, of course, is the dismal Federal record of maintaining treaty accords, of forcing native children to go to “indian schools,” of slaughtering bands and tribes, of moving whole nations from their homelands, of keeping reservations poor. It is an even more original sin than slavery. I learned about it from my home state, Oklahoma, the end of the trail of tears.

The tragedy here is that the tragedy is not new. We’ve left a trail of broken promises and whatever happens at Standing Rock will likely reinforce that trail.

The promise and the hope of Standing Rock is the amazing national and international gathering of native peoples in solidarity with the water protectors. White allies, too. And, perhaps even more amazing, a contingent of former military folks going out to guard the water protectors. This may usher in a new era of cross-border alliances for native people all over the world.



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