We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

We Are At Home

Written By: Charles - Apr• 07•20

Spring and the full Corona Luna

Tuesday gratefuls: A good workout. All the delivery people: USPS, UPS, Fedex. Again, and still, all the service workers, warehouse workers, truck drivers, doctors, nurses, governors and mayors who’ve chosen to confront life under the pandemic. And, again, the coronavirus for unveiling the lies we tell ourselves to preserve our status, our pollution, our failed economic systems. Seoah, who cleans and cooks and smiles and laughs and orders from Lululemon.

The snow is melting. We’ve had bright sun shiny days. Jeffco put the entire county on stage 1 fire restrictions indefinitely. It’s unusual for that restriction to come this early, with much snow still to come. Not good news.

What would happen right now if we had a major disaster, like a wildfire? It would up end our life here and create a turmoil wherever we had to go. Or, an earthquake in California. A hurricane hitting Florida or New Orleans. Tornadoes in the south. Disasters during an ongoing disaster. Are we ready for these? They will happen.

We’ve flagged off our housecleaner for the second time. We’ve continued to pay her though, as we will pay our hair stylist. These are one woman businesses. They are our contract employees so we’re supporting them. How long? Don’t know.

Seoah cleans so we’re ok. And the hair? Somebody said a couple of weeks ago that we were only three weeks from knowing everybody’s true hair color. Shaggy’s been my look most of my life. Another couple of months is NBD.

Another zoom time this morning with Clan Keaton. Linking the far flung Ellises and our first cousin, Diane. Mark sent me a clip from the Arab News announcing a 24 hour curfew in Riyadh. Residents can only go out between 6am and 3pm for food and medicine. Today begins a month long lockdown in Singapore with somewhat looser restrictions. San Francisco’s been shelter in place for longer than most.

All this physical distancing and social distancing has begun to work. How much it will flatten the curve and what happens when it ends are still uncertain. Like our lives.

We’ll See

Written By: Charles - Apr• 06•20

Spring and the Corona Luna

Monday gratefuls: Ruby, the red Rav4. Filled up. Wearing a masque in public. This time an obvious one. The clerk at the liquor store. The clerk at the Safeway. The guy from the Pho place, bringing our order outside. I gave you some extra! A trip to Evergreen with Seoah and Kate. Sunday zoom. Woolly friends, old friends. Deep story.

If god lived on earth, all his windows would be broken. Yiddish saying.

You can see why. Pogroms in Russia. The holocaust. Virulent anti-semitism throughout European history. But not just Jews. The plague. Earthquakes. Wild fire. Volcanoes erupting. Hurricanes and tornadoes. Pedophiles even among God’s supposed ambassadors. Wealth and status inequalities all over the globe. Racism and sexism.

This is the old, old problem of theodicy. If god is omnipotent, omniscient, how can he (yes, this is the he-god.) let bad things happen? Good question, as it turns out. Some of the most convoluted theological thinking of many bright theologians have never found a satisfactory answer. IMO that’s because there is no satisfactory answer.

Does this mean that god is an intentional doofus when it comes to ruling the universe? No, it simply means that those of us who invented him and his ways, all of the hims and hers of the religious over history, have projected ourselves or our monarchs onto the sky. Turns out we’d be no good if we were omniscient or omnipotent. That’s a relief, at least to me.

There is a more radical approach to the conundrum, one that at first makes no sense. Monism. The universe is one. You can call the one god, if you want. Or, you can call it the one. The implication of monism for the question of theodicy is, well, hard to grasp.

Let’s say you choose to call the one, god. That is, the unique entity that is all stuff together is god. Some do this. Spinoza, for example. Art Green for another. There are flavors to this monism idea, but right now we’ll let those be. If the one is god, then all things, bad and good, are of the one. Volcanoes. Plagues. Hurricanes. Tsunamis. Murders. Rapists. The coronavirus. as well as, of course, love, justice, compassion, warriors, mothers, fathers, nurses and doctors.

I know. It seems like a violation of common sense. How do we get away with attributing the worst and the best to this god, this one? Short answer: we have no choice. This is the god who’s windows would all be broken, isn’t it? I mean, what sorta god…?

We start by recognizing that all of our judgments are just that, our judgments. It’s the human mind that separates events and people and their actions into good and bad. I’m not suggesting that there is no difference between good and bad. I’m just identifying them as artifacts of our minds trying to assess our world in terms of helpful and unhelpful.

Monism requires us to pause a moment and see that goods can become bad and bad things can have good results. Monism forces us to look beyond our blinkered vision, to turn around as we see, to take in the full 360 degree view.

Here’s an ancient parable, told in many cultures, that illustrates this point:

“Once upon a time, there was a farmer in the central region of China. He didn’t have a lot of money and, instead of a tractor, he used an old horse to plow his field.

One afternoon, while working in the field, the horse dropped dead. Everyone in the village said, “Oh, what a horrible thing to happen.” The farmer said simply, “We’ll see.” He was so at peace and so calm, that everyone in the village got together and, admiring his attitude, gave him a new horse as a gift.

Everyone’s reaction now was, “What a lucky man.” And the farmer said, “We’ll see.”

A couple days later, the new horse jumped a fence and ran away. Everyone in the village shook their heads and said, “What a poor fellow!”

The farmer smiled and said, “We’ll see.”

Eventually, the horse found his way home, and everyone again said, “What a fortunate man.”

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

Later in the year, the farmer’s young boy went out riding on the horse and fell and broke his leg. Everyone in the village said, “What a shame for the poor boy.”

The farmer said, “We’ll see.”

Two days later, the army came into the village to draft new recruits. When they saw that the farmer’s son had a broken leg, they decided not to recruit him.

Everyone said, “What a fortunate young man.”

The farmer smiled again – and said “We’ll see.”

Moral of the story: There’s no use in overreacting to the events and circumstances of our everyday lives. Many times what looks like a setback, may actually be a gift in disguise. And when our hearts are in the right place, all events and circumstances are gifts that we can learn valuable lessons from.

As Fra Giovanni once said:

“Everything we call a trial, a sorrow, or a duty, believe me… the gift is there and the wonder of an overshadowing presence.””

This is a monistic perspective. And, in its vein, I’d ask you to take the rock out of your hand for a moment, quite breaking god’s windows over the coronavirus, and say to yourself, “We’ll see.”

An Experiment

Written By: Charles - Apr• 05•20

Spring and the Corona Luna

An unfolding, yet so far under reported story, A Perfect Storm is Gathering in the South. The author, Margaret Renkl, has become one of my favorite NYT op ed people. She’s had interesting columns on animals and plants in Tennessee and her coverage of the tornadoes that struck Tennessee last month were tender, evoking the good news of community at its best.

When I read this article, it confirmed a conclusion I’d come to while looking at a map of travel reductions over the last month. The map showed blues, greens, tans over most of the U.S., representing significant reductions in miles traveled since the shut down orders began to take effect. There was however a large swath of red, indicating no decrease in travel and in some instances, actual increases. The red outlined the deep South, went over to Texas and up a ways into the Midwest.

This map shows the problem. Travel declined by far the least in the South. A conservative columnist writes that this is demonizing the south. His argument seems to focus on rural areas that require longer trips for essentials like food and medical visits. Thus, the red. Of course, that could have some merit, but it doesn’t explain the other rural counties in states not in the south. Most of them have managed to slow travel.

He also doesn’t take into account the most salient reason for travel remaining high in those states. Their governors, again with some emerging exceptions, have not issued stay at home orders. All Republican. All saying something along the lines of individual liberties come first. My guess? They’re not really so concerned about individual liberties as they are about political backlash if they become “tyrannical” like those governors in other states.

Whether you agree with their logic or not does not matter. What they’ve done is set up an unintentional experiment. Were lock down orders necessary and did they flatten the curve? Or, were they a serious contravention of the right to assemble, the right to go anywhere you damned want? If, over the next few weeks, virus cases begin to abate in the north and west, but not in the south, we’ll have an answer.

If the southern governors were wrong, we’ll still have a huge problem, because the United States is a federation with no passport controls between individual states, much like Europe. The infected will stay be able to move freely and as the rest of the nation begins to open up a bit, the virus will have a chance to take hold again.

Sigh.

Test

Written By: Charles - Apr• 05•20

Spring and the Corona Luna

Sunday gratefuls: PSA less than .02. Quest Diagnostics website. Seoah’s Korean pork barbecue Vietnamese style sandwich. Joe on Kakao, looking happy despite the impending shutdown in Singapore. First time changing Kate’s dressing on her feeding tube a success. Two nights with no leaking in a row! Two containers of dish washing soap pods from Amazon.

Got an email late yesterday afternoon from Quest Diagnostics. Your test result is in. Suck in stomach, breath out. Run upstairs to the loft, move the mouse ball to wake up the computer. Find the icon for Quest on the toolbar. Sign in. So many steps. Oh, there it is. <.02. Means a negative result for PSA. Which is as good a news as I could get with this one. Less than .02 means that the test, the most sensitive available, could find no psa.

What does it mean? A little hard to say, but it says at least this. Right now my prostate cancer has not overwhelmed the Lupron. A lack of prostate specific antigens (PSA) does not, however, mean no cancer. Not in this instance, because the Lupron itself suppresses PSA. In other words this test could have had bad news if it was higher than this, but didn’t.

One more Lupron shot on April 10th. Somewhere in early to mid-June, I’ll get a third super sensitive psa test. If that one is <.02, the likelihood will be that I’m cancer free. A cure for me remains possible. That’s really what this test means.

Relieved. Yet, because of the nature of Lupron and the only test available to measure my cancer’s presence, I hesitate. Not wanting to push too far into joy, not wanting to have buoyed hopes dashed in three months. Though, this is the best news I could have gotten. Need to let the joy out. Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music.

Why be tentative? This is great news for today! And great news deserves a smile, many smiles, a pirouette, a leap, a big grin. I’m on the path to a cure still. Hallelujah. Smack my palm and do a jig.

Mystery

Written By: Charles - Apr• 04•20

Spring and the Corona Luna

Saturday gratefuls: Nurse Michele from Mt. Evan’s Hospice and Home Health Care. A night without leaking for Kate!!! A new protocol for her feeding tube. Masks. Personas. No, masks, soft cloth masks. No, it’s all masks. Even our body. Mystery. The peaks of the mountains. Cirrus clouds racing high above them. Lodgepoles with hoarfrost. Woolly’s on Zoom.

Zoom. Zoom. Zoom. Talk about mysteries. How does this really work? I mean, seeing old friends, family members who are far away. Maine, Saudi Arabia, Singapore. Shorewood. Anoka County. Downtown Minneapolis. While up here on Shadow Mountain. Talking to them. They hear me and respond. I see facial expressions, room settings. All on zoom settings. Wow.

The O.E.D. Mystery. Definition #1: hidden from human knowledge or understanding; impossible or difficult to explain, solve, discover; obscure origin, nature, or purpose.

A psychonaut. This friend. He’s done psychedelics. He’s done ayahuasca, the shaman’s drug from the rain forest. Living in mystery, living into mystery, life’s mystery. What’s behind door number 3? Is there a wizard in oz or just a traveling salesman pulling levers and pushing buttons? He’s stayed level, working, drawing, imagining. Pushing himself, his art, his words as he ages. A beautiful thing to see. Inspirational.

Speaking of beautiful things. Michele, the Mt. Evan’s home health care nurse came yesterday. She showed us how to clean Kate’s tube feeding site with warm, soapy water and sterile pads. How to apply a zinc oxide cream below the disc. How to cut a gauze bandage to fit under the disc and one to fit over it. Since that time, around 11 yesterday, Kate’s been leak free. Hallelujah. Really.

A guy I knew at CBE, Howard, had a brain hemorrhage this week. And, died. Echoes of mom, that week in October. I spoke with him at Purim, the last time I was at CBE. Nothing apparently wrong then. No TIA evidence. Just normal Howard, talking about his wife’s leukemia and their tennis doubles. They played competitively even though she was in treatment. The cancer took her a while ago. It’s not only Covid-19 out there. It’s cancer and brain bleeds and feeding tubes, too.

My point here is not a gloomy one. It’s just that life, and death, goes on unrelated to the viral victory march. And will continue.

Yesterday

Written By: Charles - Apr• 03•20

Spring and the Corona Luna

Friday gratefuls: Sparkly powder, falling gently. Temps in the teens. Good sleeping. The good phlebotomist. Tony’s Market senior shopping hour. Their fresh sustainable fish, their cases of steaks and burgers and chickens and readymade foods. The guy behind the counter who’s a Celtic’s fan. The fog as I drove down the hill yesterday. The nurse coming today to look at Kate’s stoma. TGIF?

Fog covered Hwy 285 as it wound its way down the hill(s). Brakelights diffused as nervous drivers tried to slow down. The windshield grew icy when suspended water, the cloud, hit cold glass. Wipers scraped as they moved over the bumpy surface. The Rav4’s fog lights showed yellow to others navigating the mist.

Quest Diagnostics had an 8 am slot set aside to draw blood for an ultra-sensitive PSA. Their waiting room had scotch tape over 4 middle chairs in each row, only the chairs on the ends were open. Checking in required a blue nitrile glove, pushing touch screen prompts.

Charles? The name came from behind. Yes? Please come with me. A woman, Jennifer, clothed in a modern plague mask, an N95 respirator and gloved in the same ones available for the check in screen. Sit here please. Jennifer indicated the padded chair with the long arms. She immediately began typing.

Do you have your lab order? Thank you. More typing. Put your arm here. She patted the long surface attached to the right, movable arm. Sleeve already rolled up, bare arm extended. She wiped my arm with a small alcohol wipe, tapped the artery. Looked. Then slipped in the needle. No pain at all.

Stop. A sign on Tony’s front door. If you have any Covid-19 symptoms, do not come in. The air felt clammy and cold. Unwelcoming. Scallops, please. 4. Those salmon with crab stuffing. Thank you. No one else in the store for senior shopping hours from 8 until 9. A big container of the roasted vegetables please.

The Talmud parried arguments back and forth about whether all garments or just wool and linen garments could become impure. Leprosy could make garments impure, even the warp and woof threads on the loom. Not clear why this mattered, but it mattered enough to take up most of Daf 27 in the Shabbat tractate.

A long slow walk on the treadmill. Watching the second Formula One season on Netflix. Cooking the salmon later, the scallops for Kate. Asparagus. Potatoes. Seeing Joe on the phone, his usual call as he headed for his morning’s classes. He’s getting dressed, putting on his blues, waiting for his Kiwi friend, a major in the New Zealand military. The Kiwi has a car.

Seeing another episode of Ozark. Too dark. Tales from the Loop on Prime Video. Ah. Science fiction. The sense of wonder leavened a gritty plot line. Reading further in Beggars in Spain. Sleepless versus sleepers.

Into bed. Rigel in a good spot. Moving Kep. Cold room. Outside temperatures in the teens. Windows open. Electric blanket on. Good night.

Written By: Charles - Apr• 02•20

Spring and the Corona Luna

Thursday gratefuls: Lab techs. Ultra-senstive PSA tests. All the folks at Anova Cancer Care. Shelley Denton, my Lupron nurse. Dr. Eigner, my urologist. Ruby, for the ride. Kate, for the life together. Seoah, for joy. Murdoch’s pictures from Brenton. The cool mountain air this morning.

It’s time. My third PSA blood draw since ending radiation. Sept., January, April. The next one, in the summer, will/should be the important one, the one that tells me whether I still have cancer. Of course, this one could, too, if it’s survived the Lupron and the radiation, but I don’t think it has. But I don’t know.

In an article on the ethics of corvid-19 triage I read a chilling sentence, “What if the patient has corvid-19 and serious cancer?” Serious? Seriously? Yes, I know what they mean. But. At 72, with a cancer recurrence, how would they answer this question for me? Do I get a ventilator? Others in my situation? Yikes.

I’m looking forward to the drive. Not getting out much these days, not even for medical stuff. This Quest lab is near Tony’s market. Gonna stop in for the senior shopping hours, 8-9. Not sure what I’m after, maybe some fish.

Life is quiet here, as I imagine it is where you are, too. My routine has these fixed points: MWF, resistance + cardio. TTh: High intensity intervals. Thursday at 1: Mussar on Zoom. Friday afternoon: woolly zoom. Sunday morning: Old Friends Zoom. Wed. a.m.: Kabbalah class on zoom. Each day a page of the Talmud. Evening: television and reading. Some wandering around, trying to find my ikigai. No luck yet.

Gotta get a little breakfast before the blood draw. Later.

Ättestupa

Written By: Charles - Apr• 01•20

Spring and the Corona Luna

Wednesday gratefuls: Garbage collectors, workers at power plants, cleaners in all places, showing us how important “menial” labor can be. Kate in her sewing room!! Yeah. Sewed on some buttons, made some mug rugs. Seoah doing grocery shopping for us. Brenton and his many pictures, videos, obvious joy being with Murdoch. Concerned friends. Upcoming PSA blood draw, Lupron, visit with Eigner.

Another, grimmer topic. Wanna sacrifice yourself for the economy, grandpa? Any of my readers of a certain age going with Dan Patrick? “‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?…If that is the exchange, I’m all in,” Patrick said.” Patrick is Lt. Gov. of Texas, Dan Patrick. The quote is from a Fox News interview with Tucker Carlson.

Patrick made his senicidic comment after Trump declared he wanted to get the economy going by Easter, “This country’s not made to be shut down.” Only after being told that if he did, deaths would be in the hundreds of thousands, and his lackey Lindsey Graham said, “You would own those deaths.” did he pull back. OK, we’ll open it up on April 30th, he decided. Why April 30? Who knows?

Last year when Kate had a period of feeling better we went to see, first, “The Kitchen”, a women take over the mob movie with Elizabeth Moss and Melissa McCarthy, in return Kate agreed to go see Midsommar. “It’s Scandinavian,” I said.

Hmm, yeah. Sorta. I’m a fan of horror movies (not slasher flicks. Ugh.). Hammer Films. The Thing. The Fly. Rosemary’s Baby. The Exorcist. The Shining. The Omen. Creature of the Black Lagoon. Not many get made that are thoughtful, even beautiful. The Horror of Dracula, a 1958 Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee movie in the Hammer Film series, was beautiful. So was Polanski’s 1967 The Fearless Vampire Killers.

There are now two that are both beautiful and thoughtful: The Wickerman (1973) and Midsommar (2019). The Wickerman has a Celtic folklore background while Midsommar uses Swedish themes. I’ve learned in doing some research that these are folk horror movies. A new genre to me by name, but not by preference.

Anyhow, in Midsomar, Ari Aster, director and writer, draws on Swedish folklore. Some of the ideas there are familiar to you like the Maypole, the colorful Swedish garments, white trimmed in flowers and runes, all that blond hair, and festive bonfires outdoors. And, yes, naked Swedes can be seen dancing around midsommar bonfires. Look it up on your interweb.

Aster also draws on one aspect of Swedish folklore embedded enough in the culture to give a name to certain high cliffs and promontories: Ättestupa. In prehistoric times, Swedes believe, elders threw themselves from the attestupa when they were no longer able to care for themselves or assist around the camp. Senicide. Though attestupa may have been challenged among folklorists, senicide is/was real. Elders wandering away from the village to starve, active euthanasia of the elderly, or, as Lt. Patrick suggests, economic senicide.

The most disturbing scenes in Midsomar come during the attestupa. The Harga collective using seasonal language for life’s stages: Spring: 1-18, Summer: 19-36, Fall: 37-54, and Winter: 55-72. This last season, Winter, is the mentoring season. At 72 Winter ends, and so do you. That, for the Harga, was when you headed for the attestupa.

Midsomar is on Prime Video right now, free. If these kind of movies fit into your cinema way, I’d encourage you to watch it. It’s a very good example of the folk horror genre. If you watch it, let me know what you think of the last scene.

Restitution

Written By: Charles - Mar• 31•20

Spring and the Corona Luna

Tuesday gratefuls: Midsommar, the movie. Korean pancakes. Working out. The endorphins. Nap. Kate’s string of better days, except for that damned leaking feeding tube. Reconstructionist webinar on zoom. Your strong coefficient of restitution. (see below) The Talmud. Beggars in Spain, a sci fi novel I’m reading which Kate also read .

A conversation among old Woollies, gray haired Mammoths, about resilience went from Paul’s etymological observation about resilio, leap or spring back in Latin, to Tom’s engineering vocabulary: the coefficient of restitution. After looking it up (Tom sent a definition, but I can’t copy it.), I found this, which explains Tom’s familiarity with it: “The coefficient of restitution is largely absent from undergraduate Physics textbooks but is HUGELY useful for problems involving collisions.”

Here’s a bit more: “The closer the coefficient is to one, the bouncier the object is. An object with a coefficient close to zero would have very little bounce.” What’s your restitution coefficient after colliding with the social distance pressure waves of Covid-19? Are you closer to one? Still bouncy and vibrant. Or, closer to zero? Laid out flat by the whole experience. Maybe you even have covid-19.

My coefficient varies during the day and day by day. Most of the time I’d say its .85 or so. Occasionally though. Thinking of Gertie. Realizing the hassle of getting groceries. Getting the call that the practice is closed: my ophthalmologist, for instance. Feeling the world’s sigh. Maybe down to .5. But not for long.

Seeing

Written By: Charles - Mar• 30•20

Spring and the Corona Luna

Monday gratefuls: Corn dogs. State Fair corn dogs. The Minnesota State Fair. The Great Minnesota Get Together. The Great U.S. stay apart. The bailout. I think. Being alone with Kate and Seoah. Those pictures of Murdoch from Brenton. Life in a world historical event. Life. Death. The power of Monday.

Here’s what I’ve seen. A black SUV, a Lexus, next to me at a stoplight. Latex gloved hands on the steering wheel. On the road to Loveland Saturday all the LED road signs read: Avoid Non-Essential Travel. A cascade of it’s gonna be later messages from Instacart. So many maps and graphs and charts. Fewer cars on Black Mountain Drive, especially when I go out for the newspaper around 5:30 am. Empty parking lots. A closed outlet mall. So many e-mails starting with we care about you and that’s why our business is doing X. Friends and family on zoom. The rabbi on zoom, singing about breath. A sign at Bergen Bark Inn. We’re taking care of the dogs of essential workers like doctors, nurses, firefighters, police, grocery store workers. The worker at Starbucks extending a credit card reader so I could insert the card, then remove it on my own. My own gloved hand on the hose nozzle at the Phillips 66. That bottle of hand sanitizer in my cup holder. Seoah with her lysol spray hitting each package that gets delivered.

When will it ever end? When will it ever end?

And, yet. A moment in time like no other. Yes, the Spanish Flu. Yes. But, no. Not in this millennia. Not in my lifetime. Not in this century.

The first quarter of 2020 has not gone so well. What with all the dog bites, then Gertie’s death, then the plague. Yes, the Moronic plague. And, the virus. True.

However, I find it exciting, too. What will happen next? How bad can this get? Wow. Really? The ways people are coping. The empty streets of big cities around the world. The bravery. The stupidity and the cupidity.

Like one facebook meme said: This is the first time we could save the world by watching television.