We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.


Spring                                                                             New Shoulder Moon

Update. Just spoke to Kate. Feeling much better. Home after lunch sometime. I’m heading in around noon. Relieved.

Kate Still At Ortho Colorado

Spring                                                                            New Shoulder Moon

Kate, costumed for Purim

Kate, costumed for Purim

Kate had break through pain yesterday and nausea that they couldn’t control well. So, she’s still at Ortho Colorado. Plenty uncomfortable, but problems that seem, at least to me, manageable. Unpleasant sequelae from the meds and the cutting. I imagine she’ll come home today. Still convinced this was the right thing and that her care has been very good.

A strange sense of exhilaration with all the changes occasioned by Kate’s surgery. I find myself whistling on the way into the hospital, generally feeling good. It’s as if the additional load is something I needed. Weird, eh?

As also happens in these situations, often enough to be predictable, a lapse in the daily routine led to Gertie consuming a substantial number of Kate’s thc edibles. My fault. Gertie is, right now, pretty stoned. We had a similar incident with Kepler a couple of months ago and he slid down the stairs, looking confused. Apparently all mammals have a cannabinoid system and cannibis receptors. Gertie seems very unhappy, I imagine because her left leg makes her unsteady to begin with and the mary jane? Adds to it.

Beloved community dr-martin-luther-king-jr-quote-beloved-community-09.16.15-v2-1800Beth Evergreen has reached out to us in several ways. Individual members have offered to bring food or otherwise help. Leah, the executive director, called, wanting to know if we needed anything. Several folks from our mussar group responded to my e-mail on Thursday with love and concern. For both of us. A thought that keeps going through my mind: beloved community. Christian churches aspire to this, Beth Evergreen achieves it. I’m proud to be a member of the congregation.

One other thing I noticed. Both Kate and I were worried about her dying during surgery. Why? Well, it happens. Rarely, but it happens. Jeff Glantz, a member of Beth Evergreen, had a successful operation to remove a malignant brain tumor, then four days after surgery, he died. This was a couple of weeks ago. Jeff’s situation was on our minds, too.

I mention this because neither of us owned up to this concern until the surgery was over. By not talking about it before, by letting the death taboo keep it hidden, we lost a chance to console each other, to go a little deeper into our relationship.



Rituals of the Medical Kind

Spring                                                                               New Shoulder Moon

No Kate in the bed last night. Kep was there, though. Medical procedures upend regular life in so many ways. Kate had to stop most of her meds, use special cleansing soaps, sleep on clean sheets (yes, that was a requirement), stop eating. Then we have to leave our home, drive in to the hospital early, always early. Once there the ritual of checking in and paying, followed by pre-op disrobement, placing of iv’s, lots of conversation about medical history, warm blankets, lying in hospital bed on your back connected to various machines with many different numbers: O2, blood pressure, heart rate among others.

This is a gradual relinquishing of control that culminates in anesthesia and allowing someone, paying someone, to violate one of the most persistent taboos in our culture, the literal integrity of your body should not be disturbed by another. The surgeon cuts into the skin, goes inside where we never see, into the most private and intimate of spaces. And, in this case, takes out bone and cartilage, sets aside nerves, and installs titanium in a location known before only to flesh and blood.

Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic) Thomas Eakins

Portrait of Dr. Samuel D. Gross (The Gross Clinic) Thomas Eakins

The process begins to reverse in the recovery room as questions about nausea and pain depend on your answers for treatment. Modest control returning. Once in your room you begin to eat again, determine your pain medications, walk, use the bathroom. Finally, if no complications arise, the wheel chair ride to transportation home. Even at home the post-op plan governs a lot of your life. How much and how long of course depends on the procedure. Not sure quite what this looks like in Kate’s case yet, we’ll learn that today.

We agree to all this because we trust, more or less, the institution of medical care and the people who make it work. Of, if we don’t exactly trust, then we realize our options are few if we want the painful right shoulder to stop hurting, become useful again.


As a physician and a former nurse anesthetist, Kate knows the parts of surgery usually invisible to a patient due to anesthesia. This is, as the Bible says, a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing in that there are fewer unknowns to give anxiety, but a curse in that surgery does not always go well and she knows that from personal experience.

I look forward to picking her up today, bringing her home and helping her through recovery. As Schneider’s interviewee said, then she can live on and give on.

Under the New Shoulder Moon, a New Shoulder!

Spring                                                                     New Shoulder Moon

The new shoulder got placed this morning in a procedure that started at 9:30 and ended before 11. “Easy peasy,” said the surgeon, David Schneider. A good guy. In an interview for a book Schneider’s writing an informant told him he wanted those who benefited from his device to “Live on and give on.” Schneider added, “My new hip allowed me to do just that.” Very refreshing to meet a doctor, especially a surgeon, who sees his work as people’s bettered lives. May he live long and prosper.

Kate was a bit nervous, helped down from a lot nervous by conversations about Sjogren’s and all of the medical team taking her concerns seriously. I came home right after talking to Schneider because I wanted to feed the dogs and let them out. Headed back to Ortho Colorado in just a bit.

We’ve been heading toward this for quite a while and I’m relieved the surgery is over. Hopeful it will give her a painless shoulder, aiding sleeping, her right hand and her stress level.




Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

stephen-hawking-albert-einsAs one of Dr. Agronin’s youngest informants said, even when physical decline and losses restrict one’s options, there remains the capacity to appreciate and approach each day with a sense of purpose. “It’s all about how you frame what you have,” she told him.

He cites the concept of “positive aging” developed by Robert D. Hill, a psychologist in Salt Lake City, that is “affected by disease and disability, but not contingent upon avoiding it.” Rather, it is “a state of mind that is positive, optimistic, courageous, and able to adapt and cope in flexible ways with life’s changes.”  Finding Meaning and Happiness in Old Age, NYT, March 20, 2018

The third phase of our lives, the one that we enter when career and creating a family have faded in importance, or ended, has a mental image for most of us past 65 of decline, of a gradual decrease of abilities and agency. This image comes from our childhood when retirement was predominantly of the finish line sort, work was over, now we wait. That waiting often wasn’t long with heart disease or stroke or a bad fall ending it.

resilenceHopefully, our children, the millennials among them, will look at us and come to that phase of their lives with a different image. My hope is that they will see that aging is the accumulation of years, not a time of diminished hope and diffuse fear, but life continuing. If that image can become dominant, it will look like the diverse approaches people have to their first and second phases. In other words the third phase will have as many distinct trajectories as there are people who enter it. It will not be dormancy, or a pause before dying, but life itself.

Is the third phase the same, then, as the first two phases, just creakier? No. Like the first two, when education dominates, when building a career and raising a family dominates, it has its distinctiveness. Perhaps its most salient characteristic is open endedness. In the third phase there is, at least now, no culturally limned outline; perhaps that will change, I don’t know, but right now, thanks to the old finish line model of retirement, the third phase has no particular flavor. Or, perhaps, it has a negative flavor as I indicated above, of decline and loss of agency. Even that negative flavor though leaves the third phase open.

That very undefined nature daunts a lot of people. If your life counted on work for self-definition, if your family, with children or not, made your life worthwhile, the thought of years, maybe as many as 25 or thirty, with no such hooks for meaning can make the future look bleak, as if you were entering a time when life flows on around you, in spite of you, even without you.

positive-agingI like Robert Hill’s definition of positive aging: (It’s) “affected by disease and disability, but not contingent upon avoiding it.” Rather, it is “a state of mind that is positive, optimistic, courageous, and able to adapt and cope in flexible ways with life’s changes.”

The idea of resilience has gotten a lot of play recently. My sense is that is key to positive aging.

A telling article on resilience in childhood from the Harvard Center for the Developing Child has some hints for us third phase folk. For instance, here are some factors that enhance resilience in children:

  1. facilitating supportive adult-child relationships;
  2. building a sense of self-efficacy and perceived control;
  3. providing opportunities to strengthen adaptive skills and self-regulatory capacities; and
  4. mobilizing sources of faith, hope, and cultural traditions.

ResilienceNot only in children, I think. Resilience can allow us to accept the changes of the aging body without losing hold of the power of our own lives. With a resilient personality even ALS will not cause us to stop growing. Just look at Stephen Hawking.

As we enter the third phase, or as we cope with its vague demands, focusing on enhancing our resilience will help us adapt, remain flexible. Perhaps resilience is nothing more than following the tao, finding the energy and flow of the universe no matter what externalities are present in life. I’d like to think so.

The Tao of Springtime

Spring                                                                            New Shoulder Moon


Kate has the power of a resurgent earth, ready to fluoresce, and the power of a waxing moon, growing stronger every night, to boost her this week. She’ll need them plus a good surgeon, anesthesiologist, and nurses. Without her pain meds, which she’s had to eliminate prior to surgery to prevent bleeding, her shoulder has become debilitating, or, I should say, more debilitating.

Kep’s digestive tract remains upset. He threw up more overnight. Yesterday, after our physicals, we went to the Wash House Laundromat in Littleton, put the comforters and quilts in two giant washers and waited in the car while they went through the 28 minute cycle. A bit of sticker shock for me since each washer, we used two, was seven dollars and twenty-five cents. Worth it though.

wash houseIn a bit of nostalgia for me all the seats in the place were taken up by residents from a group home for the developmentally disabled. A young man with a plastic helmet to protect against seizures, another autistic young man davening and crying out, and four Down’s Syndrome young women. When I worked with the developmentally disabled, which I did from 1974 to 1980, taking clients out to places like the laundromat was a pleasant diversion, teaching independent living skills and being away from the residence.

Kate’s preop physical yesterday cleared the way for the procedure on Thursday. It will not come soon enough. Today we go to see her rheumatologist.

ekgMy physical was, at least so far (before lab results), unremarkable. Dull is my favorite medical term. Boring. Nothing happening here. My ekg was like last years. My blood pressure is low enough that Dr. Gidday wondered if I was over medicated. No, I said, I want to keep it low. All those strokes in the family of origin. O2 saturation fine, as it always is when I descend 3,600 feet to her office. Knee? Fine. Other knee? Surprisingly fine. Prostate? Still gone. PSA’s good. No hernia. Lungs and heart sound good. Still upright and moving.

I’m doing well, able to help Kate, care for the dogs, feeling centered and calm. I understand my limits and know that staying present, not fretting about tomorrow or holding onto yesterday, keeps me sane. The tao of this time flows through us all and I’m following its course, traveling with the fluctuations. The tao right now is my nurse, my comforter, my energy.

Tao4It is the tao of springtime reminding us that winter passes, too, as will all the difficulties; and, that even in the midst of a tough season, underneath is the movement of life itself, struggling to emerge, to take back the moment. All we need to do is follow its cues.


The Future of Food

Imbolc                                                                           New Shoulder Moon

third plate Mentioned The Third Plate a few posts ago. A book by chef Dan Barber, owner of the Blue Hill restaurant in Manhattan and a principle in the Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture in Westchester County.

Rotation Grains
smoked farmer’s cheese and broccoli pistou
Maine Diver Scallop
bacon, winter squash and kohlrabi
Stone Barns Pig
tsai tsai, horseradish and pickled grapes
11 day dry-aged bolero carrot steak
mushroom, kale and onion rings
blue hill farm milk
yogurt, turmeric and ginger
Malted Triticale porridge
White Chocolate, quince and Beer Ice Cream
Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture

Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture

He uses four big concept areas, pictured at the top: Soil, Land, Sea, Seed to tell a story about what he sees as the future of food. He’s trying to take the conversation about food beyond the now well known critiques of books like Hard Tomatoes, Hard Times, Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, Aldo Leopold’s The Sand County Almanac, and any number of books published in the late sixties like Eull Gibbons, Stalking the Wild Asparagus, Small is Beautiful by E.F. Schumacher. Throw in Wes Jackson’s Becoming Native to This Place, almost anything by Wendell Berry and the thought world championed by John Muir and Edward Abbey and you can see the big conceptual field Barber has tried to plow.

He seems on to something. Using examples like the dehesa in Spain that produces jambon iberico, The Bread Lab run by Washington State plant geneticist Stephen Jones, the farm of Klaas Martens who teaches him about reading the language of the soil, Veta La Palma, a Spanish aquaculture corporation set up in an estuary of the Gulf of Cadiz, and Anson Mills, a fascinating concept by Glenn Roberts who uses landrace farming to resurrect old grain crops and nurture new ones, he seems to propose a recursion to localized crops, that is, wheat, for example, that grows best in upstate New York.  This recursion includes animals, too, where their rearing takes on the characteristics that oenologists call terroir in wines.


This recursion would have chefs take their cues, their menus, from what farmers can grow in their immediate area and from those sites with a focus on sustainability and ecosystem regeneration. The fascinating aquaculture experiment that is Veta La Palma  uses the Guadalquivir River and the salt water of the Gulf of Cadiz to farm high quality sea bass. The focus does not have to be only local or regional but can include instances of food production with ecosystem supportive techniques.

This seems similar to the disaggregation idea in power production, local solar and wind and geothermal and hydro.  Anything that deemphasizes the industrial and the corporate in favor of the local and ecological.


He talks about his idea in agriculture as middle agriculture, that is agriculture smaller than corporate, but larger than the small family farm or the boutique garden. He’s trying to get to scale sufficient that it could actually feed large numbers of people.

It makes me want to cook in the way he suggests. That is, find food grown here in the Rockies, use it along with food sourced from the Veta La Palmas, the dehesas or the Bread Labs, and build our menus at home around it, changing with the seasons. Right now that would take a good bit of work, but it might be possible and it would certainly be worth it.

A continuing theme.

Welcome, Spring. But hold off just a while, o.k.?

Imbolc                                                                  New Shoulder Moon

equinox josephine wallbreath

equinox Josephine Wall breath of gaia

Spring comes tomorrow at 10:15 a.m. MST. At least that’s the timing of the Equinox when the sun lines up at a right angle to the equator. The snow out my window says winter’s not done quite yet. And we hope it’s not. Bring more snow. Please.


Bear’s Day

Imbolc                                                                             New Shoulder Moon

repairSometimes. Well. So, the washer failed first, on Thursday. Then, a day or so later, the dishwasher. 1 Stop appliance, the folks who do Samsung repairs up here, only have two days in Conifer, Monday and Wednesday. Monday was full, so Wednesday. That’s the day before Kate’s surgery.

Then, this morning around 4 am, Kepler began to puke. On the comforter. On the quilt. On the carpet. OK. Kate woke up first and as is our agreement, first one aware cleans up. I got up, too, carried comforters and quilts to the laundry room. (but, if you’ll recall from paragraph one, the washer is not working.)

Last night we got about 4 inches of snow, too. That figures into all this because we have our physicals this morning in Littleton. And, obviously, afterwards, I have a trip to the laundromat.

“Monday, Monday, so good to me
Monday mornin´, it was all I hoped it would be.” Good song, but posted here, as you might have already guessed, ironically.

Great Wheel go bragh!

Imbolc                                                                 New Shoulder Moon

Erin go braghMade corned beef and cabbage for dinner last night. Erin go bragh! When I decided to write novels, now long ago, Kate suggested I find an area that I could relate to. I chose my Celtic heritage, both Welsh and Irish. It is a fertile realm, filled with gods and goddesses, fairies and banshees, this world and the other world. Not so deep into it right now with one exception, the Great Wheel.

The Great Wheel, though, continues to inform my spiritual journey, a steady point on an often changing ancientrail. The Great Wheel is us, homo sapiens, using consciousness to ground ourselves on this planet and to its fate. Still seems a good place to start thinking about our relationship to the whole, better than any text. Great Wheel go bragh!

Took a sack full of food into the Aurora Olson’s yesterday afternoon. Jon, Ruth and Gabe have all been home sick since Tuesday. Gabe has pneumonia, Jon and Ruth the respiratory illness that preceded it for Gabe. Another positive of being close enough. Ruth sent a text Friday night, “Yo. Can you bring us some food?” I didn’t stay because neither Kate nor I want to get sick before her surgery on Thursday.


As long as I was in Denver, I drove to Meiningers. This is the big art supply store in the Denver area. It’s filled with paints and papers and brushes and pens and tape and pencils and cutting tools. A wonderful place, its existence alone stimulated me, and I’m sure every customer who goes inside.

yasumotoIts sumi-e material material, though, was feeble compared to the hole in wall (by comparison), Red Herring. Meiningers’ selection of brushes were all cheap, beginner’s brushes. They did have a couple of Yasumoto inks that I bought, an Ultra Black and a Black Gold. I also picked up an Olfa knife to cut paper, from the kraft roll that came last week and from the rolls of rice paper I bought from Red Herring and Blue Heron, an online sumi-e store.

Not sure why this has become so important to me in so short a period of time, but as I said below melancholy allows the heart to catch up with decisions already known to the subconscious.

Life flows on, in endless song, I can’t help singing.



March 2018
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