We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Monthly archives for March, 2018

Ancient Holidays

Spring                                                                       New Shoulder Moon

Chagall, Pesach

Chagall, Pesach

It’s the second night of pesach tonight and tomorrow morning is easter. Liberation and resurrection, or liberation and death’s final bow. Resurrection is hard to integrate since its hard proof lies beyond the veil of this world. Liberation, on the other hand, is much easier to integrate because it applies to so many this worldly situations: slavery, imprisonment, forced poverty, mental illness, racial and gender and sexual preference discrimination, being in Trump’s America.

Both are important to me. I long ago left behind the death is no more school of theology. It seems cruel to me, an assertion confounded at every death bed, every school shooting, every war. Death still rides her pale horse, galloping through the living world and pruning, pruning, pruning.

I do, however, retain my confidence in resurrection; that is, the power of the changing world to incorporate death and decay as precursors for life. Each spring, as our temperate latitude winter fades away, bright green shoots spear their way through the soil’s surface. Flowers bloom. Vegetables grow. Trees leaf out. Lambs and kids and calves and piglets are born. All these are evidence of transubstantiation, the literal changing of grapes and bread into our bodies. This transformation happens regularly and green burial will help us remember that we humans do participate in it, that concrete, water-tight “vaults” and expensive coffins do not shield us from our part in the web of life.

El Greco

El Greco

This weekend presents to us two powerful stories, stories that have changed the world: the exodus from Egypt of Hebrew slaves and the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus, known by many as the Christ. Narratives have real potency, the ability to change lives, turn the pages of history, answer our deepest questions, quiet our deepest fears. Oddly, you can see this power even more clearly if you take a stance just outside the metaphysical claims, but not in the camp of folks like the new atheists, who are simply boring.

I’m neither Christian nor Jew, my metaphysics is bound up in the ongoing evolution of the universe and literally rooted in the soil of the midwest and the hard rock of these mountains where I now live. Even so, liberation and resurrection, through the stories of the passover and easter, are important to me, tell me about human possibility, about the human capacity to face enslavement and grief with hope, with the chance to turn both into moments of human triumph.

Though it has taken me a while to learn the rudimentary geology of our immediate neighborhood, I now know that we live among three mountains. We live on Shadow Mountain, up a valley that runs from its base to our home. On the opposite side, the west side of this valley, is Conifer Mountain and then, the mountain most visible from our house, Black Mountain.

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

Think of the changes evidenced by these huge landforms. This is rock that was once, millions of years ago, imprisoned far below the earth’s surface, held there by weight and history, perhaps even put there by accretion when another planet slammed into the still forming earth. Yet now I live on it, can see it clearly, far above the surface, pushed out and up by forces wielding power unimaginable, unavailable to us humans.

Is this liberation and resurrection? Not from a human perspective, but from the perspective of our planet, very much so. And yet it does not end there. Once liberated from their stony dungeons wind and water act upon them taking these high mountains gradually down to sea level, then into the ocean itself. In the soil formed in this way plants will grow, animals will feed off the plants. Liberation and resurrection are everywhere, if only we see what we’re looking at.

 

Here Comes the Book

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

“A scholar is just a library’s way of making another library.”  -Daniel Dennett, philosopher, writer, and professor (b. 28 Mar 1942)    found by friend Tom Crane

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I love this quote. As I wrote back to Tom, it reminds me of an example B.F. Skinner used to talk about creativity within his straight-jacketed behavorist psychology. Think, Skinner suggested, of a chicken as an egg’s way of making more eggs.

chicken2Those of us who love libraries and those of us who have ones of our own take up their content like chicken scratching around in a farmyard. We poke, peck, pick up a few rocks to grind the ideas against the gizzard of our memory and our own mind, wait awhile, then, out pops words. Sometimes enough words come out to fill a book. And, voila, more library.

Well, gotta to get back to digging my little clawed feet, formerly of dinosaur size remember, into the shelves here. Till later.

Not At My Best

Spring                                                                   New Shoulder Moon

caregiverCare giving is tough. In just a week I’ve become a bit fragile emotionally. It’s a combination of Kate’s recovery, which focuses her, naturally, on herself, and the amount of physical labor (astonishing) and the amount of emotional labor on my part. None of this is a surprise. By that I mean things aren’t worse than I imagined, nor are they terrible.

But. I got to feeling underappreciated. And said so. I needed to say that for my own sanity, so that I wouldn’t let resentment build, but when I did say it I felt guilty immediately. How could I feel underappreciated when Kate had this recovery to deal with? Didn’t matter. It was how I felt and after I let it out, in a not very helpful way, I might add, things softened up. I was no longer carrying it and Kate had a chance to deal with what I was dealing with.

More intimacy as a result. Clumsy, yes. Poorly managed, yes. Important, yes.

I’m writing this because care giving is something we all do from time to time, and face more of in the third phase. It’s not a straight shot of empathy and compassion. It’s a muddled mess of self-congratulation, compassion, distraction, love, and sorrow.

SEP020660

I said, and meant, that I don’t mind the extra work. In fact, as I wrote earlier, it is exhilarating. Still is. I’m learning new skills, reinforcing old ones, and caring for Kate. Thing is, it’s a new, difficult role and requires learning, shuffling old priorities, picking up new ones. That kind of learning is fraught under the best circumstances, new job, new marriage, even vacation; but, well worth it.

Finding the tao of healing and caregiving is not impossible, but there are many ways it can go sideways. Trying to tap into that now.

09 11 10_Joseph_0264 (2)A very sweet part of it all. Joseph just called, wanted to know how bad it was, whether he and SeoAh should come up right now. No, it’s not that bad. Could SeoAh come up for a week? I’d come, he said, but I’m running an exercise right now. If it’s real bad, I’ll be there, help out with the daily ins and outs. Cue tears. I’d love for her to come, I said. It would be a real help.

Family. As it’s supposed to work. So the web of caring maybe is another curvature, like the one I talked about below.

Race/Class/Gender Curvature in Society

Spring                                                           New Shoulder Moon

spacetimeA bit out of left field, more like right field where I played my entire (short) little league career, but occasioned by Tara’s visit yesterday with her son Vincent. Vincent had been explaining his understanding of general and special relativity to Tara and the conversation resumed at our table. He was explaining the difference between light and gravity, light is fast, but gravity is instant and I threw space-time curvature out there.

Anyhow, later on I read an article about a long standing argument on the left, which is more central, race or class. I’ve always been a class is more central guy, but I read an interesting article in the NYT about the sons of wealthy African-Americans. Seems, unlike their white peers, that they often fall through the cracks of our economy, reverting to a lower socio-economic position than their family of origin. Would seem to put race firmly above class.

raceclassgender

2-D, which loses power compared to the 3-D above

As I was going to sleep last night, this image jumped into mind, that race and class are analogous to space-time. That is, they constitute an interwoven web of influences always acting on us, all of us; but, like gravity, when an individual interacts with larger bodies, think the moon and the earth, or the earth and the sun, then the curvature of race-class draws them in. So any one son in the instance of African-Americans has the smaller bodies of his wealthy family and their peers arrayed against the much larger bodies of institutional racism reinforced by white privilege (class) and shot through with bias against black males.

Wanted to write this down before it disappeared. So there it is.

 

On the Mountain

Spring                                                             New Shoulder Moon

shoulder_reverse_intro01Some snow yesterday, not much, but a nice touch for the afternoon. Today is one week out from Kate’s surgery and she’s improving. Next Monday we have her first post-op appointment with Schneider’s PA. Check the bandage and the wound. Get some information about physical therapy. Probably some more information about recovery length, what we can expect.

Then, that afternoon, 1 Stop (ha, ha) Appliance will return, again, for the fourth time. The dishwasher, the mechanical one that is, stopped service well before Kate’s surgery. A week ago yesterday 1 Stop made its first visit. Then one on Monday. Then one on Wednesday. Last night when I turned on the dishwasher it gave out that little ping, ping birdsong like sound that means, hey, look at me, I don’t work!

john-henry-3Luckily in my youth, like many of you I imagine, I earned money washing dishes. However, I do not consider myself the John Henry of dish washing. Nor do I consider myself a chess master or a 9-don go-master. I mean, let the machine beat me. I want to be seconded by a robotic dishwasher. It can’t happen soon enough. The robot revolution can begin in our kitchen. Now.

09 11 10_Joseph_0264 (2)Had to tell Joe I can’t make his major pinning ceremony a week from tomorrow. Kate’s recovery comes first. Having only her non-dominant left hand, one arm in a sling and unsteady feet means she needs someone who knows her and the dogs. Hmmm? Who could that be? We’ll get down there sometime this year.

Slept in this morning. Needed the extra rest after all the dish washing.

Yesterday in Pictures

Spring                                                               New Shoulder Moon

20180327_145202

Looking north from Happy Camper, Mt. Evans

20180327_144601 (2)

dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

dogs who lunch

apres snow, Monday

apres snow, Monday

view from loft balcony

view from loft balcony

OMG

Spring                                                             New Shoulder Moon

anxietySurprising, sophisticated, jawbreakingly awful sign on a conservative church sign board: “Anxiety is just unbelief in disguise.” If you live in Christworld, there is a certain sense in which this appears to be true. If only your belief were strong, you would need have no worries. Look at the lilies of the field.

However, assume for just a moment that your metaphysic is wrong. Then, this sentiment is cruel. It doubles up the anxiety for those of us who are anxious, a whole big bunch of us*, by adding weak faith to the angst we already feel. And, even if God is watching out for you in a way totalizing enough to assure you in every situation, punishing anxiety as weak faith is not going to move you closer to faith. The opposite. It will push you deeper and deeper into the slough of despond.

Now, what’s funny is that I saw this sign on my way to The Happy Camper, the dispensary just over the Park County line near Bailey. Picking up our regular supply of thc, a sleep aid we’ve been using for a while now, is a monthly or so trip. Why do I need it? Anxiety is a bitch goddess who demands sacrifice as soon as my head hits the pillow. Has been true to a greater or lesser degree since high school.

Anxiety is not as much of a problem now as it has been, but the long established habit of chewing over the day once the lights are out has become a regular time for my brain to turn on, consider relational or political or philosophical matters. A habit I’ve been unable to break.

sleepFriend Tom Crane sent me a book, he does that every so often, “Why We Sleep,” by Matthew Walker. This is an excellent review of the latest in sleep science and daunting as a result. Sleeplessness has drastic health ramifications, enough to make the favorite yuppie mantra, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead.” ironic. What I can’t understand, and Walker says the same, is the lack of attention the medical profession gives to sleep. Many of us are desperate to get to sleep. And by desperate I mean desperate. Yet the help offered is often better sleep hygiene, a good idea, I practice it, doesn’t do the trick for me though. If help is offered at all.

I hate to add this idea to all those others out there, but this is a NATIONAL CRISIS. Especially for those of us in the third phase when sleep becomes harder for a variety of reasons.

SleepDeprivation3We have elaborate protocols for people with pulmonary issues like COPD or emphysema, cardiac issues of many nuances, joint replacements for tired and painful knees, shoulders, hips; but, what do we have for a part of our lives that constitutes a third of our time use each 24 hours? Yes, there are sleep centers, but they’re not on offer often and besides it seems that cognitive behavioral therapy is the current gold standard. Problem is not many CBT folk specialize in sleep and we’re certainly not referred to them anyhow.

It’s enough to make a guy lose sleep.

 

*Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older, or 18.1% of the population every year. Anxiety disorders are highly treatable, yet only 36.9% of those suffering receive treatment.  AADD

Recovery under the New Shoulder Moon

Spring                                                                           New Shoulder Moon

recovering-please-waitKate has slept well, mostly, her first two nights home. She’s controlling her pain with tylenol and the occasional tramadol or vicodin. She had a bout of nausea yesterday; but, unfortunately, that’s not really unusual. Her weight is up, thanks, she thinks, to good intravenous hydration in the hospital. Prior to surgery she’d had trouble keeping water down. She’s on the mend.

Can’t say the same for our *%$!!** dishwasher. Not the drain pump. Maybe the sump pump? Nope. So. Computer boards. 1 of 2. We have to order them, can’t get them by Wednesday. Oh. That means, due to 1 Stop (ha) Appliances mountain schedule, Mondays and Wednesdays only, that we’ll not see a working dishwasher until April 2nd which is the date of Kate’s post-op appointment with her surgeon. Grrrr.

10002012 05 01_4261Snow. While the rest of the nation east of the Rockies has been pounded with storm after storm this land of ski resorts and mountain passes has been dry, one of the 14 driest winters in the state’s meteorological history. Last night though, maybe 9 inches of heavy, wet fire dampening snow! Welcome.

Our little hippie dog Gertie has recovered from her long, strange trip over Sunday with her usual resilience. Tail wagging and happy. Gertie is a good role model for how to handle adversity.

The view out the window here in the loft shows snow covered solar panels, flocked lodgepole pines, a white Black Mountain, and a pastel blue/white sky. Peaceful.

 

 

At the Vet

Spring                                                                   New Shoulder Moon

I want one.

Finally

Spring                                                                            New Shoulder Moon

dictionary.com

dictionary.com

Finally. Kate’s home. An iatrogenic problem. Squared. The surgery was the first culprit, of course. A surgeon cut into her. An anesthetist put her into a drugged sleep. New, unfamiliar elements got installed, in her body. Lots of insults. Why surgery is not ever to be taken lightly.

Recovery, then. In the newer, fast paced, get’em out of the hospital mode, the gold standard is one night, then back home or wherever. Knock back the pain. Make sure the gut’s working, pass gas and you win the prize, get some discharge instructions and Bob’s your uncle.

However. If the pain is bad, so are the drugs. In this case dilaudid. A powerful narcotic it apparently upset Kate’s sensitive stomach. She couldn’t keep food or water down. But the pain. More dilaudid. You see the problem here. This is the second iatrogenic cause.

homeostasis concept map

homeostasis concept map

Sometimes, the treatment can rival the presenting complaint as a source of pain and discomfort. Medicine is as much art as science, a truth not always palatable to consumers who want certainty in matters critical to life. I know I do. But, it’s a fool’s desire. The human body is far more complex than we understand. Just look at all the new information about gut microbes as an example.

To my non-medical mind the biggest issue is the interdependency of all the body’s organs, systems. Poke one, many respond. It’s like trying to repair a car while the engine’s running. So, I’m grateful that the folks at Ortho Colorado stayed in the messy and confusing twists as Kate’s body tried to recalibrate. It did. Joy, to mention a word from a few posts ago.

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