Samain                                                                       Stent Moon

October, the healing moon. November, the recovery moon. December, the stent moon. A quarter of a year with an intense focus on keeping Kate alive and then making her well. Well, well worth it.


Last night, an odd, sad, disturbing, necessary evening. If you’ve ever encountered preparedness training for a business, school, or place of worship, the four medallion image above may be familiar to you. It’s now a nationwide safety preparedness program used in thousands of schools, places of work and worship. But it’s origination is local and by local I mean Bailey, Colorado.

iloveemilyThe Platte Canyon hostage situation. Platte Canyon is the long, deep slash between two mountain ranges created by the South Fork of the Platte River. It runs from Baily to roughly the Kenosha Pass. Hwy. 285 runs its whole length. Outside Bailey headed toward Kenosha Pass is Platte Canyon High School. In 2006 a gunman, Duane Morrison, took hostages, all girls. One girl, Emily Keyes, had to speak to the police for Morrison, since he refused to speak to them.

IloveyouguysEmily’s father got to the high school using an old mountain goat trail. 285 had both police barriers and a huge traffic jam. When he arrived, he asked if any person could text Emily. Someone did. She texted back, “I love you guys.” A second text went unanswered. She was dead with a bullet wound to the head.

In her memory her father, John-Michael, and her mother, Ellen created the ILoveyouguys foundation. It is responsible for the Standard Response Protocol, the four medallions above representing its four responses to a crisis.

I learned all this last night at Congregation Beth Evergreen as part an emergency response training. The Squirrel Hill shootings in Pittsburgh heightened the synagogue’s awareness and the board decided to review how we protect those who worship or come to the synagogue. The man who runs the Jeffco Sheriff’s Jefferson County School District School Safety program spoke.

iloveyou3m He started with a tagline: The world we live in isn’t scary, but it is full of uncertainty. He had a reassuring manner, years of experience in protection, and a common sense approach to security. He recommended CBE put a 3M product on the windows, Safety and Security film. “You have a lot of glass.” This film ensures that bullets fired through the glass will not shatter it. The bullets pass through but the glass itself remains intact overall. He also recommended blinds on the windows so a shooter couldn’t see inside and a really good locking system for the sanctuary doors. All of these things made sense to me.

I was there as a teacher in the religious school. We did no drills last night, but we will at some point in the future.

My overall response to this was sadness. Kids in school today learn how to self-evacuate, how to lock, turn out the lights, and hide. They learn how to run like quail if an active shooter is among them. That is, scatter in all different directions. My god. Duck and cover from the fifties, which I do not recall ever doing, seems abstract and silly in light of these very real and immediate threats.

sadnessThat sadness has a special resonance here since Columbine was the ur-school shooting. John, the speaker, said he’d been at a conference in D.C. in the last month where a full day and a half was devoted to Columbine. Why? So many of the school shooters still refer back to Columbine for inspiration, for tips. It’s still relevant. Not only has Colorado had Columbine and the Platte Canyon hostage situation, but we’ve also had the Aurora Theater shooting.

This is, for some, still the wild west where a sidearm and a strong will can solve many problems. It’s also unfortunately a hotbed of libertarian leaning, no government treading on me folks. If they get cranked up by the news, or by groups of white supremacists, or by their neighborhood anti-semite, they can choose to act by heading out to the nearest public school or synagogue, taking their firearms along.



Samain                                                                    Thanksgiving Moon

This is me. No, really. (ok, fake news)

This is me. No, really. (ok, fake news)

Into On the Move Fitness for a new workout: side lunges on the TRX, oblique isometrics with bands, a twisting shoulder press, planks, stepups with weight, push ups from an exercise ball, crunches on an exercise ball.

I always feel so much better when I exercise routinely. Long ago I decided regular exercise was a matter of  identity. Am I an exerciser, or not? Once I decided I was an exerciser I’ve been able to maintain regular exercise. When I fall away after a chaotic schedule or a long trip, I remind myself, I’m an exerciser. Then I start again.

Working on color field paintings. Finding myself looking, seeing, in a whole different way. For example when Kate and I were on our way to the radiologist Wednesday as dawn broke, I saw the color bands in the sky as inspiration for painting. Began wondering how to mix paints to get that color, how to arrange those colors on a canvas. Yesterday at On the Move I noticed a droopy face in the wood grains of a bathroom door. Oh, I could do that! While I did my cardio I wondered about the deep blue wall. Could I just cut a rectangle out of the sheet rock, frame it and call it found art?

20181202_070637My friends Stefan and Lonnie have devoted the last three years to a traditional painting education. The atelier in Florence where they’ve studied makes the usual atelier argument that representational painting is real painting, the sharp turn taken by Cezanne, Monet, Van Gogh and later DuChamp, ManRay, Bacon, Pollock, Rothko a mistake.

I’ve always felt that an argument over “true” art is doomed at the beginning. I’m more a DuChampian, art is what an artist makes. That means, at least to me, that the color field painters, the pop artists, the abstract painters, fluxus folks, are making art. It also means that those still creating representational art are making art. Why fight?

My interest, at least right now, is in color, just color, arranging it on a flat surface in a pleasing or provocative or evocative way. I intend to make abstract works inspired by nature. The shape and color and texture of mountains at different times of day. The sky at sunrise and sunset. The night sky, especially moons. Streams. Faces in wooden doors. Clouds. I’ve noticed for a long while that even the most Rococo flourishes are often direct copies of natural forms. Not sure where this will take me, but I’m really enjoying the enhanced seeing, the thoughts about color, the mix of brushes and paints and palette knives.







The Thanksgiving Moon at 1%

Samain                                                                            Last sliver Thanksgiving Moon

moon2Under the Healing Moon Kate recovered from her g.i. bleed. Under the Thanksgiving Moon we found the problem and are close to a procedure to provide her relief. The bleed was on September 28th, over two months ago. It does seem to have served the unintended but welcome purpose of ratcheting up the already extended process of diagnosing her problem.

Why this wasn’t found before? Here’s my take. All of her symptoms were gastro-intestinal with common g.i. problems that explained them. So the process was to look closely at her g.i. tract. This common sense approach kept its focus on the most likely source of the symptoms. When you hear hoof beats, think horses not zebras. In other words the looking was inside the gastro-intestinal tract with a side excursion looking at the gallbladder.

The difficulty? The cause was outside the g.i. tract in the arteries that supply blood to part of it. These last two imaging studies were a sort of last gasp, let’s check out the really unlikely since nothing else has shown up. Fortunately, Dr. Rhee decided to look outside the g.i. system. The literature on the problem says it is difficult to diagnose, one of those things that you have to look for explicitly. Further complicating it is the fact the ultrasound which does diagnose it is itself difficult and requires very competent technicians and an acute radiologist.

medicineMedicine is much more art than science. Kate’s long journey toward a solution shows that. Imaging studies are not easy to interpret and no imaging study will find something if you’re looking in the wrong place to begin with. The body is exquisitely complicated with linkages between its various systems often tiny and in hard to see spots. Also, symptoms have multivalent possible origins. I find myself more forgiving of the medical world after all this. Why? Because I’ve observed first hand the struggle of competent people, working as best they can, to solve an intractable problem.

I’ve come to appreciate the incredible courage it takes to be a physician. People come looking for answers, for certainty. The questions can be matters of life and death, of a happy, fulfilling life versus one with chronic pain or weight loss or nervous system collapse. The stakes are so high, for the patient, for their families. The myth of the physician in our culture, the penumbra of authority and wisdom we impute to them, is just that, a myth. The arena in which they have to solve problems is, for the most part, closed off from direct view, accessible only through lab work, imaging, and the reporting of the patient. It’s often like asking a mechanic to diagnose a vehicle’s odd sounds without opening the hood and to solve the sound by putting tools through the car’s metal body. Really hard.

I think we’d appreciate the physician even more if we acknowledged the fraught world in which they work with imperfect tools. The work Kate did all those years ago was hard. But, also satisfying. Think if you could be the one who finally understands what makes a 74 year old woman experience nausea and abdominal pain when she eats, one who lost 30 pounds in less than a year. More. Think if you were the one who understood and steered her toward a solution. Wow.


It’s a New Day…

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

stentWhat a remarkable turn things have taken here. After many -oscopies, endo, upper, lower, colon, small bowel follow through, a HIDA test, nuclear med search for bleeding, bowel surgery and even more doctor visits, finally, finally. A consensus. The superior mesenteric artery has sufficient stenosis, severe, to cause Kate’s symptoms. And, there’s a stent for that.

Maybe in two weeks time we’ll drive again to Swedish hospital, check Kate in, and Dr. Mulden, assisted by Dr. Kooy, will thread a catheter up her femoral artery, follow the branching to the superior mesenteric, take a right turn, then where the narrowing is deploy a mesh stent, opening up the blood flow. Sounds straight forward until you consider the size and delicacy of everything involved. Can you imagine pushing, very gently, a long wire through a very small pipe with soft walls? Turning where needed into even smaller pipes and at the right time releasing a small device, leaving it behind to cure? I can’t.

We drove to the radial imaging offices in the far east of the southern Metro. As we went, our appointment was at 7:30, the sky put on a magnificent display. Red clouds, lenticular clouds stacked like pagodas, bands of umber, ocher, pale yellow all backgrounded by blue-black sky. We both kept pointing, exclaiming. Aurora is a goddess of hope and newness, a fresh slate, a beginning. Just what we got. She has my devotion today.

Yesterday was a hair day with Kate getting her usual dye and Michelle Williams cut, me a close beard trim, eyebrows and hair. Wax on the stray hairs that pop up on our ears as we age. Jackie, the cosmetologist, is a sweetheart, a friend. We both looked our best for the interventional radiologists.

Found myself hesitant yesterday, tired, low energy. Canceled my time to get a new workout and stayed home. It was a good choice.



A Profound Week

Samain                                                                     Thanksgiving Moon

Bit of winter. 9 degrees here on Shadow Mountain this morning. No snow and little snow for us in the forecast. Though. Across the divide they’re getting good snow. Our snowpack is 119% of normal and way ahead of last year. Important data for so many people.

Friday and Saturday were more or less rest days. The week through Thursday night found me pretty damned tired. Worth it though. Gabe threw himself in my arms after his concert. Ruth leaned in for a hug as I left Swigert headed for home. Jon seems to have gained some important insight about himself and the reality of his situation. Kate learned the cause of her months long struggle with nausea and abdominal pain, weight loss. Enough for one week. Thanksgiving moon, indeed.

20181123_154009I’ve not been idle. Using some small, 5×7, canvases I’ve begun to use oil paints. My first effort is here. Doesn’t pop like I hoped it would. I have three more of these small canvases painted with an undercoat. One yellow, one sap green, and one violet. Trying color field painting. Mark Rothko is my favorite abstract painter, so I thought I’d see what I could make using him as my inspiration.

This is venturing into really unknown territory since I know little about oil paints, about oil paint brushes, how to make colors do what I want, canvas. Since I began messing around with sumi-e a while back, I’ve found myself wanting to extend myself, get way outside my comfort zone. A key motivation for me in all this is regaining some tactile work, hand work. When I was a gardener, a bee keeper, a domestic lumber jack, I got lots of opportunity to use my hands, to interact with the physical world. Since moving to the mountains, not so much after the fire mitigation work.

20181202_070637After 12 years as a guide and docent at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, art became an integral part of my life; yet, I’ve struggled to keep art in my life since moving to Colorado. The museums here are not compelling and driving down the hill takes time. Reading about art, looking at it online or in books has not given me the satisfaction I’ve searched for. Painting myself, which necessitates a look into art materials, theory, and careful looking at artists whose work I’d like to use as inspiration, may. I’m not there yet, but I’m having a hell of a lot of fun.

In addition to trying color field painting, I’m going to use the sumi-e ink and brushes to create bespoke Hebrew letters, astrology glyphs, and alchemical symbols. My work in the second kabbalah class, on the mystery and magic of Hebrew, prompted this. I found working with the symbols and letters directly gave me a way into understanding them. I’m also going to create mandalas.

I’ve also continued my reading about astrology. I continue to vacillate between the long time skeptic and the interested novice. Some of the writing is childish, even moronic. That puts me off. Then, though, there’s Tarnas and the Inner Sky by Steven Forrest. Archetypes, too, by Jung and Hillman. A new book on Jung and Astrology. Still trying to figure out my birth chart, how to read it, understand it. Lots to investigate here.

In spite of the various outside turbulence, or, perhaps because of it, these new areas of learning have helped keep me sane, eager. I’ll be at them for a while yet.