Worn Out

Winter (last day)                                                                    Waxing Moon

Me driving home

Me driving home

OK. You guys win. Extreme Minnesota macho points earned these last few days. And, I saw that Paul Douglas predicts a 100 degree temperature swing! 100 degrees. You wouldn’t want to hear that if it was 52 outside and the direction was up, but in this situation, hallelujah brothers and sisters! Thank you, Jesus. And, Mohamed. And, Moses. Meanwhile up here in the tropical Rocky Mountains we’ve had mid-40’s for highs.

Yesterday. OMG. I pushed myself past some inner limit, way past. When I got up, it wasn’t a hop of bed, ready to greet the day moment. It was a let’s pull the blanket back over my head, switch the electric blanket back on and quit the world at least for the morning moment. Not a good time.

I had to make chicken soup with matzo balls (made by Kate). I had to take the soup to Golden with Kate. I had to go to CBE and teach the first hour of religious school, then head out for Aurora and Jon’s show. While down there, I had to go to Maria’s Empanada’s and get a dozen for Kate. I could head back up the mountain.

exhaustionAny of these things separately, happy, joyful tasks. All of them on the same day, a day that started with fatigue on waking? The happiness and joy would have to be in retrospect. I make chicken soup from scratch, with a whole chicken, cut up celery, onions, carrots, and garlic sauteed first. Wine to deglaze. Add water, lot of water. The chicken in its wire mesh cage. Wait for it to boil. Up here, longer than normal. An hour or so of simmering, then a package of frozen peas and one of frozen corn. Another ten minute. Retrieve the chicken, set it out to cool. Later, pick the meat from the bones. Put it in the soup. A lot of standing.

Got a lie down while the soup boiled, but it didn’t prove very restful. Back at the stove I finished the soup. At that point, time to go to Golden. About a 40 minute drive there, 40 minutes back. Dropped off the soup, 18 cups of it plus matzo balls. Back home to let Kate out. On the road right away to CBE. Spent a couple of hours there, getting food ready, talking to the kids as they came in. This was a first semester review. That went ok.

When Irene came to lead the dreams workshop, I left to go Aurora. This was at 5:00 pm. After a brutal hour and twenty minutes, I was in the gallery, talking to Jon about his new work. When I hit the big traffic on 6th street, congestion that lasted all the way across the city, my body began to resist what I was doing. I got sleepy, inattentive, restless. Just wanted to go home. Felt miserable. Wasn’t even close to my destination. Denver does not have a way to travel from east to west, west to east without encountering either dense urban traffic, or dense, worse freeway traffic on I-70. At 5 pm, that missing artery makes the lives of any one going either way awful.

exhaustedI’m not describing this well. I was a runner in a marathon. My resources had tapped out around 5 pm. As I got onto 6th street going east past Santa Fe, I hit the wall. Still had to cross Denver, get into Aurora, see Jon, then Maria’s. By the time I pulled out of the Stanley Marketplace parking lot, empanadas steaming in their cardboard box, I had half the marathon to finish. But I was already finished. My bed, however, was over an hour away, 45 miles, the first 20 miles back across the Denver metro. No choice.

Leaving Highway 6 going west, merging onto I-70, then 470, I began to wonder if I was going to make it home. My attention was split between fatigue and the road. At 72 there are many parts of driving that are essentially automated. They took over. I tried to remind myself to watch that car ahead, find the Fairplay exit, slow down in Morrison. It felt like I was carrying the car up the hill toward Shadow Mountain.

Kate, bless her heart, cleaned up most of the kitchen, something that was weighing on me. Get home, beyond exhausted, and clean up? OMG. Usually I clean up right away but the time frame of the day made that impossible. She’s doing better, not gaining weight yet, but she’s willing to pitch in now and again. This time it really mattered.

This morning I’m still bushwhacked, wrung out, sleepy, but I finished the marathon and slept in my own bed. A good start. Read a Harvard Business Review article, Resilience is not about enduring; it’s about recharging. That’s my job today, maybe tomorrow. Recharge.

What next?

Winter                                                                          Waxing Moon

Wednesdays have a tendency to get busy. Today, for example. Make soup, eat some, deliver the rest. Drive Kate back home and myself over to CBE for religious school. At 5 pm Irene will do a class on dreams. I’d love to stay for it; but, when she comes, I’m leaving and heading over to Aurora for Jon’s opening. Looking forward to seeing his new prints. As I’ve mentioned before, Aurora (the sun rises first on the Denver metro in Aurora) is almost as far away as the airport. Drive home, then. This is retired busy, of course, with much more choice involved than obligation.

Monday was 4 months since Kate’s bleed and subsequent hospitalization. Weight gain still eludes her, possibly because shortness of breath, waking up nauseated (some days), lack of stamina, and her dry mouth from Sjogren’s Syndrome make eating a chore, a have-to, not a want-to. Whatever it is, we both feel stuck, wheels spinning on the icy surface of recovery. Not sure where we go from here; but, it’s life; so, moving forward even without clear direction.

Gertie’s healing up from her latest experience as a pin-cushion for Kep’s canines. She’s still a little down, a little sore, but she’s up and moving around. Dogs typically don’t linger over insults. Look at all the tripods. Kep has no remorse, that’s part of not lingering over results. Rigel, our healthiest big dog ever, has developed a strange habit. She eats some out of her bowl, walks away from her food to the glass in the outside door, looks outside, then returns to eating. This may happen a couple of times in a feeding.

After a mussar friend did a short riff on responsibility, I began to wonder about my role here. Her husband died of a lingering illness, took months. She says, “I look back and am certain my husband and I would have fared better had I interpreted my responsibility as being his wife rather than his nurse (just commenting in broad strokes).” She went on about a party. “I recently hosted a large party and, in contrast to my usual MO, relinquished some of the logistics in favor of engaging and having fun with my guests; to a person, each told me it was the best ever.”  And she finished, “It makes me reconsider the languages of love:  gifts, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, and physical touch.”

Am I really doing what I need to be doing? I’ve emphasized cooking, laundry, some cleaning up, grocery shopping, being present with Kate at the hospital, rehab center, doctor’s appointments, taking care of the dogs, other home related chores. Am I replacing doing with graceful being? Not an either or. The domestic chores have to get done, but am I not husbanding enough? This is not an abstract question. It’s present to me right now. Do I need to learn new languages as my friend suggest?

These are difficult questions that every couple has to answer throughout their marriage. Illness can make them fraught.

 

 

 

 

So Beautiful

Winter                                                                             Waxing Moon

Our snowpack. Needed for the trees and our well

Our snowpack beside the front door. Needed for the trees and our well

Another 6 or 8 inches of snow yesterday. Snowiest January since 1993. The northern half and eastern quadrant of Colorado watersheds have above average snowpack. Critically, the Colorado Headwaters area is at 116%. The south western quadrant of the state though is below average in two spots, including the Durango area where the big fires burned last summer.

So beautiful. The lodgepoles carry snowy covers on their branches. The deer, rabbits, fox that come through our yard leave their tracks.The rising sun colors the snow on Black Mountain, right now a light flush pink. Bright blue sky behind the mountain.

Not so good for those of us animals who need carapaces and wheels. This is the google traffic map from yesterday. Rush hour. Add in altitude and you get a real mess. This is when commuting to Denver from Conifer separates the brave from the foolish.

 

metro roads 1 28

Kate’s initiated a get-out of the house plan. She said last week that she felt isolated and alone, so we’re going to go somewhere each day. Yesterday we went to the post office. Today, the King Sooper Starbucks for Kate while I pick up some groceries. Tomorrow? Who knows?

creation of the waters

creation of the waters

Last week I painted the creation of the universe, the shattering of the ohr. Followed it with the creation of the waters. Next up: land. I tried to show an island in my first attempt. Not so good. I like the first two, I’m starting over today on land. I’m going to get somehow to Eden and humans and that tree. Will take awhile. Hard to say in the abstract paint language I’m using. But, that’s part of the fun.

Astrological learning has been on hold. Painting, exercise, and Kate have gotten my focus along with CBE. Gonna get back to it, though. Probably a reading with Elisa’s astrologer, John, to kick off the next phase of my learning.

Just entered the Chicken soup cookoff at CBE. Gonna get some practice today, picking up soup supplies during the grocery shopping at King Sooper. Taking some to a friend, leaving some behind for Kate and me. Kate loves my chicken soup. My heirloom recipe came off the Golden Plump packages when I bought chickens in Minnesota. Here, I do it from memory.

Puzzled

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

20190127_163835Snowing here. About an inch already. Then comes the cold. But not like the cold my friends in Minnesota are going to feel. For example, Tue -7 for a high, -27 for a low. Wed -15 for a high, -30 for a low. Also, winds in the 10 to 19 mph range. Wind chill will be brutal. Enduring the last of  any January will qualify you for Minnesota macho. Plan a trip there now to claim it for yourself.

We got started on the 1,000 piece jigsaw. Kate may have underestimated how long it will take to do all five. She said ten years. After yesterday? Maybe into our 90’s. New to me. Surprised how satisfied I was when a couple of pieces fit together. Kate’s pretty good at this. As you might expect.

Wondered yesterday about the origin of jigsaw puzzles. Kate thinks it was somebody who wanted something for the kids to do. So, I let wikipedia teach me.* Coulda been the Spilsbury kids, I guess.

20190127_174935The bulgogi was good. So was the dumpling soup. The porkbelly last night? Not so much. Got a little rushed since I fried the smelt at the same time. Shouldn’t have done both. The smelt, which I realize now were considerably smaller than the Lake Superior smelt, fried up fine, but I bunched them together too much. And, fried things don’t work so well as left overs. In the trash after my meal. SeoAh sent me her sauce for the porkbelly, which I used. It couldn’t rescue a too fatty, not enough taste dish. Not sure I’ll try that one again. Didn’t seem worth learning how to do well. Tonight straight up American fare. Macaroni and cheese? Hamburgers? Steak and potatoes? Something more in my wheelhouse.

no f-ng way

no f-ng way

The snow falls straight down, looks like a gentle, white rain. A flour sifter somewhere above us, gently shaken by the deity we know isn’t there.

I’ve started on a cleanup, straighten, reorganize project for the whole house, loft and garage. Working on one room a day, or more if needed. I’m no Marie Kondo. Just want to get things spruced up a bit. Read an NYT article on stocking the modern pantry. When I get to the kitchen, I’m going to follow its suggestions. Suppose this is a cabin fever moment.

*”Jigsaw puzzles were originally created by painting a picture on a flat, rectangular piece of wood, and then cutting that picture into small pieces with a jigsaw, hence the name. John Spilsbury, a London cartographer and engraver, is credited with commercializing jigsaw puzzles around 1760.[1] Jigsaw puzzles have since come to be made primarily of cardboard.” wiki

Sweet Cream Pancakes and more

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

20190126_091138When Mark and Tom were here, we tried to recapitulate our Durango trip breakfast at the Rustic Station. Turned out they only serve breakfast on weekends. Yesterday was my monthly run to the Happy Camper for cannabis. Thank you, Centennial State. Since it was Saturday, I decided to have breakfast at the Rustic Station, just down the hill, the really, really big hill from the Happy Camper. And, I did. These are why. Sweet cream pancakes. Not my usual fare, but they are amazing.

Kate had a not so good day yesterday. Nausea. When that happens, it effects her emotionally. Disappointment. Frustration. Reinforcing her down state. She got better as the day went on, but it had taken its toll. Not sure why.

We’ve started on the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle. We have, too, a 2,000, a 3,000, a 4,000, and a 5,000 piece puzzle. Kate thinks it will take us ten years to complete them. Depends, I suppose, on how much effort we put in.

Rustic Station

Rustic Station

Back to my six day rhythm of workouts, three resistance, three cardio. Don’t always make the six, but that’s the benchmark. I hit it a lot once I’ve gotten back into it. Always makes me feel better. Three big motivators: increased health span, feel better in the moment, habit.

My Korean cooking chops are modest, but improving. Bulgogi on Friday, a dumpling soup last night. Tonight some pork and cabbage, potatoes. H-Mart also had one nostalgic food for me: smelt. I love fried smelt and when the smelt used to run in abundance on Lake Superior, out of the cold streams that flow down the Sawtooth Mountains, I used to make them a lot. Then the smelt diminished and I haven’t had them for a long time. Kate says I can have all them to myself. Just fine. A beaten egg, seasoned corn meal or bread crumbs, cooking oil. Lunch.

Kep, hunting

Kep, hunting

Gertie’s still sore, but she’s running around, wagging her tail.  She came up the stairs to the loft yesterday afternoon in spite of the wounds on her haunch. We’re cleaning her wounds with hibi-cleanse. Kate used it before her shoulder surgery.

Gert’s been bitten by many different dogs. Not sure what makes her so bitable. She can be annoying. As for yesterday, we both wondered whether her more feeble habitus, arthritic left leg, blind in one eye and decreasing vision in the other, might make her more vulnerable. Kep’s still the omega in our little pack and he may be looking to move up in the hierarchy. Hope not, because that would suggest more to come.

spsBrother Mark seems to be finding a home in Saudi Arabia, at least an ex-pat style home. It’s nuances are more clear to him, being up north in Arar the weather is more clement and there’s access to other Middle Eastern countries like Jordan, Syria, Iraq. As he said, “Not everybody gets a chance to live in a medieval kingdom.” True that.

Jon has a new show going up on Wednesday, the annual Aurora art teacher’s exhibition. He has several new pieces in it. I will attend, leaving a bit early from religious school. On Friday he, Ruthie and I will wander Santa Fe for the First Friday art crawl. Santa Fe north of Sixth has many galleries, museums, studios. Food trucks come down. It’s fun. I’ve only been once, but I really liked it.

 

 

 

Salmon Heads and Organic Miso

Winter                                                                                   Waxing Moon

20190125_101104Yesterday. A do this, then do that, then do that day. 1st up. Feed dogs, then write blog. 2nd. Make breakfast. 3rd. Blow snow. 4th. Workout. 5th. Drive to H-Mart in Westminster. 6th. Back home through rush hour traffic. (bad planning on my part) 7th. Phone call from Kate just as I turned on to Shadow Mountain Drive. Kep attacked Gertie. 8th. Get home, unload, check Gertie. One puncture, a couple of scrapes. 9th. Cook supper. Bulgogi. Clean up while Kate cleaned Gertie’s wounds. 9th. Watch the last of Unforgotten, a Masterpiece presentation. 10th. Finish Terminal list. 11th. Go to bed. Got a lot done. Good use of a day.

Busy days like this go by quickly. I prefer the quiet days. Time to reflect, read, paint. But things have to get done, too. Once in a while I like these days filled with purpose. Used to have them all the time during the growing season in Andover. Planting, weeding, amending soil, tending the bees, working in the orchard. I like the physical stuff blowing snow, carrying groceries, cooking, cleaning, working out.

This morning I’m back for my monthly run to the Happy Camper. THC. Indica for sleep, Sativa for Kate’s appetite. I might head down to the Rustic Station for breakfast. It was closed when Ode and Tom were here, apparently they only serve breakfast on weekends. After that, a quieter day.

20190125_144837H-Mart is a trip. As an experience and as a trip. You definitely enter Asia when you walk through the door. In the aisle entering the building were the giant and tasty Korean pears, bundles of 24 ramen packs. Then on into the produce section. Persimmons, Korean melons, huge papayas, durian, jack fruit, bitter melon, lots of mushrooms, bok choy, noodles. Next up was beef and other meats. A whole 20 foot display held beef hearts, tripe, liver. Sea food. Dead, frozen, live. Packages with whole salmon heads, for example. Sushi fish, some sashimi, beds of ice with prawns, shrimp, large dressed rainbow trout, golden pompano, China grown tilapia.

20190125_150107I was not the only round eye in there, but I was the only round eye male shopping alone. In this H-Mart, located in a relatively upscale suburb, Westminster, the clientele was mostly Chinese, Korean, and Japanese. In the much larger H-Mart located in more downscale Aurora, the mix is much more diverse with East Indians, Filipinos, more round eyes, Malay, Latino.

SeoAh’s cooking impressed both of us and I was after pantry items for making soups, stir fry, noodle dishes. The bulgogi, which both SeoAh and her husband recommended I buy premade, was supper last night. I threw in some Vietnamese rice noodles. Quick. Tasty. Today I plan to try one of her soups.

Here are a few more photographs of foods on offer.

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And, finally, a plea from the owners found in the men’s bathroom.

20190125_150017

 

The Days of Our Ancientrails

Winter                                                                       Waxing Moon

Chez Kate and Charlie under snow

Chez Kate and Charlie under snow, yesterday

Never thought of it this way before, but Ancientrails is a soap opera of sorts. Or, ugh, a reality show. We have recurring characters: Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, SeoAh, Murdoch, Murdoch’s dad, Jen (boo), Rabbi Jamie, Mark, Mary, Tom, Bill, Paul, Mark O., Alan, Rich, Tara, Marilyn, Sally, Areil, Anshel, CBE, the religious school. Differing locales: Shadow Mountain, Evergreen, down the hill, Minnesota, Maine (through the magic of zoom), Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Korea, Georgia. Various story lines: Mark and his ESL adventures in Saudi, Mary and her jet setting life, Kate’s illness, the bees at CBE, wildfire danger, Tom’s business, Ode’s art, the dogs and their escapades (comic relief), the Rocky Mountains, the occasional bout of world travel, SeoAh and Murdoch, my meandering through various thought worlds and aesthetic ones, the nature of my soul. What will happen next?! Don’t change that dial. Or, better, don’t touch your remote. Something new, something unexpected is coming up.

Went to mussar yesterday. Only Ariel and Sally showed up. Three former Midwesterners braved a modest snowfall. I find myself saying often up here, “If we didn’t go out in weather like this in Minnesota, we’d never go anywhere in the winter.” Coloradans are weather wimps, especially when it comes to cold, icy conditions. It’s like the meme I reposted yesterday on facebook from a Florida weather station: Limit your children’s outdoor time. Dress warm. Temperature of 53 tomorrow.

camelsBrother Mark, whose grasp of Saudi culture has become nuanced, reported a couple of days ago on a visit to a new camel herd cared for by Bedu. (Bedouins, I think, in local parlance) In his own words: “There was a stud white bull camel, many brown and white female camels,, and gamboling young camels. Gamboling, stretching their young legs out. One poor fellow had lost the lower part of his left front foreleg, but, was getting by on three legs. I met this Bedu fellow. I said I was from America. He said, “Donald Trump.” He then sort of urged me to see the camels. I went forward a bit, but stopped, as I did not want to invade the camel’s space. The Bedu said the stud bull was Saddam Hussein.  The camel with the shortened foreleg was Trump.” Humor is cross cultural and international.

Bought this at last year's show

Bought this at last year’s show

Jon and his fellow art teachers in the Aurora school system have a gallery show once a year. He’s had new work, his prints of found metal objects, in it last year and this one. He figured out a new method for using Intaglio inks that allows him a lot of the same opportunities for color, color blending afforded by oils. He’s a true artist, committed to his vision, a vision that is unique as is his method. Jon finds crushed metal objects along the roadside, takes them home, cleans them up, inks them up, then runs the roller of his press over them with a sheet of print making paper between the roller and the object. Like the best art the result is surprising and beautiful.

Kate got to work on a jigsaw puzzle yesterday, folded laundry, watered the plants. She’s also talking about getting out more. This is taking arms against a sea of troubles. May she, by opposing them, end them.

Tomorrow’s post: a visit to H-mart without SeoAh.

 

Lunar

Winter                                                                    Waxing Moon

20190122_072158More snow on the way. Not too much.

When I left the house for the loft this morning, I looked to the southern sky. Two bright points about 10 degrees above Eduardo and Holly’s place. Venus and Jupiter. Had I been a little earlier and the sky still dark, I could have seen Scorpio there, too. The waxing moon is in the western sky, high over our lodgepoles. This is a waning Waxing Moon in its gibbous phase. Bright.

Full Tu BiShvat Moon, 2019

Full Tu BiShvat Moon, 2019

Last night. Tu BiShvat. Judaism is on a lunar calendar and Rosh Chodesh, head of the month, is a minor holiday observed each month the day after the new moon. Tu BiShvat is the 15th of the month, Shvat. The 15th of the month on a lunar calendar is always a full moon. This year, year 5779 in the Jewish reckoning, it fell on  on the Gregorian January 20th. We celebrated on Wednesday because that’s our religious school evening.

Farmers in early Israel had to bring first-fruits offerings to the temple each year. In the case of trees the law required a farmer to wait until a tree produced in its fourth year of life. Tu BiShvat was the day chosen as the birthday of trees for calculating a tree’s age and hence its eligibility for a first fruits offering. Thus, Tu BiShvat has become known as the birthday of trees, or, the New Year of the trees in the same sense that your birthday could be considered your personal New Year’s day.

Kate and Jackie

Kate and Jackie

Kate and I saw her g.i. doc, Dr. Rhee. He was happy for her. In the last 7 days she’s seen Dr. Gidday, our internist, Rhee, and had a post-op visit to the interventional radiologist. Each one emphasized, in different ways, the recency of the procedure and its success, cautioning that time would be required to realize its full benefits. Not an easy message to hear when a confounding problem has been solved but other issues remain. Like needing to gain weight and increase stamina. Kate’s body went through a slow decline in both; it will probably require some time to reverse it. Maybe months?

I’m going to see that she gets the foods she wants, that sound good. First, we have to eliminate her food aversion. Getting what she desires should help with that. Again, some time will be necessary.

Sandy, our house cleaner, came yesterday. In the process she left a couple of bags of trash in a spot convenient for the dogs. When I got home last night from CBE, paper towels, plastic bags, old ramen containers were spread out over the sewing room. I cleaned it up this morning.

The snow has started. Looking like it might over perform again. Hope so. The day after their birthday the lodgepoles and the aspens need the water.

I see Christmas

Winter                                                                        Waxing Moon

20190122_0721198-10 inches of new, fluffy snow Monday night and yesterday. Looking out our bedroom window at night I see Christmas. Flocked trees. The full moon shining on fresh powder. A significant chill in the air. 7 degrees.

With SeoAh and Murdoch gone I’m back to cooking, cleaning. Spaghetti with meatballs on Monday, cod last night. Hmmm. Out of practice. Need to find my groove again. I will.

The house has lost some positive young energy with still mostly puppy Murdoch back in Georgia. Also with SeoAh. Her bright smile and upbeat nature was therapeutic. She came three times in this last year. After Kate’s shoulder surgery. After the long hospitalization. And, most recently on Christmas eve. Teaching us about family. Korean cooking, too. Gonna make my first solo visit to H-Mart this week. Tomorrow.

jigsaw puzzle

Sic Transit Mundi

Ordered three jigsaw puzzles: the Sistine Chapel ceiling (5,000 pieces), a world map (4,000 pieces), and a send-up of Italian painting, Sic Transit Mundi, (3,000 pieces). We need some alternative things to do. Kate doesn’t feel up to sewing, but doing jigsaw puzzles? Yeah. I’ve not done them much. In fact I can’t recall the last time I put a puzzle together. Looking forward to these.

Visit today to Dr. Rhee, the g.i. doc who finally diagnosed Kate’s cramping and nausea. We’re taking him kimchi from H-Mart, selected by SeoAh. The diagnosis was a major victory and he deserves our thanks.

Later in the day religious school at CBE. Today we celebrate Tu BiShvat, the birthday of the trees. Rabbi Jamie returns from his shabbaton, sabbatical, to lead a Tu BiShvat seder. This involves food from trees: nuts, fruits. Seder means order so the Passover seder is the order of service for Passover. Same with the Tu BiShvat seder.*

 

Tu B'Shevat Seder*”Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the Trees. As in all other points in the Jewish calendar, Tu B’Shvat offers a unique opportunity for insight into living and personal growth. Throughout the centuries, Kabbalists have used the tree as a metaphor to understand God’s relationship to the spiritual and physical worlds. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his 18th century classic The Way of God, teaches that the higher spiritual realms are roots that ultimately manifest their influence through branches and leaves in the lower realms.

In the 16th century, the Kabbalists of Tzfat compiled a Tu B’Shvat seder, somewhat similar to the seder for Passover. It involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, particularly those native to the Land of Israel, and discusses philosophical and Kabbalistic concepts associated with the day. Among other things, the seder is a great way to appreciate the bounty that we so often take for granted, and to develop a good and generous eye for the world around us.”  aish.com

On Working at Your Best

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

20181214_081606Painting. A long, long ancientrail. Walked by so many. A few well, more journeypersons, and the rest of us.

Mediocre. An interesting idea, mediocre. If you’re working to your best capacity, your work is wonderful. Mediocre arrives on your doorstep when you begin comparing your work to others. I’m a writer of wonderful novels and short stories. I create wonderful paintings. Am I going to be hung in the National Gallery? No. Any gallery? Probably not. Am I going to make the NYT times best seller list? Unlikely. Have I done less than my best? No.

Success, I’m gradually beginning to learn, is not about the other. It is about yourself. If Michelangelo painted like me, he’d be mediocre because he had the skill to paint well. If Tolstoy wrote like me, same. Where do I fit? Hell if I know. I’ve had the chance to work at my best level in two fields where criticism is a given. I’ve learned to quiet my inner critic, to stay away from sweeping generalizations about my books, my paintings. Now you may read them, look at them, and say, “He’s no Song Dynasty landscape artist.” Or, “He’s no Marquez.” And you would be right. I’m just and only me.

breathe thich-nhat-hanh-calligraphyThis does not mean I’m uninterested in the quality of my work. Hardly. I want it to be the best I can do. Do I always work at my best level? Of course not. But I do as often as I can. Which is most of the time. I’ll leave the judging to others. I did write that novel. Several, in fact. I did create that painting. Several, in fact. Enough for me. Could I have done this without Kate? No. But Kate is in my life and I in hers. Both of us have sought the best for each other, have sought to create a home environment that encouraged our best work.

Quilting, making clothing, writing novels, and painting are not the only things we’ve done. Kate healed children. I worked hard at social justice, at following a small r religious path. Both of us have raised kids, learned how to be grandparents. Grew much of our own food, our own flowers, our own fruit, our own honey. There is no accounting, no form of critique that can measure these things. They are past. And we don’t live then. We live forward, on the ancientrail that leads into the time beyond this moment. What we have done is not what matters anymore. What matters now is what we do today, right now. As my buddy Bill Schmidt says, “Show up.”

crane2Life allows no do overs. We can reconsider, reframe, reevaluate, remember, but we cannot change yesterday, or any yesterday. We can make choices right now.

Today I chose to use turpentine to wipe out, literally, work I did yesterday. And, I’ll do new work on that painting today. I’m not doing over what I did yesterday. I’m going in a new direction today.

It feels to me like I’m beginning to get this, to accept the truth of the past, of my intentions, and to find a path with no attention to results. Not sure why but this excites me. A form of liberation, I guess. Not giving up, just going forward. Working at my best. Nothing else is possible, except apathy. And that’s not me.