Tough Weekend

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

On her birthday

Kate’s had a tough weekend. Short of breath, feeling tired. We didn’t make it to Rosh Hashanah services last night. A year and two days after her bleed. She’s made great progress on weight, nausea, even her Sjogren’s is less problematic. Her stamina, up till this weekend, had increased and she was doing more.

Her daily life involves a lot of tubing and schlepping. At night she carries her Inogen, portable CO2, as well as her pump and feeding supplies. Heavy for her. She does remarkably well with all of it, but this alone takes a toll, too. Hoping for a better day for her today.

Need a lung disease diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. So slow.

Yesterday was Tom and Roxann’s 16th anniversary. At their wedding they featured the mandorla. “In icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the mandorla is used to depict sacred moments that transcend time and space…” Wiki Marriages, good ones at any rate, live into their own mandorla. Happy anniversary! It was also the 7th anniversary of Regina Schmidt’s death. Bill continues to honor her and their love. A mandorla still, I think.

Tomorrow, October 1st, I get my second Lupron shot. 9 am at Urology Associates Swedish offices. In the butt. Thank you, Sherry.

works for both paragraphs

Then, let the fun begin! Hot flashes have become more frequent, a bit more intense. Still only annoying, but, they are annoying. They creep up the body, making it flushed and warm. Last night I had my sweatshirt off and the window open, the cool night breeze a relief.

Extreme fire danger here. Red flag warning yesterday and today. We have a higher fire risk rating than the area around Paradise, California. One of the highest in the country. Good times. I’ve been too nervous about the fire danger to get my chain saw going. Maybe this week.

My friend Dave, personal trainer, had bad news about his brain cancer. The tumor is back after surgery only a few months ago. He’s at the extreme end of survival time for glioblastoma. As he said, it’s a horrible place to be. 53 years old.

You might think I would be stressed and anxious, but I’m not. Living today. Will wait for tomorrow.

Youthful Follies

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

Today is erev Rosh Hashanah, the evening of the Jewish New Year. Jewish days start at sunset. L’shana tova which you may hear, or say, comes from this longer phrase: l’shana tova tikateyvu, “May you be written [in the Book of Life] for a good year.”

Today is also Michaelmas, the feast day of the Archangel Michael as well as the name for the first term in many Irish and British schools: the Michaelmas term and for the beginning of court sessions, too. It is also the springtime of the soul as Rudolf Steiner wrote. I’ve said elsewhere why I find this apt. The beginning of darkness triumphing over light. Remember the equilux on September 26th?

However, none of this is what’s upper most in my mind this morning. Youthful follies. Mom died in 1964, October. I graduated from Alexandria High School that spring, 1965, and in the fall I matriculated to Wabash College in Crawfordsville, Indiana.

Wabash was, and remains, a bittersweet time for me. Going off to college was a dream, finally pushing away from my then bucolic small town toward, well, I don’t know. The future. Yes, certainly that, but also pushing away from the grief and confusion. I hoped.

Wabash Campus

Nope. Sleeping in the cold dorm at Phi Kappa Psi (we freshmen had to pledge a fraternity since the only dorm rooms available were taken by upper classmen and freshmen couldn’t live off campus.), I had dreams of my father dying. Of my mother coming back. Of deep black holes waiting to consume me.

Even so during the day Contemporary Civilization, C.C., Introduction to Philosophy, English, Introduction to Symbolic Logic, German made my mind spin. I wanted a liberal arts education. I knew that from the beginning. And I was getting one. German knocked me down. I dropped it and felt ashamed at giving up. As for the rest, I hung on every word, studied hard, and did well.

All my inner turmoil disappeared when I took my books to the study carrels at Lilly Library. I could disappear into Plato, the Middle Ages, the law of the excluded middle. This is a pattern that exists for me today. Not the folly.

The folly began in my study room at Phi Kappa Psi. Both of my roommates smoked. And drank. One used Romilar, a codeine based cough medicine. Not for coughs. I didn’t smoke, didn’t drink, didn’t do drugs. But not for long.

I made the choice. Drinking Singapore Slings until I got sick. Vowed to never drink sweet liquor again. But, didn’t vow not to drink again. It would take until 1976 to put away both smoking and drinking. I knew all along that neither were good for me.

Ball State kicked me off campus for public drunkenness. The recession of 1966 had made Wabash financially unreachable for me. I smoked, drank, discovered marijuana and LSD, peyote, mescaline. The study carrel was still my refuge. My grades didn’t suffer.

These habits carried themselves off campus and into my years as a Presbyterian minister, and two marriages. Not my best choices, clouded by that youthful folly, imagining I could handle it all.

No, I don’t regret any of it. I made my choices and lived with them the best I could for 15 years or so. Besides, what good does regret do? I can’t change the past.

Now, though, I’m living with COPD. Prostate cancer is down to gender, genetics, and bad luck. COPD I created all on my own. Glad it took so long to show up. I’ll do what I need to do to maintain my health, but I know that this one is on me, the youthful me. Who committed more follies than I’ve recounted here.

One Year Ago

Fall and the new (Rosh Hashanah) Moon

Much, much better. Earlier this month, Evergreen

And so. One year. A year ago today I took Kate into the Swedish Emergency Room. It was early in the morning. In my post that day I said she’d be in the hospital at least one night. Four weeks later she came home after two weeks in the hospital and two in a rehab facility.

It has been an awful year. Two more hospitalizations for her. Imaging studies. Procedures like the placement of her stent in a mesenteric artery. Lots of doctor’s appointments. Pulmonology complications. And a bad pulmonology group. The pic line, then the feeding tube placement. Her lung disease issues are still not treated, not even diagnosed. Soon, perhaps.

She has, gradually, improved. Her weight is now consistently over 100 pounds. Her stamina has improved. She’s happier and more joyful, wonderful to see. Next month’s MVP, mussar evening group, she’s leading the discussion on joy.

Entering the Dark Wood

I had my issues, too. The flu, then pneumonia led to a miserable February and March for me. Also led to my odd kerfuffle with my psa. The one taken during my annual physical in February. I actually told my urologist that it was fine. A mistake. Nope. It wasn’t.

You know the rest of that one. Radiation. Lupron. Treatment still underway. Then, the exciting news this week that I have COPD. Looked at lots of material over the last few days. Scaring myself. Again. Then, oh, not so bad if I keep exercising, eat well, take my prednisone, do regular checkups. Not great, but not bad either.

Tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the days of yirah. Awe and fear. Seems about right for Kate and me. This new year will be about living joyfully, with alert curiosity, and compassion. No matter what physical or emotional challenges confront us.

This Week

Fall and the waning crescent Harvest Moon

Long mountain in the background is Shadow Mountain, taken from Black Mountain
Closer look at the peak of Shadow Mountain. We live to the right in this photo, about a mile up Black Mountain Drive
Fox Squirrel getting ready for winter. A bit faraway for my phone camera.
Chainsaw Bob’s. I first saw these signs when his wife, Patty, was the only one in the shop. I needed new, sharpened chains and to have that one little glitch fixed. He’s the closest. And, as you can tell he has strong opinions. (Not just about women.)
CJ’s is a Chicago food hero in Evergeen. I stood at their door when I took the photograph above. Kate and I get Italian beef sandwiches there every Thursday after Mussar.
Black Mountain hike, Tuesday
Same hike

Impeach and Remove

Fall and the waning sickle of the Harvest Moon

Waning Crescent
Illumination: 8% MoonGiant

Today is the equilux. Equal day and night. If you look at the equinox post a few days back, you’ll find an explanation. The equinox occurs when the sun passes over the earth’s equator. But the equal part of equinox doesn’t occur until 2 to 3 days later. September 26th this year. So enjoy the day because this is the last time there are 12 or more hours in a day for 172 days.

Beach people might be sad; but, we mountain folk are glad. You know, snow and cold. We actually look forward to it.

Soooo. Impeachment. Probable result. House votes for impeachment. Senate says, what? Nope. We don’t do that anymore. Does Trump deserve to be impeached? Oh, yes. Many times over. The Ukraine phone call. Geez. It shows both the naivete and the hubris. I’m doing it. It must be ok. Because I am, after all, President!

Divisive? Oh, yeah. Big time. This will serve as a lock down for Trump followers. No questions allowed. No deviation from MAGA faith. Let’s show’em in 2020. Trump forever. No mingling with the general population. In Trumpworld impeachment is only the most recent in the multiple so unfair attacks on this plain speaking, selfless billionaire who gave up his cushy life style for the hardball court of Washington level politics. It might make the line between Trump loyalists and the rest of us a yawning chasm, one not easily breached. Ever.

That is my fear. Even if impeachment is successful, that is the House votes for impeachment, the resulting ill will engendered in red and blue state Trumpists will calcify them into a quasi-permanent block destructive to our democracy.

Cousin Diane fact checked this. Said it didn’t happen. OK. But, it sure could’ve.

A delicate question, one pondered many times by Democratic strategists, I’m sure. Even so, I believe this is the right thing to do. Why? Oddly, I’d say a primary reason is to reestablish decorum in the Presidency. Though I’m far from a traditionalist in almost any part of my life, there are arenas where expectations shaped over decades and even centuries serve a valid purpose. Diplomacy is one of those. Without challenging the sort of naked abuse of power that Trump’s just us guys mode of discourse easily devolves into, future Presidents will find it difficult to have confidential conversations with world leaders.

Also, Trump’s amoral politicization of disdain, mockery, and outright disregard for women, the disabled, people of color, other nations gives cover to racists, misogynists, ableists, and xenophobes. On this last point he said, at the U.N., that, “Globalism is over. The world belongs to patriots, to strong nations.” These may not be impeachable offenses, but each one disqualifies him as leader of a free and just people. They require a literal slap across the face. Impeachment is just such a slap.

Nathan Bedford Forrest

What the future of our country might look like if Trump goes without firm, serious resistance concerns me. A lot. He’s Babbitt made President. Babbitt and Nathan Bedford Forrest plus a healthy dose of David Duke and Father James Coughlin. Of course he is also in the direct lineage of Joe McCarthy’s junkyard dog, Roy Cohn. These are fringe members of our commonwealth, driven by fear, by greed, by a much too narrow view of what it means to be human.

Strap in. Hang on. And pray for…well, nothing. Let’s rely on truth, justice and the America Way instead of thoughts and prayers this time.


You know your body

Fall and the beautiful crescent of the Harvest Moon

And another diagnosis. Geez. I have what can be called either COPD or asthma. I prefer asthma but if it hacks like COPD and interferes with breathing like COPD, then it’s also that. Short story: smoking related. Errors of my youth coming back to grab me by the lobe.

You might be surprised to learn that this diagnosis gave me joy. Yes, it did. Several factors. 1st. Caught early and treated it’s not likely to progress, so permanent but manageable. 2nd. A low level concern about my breathing that I’ve had for several months has a name and a treatment. 3rd. Told Dr. Gidday that I’d felt a constriction in my lungs. That I knew my body and something was off. After the pulmonary function test, she said, “You do know your body.” I liked that. So, yippee, I’ve got COPD. No, to me asthma. But you get the drift.

The treatment is a prednisone inhaler, two puffs at night before bed. Also, for a while, I’ll use the albuterol inhaler before exercise. Lisa says I probably won’t need it after a while. “You’ll find exercising and breathing a lot easier. You’ll feel better.” Gotta like that.

Kate and I left Lisa’s office and went to NoNo’s for dinner. A New Orleans place. Great po-boys and wonderful beignets. I felt light, like a burden had gone. And, indeed it had. Strange, I know.

November, 2015

Should help with the fire mitigation work once I get my chain saw fixed. Yeah, about that. I did do the guy thing. I took it apart. I put it back together. But. In the process I jiggled some little hose thingy loose and couldn’t get it to return to its former location. Sorta deflated the guy thing. Guess it got Luproned.

Talked to Derrick yesterday and he’s ready to help and accept logs. I plan to put a sign up if he doesn’t take them all and offer the rest to folks who heat with wood. There are several up here. Cheaper than having them chipped. By a lot. I’ll keep one or two sawed up and split for our fireplace.

Sound like Dad

Fall and the Harvest Moon

Black Mountain from our mailbox

The dark sky. Orion high in the south over Black Mountain. The waning crescent of the Harvest moon to his left. Other stars set like diamonds. A regular moment of awe. So lucky to live here.

Yesterday I was sad. Woke up the night before with debbie downer thoughts. Does anyone like me? What have I done with my life? Is there any point to all this? Some part of me pounding on other parts of me. Who’s the witness in this conversation? Who’s the protagonist? It felt so out of character, especially for how I’ve felt over the last several months. Oh. The Lupron. This was a hot flash in my soul. No fun. Last night was fine.

Kate helped a lot that morning over breakfast.

Second injection a week from today

Though I’ve done my share of psychotropics I’ve not made my peace with this alien chemical dominating my testosterone, turning up the thermostat at unusual moments, twisting my emotions. I’d still characterize the side effects as mild though there have been a few moments like last night, a few with Kate, a couple of searing hot flashes. There’s also the fatigue and the sarcopenia. These last two make working out difficult.

Since I’m 72, sarcopenia is already having its way with me. Lupron adds to that, reinforces it. Maybe bumps it up? I get tired quicker. Have trouble advancing my weights. It’s like having a small parachute attached to my belt, extra drag.

Staunton State Park, 2017

Gonna test this on a hike this morning. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve done little hiking since we got here. No excuse. Just haven’t gotten in the car and gone to one of the many mountain trails. I worked out three, four times a week outside when we lived in Anoka county. Hiking, fast walking, snowshoeing. Not here, partly because of my breathing issues.

Going in to see Dr. Gidday today about those breathing issues. My O2 sats are low normal up here, usually ok down the hill. In the evening however and sometimes right after I go to bed they crater, going down once into high seventies. This has been true for most of the time we’ve lived here. I’ve never sought help for it before because I was doing treadmill work with no trouble.

2017, Mt Goliath Natural Area, Bristlecone Pines

On Saturday though I did my usual twenty minute pre-resistance work cardio. It was hard. My lungs felt tight. I struggled. Did it all and at the speed and elevation I wanted, but it was hard. Like with my bicep weights I’ve had difficulty moving my speed and elevation up. Also, lots of coughing, hacking.

I sound like my dad who was an asthma and allergy sufferer his whole life. Things have not been the same for me since the flu/pneumonia episode in February and March. Sorta shoved this aside for the cancer treatment, but I feel like I have to address it now. I really have no desire to wrestle with another organ system right now. But…

The Equilux

Fall and the Harvest Moon

I’m changing seasons on the equinox, which is today. Learned a new word reading some material for this post: equilux. An equilux happens after each equinox and occurs this fall on September 26th. If you look at a table of sunrise/sunset, on September 26th, at roughly our latitude, the sun rises at 6:59 am and sets at 6:59 pm. After the equilux, for 172 days, until the next equilux on March 17th, the sun will shine for less than 12 hours.

Yeah! Though born in Oklahoma near the Red River, almost to Texas, I’ve always been a child of the cold and snow, influenced by too many Jack London novels. And, Renfrew of the Royal Canadian Mounted. Moved to Appleton, Wisconsin in September of 1969 and lived up north until the Winter Solstice of 2014. In our particular location on Black Mountain Drive, just east of 14er Mt. Evans, we get lots of snow, some cold, but easier winters. Better for septuagenarian bones.

from “What is Michaelmas?”

Six days from now is the 29th of September, the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel. It is, as regular readers of ancientrails already know, the springtime of the soul. At least according to Rudolf Steiner.

Rosh Hashanah, September 30th this year, the Jewish new year (one of four), begins the month of Tishrei in Judaism’s lunar calendar. Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, follows ten days later on October 9th. 5 days later on October 14 and 15 is Sukkot, a harvest festival. A week after the second day of Sukkot is Simchat Torah, joy of the Torah.

On October 31st, 6 weeks from last Friday, the next Celtic holiday is Samain, or Summer’s End. The Celtic New Year comes at the beginning of the fallow season.

I am the hallow-tide of all souls passing,
I am the bright releaser of all pain,
I am the quickener of the fallen seed-case,
I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain.
I am the hollow of the winter twilight,
I am the hearth-fire and the welcome bread,
I am the curtained awning of the pillow,
I am unending wisdom’s golden thread.
~ Song of Samhain, Celtic Devotional:
Daily Prayers and Blessings, by Caitlín Matthews

The transition from the growing season when farmers and gardeners harvest its fruits to the fallow season when plants in mid and northern latitudes rest has ultimate significance for non-tropical humanity. Not so long ago a failed growing season would lead to a limited harvest. Unless adequate stores from years past were kept, starvation over the winter was a real possibility.

7 Oaks garden, 2014

Oh, you might say, well, that doesn’t apply to us in the modern age. Think not? Perhaps one really bad harvest could be accommodated by trade and stored foods. Maybe even two bad harvests. But if the world saw several bad harvests in a row, say because of a dramatically changed climate, starvation over the winter could become a real possibility even in the developed world.

Mabon, Sukkot, Samain. With Lughnasa on August 1st, the first harvest festival, the months August through October have evoked human expressions of gratitude, of thanksgiving for soil, seed, and sacrifice. Certain animals and plants become offerings to feed others, including the now unwieldy population of humans.

The heart of the harvest season, right now, is a deeply spiritual moment. The complex web of life bares itself to our witness. Any Midwesterner is familiar with trucks of yellow corn, soy beans, golden wheat, rye, rolling down highways to grain elevators. Hay gets mowed perhaps a third time and baled either in rectangular bales or huge round ones.

This is also a traditional time for the slaughtering of animals. Now slaughterhouses and intensive livestock farming have allowed slaughter throughout the year.

I’m grateful that farmers and ranchers are able to feed us still. I’m grateful that the soil, that top six inches especially, feeds and stabilizes the foodstuff that we grow. I’m grateful that photosynthesis allows us to harvest the sun’s energy by transforming it into vegetables, fruits, grasses, grains, nuts. I’m grateful for each and every animal that dies for our table. I’m grateful for the grocers who buy and display the food for us to purchase.

It is a time of thanksgiving followed by an increasing darkness. That darkness is fecund, for me at least. Steiner’s idea of Michaelmas as the springtime of the soul, the placement of so many Jewish holidays, in particular sukkot, during this harvest time, and the major Celtic holidays of Lughnasa, Mabon, and Samain offer us many chances to open our hearts to the wonder of this world and its blessings.

Slightly outside of these three months is the Day of the Dead celebrated throughout Latin America and the Feast of All Souls.

WINTER SOLSTICE by Willow, Celtic Lady

As the harvest wanes and summer ends (Samain), we have time to take stock of our lives, of our hopes and dreams. We can lean into the darkness after the equilux, celebrate its fullness on the Winter Solstice. It is in the fallow season that we learn the why of death. In this coming season we can make our peace with mortality.

Guy Thing I Did

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Better rested yesterday. Less fatigue.

Though. Workout a.m. New one. First part is cardio, twenty minutes. Treadmill. I’ve been doing this for years, 25 at least, and yesterday I struggled with breathing as I went up on speed and elevation. I made it through the twenty minutes, pushing myself further than I have in a while, but it was tough.

Gonna see Lisa about respiratory issues. Don’t really want to go down another medical trail right now, but it’s time to get some clarity.

Did, for me, a serious guy thing. I took apart my chain saw, cleaned it, and, ta da! Put it back together. I know this is minor league for most of you, but for me it’s a big deal. Last time I used the chain saw I tried to cut the stall mats with it to make Kate’s walkway to the garage. Did. Not. Work. It did however coat the saw with rubber particles.

Getting ready to make use of fall weather for fire mitigation work. Going to start at the thirty foot ignition zone by taking down trees, limbing them, bucking them. Gonna hire a teenager or two to help move slash, clean up the back. We’ll see about my stamina. If necessary, I’ll take frequent breaks.

Below freezing last night with a spitting rain or meager snow. 34 when I got up. With Mabon behind us and the autumnal equinox tomorrow we’re moving toward fall and already in it. Great sleeping.

Made pork tenderloin last night. Used a Joy of Cooking recipe. Cut the tenderloin into 3/4″ chunks, doused them in beaten egg and covered them with bread crumbs. Plopped them in my new Lodge cast iron skillet. Tasty.

Mabon

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Autumn days come quickly, like the running of a hound on the moor.
Irish proverb

Mabon grasses, ripe with seed. Hwy 285 near Morrison

Getting close to the fall equinox. It’s late this year, Sept. 23rd. Meteorological fall began on September 1st. Mabon, the second of the Celtic harvest festivals, is today. And, the whole next week.

Here the last several days have been dry, low humidity and higher temperatures. A red flag day yesterday. Fall colors are running behind, about a week or so. The trees with color have slightly withered leaves and the fainter coloration of moisture deprivation. Makes this old horticulturist sad because it means stressed trees.

Felt worn out, exhausted yesterday. Couldn’t get up the energy to go to Gabe Herman’s shabbat last night. His dad, Dan Herman, is the President of the congregation and a bee keeper. Gabe had his bar mitzvah in Israel this summer; this was a night for him to sing the parshah and give his dvar torah, literally the words of torah. Each bar or bat mitzvah must learn their parshah in Hebrew, sing it, and comment on it. Kate represented both of us.

Drove to Baily in the a.m. for our monthly supply of indica chewables. Met Dana, my budtender. I think budmonger would have been better, classier. Sell cheese too and you could have a cheesemonger and a budmonger working together. Not sure why that appeals to me, but it does.

Later, we finally got the O2 concentrator in the mail to Georgia for warranty work. And the illuminated manuscript page on vellum off to Idaho for BJ’s house there. Birthday gift.

Could have just been a long, engaged week. Or, could be the Lupron. Maybe both.