Samain 2019

The Wheel has turned full round again. Back now at Summer’s End, Samain. In very ancient times the Celts only had two seasons: Samain and Beltane. The fallow season and the growing season. Beltane on May 1st marked the start of the agricultural year and Samain its end. Later they added Imbolc and Lughnasa when celebration of equinoxes and solstices became more common. Imbolc, February 1st lies between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Equinox while Lughnasa, August 1, is between the Summer Solstice and the Fall Equinox.

The Celts did not begin their year at Beltane, but at Samain, the start of the fallow season. Today. Happy New Year to all of you. Especially to those of you whose heart, like mine, beats to the rhythm of Mother Earth’s changes. And, I would add, to Father Sun’s constancy during her changes.

Rosh Hashanah begins the human new year for Jews as the growing season comes to an end. Michaelmas, September 29th, the feast day of the Archangel Michael, is Rudolf Steiner’s springtime of the soul. It’s not as strange as it may at first sound to begin the New Year in the fall after gathering in the crops.

This was the season in pre-modern times when the flurry of growing, gathering, fishing, hunting that marked the warmer months slowed down or ended. Families would have more time together in their homes. Visiting each other was easier. Time would stretch out as the night’s lengthened, making outdoor work difficult, if not impossible.

This is the season of the bard, the storyteller, the folk musician and it begins with the thinning of the veil between this world and the other world. Harvest and slaughter have the paradoxical affect of sustaining life by taking life, necessary, but often sad. Our need for the lives of plants and other animals reveals the fragile interdependence of our compact with life.

The veil thins. Those of the faery realm and the realm of the dead are close as the growing season ends. The Mexican and Latin American day of the dead and the Christian all souls day point to the same intuition, that somehow life and its afterwards are closest to each other now.

I’m recalling Gertrude and Curtis Ellis. Grandpa Charlie Keaton and Grandma Mabel. Uncle Riley, Aunt Barbara, Aunt Marjorie, Aunt Roberta. Lisa. Ikey. Aunt Ruth. Uncle Rheford and his wife. Uncle Charles. Grandma Jennie. Grandpa Elmo. And so many, many others extending back in time to England, Wales, Ireland. Before that as wanderers up out of Africa, those without whose lives I would not have had my own. Nor you yours.

There are, too, friends and their loved ones. The members of my high school class who have died. Regina, wife of Bill.

The Romantics say it best for me. Here’s the first few lines of Thantopsis by William Cullen Bryant:

     To him who in the love of Nature holds   
Communion with her visible forms, she speaks   
A various language; for his gayer hours   
She has a voice of gladness, and a smile   
And eloquence of beauty, and she glides   
Into his darker musings, with a mild   
And healing sympathy, that steals away   
Their sharpness, ere he is aware. When thoughts   
Of the last bitter hour come like a blight   
Over thy spirit, and sad images   
Of the stern agony, and shroud, and pall,   
And breathless darkness, and the narrow house,   
Make thee to shudder, and grow sick at heart;—   
Go forth, under the open sky, and list   
To Nature’s teachings, while from all around—
Earth and her waters, and the depths of air—
Comes a still voice—
                                       Yet a few days, and thee   
The all-beholding sun shall see no more   
In all his course; nor yet in the cold ground,   
Where thy pale form was laid, with many tears,   
Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist   
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim   
Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again…

Change it up, dude

Fall (last day of) and the Fallow Season Moon

-8. That’s right. -8 degrees here on Shadow Mountain, the day before Halloween. In October. We’ve had a taste of Minnesota winter the week before Halloween.

Been changing my morning routine a bit. Read an article that said the first three hours of your day are the most important. Mine starts between 4 am and 4:30 am. I wake up, the dogs get restless, Kep rolls over for a tug and tussle. Gertie comes up to check that I’M REALLY GETTING UP. Gives me a quick kiss to be sure. Rigel raises her head, looks at me. She requires a personal request to get out of bed.

That first half hour is dog feeding, getting the newspaper, and, on Wednesdays, today, taking out the trash. The trash has to be wheeled out through whatever has fallen on the driveway. Some snow today, not too bad.

One of the containers, the green one for recycling, testifies to America’s changed economy. It’s filled with cardboard from Amazon orders, Chewy dogfood boxes, boxes from Kate’s tube feeding supplies. Each home is now a shipping and receiving depot with the resulting obligation to handle no longer needed shipping materials.

After this work finishes, I go upstairs in our garage, to my loft, a 900 square foot space filled with books, art making supplies, exercise equipment and my computer desk. Over the last 14 years the first thing I’ve done in the morning is read e-mails, then write Ancientrails. That’s what I’d call a habit.

But, when learning is needed, the teacher appears. A writer whose blog I sometimes read suggested the first three hours make your day notion. He was making the common millennial complaint about spending too much on social media: facebook, instagram, snapchat, tiktok, whatever the latest is. That’s not me, but I took his point.

Ready for a change I switched up. First, back to meditating. Having done that on a regular basis in a long while. Goal is for 20 minutes. Up to 10 this morning. Then, I read. I’ve been wondering about why I’m not reading more. Oh, I read science fiction, the occasional novel, Tears of the Truffle Pig right now, but serious reading has become a difficult task. Fitting it in. Being able to sustain attention. Turns out the early am is wonderful for that kind of attention.

Reading this morning in the Beginning of Desire, by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. Subtitle: reflections on Genesis. She’s amazing. A new thing under the sun of biblical commentary. Her method, which I’ll write about here at some point, is so subtle, so profound, so intimate, and very learned. I got hooked on her by plucking a book of hers somewhat by random off the library shelf at CBE. I opened, read a couple of sentences, and knew this was genius. Not a term I use lightly.

That was a year ago during the High Holidays, Yom Kippur, and Rabbi Jamie had just finished the whole High Holidays. A lot of work. He sank into the chair next to me. Nobody else there. All had left.

I enthused about Zornberg. He brightened. Yes, he’d met here. Yes, she was the best Torah commentator, maybe ever. He and his brother Russ, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, and professor at Regis University in Denver, who lives in Evergreen, had talked about a joint class using one of her works, a series of essays on biblical interpretation. Hasn’t happened yet, but when things normalize here, I’m going to see if I could give the idea a boost.

Anyhow, I got into her this morning and combined with some other thinking I’ve been doing, got into a revery about myth, fairy tales, long books, the true anchors of my inner life. This is my work, my lifelong work and fascination, the attempts we humans make to discern the occult, the hidden, the other world, the that beyond the this. This is my heart’s labor. Politics was reasons labor, fueled by the heart, too, of course, the misery of oppression, but calculating, power oriented, perhaps a diversion?

I’m writing this now, an hour and a half later than I would have in the past 14 years. So, changes. More to come.

Climb the Mountain, Find the Sea

Fall and the New Moon

Later in the day, Monday.

Drove carefully down Shadow Mountain, down 285 to 470. 470 was clear to South Denver Cardiology. When they called Charles, two of us got up. Charles Collins was the one they wanted. I sat back down.

Ellen came out ten minutes later. Charles II, me.

Back in the room she asked me if I’d ever been on a treadmill before. Yes, I own one and have used it for years. Take off your shirts, please. It’s easier to hook you up to the EKG. She rubbed my chest with a lotion to help the EKG pads stay on, then carefully separated the eight leads and clicked them into place after placing the pads all over my chest.

We waited for an initial EKG to run. A baseline. I stood there in the slightly cool room draped with long plastic cords attached to my body, feeling mildly ridiculous and science fictiony at the same time.

The treadmill was nothing special. Not as nice as mine. It goes up automatically Ellen said. In speed and elevation. On the wall ahead of me was a sign showing numbers and exertion levels. Fine to extremely difficult, 10 numbers. We’re heading to 126 beats per minute. I can do that. I just did, Saturday morning.

That’s arrived at by the quick and dirty way of subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying by some percentage (it varies according to your age, gender, physical condition). Age from 220 gives maximum heart rate.

I stayed on for a bit over 8 minutes. Felt I should I go past 7 minutes which was the average. Ego. We ended with the treadmill at 3.6 mph at 15% elevation. That’s way harder than my usual workout which right now is at 3 mph, going up to 6% elevation. I could have gone longer, but Ellen said she had enough data, so she set the treadmill to cool down.

When I was off, she had me sit on a table, still attached to the EKG. Time back to normal heart rate is a sign of fitness. Not so good as it used to be for me. After a fourth blood pressure reading, she said I was done.

Part of the angst I felt yesterday morning was about the medicalization of my life. Another test, another chance to find something new wrong. I’d like to get back to annual physicals. Might not happen.

A while ago I read a Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickled and Dimed, et al) short essay on why she’s not doing anymore medical tests at all: Why I’m Giving Up on Preventative Care. Her point is that she’s sensed she’s old enough to die. Good article. Just read Dr. Stephen Mile’s Testament. It’s his equivalent of a medical directive. He’s very, very clear about what he doesn’t want, most of it bring me back from the brink sort of interventions.

Death might be making a come back. Why not own our mortality? The tree dies. The dog dies. The human dies. Yes. The cycle finishes for the individual while the species lives on. Our individual existence has never been the point anyway, procreation is about the species, not about the individual, though paradoxically individuals are required to sustain the species.

Here’s something I found that gives another perspective on this conversation:

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
     And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
     And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. Kahlil Gibran, On Death.

Real Winter

Fall and the new moon (Heshvan)

Stress test today. Oh, boy. Hope they don’t catch it all. Feeling a bit down.

The combination of the COPD diagnosis, my stress test at 11:30, the very nasty road conditions between here and South Denver Cardiology in Littleton. Found myself reluctant to shovel the back deck and the stall mats. Achy. You know. Stuff accumulates. (no pun intended.) Did shovel the deck and mats though. Felt better.

Walked out to the paper. Nope. Snow stops the Denver Post. Only rain, sleet, hail, snow, and gloom of night prevents that sturdy carrier from his rounds.

This is real winter, pre-Halloween. Temp of 5 right now, headed down below that tonight and tomorrow night. Maybe 4-5 inches of new snow, more on the way.

Don’t want to start slogging through the slough of despond. Only makes matters more difficult. Looking for simcha in the beauty of the snow, the bounce of the dogs out the door in the morning, the reading I’m doing for Chayei Sarah.

Feeling it for the folks in California. The pyrocene, indeed.


Fall and the 1% crescent moon

This coming storm and the last one have reduced our fire danger, leading us into the winter when the risk of wildfire lessens considerably. But, the risk will return, and get worse next year if the drought forecasts come true.

In an article in Wired, Kincade: The Age of Flames is Consuming California, the author has this disturbing passage, “Welcome to what fire historian Steve Pyne calls the Pyrocene, a unique time in history when human use of fire, particularly the burning of fossil fuels, and the attendant climate change combine to create hell on Earth. “We are creating a fire age that will be equivalent to the Ice Age,” he says.”

That’s an evocative name for the era of climate change driven warming. Ominous, too. Sounds like science fiction. Only, it’s not.

what was i thinking

Fall and the 1% crescent moon

Grocery stores got jammed up yesterday. A guy posted a photograph of twenty people in line for the self-checkout. The other checkout lanes were backed up, too. Storm coming. Another 8-12 inches for us and lots of what Coloradans (and, increasingly, me) call cold. We’ve even got a -1 in the forecast for a Wednesday low. Of course it is only October.

Thought I was gonna do some outside work. What was I thinking? Friday wore me out. Got my work out done. Had some lunch. Nap. Woke up around 3:30. Made a light supper after some time in the loft. That, plus three episodes of Resurrection, and my day was done. I’ve hit episode number 50, over half way through the first year’s 93.

Ruby’s Home

Fall and a thin crescent moon

Ruby, the cherry red 2018 Rav4, has come home. She’s sitting below me as I write this, in her stall for the first time in over two weeks. Her lift gate sparkles, the crumpled back bumper is smooth. She’s whole again.

Much as I appreciate having her back to normal it’s frustrating to have to go through all this stuff and the payoff is the vehicle we purchased. Not Kate’s fault. Yet we had to do the usual dance routine with insurance adjusters, rental car companies, and the collision repair folks. A lot of sturm and drang to arrive back where we started. Hope those folks are having a good time in Denmark.

Before I went in to pick up Ruby and bring her back to her forever home, Kate and I went into Swedish. She had a second PFT, pulmonary function test. Very tiring. Literally, a lot of huffing and puffing, some of it in an air tight clear plastic chamber. She came out looking exhausted.

A second CT scan on November 4th will produce another data set for Dr. Taryle, pulmonologist, and Dr. Gruber, cardio-thoracic surgeon. They’ll be looking for any change in the bleb found a month ago, plus any changes to her interstitial lung disease. Closing in on a diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment. Aiming toward the lung biopsy on the 18th of November. That should resolve this now over a year long search for the reason behind her breathing problems.

And, just to show this is not an all Kate, all the time medical show, I go in on Monday for a stress test. Looking at my heart. This stems from my COPD diagnosis a few weeks ago. Shortness of breath is a medical red flag, not only indicating possible pulmonary problems, but cardiac problems, too. Possibly, congestive heart failure.

Since the spirometer showed breathing impairment, and, since Lisa diagnosed me with COPD, this is probably unnecessary, but you never know. Should tell me some interesting things anyhow.

Warm day today. Cold tomorrow and next week. More snow, too. The transitional time. Ivory gets her snowshoes on Friday. Not sure when Ruby will get hers. Not feeling so urgent about them for her right now.

Winter. Pause. Winter.

Fall and the Crescent Moon

10-12 inches yesterday. When it snows here, it can get serious, fast. This was overnight with the snow tapering off on Thursday morning. I don’t have snow tires on Ivory, our 2011 Rav4 (Kate’s name), or on Ruby, the 2018. Gonna get them on between now and next weekend. Over the last four years I haven’t put the snow tires on till well into November, but this year is pushing out snow early.

All slash and fire mitigation work is now covered under snow. It should melt away today and tomorrow. If I can get the chainsaw fixed soon, like today, I can get back out there Saturday. The seasons keep us alert.

Oh, and in Colorado that means more snow starting Sunday. Snow and cold. So, there’s a short pause in the winter where I might get some work done.

Kate has a pulmonary function test today at 10:45. Into Swedish again. Also, Caliber called. Ruby might be done today. That would be great since her traction with AWD and new all-season tires makes her safer. Still gonna put the snowshoes on her asap.

Lot of moving parts to our lives these days. I thought work was busy. Geez, try retirement.

Weather related.

Fall and the crescent moon

At least 8 inches of snow last night. Still snowing. Most often when it snows here the snow comes straight down like rain. Very different from most of the snow falls I saw in Minnesota where driving winds sent the white stuff angling toward the ground. We’ve been plowed already once, before 4 am.

Between eight and twelve inches predicted. We were in the sweet spot of the forecast and it seems to be coming true. Pushing the snow off the back deck was difficult. Wet, heavy.

Told Kate yesterday I now think of winter as the time of bad delivery. No paper this morning, for example. Mail and newspaper become episodic, rather than sort of regular. We’re rural delivery plus mountain roads plus an area that gets more than its share of snow. Combination makes things hard.

The 2018 Rav4, Ruby as Kate calls her, is still in the shop, waiting on a new gate. Gate is the collision repair world term for the hydraulic lift door in the back. That means I have the behemoth still, the Infinity SUV that drives like an RV. And, of course, our 2011 Rav4, Ivory.

Neither have snow tires and I’ve got a couple of meetings in Evergreen this morning. Not gonna take the behemoth. Another insurance claim is not needed.

Something knocked out the DSL connection, so I’m writing this in Word. I’ll paste it into Ancientrails when the (just checked and it’s back already) OK, then.

Tried to get some more mitigation work in with the chainsaw, but no joy there. The chain is stuck and I don’t know why. It will have to go to Chainsaw Bob if I can stand being there again. Toxic masculinity with no irony, no equivocation. But, a great knowledge of chainsaws, especially Jonsereds. Not going in today at any rate. Trees covered in snow.

My limbing ax and I did some work, but not a lot. This lupron makes me tire easily. Annoying, but when working with equipment that can maim or even kill you, it’s best to be cautious.

Today is Joe’s 38th birthday. Wow. He’s five years older than I was when I met his plane in December of 1981. As children get older, the relationship with them changes. They change, grow, work, have lives. As do you. But, when you see them, you remember that day when they went out trick or treating in the Halloween blizzard of 1991. Or, see them poised at the t-ball stand ready to kickoff a stampede for the ball. Flying down the hill in ski race. Watching their bride come down the aisle. Still my boy. Also a man. Also a husband. Also a dog friend. Also a warrior.

Still the best thing I did in my life. Go, Joe. (Kate’s right there, too.)

This time the lights went out. Snow’s hard on the IREA lines that run up and down mountains. The internet’s down again, too. I’ll post this when it comes back up.

And, here we go. About an hour later.

Things I love to do

Fall and the Crescent Moon

Oh. Achy this am. More mitigation. Closing in on all the trees I intend to take down. Maybe I’ll finish today. For sure by the weekend. In between, we’ll have 8-12 inches of snow overnight tonight. It will be gone Friday. The Solar Snow Shovel.

The density of trees in a lodgepole forest means it’s harder to drop a tree without snagging it. I’ve had several opportunities to practice snag cutting techniques I learned on youtube. They work and I’m glad to know them. Snags cause most deaths in the logging industry. Their often strange lines of force make cutting them an exercise in observational physics. The more upright, the more difficult.

One tree I cut yesterday bounced off the stump to land straight up and down about a foot away. Grrr. An angled cut, watch for the cut to begin to close, pound a wedge in the cut, then complete the cut from below. The tree drops straight down, hopefully away from the branches snagging it. My first cut today.

Decided to hire a landscaper to do the five foot ignition zone around the house. Landscape cloth, stakes, river rock. It will affect how the house looks and I’d like a neater job than I’m capable of pulling off.

When this round of mitigation is complete, I’ll have very little of this sort of work left. I’ll miss it. Weeding and thinning. The plants are big, but still plants.

Of course, I have to release the chain on the saw. It bound up on me right at the end of yesterday’s felling. Not sure what the problem is. I worked on for awhile using my wonderful limbing ax from Gränsfors in Sweden. My felling ax and my log splitter from them have not seen as much use as it has.

Went to Tony’s Market again. Love their food. I could shop there all the time, except it’s pretty expensive. Worth it. Always high quality meats, deli salads, veggies and fruit, baked goods. Realized their secret yesterday. Supermarkets make their money off the goods sold along the walls, not so much off the goods in the aisles. Tony’s only sells items sold on the walls.

After that I spent an hour or so on something else I love to do. Research. Read through the parsha for Nov. 23rd again, focusing this time on geography. Where was Canaan? The Cave of Machpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs? What about Mamre and its oak? Found them. Also read the parsha in RJ Crumb’s illustrated Genesis. Mr. Natural goes to the Middle East.

When I first read the parsha, pen in hand, I focused. My mind was right there, engaged. I felt comfortable, excited. Much like getting ready to cut down trees. Or, cook a meal. I’m treating it as myth, a myth that has shaped not only Jewish traditions, but Christian and Muslim ones as well.

Parshas get their names from the first words in them, in this case, chayei Sarah, the life of Sarah. Chayei Sarah recounts the death of Sarah and Abraham, the finding of Rebecca at the well, a wife for Isaac, and the sons of Ishmael, born to Hagar, Abraham’s concubine.