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Posts tagged Family

In and As a Stream of DNA

52  bar falls 30.02  1mph ENE dew-point 48   sunrise  6:38  set  7:44

Waxing Crescent of the Harvest Moon   rise 12:00  set  9:27


Escallop Shell – One who has made long journeys or voyages to far countries, who had
borne considerable naval command or who had gained great victories.

“The institution of the family is decisive in determining not only if a person has the capacity to love another individual but in the larger social sense whether he is capable of loving his fellow men collectively. The whole of society rests on this foundation for stability, understanding and social peace.” – Daniel Patrick Moynihan

The family has no political allegiance, rather families constitute the body politic in all its divisions and factions.  This does not mean that all members of each family agree, no; it means that without families no tribe, clan or nation can exist.  All citizens first owe some degree of allegiance to a family.  Adoption and the orphan may seem exceptions, but they only serve to emphasize the critical importance of families by defining individuals in relation to a family.

The Ellis family crest may or may not relate to the branch of the family from which I come, but the symbolic significance of the scallop shell as indicating a family of wanderers fits.  We travel, uproot, go.  We do know that the first Ellis we have some information about was a Welsh captain in the army of William and Mary stationed in Dublin.  On his death his wife sent our earliest American relative, Richard, on a boat to his uncle in Virginia where he was to become that uncle’s heir, a common practice in that time for  persons who had no children.

Richard did not make it to Virginia.  The ship’s captain, in an 18th century scam familiar to snakeheads or coyotes of our era, sold Richard into indentured servitude in Massachusetts and pocketed the  ticket money.  He later served in the Revolutionary war as did a relative in the Spitler branch of our family, who came here as a Hessian mercenary fighting for the British.

Somewhere in the mix since then have been civil war soldiers, a Unitarian and several Presbyterian ministers, a few doctors, but mostly just folks moving and traveling, on the go.

The current members of the Ellis clan, at least our branch, are, in other words, neither the first, nor the last.  We exist in and as a stream of DNA, traceable back to mitochondrial Eve in Africa for sure,  and beyond her somewhere into Europe, then Great Britain.

Contrary to their rhetoric the Grand Old Partisans have no lock on family values, or families.  We are many and vast, beholden in the end more to our brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, cousins and aunts and uncles than to the machinations of states or ideologies.  The politician who forgets this does so at their peril.

Back In Its Own Stall

79  bar falls 29.84 1mph ENE dew-point 61   Summer, hot, moving toward muggy

Waxing Crescent of the Thunder Moon

The cracks in the red car’s head were tiny.  I saw them.  They ran, in one instance, down the threads that hold the spark plug in place.  While threading in a spark plug or under pressure, these cracks could have broken loose and allowed oil and exhaust gases to invade the spark plug and generally foul things up.  Carlson was thoughtful in showing them to me.

We’ve sunk almost $5,000 in this car this year.   That’s almost a year’s car payments.  Even so, we could put in the same amount next year and still be ahead of the game.  It runs quite well now, though there is that piece that fell off on the way home.  No kidding.  A big chunk of something fell off.  I’m going to take it back and ask them about it, but not today.  It looks like a shield or rock barrier, not metal, rather some kind of composite, tarpaper like material.

It’s 31-32 miles per gallon on the highway alone justifies keeping it in our two vehicle collection.  The pick-up we’ll park for the most part in the not too distant future.  $90 a tank to fill it up.  Ouch.  And it sucks the gas down, too, with its v-8.  What were we thinking?  It is, though, a useful vehicle for errands and landscape chores.  Another advantage is its four-wheel drive.  (Oh, come to think of it, that’s what we were thinking.  In 1999, when we bought it, Kate still had call and  hospital duty.  She had to be able to get to where she was needed.) That makes it potentially important in a severe winter situation.  Besides, pick-ups and SUV’s have lost significant value.  We could get nowhere the value it is to us.  So, it will stay, too.

Our neighbor went to bed apparently healthy, then woke up the next day with MS.  A striking and sudden life change.  It has occasioned a major alteration in their lives.  They went from the salary of a 58 year old career civil servant at the peak of  his career to a fixed income household.  This was six months ago.

How it will affect their family dynamics over the long haul is an open question.  The prednisone  makes  him cranky.  He’s gone from an active guy who built his own observatory and sailed Lake Superior to a wobbly man who can no longer read.  His mental acumen seems fine, but for now he wanders, lost in the bewilderment of this rapid change, as well he might be.

Today is an inside day.  I’m going to write on Superior Wolf, get ready for my research on Unitarian Universalism in the Twin Cities and, maybe, crack the case and clean off my cooling fan.

Oh Geez

69  bar rises 29.86  4mph N dew-point 54  Summer, mild and sunny

Waning Crescent of the Flower Moon

Whoa.  The Sierra Club has a lot of paper.  The political committee has several documents online that relate directly to its work, all from a national perspective.  They cover everything from room rental to the details of a political campaign.  The thoroughness is both reassuring and daunting, a lot to absorb.

It reminds me of the old days in the Presbyterian Church where many actions and parameters for action had rules in the Book of Order or in legislation passed by either the General Assembly (national) or the Presbytery (local).  Any organization with national purview requires such instruments, otherwise the message and power of the organization will dissolve in the liquid of too many variatons.  The trick is to give latitude to actors at the local level who know best about the scene where they work without allowing them to contravene policy created at the broadest level of the organization.  Think nationally, act locally.

Jon and Jen, Ruth and Gabe are in Denver.  Their primary work right now is family formation with a new addition to the mix.

Joseph is in Florida, in his new Panama City apartment, only ten minutes from work at Tyndall AFB.  His primary work right now is occupational socialization as a new 2d Lt in the USAF.  He has a secondary purpose, a creating and understanding a life within the mobile, somewhat unpredictable career of a military officer.

Mary has just finished the first last draft of her dissertation, the last draft approved by both her and her supervisor.  Mark has adjusted to a new working condition in the suburbs of Bangkok.

Kate enters the next to last year of her medical career on her birthday.  Her primary work right now is practicing as an older doc in a new system, one that disturbs her and makes her uncomfortable.  An unfortunate reality for her last years as physician.

I can see what I believe to be the primary and secondary purpose in the lives of those close to me.  It’s more difficult to see my own.  In this growing season my primary purpose is to make incremental changes in our garden and woodlands that move us toward optimal sustainability.  Superior Wolf also occupies a key, perhaps secondary place.   Or, maybe my primary purpose is to provide support and nurture to the family and the garden/domestic work is my secondary work.  Oh geez, Ole.  Why can’t you make up your mind? Then there is my contribution to the Great Work: Sierra Club, Great Wheel essays, the notion of optimal sustainability.  Continuuing and deepening my education about the world’s artistic heritage is in there, too.  Then, too, there is the life of faith, my primary purpose for so many years and still critically important.  Well, we’ll let that percolate.  If any of you out there see my primary and secondary purposes more clearly than I do, let me know.


63  bar rises 29.95  0mph NNE  dew-point 54  Summer, night and cool

                           Waning Gibbous Flower Moon

Back home.  The corn is past knee high; the garlic has finished its growth; the tomato plants that began from heritage seeds have fruit; the beans have begun to bush out and the onions have sky rocketed.  A wonderful pastel copper/brown bearded iris has bloomed and the Siberian iris have thrown up dark blue flags all over the garden.  There is, of course, the occasional weed, but that’s Monday’s task.  Perhaps Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s, too.

Driving as I did, a bit over 3,000 miles, movement dominates.  Even in Montgomery I drove to Maxwell four times, an equal number of times out for meals.  In the car.  Out of the car.  Stop for gas.  Now the movement slows down.  A walk in the garden.  Up and down stairs.  To the refrigerator. 

Here Kate welcomes me.  At the various motels slightly aware receptionists said how can i help you.  Here I get a hug, a meal, a smile.  An “I missed you.”  “Me, too.”  The dogs jump up and down, lean against my leg.  This is a place I know and where I am known.     

A Summer Meander

                      67 bar steady  29.75  2mph NW  dew-point 53  Beltane, sunny

                                           Waxing Gibbous Flower Moon   

On the road again.  In under an hour I’m off to hotter, wetter, more flooded climes.  Traveling in the summer has many thing going against it:  high gas prices (this time, Yikes!), crowds, heat and stormy weather.   The shoulder seasons are optimal for travel:  March-May and September-October.  Summer does have two things going for it.  Life slows down a bit and school is out.

The two teacher family of Jon and Jen planned their kids so the births would occur at or near the end of the school year.  That put Gabe’s bris in June.  The Ellis cousin reunions are always in July.   Joseph’s OTS graduation could have been at another time, but it isn’t.  All this means three trips during less than optimal travel conditions.  The destination is the key, though I try to make the journey count, too.

Sometime in the next year or two I plan a third circle tour of Lake Superior.  This is nice to do in October, resorts have closed and crowds are minimal.  The air is cool and in the more southerly parts of the trip autumn provides great background color.  Also, I’ve decided on a dedicated trip to Gettysburg and a couple of the other battlefields I’ve not seen, like Bull Run.  This will be a fall trip as well.

Today though is for the south, a drop almost straight south, a bit of veer to the east, ending very close to the Gulf of Mexico.  Mobile is the site of a naval engagement during the Civil War, the Battle of Mobile Bay.  The way I have it paced I’ll take two days plus to get to Prattville where I stay at the Plantation Bed and Breakfast. 

After that, don’t know.  I may wander a bit through Mississippi, perhaps stop in New Madrid, Mo. again, epicenter of the largest earthquake in U.S. history.  It flattened buildings in St. Louis and was felt as far away as Boston.  Church bells rang throughout the center of the country.  Part of the fun of this kind of trip is the unknown destination, the freedom to meander. 

BYW  The Meander, a notoriously winding river, ran from the Turkish (then Greek) countryside near Ephesus to the Aegean.

Their Lawlessness Got out of Hand

57  bar steep fall 29.94  7mph  ENE dew-point 52  Beltane, cloudy and cool

                       Last Quarter of the Hare Moon

Can this possibly mean what it says?  “While cities are hot spots for global warming, study finds people in them emit fewer gases.”  Washington Post, 5/29/2008   In this same vein I watched part of a National Geographic Program on an outlaw biker gang, the Mongols.  The narrator made this surprising statement, “Their lawlessness got out of hand.”  Hmmm.

When I travel by car, I spend more time picking reading material, movies and audiobooks than I do clothing.  This will not surprise some of you who know my fashion sense, late sixties college student unregenerate, yet it always surprises me. 

Each trip has a theme.  Don’t know when that started, but it helps me make decisions on the road and to deepen the experience.  This trip to Denver, in addition to the obvious theme of tribal initiation (the bris), nature writing and trees will occupy my time.  Not hard to figure out where this came from.

My first nights stay is at the Arbor Day Foundation in Nebraska City, Nebraska.  I’m taking along a book I bought awhile back called Arboretum America.  It tells the story of trees in the history of the US.  Also a book of nature writing.

Heart Awhirl

68  bar steady 29.90 1mph NE dew-point 38  Beltane, sunny and warm

Waning Gibbous Hare Moon

Family business meeting. We’re doing fine in the cash department and in investments, too.  That means Kate will be able to retire when she wants, a couple of years from now.  I look forward to having her here full-time.  Our calendars checked out.  I’ve got the traveling jones this summer.  Denver, probably next week, and Montgomery, Alabama in the middle of June.  Then down to Texas in late July for the Ellis cousins reunion.

Heart awhirl today about the political side of ecology.  If I get back in it,  I imagine it will be a dive back into the deep end of the pool.  This is an exciting year to get involved with Presidential, Senate, House and state legislature seats all on the ballot along with the Vote Yes constitutional amendment.

Joseph called last night.  His confidence level has shot up.  He’s gotten some commendations and has worked several different jobs:  flight commander, civil engineer and academic training officer.  His next PDS, permanent duty station, is Tyndall AFB near Panama City, Florida.  His orders put him there on June 24th, only 6 days after his graduation and commissioning as a second lieutenant.

He’ll receive his Air Battle Management training at Tyndall.  ABM, pilot and navigator are the three flying related assignments in the Air Force, a flying oriented service.  They hold a bit more prestige for that reason.  Joseph qualified as a navigator but got that assignment set aside because of his eyesight.  He plans to get Lasik surgery as soon as he can.  Then, he may be able to get back to the navigator or even pilot positions.

As a dad, I’m glad he’s on the path he wants.  As a long time peace activist, though not a pacifist, I have been forced to recognize the strict civilian control over the military as the focus of my peace activity, not the military which is a tool of the civilian government.  The military is, at least at Joseph’s likely pay grade for years to come, an executor of policy, not creator of it.  Since I’m not a pacifist and recognize the right, even the responsibility of a nation to defend itself, I can’t ignore the logical extension of that belief, i.e. the existence of armed services and the corollary, that someone has to staff them.

It Will End as a Novel Ends

55  bar steep rise 0mph E dew-point 39  Beltane

           Waxing Gibbous Hare Moon

Kate cleared a bunch of dogwood canes, pulled up weeds, pruned out a juniper (yesterday), deadheaded the daffodils and generally worked herself into a stupor. (In Norwegian, this is a good thing.)  She’s been on vacation this week and has enjoyed herself immensely planting, pruning, carrying.  (Again, in Norwegian, this constitutes a vacation.)  I admire and appreciate her doggedness, but it doesn’t count as a vacation attitude in my Celtic/Germanic perspective.   Whatever turns your crank.

Battlestar Galactica is the most nuanced and unpredictable show on television, bar none.  It is a good science fiction novel brought to the screen and that is so rare as to be a marvel, a marvel that continues week after week.  There no good guys and bad guys, no bad robots and good robots.  No, there are humans and robots who, in some situations, act for the common good and, in other situations, act out of selfish or malicious motives. 

The Science Fiction channel will finish the Battlestar Galactica series this season, but it will not tail off into the land of unfinished television shows. It will end as a novel ends, with an ending that ties together various plotlines and provides a final surprise and aha.  How do I know?  Because that’s how good writing works, and this is good writing.  I would like to see this as a precedent for TV shows where the story has a trajectory, a climax and a denouement, not the eternal extension of the storyline in a cynical attempt to exploit viewer interest for every last drop of advertiser revenue.  Viewers will return if the fiction has characters with complex lives, difficult hurdles to overcome and a convincing fate.

More work outside tomorrow.  This may be the last big push for a while since Kate goes back to work on Tuesday and I have MIA and a docent class luncheon on Monday with Woolly’s in the evening.

What is a Puggle?

              47  bar rises 29.89 omph N dewpoint 36  Beltane

                       Waxing Crescent of the Hare Moon 


               A Platypus baby, called, wait for it…a puggle

A cool night, again, has fallen.  The garden sleeps, plants need rest, too.  Gabe out in Denver is in his 4th night at home and his third in his own bed in Ruthie’s old room.  Grandma Kate helped put that one together and the one Ruthie is in right now, too.  Joseph is probably up at Maxwell AFB, getting ready for his seventh week of OTS.  My brother Mark and sister Mary might be eating lunch right now.  Family puts sutras into the world, often faraway.  Our own past puts sutras into another time.

Kate and I watched the end of The Rose, Bette Middler channeling Janis Joplin.  Those  times, that music.  The tragedy, the comedy, the seriousness and the whimsicality.  It is an era I have not left behind, one in whose spirit I have lived an entire life.  And I am not ashamed of it.  It has become fashionable to mock the ’60’s and belittle the political passion and the counter culture of that time, but I lived it.  I know that the time was not cynical.  It was honest and painful. 

Each new day brought a challenge to received wisdom, a challenge each of us had to try in the alchemy of our own psyche.  Did we each do it with the same authenticity and bravery?  No, of course not.  It was a time of shared vulnerablity coupled with a time of danger.  Janis and Jimmy and Jim all died, victims to the raw edge of a movement already on the edge.   Martin and Bobby joined Malcolm.  Friends died in a pointless war fought for vanity and fear.  A lot of lives, like mine, went sideways instead of forward.

Many of the struggles had unintended consequences.  This, however, is true:  a lot of liberation got its impetus in those years.  I was and am proud of that and for my small part.

The thread of my life, its sutra, winds back through the ’60’s into the ’50’s.  These are not history for me, but life.  As they are for my friends and family.

Gabe Has Come Home

55  bar falls 29.53  0mph WSW dewpoint 53  Beltane

                New Moon (Hare)

Gabe has come home.  He arrived tonight with oxygen and bright lights, but feeding on  his own.  Jon and Jen have met with a hemophilia educator who told them there are 400 cases in Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.  Not many for such a large geographic area.  Jon’s frazzled.  Ruth’s upset.  The dogs run around upset with all the upset. 

This feels better, to them, and to us.  As in any infant’s homecoming, the family dynamics get a shake, with the hemophilia they will probably get a roll, too.  I underlined again to Jon how right he is as Gabe’s Dad.  And Jen, as a teacher of little  ones, as  his mom.  This would be way overwhelming if they didn’t have experience.  With their experience it makes the whole situation more complex, but not impossible or deeply frightening.

So our nuclear family has expanded, four in Denver, one in Alabama at Maxwell AFB and Kate and me here at the homestead.  This kind of distant, but caring support, considering the dispersed nature of our small clan, feels appropriate.  It’s not the same as having the kids a short distance away, but life has not dealt us that situation.  Jon moved to Colorado to ski and has ended up with a family.  Joseph moved to Colorado and has ended up in Alabama.  This all results from our insistence on and support of their independent life choices.

It is both the strength and the weakness of American individualism.  We encourage the development of the individual first and the whole families needs come second.  In times like this the inherent weakness in this culture become obvious.  On the other hand both boys needed space to spread out, to develop their own lives and they have both done that with gusto.  The upside. 

…these are the country deities, nymphs, fauns and satyrs, dwelling in mountains and in woods… Ovid, Metamorphoses

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Black Mountain Drive, Colorado

May 2016
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