We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Posts by Charles


Lughnasa                                                                      Waning Summer Moon

strangerReading two books right now, The Stranger in the Woods and Northland. They are oddly complementary. Northland recounts a three-year long journey by the author following the northern border across the U.S. It starts in Maine. This early part of his journey is through land very familiar to friends Paul and Sarah Strickland who live near the St. Croix River separating the U.S. and Canada. Stranger in the Woods tells the story of Christopher Knight, who grew up in central/northern Maine, graduated from high school, became a burglar alarm installer, then, at age 20 decided to disappear into the woods. He was found 27 years later after having spent the intervening time in silence, living alone in a rocky clearing and subsisting off of raiding cabins near his well-concealed home.

Porter Knox, author of Northland, says that land in the U.S. along the northern border is a land apart, distant from the rest of the country both for its inhabitants and visitors. Having lived in Minnesota for forty years, I know the Northland border there and in Michigan, too. It’s severe country in Minnesota with temperatures the rest of the country read about during the winter, lakes carved by the retreating glaciers of the last ice age and boreal forests. It’s also poor country with soil too rocky and thin for agriculture and too distant from cities for most commercial purposes. Tourism is the main economic driver there and that’s seasonal.

Knight’s family had developed a way of living in the Northland. They had a large garden, hunted, were clever with their hands and spent time with books, not media. It was a subsistence existence that reminded me of the movie Captain Fantastic. Christopher took the northland life style to a logical extreme, becoming isolated not only from the rest of the country, but from human community itself. In Minnesota and Wisconsin his family would probably have been called Jackpine Savages, which refers to folks who live off the land there, often taking multiple jobs while living mostly off game, fish and gardens.

As I write this from the top of Shadow Mountain, I can see how different and faraway this border and these lifestyles must seem to the rest of the U.S. In fact, it strikes me as odd how little known these northern lifeways are. Redneck culture, not the same, but also rural in origin, has a lot of visibility. So does the older Appalachian Scotch-Irish culture from which Redneck culture emerged. Cowboys were similarly isolated from mainstream U.S. culture, but their presence is large in U.S. history, too. Not so for the folks who live in the colder regions along the border with Canada.



Lughnasa                                                                  Waning Summer Moon

Then he discovered the small plastic pan below the freezer and lo, there was the water, not sublimated at all, but ordinarily melted. Well, the explanation fit the evidence I had, just not all the evidence there was. (see post below) Shows how tough diagnostics can be if you don’t look in the right place.

700 pixels- punta arenasSpeaking of diagnostics. Kate had a gallbladder ultrasound yesterday at Touchstone Imaging. Touchstone is in one of a series of large office buildings, all of the same architecture. And difficult to differentiate. Touchstone’s building is #52. It’s an immense complex and in other instances we’ve been given addresses, which makes the actual location harder to find. With a building number it was easier. I suppose using the Garmin all the time would be easier, eh, Tom?

Kate saw a gastroenterologist last week who listened to her. He said they’d get these tests done as soon as possible and that has happened. Tomorrow morning at 7 am is the second endoscopy. This one will look for a tiny scar induced closing below her stomach. This guy is paying attention to her distress and I like him for that.

After the ultrasound we drove over to the Bernini repair shop. The embroidery module on this very sophisticated sewing machine failed while Kate was finishing mug rugs for the quilt documentation day. As I have in the past, I sat down among the vacuum cleaners and read.

Sublimation, Primordia and other fundamentals

Lughnasa                                                           Waning Summer Moon

The arid West has many surprises for a flatlander from the humid East. Add in elevation and the surprises multiply. I’ve mentioned the maximum boiling temperature of water which effects tea making and pasta cooking (takes longer). There is, too, the solar snow shovel, the decreased O2.Wet things dry quickly. Water is a constant issue.

sublimateGot a new one. I have a small refrigerator in the loft. I keep water for my workouts in it, an ice wrap for post-workout knee relief, and a tray of Rigel’s canned kangaroo treats. Last week I noticed I’d begun to get some frost buildup in the small freezer. Been a long time, but I remembered defrosting refrigerators. I took everything out, putting the water filtration filter to the side, the carbonated water, the ice pack, and Rigel’s treats. I got a bucket and put it underneath the freezer. Finally, I pulled the cord and left the door open.

I glanced at the bucket later in the day. No water. Well, it was cool. Checked again an hour or so later. No water. Not that cool. So, I opened the freezer to check. The gathered frost was almost gone. Oh. I’d forgotten about sublimation, too, but I was pretty sure that was what I was seeing. Sure enough, there was never any water in the bucket, the frost was gone and I restocked the refrigerator. How ’bout that?

strong and confident after the quilt documentation day

strong and confident after the quilt documentation day

lion's maneFriday, Saturday, Sunday. Kate did well all these days. A little nausea on Sunday, but not the real knock her back sort. It was good to see her up and about. I made her a birthday dinner: ribeye, little potatoes, and Lion’s Mane mushroom. This latter came from a present Jon gave her, essentially a sack filled with sawdust and mushroom spores. She’s been diligently misting it. Sure enough, out popped a white spongy growth, the hippy guy in the fungi perfecti video called them, interestingly, I thought, primordia.

I reached behind the largest one and wrenched it free from the growth medium, took it upstairs and sliced it into steaks. Butter, salt, medium heat. A great complement to the ribeye. Supposed to taste like lobster (not chicken). Kate thought it did. Me, not so much. I liked it though. Kate’s always wanted to get into mushrooms, now we have, thanks to Jon.

Yesterday morning I read through the morning service in the Reconstructionist prayer book. Why? Because it’s the service that the b’nai mitzvah kids have to learn. It’s a powerful work of liturgy, much that is ancient, much that has been reconstructed. I’m going to be working with it a good deal over the next year, so becoming familiar with it seems like part of the job. I’ll write more about it when I get a better understanding, but suffice it to say right now that it sent me into a spiritual place I’ve not been in a while.

See what I did, dad!

See what I did, dad!

Rigel and the deck. Jon left five five-gallon orange plastic buckets, Home Depot with Do It written on the side. They have bricks in them, used bricks he picked up somewhere. I carried them to the deck and put them in front of the deepest tunnels our Rigel had dug in search of voles, or rabbits. Working so far. Not a pretty solution, but a good temporary fix.

Brother Mark is still in Amarillo. He says gringos and Latinos seem to get along well there. Mary has started her school year at the National University of Singapore. Joe and SeoAh are in Hawai’i. He’s working; she’s seeing Oahu for the first time.

Cool here this morning, 40 degrees.

Food and Animals

Lughnasa                                                                   Waning Summer Moon

Bailey Patchworker chief foodie buying supplies

Bailey Patchworker chief foodie buying supplies

Yesterday was a big day. Kate did an “…awesome job on the food.” I heard this from the Bailey Patchworkers lead, a woman with a great and commanding presence. (the IW breed standard). To do this she got there around 8 am and didn’t leave until 3 pm. She was still in good shape, considering the amount of time she’d spent on her feet and in charge of the kitchen. They sang happy birthday to her, too. She did take a 45 minute nap in the very car I binged on Friday.

20180818_082613Gabe went with us, helping to carry stuff. On the way back from Baily we stopped for “cow watch.” We try to see the cows feeding on the grass in a mountain meadow about half way down Shadow Mountain Drive. They were out and close to the fence so Gabe and I got out for a look. He wanted to go pet them, but wouldn’t brave the tall grass to get close enough to the fence.

Meanwhile, back on Black Mountain Drive, Rigel the wonder dog, was busy. Ever since she dug for, caught and ate a vole last year she has resumed her predator ways. I’ve found shallow holes, often more like trenches, in many spots in the yard. She spends a lot of time with her head under the shed. But yesterday she out did herself.

Her are a few pictures of her exciting adventures ruining our back deck.

With Vega dead, Gertie steps in to help

With Vega dead, Gertie steps in to help

I'll huff and I'll puff

I’ll huff and I’ll puff

Considering next options

Considering next options

Jon picked up Gabe at noon, after a 30-45 minute delay for a pro-bicycle race that had a leg along Hwy. 73. Gabe came up last Sunday. He starts school this Monday, so he’s gone down the hill. Ruth didn’t come up yesterday with Jon because she was with a friend, Eva, watching softball. The pulling away begins.

Happy Birthday

Lughnasa                                                                  Waning Summer Moon

Kate. Standing up for what she believes. Confident.

Kate. Standing up for what she believes. Confident.

And, ta dah! Kate’s 74th. On this great gettin’ up mornin’, on this quilt documentation day, anticipated now for months, Kate turns 74. Happy birthday, sweetie.

Oh, and sorry about that wreck. (see below)

She thought this protest against ICE separating families trying to gain asylum in the U.S. was one of our better recent dates. That’s the woman I married. Unafraid to say what she thinks, to show others what she believes.

Years matter in the battering the body takes, but in matters of the heart, in matters of courage, years only reinforce character. I’m lucky to have found this strong, smart, confident woman.

I think we’re past saying I hope for 74 more years, 148 is well past the human longevity record, but I’ll be pleased, happy with whatever years we have left together. The more, the better.

Happy birthday, soul mate, love of my life.


Sorry, dude

Lughnasa                                                                                  Waning Summer Moon



Did the naikan exercise before going to sleep again last night. I like it. It’s a helpful way of summing up the day, gaining perspective. Included among the troubles I caused, driving hubris results in wreck.

Like most of us I consider myself a good driver. No serious accidents, ever. No accident while moving that was my fault, though I did get t-boned once near the University of Minnesota by some guy coming off I-35. He forgot to slow down.

But. Backing up. I hit things from time to time. I’m the poster boy for why a backup camera and screen is a good idea. Our 2011 Rav4, in car electronic years, may as well be back with the horse and buggy. Little computational power overall and no backup camera. It would be good for me to have because when I back up my confidence level increases. Bad thing.

Kate’s got this quilt documentation event today. I mentioned it a few posts down. She is the queen of food which includes breakfast, lunch, snacks, stuff to drink, table service, all that. Yesterday, a good day for her, she went to Costco with Nyla, a friend who lives in Bailey. They bought supplies that had to be taken to the Catholic church that hosts the Bailey Patchworkers. Refrigerated items.

I’m da muscle, yeah. And, I acted like it. All brawn. Kate’s friend, a wizened older woman, whip thin and a face that would put school children in their seat with nothing more than a glance, had driven over to open the church basement so we could store the goods. She parked near the door and sat in her car waiting on us. I decided to backup so we could unload easily.

OK. I hit her. She’s in the car. Talk about embarrassing. “I’m sorry.” I was sorry, but, just like when we tell a kid that saying sorry doesn’t fix what you did, it didn’t. Wouldn’t. Won’t. The damage is minor, perhaps not noticeable if you hadn’t been sitting in the car when the muscle drove into your car. But, it’s there.

Om. Om. Om. Om. The wreck on my car bows to wreck on your car. More om. It was not the first time. Not even the first time with Kate in the car. In fact, as we drove home, I asked Kate, “Will you marry me?” She said, “Huh? I thought we were already married.” “Remember I asked you to marry me the time I backed into that car near the Lagoon Theater?” She pointed out that she didn’t make the connection because I’d done it since the Lagoon, too. Oh, right.

The obvious implication of all this? New car?



Living History Days
Experience the Story of Staunton State Park
SEPTEMBER 8 and 9 10:00-3:00
Activities at the Group Picnic Area

• History of Staunton State Park, Staunton family, and more
• Notorious Reynolds Gang’s hidden treasure hunt
• Local historical organizations with interesting displays
• Ute Spirit Tree Hikes (Times to follow on web page)
• Mountain Genealogists Society
• Square dancing!!
• Sharing /Storytelling with local historians

Take a hayride to join in activities in the Historic Cabin District
• Johnny cakes and lemonade
• Rachael Staunton’s Medicinal Garden
• Trappers and Hunters of the Day
• Indian talking sticks
• Cabin building demonstrations
• Musical performances with Rex Rideout
• Historical games

For more information see the park webpage: https://cpw.state.co.us/placestogo/parks/staunton or http://www.friendsofstauntonstatepark.org. 12102 S. Elk Creek Road; Pine, CO 80470

Kate. Naikan practice.

Lughnasa                                                              Waning Summer Moon

Kate’s not having a good week. Yesterday was especially bad, enough so that she considered going to the emergency room. Or, to the hospital. That thought, born more I think of frustration than any particular worsening of her symptoms, gives you a sense of how this series of insults effects her.

Jon picked up Gabe from Mussar yesterday. It was his Meet the Teacher evening at Swigert Elementary. When I asked him how these things were, he said, “boring.” I imagine so.

Mussar was interesting. We did a Jodo Shinsu Buddhism practice called naikan. It involves asking yourself three questions, then writing as detailed an answer as you can for each of them. Traditionally, the three questions start off with your mother. What did my mother do for me? What did I do for my mother? What trouble did I cause her? Over time you can add father, siblings, work, nature, whatever can be explored with these questions. After you write down the answers, in a naikan retreat, a person will come and interview you; that is, they will listen to you read your answers out loud with no comment, no interaction. They are there only as a witness. Sort of like the 4th step in AA.

A variation on this theme that Rabbi Rami Shapiro uses is to ask yourself these related questions just before going to sleep: What gifts did I receive today? What gifts did I give today? What trouble did I cause today? I did it last night and found it soothing.

We’ve been exploring, too, the link between suffering, acknowledging the suffering of others or our own, not trying to fix it, just acknowledging it and the apparently strange link between that practice and happiness. Frequent readers know happiness is not much on my menu. I prefer eudaimonia, human flourishing. Still, the point is the same. Our flourishing is not about a life without suffering. It’s about a life that engages and embraces suffering, does not push it away, yet does not become consumed by it.

I struggle with wanting to fix Kate’s nausea or just being with her as she goes through its impact on her life. Like most, I think, I do a bit of both. Chronic illness presents the greatest challenge here. The suffering continues. My ability to be present for her waxes and wanes with my own feelings of vulnerability, frustration. I want, simultaneously, to wave that unavailable magic wand and hold her hand. Tough. At best.

97 to go. But, a bit of hope

Lughnasa                                                                        Waning Summer Moon

97 to go. Though. This rejection is, at least, personal. That represents an uptick on the scale of rejection etiquette. Even so, my gut response. Sinking, sadness, oh no not again. I gotta quit this. It hurts too much.

Though not a formulaic rejection, in some ways it makes the rejection hurt more. She gave Superior Wolf consideration, didn’t outright dismiss it, then rejected it because it didn’t draw her in. Ouch.

Still feeling it. Sunk inward, want to hide, hold my head in my hands. Maybe cry a little.

Sorry to include you all in this, but writing is my way of coping. Otherwise the feelings stay inside, clang around, make things worse. This helps.


Dear Charles,

Thank you for your query. Please know I carefully considered SUPERIOR WOLF, and although the concept intrigued me, the sample didn’t pull me in as I had hoped. I don’t feel I can offer representation at this time.

Keep going with it. Writersdigest.com, agentquery.com and querytracker.com are great resources for researching literary agents. I wish you the best of luck.



Mary C. Moore
Kimberley Cameron & Associates, LLC


Lughnasa                                                                  Waning Summer Moon

If you haven’t seen Incredibles 2, and you probably haven’t if you don’t have children or grandchildren in the right age range, I’d encourage you to give it a shot. It’s actually a pretty good movie. But not my emphasis here. Rather, the short before it, Bao.

Controversial. Here’s a story about it, complete with spoilers that in this case I think are fine. I’d forgotten about the controversy. I read about it shortly after Incredibles 2 came out in the middle of June, and was intrigued, as I always am by cultural disjunction, cultural difficulties. But it went into the forget pile near some neuron or another.



Then I saw it yesterday with Gabe. It features a Chinese mother who makes dumplings. One of the dumplings comes to life and she raises him as her child. It’s a sweet story at first, then the dumpling becomes obstinate, wants to make his own choices. Finally, in the controversial moment, the dumpling has come home with a blond white woman. He packs his bags and starts to go out the door following his woman friend. The mother grabs him, pulls him back inside. You expect some kind of tearful resolution, hugs, then the mature dumpling goes away with his woman friend. Nope. She eats him.

bao2OMG! What just happened? It was shocking and I missed the point. Sort of. In a couple of scenes after this a dumpling like son comes home with the same woman who led the dumpling out the door. I took this to mean that the woman had somehow reconciled with the dumpling and he’d grown up. The eating in my understanding was a symbol of the difficulties inherent in the moment children become independent.


a link to this article

Turns out I was sort of right. But sort of not. As I now understand it, the mother actually ate the anthropomorphized dumpling. This expressed a mutual feeling of distress that Chinese mothers and their children have in U.S. culture. U.S. culture says leave at 18 and make your way in the world. Chinese culture says, live at home until you’re married and then, don’t go too far away. Though the leaving at age 18 in American mainstream culture (or, what used to be American mainstream culture), is fraught with similar issues, independence pushing away from interdependence, the expectation is that independence becomes a vehicle from which a new form of interdependence will arise. In Bao the dumpling eating shows the powerful rejection of that possibility in traditional Chinese culture, though I imagine the one-child policy in China has forced a new way of thinking in the home country.

Anyhow. Worth seeing. Always worth reflecting on cultural differences, worth learning from them. No rights or wrongs. Just differences that express the many possible responses to the ancientrail of humans in community and family and in ourselves.

August 2018
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