We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Reconstructing

Imbolc                                                                     (New Life) Moon

valentine birthday71 times Valentine’s Day and I have shared a moment. This was a quiet one, a good one. Decided I would cook Kate a special meal. In all our years together I’d never done that. It felt great. Went to Tony’s Market (upscale groceries, great meat). Bought a ribeye and some model thin asparagus. Kate found some tiny potatoes. Candles and jazz from Kate’s Pandora Satchmo and Ella channel. Just right. Later, a dusting of snow.

Based partly on the Rumi poem* I posted, sent to me by Tom Crane after I wrote about that old debil melancholy,I’ve decided to lean into my uncertainty and ambiguity. Life purpose seems to be up for reconsideration. Or, perhaps, reconstruction, reimagining. Or, best, reenchantment. But, instead of forcing my way into a new life, I’m letting it come to me. Waiting. Testing. Entertaining.

Bits and pieces that have floated in. All my 70’s, barring some very unusual event, will be lived in Colorado, hopefully in the Rockies. So, this decade, the one I’m now firmly in, is a Western, arid lands, mountain decade. It also has a strong Jewish accent, spoken in a Beth Evergreen dialect.

reenchantmentAt one point concentrating on Colorado and the west. At another, more Taoism. Stop writing novels. Read more. A lot more. A year of the Tao or a year of the West. Travel. In our immediate region. As much as possible. Continue with the sumi-e. Take classes? Go to a Progoff workshop?

Not sure where this is going, but for some reason turning 71 has made me unsettled, willing to reject or set aside old purposes, find new ones. Or, possibly, reaffirm current ones. I’ll know when I’m done with this, moving into a new chapter. But, I don’t know when that will be.

 

*”This being human is a guest house.
Every morning a new arrival.

A joy, a depression, a meanness,
some momentary awareness comes
As an unexpected visitor.

Welcome and entertain them all…” Rumi, The Guest House

Shoulder, Trees, Writing

Winter                                                                         Imbolc Moon

shoulder-arthroplasty-Mayo-ClinicHippity hop to the ortho shop. Kate’s got an appointment at Panorama Orthopedics today. Her right shoulder. She can no longer hold things up with her right arm and has to use two hands to put dishes away, sometimes to lift a cup. Annoying and painful. Screws up her sleep, too. She needs some kind of solution, more than likely a shoulder replacement. This is the first step, a consult to see what her options are.

A friend of Kate and mine is having surgery for breast cancer today, too. It’s a cancer that has the improbable, but very desirable, cure rate of 100%. In the sort of piling on that getting older can deliver, her husband, only a week later, got a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It’s a killer, but slow, maybe 5-10 years. He’s mid-70’s. Mortality is always stalking us, but seems to knock on the door more often past three score and ten.

Sister Mary tells me she’s been invited as a visiting professor to a university in Kobe, Japan this summer. Very close to Kyoto. And, great beef. Congrats to Mary. Brother Mark is in Bangkok right now, chillin’ in the tropical heat.

Tu B'ShevatAn interesting week ahead. A session on green burial tomorrow night at CBE. It’s part of a conversation about creating a Jewish cemetery up here in the Evergreen/Conifer area. Oddly, I think I’d like to work on that. The next night, Wednesday, is Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees. Judaism has a lot of pagan inflections, Tu B’Shevat and Sukkot, a harvest festival at the end of the High Holidays, for example. Looking forward to this one because there’s a seder, too, with seven species of fruit and nuts. I’ll explain more on Wednesday. After the this celebration is another Kabbalah session, more double letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

NovelIdeaRigel has her second appointment at the Vet Referral Clinic with Dr. Bayliss this Friday, too. I’m excited about it because we’ll get a clearer picture of what’s going on with her. And, it’s not the dire prognosis we anticipated when we took her in a week ago last Friday.

Meanwhile, I’ve finally levered myself back into writing, now on both Jennie’s Dead and Rocky Mountain Vampire (only a working title). Not sure exactly how I did it, just did it, I think.

Getting closer to using the sumi-e brushes, maybe today. Yesterday I tied string at the base of each new brush after applying a bit of glue all round, too. That had to set for a day. I gathered some towels, watched a couple more videos. Youtube is a fantastic resource for all kinds of things. Jon watches Japanese woodcrafting videos to calm down, for example.

Next week is Kate’s quilting retreat in Buena Vista.

 

Yesterday

Winter                                                                              Moon of the Long Nights

Rigel

Rigel

The nearly full moon lit up the snow outside our bedroom last night. Soothing, gentle. This one presides over the longest nights of the year.

Two of our females had imaging work yesterday. Rigel got an x-ray, looking again for cancer since she has continued to lose weight in spite of therapy for chronic hepatitis. She’s eight, old for a dog of her size. Her condition, whatever it is, caused me to roll back through the death of many of our dogs just before sleep. Sad. Grief is the price we pay for love.

Kate had a makeup c.t. scan since the one she had last week was not done according to protocols for pulmonary embolisms. It required a contrast dye. Like the first, no contrast scan, this one showed nothing new, nothing menacing. Dr. Gidday now wants her to do a stress test, checking for possible heart issues. Don’t know when that will be.

She also has an appointment in late January with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss her painful shoulders, investigating possible shoulder replacements. She takes all this with a calm spirit, not bringing doom into the present, rather waiting for information. Her quick intelligence and vast medical knowledge could make it otherwise. An impressive woman, my Kate.

Ruth’s tonsillectomy seems to be loosening its grip. On day 6 or so the scabs fall off as healing progresses. This can be, and was for her, painful. Yesterday evening though she texted that she’s ready for empanadas. A great sign.

soupWe have a cookbook, Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, and I’ve been making soups out of it that Kate thinks sound good. She has a favorite, vermicelli soup, a vegetable soup with noodles. I made some for her last night.

I’ve decided to give Hebrew this month. I’ll work on it everyday and see if I can get myself back to a place where it’s at least enjoyable. Right now, it isn’t. If I can’t get there in a month, I’m gonna drop it. Banging my head against this particular wall isn’t worth it unless I enjoy it.

 

 

 

2018. Where’s my jetpack?

Winter                                                            Moon of the Long Nights

FutureFirst post of 2018. Ancientrails will start its 14th year in February, a long run for a blog started to ease my boredom during recovery from Achilles tendon repair. It long ago became part of my daily routine and remains so. I have no agenda with it; it’s a place to record what occurs to me, though what occurs to me does have definite repeating themes.

I was telling Kate last night that ever since 2000 writing the years has seemed like an exercise in science fiction. I mean, 2018? Jetpacks instead of a few electric cars. Food synthesis on demand. Space hotels. Ray guns, even. Concealed carry ray guns. Definitely not a rotund orange haired demagogue with the mind of a gnat. Definitely not a plague of wildfires and the imminent destruction of humanity by the planet which gave us birth. But, the future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera, as Doris Day sang.

20171202_192559This is a resolution-less New Year’s for me. Over the last year a Colorado life emerged, one that fits my age and stage, and one worth nurturing. It has these components: attention to the mountains, to the wildlife here, to the changing weather. Jewish immersion: studying kabbalah, mussar, Hebrew and getting to know as friends members of Congregation Beth Evergreen. Writing: ancientrails and novels, right now, Jennie’s Dead and Rocky Mountain Vampire. Family: Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Joe SeoAh, Murdoch. Working out. Caring for our home. Maintaining contact with friends and family far from here.

It also includes a contraction of political activity, much less time in the city, and no gardening though there may be some beekeeping in my future through Beth Evergreen’s religious school. This is enough. It’s a full life, one that allows me to express myself, learn new things and walk the ancientrail of family and friends. There’s no need, at least right now, for new. I want to continue with the last year’s emphases.

New yearI do have hopes. I hope Kate continues her surprisingly upbeat attitude as she considers shoulder replacements and how to deal with the energy drain of Sjogren’s. I hope Jon continues to gain distance from Jen, to renovate his new home, to grow as a single parent. I hope Joe and SeoAh and Murdoch have a great year and I hope to see them again soon. I hope I can read more. I hope Beth Evergreen flourishes since it has become important to both Kate and me. I hope Korean tensions resolve peacefully. I’d like it if we could have a year with no major home repair issues.

2018. Another turn of the Great Wheel, another trip around the sun. What it holds we cannot know. I’m looking forward to it. Happy New Year!

On the Path

Winter                                                                Moon of the Long Nights

86Winter break continues. The identity crisis has passed as I knew it would. The crisis focused on my passive choices, taking the path of least resistance after college and I did do that, giving up my intentionality about career to a socialization experience with clergy-focused fellow students. But. Within that decision to just follow the education I had chosen as a way to get out of a dead end job and an unhappy marriage, I was intentional.

The threads that continued from high school through college, into seminary and afterward during my fifteen years in the church were three: a commitment to political action, a desire for spiritual growth, and a thirst for learning. These same threads continue today though political work has taken a diminished role to the other two. When I met Kate, writing became my chosen focus and added itself to the other three as life long pursuits.

My career, if that’s the right word, has involved expressing in whatever context I’ve found myself, a journey on four ancientrails: act, grow, learn, write. The container has not mattered. And, it still doesn’t. That was the piece I was missing the other day, a brief regression, a going back to pick up something lost. Found.

 

What Was I Thinking?

Samain (last day for this year)                   Long Nights Moon

identity

sometimes we steal it ourselves

I’m having a crisis of sorts, it will pass and life will return to normal, probably later today, but right now I’m having an identity crisis. Remember those?

Here’s a Psychology Today article about identity. As I took the short quiz at the bottom, I had two achieved statuses, politics and gender roles, one moratorium status, career choice, and a difficult to assess religious status. This latter status, religion, is perhaps more achieved than my current feelings suggest since I’m deep into a context which challenges my commitment regularly.

I’ll bracket the religious question for this post since I do have a position, one I’ve established over many years of thought and with which I’m comfortable. I think the oscillation, tension there is reasonable to expect given my current immersion in Judaism.

The other moratorium status, career choice, is a different matter. It may seem odd to have a career choice moratorium* at 70, but it is so. Unlikely to change now, too. Having this realization again, (it’s not new) is the emotional side of this crisis.

careerI thought I had my life direction nailed down. College, graduate school. Some sort of professional career, perhaps lawyer, perhaps professor, perhaps something not visible from within the boundaries of an Alexandria, Indiana horizon. Then, my mom died. That threw my final year of high school into turmoil. God, this hurts just writing about it.

No one’s fault. A random event, but one with devastating emotional consequences for me. I hit my first year of college, just about a year after her death, with high hopes, probably even fantasies. I’d gone through GQ issues over the summer and picked out a navy blue blazer, charcoal pants, oxblood shoes and a madras sport coat. I had a vested herringbone suit from my junior year. These clothing choices symbolized my desire to become someone new at Wabash.

madrasMost kids heading off for college, especially in the fifties and mid-1960’s, had a similar desire. Shape that adult self. Live into an adult role. The expectation was that college would provide room for exploration, trying on this and that persona, in effect researching skills and passions, until something coalesced. Then, earning money and work would merge into an expression of who you were. That’s why college was called then, the moratorium years. College was explicitly a time to be low on commitment, but high on exploration.

Didn’t happen for me, in terms of career. At Wabash I picked up three bad habits: drinking, smoking and self-doubt. The first two were fraternity based, lots of drinking and smoking. This was 1965, just before the emergence of the drug scene, so I was conventional in those choices. But, I was also an addictive personality so drinking and smoking would require much time and energy later to overcome.

Self-doubt happened in a way not uncommon, I imagine, for small town valedictorians. Wabash, at the time, was highly selective, only 200 in each class, all male and each bright, accomplished. I was not only not the smartest person in the room, I wasn’t even in the middle. Over time I imagine this would have sorted itself out, but I was too emotionally fragile, still grieving. My dad tried to understand, tried to be supportive, but I didn’t let him into my agony.

identity-cover socionic

identity-cover socionic

And so began a pattern. I left Wabash the next year, putatively over financial issues though I had a partial scholarship, but really it was the combination of drinking and feeling overwhelmed by the academic demands. I did well enough, mostly A’s, except for German, which almost resulted in my first D or F until I dropped it, but my nights were spent in anxious dreams, waking up with sweaty palms. I didn’t fit in. I hated the fraternity, but had no choice except to be in one due to odd Wabash rules for freshmen.

In 1966, a time of tumultuous change in the country, especially for college students and especially male, draft eligible college students, I chose, for reasons I don’t recall, to go to Ball State. It was close to home. That may have been the reason.

In another odd circumstance my love affair with philosophy, begun at Wabash, found me only a few credits shy of a major after four semester long philosophy courses I took in my freshmen year. That meant I could take a couple of philosophy classes, secure my major and move onto something else. Anthropology.

anthroI loved anthropology, too. Enough, it seemed, to make it a career. I combined my interest in philosophy and decided to enter the narrow field of theoretical anthropology, thinking about how anthropology works, how it could work, how it should work. That turned out to be a mistake and one I didn’t recover from. I applied to, and was accepted, at Brandeis and Rice, for graduate programs. But because my field was theoretical anthropology, I got no financial awards. That meant I needed a fellowship and I was nominated for a Danforth. In the end though, the end of college and of a political career based on radical politics at Ball State, I chose to do nothing. Just. Nothing.

Judy came into my life right at that point. A someone. Another mistake. For both of us. I did end up in Appleton, Wisconsin with her, moving there after a disastrous few months as a manager trainee for W.T. Grant and Company. What was I thinking?

This question, relevant to career, would become synonymous with my choices, one after the other. Seminary. I stayed in and got ordained. WWIT? I worked as an administrator. WWIT? I became a church executive. WWIT? I left the church to write. In this case I knew what I was thinking, but never got all the way there as a writer so, WWIT? For a moment I went back to the ministry as a UU. I was serious enough to intern at a UU church in St. Paul where I agreed to be the development minister. In this case, a really, really big WWIT?

what-was-i-thinking-webAnd so, here I am at 70, no career I really chose except writing and that one I couldn’t have sustained had it not been for the grace and love of Kate. There’s my identity crisis. Who have I been? What have I wanted to do with my life? Late in the game to ask these questions though to be honest they’ve surfaced right along since Wabash.

I could use help reframing all this. It’s not like I’ve drifted through life, doing nothing at all. I just never wrapped it up in a social role to which I felt like I truly belonged. Don’t know what that makes me at this point in my life. In a sense the third phase is the point when this question ceases to matter. That particular race finished a while ago and I’ve come into the pits. No more laps. Yet. What does, what did it all mean? I really don’t know at this point.

In yet another sense, and one I fully support with most of my being (ha), the answer doesn’t matter. I’ve lived. I’ve loved. I’m still doing both. The essentials. And, enough. I know. I know.

Yet the question lingers. What did I do?

 

People high on exploration but low on commitment are in a category that Marcia called “moratorium.” This means that they have placed a hold on making the major decisions in their lives.  They’re thinking hard about what they want to do but aren’t ready to commit.” from the article linked to above.

 

And life goes on, in endless song

Samain                                                                  Bare Aspen Moon

hebrewFinished chapter 1 in the Hebrew text, about half way through chapter 2. My plan is to keep working on the chapters until I’ve finished. The Hebrew class itself is a bit chaotic, lots of great information, but they’re teaching Aleph and Bet, beginners and next level, together. I’m out to sea at least part of the time. OK. Most of the time. Still, I can now recognize shabbat in Hebrew and pronounce five letters. Slooooowwww. Next class with Joann Greenberg at 4:30. Two weeks ago Bill and Tom were here for the class.

Nut, similar to this

Nut, similar to this

We hung some art in the guest room. Two batik pieces that Mary brought us from
Bali and an image on papyrus of Nut that I bought on the sidewalk outside the British Museum. Kate’s thinking a gray blue for the guest room. She’s beginning to get her interior designer on.

More Jennie’s Dead. Last two scenes were in Selma, Alabama and Denver. High intensity cardio yesterday, slow and long today. New workout tomorrow.

Centurylink comes today to install our new 60 Mbps service. This one requires some work between the box and the house, then a new modem, plus some inside changes at the jack, too. Faster is better and it’s much stronger wifi. That’s good because I bought the grandkids a tv for Hanukkah and it will get its reception with a Roku stick inserted into its USB port.

20171027_161725Kate and I have begun an ongoing effort to help her manage the fatigue which Sjogren’s, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcopenia and reduced available oxygen cause her. We have to be smarter about what mix of activities she does and what ones I do, yet we can’t set up a situation where she becomes housebound. Not good. A delicate balance. Right now we’re looking at the week ahead and trying to imagine how the week will challenge her, then planning for that. A transition to a new phase of life for us.

 

 

 

Sarcopenia is a bitch

Samain                                                                           Bare Aspen Moon

quantumTrying out another browser, Firefox Quantum. Changing browsers is a hassle, but the benefits of Quantum seem considerable. Right now I’m still on Chrome, but I plan to complete the transition today. I’ll let you know how the transition goes-for those who might care.

Spitting snow this morning, colder. 26. Heading into a cooler week, but then again, it is November 28th. A La Nina year.

Finally back at Jennie’s Dead. Again. Been bumpy. Holidays and “getting stuff done before winter sets in.” This latter is a holdover from 40 years in Minnesota. It’s a now thoroughly ingrained instinct inculcated by years of gardening, bee-keeping and brutal winters with little let up in the cold. Then, too, there’s Hebrew, kabbalah, the Evergreen Forum, ancientrails, all demanding in their own way. A good way.

agingSet a time on Thursday to get a new workout. The old one has grown stale, but it brought me to a new level of fitness, one I can feel in day to day activities. Exercise kicks in endorphins for a right now feel good, but it’s most important role is health maintenance. Sarcopenia, the slow decrease in muscle mass that begins in our 40’s, accelerates in our 70’s. You know, opening jars, lifting boxes, pushing a snow shovel, cleaning up the garage, carrying in groceries, all those everyday uses of our body become harder and harder.

In a nod to this change in both Kate and me, for example, I’ve put blue masking tape on all of our round door knobs because our grip strength is less. Arthritis in the thumbs and fingers can make turning the knobs painful. The tape is a temporary fix, a workaround, eventually we’ll have press down door handles installed. Sarcopenia is a bitch.

aging2Exercise is a way to push back against these changes. It doesn’t solve them, but it helps. The cardio work maintains the pump that literally keeps us alive, helps it respond to crisis modes without giving up. Been at it so long it’s just part of my day.

Restrung the lights out front trying to get even spacing between the two strands, but my skills don’t seem up to the task. However, I did not allow the best to be enemy of the good. They’re up and I like’m. Just the way they are.

 

 

Mountain Life

Fall                                                                             Joe and SeoAh’s Moon

happy camper2Business meeting at the Crow Hill Cafe. This a modest place, a hometown joint. It has regulars, including us, several were in yesterday morning. There were the two older ladies who parked their car at a diagonal in the parallel places, paid for their breakfast out of envelopes and shared a meal. There was the long table of folks, maybe a church group, who chat. Well, most of them chat. One guy with long hair and a beard, an older biker, must have hearing loss from loud pipes. He TALKS REALLY LOUD. There was, too, a table of three men with WWII or Korea hats, talking about The War. Older than Kate and me. Because it’s on 285, Crow Hill also gets tourists headed west toward South Park.

One reason we choose Crow Hill Cafe on Tuesdays is that Happy Camper has 20% off on edibles on Tuesdays. Your average dispensary, we’ve been in a few, has a definite sixties, Haight-Ashbury vibe, but I’m not sure it’s intentional. Most of the workers are young, some ordinary looking, like the woman who rang us up yesterday, but others, like the man who checked our I.D., “Cool, man.”, are definite stoner types. There are pre-rolled joints, bud, flake, many kinds of edibles, bongs, and other accessories for the green life.

Yesterday Sandy came, our house cleaner, so we also went out for lunch to 3 Margaritas. While there, we discussed our disaster planning. This is a good time to do that since a forest fire is much less likely, cooler weather and some snow tamp it down. We have snow predicted tomorrow.

20171022_071909Still tired from the Georgia trip. Traveled Thursday, was up all day and into the night with Joe and SeoAh both Friday and Saturday, then back home on Sunday. Not used to being on the go that much. Don’t know how buddy Tom Crane manages all the travel he does. Wears me out.

Over to Beth Evergreen last night to help set up for Minyan Makers, a short course on prayer. Saw Rabbi Jamie, Tara, and Anshel. Since the setup had already been done, I turned around and went back home. Needed the rest. But. There was a warmth just from seeing those three. Beth Evergreen is a place that gives me joy. I’m very glad to have it in our life.

20170902_163055Gertie gets around pretty well considering four tears from the teeth of Kepler. She had sedation and stitching up at Sano Vet on Monday. With the wounds to her haunches and her arthritic left leg she has considerable trouble on slick surfaces like the loft floor and the downstairs wood floor. I’m going to buy some more rugs for the loft so she’ll have better surfaces to get around on. Right now I have yoga mats down. They work ok, but it’s not their best use.

Trips like the one to Georgia produce, for all their brevity, life long memories. This one, in addition to seeing Joe and SeoAh in their first house, will always have Murdoch’s homecoming as its centerpiece. Dogs. He’s playing in the wood chips in the children’s playground in the picture above. That was at 5:30 am.

 

 

The Journey So Far

Fall                                                                                       Harvest Moon

copertasign_wide_web

Because we began our married life together in Rome, Italian restaurants have a special place in our hearts. Not to mention that the Italians really know food. We went to Coperta last night in downtown Denver. The name means blanket and connotes a warm, comfortable place. It was.

Realized we hadn’t done this in a while, gone out together, into the city. It was revivifying.

We mulled over the move, again, congratulating ourselves on doing it when we did; when we had tired of the work in Andover, but before we’d gone deep into old age. We love living in the Rockies, seeing wildlife and rock, mountain streams every day. Our house fits us perfectly and provided a good respite for Jon and the kids during the last 14 months. The dogs like the yard. Beth Evergreen has given us a community of like minded folks, all searching for their best selves.

IMAG0927_BURST002January 2015

The first three years have had their challenges, most readers of this blog already know them: prostate cancer, Kate’s struggles with rheumatoid arthritis and now Sjogren’s Syndrome, total knee replacement, and Jon’s divorce, his moving in with us. It would be nice if the universe would let up on the lesson plan, give us some time to regroup, get our breath. Could happen.

27 years. 28 next March. Years of learning each other, of supporting each other through thick and thin, challenging each other, cheering each other. Last night we ate Italian and enjoyed the memories it evoked.

Kate and me

February 2018
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