We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Sine Me Up

Lughnasa                                                                Eclipse Moon

OK. Cataracts. The good news. Stable and not too bad. Bad news. The same. Sigh.

sine wayHad a nightmare last night. Not often I have those. This one involved a gradual decompensation from ordinary life to forgetfulness to a social worker coming to help me as a vagrant, finding me in a dilapidated house with some others, also disoriented. Frightening. Might have been instigated by a pun game I played last night at Beth Evergreen. I wasn’t very quick, sometimes had nothing. I felt a bit embarrassed, slightly intimidated. It had been a long day, I was tired and the games went on past my bedtime, so it wasn’t the best circumstances for me. Still.

This morning I’m off to Stevinson Toyota to see if I can get the air conditioning revved up again. Ironic because it was 40 degrees when I got up this morning. Down the hill is hot, record breaking hot over the last week with DIA hitting 96 two days ago, and we’re going in more often with Jon’s move to Aurora still underway. So. Fix the air con.

Electrical problem fixed. A wonky main circuit breaker. Fortunately Brian of Altitude Electric was nearby and had time in the early afternoon.

Kate had problems with hypoxia yesterday. The wildfires further west have filled our skies with particulates and ozone, making air quality tough on those with respiratory issues. Once she hooked up with her O2 concentrator, she improved quickly.

So. Life’s sine curves oscillate through our days. Yesterday had more trough than peak.

 

Off the Road

Lughnasa                                                                          Eclipse Moon

20170821_103631_001This old body doesn’t bounce back like it used to. Driving 13 hours from Idaho to Conifer means a slow return to normal. It’s still underway today, Saturday, after our late Wednesday night arrival back home. Not at all unexpected. Still.

On Thursday we had to return the RV, pick up the dogs and chose to attend mussar, so Thursday during the day was not a time for recuperating. Yesterday was easier, some unpacking, our business meeting and going to the post office for held packages.

Today and tomorrow are slow, too, since the grandkids are with Jen for a hemophilia walk. I’m driving to Fairplay for a hike with Beth Evergreen to see an alpine bee research project on Pennsylvania Mountain. Tomorrow Kate and I will take a load of stuff in to Jon’s new house. He has the kids during the week for the first time this coming week, so he has to get ready for them. The 50/50 parenting arrangement takes effect now that he has a house. A big change for all involved, including us. He will move in over the next couple of months.

Gradually replenishing the battery. Realized just now that I’m like an older lithium-ion battery. I take longer to recharge and the charge doesn’t last as long.

 

For Tom

Lughnasa                                                                    Kate’s Moon

This is an overdue shoutout to my good friend, Tom Byfield.

So sorry to hear about your stroke, Tom. Gotta be scary, but if anyone I know can face down scary with a big laugh, it’s you. Moving to assisted living sounds like a big change, but there again, with books and arts and visits to the MIA when you’re able, I’m sure you’ll build a rich life.

It got me thinking about assisted living as an idea. Now that I’m past the 70 line, too, and with the history of strokes in my own family-Mom and Dad both-I know it’s always a possibility. I would find the transition to living in an apartment very difficult, but not impossible.

Tom, you’re a great role model for the 8th and 9th decades of life. You’ve met them with humor and passion, with intelligence and wit. You’ve stayed engaged and formed new friendships. I admire that. A great deal. Your poem at my moving to Colorado good-bye party is a treasure. I read it every once in while just for fun.

What happens after all this sturm und drang? Who knows? Maybe the afterlife for those of us who care about beauty is a vast museum with all the best art, good food, family and old friends. Plus all those dogs you’ve ever loved. It’d be pretty interesting to have DaVinci or Mary Cassatt or John Singer Sargent or a potter from the Song dynasty as a docent, wouldn’t it?

Right now the best I can come up with is that life is about friends and family, about love. That life, no matter what happens after, is a pretty damn interesting ride. As long as it lasts for both of us, I’m your friend.

 

All That Falls Shall Be Reborn

Lughnasa                                                                 Kate’s Moon

lughnasaOh. Right. Slept in yesterday until 7:30 am. About 2.5 hours past normal rising. The guy from Conifer Gutter came by to give us an estimate on needle guards for our gutters. Then, well, I worked out and forgot to post.

But, here we are on Tuesday, 48 degrees outside after a drippy, Midwest-nostalgia day of rain yesterday. Kate sewed; I dithered. Read a bit more on Dark Ecology and responding to the ecocide. That sort of uplifting thing.

Still don’t have the rhythm of the new workout routine and actual work down. This is because I shifted my workout to mornings-cooler and less likely to get distracted. That’s also my best working time, for writing and research not to mention stuff around the house. I’ll get it eventually, but the herky-jerky rhythm I’ve got now feels, well, herky-jerky.

Went to an energizing lecture titled Fifty Shades of Talmud. Yes, it was about sex in this compilation of commentaries and arguments that created Rabbinic Judaism. The woman who wrote the book, Maggie Anton, spoke about talmud study with an infectious enthusiasm. Made me glad. I love to see people living from their passion, deep into something that fascinates them.

lughnasa1

Kate, for example, loves to sew and quilt. She finished a great wall hanging for me yesterday, four moose prints on a field of green. I’ve long considered the moose my spirit animal. Thanks, sweetheart.

Rigel continues to spend her every outdoor moment yearning after jaws against the flesh of tiny critters. She sniffs under the deck and on the deck, presumably following the movements of whatever is under there. She digs and sniffs and barks under the shed, too. She’s rejuvenated and following her doggy passion. In fact, she’s my new third phase role model. I want to be like Rigel. No, I’m not going to start sniffing the deck, barking under the shed, but I want to live my life like she’s living hers, all in.

 

 

 

Easing Back

Midsommar                                                                          Kate’s Moon

books and cupWith concern about my knee prosthetic assuaged, I’ve gotten a better workout routine going. It’s taken me awhile to match my new workout time, start between 9 and 10 am, with productivity on other projects like reimagining and a new novel, but I’m getting there.

Yesterday I printed out work on Loki’s Children, the second part of the Missing trilogy, and the Protectors, a nugget about a group called the Carthaginians. That gives me three stories to consider. I’m also going to through a file I have in Evernote called story ideas. Check out what I’ve been squirreling away for the past couple of years.

Reimagining work right now consists of scissors and a stapler: cutting up the printed out pages from ancientrails, stapling individual posts together, then filing them under the conceptual (chapter?) headings I’ve defined. I ended up with well over 200 printed pages so this is no small task.

kabbalahThe kabbalah class is over until after the high holidays, but I plan to read in both the first volume of the Zohar and the key work by Isaac Luria. No idea right now about how to organize that reading, but Rabbi Jamie will help. Kate and I continue to study mussar, the Thursday at 1 pm group grounding us in both Jewish ethics and a small community.

Sister Mary and her s.o. Guru will be here Tuesday through Thursday. They’re flying here from Tamil Nadu where Mary and her friend Anitha were presenting at a conference. Mary has a conference in L.A. beginning on Friday. She’s got lots of air miles to her credit.

Wherever you go, there you change.

Midsommar                                                             New (Kate’s) Moon

travelIf you’re an alcoholic like I am, you learn early in treatment that the geographical escape won’t work. Wherever you go, there you are is the saying. It’s true that the addictive part of my personality follows me from place to place as well as through time. Even so, this move to Colorado has awakened me to an unexpected benefit of leaving a place, especially ones invested with a lot of meaning.

I lived in Minnesota over 40 years, moving to New Brighton in 1971 for seminary. I also lived in Alexandria, Indiana until I was 18, so two long stays in particular places. In the instance of Alexandria, I was there for all of my childhood. In Minnesota I became an adult, a husband and father, a minister and a writer.

Here’s the benefit. (which is also a source of grief) The reinforcements for memories and their feelings, the embeddedness of social roles sustained by seeing friends and family, even enemies, the sense of a self’s continuity that accrues in a place long inhabited, all these get adumbrated. There is no longer a drive near Sargent Avenue to go play sheepshead. Raeone and I moved to Sargent shortly before we got divorced. Neither docent friends nor the Woolly Mammoths show up on my calendar anymore with rare exceptions. No route takes me past the Hazelden outpatient treatment center that changed my life so dramatically.

2011 05 09_0852While it’s true, in the wherever you go there you are sense, that these memories and social roles, the feeling of a continuous self that lived outside Nevis, in Irvine Park, worked at the God Box on Franklin Avenue remain, they are no longer a thick web in which I move and live and have my being, they no longer reinforce themselves on a daily, minute by minute basis. And so their impact fades.

On the other hand, in Colorado, there were many fewer memories and those almost all related to Jon, Jen and the grandkids. When we came here, we had never driven on Highway 285, never lived in the mountains, never attended a synagogue together. We hadn’t experienced altitude on a continuous basis, hadn’t seen the aspen go gold in the fall, had the solar snow shovel clear our driveway.

jewish-photo-calendarThis is obvious, yes, but its effect is not. This unexperienced territory leaves open the possibility of new aspects of the self emerging triggered by new relationships, new roles, new physical anchors for memories. Evergreen, for example, now plays a central part in our weekly life. We go over there for Beth Evergreen. We go there to eat. Jon and the grandkids are going there to play in the lake this morning.

Deer Creek Canyon now has a deep association with mortality for me since it was the path I drove home after my prostate cancer diagnosis. Its rocky sides taught me that my illness was a miniscule part of a mountain’s lifetime and that comforted me.

This new place, this Colorado, is a third phase home. Like Alexandria for childhood and Minnesota for adulthood, Colorado will shape the last phase of life. Already it has offered an ancient faith tradition’s insights about that journey. Already it has offered a magnificent, a beautiful setting for our final years. Already it has placed us firmly in the life of Jon, Ruth and Gabe as we’ve helped them all navigate through the wilderness of loss. These are what get reinforced for us by the drives we take, the shopping we do, the medical care we receive, the places we eat family meals. And we’re changing, as people, as we experience all these things.

Well over fifty years ago Harrison Street in Alexandria ceased to be my main street. The Madison County fair was no longer an annual event. Mom was no longer alive. Of course, those years of paper routes, classrooms, playing in the streets have shaped who I am today, but I am no longer a child just as I am longer the adult focused on family and career that I was in Minnesota.

Wherever you go, there you change.

Sluuump

Midsommar                                                                Most Heat Moon

slumpBack to exercising yesterday. Yeah! Still a bit foggy in the am and my energy level remains subdued. Might be a summer slump occasioned by the heat or I might need a vacation. It’s been a stressful time period since December 1st, when I had the total knee replacement. That in itself was plenty but Jon’s divorce and Kate’s health tripled down on our resilience. It’s pretty good, I think, but the challenges this last few months were severe.

The summer slump notion may explain it all. As with Sundays, I have a conditioned response to the summer. It’s a time for relaxing, for kicking back with a good book or going on a road trip. Oddly, I no longer believe this, preferring the fall for travel and I read all year round, but my body and my mind carry this memory, ingrained by years of education where the main business went on from September to May. A learned part of me wants to slow down, smell the pines and the fresh running streams, but the rest, the conscious and choiceful part, wants to continue working, getting things done. The frisson between these two states is contradictory, conflictual.

Today is a Sunday and a summer Sunday at that so my strong inclination is to watch sports, go to a movie, read the Sunday paper. Which is funny since I don’t watch sports and rarely make it to a movie. I don’t even read the Sunday paper in the thorough way I used to. Yet at 70 the past remains, lodged in subtle cues which call up attitudes shaped by the culture, by happenstance, really. I’m not a slave to them, hardly, but their pull, their unconscious rightness does affect me.

Today, this summer Sunday day, Kate and I will have a business meeting and attend a birthday party, a 70th birthday party, for Marilyn Saltzman, a friend from Beth Evergreen.

I’ve got that I have to rethink, repurpose my time and energy feeling. It usually comes over me when things get muddy. Sometime in the next few days I’m going to seriously rearrange my week, reassert priorities I’ve chosen like Reimagining, kabbalah, getting some projects done around the house. But I’ll be thinking of myself as lying in a hammock, sipping mint tea and reading Faulkner.

A God in Exile, Needing Repair

Midsommar                                                              Most Heat Moon

ein sofKabbalah was a trip through contractions, shattering, shards and healing. In the cosmology of Isaac Luria the ohr, the divine energy that was once all there was, wanted an other, yet it was all that there was. The ohr contracted, leaving room for something else. It created a vessel for the other, then poured divine energy into it, but the vessel proved too weak and shattered, scattering shards with ohr, divine light, trapped within them. Those shards, each filled with ohr, are the elemental stuff of the universe, forming the stuff which we experience as reality.

The purpose of humanity is to serve as a bridge between matter and God. (I don’t quite understand this yet.) We find the divine light in the shards of the universe we encounter and help them (again, I don’t know how.) emerge from their hiddenness. This is known as tikkun olam, now often translated as repairing the world, but in Luria’s time it meant repairing God, that is, finding the pieces left over from cosmic beginnings and rejoining them with the ohr. I like this idea of repairing God. Hmm. Re-pairing the hidden ohr with its maker.

Camus one-cannot-be-happy-in-exile-or-in-oblivion-one-cannot-always-be-a-stranger-i-want-to-albert-camus-123-46-22Yet again, I didn’t follow this one completely, but the Lurianic God is a God in exile, separated from the shards. So when the Jews go into exile, they do so as one with their estranged God. The purpose of the Jews is to remind humanity of this estrangement and that we all have a role to play in overcoming it.

Kabbalah finds us wading into deep waters, shifting perceptions, changing minds. A worthwhile enterprise, especially at 70. Glad to be part of it.

 

Kate and a wandering Woolly

Midsommar                                                                        Most Heat Moon

Back ouching yesterday, still this morning. Annoying.

20170405_152848Drove the hour out to Denver International to get Kate. Found Scott Simpson with her at the arrival gate. He’s on his way to Carbondale to see his son. We took him to Union Station where he planned to board a Bustang for the rest of his trip. Scott’s reading Homo Deus right now and says it’s rocking his world. Good to see him.

Kate hopped up front after we dropped him off. Well, hopped might be a bit too spry. Moved up front. She looked great, the vacation agreed with her health. She’s a flatlander and a child of the humid east. Her dry mouth was much better in Minnesota and Iowa as was the O2 concentration.

She and Anne drove to Nevada, Iowa, both having reunions, 55th and 50th. They had a good time. On her return to Minneapolis Kate stayed with her long time friend Penny Bond and caught up with her lunch lady friends, Mary Thorpe and Jane West.

Good to have her home.

 

 

Life in the Rockies

Beltane                                                                        Moon of the Summer Solstice

zoharpageHeavy rain yesterday afternoon, felt like being back in the humid East. Black Mountain is no longer white; it’s green with its lodgepole and aspen looking healthy. It’s gone from white haired old man to green man. Good to see. Cub Creek, Maxwell Creek, Bear Creek and Blue Creek are all full. The snowpack is well above average. A much better scenario for this summer. Thankful.

I’m relieved at Kate’s news, again. She’s had a rough time since the second week of my surgery and I hope the ENT doc has her on a path to eating with no pain. This is seven months of up and down health. Tough for her.

Second kabbalah class tonight at Beth Evergreen. I’m beyond fascinated. This Jewish mystical tradition seems to synch up with the way my mind and spirit work. I haven’t been this excited since I began to move toward paganism many years ago. The three main threads in my spiritual life have been, for a long time now, existentialism, paganism and Taoism. Looks like I may be adding a fourth.

 

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