We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

D-Day

Spring                                                                    Mountain Moon

kitchen aidToday is D-Day on Shadow Mountain. Dishwasher Day, that is. Sometime between 8 and 12, the cliched “window”, Best Buy, yes, that old home town favorite, will deliver and install our new Kitchen Aid dishwasher. After five weeks plus of hand washing dishes (the horror!) we’ll go back to the way dishes were meant to be washed, with lots of chugging and rushing and whirring. This has been a sufficiently long and frustrating process that I’ll not believe it’s over until the new appliance is snug in its home and has run its first few cycles.

Rich Levine wrote yesterday to say that our bee equipment is out in the wild now, helping other, new beekeepers. Tara Saltzman, CBE’s director of religious education, felt more comfortable using our half body bee suit. A hive tool, twenty of our built out frames, two hive boxes, bee brush, smoker and pellets went to the bee project. It feels good that they’re in use rather than sitting in our garage and it particularly feels good that they’re encouraging others to learn about bees.

IMAG0784We have more hive boxes, more honey supers, plus all the equipment needed to harvest and bottle honey. We brought the bee stuff with us on the chance that we would want to pick up bee keeping here, but now it’s unlikely. With both gardening and beekeeping the challenges altitude presented might have been overcome, they can be, but that first year enthusiasm after the move, 2015, got absorbed by prostate cancer. In 2016 Jon told me he and Jen were getting divorced. That took our attention for a full year and a half to which I added knee replacement surgery and Kate added Sjogren’s. Unless we decide to purchase a greenhouse, our horticultural life will remain muted.

Kate had her third session of p.t. and I took the time to go to King Soopers and get some groceries. She’s a had a small set back with her appetite, but her progress has given her confidence. This will be only a to be expected dip. Nothing’s linear.

Today's work

Today’s work

Meanwhile I have decluttered the loft. As I work, I pile up books and paper, file folders and magazines, creating temporary archival mounds. When I get to a place where I can poke my head up over the transom and see some light, the mounds lose their archival charm and become just clutter. The act of reshelving books, creating file folders for loose papers, organizing magazines has an energizing effect, both in the satisfaction of a more organized space and in the psychic sense of a new time beginning.

Today is filing, organizing magazines and a task new to me, creating storage for my sumi-e work. Most of it is practice, but there are a few keepers. I don’t understand the value of practice work yet, so I’m going to keep almost all of it even though my instinct is to throw it away. This means finding a way to archive large flat pieces of paper in a way that doesn’t fold or mutilate them. I have some ideas, folded cardboard, removing a few maps from my flat file storage. When I get to working on it, I’ll invent something.

That, plus the dishwasher, is what Tuesday will be about.

 

See

Spring                                                                            Mountain Moon

Slate sky behind snow loaded lodgepole pines,

Scraping blades scritch, push, push, push

While more white falls, softening the edges.

Our house has a white roof, like me.

20180327_094904Find myself leaning into a favorite phrase of Bill Schmidt’s, “See what you’re looking at.” It’s a mantra now as I drive in the mountains, trying to see their essence. What about their shape, their altitude, their rock, their trees tell me, this is a mountain? Close looking is a skill, a hard to develop one since distractions of all kinds, a key this-moment-in-time issue, lead us away from direct experience to mediated experience. Close looking, like the close reading of poetry, opens up the unseen, the unexpected.

As I continue to develop my sumi-e skills, I’ve decided I want to focus on only a few things: mountains, Hebrew letters, Tarot major arcana, and objects I’ve used and love like chain-saws and axes, garden tools, bee equipment, maybe dogs, too. I plan to seek what I understand is the central objective of sumi-e painting, expressing the essence, the soul of an object rather than aiming for a Western representational rendering. Good thing, since I don’t have the patience to attend an atelier like my friends Lonnie and Stefan Helgeson.

 

 

Rivers and Mountains, Bees and Kate

Spring                                                            Mountain Moon

fan kuan, travelers among mountains and streams

Fan Kuan (960-1030, a.c.e.), travelers among mountains and streams, Song Dynasty

So my mind is filling with rocks, pines, mountain streams, magpies and mountain lions; a sign that the mountain theme has begun to take hold. I plan to spend this spring and summer sketching and photographing rock formations, mountains, summits, animals, water, trees and other plants, then interpreting them with sumi-e. I’m continuing to read the shan-shui (mountains and rivers) poets, moving back into the world of Chinese classical painting.

Qabbalah study continues. We’re investigating time and the qabbalists have their own unique approach to it. Here’s an example. To experience what I would call sacred time-they use the phrase eternal time-qabbalists want us to pay closer attention to what I would call ordinary time. This is far different from trying to collapse the hold of ordinary time through meditation or koans or mystical experience. The easiest example is the week. In the qabbalist’s world we count six ordinary days, then we experience shabbat. Shabbat is a time out of time, a moment in the week when the observer exits the world as usually experienced and enters sacred time. But. It’s observable as sacred time because of its contrast to the six days that precede it and the six that follow it. Thus we can find sacred time through attention to measured/ordinary time.

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

Getting ready to hive bees for Beth Evergreen on Saturday morning. Had to dig around in all the bee stuff we brought from Andover since Rich Levine, local bee enthusiast, needed a hive box and twenty frames plus accessories. I had enough. Getting out the hive tool, scraping propolis off the frames, moving supers put me right back into beekeeper mode. Still don’t think I’m willing to do it here, too much hassle with the need for a bear proof enclosure which means strong electric fencing. I will enjoy helping others, though.

Singapore, 2016

Singapore, 2016

Kate’s gained almost five pounds! This after a long period of weight loss. I called her my incredible shrinking wife. Our consult with Betsy, the nutritionist for New West Physicians, was a turning point.

Kate’s building momentum. The Sjogren’s conference left her feeling less alone with this nasty disease since there were hundreds in attendance from all across the U.S. who not only have it, but have similar experiences to hers. She also had her second session of physical therapy this morning and continues to be excited and enthusiastic about it.

Makes me smile.

 

 

Gabe and Kate

Spring                                                                        Mountain (New) Moon

Nurse checking Gabe's blood pressure post-op

Nurse checking Gabe’s blood pressure post-op

Gabe is now portless. The port through which he received his infusions of clotting factor, essentially a plastic plug set into his upper left chest, is gone. He’s had one for eight years, 80% of his young life. I asked him if he missed it. “Sort of.” The port was the culprit in his septicemia returning last week, harboring a nidus of the bacteria, “a place in which something is formed or deposited.” Jon’s had to be there in his room for most of the time since Thursday night at 12:30 a.m. when the lab called with the blood test results. It’s a long stint. For both of them.

I went to the afternoon sessions of the Sjogren’s conference with Kate, listening to lectures on joint pain and Sjogren’s, dry mouth and its dental implications, and on dermatological issues. Sjogren’s, as a syndrome, is a collection of symptoms that may seem unrelated, but have an underlying cause, in this case a dysfunction in the autoimmune system. The number of symptoms are a problem for researchers, physicians, drug companies and, particularly, patients. Each symptom like dry mouth, dry eyes, dry skin, fatigue is a separate entity that must be dealt with in its own way. This means an often bewildering number of ointments, salves, mouth rinses, eye drops, as well as methods for managing both stress and fatigue. And the need for treatment is at least daily and in most cases a number of times per day. That’s exhausting in and of itself.

20180414_130149For example, we measure Kate’s energy in K.U.’s, Kate units. When she’s used up her K.U.’s for a day, she often goes to bed. No matter what time it is. One woman, Sjogren’s is overwhelmingly a woman’s disease, measures her energy in spoons. She sets out 6 spoons and as she does a task, she removes a spoon. When the spoons are all gone, so is her capacity to do things.

It is, in other words, hard.

Right now, as well, Kate’s doing all these with one hand literally tied up. Makes it good that we’re together.

tao2Even here the tao flows. Tapping into it means feeling the surges of healing, of exhaustion, of relationship weakening and strengthening, of giving and receiving. Accepting them as they come, not fighting them, not trying to be stronger than we are, yet finding the moments and the things we can do to make healing hasten. In this moment the tao reminds me of the power of love, the wisdom of the body, the necessity of rest. Going with it. Letting it come through me. Like water rushing down the mountain.

 

 

Old Man of the Mountain

Spring                                                                              Mountain (New) Moon

Filling the Rav4 with gas, Legault Mountain behind me

Filling the Rav4 with gas, Legault Mountain behind me

Today the new shoulder moon sets. Since I name the moons each month, either using a traditional name or one I’ve created, I sometimes use them to remind me of something over the course of the month. Without melancholy this time I’ve come to an additional revelation, a sudden insight into who I am here in Colorado. Sorta obvious, but I’m a mountain man, a man of the mountains.

Song dynasty

Song dynasty

However. I’ve been reading a lot of the mountain poetry of China, a very old tradition extending from the Eastern Jin Dynasty into the present. The Eastern Jin Dynasty began in 317 A.C.E. T’ao Ch’ien (365-427) began writing poetry about his mountain life.

I’d long felt these mountains and lakes

Calling, and wouldn’t have thought twice,

But my family and friends couldn’t bear

Living apart…

After Mulberry-Bramble Liu’s Poem, T’ao Ch’ien

I just ordered more books of Chinese mountain poetry and I’m going to start looking for more poetry about mountains. If you know any, I’ll appreciate the reference. Not just poetry though. I’m also looking through my books of Chinese art, especially the (many) paintings that feature mountains, often scholars and poets by streams or in mountain huts. I want to learn from these how to use sumi-e to paint mountains. Lots of them here to serve as subjects and they politely remain in their pose. There are also many paintings in the Hudson School tradition: Bierstadt, Cole, Church, e.g.

Cotopaxi, Frederic Edwin Church

Cotopaxi, Frederic Edwin Church

Too, I’m fascinated by the geology and orogeny of the Rockies. How did they get here? Where are they going? How do they compare to other mountain ranges?

And, even more obvious. Get out there, dude. No use repairing the knee if you don’t use it to wander in the mountains. To be my kinda pagan you need to immerse yourself in the local, the around you. It’s not only the soil, the animals, the plants, the trails, the streams and lakes though they are essential. It is too the human deposit of art about the place to which you’ve become native. Science, too. Also, if you can, adding to the expressive vocabulary that art shares with the world.

So, this is the Mountain Moon and I’m under it, nourishing another new turn in my attention.

 

 

Gonna Miss Her

Spring                                                                        New Shoulder Moon

In Gwangju, April 2016

In Gwangju, April 2016

SeoAh goes home today. Murdoch misses her and Joe needs her. Her flight is at 11:45, so we’ll leave around 8:30 or so. After I get her checked in, I’ll turn around and drive back past Conifer and on to Littleton to Hearing Aid Associates. My hearing aid no longer takes juice from batteries.

The dishwasher saga is still not over. After substantial research into dishwashers, it’s my conclusion that no one makes one that lasts very long or very well. The combination of swirling water and electronics seems to make them more vulnerable than most appliances. So. If you’ve had a good experience with a particular brand, let me know. Gonna buy one soon. Sigh.

Gwangju, April 2016

Gwangju, April 2016

Joseph’s been running an exercise at Robbins all this week. His wing commander told him on Tuesday, “Brief at 1 p.m.” This was at noon. He usually has much longer to prepare. 500 people. “I knocked it out of the park, Dad.” Baseball metaphors come naturally to this boy who was young when the Twins won the World Series twice. He also told me he still answers the phone, “Capt. Buckman-Ellis,” then has to shift quickly, “No. Major Buckman-Ellis.” 6 years a Captain wears a pretty strong groove in the brain.

Last night was the first night of the new qabbalah series, Time. The first year introductory curriculum covers the three dimensions of the qabbalistic universe: soul, space and time. Time, above all other concepts we think we understand, bends and twists when we try to hold it down, flog some sense out of it. I confess to being more unsettled as to my understanding of time than any other idea except the notion of self.

kabbalah magicThe two have a close relationship. It’s the human observer who brings time into being, I think. We know from Einstein that time and space are inseparable; but, I’m still with Kant, that time and space are actually ways our minds use to make sense of the data we gather from our senses. The implication is that they are constructs of human consciousness and that we cannot know their existence in what Kant calls the ding an siche, things in themselves.

These classes are like one long late night conversation in college. And fun for that reason.

Memories

Spring                                                                     New Shoulder Moon

The new shoulder continues its impact on our lives.

20160410_122224SeoAh’s here and cooking suppers, cleaning, chatting. We had a long conversation about dogs yesterday while watching a youtube video in Korean. It’s one of a series made by a Korean man whose father owned a dog food factory. That is, a factory in which dogs were turned into food for humans. This made him angry and he decided to start a one man crusade to change the way Koreans treat and think about dogs. SeoAh says he’s having a large impact. He’s sort of Caesar Milan and the Animal Defense League.

Yesterday was Joe and SeoAh’s second anniversary and she spent it helping us. And says, in her heavily accented English, “It is my pleasure.” Makes this 71 year old’s heart feel full.

weightKate and I went to a nutritionist yesterday for a consultation on how to help Kate gain weight. The most salient point Betsy made was this, “Make every bite count.” Every food needs to be considered for not only nutritional value but for its caloric value, ideally, and ironically, high. Add oils to salads, to pasta. Use peanut butter powder as an additive in shakes. Eat cheese. Given Kate’s past struggles with her weight, a lifelong problem until her bariatric surgery, being encouraged to eat foods high in calories is mental whiplash which makes the whole weight gain and weight maintenance goal difficult emotionally.

Betsy also suggested, after asking if she could raise a personal question (geez, what kind of personal question does a nutritionist ask?), medical marijuana. It’s truly a new day in the neighborhood. In this case of course she was suggesting using some marijuana to enhance appetite. A good use for the munchies.

marijuanaAfter the nutrition consult, which was in Golden, I drove Kate to Bailey for the monthly meeting of the Bailey Patchworkers. Bailey is also the home of the Happy Camper so I stopped and stocked up on indica edibles, our homemade sleep enhancement. We may branch out into sativa, which brings on more of the munchies. Sativa and indica are strains of marijuana with very different characteristics. Indica makes you sleepy while sativa is a classic stoner strain, often smoked.

In the evening Jon, Ruth, and Gabe came up. SeoAh made rice cake soup, the soup I’ve mentioned that’s served at the spring festival, Korean New Year’s. She also made a sweet potato noodle dish with peppers that she says is typical when family’s gather for something important. Both were delicious. She uses her mother’s recipes.

Tteokguk.jpg2Gabe’s in much better shape physically than he was a couple of weeks ago. His earth day birthday is coming up and he wants a pocket knife. I reached in my pocket and took out a small pocket knife I’d purchased a while back. “Here you go. But. Don’t stab yourself in the leg, or the arm or the head or the ear.” Gabe laughed and said, “Or in the butt.”

Ruth’s doing well. She seems mostly level emotionally. A recent shift from Risperidone, an adult anti-psychotic, to Lexipro, an anti-anxiety medication, is underway right now. I forgot to ask her about it last night.

Memories build and sustain families. Friendships, too, of course. Last evening was one of those memories for the Olson/Buckman-Ellis family. And a sweet one.

 

Yesterday and Today

Spring                                                                  New Shoulder Moon

exerciseMade it to three sets on my workout. This is slow for me since I’ve had this routine for over six weeks, the time frame in which I usually go back for new exercises. No matter. Things have been busy. Feels good to be have gotten this far given the situation.

Dream last night. I had been called to organize a protest at a factory, Johns-Manville, where I worked during high school. The rationale (which I forget) was good; I saw a clear path to getting folks ready to take on management. The meeting was held at the factory and lots of workers had come. However. Just before I was to get started, everyone suddenly left the room. They came back in, slowly, and while they were coming I looked at my self in a mirror, getting ready to go onstage. My hair was a mess. I couldn’t get it to lie down.

ruins of the old Johns-Manville factory in  Alexandria

ruins of the old Johns-Manville factory in
Alexandria

By the time I got onstage I could tell that management had a plan and it involved disrupting the meeting by distracting the audience. It worked. People kept coming and going. I started out with a question, “Did any of you work here in 1964?” One older man, his back turned to me, raised his hand. “Well, you might have seen me here as a shipping and receiving clerk.” (actual job) That got the reaction I’d hoped for, a mild bond. After that the meeting dissolved.

As I began to leave the dream and wake up, I was frustrated, disappointed. Then I thought. Ah, I see the mistake. We let the meeting happen at the factory. The next one will be in the union hall.

20180408_121101SeoAh made a Korean chicken soup. Her mother’s recipe. It was wonderful. She used the leek, some mushrooms, spring onions, and rice noodles. SeoAh used silver ware and I used chopsticks.

She came at just the right time. Kate’s recovery has begun to accelerate. She’s sleeping better, doing her exercises, getting outside and walking. SeoAh has relieved the pressure on me by cooking, cleaning. Next week Kate starts physical therapy. I can see the arc of this moving up now. Makes a big difference.

But the best part is the deepening relationship with SeoAh herself. “You are my parents. Do you understand?” Yes, we do. And, we feel the same way.

 

SeoAh Day

Spring                                                                   New Shoulder Moon

20180408_123029Yesterday was a SeoAh day. After breakfast we went to the King Sooper and picked up food for Thai/Korean Chicken Soup and a shrimp/rice noodles dish. SeoAh knows exactly what she wants, picking among the produce items carefully, smelling the spring onions and the leek. On the leek, “I can use this.” So into the cart it went.

She bought me a cafe latte at the instore Starbucks, but while we were drinking our coffee she admitted, a bit sheepishly, that she actually prefers instant coffee. When we went past the InterMountain Rescue Shelter, “Rescue the Rescuers” booth on the way out of the store, she wanted to know how she could help them.  She’s missing Murdoch.

Back home she made me an instant version of rice cake soup that was surprisingly good. Gonna take a picture of it and pick up some more at H Mart next time we go to Jon’s.

20180408_182234After Kate’s shower, SeoAh helped her with her hair, combing it out. Kate’s improving, gradually. She starts P.T. this week or the first of next. Tomorrow morning we have a nutritionist consult to discuss a weight gaining diet for her. She was already petite, but post surgery she’s become even petiter. Charming, but she’d feel better with a few more pounds for stamina.

In the evening we took SeoAh over to Sushi Win in Evergreen. She loved it on previous visits as a sushi connoisseur. Seafood is her favorite protein, having grown up close to the Korea Strait which joins the Yellow Sea, the East China Sea and the Sea of Japan. Xi, a Chinese waiter, took this picture of us there.

Photo Journal

Spring                                                                         New Shoulder Moon

A few pictures from the last week

In, appropriately enough, Elk Meadow Park:

20180405_144305

20180405_144138

20180405_144343

The next day, at Robbins Air Force Base, deep in the heart of Georgia, Joseph becomes a major:

30126890_10210874108881572_5724837438378498180_n

30264589_10210874108921573_3886936161352451825_n

And, finally, a couple of my favorites from my continuing sumi-e adventures:

20180406_100232

20180406_100217

 

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