We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

In A Techno-Desert, Thirsty for Human Interaction

Fall                                                                             Harvest Moon

5:20 am on Shadow Mountain. 43 degrees. 12% humidity. Pressure 22.60. No wind. Crescent moon. All the same without knowing these data points, I know. Still. I like to know them anyhow.

naisbittThis week Thursday I get to see Joe and SeoAh. I’m excited just to see them, to have some high touch in this high tech age. Remember Alvin Toffler? A futurist, he posited that the more complex and sophisticated our technology becomes, the more necessary direct human interaction. (Toffler preceded Naisbitt by at least two years with this idea, but Naisbitt made it a corporate buzz phrase. I find his notion of balance between our physical and spiritual reality an interesting idea.)

True. We exist, at least many of us, especially those younger than a certain age, in a cloud (pun intended) of virtual data. This blog, for example. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Email. Text messages. Twitter. I see, regularly, information and pictures about high school friends, old college friends, friends in Minnesota, family. I don’t use Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, not enough time in a day, but I’m on Facebook at least daily. I send and receive many e-mails, text messages. All this keeps me up to date, to some extent, on people I care about, a gratifying level of connection available, in yesteryear, only to voluminous letter writers.

1954-09 Galaxy Magazine by Ed EmshwillerBut the connection is, of course, partly, maybe mostly, illusory. We get only snippets, usually disconnected snippets. No hugs. No careful listening. No smiles. No touch on the hand during a conversation. No walks. No meals. The further out from our fleshly world, the less real information about another we receive because the context for what we know is very limited.

I don’t happen to see this as bad. I’m grateful for the chance to learn about even parts of the lives of people who once belonged to my fleshly world. But it does create a longing for in person moments, to embrace Joseph and SeoAh, for example. Or, to attend a 55th high school reunion, or show up at a Woolly Retreat in November,which I will not be able to do this year.

High Tech High TouchAs we age and travel becomes more difficult, I imagine this will become an even more poignant issue, extending even into our fleshly world. There’s promise, yes, in telemedicine, for example. We already meet with our financial planner over Skype. How many of our now daily or weekly interactions will become virtual? The key issue here, the one I think Toffler alluded to, though he may not have named it outright, is isolation.

We are on the map of the future where a cartographer might write in florid typescript, “Here there be dragons.” We just don’t know what the combination of high tech and increasingly low touch world might mean. Isolation is deadly, killing the spirit and ravaging the soul. Will we end up in a technological desert, thirsty for real human interaction, seeing it in the shimmering illusions of social media, but not being able to reach it? If so, what can we do about it?

 

Falling

Lughnasa                                                                     Eclipse Moon

- Nancy Drew, “Morris Louis, 1959″, (96 x 92) acrylic, flock and glitter on canvas, 2002 (This piece was created as an homage to Morris Louis, influenced by his work from 1959) Dana McClure

– Nancy Drew, “Morris Louis, 1959″, (96 x 92) acrylic, flock and glitter on canvas, 2002 (This piece was created as an homage to Morris Louis, influenced by his work from 1959) Dana McClure

The eclipse moon, still in the sky, now three weeks after blotting out the sun at midday, has become a crescent. I just looked up the moon calendar and noticed that the new moon falls on the two days prior to the fall equinox. The beginning of fall on the Great Wheel comes, this year, with the new energy of a rising and waxing moon.

Golden spears have begun to show up among the lodgepole pines on Black Mountain. Fall here announces itself with a subtle show of a single color, gold amongst green. As fall progresses, the subtlety disappears in wide swaths of yellow gold splashed across the mountains as a colorfield artist (Morris Louis, for example) might. Mountains become three dimensional canvases, temporary installations, a visual treat announcing the coming of the white season.

The angle of the sun has changed, it’s lower in the sky now, spreading its considerable energy over wider and wider areas, lowering the amount of warmth we receive over the course of a day. The trees and the birds and the bears and the elk and the mountain lions know this. The elk rut has begun and there are reports of bugling elk with large harems of twenty five cows coming in from many locations. A photograph and video collection on a local facebook group showed two bull moose with their velvet recently scraped off, clacking their wide racks against each other in a marshy area about twenty miles from here.

The Mt. Evans’ road has been closed for two weeks now, not to open again until after Memorial Day, 2018. OpenSnow, a website for skiers, announced the first snow of the season in the Cascades, noting that it should help fight the wildfires burning now in the northwest.

This turning of the Great Wheel brings with it, at least for me, renewed energy, an eagerness to engage the world fully. Heat saps me, makes me want to put on one of those funny hats that has room for two beer cans fitted to plastic hoses for constant cooling sips, sit down, and wait until, well, now.

I’m grateful for this seasonal change, though the growing season has its definite charms, too. It’s just that the temperatures important for plant growth are not so pleasing to me. And, BTW, Kate has pulled off a mountain gardening trick. She has several tomatoes ripening in our single 5 gallon plastic bucket container garden. My Demeter.

Elemental

Lughnasa                                                          Eclipse Moon

Indian Paint Brush

Indian Paint Brush

That was the idea I was reaching for in the post below about the West. Wildfire. Precious Water. Mountains and high plains. Blue sky and fancy clouds. Of course versions of these are everywhere, yes, but here they’re in your face, unavoidable and unmissable companions of daily, even hourly life. Not the wildfire, you say? Live in tornado alley? On a hurricane prone coast? In an earthquake zone? You’re always aware.

Earth, air, fire and water. Not a 70s disco band, but the notes of a changing composition of seasonal change. Right now we’re in the transitional movement between the allegro of the growing season to the andante of harvest, the celebration of senescence. Human activity does become more frenetic during the harvest, a sort of false allegro, but only because the plant world knows winter is coming. You can hear those bass notes as seeds form and disperse, plant stalks brown and wither, green fields become tan or golden.

20170814_172230Up here in the mountains the occasional aspen has begun to turn. The grasses in the mountain meadows have lost their intense green. The angle of the sun has already lessened, casting deeper shadows. Orion is visible in the dark, clear night sky. Moose, elk and deer bucks have begun to drop the velvet on their antlers, preparing for the quickening of the rut. The bears become more brazen as their need for calories, more calories, before hibernation makes them feel an urgency.

Somewhere around us in the Arapaho National Forest, up in the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area, over in Staunton State Park, the fox and the marmot and the fisher and the pika, the Abert squirrel and the red squirrel can feel their coats beginning to thicken. The mountain lions know the seasonal changes in their prey and change their hunting patterns.

lughnasa1The orchestra of life plays this symphony all year as it responds to the conductors spring, summer, fall and winter, each with their own favorite tempo. The elemental nature of the West makes the composition here often raw, sometimes going as far as dissonance during the chinooks, or a dry summer month, during a blizzard, yet it is usually majestic with soaring blue notes and the babbling background music of mountain streams and bugling elk.

Just sit back and enjoy the show.

Here on Sufferance

Lughnasa                                                               Eclipse Moon

20170519_060312Vast, blue sky with puffy white clouds. Jagged mountains and flat plains, forests and wildlife. Wildfire. Snow, rivers, a few lakes. Air, earth, fire and water. The West is so elemental. It’s no wonder that it has enlivened the imagination of those who visit it or read about it, yet is so difficult a place to live. Here the natural world apart from the built world (also natural in its way) dominates. The cities like Denver and Salt Lake City, Cheyenne and Boise, Vegas, Tucson, Phoenix are islands, admittedly big islands, but islands nonetheless, of concentrated human habitat. They disappear around the bend of a mountain pass, or are obscured by arid land with few towns.

It is obvious that we humans are here on sufferance, ravaged by fire, made thirsty by drought in an already arid land, moving slowly even in our cars and trucks across mountain reaches, unable to grow enough to eat. It is, I think, this stark contrast between the wealth and power of human civilization humbled by the land and the sky that makes the west mythic, much like northern Minnesota and Michigan.

The west has begun to seep into my bones, become my home. I live here and have begun to feel it, the place. Still learning, though.

 

Higher Up

Lughnasa                                                                Eclipse Moon

shaggy sheep2Took off yesterday morning about 7:30 am and drove west (or south) on Hwy 285 headed toward Park County, Bailey and Fairplay. I stopped at Grant, a place made visible only by its single, as near as I can tell, business, the Shaggy Sheep. There’s one of those yellow diamond signs just after it with a black silhouette of a bighorn sheep. This is one of several instances of displaced chefs seeking less frenetic lifestyles in the mountains. I mentioned the Badger Creek Cafe in Tetonia, Idaho in my eclipse post. There are others.

The breakfast I had was a deconstructed carnitas hash with green chili and two eggs on top. The deconstructed hash had carnitas laid over cut up chunks of potato, not mixed together as in corned beef hash. It was delicious. While I ate, I read a brand new book by an author from Boulder, Colorado, Megafire. Michael Kodas analyzes the sudden uptick of catastrophic wildfires since the 1970’s and why they’ll keep coming. It pleased me to see that the Shaggy Sheep had opened a second room, meaning they may stay in business, a far from certain conclusion for anything retail up here.

South Park (to the right) from Pennsylvania Mtn.

South Park (to the right) from Pennsylvania Mtn.

After breakfast, I drove on toward the Kenosha Pass, a cut through a huge granitic batholith that forms the western boundary of the Front Range. After the 9,997 foot pass, Hwy. 285 descends sharply, a 7% grade, into South Park. Yes, that South Park. At the top of the pass South Park spreads out below, a wide treeless plain that stretches to another range of mountains beyond. They mark the continental divide. That was where I was headed.

A Fairplay favorite, the Java Moose

A Fairplay favorite, the Java Moose

Fairplay, the county seat of Park County, is a not unusual, for Colorado, meld of old mining town, tourist destination and current mining. A dispute reported in last week’s Flume concerns whether or not to rezone residential plots for mining so a gold mine, yes, a gold mine, can expand its operations.

Those of us hiking up Mt. Pennsylvania met at a Sinclair truck stop on the east side of Fairplay. I went in the car with our two guides and Rich Levine, a member of Beth Evergreen and the lawyer who drew up our new estate documents. On the drive we went past the disputed zoning plat. The gold mine, it’s no longer grizzled old men in long underwear with pans and picks, looked more like an aggregate pit.

Indian Paint Brush

Indian Paint Brush

At the trailhead we began our hike at 11,700 feet through willow, lodgepole pine and a surprising abundance of wildflowers. The trail meandered a bit while traversing another 500 feet up to 12,200. We passed through the krummholz layer, crooked trees, that mark the tree line. Trees right at the tree line are stunted and crooked due to the inhospitable climate. It’s the tree line, after all.

After the krummholz comes tundra, flat and bare except for plants that hug the ground, mat plants, and a few hardy flowers. The air is thin here on Shadow Mountain at 8,800 feet, but 12,200 is thinner yet. It was a struggle to get to the highest point of the hike, requiring breath breaks for most of us; not, however, Tara’s three teenagers who seemed to run with exasperating ease (to this old guy) up the trail. As did Marley, their dog.

A tree island at the krummholz level

A tree island at the krummholz level

Those of us from Beth Evergreen were there because of the research being done on Pennsylvania Mountain. Forty years worth of investigation has been conducted there into alpine bees and some of the plants that they pollinate. Native dandelions, for instance, may be under threat from the expansion of the familiar, but invasive dandelion probably growing in your yard right now. Unfortunately, the scientists had vacated the site, presumably due to the academic year just getting underway, so we were left mostly with the stunning scenery as a benefit.

There was one other gain. The Beth Evergreen pre-school, now a wholly owned subsidiary of the congregation, has as a theme for the year, Bee Alive. It came up in the conversation that Kate and I have beekeeping experience. Rich has started two hives, which he has very cleverly suspended on steel cable high above the ground to foil bears. Otherwise an electric fence, and a strong one, is necessary. Rich invited me over to his house next week for a pre-school staff meeting. Kate and I may end up sharing some of our equipment and knowledge. Should be fun.

A full day. And a good one.

Family Celebration

Midsommar                                                                          Kate’s Moon

Jon has made it through, all the way through, a year plus of divorce drama with court appearances, lawyers, contested final orders. Those final orders, written in November of 2016 and recorded then, have now been in place for over six months. The daily crisis mode has fallen away, replaced by the gradual establishing of new norms. Both Jon and Jen must find a new balance, as must Ruth and Gabe. When kids are involved, you’re not divorced from someone, you’re divorced to them.

To celebrate we all went to Domo. It’s a unique restaurant, one of my favorites in Denver, that focuses on serving dishes typical of rural Japan, especially its mountain prefectures. Below are some pictures.

Waiting for supper

Waiting for supper

20170729_190250

Inside

Inside

20170729_190758

Making Friends

Midsommar                                                            Most Heat Moon

Fourth of July party at Steve and Jamie Bernstein’s. We went to this last year. I knew nobody. Jamie is Kate’s friend from the Bailey Patchworkers and the needleworkers. Since then we’ve become more engaged at Congregation Beth Evergreen, Jamie and Steve are members there, too. They’re both in the kabbalah class I’m taking with Rabbi Jamie Arnold. So this time I knew the hosts, too.

Their home is down a private road, maintained by a resident’s association. It overlooks Pike’s Peak in the distance with many mountain peaks between their home and this famous piece of Colorado history.

Since we showed up very fashionably late, the party was winding down. This meant we had a chance to talk with Steve and Jamie. Their party is big and they are excellent hosts so they move from guest to guest with little chance for in depth conversation. We had a good chat with them, touching on matters Jewish, kabbalistic, Beth Evergreen. I referred to Rabbi Jamie as Jamie and realized I’d been too informal. Gonna have to stick to Rabbi, though it seems over done for me. But, in the Jewish world, the Rabbi is the Rabbi.

Gradually, slowly making friends here. A week from today we’ll attend Marilyn Saltzman’s 70th birthday brunch. Marilyn is the chair of the adult ed committee at Beth Evergreen. We had dinner at her house with Irv and two of their friends a few weeks back.

 

 

Reunion Weekend

Midsommar                                                                    Most Heat Moon

20170423_090148We had a light frost the other night. The weather has been generally cool since Kate left which is ironic. Friday and yesterday were her 55th reunion, today she drives back to the Twin Cities to stay with longtime friend Penny Bond. Monday the ladies who lunch will gather to include her again while she’s in town.

Kate’s made contact with many Coloradans, at first with the Bailey Patchworkers, then with the Needleworkers and now with Beth Evergreen. During her recent Sjogren’s flare all of these groups expressed concern about her. She’s only been here a couple of years but she has integrated into the community. Good to see.

Jon and the grandkids have walked the Great Sand Dunes, driven to the ancient dwellings at Mesa Verde and will head north to the Dinosaur National Monument before coming home. Jon invited me to come to the Dinosaur National Monument and meet them there, but this is Kate’s reunion weekend and I’m the official dog guy. Otherwise, I’d have done it. It’s one of the many places in Colorado I want to see. It’s a bit unusual in that it is in Colorado and in Utah, following the course of the Green River.

20170618_082145I’ve been speculating about my knee, about how hard I can push it and not have to replace it too soon. Tough since I want to keep my cardio work up. My decision so far has been to privilege my heart over my knee, reasoning that heart health has longer term benefits, but I don’t want to be stupid about it either. Decided last night that I want to see my internist, Lisa Gidday and get some guidance.

Today is mundane: groceries, laundry, groom Kep. Work on reimagining. No workout today. Going back to Sunday as a rest day for now. I prefer to workout, but there’s that nagging thing about the knee. A bit of caution right now.

The Daily

Midsommar                                                                 Moon of the Summer Solstice

20170423_090148Jon and the grandkids took off yesterday for the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde and the Dinosaur National Monument. Sounds like a great summer vacation to me. Kate leaves Thursday morning for her 55th! high school reunion in Nevada, Iowa. She’ll fly into Minneapolis, pick up a rental and drive down to Nevada with her sister Anne who also has a reunion the same day. That leaves me here with Rigel, Gertie and Kepler until next Tuesday. Batchin’ it as the old lingo suggested.

Reimagining work is underway. Yesterday I went through Ancientrails and copied posts related to it into a Word file. 200,000 words. That will take a while to wade through. I’m considering printing it out, around 400 pages worth, so I can work with it more easily. After I’ve revisited my earlier work, dug out all the file folders and examined my Reimaging bookshelf carefully, an outline will be the next step, then a research plan to support the outline. A timeline will come, too, I suppose; but, my writing timelines have a way of being wrong. Still, the discipline of having one is good, so I’ll make one.

Any day the Sun will return to shineIt’s been hot here, but the normal summer sort of hot, not the cringe worthy temperature spikes of other spots. A friend from Tucson posted their 5 day forecast on facebook the other day. The lows in that forecast were higher than our highs. It’s not so bad here. And, it turns out, dry heat is more bearable than the moist heat of a Minnesota summer, even at a higher temperature.

Tonight I have kabbalah, tomorrow the far more mundane 90,000 mile service for our Rav4 after I take Kate to the airport for her trip. Mussar at 1pm. Then, a quiet house until Tuesday.

 

 

Shadow Mountain Seen

Beltane                                                                  Moon of the Summer Solstice

When ancientrails came into being, it was to fill time while I healed from surgery to repain (ha, I meant repair, but this covers it, too) an achilles tendon rupture. I was off my feet for two months, crutches after that.

This morning I enjoyed the results of another surgical procedure, the total knee replacement I had on December 1st of last year. The work out I got from On the Move Fitness has strengthened my abductors and adductors, giving me more ease with hiking over rocks as well as climbing and descending on the trail.

Today Rigel really, really wanted to go with me. I had to get some stuff out of the car and left the door open. She crawled in and sat up, regal Rigel, in the seat, ignoring me when I asked her to come out. She was hurt that I wanted her to give up a spot she’d earned on her own. So, I took her.

As a result, I stopped at a spot where I’ve seen cars parked many times, a spot where there is no trailhead, no named trail. It’s close to our house and I decided to do a shorter hike since Rigel, hardly leash trained, needed to stay in the car. It was cool, low 50’s, but I didn’t want her in there too long.

The trail I found ushered me out, after maybe half a mile, onto a series of rocky cliffs that overlooked Shadow Mountain. It’s the first vantage point I’ve found, in the two and half years we’ve been here, where you can actually see Shadow Mountain. That was exciting. The vista was almost pristine, with very few houses visible. Unusual up here, so close to the city. Here’s what I saw.

Shadow Mountain. We live off to the right and behind what you can see.

Shadow Mountain. We live off to the right and behind what you can see.

Shadow Mountain

Shadow Mountain

Toward Evergreen with Brook Forest Drive/Black Mountain Drive in the distance

Toward Evergreen with Brook Forest Drive/Black Mountain Drive in the distance

Along the trail

Along the trail

Me, amazed or just gasping for

Me, amazed or just gasping for breath

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