We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

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

Fatherhood

Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

09 11 10_Joseph_0256Fatherhood. Sharp knives. Explosions. Football. Muscle cars. PBR. Fishing. Fixit. Harsh discipline. Stuffed feelings. Dutiful, not loving. Nope. None of us all the time, some of us some of the time. Men and boys.

It’s complicated. Motherhood has obvious physical triggers: pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding. Can’t beat those for intimacy. Too, the stereotypical domesticity of wives/mothers, challenged but not diminished much, means early childhood intimacy as well. Where does a dad fit in?

The push of the culture of Alexandria pressed and presses fathers into work, outside to the lawn and the garage, into the military, away from the kids. Men earn, protect, fix. Except when they don’t, as is now the case for many of the white working class men in my hometown in eastern Indiana. The whole county, region.

Dad

As many of you know, my father and I were estranged from my age 21 until his death in 2003. We made efforts to reconnect, especially during regular visits after Joseph came into my life, but the damage was too deep, too long lasting. Whether my mother’s early death forced us into a level of intimacy we couldn’t sustain, or our mutual pride during the difficult years of the Vietnam War wounded us both more than we could mend, or the distant father role he shared with most of his peers were most to blame, I don’t know. It was, no doubt, a toxic mix of all three.

At this vantage point, now an older man myself, the anger is long dissipated and what remains is sadness, a certain wistfulness for what might have been. But wasn’t. We were, as all of us are, flawed. At perhaps the crucial juncture, during a time period when I got ejected from campus for public drunkenness and had to live back home during my junior year for a bit, I was ashamed. He reached out, bought me a car, let me come home. But a war was raging.

fuck-the-draft-anti-war-poster-1960s

Vietnam. We were on different sides. He was a WWII veteran of the Army-Air Force, a Roosevelt liberal, and deeply anti-communist newspaper man. I was young, radical, counter cultural and deeply anti-war. One afternoon he came up to me and asked, “Charlie, are you a homosexual?” I laughed. “No, why do you think that?” He indicated my long hair. Long hair then was for classical musicians and gays in his thinking. “Cut it.” “No.” “Cut it or get out.” It was ten years before we spoke again. Pride. On both our sides.

It may be that adopting Joseph was an attempt for a do over on father and son. If that wasn’t a primary motivation, it certainly became a primary preoccupation. My father was not a bad father, just a father of his generation. I was probably a worse son than he was a father. The obedience and dutifulness that he expected, partly a result of his German upbringing, partly a result of lack of parenting by Elmo, my grandfather whom I never knew, was not possible for me. And I didn’t even try. At this point, he’s been dead 14 years, I’ve forgiven both of us.

20170615_075104

Joseph is the redemption. He’s a fine man, a loving son and husband, dedicated to a life of service. He will, I’m sure, make a great father. Healing the disruption that my experience with Dad created in both me and him was a constant drum beat in me during Joseph’s childhood. And, yes, I made many mistakes raising him. Not possible to raise a kid and not make mistakes. The key though, at least I think it’s the key, is to sustain the relationship, to realize that love bonds us even through deep disagreement.

20170531_075049

When I had lunch with Joseph a couple of weeks ago during his unexpected visit to Colorado Springs, I knew we’d made it past the storms of mid-life. There was my boy, the one I carried home from the airport in a wicker basket, the one I held on my shoulders so often, the one I went to baseball games with, the one who calls me when life gets hard or scary, the one who asked me to perform his marriage to SeoAh, the woman he loves. He was there at the Black Bear Cafe. He was there with Pikes Peak craggy and snowy looking on. He was there and we were father and son and it was good.

 

Continuation

Beltane                                                                               Moon of the Summer Solstice

20170601_183426On Thursday night Jon and I drove into Stapleton. Ruth’s 5th grade class had presentations and exhibitions for class projects, then there was the oddly named “continuation” ceremony in which each 5th grader got a diploma. This was their last event at Schweigert elementary because next year each of them will be in middle school.

Ruth’s outfit and her posture speak for her in this fuzzy cell phone photo. Other girls had on white dresses with fancy shoes; but, not our Ruth, a girl in the fifth grade with fashion sensibilities I didn’t develop until college. She was one of two girls dressed down for the occasion. The other one had on t-shirt that said, “I like to fart at night.” The rest were in some version of fancy.

These occasions are fraught for Jon, and I suspect for Jen too. The hostility, shame, guilt and resulting tension from the marriage has not yet dissipated, but events important to the kids naturally bring them in proximity to each other. The day after this time at Schweigert Jen went to the police complaining about harassment from Jon, trying to trigger a violation of the restraining order. I don’t know why she did it, but I imagine inner turmoil from Ruth’s event contributed to the timing.

20170601_174005Ruth is a gifted student, a rebel and a usually sweet kid. She has a depressive side which can make her angry, sulky. She also resists, stubbornly, talking about her feelings, refusing to open up to counselors in the aftermath of the divorce. Her 5th grade teacher referred to her as a “little spitfire” whom she would remember forever. That’s Ruth in a phrase.

Being a grandparent of troubled kids, both Ruth and Gabe, is difficult. We can see what’s happening, have an idea about what would be helpful, but possess little true leverage, especially in these months so soon after the final orders for the divorce. What we can do is show up, love them, and offer, with some delicacy, our ideas.

I ache for Ruth, seeing all the potential, all the possibility in her, yet watching her forced to deal with emotional currents far too complex for her current level of emotional maturity. She does have her own reading chair in the loft and she sometimes retreats here with her kindle.

 

Wild, Wild Horses

Beltane                                                                                 Rushing Waters Moon

I belong to a facebook group called Front Range Wildlife Photographers. The following photographs are by Boulder resident Michelle Theall. I think they’re amazing.

Michelle Theall3Michelle Theall2Michelle Theall

Naturally

Beltane                                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

Upper Maxwell Falls

Upper Maxwell Falls

I’ve found the Colorado equivalent of Minnesota’s Scientific and Natural Areas (SNA’s). Here they’re called Colorado Designated Natural Areas. “Designated Natural Areas contain a wide representation of Colorado’s ra​re plants and animals, unique plant communities, rich fossil locations, and geological features.” I enjoyed visiting these areas in Minnesota. Sounds like they’re a little more diverse here. Road trip!

Little Forces, Big Results

Spring                                                                           Rushing Waters Moon

Upper Maxwell Falls, 2015

Upper Maxwell Falls, 2015

The mountain streams we see regularly: Shadow Brook, Maxwell Creek, Bear Creek, Cub Creek have begun, a bit early, I think, their post-ice plummet toward sea level. In May these streams are often boiling, filled with snow melt and pushing the limits of their banks. On any given day driving past them as they speed downhill, down the mountain, they look interesting, worth watching for the tumult; but, in fact, these racing streams are much more than merely interesting.

They are the levelers of mother earth. They take the mighty and strip them down to size, pebble by pebble, rock by rock, chunks of soil by chunks of soil. A defining characteristic of a mountain is its imposing size, its thereness. Mountains dominate their landscape, putting up barriers to human passage that often forced the pioneers of nineteenth century America to go around them rather than over them. They seem, in the moment, eternal.

When living in or visiting a relatively young mountain range like the Rockies, no reasonable person would ever expect them to look any different than they do right now. Colorado is proud of its fourteeners, those summits exceeding 14,000 feet. Mt. Evans, for example has a summit of 14,265 feet. That’s precise. And, would you add it to a website or book or road sign if you expected it to change? No.

Near Bailey, 2015

Near Bailey, 2015

But it will. One only has to drive east toward the Atlantic to see what’s in store for even Mt. Evans. Look at the Appalachians. Their mountain building episode (orogeny) happened around 480 million years ago. When it was done, the Appalachians stood as tall as the contemporary Rockies. The Rocky Mountain orogeny was a quite recent, geologically speaking, 80 million years ago. They too will wear down.

In the spring we see this process at its most obvious as mountain streams from every summit in every range of the Rocky Mountains, including here in the Front Range, obey gravity and try to find the lowest points available to them. Of course, the streams are not the only process at work. Drive on Highway 285 out of Conifer, as we do often going down or returning from Denver, and you will see large steel mesh hanging over some cliffs. In other places there are bolts driven into the side of rock faces, giving them a slightly Frankensteinian look. In other spots massive retaining walls of concrete encase an especially troublesome chunk of mountain.

These CDOT efforts are not always successful, witness the many Watch for Falling Rocks signs sprinkled throughout Colorado. Freezing and thawing splits the rock faces and they come tumbling down, creating talus or road obstructions. Just this last year, near Glenwood Springs, a large boulder broke loose from its millions of years long position and crashed down on an SUV on I-70, killing the driver. Winds, too, often reaching high double digit speeds, also wear away the rock.

These forces are slow, miniscule in appearance, but massive in their results over long periods of time. When driving by a mountain stream in full force, remember the Appalachians. They’re coming, but not soon, to a Rocky Mountain range near me.

A, just A

Spring                                                                              Passover Moon

1042886_grande

Yesterday on my Lego store, IKEA, Dairy Queen outing-all in the interest of Ruth and Gabe-I saw an unusual and unusually striking sight. While waiting for the stoplight at Chester and Yosemite after visiting IKEA, a flash of mylar caught my eye. In a parking lot across Yosemite I saw a person struggling, or at least that’s what I thought it was, to put shiny objects into their vehicle. Since the same shapes moved in, then came back out a couple of times, I realized it wasn’t going well. Then, just as most of them disappeared inside, one broke loose and drifted up, up, up into the air.

It was a silvery colored mylar A. As it lifted out of reach, the person at the vehicle looked up. Turning once onto its side, it became a triangular aircraft, life a B2 bomber. Then some current of air turned it again and it faded away toward the north, a clear and flashy A, signaling itself as a familiar part of the alphabet on a journey all its own, freed from both words and the earth.

 

One Regret

Spring                                                              Passover Moon

Goya, Dr. Arrieta

Goya, Dr. Arrieta

In one way I regret moving from the Twin Cities. Yes, it made me sad to lose regular contact with the Woollies and my docent friends, the folks at the Sierra Club, too. Yes, the memories attached to 40 years of physical objects like the Mississippi, its bridges, the Minneapolis skyline, all the metro lakes, the State Fair Grounds, even the grounds of United Theological Seminary, were no longer triggered by frequent or occasional visits. Yes, I even missed the weather, crazy as that may be. But, I expected these and any move has such losses. That doesn’t mean their loss wasn’t hard, but here there are new friends, new places to make memories-the Rocky Mountains, after all-and the weather here has its own charm.

But. The art does not compare. The MIA (not Mia for me, not ever) and the Walker are two exceptional museums. The MIA’s encyclopedic nature made it a home for me as I learned the broad scope of art among the nations and cultures of the world. The Walker is simply a great spot to see and to learn about contemporary art. The sculpture garden there is a joy, too. Though I attended the Minnesota Orchestra only very occasionally it was there and well-known. The St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, after seventeen years of annual subscriptions and attendance, grounded me in their particular, intimate music-and gave me my wife. The Guthrie Theater is one of the great regional theaters in the United States.

DoryphorosThese are only the most visible, too. There is Penumbra, of course, the Children’s Theater, the Northeast Art District, various jazz venues (Denver has excellent jazz.), Theater in the Round, the Cowles Center and many, many more.

What I’m writing about here is my difficulty in continuing my immersion in the art world. There are all the online art offerings and they are amazing. The Google Cultural Institute, the online exhibits of many, many of the world’s iconic museums, new art and artists, all are easy to access and require no travel at all. I have my books, my art books and their exceptional illustrations, books on art history and art theory. I have my own, small art collection both hung and still to be hung or stored.

We have frequented the Curious Theater here. It features plays of contemporary playwrights and we’ve gone many times to jazz clubs in Denver and they’re wonderful. There are, too, world class festivals in the summer at Aspen, Vail, in Boulder, at Red Rocks.

Jade MountainEven with all these though I miss the relationship I had with Goya’s Dr. Arrieta, or the Bonnard, the Doryphoros, the Chinese and Japanese collections so important to my own aesthetic. Germanicus, Lucretia, the Rodin, Caillebotte, Beckman’s Blind Man’s Buff and the Kandinsky. I guess it’s the aesthetic equivalent of Toffler’s notion of high tech, high touch. That is, the more we use high technology, the more we need regular interaction with other people. I need regular interaction with actual works of art and they are simply not available here.

This is a problem I want to solve. I thought maybe writing about here would prompt me toward a solution, but it hasn’t happened, at least not today. A continuing challenge.

 

Red Flag

Imbolc                                                                    Valentine Moon

Fiskar-Pole-Saw-Went out yesterday with the pole saw and began the task of trimming branches on our lodgepole pines. OMG. Working that saw, always over my head, wore me out pretty fast though I did get several trees limbed. Splintered Forest rents power pole saws and I might rent one for the rest of the work.

I did this work in honor of the red flag warning (highest fire danger) we had yesterday. Limbing up to ten feet prevents a grass fire’s spread into the trees. The branches below 10 feet act as ladder fuel, giving the fire a way to climb. Otherwise the trees are not nearly as combustible. It felt good to be outside, a sunny day, warmish but still cool.

Shadow Mountain is just below the R in warning.

Shadow Mountain is just below the R in warning.

There was a video clip of the recent Meyer’s Ranch grass fire on Pinecam.com. Meyer’s Ranch is near us. When I saw the fire licking up around the tree trunks, it prompted thinking about ladder fuel. The reality was very easy to see.

We chose to live here, so we have to take these matters into account. In a big fire, a crown fire or one whipped by the winds that often roar down mountain, we’ll probably lose the house anyway. This work means that in something less than that it might survive. Being close to the main road, Black Mountain Drive (aka Co. 78), and having a flat, short driveway means firefighters will work to save our house. That ups our odds, too.

And, on that cheery note, I’ll make all this a metaphor. Donald Trump is a red flag warning for our democracy. If we don’t do the important maintenance now and for the next four years, we might lose the White House and self-governance. Get out that pole saw and call your congressperson.

 

June 2017
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