Downsize?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

Death and Resurrection

Winter and the Future Moon

Saturday gratefuls: The snow, coming down hard. The temperature, 17. All 8,800 feet above sea level. Two weeks of consistent workouts, 5 days, 3 resistance, two with high intensity training. Ruth’s being here. (she’s sleeping with Rigel and Murdoch right now.) The Hanukah meal last night. Hanukah. Whoever conceived and executed Resurrection: Ertugrul. The internet.

Been thinking a bit about resurrection. Not as in Resurrection: Ertugrul, which is about resurrection of the Seljuk state, but in the New Testament mythology. Birth, life, death, resurrection. Christmas, Ministry, Black Friday, Easter. The Great Wheel. Spring, growing season, fallow season, spring. Osiris. Orpheus.

Death is being overcome every spring. Life emerges, blooms and prospers, then withers and dies. A period in the grave. Spring. Resurrection is not only, not even primarily, about coming back from death. Resurrection is a point in the cycle of our strange experience as organized and awake elements and molecules.

Saw an analogy the other day. Twins in the womb. Talking to each other about whether there was life after delivery. How could there be, one said. What else is all this for, said the other. Do you believe in the mother? Yes, she’s all around us. I can’t see her, so I don’t believe in her. How would we get food after delivery? How would we breathe? I don’t know, but I believe we’ll do both.

We know, too, the story of the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly.

Might resurrection itself be an analog of these ideas? Could be. Easier for me to comprehend is the death of a relationship, the period of mourning, then a new one, different from the first, but as good or better. The death of a dream. Having to sell the farm, a period of mourning, then a new career, different, but satisfying, too. The death of a certain belief system. Say, Christianity. A period of confusion and mourning. Then, a new way of understanding. The way things are. Consciousness and cycles. This comes; that goes.

A Minnesota life. Well lived and full. Dies. A period of mourning and confusion. A Colorado life. Different, but satisfying, too. The gardens of Andover. The rocks of Shadow Mountain. The lakes of Minnesota. The mountains of Colorado. The Woolly Mammoths. Congregation Beth Evergreen.

Are there other resurrections? Of course. Is there a resurrection like that of Jesus? Unknown. I choose to celebrate the resurrections that I know, rather than the ones I do not. The purple garden that emerged in the spring. The raspberries on the new canes. Those apples growing larger from the leafed out tree. This marriage with Kate, a notable resurrection of intimacy in both our lives.

What is dying? What are you mourning? What resurrection awaits?

Five Years

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: SeoAh’s pasta and shrimp. SeoAh. Joe, who is in Hawai’i right now. Kate and her doggedness, her get up and keep goingness. That her fall last night was not serious. The snuggling of Gertie, Rigel, and Kepler. The grandmother tree, alive after her loss of a limb. Each and every soul soaked particle in this and all the other universes.

December 19, 2014

” When the dogs got here last night, they jumped out, ran around in the backyard for a moment, then promptly turned around, ran back in the garage and jumped back in the Rav4. Like a vintage Keystone cops moment, it took more than one try to get them inside the house. Two would come in and a third run back to the garage, then one would come in and two would rush back to the garage. When I opened the Rav4’s front door to retrieve some belongings, all three dogs quickly pushed passed me into the driver’s and passenger’s seat’s to stage a sit-down, lie-down strike.”

December 20, 2014

“The pack has come together. Kate and Gertie arrived around three. There was a good deal of mutual sniffing and wagging of tails. Kate the Intrepid, as Jane West calls her, dismounted from the cargo van with a victorious grimace. She had driven it all the way, by herself. See.”

Five years ago today Kate and I were here. Tom had gone to the airport and we were alone in a house empty except for six mammals trying to get used to new and different surroundings. Kate and I huffed and puffed. I emptied the rental cargo van and drove it back to Enterprise. We had to pay an extra relocation charge on it since I wasn’t gonna drive it back to Minnesota.

It wasn’t easy. The mover couldn’t get the van in our driveway. It had to go back down the mountain while the driver rented two u-haul trucks. I’ve seen this several times since. Movers call it shuttling. Adds a couple of grand, but, hey. What you gonna do? Go back?

But, in our case. The first shuttle truck got stuck in the ditch. Snowing, cold. A tow truck called. It didn’t come. Later we learned it had gotten stuck on the way up here. By this time everybody’s frustration level had mounted. Got sorted, as these things do, and here we are. An introduction to mountain living.

The darkness of the longest night, the winter solstice night, lay ahead. I was glad for the quiet and the depth it offered. Tomorrow night will be our sixth Winter Solstice here. Celebrating in the usual quiet way.

SeoAh leaves tomorrow at 7 pm, headed to San Francisco where she’ll meet Joe, then fly on to Singapore. Murdoch’s first night without her will be the solstice.

Something Will Kill You

Samain and the Crescent Gratitude Moon

Thursday gratefuls: The crescent moon surrounded by lambent light. Seoah’s Zuppa Tuscany. Rabbi Jamie’s mentor, Art Green, and his book, Radical Judaism. Kate’s feedbag. (what we call her black bag with the pump and the container of Jevity for her overnight meals.) The faint echoes of Christmas that get to the mountains. Lights on some houses, strung on trees in unexpected places, even the huge inflatable Snoopy, maybe 9 feet tall.

April 14, 2015 Ancientrails

“Something will kill you, sometime. No do overs.

Driving home on beautiful Deer Creek Canyon Road, the colors throbbed and that unseen penumbra that clothes us all vibrated. Most of the physical was unremarkable or positive…But. The palpation of the prostate, every man’s favorite moment in his yearly physical, seemed different this time. A firm spot. Match that with the slight elevation in PSA a year ago and the fact that a year ago the prostate itself was unremarkable. Malignancy got said. Possible. Need to have it checked by a urologist, “get another finger on it.” Good one.”

Many of you know the rest for that year. Eventual diagnosis. Prostatectomy in July. Good news, clear margins! Recovery. Cured. Until February of this year. When the PSA began to rise again.

That news came in the midst of Kate’s annus horribilis which began on September 28th of 2018. Sjogren’s Syndrome had begun exacting its several pounds of flesh well before, as had what we thought then was rheumatoid arthritis. On September 28th of 2018 Kate had a still unexplained bleed. She eventually required 10 units of blood by transfusion, removal of a substantial amount of her bowel, and spent two weeks in the hospital. Two weeks in the days of send’em home now. Then, another two weeks in a rehab facility.

When she got back home though, her weight was still a problem as was nausea, occasional vomiting. She dropped to 77 pounds. Many gastrointestinal procedures later we found the problem, a clogged artery leading into her mesentery. A stent. Her nausea got better, much less frequent.

Weight gain though was still a problem. After putting her on intravenous feeding for a while, Ed Smith placed a feeding tube, something Kate had wanted since her hospitalization. Her weight has improved, but stamina and occasional nausea still plague her. She is, however, much, much better than this time a year ago.

From a medical perspective our first five years in Colorado have been like sledgehammers wielded by John Henry. Thump. Lift. Strike. Thump. Lift. Strike. Thump.

Since we’re both past seventy, these facts are not huge surprises. The accumulation of them and their frequency and their dire nature, however, have given these years a distinct-I’d prefer to not do that again-tone.

Our lives have changed. More emphasis on home, daily life. Cooking, meals together here. Many medical appointments although those have slowed down now. We’ve looked ahead to our death, both of us, several times. Not macabre, realistic when you have lung disease, cancer, frailty. That’s ok. Neither of us have a crippling fear of death. It comes to all.

Seoah has been here for lengthy stays, brightening our home, teaching us about Korean cuisine, about having a daughter. That’s brought us closer to both her and Joe.

We’re in a moment now when things (medical things) have quieted down. Kate’s weight is stable at around 100 pounds. She can eat without nausea most of the time. Her lung disease, a big concern for months, is not progressing. Her pulmonologist even called it mild. Her stamina is still an issue and the Sjogren’s flares from time to time, giving her a slight fever, upset stomach, greater fatigue.

She can and does get out, going to CBE for mussar, board meetings, Ruth’s play last week. That’s a big change and a positive one.

Meanwhile I’m waiting for Godot. The lupron I’m on suppresses my testosterone and therefore my PSA. Means I won’t know until June 2020, at the earliest, whether the radiation worked. I have another PSA next week and a third lupron injection on January 6th, the Epiphany and the end of holiseason. Appropriate.

The new bugger in my world, COPD, seems to have responded to the inhaled steroids. It was diagnosed as mild, too. I’ve upped my exercise frequency in response to both the lupron and the COPD. That seems to be working since I feel fine. Weaker than normal, but fine.

It could be that the new year gives us a much clearer handle on all these medical issues. We’re never going back to our pre-move health statuses, neither one of us, but we may find a homeostasis with them. I hope so.

The West

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Seoah and her light presence as a guest, Murdoch again, the Grandmother Tree at CBE, the night drive up Brook Forest, then Black Mountain drives, the fox that crossed our path, the mule deer doe standing, looking toward the road, the nightlife of the wild, the ultimate wildness of the heavens

December 20, 2014 “The enormity of this change is still a little hard to grasp. We’re no longer Minnesotans, but Coloradans. We’re no longer flatlanders but mountain dwellers. We’re no longer Midwesterners. Now we are of the West, that arid, open, empty space. These changes will change us and I look forward to that. The possibility of becoming new in the West has long been part of the American psyche, now I’ll test it for myself.”

December 18, 2019 The usual mythic significance of the West, where the light ends, where souls go when they die, seems quite different from its American mythos as almost a separate country, an Other World where you could leave Europe behind, leave the East Coast behind and rejuvenate, remake yourself. (yes, Native Americans were here already. But I’m talking about the frontier, the Old West, the place where Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and lots of versions of John Wayne lived. And, yes, the Spaniards on the west coast and as far north as what is now New Mexico. The Russians, too.)

Seems quite different. Yes. However, “the possibility of becoming new in the West.” The American mythic West is about where souls go when they die, when they die to a past that had not prospered in the East, to a life no longer well lived, to a life lived in the all too usual way, to a life of boredom.

What would we become? When would the West become home? When would this house on Black Mountain Drive become home? All those boxes. All that altitude adjustment. And, we would gradually learn, an attitude adjustment to mountain life.

We have become people of the mountains, in love with them enough to adapt our lives to thin air in spite of the difficulty it presents to us. We have become people of the tribe, of clan Beth Evergreen, part of a strange and intriguing religious experiment, a new community. That was part of what people sought in the West. A chance to build community anew, to different rules.

We have become embedded in the lives of our grandchildren, of Jon. They love the mountains, too. Our choice, to live close, but not too close, has had its challenges, but has worked out well. It’s hard for us to provide day to day support for Jon and the kids. We’re too far away and too physically challenged (of late). We are, however, a mountain refuge for them, a place away from the city where they can come to refresh. We’re also on the way to A-basin, Jon’s favorite ski area.

When we travel now, the return no longer involves a turn north, toward the Pole, but a turn West, toward the mountains and the Pacific. Our friends in the north, in Minnesota have stayed in touch. We’ve not gotten back much; it’s so good to still have solid connections.

We change altitude frequently, often dramatically during a day’s normal routine. No more mile square roads, farmland templates. No more 10,000 lakes. And, up where we live, in the montane ecosystem, no deciduous trees except for aspen. No more combines on the road, tractors, truck trailers full of grain and corn headed to the elevators. (yes, in Eastern Colorado, but we’re of the mountains.)

The pace of life in the mountains is slower. Many fewer stoplights, fewer stores, less nightlife. Service of all kinds is slower, too. Plumbers. HVAC guys. Mail folks. UPS. Fedex. Denver Post. Painters and electricians. Once we quit expecting metro area level of service, especially in terms of promptness and predictability, life got better. The mountain way.

Our life in the West has also been shaped, profoundly, by medicine and illness. Tomorrow.

A Five Year Anniversary

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Gertie and Kep slept until almost 5:30. An extra hour of sleep for me. Brother Mark’s feeling better over in Saudi Arabia. Joe’s movers will come today. Sister Mary reports heavy rains in Singapore. My dispersed family. My diverse family.

Second iteration of the new workout yesterday morning. I like this one. It uses the TRX and kettlebells. Still working to cement the five days a week: resistance, cardio, resistance, cardio, resistance. It’s in my head now as a routine, but scheduling sometimes breaks it up.

Friend Tom Crane reminded me of an old holiday, one remembered now with Christmas, some say. He wrote this morning: “Today would mark the beginning of the seven-day celebration of Saturnalia in ancient Rome. For the winter festival, the Romans made and exchanged gifts, decorated their homes with holly and ropes of garland, and carried wreaths of evergreen branches to honor the god Saturn.” Here’s a bit more from the same website Tom found: “By the beginning of December, writes Columella, the farmer should have finished his autumn planting… Now, with the approach of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing was honored with a festival.” Saturnalia

Sound at all familiar?

Here’s another odd fact. A couple of weeks ago I went looking for quotes about the West and the Rocky Mountains. Found out that the lowest point in Colorado, around 3,000 feet, is higher than the highest point in twenty other states. We’re all high here.

In three days we will have been in Colorado five years. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from back then: “The moving moon has waned, a sliver this early. It will go dark tomorrow, the Winter Solstice. Our first full day and night here at Black Mountain Drive. Tom Crane, Rigel, Vega, Kepler and I pulled into the garage about 12:15 am this morning. We drove in over several inches of snow, so a first task will be getting the driveway clear for the moving van which comes on Monday…Tom drove the whole way, 14 hours in one whack, stopping only briefly for food and gas. It was a great treat to be able to watch the miles roll away.” December 20, 2014. Ancientrails.

Over the next three days I’m going to revisit that time, the move. Five years is an important anniversary. And, it will occur days before the calendar ticks over into a brand new decade, the 2020’s. Our first full decade in Colorado, in the Rockies. Time to do an assessment.

Late, late night.

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Off to Brave Alice in Wonderland last night. Ruth’s 8th grade play. She gets her head chopped off and plays a bishop. My kinda gal. It meant we didn’t get home until almost 8:15.

Boy. Am I outta shape on the nightlife thing. (and, I know. 8:15’s not really late, is it?) It is to my body. Slept in till almost 8:30 am. Made me feel loggy, lazy. Just got up here to the loft at 10:15. About 5 hours later than usual.

Weird happenstance. Apparently Denver has two middle schools named MauCaliffe and they are in with in 2.5 miles of each other. Guess which one I went to first? Yep.

Seoah, who’d never heard of Alice in Wonderland, let alone the middle school adaptation, enjoyed herself thoroughly. She made grilled cheese sandwiches and sliced apples for us since we had to go in early. 4:00 pm for 6:00 pm performance. Getting through Denver between 4 and 6 pm is a slow crawl.

Another weird thing. Seeing all the Christmas lights in Denver, a lot, from outside the Christmas veil. I live somewhere the Winter Solstice, Hanukah, and the ghosts of Christmas past. The only December holiday I fully own now is the Solstice. The darkness, the solitude, the longest night on top of Shadow Mountain with Black Mountain rising to our west.

On the Move Fitness has a treadmill out of service so I’m doing my warmup here, then leaving for my 11 am appointment. Gotta hit the belt.

Platte Canyon Drive

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Seeing Kate cheered by her fellow Bailey Patchworkers at their holiday luncheon yesterday. A drive yesterday along the Platte River Canyon from Bailey to the Shaggy Sheep. The partly running, partly frozen North Fork of the South Platte River. The black squirrel that played along its banks. Finding my heart so exposed.

While Kate had lunch with the Bailey Patchworkers at the Riverbend Restaurant in Bailey, I drove out to the Shaggy Sheep, headed toward Kenosha Pass, Fairplay, and the Pacific Ocean. The Platte Canyon runs from Bailey to the Kenosha Pass which, at 10,000 feet marks the transition to the high plains of South Park, a broad expanse of relatively flat land all above 9,000 feet. The Platte Canyon is around 7,700 feet above sea level, carved out by the South Platte River’s north fork. That makes it a gorge, as well as a canyon, since Highway 285 follows the fairly straight run of the river. A gorge always has a river like most, but not all, canyons.

Sometimes the mountains on either side of the canyon floor come close to the road, gray and rocky, closing the canyon off from the sun. At other points the South Platte runs through long, but narrow fields and pastures. Glen Isle, a beloved and historic resort with a round main building, is on the canyons western side. North Fork Ranch, an Orvis approved dude ranch, features fly fishing, kicking back, horse rides. It’s just beyond the small National Historic site of Shawnee.

Not much further along 285 is the national YMCA camp, Santa Maria, with its not so obviously needed statue of Jesus on a cliff face high above the camp. I passed it looking up at the statue, wondering why it was there.

My destination was the Shaggy Sheep, a restaurant opened by New York City chef fleeing the city. It’s a quirky, but good menu. It has, however, also quirky hours since it sits 14 miles west of Bailey and nowhere near any other towns. Georgetown can be reached between, oh, say, May and November, by the Guanella Pass not far from the Shaggy Sheep, and Jefferson, a very small town in South Park, is a few miles on beyond the Kenosha Pass. Billing itself as a casual mountain cook house, the Shaggy Sheep depends on tourist traffic which slows down in the winter months. Closed Monday-Wednesday during the winter, I learned.

The drive out there was the point though so I wasn’t disappointed. I turned around, drove back to the Riverbend and had a hamburger with truffle fries followed by an excellent canoli. Since I was waiting on Kate and forgot to bring a book (a rare occurrence), I read the articles of impeachment plus commentary and other stories on the NYT.

The wonder of living here is the chance to take a trip through the Platte Canyon just because. Or, up the Guanella Pass to Georgetown. Or, over the Kenosha Pass into South Park and onto Fairplay. And still be home for supper.

Live Long, and Prosper

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Sunday gratefuls: for the poetry and philosophy contained in the world’s religions. for not having to believe in them. for the intimacy and wonder of holidays. for deep thinkers and their ability to change our minds, to see what we cannot. for the pain and struggles that teach us what’s important and what’s not.

Seoah made a bulgogi soup last night. Delicious. Each time she comes I think, “I’ll cook like that, too.” Then, she leaves. And my cooking returns to its Western, American ways. I’ve added few Korean dishes to my repertoire. Maybe, over time…

Murdoch bounces around, happy and energetic. His teeth still have the pointy sharpness of a young puppy. He discovered the loft the other day, came running in, wagging his tail, rushing around, smelling this, then that. And left. He’s come back. He may join Gertie for longer time periods if he can contain himself.

Stanford University has a recent initiative, A New Map of Life. I like it because it recognizes the three blocks of life I call first, second, third phase: education, family and work, and the third phase. Not retirement, at least not the finish line model, but a new phase of life previously unavailable due to shorter life spans. And, as a result, one without cultural guard rails or guidelines.

Their approach makes so much sense. They want to to redefine, reshape the cultural paradigms for all the phases, not just old age. “Longer lives present us with an opportunity to redesign the way we live. The greatest risk of failure is setting the bar too low.” WP article: We need a major redesign of life. Dec. 8, 2019

Will investigate in greater depth and report back. I’m going through what seems to be an annoyingly long rethink of my own life. This is the fifth year (in 12 days) of our Colorado mountain life. It has peaks and valleys (hah) and they keep on coming.

Old age doesn’t seem to be the real issue for me though it plays a role. What’s more salient is the unpredictable nature of our daily life and the difficulty of getting into a rhythm for creative work. Health span is a key issue. Kate, though much better now than six months ago, still has occasional nausea, occasional fevers and fatigue, occasional heartburn, constant weakness. I have bouts of fatigue, muscle weakness, and general uncertainty added with prostate cancer and COPD.

Not complaining, observing what’s real for us. How do we build a mutual life that reflects and respects these difficult elements without capitulating to them? There is a disparity between us, too. I am younger than Kate by three years and though I have my own serious illnesses I don’t get derailed by them as often as she does from hers.

There’s a question of mutual life and its outlines and our individual lives. I’m admitting here that our answers so far have not been satisfying. It’s a project for both of us and it continues.

Shadow Mountain Gratefuls

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Everybody got here. 8 of us. Ruth, Jon, Gabe, Joe, Seoah, Annie, Kate and me. Plus a very interested Gertie, Rigel, Kepler, and Murdoch. Our oven thermometer allowed me to calibrate the lower oven since its heat is different from what gets set. Ruth’s pies, pumpkin and pecan, were wonderful. The heated side dishes made the meal easy to prepare. Love around the table. None of my burns were too bad.

The heated capon was ok, as were the side dishes. Hardly gourmet though tasty. We ate downstairs around the Stickley table that largely gets used for folding laundry. The red table cloth was festive as were the Happy Thanksgiving paper plates.

We used a few questions from a set by a company called Vertillis. The intent was to have a conversation that did not feature Trump tirades, one that was, instead, about us. It worked. After the plates of sage stuffing, mashed potatoes, capon, cranberries, and green beans were empty we broke into groups.

The women, with Kate at the head of the table, stayed downstairs talking while us guys put away food, cleared the table. A moment of gender parity. I mentioned it and Jon said, “Yes. And, two male dogs and two female dogs.” True.

Later Annie, Kate, and Ruth went upstairs, Jon sat in the chair and dozed while Joe, SeoAh, and I talked. The spirit of those questions seemed to linger even after the meal. Seoah said Joseph was her first true love. Who was mine?

The question set me back. After three visits to the altar and many women friends/lovers over the years, I wasn’t sure at first. “Kate,” I said. Raeone and Judy were both relationships formed while I was drinking and their dissolution reflected their flawed premises. Kate though was, pardon the not really a pun, my first sober choice. It’s true love because we both want what’s best for each other, will sacrifice for each other, and share convictions, core convictions, about politics, mother earth, dogs, family.

The essence of holidays, these sorts of conversations reinforce family ties, deepen them. We come together out of individual and nuclear family lives to bathe for a moment in the larger, extended field of our relationships. SeoAh said Koreans celebrate a harvest festival with similar themes.

Even though Kate’s going through some kind of disturbance in her force, nausea and fever, it nonetheless felt to me that this holiday put away the old, bad year and began a new one. Next year Joe and Seoah will be in Singapore, so it will be different.

Murdoch will stay with us for a year since Singapore wouldn’t let him in. Means considerable jockeying since both Murdoch and Kepler are male Akitas with the dog on dog aggression that comes with the breed. We’ll work it out, get a routine down.

Dogs, I read recently, like certainty. If we can get a system that works, when to feed, when to let this one out, then that one, keep Murdoch outside while Kep is inside and vice versa, we’ll avoid squabbles. Squabbles being a euphemism for teeth tearing flesh, blood, wounds, squeals of pain, and my forced interventions.

At two years old Murdoch still has a lot of puppy in him. That’s delightful and will warm up our house. He’s also a sweet boy, nice to have around.