We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Staying Open. Paying Attention.

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

Got up late today, around 8:30 am so I’m writing this after noon. Feels a little weird since it’s usually dark outside when I work on Ancientrails.

South-ParkColorado-Fishing-MapKate and I went to Aspen Roots today. Jackie tints and cuts Kate’s hair, cuts mine and trims my beard. She’s a good lady. Learned today that she taught her son fly fishing. Her father worked for Eagle Claw and started taking her fishing when she was five. Can’t be too many sons who’ve been taught fly fishing by their moms. Right now he’s logging and had a nasty accident when the saw cut through his boot and into his foot. She hopes he’ll become a fishing guide.

Coloradans and the snow. There were flurries last night, some periods of heavier snow. So most folks stayed home from mussar vaad practice. MVP. Geez. I find myself saying this every once in a while up here: “If Minnesotans didn’t go out when it was snowy and cold, they’d never leave the house from November through March.” It’s definitely better to have Minnesota conditioning for Colorado winters though than, say, Florida or Texas. Both state contribute their share of new Coloradans.

Melon choly. Still ripening though not as pervasive. I’ve not felt this, as near as I can recall, since Minnesota. A certain heaviness, a certain I don’t really feel like getting out of bed. A gray veil.

Bee-guyMy best guess as to why now is a little odd. First year we were moving in, orienting ourselves. Prostate cancer, too. Second year Jon’s divorce, my knee replacement and then Kate’s first bout we identified with Sjogren’s. Since September though Jon moved into his new house. He’s calmed down, a lot. Sjogren’s and its effects, while not pleasant, are at least known and we have strategies to cope with them. After a year plus with the knee, after p.t. and now several different workouts, the knee has no pain and functions, for the most part, as it did before the bad arthritis set in.

So we’ve had since September to adjust to a Colorado which is no longer introducing us to new medical or familial dysfunction. We have friends and a small community now at Beth Evergreen. Rigel doesn’t have liver cancer. Joe and SeoAh are doing well. The grandkids ask to come up here. Things have calmed down, life has tilted toward the positive side of the scale.

Now what? That, I think, is the cause of the melancholy. What do I do now that I’m finally here in Colorado without serious distractions? Are elements of the Minnesota life germane here? Some are clearly not. The Sierra Club scene was disappointing. Sheepshead, too. The Denver museum scene is dull normal. Gardening and bee keeping seem too daunting here, at least for my current energy level and financial resources. (I’d garden in a decent greenhouse, but $$$$.)

agencyWhat is mountain life? Colorado life? Life in the arid West? For me. Sure there’s reading and writing and thinking. The Great Wheel. There’s family and Beth Evergreen. Good jazz. But how does it fit together? What’s the coherence? Where is the tao of this moment?

Apparently my psyche decided that the way to answer these questions is to slow me down. Push pause on the recent past. Let stuff bounce around a while, let different parts clang into each other. Such slowmo has often preceded life changes for me, sometimes after a period of guided reflection like the Ira Progoff Journal Workshops. Sometimes just after time passes. Staying open. Paying attention. Waiting.

Water, water somewhere

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

snowpack 2.19.18Wow. Weather station says the humidity outside is 66%. Inside 2%. Aridity is the norm, humidity a rare phenomenon here. Like most rarities it’s welcome. Most welcome.

4 or 5 inches of snow yesterday. Every flake helps in this dry year. Old timers here are not worried yet because March and April are the big snow months. If the patterns change, we’ve had a big ridge over us for most of the winter pushing cold and snow to the east, north of us, we may recover. In this case recovery means two things, a wetter forest heading into fire season and a snowpack closer to average.

In the land of 10,000 lakes water was abundant and loved, not so much for its quality as water, but for its pleasing manifestation in the landscape. Cabins on the lake. Walleye fishing. Lakes in the cities. The Mississippi rising in Itasca and flowing down toward New Orleans, passing through Minneapolis and St. Paul on its way there. The majesty and wonder of the great lake, Superior.

Here though water is water, aqua vita. Its necessity for human life, for livestock, for healthy more fire-resistant forests is never far from the minds of folks in the West. As I read recently in 365 Tao, the earth breathes out, clouds form and water moves from place to place. This fundamental physiology of our planetary eco-system is, oddly, more apparent in its absence than in its over abundance. The humid east and the arid west.

Since we got just less than 6 inches, it means I blow the driveway. Ted plows six inches and above. Gonna wait another hour or so though since it’s only 6 degrees and I’m more cold sensitive now, both as a Coloradan and a septuagenarian.

Becoming Native

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon

20180211_120056Life still trickling by. A bit of snow over the last few days, colder now, in the Colorado measure of that term. So relative. Saw a facebook meme with Texans in parkas at 70 degrees. Could have countered that with a Minnesotan in shorts at ten below. Meanwhile 11, last night, felt pretty cold after three years here. These gross physical acclimatizations  are easy to spot, but what about the more subtle mental adjustments?

How does the mind change, for example, when it goes up and down mountains, around curves into canyons, rather than coasting across the flat lands of the Midwest? Or, what about looking up and seeing ovular lenticular clouds, high flying cirrus against blue sky? When fall comes and the changes are only in the aspen, a mass of gold variations, what happens to the heart used to deciduous colors?

Political colorations are different here, too. That thick vein of let me alone libertarianism too often gets mined for political results that would make even conservative Minnesotans cringe. Immigrants to the state, like Kate and me, drag along with us expectations that government should be of, by and most of all, for the people. This is a far from universal sentiment in the West. We’re adding new strata to the political geography, but the whole still feels very alien to me.

becoming nativeThis is all by way of becoming native to this place, a key element in my pagan creed borrowed from Wes Jackson at the Land Institute. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? That’s why I love it, the challenging notion that we can be of a new place in a very old, intimate way, through what Rabbi Jamie would call Torah study, close attention, close attention to details and to our own inner world, compassionate attention willing to be shaped by what we find.

IMAG0861Kate and I did it on the Great Anoka Sand Plain. Over the Andover years we listened to the soil, to the rhythms of the growing season. We stuck our hands in the soil, partnered with it. We planted trees and fruit bearing shrubs. There was the open prairie we cultivated on either sides of the more traditional suburban lawn carpet. Bees, with whom we partnered, for honey. Dogs who used the woods as their home and hunting ground. By the time we left we were native to that place. Its rhythms shaped our own and together we created a place to live.

It’s happening here, too. A long and nuanced process, still in its early days, but one that has promise for the Great Work, creating a sustainable presence for humans on this planet.

 

The Rockies, near home

Imbolc                                                                 Imbolc Moon

Looking east from the summit of Kenosha Pass

Looking east from the summit of Kenosha Pass

20180212_101946

Through the Platte Canyon, over Kenosha Pass, onto the highplains of South Park, past Fairplay, into the Collegiate Range and finally to the Liar’s Lodge in Buena Vista on the Arkansas River, not far from Leadville. Picked up Kate and Valerie, two Bernina’s, lots of cloth, a suitcase, cutting boards and other accessories of the sewing life. Also petted Sadie, the dog who greets all who come to Liar’s Lodge, then reversed course through a light snow that made the drive out of Buena Vista picturesque.

About ten miles out of Buena Vista, on a hill, with no traffic in either direction, a man in a black SUV pulled onto the highway into my lane and I had to swerve to miss him. Sent my heart rate up. This is steep, curvy country with so many possible sources of accidents, but this one? Would have been stupid, stupid, stupid. Other than that the drive was uneventful.

Here are a few photographs. I stopped along the way, taking time to look, to see. So much more to explore here in Colorado. And all this is within an hour and a half of home.

The Lazy Bull, South Park

The Lazy Bull, South Park

Tarryall Ranch, now public land. Good fishing.

Tarryall Ranch, now public land. Good fishing.

Tarryall

Tarryall

20180212_103640

Inching toward 71

Imbolc                                                                  Imbolc Moon

As any who’ve paid attention to the top line of these posts over the years know, the moon has always been important for Ancientrails. The Imbolc moon, at 2%, will preside over my 71st birthday. I’ve just received a copy of Lunar Meditations by Deng Ming-Dao, meditation that follow the traditional Chinese lunar calendar.  I’m looking forward to both reading Ming-Dao’s work and considering how a similar book based on the Great Wheel might look.

The silly season is well underway. Caucuses here in Colorado are on March 6th. I drove over to Dorothy Lane in Evergreen yesterday for an event at Nancy Friedman’s. It was for Lisa Cutter, a candidate for the State assembly. She’s running against Tim Leonard who has the opinion that the government should not be involved in k-12 education. He’s part of the weirdo branch of Colorado politics, but a branch that includes many voters here, a Libertarian variant that has redolence of the range wars and anger about far away corporate control of Colorado.

After walking into Nancy’s, I remembered a reason I stopped going to these events. I couldn’t hear. Even with my hearing aid, the crush of people and noise, her dining room, living room and kitchen were full, hit me like a flood, physically repulsing me. I spoke to Lisa, put my check in the bowl, greeted other members of Beth Evergreen that were there and left.

Kate’s been gone since Friday. This morning I’m driving back to Buena Vista to pick her up. The road there is beautiful, a drive I look forward to.

 

 

Beautiful View

Imbolc                                                                 Imbolc Moon

One of the continuing joys of our move to Colorado lies in the majestic scenery. It means that even the most mundane of tasks can occasion a journey with evergreen valleys, rugged mountains capped with snow, vistas that stretch for miles, and the Colorado blue sky.

BTW: Buena Vista was an interesting place, somewhere I would return. Another mountain town with a booming tourism industry. It’s not, however, an old mining town, rather it grew as an agricultural center thanks to abundant water, a rarity in many spots in the Rockies, coupled with land level enough to farm. Reminded me of Driggs, Idaho.

Liar's Lodge, Kate's retreat site

Liar’s Lodge, Kate’s retreat site

Heading east, toward home

 

Radon

Imbolc                                                                  Imbolc Moon

radon-elementSort of feeling crummy yesterday, Kate, too. Not sure whether last month’s illness lingers. Or what. Kate said, “Maybe the radon mitigation system’s not working.” Oh. Well. Damn. “I’ll go check.” The radon mitigation system has a fan that disperses radioactive particles, blowing them up and out of the house. If it’s on and the barrier’s intact, the system’s working.

Sure enough, the fan was off. I’d not checked the particulars of this setup before because it had always been running. Off to the crawl space. Not my favorite place because even though I’m very far along in the healing process, my left knee still ouches when I kneel on it. Unavoidable in the crawl space. Still, to prevent radiation poisoning, what’s a little discomfort, right?

radon2Going into the crawl space is a bit like opening the closet to go to Narnia. The makeshift door to the crawl space is in a closet and opens to the world beneath our house. However, even before I removed the door, I reached up to switch on the light. By god, right there, beside the crawl space light switch was another switch. It said, fan. Oh. Could it be this simple? It was. I hit the switch, which was in the off position, then went back outside to listen to the fan. On.

Part of the problem solved. Then, onto Amazon for a radon detection kit. Just to be safe. It’ll be here soon. I did a radon sample in Andover, so I know it’s a relatively simple process. We’re probably not experiencing radiation poisoning, but better to know than not.

Winter Break

Samain                                                                     Bare Aspen Moon

Winter-BreakI also recalled yesterday that I’ve had this end of year let down often. When I worked for the Presbytery, I noticed that no congregation wanted a church executive around during the run up to Christmas and the week after, through New Year’s. This may have been a post-school rationalization to give myself a winter break. Whatever it was I think the pattern is probably there, triggered this time by the end of kabbalah.

It feels ok now that I know what it is. I’m going to ride it out through New Year’s, continuing to write Ancientrails and exercising, but other than that trying to follow a more unpredictable path. Getting some work done around the house. Reading outside my current Judaism concentration. Movies. More cooking. Enjoying holiday time and visits.

For lack of a better term, this is my winter break.

It also occurred to me that I live in the mountains, a spot in the U.S. that literally millions come to see every year, then go home. Maybe I’ll get out and about a bit more over the next couple of weeks. Strap on those snow shoes. Oh, yes, we did have snow. Not a lot, but enough for snow shoeing, I think.

 

 

Mystifying Move

Samain                                                                             Bare Aspen Moon

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

A friend wrote that he found our move here mystifying. No doubt. At age 67 and 70 respectively Kate and I left our lifetime home, the American Midwest (except for her brief sojourn in Houston), flat and humid, for the Rocky Mountains, high and arid. We had built a substantial life based on flat and humid, lots of horticulture, a woods of our own, plenty of space for our big dogs to roam. There was room in the Andover house for Kate’s sewing, my books and writing, an exercise space, a kitchen and dining area that worked for us.

We both had professional and friendship links of over 40 years in Minnesota. We made consistent use of the many cultural assets in the Twin Cities, having met at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. We attended the Guthrie and other theater and musical events. I was a docent and guide at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for 12 years with frequent visits to the Walker, the Russian Museum and led a group that made monthly visits to quirky art related venues. Political engagement over a long period of time had, at the point of the move, led me to the Sierra Club where I helped work on the legislative program.

In other words we were both literally and figuratively well-rooted.

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, 2014

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, 2014

Ira Progoff Intensive Journal Workshops intervened. Progoff was a psychoanalyst in the Jungian tradition, the same theoretical framework used by my long time personal analyst, John Desteian. I first attended a Journal workshop in 1988 in southern Wisconsin. It altered my perception of the world through a six day process of guided meditations, journal writing guided through Progoff’s books and by a skilled facilitator. From this first one I developed a mantra, Stream flowing, White Pine rooting, that I used for decades in personal meditation. At a second Journal Workshop in Georgia, I deepened my appreciation of these workshops. They have an uncanny way of illuminating the current moment of my life in a way that’s both connected to the past, yet focused on the future.

Progoff’s intention is that the Journal be a source of continuing self-analysis. You learn the method at a workshop, then continue to use in daily life. I’ve found the journals too unwieldy for daily use, but the Journal workshops themselves transformative. I hope to attend one next year to get more insight into our life after the move.

IMAG0096It was the Tucson workshop that triggered the move. I say triggered advisedly because it shifted my sense of priorities after Kate’s retirement. Up till then the long, well-established roots I mentioned earlier made leaving Minnesota unthinkable to me. We had seriously discussed a move to Duluth, to Hawaii and often, to Colorado, but for me Minnesota’s thumb on the scale proved decisive. How could I leave the Woolly Mammoth’s, my men’s group of over 25 years at that point? How could I leave the political work and the work at the MIA? How could we leave our gardens and orchard, the bees?

However the various exercises in the Tucson workshop led me down a different path. First, it established clearly that my life phase that time, March/April of 2014, was defined by Kate’s retirement. It allowed me, encouraged me, to go into that phase with clearer eyes, to consider what our mutual life could mean now that she was free of daily work. With the exception of Anne, Kate’s sister who lives in Waconia, our family had moved on, both boys having left for Colorado, Jon around 2000, Joseph in 2005. Though Joseph had since joined the Air Force and left Breckenridge, Jon married and had two children.

Ruth and Gabe were 7 and 5, turning 8 and 6 the month of the Journal workshop. I planned to make a visit on the way home, driving from Tucson to Denver to surprise Ruth for her birthday. This meant the grandkids were on my mind.

Ruth, late March, 2014

Ruth, late March, 2014

I sensed, in meditation and through writing occasioned by the workshop’s flow, that our family’s center of gravity had shifted, for good, to Colorado. Both Jon and Joseph moved to Colorado for the skiing. Joseph would likely return to Colorado after his time in the Air Force (it seemed like that then, maybe not quite as much now) and our grandchildren were young. If we stayed in Minnesota, we would see them only occasionally and have little chance to play much of a role in their maturation.

This realization, that our family had shifted its home base from Minnesota, which we both loved, to Colorado, made me think moving to Colorado made some sense. Kate had gotten there long before me, so when I raised the question on my return, a decision to leave came quickly. We soon had a realtor, began making regular trips to G-Will Liquors for boxes and purchased colored tape.

First project, fence for the dogs

First project, fence for the dogs

Living in the mountains, at altitude, had three main drivers. The first was free air-conditioning. “If there’s no snow (or rain) falling from the sky and you’re not in a cloud, then the temperature decreases by about 5.4°F for every 1,000 feet up you go in elevation.” on the snow. So you can do the math for 8,800 feet. The second was to live in a distinctly different environment from our Midwestern home. Denver didn’t meet this criteria since it’s at what I consider the western terminus of the Midwest, where the plains wash up against the Front Range of the Rockies, and it’s a metro area, therefore not very different in kind from the Twin Cities. The third was to put some distance, though not too much, between us and the grandkids. We didn’t want to be used as babysitters, but to be available as grandparents.

Ruth and Jon helping us get ready for the moving van, Dec. 2014

Ruth and Jon helping us get ready for the moving van, Dec. 2014

This latter desire on our part, to engage the grandkids, but not be engulfed by them, was a distinct point of conflict with Jen, Jon’s then wife. She complained, from the first time we decided on Black Mountain Drive, that we were living too far away. No matter how often we pointed out that we had moved 900 miles closer, she always came back to how far away we were. While we understood her point, it was exactly that sort of attitude that had made us choose some distance.

So we moved to the mountains on the Winter Solstice of 2014, barely 9 months after the workshop in Tucson. We came into alignment as the workshop changed my attitude toward the relative virtues of staying in Minnesota or being close to the grandkids. In effect, it brought me around to Kate’s thinking.

 

Seeing the sights

Samain                                                                   Joe and SeoAh Moon

20171027_161725Slowly. Things change. Sometimes fast, but often slowly. Jon has most of his stuff removed from the house, a few things remain in the garage. The bench he’s making will soon have colorful cushions. Kate’s already hard at work thinking about colors, about furniture arrangements, window treatments for the rest of the house.

Yesterday we did a marathon, sitting in the Rav4 of course, to get those cushions ready for Thanksgiving. Colorado Fabrics, the place to go for quality cloth in the Denver metro, is in Aurora, far to the east in Aurora. Aurora is the eastern edge of the metro. We live 35 miles west of Denver. So, navigating the entire metro, and on city streets because the southern metro area has no freeways to help cross it.

Then, roll of fabric in the back, we turned around and drove back three quarters of the way home to Diane’s. Diane is a fabricator. She takes the foam Kate purchased, cuts and sews the fabric, puts in zippers and stuffs the covers. They’ll be done by the big meal. Jon, Anne, Ruth and Gabe, at least, will be here.

I like these sojourns that take us on city streets. I’m still an avid student of the way cities form, shape themselves, develop character. Getting to Colorado Fabrics is a lesson in the way Denver has pushed its way south, overwhelming Hampden Avenue, Highway 285, which was once a four lane, relatively easy to use transit across the line where the ‘burbs began. No more. Now it’s a clogged thoroughfare sandwiched between the Denver city limits and a string of homes and businesses that extends miles beyond it in all directions. But it’s not been replaced by anything better.

Diane’s place is in Lakewood, a you can’t tell you ever left Denver behind part of the metro area, but to the west, in the same fashion as Aurora is to the east, though not nearly as big. While driving on Sheridan north, we had to turn around due to a navigational error in the wetware I use to find my way. As we turned around, Kate said, “Goats.” Sure enough, a house with concrete gargoyle statues, a lion or two and lots of other stuff I assume meant to be decorative had a large field in back with maybe 10 or 12 goats wandering around. Kate then noticed horses and gardens. Mind you we’re still well inside the metro area, not far out of Denver proper. This is the West. It’s different out here.

Diane herself lived in a neighborhood that was new, I imagine, in the late 50’s, perhaps early 60’s, in the last century of the millennia just past. Mostly small bungalow type houses with smallish lots, most of brick. She had a large silver maple tree in her front yard and we walked through fallen leaves to her front door. The crushing of those leaves under our feet gave off the smell of a midwestern autumn, something we no longer experience in the mountains. Instant nostalgia. Raking the leaves. Jumping in the piles. Pushing them into the street and setting the on fire. God, I can’t believe we really did that. But we burned our trash, too.

Diane is a large, friendly woman with a home full of items with an oriental flavor: buddha statues, a Japanese style painting, a Chinese acrobat holding a small table up on his legs. She had a couple of small dogs who were very noisy when we first got there. She went through, carefully, what we wanted done with the fabric. Did we want the pattern to run horizontally or vertically? Did we want to emphasize the darker or the lighter aspect? Where could she place the zippers so we could flip them if we needed to? She had a small desk in an alcove area next to her kitchen. Kate and I were on a settee next to it.

Since this was rush hour time, Kate and I ate at a buffet I’d discovered when I was out for the closing on our house, exactly three years ago. The closing was on Halloween and I did this and that for three or four days afterward.

Finally, home. We left Black Mountain Drive around 1 p.m. and it was 5:30 by the time we got back. Turns out excursions of this length now leave us both a bit tired, Kate often a lot. Just the aging process accentuated in her case by Sjogren’s and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

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