We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Concentration Camps, in the U.S., Right Now

Summer                                                                      Monsoon Moon

florenceSad. Mad. Incredulous. Shocked. Mystified. Hurt. The Florence Project. Kate and I went to Beth Evergreen last night to hear Valentina Montoya*. She’s a mental health attorney for the project, which means that her clients are not only caught in the detention trap, but have serious mental illness as well.

Reading about family separation, shaking our heads, how can they? That’s one experience. Hearing Ms. Montoya talk about children in detention, five month olds, toddlers, blind children, physically and mentally disabled children, children who have no apparent medical care or educational opportunities, children who know their parents as mama and daddy, but don’t know their given names, children separated from their parents with no tracking or identifying system in place, one four-year old boy, for example, who refused to change his clothes because he was afraid his parents wouldn’t recognize him, that’s another.

florence2Ms. Montoya became too emotional to talk. Several times. She answered question after question from this audience of maybe 75 people, all outraged, most wanting to do something. Kate stood up and asked what kind of medical care did these children receive? Ms. Montoya said no particular medical care was available. That means diabetes goes untreated. Other chronic conditions, too. Another asked what kind of education the kids were getting? Ms. Montoya said, “The kids speak Spanish; all the guards and caretakers speak English.”

This was an especially poignant topic for Beth Evergreen. As Renee said, “I’m a child of holocaust survivors. I’m uniquely qualified to call these what they are, concentration camps.” I hadn’t thought of it that way, but it’s true. No Zyklon B. For now. But, as Renee said, “If they can come for them, they can come for me. Maybe next, maybe three, four down the line.”

Here’s a thing I’d not paid attention to in the news reports. The families separated in Florence, Arizona, a distant, isolated location for an ICE detention facility (not an accident) are asylum seekers. That means they came to a U.S. port of entry and, as required by our law, asked for asylum. These are legal immigrants who have fled horrific conditions of gang violence, local drug cartels, domestic abuse, government oppression and seek refuge here. Let me say that again, these folks are LEGAL immigrants.

The bad elf, Jeff Sessions, has done everything he can to undercut the law by, for example, offering a biblical rationale for family separation, trying to defund basic legal orientation services. DHS lawyers raise jurisdictional issues in immigration proceedings to obfuscate and extend detention proceedings.

florence4Part of the problem for legal projects like Florence and Rocky Mountain Immigration Advocates is immigration law itself. It’s a hodgepodge of laws, rules, exceptions that have accreted like barnacles over the years, making it an area of the law for which even its specialists can claim only partial knowledge. That means even willing pro bono lawyers are often not competent to help. This makes it even easier for mendacious buffoons like Trump, Sessions and DHS Secretary Kirstjen Michele Nielsen to throw forks and knives into the wheels of justice.

It was, all in all, a heart rending evening. Unimaginable suffering. Detention is different from prison. In prison you know when you’re going to get out. Detention is indeterminant. Until Sessions quashed it, each detainee used to get a bond hearing every six months. That hearing at least offered a review of your circumstances and a possibility of release. With that bond hearing eliminated, there is no legal requirement for a time certain when your case will be heard. If at all. This out Kafka’s Kafka. And, it is definitely, a first step toward Nazi area solutions for folks we don’t like.

 

valentina-150x150*Valentina Restrepo Montoya was born in Boston to Colombian-immigrant parents. She earned her J.D. from Berkeley Law, where she advocated on behalf of asylum seekers, latinx workers, latinx tenants, and indigent defendants in criminal cases. Valentina clerked for The Southern Center for Human Rights, where she investigated language access to adult and juvenile courts. After law school, she joined The Southern Poverty Law Center, dedicating herself to litigation against The Alabama Department of Corrections for providing constitutionally inadequate medical and mental health care to prisoners, and not complying with The Americans with Disabilities Act. Prior to joining The Florence Project, Valentina was an assistant public defender in Birmingham, Alabama. She enjoys playing soccer, reading The New Yorker, practicing intersectional feminism, and rooting for The New England Patriots.

Mountain Living

Summer                                                               Woolly Mammoth Moon

Clean pine pollen off of everything

Clean pine pollen off of everything

Not necessary in Minnesota:  keep the garbage in the garage to prevent bears from digging through it. point the back of the trash can into the wind on those days when it reaches 60 mph plus. don’t let your dogs stay outside at night unless you want to risk a mountain lion having them for a late supper. paying attention to water use. doing fire mitigation work. watching the Forest Service fire danger signs as key information about daily life. having to acclimate to 8,800 feet. Other stuff, too, but I can’t think of what it is right now.

A long, hot summer

Summer                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

Fire mitigation, May 2016

Fire mitigation, May 2016

Smoky the Bear’s fat index finger points at Very High on all the fire danger forest signs we drive by. In Evergreen the fire station there says Extremely High. The Spring Creek Fire is at 103,000 acres burned and 35% containment. The 416 is at 54,000 and 45% containment. The Weston Pass Fire has closed 285 at Fairplay and is at 12,000 acres with 17% containment.

There’s a lot of low level anxiety here, knowing all it would take is a careless camper, a lightning strike, an automobile accident to put us in danger, too. The big fires are in the southern and southwestern parts of the state where some areas have passed beyond extreme drought conditions, so the fuel load is tinder dry.

Half of the slash, May, 2016

Half of the slash, May, 2016

We are left not with trust, then, but only hope. Hope that fire will not burn down our houses and upset our lives. Once Kate and I decided that if it burns, it burns and we move on, my anxiety level decreased. We chose to live here, chose to build our Colorado life in an area vulnerable to fire.

August 2016

August 2016

Choices, like our psyches, are never only this or only that. We moved here to be closer to the grandkids, yet to have our own life in the mountains, too. That is, we chose to move from the relatively safe from fire Andover (though the occasional derecho, tornado and hail storms were destructive.) to the wildlife/urban interface of the Rocky Mountains. It’s desirability is captured by its adjectives, we are where the wildlife live, yet urban amenities are also close. We have the beauty of the Rockies, the mule deer bucks and does that visit our yard, the elk that bugle in the fall, the mountain lions that cough in the night, black bears and all manner of other creatures. Yet, we also have the existential danger, especially high in early and mid-summer, of fire. Not an either/or, but a both/and.

Life, too, though not a choice we made (but to continue our life is a choice), puts us in an even more dire dilemma. We were thrown by circumstance into the life/reality interface, knowing that the wildfire of our death grows increasingly less contained as we age. At some point it will engulf us, burn out the wild mind that has carried us from birth. I’m ok with that, too. Not that I have a choice.

 

Will Wonders Never Cease?

Summer                                                                   Woolly Mammoth Moon

Happy to report that the two friends with critical life moments had good news, one through medical surveillance and one through a lifetime of work brought into clear focus. May the congregation say, Amen. Or, blessed be.

Under the Woolly Mammoth Moon two natural wonders continue apace. The 416 fire, though now reporting 37% containment, has increased in size to 47,000 acres plus and further information on the inciweb site for it indicate weather conditions are favorable for the fire to continue to grow. In addition to its location only 13 miles north of Durango, where my buddies and I spent a weekend, it’s also very close to Mesa Verde and the Canyon of the Ancients. This fire began on June 1st and has lasted into the difficult fire conditions of midsummer.

Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde, Mark Odegard

Cliff Palace of Mesa Verde, Mark Odegard

Back on the Big Island, Kilauea continues to erupt.

June 27 fissure 8 cone supplies lava to the ocean overflows

June 27 fissure 8 cone supplies lava to the ocean overflows USGS. The cone is now nearly 180 feet high.

June 28 Night view of the lava channel toward fissure 8 under a nearly full moon.

June 28 Night view of the lava channel toward fissure 8 under a nearly full moon. USGS

At the Kilauea caldera, Halemaʻumaʻu crater, home of the goddess Pele, continues to deepen and subside, the floor now 1,300 feet below what used to be the overlook area. The USGS reports that the popular parking lot next to the crater is no more, having fallen into Halemaʻumaʻu.

 

Sweat, Black Holes and Sushi

Summer                                                                       Woolly Mammoth Moon

49 this morning.

HIITEasing back (if that’s the right phrase) into high intensity interval training (HIIT), up to 9 minutes of 30 second, 20 second, 10 second intervals, moderate for 30, higher speed for 20, as fast as possible for 10. Once I get back to 10 minutes, two 5 minute sessions in a row with a two minute break, I’ll start increasing the incline on the treadmill. I’m only at 2% right now and I’d like to get to 4%.

I can already tell an improvement in my breathing. This is cardio at its quickest and best. The whole workout takes 20 minutes, though because of my knee I add 15 minutes of icing. I’m now back to the five day pattern I want to retain. I used to go 6 days, but decided I need the two days off for psychic reasons.

pearl-street-then-and-now Photo from Silvia Pettem's book Positively Pearl Street. Historic photo from the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History. Current day photo taken by Casey A. Cass.

pearl-street-then-and-now Photo from Silvia Pettem’s book Positively Pearl Street. Historic photo from the Carnegie Branch Library for Local History. Current day photo taken by Casey A. Cass.

Ruth and I go to Boulder tonight, leaving around 5:30 pm. We’ll hit the 8 pm show at Fiske Planetarium, Black Holes: The Other Side of Infinity. Before that I’m taking her to a sushi restaurant, Japango, that Mark Odegard and I found last week. It’s on the Pearl Street Mall, an urban spot among the best I’ve found in Colorado.

When Mark was here, I found an article from 2008 in the NYT that referred to Boulder as 25 square miles surrounded by reality. Here it’s known as the Republic of Boulder. We would have chosen to live there, but housing is very, very expensive, in the near million dollar range for an average purchase price. Too rich for us.

Even though we had over an inch of rain last week the fire danger signs here seem stuck on high. Not sure how they determine the fire risk ratings. Not even sure who determines them though the fire danger signs themselves are National Forest Service issue. A piece of information that remains in memory because they’re located frequently enough that every trip takes us past at least one. The point I suppose.

eudaimonia and makarismosJon’s working on his house, creating maps of wiring he intends to install and getting ready to rewire much of it. He’s got so many skills and he’s very bright. He seems to be gradually getting his balance though it’s been a tough slog. Ruth and Gabe both have become much less reactive. Neither of them will ever be normal kids, just fine with that.

Like most parent/grandparents we want to them to choose for themselves, live a life that makes them productive and fulfilled. Personally I think happiness overrated, preferring for them eudaimonia, flourishing, and resilience. Those are my goals, too.

makarismos=blessed, from Homer

 

Woolly’s In the Rockies

Beltane                                                                               Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180616_104132

Paul and Tom

Ode and All Hat and No Motel

Ode and All Hat and No Motel

20180616_114754

Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

Pensive Tom

Pensive Tom

The Trailhead, Buena Vista

The Trailhead, Buena Vista

Cliff Palace

Beltane                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

The Quadruplets

The Quadruplets

We drove yesterday where others walked long ago. The drive from the visitor center at Mesa Verde to the Cliff Palace where we went on an hour long tour took a long while, maybe 30 minutes up an incline. The land at Mesa Verde slopes up at an angle with fingers of land separated by eroded valleys. At the end of these wide fingers the land slopes down again, gently. As a result, according to an exhibit at the Spruce Tree dwelling museum, Mesa Verde is not a mesa at all, but a cuesta. Mesa’s have sharp cliffs while cuesta’s slope, as they do here, toward the lower ground.

20180616_113852

Paul and Mark descending

The route down to Cliff Palace (I’ll post pictures when I get back home) was the same one the cliff dwellers used, narrow steps cut into sandstone, augmented a bit by the occasional iron railing. There was, too, a ten foot ladder on the way down and two ten foot ladders on the way out which also followed a cliff dweller path. It would have been a fun place to grow up as a kid, scrambling up and down over rock and ladders, a more or less level surface above the home site where games could be played.

As at many sites where rock was a primary building material, the skill level was high with walls that were plumb, right angles, and a mortar that both bound the rock together and allowed water to seep through without loosening.

20180616_104310

Cliff Palace

Mark asked an interesting question about wall coverings. These rocky appearing structures would have had several coats of plaster on them and would have been painted. That means they would have looked much different than they do now.

A ranger at the visitor center compared Mesa Verde to Giza and other World Heritage sites. When Tom asked him what was good about working there, “We get visitors from all over the world.” Another Ranger I talked to, Doug Crispin, had an obvious reverence for this Park. He was a first generation immigrant and said, “This is an American story. I’m honored to be here to share it.” He and I mused over a thousand years from now, “Will anyone be coming to look at the ruins of Durango? Probably not. But Mesa Verde will still be here.”

Right outside my hotel room is a small balcony with two chairs, a small table and a view of the Animas River. Had I been in this room on April 7th of 2015 the Animas would have been a sickly, mustard yellow thanks to the toxic spill from the Gold King Mine upstream from here. It’s clear now, with people kayaking, long  boarding, even fishing, but it took a long time. Here’s a hardly reassuring couple of paragraphs from the Durango Herald, April of this year:

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

San Juan Basin Public Health said water samples taken throughout the Animas River indicate there’s no risk to human or environmental health from normal use of the waterway.

However, the health department suggests people who come in contact with the river to wash with soap, keep a close watch on children who are more susceptible to unintentionally swallowing river water and treat water before consumption.

Meanwhile, the 416 fire, from the same newspaper, an hour ago: “The 416 Fire hasn’t exhaled its last column of smoke yet, but steady rainfall Saturday did help tame the 16-day-old wildfire and allow firefighters to increase containment lines around the 34,161-acre blaze.

20180616_122340I slept last night with the patio door open, screen closed. I could hear the Animas, the river of souls, running. When I woke up this morning, it was raining. My ear was eager for the sound, found it soothing, familiar in a humid East, Midwestern way.

Being with Tom, Paul, and Mark has reminded us all of the depth our long time relationships has nurtured. We move together through the day easily, listening to each other, making decisions, continuing lines of thought, sparking new ones. One of Paul’s hopes is that this trip might encourage us to use a meeting app like Zoom to get together even while far apart physically. I’d like that and hope we can make it work, too.

Kate says the stump grinder got a lot done in 2 hours. I’m excited to see it. An outdoor room. Later we’ll have him back to do the front, leaving widely spaced trees with no stumps.

 

Venn Merging

Beltane                                                                                  Woolly Mammoth Moon

Yesterday two worlds came into contact, even if only briefly. The first was Kate and mine’s current world, the world of the Rocky Mountains and Reconstructionist Judaism, Evergreen and Shadow Mountain. The other was our old world, the world of the Land of Lakes and the Woolly Mammoths, Andover and the Twin Cities.

First, Ode showed up at mussar. Then, Tom and Paul. The middot of the week is grace and reading Rami Shapiro’s book, The Art of Loving Kindness, carried us into a discussion about shabbat as a “counter-cultural rebellion” which encourages living one day a week as if work and worry are not the point of life. Has always made sense to me, BTW, long before Beth Evergreen, but I’ve never acted on it, never observed a sabbath day.

Anyhow the context of the conversation made me realize what a grace-full moment it was for me when Tom, Paul and Mark showed up here in Colorado. It was, in one sense, perhaps even the best sense, ordinary. I knew they would find the conversation fascinating, because it was a conversation we’d been having for over thirty years. How do you live? What about life is important? How can we move ourselves into a more meaningful, graceful, gratitude filled existence?

So that moment at the synagogue smooshed together two venn diagrams, Minnesota and Colorado. And it felt really good. They met Rabbi Jamie. Debra referred to the four of us as the quadruplets, older white haired white guys of similar size and habitus and life.

Then the party moved over to Shadow Mountain. My slow cooker Irish stew was, well, partly there. The lamb was tender, but the potatoes were not. Neither Kate nor I, though she is much more able at it than me, are big on hosting events at our house. Too busy at one point, now a bit less able. But these were friends who would forgive an underdone potato for the  conversation around the table. And the occasional poking of Rigel’s head under their arms.

Kate went to bed, then got up, came out and said, “You have the best friends.” Indeed, I do.

This morning at 8:30 we’ll take off in the giant SUV that Tom has rented. First stop, the Crow Hill Cafe, then The Happy Camper. Maybe the Sasquatch Outpost? Certainly Kenosha Pass, South Park, Fairplay. On down through South Park. Maybe we’ll look at the Rocky Mountain Land Library, maybe we’ll stop in Pagosa Springs for a soak in the hot springs. Not sure. Doesn’t matter.

We’re headed to Durango in the southwest corner of the state. The 416 fire, north of Durango, as of yesterday:

“While residents in two areas were allowed to return to their homes Thursday, the 416 Fire grew to 32,076 acres with no update on containment.

The fire, burning just 13 miles north of Durango, is still being worked by over 1,000 firefighters who are battling this thing from the air and the ground. Burn out efforts, that is, efforts to burn up the fire’s potential fuel, continued throughout the day.” 9News, Denver.

Here’s a link to a Durango Herald article on fire analysts, very interesting.

Western Swing

Beltane                                                                                Sumi-e Moon

aickman2Working on a second Aickmanesque short story. School Spirit is done though it can use editing. Working now on Main Street, a story inspired by Kaye Cox who, along with three of his friends, was decapitated by a sheet of iron that fell off a truck while he and his buddies were behind it. High school. I’m finding that writing with Alexandria in mind is a rich mine, lots of feelings, lots of stories. My current plan is to write at least 12 short stories, all in Aickman’s style, all based in Alexandria. Enough for a book. Jennie’s Dead is not done, but it’s still sitting there, throbbing away. I’ll get back to it at some point. It will call to me.

Jon finished the bench! At least the until now missing top. Still needs a coat of light stain and a varnish. Looks great and is done in time for Kate’s hosting of the needleworkers. The fan that got moved has some tics, not yet a fully good installation. I think I can take it the rest of the way. He said hopefully.

20180601_204307Kate and I went out for the first time since her shoulder surgery, except for Beth Evergreen events. We went to the Center Stage venue in Evergreen to hear Katie Glassman, whom we first encountered at Jews Do Jews, and her significant other, Greg Schochet.

She’s from Colorado, Denver, but now lives in Boulder. She’s a queen of the fiddlin’ scene, extolling last night the fiddle contest culture which brings fiddlers together from all over the nation. She’s won many contests and reminded me of the Charlie Daniel’s Band song, The Devil Went Down To Georgia. She might be the best who’s ever been.

Katie and Greg last night

Katie and Greg last night

Since the night focused on Western swing, you might imagine the hats, vests, boots, and belts on many of the men. In this instance it was the roosters who dressed up, not the hens. It felt like the first truly Western event, outside of the National Western Stock Show of course, that we’ve attended.

Katie’s father was there, having retired that day from the Denver Public School system after 32 years of teaching. Gabe, who attends an elementary school in DPS, had his last school day yesterday for the year, too.

It was a sweet, fun, upbeat evening that left us smiling.

 

Life Improving

Beltane                                                                                                 Sumi-e Moon

Pulled a couple of t-bones out of the freezer yesterday. Two inch thick. But chewy. Still, the flavor was good. Mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. Saturday night meal with my sweetheart.

20180513_105811Kate looks and feels so much better. The pain is gone in her right shoulder which created a lot of stress throughout the day and made sleeping difficult, requiring vicodin from time to time. She’s exercising regularly as she goes through her p.t., using the pulley we set up in her sewing room, using a walking stick for two-handed shoulder movements, rolling an exercise ball.

Sjogren’s, right now, is manageable, which it seems to be in the absence of a flair. Her weight is headed up, zigzagging, as weight can, but moving in a positive direction. Her energy level and stamina are both much improved. She’s sewing favors, mug rugs, for a Bailey Patchworkers event in August for which she is the food chairperson.

20180414_162058Jon, too, has positive news. He bought some appliances, a Viking cooktop and two wall ovens, a microwave and dishwasher. He also had a date which he described as amazing. Ruth is out of school, Gabe is next week and I believe Jon finishes the week after. He has the summer for working on his house, something he’s looking forward to. I plan to help him with his landscaping.

SeoAh had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic and ended up in the emergency room. She’s better now. Joe’s doing major things. Murdoch continues to get bigger.

I’m doing well. Back at Jennie’s Dead, closing in on 50,000 words, printing out Ancientrails. I’m only up to April of 2008, but I’m making progress. I named this moon sumi-e so I can get a more organized approach to working with the brushes, learning instead of just playing. Which is fun, too. Reading a lot. Finished God Save Texas and went on from that to Rovelli’s Order of Time which I also finished. Right now I’m reading short stories by Robert Aickman. He’s weird. Surprised I never heard of him before now.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition runs from March 16 to Sept. 3, 2018 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The exhibition showcases ancient artifacts predominantly from Israel. Photo courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Today 24 of us from Beth Evergreen are going in to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Rabbi Jamie’s brother, a Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies, will give us a personal tour.

Speaking of stress reducers, we’ve had rain and even snow yesterday, for the last few days. More on moisture ahead, too. Tamps down fire risk. Also makes the mountains atmospheric. Lots of mist and fog, partial glimpses. Black Mountain as Gypsy Rose Lee.

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