That Damned Tunnel

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Thought more about the tunnel I mentioned in the post below. For a long while, especially from February through mid-May or so, I thought the light at the end of the tunnel was the ironic oncoming train. Seemed like the tunnel had shrunken and passing through it was a unit train headed in our direction.

Once Kate began to gain weight, smile, the tunnel expanded a bit. A small path opened up that we could jump onto and wait out the train. When the cancer diagnosis went from psa to imaging studies, and the imaging studies showed no mets, the small path widened up enough for both of us to stand next to each other.

The exit from the tunnel is still far off. I’m estimating September, late September, as the time when we see if the track outside the tunnel runs through a pleasant valley or back into another mountainside.

When I did the Progoff workshop in May I thought mostly about the time since Kate’s bleed. On the way to radiation today I turned this over again and decided that the move to Colorado was the key moment. Since then four aspects of our new life came to dominate.

supervised trip, A-Basin, 2016

Family. Since we moved here on the Winter Solstice of 2014, Jon has gone through a bitter divorce, lived with us for a year and purchased his own home. The grandkids have gone from traumatized to tween and teenager. In 2016 we went to Korea for Joe and SeoAh’s wedding. Since then, SeoAh has become an important part of our family, too.

Colorado. We live in this remarkable state, close to many things people spend thousands of dollars to visit. We’ve seen few of them. The tunnel has contained us. Perhaps as we emerge from the tunnel, we’ll be able to plan trips. 5280, a magazine, has an insert this month, 10 classic Colorado road trips. A good place to start.

We live in the mountains among the lodgepole pines, aspens, craggy cliffs and fast flowing streams. Mule deer, elk, fox, bears, and mountain lions are our neighbors. Making our life here on Shadow Mountain has given us great joy, the beauty and the changing seasons

Kate at the CBE board’s oneg, Rosh Hashanah, 2018

Judaism. Congregation Beth Evergreen has been a refuge, a joy. The folks there have shown us what community means, what mitzvah means, that life together is better than life apart. Friends, intellectual sustenance, spiritual growth.

October 8, 2018

Healthspan. It was the diagnosis in 2015 that started it. Oh. Cancer? Really? Let’s get it out and move on. Tried to do that. Next up. Arthritic knee. Get a new, titanium one. Yes. Good choice. Kate needed a new right shoulder. Also a good choice. Sjogren’s began to eat into Kate’s well-being, dragging her weight down, causing fatigue, nausea. The bleed made it all more problematic for her. Second bleed. Pneumothorax. Each meant time in the hospital, starting in the E.R. at Swedish. Flu. Pneumonia. Me. Rising psa. Oh? Really? Later here we are in week 3 of the radiation. Hopeful for the near term future. How our lifespan has been affected? Probably shortened.

First day of radiation

It is my feeling that emergence from the tunnel will call on us to interact more fully with all of these four. I’m excited and ready.

Not yet

Beltane                                                                             Cancer Moon

20190510_064922

from my computer, this morning

5 or so inches of snow over the night before and yesterday. Looks like winter again here. Solar panels covered. Black Mountain hidden in the clouds. The drive down the hill yesterday took some skill. Slick spots, long runs snow and ice covered while going down. Wouldn’t want to have to do that everyday for work. On occasion it’s interesting, different. Our workshop leader, Joanne, lives in Fresno where it gets hot, and in Hawai’i, where it never gets cold. This weather is not to her liking.

This is the last day of the workshop. Now considering how to continue this work on my own. Each other time, three before this one, I’ve come back and not continued the journal. This time it feels like I finally understand the method enough to do it unguided, or at least with the help of Progoff’s main book, At a Journal Workshop. The week long retreats have been sufficient for me to gain new insights, position myself in my life at the moment, and chart out a path forward. That’s why I’ve come to back to this experience.

One thing I’ve not touched on yet in this new journal is reading. I want to read more, more methodically. This desire comes over me from time to time, right now it’s coming in strength. I read a lot anyhow, you know that, but I want to take specific time for more difficult reading. Gotta figure out how to work that in.

There is, too, some overlap between ancientrails and the intensive journal. Sometimes they’re covering the same or similar ground. Will have to work out the relationship between them.

20190506_084930It’s a bit strange to be at May 10 and have the temperature at 24, snow covering the driveway, the roofs, the walkways. In Minnesota the safe time for planting was typically May 15. Don’t think it would work here, at least not every year. We warm back up next week. For now, though. Winter wonderland. Like, I wonder why it’s still winter?

Next week will test the equanimity. Monday am. Kate’s appointment with Gupta. Lung disease diagnosis and fitness for j-tube surgery. Later in the day, her new crowns. Tuesday, axumin scan to determine the extent and location of my cancer. Wednesday, a visit with my ophthalmologist. Retinal photography. Thursday, mussar. Friday, all-season tires and dye into the air conditioning system. A visit to Anova Cancer care for a treatment plan. A jump shift from this quiet week.

One important thing the journal workshop has underlined for me is that I’m not ready to die. I have family I want to care for, see grow up, grow older. Friends I want to know better. I have books to write. Places to visit. Deep work still ahead of me. This is not new, of course, and the journal workshop hasn’t made me aware of it, no. But, it has put me in touch with the gestalt of these things and my desire to keep at them all. The feeling level.

Death will come, but as I heard someone else say, let it be tomorrow.

 

 

Illness and Legacy

Beltane                                                                           Cancer Moon

Saguaro National Park, edited

Saguaro National Park, 2014

Struggled a bit with naming the moon for this new month. Didn’t want to put up my first idea. It seemed, dark. Yet when I went to other ideas, nothing came. Usually the new moon’s name comes easily. It’s a fun way to emphasize an important aspect of the upcoming lunar month. This time though. Not fun. I try to think of something that might dominate the next 30 days or an important (to us or the mountains) event. Recovery Moon. Rushing Waters. Valentine. So. Cancer.

But. Ewww. Debbie Downer. Even so. Axumin scan. Meeting with Dr. Gilroy, a radiation oncologist. Most probably treatment. In my world cancer will dominate. So. Cancer.

Jon, Ruth, and Gabe came up last night. Ruth brought a wonderful loaf of challah she’d made. Tasted like Irish soda bread. The braids were clear. I brought up the silver platter I bought for Kate a long time ago. A set, with a serrated knife. For the sabbath meal. I had my pastrami on chunks of challah. They’d stopped at the New York Deli on their way up, buying matzo ball soup as well as stuff for supper and eating it on the way.

Ruth and Gabe laugh easily now, tease each other. As happy now as they were angry and sullen a couple of years ago. Jon’s doing something right as a parent and it’s a pleasure to see. He’s been out of school for a week or so now. The Aurora school district chose Montview to renovate this year. His art room will have a patio and windows. His old room had no windows. Hard to imagine for an art classroom, eh?

The Great Kiva, Chaco Canyon

The Great Kiva, Chaco Canyon

The move. In 2014 my last Progoff workshop stirred something in me, made me realize if Kate and I were going to make a change in our lives right then was the time to do it. We were both still in good health. We had enough money. Kate had retired.

On the way up here from Tucson I saw the Mogollon Rim, Ship Rock, and stopped at Chaco Canyon. The Mogollon Rim is the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, the massive geological feature that underlies parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado west of the Rockies with its center roughly at the Four Corners. Ship Rock, if you’ve read any Tony Hillerman mysteries already familiar to you, has a sacred role in Diné culture. Chaco Canyon was the Vatican of the Anasazi, direct ancestors of the Pueblo people. As I drove the Mogollon Rim in the early hours of March 28th, 2014, the full moon rose.

Ruth, March 29, 2014

Ruth, March 29, 2014

Ruth, April 5, 2019

Ruth, April 5, 2019

I could feel, and wrote it about even then, a Colorado self forming. That same Colorado self that I chose to dress last summer. The one with the plaid flannel shirts and jeans. Unexpectedly a lot like my Minnesota self. Yet not. This is a self not with its roots in Lake Superior, North Woods country, but in the Colorado Plateau, in the Rocky Mountains, in the ancient history of human settlement here. And that Colorado self, forming as I drove, wanted that. More than I knew at the time.

I left the Colorado Plateau and drove north to Denver.

Jen wanted to surprise Ruth. Her 8th birthday was only days away when I got to Denver. This from a post on March 29th, “When I knocked on the door, Ruth, the birthday girl who did not know I was coming, fluttered her hands and got a shy look.  Taken aback and surprised.  Then, glad to see me.” In retrospect I think it was in that moment I took an internal turn away from my home of 40 years and turned to face the Rockies.

 

A few photos

Beltane                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

Rustic Station, Bailey

Rustic Station, Bailey

20190427_093135

ATF, Bailey (see racist Native American statue between white pillar and main building)

Propane truck, log cabin, Bailey

Propane truck, log cabin, Bailey

Rocky Mountain Soda

Rocky Mountain Soda

At a Journal Workshop

Beltane                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

My Intensive Journal from 2014

My Intensive Journal from 2014

This Sunday I start my fourth Intensive Journal Workshop. It runs each day through Friday, the 10th. The whole rising psa, get in the oncological spirit matter has come up since I decided to attend. Makes the whole process even more important. What’s life like for me post the move to Colorado? What’s the next few years’ focus?

No question that health matters have had pride of place almost from the time we got here. My prostate cancer diagnosis came in April and May of 2015, only months after we moved into our house. Kate’s multiple issues, Sjogren’s, the bleed, food aversion and weight loss, anemia, and lung disease have dominated for almost 18 months. We both had joint replacements, my knee, her shoulder.

20190501_090802Having said that, they don’t compare to the importance of having been here for Jon and the kids during that messy divorce and its aftermath. Which continues. Nor do they compare in importance to finding Congregation Beth Evergreen. Or, the constant wonder and awe of living in the Rocky Mountains. Or, the creation of a new family with Joe and SeoAh’s marriage.

How have all these things changed me? What do they suggest for things that need emphasis, and things that need to go in the compost heap of my life? An introvert’s delight, the journal workshop. It’s my birthday present, maybe the best one ever. Thanks, Kate.

My Age

Spring                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

20190421_130639Earth day. Gabe turns 11. At the baseball game I asked Gabe what would change when he turned 11. “My age,” he replied. He’s that kinda kid.

Four signs of spring in three days. Pesach. Easter. A baseball game. Earth day. April is grandchild birthday month for us. Ruth, a sophisticated 13, loves Domo, the Japanese restaurant. Gabe, 11, said, yes, I’d like that, to my baseball game idea. Gabe, Ruth, Jon, and I saw the Rockies, cellar dwellers, beat the division leading Phillies 4 to 1.

It was a day game, started at 1:10. Had to leave here, in the snow, at 11:45. It was 41 on Shadow Mountain, when I got into Denver it was 67 and rainy. Even with the weather delay the game didn’t run too long with the Rockies stopping the Phillies in the top of the ninth. It got cooler and windier as the game progressed. Gabe, true to his Norwegian DNA, wore shorts and a t-shirt. I had on a fleece, a flannel overshirt, a scarf, and a hat. Even though I could see the goose bumps on his arms and legs, he only asked for a coat a couple of times. Late in the game he even got ice cream in a small blue baseball hat. Geez.

The Aurora Olsons

The Aurora Olsons

When Joe was six, I started taking him to see the Minnesota Twins in the now deflated and unmissed Metrodome. We got partial season tickets, probably saw 20 games. It was, however, 1987 and those same Twins went on that season to win the World Series. Joe’s been a baseball fan ever since. Me, not so much. Fishing and baseball I did as a father with a son.

The game yesterday was fun, in spite of the chilly weather. The Rockies had lots of offense, twice leaving the bases loaded when an inning ended. Two three-hundred million dollar players, Arenado for the Rockies and Bryce Harper for the Phillies, were on the field. Arenado looked good, Harper not so much, but it’s a long season.

 

 

Move

Spring                                                                         Recovery Moon

Home gym

Home gym

Ooff. Beware what you wish for. Got back to working out yesterday. Huffing and puffing. Resting between sets. My legs were rubbery when I left the gym and this morning when I got out of bed. Detrained. Starting back, even slow, was difficult. No other way to get there though. And, just two sets plus cardio. A ways to go. Glad to have begun, however.

This is an ancientrail that didn’t use to exist. Back when we were mostly farmers or laborers, back when we were still in the veldt hunting and gathering, exercise wasn’t necessary. It came with the day. Run down some game. Climb a tree for fruit. Hoe the field. Gather in the grain. Hitch up the oxen. It’s only since farming and manual labor diminished that we’ve been getting the modern, sitting disease. Now we live in cities, drive or otherwise ride to work, and find desks a more common habitat than the field. We are victims of our more brain less strain lifestyle.

This means we have to find time in a life occupied by other things, gathering money rather than tubers, for example, to move our bodies and stress our muscles. It seems unnatural, the treadmill or the bike, the weights, the bands, the various exercises, yet in fact it is exercising the body that is natural and our modern daily routine that is not.

Here in Colorado getting outside hiking, climbing, biking, camping, hunting, fishing are popular. Our spectacular natural amenities the mountains, the snow, fast flowing rivers and streams beckon, are visible even from downtown Denver. Yet 5280, a glossy magazine covering the Denver metro scene, had a recent issue devoted to work/life balance. Seems metro folk work more hours per week than most other cities in the U.S.

finishWhen you read the literature, it’s clear that exercise is not only beneficial, but necessary for good health, especially as we age. I didn’t start until my late 30’s and it took me a while to get regular at it. Now it feels weird to me if I don’t get in my workouts on a regular basis. The last two months were an anomaly and one I didn’t like.

Exercise not only benefits the body, but the mind as well. Yes, endorphins release if you go hard and that’s reinforcing, but for me, the real advantage is the knowledge that I’m caring for myself. If you do what you can, diet and exercise (and my diet is ok, barely), then what comes is part of the aging process.

The trick, at least for me, was staying with it long enough for exercise to become a habit, one that felt more normal than ignoring it. It wasn’t easy and I had long stretches where I could have quit. Glad I didn’t. Not sure what kept me at it. I’m a believer at age 72. When my personal trainer said I moved better than a lot of the 30 and 40 year olds she saw in the gym, I was surprised, but pleased. Worth it.

 

Became Native to This Place

Imbolc                                                                Valentine Moon

we're waiting to transition to a feeding tube placed in the jejunum

we’re waiting to transition to a feeding tube placed in the jejunum

UPS delivers vitamins and bags of nutrients for Kate. On Tuesday we got a box with a styrofoam container, two gel packs to keep things cool, bubble wrap filling the container, about 12x12x12. Two vials of vitamins. Next day, two more boxes, same size, syringes, nutrient bags, batteries (a fresh 9 volt goes into the pump every day), saline flushes, heparin locks, tubing for the pump that connects to Kate’s picc line.

The logistics of this tpn feeding are remarkable. Not only do they have to ship us the right amount of stuff, it has to get here on a timely basis. And, the nutrient bags have a mixture that is tuned according to Kate’s labs, which can change on a weekly basis. Somebody has to coordinate all that and make sure the counts are right, the nutrient’s up to date, and that it gets here so we can use it. But, you can’t send too much at once because the tpn might be stopped, or certain things, like the vitamins and nutrients might spoil.

tpn4It’s no wonder medical costs are high. All of these things are one use only: syringes, nutrients, saline flushes and heparin flushes (each in their own individual packing), batteries, tubing, alcohol wipes, even the packaging for the deliveries. The need for sterility drives most of this. Kate’s picc line ends near her heart in the superior venous cava, which means there is a direct link between the outside, non-sterile world and that vip organ. Even the tiniest mistake in sterile procedure could have disastrous, catastrophic results. No pressure, eh?

I’ve gotten more facile with the various steps required to change out Kate’s nutrient bags. She draws the vitamins out of their vials using syringes. She and Julie, the home health nurse, make that look easy, but my fingers don’t find it so. As Kate said, my dexterity is in my brain, not my fingers. The rest of it, I can do. I could figure that one out, too, but with Kate’s expertise, why?

20181230_064700Grieving now. Looking at things around the house with that critical, ok what do we need to do with this in order to sell the house eye. Driving up the mountain considering how many more times I’ll be able to see Black Mountain on my left as I climb Shadow Mountain to our home near its peak. Not anxious about it, just sad.

Place is very important to me. Andover taught me that. Even though we lived there twenty years I never made my peace with the suburban blandness. No there there, was the way I put it. Oh, yes, our property had a definite sense of place, but it was set in a context that numbed the mind. At least my mind. Here, the opposite is true. I love the mountains, the vistas, the curves in the road. The weather. The ever changing face of Black Mountain.

As the John Muir quote on my e-mails says, “You are not in the mountains, the mountains are in you.” It’s an aesthetic sensibility. Over my years at the MIA I learned how important aesthetics were to me. Always have been. Deep in my soul. Perhaps it’s even the root of my pagan leanings, the aesthetic link I feel between myself and the natural world.

 

Worn Out

Winter (last day)                                                                    Waxing Moon

Me driving home

Me driving home

OK. You guys win. Extreme Minnesota macho points earned these last few days. And, I saw that Paul Douglas predicts a 100 degree temperature swing! 100 degrees. You wouldn’t want to hear that if it was 52 outside and the direction was up, but in this situation, hallelujah brothers and sisters! Thank you, Jesus. And, Mohamed. And, Moses. Meanwhile up here in the tropical Rocky Mountains we’ve had mid-40’s for highs.

Yesterday. OMG. I pushed myself past some inner limit, way past. When I got up, it wasn’t a hop of bed, ready to greet the day moment. It was a let’s pull the blanket back over my head, switch the electric blanket back on and quit the world at least for the morning moment. Not a good time.

I had to make chicken soup with matzo balls (made by Kate). I had to take the soup to Golden with Kate. I had to go to CBE and teach the first hour of religious school, then head out for Aurora and Jon’s show. While down there, I had to go to Maria’s Empanada’s and get a dozen for Kate. I could head back up the mountain.

exhaustionAny of these things separately, happy, joyful tasks. All of them on the same day, a day that started with fatigue on waking? The happiness and joy would have to be in retrospect. I make chicken soup from scratch, with a whole chicken, cut up celery, onions, carrots, and garlic sauteed first. Wine to deglaze. Add water, lot of water. The chicken in its wire mesh cage. Wait for it to boil. Up here, longer than normal. An hour or so of simmering, then a package of frozen peas and one of frozen corn. Another ten minute. Retrieve the chicken, set it out to cool. Later, pick the meat from the bones. Put it in the soup. A lot of standing.

Got a lie down while the soup boiled, but it didn’t prove very restful. Back at the stove I finished the soup. At that point, time to go to Golden. About a 40 minute drive there, 40 minutes back. Dropped off the soup, 18 cups of it plus matzo balls. Back home to let Kate out. On the road right away to CBE. Spent a couple of hours there, getting food ready, talking to the kids as they came in. This was a first semester review. That went ok.

When Irene came to lead the dreams workshop, I left to go Aurora. This was at 5:00 pm. After a brutal hour and twenty minutes, I was in the gallery, talking to Jon about his new work. When I hit the big traffic on 6th street, congestion that lasted all the way across the city, my body began to resist what I was doing. I got sleepy, inattentive, restless. Just wanted to go home. Felt miserable. Wasn’t even close to my destination. Denver does not have a way to travel from east to west, west to east without encountering either dense urban traffic, or dense, worse freeway traffic on I-70. At 5 pm, that missing artery makes the lives of any one going either way awful.

exhaustedI’m not describing this well. I was a runner in a marathon. My resources had tapped out around 5 pm. As I got onto 6th street going east past Santa Fe, I hit the wall. Still had to cross Denver, get into Aurora, see Jon, then Maria’s. By the time I pulled out of the Stanley Marketplace parking lot, empanadas steaming in their cardboard box, I had half the marathon to finish. But I was already finished. My bed, however, was over an hour away, 45 miles, the first 20 miles back across the Denver metro. No choice.

Leaving Highway 6 going west, merging onto I-70, then 470, I began to wonder if I was going to make it home. My attention was split between fatigue and the road. At 72 there are many parts of driving that are essentially automated. They took over. I tried to remind myself to watch that car ahead, find the Fairplay exit, slow down in Morrison. It felt like I was carrying the car up the hill toward Shadow Mountain.

Kate, bless her heart, cleaned up most of the kitchen, something that was weighing on me. Get home, beyond exhausted, and clean up? OMG. Usually I clean up right away but the time frame of the day made that impossible. She’s doing better, not gaining weight yet, but she’s willing to pitch in now and again. This time it really mattered.

This morning I’m still bushwhacked, wrung out, sleepy, but I finished the marathon and slept in my own bed. A good start. Read a Harvard Business Review article, Resilience is not about enduring; it’s about recharging. That’s my job today, maybe tomorrow. Recharge.

So Beautiful

Winter                                                                             Waxing Moon

Our snowpack. Needed for the trees and our well

Our snowpack beside the front door. Needed for the trees and our well

Another 6 or 8 inches of snow yesterday. Snowiest January since 1993. The northern half and eastern quadrant of Colorado watersheds have above average snowpack. Critically, the Colorado Headwaters area is at 116%. The south western quadrant of the state though is below average in two spots, including the Durango area where the big fires burned last summer.

So beautiful. The lodgepoles carry snowy covers on their branches. The deer, rabbits, fox that come through our yard leave their tracks.The rising sun colors the snow on Black Mountain, right now a light flush pink. Bright blue sky behind the mountain.

Not so good for those of us animals who need carapaces and wheels. This is the google traffic map from yesterday. Rush hour. Add in altitude and you get a real mess. This is when commuting to Denver from Conifer separates the brave from the foolish.

 

metro roads 1 28

Kate’s initiated a get-out of the house plan. She said last week that she felt isolated and alone, so we’re going to go somewhere each day. Yesterday we went to the post office. Today, the King Sooper Starbucks for Kate while I pick up some groceries. Tomorrow? Who knows?

creation of the waters

creation of the waters

Last week I painted the creation of the universe, the shattering of the ohr. Followed it with the creation of the waters. Next up: land. I tried to show an island in my first attempt. Not so good. I like the first two, I’m starting over today on land. I’m going to get somehow to Eden and humans and that tree. Will take awhile. Hard to say in the abstract paint language I’m using. But, that’s part of the fun.

Astrological learning has been on hold. Painting, exercise, and Kate have gotten my focus along with CBE. Gonna get back to it, though. Probably a reading with Elisa’s astrologer, John, to kick off the next phase of my learning.

Just entered the Chicken soup cookoff at CBE. Gonna get some practice today, picking up soup supplies during the grocery shopping at King Sooper. Taking some to a friend, leaving some behind for Kate and me. Kate loves my chicken soup. My heirloom recipe came off the Golden Plump packages when I bought chickens in Minnesota. Here, I do it from memory.