We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

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.

Livin’ Is Easy. Sort of.

Beltane                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

20180604_122702After sledging and searing the meat and softening the vegetables in the fat, I put a three or four pound hunk of chuck roast in the slow cooker along with potatoes, carrots, onions and celery. It cooked all day, coming out fork tender. An easy meal. Jon and the kids got stuck in traffic so they ate later.

Had a visitor, a young mule deer buck with velveted horns, a small knob on top of each one. He loved our front yard, carefully eating only dandelion blooms. Wish I could have gotten him in the back, he’d have loved the delicacies there. In this brave new world on Shadow Mountain, dandelions are a beautiful addition to the late spring, early summer yard. Mowing only to keep down the fuel. Gonna have a go at that today after I put fresh gas in the mower.

Ruth and I are going to practice sumi-e today. I want to mimic my presentation for Thursday night. Enso practice, then a keeper. I also want to learn the kanji for ichi-go ichi-e.

Summer temperatures have come to the mountains, but in the way of heat in this arid climate, it’s not unbearable. The new fans in the loft, bedroom and over the dining room table help.

 

Rising

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

20161112_183554A beautiful day in the neighborhood yesterday. Blue sky. White clouds. Mountains covered with the many shades of green possible after a week of good rain. Maxwell Creek and Bear Creek headed to the Gulf with lots of energy. Lucky we live in the Rockies.

Kate had a good echocardiogram yesterday and a good visit with Tatiana, her cardiologist. It was a long day for her though and by the end she’d expended more than her daily allotment of K.U.’s, Kate energy units. She supervised the challah and it turned out tasty and beautiful. This is no minor feat at 8,800 feet since water doesn’t reach 212 degrees and all parts of the baking process, from flour selection to oven temperature and rising of the bread, change as a result. Ruth did it, but Kate made sure it worked.

On the long list of things to be grateful for these last two days have put a line under family and Shadow Mountain.

Little Girl, Big Girl

Beltane                                                                                    Sumi-e Moon

ruth-and-hair330This little person with the staticky blond hair made supper yesterday, a complicated one. Lamb shawarma, black tie challah and toffee. Kate added a wonderful salad in the Middle Eastern style. Gabe and Jon drove up from Denver, in horrendous rush hour traffic (redundant adjective, I know) for the meal. “Gabe had better like this since we spent all day making it,” she said. He did.

20180522_174843Monday and Tuesday were Ruth’s first two days out of school and we were lucky to have her spend them with us. She cooked, fed the dogs, came up to the loft, “Hi. How ya’ doin’?” I served as her sous chef on the shawarma and Kate did likewise on the challah, but she picked the recipes and guided the action. And the shawarma was good. The challah, too. This is called Black Tie Challah.

20180422_182930She is, though, twelve, still learning to process her emotions. Hard.

This morning she’s off to the YMCA camp in Estes Park, the town closest to Rocky Mountain National Park. She told me she’s switched her preferred college now from M.I.T. to the Rhode Island School of Art and Design. Only the preeminent art school in the U.S. She aims high.

As we were cooking together yesterday, she said, “I’m an artist. That sort of means I’m a perfectionist.”

 

 

Monday

Beltane                                                                       Sumi-e Moon

Still printing out Ancientrails. Wish I’d looked at the pages a little earlier rather than just take them off the printer and add them to the stack. My ink cartridge, which I have had in for quite a while, began to fade in the middle of May, but I didn’t notice. That means I printed out June in faded blotches. Sigh. Do over.

Worked yesterday on my Aickmanesque short story. It’s harder than it looks. Trying to put in shifts in perspective, foreshadowing all without being obvious. Then, wrapping up in 5,000 words or so. Very different from novel writing. A sprint to the novel marathon.

Got a new workout yesterday. Bicep curls during step-ups. Plank raising one leg, then the other. Oh, boy. Crunch with exercise ball. Lower back exercise on exercise ball. Bench press with dumbbells. Row like lawnmower. Other things. Feels good to shift up, change routines.

Kate’s got an echocardiogram today and a visit with her cardiologist. Her overall health has improved so much in the last couple of weeks.  Routine followup though she has had some ankle swelling.

Ruth’s up. She’s on her way to Estes Park tomorrow, but today she and I are going to make challah. And, this evening she and Kate plan to make lamb shawarma. Kate got a couple of new cookbooks at the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit. Ruth’s finished up sixth grade. “Middle school’s so much better than elementary.” She needed the challenge of tougher math, Mandarin, art and she’s flourishing. “I have a talent for language acquisition.” She’s changed so much over the past year. More confident, curious, independent. It’s so much fun to see her life beginning to get back on the track after the divorce.

Gabe still has two weeks of school.

Over the last week or so, out

Beltane                                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

Mother's Day at the New York Deli. Not Rudy. Or, is it?

Mother’s Day at the New York Deli. Not Rudy. Or, is it?

20180513_111231

Source of genuine Italian Beef in Evergreen

Source of genuine Italian Beef in Evergreen

20180504_160826

Evergreen, Vienna Beef

The Bean, Evergreen

The Bean, Evergreen

Absence makes the heart grow wiser

Spring                                                                            Mountain Moon

Black Mountain white

Black Mountain white

Yes, it arrived. The bad Samsung got hauled away ignominiously with nary a tear of loss or grief. The new Kitchenaid now glares from its Cylon lens, hunting for dirty dishes, pots and pans that need a wash. This morning I walked past it and a single word glowed on the small screen visible from the front: CLEAN. Oh, joy. Oh, bring on the robotic revolution.

interstellar mediumBuddy Bill Schmidt shared a paper sent to him by a friend from JPL, Jet Propulsion Laboratories. It’s title is: Science and Enabling Technologies for Exploration of the Interstellar Medium. Exploring among the stars. I mean, wow. Still an avid reader of science fiction, I thanked Bill and noted in my reply that we live in a time when science fiction and science fact often intersect. One of the delightful realities of living through this particular era.

Since we have a deep freezer drawer filled with ground beef from our quarter we bought last fall, I picked up an important cookbook, The Essentials of Cooking Ground Beef. In it, to both Kate and mine’s delight, is a recipe for the famous Matt’s jucy lucy’s. This recipe is for sliders and last night I divided a pound of hamburger into eight parts, balled them up, dented the ball with my thumb and stuck white cheddar inside. Hmmm. Tasty. Served with frozen Arby’s curly fries, dill pickle slices and haricourt vert. OK, that last dish didn’t really fit, but I always like to have a vegetable and it was available.

jucy-lucy-burger-042

As the photo at the top shows, we did get another round of snow yesterday. Maybe four inches. All of it welcome. Precipitation, especially now, aids to some extent in fire protection and recharges the ground water. When your daily water comes from the ground water, having moisture to replace what’s been used is important. Water is safety as well as life here. Without it we become vulnerable to lightning strikes, visiting campers and the odd animal trying to navigate high voltage power lines.

ch'an

Kabbalah tonight. More about time. Qabbalah is another way to explore the interstellar medium, a matrix of space/time with its deep roots in what I’ve learned the mountain and rivers poets of ancient China called absence. Absence is at the heart of Ch’an Buddhism, that peculiar blend of Taoism and Buddhism that emigrated to Japan to become Zen. Absence is the place of the Tao, the generative force that gives rise to the ten thousand things in all their uniqueness and detail. Learning to penetrate the gauze of sensation and feel your way into the absence behind it leads to enlightenment. In fact, both Ch’an and its child, Zen, believe in instant enlightenment; once you learn this truth in your core, you know what needs knowing. Absence makes the heart grow wiser.

Oh. I did get my cleaning, reorganizing finished. Spiffed up and ready for a return to both writing and sumi-e.

Homey

Spring                                                                        Mountain Moon

the political side

the political side

Played domestic goddess yesterday. Wash dishes. Make taco meat. Three loads of laundry. Feed dogs twice. Make supper. Pick up. Take out the trash this morning. The duties of an ordinary housewife of the 1950’s, coupled with raising the kids, would have been physically and mentally exhausting. No wonder they wanted to go to work. It’s easier.

Whole process getting simpler, better understood, flowing with the tao of the moment which is nurture and be nurtured.

We went to see Jackie yesterday at Aspen Roots. Better coiffed now. I’m enjoying the well groomed look. It’s all persona. Cut the hair. Let it grow. Trim the beard. Let it flow. Just different. Since this look is less counter cultural, I feel it less. It’s a way of hiding in plain sight.

Cleaned up

Cleaned up

Decided a few days ago that I’d stick, for now, to my resistance workouts and some modest cardio before and after them. That’s three days a week, leaving me four days to do house work or take care of other matters. It’s better because I’m not feeling short changed on those days I usually do my longer and high intensity cardio. I’m good at getting back to the routine after I’ve changed it, so it’s only a matter of time.

Today is a workout day but before that I’m going to fold laundry and wash my bee suit. Hiving some bees on Saturday morning for Beth Evergreen and I want to look spiffy. Part of the well-coiffed thing, I guess. Can’t find my hive tool or my full body bee suit. Gotta be here somewhere, but I can’t find them.

Kabbalah tonight. More on time.

housework_thumbWhich brings me back to housework. Housework, in its earthy, basic realm, is a microcosm of the Great Wheel. It’s a cycle that never finishes, food must be bought and cooked, trash discarded, dishes cleaned. Then again and again and again. Likewise clothing gets soiled and must be washed, folded, put away. Toilets and counters and floors and windows get dirty, then cleaned, then dirty, then cleaned. It’s a great wheel because it relates to the true life needs of us all and is, as a result, repetitive, but powerful.

 

Memories

Spring                                                                     New Shoulder Moon

The new shoulder continues its impact on our lives.

20160410_122224SeoAh’s here and cooking suppers, cleaning, chatting. We had a long conversation about dogs yesterday while watching a youtube video in Korean. It’s one of a series made by a Korean man whose father owned a dog food factory. That is, a factory in which dogs were turned into food for humans. This made him angry and he decided to start a one man crusade to change the way Koreans treat and think about dogs. SeoAh says he’s having a large impact. He’s sort of Caesar Milan and the Animal Defense League.

Yesterday was Joe and SeoAh’s second anniversary and she spent it helping us. And says, in her heavily accented English, “It is my pleasure.” Makes this 71 year old’s heart feel full.

weightKate and I went to a nutritionist yesterday for a consultation on how to help Kate gain weight. The most salient point Betsy made was this, “Make every bite count.” Every food needs to be considered for not only nutritional value but for its caloric value, ideally, and ironically, high. Add oils to salads, to pasta. Use peanut butter powder as an additive in shakes. Eat cheese. Given Kate’s past struggles with her weight, a lifelong problem until her bariatric surgery, being encouraged to eat foods high in calories is mental whiplash which makes the whole weight gain and weight maintenance goal difficult emotionally.

Betsy also suggested, after asking if she could raise a personal question (geez, what kind of personal question does a nutritionist ask?), medical marijuana. It’s truly a new day in the neighborhood. In this case of course she was suggesting using some marijuana to enhance appetite. A good use for the munchies.

marijuanaAfter the nutrition consult, which was in Golden, I drove Kate to Bailey for the monthly meeting of the Bailey Patchworkers. Bailey is also the home of the Happy Camper so I stopped and stocked up on indica edibles, our homemade sleep enhancement. We may branch out into sativa, which brings on more of the munchies. Sativa and indica are strains of marijuana with very different characteristics. Indica makes you sleepy while sativa is a classic stoner strain, often smoked.

In the evening Jon, Ruth, and Gabe came up. SeoAh made rice cake soup, the soup I’ve mentioned that’s served at the spring festival, Korean New Year’s. She also made a sweet potato noodle dish with peppers that she says is typical when family’s gather for something important. Both were delicious. She uses her mother’s recipes.

Tteokguk.jpg2Gabe’s in much better shape physically than he was a couple of weeks ago. His earth day birthday is coming up and he wants a pocket knife. I reached in my pocket and took out a small pocket knife I’d purchased a while back. “Here you go. But. Don’t stab yourself in the leg, or the arm or the head or the ear.” Gabe laughed and said, “Or in the butt.”

Ruth’s doing well. She seems mostly level emotionally. A recent shift from Risperidone, an adult anti-psychotic, to Lexipro, an anti-anxiety medication, is underway right now. I forgot to ask her about it last night.

Memories build and sustain families. Friendships, too, of course. Last evening was one of those memories for the Olson/Buckman-Ellis family. And a sweet one.

 

Yesterday and Today

Spring                                                                  New Shoulder Moon

exerciseMade it to three sets on my workout. This is slow for me since I’ve had this routine for over six weeks, the time frame in which I usually go back for new exercises. No matter. Things have been busy. Feels good to be have gotten this far given the situation.

Dream last night. I had been called to organize a protest at a factory, Johns-Manville, where I worked during high school. The rationale (which I forget) was good; I saw a clear path to getting folks ready to take on management. The meeting was held at the factory and lots of workers had come. However. Just before I was to get started, everyone suddenly left the room. They came back in, slowly, and while they were coming I looked at my self in a mirror, getting ready to go onstage. My hair was a mess. I couldn’t get it to lie down.

ruins of the old Johns-Manville factory in  Alexandria

ruins of the old Johns-Manville factory in
Alexandria

By the time I got onstage I could tell that management had a plan and it involved disrupting the meeting by distracting the audience. It worked. People kept coming and going. I started out with a question, “Did any of you work here in 1964?” One older man, his back turned to me, raised his hand. “Well, you might have seen me here as a shipping and receiving clerk.” (actual job) That got the reaction I’d hoped for, a mild bond. After that the meeting dissolved.

As I began to leave the dream and wake up, I was frustrated, disappointed. Then I thought. Ah, I see the mistake. We let the meeting happen at the factory. The next one will be in the union hall.

20180408_121101SeoAh made a Korean chicken soup. Her mother’s recipe. It was wonderful. She used the leek, some mushrooms, spring onions, and rice noodles. SeoAh used silver ware and I used chopsticks.

She came at just the right time. Kate’s recovery has begun to accelerate. She’s sleeping better, doing her exercises, getting outside and walking. SeoAh has relieved the pressure on me by cooking, cleaning. Next week Kate starts physical therapy. I can see the arc of this moving up now. Makes a big difference.

But the best part is the deepening relationship with SeoAh herself. “You are my parents. Do you understand?” Yes, we do. And, we feel the same way.

 

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