Live Long, and Prosper

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learning and Doing

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: The grandmother tree at Congregation Beth Evergreen which just lost a large limb. It’s a large Ponderosa. Looks like it will be fine. The mind of Rabbi Jamie. Filled with knowledge and caring. SeoAh’s energy. She cleaned our whole house yesterday afternoon.

Learned something again. That I seem to have learned again and again only to forget. Hot dogs give me gas. I’ve stopped eating bacon and hot dogs except when I’m out. Bought two CJ’s classics. Vienna all beef wienies with mustard and relish. Oh, my. Desire is often not a good match with need.

A strange and unsettling moment on Wednesday. No, not buying the hot dogs. SeoAh and I went to the post office to mail Annie’s phone back to her. The priority mail box that I chose came flat and needed to be folded. As Kate will tell you, spatial reasoning is not my long suit, not by far.

Anyhow I began to fuss with it. SeoAh’s right beside me. When I couldn’t get it, at first I laughed. Then, I began to become self-conscious. What if she thinks I’m getting senile? Made it harder. Which made me more self-conscious. Finally got it, but the momentary damage had already been done. By me to me.

We went from there to King Sooper. Got out of the car in the parking lot and went to lock it. Nope, keys not in that pocket. Or, that one. Surely… Nope, not that one either. Or, that one. In the jeans? Right side, no. Left side. No. OK. Car started when I got in it at the post office so my keys are here. Somewhere. Check all the pockets again. Nope. Nada.

These two incidents left me a bit shaken. Not because I considered them signs of anything other than my usual self. (the keys had slipped between the seat and the center console. I’ve done it before with glasses and phones.) But because they could have made me look feeble in SeoAh’s eyes. A realization for me about aging. Oh, so this happens to me, too.

Little things. Hard, though. We laughed about it.

The Day After

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Sunday gratefuls: the water in our broken granite aquifer and its replenishment by rain and snow, the rocky mountain on which we live and its brother and sister mountains around us, the Arapaho National Forest that covers them, the regular coming of day and night, the winds of yesterday.

The day after. The paper plates and plastic cups, the napkins with the turkeys on them. All in the trash. Jon and Ruth left on Friday night, but Gabe asked if he could stay over. Sure, but you’ll have to sleep on the couch. That’s ok. Annie and Joe are here till Monday. Seoah will stay until mid-December when she will leave from DIA for Singapore.

The mood changes when the holiday is in the past. Less ritualized, more homey time. Sitting around with casual conversations. Joe talking about his comic book collection. “This one’s worth $4,000,” he says, showing me an old Avengers I gave him a couple of years ago. The old comics in the attic routine. Turns out mine were were worth some money. Several thousand as it happens.

It’s compensation for that Michael Jordan rookie card I wouldn’t help you buy. He’d wanted me to help him buy a $200 Michael Jordan rookie card now worth thousands. I said no. It’s a running joke (sort of) with us.

Joe and Seoah went to H Mart, the big box Asian grocery store in Aurora, near Jon’s house. Annie and Gabe went with them. Gabe went back home and Annie got her first taste of Asia.

H Mart, with its bins of durian, dragon fruit, lemongrass, its coolers with various meats and cuts not available at King Sooper, its aquariums with fish and shrimp, boxes of instant white rice and seaweed, stacks of fifty pound bags of basmati, has a pan-Asian clientele. East Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Filipinos wander the aisles looking for food they cooked back home or food their parents cooked back home.

H Mart has Korean owners. The first time Seoah came here we stopped at H Mart on the way home from the airport. I remember her delight when a stockboy talked to another employee in Korean. Her face lit up. My language! In America.

The original plan for Thanksgiving was to have Seoah cook a Korean holiday meal instead of the whole capon, side dish thing. When I realized they would arrive on Wednesday, the day before, I wrote back and suggested we wait on that. She agreed. Instead she made the dish last night

Chopche is my phonetic spelling of what she called it. Which, I just looked up, is not too far off: chop chae. Mixed vegetables and beef. It’s one of those Asian dishes that has most of its time in the prep work. She thinly sliced carrots, thicker chunks of bell peppers (red and yellow), mushroom, green onion. Transparent sweet potato noodles. Long, narrow slices of beef. All stir fried, one at a time, except for the noodles. A zucchini cut into slices, breaded, and fried.

When do you make this? Any big holiday. New year. Death. Birthday. Happy occasion. Tasty. Worth learning. Her cooking seems simple, but it’s not. She has a lot of knowledge picked up from her mother and now many years of cooking herself. Her moves have an economy to them that only comes with much practice. I watch her, trying to pick up at least some of her skill.

“I like to organize,” she says. When I try to wipe off the kitchen counter, she says, “Not needed.” Spreads her hands indicating the kitchen, her domain. “It is my pleasure.”

Shadow Mountain Gratefuls

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today is Thanksgiving on Shadow Mountain

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: Joe and SeoAh arrived with Murdoch after a long drive. Our plowed driveway. Thanksgiving when everyone can be here. Learning how to make chili from scratch. Discovered that smoked paprika adds to chili. Murdoch’s happy, puppy presence. This computer on which I do so much work. This loft in which I paint, write, read, exercise.

Joe and SeoAh’s arrival delayed Thanksgiving. They encountered several accidents on their way to Missouri for a night’s rest. Didn’t get there until 3 am. I decided we’d wait Thanksgiving rather than have them rush while sleep deprived. Cooked the capon last night, sliced it, covered it in tin foil. Will go in the oven to warm up today.

The big box of side dishes from Tony’s rests in the back of Ruby, cooled by what Kate and I call the great outdoor refrigerator. They, too, will go into the oven to warm up. Then those fancy plates and napkins I picked up at the Paper store will adorn our downstairs table. Around it will be Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Annie, Joe, SeoAh, Kate, and I. Eight souls. The animal souls will be in various places to avoid hassles.

We have 18 inches of snow on the ground and on our roof. A Colorado Thanksgiving. The solar snow shovel will gradually remove it.

Thankful Kate’s health is so much better.

Gathering

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: lodgepole pine and their snow shedding branches, aspens and their massive cloned groves, Maxwell, Blue, Shadow, and Bear creeks, the mule deer, the elk, the rabbits, the voles, the mice, the cougars, the bears, the foxes, the pine martens, the porcupines, the Canadian jays, the magpies, the ravens, the crows, the trout, the minnows, the willows and dogwood. And all the critters I don’t know about and all the soil organisms and grasses and flowers

Annie comes in today. Her flight arrives at 8 am. Joe and Seoah will get here tomorrow. We’re going to eat later as a result, probably around 5. Plus Murdoch, who, it turns out, will be staying with us for the next year. Gonna be interesting.

Jon, Ruth, and Gabe will come up for the day. Since Ruth has agreed to make the pumpkin pie, they have to get here early enough for her to work.

Getting the side dishes made by Tony’s means I can concentrate on the capon. I want to do it well. I hope our oven does not recapitulate its last Thanksgiving performance where it didn’t reach an adequate temperature. It’s been fine since then. Of course.

Lupron has been swinging my moods, giving me hot flashes, making me weaker than usual. Lotta fun. Better than the alternative.

Got plowed yesterday. But. New guy since Ted, our usual plow guy, fell off a ladder at a job and broke several bones. Chris is a substitute. He did an ok job, but he doesn’t know our driveway like Ted does. On Thanksgiving day we’ll have three extra cars here: Annie’s rental, Jon’s, and Joe’s. Ought to be interesting.

A Holiday Week

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Monday gratefuls: the folks at Weather5280, Ted the snowplower, our mail guy, Greg, our Denver Post most of the time delivery person, the UPS and Fedex drivers who deliver our packages. A small web of people who help us in this isolated, yet hyper connected age.

Yesterday I got up around 6 am, late for me, and Orion already had his boots behind Black Mountain. This morning he stood fully above it, the soles of his boots resting on the peak. He’s hunting Lepus the rabbit who always scoots away, just out of reach. Lucky Lepus.

Saturday included picking up a grocery order and a trip to the Happy Camper in Bailey after the bagel table. Tired.

On Sunday we began a ritual going on in many households around the whole nation. Decluttering. Not a lot to do, but still some. Books piled up on the downstairs table where we’ll eat the meal. Papers of various sorts stacked by my place at the table. There are photographs in boxes in the room Kate’s using for exercise. Some jigsaw puzzles going up to the guest room.

Sandy, our housecleaner, will come on Wednesday. Her usual day was last Friday, but we had a snowstorm that prevented her California raised self from coming up the hill.

The capon and the side dishes I’ll pick up Wednesday morning at Tony’s. I’ll also get pizzas for supper Wednesday night when Joe, Seoah, Murdoch, and Annie will be here.

Last year Kate was recently home from Brookdale Green Mountain rehab. Cooking was not part of the plan. “At 2 pm I drive over to Littleton to Tony’s Market to pick up our Thanksgiving meal, a turkey breast and several sides. We decided putting out a big meal this year was beyond us.” Nov. 21, 2018

Inching our way back to a full meal. I love capon and wanted to cook one, but didn’t want responsibility for the whole meal. Kate suggested we go with the side dish bundle from Tony’s again. No pushback from me. Maybe next year we’ll get back to the full meal. Ruth’s agreed to make the pumpkin pie. She’s a good cook and loves to make pies.

The big storm, thankfully, gratefully, comes tonight and tomorrow, leaving Wednesday and Thursday clear. Joe and Seoah should have clear roads.

Mundane

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Stayed out late Tuesday, for us past 8 pm. Makes the next day slow. Tried to get into the resistance work, couldn’t. Muscles complained. Did thirty minutes on the treadmill.

In to see my ophthalmologist. (spelling gets me every time) Glaucoma check. Every six months for over 20 years. Now every 4 months. The usual. Eye charts. A small glass instrument pressed against the pupil to check pressures, 16 and 14. Scan of the retinal nerve. Mine’s still abnormal. Has been for as long as they’ve been following me.

Stopped by Tony’s market. Picked up a few things. Cooked supper. The end of the day.

Big day. I’m meeting Alan to go over our bagel table plan for Saturday morning. The Dandelion again in Evergreen. Slippery roads this am, freezing drizzle. Driving freezing drizzle down the mountains can be challenging. The Blizzaks went on Ruby last Friday and she has all wheel drive.

At 12:45 we’re meeting Steve and Jamie at the Staples parking lot. We’re going to a CBE tour of the Monet show at the Denver Art Museum, a four hundred object exhibit arranged by a curator at the Denver Art Museum. This is its only stop. Looking forward to it.

This evening we have MVP, the mussar vaad practice group. Had to be moved from Tuesday due to the shiva at Steve and Jamie’s.

That’s a lot of moving parts for us in one day. Good ones, yes, but still a lot.

Over the curves and up the hill…

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The waning half Fallow Moon was beautiful this morning. It was the half closed pupil of an eye surrounded by a circle of silvered moonlight within a larger circle of blue moonlight. The eye followed Orion and his dog as they hunted, looking all round Black Mountain for prey.

While Minnesota and points east have been cold, we’ve had a milder, less snowy first half to November. That’s about to change. How much remains to be seen, but it looks like Thanksgiving week will be both colder and snowier.

Kate and I drove up the hill yesterday afternoon after yet another doctor’s appointment. I asked her if she felt different, more at ease with at least the immediate future. Yes, she said. Me too, I agreed. It’s an adjustment to see fewer appointments ahead, less likelihood of drastic news. A good adjustment, yet it also has a when will the other shoe drop tonality. I believe that feeling will pass as long as our mutual health conditions remember stable over a longer period of time.

I ordered a capon from Tony’s last week. Kate decided to get their side dish bundle: gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans. Ruth agreed to make a pumpkin pie. Joe, SeoAh, and Murdoch plan to get here on Wednesday. Annie, too. Jon, Ruth, and Gabe will join us on Thanksgiving. A full house plus.

As many of you will understand, we’re both looking forward to these visits, a lot, and dreading them, a little. Having three extra people and a now larger Murdoch in the house for five or six days presents psychological and logistical challenges. All worth it, but challenges none the less.

Not nearly as big though as the Keaton Thanksgivings. Mom’s family. Muncie, Indiana. Aunt Marjory’s. She was the acknowledged culinary guru and must have worked very hard to feed 18-20 people. There was a kid’s table, lots of comic books (often brought by me). Uncle Ike, Uncle Riley, Dad, Uncle Ray, if they were all there, would retire to Uncle Ike’s den to smoke cigars and watch football. Aunt Roberta, Aunt Virginia, and Mom must have helped Aunt Marjory in the kitchen, but I don’t remember it.

This was a key link in our extended family’s year, the other major one being a family reunion in James Whitcomb Riley park in Greenfield, Indiana. Jane Pauley would occasionally come. Her father Dick Pauley and Uncle Riley were close friends.

Thanksgiving memories. An American tradition. A strong one because it is non-sectarian, focuses on food and family. Probably my favorite holiday of the year after the Winter Solstice. One for the family, one for solitude.

OK, Boomer

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Sprinkling of snow here this morning. 24.

Yesterday did additional cardio on my non-resistance day. Got in 4 days of exercise this week in spite of missing Monday and Tuesday. Feel good about that.

Helped Kate more with her sewing room. Moving this and that. Carrying stuff to the trash, to storage in the garage. Decluttering. She’s working her back. She went to Needleworkers last Wednesday. Gradually.

Grocery store. Contrary to my usual practice I went in and shopped, put my own stuff in my own cart. Went through the checkout line myself. Whew. Took me ten minutes to the find the Chinese five-spice powder. Out of practice.

It was a busy day at King Sooper. A young boy, maybe 4 or 5, sat in the children’s seat of a cart. “Hi,” he said to me. “Hi,” he said to the woman buying tomatoes. “Hi,” he said to the other guy walking by.

Worth it though. Made a Vietnamese beef stew and it was wonderful. Everybody thought so. Ruth helped me. I worked with the chuck roast, cutting it into one inch cubes, browning the cubes after the marinade. Ruth made the marinade, then got to cutting up tomato, lemon grass, scallions, cilantro. She was, literally, my sous chef, doing prep work.

“OK, Boomer,” she said. I laughed. “You’re the only good boomer, I know.” Oh? “Well, you’re the only boomer I know.” Just like you’re my favorite granddaughter? And my only granddaughter. “Yes, just like that.”

Cooking together bonds us. She asks to help and she knows what she’s doing. Wonderful. And, special.