We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Electric Dreams

Winter                                                                     Moon of the Long Nights

the little bugger

the little bugger

The new year is 15 days underway. Kate and I have been sick now for a fifth of that. Campylobacter she says. Not life threatening. Not the flu. But damned inconvenient. Big fun.

Last night was a Tony’s Market meal, scallops and salmon patties with twice baked potatoes and Italian roasted vegetables. We’ve decided to cook our own fancy meals, saving literally hundreds of dollars each time. My scallop recipe, which I printed out, was in tiny, tiny print and I had to squint the whole time. Why I did that to myself, I don’t know.

phillip k. dickIf you have Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, I can recommend three shows: Black Mirror on Netflix, Humans and Phillip K. Dick’s Electric Dreams on Amazon Prime. All three are science fiction, all dystopian to one degree or another, but each is wonderful.

Of the three, Humans is one I would recommend even to someone who doesn’t like science fiction. It’s powerful. A U.K. version of a Swedish original, it chronicles the gradual integration of synthetic humans into society. Though it could take a single perspective, say the Skynet notion from the Robocop series where the synths (the shorthand used in the series) are evil or at least tend that way, it does not.

Some synths are domestic help, often loved by their owners. Others are industrial models. Some work in restaurants. In some instances synths have begun movement up the occupational ladder, taking more and more responsible jobs, putting mid-level managers out of work. A few, a handful at first, are conscious.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Gallery - Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan – The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Gallery – Photo Credit: Frank Ockenfels 3/AMC

As more synths become self-aware, a struggle begins between synths who simply want to integrate into human society and live their lives and those who believe humans will never accept them and must be fought. There is no one attitude among the synths just as their is no one attitude among humans toward synths.

The second season built on a strong first season, expanding the complexity and emotional conflicts developed in season one. I don’t want to describe it more, spoilers are poor form; but, it’s worth your time.

 

Very. Stable. Genius. Yeah.

Winter                                                                   Moon of the Long Nights

bone brothBone broth still gently boiling on the stove. Its been there since yesterday afternoon at 5 pm. First time I’ve made this. At 8 or so this morning I’m going to start a beef stew in the slow cooker.  Beer is one ingredient so Kate bought a six pack of Dos Equis. Sacrificing for the cause.

Our very stable genius has just cavalierly unmoored the lives of 200,000 Salvadorans. That’s a small city of immigrants. Lack of empathy is a hallmark of this administration, necessary for gutting the future with one trillion dollars plus in tax cuts, pretending that climate change is a liberal conspiracy, trying to dump transgender military personnel over supposed medical costs, and elevating pedophiles and other sexual predators.

trump3In the debate over his mental illness I’m agnostic, agreeing with those who say he’s obviously dysfunctional, yet unwilling to ascribe his character flaws to a particular diagnosis. It does a disservice to all people with mental illness when such a man, a man whose moral compass has been rendered useless by the powerful magnets of fame and money, is seen to act as he does because of possible narcissism or whatever else others find in his public persona. They may play a role, yes, but there are still underlying values toward which this particular man gravitates, values inculcated by a racist father and a distant mother, values embraced by a hollow man needing to fill a vast internal vacuum.

Nixon and Trump, cancers of the U.S. political system.

Sad about Rigel. A sort of dark blanket over our lives right now. There’s a bit of hope that we’ll find something other than cancer, but it seems slim. We want to know her prognosis, how best to care for her right now. She’s a sweet, sweet dog.

 

Pay Attention

Winter                                                                         Moon of the Long Nights

Raris avis, a Thanksgiving capon

Raris avis, a Thanksgiving capon

When Kate and I were first married, back in the early 1990’s, we lived on Edgcumbe Road in St. Paul. The house had a wonderful kitchen including an indoor grill with a rotisserie. I shopped at the Lund’s on Ford Parkway and cooked every afternoon, often watching Oprah as I did. I came to enjoy the regular work involved with making meals.

Cooking has a necessary mindful quality since temperatures, ingredients, points of adding this or that require attention. Knowing when a dish has finished cooking does, too. Over the last few weeks I’ve gone back to this daily, or almost daily, cooking and find I’m enjoying it even more. There’s a calm that settles over me when I start cooking. It’s familiar, creative.

I’ve begun experimenting in an odd way, for me. I follow recipes. Not always, but more than I used to. Thinking up ways to change a dish, to pair odd foods is fun, but right now I’m choosing to learn a wider variety of cooking techniques and that means following recipes. So, if it’s 4:30 p.m. MST, you can imagine me in the kitchen here on Shadow Mountain, a recipe propped against the wall, rattling pots and pans and wondering why I chose this recipe when I didn’t have any onions.

BTW: stopped watching Oprah a long, long time ago.

Yesterday

Winter                                                                              Moon of the Long Nights

Rigel

Rigel

The nearly full moon lit up the snow outside our bedroom last night. Soothing, gentle. This one presides over the longest nights of the year.

Two of our females had imaging work yesterday. Rigel got an x-ray, looking again for cancer since she has continued to lose weight in spite of therapy for chronic hepatitis. She’s eight, old for a dog of her size. Her condition, whatever it is, caused me to roll back through the death of many of our dogs just before sleep. Sad. Grief is the price we pay for love.

Kate had a makeup c.t. scan since the one she had last week was not done according to protocols for pulmonary embolisms. It required a contrast dye. Like the first, no contrast scan, this one showed nothing new, nothing menacing. Dr. Gidday now wants her to do a stress test, checking for possible heart issues. Don’t know when that will be.

She also has an appointment in late January with an orthopedic surgeon to discuss her painful shoulders, investigating possible shoulder replacements. She takes all this with a calm spirit, not bringing doom into the present, rather waiting for information. Her quick intelligence and vast medical knowledge could make it otherwise. An impressive woman, my Kate.

Ruth’s tonsillectomy seems to be loosening its grip. On day 6 or so the scabs fall off as healing progresses. This can be, and was for her, painful. Yesterday evening though she texted that she’s ready for empanadas. A great sign.

soupWe have a cookbook, Twelve Months of Monastery Soups, and I’ve been making soups out of it that Kate thinks sound good. She has a favorite, vermicelli soup, a vegetable soup with noodles. I made some for her last night.

I’ve decided to give Hebrew this month. I’ll work on it everyday and see if I can get myself back to a place where it’s at least enjoyable. Right now, it isn’t. If I can’t get there in a month, I’m gonna drop it. Banging my head against this particular wall isn’t worth it unless I enjoy it.

 

 

 

A Good Day

Winter                                                                   Moon of the Long Nights

winter solstice4Up well before dawn on the longest night, experiencing its long darkness here on Shadow Mountain. Wrote ancientrails, wrote some on Rocky Mountain Vampire, wandered out to the newspaper tube. No paper. Back inside for breakfast.

Kate does the NYT crossword every morning and when the physical paper, remember those?, isn’t here, she misses it. Unfortunately, like all things mountain the service quality of Denver Post delivery ranges from occasionally tolerable to often annoying. Mail, too. Worse of course during the annual buying orgy which now strains the logistical systems USPS, Fedex and UPS.

Wielding my now year old plus 21 days titanium knee, I got the snowblower going. It was good to be back outside, especially since the fluffy snow allows me to stick the accelerator on 6 and zoom, well, go faster than 1, up and down the asphalt. The snow glittered in the morning sun, hoar frost coated the lodgepole pines in our yard and up on Black Mountain.

winter solstice And The Wheel Goes Round And Round And The Falme In Our Souls Will Never Burn Out. Happy Winter SolsticeWorkout, finally back in the groove. Three resistance plus two high intensity cardio workouts a week and one longer, slower cardio. About six and a half hours or so. Lunch. Nap. Make tamale pie with cornbread crust. Kate did some errands and got home as I poured the cornbread mix onto the cooked hamburger and vegetables. Tasty.

Text from Joe. They’re in Columbia, Missouri, about 11 hours away. Murdoch’s along. Holiseason continues. Lights. Family. Gifts. Food. Deep connections to the horizontal and the vertical.

A good day.

 

what’s in your pot tonight?

Samain                                                                               Bare Aspen Moon

vacation at home vintage posterAfter writing the post below, about slowing down, I realized I need a vacation. Time off. A break. A pause. I need to vacate the life I love for just a bit, to clear out the schmuz in my pistons. Confess I don’t know how to do that right now. Money. Visitors. Holidays. I’m considering how to do it.

So I’ve started cooking more. My joy in cooking is making stuff up. Last night I went through one of my favorite cook books, How the World Cooks Chicken. There were two large thawed chicken breasts in the sink.

Taking ideas from one recipe and adding them to another. I like that. So I saw quince in one, but you could substitute apples. I had apples. Parmesan cheese. Hmm. Sounds good. But, no parmesan. Well. Let’s see. There’s salmon in the freezer. Why did that come up? I like poached salmon. Wait. Why not? I could poach the chicken.

Two cups of water in the skillet. Some bullion. Paul Prudhomme poultry seasoning on the chicken breasts. Sliced up apple. Porcini and sea salt seasoning. Kate likes mushrooms. There was some Zatarain’s cilantro rice. That’ll go with the chicken. And some frozen peas. Easy peasy.

The poaching went faster than I thought so I had to toss the skillet in the upper oven, but everything got done. Not bad. Afterward I realized the chicken could get cut up, the leftover rice and peas thrown in with the chicken broth and voila! Soup. Nice. That was fun.

Anyhow that’s how I cook.

TabernacleAfterward, kabbalah. Three presentations. One on the idea of the holy of holies. The temple looms large in Jewish thought, in many, many ways. One on the link between the ten sefirot and a Japanese inspired version of Chinese medicine, acupressure. One on the surprisingly pervasive influence of the kabbalists in the shabbat service. All were, in their own way, interesting. Having to come up with a presentation did cement the learning for each of us, that was clear. And, they led to interesting speculations.

The new class, ready in January, will be on the correspondence between the Hebrew letters and the 22 interconnections between the sefirot.

Up With Which

Samain                                                                           Bare Aspen Moon

prepositions-timeThe day after the day after. See, there’s the sneaky part of our language. This is the day after the day after Thanksgiving. Yet, really, this is another day, neither after nor before, just a day on its own. Yes, it’s a little further along the third planet’s track around the sun, but it’s a spot on the orbit, so different than yesterday and tomorrow, but no different as a day than either of them save for the slightly less light occasioned by the planet’s tilt, now away from the sun for those of us in the northern hemisphere.

OK. We’ll not flog the old time horse anymore right now. There is a case to be made for chronos, too, but it’s the assumption we share and it obscures other, equally important ways of understanding time.

20171123_142055Anyhow leftover capon, pancetta and fig stuffing, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie and caramelized sweet potatoes, pecan pie and deviled eggs rest in the fridge, awaiting their moment. The slow and the stuffed have gotten up off the couches, the beds, the chairs and started to move around again within their lives.

Yesterday (as my mind insists on designating it) I drove down the hill to Aurora. Jon has trees and shrubs on his fenceline that he wants removed. This is something I can do, so I wanted to get exact instructions. He showed me. It won’t take long to do and I plan to go down tomorrow (as my mind insists on designating a day/night cycle we’ll repeat as we return to this spot on our tilt-a-whirl ride of wandering space rock).

Yes, I’m having a little trouble letting go of thoughts about time. It’s just that the prepositional nature of our language is so larded with sequencing words that each time I start to use one, I jerk up short mentally, pulled on the leash of cyclical time. Henry Gustafson, my New Testament professor, talked about writing a prepositional theology. Prepositions and their less common linguistic sibling, postpositions, indicate relations between nouns. “Prepositions and postpositions, together called adpositions (or broadly, in English, simply prepositions),[1] are a part of speech (class of words) that express spatial or temporal relations (inundertowardsbefore) or mark various semantic roles (offor).” wiki

Ah, well, I’ve learned something here. It is exactly prepositions work in our language to indicate time and place. No wonder I keep bumping against them as the ship of cyclical time tries to stay at the dock and not drift away. We use prepositions because we cannot make sense of our reality without locating things in space or time. In using these words though, we reveal an underlying consensus that, while definitely shared, may well not be accurate. OK. I’m in the weeds again, apparently not yet done with the idea of cyclical time.

TampopoJon, Ruth and Gabe and I went to Katsu Ramen for lunch. It’s close to their house, sort of, and I’ve wanted to eat there for a while. Ramen places are a very typical Japanese restaurant, more common there, I imagine, than sushi ones, because ramen is food for the masses, a sort of fast food. “Tampopo”, a Japanese movie from the mid-1980’s, features two truck drivers who learn how to cook great noodles.

I drove them back and returned to the mountains. Yesterday was a rest day, so I kicked back and watched yet another Marvel TV series. I’m as captivated by them as I was by Marvel Comics when Atlas comics rebranded themselves in 1961 and introduced the X-Men, the Fantastic Four, Doctor Strange and the Hulk, among many others. One of my cheesy regrets about my childhood is that I, like most other kids, threw away my early collection of Marvel Comics, not realizing how much an X-Men number 1 would be worth in 2017. Hell, I’m not sure I believed in 2017 back then except as an indefinite location filled with flying cars, rocket ships, interstellar travel, huge skyscrapers and maybe a few aliens.

drStrangeMarvel has expanded its media presence to both movies and television. Spider Man, the Hulk, the X-Men, Guardians of the Galaxy, the Fantastic Four, Thor, Doctor Strange, Captain America, Iron Man all have at least one movie, some many more than that. Now on television Marvel has pulled off a rather stunning feat, populating streaming services like Netflix and Hulu with original made for television serials featuring many other Marvel characters. Right now you can watch (and I do) Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, the Punisher, the Gifted, the Runaways, the Inhumans, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., the Defenders and Peggy Carter.

There is a link, which I’m not going to explore right now, between my affection for the Marvel stories and religion. I think they trigger the same impulse, the same capacity for wonder and speculation, just in different idioms.

 

 

 

Hooray for the Pumpkin Pie

Samain                                                                      Bare Aspen Moon

20171123_063842

My phone camera didn’t do it justice, but Thanksgiving came in over Black Mountain with a gorgeous pink cloud, a penumbra of gold light on Black Mountain itself and a glow over our home. May the rest of the day, and especially the capon, be as beautiful.

Finished the pancetta and fig stuffing by celebrity felon, Martha Stewart, last night. It smells like it will be as good as I imagined. The capon-yes, we have it-thawed out and will go in the oven around 11:00 a.m. Kate made a pumpkin pie and got the caramelized yams ready. Ruthie’s pecan pie is covered in foil. She’s also bringing deviled eggs. They’re planning on coming up around noon or so.

Last night, for some strange reason, the neighbor had his sledge hammer out, using it to pound on a plastic garbage container. For quite a while. Don’t know if his mother or his mother-in-law or both are coming today.

thanksgiving-farm-harvest-postcard

We will be saying our gratefuls around 2 p.m. I’m grateful for you if you’re reading this. I’m also grateful for all the love here: dogs, Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Annie. I’m also grateful for the lodgepole pine that spent millions of years acclimating themselves to this particular altitude. And for the clouds and the mountains, which have such great altitude, and the streams and the mule deer. The elk, the red and gray fox, the moose, the mountain lions, the bears, the marmots and pikas. The rattlesnakes. The available oxygen in the atmosphere and the amazing organs we have that convert it to our use. So many things. Endless really. Thankful for all of them, now and forever.

 

The Holiseason Zone

Samain                                                                          Bare Aspen Moon

Getting ready to cook

Getting ready to cook

You have entered the holiseason zone. Of course, it’s well underway since it begins now with Rosh Hashanah, but Thanksgiving, with its grocery shopping, tablescaping, bedroom preparing and gathering of family is a key moment, the holiday that marks the start of a remarkable run: Advent, Posada, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s. Wow. The metaphysical crackling in the air gets intense with lights and ideas and gods and astronomical night. It’s my favorite time of the year.

The Thanksgiving project for me is a golden capon with pancetta and fig stuffing. A lot of oranges are involved, too. The challenge of finding a capon found its match in finding fresh figs. A nice man at Whole Foods explained that northern hemisphere figs are available in the summer and southern hemisphere figs just before Christmas. Oops, not in time for Thanksgiving. Then, a Thanksgiving miracle! Kate found them at King Sooper after I’d called specialty stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocers and gotten nada. Yeah.

thanksgiving-farm-harvest-postcardThe whole gathering in of items for pecan pies, Ruth made ours last night, and yams and green beans and potatoes is a simulacrum of growing it all, or hunting and gathering for the feast. And, yes, our finding a retailer with figs and capons is no match, but it did add uncertainty and joy in discovery.

A mountain Thanksgiving is like others, but with a lot more altitude.

 

The Spinning of the Wheel

Samain                                                                    Bare Aspen Moon

Tony's

Tony’s

The capon is in the house, 7.8 pounds of frozen, atesticular rooster glory. Kate and I went to Tony’s Market yesterday, Gertie and Rigel in the back. Tony’s is the sort of grocery store where the pounds fly off the shelves and around your waist even before you check out. It’s a gourmet shop, full of Devon custard in a can, various pickled vegetables, cases filled with ahi quality tuna, plump white scallops, seasoning rubbed filet mignon, frozen bearnaise, hollandaise, au poivre sauces made in house, expensive salami, and puff pastries created with only filo dough and powdered sugar. One of those ten minute super market sweeps from the 1960’s would yield a cart full of scrumptious and clock in well north of a thousand dollars. A good place for holiday shopping.

sephirothshiningonesI spent time before the trip to Tony’s working on my kabbalah presentation for December 6th.  This will take some doing since kabbalah is a quintessentially Jewish discipline and I want to focus, somehow, on the Great Wheel. According to the Tree of Life, the sephiroth (spheres) arranged as in this illustration reveal a path by which the sacred becomes actual and the actual becomes sacred. The bottom sephirot malkuth is the world which we experience daily, the place where all the power in this universe (there are many others), funnels out of the spiritual and into the ontological. It is also the realm of the shekinah, the feminine aspect of god. In kabbalistic terms malkuth is the place where the limits of things allow the pulsing, living energy of the other spheres to wink into existence.

great wheel3In one sense then the Great Wheel, focused as it is on this earth, can only be of malkuth, that is, of the sphere of the actual, the bottom circle below the hand of the kabbalist in the illustration. In another sense, since all sephiroth contain all others, what is of malkuth must also be of the others, the spiritual dna of the whole universe. So, if we take the Great Wheel as a metaphor for the creating, harvesting and ending of life, a cycle without end, then the Great Wheel is, too, a Tree of Life. That is, the inanimate becomes animate, the animate lives, then dies, returning its inanimate particulars to the universe which, through the power of ongoing creation, rearranges them in living form so the cycle can go on.

The Great Wheel has a half circle for the growing season and a half circle for the fallow season. It can be seen as half day and half night. It can also be seen as the cycle of the virgin goddess who, impregnated by the god, gives birth to the growing season as the Great Mother and then, during and after the harvest becomes the crone. The life cycle of each of us.

Not sure yet how I’m going to articulate this for the class. Still in the gestation period.

 

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