We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

The Zen of Kate

Spring                                                                        Passover Moon

700 pixels- punta arenasMonday. Physicals back to back. We do things together, like our physicals and our dental cleanings. So sweet. Very romantic. And it is, in its way. Sort of like dates. We go out to lunch afterwards.

This week is the slow drip after as test results and imaging work reveal their information. So far, generally good news. The usual deterioration occasioned by 70 + years on the planet, not a surprise, but not yet deadly.

The zen of Kate. One of the imaging tests could have returned something bad, but even in the weeks after she learned a second test, a cat scan, would be necessary, Kate didn’t flinch. “Can worrying about it make it different?” she said. A wise woman, my Kate. Of course, that didn’t prevent me from worrying about it, but I’m trying to learn from her on this one.

She’s bouncing back from a three/four month bout of low energy and shortness of breath. Nighttime oxygen (we live at 8,800 feet) and more calories each day have given her more pizazz. She’s also just had her second infusion of Remicade, a drug for rheumatoid arthritis. RA can also produce fatigue so the Remicade may be helping her energy level increase, too.

2011 09 04_1258750The zen of dogs. Over the last few weeks I’ve paid special attention to how the dogs in my life live: Gertie, Rigel and Kepler. We share moments often during the day and at night. A dog is always in the now, ready to take a nap, run outside, eat, get a head or neck scratch, some petting. They remind me of the brevity of life and how precious each moment, each interaction is, not only with dogs of course, but with family and friends. With the mountains, too. The clouds and stars. The snow.

 

The Pack

Spring                                                            Passover Moon

Gertie lay yesterday on the dog bed underneath the south facing loft window. It gets sun 20170123_085353and she likes the warmth. She was sleeping, a normal daytime activity for a dog. Her left front leg twitched delicately as she moved through some doggy dreamscape. My affection for her, my love for her came to the surface. She was vulnerable, but felt safe enough to sleep with ease.

Dogs are love in furry form. That made Joseph’s decision to leave Kepler with us, which he communicated with me yesterday, so difficult. “A tough choice,” he said. Kepler was Joseph’s first dog as an adult, the first he chose and cared for. He came to stay with us during Joseph’s deployment to Korea. Initially a year, it stretched into a year and a half when he got selected for weapons school and had to spend six months stateside at Nellis Air Force Base. After he and SeoAh married, they returned to the U.S. but Joseph deployed three months later. That meant Kepler stayed with us for almost another year.

Kepler, in from the snow

Kepler, in from the snow

The final part of the decision came from Joseph’s discovery that he would deploy again in August, this time through December. At that point Kepler will have been with us over three and a half years. He’s part of our pack, part of our lives. He sleeps on the end of the bed with us each night. But, he’ll still be Joseph’s dog, just seconded permanently to our home.

Gertie, too, is a refugee. She came from Jon and Jen’s after several unhappy incidents with the postman, tormenting by the neighbors and being crated with Solly, the smooth haired pointer. Solly was too ornery for our pack during a brief stay while Jon renovated the Pontiac Street house. The two of them together was not positive for either one of them.

Rigel, sister to Vega, and now over 8 years old, is the big dog, though not dominant. She and Vega came to us as a dynamic pair, littermates. We’ve always felt dogs need companion animals, littermates being the best. We don’t really have a dominant dog now. Vega held that role in some ways, but she was never a very effective pack leader. Rigel is sweet and loving, an independent sighthound who has chosen us as her family.

Rigel, passing through Kate's legs

Rigel, passing through Kate’s legs

When I look at her now, I remember the very first day she and Vega came to Andover. I had to disassemble the gate to the perennial flower garden because she managed to get her head stuck between two slats. This was the opening moment of her wanderlust, wanting to see what was on the other side of the fence.

Later, she would lead Vega out of the yard by athletically jumping onto a fallen tree and vaulting from there over the fence. It took cutting up the fallen tree and, eventually, an electric fence to contain her. She was a hunter, too. One of her more memorable predator moments was coughing up the head of a rabbit inside our house. She had bolted the head so recently that the rabbit’s eyes were still clear.

Gertie, Rigel, Kepler. Our pack now. Great dogs.

 

 

Stuff Going On Here

Imbolc                                                                          Anniversary Moon

Gertie helps me work out

Gertie helps me work out

It was 68 here yesterday. And dry. So little snow left, just in the northern shadow of our home, here and there in shaded parts of the forest. This is a typical La Nina year, according to weathergeek, our pinecam.com meteorologist. The result? A long, potentially too hot, summer and fall.

Working on the last of the cardboard to plastic transfer process. Yesterday I found complete drafts of Phantom Queen, The Sacrifice, The Wild Pair, Missing, Hunting Gods, Only To Be Born and the Last Druid. They’re now resting in file folders in one box. Even the God’s Must Die will go in there today. I don’t have a printed out copy of Superior Wolf yet, not done, but close. Jennie’s Dead, a partially finished novel, and work on Loki’s Children, the second in the Tailte trilogy, will have files here, too, because they are ones I will finish eventually. Feels good to see these drafts all in one place, in the physical world of paper, not just bytes. I have another file box full of short story drafts, some edited.

The research and writing group/beta reader comments for each novel and story will go into the banker’s boxes and get moved downstairs to the shelving in the garage.

The dogs are all healthy right now. I’ve stopped letting them out after breakfast in the morning (at 4:45/5:00 am) due to the mountain lion problem. They’ll go out after the sun comes up. It’s strange, but part of mountain life, to have to consider predators killing them. When I was a kid in Indiana, the worry was your dog getting run over by a car.

 

 

 

The Iditarod

Imbolc                                                                       Anniversary Moon

Every two years our vet, Dr. Palmini, travels to Alaska to offer care for dogs in the Iditarod, the sled dog race in Alaska. It bills itself as the last great race. He sent these pictures to pinecam.com, our source for all things mountain.

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Inheritance At Work

Imbolc                                                                                  Anniversary Moon

Becoming Coloradan

Imbolc                                                             Valentine Moon

No snow. 10% humidity. A spate of small wildfires. Result: stage 1 fire restrictions put in place by Jeffco. In February. Winter has gone on holiday and the outlook for summer is fiery if we don’t get more moisture in March and April. Like death, oddly, I find the whole wildfire possibility invigorating. It motivates me to work on our lodgepole pine and aspen and it brings those of us who live in the mountains closer together. A common foe.

fire-danger-high

Lodgepole pine. From our bedroom window I look out and up to a jagged line of tree tops. On clear nights stars often align with the tops of the pines, giving them a decorated for Christmas look. Sometimes stars also align with branches further down, emphasizing the effect.

Which reminds me. Monday or Tuesday night of this week I looked up at the pines, as I often do before falling asleep. They were lit up with what looked like lightning bugs. What? The phenomena went on for quite a while, small specks of light flashing off and on. Obviously in February and up here on Shadow Mountain, no lightning bugs. A complete mystery.

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While waiting on the Rav4 to finish its spa day at Stevinson Toyota I spent some time considering whether I had become a Coloradan yet. First thing. I left my prostate and significant portions of my left knee in Colorado. No flowers in my hair, but I do feel I’ve contributed in a meaningful, whole body sort of way. Then, living in the mountains. Everyday. Learning the rhythms of mountain seasons, the wildlife, the vast number of hikes and sights and sites to see. And we’re adjusted to life at 8,800 feet. A very Colorado and mountain thing.

Of course, there are Jon and Ruth and Gabe, family links to schools, synagogues, sports, life as a child in the Centennial State. Our dogs, too, as Dr. Palmini said, are mountain dogs now. Due to the spate of mountain lion attacks on dogs in the last month or so, I have a concern for their safety that is very Coloradan. In fact I bought a powerful LED flashlight and have my walking stick ready to do battle with a mountain lion if necessary.

Kings Peak near us 4 pm 12 29

Kings Peak near us 4 pm 12 29

Congregation Beth Evergreen, in addition to a religious community, also facilitates ties with people who live up here like the lawyer, Rich Levine, we saw last week. Many others, too. Kate has integrated quickly thanks to the two sewing groups she belongs to: Bailey Patchworkers and the Needlepointers. Her integration helps mine.

The town of Evergreen has many great restaurants, as does Morrison. We go to jazz and theater in Denver.

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That’s the coming to Colorado part of the story. The other is my relationship to Minnesota. Of course there are the Wooly friends, especially Tom, Mark and Bill and the docent friends, many of whom I connect with through Facebook, but also through visits, e-mails, the occasional phone call. Those connections are still strong, even though attenuated by distance.

Minnesota will always occupy a large, 40-year space in my heart. That’s a long time, enough to become home. So many memories, good ones and bad ones. But, it is just that now, a 40-year space in my heart. I do not want to return. Life is here, now, and that, more than anything else, tells me that, yes, I have become and am a Coloradan.

 

Lack of Snow and Mountain Lions

Imbolc                                                                     Valentine Moon

Last year we had 240 inches of snow. This year, hardly any. These are El Nino, La Nina patterns, though I don’t understand how they relate to us exactly since the mountains west of the continental divide have had an unusually heavy snow year. Summit County has had 8 feet of snow and has issued warnings to shovel roofs. Crested Butte has had snow so deep that I saw a picture of a guy on a mound of snow, with a snow shovel, shoveling snow off his roof. This is a region, especially in the mountains, of microclimates. Geography is meteorological destiny here.

A Year Ago

A Year Ago

Of course, with the knee surgery, I’ve been glad to have less snow during my recovery period, but I told Kate the other day that the next storm, I’ll fire up the snow blower. The new knee, not exactly like the old knee, but pretty damned good is ready for some outside work. I think.

The lack of snow has meant that the persistent snow in the backyard-it faces north-has been compacted by doggy feet, melted by 50 degree days, then frozen again at night. The result is a hard, slick surface that the dogs don’t like. Rigel hurt her leg yesterday, not badly, but enough to make her cry out. Her pained yelp brought me running and I saw her with her left rear leg held up, off the ground. I went downstairs and let her in the house.

rigel and kepler

rigel and kepler and Ruth

In local news there have been several reports of mountain lions killing dogs. The latest happened yesterday, well south of us, but in Conifer. A couple reported two mountain lions took their dog, a blue heeler, off their front porch, around 5:30 pm. They saw one of the mountain lions carry the dog away. Heartbreaking.

Mountain Lion, Feb 2 Jeffco sheriff photo

Mountain Lion, Feb 2 Jeffco sheriff photo

Mountain lions are crepuscular predators, meaning they hunt at dawn and dusk, when their usual prey, mule deer and elk, are also active. 5:30 pm is dusk right now. I admit I’m a little worried about our dogs, but having three makes things less risky. Kepler would fight back and probably be effective. Rigel and Gertie are older now, less able, though Rigel is bigger than most mountain lions and a fierce hunter in her youth.

 

Glad We Live Here

Winter                                                            Valentine Moon

The dogs after delivery by Tom Crane

The dogs after delivery by Tom Crane and Kate, before the boxes

The move, two years plus later. On October 31st, Summer’s End of 2014, we closed on 9358 Black Mountain Drive. Later that same year, on December 20th, the Winter Solstice, we moved in. At the time we still owned our home in Andover, Minnesota. When the boxes piled up in all spaces of our new house, we looked at them, breathed in and out heavily and took a nap. We were to breathe in and out heavily for three months or so as our bodies adjusted to life at 8,800 feet.

The winter weather on Shadow Mountain that preceded and followed our move was snowy and cold. Even for two Minnesotans. We had to learn mountain driving on snowy, slick roads though the Jefferson County snowplows did do an excellent job of clearing and sanding our main road, Black Mountain Drive (Hwy. 78).

IMAG0927_BURST002

Progress, January 2015

Even so, living in the mountains was what we wanted and it was everything we hoped and more. Every drive took us past rocky, conifer covered mountain sides. We were on and among the Rocky Mountains.

Of course, yes, we moved out here to be closer to the grandkids and to Jon and Jen, family, 900 miles closer. Jen had expected us to move closer to them and was upset we decided to live in the mountains. We never did get her to understand that our move had two related, but distinct purposes: the first was to live in a place that we loved; the second to be with people we loved. Now that the divorce is over and the apres divorce time underway we are certainly glad we chose our home based on our dreams rather than hers.

Jon and Ruth clear our drive before the moving van comes

Jon and Ruth clear our drive before the moving van comes

Kate rapidly found a quilting group, the Bailey Patchworkers, and began meeting with them monthly. Out of that group came an invitation to a smaller group of needle workers who also meet monthly. I didn’t find that kind of local connection until a few months ago when we both started attending Congregation Beth Evergreen. Since then, I’ve also found Organizing for Action-Conifer. We’re both gradually becoming part of our community here in the mountains; actually, communities, because we have as much affiliation with Evergreen, perhaps more, than we do with Conifer.

It’s been a medically eventful two years for me with prostate cancer in 2015 and the total knee in 2016. Kate’s rheumatoid arthritis led to hand/wrist surgery over a year ago and she continues to have degenerative disc disease related pain. Combined with the divorce, which began in earnest in May of 2016 and continues as Jon still lives with us, it means we’ve been very inwardly and family focused the whole time so far. We both hope this year gives us a break on the medical front and that Jon finds a new home for himself, Ruth and Gabe.

20151114_111107

fire mitigation, 2015. Just before the solar panels were installed.

Every once in awhile, we say to each other: I’m glad we moved here. And we are. The mountains teach us, every day, what it means to be mountains and what it means to live among them from snowy weather to elk and mule deer to rushing spring streams to less available oxygen. We’re very glad we’ve been here to support Jon and the grandkids. Those two reasons for the move have both manifested themselves in positive ways.

We’ve begun our third year on Shadow Mountain. Can’t wait to see what happens next.

Hanukkah, 2016

Hanukkah, 2016

Travelers

Winter                                                        Cold Moon

Gertie and Rigel are our go-go girls. When coats go on, their tails wag and they grin. Now I know why.

dogs

A Shadow Mountain New Year

Winter                                                                         Cold Moon

Ruth lit the menorah at Beth Evergreen at a New Year’s Eve service. Kate and I renewed our vows. All three of us ended up in the Canyon Courier.

20170105_084132

Jon’s car, the day after New Years.

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St. Francis at well below zero

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Gertie on New Year’s Day

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