We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

This. That.

Winter                                                                          Moon of the Long Nights

The elliptical is gone. Sold back to Colorado Fitness. Two guys came in a Pence rental truck, picked it up and carried it down the stairs. Heavy, man. Its footprint is still here, outlined in dust.

Kep and Rigel

Kep and Rigel

Rigel’s liver values have continued to deteriorate. We’re taking her to a specialty diagnostic center for a liver biopsy. Possible liver cancer. She’s 8 going on 9, old in our family for a dog of her size. Makes me want to spend as much time as possible with her now. She’s still alert and responsive, the same dog, really, except for the recent habit of chewing up shoes, paper, boxes, hats. Might be something else. We’ll find out.

We’ve taken a cash infusion from last year, paid off our credit cards, plumped up by lots of Jon and grandkid related expenses, and transferred some more money into our savings. Feels good to start the new year debt free. We’re going back to the usual pattern of paying off the credit cards on the month. We strayed from this last year. Just too much going on and we let our attention wander.

inner childI’m still wrestling with schedules, Hebrew, novels, not in a groove and I don’t like that. Except. I read for much of Sunday, The Fifth Season, a fantasy series, very good. While I did that, my sensibility about what I might be doing began to shift. Not sure how, but I have an internal compass that eventually swings back to my true North whenever I get lost. That’s happening right now, though I don’t know where its headed quite yet.

Meanwhile we’re starved for snow and hoping some comes, a lot. We need it for moist forests with trees not dry like fatwood. Not much in the near term forecasts either. This is the arid West. And remains so.

A busy week ahead at Beth Evergreen. A presentation of stained glass art, the third kabbalah class, and another meeting of the MVP, mussar vaad practice group. Bagel table, too, on Saturday morning. More cooking.

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.

Yippee!

Winter                                                                  Moon of the Long Nights

A blur day. Somehow messed up my sleep, felt sleepy in the am. Napped in my chair, then went down to the bed for a nap. No sleep there. Of course. Ruth and Gabe came while Jon went to A-basin to ski. Ruth’s better but her throat’s still sore. Spent most of the day more or less tired or sleepy. No word on Rigel’s x-ray and blood work yet.

Mother's Day, 2016

Mother’s Day, 2016

Jen had to leave Denver to collect the kids. It was her dinner night with them. She communicates with me, so I arranged it with her. She hasn’t driven to Conifer since Mother’s Day of 2016, just before the divorce storm broke over the Olson sky. She got to the driveway, turned her car around pointed toward Black Mountain Drive and waited on the kids to come out. I didn’t see her. Weird.

Finished off an excellent Netflix series, The Travelers, about visitors from centuries ahead of the 21st, as they call this century, trying to avoid a full on catastrophe in the distant future.

Nosedive

Nosedive

Also watched the third episode, Crocodile, in the 4th season of Black Mirror. This is a dystopian sci-fi anthology which has, some critics say, a marked Luddite tendency that doesn’t let up. That may be, but the show is prescient. For example, the first show of the 3rd season, Nosedive, has a near future culture where the ratings from social media determine life options. Look at the recent news about China’s social credit system which, though voluntary now, will become mandatory in 2020. It’s a broadening of the U.S. concept of the FICO score for financial credit to one that has immediate social implications for the individual, too.

The first show of this, the 4th season, U.S.S. Callister, critiques Trekkies and more significantly, gamer culture. Crocodile, which I just watched, is a cleverly constructed story that takes a while to show the implications of a “memory dredger” used to pull up memories as a tool for investigation. Spoiler alert: don’t buy a guinea pig. This material is entertaining, but in a very dark way, hence Black Mirror. Sort of my sweetspot.

I don’t know whether this is peak TV as some claim, suggesting that the money being pumped into new, innovative series and movies can’t be sustained over time, but it is definitely a golden moment for sci-fiction and fantasy. Battlestar Galactica. Lost Girl. The Travelers. The Magicians. All the various Marvel offerings. Black Mirror. Dr. Who continues, now with the first female Time Lord. True Blood. Game of Thrones. Handmaid’s Tale. Dark. All of these have high production values, are high concept and have excellent actors. As a very early fan of Marvel comics and a life long reader of science fiction, I can only say, yippee!

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.

 

 

 

2018. Where’s my jetpack?

Winter                                                            Moon of the Long Nights

FutureFirst post of 2018. Ancientrails will start its 14th year in February, a long run for a blog started to ease my boredom during recovery from Achilles tendon repair. It long ago became part of my daily routine and remains so. I have no agenda with it; it’s a place to record what occurs to me, though what occurs to me does have definite repeating themes.

I was telling Kate last night that ever since 2000 writing the years has seemed like an exercise in science fiction. I mean, 2018? Jetpacks instead of a few electric cars. Food synthesis on demand. Space hotels. Ray guns, even. Concealed carry ray guns. Definitely not a rotund orange haired demagogue with the mind of a gnat. Definitely not a plague of wildfires and the imminent destruction of humanity by the planet which gave us birth. But, the future’s not ours to see. Que sera, sera, as Doris Day sang.

20171202_192559This is a resolution-less New Year’s for me. Over the last year a Colorado life emerged, one that fits my age and stage, and one worth nurturing. It has these components: attention to the mountains, to the wildlife here, to the changing weather. Jewish immersion: studying kabbalah, mussar, Hebrew and getting to know as friends members of Congregation Beth Evergreen. Writing: ancientrails and novels, right now, Jennie’s Dead and Rocky Mountain Vampire. Family: Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Joe SeoAh, Murdoch. Working out. Caring for our home. Maintaining contact with friends and family far from here.

It also includes a contraction of political activity, much less time in the city, and no gardening though there may be some beekeeping in my future through Beth Evergreen’s religious school. This is enough. It’s a full life, one that allows me to express myself, learn new things and walk the ancientrail of family and friends. There’s no need, at least right now, for new. I want to continue with the last year’s emphases.

New yearI do have hopes. I hope Kate continues her surprisingly upbeat attitude as she considers shoulder replacements and how to deal with the energy drain of Sjogren’s. I hope Jon continues to gain distance from Jen, to renovate his new home, to grow as a single parent. I hope Joe and SeoAh and Murdoch have a great year and I hope to see them again soon. I hope I can read more. I hope Beth Evergreen flourishes since it has become important to both Kate and me. I hope Korean tensions resolve peacefully. I’d like it if we could have a year with no major home repair issues.

2018. Another turn of the Great Wheel, another trip around the sun. What it holds we cannot know. I’m looking forward to it. Happy New Year!

Celebrating the Obverse

Winter                                                              Moon of the Long Nights

sol-invictusThe solstices mark swings to and from extremes, from the longest day to the longest night, there, and as with Bilbo, back again. Darkness and light are never steady in their presence. The earth always shifts in relation to the sun, gradually lengthening the days, then the nights.

Most folks celebrate the Winter Solstice for its moment of change toward increasing light. Sol Invictus, the Roman sun god, added a martial spirit. The ancients feared that the nights would continue to grow in length, and act as a shroud thrown over the earth marking an end to growing seasons, to warmth, to life. It’s no wonder that relief at the return of the sun, revealed by small increases in the length of the day, caused holidays to be born around this subtle astronomical change.

There are also bonfires and songs and drinking and sex on the Summer Solstice. The sun manifests itself as light giver, light bringer, with the longest days. The growing season is well underway then, the miracle of life that the sun’s increasing light creates is the very relief anticipated on the Winter Solstice. Fear and the vanquishing of fear. Sol Invictus, the conquering sun.

Yet even in ancient times there had to be a few outliers like myself. We don’t begrudge the return of the sun, nor deny all the miracles that its return makes possible, that would be silly; but, for some psychic reason, perhaps not clear even to us, we reverse the common sensibility and find succor in the gradual lengthening of the nights that begins at the Summer Solstice and reaches its maximum on the night of the Winter Solstice.

We know that the cold and the darkness, the fallow time whose genesis each year happens on the longest day, is also necessary, also worthy of honor. It is earth’s sabbath, a time for all the generative powers to rest, to regather themselves, to ready themselves for the next florescence. I suspect somehow in our psyches we honor slight dips into depression or melancholy, knowing that in those times we regroup, rest the eager forward creative parts of our souls and the gradual lengthening of the darkness outside mirrors that.

winter solstice4In these long nights the cold often brings clear, cloudless skies. The wonderful Van Gogh quote that I posted a few days ago underscores a virtue of darkness, one we can experience waking or asleep. Dreaming takes us out of the rigors of day to day life and puts us in the realm where ideas and hopes gather. So, the lengthening of the nights increases our opportunity to experience dream time. Whether you believe in Jung’s collective unconscious or not-I do, the rich resources of dreaming are available to us with greater ease when the nights are long and the cold makes sleeping a joy.

It was, too, many years ago when I pushed the notion of transcendence out of my spirituality in favor of immanence, incarnation over a god in the sky. My focus moved to down and in, not up and out. Our inner world is a mystery, a place of fecundity, but also a place often occulted by the demands of the day. When we shift our focus to the night, to the half of the year when darkness grows, we can use that external change as a trigger to lean inside, to find the divine within. If we can make this discovery, the god that we are, we can stiff arm the notion that revelation stopped thousands of years ago.

each birth, always

each birth, always

Every moment of our existence is a revelation, the path of a god, the most fundamental ancientrail of all. No, we are not omnipotent, that’s an illusion created by the idea of transcendence, the need to find validation outside of our own soul. This is the true polytheism, the one that folds its hands, says namaste, bows to that of god in everyone, in every animal, in every plant and stone and star.

When you reach out in love to another person, to a dog, to a crocus blooming in the snow, you bring the finger held out by the white haired floating god in Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling. That moment of creation is always, ongoing, a joint effort between and among us all, human and inhuman, animate and inanimate, the cosmic dance of Shiva brought into this mundane world. He or She is not out there, waiting to be called by prayer, but in here, waiting to be called by the quiet, by the joy, by the persistence held in the soul container that is you.

 

Georgia on their mind

Winter                                                                Moon of the Long Nights

Before

Before

After, all in, SeoAh and Murdoch in the back

After, all in, SeoAh and Murdoch in the back

The Ancientrail of Family

Winter                                                        Moon of the Long Nights

Sushi Win last night

The last of the holiseason guests leave today. Joseph, SeoAh, and Murdoch load up the Subaru, including some very appreciated sports cards; one could be worth thousands! It has been so sweet to see these two and their puppy. Their second anniversary is only three and a half months away. Joe’s got a lot of travel with his Weapons Officer position, especially with the sword rattler-in-chief, so SeoAh and Murdoch get to spend a lot of time together at Robbins AFB.

We had the talk with Joe yesterday. No, not that talk, but the other one about estate plans, medical powers of attorney, money, disposal of cremains. Being in the military has made him very aware of such matters. As an officer, he’s required to understand them for the personnel he commands. He said, “I hope you live until I retire in ten years.” Me, too. But you never know.

typical of their relationship

typical of their relationship

This is another purpose of holidays, to bring families together and to allow opportunity for sorting out the business side of their affairs. These are often emotional and difficult issues, also, for the same reasons, often avoided. We’re lucky that we can have these conversations easily.

Kate got a call every patient appreciates. “Oh, that C.T. scan? They didn’t do the contrast dye so we have to do it over.” Great. On the upside it looks like the portable O2 concentrator battery has decided to come back on side. Tammy, from the O2 concentrator store tech support, had me recalibrate the battery. Recalibration involves running the battery down to zero, then charging it fully. “You should do this every quarter since the batteries are so expensive.”

goofy-droopy-glasses-bigAs with the whole United States (except for the 30% or so who still see Trump through those crazy glasses with the eyeballs that fall out on slinkys), I’m going to be very, very glad to put 2017 to bed. You know. The gradual rehab of the knee. Jon’s final eight months with us. The turmoil in his life and the kids. Kate’s gradual and painful introduction to Sjogren’s. Her shoulder. Trump. And, of course, Trump. The troubles in Korea, now of significance to us in a new way. It’s been a tough year, expensive and emotionally trying.

Rice Cake Soup. And more.

Winter                                                                     Moon of the Long Nights

rice cake soup ddeok-kookYesterday SeoAh taught me how to make rice cake soup. It’s delicious, a good breakfast soup. It has an unusual role in Korean culture. At the New Year, the spring festival, (same time as Chinese New Year), all Koreans eat, with their families, a bowl of rice cake soup. When they’re done, they’re all a year older. The entire nation becomes a year older on the same day, using the same ritual.

The new InongenG3, Kate’s portable O2 concentrator, has refused to charge beyond 16%. Called service and they suggested a hard reset. “Set the unit on the right and the battery on the left of the table. Set an egg timer for thirty minutes. At 30 minutes, plug the unit in for 30 minutes. After that, put the two back together and charge.” Just a bit condescending. Didn’t work the first time. Trying one more time, then this puppy is getting rehomed and  exchanged for a new one.

20171225_162548Kate had a battery of tests, some blood work and a CT scan. The CT scan showed nothing. Which is good since they were looking for a possible pulmonary embolism. She may have a stress test next. The question moves on to cardiac issues. It’s been a tough year for Kate physically, but she’s handled it with calm and resolve. Still more stuff to workout. That damned right shoulder, too.

Joe and SeoAh decided to stay today, leave tomorrow. Joe and I took down the boxes of his stuff that we moved here from Andover. He’s going to sort through them, making a throwaway pile, a keep here pile, and a move to Robbin’s pile. He’ll start by taking some of that last pile tomorrow. He has many, many baseball, basketball, football cards. There are Transformers, a train set, the Great Books, college text books, Christmas decorations, fun things he had on the ledge in his room back in Minnesota. All that between high school and after college stuff.

Auld Lang SyneWe watched the Murdoch detective series last night. The detective is Murdoch the Akita’s namesake. There is a great ease in family relationships of long standing. So much that does not have to be said. So much confidence in the future of those relationships. Holiseason moments abound in these experiences, giving us fuel and stability for the months ahead.

May your days-and nights-be merry and bright, may old acquaintance be recalled and a cup of kindness lifted to them all.

 

Got Oxygen?

Winter                                                                          Moon of the Long Nights

20171226_093122Kate made oven pancakes yesterday, a treat at which she’s become expert. If you remember the old Pannekoeken chain, that’s oven pancakes. On my trip to Safeway for maple syrup, I picked up a couple of oxygen bottles in case she needs supplemental oxygen and the electricity is out. Shouldn’t happen since we have the generator, but…

That little Murdoch runs around like a puppy possessed, trailing toys. He gets so excited coming down the stairs from the guest room that he pees on the way down. Thank god for tile floors.

Kate’s struggle with holidays and holiday meals prompted me to encourage her purchase of a portable O2 concentrator. Don’t know whether she’ll need it a lot, but it just seemed like time. She called the same folks from whom we purchased the one she uses at night, a fairly big appliance, not portable. After some conversation she had a good agreement and I drove over to Centennial and picked it up. Gertie went along in case I needed help.

inogen-one-g3-control-panelShe used it last night when we went to the Denver jazz club, Nocturne. Along with the lower elevation, she had great o2 stats using it. Definitely a good purchase.

Joseph, SeoAh, Jon, Kate and I got to our table at 6:30 p.m. at Nocturne. It was a bassist’s band, young guys, all in suits, one with a pork pie hat. The drummer chugged redbull, the bassist looked stoned, the guitarist was a wizard and the trumpet/piano player was very mellow. They were very good. We stayed two hours, laughed a lot, had some good food. These nights were a significant part of what Kate and I missed after the boys moved away.

SeoAh at Nocturne

SeoAh at Nocturne

Joe and SeoAh offered to come back around Memorial Day to help Jon with his house. I’m  happy about that since it means we’ll have the chance to do this again. Maybe, see Murdoch, too. Our family became Colorado-centric several years ago and it makes sense we’re anchored here, too.

The heart is a funny thing. It smiles at the mundane, the everyday, warms to the quotidian, yet we keep searching for the next big thing. A strange part of being human. At least a white upper middle class American human.

 

 

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