We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Destined for War

Midsommar                                                                      Most Heat Moon


“The City of Nevada offers the best in small town living to all who treasure its “hometown” charm.” says its own website

Kate’s driving down to Iowa today with her sister, Anne. Back to Nevada, that’s with a long first a. High school reunions are odd affairs. If you attended one, you know. Funny how the social cues of 50 years ago resurface. I didn’t think she’d be able to travel last weekend, but her recovery from the thrush infection has made a huge difference. Her affect is back to normal, her diet improving. I imagine many who attend their 55th reunions face some health challenge or another before they go. Have a great trip back in time, Kate. And Anne, too.

Severe-hotweather3-MEM-170619_4x3_992The dew point and the temperature are close this morning on Shadow Mountain. We’re in a cloud with moisture leaking out of it. Black Mountain is invisible, covered by a gray, wet mass. 47 degrees. The same cannot be said of Arizona or California.

It’s strange being in the house without Kate, Jon, or the kids. An unusual confluence has left me the sole Homo sap on the premises. Three canids do a good job of keeping me company however.

I began reading Destined for War on Monday. It’s one of two recent books I purchased that look at the China/U.S. superpower relationship. While Destined for War tries to place this fraught dynamic in a western diplomatic history frame, Everything Under Heaven by former NYT Asia correspondent, Howard French, goes deep into Chinese history for its frame.

Songtan, near Osan AFB where Joseph deployed

Songtan, near Osan AFB where Joseph deployed

Not sure how it happened for me, but as I’ve said before my life took an Asian pivot at some point. One starting point was adopting Joseph, of course, but there’s been more than that: Asian design and aesthetics, especially Japanese, Asian art, Japanese and Chinese in particular, Mary in Singapore and Mark so long in Bangkok, tea, Asian cinema, Asia literary classics like the Tale of Genji, Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, Monkey’s Journey to the West, Dream of the Red Chamber, contemporary Asian authors. Then SeoAh and the wedding trip to Korea. A lot of my thinking and reading tilted that way and I spent several years at the MIA immersing myself in the Asian art collection there.

Now, in a peculiar manner, adopting Joseph has ultimately reinforced this pivot. My grandchild(ren) from Joseph and SeoAh will be 100% Asian, as will be then, my branch of the Ellis family name. Too, South Korea, where Joseph spent a year deployment and where he would like to return someday, is in a continuing dangerous pickle with its evil twin, North Korea.

So I like to stay informed about what’s going on over there. I can recommend Destined for War, but I haven’t started Everything Under Heaven.



The Daily

Midsommar                                                                 Moon of the Summer Solstice

20170423_090148Jon and the grandkids took off yesterday for the Great Sand Dunes National Park, Mesa Verde and the Dinosaur National Monument. Sounds like a great summer vacation to me. Kate leaves Thursday morning for her 55th! high school reunion in Nevada, Iowa. She’ll fly into Minneapolis, pick up a rental and drive down to Nevada with her sister Anne who also has a reunion the same day. That leaves me here with Rigel, Gertie and Kepler until next Tuesday. Batchin’ it as the old lingo suggested.

Reimagining work is underway. Yesterday I went through Ancientrails and copied posts related to it into a Word file. 200,000 words. That will take a while to wade through. I’m considering printing it out, around 400 pages worth, so I can work with it more easily. After I’ve revisited my earlier work, dug out all the file folders and examined my Reimaging bookshelf carefully, an outline will be the next step, then a research plan to support the outline. A timeline will come, too, I suppose; but, my writing timelines have a way of being wrong. Still, the discipline of having one is good, so I’ll make one.

Any day the Sun will return to shineIt’s been hot here, but the normal summer sort of hot, not the cringe worthy temperature spikes of other spots. A friend from Tucson posted their 5 day forecast on facebook the other day. The lows in that forecast were higher than our highs. It’s not so bad here. And, it turns out, dry heat is more bearable than the moist heat of a Minnesota summer, even at a higher temperature.

Tonight I have kabbalah, tomorrow the far more mundane 90,000 mile service for our Rav4 after I take Kate to the airport for her trip. Mussar at 1pm. Then, a quiet house until Tuesday.




Midsommar                                                                                     Moon of the Summer Solstice

Kate a year ago

Kate a year ago

Kate, thankfully, is feeling much better. Susan Braun, a physician’s assistant to our internist, Lisa Gidday, correctly diagnosed thrush and prescribed an antifungal that has beaten it back. Kate’s eating more easily, in less constant distress and has an overall better mood. Combined with the increased dosage of omeprazole, recommended by James Chain, an ENT, the sore spot in her throat has also diminished. Even some of her taste is returning.

Sjogren’s Syndrome has many faces and the troubles in Kate’s mouth and throat are among them. This was, apparently, a flare in this chronic condition, one that we now understand better and will know how to treat more effectively-and earlier. The struggle to get some solution, some relief was difficult, but it does feel like we’re a good deal further along in understanding how to care for the symptoms. It’s not going away, so that’s the optimum.

Father’s Day

Beltane                                                                                Moon of the Summer Solstice

fatherJon and the grandkids returned from family camp near Estes Park yesterday. This is an annual event for the local hemophilia community. It’s an opportunity for people affected by hemophilia to be together in an informal setting. Ruth was the only lavender haired girl there, she said. Gabe saw a moose and climbed a boulder.

After they came home, took showers and naps, all of us went over to Lariat Lodge in Evergreen, a father’s day dinner. Gabe played games on a cellphone while Ruth read My Sister’s Keeper by Jodi Picoult. In this book a daughter is born into a family for the purpose of providing organs and bone marrow for her older sister. I asked Ruth how she would feel if she were the daughter born to be a donor. “Well,” she said, “They didn’t ask her. Her parents didn’t give her a choice.”

beergardens_resized-495x400We ate in the Bark Garten, two wood-chipped areas, one above the other, where seating is at wooden picnic tables and dogs dine with owners. None of our dogs behave well enough to take them into the Garten. Maybe Rigel, but she’s so friendly and big, a bit intimidating to non-dog people. Our food included swedish meatballs, angry elk sausage, shrimp and grits and a guacamole hamburger.

Just as Kate and I left the parking lot, Joe and SeoAh called to wish me a happy father’s day. We pulled over. SeoAh leaves for Korea on July 4th, her birthday. Joseph has six weeks at Nellis AFB where he went to weapons school.



As the senior weapons officer at Robbins AFB, Joseph is responsible for how the JSTARs platform could be used in any conflict, anywhere in the world. This means he briefs various other senior officers, updating them on world affairs and how the unique ground focused radar of the JSTAR plane might support troops in particular situations. He says it keeps him pretty busy.

He played golf the other day, “I was the only brown player on the course.” He wants a couple of U. of Minnesota polo shirts so he can represent the Gophers. “All the other players had on college colors.” A familiar poke at the Air Force is that it builds the golf course before it builds a base.

minnesotaSeoAh’s written English is idiomatic and clear now, but she says, “I still can’t speak English so well.” That will come in time. They’re moving into base housing in September from their apartment in Macon and she’ll have a community where she can practice.

They visited physicians last week to make plans for having a baby! Hepatitis B, which is endemic in Asia, affects their plans, but is manageable. Joseph has it and SeoAh has been vaccinated against it.




Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

09 11 10_Joseph_0256Fatherhood. Sharp knives. Explosions. Football. Muscle cars. PBR. Fishing. Fixit. Harsh discipline. Stuffed feelings. Dutiful, not loving. Nope. None of us all the time, some of us some of the time. Men and boys.

It’s complicated. Motherhood has obvious physical triggers: pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding. Can’t beat those for intimacy. Too, the stereotypical domesticity of wives/mothers, challenged but not diminished much, means early childhood intimacy as well. Where does a dad fit in?

The push of the culture of Alexandria pressed and presses fathers into work, outside to the lawn and the garage, into the military, away from the kids. Men earn, protect, fix. Except when they don’t, as is now the case for many of the white working class men in my hometown in eastern Indiana. The whole county, region.


As many of you know, my father and I were estranged from my age 21 until his death in 2003. We made efforts to reconnect, especially during regular visits after Joseph came into my life, but the damage was too deep, too long lasting. Whether my mother’s early death forced us into a level of intimacy we couldn’t sustain, or our mutual pride during the difficult years of the Vietnam War wounded us both more than we could mend, or the distant father role he shared with most of his peers were most to blame, I don’t know. It was, no doubt, a toxic mix of all three.

At this vantage point, now an older man myself, the anger is long dissipated and what remains is sadness, a certain wistfulness for what might have been. But wasn’t. We were, as all of us are, flawed. At perhaps the crucial juncture, during a time period when I got ejected from campus for public drunkenness and had to live back home during my junior year for a bit, I was ashamed. He reached out, bought me a car, let me come home. But a war was raging.


Vietnam. We were on different sides. He was a WWII veteran of the Army-Air Force, a Roosevelt liberal, and deeply anti-communist newspaper man. I was young, radical, counter cultural and deeply anti-war. One afternoon he came up to me and asked, “Charlie, are you a homosexual?” I laughed. “No, why do you think that?” He indicated my long hair. Long hair then was for classical musicians and gays in his thinking. “Cut it.” “No.” “Cut it or get out.” It was ten years before we spoke again. Pride. On both our sides.

It may be that adopting Joseph was an attempt for a do over on father and son. If that wasn’t a primary motivation, it certainly became a primary preoccupation. My father was not a bad father, just a father of his generation. I was probably a worse son than he was a father. The obedience and dutifulness that he expected, partly a result of his German upbringing, partly a result of lack of parenting by Elmo, my grandfather whom I never knew, was not possible for me. And I didn’t even try. At this point, he’s been dead 14 years, I’ve forgiven both of us.


Joseph is the redemption. He’s a fine man, a loving son and husband, dedicated to a life of service. He will, I’m sure, make a great father. Healing the disruption that my experience with Dad created in both me and him was a constant drum beat in me during Joseph’s childhood. And, yes, I made many mistakes raising him. Not possible to raise a kid and not make mistakes. The key though, at least I think it’s the key, is to sustain the relationship, to realize that love bonds us even through deep disagreement.


When I had lunch with Joseph a couple of weeks ago during his unexpected visit to Colorado Springs, I knew we’d made it past the storms of mid-life. There was my boy, the one I carried home from the airport in a wicker basket, the one I held on my shoulders so often, the one I went to baseball games with, the one who calls me when life gets hard or scary, the one who asked me to perform his marriage to SeoAh, the woman he loves. He was there at the Black Bear Cafe. He was there with Pikes Peak craggy and snowy looking on. He was there and we were father and son and it was good.


Kate, Judaism and Pine Pollen

Beltane                                                                             Moon of the Summer Solstice

20170405_152848Kate continues to struggle with dry mouth, a very sore throat and other symptoms of Sjogren’s syndrome. She’s lost weight as a result. Lab tests don’t suggest anything terminal going on, but her distress is significant. If you know Kate, you know she has an energizer bunny mode, but she’s been on the battery depleted side of that equation for a while now.

Lots of Jewish stuff this week: Star Trek and Judaism on Tuesday, kabbalah on Wednesday, mussar and a meeting with Rabbi Jamie yesterday, and a Grateful Dead shabbat service tonight. I’m learning a lot and slowly integrating into the congregation. When I mentioned the possibility of an Evergreen Forum, a quarterly series of speakers somewhat analogous to the Westminster Forum in Minneapolis, I somehow ended up on the adult education committee, too. In that role I’m now helping coordinate the forum. As I said here earlier, I’m happy to have a place in a religious community with no leadership responsibility. A novel and fun experience for me.

20170613_203228A new seasonal reality for us: pine pollen. All these lodgepole pines insist on involving on us in their reproductive orgy that happens this time of year. A fine yellow dust settles on everything. Coming in easily even through screens, it’s especially apt to settle on things electrical, so the computers and the tv and the microwave all have a coating. It also coats our solar panels, reducing their efficiency. If it rains, a yellow scrim settles over the driveway, pooling where the water does. I wish these pines could figure out a more direct way to make more pines.





Beltane                                                                  Moon of the Summer Solstice

Found these while hunting for files for the reimagining work. Fuzzy but beautiful all the same. I was 35, exactly half a lifetime ago. Joe was one and half or so.

20170615_074947 20170615_075104

Life in the Rockies

Beltane                                                                        Moon of the Summer Solstice

zoharpageHeavy rain yesterday afternoon, felt like being back in the humid East. Black Mountain is no longer white; it’s green with its lodgepole and aspen looking healthy. It’s gone from white haired old man to green man. Good to see. Cub Creek, Maxwell Creek, Bear Creek and Blue Creek are all full. The snowpack is well above average. A much better scenario for this summer. Thankful.

I’m relieved at Kate’s news, again. She’s had a rough time since the second week of my surgery and I hope the ENT doc has her on a path to eating with no pain. This is seven months of up and down health. Tough for her.

Second kabbalah class tonight at Beth Evergreen. I’m beyond fascinated. This Jewish mystical tradition seems to synch up with the way my mind and spirit work. I haven’t been this excited since I began to move toward paganism many years ago. The three main threads in my spiritual life have been, for a long time now, existentialism, paganism and Taoism. Looks like I may be adding a fourth.


Follow up

Beltane                                                                     Moon of the Summer Solstice

Follow up from yesterday. Jon’s got an offer in on the house, a couple of others are in, too. This is the Denver metro’s hot, hot market. Hope he gets it.

Kate’s visit to the ENT was good. He recommended a medication change and the addition of a saline solution to her morning routine, didn’t seem worried about anything that was happening.

So these matters are still in flux, but moving in positive directions. Yeah! as granddaughter Ruth would say.


Beltane                                                                        Moon of the Summer Solstice

IrontonJon goes to see a house today. 1225 Ironton Street in Aurora is easy biking distance to his school. Kate goes to see an ENT today hoping for some answers about a persistent dry mouth and sore esophagus that makes eating painful. Easy to write the sentences, more difficult to express the complex emotional and relational impacts of both appointments.

Life moves along. This change and that change come in waves, rocking the small craft of our lives, sometimes gently, sometimes with a slap and a shove. Not sure right now whether either one of these will be a gentle swell or a deep trough.



June 2017
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