We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Eudaimoniac

Summer                                                                   Monsoon Moon

20180526_143004A good soaking rain yesterday, extending into the night. And cool sleeping. Two huge benefits, mitigates fire danger and improves sleep. Go, rain.

Kate has had two days without nausea. Well, up till that late evening coffee cake. She seems to have found at least one palliative measure, stop eating before she gets too full. A major component of the nausea may be later life sequelae from the bariatric surgery. She sees a gastroenterologist for a consult in August. Slowly, gradually getting a handle, I think.

I’m flailing a bit on the lesson planning. Not sure I understand Rabbi Jamie’s grid, so that makes working with it difficult. Gonna push ahead, make some guesses, get done with what will amount to first drafts. Finishing the Superior Wolf revision and writing these lesson plans are my top priority right now. Superior Wolf work is mostly done, I need to enter the edits; so, the lesson plans are up. Due Friday before my breakfast meeting with Alan.

20180705_072608Tomorrow afternoon I get a new workout. Exercising has been more 20180704_111915sporadic of late, partly due to my aching back. The back stays ouchy because I’ve been doing the chainsaw work, cutting up (bucking) the downed trees. This involves bending over, holding a heavy saw well below waist level and controlling its movements, especially the gyroscopic force of the chain around the bar. Not a recipe for good lower back health. I’m getting there with the trees though. I have two fully cut and a third part way there. That leaves two plus the one Jon says he’s going to mill, create boards for a project of some kind.

 

I’m getting a lot of satisfaction right now, eudaimonia. I’m flourishing, using my gifts at their outer limits, getting feedback, moving purposefully through the day. Don’t care about happy, but I do care about eudaimonia. Seems to come when I flow with the work, with life as it comes, rather than trying to force results. A Taoist way to eudaimonia, then.

A Lunar Month of Significance

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

As the Woolly Mammoth Moon phases away toward a new moon, its month, the same lunar month we always have, yet also a different lunar month from any we’ve ever had, all spiraling through space as we follow the sun while orbiting it, I just wanna say thanks for what happened under its gentle influence.

It rose as a new moon, invisible but watching us, on June 13th, the day Mark, Paul, Tom and I headed out to Durango and the 416 fire. It was a trip both across southwestern Colorado and back into 30 years of friendship. Not to mention back to the days of the Pueblo dwellers of Mesa Verde. It was, in a sense, a way to say to each other that, yes, these friendships are for a lifetime. That this lifetime, whatever it may mean individually includes each other–and Bill. When you think about it, affirming the power of our past and honoring the reality of our future, is pretty damned cool.

Ode lays out the trip

Ode lays out the trip

It was also on this same trip that I read the essays about ground projects by Bernard Williams and about setting a rejection goal. The first one affirmed my existential sense that life gets meaning from our intentions and our labor to fulfill them; the second has transformed my writing life. A big, huge, amazing, wonderful thing.

Also under the Woolly Mammoth Moon, Alan Rubin and I began digging in to developing a curriculum for 6th and 7th graders in the Religious School at CBE. This work has affirmed the depth of my immersion into the Jewish world of CBE and reconstructionist thought. It also underscores my continuing fascination, see posts below, with the supernatural, or at least the fruits of humanity’s speculation about the supernatural.

20180415_155755

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, ballet at CBE

Also under the WMM, I’ve been putting together the Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler series for the 2018/2019 adult education year. This will feature both courses from the Great Courses company and courses from the MOOC aggregator, Coursera plus the odd film or two.

I also met Harv Teitelbaum. He’s the Sierra Club’s lead for their anti-fracking initiative, a big deal here in Colorado. I believe he and I share a similar attitude toward our current political reality and a similar focus on local races while maintaining an emphasis on the Great Work.

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

It’s been a big, big month for me and I want to say out loud how grateful I am to all of you who’ve made it possible. Yes, Kate, especially you. It’s been a very difficult month for you nausea wise, I know, but you picked up a board membership at CBE and guided the food committee for the Patchworkers. All the time you’ve been supportive, though understandably surprised, at my new commitment to finally, finally, finally submitting my work. You’re the gyroscope in all this, keeping us stable and focused. Thanks, Kate.

oh my aching back

Summer                                                                   Woolly Mammoth Moon

 

20180619_093818Lifted a case of 24 cans of wet dog food out of the box on Thursday. Kate happened to be there. The moment I straightened up, I said, “Fuck. I shouldn’t have done that.” I lifted it with my back slightly bent, not with my legs, but my arms. Friday and Saturday were walk around like a hunchback days. I know better, but it had a cardboard cap on it. I took that off and it was very light, just cardboard. Somehow my body took that as a cue that the canned dog food would be light, too, so I let my guard down. Better this morning, but geez. How old am I again?Kate at 16

Kate’s figured something out. She’s been much, much calmer with the grandkids here, better for her and for them. It’s great because she has more fun, doesn’t end their visits exhausted, wiped out. I can see a corner being turned. She’s also about to get a handle on her nausea, I can feel that, too. When she does, and she gains back a few pounds? Watch out.

 

 

 

Mariposa

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

Ruth at DomoSuch a sweet kid, that Ruth. When she left elementary school last year and entered Mcauliffe middle school, she was still a child, a fast maturing child, but still looking backward, not yet out of recess and whole day class with one teacher. Over the course of this last school year, she stopped being a girl and has become an adolescent, not quite a teenager yet, but definitely no longer a child. This last year has also moved her further and further from the immediacy of the divorce which has reduced her reactivity, allowing her to concentrate on her academic interests like math and Chinese.

When up here, she cooks, sews, makes art, watches TV, discusses politics, goes to Lake Evergreen for paddle boarding, comes up to the loft and sits in her chair. We talk:

Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”
 

ruth-and-hair330As with Joseph, it’s a delight and a privilege to be part of this transition. It’s a miraculous moment, somewhat like a chrysalis. The Ruth that has emerged from childhood is different in substantial ways. More thoughtful. More adventurous. More eager to learn. More engaged with others. More on her phone. Bigger, taller. This turn, from elementary age to middle school age, is captivating. I can see why a teacher might want to focus on this age group.

She recommended that Kate and I watch Lady Bird. We did. What a perfect movie for her, for her time in her life. Lady Bird comes of age, has sex, chooses her own path. When the movies starts, she has a cast, a pink one, on her right forearm. It comes off part way through the movie, a symbol of her increasing growth. I could see Ruth traveling through Lady Bird’s transitions, just as, I imagine, Ruth could, too.

 

Old, but not dead

Summer                                                                         Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180705_07254120180705_072553Sixth dead tree down. All limbed, the slash moved to the road, and Elk Creek Fire Department notified. They have a new program this year. We put slash within 5 feet of the road and in 5 foot or so piles. They’ll come by and chip it. This is not a small deal since the last slash chipping I had done cost $600. Sometime in the next few days I’ll cut all six of them into fireplace sized chunks and stack them.

Just a few stray aspen in the wrong places to fell and I’m done with tree work for the year. I like it. It’s outside, the smell of fresh cut wood, get to use my body, creates firewood and helps give our property a better chance in a very high fire season. I miss the same sort of work that our large gardens in Andover used to give me, but I have no intention of recreating those here. Too hard up here, other things to do. Well, if we had a greenhouse, I’d get back to it. I miss working with plants, with the soil.

20180704_110235A friend wrote about my life here in Colorado. He is, he said, intentionally simplifying, trying to have fewer obligations, yet I’m taking care of dogs, doing more work around the house, cutting down trees and teaching at Beth Evergreen. Now I happen to know that this same guy, who is older than I am, recently completed a show in which he made posters of all the bridges across the Mississippi in the Twin Cities. He has also found a patron who loves his art, so he’s producing larger art works across various media. Not exactly slowing down in that sense. Life in the old lane does force us to make choices about how to use the energy and time we have, but so does every other phase of life. Now though we know ourselves better so we can get more bang for the time and energy.

His comment did give me pause, wondering if I’m ignoring the moment, the actual state of my life. Kate and I were talking about this a couple of days ago in relation to her diminished energy, occasioned by Sjogrens, arthritis and this damned nausea that afflicts her. When we whack down the nausea mole, I’m hoping the other symptoms will give her some rest for a while, especially since her shoulder surgery has been so successful. Even so, we do have to adjust to our current physical and energetic and intellectual reality, and she’s not likely to go back to the energizer mode of yesterday.

20180704_111915Here’s my situation. I have my chronic illnesses, collected along the way. I don’t hear worth a damn, have stage III kidney disease (stable), glaucoma, high blood pressure, an anxiety disorder (which, frankly, is much, much improved), arthritis in various spots. A repaired achilles tendon and a titanium left knee make my legs not what they were. All these are facts. If you ask me, I’ll tell you, though, that my health is excellent. None of this drags me down, either physically or emotionally.

ancora impari

ancora impari

Having said that, my intellectual faculties seem intact though I admit it’s hard to know sometimes from the inside. I’m emotionally more stable, less reactive, have a more nuanced approach to relationships, much of this thanks to the lessons of mussar at Beth Evergreen and the very sensible approach to life that is Jewish culture. THC helps me sleep better than I have in my life. Writing still excites me, makes me feel puissant and I have projects underway, a novel and a collection of short stories, plus an idea for a novelization of the Medea myth. Kate and I have a great relationship, we do a lot of things together, enjoying the years of getting to understand and appreciate each other. Grandparenting is a wonderful life moment.

Right now, in other words, I am old, 71 is past the three score and ten, yet I’m still eager, still curious, still hopeful, still physically able. So for me, 71 is my age, but decrepitude has not captured me yet. It will, if I live long enough, I’m sure, and slowing down, when it becomes necessary, is something I foresee. It doesn’t frighten me, since death doesn’t frighten me. Until then, I’m going to keep plowing ahead, purpose driven and excited about life and its various offerings.

 

 

 

Front Range Life

Summer                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

Downward Dog

Downward Dog

Gertie is apparently blind in one eye. Her left eye has been clouded by a cataract for some time, but an exam Monday revealed she may also have acute glaucoma and her pupil did not constrict when confronted with light. As in dogs in general, it doesn’t seem to bother her. She’s still her wriggly, rascally self.

Rigel seems to have recovered completely from her earlier this year bout with a food allergy. At some moment in the recent past she saw something that interested her out by our far back fence. Now, she lies on the deck, forelegs dangling over, eyes locked on the fence. In the morning she often goes back there to check things out, sometimes she’ll lie in the grass just beyond the shed, again eyes focused on the utility easement that begins just beyond the fence. The easement itself is a wildlife highway since it’s kept clear by IREA (Intermountain Rural Electrical Association) and extends up and down the mountains.

20180414_130149Kate bustled around yesterday in short bursts and defeated the nausea demon by not taking her diclofenac in the morning. Or at least we think that was it. She’s engaged in an experiment right now to test whether the diclofenac might be a major contributor. Problem is that the diclofenac covers her arthritis pain and without it she’s in pain. Difficult and complicated.

We went to the Mussar Vaad Practice group last night. Interesting conversation about faith and trust, the difference between the two. The difference is slippery and of course hinges on what they mean to you. If faith is the equivalent of belief, as in many creedal theologies it often is, then faith is fragile. If, however, faith is about our everyday willingness to live as if life will continue, as if our loved ones will not die at least today, as if abundance is ours to claim and experience, then it is not fragile, but a necessary component of the awakened, vital life. Trust is more transactional, more circumstantial, not global, but specific. It is a willingness to know the other, for instance, and, accept them as they are. Trust is, as a writer quoted last night said, the mother of love and the daughter of truth.

Another day in the Front Range.

Zoom

Summer                                                                      Woolly Mammoth Moon

zoom20180228_062626Gonna work a new technology into old relationships this morning. At 9 am MDT, 10 am CDT and 11 am EDT, Mark, Paul, Bill and I will crank up Zoom. A virtual gathering of part of the Woolly Mammoth herd. On the shores of the St. Croix River in northern Maine, the top of Shadow Mountain, and in the Twin Cities of Minnesota we’ll gather around an early 21st century campfire and tell stories. It’s hard to say how this sort of meetup, a more sophisticated version of Skype, might transform relationships, but that it has begun already, is clear to me.

In fact, over the last week I used Zoom twice, having never used it at all before that. The first instance was a national gathering of Jewish educators piloting a new curriculum for pre Bar or Bat Mitzvah students. The second was a more local gathering with folks in the Denver metroplex talking about starting a speaker’s bureau for the state Sierra Club.

Mary in Singapore

Mary in Singapore

Years ago my brother Mark, my sister Mary, and I would use Skype to bridge even further distances, Singapore and Saudi Arabia to mid-continent North America. Neither Skype nor Zoom has the visual clarity and sense of presence of the video conferencing rooms used by large corporations, but they are a way to use the technology on the cheap. Skype is free and Zoom is inexpensive, free for all but the person who agrees to pay a modest monthly charge for an account.

Could relationships exist only fed by this technology? I doubt it. Alvin Toffler, writing in 1970, used the term high tech, high touch in his work Future Shock. He posited that the more we use advanced digital technology to communicate, to share information, the more we would desire being with each other in person, in IRL. Of course, this observation applies, too, to our use of the so-called smart phones (actually, hand held computing devices) and social media like Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram.

50th High School Reunion, IRL

50th High School Reunion, IRL

In writing that I can recall that there is, in fact, a third category of relationship, one between IRL and virtual with folks from real life. I’m remembering Kathryn Donahue, for instance, a woman I met only on Facebook though she grew up in my hometown, younger than me. When she died a couple of years ago from lung cancer, I was shocked and sad. I never met her though I talked with her and saw her posts. The same may as well be true for many of of the college friends I see on Facebook and now on Instagram. I knew them once, long ago, but these folks, too, I never see in person. Even Anitha, Mary’s friend in Singapore, I’ve only met once, for lunch, when Kate and I visited Mary, yet I now follow her career and life with interest on Facebook. We exchange notes occasionally.

Those relationships are thinner than friendships, but more than casual acquaintances. Not sure what they are. I find them valuable, enriching, especially now that I’m over 900 miles from the physical locations of my youth and second phase life. Would this technology solve loneliness for a person confined to home or to a room? I don’t know, somehow I doubt it; but, perhaps we’re still in the very early stages of understanding how human relationships can be nurtured absent any physical contact. (forgot about letters, the old form of social media. letters are different than Zoom, of course, in some ways more personal, in some ways less. the obvious difference now is that contact is so much easier and much, much faster. and, with Zoom and Skype, we can add in body language.)

singularityI suppose this has implications as well for the old wheeze of uploading my consciousness, complete with memories, to the cloud. What would I, or you, be then? What would it be like to not be embodied? I suppose these virtual platforms give us a way to try out that transition without going all the way into an electronic reality. Perhaps they’re really a transition moment between this stage of human evolution and one we cannot imagine.

Could be, I suppose, that this will be the workaround for the singularity. Instead of becoming subordinate beings to vastly superior machine intelligence we can become machine-like intelligence ourselves, augmented in our virtual life by artificial intelligence.

Before that happens, though, I’ll chat with my buddies, folks I’ve known IRL for over thirty years. Looking forward to it.

 

 

Sweet. So, so sweet.

Summer                                                                  Woolly Mammoth Moon

20150509_135508Oh. Sometimes the sweetness of life becomes palpable. More and more of late. Not drowned out by the drumbeat of illness, family struggle, heat it underscores that life, our lives, are moveable feasts. The meaning of life itself lies in this realization, not in achievement or wealth or knowledge or belongings. Why? Because no thing in life carries permanence, not joy, not hate, not anger, not even love. All is transitory, the matter of a moment, then it will change.

We are not prisoners of the failed marriage, the drunken mistake, the doomed career, nor are we prisoners of the awards, the fancy house, not even of the loving family. Life moves on regardless of all these. It’s not a game; it’s not true that the one with the most toys wins. No winning, no losing. Just living.

Vega

Vega

This last is the surprise key. Just living. I’ve been thinking about breathing recently, part of my sharpening doubt practice. Breathing and the heart beating. Breath. Beat. Rhythms of life. Sine qua non of life. Breathing takes the outside inside and the inside outside. It’s binary, one, two, one, two, one, two. In, out. Both necessary. Breathing in is not enough. Breathing out is not enough. Both necessary. Breath in and stop and the body will gradually die, poisoned by co2 and starved by lack of oxygen. Breath out and stop. The same. Only the two together, opposites, continuous, unconscious sustain life.

(the watercourse way, Upper Maxwell Falls)

Sometimes, up here at 8,800 feet, breathing becomes difficult, shallow, a struggle. I’m learning to take those moments as doubt sharpeners. How? Well, we’re always only one breath away from death. Always. As you breath in, it could be the last breath you take. Will be at some point. Each breath punctuates the act of faith required to live, just live. We act as if the next breath will always come, but in fact we don’t know that. The same with the beat of your heart. It only needs to stop once. And we’re dead. Yet we live as if the next beat is coming.

We need no more than breathing and the beating of the heart to remind us of the fragility and awe that is life. We are the animation of elements created in the hot furnaces of mighty stars, elements formed since the big bang, now helping us transfer oxygen from the atmosphere to our hemoglobin, then out to the organs and muscles and nerves. No wonder life cannot last. We’re a magic act, the transubstantiation of matter into vitality, elements moving with intent, with purpose. Entropy must rule. The juggler can only keep so many objects in the air at one time.

If you’ve stuck with me this far, I know, it was thick, but if you have, here we are at the sweetness. It’s always there since it lies in this, every breath a leap of faith, our willingness to act as if the next heart beat will come. The sweetness is just life, the extraordinary and unexpected animation of items off the periodic table. Let no one, no thing, no thought obscure this wonder, this true miracle. A wonder and miracle we can know with each breath, each pulse.

Fire Weather

Summer                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

preferred weather here, cool and rainy

preferred weather here, cool and rainy

It’s late June and we have a spate of hot, dry, sometimes windy weather ahead of us. In spite of the rains over the last week or so, the fire danger has remained high and this forecast has put us into a stage 2 fireban. The underlying rule in a stage 2 fireban is, if you have to put it out, it’s forbidden. If you can turn it off, it’s ok. Charcoal grill. No. Gas fired grill. O.K. Lot of grumbling yesterday on Nextdoor Shadow Mountain about this ban because it’s in place the week before the fourth.

Makes me remember the inevitable conflict with our otherwise well-liked neighbors, the Perlichs, who lived across the street from us Andover. They loved fireworks. The week of the fourth always got to our dogs. Dogs don’t like sudden, loud noises. Some, like our dear Tira of late memory and Rigel of current experience, really, really don’t like them. A stage two fireban for us is fine, thank you. (Though it does mean I have to carry a water bucket and a pointed shovel with me while I finish up the limbing and bucking.)

Rigel

Rigel

Two friends have significant events today and, though I can’t say what they are, I can say that it feels good to have had the time with them last week. It means I’m a little bit more there for them and I like that feeling. Here’s hoping for great results in both cases.

Heat makes me turgid, slows me down. Shortcuts the thinking process. By mid-afternoon the only comfortable place in our house is the downstairs. It does cool off quickly as evening approaches, but for a couple of hours both Kate and me experience debilitation. I know, a strong word, but accurate nonetheless. We’re cold weather creatures who suffer the horrors of sunny days in summer with some grumpiness. The elevation moderates summer heat, yes, but doesn’t eliminate it.

Mountain living

Mountain living

Read an article about folks who move to the mountains and those who move to beaches. Mountain folks tend more toward introversion, beach folk toward extroversion. (and, in the latter case, skin cancer) I suppose if the heat encouraged me to go and find other sun lovers and, if I liked that, then the beach would make sense. Doesn’t, though.

To some extent I feel as if life is on hold while heat dominates the day. See the earlier posts about why I celebrate the turn toward darkness at the summer solstice. It gives me hope.

 

Friends and Family Far Flung

Summer                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

0

Woolly’s in Stillwater, Minnesota

Mark Odegard has worked his magic on the pages of notebooks again, his distinctive marks creating memories of our Durango, Mesa Verde trip. Paul’s been hanging in splendid isolation from the digital and media world at their family compound in Robbintson, Maine. As a result, he claims he can almost life at the comedy act we call government. Tom battled strep, had a house full of grandkids and their parents, and heads off to Atlanta on a business trip. He’s had a very busy three weeks or so, with little cessation.

Israeli Abroad, Saigon Bui Vien Street, a backpackers’ paradise

Israeli Abroad, Saigon Bui Vien Street, a backpackers’ paradise

Brother Mark reports still stark divisions in Vietnam between the north and the south. He’s spent a good bit of time recently in Ho Chi Min City, the former Saigon, and flew yesterday to Hanoi. He’d like to find a job somewhere in Vietnam. Mark is my literal foreign correspondent, reporting of late from various cities like Riyadh, Bangkok, Singapore, HCMC and now Hanoi. Sister Mary is on her way at some point to Kobe, Japan where she will teach for a month this summer. She’s been taking Japanese classes.

Joseph and SeoAh will head to the beach for her July 4th birthday. With Murdoch of course.

days of aweMeanwhile I’m hip deep in the mahzor, the prayer book for the days of awe. Attended a webinar yesterday, with Kate, on the new b’nai mitzvah curriculum Beth Evergreen has elected to use. Spending time considering the world of the tween, the things that matter to them and how we can travel with a few over the next year. Still getting a focus on lesson plans, reconstruction as the reconstructionists use the term, and the Jewish liturgical year. Making for an interesting summer.

Kate’s done so well with her recovery from shoulder surgery, with managing Sjogren’s Syndrome. Nausea, too frequent, makes taking a victory lap or two difficult. It’s the Chief Complaint now, CC. CT on Friday. She has some ideas about what might be causing it, good ones, I think. Like playing whack a mole with debilitating symptoms, but she’s a good mole whacker.

 

 

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