Over the curves and up the hill…

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The waning half Fallow Moon was beautiful this morning. It was the half closed pupil of an eye surrounded by a circle of silvered moonlight within a larger circle of blue moonlight. The eye followed Orion and his dog as they hunted, looking all round Black Mountain for prey.

While Minnesota and points east have been cold, we’ve had a milder, less snowy first half to November. That’s about to change. How much remains to be seen, but it looks like Thanksgiving week will be both colder and snowier.

Kate and I drove up the hill yesterday afternoon after yet another doctor’s appointment. I asked her if she felt different, more at ease with at least the immediate future. Yes, she said. Me too, I agreed. It’s an adjustment to see fewer appointments ahead, less likelihood of drastic news. A good adjustment, yet it also has a when will the other shoe drop tonality. I believe that feeling will pass as long as our mutual health conditions remember stable over a longer period of time.

I ordered a capon from Tony’s last week. Kate decided to get their side dish bundle: gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans. Ruth agreed to make a pumpkin pie. Joe, SeoAh, and Murdoch plan to get here on Wednesday. Annie, too. Jon, Ruth, and Gabe will join us on Thanksgiving. A full house plus.

As many of you will understand, we’re both looking forward to these visits, a lot, and dreading them, a little. Having three extra people and a now larger Murdoch in the house for five or six days presents psychological and logistical challenges. All worth it, but challenges none the less.

Not nearly as big though as the Keaton Thanksgivings. Mom’s family. Muncie, Indiana. Aunt Marjory’s. She was the acknowledged culinary guru and must have worked very hard to feed 18-20 people. There was a kid’s table, lots of comic books (often brought by me). Uncle Ike, Uncle Riley, Dad, Uncle Ray, if they were all there, would retire to Uncle Ike’s den to smoke cigars and watch football. Aunt Roberta, Aunt Virginia, and Mom must have helped Aunt Marjory in the kitchen, but I don’t remember it.

This was a key link in our extended family’s year, the other major one being a family reunion in James Whitcomb Riley park in Greenfield, Indiana. Jane Pauley would occasionally come. Her father Dick Pauley and Uncle Riley were close friends.

Thanksgiving memories. An American tradition. A strong one because it is non-sectarian, focuses on food and family. Probably my favorite holiday of the year after the Winter Solstice. One for the family, one for solitude.

OK, Boomer

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Sprinkling of snow here this morning. 24.

Yesterday did additional cardio on my non-resistance day. Got in 4 days of exercise this week in spite of missing Monday and Tuesday. Feel good about that.

Helped Kate more with her sewing room. Moving this and that. Carrying stuff to the trash, to storage in the garage. Decluttering. She’s working her back. She went to Needleworkers last Wednesday. Gradually.

Grocery store. Contrary to my usual practice I went in and shopped, put my own stuff in my own cart. Went through the checkout line myself. Whew. Took me ten minutes to the find the Chinese five-spice powder. Out of practice.

It was a busy day at King Sooper. A young boy, maybe 4 or 5, sat in the children’s seat of a cart. “Hi,” he said to me. “Hi,” he said to the woman buying tomatoes. “Hi,” he said to the other guy walking by.

Worth it though. Made a Vietnamese beef stew and it was wonderful. Everybody thought so. Ruth helped me. I worked with the chuck roast, cutting it into one inch cubes, browning the cubes after the marinade. Ruth made the marinade, then got to cutting up tomato, lemon grass, scallions, cilantro. She was, literally, my sous chef, doing prep work.

“OK, Boomer,” she said. I laughed. “You’re the only good boomer, I know.” Oh? “Well, you’re the only boomer I know.” Just like you’re my favorite granddaughter? And my only granddaughter. “Yes, just like that.”

Cooking together bonds us. She asks to help and she knows what she’s doing. Wonderful. And, special.

Safety and Maintenance

Samain and the Fallow Moon


Blizzaks on Ruby yesterday. And, an oil change. Synthetic, first time for me. They recommend changes every 10,000 miles or once a year. It so happens that the last time the oil got changed in Ruby was last December. She was sold back to the dealership not long after and had 4,000 miles on her at the time of our purchase. There’s only 11,800 now, but I got the last free oil change on the Toyota Care service plan. And, it’s been almost a year so it was time anyhow.

Lot of driving. Into Stevinson’s Toyota in Lakewood. Home. Back to Stevinson’s. Back to Stevinson’s. Home. Rental car.

These tires are not cheap, but I decided the year we moved here that for us old folks driving on curving mountain roads and on mountain highways, they’re a necessity. I want to give us all the safety options we can muster. Ruby’s all wheel drive is a revelation to me. Wish Ivory had it, too. (I know, Ruby and Ivory, but I’ve fallen under Kate’s spell.)



There she goes. On her own.

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Been having a tough time keeping up with my workouts due to morning meetings, doctor’s appointments. If I don’t workout in the morning, our afternoon nap finishes off the rest of the day for exercise. Why? Not sure. But, I’m lethargic when I get up. A non-workout feeling. Why nap if I get up lethargic? It doesn’t last, but it lasts long enough to throw off my wanna exercise motivation. Something I could work on.

Working out makes me feel better in the moment while the net effects of cardio and resistance work to keep my healthspan longer. There are other daily benefits: getting up out of a chair unassisted, able to hold a chainsaw, get outside work done, enough muscle to handle daily domestic chores, stamina, stair climbing. In spite of my two issues: copd and prostate cancer, my sense of good health, even excellent health remains. But, not if I don’t get in my workouts. Gotta get more careful about scheduling mornings.

Used the instapot last night to make round steak. It came out tough and chewy. Hmm. Not the idea. Gotta figure out what the problem is.

Making progress on my painting, IMO. When I do Rothko-like paintings, I’m finding myself closer to the moodiness his produced. Once that comes more easily, I’m going to start playing around with it. Put photographs or drawings or a flower or something metal in them, IDK. Make them mine. I’m imitating a man I consider a master artist, one of the best of the last century, American or otherwise, trying to learn from recreating his work techniques, color combinations, composition, brush work. A long, long way to go, but I’m having a helluva good time.

Gonna finish my bagel table work today and tomorrow.

Starting to feel the beginnings of a new phase here on Shadow Mountain. Not sure what it is, but it feels pretty good.

Example: Kate drove herself to needleworkers yesterday. She stayed till mid-afternoon. When I saw her drive away, I had a feeling similar to taking Joseph to his freshman year of college. There she goes, on her own. Glad, a bit concerned, happy for her.

A landmark day

Samain and the Fallow Moon

7 degrees and snowing here on Shadow Mountain. Means I must have a doctor’s appointment today. Yep, COPD follow up with Lisa. I’m interested in staging. I want to have a prognosis and a plan for what I need to do to manage this disease. Perhaps a referral to a pulmonologist. It’s been about two months since my diagnosis.

Yesterday was a landmark day here. We started prepping Kate’s sewing room for her return to this domestic art form. Gathered up cloth, moved embroidery thread, organized papers, put the repaired Bernini back on its table, cleared off her work surface. Exciting to see her willing and able.

Gonna need to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Thought I had SeoAh set up to do it, but turns out they won’t arrive until the day before. She’ll do her Korean holiday meal on Friday or Saturday. At least this Thanksgiving I feel able to do it. Last Thanksgiving, with Kate barely back from rehab, I didn’t. We catered from Tony’s Market.

Capon. I love capon, don’t like turkey. I’ll handle the bird, Kate’s going to organize side dishes and parcel them out to other cooks like SeoAh and Ruth. I might make a stuffing. Not sure yet.

We’ll have a full house with the Georgia three and Annie staying here. Jon, Ruth, Gabe will come up for the meal from Aurora. 8. Just right.

Painting. Right now I’m trying to recreate Mark Rothko paintings. I want to imitate him, figure out how he created the mood, the emotional resonance. At some point I’ll go off on my own, but right now I want to learn from one of my favorites. Autodidact color field painter. That’s me.

Mild!

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Not sure what to do here on Shadow Mountain. Kate got good news at the docs yesterday. Dr. Taryle, the National Jewish pulmonologist, started out by saying, “I’m confused.”

What confused him was the appointment with Dr. Gruber, the cardio-thoracic surgeon. The pulmonary function test Taryle had ordered came back with only mild impairment. Mild! That was a week ago. And, he said, the c.t. scan you had two weeks ago, looks the same as the one in May. The same! Lung disease not progressing.

Why do something as risky as a lung biopsy if your disease is mild and not progressing? Why, indeed. We canceled it.

The mood here has swung. Fist bumps. Peace signs. Arms in the air.

She does have some kind of lung disease and she needs oxygen still but the drumbeats of the fourth horsemen have receded into the distance. With her weight stabilized above 100 pounds, her stent, and her feeding tube the malnutrition horsemen has ridden off, hopefully to never return. Sjogren’s still plagues her, but we’ve discovered that having a healthy diet ameliorates a lot of the worst symptoms.

Oh, and she had cataract surgery in both eyes over the last couple of weeks. More colors. The newspaper has started printing the type more clearly, much easier to see for that crossword. We’re counting this as three victories in a short period of time.

Here on Shadow Mountain with the atmosphere shifting.

Zornberg and Denes

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Brother Mark made a good observation. When remembering “my dead” yesterday, I did not include any dogs. He recalls, for example, “Vega’s woof.” I wrote him back and said, yes: Celt, Sorsha, Scott, Morgana, Tully, Tira, Orion, Tor. The Wolfhounds. Buck, Iris, Emma, Bridgit, Kona, Hilo. The Whippets. Vega. The coyote hound/IW mix.

My favorite version of the afterlife is that moment when all the dogs you’ve ever loved come up to greet you. If that could be so, I’d find eternity bearable.

Continuing to meditate, up to eleven minutes now toward a goal of twenty. And, read. First things.

This morning I read from The Human Argument, a collection of the writings of Agnes Denes. If you say, who? I understand. I’d never heard of her either until an article about her art in the Washington Post this week. This woman’s work is a stunner, combining science, mathematics, ecology, and art. I’m still not able to post pictures here (working on it), but you can see some of her work at the two links here. An important artist, IMO, but one I’d missed completely. Even the Walker has only one work by her and it’s a book. The MIA? Nothing.

Followed that with some more reading from Zornberg. Damn, this woman is so smart. And clever. The Beginning of Desire is a commentary on Genesis and its organized by parsha, the long readings required each week to get through the whole Torah in a year. The first parsha is named Bereshit since parshas take their name from the first word or phrase in the text. Bereshit is also the Hebrew name for the first book of the Bible, what I have known up till now as Genesis. Easily the best commentary I’ve ever read.

Here’s a quote from the introduction in which she talks about her method: “The aim of interpretation is, I suggest, not merely to domesticate, to familiarize an ancient book: it is also, and perhaps more importantly, to “make strangeness in certain respects stranger.”” She allows no definitive interpretation, rather she seeks a polyvalent conversation between reader and text, a dynamic reading that learns from the text and the life of the reader in dialectical tension.

Wondering now if staying immersed in Zornberg, in the world of ancient literature, the Greeks and Romans, too, might be the way forward for me. I certainly love it. Get excited.

Bring Out Your Dead

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The Feast day of All Souls. The Christian version of Samain. Diluted from the original with its tension between the dead/faery realm and the living world. In the Christian version All Souls are those faithful now departed from this plane. It attempts to place a limit, a passport on those dead we know. Only the faithful.

Not so the ancient Celts. They knew both faithful and unfaithful (in whatever way that term might have meaning to them) can return, impact our this wordly lives. Tomorrow on dia de los muertos the Mexicans and Latin Americans remind us again of the Celtic knowing: they, the dead, are here. Those who loved us and those who wished us harm. Those who were indifferent to us and those who desired us. Both. All. Not just those with acknowledged acceptance of creed and savior.

The Chinese festival of hungry ghosts is the inverse of the Christian All Souls, imagining a time when certain dead who’ve committed evil return with an appetite for bad deeds. It is celebrated in the 7th lunar month of the Chinese and Vietnamese calendars.

Contrary to what seems true, all of these celebrations imply, the dead do not leave us. Rather, they remain puissant, able to impact our lives for good and for ill. We know this whether we agree with the metaphysics of the various celebrations or not. That parent who loved you. The one who treated you with contempt. That aunt who sent you books. The friend who knew you well. They do not leave you. And they return at certain times, reminding you you were loved, or held in contempt, or known.

How are your dead remembered, puissant in your life? Do you ever set aside time to visit with them, to let them enter your life consciously? Even the frightening ones, the ones who disturbed and disturb your life need attention. Otherwise they work in the shadows of your life.

Change it up, dude

Fall (last day of) and the Fallow Season Moon

-8. That’s right. -8 degrees here on Shadow Mountain, the day before Halloween. In October. We’ve had a taste of Minnesota winter the week before Halloween.

Been changing my morning routine a bit. Read an article that said the first three hours of your day are the most important. Mine starts between 4 am and 4:30 am. I wake up, the dogs get restless, Kep rolls over for a tug and tussle. Gertie comes up to check that I’M REALLY GETTING UP. Gives me a quick kiss to be sure. Rigel raises her head, looks at me. She requires a personal request to get out of bed.

That first half hour is dog feeding, getting the newspaper, and, on Wednesdays, today, taking out the trash. The trash has to be wheeled out through whatever has fallen on the driveway. Some snow today, not too bad.

One of the containers, the green one for recycling, testifies to America’s changed economy. It’s filled with cardboard from Amazon orders, Chewy dogfood boxes, boxes from Kate’s tube feeding supplies. Each home is now a shipping and receiving depot with the resulting obligation to handle no longer needed shipping materials.

After this work finishes, I go upstairs in our garage, to my loft, a 900 square foot space filled with books, art making supplies, exercise equipment and my computer desk. Over the last 14 years the first thing I’ve done in the morning is read e-mails, then write Ancientrails. That’s what I’d call a habit.

But, when learning is needed, the teacher appears. A writer whose blog I sometimes read suggested the first three hours make your day notion. He was making the common millennial complaint about spending too much on social media: facebook, instagram, snapchat, tiktok, whatever the latest is. That’s not me, but I took his point.

Ready for a change I switched up. First, back to meditating. Having done that on a regular basis in a long while. Goal is for 20 minutes. Up to 10 this morning. Then, I read. I’ve been wondering about why I’m not reading more. Oh, I read science fiction, the occasional novel, Tears of the Truffle Pig right now, but serious reading has become a difficult task. Fitting it in. Being able to sustain attention. Turns out the early am is wonderful for that kind of attention.

Reading this morning in the Beginning of Desire, by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. Subtitle: reflections on Genesis. She’s amazing. A new thing under the sun of biblical commentary. Her method, which I’ll write about here at some point, is so subtle, so profound, so intimate, and very learned. I got hooked on her by plucking a book of hers somewhat by random off the library shelf at CBE. I opened, read a couple of sentences, and knew this was genius. Not a term I use lightly.

That was a year ago during the High Holidays, Yom Kippur, and Rabbi Jamie had just finished the whole High Holidays. A lot of work. He sank into the chair next to me. Nobody else there. All had left.

I enthused about Zornberg. He brightened. Yes, he’d met here. Yes, she was the best Torah commentator, maybe ever. He and his brother Russ, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, and professor at Regis University in Denver, who lives in Evergreen, had talked about a joint class using one of her works, a series of essays on biblical interpretation. Hasn’t happened yet, but when things normalize here, I’m going to see if I could give the idea a boost.

Anyhow, I got into her this morning and combined with some other thinking I’ve been doing, got into a revery about myth, fairy tales, long books, the true anchors of my inner life. This is my work, my lifelong work and fascination, the attempts we humans make to discern the occult, the hidden, the other world, the that beyond the this. This is my heart’s labor. Politics was reasons labor, fueled by the heart, too, of course, the misery of oppression, but calculating, power oriented, perhaps a diversion?

I’m writing this now, an hour and a half later than I would have in the past 14 years. So, changes. More to come.

Climb the Mountain, Find the Sea

Fall and the New Moon

Later in the day, Monday.

Drove carefully down Shadow Mountain, down 285 to 470. 470 was clear to South Denver Cardiology. When they called Charles, two of us got up. Charles Collins was the one they wanted. I sat back down.

Ellen came out ten minutes later. Charles II, me.

Back in the room she asked me if I’d ever been on a treadmill before. Yes, I own one and have used it for years. Take off your shirts, please. It’s easier to hook you up to the EKG. She rubbed my chest with a lotion to help the EKG pads stay on, then carefully separated the eight leads and clicked them into place after placing the pads all over my chest.

We waited for an initial EKG to run. A baseline. I stood there in the slightly cool room draped with long plastic cords attached to my body, feeling mildly ridiculous and science fictiony at the same time.

The treadmill was nothing special. Not as nice as mine. It goes up automatically Ellen said. In speed and elevation. On the wall ahead of me was a sign showing numbers and exertion levels. Fine to extremely difficult, 10 numbers. We’re heading to 126 beats per minute. I can do that. I just did, Saturday morning.

That’s arrived at by the quick and dirty way of subtracting your age from 220, then multiplying by some percentage (it varies according to your age, gender, physical condition). Age from 220 gives maximum heart rate.

I stayed on for a bit over 8 minutes. Felt I should I go past 7 minutes which was the average. Ego. We ended with the treadmill at 3.6 mph at 15% elevation. That’s way harder than my usual workout which right now is at 3 mph, going up to 6% elevation. I could have gone longer, but Ellen said she had enough data, so she set the treadmill to cool down.

When I was off, she had me sit on a table, still attached to the EKG. Time back to normal heart rate is a sign of fitness. Not so good as it used to be for me. After a fourth blood pressure reading, she said I was done.

Part of the angst I felt yesterday morning was about the medicalization of my life. Another test, another chance to find something new wrong. I’d like to get back to annual physicals. Might not happen.

A while ago I read a Barbara Ehrenreich (Nickled and Dimed, et al) short essay on why she’s not doing anymore medical tests at all: Why I’m Giving Up on Preventative Care. Her point is that she’s sensed she’s old enough to die. Good article. Just read Dr. Stephen Mile’s Testament. It’s his equivalent of a medical directive. He’s very, very clear about what he doesn’t want, most of it bring me back from the brink sort of interventions.

Death might be making a come back. Why not own our mortality? The tree dies. The dog dies. The human dies. Yes. The cycle finishes for the individual while the species lives on. Our individual existence has never been the point anyway, procreation is about the species, not about the individual, though paradoxically individuals are required to sustain the species.

Here’s something I found that gives another perspective on this conversation:

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
     And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
     And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance. Kahlil Gibran, On Death.