We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

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!

A Good Day

Winter                                                                   Moon of the Long Nights

winter solstice4Up well before dawn on the longest night, experiencing its long darkness here on Shadow Mountain. Wrote ancientrails, wrote some on Rocky Mountain Vampire, wandered out to the newspaper tube. No paper. Back inside for breakfast.

Kate does the NYT crossword every morning and when the physical paper, remember those?, isn’t here, she misses it. Unfortunately, like all things mountain the service quality of Denver Post delivery ranges from occasionally tolerable to often annoying. Mail, too. Worse of course during the annual buying orgy which now strains the logistical systems USPS, Fedex and UPS.

Wielding my now year old plus 21 days titanium knee, I got the snowblower going. It was good to be back outside, especially since the fluffy snow allows me to stick the accelerator on 6 and zoom, well, go faster than 1, up and down the asphalt. The snow glittered in the morning sun, hoar frost coated the lodgepole pines in our yard and up on Black Mountain.

winter solstice And The Wheel Goes Round And Round And The Falme In Our Souls Will Never Burn Out. Happy Winter SolsticeWorkout, finally back in the groove. Three resistance plus two high intensity cardio workouts a week and one longer, slower cardio. About six and a half hours or so. Lunch. Nap. Make tamale pie with cornbread crust. Kate did some errands and got home as I poured the cornbread mix onto the cooked hamburger and vegetables. Tasty.

Text from Joe. They’re in Columbia, Missouri, about 11 hours away. Murdoch’s along. Holiseason continues. Lights. Family. Gifts. Food. Deep connections to the horizontal and the vertical.

A good day.

 

It lives!

Winter                                                                 Moon of the Long Nights

cub cadetAh. In my world mechanical victories, no matter how small, are worthy of celebration. After a snowfall on Wednesday and Thursday, I decided to crank up the snowblower. It had not been started since the end of winter in 2016. My knee surgery coincided with the first few storms of the season last year. It wouldn’t start. Just cranked and cranked. Sigh.

I put gas stabilizer in it at the same time I changed the oil at the end of the 2016 season, so I thought it might just start. I was wrong. An old O2 cannula from Kate’s machine went into the gas tank, gas came out, flowing slowly into a red plastic gas can. Once I’d drained the old gas, in went the fresh gas. Punch the o.f. friendly electric start button. Voila!

The oil was a bit stiff and it took a few passes for things to get warmed up and used to the idea of having to go to work-hmm, sorta like me-but soon the snow flew out of the chute as the cub cadet and I wandered up and down the driveway. Now the driveway is clear and the solar snow shovel will finish off the rest.

Yeah!

Techno Fears

Samain                                                                Bare Aspen Moon

Tech vintageGot a TV for the kid’s room. A Hanukkah present. Maybe not the most mind nourishing gift, but one they’ll really like. I spent a couple of hours setting it up yesterday, which seems like a lot until you factor in the passwords and fiddling with other settings.

Televisions, computer screens, smart phones, laptops and pads will all be excoriated a lot over the next few weeks as mind wreckers, child numbers, relationship ending appliances. But, no. As the NRA might say, screens don’t numb minds, people do. It’s the choices we make that determine how technology effects us. Yes, the technologists and software developers can be tricky, using cognitive science for their own nefarious (read, greedy) ends, but the end user is no dummy either. As with cars, electricity, ovens, knives, guns, even books, we decide how to deploy them.

tech8Right now we’re in a major cultural transition, trying to learn how these tools can be most useful for human life. They will become integrated and less shiny, less compelling as we move on to the next transition, probably to a sustainable human presence on this planet. All civilizational artifacts have ripple effects, often of unsuspected power. Think of the plow. Language. Writing. The printing press. Governance. Bow and arrow. Ships and boats. Ceramics. All had their initial years of adoption, then a clumsy time when their utility seemed swamped by the problems they created. Finally, though, they became part of human life. How did we get across the lake before we invented the boat and paddles? Or the boat and a sail? Speaking our language means we can understand each other better, no more grunting and pointing. Books contain and retain ideas over time and space. How cool is that?

tech4Maybe I’m a starry eyed optimist, probably am, but I believe we can handle this transition and that it will not save us, nor will it enslave us. A hundred years from now, maybe two hundred, we’ll see the full arc of this change, in an undoubtedly hotter and stormier future. It will have become an ancientrail, one still affording advantage, but no longer scary, at least not in the way it seems to be now.

Anyhow. The TV is there. And will get used. And the grandkids will grow up anyhow.

A Busy Friday

Samain                                                                       Bare Aspen Moon

hearing-aid-alta2-nera2-ria2-minirite-silverFull day yesterday. Up at 4:45 though Kep had nudged Kate awake earlier and she’d already fed the dogs. Wrote, ate breakfast, came back to the loft and filed all my open tabs in Evernote. That took a while since I’m still fiddling with Firefox Quantum, too, changing zoom levels, color preferences, customizing the tool bar. Got to the new workout from On the Move Fitness about 9:30. Finished, after icing my knee, at 11:00.

After dressing and collecting the keys, I headed out for emissions testing and picking up my Rigel bitten hearing aid. The first emission’s place, Mountain Emissions, only did diesel emissions, not clear from their facebook page, and was closed. So, onto to the place I used three years ago after transferring plates and title to Colorado. While on the way there a thought occurred to me, how did it take so long to catch the VW folks software scam? I mean, the vehicle puts out emissions from the tail pipe. They’re measured in emissions testing. WTF?

emissionsSo I asked the technician. Turns out the specific tests at drive through testing facilities like the one I visited yesterday use a very specific algorithm, putting the car on rollers and then simulating different traffic conditions. The VW scam depended on the very specific, and standard, testing algorithm. They taught their cars to blow clean during the exact kind of testing done at state and county testing facilities.

The same technician, a loyal employee of his contracted emissions testing employer, said his company caught the cheaters at roadside testing. Not sure exactly who caught it though the suspicions were aroused in California. In roadside testing, IRL rather than in a calibrated testing facility, the tests were not predictable and some diesels began to fail. An odd, odd circumstance. Makes me wonder how much similar mendacity there is in the corporate world.

The Rav4 passed, by the way.

After the emissions testing, it was over to Hearing Rehab Associates to pick up my repaired hearing aid. I’ve been without it a week. Thanks, Rigel. Closed for lunch. So, I went across the street to a sushi place and had ramen plus salmon sashimi.

Picked up my now undented hearing aid. It looked shiny and new. When I put it in my ear, its sound quality was better thanks to a new speaker and a new microphone. On the way back to the mountains, all this was in Littleton, a southern burb, gas for the car at Valero.

20171215_181928Nap-ish. Kate made a pasta dish with chard, yummy, for the Beth Evergreen potluck. A Hanukkah shabbat service. We all brought our family menorahs with four candles, put them on one table and lit them. Rabbi Jamie lit the much larger Synagogue menorah. We sang songs, including dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of clay and others unfamiliar to me. There were tables in the sanctuary and we ate the meal there.

Finally, home. A long day.

 

And life goes on, in endless song

Samain                                                                  Bare Aspen Moon

hebrewFinished chapter 1 in the Hebrew text, about half way through chapter 2. My plan is to keep working on the chapters until I’ve finished. The Hebrew class itself is a bit chaotic, lots of great information, but they’re teaching Aleph and Bet, beginners and next level, together. I’m out to sea at least part of the time. OK. Most of the time. Still, I can now recognize shabbat in Hebrew and pronounce five letters. Slooooowwww. Next class with Joann Greenberg at 4:30. Two weeks ago Bill and Tom were here for the class.

Nut, similar to this

Nut, similar to this

We hung some art in the guest room. Two batik pieces that Mary brought us from
Bali and an image on papyrus of Nut that I bought on the sidewalk outside the British Museum. Kate’s thinking a gray blue for the guest room. She’s beginning to get her interior designer on.

More Jennie’s Dead. Last two scenes were in Selma, Alabama and Denver. High intensity cardio yesterday, slow and long today. New workout tomorrow.

Centurylink comes today to install our new 60 Mbps service. This one requires some work between the box and the house, then a new modem, plus some inside changes at the jack, too. Faster is better and it’s much stronger wifi. That’s good because I bought the grandkids a tv for Hanukkah and it will get its reception with a Roku stick inserted into its USB port.

20171027_161725Kate and I have begun an ongoing effort to help her manage the fatigue which Sjogren’s, rheumatoid arthritis, sarcopenia and reduced available oxygen cause her. We have to be smarter about what mix of activities she does and what ones I do, yet we can’t set up a situation where she becomes housebound. Not good. A delicate balance. Right now we’re looking at the week ahead and trying to imagine how the week will challenge her, then planning for that. A transition to a new phase of life for us.

 

 

 

Daily Life

Fall                                                                                Harvest Moon

Ruth and me destinations

Destinations with Ruth (planetarium in Boulder and Sweet Cow, an ice cream place in Denver) The Rav4’s purpose.

Into Stevinson Toyota yesterday for a Rav4 oil change. Stevinson’s West on the western edge of Denver. The big yellow signs with their dire steep inclines, tight curves warnings go past me now unremarked, except for the occasional realization that I’ve acclimated to mountain driving some while ago.

Stevinson is about 35 minutes away, but the Toyota approach to service appeals to me enough to make the trek. They do what needs to be done to keep the vehicle in good shape. That’s what I want. And, it works. The next oil change will be at the 100,100 mark. Can’t say I like the Rav4, but it gets us from point A to point B, even in winter in the mountains. I do sense an electric car in our future.

Kate, Ruth and Ruths bff, Wilson

Kate, Ruth and Ruth’s bff, Wilson

Family business meeting at Brooks Tavern over lunch. We’re still absorbing some financial strain from Jon’s time with us, so the budget’s a little tight, but that won’t last forever.

Kate’s doing well with the substantial burden Sjogren’s places on her daily. Though the dryness that is Sjogren’s signature symptom, especially mouth, throat, eyes, is definitely bothersome, the most difficulty for her comes from fatigue. It makes her self-defining upper middle class get’r done energizer bunny approach to life just not possible anymore, except for short periods of time. That imposes a psychological burden that is worse, I think, than the fatigue itself.

Finished the installation of the weather station. It looks great, to my eye, on the loft’s deck. I’ve reacquainted myself with some of the buttons and whiz bangs of the console, but it will require some rtfm to get back to facile with them. The internet connection might be harder because I purchased the link for it back when Vista was the most recent Microsoft OS. We’ll see.

20171016_165812Been trying to get Boiler Medics, the guy who installed our new boiler, out for a seasonal check of the system. Something’s happening there because they’ve ghosted me for the last few days. This behavior is the mountain way for tradespeople in our stretch of the Front Range; it’s frustrating.

Get my new workout today from On the Move Fitness. I’m enjoying getting a new workout every 6 weeks or so. It’s easy to get in a rut with fitness and Deb, owner of OMF with her husband Dave, seems to have a good grasp of my needs. The workouts she devises challenge me, but are not onerous. Lower back pain and my left shoulder pain have largely disappeared thanks to them. Not to mention that knee. I can now get up from a chair using only my legs, an accomplishment that seems small unless you’ve spent a good deal of time unable to do it.

In A Techno-Desert, Thirsty for Human Interaction

Fall                                                                             Harvest Moon

5:20 am on Shadow Mountain. 43 degrees. 12% humidity. Pressure 22.60. No wind. Crescent moon. All the same without knowing these data points, I know. Still. I like to know them anyhow.

naisbittThis week Thursday I get to see Joe and SeoAh. I’m excited just to see them, to have some high touch in this high tech age. Remember Alvin Toffler? A futurist, he posited that the more complex and sophisticated our technology becomes, the more necessary direct human interaction. (Toffler preceded Naisbitt by at least two years with this idea, but Naisbitt made it a corporate buzz phrase. I find his notion of balance between our physical and spiritual reality an interesting idea.)

True. We exist, at least many of us, especially those younger than a certain age, in a cloud (pun intended) of virtual data. This blog, for example. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Email. Text messages. Twitter. I see, regularly, information and pictures about high school friends, old college friends, friends in Minnesota, family. I don’t use Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, not enough time in a day, but I’m on Facebook at least daily. I send and receive many e-mails, text messages. All this keeps me up to date, to some extent, on people I care about, a gratifying level of connection available, in yesteryear, only to voluminous letter writers.

1954-09 Galaxy Magazine by Ed EmshwillerBut the connection is, of course, partly, maybe mostly, illusory. We get only snippets, usually disconnected snippets. No hugs. No careful listening. No smiles. No touch on the hand during a conversation. No walks. No meals. The further out from our fleshly world, the less real information about another we receive because the context for what we know is very limited.

I don’t happen to see this as bad. I’m grateful for the chance to learn about even parts of the lives of people who once belonged to my fleshly world. But it does create a longing for in person moments, to embrace Joseph and SeoAh, for example. Or, to attend a 55th high school reunion, or show up at a Woolly Retreat in November,which I will not be able to do this year.

High Tech High TouchAs we age and travel becomes more difficult, I imagine this will become an even more poignant issue, extending even into our fleshly world. There’s promise, yes, in telemedicine, for example. We already meet with our financial planner over Skype. How many of our now daily or weekly interactions will become virtual? The key issue here, the one I think Toffler alluded to, though he may not have named it outright, is isolation.

We are on the map of the future where a cartographer might write in florid typescript, “Here there be dragons.” We just don’t know what the combination of high tech and increasingly low touch world might mean. Isolation is deadly, killing the spirit and ravaging the soul. Will we end up in a technological desert, thirsty for real human interaction, seeing it in the shimmering illusions of social media, but not being able to reach it? If so, what can we do about it?

 

The Weather on Shadow Mountain

Fall                                                                       Harvest Moon

20171015_071504Jon put brackets around the pole for the Vantage pro2 weather station. Secured to the deck now with the anemometer up maybe 20 feet off the ground, I’ll attach the weather station itself to the pole this morning. It’s out there right now though and functioning, sending information back to the console.

These are the conditions at 7:20 a.m. this morning, October 15th. Temp outside, 35. Humidity outside, 15%. Barometric pressure 22.60. No wind. No rain or snow.

Next step is to set up the console so I can toggle various data points such as wind chill and dew point. That requires digging back into the manual. After that comes linking the weather station to the internet so I can both share my data and collect it in files for future reference.

tornado-risk-mapThis system is not as important on Shadow Mountain as it was in Andover because we have no orchard or a garden, but it feeds a lifelong interest in the weather, a hobby of sorts. Alexandria, Indiana, where I was raised, is in tornado alley, as is my home state of Oklahoma. The weather could get you.

A group of Twin Cities’ residents shared weather data and commentary on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune website for a couple of years. I used my weather station for very localized weather reporting. That was fun, but it got onerous. It made me realize how much work it is to forecast or even comment on the weather each day, throughout the day.

Vantage pro

Vantage pro

Here in the Rockies our weather changes from valley to valley, from altitude to altitude, mountain to mountain. Many, many microclimates. That means weather reporting and forecasting is often too broad in its sweep to accurately predict what’s going to be happening on, say, Black Mountain Drive.

The weather itself here, unlike the tornadoes of Indiana or the deep, dangerous cold of Minnesota, is not so severe, but the local effects of the weather can be devastating. When the humidity is low, winds are high, and there’s been no moisture for a while, then we get red flag warnings. Wildfire danger goes up and down with these conditions. Since winter is our humid season, it’s usually less worrisome in that regard.

It’s fun to have the console up and the weather station functioning.

 

Before the Storm

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

Wow. Barely into October and I pushed about 5 inches of fluffy, but still wet snow off the back deck just now. The snow began before midnight last night. Thanks to winds blowing from the east, an upslope storm, we’ll get the bulk of its moisture. We’ll probably be on the upper end of the 7-10 inch forecast. This is a relatively rare event where the eastern Front Range gets more snow than the ski areas further west. Still snowing. Will continue, according to the forecast, through late afternoon today.

by Jeremiah, of Sarah, Kates sister

by Jeremiah, of Sarah, Kate’s sister

The weekend had that urgency before the storm feel to it, the first big storm of the season. On Saturday the fines got mowed and I worked on uncrating our Jeremiah Miller paintings. He’s my brother-in-law and an excellent artist. If you remember our Andover house, these are the two very large paintings that hung in the living room and our bedroom. A1 Movers crated them in December of 2014 and they’ve been in their specialized shipping containers since then.

The crates, very sturdy, are taller than I am and heavy. They were clumsy to move. I could maneuver the smaller one onto a small table made of saw horses and a slab of plywood, but the bigger one was too heavy. Jon helped me with that yesterday. Until I opened them, we had no idea how the paintings had fared. The smaller one is in good shape. I plan to open the bigger one today. The dry air here helps, at least in the short run. Over time it might advance the drying out of the paint and cause craquelure, something I’ll have to look into.

The energy surge I get when the air cools down kicked in a couple of weeks ago. It’s reinforced by 20 years of early fall gardening work in Andover. This was the time when the garlic got planted, the last of the leeks, onions, kale, collard greens, beans, beets, lettuce harvested and flower bulbs dug in. The raspberries were ripening constantly and the apples, too. It was also the time of wood cutting and splitting for our fire pit.

I got out the chainsaw and decided to cut stumps left standing from the fire mitigation work a couple of years ago. An Iraq vet, Julie, who heats with wood, stopped by on Friday and asked if she could have the bucked wood. Kate said yes and Julie carted off all of it, front and back. We still have a few dead trees that need to come down so we’ll have firewood. That left just the stumps and they stood out even more.

 a good and trusted tool for over twenty years

a good and trusted tool for over twenty years

The Jonsered I’ve had for twenty plus years, the one I used to cut down the large stand of black locust to clear the way for our gardens and to keep the woods cleared of snags, is past its usefulness. I should have had it rebuilt several years ago apparently. Chainsaw Bob said it’s not fixable. It’s hard to start and dies suddenly. Frustrating. Got four or five stumps cut close to the ground, difficult to do since it involves bending over and holding the saw level with the soil, as close as possible to the surface. Then I noticed I’d been too close to the soil and the saw blade had gone into it. Instant dullness. Gonna go see Chainsaw Bob and see if he has a rebuilt Jonsered I can buy. I’ve got many stumps to cut and those few dead trees.

Also hung the Arcosanti bell Kate got in Arizona years ago. It tolls when the wind blows and we decided long ago that its peeling memorializes our dead dogs. Noticed that the small diamond shaped windcatcher that makes it toll had fallen off, but couldn’t find it. We’ll have to create something in place of it.

typhonIt was a week of this sort of activity, getting ready for the storm, catching up on errands. My exercise, Jennie’s Dead work suffered, but my choice. This week I’m back at all of that, going to On the Move Fitness on Thursday for a new workout.

Jennie’s Dead is going well. Not sure what I’m doing with it, at least not completely. I’m retelling versions of certain myths and those retellings have become extended. I find them great fun to write, but I’m wondering now if they’re overwhelming the main story line. The Typhon/Zeus fight for control of Olympus has a lot of nuance.

Ancora Imparo. I’m still learning.

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