We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.


Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

Kilauea May 16    lava spatter between fissures 16 and 20 USGS

Kilauea May 16 lava spatter between fissures 16 and 20 USGS

The local

Beltane                                                                            Sumi-e Moon

breathe thich-nhat-hanh-calligraphy

breathe thich-nhat-hanh-calligraphy

Forgot how exhausting real studying can be. My goal was to finish Rovell’s book, The Order of Time, before qabbalah last night. I did it. But I had to read and ponder for several hours over the last two days. Much of the work is clear, even if challenging to understand. Some of it, especially about the quantum world, was  damned difficult. Some of it I didn’t get. That’s o.k. Confusion is the sweat of the intellect. A lot of sweat in that small text.

My reward? At kabbalah last night I found the discussion needed the insights Rovelli offers. But I didn’t understand them well enough to add them to the discussion. Result? Cognitive dissonance. The question last night was, does the future exist? Rovelli answer: at the quantum level, no. No past, no present, no future. No time. Just events occurring in no particular order. Kabbalists answer, no. The past and the future only exist in the present. Sounds similar, but it’s not. No time is no time.

And, Rovelli established to my satisfaction that there is no present, even at the Newtonian level. The easiest example is a moment, A, happening on earth. Is it in the same present, a universal present we assume exists for the whole universe, as an event on Proxima, three light years away? No. It is in the same moment as an action on Proxima three years from now. In this example, thanks to distance we can see that our present does not match up to Proxima’s.

present_moment_wonderful_moment-300x224Here’s the real trick in Rovelli’s book though. The present is highly local. The present is a construct meaningful only within the part of the universe with which we are in direct relation. So my present here on Shadow Mountain is different than the one down the hill in Aspen Park or down the hill even further in Denver.

We can only know the present through direct relationship. Why? Well, consider this. Let’s say I want to know what’s happening right now in Aspen Park. How can I do that? I’m not there. I could call, but dialing takes time, so by the time I’ve connected with Aspen Park, the moment I’m reaching is no longer the present about which I wondered a moment ago. Even a reply takes time to reach me from Aspen Park over the phone. It’s the same problem as Proxima, just on a different scale.

localPicky? I don’t think so. The present is just that. Now. But I can discover no other present without encountering it after mine has already disappeared.  This highly local nature of the present unhinges our assumption of time as a constant, the same everywhere. No, in fact it’s exactly not the same everywhere. You have to let that trickle in, at least I did.

And, there’s more! But I need to re-read the book to get it. Not right now. Not enough energy.

Hard Copies, Hard Work, Hard to Understand

Beltane                                                                     Sumi-e New Moon

hard copiesStarted a long project yesterday. I’m printing out all of Ancientrails. Been wanting to do a total backup and I will at some point, but if it’s going to be useful to my ongoing work, hard copy is better. Besides, think how satisfying it will be to hold a copy of all this. Then, I got to thinking. Oh, but a fire! I’m going to make a copy of the copy when it’s done, then make copies of all my hard copies of my novels. I’m going to ask Jon if I can store those copies in his garage in Aurora. Yes, all the novels are on flashdrives (and in a safety deposit box, all except my work on Jennie’s Dead and Rocky Mountain Vampire) and all of Ancientrails is in the cloud, but the hard copies are important, too. The things that come up before we fall asleep.

Haven’t mentioned the dishwasher in a while, certainly not the Samsung of late and unlamented memory, but that’s because the Kitchenaid works. It has eased a burden. Dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, gas/electric stove and refrigerator. All really are labor saving appliances. No ice delivery. No need to fell trees and split wood. No hand washing of dishes and dirty clothes. No hanging clothes out on the line and bringing them back in. We don’t think about these wonders unless one ceases to work, but they do free us up for other more important matters like facebook and texting. Ha.

similar to the one I used back in 1974

similar to the one I used back in 1974

I have felled trees and split wood to use a wood cook stove and to heat a house with an airtight wood stove. I have washed dishes by hand as a matter of course. No scrub board and clothes line in my past though. Laundromats. I’ve never had an ice box though that was the go to word for the refrigerator when I was a kid. My grandmother called all cars, the machine.

As always we live in a time between this moment and the past, between this moment and the future, never fully leaving behind the ways and memories of the past and never fully engaged in the ways and possibilities of the future. It is in precisely this sense that the present is both past and future, at least in the only useful understanding of them.

By the qabbalah class this evening I’ll have finished Carlo Rovelli’s book, The Order of Time. I rarely read books twice, too much to read, but I will definitely read this again. A lot of it is clear, understandable, but so counter-intuitive that it’s hard to recall, hard to assimilate. For instance, according to Rovelli, whose field is quantum loop theory, time is not a dimension at the quantum level. It’s not necessary for the equations that explain quantum mechanics.

quantum2If I’m understanding his primary argument, time at the Newtonian level is a result of blurring. This may seem like an odd idea, and it is, but it’s not so hard to grasp if you think about the blurring that is necessary for us to perceive the world around us. Example. If you shrank to the atomic level and tried to walk across a table top, you’d fall in. It’s blurring of the quantum world that makes the table seem solid to us. Time is a result, again if I’m getting this, of the blurring of the transitions from event to event which, at the quantum level have no prescribed order.

Anyhow, to really comprehend Rovelli’s work, I’ll need to go through it again having the whole as context for the parts.



Terraforming. Buck Rogers, eat your heart out

Beltane                                                                                    Mountain Moon

Kim Stanley Robinson: Red, Blue, Green Mars meet the proposal.

Technical Problems

Beltane                                                                          Mountain Moon

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition runs from March 16 to Sept. 3, 2018 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The exhibition showcases ancient artifacts predominantly from Israel. Photo courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Photo courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

On Sunday I reached some sort of odd apotheosis, presenting a series of video lectures on the Dead Sea Scrolls at Beth Evergreen. In the audience of 20, larger than I had expected, were 4 people from Idaho Springs and Georgetown, Christians invited by a biblical scholar who is a member of Beth Evergreen. That meant that in answering some of their questions, even haltingly because I don’t know the field very well, I, still an ordained Presbyterian clergy, represented a Jewish perspective to Christians on subject matter that altered both faith traditions. Weird.

It could have been better. Two weeks ago I checked out the A/V setup I would use. Though I had a DVD, my laptop, a Lenovo has no DVD player. Not a problem because I could stream the lectures off the Great Courses’ website. The link to the synagogue’s wifi was fine, as was the hdmi link to the projector set in the ceiling. Rabbi Jamie and I fussed around with the sound board, unfamiliar to me, linking the computer to it. We did get the sound to work and I thought I had it down.sound boardTurns out I missed a key move on powering up the sound board.

Kate and I got to Beth Evergreen at 1:15 since she had agreed to handle the food (which she did in typical splendid fashion) and I wanted to have time for tables and for making sure my setup would deliver. With some satisfaction I soon had the lecture displayed on the screen. But. No sound. Hmmm. I have plenty of time, that’s why I came early.

After looking carefully at the soundboard, being sure it connected to the hdmi feed, a few people began to show up. Uh oh. I really had to get this to work. Finding the power buttons, I got the sound board to light up, but still no sound at the screen. It’s been a long time since I got sweaty palms, but I did on Sunday. Folks kept coming. I kept having no sound. It was ten till 2, the start time, and being an unreconstructed Northern European the thought of starting late literally made me sweat.

GreatCoursesLogoI had to call Alan Rubin, a new Beth Evergreen friend, who is the A/V sage. He said he was sitting by his pool enjoying the weather. It was a blue sky, white cloud, warm but not hot, Colorado day. After some false starts, Alan isolated the problem, I poked a button and, right at 2, the sound. Whew.

andragogy-5-638However. All this meant I had not had time to arrange the tables for folks to take notes, so they sat in chairs looking up at the screen. I also had not given sufficient thought to the pedagogy of the afternoon. How would we interact? What questions might prompt discussion? The fact that everyone faced front rather than seeing each other across a table made getting a conversation started difficult. Though I don’t think the audience cared, I’d hoped for a more interactive event and I didn’t facilitate that.

This was the first of what we hope to be many more online type offerings by the adult education committee, so I’ll get a chance to get better at it.

Sunday’s session anticipated a May 20th trip to the Denver Museum of Nature and Science for a tour of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit currently there. Russ Arnold, Rabbi Jamie’s brother and professor of religion at Regis University, Denver, will lead the tour.


Here is the great wild

Beltane                                                                            Mountain Moon

volcanoes big island

 Volcanoes of the Big Island

volcano haleakalaIn the month of the Mountain Moon Kilauea has reminded me that my interest in mountains precedes the Rockies. My first mountain driving experience was Haleakala on Maui. I learned there that you don’t have to brake going up, take your foot off the accelerator and the mountain takes care of you.

Haleakala means house of the sun and on one of our trips to Maui I did the tourist thing of seeing the sunrise on Haleakala. As we rode in the small van around 4 a.m., the skies were cloudy, rushing across the island, allowing the full moon to become visible, then blocking it out. Even though we were on Maui, a tropical paradise, the early morning temperatures on Haleakala’s summit, 10,023 feet, were cold and windy. Black Mountain, visible from my window here in the loft, is 10,731 feet.

volcano peleHawai’i put vulcanology on my oh this fascinates me list. On a visit to the big island, Hawai’i, we drove the Highway east out of Kona, traversing first Hualalai, which sits just above Kona, then Mauna Loa, the long volcano, and finally, climbing up the eastern flank of Mauna Loa we went past Kilauea. We did not go in that day, driving on to Hilo town. On our way back, later that evening, we drove along the southern flank of Mauna Loa again, the air scented by gardenias and jasmine.

In 1999 we visited the Big Island again, this time staying in Volcanoes National Park at Volcano House. We were there for two weeks. Learning the language of volcanoes was easy there: fumaroles, vents, calderas, pahoehoe, ropy undulating lava, and aa, fragmented sharp blocky lava, lava tubes, magma, magma chambers, and the home of Pele, Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. (see poster above)

Hiking a long path around the summit, walking on lava flows where the Pu’u O’o vent added to the land mass of the Big Island, exploring inside now drained lava tubs with ferns growing from the ceilings and reading about volcanoes gave me both an experiential and intellectual immersion. I’ve followed Kilauea off and on since then and the news coming out of the Big Island has me riveted.

20180505_095251Maps. Kate bought me this wonderful vintage map of the Big Island. It now hangs in a prominent position here in the loft, reminding me of many adventures including our stay at Volcano House. Kilauea is in the yellow portion of the map that extends south to the Pacific and butts up against the large swath of green in the middle. The new eruptions are in the eastern, white segment that extends to the north from the point where Kilauea meets the Pacific. This is Kilauea’s eastern rift zone*. People building there knew about the rift zone, but hoped it wouldn’t affect them, much like we hope our location in the Wildlife Urban Interface, WUI, won’t result in our home burning down. Mother Nature gives no passes for human hopes however. She decides when and where things happen, according to her own laws.

20180505_085728Over years of travel I have purchased maps and annotated them. I did this especially in Hawai’i where we visited often while Kate practiced. It is a popular location for continuing medical education. Each time we visited I would mark where we had gone, the date, sometimes a brief note though the longer explanations were in my notebooks. We spent time on Maui, Hawai’i, and Kaua’i, enjoying all of them in turn. Each has their particular charms.

The section of my Big Island map above shows the eastern rift zone area with our 1999 visit marked by the black circle in the  upper left and the current eruptions in the Leilani estates circled in orange. The Lo’ihi seamount, the latest island of the Hawai’ian archipelago forming beneath the sea, is just south of the shoreline shown here. It’s the volcano that is most directly over the hotspot** which has formed the whole archipelago.

volcano pele2In 1999 I stood on the rim of Halemaʻumaʻu Crater. Next to me were empty bottles of gin and rum, sprays of flowers, especially red ginger and bird of paradise, a lei of gardenias. These were left by native Hawai’ians who came here to worship Pele, the goddess of fire, of volcanoes, of creativity. This is, according to Hawai’ian theology, Pele’s current home though I imagine she will be moving in the next few thousand years to Lo’ihi.

Rudolf Otto, the German religious philosopher who wrote about the nature of the holy, said it combines two elements: awe and the mysterium tremendum et fascinans***. Gazing down over the rim, looking 150 to 200 feet to the crater’s floor, awe came bubbling up at me. In 1999 Pele’s home had no active, visible lava, but just knowing that the magma existed below a thin crust of cooled lava was enough. There is a large lava lake in the crater now.

Otto could have written these words to describe my feeling: “overpoweringness, majesty, might, sense of one’s own nothingness in contrast to its power.”

Wordsworth, too, in the World Is Too Much With Us:

“I’d rather be

A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;

So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,

Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;

Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;

Or hear old Triton blow his wreathèd horn.”

The lava on Kilauea is about 2,200 degrees Fahrenheit. Various magma chambers up to six miles below the surface feed the lava flows into Halemaʻumaʻu Crater, formerly fed (up until this last week) Pu’u O’o and now feed the fissures breaking through the eastern rift zone 21 miles from the Kilauea caldera. Here is the raw power of our wild universe visible in its most primal form, kin to the winds of a hurricane, the awful speed of a tornado, the waters of a tsunami, flooding rivers, avalanches, wildfire, orogeny. Nothing subtle at all in these forces; we ignore them at risk to ourselves and those we love.

I need no book, no prayer, no revelation of another. Here is the great wild, the generative power of the tao laid out for all to see. Stand in a sanctuary and feel no more divinity than in their presence. Visit St. Peter’s or the Temple Mount or the Wailing Wall or Angkor or the Great Medicine Wheel and know no more of the sacred, the holy than when the heat of the lava brushes your delicate skin. Pele’s touch.


*Rift zones are areas where the volcano is rifting or splitting apart. The rock in a rift zone has many cracks and is relatively weak, and thus it is easiest for magma to make its way to the surface through these rift zones.

**Hot spots are places within the mantle where rocks melt to generate magma. The presence of a hot spot is inferred by anomalous volcanism (i.e. not at a plate boundary), such as the Hawaiian volcanoes within the Pacific Plate. The Hawaiian hot spot has been active at least 70 million years, producing a volcanic chain that extends 3,750 miles (6,000 km) across the northwest Pacific Ocean. Hot spots also develop beneath continents. The Yellowstone hot spot has been active at least 15 million years, producing a chain of calderas and volcanic features along the Snake River Plain that extends 400 miles (650 km) westward from northwest Wyoming to the Idaho-Oregon border.

*** Rudolf Otto and the numinous

Mysterium tremendum et fascinans” (fearful and fascinating mystery):

  • Mysterium“: Wholly Other, experienced with blank wonder, stupor
  • tremendum“:
    • awefulness, terror, demonic dread, awe, absolute unapproachability, “wrath” of God
    • overpoweringness, majesty, might, sense of one’s own nothingness in contrast to its power
    • creature-feeling, sense of objective presence, dependence
    • energy, urgency, will, vitality
  • fascinans“: potent charm, attractiveness in spite of fear, terror, etc.

Three Years and Done

Beltane                                                                            Mountain Moon

Ironically for this post, this quote came from a character traits game for children

Ironically for this post, this quote came from a character traits game for children

The fan is in the bedroom, ready for summer. May seem like a minor achievement, but I spoke with Alpha Electric about doing this during the can we ever get the generator installed fiasco. A long time ago. Done.

And, for the hmmmm factor. Turns out Mason, the electrician came here from White Bear Lake, Minnesota. The plumber who will come when we call came from the area around Nowthen, just a few miles from our home in Andover. And, Ted of All Trades, the handyman, before he moved here, lived in Ames, Iowa, right across I-35 from Nevada where Kate grew up. The only longtime Coloradan that we use regularly is Ken of Boiler Medics. He is Latino.

Not sure what the deal is with the other trades people we’ve tried to use up here though an ad in the 285 advertiser reveals a lot. I don’t recall the service but its first two key messages in the ad, in bold print, were we return phone calls and show up on time. Those two attributes alone differentiate them from most of the folks we’ve tried to work with.



A Splendid Result

Beltane                                                                          Mountain Moon

Glacier alley, the Chilean fjords

Glacier alley, the Chilean fjords

Kate got two good reports yesterday. Her surgeon, David Schneider, said, “If we see this kind of progress at this point, you’re going to have a splendid result.” He looked at the x-ray and also said, “You had such great cortical thickness. I was surprised by that.” He says the nicest things. Later in the day, at p.t., her physical therapist said she has great range of motion. All of this underscores the effort she’s putting in at home and augurs for a return to quilting and sewing with a pain-free right shoulder.

sparkyI’m having a bit of a pinch me moment. I contacted an electrician to install a fan in the bedroom. He not only called me back; he said he could be here today. Well. O.K. He’s the ex-son in law of Herme and the only one Herme would consider selling his business to. Herme did some work for us a couple of years ago and was great. I believe I’ve found an electrician I can count on.

Made shepherd’s pie last night. A straight forward and tasty recipe.

A Day in the Life

Spring                                                                         Mountain Moon

In hopeful news for us a big spring snowstorm is on the way, perhaps 16-24 inches over Friday and Saturday. I know, I know, those of you reading this closer to the Atlantic and sea level can only groan at the thought of yet more snow and cold, but we’ve had a very dry winter. Let it come.

Next Wednesday morning, April 25th, will be a red letter day here on Shadow Mountain. Not a red flag day, but a red letter day. That will be when Best Buy delivers and installs our new dishwasher and takes away forever the Samsung lemon. Like the upcoming winter storm it cannot happen soon enough.

Kate’s feeling much better. A combination of things. Some weight gain, the beginning of physical therapy, returning to her diclofenac for arthritis pain, better nausea management. I told her last night that it was as if she was poking her head above the clouds for the first time in well over a year. A long siege. May the healing continue.

A quiet day today, get some laundry done, some cooking, hair and beard trim by Jackie, get ready for Ted of All Trades second visit. Call an electrician to wire a fixture in the bedroom for a ceiling fan. Around the house stuff.


May 2018
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