The Abyss Stares Back

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Got a workout in. Some more work on the bagel table. Here’s a couple of quotes I’m using as resource material:

“Paul Ricoeur speaks of the vertigo of “being already born that reveals to me the non-necessity of being here.”” Zornberg, p. 127

“The problem of Sarah’s death is, profoundly, the problem of her life, of chayei Sarah-of the contingency of the already born, the all but dead. Her perception of moral vertigo is displaced onto Isaac’s kime’at shelo nisbhat* experience. In a real sense, as the Sages put it, “His ashes remain piled on the altar.” Zornberg, p.128 *“a little thing decided his fate”

I’m going for the big fish in this bagel table plan. Our own vertigo about our own non-necessity of being here. The abyss into which we all stare. And the reasons to live on in spite of the vertigo.

“And Isaac brought her (Rebecca) to the tent of Sarah his mother, and he took Rebecca, and she became his wife, and he loved her. And Isaac was comforted for the loss of his mother.” Gen. 24:67

Isaac has his own vertigo as Sarah’s only child, the child of her 99th year. He was also the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham to make his descendants like the stars in the sky, the sand on a beach. In spite of both of these his own father, Abraham, agreed to and would have carried out his sacrifice. Could he trust any love from his father?

When Sarah dies, Isaac must have been devastated. She dies before he returns from the Akedah, so he has no chance to talk with her, get her healing. I imagine the abyss was staring back at him. When he finds sexual satisfaction and love with Rebecca though, he is comforted. Perhaps that’s where we all find the courage to stare into the abyss of our own horrors, the non-necessity of our being here: intimacy and commitment.

The Heart. Until It Stills.

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Discovering that my journey has always been more about the heart than the head. 72 seems like soon enough to know that. Not too soon though. Grateful.

I’ve seen myself as an activist intellectual, a thinker and a doer, since around junior high. Those were outer manifestations of an inner passion, not not me, but not all of me either.

Why act? Why learn? Why write? Because something about my soul is drawn toward the souls inhabiting this miracle, this wonder, this earth, this universe. Because Mom taught me and I learned.

Here’s a moment. When I was eight or nine, our kitchen table sat next to a window overlooking the backyard. That spring, late, towards summer when the air was heating up, a spider began to weave a web over the lower part of the window. Out there was our backyard, not too big, but green with grass as the growing season took hold, and our garage.

Mom always gathered up insects in a tissue and released them outside rather than kill them. So it was not unusual that she wanted to leave the web. This was a garden spider, a beautiful member of that family. Mom and I watched her weave her web, an architectural marvel. We watched her catch insects, spin a web around them, eat them.

I don’t recall how long the spiderweb and its maker lasted. I do know that watching her and her reality with Mom was a pivotal moment for my soul. We watched and loved that spider. While we did, I became, for life, a friend of the other world, the one that is not human, the one that cares nothing at all for ideas and elections. A dog world. A tree world. A tomato world. A bee world. A spider world.

More. I became part of that world in some forever way, not different from it because I am animal, breather of oxygen, eater of meat and plants. Mortal. Joseph used to call me nature boy. If only I’d heard that in its fullness, then.

During spiritual direction, the Reverend John Ackerman listened to me over a period of years. Near the end of our sessions together he said, “Charlie, you’re a Druid.” This was while I was still enmeshed in the ministry. Oh.

There was, too, that time on the quad at Ball State when I walked outside the Humanities building and found myself in golden connection with all, with everything. Strings of brilliant light streaming into me, going back out, I was a caught insect in the web of the universe.

Now I see it was the flowers, the vegetables, the fruit trees, the bees that were my real work. The dogs. All those dogs. And my lover, my wife, whose heart shares this journey. Why we are in fact soulmates.

The writing of the novels. No. The political activism. No. The ministry. Certainly not. Maybe the docent years since art lives in our inner world. Maybe ancientrails. (thanks again, Bill.) Raising Joseph and Jon. Yes. CBE. Yes. The Woollies. Yes. Living on Shadow Mountain. Yes. Congregation Beth Evergreen. Yes. Those three spirit animals, mule deer bucks, who greeted me on Samain, 2014. Welcoming me home.

The heart. Until it stills. Maybe after that, too.


Fall and the Sukkot Moon

With Kate’s 8:30 appointment in Denver yesterday we got to drive in rush hour during the season’s first snow. In our Minnesota tuned experience Colorado drivers, natives and sunbelt immigrants alike, have never learned the art of driving on snowy roads. We crawled down 285 with folks clearly frightened by the white stuff.

Had a near ditch drop myself going down Shadow Mountain. At the very bottom, on almost level ground, going about 30, I skidded toward Shadow Brook. Corrected just a bit, teased it back toward the other lane, slid across the road almost, then got it straightened out. Lucky no one else was coming. Heart pounded a bit.

As I drove some more, I began to really like this all-wheel drive. It’s more sure around corners and helped me pull out of the skid.

Made it to the appointment on time. Barely. An hour and fifteen minute drive. Normally forty-five.

Guber had some encouraging things to say. At last! First, the bleb on the c.t., the new one, which he showed us while trying to toggle images between two competing programs, he thinks is part of her scarring process on the left lung. May it be so. A new c.t. in early November will provide more guidance. As physicians say, it will declare itself. “If it stays the same, it’s scarring. If it gets bigger, it’s not,” he said, “But I think it’s scarring.” To his eye it was the same in two images 5 months apart.

Also, he felt confident Kate could handle the lung biopsy. When asked if she might need a ventilator, he said, “It’s possible. Not likely, but possible.” Kate. “Would I come off of it?” “Oh, yes.” He was sure. That’s the biggest concern we both had.

Though there will be another c.t. scan and a visit to the pulmonologist, Taryle, we went ahead and scheduled the lung biopsy for November 18. Finally. After it’s done, a definitive diagnosis will spell out which drugs may help her. Get her some life back. A long, slow process. Too long, too slow.

We got about 4 inches of snow. I’m gonna wait on the solar snow shovel. 50 later today, 14 right now.

When I went out for the paper about 5:20, Orion was higher to the right, moving toward Black Mountain. The air was cold, crisp. Reminded me of Minnesota, as did some of the driving yesterday. This storm has moved on to the Plains and the Midwest. Enjoy, you guys.

Lupron II

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

And, yet more medical news. Went in for my second Lupron shot in the morning, at Swedish. Then, drove back in later in the day with Kate to the E.R. (see below)

Talked to Sherry, the nurse practitioner for prostate cancer at Urology Associates. Turns out the protocol for the Lupron works like this. Get two undetectable PSA’s in a row, that is, 0.01, and they stop the Lupron. Mine was 0.03. Low, but not low enough to give me one undetectable. That means I’ll get at least a third Lupron shot in January, January 6th.

New PSA the week before each Lupron shot. This means the earliest I’ll know about the efficacy of the radiation is June, 2020. Possibly not till August or September.

the prostate specific antigen

Sherry did say that the hot flashes do tend to tail off. Hope she’s right about that.

A bit disheartened. With some detectable psa, even though low, does it mean the radiation didn’t work? Seems like it to me since the idea was to cure me. If the radiation is over, and successful, shouldn’t there be no detectable psa? Guess I’ll get clarity on this in early November when I visit Anna Willis, Dr. Eigner’s P.A.

Heavy Breathing

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Below the license plate and just above the black band. Not bad, but not desirable either

Yesterday morning I filed accident reports with Colorado State Patrol and Traveler’s. Their forms don’t anticipate a foreign national driving a rented RV. Made for an interesting session. Opened the Rav4’s back door. Works fine. The damage is superficial, but probably enough to make them replace the whole door and bumper.

Since we missed seeing Debra on Saturday due to the accident, we took her out for lunch. Ohanagrill. A Hawai’ian eatery on the shore of Sloan Lake. It was hot, a bit muggy. Felt like Maui just a little bit. I had kalua pork and cabbage. We shared four Portuguese donuts.

Debra’s headed to Uganda for a two-year stint in the Peace Corps. She’s sixty and wants an adventure. Sure she’ll get one there. Business development. Unless. She also picked up her ESL credentials and might try to get work in that way.

Coming back from Lakewood where Debra lives the battery on Kate’s portable O2 concentrator died. She was not worried as long as we were at the relatively low Denver altitude (still a mile high, though), but when we began to climb the mountains toward home her chest felt heavy and she started to get a headache.

I drove faster than the speed limit, which I rarely do, getting her back to our home concentrators. I ran in, turned one on, and got her the tubing as she came in the door. Much better. Not gonna let that happen again.

Pretty tired today. It was a busy, overly busy, week. Lots of driving here and there with Gabe’s glove crisis and Kate’s pulmonology appointment plus Tom’s visit. Good tired, though. Friends and family.

Bloomin’, Buzzin’

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Henry and William James

Stream of consciousness. William James, a blooming, buzzing confusion. That’s the world with us. What about the world within us? Perhaps a booming, seething well? My posts are often stream of consciousness. Yes, of course. What else can they be? Tighter, more logical, less streamy, more broadcast television? Sometimes. I can do it.

Ancientrails started as a replacement for my long time hand written practice. Keyboards and pens are different. They educe thought in part by the feedback of the screen or the page. Pen scratching across paper. Keys clicking, letters appearing against a white screen. Some folk say one is better than the other. Pen being mightier than the keyboard, too.

Don’t think so. Of course I’ve been typing since I was 16 and took typing in high school. Before computers I used a typewriter, first manual, then Selectric with the ball. I’ve been writing with a keyboard for over 56 years. That’s a long time. Think I’ve gotten used to it by now. It’s my chief manual skill.

Most days I start with a Natalie Goldberg mind, free writing. Start out and see where it goes. If this blog ever seems like associations evinced by the sentence before, well, it is. I’ve tried to be more systematic, more philosophical, more academic. Just isn’t me. I’m more a first person sort of guy, telling you what’s on my mind right now.

The downside of this style is obvious. It’s self-centered, myopic, less than fully considered. True. It’s also self-revelatory, honest, and fresh. At least I think so.

Glad you’re here. Thanks for reading.

New Moon

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

New moon tonight. Great night for astronomy.

Chang’e flees to the moon. Yositoshi, 1885

Moving out of the time of the first harvest though Lughnasa has three weeks to go. The combines will be in the fields soon, contractors working through the night with the aid of the Harvest Moon.

Dreamy and sleepy this morning. The dogs had to wake me up. Working on getting a friend out of prison. He got out, then reoffended right away. There was a road work project near the top of a high hill. Jesuit’s were the work crew. There’s some Jungian stuff going on here, I can tell.

Picked up another tradition of better days. After Thursday afternoon mussar at CBE, we drove into touristy Evergreen. At CJ’s, I bought two Vienna beef sandwiches, one with giardiniera, one without. CJ sold the place to his daughter last year, but he was behind the counter yesterday.

The parking lot across from CJ’s, which made it much easier to stop in ( parking is bad), has been out of commission since the flood. That was 2012. CJ got flooded out by water pouring down the rocky hillside. Not covered by FEMA. The parking lot, flooded out by the swollen Bear Creek, was. He’s convinced the reason the parking lot’s taking so long to fix is “…because the government’s involved.” Whatever the truth he makes great Vienna Beef. Best I’ve had outside of Chicago itself.

2014, Andover

Mowed. Put roundup down on the five foot perimeter. Had to fix my sprayer, which hadn’t been used in over five years. Since the move at least. Lot of crud in the nozzle. Walking with it, wending the wand here and there, took me back to the Andover garden. Rarely used roundup there, mostly for products from the organic folks Bill Schmidt introduced me, too.

The Last Week

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

One more week. 5 fractions. 50 minutes. Photons off. Make it so.

Stomach unhappy as I head into the final round of CyberKnife sessions. Not unexpected, but I thought I had it managed. Nope. Head down, forward.

Some fatigue, more after the treatments and the drive home. More now than the first four weeks. Low energy, low motivation. I’ve given exercise and the radiation first place each day. Today, my third resistance session for the week, I plan to up my workout to three sets for each exercise from the initial two. No Lone Tree trip for today and tomorrow.

Dinners from the Mitzvah committee folks will keep coming for two more weeks. After that I should be running around like a guy with his cancer cut off. Cooking, writing, generally raisin’ hell.

May it be so.