We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Cleaning the Pine Pollen Off Our Solar Panels

Beltane                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180619_093741According to my weather system we’ve had 1.5 inches of rain this month. That’s 6.8% of  our annual precipitation total of 22 inches. (Conifer does better than the state, precip wise, 22 inches on average with 105 inches on average falling as snow.) And most of it came over the last three days. Pinecam.com is abuzz with hosannas. Things were not looking so good when the four of us left for Durango. Now? Much better.

This morning the dewpoint is 49 and the outside temp is 50. We’re in a cloud, rain falling, air cool. Wonderful for two days prior to the Summer Solstice.

Kate has her first meeting of the Beth Evergreen board tonight. She has management experience, great number sense, and a clear, unflinching view of reality. She will be an asset to both the board and through it, the synagogue. I’m happy she has this opportunity.

Got back into the exercise routine yesterday, planning to go back this week to 5 days with Tuesdays and Thursdays being high intensity interval training. I breath better when I do HIIT, got off it for a while during the intense period of Kate’s recovery.

‘Wild Rabbit in the Headlights 5#’, pencil & acrylic on rejection letter’, 21x29cm (2013) by Louise McNaught

‘Wild Rabbit in the Headlights 5#’, pencil & acrylic on rejection letter’, by Louise McNaught

Also made a commitment to myself, which I have written down on a yellow note stuck to my computer: NO 104 x’s  2018.  This means I want to receive 100 rejections this year from publishers. Sounds a little nuts, I know, but I’ve read the idea several places over the last year or so and I like it.

It recognizes that in any creative work: acting, writing, painting, music auditions you hear no more often than you do yes. And, this can be crippling. It has been for me. But, if you turn the idea around and acknowledge that reality, you can set a rejection goal. Why? Because the more times you’re rejected, the more opportunities you’ve given yourself to hear a yes. It can get somebody like me, who’s grown discouraged, a way of overcoming the negative. So, I have a goal of 2 rejections a week. Which means of course that I have to submit material to publishers. The point of it all.

forest and soulWriting, at least for me, is sufficiently compelling that I’ve continued to write over the years without success in publishing. That’s working without regard to the results. And, I found quite a while ago that that was enough for me. The writing is, itself, sufficient reward.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t like to sell some work, get some recognition. I would. But I’ve let the fear of rejection and the other negative emotions that come with it hamper me. A big psychic hurdle, one I stopped trying to overcome.

I now have enough work I can easily reach my goal of 104 rejections in 2018. Looking forward to the first two. Then two more. Then two more.

Writing has been my ground project since 1992. I’ll talk more about this idea in a later post.



The True Yellow Peril

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon


This morning

In January the solar panels often disappear under snow cover. In June they’re more likely to be covered in pine pollen. Both reduce their effectiveness. Snow, however, does not reduce my effectiveness while the true yellow peril does. Fuzzy, nose focused, weighed down not only by the pollen but by the helps (and thank god for them) for the symptoms. No good solutions here. Do what you can. Wait.

the orgy continues

the orgy continues

Two full days now, Friday and Saturday, given over to sneezing, lack of sleep (due to sneezing), consuming nasal steriods, second generation antihistamines (so called non-drowsy), and using saline sprays. Not to mention eliminating the current stash of kleenex we have. All this more for the record here than anything else.

Whinging stops.



Yellow Haze

Beltane                                                                     Sumi-e Moon

an offender

an offender

Winding down Brook Forest Drive toward Evergreen a yellow haze drifted over the road. My nose knows it. This is a two week + lodgepole pine orgy. My night stand had enough pollen on it to change the color of the wood top. We leave our windows open for the cool night air. As with many things unpleasant, this one requires riding out and I’d ride faster if I could. Somehow being in the present moment doesn’t sound quite as appealing right now. Wish I could make a short time jump over this oh so natural phenomenon.

Yesterday was a rest day, catching up on lost sleep, emptying kleenex boxes. At the cliched end of the day I felt better. Pollen counts lower by the end of the day.

Glacier alley, the Chilean fjords

Glacier alley, the Chilean fjords

Kate’s struggling again, still, with her weight. We had her on a positive up tick, but her dogged, and admired, following of the dietitian’s recommendations led back to nausea. Now it seems that each time she eats she becomes nauseated and/or has colon related discomfort. This is aversive conditioning around a basic human need: eating and is a problem we have to solve if she’s to have any quality of life.

Milieu therapy. Last night was a chair-ity event at Beth Evergreen. The old blue chairs, heavy and now showing their age, need replacing before the High Holidays in September. So it was a dunk the rabbi and the congregation president night. Hot dogs (Hebrew Nationals, of course), hamburgers, chicken breasts, potato salad, baked beans, chips. Beer, vodka, mineral water. Salad and condiments. All outside on the back patio.

20180608_181803Over the course of the evening I discussed quantum physics in relation to time, the placing of a second hive box at the Herman’s, travel to Peru, working as a marketing consultant, “In business, as a consultant, you’re always justifying your existence,” and watched Rabbi Jamie’s yarmulke float to the bottom of the dunk tank.

20180608_181810The weather was perfect. 75 degrees, dry and blue sky sunny. It was a good event for both of us. Folks came up to Kate and said they were glad she was going to be on the board. Two other recent shoulder surgery folks attended, their effected arms still attached to their body with slings. Kate has been consistent with her rehab. The pain relief alone has been enough to make it a successful procedure, but now she’s regaining range of motion, too.

The benefits of being seen, remembered, cared for. Huge. Necessary. Welcome.

Yellow Peril

Beltane                                                                                Sumi-e Moon

pollenOne thing it took moving to the mountains to learn: I’m allergic to lodgepole pine pollen. I could have done without revealing this part of myself. It’s a couple of weeks of fine yellow grime on table tops, windows, cars, window sills, all for sex and we’re forced to participate. Well, my body fights back. Ah, choo!

Went to the hardware store yesterday. Not a frequent trip for me. I eyeballed that new handle for my small sledge hammer. Not so well, as it turns out. Also, that beaded chain for a longer pull on the dining room fan? Gosh. There’s more than one size of beaded chain. Other than that the new vise will work well and those spikes (well, I thought they were spikes, but one of the employees said, nope, not spikes. So, just really big nails, I guess) will secure the cedar planks to the tree stumps and cut logs around the fire pit. Precision in the real world is not my thing.

Durango Silverton Narrow GaugeIn climate change news the 416 fire outside Durango has claimed part of the itinerary for the Tom, Mark, Paul and me trip. We were going to ride on the Durango/Silverton Narrow Gauge railroad. Nope. Closed through the time we’ll be there due to fire risk. We may hit Four Corners and Mesa Verde and the hot springs instead. The area is full of interesting bits.

linguisticsWent to a talk at Beth Evergreen last night on linguistics. Elizabeth Moore, an administrative assistant on our staff, is a very smart woman. She majored in linguistics and offered a crash course. A lot I didn’t know. She gave a quick overview of a very complicated discipline, explaining its fundamental disciplines like phonology, pragmatics, syntactics, morphology and its more esoteric branches like neurolinguistics and cognitive linguistics, graphetics and philology.

Back home, sneezing all the way.


Get Ready

Beltane                                                                                 Sumi-e Moon

20180516_144714So. Couldn’t get the mower started. Last year’s fuel still in there. Don’t know how I missed that, but I did. Gonna have to siphon it out, didn’t feel like it yesterday. I did run the snowblower out of fuel last week, so that won’t be a problem come winter. I also got all the chairs and the table moved, the swinging chair and the yellow lounger, too. An outside space for eating, hanging out. Not happy with it yet. Also picked up a lot of loose wood, not all of it, but a good chunk. By the time I got to the chainsaw I was tired. And I don’t do the chainsaw when I’m tired. Too damned risky.

A good start. One thing writing novels has taught me is that even a big task can be accomplished if done through persistence. A big push often wears me out, makes me task phobic for a while. Small increments get progress and a feeling of accomplishment that keeps me engaged. Doesn’t always work, of course. Reimagining, for example. Guess I’ve never figured out the incremental steps.

bullfightIn writing the short story Jail Break yesterday, I found myself tapping memories of my day at the Plaza del Toros in Mexico City. Hadn’t expected that, but it is a good example of how much travel can offer to writing. That trip was in 1994, I think. Still clear and present.

Regression. Kate got eager on Saturday and helped me as I cleaned out the garage. She helped herself into a very sore shoulder, neck muscles and bursitis. A three vicodin day on Sunday. I saw it as a good thing. Not the pain of course, but that she’s healed enough to overdo it.

Jon and the kids are coming up this afternoon. They’ll spend the night, go hiking tomorrow.

bat mitzvahA big Beth Evergreen week. Tomorrow is an adult ed session on linguistics. On Wednesday afternoon Tara, Alan Rubin and I meet with Rabbi Jamie to discuss the curriculum for the 6th/7th grade religious school. Tara (director of religious ed) started her note to us with, “You brave men.” Oh, my. Turns out the curriculum focuses on bar/bat mitzvah preparation. I’m honored that they trust me. This rite of passage is important, though not universally observed. Wednesday night is the MVP, mussar vaad practice group, Thursday has mussar and qabbalah.



Life in the Big Mountains

Beltane                                                                                     Sumi-e Moon

Yesterday at 8 am Kate went to P.T. and I went to On the Move Fitness. They’re next door to each other. While Kate continued rehabbing her shoulder, I went through my new workout for the second time. The previous session had ouched my lower back some, so Deb modified some of the exercises.

I felt so righteous about having my workout done at 8 am, I relaxed until time for mussar at 1 pm. Anyhow new workout under my belt.

Over to C.J.’s Chicago Dogs to pick up a couple of Italian Beefs for supper. Tasty and nostalgic. Good Chicago memories. I’ve always liked Chicago and spent a good bit of time there earlier in my life.

Then, a little t.v., Midsomer Murders and reading a new book, The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter, a post-modern feminist riff on the story of Jekyll and Hyde. It includes Dr. Moreau and Sherlock Holmes as characters. Fun. Been doing a lot of heavy lifting with books like the Order of Time, qabbalah and the Dead Sea Scrolls, so something just for entertainment.

Today our first Blizzaks go off and away, three and a half winters of service, time to buy a new set for the upcoming winter. Oil change. Air conditioning rejuvenation. Lot of driving today. Going over to Tara Saltzman for tea and bees. She and Arjan want to talk about their bees, maybe I’ll do a hive inspection.

Memorial day weekend. Feels holidayish already. Camper races have started, 285 will be a parking lot later today. Lots of preliminary complaining by locals. Fortunately we don’t have to drive 285 unless we choose to, so we can work around holiday traffic.


Beltane                                                                       Sumi-e Moon

Still printing out Ancientrails. Wish I’d looked at the pages a little earlier rather than just take them off the printer and add them to the stack. My ink cartridge, which I have had in for quite a while, began to fade in the middle of May, but I didn’t notice. That means I printed out June in faded blotches. Sigh. Do over.

Worked yesterday on my Aickmanesque short story. It’s harder than it looks. Trying to put in shifts in perspective, foreshadowing all without being obvious. Then, wrapping up in 5,000 words or so. Very different from novel writing. A sprint to the novel marathon.

Got a new workout yesterday. Bicep curls during step-ups. Plank raising one leg, then the other. Oh, boy. Crunch with exercise ball. Lower back exercise on exercise ball. Bench press with dumbbells. Row like lawnmower. Other things. Feels good to shift up, change routines.

Kate’s got an echocardiogram today and a visit with her cardiologist. Her overall health has improved so much in the last couple of weeks.  Routine followup though she has had some ankle swelling.

Ruth’s up. She’s on her way to Estes Park tomorrow, but today she and I are going to make challah. And, this evening she and Kate plan to make lamb shawarma. Kate got a couple of new cookbooks at the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit. Ruth’s finished up sixth grade. “Middle school’s so much better than elementary.” She needed the challenge of tougher math, Mandarin, art and she’s flourishing. “I have a talent for language acquisition.” She’s changed so much over the past year. More confident, curious, independent. It’s so much fun to see her life beginning to get back on the track after the divorce.

Gabe still has two weeks of school.

Generosity of the Heart, Nedivut ha-lev

Beltane                                                                             Mountain Moon

20180228_182023Another recovery hallmark. Kate drove yesterday, went out on her own for the first time since March 22nd! The bank, a few groceries, gas. When doing these errands feels routine, they can be mindless or even a nuisance; but, this sort of moment allows us a glimpse into the ordinary miracles that make up what we think of as normal, usual. We can get up from the chair, pick up the keys, start the car, drive to the grocery store, the gas station, the bank.

So different from not being able to get out of the chair, being unable to pick up the keys, being too physically impaired to drive. That milk, the bread, the full gas tank, the money in your pocket then become unobtainable. Not a nuisance, not something to go through as if by habit. No. These are vital, though small, increments of  life, necessary and significant in themselves. Worthy of attention, even celebration.

nedivut ha lev6Mussar Vaad Practice Group last night. Vaad = sharing without comments. Mussar = Jewish ethics focused on developing middah, character traits. This is a group, partly because of its nature, partly because of its members that has become a Woolly Mammoth equivalent for me, a place where I can be transparent, share, look inside, gain from the ancientrails that others walk.

Marilyn brought in an article about a child of pogrom survivors. This woman felt she had  to be perfect, show that she was worth saving, worth the sacrifices her parents made. An awful burden. She started her own company by the age of 30, then slowly fell apart in her thirties. Discovering compassion, nedivut ha lev, generosity of the heart, led her to a new way of life. In particular she talked about self-compassion. “Talk,” she said, “to yourself as you would to a good friend.”

Snowing here this morning, fat heavy flakes. Rained and snowed yesterday. All moisture good, welcome.



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.

Elevation Elation

Spring                                                                          Mountain Moon

The full mountain moon lit up the backyard last night. The mountain landscape changes throughout the day and throughout the moon’s cycle as light creates shade here, then there, casting into relief rock structure or limning tree stumps. The moon puts down a quiet, gentle light in which all seems peaceful even though predators still stalk through the forests.

I’m halfway into the mountain emphasis, still reading the mountains and rivers poets of China, still looking carefully, learning how to see what I’m looking at. Tried some sumi-e paintings but realism, even of the mountain essence variety, is beyond me right now.

I did print out both Rocky Mountain Vampire and Jennie’s Dead. Read through the Vampire’s few words, 2,500 or so. Some of it I liked, some I didn’t. Setting it aside right now. Jennie’s Dead is at 45,000 words, about halfway. Still reading it, liking it. It’s different from my others in the amount of mythology retelling and reimagining I’m doing in it. Once I finish reading it, I’m going to get back at it.

pape_de_abraham-a_hermit_writing_in_his_bookWhile I read yesterday, I realized (again) that this is what I love, the mechanics of writing, words and sentences, paragraphs and chapters, the letting something new come into the world like Athena born from the forehead of Zeus. It always surprises me, just as I imagine Zeus was surprised when a goddess burst forth. Well, maybe not quite that grand of a surprise, but you get the point.

Even though Kate is still struggling with nausea, persistent and dispiriting, her recovery still moves forward. She’s using her right hand and forearm more and more. Her weight, which dipped after the pain of the deep massage, has rebounded. Her right shoulder pain is gone and her p.t. will help her get her strength back.

As her recovery continues, I can feel myself ready to get back to full-time writing. I’m excited about that. I’d gotten away from it well before her surgery, so her surgery didn’t effect my writing, but the energy I feel from her progress has affected my return.

My Colorado life has begun to come into focus. Keep writing. Learn more sumi-e, practice, then practice some more. Continue to read the shan shui (rivers and mountains) poetry of ancient China, read geology, sketch and paint the shan shui here. Cook. Go deeper into the community of Beth Evergreen and the tradition of Judaism. Workout and hike. Spend time with Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe. Consult with Beth Evergreen’s beekeepers. Dogs. Do the things that only I can do. Speak with the voice only I have. Travel the state. Looking forward to the June trip with Tom, Paul, and Mark. Maintain long distance connections to SeoAh, Joe and Murdoch and to friends from college and high school. Continue learning more about the West.

ancoraI keep seeing articles about how to find meaning in old age. I don’t think there are any secrets. It’s the same process as finding meaning in young age. You have to actively seek it and create it for yourself. Sure, your possibilities and capacities change with different ages, but that’s all. There’s a presumption that old age is a paradigm shift in how to live. No. It’s not.

The third phase, while certainly significantly different than the other two, is still life, still your life. Your old sources of meaning don’t disappear though they may, probably will, transform. You may find new ones. I have since we moved to Colorado. But you found new sources of meaning before, didn’t you? Same now. Your job then, your job now. I find this very liberating, freeing me from the social constructs about what an old person is or does. As an older person, I’m still learning, still changing, still growing. May it continue.



June 2018
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