We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.


Lughnasa                                                                  Waning Summer Moon

Then he discovered the small plastic pan below the freezer and lo, there was the water, not sublimated at all, but ordinarily melted. Well, the explanation fit the evidence I had, just not all the evidence there was. (see post below) Shows how tough diagnostics can be if you don’t look in the right place.

700 pixels- punta arenasSpeaking of diagnostics. Kate had a gallbladder ultrasound yesterday at Touchstone Imaging. Touchstone is in one of a series of large office buildings, all of the same architecture. And difficult to differentiate. Touchstone’s building is #52. It’s an immense complex and in other instances we’ve been given addresses, which makes the actual location harder to find. With a building number it was easier. I suppose using the Garmin all the time would be easier, eh, Tom?

Kate saw a gastroenterologist last week who listened to her. He said they’d get these tests done as soon as possible and that has happened. Tomorrow morning at 7 am is the second endoscopy. This one will look for a tiny scar induced closing below her stomach. This guy is paying attention to her distress and I like him for that.

After the ultrasound we drove over to the Bernini repair shop. The embroidery module on this very sophisticated sewing machine failed while Kate was finishing mug rugs for the quilt documentation day. As I have in the past, I sat down among the vacuum cleaners and read.

Sublimation, Primordia and other fundamentals

Lughnasa                                                           Waning Summer Moon

The arid West has many surprises for a flatlander from the humid East. Add in elevation and the surprises multiply. I’ve mentioned the maximum boiling temperature of water which effects tea making and pasta cooking (takes longer). There is, too, the solar snow shovel, the decreased O2.Wet things dry quickly. Water is a constant issue.

sublimateGot a new one. I have a small refrigerator in the loft. I keep water for my workouts in it, an ice wrap for post-workout knee relief, and a tray of Rigel’s canned kangaroo treats. Last week I noticed I’d begun to get some frost buildup in the small freezer. Been a long time, but I remembered defrosting refrigerators. I took everything out, putting the water filtration filter to the side, the carbonated water, the ice pack, and Rigel’s treats. I got a bucket and put it underneath the freezer. Finally, I pulled the cord and left the door open.

I glanced at the bucket later in the day. No water. Well, it was cool. Checked again an hour or so later. No water. Not that cool. So, I opened the freezer to check. The gathered frost was almost gone. Oh. I’d forgotten about sublimation, too, but I was pretty sure that was what I was seeing. Sure enough, there was never any water in the bucket, the frost was gone and I restocked the refrigerator. How ’bout that?

strong and confident after the quilt documentation day

strong and confident after the quilt documentation day

lion's maneFriday, Saturday, Sunday. Kate did well all these days. A little nausea on Sunday, but not the real knock her back sort. It was good to see her up and about. I made her a birthday dinner: ribeye, little potatoes, and Lion’s Mane mushroom. This latter came from a present Jon gave her, essentially a sack filled with sawdust and mushroom spores. She’s been diligently misting it. Sure enough, out popped a white spongy growth, the hippy guy in the fungi perfecti video called them, interestingly, I thought, primordia.

I reached behind the largest one and wrenched it free from the growth medium, took it upstairs and sliced it into steaks. Butter, salt, medium heat. A great complement to the ribeye. Supposed to taste like lobster (not chicken). Kate thought it did. Me, not so much. I liked it though. Kate’s always wanted to get into mushrooms, now we have, thanks to Jon.

Yesterday morning I read through the morning service in the Reconstructionist prayer book. Why? Because it’s the service that the b’nai mitzvah kids have to learn. It’s a powerful work of liturgy, much that is ancient, much that has been reconstructed. I’m going to be working with it a good deal over the next year, so becoming familiar with it seems like part of the job. I’ll write more about it when I get a better understanding, but suffice it to say right now that it sent me into a spiritual place I’ve not been in a while.

See what I did, dad!

See what I did, dad!

Rigel and the deck. Jon left five five-gallon orange plastic buckets, Home Depot with Do It written on the side. They have bricks in them, used bricks he picked up somewhere. I carried them to the deck and put them in front of the deepest tunnels our Rigel had dug in search of voles, or rabbits. Working so far. Not a pretty solution, but a good temporary fix.

Brother Mark is still in Amarillo. He says gringos and Latinos seem to get along well there. Mary has started her school year at the National University of Singapore. Joe and SeoAh are in Hawai’i. He’s working; she’s seeing Oahu for the first time.

Cool here this morning, 40 degrees.

Kate. Naikan practice.

Lughnasa                                                              Waning Summer Moon

Kate’s not having a good week. Yesterday was especially bad, enough so that she considered going to the emergency room. Or, to the hospital. That thought, born more I think of frustration than any particular worsening of her symptoms, gives you a sense of how this series of insults effects her.

Jon picked up Gabe from Mussar yesterday. It was his Meet the Teacher evening at Swigert Elementary. When I asked him how these things were, he said, “boring.” I imagine so.

Mussar was interesting. We did a Jodo Shinsu Buddhism practice called naikan. It involves asking yourself three questions, then writing as detailed an answer as you can for each of them. Traditionally, the three questions start off with your mother. What did my mother do for me? What did I do for my mother? What trouble did I cause her? Over time you can add father, siblings, work, nature, whatever can be explored with these questions. After you write down the answers, in a naikan retreat, a person will come and interview you; that is, they will listen to you read your answers out loud with no comment, no interaction. They are there only as a witness. Sort of like the 4th step in AA.

A variation on this theme that Rabbi Rami Shapiro uses is to ask yourself these related questions just before going to sleep: What gifts did I receive today? What gifts did I give today? What trouble did I cause today? I did it last night and found it soothing.

We’ve been exploring, too, the link between suffering, acknowledging the suffering of others or our own, not trying to fix it, just acknowledging it and the apparently strange link between that practice and happiness. Frequent readers know happiness is not much on my menu. I prefer eudaimonia, human flourishing. Still, the point is the same. Our flourishing is not about a life without suffering. It’s about a life that engages and embraces suffering, does not push it away, yet does not become consumed by it.

I struggle with wanting to fix Kate’s nausea or just being with her as she goes through its impact on her life. Like most, I think, I do a bit of both. Chronic illness presents the greatest challenge here. The suffering continues. My ability to be present for her waxes and wanes with my own feelings of vulnerability, frustration. I want, simultaneously, to wave that unavailable magic wand and hold her hand. Tough. At best.

Brain Tumors, Cute Baby Videos and Climate Change

Lughnasa                                                          Waning Summer Moon

Sandy came yesterday. She’s now four weeks or so out from the last of the radiation treatments for her brain tumor. A difficult medical story with an unsatisfying partial resolution. They couldn’t remove the tumor all at once, left much of it in place after the first surgery, then nerves grew into the tumor meaning it couldn’t be removed at all. Hence, radiation to shrink it. It’s benign, stretching the meaning of that word, but it has knocked out her hearing in one ear and seems to have left her in a permanent state of slight dizziness. She’s young, late forties I imagine, so a lot of her life is ahead.



Gabe’s been watching cute baby videos. His words. I asked him if he might want a baby of his own someday (he’s 10). He said, “I don’t know. Maybe.” We’re going to a movie today.We can do that because Kate wisely decided to skip needleworkers today.

This book is the culmination of more than 125 years of tradition and countless “Documentation Days,” during which quilting council members record the block technique, age, batting, backing, and color of each quilt their fellow quilters trust them to preserve.

This book is the culmination of more than 125 years of tradition and countless “Documentation Days,” during which quilting council members record the block technique, age, batting, backing, and color of each quilt their fellow quilters trust them to preserve.

On her 74th birthday, this Saturday, she’s organizing food for an interesting event. The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Golden offers a documentation service for quilts. They have teams that go to quilt clubs (and other venues, too, I suppose). The teams collect archival data like maker, history, description and photograph the quilts. Those records become part of the ongoing collection of the museum. The Quilt museum folks are coming to the Bailey Patchworkers meeting place, the Catholic church in Bailey. It’s before Crow Hill, the steep decline that goes into Bailey proper.

Her stamina seems to be decreasing, too. I really hope the ultrasound for her gall bladder and the new upper GI look find something. She needs to be able to gain weight. Soonest.

Thunderstorm yesterday. Nice rain. Lots of noise. Wildfire fears have eased for this year. This article in my favorite publication about the West, the High Country News, explores the angst that many of us who live out here feel. “One truism about the future is that climate change will spare no place. Still, I suspect the threat of warming feels more existential in New Mexico than it does in Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes. Drought has gripped the Southwest for 19 years, more than half my life.” In this rapaciously dry year, a quiet question grows louder: What are we doing here? HCN, Aug. 6, 2018

fire mitigationCalifornia fire seasons, which have grown longer and longer, producing worse fires, the Mendocino Complex Fire is now the largest ever in the state’s history, keep us always aware that what’s happening there can certainly happen here. Damocles. Closer to Shadow Mountain there are, too, the 416, the Spring Creek, the Buffalo Pass fires now out, but active this year in Colorado.

I agree with Cally Carswell, the author of the article, that our experience, our Western experience, is a foretaste of what is to come for most if not all of the planet. Her article says out loud what lurks just below the surface for Westerners. When might the fire or the water shortages be too much? When might the increasing heat dry us out or burn us down?

As the Donald might say, sad.

Police Treating Blacks Awfully

Lughnasa                                                                Waning Summer Moon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe and Jon

Gabe opened up his large notebook yesterday and showed me a page empty except for a sort of title: Police treating blacks awfully. This is his project. Jon wanted me to help him with some research so we went up to the loft. I suggested to him that we put his title into google. We did that. He chose several articles ranging from an essay on prison brutality to a Gallup poll on how blacks perceive their treatment by the police.

To put a generational spin on it, he said, “We could just add these to Googledocs.” Oh. Well, ok. Do you know your Google account information? He got up and typed it in, commenting, as Ruth always does, that he doesn’t like my track ball mouse. We then added links to all the articles he chose to a blank Google doc that will show up wherever he has access to a computer. No library involved, at least so far. He will also interview black friends and adults. This is all interesting not least because this project isn’t due until May/June, 2019. Pretty long range thinking for a 10 year old.



Meanwhile corned beef simmered on the stove, awaiting the addition of potatoes, carrots, and cabbage. Sounded good to Kate and these days I try to cook whatever sounds good to her. I still can’t get it moist like Frank does. Gotta ask him his secret. Tasted ok. Today. Corned beef hash. A real favorite for my palate.

Kate had a consult with a gastroenterologist, a Korean/American, Dr. Rhee. He’s going to look at her gall bladder and do another upper GI endoscopy to look for a possible stricture below her stomach. She sounded hopeful, but weary. Easy to understand. This is like torture. Her nausea is episodic, but always looming.

She was tired last night and so was I. She asked me to clean up after the meal and I said,”No.” Felt bad immediately. I was tired, too, but I don’t have her inner fatigue. So, I cleaned up. This is tough stuff because it creates tension where tension only exacerbates.

I’m lucky to be in relationship with such an intelligent and confident woman. Have been. Am. Will be. I see that woman every day; she often doesn’t. Painful.

Muddy BuckThere’s a sort of sneaky self-satisfaction that comes from holding a business meeting on the boardwalk in Evergreen. Alan Rubin and I met at the Muddy Buck in the morning, sitting outside on its veranda, really a wide spot on the couple of blocks long board walk that I mentioned a few posts ago. On a Monday morning discussing the religious school class we start teaching on September 5th, we saw the usual flow of cars on Hwy 74, the main street of this tourist destination portion of Evergreen. This is a place people come to visit for an afternoon or a weekend or a week. And we live here.



Monarch of the Mountain Spirits

Summer                                                                            Monsoon Moon


at Running Aces

Kate’s getting hammered again by Sjogrens or illness or some very difficult to identify g.i. tract problem. She’s tough and resilient, my new favorite virtue, but, geez. She shouldn’t have to prove it so often.

Get to ride in a Tesla today, going into Denver with Alan for the Moving Traditions training. He bought his Tesla last year, sort of a I’m retired, this is a really good car thing. His dad did the same though he wanted a Cadillac and ended up buying an Oldsmobile. Alan bought the Cadillac.

No good deed goes unpunished. We’ve had significant rainfall the last couple of days. Yay. But. Hwy 285 in Bailey closed down yesterday due to a mudslide. Open now.

After a swim, from September, 2015

After a swim, from September, 2015

I waited on the hosta division for the monsoon rains to begin. Hot dry weather is very tough on transplants. The rains have kept the air cooler, the cuttings evaporate less so the leaves stay strong. The roots don’t dry out. Gives them a chance to get over the shock of a new spot, send out some rootlets. There’s also a concoction made by Miraclegro called Quickstart that I’ve used for years when dividing plants. It encourages root growth and gives the plants a burst of nutrients.

That buck yesterday was magnificent. He was the sort you see in bronze on the stony gate pillars guarding expensive homes. His bearing was regal. This is his kingdom. Unhurried, strolling the easement like it was a path in the gardens of Versailles. Perhaps the monarch of the mountain spirits who visit us.




You know what?

Summer                                                                           Monsoon Moon

AAIncidentally, you have aortic atherosclerosis. But, no arthritis in the sacroiliac joints. Oh, well, thanks. X-ray results. Learning to flinch a bit when I get x-ray reports since the last two have had incidental findings. They’re not just a BTW, but a, hey, look at this! My usual position is knowledge is better. In this case though it comes unexpectedly, sort of out of left field. It can, and has, shocked me.

Neither this finding nor the one earlier are exactly surprises. I’m 71. I’m an American Midwesterner raised on meat and potatoes. I still eat red meat, including bacon and wienies. I get a certain transgressive pleasure from them. But, I know they have consequences. I also know, and this is an upfront reality for those of us past 70, that we’re in the death zone. Maybe not now, maybe not tomorrow, but life no longer stretches out beyond the horizon. Which feels appropriate and natural to me.

12042872_10207259131010620_7945654758127613848_nThe third phase of life is anomalous in many ways from the first two. It’s happier, less tense. It encourages self-expression and downplays, if not eliminates, striving. At the same time the slow insults of age begin to accumulate kidney disease, prostate cancer, high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, arthritis severe enough to require a new knee in my case. Each of these is a mortality signal. Still flashing yellow, but evidence that the light’s gonna change at some point. To red. As it has and does, for 100% of us.

Anyhow, have a good day!

Oh, my aching back

Summer                                                                     Monsoon Moon

sacroiliac-joint-and-hipsX-ray of lower back. Might be that my back pain is arthritis in my sacroiliac joints. Well, that part of my body, like the rest of it, isn’t getting any younger. After thinking about my life, I realized I spent 20 years gardening intensively. That was considerable time bent over, weeding, planting, dividing, pruning, harvesting, amending soil, all the various chores that go into horticulture. A lot of chainsaw work over the same time, too. I enjoyed it immensely, but repetitive motion is one of the causes of arthritis. Seems logical. Not a lot to be done about it. Dr. Gidday gave me a tramadol prescription, which I will use mainly for sleep.


Summer                                                                   Monsoon Moon

20180526_143004A good soaking rain yesterday, extending into the night. And cool sleeping. Two huge benefits, mitigates fire danger and improves sleep. Go, rain.

Kate has had two days without nausea. Well, up till that late evening coffee cake. She seems to have found at least one palliative measure, stop eating before she gets too full. A major component of the nausea may be later life sequelae from the bariatric surgery. She sees a gastroenterologist for a consult in August. Slowly, gradually getting a handle, I think.

I’m flailing a bit on the lesson planning. Not sure I understand Rabbi Jamie’s grid, so that makes working with it difficult. Gonna push ahead, make some guesses, get done with what will amount to first drafts. Finishing the Superior Wolf revision and writing these lesson plans are my top priority right now. Superior Wolf work is mostly done, I need to enter the edits; so, the lesson plans are up. Due Friday before my breakfast meeting with Alan.

20180705_072608Tomorrow afternoon I get a new workout. Exercising has been more 20180704_111915sporadic of late, partly due to my aching back. The back stays ouchy because I’ve been doing the chainsaw work, cutting up (bucking) the downed trees. This involves bending over, holding a heavy saw well below waist level and controlling its movements, especially the gyroscopic force of the chain around the bar. Not a recipe for good lower back health. I’m getting there with the trees though. I have two fully cut and a third part way there. That leaves two plus the one Jon says he’s going to mill, create boards for a project of some kind.


I’m getting a lot of satisfaction right now, eudaimonia. I’m flourishing, using my gifts at their outer limits, getting feedback, moving purposefully through the day. Don’t care about happy, but I do care about eudaimonia. Seems to come when I flow with the work, with life as it comes, rather than trying to force results. A Taoist way to eudaimonia, then.

Can I hear you now?

Summer                                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

Went to the Hearing Rehab Associates shop today for a hearing test, hearing aid cleaning and tune up. An old folks event. First order of business, shine a bright plastic wand in my ear and make my ear drum go owwiiee. Then, into the Scott Pruitt sound proof booth. I felt like I was right there at the EPA, protected from those damned environmentalists.

The booth has two outlets, but I only need one, for my right ear. My other ear goes along, because, what’s it gonna do, but it doesn’t have to participate. That stopped a long time ago. First words. Then, beeps. Finally, staticky sounds with the hearing aid on. Result? Hearing is in the same place as a year ago. Good news. The hearing aid needed some adjustment to clarify higher range sounds. A few clicks of a mouse and that was done.

I also checked in, as I do from time to time, to see what’s new for us single sided hearing loss folks. Since the left ear went dark when I was 38, 1975, last millennia, there’s not been a sufficient advance to make my situation better. “That’s one thing we can’t fix,” said Katie, the audiologist. She did give me information on a BAHA device, Bone Assisted Hearing Aid. Might look into it. Still, she seemed rather doubtful that it would do more than alert me to sound coming from the left. Nothing new.

Also, as long as I’m on health matters, I made an appointment with Lisa, my internist, for a back pain consult. I work out, with work outs from a personal trainer, and have done for a long, long time, but I still tweak my back. Tramadol helps. I’m in a bit of an odd spot since my kidney disease makes taking NSAIDS inadvisable. Don’t want to go to opoids and acetaminophen doesn’t always knock down severe pain. I hope she’ll give me a prescription since I don’t know when it’s going to happen.

Meanwhile, though it’s way cooler here than Denver, it’s still too freaking hot. OK. Rant over.


August 2018
« Jul