We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Happenings on Shadow Mountain

Imbolc                                                                         New Life Moon

Single digits. Passes for really, really cold here. Cold enough that I’d forgotten blue jeans are not comfortable at those temps. When I went to kabbalah on Tuesday night, the cold seeped through that cotton as if it wasn’t there. Oh. Yeah. I remember that.

Sjogrens-Syndrome1Kate’s having a Sjogren’s flare. That means symptoms intensify, particularly fatigue and a general feeling of dis-ease. She gets low grade fevers, an annoying sore throat. The good news here is this time we know what it is and she has strategies for coping. It’s not frightening in the way the first flare was back in March or April when she developed thrush and had an ENT guy look at her throat and say, “That looks a little funky.” Doctor speak for, OMG. Fortunately, the funky spot resolved itself. Not throat cancer after all.

Ted, of Ted of All Trades, came by yesterday. Ta dah! Jerry’s paintings, the two big ones you may recall if you ever visited us in Andover, are now hung. 3 years later. One on the wall perpendicular to the fire place and the other in our bedroom. Those damned cabinet hinges? Repaired. We tried to swap out a ceiling fan for a light fixture but when Ted opened the box it had a broken sconce. Grrr. Back to Home Depot.

full disclosure. this is not me.

full disclosure. this is not me.

In the loft Ted repaired my door, a missing bolt to hold one door firmly shut, hung the big map of Hawai’i, the island not the state. Kate got it for me as a consolation prize one year when she went to Maui for continuing medical education and I stayed home. An antique and beautiful. A mirror went up on the wall so I can investigate my form while I work out. Or, just admire my buff body. If it ever comes in the mail! And, a mount for the TRX, a weight suspension workout tool, is now affixed to the ceiling.

Feels good to have those projects finished. Even better to know that Ted is now part of our resource base. He will help us stay here as long as possible by getting small projects done that add up to big improvements in daily living.

abraham_012413_620pxKate and I decided to drop out of Hebrew for this year. We’d not been studying. Doesn’t really reflect lack of interest so much as an unwillingness to dedicate the necessary time we know learning a language needs. May pick it up again in September. My kabbalah class this session though is on the Hebrew letters, so I’m gaining familiarity if not facility.

Still no lifting of the melancholy though I’ve been busy and as I said below it tends to slip away as life pushes itself on me. Last night, for example, I made Grandma’s beef and noodles,  a recipe from the newspaper. Just what it sounds like. Got a 3 pound slab of chuck shoulder roast out of the freezer, unthawed it, cut out the fat and fascia (which took a while), discovered we have a pressure cooker, used it. My first time. Kept hoping it wouldn’t blow up. It didn’t. Whew. Cooking, mindful cooking as I’m trying to remember to do, requires close attention and close attention shuts off the spigot for negative emotions.


Living in the questions

Imbolc                                                                 Imbolc Moon

1957 or so

1957 or so

1948. Polio at one and a half, paralyzed for six months, some time in an iron lung. Relearned to walk. The beginning of childhood. October, 1964. Mom dies of a stroke. 17, childhood’s end. Just realized this last week that my childhood had these two inflection points. Strange to think of childhood that way.

Hard to know the true pathways of the mind. But. Alcoholism. Smoking. An anxiety disorder. A constant focus on existential questions. Maybe. Maybe these were causative. Or, rather, my responses to them.

At 71 all that seems so long ago. I call those times the long ago and far away. Isn’t true, of course. That little boy still struggles with learning how to walk. That high school senior still grieves, is shocked, stunned. Compassion for the young man in his twenties, the one who lived after, unconscious largely, angry, hurt, determined, passionate. He didn’t understand the powerful psychic currents pushing and pulling him, making him yearn for knowledge, making him demand a changed world. Wish I could go back and hold his hand, comfort him. Reassure him. He needed it.

AheadNo matter our birthday, 19 or 99, our past selves come along to the party. I’m unclear about the reality of self or soul though I believe in them both. Whatever the self is, it’s a composite, a melange of key moments and the reactions to those moments. And, as time goes on, the reactions to those reactions.

Whatever the soul is, it represents that of us common with other souls, that of us common with the unimaginable creativity resulting in life. As such, the soul is our literal birthright, unimpeachable by our actions, our hopes, our nightmares. No matter how sullied or glorious our life our soul retains its pristine quality, its eternal character of universality. The afterlife, if there is one, lies hidden behind the veil; but, if anything passes into it, it will be this. Would the soul be stripped of the barnacles attached by our long or short lives? Hell if I know.

I’m happy to have lived this long, 71 years. And, I can see now that answers are not part of the search. It was always the questions. As Kate and I lived in the move for the 9 months  before we left for Colorado, so have I always lived in the questions. Then, in the long ago far away, and now, in 2018 on Shadow Mountain. Tomorrow, too.

So the Eagles won

Imbolc                                                                                      Imbolc Moon

fans2So the Eagles won. My disassociation from the NFL is almost complete though the Vikes sudden run through the playoffs had me reading the sports pages. No, I’ve not gone off football because of player’s kneeling. Hardly. It would be a reason to watch for me. At least the moments before the kickoff. No, I’ve not gone off football because it’s violent with one caveat which I’ll mention in a moment.

No, though it would be understandable, I’ve not gone off football due to 40 years of frustration with the Minnesota Vikings. I remember the guy who died with the long beard. He said he wouldn’t cut his beard until the Vikings won a Superbowl. It would still be growing.

The real reason I got off football was the expense of cable T.V. We cut the cord in 2012 and along with it broadcast television stations. That meant it was no longer possible to turn on the TV, flop down on the couch with a bowl of chips, and give away two to three hours of my life to silly commercials and over analyzed plays.

ConcussionsMoving to Colorado two years later reinforced the effect. Bronco’s territory. The Bronco’s fan is similar in nature to the Packer fan. Lots of Broncos on rear windshields. Bronco flags. Bronco billboards. Just too damned serious for me. Not to mention that the Broncos were not the Vikings. No 40 years of memories. Yes, frustrating memories, but still.

I’ve had flirtations with returning. Kate and I went to the Brook Forest Inn a couple of years ago to watch the Vikes and the Broncos play. My inner purple and gold cheerleader still got me out of my seat from time to time. Yes, the fan lives inside me.

But. Back to that caveat about violence. Like a lot of guys and not a few women I enjoyed seeing muscular titans crashing into each other, moving each other around, a primal dance reminding us of our origins as a species often at war with itself. Yes, in a mild way, gladitorial. However. When the first news about chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE came out, I winced. Yes, big chess pieces throwing themselves around in organized, balletic ways entertained me. But at the cost of player’s cognitive capacity?


The average football player lasts only 3.3 to 6 years in the NFL. Of course, that’s after a long period of apprenticeship in Pop Warner leagues, high school and college, an apprenticeship where the collisions keep on coming. And even for those whose career lasts 10-12 years, those whose skills allow them to start regularly for five seasons will tend to play this long, by the late 30s everybody’s career is over. Yes, Favre and Brady, but exceptions at the most protected position.

So cutting the cord made watching football more difficult. Moving to Colorado reduced the place-based loyalty I had. CTE made me think about my eagerness to watch, to cheer, to sit through the commercials and replays because that eagerness meant lending my eyeballs to the statistics that made advertising such a lucrative source of income for the NFL. That lucrative income meant football salaries could be high, high enough to make the decision to play on in spite of possible CTE inevitable for many. This is collusion with a complex web of reinforcing factors: competition, regional loyalty, incredible athletic performances, television, advertising revenues, fan based engagement like fantasy football and memorabilia purchases.

It’s CTE that made me finally say no. In spite of my many years as a fan, in spite of my still existing loyalty to the Vikings, in spite of my Y chromosome, I’m not going back.

Mostly Good News

Imbolc                                                               Imbolc Moon

Kate’s sewing again, looking more rested. Her energy through the day is a bit more even. Good to see.

20180202_113032Rigel’s gained 8 pounds on her rabbit protein and potato diet. When we went to the VRCC on Friday, the tech said she’ll probably have to continue this diet indefinitely. She also has to get a B-12 injection once a week, also probably indefinitely. The key word, for us, is indefinitely. This is a better word than terminal, which we had expected.

Ruth, Gabe and Jon are up here because the grandkids like it on the mountain. They asked to come and spend the night. We had Cincinnati chili, chili on spaghetti with oyster crackers and sour cream. There were, too, chili dogs. Not a health food meal, but enjoyed by all. Ruth said she could eat 5,000 popsicles. When I went to bed, she said she had only 4,996 to go.

15177522925301509361960968The snow drought continues here with snow pack levels about 40% lower than normal. That’s bad news for those of us who live in the Rockies, but also bad news for the Colorado River Basin states that depend on our annual snow fall for a significant percentage of their daily water. This reality will have a definite effect on our summer.

In other dog news, Murdoch is getting bigger.



Medicine. Good.

Winter                                                                Imbolc Moon

Met a charming Dr. David Schneider yesterday. Kate’s shoulder guy. He said thin women like her were ideal candidates for a new shoulder, either the reverse or the normal. He recommends the reverse implant because it not only provides pain relief; it also will allow her to reach above her head. Her bones and muscles that support the shoulder are all strong so he anticipates a good result. Sometime in the next couple of months. Not scheduled yet.

“Boring,” he said. And boring is good. One of the first things I learned after marrying Kate was that you do not want to be an interesting patient.

pacemaker history

He told several stories, starting by commenting on the three lead pacemaker that Kate has. It showed up in the shoulder x-rays. “Made possible by the transistors invented in the 40’s and battery improvements in the 1950’s.” Seemed like an odd place to start Kate’s consultation, but he went on, “Did you know the wearable external pacemaker was invented by a TV repair guy in Minneapolis?” I didn’t.

Earl Bakken had a shop near University hospital and collaborated with a well known heart surgeon, Dr. Lillehei. Apparently, Lillehei had successfully planted leads into the hearts of several patients but they were literally plugged in, “…using a hundred foot extension cord.” Schneider went on, “Then there was a storm, power failed and the patients all died.”

Bakken came up with a wearable device (external) based on an electronic metronome (rhythm for the heart). Crude, but it worked. Lillehei took it right away and tried it on a dog. It worked. The very next day it was in use in patients. Medtronics was born. Schneider is going to the Big Island in three weeks to interview Bakken, who is 94. Turns out Dr. Schneider is writing a book on the history of medical devices.

As he went through the consultation, he explained who came up with measuring certain angles in the shoulder and referred to one guy, whose name I don’t recall, as “a shoulder God.”

He’s also a fan of Mama’s Fish House. Good taste.

gratitude shiloh sophiaSandy, our house cleaner, who is about to have brain surgery for a second time on the 20th of this month, got her quilt Kate made her yesterday. She’s a strong woman and she’s had a very, very tough year. Unfortunately, the tumor did not debulk as they had hoped after the first surgery. It’s benign, but large. The aftermath of the surgery is awful. Disorientation. Nausea. Headaches. And these last a while. A quilt is such a great gift in this situation, since a lot of time in bed is part of the recovery. Covered in love.

I know. A lot of medical stuff over the last few weeks. Kate. Kate and me. Rigel. Our friend with breast cancer and her husband. But. Kate’s shoulder replacement should ease her everyday load. Rigel’s getting better. Jon’s gradually making the transition to single life and doing wonders on his new house. Ruth is growing up very fast. Kate’s friend anticipates excellent results. It feels lighter around here right now. I’m grateful.


Shoulder, Trees, Writing

Winter                                                                         Imbolc Moon

shoulder-arthroplasty-Mayo-ClinicHippity hop to the ortho shop. Kate’s got an appointment at Panorama Orthopedics today. Her right shoulder. She can no longer hold things up with her right arm and has to use two hands to put dishes away, sometimes to lift a cup. Annoying and painful. Screws up her sleep, too. She needs some kind of solution, more than likely a shoulder replacement. This is the first step, a consult to see what her options are.

A friend of Kate and mine is having surgery for breast cancer today, too. It’s a cancer that has the improbable, but very desirable, cure rate of 100%. In the sort of piling on that getting older can deliver, her husband, only a week later, got a diagnosis of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis. It’s a killer, but slow, maybe 5-10 years. He’s mid-70’s. Mortality is always stalking us, but seems to knock on the door more often past three score and ten.

Sister Mary tells me she’s been invited as a visiting professor to a university in Kobe, Japan this summer. Very close to Kyoto. And, great beef. Congrats to Mary. Brother Mark is in Bangkok right now, chillin’ in the tropical heat.

Tu B'ShevatAn interesting week ahead. A session on green burial tomorrow night at CBE. It’s part of a conversation about creating a Jewish cemetery up here in the Evergreen/Conifer area. Oddly, I think I’d like to work on that. The next night, Wednesday, is Tu B’Shevat, the New Year of the Trees. Judaism has a lot of pagan inflections, Tu B’Shevat and Sukkot, a harvest festival at the end of the High Holidays, for example. Looking forward to this one because there’s a seder, too, with seven species of fruit and nuts. I’ll explain more on Wednesday. After the this celebration is another Kabbalah session, more double letters in the Hebrew alphabet.

NovelIdeaRigel has her second appointment at the Vet Referral Clinic with Dr. Bayliss this Friday, too. I’m excited about it because we’ll get a clearer picture of what’s going on with her. And, it’s not the dire prognosis we anticipated when we took her in a week ago last Friday.

Meanwhile, I’ve finally levered myself back into writing, now on both Jennie’s Dead and Rocky Mountain Vampire (only a working title). Not sure exactly how I did it, just did it, I think.

Getting closer to using the sumi-e brushes, maybe today. Yesterday I tied string at the base of each new brush after applying a bit of glue all round, too. That had to set for a day. I gathered some towels, watched a couple more videos. Youtube is a fantastic resource for all kinds of things. Jon watches Japanese woodcrafting videos to calm down, for example.

Next week is Kate’s quilting retreat in Buena Vista.



Winter                                                                            Imbolc Moon

Kate and meKate sewed most of the day yesterday. May not seem like a big deal, but it is. Her energy and her energy management skills are both improving and she’s enjoying life more. I’m so glad to see it.

Rigel’s feeling better, too. Acts better. Less needy. Appetite more normal. The rabbit protein diet, which includes small chunks of frozen canned dog food as treats, seems to agree with her though I can’t tell whether she’s gained weight or not. Dr. Bayliss said Rigel will get a b-12 injection on her next visit to the VRCC. After that, not sure. I’m glad to see Rigel feeling better, too.

Today I’m going to spend some time on sumi-e, ink wash painting. Youtube videos. Preparing my new brushes. Learning to grind ink. Going to use some of my less expensive tea cups with it because they’re beautiful and fit the aesthetic. My goal right now is to learn the strokes, what the brushes can do. How to make ink. How to set up the area for a productive session. How the paper reacts to the brush. Beginner’s mind.

20180124_110641Work on online education for Beth Evergreen will continue today, too. Marilyn Saltzman found some mussar sites and I’m going to add Coursera and EDx courses. I also plan to look at other, more general online education sites. So far I’ve focused on online education focused on Jewish studies, but I imagine there are more courses. A fun project.

Might pop over to Tony’s Market. Not a place to do regular grocery shopping, but for special meals, white table cloth, jazz, and candle sticks meals, it’s the best I’ve discovered here so far. They have a wide selection of sea-food, meats and prepared side dishes.

A Good Heart

Winter                                                                 Imbolc Moon

20170405_152819Kate has a good heart. I’ve always known that. Yesterday it took an iv, a treadmill, some radioactive dye, thallium, and a scan, plus all those technicians and physicians, to prove it. Her lungs are good. Her heart is good. Sjogren’s is bad, or at least ornery, but her underlying health is good.

Since I took up the evening cooking, too, we’ve found that a big part of her daily stress was having to cook after daytime activity had worn her out. As we age, our bodies give us challenges. Some we can ameliorate with exercise or accessories, others demand new ways of living our daily life. A happy third phase depends on our ability to sort out and accept these changes. It really helps to have a partner because what one can’t do, often the other can. I’m so lucky to have found Kate for this journey because we can shift roles easily when we need to.


Bees, Dogs, Hearts and Shoulders

Winter                                                                   Imbolc Moon

20180119_095931Rigel’s blood work so far is encouraging. Her liver values are back to normal. This may be a sudden old age shift to intolerance of chicken protein. The rabbit diet food is on its way from Chewy.com. Her appetite is good. If she gains weight on the new diet, that may be all we need to know. Fingers crossed.

Went over to Rich Levine’s yesterday for more bee conversation. He put the flow hive together. It looks very cool. If it works as advertised, it could eliminate the need for honey supers and the back breaking, hot, sweaty work of extraction.


Kate uncapping a honey frame

I agreed to talk to the religious school about bee symbology since they’re going to decorate their hive boxes in a couple of weeks. When the school, and Rabbi Jamie apparently, hive their bee packages, I’ll assist. And, I imagine, support the hives as they grow over the course of the summer. A good way to keep my hand in without having to do all the work myself.

Snowing today. Yeah! The forests are dry. The Smoky the Bear signs which give us a hint about the future of our homes are all set on High fire danger. In January. That means really bad news for reservoirs and the 2018 fire season unless we get a lot of snow between now and May or so.

We’ve had four, maybe five inches so far and the snow’s still falling. Supposed to last all day. Could be bigger than predicted, which would be more than fine.

2011 01 09_1223

Two Olsons

Kate’s got a big week coming up. Monday she has a nuclear stress test for her heart and a visit, on the same day, with the electrophys doc. Next Monday she has an appointment with David Schneider at Panorama Ortho for a shoulder consult. Her right shoulder is painful and weak. The pain interferes with her sleep, so getting it fixed has become a priority.

We don’t expect the heart work up to show more than normal aging. It’s a followup to the tough times she had at Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Better now. Stress may be a larger factor than we know.

Rigel’s work up on her GI tract will come back next week. Hope it points in the same direction as Dr. Bayliss thinks.



Big Guys Do Cry

Winter                                                                  New Imbolc Moon

Being sick, even mildly sick as I’ve been for four or five days now, takes me into strange territory. Mortality flits across the mind. All the obituaries that include the phrase, “after a brief illness.” Labile. When I saw this video about Ronnie the Donkey, I cried. And, too, when I read about this special organization, Cayleb’s Senior Dog Rescue. Kate and I donated.

Donkey And His Mom Celebrate Their Emotional Journey    This donkey was so depressed after he lost his baby boy. But the woman who adopted him knew exactly what he was going through and figured out the sweetest way to make him feel at home. Today on Party Animals, Ronnie’s mom is throwing him a very emotional 5th rescue-versary party to celebrate their amazing journey 😍

Posted by Party Animals on Saturday, January 6, 2018

Got to wondering about being labile. Why is that part of illness?

I asked Kate. Less energy to maintain your defenses, she said, in essence.

Castle Dinas Bran, Llangollen, North Wales

Castle Dinas Bran, Llangollen, North Wales

Which raises a second question. Why the defenses? Why would I need to place a barrier between my feelings and my expression of them, especially feelings of tenderness? Is it too difficult for my sanity to rock my inner world? Somehow I don’t think so. It seems more likely that big boys don’t cry. As our president might say, Sad. Why not recognize when the heart softens, when it takes in a moment of love and responds? Why not just go ahead and cry? Tear up.

Maybe one of the functions of illness is to remind us of our heart truth. When the body feels threatened, insulted, perhaps the mind takes the opportunity to reexamine our spot in this world. Perhaps it allows the cultural constructions, the moats and castle walls we put up, to crumble a bit, so we can know they exist. We do tend to forget about those fortifications, the ones built by stereotype, by social convention.

dinas bran. I visited these ruins in 1995.

dinas bran. I visited these ruins in 1995.

We northern Europeans seem to have well-built walls. Perhaps that’s why we can be gulled too easily by ideologues who have burnished their fear of the other, who take their fear and embarrassment as cues for violence rather than compassion. It is a danger we could altogether eliminate, if we let the right feelings in.

As for me, I’m going to try. The moat drained, the walls down. Good. Let them stay that way.

February 2018
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