Brown Eyes Blue

Imbolc and the waning Shadow Mountain Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Staff at the Burn clinic where Kate’s fingers will go through rehab. Jon’s improvement overnight. A clean refrigerator. Birthday present from Seoah. As well as the holiday meal with sweet potato noodles. Joe’s call. Kate. Always Kate.

A bit of weirdness at the DMV on Thursday. Got there at 7:20 am. My goal, no one there. I was the first. Improbably, with at least three clerks behind the long l-shaped desk that followed the skating rink sized room’s south and west sides and no one else waiting the receptionist said, “Have a seat and your number will be called.” I rolled my eyes.

The clerk nearest me motioned me over. Now, that made sense. A pleasant young woman, maybe early thirties. Cafe au lait skin and bouncy, frizzy hair.

“What are you here to do?” “Renew my license.”

“OK. Last four letters of your social.” I gave them to her.

“What color are your eyes?” “What do you think?”

“Blue,” she said. I nodded. My eyes, my dark brown eyes. No more. For a while the color has been fading leaving me with blue surrounding a shrinking circle of brown. For the next five years, from now on, I have blue eyes. Wow.

Then, “What color is your hair?” Reflexively, “Brown.” She nodded. My hair, now all gray, hasn’t been brown for years, but my brain doesn’t remember. I don’t see it often enough to remember, I guess.

My new license says blue eyes, brown hair. Who is this guy?

They took my picture. My new photo looks like I had a stroke during my renewal. Oh, well. Only five years to a new one. Wonder what colors I’ll have at 77?

Benson Pulikkottil, a hand surgeon, looked at Kate’s fingers. He repaired them a week ago yesterday. They looked good, he said. I found this news story about his work on a man whose face got ripped off by a grizzly bear.

We drove up Broadway from Swedish to St. Joseph’s. Jon is there. He looked and sounded good, chastened by the scare he had Thursday night. I believe this high blood sugar incident may shock him into getting back to good self care. I hope so.

Seoah cleaned the refrigerator for my birthday. It needed it. Looks great. She also made a Korean holiday dish. Very sweet. Talked to Joe, recovering from another week in classes in Singapore. Still no resolution for Murdoch, but we’re all working on it.

The Day Before

Imbolc and the Shadow Mountain Moon

Thursday gratefuls: That I’m alive to renew my driver’s license. Bulgogi made by Seoah. Art Green’s Radical Judaism. Yet more snow. The cold. Sleep. Resting. Writing. The loft. Kate’s discernment. Joe and Mary in Singapore, Mark in Riyadh. The quarter Shadow Mountain Moon, brave and bright.

Yesterday I drove nowhere. Wow. Part of my exhaustion, driving. I like driving, but when I go everyday, then spend time waiting, then drive back home, it saps my energy. Today I get my license renewed. Ha. Colorado licenses are good for five years, so this is a ritual that will, as long as I live, mark our time here. 5 year increments.

Kate goes tomorrow to see a hand therapist and her surgeon. He wants to see me, too. My bite stayed infected in spite of an augmentin regimen. Kate added sulfa on top of the augmentin. The infection subsided, but the whole wound lingers, slow in its healing, much slower than the first bite. I imagine he wants to be sure this doesn’t happen to Kate’s fingers.

Tomorrow. Valentine’s Day. 73rd birthday. A celebration Sunday night with Jon and the kids, a celebration, too, of Gertie’s life. Kate’s idea, a German meal, wiener schnitzel, red cabbage, spaetzel seems right. Maybe German chocolate cake, too. German wire-haired pointer. Rascal.

Each year is precious, but as time ticks down past seventy, even more so. I’m looking forward to my 73rd. Or, is it my 74th? Calendars and daylight saving time. Challenges. Whichever, it’s the next year of my life. More time with Kate. With Seoah and Joe. Jon, Ruth, Gabe. Rigel and Kep. Even Murdoch. (but not in the same place or time as Kep. Nope. Not ever again.) CBE. Friends near and far.

I’m entering this new year with old expectations sheered away by grief and exhaustion. Putting a vision for my life in the trash bin. Going full Taoist. Let it come, flow with it. Watercourse way. No more hopes. No more career. This day, then the next one.

This is not, btw, resignation. It’s about entering each moment, hanging in it, not pushing for what comes next. Living until I die. My always intent. Kavanah. Hebrew for intent, direction of the heart. Jews prepare to pray by making their kavanah clear. I will live my life, not hide from it, not demand more from it. That is my kavanah.


Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Kate’s feeling better. Stefan and Lonnie on zoom. Tom’s gift of cartoons by Sack. Beau Jo’s pizza, novel and tasty. Driving in the mountains. The three deer I saw on the way to Evergreen, especially the tiny one. The bare rock, the cold streams, the lodgepole and aspen. Steep slopes. Florence and its art.

After a somewhat comical series of no-goes, I gave up on going to Vail to see Lonnie and Stefan. Stefan had a new hip done at the Steadman Clinic. Snow came to Vail on the first two days I offered. Not unusual, but enough to not make me want to do a two hour drive in it. Yesterday, my third choice, was MLK weekend. The second busiest of the entire year for ski traffic. And, Sunday, the Denver Post said, would be the busiest of the four day holiday. So, zoom.

Good to talk to them. Four years ago they decided to learn painting in an atelier in Florence. They’ve become patrons of the school as well as students, spending much of each year in Italy. Now they face an existential choice between remaining most of the year in Florence, where they’ve become part of an international crowd of artists and art students, or returning to the Twin Cities where their family lives. Would be a tough call for me.

The mood here is lighter. After a tough period of dog bites and exhaustion, I’m rested again. Kate’s had some issues, but eliminating tramadol from her daily meds has given her easier breathing. It’s nice to have a respite from angst.

Today’s MLK. I wonder what he’d do right now? Would he organize mass marches in the face of the rising right wing threat? Would he stay away from such events as the pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia today?

Will the MLK holiday become a neo-nazi, white supremacist rally day? A day to show “racial solidarity” and protest for the right to gun ownership. IDNK.

His dream, MLK’s, is mine and probably yours. I’ve always been soothed by his quote from Theodore Parker, Unitarian clergy and anti-slavery activist, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Still am though this seems to be a time when it’s not bending very much in the direction of justice.


Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

Stick to it

Winter and the Full Future Moon shining through the lodgepole pines in the west

Friday gratefuls: for the Mussar group. for the Daf Yomi, now day seven. for the chance to do the Murdoch mitzvah. for the fresh new snow. for the 12 degree weather, what they call here, Stock Show weather. for Black Mountain who watches over me from above. for Shadow Mountain who supports me from below. for the crazy people who go out on Evergreen Lake for ice-fishing. May there always be crazy people.

Kepler to the vet yesterday. No, not bites and rips from Murdoch’s teeth. Rashes and hot spots. Antibiotics and an increased prednisone load for a week or so. Dr. Palmini has lost weight and buffed up. When I asked him if he would go to the Iditarod this year. The jury’s still out, he said. It’s a long time to be gone. But, it’s fun, isn’t it? Well, some of it, but when you get up at 3 am…? He goes as a volunteer vet for the sled dogs in the race. Lots of Iditarod memorabilia on the walls of his practice.

Back to HIIT workouts for cardio. Hi intensity interval training. A new one. Slow, 90 seconds. Fast as possible, 6mph for me, 30 seconds. Repeat four times then 3 minute cool down. I increased the number of intervals and the incline, from 1% to 2%, this week. Intervals are the best workout for cardio and they take a shorter time period that most cardio workouts.

Mussar. Got caught out nodding like I understood something that was said. Had to admit it, because the conversation expected me to say something about I’d already said. Everybody laughed when I told them. First time I can recall being caught in this oh, so usual gambit of not only me, but all folks hard of hearing. Gotta work on the ear wax thing. Seems to bother my hearing aid a lot.

The quality of the day, see Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities, was perseverance. A lot of discussion, an amusing number of examples about math, not unusual in a group with literary inclinations. Perseverance is in my toolkit.

Mostly. I can write novels. Start and finish them. Not easy, often taking over a year. I did not persevere so well with marketing them, though. I enjoy, as I said a few posts back, long books, long movies, long tv series. I can start all of these and finish them. Think War and Peace, Dante’s Inferno, Spenser’s Fairie Queen, Faust, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 10 Commandments, the Irishman, Gone with the Wind. And, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I’m finally in the fifth and last season. It only has 88 episodes.

I can make a commitment and stick to it for years, a lifetime. One of my youthful commitments was to keep reading difficult material. Stay political. College. Keep asking the fundamental questions and don’t shy away from difficult answers. Never work in a setting that compromises your values. Kate, now for over 30 years. The Woollies, about the same. Joseph, now going 39 years. Exercise, since my forties.

When I didn’t persevere, marketing and college German being the ones that come to mind, it was out of fear, I think. Fear is not a guide, it’s a caution, but I let myself get stuck in its glue at least those two times and I regret it. Anxiety grows along with fear and fear increases the anxiety. As I’m learning to be easier with myself, I’ll give myself an “I’m sorry to hear that, but you’re ok now.” bit of self-talk.

Merry, Merry Meet

Winter and the Gratitude Moon, waning sliver

Christmas gratefuls: the silence on Black Mountain Drive. Black Mountain itself. The stars above Black Mountain. Shadow Mountain. Our home. This loft, a gift from my Kate, now five years ago, and still wonderful. Kate and her increased health. The sacred side of Christmas. The pagan (also sacred) side of Christmas.

When I went out for the paper this morning, it was dead quiet. No dogs barking. No cars or trucks on the road. No mechanical noises. The sky was the deep black of the cosmic wilderness, lit only by bright lights: planets, stars, galaxies. Silent night, holy night.

Those shepherds out there tending their flock, sheep shuffling around. A baa and a bleat here and there. Visitors on camel back. All that singing. As imagined, probably not a quiet night.

Here though, this dark Christmas morn. The deer are asleep. The elk, too. Pine martens, fishers, foxes, mountain lions might be prowling, but part of their inheritance is silence. Black bears went to sleep long ago. Millions of insects are quiet, too. The microbes in the soil, the growing lodgepole pines, the aspen organisms, their clonal neighborhoods, bulbs, corms, rhizomes all alive, all quiet.

Silent night, holy night. Yes. Sacred night, holyday night. Yes.

I read this long essay on consciousness by the president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. In it he says this:

” Yes, there’s this ancient belief in panpsychism: “Pan” meaning “every,” “psyche” meaning “soul.”…basically it meant that everything is ensouled…if you take a more conceptual approach to consciousness, the evidence suggests there are many more systems that have consciousness—possibly all animals, all unicellular bacteria, and at some level maybe even individual cells that have an autonomous existence. We might be surrounded by consciousness everywhere and find it in places where we don’t expect it because our intuition says we’ll only see it in people and maybe monkeys and also dogs and cats. But we know our intuition is fallible…”

Even silence, since it presumes an awareness of noise, is a proof of consciousness. All that consciousness around us here on Shadow Mountain. The trees and wild animals, grasses and microbes, dogs and humans, all here, all experiencing a self.

I take panpsychism a bit further than Koch with the kabbalistic idea of ohr, the divine spark, resident in every piece of the universe and the process metaphysical view of a vitalist universe creatively moving toward greater complexity.

This waking up mornin’ we can see the baby Jesus as an in your face message that, yes, of course we are holy. Yes, of course the universe sings to us from the depths of the sea, the top of the redwoods, and the person or animal across from us this morning. And, to get downright personal, from within the deep of our own soul.


Winter and the Gratitude Moon’s 3% crescent

Christmas eve gratefuls: Hanukah. Kate’s increased stamina. The mind of Rich Levine. The lights on our drive to Evergreen. Murdoch the happy. Cold weather. Newspapers, the few that are left. Journalists like my Dad. Impeachment. These days of wonder and awe.

A word about the mythic. Long ago, in a faraway time, there was a teacher, a Jewish teacher who wandered Palestine with his followers. His followers loved him and when he died, they loved him so much that they resurrected him in their stories.

Somebody asked one of the followers, where was he born? Nobody had given it much thought. His three years with them had been filled with exciting moments, but no one had thought to ask. Well, the follower said.

You know the story he told. Of a woman, a young woman, maybe a teen, pregnant out of wedlock, and her husband, Joseph. Joseph apparently married her after he knew she was with child. They go on the road. Homeless? Not sure.

But they end up in this town, Bethlehem. No rooms for them there, so the young woman gives birth on the straw of an animal shelter, placing the newborn baby in a feeding trough, a manger.

There were stars in the sky, she said. And, angels. Singing. Visitors from faraway, mages of Persia. There were, too, donkeys and sheep, maybe a lamb.

What had happened? Some said a god, the great god of the Jews, had decided to live in human form. Some said, no, how could that be? The birth was, though, special. In some way. It had to be, didn’t it? Look at who he became.

What we know now is this. The sacred and the holy were manifest. In that animal stall. In the birth. In the woman and in the visitors. They knew, they saw. The divine spark.

Somehow the wonder, the secret of that Christmas story is the revelation of namaste. The god in each of them met the god in that newborn. And they knew that the spark was there. They saw it.

Now the old, old truth of the divine within us had a story. About how it was, again, revealed. This time in a barn out back, in humble circumstance. Why? Because the revelation of the god within us is a humble story, not a grand narrative, a tale to be told over and over.

Told over and over because it is so profound that many refuse to believe it. It has nothing to do with lights and presents and carols. No, it has to do with the awareness that each child born deserves angels and mages and shepherds. It has to do with the truth we block with our bigotry, our violence, our indifference, our casual disregard for the wonder within even our own selves. We each carry not only the sacred spark, but are the actual manifestation of the sacred.

The universe, in each of us, has an observer of itself, by itself. Our birth, mine and yours, continues the amazing story of life in all its glory and messiness. We are part of the unfolding, the becoming. Each. One. Of. Us. That’s what we celebrate tonight and tomorrow.


p.s. from long time friend, Bill Schmidt

Yes, the universe is part of the story.  Here’s a bit of a Christmas carol that expresses the universe’s participation:

Let men their songs employ
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy!


Winter and the Gratitude Moon

Monday gratefuls: Joe and Seoah landed. An adventure begins. Cousin Diane sent a thoughtful note about my mom. Kate’s nightly feedings. (no, she’s not a vampire. feeding tube.) Murdoch’s first day went fine. Feeling the vibrations of children as Santa loads up. The lights of Hanukah.

Murdoch. He and Rigel spent the night together again. Rigel loves the bed in the guest room. Finally, a bed my size, she must think. Rigel gets along with all dogs and people. She’s also top dog here. My thinking on this is that Murdoch needs a warm body with him at night. He’s used to sleeping with Joe and Seoah. Seoah was around during the day, so being alone was not a frequent thing for him. It’s working so far. (OK. Day 2, but still…)

This is a major change in the morning. I get up at 4:30 or so, but now with just Gertie and Kepler, feed them, take them back downstairs for Kate. No Rigel. Her feeding time has shifted to Murdoch’s, around 8 am. Oh. Realization. That’s why she didn’t eat much yesterday for her lunch. She’d just eaten. Might have to shift her second feeding to Murdoch’s time, too.

Shuttling them all around so Kep and Murdoch are not in the same place at the same time makes the day a bit of a logistical puzzle. We’ve done it before though. With Kep and Gertie outside most recently. They’re ok inside, but outside? Not so much. We also had Tully, a very sweet Irish Wolfhound, who one day decided our whippets were prey. That required care with her presence and theirs until she died.

We’ve been told that once the prey circuit gets switched on in a dog no training will extinguish it. Too deep in the genes. Kep’s aggression is not a prey drive, but a need to control unruly, wild (in his opinion) dogs. Murdoch has the same issues. An Akita thing, probably related to their role as guard dogs. Easier to manage than Tully’s situation.

Dogs. They’re so important to our lives, Kate and mine. We’ve seen many different behaviors, positive and troublesome, over the years. Our experience serves us well.

If it’s your holiday, Merry Christmas! Or, happy Hanukah. Or, hope you had meaningful Winter Solstice and will have a happy New Year. Thoughts about 2020 coming over the next few days.

Up, Up, And Away

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Joe and Seoah found each at San Francisco International, got a seat together. In the air right now. Rigel and Murdoch spent a so-far quiet night together. Hanukah. Which starts tonight. For the United folks at DIA yesterday. A smooth process checking Seoah in. As she might say, Amazing.

Seoah came with Joe on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. More Murdoch time. I took her to the airport yesterday. The short-term lot was full so we had to use Valet parking. Which I didn’t know they had. Not cheap, but in the circumstance, worth it.

We’ll miss her, Good Morning! Her cooking skills. She’s really good. Her willingness to clean. Mostly though her presence. She has a light heart and a cheerful manner. Much like Murdoch.

We’ll also miss our over the stove microwave which chose the holiday season as its death time. It died gradually, losing one function after another. The good news is that over the stove micros are really expensive! And, we’ll have to pay to have it installed. Merry Christmas!’

Odd product information. In a pick-up order at King Sooper I got Simple Truth Organic Seltzer Water as a replacement for my order of another brand. On the can, which is sized like an energy drink, less diameter, but more height, it says: What makes S.T. Seltzer water so refreshing? A. Organic, naturally flavored and free of calories… It’s water! They forgot to add gluten free.

A Five Year Anniversary

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Gertie and Kep slept until almost 5:30. An extra hour of sleep for me. Brother Mark’s feeling better over in Saudi Arabia. Joe’s movers will come today. Sister Mary reports heavy rains in Singapore. My dispersed family. My diverse family.

Second iteration of the new workout yesterday morning. I like this one. It uses the TRX and kettlebells. Still working to cement the five days a week: resistance, cardio, resistance, cardio, resistance. It’s in my head now as a routine, but scheduling sometimes breaks it up.

Friend Tom Crane reminded me of an old holiday, one remembered now with Christmas, some say. He wrote this morning: “Today would mark the beginning of the seven-day celebration of Saturnalia in ancient Rome. For the winter festival, the Romans made and exchanged gifts, decorated their homes with holly and ropes of garland, and carried wreaths of evergreen branches to honor the god Saturn.” Here’s a bit more from the same website Tom found: “By the beginning of December, writes Columella, the farmer should have finished his autumn planting… Now, with the approach of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing was honored with a festival.” Saturnalia

Sound at all familiar?

Here’s another odd fact. A couple of weeks ago I went looking for quotes about the West and the Rocky Mountains. Found out that the lowest point in Colorado, around 3,000 feet, is higher than the highest point in twenty other states. We’re all high here.

In three days we will have been in Colorado five years. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from back then: “The moving moon has waned, a sliver this early. It will go dark tomorrow, the Winter Solstice. Our first full day and night here at Black Mountain Drive. Tom Crane, Rigel, Vega, Kepler and I pulled into the garage about 12:15 am this morning. We drove in over several inches of snow, so a first task will be getting the driveway clear for the moving van which comes on Monday…Tom drove the whole way, 14 hours in one whack, stopping only briefly for food and gas. It was a great treat to be able to watch the miles roll away.” December 20, 2014. Ancientrails.

Over the next three days I’m going to revisit that time, the move. Five years is an important anniversary. And, it will occur days before the calendar ticks over into a brand new decade, the 2020’s. Our first full decade in Colorado, in the Rockies. Time to do an assessment.