Kate’s 75th today. Three quarters of a century. We went to a movie last night, The Kitchen. Irish mob ladies take over Hell’s Kitchen. Not gonna be up for an Oscar. Entertaining though.
Going out together. Been a rare thing over the last 11 months. This was special and we may do it again today to see Midsommar. Whoa.
We’ll have our own party today. The grandkids and Jon will come up next weekend for a second party. Wish I’d been feeling less distracted by cancer and radiation. This is a big birthday. Not only has she turned seventy-five; she also lived to see it. In question at certain points last year.
Today is Lughnasa, the Celtic first fruits festival, celebrated by baking bread and other foods from the wheat gathered now. I started my radiation treatments four days before the summer Solstice and will end them 9 days into Lughnasa. On the Celtic calendar, summer has come and gone during my time with the CyberKnife. Since the CyberKnife uses photons, it seems apt to have had the summer sun as my companion.
Perhaps this year my own first fruits will be the elimination of my cancer. I won’t know, of course, for some time, up to two years and three months depending on the duration of the Lupron. It’s possible (likely?) that the primary salvage treatment, radiation in my case, will have ended this return bout on or around August 9th.
Next week, too, are the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atom as city killer. I’ve not forgotten either that June 17th, the day of my first treatment, was the day after Father’s Day.
Lughnasa is the first of three harvest festivals in the Celtic year. Following Lughnasa is Mabon which falls on the Autumnal Equinox. It coincides with what this Midwestern boy has known as the main harvest, and the Harvest Moon. After that is Samain, or summer’s end, the final harvest festival, on October 31st.
As I’ve mentioned often here, my soul gets fed best as the days grow shorter and the nights longer. I consider Lughnasa the beginning of the inner journey that culminates on the Winter Solstice.
Yes, it really starts on the summer Solstice, the day of light’s triumph, but the summer season, just ended, is a celebration of light’s triumph. A good thing, too, since it provides the energy and the heat for vegetables, fruits, and the big cash crops like wheat and corn and beans. We’ll need them as the fallow season commences on Samain.
I can feel the Great Wheel’s dark energy. Since the summer Solstice, we’ve gained 45 minutes of night. This is my favorite part of the year, these next 8 months, Lughansa to Ostara, the vernal equinox. I’m glad the next part of this inner world journey will occur now.
Another Yankee Doodle birthday. SeoAh turned 41. The U.S.A. 243. SeoAh’s birth culture is thousands of years old, as is Joe’s.
We’re such a baby from a historical perspective. Our relative youth is on display in every interaction we have with China, an ancient civilization like Korea and India that has lasted into the time of nation-states. One commentator I read a while back refers to China as a civilization state, rather than a nation state for that reason.
China engages the world as a regional hegemon, a role its held for most of its long history. It abuts so many different cultures, unlike the U.S. Vietnam, India, Myanmar, Bangladesh, the Himalayan kingdoms, the Stans, Russia, North Korea, even Japan if you see the South China Sea from China’s perspective. It does not share the great geopolitical advantage of the U.S., world ocean moats on both eastern and western borders.
The dynastic period of China, begun during the mostly lost in the mists Xia dynasty, only ended in the 20th century with the Qing ending in 1912. Thus, there are patterns and assumptions built into even the Chinese Communist party that reach far, far back in the Middle Kingdom’s political experience.
Among them is strategic patience, a trait sorely missing from U.S. foreign policy in the 21st century. The Chinese waited until its 99 year lease on Hong Kong was up, then reabsorbed this city-state. Not without difficulty, yes, but even the one country-two systems policy has Hong Kong, like Tibet, as an administrative district of the larger nation. They are also waiting to absorb Taiwan, sometimes patiently, sometimes not.
The world is big enough for China and the U.S. as regional hegemons, not big enough for either of us to dominate. China knows that. I’m not sure we do.
If I could have a birthday wish for the U.S.A., it would be a leavening of our foreign policy with the wisdom of history. Hard to pull off when our supreme leader doesn’t read, I know. We, as a citizenry, may have to exercise strategic patience with him and his followers. Trump and his base are not the vanguard of a revolution, rather they are equivalent of the village peasant in traditional societies.
They are defensive in posture, that’s what America First means. You only wish for America First if you believe we’re already somehow less than others. I don’t.
DJT and his cult hold onto economic givens long out of date. Manufacturing and its supply chain, though still crucial to our economy, we’re #2 in the world after, guess who, China, has been in steady decline as an employer since the 1990’s, continuing a long slide begun in the 1940’s. see this Wikipedia article. Tariff man reflects a belief that the U.S. is somehow getting screwed on a regular basis.
They hold onto social givens like fear of the other, affecting immigration, race, and gender identity. The unearned privilege of the white American male is still regarded among them, and their leader, as a privilege given by hard work and innovation, rather than a teetering social contract based on patriarchy and ruthless oppression of minorities.
This is a passing phase, often at its strongest when its proponents sense their weakness, perhaps for the first time. Strategic patience involves doing everything possible to align their national political influence with their actual minority status. It means working against the Proud Boy in the White House and for politicians existing in today’s world, not yesterday’s. It also means not succumbing to despair or nihilism.
That’s tough, I know, especially with the climate crisis literally breathing hot air on our necks. But one way to not succumb is to do what is possible politically while focusing on those local and state level initiatives that will position us later for strong climate action.
Standing with you all in this, our 243rd year of a grand national experiment: Can a nation be built on political values rather than culture?
So easy to get lost in the polluted haze of Trump’s venal presidency. To have our heads down, shaking in disbelief. Wondering when this horror show will end.
So easy. Today though, on this day of tanks and flags, this day when we become like all the nations who try to show bellicosity as a symbol of national strength, I’m very aware it’s all happening far to the east.
Happy to sit high in the Rocky Mountains, far away from the beltway. I lift my head up and look out the window. Black Mountain is bathed in sunlight. So are the tops of the lodgepole pines in our front yard. The sky, a robin’s egg blue, makes all the green pop.
If I were to drive across the plains again, from here to the Twin Cities as I have done so often, I would cross green fields of wheat, of corn. The horizon would be once again flat instead of jagged. Reaching into Minnesota the plains slowly disappear, bumping up against the remnants of the big woods. It’s said that once a squirrel could go tree to tree from the Atlantic coast to Minnesota without ever touching the earth.
Near where the prairie begins to morph into another land form is Pipestone, Minnesota. A sacred place for many peoples native to this land. There the blood of mother earth has congealed into a soft, red stone, perfect for making the pipes used in so many rituals. If you go to the quarries, you can sometimes see folks working there, seeking blocks of pipestone. A very low tech procedure.
Driving on toward the Twin Cities, angling north and east, bean and corn fields begin to dominate. Cattle, pigs. Close to sea level and well east of John Wesley Powell’s demarcation line for the arid West, the 100th parallel (really now the 98th), Minnesota is in the humid east. Summer air is sticky, wet, and filled with bugs of various kinds.
In Minnesota the glaciers that bulldozed the plains left behind small depressions in the earth, over 16,000 of them. A journey north and east, turning due north some where beyond the middle of the state, will find a traveler in the North Woods, filled with lakes, and still more wild than civilized.
It is up there, in the Arrowhead Region, where wolves retained their paw-hold on a U.S. presence. The Arrowhead’s eastern boundary is all shoreline, washed by the cold, deep waters of Lake Superior.
These are the parts of America the Beautiful that I know best. Minnesota and its northerness. The plains and their great level expanses, once filled with grass and buffalo. The Rocky Mountains which rise up from those same plains, suddenly, abruptly, far to the west of any silliness on the National Mall.
I will hold in my heart this day neither tanks, nor flags, nor bluster, but the rocky beaches of the Great Lakes, the farmland of southern Minnesota, the vast wheat fields of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, the upthrust mantle of Mother Earth’s crust where I now sit.
I’ve lived my life in these interior places of the North American continent, held for now under the politic rubric United States of America. They will still exist when this nation has faded into obscurity. And that makes me glad.
The Radiation Moon will take me all the way to August 1st, within 5 days of the finish. The Algonquin’s called it the Thunder Moon. In the traditional Chinese calendar the July moon is the Ghost Moon. The Hungry Ghost festival follows in August, now the month of the Ghost Moon. Thundering ghosts radiating from the heavens. Or, hells.
Last radiation day this week. July 4th long weekend ahead. Breakfast with Alan at Dandelion.
Not sure what we’re going to do for the 4th although we have never gone to fireworks. Crowds and up too late. In Andover we could see the fireworks the city put on from our house. Later, we could hear the fireworks loving neighbors displaying what they’d found. Meanwhile the dogs would cower in their crates or up against our legs.
In the fire prone foothills fireworks displays are often called off. This would be the year for them, since the fire danger is much less than usual. The monsoon season is here already with afternoon storms. You’d think the added water would get the fire danger back down to low, but it’s been stuck at moderate for the last week.
Trump’s very big, biggest ever, best ever fourth of July celebration. With tanks! You can see his mind turning over television news clips of military parades in Hitler’s Germany, North Korea, Russia, even some European countries. Oh, boy. Look at us. Big missiles! Big tanks! Lots of soldiers! Flags. We’re patriotic. We love America. Enough to put on a big fancy beautiful wonderful moment. When will it ever end?
Under the warmth of nuclear fusion’s endless possibilities my body takes in fractions of photon radiation, breaking the DNA of cancer cells and friendlies alike. Outside it was 83 degrees, the sun hitting us with more direct beams. Inside it was all Cyber Knife and its accelerator hitting me. Different nuclear generative processes, but both powerful in their own way.
This is a three day radiation week. The long July 4th weekend is time off, then back at it five days a week until done on August 6th. Yesterday I listened to Bach’s well-tempered clavier. Today, Berlioz. Night on Bald Mountain.
After I said I still had no side effects, Dr. Gilroy, in our weekly management meeting yesterday, said, “Well, you might slide through the whole time. In the last week there’s often an increase in urinary frequency.” Of course that’s just the radiation. The Lupron’s an agent all of its own. Still no side effects from it either.
Trying to feel my way toward the life after radiation. Kate’s feeling better, not all the way back, but much, much better. At first I was thinking about 7 weeks in the Cyber Knife tunnel. What it will be like when all the fractions have been given?
I realized though that we entered the true tunnel when Kate’s Sjogren’s began to effect her eating. A couple of years ago. The tunnel narrowed on September 28th, 2018, now nine months past. The bleed and its subsequent hospitalizations, imaging studies, doctor’s visits, and surgeries took more and more of both our energies.
Fortunately, Kate’s long ordeal began to have positive notes as cancer returned for me. If we’re lucky, and I think we will be, we’ll reach a point in September, after the second Lupron shot and a surveillance psa, when we can catch our breath, assess where we’ve been and where we’re going.
One of the tricks of living is to stay in the moment as much as possible without losing sight of life’s context. Not easy. The context includes the past and the future, yet we never inhabit either one. Only the present. Right now I’m living life fraction by fraction. One trip to Lone Tree at a time. One meal at a time. One workout at a time.
In September are the High Holidays, Sukkoth, Simchat Torah. The month of Elul precedes Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, and as such is considered a time of repentance and preparation. Perfect for us this year. Too, on September 29th is Michaelmas, the springtime of the soul. In this instance Michaelmas falls on erev Rosh Hashanah.
And, in my own inner calendar, daylight’s change from 14 hours and 54 minutes on June 21, the summer solstice, to 11 hours and 53 minutes on Michaelmas, means that I’ll be moving further into the deep parts of my soul.
Looking gently forward to Elul, to Michaelmas, to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This year Rosh Hashanah could be a true new year for us, the start of a healthier time. May it be so.
Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice. The day of the sun’s maximum presence for the year. On the solstices the day/night balance shifts. On the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year (though if you check the time tables the difference between June 21st and July 21st is only 13 minutes), the night begins to encroach, slowly.
Whatever guides my soul prefers the dark days, the fallow time. I celebrate on this holiday not the victory of the light, but the coming dominance of the night. I do like the bright blue days here in Colorado, not saying I don’t. Just that my soul gains more richness, more depth as darkness grows. Probably one of the reasons I felt so much at home in Minnesota, at the 45th latitude, half-way to the Northpole.
As a gardener, of course, I relished the light for the vegetables and fruits, for the flowers that fed our bees. The summer solstice signals the growing warmth and long days that nourish all plant life. It was also the time, though, that bugs grew more troublesome, when the humid weather encouraged fungus and mold, viral infections in the plants.
In Sweden, Scotland, and other Gaelic and Scandinavian countries the auld religion still calls to its people. Bonfires. Nudity. Parties through the night. Feasts. I like the idea of them. If there were one close by, I might go.
My relationship with neo-paganism is as fraught as my relationship with Christianity. Judaism, too, at the doctrinal level. There’s so much intellectualizing, writing of ideas, logic. I’ve come to believe that elaborating our feelings toward the natural world in a Wiccan or Asatru way, a neo-pagan syncretic way, is as damaging to the soul as the dogmas and laws of other religions.
In the language of Taoism, the one lens which seems to consciously push away dogma, I would say it this way: The religion that is written and elaborated is not religion. Barriers between our soul and its path.
Emerson has influenced me here and he was, in turn, influenced by Taoism. If you’ve read me for any length of time, you’ll have read these words more than once:
“Our age is retrospective. It builds the sepulchres of the fathers. It writes biographies, histories, and criticism. The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs? Embosomed for a season in nature, whose floods of life stream around and through us, and invite us by the powers they supply, to action proportioned to nature, why should we grope among the dry bones of the past, or put the living generation into masquerade out of its faded wardrobe? The sun shines to-day also.” Emerson’s Introduction to his essay, Nature.
It is this sensibility that I celebrate as each of the Great Wheel holidays roll round. The sensibility that helps us become native to the various places where we live. The sensibility that finds the soul’s interaction with the seasons enough. The sensibility that drags down, pulls away the words to look directly at this universe into which we are born. The sensibility that does not fight the turning of the wheel, but sees the seasons of our lives as one with the changing seasons. This is my understand of wu wei, conforming our life to what is, not what might be.
What I encourage is the sun on your face. Your hands in the soil. Your feet on a hiking path. Your ears alive to the buzzing of bees, the bugle of the elk, the bark of the dog, the words of your friends. What I encourage is living your life as it comes, knowing that it leads to death, yes, but that until death you are alive.
Kate’s stamina has improved so much. Thursday. Mussar in the afternoon and a board meeting in the evening. Last night we went to the Gospel Shabbat. The Beth Evergreen singers, supplemented by members of the Evergreen Chorale, were led by Val, a committed choir director with a lot of energy, plus a fine pianist added to the CBE band.
It was high, good energy and Kate stayed the whole time, including for a bit of the oneg. (oneg is snacks and goodies provided after a service.) Her hip bothered her a bit, but she walked and stood, clapped and sang. A real simcha.
Rabbi Jamie came by yesterday around lunch time to see how I was doing. We fed him chicken pot pie (mine) and watermelon, then he and I retired to my loft. He’s a good guy. A dog person. His first dog was a wolf hybrid, 105 pounds, that lived an astonishing 18 years.
He lost a dog recently to a porcupine. Awful way to die. But natural. We agreed it was a good death, both animals doing what evolution had taught them.
Tomorrow, for father’s day, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Kate and I are going, at my request, to Biker Jim’s Gourmet Dogs. No less a foody than Anthony Bourdain recommended Biker Jim’s. Apparently he soaks his onions in Coca-Cola. After Biker Jim’s hot dogs will become a special occasion treat for me, no longer in my diet. Other processed meats, too. Gonna miss’em.
Today is the Indy 500. The 103rd. A long time. I’ve written here before about this race. Growing up in Indiana there are two sporting events that create a life-long spot in the heart, the Indy 500 and basketball, especially high school basketball. At the beginning of May the Indianapolis Star would start running articles about the racers, the crews, their preparations. The build up would peak pre-race on qualification day.
On race day those who didn’t get tickets would gather around their radios to listen. If you chose to go to the race, you already knew about the horrific traffic jams ahead of your trip to Speedway.
Speedway is a western suburb of Indianapolis which, according to Mapquest: “The town of Speedway was developed as a city of the future. Meant to be a testing ground much like the famed race track which is its namesake, Speedway was designed to be a city that was hospitable to the car. In a time when Indianapolis streets were often narrow orange brick thoroughfares… the town had homes with garages for cars.”
On the F1 circuit, the winner stands on a podium with the second and third place drivers, opens a bottle of champagne and sprays his fellow drivers and the crowd gathered around. It’s a media event. At the end of the 500 the winning driver is alone in pit row, like a thoroughbred at the end of the Kentucky Derby, which runs not far away in Louisville, Kentucky. Also like the Derby the 500 winner gets a floral sash.
The 500 is a race with agricultural roots, a car race held about as far south from Detroit as it is north of the Derby. A blend. Nothing shows that more than the winner posing with the huge Borg-Warner Trophy and chugging down, not champagne, but a quart of milk. From a glass bottle.
In 1965, the same month I graduated from high school only sixty miles from the speedway, Jim Clark and his Lotus changed the look and feel of the race forever. Jack Brabham brought the rear-engine European designs from F1 to Indy in 1961. 5 years later Jim Clark won in his Lotus-Ford. After that rear engine cars dominated the race. And still do.
As the growing season begins, as the Green Man and the Goddess in her Maiden form come together to pass fertility into the soil, we have snow on our solar panels. The streams though have been rushing, carrying water down the mountain. The lodgepoles are greener. Catkins are on the dogwood and willows. Leaflets on the aspen.
Beltane marks a turning point from the fallow time. Finally the crops could go into the fields, food for another year. Beltane was a time of celebration in the ancient Celtic world. It began with a week long market where goods could be exchanged, hand-fasting marriages (a year in length) begun, and night time love making in the fields to assist the Greenman and the Maid in their joy. Work contracts for the growing season were made as well.
As the fallow time fades, you might consider what you want to plant, to grow. Was there a dream that took shape over the time of darkness and cold? For us mid-latitude folks, anyhow. Was there a project that got started, that needs the energy of sun, the nourishment of rain, and the nutrients in the soil of your life? Perhaps a transition that only got underway, but now has better definition. How can the growing season push it along, make it a better part of your life?
Or, are there things in your life better left behind to compost, to decay? Finished parts of your life. Things that can be set aside, that no longer need your energy? The cycle of life is not only about growth. It’s also about literal recycling, of energy, of resources, of flesh and food and fuel waste. There may be things that promised a good crop, but came up stunted. Or things that simply didn’t flourish in your life. Better to let them go, allow them to become memories, learnings, and not give them what other parts of your life now need.
(Maxwell Creek, dogwood catkins last week)
Here on Shadow Mountain we have the stirrings of a new awakening for Kate. She’s gaining weight, eating more. She’s also started, again, bringing up things that need to get done. Just before I go to sleep. Hmmm. We have a way to defeat her anemia and a plan for continued weight gain. When the lung diagnosis is complete, surely before the growing season ends at Samain, we’ll have a treatment. I want the sun, the rain, and the nutrients of our mutual soil to boost her, give her that push to get not only better, but well. May it be so.
In my situation I want to stop growth. Of those damned cancer cells. Looking forward to the axumin scan and getting treatment recommendations. Then, implementing them.