Satisfaction

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Yesterday. Packed with stuff. AM I got out there and began cutting down trees. Got a lot of trees down, many smaller spruces. Managed to hang one smallish lodgepole. Will have to deal with that today. It felt so good. I love manual labor of a certain kind. Logging is one. Working in gardens and orchards is another. There’s something about using my body, working with plants and the soil that feeds me. Chainsaw work has serious man cred, too. With all that lupron swimming around, I need it.

Two of the lodgepole pines I felled, one good sized, had the bluish stain of the pine beetle. Both had been dead for some time. One in the front, also showing the blue streaking, has not been dead over a couple of years. Not sure whether this means an infestation will take out all of our lodgepoles. The beetles don’t seem as pernicious here as on those mountain sides along I-70 out toward Silverthorne. On them whole mountain faces are the rust color of dead lodgepole pine needles. The sight shocked me the first time I saw it.

When I got tired using the chain saw, I put it away and got out my limbing ax. I don’t use the chain saw when I’m tired. However, I also love whacking off tree branches with the smaller of my two Swedish axes. I got the two dead trees limbed. Satisfying.

Susan came around noon. She’s the chair of the mitzvah committee at CBE and has stayed in constant touch with Kate and me over the last year plus. The main thing the committee does is meals and when we needed them what a help they were. However, another thing I love to do is cook, so once I got out from under the radiation fatigue, we stopped the meals.

In conversation Susan teased out of me that fire mitigation had me concerned. She offered to coordinate, if possible, a CBE crew to help. With Derek, neighbor Derek, helping, I don’t need them. She brought lunch and dinner anyhow. We had a good conversation over the meal.

Derek is a really good worker and will be taking the bulk of the logs for heating. He also had a call into Elk Creek Fire to chip slash he had generated from his property. Due to equipment malfunctions the chipping crew has gotten behind. They have 150 slash chipping reservations and they stopped taking reservations on the 10th of October. Derek suggested moving slash from our work onto his piles since they’re not to him yet. Excellent plan

After Susan left, Kate and I took a nap, waiting on the arrival of Jon, Ruth, and Gabe for hamburgers, tater tots, salad, and ice cream. Also laundry.

They got up here around three and we had the usual swirl of Gabe and Ruth. Ruth wanted to bake. She made a fudge and cornbread muffins. Gabe went around to all the dogs, one at a time, talking to them, petting them, then disappeared upstairs to watch TV.

Cooking the meal in the kitchen after Ruth’s baking had some challenges, but we overcame them. Ruth cut up tomato, onion and avocado for the burgers. She also tossed the salad. I took care of the tator tots and the meat.

Ruth’s designing the lighting for her drama classes production of Alice (in Wonderland). She had a self-described mental breakdown when she didn’t get the role of Alice. One manifestation of the breakdown was cutting her bangs short. She got over it.

I asked her if her friends liked to cook. She nodded and said, “Really, we like to eat.” Eighth grade. Next year high school. As they were leaving she put on her sandals and came to me for a hug. “Oh, my, you used to be way taller than me.” Yep. With sandals she’s getting close to my height.

Busy, satisfying, loving day.

Days of Awe

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

Here we are, paused between the New Year and the Day of Atonement. The book of life is open, waiting for your next year to be inscribed. This is a new liminal space for me. A holiday(s) in which repentance and forgiveness are the focus, both at the beginning of the new year. It’s location in the early fall (a lunar calendar) makes it a part of the Michaelmas springtime of the year and part of the harvest festivals that end with Samain on the 31st.

Sukkot follows the Days of Awe, coming three days later. Rabbi Jamie says that Sukkot used to be the primary festival at this time of year with the Days of Awe sort of a preparation for it. Sukkot is the big harvest festival in the Jewish liturgical year. It’s fun, ending with Simchat Torah. “Sukkot through Simchat Torah is nine days long. The first two days (Sukkot) and the last two days (Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah) are full-fledged festival days, and the middle five days are Chol Hamoed.” chabad.org

The Jewish month of Tishrei is a holiday filled time for Jews. And, they vibrate between profundity and joy. This feels congruent with the turning of the Great Wheel which has three harvest festivals over the same time period. The middle one, Mabon, on the fall equinox, is a celebratory time followed by Samain, the end of summer when the veil between the worlds thins and the dead can walk among us. (where all the goblins and ghosts and ghouls come from at Halloween)

At least in the temperate latitudes temperatures begin to cool, leaves change on deciduous trees. Farmers and gardeners harvest fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, then prepare gardens and fields for the fallow season. The days grow shorter, frosts and freezes mark, then kill many plants. The bare trees give forests a stark look. A friend was of the opinion that the thinning of the veil came from being suddenly able to see through forests.

Kate and I need all of the spiritual juice available right now and these two holiday traditions, Jewish and pagan, fill that need.

Tough Weekend

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

On her birthday

Kate’s had a tough weekend. Short of breath, feeling tired. We didn’t make it to Rosh Hashanah services last night. A year and two days after her bleed. She’s made great progress on weight, nausea, even her Sjogren’s is less problematic. Her stamina, up till this weekend, had increased and she was doing more.

Her daily life involves a lot of tubing and schlepping. At night she carries her Inogen, portable CO2, as well as her pump and feeding supplies. Heavy for her. She does remarkably well with all of it, but this alone takes a toll, too. Hoping for a better day for her today.

Need a lung disease diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. So slow.

Yesterday was Tom and Roxann’s 16th anniversary. At their wedding they featured the mandorla. “In icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the mandorla is used to depict sacred moments that transcend time and space…” Wiki Marriages, good ones at any rate, live into their own mandorla. Happy anniversary! It was also the 7th anniversary of Regina Schmidt’s death. Bill continues to honor her and their love. A mandorla still, I think.

Tomorrow, October 1st, I get my second Lupron shot. 9 am at Urology Associates Swedish offices. In the butt. Thank you, Sherry.

works for both paragraphs

Then, let the fun begin! Hot flashes have become more frequent, a bit more intense. Still only annoying, but, they are annoying. They creep up the body, making it flushed and warm. Last night I had my sweatshirt off and the window open, the cool night breeze a relief.

Extreme fire danger here. Red flag warning yesterday and today. We have a higher fire risk rating than the area around Paradise, California. One of the highest in the country. Good times. I’ve been too nervous about the fire danger to get my chain saw going. Maybe this week.

My friend Dave, personal trainer, had bad news about his brain cancer. The tumor is back after surgery only a few months ago. He’s at the extreme end of survival time for glioblastoma. As he said, it’s a horrible place to be. 53 years old.

You might think I would be stressed and anxious, but I’m not. Living today. Will wait for tomorrow.

One Year Ago

Fall and the new (Rosh Hashanah) Moon

Much, much better. Earlier this month, Evergreen

And so. One year. A year ago today I took Kate into the Swedish Emergency Room. It was early in the morning. In my post that day I said she’d be in the hospital at least one night. Four weeks later she came home after two weeks in the hospital and two in a rehab facility.

It has been an awful year. Two more hospitalizations for her. Imaging studies. Procedures like the placement of her stent in a mesenteric artery. Lots of doctor’s appointments. Pulmonology complications. And a bad pulmonology group. The pic line, then the feeding tube placement. Her lung disease issues are still not treated, not even diagnosed. Soon, perhaps.

She has, gradually, improved. Her weight is now consistently over 100 pounds. Her stamina has improved. She’s happier and more joyful, wonderful to see. Next month’s MVP, mussar evening group, she’s leading the discussion on joy.

Entering the Dark Wood

I had my issues, too. The flu, then pneumonia led to a miserable February and March for me. Also led to my odd kerfuffle with my psa. The one taken during my annual physical in February. I actually told my urologist that it was fine. A mistake. Nope. It wasn’t.

You know the rest of that one. Radiation. Lupron. Treatment still underway. Then, the exciting news this week that I have COPD. Looked at lots of material over the last few days. Scaring myself. Again. Then, oh, not so bad if I keep exercising, eat well, take my prednisone, do regular checkups. Not great, but not bad either.

Tomorrow is Rosh Hashanah, the beginning of the days of yirah. Awe and fear. Seems about right for Kate and me. This new year will be about living joyfully, with alert curiosity, and compassion. No matter what physical or emotional challenges confront us.

This Week

Fall and the waning crescent Harvest Moon

Long mountain in the background is Shadow Mountain, taken from Black Mountain
Closer look at the peak of Shadow Mountain. We live to the right in this photo, about a mile up Black Mountain Drive
Fox Squirrel getting ready for winter. A bit faraway for my phone camera.
Chainsaw Bob’s. I first saw these signs when his wife, Patty, was the only one in the shop. I needed new, sharpened chains and to have that one little glitch fixed. He’s the closest. And, as you can tell he has strong opinions. (Not just about women.)
CJ’s is a Chicago food hero in Evergeen. I stood at their door when I took the photograph above. Kate and I get Italian beef sandwiches there every Thursday after Mussar.
Black Mountain hike, Tuesday
Same hike

Sound like Dad

Fall and the Harvest Moon

Black Mountain from our mailbox

The dark sky. Orion high in the south over Black Mountain. The waning crescent of the Harvest moon to his left. Other stars set like diamonds. A regular moment of awe. So lucky to live here.

Yesterday I was sad. Woke up the night before with debbie downer thoughts. Does anyone like me? What have I done with my life? Is there any point to all this? Some part of me pounding on other parts of me. Who’s the witness in this conversation? Who’s the protagonist? It felt so out of character, especially for how I’ve felt over the last several months. Oh. The Lupron. This was a hot flash in my soul. No fun. Last night was fine.

Kate helped a lot that morning over breakfast.

Second injection a week from today

Though I’ve done my share of psychotropics I’ve not made my peace with this alien chemical dominating my testosterone, turning up the thermostat at unusual moments, twisting my emotions. I’d still characterize the side effects as mild though there have been a few moments like last night, a few with Kate, a couple of searing hot flashes. There’s also the fatigue and the sarcopenia. These last two make working out difficult.

Since I’m 72, sarcopenia is already having its way with me. Lupron adds to that, reinforces it. Maybe bumps it up? I get tired quicker. Have trouble advancing my weights. It’s like having a small parachute attached to my belt, extra drag.

Staunton State Park, 2017

Gonna test this on a hike this morning. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve done little hiking since we got here. No excuse. Just haven’t gotten in the car and gone to one of the many mountain trails. I worked out three, four times a week outside when we lived in Anoka county. Hiking, fast walking, snowshoeing. Not here, partly because of my breathing issues.

Going in to see Dr. Gidday today about those breathing issues. My O2 sats are low normal up here, usually ok down the hill. In the evening however and sometimes right after I go to bed they crater, going down once into high seventies. This has been true for most of the time we’ve lived here. I’ve never sought help for it before because I was doing treadmill work with no trouble.

2017, Mt Goliath Natural Area, Bristlecone Pines

On Saturday though I did my usual twenty minute pre-resistance work cardio. It was hard. My lungs felt tight. I struggled. Did it all and at the speed and elevation I wanted, but it was hard. Like with my bicep weights I’ve had difficulty moving my speed and elevation up. Also, lots of coughing, hacking.

I sound like my dad who was an asthma and allergy sufferer his whole life. Things have not been the same for me since the flu/pneumonia episode in February and March. Sorta shoved this aside for the cancer treatment, but I feel like I have to address it now. I really have no desire to wrestle with another organ system right now. But…

Simcha

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Hmmm. A bit over eager again. For all my equanimity about cancer I’ve made some moves that reveal a reservoir of anxiety. When I wrote my urologist initially about my PSA rise, I convinced myself that I’d overstated it, moved the decimal point in error. I said this out loud to Dr. Eigner and his PA, Anna Willis. They had to call me a couple of weeks later and say, nope. It’s ten feet high and risin’. Oh.

Apparently I bounced out of the blocks ahead of the gun in the PSA I mentioned below. Supposed to be at three months. I imagine they told me that but when I got the lab order in the mail I went in to do it now overdrive. So I got’er done. It is three months, almost, from the start of the Lupron, but it’s only a month and a half from the end of the radiation. Not sure if it I’ll need another one later. Maybe.

Got reassurance yesterday from Carmela. She said, “Those are great numbers!” Feeling a little sheepish here, but it does speak to my eagerness to have information about the state of my cancer. Forgivable, I think.

Kate and I are on the lookout for joy. Simcha. Been in short supply here for a while and we’re both missing that middah. This PSA result brings me joy. Kate’s going off to the CBE board meeting last night, on her own, brought me joy. Rigel’s nose this morning as she pushed against my hand. The softness of Kep’s coat. Gertie’s wiggly desire to get outside. The waning gibbous Harvest moon this morning has shining Aldebaran beneath it. Orion is there, too. The night sky with Black Mountain below lifts me into the broader universe. Joyful.

Drove down to Caliber Collision. Got there at 7:30 am. The guys were still in a conference so I had to wait a bit. Ryan came out, beefy guy with a thick beard. Hmmm. We’ll have to replace those three panels. And, good news, it looks like the dent in the door hasn’t impacted the rest of the door. Back in five minutes.

Coulda been worse

Ryan returned bearing several pages stapled together. It looked like a hospital bill. Now this number is before we’ve looked inside. If there’s any damage to the robotics, for example, there will be supplemental work. Traveler’s requires review of all supplementals.

How long once we’ve got approval? 7 days, I’d say. That’s without supplementals. If we have to do more? Ryan shrugged. The work and the bureaucracy. Yeah. I get it.

Back up to Evergreen where I had breakfast at the Dandelion. Home. New workout in the home space. Oh, those one legged squats. My quads burned. And, those bicep curls into a shoulder press? Shoulders feeling it.

Dr. Gidday said the other day, “You have to retire to have enough time for all the doctor appointments.” All this other stuff takes time too and my stamina is not what it once was. I’m feeling crowded in my schedule with fewer things to do.

Zimzum. All Holy.

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Bam. Rammed by Denmark in a Cruise America RV. Yes, Kate got rear-ended by a Danish couple on the last day of their American adventure. She wasn’t hurt physically, but it shook her up. As well it might. Thank god it was a fellow Scandinavian.

She was on the way to pick up Debra, who has moved to Lakewood and will soon move on further yet to Maryland. Both of them planned to attend the bagel table at CBE. Kate turned around and went back home. The damage to the new car looks minimal, but the rear, hydraulic door and the bumper below it have suffered. Given the way of these things, I’m going to imagine many dollars to fix. Also, the joys of dealing with insurance and body shops.

Kate’s call caught me as I was about unlock the door at CBE. I got there early to set up. Put out the bagels, the lox, the cream cheese. Set up the coffee I bought at Starbucks with cups and cream and sugar. Get out plates and napkins. Set out and collate the resources sheets I’d created.

Isidora Kaufman, One view of Torah

Faith reimagining work showed up as a morning conversation at Congregation Beth Evergreen. The usual content of the bagel table is commentary on the Parshah of the week from the Torah. This week it was Ki Tietzei, Deut. 21:10-25:19.

When I first agreed to do this, it was the week before my radiation began. What was I doing, I thought not long afterward. Teaching Torah to a group of Jews who’ve been immersed in it their whole lives? I have training in biblical literature, it’s true, but Christians use scripture in a very different way than Jews.

At first I took a dive into Ki Tietzei. It has 74 of the 613 mitzvot or laws. Even worse for me. Mitzvot are at the heart of an orthodox Judaism and have been interpreted over and over again in the mishnah and the Talmud. Not my strong suit.

Instead I decided we’d investigate the nature of Torah and the corollary question of the nature of revelation. And, we did, using Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Emerson, and Alan Watts plus four questions.

“If you see yourself in the correct way, you are all as much extraordinary phenomena of nature as trees, clouds, the patterns in running water, the flickering of fire, the arrangement of the stars, and the form of a galaxy. You are all just like that…” ~Alan Watts

This quote sums up our conversation. Torah means instruction or teaching. I’d learned from Rabbi Jamie a very broad sense of Torah, i.e. Torah is that which instructs us in how to be human.

The ten of us yesterday got to that point and had a lively discussion on what revelation meant. An expansive understanding emerged. Not God, or not just God in a traditional sense, but finding the holiness dispersed in the world at the time of the zimzum, that initial contraction, then shattering of the creation explained in the kabbalah which embedded holiness in every particle of existence.

It was great fun and the two hours flew by with all participating. Rabbi Jamie was there as were Tara and Alan. Jamie’s sabbatical ends today, but he decided to come anyhow. There were five others: Carol, Diane, Judy, Anne, and Sally. Perfect size for an inclusive discussion.

The eagerness of the conversation, the thanks at the end, the joy of teaching all buoyed me up. Helped with my ikigai. Just as Tom’s visit did. Friendship. Family. The mountains. Intellectual life at CBE. Cook. Workout. Paint. Write. Enough.

Transmutation

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

painting on the near side, sumi-e on the other

Reorganized my art cart (Jon’s name for it) so I could do sumi-e on one side and oil painting on the other. Finding myself more willing to engage physical tasks like this reorganizing, the fire mitigation, making art than writing. Is this my ikigai trying to surface? Don’t know. Waiting. Going with the flow of my life.

Phone appointment with Dr. Gilroy. Spoke with Amanda, his nurse, and Carmela, the friendly receptionist, too. A follow-up for side effects. Some mild urinary urgency, nocturia ( getting up more than once at night to pee), and hot flashes. None of them bad.

After telling me to make an appointment for eleven months from now, Dr. Gilroy suggested that I might be on the Lupron for a year, not six months. Sigh. Of course I want to do what gives me the best chance of a cure. Silly to resist. But. I’d like to know whether this is over or not. A year of Lupron would mean I couldn’t get that defining PSA until mid-September of 2020. I feel cured. I’d like to find out if I’m right.

Ah, it only two paragraphs for me to stop going with the flow. Again, sigh. Good lesson. I’ll wait.

After talking with Dr. Gilroy, I left for Evergreen and a bowl painting party. What’s that? We go to this crafty shop where they sell blank ceramic objects from bowls to plates to teapots to bumblebees. The nice lady there explains how the various glazes work.

After finishing. Kate and Marilyn, the organizer (the green one is Kate’s bowl)

The bowls raise money for the Mountain Resource Center, a multi-pronged social service agency that serves the Conifer/Evergreen area. Volunteers like our mussar group get together and each person creates a bowl of their own design. The craft shop fires the bowls. Later on a silent auction is held at two gatherings.

My appointment made me a bit late so I chose basic black for my bowl. From the bowl painting we went on to CBE for our regular Thursday mussar group. Fran, women in the black t-shirt above, led a discussion on aging.

In the conversation I introduced my third phase idea, ikigai, and a thought I had after an e-mail from Charlie Haislet. He’d been to several funerals of late and said, “The golden years suck.” “Yeah,” I wrote back, “often more lead than gold.”

Light bulb went on. The main task of the third phase is alchemical. We must somehow transmute the lead of anxiety, illness, slowing down, deaths of our friends and loved ones, into gold. How? Different for each of us, but some tools for the aging alchemist: acceptance, wu wei, gratitude, greeting one’s own mortality as a friend and not an enemy, friends, and family.

Kate was out and about with the bowl painting and mussar. Her stamina has improved a lot. She did get short of breath near the end. We’re both looking forward to the National Jewish appointment next week. She needs a diagnosis, a treatment plan, and a prognosis.

Flaneur

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

One of our O2 concentrators, Kate’s for night time, has a problem. Not sure what, but it was not producing enough O2. Her O2 saturation dropped and she could tell. Had to switch her onto the machine I use at night. This morning. O2 concentrator store service call.

Saw Alan yesterday. Breakfast at the Wildflower in downtown Evergreen. Even during the week after Labor Day and at 10 am the place had lots of customers. Alan’s got play rehearsals, a recycling day for the Rotary, a big deal, prep for the High Holy Days. He’s singing. A friend.

After breakfast I wandered down the board walk, a flaneur in a mountain town. Don’t often go in stores along the way. They don’t open until 11 for the most part. A tourist schedule. I’m rarely there after 11. Today I was.

The Evergreen Boot and Shoe Service has knives. The owner, Steve Repaz, is a collector. Pushed open the door next to the shoe shaped open sign. The familiar shoe repair smell. Leather, shoe polish, glue, a metal tang. Steve was polishing an oxblood slipper with a small piece of cloth. He lifted something, glue?, out of a volcano shaped mound on his worktable. Applied it.

I’m just here to look at the knives. Where you from? Conifer. Oh. I’ve been here 41 years and 10 months. Wow. Bet you’ve seen a lot of changes. Yes and no. I can’t really see out.

His windows had thick wooden blinds, half closed. The shop was its own small universe.

We talked for 20 minutes or so. Rather, Steve talked. He told me his family history. Swiss. How his ancestors fared in the Civil War. Pickett’s brigade. Cousins killed at Manassas. He warmed to his tale. Oh, this is a good story.

The bell on the door sounded. Steve mentioned Allentown, Pennsylvania. Oh, that’s where I’m from said the stocky man who’d just come in with his friend. I eased myself out the door.

Did some more work on my bagel table. Happening on the 14th. It will be different from Steve Tick’s. Writing and introspection, dealing with the purpose of revelation and how we experience revelation ourselves. How does sacred scripture model revelatory experience? What’s the purpose of revelation? Could we write sacred scripture ourselves? Looking forward to it.