Imbolc and the Shadow Mountain Moon (full)

Monday gratefuls: A heart to heart with Kate. Seoah’s compassion. Gabe’s, “Getting over Gertie’s death is going to be hard.” Gertie, still with us. Murdoch, in doggy juvie. A full moon lighting the lodgepoles. 2 feet of fresh white snow. Family. So grateful for all of us.

Kate gave Ruth the title, Honorary Doggy ICU Nurse. Ruth hit on crushing the oxy and delivering it to Gertie in sugar water. She also slept the night on the couch next to Gertie, getting up every so often to clean Gertie, move her around. She also brushed Kepler, who’s blown his coat again. Probably anxiety coupled with the warm spell last week.

Her current passion is baking. She made me a white cake with pink frosting. It was moist, sweet. Ruth shoveled the back decks, too. I appreciated it since I threw my back out last Tuesday carrying Gertie outside to pee.

Gabe brought down a quilt and a soft pillow for Gertie. He and Ruth have known Gertie their whole lives. Gertie is 12, Ruth 13, and Gabe 11. Her dying is hard for them in a way I can’t imagine.

I do know that in spite of Gertie’s suffering their opportunity to be with her for two days and nights was important for them. It was true family with many tears, many laughs, consoling of each other.

Seoah has taken the role of night nurse after Ruth went home. We’re downstairs and can’t hear Gertie over the sounds of our oxygen concentrators. We get up during the night and go see her, but we don’t hear her when she starts to cry. Seoah does. And, she comes down to comfort her.

Ruth told me that Seoah would make a great mother. And, she would. I told Seoah and she shyly thanked me. I hope she and Joe have a child. They want one.

Down the hill with Ruth and Gabe, taking them back to Jon. I suggested to him that he take another rest day and I’d take them home. Jon’s feeling better, not well, but better.

On the way home I stopped at the New York Deli and bought Kate two quarts of their chicken noodle soup (CNS). I got a grilled ruben and Seoah wanted a sandwich that would never have occurred to me, a tuna blt. Which she reported, was wonderful. Well…

Our house has a snow roof about 18 inches over the solar panels and shingles. The lodgepoles lost most of their snow in the winds Saturday and Sunday. They sent clouds of snow falling into the forest. At any one moment Black Mountain had several isolated pockets of fresh falling snow as the wind danced among the pines. It is quiet and mountain beautiful here.

Today we plan to take Gertie to the vet for euthanasia. In this case I can understand why, wish I’d seen it as necessary earlier. But, I didn’t. Later in the day Seoah and I are going to Bergen Bark Inn to visit Murdoch. Seoah wants to talk to them about boarding Murdoch for the whole 10 months. Wow.

Thursday and Friday

Imbolc and the Shadow Mountain Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Kate’s surgeon. Her healing fingers. Ruth’s help. Seoah’s help. Joe from Singapore. His help. Jeffco snowplowers. Getting back to the loft. Murdoch in the kennel. Gertie’s pain managed right now. Ted for two pushes yesterday. Jon felt comfortable asking me for help.

As far as I can remember, even when traveling, I’ve never gone more than a day without a post. Let me give you a rough idea of why it happened this time.

Wednesday night Gertie started moaning in pain. SeoAh got up, then got us up. We’re downstairs and can’t hear her very well. Me, not at all. We were all up with here for an hour plus, giving her water, lying with her. She’s on her dog bed in the living room. Comfortable in that way, but the cancer pain came on stronger than we anticipated.

Thursday morning instead of coming up here to write, I went back to bed and slept in until 8:30. Kate’s iPad was in the shop in Denver and finished. I went in right then to get it since we both wanted to attend a potluck at CBE for the artist in residence, Ruth Gendler.

Was hungry so I stopped at Swift’s breakfast place on Santa Fe. Great joint. Formica table tops. Orange. Lots of men my age eating breakfast, many solo, but a group right behind me reminded me of the Woollies in their table conversation. Booths. Two seaters and four seaters extending in a long, narrow room.

My eggs, crisp bacon, American fries, and French toast went down like a gourmet meal. While I ate, I read the NYT about the impeachment trial. Waitresses with plates of pancakes, eggs, waffles sometimes three to an arm, moved between the two rows of booths. My kinda joint. Much like Pappy’s back in Andover.

After the meal, I hobbled back to the car. Threw my back out carrying Gertie outside on Wednesday. Seat heater on high my back felt caressed and I drove the three blocks over to 8th to the Apple repair place. As I pulled into a parking space right in front of it, I got a call from a strange number. I answered.

“Charlie, you have come home. Katie got bit.” It was Seoah. It was about 10 am. I talked to Kate. Kate had let Kepler inside while Murdoch, unbeknownst to her was in the living room. The door to the sewing room was open and he charged in to meet Kepler. A fight ensued in which two of Kate’s fingertips, her right middle finger and the between it and her little finger, got chewed off. “I need to go the E.R.” she said.

I got Kate’s iPad and headed back up the mountain. The roads were clear and I went fast, making the drive in 32 minutes. Kate had the fingertips on ice, had stopped the bleeding by squeezing her fingers, and sat calmly in a chair in the sewing room, right next to where it happened. Seoah got bit, too. A finger and her leg.

Gertie got some water and another pain med (oxycontin), then we took off for the Swedish E.R. once again. Kate went away with an E.R. nurse, so I took Seoah to a Rocky Mountain Urgent Care not far away from Swedish. With finding Seoah’s insurance (a military one, Tricare) and her time with a doctor, we were there until 2:30 pm.

A nurse liaison from Swedish had texted me, wondering where I was. I told her I was with Seoah. Kate was about go into surgery. Oh. Well. I’ll be there when I finish up with Seoah.

Back to Swedish to the Surgery waiting room on the third floor. Knew right where it was. Kate’s surgery lasted for almost three hours. At 5 pm, due to an imminent snow storm approaching the mountains and a house full of dogs that were hungry, plus Gertie with no pain meds, I decided to leave before the surgery finished. Kate would be in recovery for at least an hour if not more and even then not be very aware.

On the way home I spoke to the surgeon. “The fingertips were too shredded. I closed the fingers up.” I asked about her dexterity. “She should have full functionality, even for sewing and quilting.” He paused, went on, “I’m worried about those dogs you have. Somebody else could hurt. Even children.” Yes, I said, I know. We’re concerned about them, too.

By the time we reached Conifer the snow had begun. Once we reached home Rigel and Kep went on into the snow. Gertie moaned in pain. I was feeling guilty about insistence on not euthanizing her. I condemned her to this. Exhausted from the day my emotional reserves fell short. Hard to get back to a stable place. Crying. Feeling guilty. Seoah comforted me.

After Gertie quieted down, I fed Rigel and Kepler while Seoah let Murdoch out through the downstairs. What to do about the dogs? This was on Seoah’s mind and mine.

I fell asleep, not knowing or hearing Gertie’s moans. Seoah got up with her. Kep got me up around 5 or so. We’d already had over 6 inches by that time. How could I help Gertie? How was Kate? I hadn’t talked to her the night before. What were we going to do about Murdoch? How were Seoah’s bites? A lot of stuff swirling around.

Two immediate matters were Murdoch and Gertie. Seoah and I agreed that Murdoch needed to go to a kennel. That would lower the temperature level by a lot, not having to worry about a fifth (!) fight. Called Bergen Bark Inn where we boarded our dogs several different times. Yes, they could take and Akita, even one who’d been aggressive. It might cost extra if he couldn’t be out with the other dogs. Told Seoah. She said, just money. You and Katie be happy, safe.

This decision made me feel bad, since I’d wanted to give Seoah and Joe a peaceful and happy time in Singapore. Not to be. Felt like I was letting them down.

Gertie. I tried to find out what a maximum dose of oxy was for her. Got no help. Grrr. Decided finally to give her two more full tabs. That would eventually quiet her. At one point I had eight in my hand. End it now. I would have done it, but Kate wanted me to know the lethal dose and nobody would tell me. So I went with the two.

Around 9 Seoah and I drove in what was already a big snow storm to Evergreen. We took Murdoch in to the chalet like office of Bergen Bark Inn. I felt sad. He was so happy, bouncy. The staff there were great. They remembered Vega, Rigel, Gertie, and Kepler, so they understood the doggy context.

One of the staff told me about the Evergreen Animal Protective League. They don’t have a shelter, just find new homes or foster homes for animals. I got a phone number. It would be ideal of course to find somebody up here in the Evergreen/Conifer area to take Murdoch. That will be today.

On the way home my sadness shifted to relief. Seoah, too. Hard for her, but she said, Katie more important. Yes. I agreed.

Back home the two oxy’s had soothed Gertie and she rested. In talking with Kate I learned she would come home in the afternoon. Still snowing, another 6 inches or so. 12 by noon or so.

I went to bed for a nap around 12:30. While I napped, I got a text from Jon. Could I come over to Aurora and pick up Ruth and Gabe? He was really sick. Sure. I said.

Still snowing. Around 2 I left for Aurora. On the way down I went full Minnesotan, driving smoothly past the Coloradans with, oh, no, snow! on their minds, driving 40 mile an hour or less in the right lane. Precipitation hits their panic button. Especially snow. Weird, but true.

On the way down 285 northbound looked like a parking lot all the way to Morrison. Two jackknifed semis plus CDOT closed I-70 between Golden and the Eisenhower tunnel. Everybody coming home to Evergreen or Idaho Springs would have to detour up 285. Oh, joy.

Down though, was slick thanks to the hesitancy of folks with insufficient snowy road experience. Made it to Aurora around 3. The snow slowed way down once I passed through the hogbacks and went under Co 470. Picked up Ruth and Gabe on Florence and drove back to Swedish to pick up Kate. A nurse brought her down, we loaded her up, two gauzy fingers, and hit the road back for Conifer.

Once the semi’s cleared, 285 traffic moved. Slowly, but we made it up to Brook’s Tavern about 5 pm or so. Not bad. Had dinner there. By the time we made it back to Shadow Mountain almost 18 inches of snow had fallen.

This morning Ruth’s asleep on the couch, Gabe’s on the futon in the guest room, Seoah’s in the guest room. Murdoch’s in his kennel. Gertie was quiet. I’m feeling better rested and less labile. Kate’s still asleep. More yet do do, but taking Murdoch to the kennel opened up some breathing room for us all.

And that’s what I was doing the last two days.


Imbolc and the Shadow Mountain Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Ted, who plowed our driveway early. The snow. Temps below zero. Almost a Minnesota June afternoon. Delicious meal last night, SeoAh. (Spring onions, enoki mushrooms, eggplant and thinly sliced, fried beef.) Not having to watch Murdoch. A weird short TV series about teens and Norwegian myth: Ragnarok.

When I picked up SeoAh at DIA on Sunday, it was 74. This morning we have over 6 inches of fresh snow and the temp is -2 on Shadow Mountain.

When I sit on the bench with Kate, hugging her, my heart leaps. Yes, she’s bony, her s-shaped spine protrudes and her ribs are palpable, but she’s over a hundred pounds now. She moves with much less effort and her pencil is still sharp for crosswords.

We’ve come to a new place, an appreciation for the fragility of our bodies tempered by the constancy of our love. Two years in we smile and laugh a lot. We plan for the future. Enjoy meals together. Care for the dogs together.

The snow comes down and its beauty is sweet. The occasional deer and elk in our yard are thank you gifts from the mountain spirits. Our house is bright and cheerful. We live in the Rockies and on Shadow Mountain.

Murdoch has proved a pain in the elbow and wrist, but his eagerness, his teen dog energy, his love, like Kepler, of the snow makes him a joy, too. Everything is polyvalent.

Before she left Singapore for Colorado, SeoAh told Joe she was going home. “Your home is here,” he said. “No,” she said, “I have two homes. One here and one in Colorado.” She will come back at least three more times for a month. She is our daughter.

Here’s the takeaway. No matter the challenges our perspective on them is up to us. We can become drowned in a sea of troubles, resenting misfortune, or we can learn how to surf.

This Rumi poem is a gift from Paul Strickland:

Love Dogs by Rumi

One night a man was crying Allah! Allah!

His lips grew sweet with praising, until a cynic said, “So! I’ve heard you calling out, but have you ever gotten any response?”

The man had no answer to that. He quit praying and fell into a
confused sleep. He dreamed he saw Khidr, the guide of souls,in a
thick, green foliage.

“Why did you stop praising?”

“Because I’ve never heard anything

“This longing you express is the return message.”
The grief you cry out from draws you toward union.
Your pure sadness that wants help is the secret cup.

Listen to the moan of a dog for its master. That whining is the

There are love dogs no one knows the names of.
Give your life to be one of them.

Just Another Saturday

Imbolc and the Shadow Mountain Moon

Sunday gratefuls: SeoAh. What a treasure in our lives. I pick her up around eleven. The zoomguys: Paul, Tom, Mark, Bill. Old friends. Nothing better. Sundays. Still a restful day, a quasi-sabbath. Snow coming.

Last Saturday we went to the Porter Adventist E.R. (not sure it’s worthy of the name) to have Kate’s feeding tube replaced. The onsite doc did not want to do it, but decided, after consultation with Kate’s surgeon, Ed Smith, to go ahead. His first instinct was right. He put in the wrong size tube. Yesterday we went to see Ed. He’s going to slip a new one in on Monday or Tuesday.

When he saw Kate’s obvious progress, he beamed in his off-center way, head cocked to one side. He’d grown, like most folks do, to appreciate Kate. He asked for a hug before we left. Ed gives a damn. May his kind flourish.

5 days with no fights, no bites. OSHA sign in the room where we feed the dogs. Two Jeffco animal control officers came by for the 5 day check on Kepler’s health. Which is fine. We purchased a Colorado license for Murdoch from them. I knew where his shot records were. Kep got his new license last week.

The guy was big, solid, and young, looked ex-military. The woman with him was the trainee. She did the paperwork while he observed.

“I don’t believe I caught your name?” “Charlie.” “Officer Clark.”

Replaying this because his, “Officer Clark” took me by surprise. I realized then that titles are as much about distance as they are about honorifics. I’m Charlie, a citizen in his home. This was an Officer of the state. In this interaction he held the power, so he needed a gap between familiarity and his role.

They’ll be back on Thursday for the 10 day check on Kep, then he’ll be free. Of course, his freedom now has a check mark against it. Just read the Jeffco animal control ordinance. Not as bad as I feared. Vicious dogs are those who bite off the dog owner’s premises. On site, not vicious. Another report would not be good, but it would not be fatal, either.

We’ve had Kep here five years and he’s never been reported before. No bites to humans. I imagine that will continue.

SeoAh’s plane leaves San Francisco in 48 minutes. It will be a relief to have her here. I need the rest and we need to work out a new plan. Not sure what it will be right now.

Broken. Replaced.

Winter and the Future Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Hot water in San Francisco! Diane’s recommendation of “Getting Open.” Sleep. Rest. Feeling rejuvenated. The U.S. grocery store. The NYT for endorsing Amy and Elizabeth. Blizzaks. AWD on Ruby. Healing from the dog bite. Almost done.

Cooked last night. Deep fried chicken chunks from a deli chicken. Coated with bread crumbs. Surprisingly good. Broke our vegetable chopper, too. A second time. I prefer hand tools in the kitchen for food prep. Knives, choppers, dicers, zesters. We have a mandolin somewhere and I want to find it. Just ordered a Swedish chopper, made of metal. More durable.

Broke the chopper making a version of Israeli salad. It was the onions that did it in. Well, not the onion, but me, pressing down quick and hard on the onion. Little blades popped off the cutting grid. Not supposed to happen. Got the salad, diced onions (by knife), tomatoes, cucumber, and a generous sprinkling of cilantro. Some lime juice. Some Italian seasoning.

But. I was also gonna warm up the cabbage and potatoes in the microwave. Put them in the microwave at the start. Kate’s taught me to get all the ingredients out before I begin. Forgot about the potatoes and the cabbage. Still in the microwave this morning.

Oh, yeah. Finally got the microwave installed. After the first appointment, I had to have an electrician come out to create a wall socket for it, then reschedule the installation. Happened Saturday. Kate is very happy. She can reheat her coffee. Hot coffee and the crossword in the morning make Kate a happy gal. I’m indifferent to coffee temperature. Cold. Hot. Meh. Not a gourmet.

Spent time yesterday on another modern chore. Cutting up boxes. We get our dogfood through Great service. Reasonable prices. Free shipping. And large cardboard boxes. Bought some airtight dogfood containers, too, through Amazon. Really big boxes. As I’ve noted before, the home has become a shipping and receiving department. All those cardboard boxes that used to get cut up at the warehouse or in the back of the store are now in living rooms across America. Or, garages.

Anyone rural appreciates the chance to look things up online and order them for delivery. Beats going on a Saturday morning quest for the right pan or sheets or, say, a vegetable chopper. Especially if the stores are miles and miles away. Makes a huge difference to caregivers like me, too. It’s why Sears and Roebuck did so well with their catalog. A shame they couldn’t make the transition to an economy much like the one they introduced back in the late 19th century.

Got doggy things to do now. Tomorrow.

Early to bed…

Winter and the Future Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Marilyn Saltzman, who works so hard. Rabbi Jamie’s The Human Narrative class. Truly radical religion. Extra sleep this am. (writing this at 9 am. way late for me) Heirloom tomatoes. Honeycrisp apples. Metamucil. The old garden in Andover where I learned so much. The beautiful light illuminating Black Mountain.

Still tired today, but less so. Got back to the house about 9pm last night after a focus group at Beth Evergreen. The first one of several. Part of a five year strategic planning process. They put me in this group with mostly founding members and other long termers. I was the only Gentile in the room. The focus group started at 7 pm, a time when I’m in my jammies and within an hour of going to bed. Not my time for peak performance.

Felt dull on the way home. Don’t like evening meetings anymore. Used to be my bread and butter. Now I fade after 6, 6:30 pm. The pattern we’ve gotten into. Since I get up between 4:30 and 5:00, it makes sense. But it makes evening sessions requiring, as Hercules Poirot says, “…the little gray cells,” hard.

More sleep still needed, but much better.

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.

Mountain Strong

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: For Paul’s idea of the 60 second hug and zero negativity. For Bill’s call yesterday. For Rabbi Jamie and Art Green, the class at Kabbalah Experience by Zoom. For Sandy, who cleans with energy and whose tumor has begun to shrink. For all the good dogs everywhere. All dogs are good dogs. For Mountain Waste who takes away the stuff we can’t use, don’t need.

Mountain strong. See that a lot up here. Bailey’s town motto is Mountain Strong. Has a sort of defiant, libertarian meaning to most. Clues: lots of comments about guns as a primary home defense system. About citiots. (city idiots) Griping about service up here when we know the difficulties involved.

Also, though. We can handle it our own. We’re neighbors, let’s help each other. Respect the wildlife. Keep the night dark.

I like it. Mountain strong. That’s how Kate and I feel. We’re mountain strong. Can it be difficult up here? Oh, yes. The thin air has caused both of us problems most of the time we’ve been here. On certain days the snow is so good we can’t go anywhere. IREA, the local electrical company, has miles of lines in difficult to reach, yet sensitive to weather places. Like up and down whole mountains. Outages are not uncommon and Kate needs O2 24/7. Generator. Delivery is episodic rather than consistent though we have an exceptional (for the mountains) mail carrier. Not to mention that it’s far away to all the services we need.

All true. What I call the Mountain Way. Just more molasses to crawl through for certain aspects of daily life.

However. The bare rock, the lodgepole pines, the aspen groves, the cold rushing creeks, the deep valleys and tall mountain peaks, the moose, the elk, the muledeer, the fox, the lynx, the bobcat, the mountains lions, the bears, the magpies and the Canada Jays, the crows and the ravens, the curvy roads, the changing seasons. And the clear, dark nights with the Milky Way and Orion and Ursa Major, Gemini and the whole zodiac. The clouds, the lenticular clouds and the clouds with a long straight front coming over Mt. Evans. When they’re lit by the rising or setting sun.

And for me, the two visits from the mountain spirits. The three mule deer bucks who greeted me when I came to close on the house on Samain of 2014. The two Elk bucks who stayed in our yard for a day eating dandelions. The day before I started radiation treatment.

Mountain strong. They promised that, welcomed me on the close of the Celtic year. They promised that, assured me on the day before the Cyber Knife visits. We are neighbors, mountain spirits and humans. We need mutuality to survive. The mountains themselves have greeted me and come to me as companions. Our mountain journey is now five years old and only just begun.

Mountain strong.

Five Years

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: SeoAh’s pasta and shrimp. SeoAh. Joe, who is in Hawai’i right now. Kate and her doggedness, her get up and keep goingness. That her fall last night was not serious. The snuggling of Gertie, Rigel, and Kepler. The grandmother tree, alive after her loss of a limb. Each and every soul soaked particle in this and all the other universes.

December 19, 2014

” When the dogs got here last night, they jumped out, ran around in the backyard for a moment, then promptly turned around, ran back in the garage and jumped back in the Rav4. Like a vintage Keystone cops moment, it took more than one try to get them inside the house. Two would come in and a third run back to the garage, then one would come in and two would rush back to the garage. When I opened the Rav4’s front door to retrieve some belongings, all three dogs quickly pushed passed me into the driver’s and passenger’s seat’s to stage a sit-down, lie-down strike.”

December 20, 2014

“The pack has come together. Kate and Gertie arrived around three. There was a good deal of mutual sniffing and wagging of tails. Kate the Intrepid, as Jane West calls her, dismounted from the cargo van with a victorious grimace. She had driven it all the way, by herself. See.”

Five years ago today Kate and I were here. Tom had gone to the airport and we were alone in a house empty except for six mammals trying to get used to new and different surroundings. Kate and I huffed and puffed. I emptied the rental cargo van and drove it back to Enterprise. We had to pay an extra relocation charge on it since I wasn’t gonna drive it back to Minnesota.

It wasn’t easy. The mover couldn’t get the van in our driveway. It had to go back down the mountain while the driver rented two u-haul trucks. I’ve seen this several times since. Movers call it shuttling. Adds a couple of grand, but, hey. What you gonna do? Go back?

But, in our case. The first shuttle truck got stuck in the ditch. Snowing, cold. A tow truck called. It didn’t come. Later we learned it had gotten stuck on the way up here. By this time everybody’s frustration level had mounted. Got sorted, as these things do, and here we are. An introduction to mountain living.

The darkness of the longest night, the winter solstice night, lay ahead. I was glad for the quiet and the depth it offered. Tomorrow night will be our sixth Winter Solstice here. Celebrating in the usual quiet way.

SeoAh leaves tomorrow at 7 pm, headed to San Francisco where she’ll meet Joe, then fly on to Singapore. Murdoch’s first night without her will be the solstice.

The West

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Seoah and her light presence as a guest, Murdoch again, the Grandmother Tree at CBE, the night drive up Brook Forest, then Black Mountain drives, the fox that crossed our path, the mule deer doe standing, looking toward the road, the nightlife of the wild, the ultimate wildness of the heavens

December 20, 2014 “The enormity of this change is still a little hard to grasp. We’re no longer Minnesotans, but Coloradans. We’re no longer flatlanders but mountain dwellers. We’re no longer Midwesterners. Now we are of the West, that arid, open, empty space. These changes will change us and I look forward to that. The possibility of becoming new in the West has long been part of the American psyche, now I’ll test it for myself.”

December 18, 2019 The usual mythic significance of the West, where the light ends, where souls go when they die, seems quite different from its American mythos as almost a separate country, an Other World where you could leave Europe behind, leave the East Coast behind and rejuvenate, remake yourself. (yes, Native Americans were here already. But I’m talking about the frontier, the Old West, the place where Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and lots of versions of John Wayne lived. And, yes, the Spaniards on the west coast and as far north as what is now New Mexico. The Russians, too.)

Seems quite different. Yes. However, “the possibility of becoming new in the West.” The American mythic West is about where souls go when they die, when they die to a past that had not prospered in the East, to a life no longer well lived, to a life lived in the all too usual way, to a life of boredom.

What would we become? When would the West become home? When would this house on Black Mountain Drive become home? All those boxes. All that altitude adjustment. And, we would gradually learn, an attitude adjustment to mountain life.

We have become people of the mountains, in love with them enough to adapt our lives to thin air in spite of the difficulty it presents to us. We have become people of the tribe, of clan Beth Evergreen, part of a strange and intriguing religious experiment, a new community. That was part of what people sought in the West. A chance to build community anew, to different rules.

We have become embedded in the lives of our grandchildren, of Jon. They love the mountains, too. Our choice, to live close, but not too close, has had its challenges, but has worked out well. It’s hard for us to provide day to day support for Jon and the kids. We’re too far away and too physically challenged (of late). We are, however, a mountain refuge for them, a place away from the city where they can come to refresh. We’re also on the way to A-basin, Jon’s favorite ski area.

When we travel now, the return no longer involves a turn north, toward the Pole, but a turn West, toward the mountains and the Pacific. Our friends in the north, in Minnesota have stayed in touch. We’ve not gotten back much; it’s so good to still have solid connections.

We change altitude frequently, often dramatically during a day’s normal routine. No more mile square roads, farmland templates. No more 10,000 lakes. And, up where we live, in the montane ecosystem, no deciduous trees except for aspen. No more combines on the road, tractors, truck trailers full of grain and corn headed to the elevators. (yes, in Eastern Colorado, but we’re of the mountains.)

The pace of life in the mountains is slower. Many fewer stoplights, fewer stores, less nightlife. Service of all kinds is slower, too. Plumbers. HVAC guys. Mail folks. UPS. Fedex. Denver Post. Painters and electricians. Once we quit expecting metro area level of service, especially in terms of promptness and predictability, life got better. The mountain way.

Our life in the West has also been shaped, profoundly, by medicine and illness. Tomorrow.