Fumes

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Debra Cope, who came by for dinner. Safeway for deli salad and the baguette. The E-collar that solved the Murdoch no come in problem. Kate’s advice in that matter, and in so many others. Gertie, who will not let up on being a rascal. Mike who put in a wall socket for our new microwave.

Exhaustion. Creeps up, miss a nap here. Have Gertie chewing on a box in the sewing room after leaping out of the bedroom window there. Murdoch not wanting to come inside. The constant Game of Rooms necessary to keep Kep and Murdoch apart. Also, of course, the long term stress of first Kate’s Sjogren’s and loss of weight, then her bleed, then all that came after. Toss in a dash of cancer recurrence and a soupcon of COPD.

Plain weary. Short tempered. Thoughts not as crisp. Ashamed of myself for not being able to reign in my anger. Not new. Anger is hard for me. It comes, rising red and proud, sudden. Pushing. Demanding release. I do not have the mussar attitude here, lengthening the pause between striking the match and lighting the candle.

Right now. Up. Tired.

Downsize?

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.

Undetectable!

Winter and the Future Moon

Friday gratefuls: Mussar. The folks there, the down deep discussions. Yesterday, boredom was the topic. The actors in Resurrection: Ertugrul. For Radical Judaism, by Art Green. That sweet Gertie, who lay with her head on my pillow most of the night. Jon and our dinner at Aki on Broadway. The strange retail store, Orr’s Trading Post. Sleep. Kate’s improvement from New Year’s Day.

Unalloyed good news! Yes. PSA drawn a week ago, undetectable. If I have a similar one in March, then another similar one in June, I believe they’ll declare me cured. I feel cured. No tacit sense of foreboding, no undercurrent of doom. Felt a touch of the relief I’ll feel in June if I get the same results then.

No sense of foreboding, no, but a pressure on the psyche while waiting to discover the results of the radiation? Oh, yes. This June is a long way away (at least to me) from August of 2019 when I drove out to Lonetree for the last time to lie under the Cyberknife. That first PSA in September troubled me. This one buoys me up. May they continue.

Had dinner with Jon last night at Aki, a Japanese place on Broadway in Denver. He’s in a calmer place, less conflicted. So bright. Way brighter than me. I so hope he can ease himself into a better psychic space. We’re going to keep doing this, meeting for dinner. I hope the regularity will give him something of an emotional anchor.

In Mussar yesterday, for a check-in, I recounted the story of the dog battle and my realization of the warrior’s way. When I spoke about warriors putting their bodies on the line for our safety and security, I teared up. Thinking of Joseph.

Monet

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Kate and I went to see the Monet exhibit at the Denver Museum of Art. First outing for Kate in quite a while. Lesley, a fellow mussarite, architect and art historian, led the tour as a DMA docent.

Christoph Heinrich, director of the DMA, wrote his Ph.D. dissertation on Monet and used his scholarly contacts as well as his museum world contacts to organize this show with a fellow Monet scholar from Potsdam, Germany. It has 120 paintings by Monet that show the development of his unique, impressionist style over a period of years.

Leslie had a knowledgeable presentation, for which she had many notecards. The exhibit draws big crowds and the museum supplied ear pieces and a receiver. Leslie stood back and spoke to us through her headset while we looked at the paintings. Could have used this technology in several exhibits at the MIA.

The DMA has a different docent style than the MIA. The docent explains, gives facts and interpretations. The way it used to be everywhere, I believe. The MIA requires the docent to engage tour participants with questions about each work, questions that help them draw their own conclusions, that force them to look and learn for themselves. There’s a place for both styles, imo.

There were some beautiful pieces, some ordinary works that showed Monet working out what he wanted to paint, many showing early experimentation with putting colors next to each other and letting the eye merge them into the color Monet saw as he painted. There were no real show stoppers in the exhibit however. I imagine the cost of getting several haystacks, several Rouen cathedrals (there were none), and the large water-lilly works like hang at the Chicago Art Institute was too much.

While a docent at the MIA, I became friends with the registrar, a position little know outside the museum world. The registrar crew handles the art works, moving them, hanging them, indexing them with the museums cataloging protocols. From him I learned about the intricacies of putting an exhibit together.

Most museums require that works over a certain value, I believe it was two-hundred and fifty thousand at the MIA, are never out of sight of one of their employees. An employee travels on the plane with them, observing them be loaded and removed.

I remember he told me (can’t recall his name) a story about a painting being flown to Australia for an exhibition there. He agreed to go with the painting, but due to his workload, he flew there with it, watched it get unloaded and shipped to the museum, then turned around and got back on a plane to Minneapolis. A long, long time in the air.

Given Monet’s prices at auction I would guess most, if not all, of his many paintings exceed the value limit of the MIA. That would be a lot of insurance, shipping, and travel costs.

Found myself fascinated with his brushwork, color choices. I’ve not spent much in museums or galleries since I started painting. Made me want to start going again to inform my own work.

Mundane

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Stayed out late Tuesday, for us past 8 pm. Makes the next day slow. Tried to get into the resistance work, couldn’t. Muscles complained. Did thirty minutes on the treadmill.

In to see my ophthalmologist. (spelling gets me every time) Glaucoma check. Every six months for over 20 years. Now every 4 months. The usual. Eye charts. A small glass instrument pressed against the pupil to check pressures, 16 and 14. Scan of the retinal nerve. Mine’s still abnormal. Has been for as long as they’ve been following me.

Stopped by Tony’s market. Picked up a few things. Cooked supper. The end of the day.

Big day. I’m meeting Alan to go over our bagel table plan for Saturday morning. The Dandelion again in Evergreen. Slippery roads this am, freezing drizzle. Driving freezing drizzle down the mountains can be challenging. The Blizzaks went on Ruby last Friday and she has all wheel drive.

At 12:45 we’re meeting Steve and Jamie at the Staples parking lot. We’re going to a CBE tour of the Monet show at the Denver Art Museum, a four hundred object exhibit arranged by a curator at the Denver Art Museum. This is its only stop. Looking forward to it.

This evening we have MVP, the mussar vaad practice group. Had to be moved from Tuesday due to the shiva at Steve and Jamie’s.

That’s a lot of moving parts for us in one day. Good ones, yes, but still a lot.

Simcha

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Over to Aspen Roots. No, not a nursery, our hair stylist Jackie’s place. We’re as beautiful as we can get for a couple of days. Thence to King Sooper for soup ingredients: golden leek and potato. Picked up fresh sage, fresh thyme, leeks, Yukon Gold potatoes. And, some pita chips while Kate went to the bank.

Back home to cook. Simple, but labor intensive. A pound and three quarters of potatoes halved and sliced thin. Garlic sliced thin. Leeks washed and, yup, cut thin. Made a bouquet garni. Cheese cloth with the sage, thyme, bay leaves tucked in and tied up. Fun, but I find it tiring to stand so long. Maybe an hour plus.

The soup went with us to the mussar evening group. It was enjoyed. I’m always a bit nervous taking my cooking outside our house. My cooking style is innovative, not always to the recipe.

Kate presented on joy, simcha. I read Wendell Berry’s poem: Before Dark. We discussed the barriers to joy, how to cultivate, recognize joy.

Rabbi Jamie had to leave the group early. The second or third kid who drew swastikas on cars at a school parking lot came in for a talk. With his very dressed up parents. Jamie does this every once in a while. Last year he spoke to a kid who didn’t believe in the holocaust, an active anti-semite. He said the kid came around in the conversation. This kid and the others had followed along. Still pernicious, of course, but different.

Home in the behemoth. We have a Nissan SUV that looks like a gun boat and drives like an RV. It was the only thing they had at the Enterprise agency last Friday. The new Rav4 is at Caliber Collision having its rear bumper and rear door repaired. Kate’s accident a month ago or so.

Leaving early this morning, about 6:15 for Corneal Consultants in Littleton. Kate’s having her first cataract removed. The next one in two weeks. Hope to get some mitigating in later today.

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.

Old Guy. New Tricks.

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Old guy. New tricks. Took our 2018 Rav4 into the shop yesterday for an oil change. Waited in the Toyota temple as I always do, this time reading Neal Stephenson’s newest: Fall, or Dodge in Hell. These waiting areas are third spaces in architectural parlance, places where strangers gather and potentially meet. Not much meeting going on here as folks tap on tablets, punch the keyboards on laptops or look at their phones. The ubiquitous TV has lost much its allure to the handheld screens.

Alex, my Express Service guy, came in, found me, gave me my keys, a printout of what they’d done. All free because we’re still in the two year Toyota Care period. Back in the Rav4 I looked at the printout, double checking as is my habit. Huh? No oil change.

Walked back to see Alex. Nope, no oil change, just a tire rotation. Uh? Your car had an oil change at 4,750 miles. Oh? Yes. And that means the next oil change isn’t until 14,750 miles. Synthetics go ten thousand miles between changes. I was at 10,100, so I just thought…

The sticker, that little reminder beloved of car service centers everywhere, now lists mileage between tire rotations, not oil changes. What?

After 50 plus years of oil changes and service visits based on 5,000 mile intervals, this old dog was left shaking his head. Not to mention all the strange and wonderful features on this internal combustion engine powered computer. The only constant.

Driving back home through Evergreen, I saw a small herd of elk strung out along Maxwell Creek just after the turn from 73 onto Brook Forest Drive. Some were lounging, others drinking. We’re in the rut now and we’ll see more and more elk as it progresses. No bugling yet.

Back home Kate had managed the installation of our new dryer. Don’t think I mentioned that our old one died last week. The motor. $500 and a one year warranty. Nope. This white Speedqueen with a ten year warranty, a promotion, looks retro. It’s white enamel, sitting low to the floor, with an opaque door. No peeking at the socks as they tumble. Did two loads yesterday. Works fine.

A nap. Then off to On the Move for the second round with my new workout. I needed the second run through. Several of the exercises required me to do things my body found awkward. One of them, a lunge with a set of bands, Dave changed so I wouldn’t get off balance every time.

Over to King Sooper, not far from On the Move, to pick up my online order. In this case King Sooper employers pick your groceries, then bring them out to you on a small wagon filled with plastic totes. I pull into a slot marked Pick Up, call the phone number on the sign, tell them which slot I’m in, “#1.” and a worker brings out the groceries, loads them into the back. Slick.

Back home I cut up the watermelon I’d just bought, put it in a plastic container for Mussar Vaad Practice Group. Kate and I have gotten back, at least semi-back, to the rhythm of Beth Evergreen. I like that because we see friends, talk about ideas.

Soul Doesn’t Have Fear of Dying

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

As friend Tom Crane said in an e-mail, the carnival ride here continues with Gabe’s glove and Kate’s crash. Geez. I’ve never been a fan of karma as anything more than a metaphor, but I’m beginning to wonder…

Read an excellent interview with Ram Dass in the NYT. Ram Dass Is Ready to Die. “Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts: Those are the daily attention-grabbers that make it so that you can’t come from your mind to your heart to your soul… Soul doesn’t have fear of dying. Ego has very pronounced fear of dying.”

Hadn’t considered it that way before, but it seems right. The carnival ride is just that, a contraption meant to cause fear and anxiety. If you can step aside, witness it: Oh, that guy from Denmark ran into Kate. and Oh, that Gabe. Swallowing a rubber glove; you can stay engaged, but not captured.

Yamantaka and my soul

My time with Yamantaka contemplating my own death must have helped me with step aside, be a witness. Not perfect at it, of course. Anxiety and fear about certain things still creep into my life, into our life here on Shadow Mountain. During the most intense days of the last year I really wanted respect for the work I was doing with Kate, with our life. When I felt I wasn’t getting it, I got mad. Demanded it.

In retrospect I can see the flaw in my response. The need for recognition took me away from my love for Kate, the why of my care. It negated the very stimulus that made me stay in the heat, rather than pull away. So, far from perfect.

If I look back over my life, using, as Kate calls it, the retrospectoscope, I can see that need for recognition as a stumbling block. Often. When Dad wanted me to cut my hair or leave, I chose to leave. Why? Because he wasn’t respecting my choices about the war in Vietnam. Big loss for both of us and, from this perspective, unnecessary.

I’ve been stubborn in wanting to live my life my way. Not wanting to be shaped, molded by convention or usual modes of thought. Question everything could be the Latin inscribed on my personal crest. As long as that leads me to step aside from the received way of doing things and question them, decide on my own response, it’s beneficial. When it makes me dig in my heels, be reluctant to change, it’s not. Ram Dass might say when it concentrates on my ego.

Come from your mind to your heart to your soul, Ram Dass says. This, too, feels right though that last move, from heart to soul, is hard to grasp. At least for me. Soul. A big, big idea in my current inner work.

Mind. Sure. My mind has written most of this. It’s active and a source of pleasure for me. Moving to the heart response, compassion for Gabe and his glove, Kate and her crash, Tom and his colonoscopy today (with you in my heart, guy!), I get that, do that. Perhaps not as effortless as thinking, writing, but getting to the heart is a natural move.

On the other hand the move from heart to soul, from engaged actor to witness, to the deeper, the eternal? Harder. Hard because I jettisoned the idea of a soul for so many years. Existentialist, all there is, is right here, right now. Mind and heart, yes. But nothing escapes death. Nothing remains except memories in the hearts and minds of others still living. Over the last year or so I’ve been questioning this nihilist conclusion and that questioning focuses on the soul.

Not saying I’m back to believing in an afterlife, neither heaven nor hell, reincarnation resonate for me. Not at all. But the sense that their is a core part of me, a grain of sand around which the pearl of heart and ego grow, yes, I can see that now.

Why? Namaste. The god in me bows to the god in you. Yes. There is, in you, a god, and I can sense it. Namaste’s reciprocal claim, the god in me, has lead me to nod.

Love your neighbor as you love your Self. (my capitalization) Yes. Love you, because you are in the image of the divine, as I love my own divine image. Yes.

Maybe all the grains of sand, from trees and sharks and eagles and even Donald Trump, roll down the great river of death into the Gulf of Silence, creating there a sandbar, a shifting stretch of land in the water of eternity. Is there a simulacrum of life there? No idea. But I can imagine us all together, equal to each other, all who’ve lived. In some strange way substantial. So, who knows?

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.