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.

Pupating

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Work out yesterday. Wore myself out. Guess that’s the point. I made a promise to myself that I would hit all of my workouts during the radiation treatments. I did that. Ready for the new set of exercises. See Deb on Tuesday at 10 am.

Made spaghetti bolognese last night. Tony’s bolognese sauce and an Italian durum pasta. Vegetables. Easy. I’m enjoying cooking again. It’s not the slog it was during the early weeks of radiation.

The post below outlines my current dilemma. Hanging from the yardarm, neither on the boat nor in the sky. The ocean beneath both. Won’t last. Just like my current, I’m a TV critic level of watching won’t either.

Serious illness spins a chrysalis around us, a secluded darkness in which matters of previous importance drop away. All energy focuses on transformation, altering the sick person and his past, imaginal cells bending and twisting, changing. What will he become?

Zhuangzi

I’m impatient for my wings. Guess this is a good opportunity to practice the middah of the month, equanimity. Back off the accelerator. Lean in to the healing, transformative moment, even if the moment lasts months. Practice wu wei. Yes.

I’m not impatient for angel wings. So, yes, the chrysalis moment is necessary. The caterpillar can’t envision the butterfly.

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

6 days now with no glow. I’m a no glow zone. Gut seems to have settled down. Mornings are good, energy better. As Joseph said on the way home from Merton and Rebecca’s 50th anniversary party, “I can feel my powers returning.”

Hot flashes have begun to occur with more frequency. Disconcerting. Is it me, or is it the room temperature? Mine are not really flashes so much as hot flushes. A prickly heat sensation at the base of the neck, then my head gets warm, sometimes uncomfortably so. A couple of times I’ve had to wipe sweat off the back of my neck.

At MVP the other night I had to get up twice and go outside. The social hall at CBE has banks of 7 or 8 foot windows and it’s always warm to hot in the summer. Being in a warmer environment encourages the flushes. It was weird to leave an intense discussion because I was too hot, but I did it anyway.

Flowers from Mr. T

We’ve gotten more food. And flowers. And chocolate. And cake. And pie. Thanks, if you’re one who contributed. Having the meals over the last month has made the days so much better. I pick the pan back up starting next week.

May not recalibrate our lives for a while. The Lupron.

Lunar Awe

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Ogata Korin After: Crows and the Moon

The full Moon of the First Harvest floated above the mountain tops as Kate and I drove home last night from Beth Evergreen. I love these night drives through the Arapaho National Forest, wild animals sleeping, hunting, drinking from the mountain streams, a full moon casting its light down among the lodgepole pines and aspen.

The Mussar Vaad Practice Group met. We checked in on our awe practices for the last month. Instead of cultivating this middah, as we do with patience or joy or enthusiasm, the consensus was that we open ourselves to awe. As I’ve written here a few posts ago, considering awe this month led to an insight for me, one I’ve been seeking for years.

Katsushika Hokusai Mt. Fuji seen from a mountain path

Opening ourselves to awe is, I believe, the act of opening ourselves to revelation, to seeing the Otherworld, the one that lies close to us, even within us, but which habit, culture, language, fear, denial, inattention blocks from view. When we open ourselves to awe, we find the cracks in those all too human barriers. At first we may glance behind the curtain only briefly, but this openness we can cultivate.

There was the Moon of the First Harvest yellow gold, round, luminous. It slipped behind this peak, this grove of trees, then reappeared as we drove up Brook Forest Drive and on to Black Mountain Drive. You could say, oh, that’s the moon. Nice. Or, you could open yourself a bit and see, maybe first, our rocky satellite come round again. Keeping the aperture open a bit longer you might feel the beauty of its loneliness in the night sky. The wonder of its soft light. Imagine what it means to sleeping deer, elk. To prowling mountain lions or foraging bears.

Chikanobu Plum garden moon

You might find yourself lost in the legends of moon phases or practices like moon watching parties in Japan. Or, you could open yourself to this particular full moon as the skies memory for those first nights of harvesting wheat. Smell the bread. See the corn dollies and the shocks of cut grain. This full moon is not just another full moon but one embedded in a natural context, a cultural context, a personal context. Each of these available if we only pause, push away the occulting screens of routine and the need to hurry home.

The MVP group is precious to me. It’s a chance to be honest, to think clearly, to learn from the inner work of others. I love these people: Susan, Judy, Marilyn, Ron, Rich, Kate, Jamie, and Tara. And that love is part of the experience of awe. We met as strangers not many years ago and now we see each other, really see each other.

And, four to go

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

The Concert, Gerard van Honthorst

Finishing the fractions to renaissance music. It conjures up visions of castles, balls, courtly life. A world far removed from photons and linear accelerators. No CyberKnifes in the late middle ages. Just a lot of great art, city states. Kim, therapist Kim, says it reminds her she wants to go to the Renaissance Festival. That, too.

Thirty-first fraction yesterday, 4 to go. Gut problems reduced. Much less gas. Nicky measured my bladder. Each day I get a small amount of gel rubbed on my tummy, an ultrasound probe goes on the gel. Yesterday. “100.” Nicky said. That’s ml of urine, btw. 100 is the magic number. Anything above it and the treatment can go ahead. Unless gas. The things we do for a cure.

Michelle and David brought fish, salad, rice, vegetables, and lemon cake on Sunday. CBE folks. When SeoAh was here, we ran into Michelle at Walmart. This was January. Her husband, David, had a month old diagnosis of prostate cancer, with metastases. I told her about my experience in 2015.

Later, when my new diagnosis came, I talked to her at mussar. David and I got together for coffee at the Muddy Buck in Evergreen. As it happened, that was the Friday I saw Dr. Gilroy to discuss treatments. David mentioned Lupron to me in the morning; I had it prescribed for me in the afternoon. David, too, had radiation, though 20 sessions rather than 35.

The Muddy Buck, Evergreen

He’s had side effects from the Lupron. Memory loss, hot flashes at night. Since he had mets, they couldn’t do a radical prostatectomy. Too much chance that would spread the cancer rather than eliminate it. In his case they’re trying to suppress all the testosterone, so he’s getting a second medication that takes care of testosterone produced in places you don’t suspect, like the adrenal gland.

It was good to talk with him again. A mini support group. I’ve got lots of support, but David is the only one who also has prostate cancer.

The last week of treatment, one drive down, four to go.

Being Seen

Summer and the Radiation Moon

25th fraction today. Ten more to go. No longer sure when I finish since we lost two days more this week. Probably the 9th of August, barring other infestations.

Kate’s promoting a new superhero: Bedbugman/woman. It starts in a cancer treatment center where a mild-mannered physician, who looks like Dr. Gilroy, gets bitten by a bedbug irradiated by the CyberKnife. There’s more to figure out, like powers and villains and such, but this could be a rival to Marvel, doncha think?

Wednesday and Thursday were what we prostate cancer patients like to call Bedbug days. Hopefully the heat treatment got the little bastards. But. Will bedbug guy return with a new creepy crawly and start this cycle over again? Not counting on August 9th.

Kate and I went to mussar yesterday. Since my treatments are midday, except for Bedbug days, I’ve been unable to go since I started the radiation. We got there once or twice prior to my treatment, but doctor appointments and general fatigue kept at home most of the time.

The conversation was again about awe, Marilyn presiding. I’m going to do some more research here, but from a slightly different angle. As we talked, I became convinced that awe and mysticism have a distinct correlation. That’s one part of the research. I’m also intrigued with the connection between Rudolf Otto’s work, The Idea of the Holy, and awe. It may be that awe is an element I’ve been looking for in reimagining/reconstructing the idea of faith. Perhaps a crucial one. More later.

CBE and the Thursday mussar group in particular have been part of our lives since we discovered them in 2016. It was nurturing to be seen, to be able to recount some of my journey to friends. To be, again, part of a group I care about and that cares about me. And, Leslie brought us a meal in a blue plastic cooler. Mindy said she’d be bringing food by on Tuesday. Feeling loved. Gratitude.