Some Improvement

Imbolc                                                                        Valentine Moon

January

January

Sun rising on Black Mountain, shining through a gauze of light snow. The solar panels have a dusting, enough to impair their function. The setup is for 6-12 inches here, christening March, often a big snow month. The temperatures will drop over the next few days, not into Minnesota territory, but cold for Colorado. Welcome.

Kate’s got a more upbeat attitude. That’s so good to see. She offered to move to assisted living, so I could stay in the house. “That’s not the way marriage works.” Didn’t say it, but I meant, “Whither thou goest, so do I.” Love is a verb, to quote John Mayer.

The folks at Beth Evergreen continue to ask what they can do. This is a difficult question for us to answer. King Sooper delivers. That’s one regular need solved. I like to cook and Kate’s not eating much. Meals don’t make much sense. We have Sandy who comes to clean every two weeks. We’re good there. Most of the care for Kate is related to things she needs throughout the day and maintenance of the tpn process, not really something others can do. Ted plows us if we get more than 5 inches. In other words most of the day to day chores are either taken care of or too frequent to make them amenable to outside help.

A note to Tara (director of the religious school and a friend) suggested three things: 1. Visits from folks who bring lunch stuff along. We miss seeing and talking to our friends. 2. Help with defrosting freezer. Need a couple more coolers. Don’t know why the damned thing (a non-defrost freezer) chose now to seize up, but it did. 3. If we have to move, a general help Kate and Charlie pack day; then, a general help Kate and Charlie unpack day.

bearing the burden of the otherAt CBE we often hear that the essence of Judaism is bearing the burden of the other. These folks live it. They really want to help. With gladness, with chesed (loving-kindness). I contrast this with the much more abstract Christian version, Love thy neighbor as thyself. Judaism emphasizes practical measures. Doing mitzvahs, deeds of loving-kindness. Accepting responsibility. Honoring the self and the other. Taking up the right amount of space. At least in the instance of CBE these are not formulas; they are the reality of this small community.

middotThis could be a lonely, despairing time in our lives as health demands fluctuate, a possible move is in the mix, and we live away from commercial and medical facilities. It’s not though. Our Minnesota friends continue to show up. CBE loves us. We are not alone, nor in despair. We are part of caring communities and caring family. Jon and the grandkids are coming up this weekend. Joe and SeoAh have been here three times since April (Kate’s shoulder surgery) with SeoAh staying for weeks at a time.

As I wrote a while back, adversity unveils gratitude. We are grateful for each other, our dogs, our house, our medical caregivers, CBE, family, Minnesota friends. Lots more, too. I don’t believe the canard that we’re never given more than we can handle, but I do believe that we can learn to handle what presents itself if we have support. And we do. Thanks to all of you.

Hail a New Creation

Imbolc                                                                         Valentine Moon

My life flows on in endless song;
above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.      “How can I keep from singing?”  Robert Lowry

When I opened this page, Robert Lowry’s hymn came to the surface. I could sing this verse with no pauses for personal editing. The rest of them? Not so much. But, no matter. This one has a powerful, here and now message and it came to me from my unconscious.

third phaseThe woes of the body, our lamentations here on Shadow Mountain, are of the tactile world, the one bound up in life and death; but, they are not of the soul, the spirit, the ohr, the imago dei. No. In my soul (a word I’ve come to use more freely of late, meaning that part of me that bows to the god in you, namaste.) I can hear the sweet, though often very far-off hymn. It hails a new creation coming into existence even now, one shaped by the lamentations, but not determined by them.

That new creation is a new sort of intimacy for Kate and me, one forged not in the upbeat, I did it, achievements of the family and career second phase, but in the existential reality of the third phase. In the third phase the body begins to let go of life, gradually, a bit here, a bit there. At the same time the fruits of a lifetime of meditation, awareness, thought, friendship ripens. The soul begins to unfold, ready.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, said that September 29th, the Saint’s Day of the Archangel Michael, is the springtime of the soul. (odd coincidence. Kate’s bleed was on September 28th) What I’ve always liked about this idea is that it marks soul growth as occurring best in the fallow time. The fallow time, especially after Samain, Summer’s End, on October 31st, is that point when the growing season ends. An analogy to the third phase seems apt to me. The fallow time is a time for going within, going deep, finding nourishment in the eternal parts of ourselves, our soul.

That is what is happening for us. Our souls are flowering in the decay of the body. That flowering of the soul (I see a lotus.) is the new creation, perhaps not as far off as it seems.

Blessed be.

 

Ugh

Imbolc                                                                      Waxing Moon

Sick pooch in bedBeing sick. Ugh. Spent more time in bed than I wanted to. Felt like, as Kate used to say of herself, a sluggard. Nausea, bit of dizziness, general feeling of crummy. Low energy. Ack.

This is day 4. Actually felt better yesterday than I do right now. Since I have Jewish Studies on Sunday, an adult education event on Tuesday, and religious school on Wednesday, I’m hoping I get that, oh my god, I don’t feel sick anymore bump up in energy, today. Latest, tomorrow am. In cosmic terms not a big deal. Nothing serious on the line here except bodily discomfort.

studyHere’s something a little weird. On Sunday this former Presbyterian Vikings fan will lead a class on Wisdom Literature and the Rise and Fall of Jerusalem. Why weird? Well, somebody told on Wednesday that this Sunday was Super Bowl Sunday. Oh? Really? Huh.

Gertie was up in the loft while Sandy, our housecleaner, worked. She tends to bite them. Because I was in bed most of the day, she was up here alone. She took the opportunity to eat all the extra dog treat pretzels, half of the kangaroo treats for Rigel, all of my Red Rocks Toffee, and to shred the paper plates and plastic wear I bought for Jewish Studies Sunday. A bit miffed, I’d say.

IMAG0139Kate got out again yesterday. This time to the post office and King Sooper’s, frequent stops for us. She missed escaping the house on Thursday. Glad to hear it. Today Kate, Gabe, and I will probably go to a movie. The biggest outing yet.

This is a slow, so slow process with Kate. Good things, not so good things. The big wins over the last year were her shoulder replacement and the stent insertion. Both stopped long term aggravation. The rest is muddy. Weight. Food. Appetite. Stamina. Breath. Sometimes better, sometimes not.

Meanwhile my life has narrowed in focus, attending to her, the house, the dogs, trying to keep up with previous commitments at CBE.

 

Worn Out

Winter (last day)                                                                    Waxing Moon

Me driving home

Me driving home

OK. You guys win. Extreme Minnesota macho points earned these last few days. And, I saw that Paul Douglas predicts a 100 degree temperature swing! 100 degrees. You wouldn’t want to hear that if it was 52 outside and the direction was up, but in this situation, hallelujah brothers and sisters! Thank you, Jesus. And, Mohamed. And, Moses. Meanwhile up here in the tropical Rocky Mountains we’ve had mid-40’s for highs.

Yesterday. OMG. I pushed myself past some inner limit, way past. When I got up, it wasn’t a hop of bed, ready to greet the day moment. It was a let’s pull the blanket back over my head, switch the electric blanket back on and quit the world at least for the morning moment. Not a good time.

I had to make chicken soup with matzo balls (made by Kate). I had to take the soup to Golden with Kate. I had to go to CBE and teach the first hour of religious school, then head out for Aurora and Jon’s show. While down there, I had to go to Maria’s Empanada’s and get a dozen for Kate. I could head back up the mountain.

exhaustionAny of these things separately, happy, joyful tasks. All of them on the same day, a day that started with fatigue on waking? The happiness and joy would have to be in retrospect. I make chicken soup from scratch, with a whole chicken, cut up celery, onions, carrots, and garlic sauteed first. Wine to deglaze. Add water, lot of water. The chicken in its wire mesh cage. Wait for it to boil. Up here, longer than normal. An hour or so of simmering, then a package of frozen peas and one of frozen corn. Another ten minute. Retrieve the chicken, set it out to cool. Later, pick the meat from the bones. Put it in the soup. A lot of standing.

Got a lie down while the soup boiled, but it didn’t prove very restful. Back at the stove I finished the soup. At that point, time to go to Golden. About a 40 minute drive there, 40 minutes back. Dropped off the soup, 18 cups of it plus matzo balls. Back home to let Kate out. On the road right away to CBE. Spent a couple of hours there, getting food ready, talking to the kids as they came in. This was a first semester review. That went ok.

When Irene came to lead the dreams workshop, I left to go Aurora. This was at 5:00 pm. After a brutal hour and twenty minutes, I was in the gallery, talking to Jon about his new work. When I hit the big traffic on 6th street, congestion that lasted all the way across the city, my body began to resist what I was doing. I got sleepy, inattentive, restless. Just wanted to go home. Felt miserable. Wasn’t even close to my destination. Denver does not have a way to travel from east to west, west to east without encountering either dense urban traffic, or dense, worse freeway traffic on I-70. At 5 pm, that missing artery makes the lives of any one going either way awful.

exhaustedI’m not describing this well. I was a runner in a marathon. My resources had tapped out around 5 pm. As I got onto 6th street going east past Santa Fe, I hit the wall. Still had to cross Denver, get into Aurora, see Jon, then Maria’s. By the time I pulled out of the Stanley Marketplace parking lot, empanadas steaming in their cardboard box, I had half the marathon to finish. But I was already finished. My bed, however, was over an hour away, 45 miles, the first 20 miles back across the Denver metro. No choice.

Leaving Highway 6 going west, merging onto I-70, then 470, I began to wonder if I was going to make it home. My attention was split between fatigue and the road. At 72 there are many parts of driving that are essentially automated. They took over. I tried to remind myself to watch that car ahead, find the Fairplay exit, slow down in Morrison. It felt like I was carrying the car up the hill toward Shadow Mountain.

Kate, bless her heart, cleaned up most of the kitchen, something that was weighing on me. Get home, beyond exhausted, and clean up? OMG. Usually I clean up right away but the time frame of the day made that impossible. She’s doing better, not gaining weight yet, but she’s willing to pitch in now and again. This time it really mattered.

This morning I’m still bushwhacked, wrung out, sleepy, but I finished the marathon and slept in my own bed. A good start. Read a Harvard Business Review article, Resilience is not about enduring; it’s about recharging. That’s my job today, maybe tomorrow. Recharge.

What next?

Winter                                                                          Waxing Moon

Wednesdays have a tendency to get busy. Today, for example. Make soup, eat some, deliver the rest. Drive Kate back home and myself over to CBE for religious school. At 5 pm Irene will do a class on dreams. I’d love to stay for it; but, when she comes, I’m leaving and heading over to Aurora for Jon’s opening. Looking forward to seeing his new prints. As I’ve mentioned before, Aurora (the sun rises first on the Denver metro in Aurora) is almost as far away as the airport. Drive home, then. This is retired busy, of course, with much more choice involved than obligation.

Monday was 4 months since Kate’s bleed and subsequent hospitalization. Weight gain still eludes her, possibly because shortness of breath, waking up nauseated (some days), lack of stamina, and her dry mouth from Sjogren’s Syndrome make eating a chore, a have-to, not a want-to. Whatever it is, we both feel stuck, wheels spinning on the icy surface of recovery. Not sure where we go from here; but, it’s life; so, moving forward even without clear direction.

Gertie’s healing up from her latest experience as a pin-cushion for Kep’s canines. She’s still a little down, a little sore, but she’s up and moving around. Dogs typically don’t linger over insults. Look at all the tripods. Kep has no remorse, that’s part of not lingering over results. Rigel, our healthiest big dog ever, has developed a strange habit. She eats some out of her bowl, walks away from her food to the glass in the outside door, looks outside, then returns to eating. This may happen a couple of times in a feeding.

After a mussar friend did a short riff on responsibility, I began to wonder about my role here. Her husband died of a lingering illness, took months. She says, “I look back and am certain my husband and I would have fared better had I interpreted my responsibility as being his wife rather than his nurse (just commenting in broad strokes).” She went on about a party. “I recently hosted a large party and, in contrast to my usual MO, relinquished some of the logistics in favor of engaging and having fun with my guests; to a person, each told me it was the best ever.”  And she finished, “It makes me reconsider the languages of love:  gifts, acts of service, quality time, words of affirmation, and physical touch.”

Am I really doing what I need to be doing? I’ve emphasized cooking, laundry, some cleaning up, grocery shopping, being present with Kate at the hospital, rehab center, doctor’s appointments, taking care of the dogs, other home related chores. Am I replacing doing with graceful being? Not an either or. The domestic chores have to get done, but am I not husbanding enough? This is not an abstract question. It’s present to me right now. Do I need to learn new languages as my friend suggest?

These are difficult questions that every couple has to answer throughout their marriage. Illness can make them fraught.

 

 

 

 

So Beautiful

Winter                                                                             Waxing Moon

Our snowpack. Needed for the trees and our well

Our snowpack beside the front door. Needed for the trees and our well

Another 6 or 8 inches of snow yesterday. Snowiest January since 1993. The northern half and eastern quadrant of Colorado watersheds have above average snowpack. Critically, the Colorado Headwaters area is at 116%. The south western quadrant of the state though is below average in two spots, including the Durango area where the big fires burned last summer.

So beautiful. The lodgepoles carry snowy covers on their branches. The deer, rabbits, fox that come through our yard leave their tracks.The rising sun colors the snow on Black Mountain, right now a light flush pink. Bright blue sky behind the mountain.

Not so good for those of us animals who need carapaces and wheels. This is the google traffic map from yesterday. Rush hour. Add in altitude and you get a real mess. This is when commuting to Denver from Conifer separates the brave from the foolish.

 

metro roads 1 28

Kate’s initiated a get-out of the house plan. She said last week that she felt isolated and alone, so we’re going to go somewhere each day. Yesterday we went to the post office. Today, the King Sooper Starbucks for Kate while I pick up some groceries. Tomorrow? Who knows?

creation of the waters

creation of the waters

Last week I painted the creation of the universe, the shattering of the ohr. Followed it with the creation of the waters. Next up: land. I tried to show an island in my first attempt. Not so good. I like the first two, I’m starting over today on land. I’m going to get somehow to Eden and humans and that tree. Will take awhile. Hard to say in the abstract paint language I’m using. But, that’s part of the fun.

Astrological learning has been on hold. Painting, exercise, and Kate have gotten my focus along with CBE. Gonna get back to it, though. Probably a reading with Elisa’s astrologer, John, to kick off the next phase of my learning.

Just entered the Chicken soup cookoff at CBE. Gonna get some practice today, picking up soup supplies during the grocery shopping at King Sooper. Taking some to a friend, leaving some behind for Kate and me. Kate loves my chicken soup. My heirloom recipe came off the Golden Plump packages when I bought chickens in Minnesota. Here, I do it from memory.

The Days of Our Ancientrails

Winter                                                                       Waxing Moon

Chez Kate and Charlie under snow

Chez Kate and Charlie under snow, yesterday

Never thought of it this way before, but Ancientrails is a soap opera of sorts. Or, ugh, a reality show. We have recurring characters: Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, SeoAh, Murdoch, Murdoch’s dad, Jen (boo), Rabbi Jamie, Mark, Mary, Tom, Bill, Paul, Mark O., Alan, Rich, Tara, Marilyn, Sally, Areil, Anshel, CBE, the religious school. Differing locales: Shadow Mountain, Evergreen, down the hill, Minnesota, Maine (through the magic of zoom), Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Korea, Georgia. Various story lines: Mark and his ESL adventures in Saudi, Mary and her jet setting life, Kate’s illness, the bees at CBE, wildfire danger, Tom’s business, Ode’s art, the dogs and their escapades (comic relief), the Rocky Mountains, the occasional bout of world travel, SeoAh and Murdoch, my meandering through various thought worlds and aesthetic ones, the nature of my soul. What will happen next?! Don’t change that dial. Or, better, don’t touch your remote. Something new, something unexpected is coming up.

Went to mussar yesterday. Only Ariel and Sally showed up. Three former Midwesterners braved a modest snowfall. I find myself saying often up here, “If we didn’t go out in weather like this in Minnesota, we’d never go anywhere in the winter.” Coloradans are weather wimps, especially when it comes to cold, icy conditions. It’s like the meme I reposted yesterday on facebook from a Florida weather station: Limit your children’s outdoor time. Dress warm. Temperature of 53 tomorrow.

camelsBrother Mark, whose grasp of Saudi culture has become nuanced, reported a couple of days ago on a visit to a new camel herd cared for by Bedu. (Bedouins, I think, in local parlance) In his own words: “There was a stud white bull camel, many brown and white female camels,, and gamboling young camels. Gamboling, stretching their young legs out. One poor fellow had lost the lower part of his left front foreleg, but, was getting by on three legs. I met this Bedu fellow. I said I was from America. He said, “Donald Trump.” He then sort of urged me to see the camels. I went forward a bit, but stopped, as I did not want to invade the camel’s space. The Bedu said the stud bull was Saddam Hussein.  The camel with the shortened foreleg was Trump.” Humor is cross cultural and international.

Bought this at last year's show

Bought this at last year’s show

Jon and his fellow art teachers in the Aurora school system have a gallery show once a year. He’s had new work, his prints of found metal objects, in it last year and this one. He figured out a new method for using Intaglio inks that allows him a lot of the same opportunities for color, color blending afforded by oils. He’s a true artist, committed to his vision, a vision that is unique as is his method. Jon finds crushed metal objects along the roadside, takes them home, cleans them up, inks them up, then runs the roller of his press over them with a sheet of print making paper between the roller and the object. Like the best art the result is surprising and beautiful.

Kate got to work on a jigsaw puzzle yesterday, folded laundry, watered the plants. She’s also talking about getting out more. This is taking arms against a sea of troubles. May she, by opposing them, end them.

Tomorrow’s post: a visit to H-mart without SeoAh.

 

Lunar

Winter                                                                    Waxing Moon

20190122_072158More snow on the way. Not too much.

When I left the house for the loft this morning, I looked to the southern sky. Two bright points about 10 degrees above Eduardo and Holly’s place. Venus and Jupiter. Had I been a little earlier and the sky still dark, I could have seen Scorpio there, too. The waxing moon is in the western sky, high over our lodgepoles. This is a waning Waxing Moon in its gibbous phase. Bright.

Full Tu BiShvat Moon, 2019

Full Tu BiShvat Moon, 2019

Last night. Tu BiShvat. Judaism is on a lunar calendar and Rosh Chodesh, head of the month, is a minor holiday observed each month the day after the new moon. Tu BiShvat is the 15th of the month, Shvat. The 15th of the month on a lunar calendar is always a full moon. This year, year 5779 in the Jewish reckoning, it fell on  on the Gregorian January 20th. We celebrated on Wednesday because that’s our religious school evening.

Farmers in early Israel had to bring first-fruits offerings to the temple each year. In the case of trees the law required a farmer to wait until a tree produced in its fourth year of life. Tu BiShvat was the day chosen as the birthday of trees for calculating a tree’s age and hence its eligibility for a first fruits offering. Thus, Tu BiShvat has become known as the birthday of trees, or, the New Year of the trees in the same sense that your birthday could be considered your personal New Year’s day.

Kate and Jackie

Kate and Jackie

Kate and I saw her g.i. doc, Dr. Rhee. He was happy for her. In the last 7 days she’s seen Dr. Gidday, our internist, Rhee, and had a post-op visit to the interventional radiologist. Each one emphasized, in different ways, the recency of the procedure and its success, cautioning that time would be required to realize its full benefits. Not an easy message to hear when a confounding problem has been solved but other issues remain. Like needing to gain weight and increase stamina. Kate’s body went through a slow decline in both; it will probably require some time to reverse it. Maybe months?

I’m going to see that she gets the foods she wants, that sound good. First, we have to eliminate her food aversion. Getting what she desires should help with that. Again, some time will be necessary.

Sandy, our house cleaner, came yesterday. In the process she left a couple of bags of trash in a spot convenient for the dogs. When I got home last night from CBE, paper towels, plastic bags, old ramen containers were spread out over the sewing room. I cleaned it up this morning.

The snow has started. Looking like it might over perform again. Hope so. The day after their birthday the lodgepoles and the aspens need the water.

I see Christmas

Winter                                                                        Waxing Moon

20190122_0721198-10 inches of new, fluffy snow Monday night and yesterday. Looking out our bedroom window at night I see Christmas. Flocked trees. The full moon shining on fresh powder. A significant chill in the air. 7 degrees.

With SeoAh and Murdoch gone I’m back to cooking, cleaning. Spaghetti with meatballs on Monday, cod last night. Hmmm. Out of practice. Need to find my groove again. I will.

The house has lost some positive young energy with still mostly puppy Murdoch back in Georgia. Also with SeoAh. Her bright smile and upbeat nature was therapeutic. She came three times in this last year. After Kate’s shoulder surgery. After the long hospitalization. And, most recently on Christmas eve. Teaching us about family. Korean cooking, too. Gonna make my first solo visit to H-Mart this week. Tomorrow.

jigsaw puzzle

Sic Transit Mundi

Ordered three jigsaw puzzles: the Sistine Chapel ceiling (5,000 pieces), a world map (4,000 pieces), and a send-up of Italian painting, Sic Transit Mundi, (3,000 pieces). We need some alternative things to do. Kate doesn’t feel up to sewing, but doing jigsaw puzzles? Yeah. I’ve not done them much. In fact I can’t recall the last time I put a puzzle together. Looking forward to these.

Visit today to Dr. Rhee, the g.i. doc who finally diagnosed Kate’s cramping and nausea. We’re taking him kimchi from H-Mart, selected by SeoAh. The diagnosis was a major victory and he deserves our thanks.

Later in the day religious school at CBE. Today we celebrate Tu BiShvat, the birthday of the trees. Rabbi Jamie returns from his shabbaton, sabbatical, to lead a Tu BiShvat seder. This involves food from trees: nuts, fruits. Seder means order so the Passover seder is the order of service for Passover. Same with the Tu BiShvat seder.*

 

Tu B'Shevat Seder*”Tu B’Shvat is the New Year for the Trees. As in all other points in the Jewish calendar, Tu B’Shvat offers a unique opportunity for insight into living and personal growth. Throughout the centuries, Kabbalists have used the tree as a metaphor to understand God’s relationship to the spiritual and physical worlds. Moshe Chaim Luzzatto, in his 18th century classic The Way of God, teaches that the higher spiritual realms are roots that ultimately manifest their influence through branches and leaves in the lower realms.

In the 16th century, the Kabbalists of Tzfat compiled a Tu B’Shvat seder, somewhat similar to the seder for Passover. It involves enjoying the fruits of the tree, particularly those native to the Land of Israel, and discusses philosophical and Kabbalistic concepts associated with the day. Among other things, the seder is a great way to appreciate the bounty that we so often take for granted, and to develop a good and generous eye for the world around us.”  aish.com

The Left Behind

Winter                                                              Waxing Moon

A Basin. Ski maps are a Colorado art form

A Basin. Ski maps are a Colorado art form

Gabe came up and spent the night on Saturday. He was his usual self, watching TV, playing with the dogs, building some contraptions with a new construction toy he got. Ruth and Jon went to A-Basin, skied in great powder and got here around 5 pm. When they left for the day, it was the first time since Christmas eve that Kate and I, Gertie, Rigel, and Kepler were without guests.

Murdoch, SeoAh, and Murdoch’s daddy left at 10 am headed through Kansas and on into Missouri, then back south to central Georgia. We have products with the Korean language in our refrigerator, frozen rice cakes and dumplings, hoisin sauce, and our pantry has rice cakes, a specialty soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil. She left her tea kettle and a vacuum, too. I think she’s going to be back. She’s an unusual guest; her presence is unobtrusive and helpful.

20190121_065343 (2)I finished the creation of the waters yesterday. Some gold flake to give continuity with the first one, not finished yet because I’m waiting on some Elmer’s glue for the gold leaf.

When Mark was here, I asked him a question that’s been on my mind. “How do you know when to stop?” He laughed and said that was every artist’s question. Too often, he said, we wish we could go back to an earlier version. Oils are a bit more forgiving in that regard than, say, watercolor, or, as Tom suggested, sculpture.

Awaiting Elmer

Awaiting Elmer

Mark then added, “The next problem is storage.” So true. I have all my paintings now resting on bookshelves, blocking access to certain volumes. Gotta get a different solution. In this case oils are less forgiving. Oils dry very slowly, like taking years to completely dry. That makes putting them against each other even in a vertical file impossible. Hmmm.

Gertie and Kep are happy to have the house all to themselves. No more long stints in the sewing room while Murdoch got his downstairs time.

Snow coming tonight and tomorrow. May it continue.