Living

Imbolc and the waning crescent of the Shadow Mountain Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Jen. Who called my attention to a lapse in judgement. King Sooper. Who will load my groceries this morning. Tony’s where I’ll get the pork schnitzel. The crescent moon above Black Mountain. The Storm Glass Ruth got me for Hanukah. Jon home from the hospital.

I reported something here said to someone else about yet another person. That was a lapse in judgement and I apologize to Jen for that.

Past the seventy-three marker and heading into another Aquarian year. Might be a good time to get my chart read again. Sorta put all that away after an initial burst of interest. Maybe an annual thing? Like an oil change and vehicle inspection? Time has slipped by, following the trails of Maxwell Creek, Upper Bear Creek, Cub Creek. Running toward the sea of souls.

In another liminal space, a large one this time. After Gertie. After Murdoch. As the wounds heal. Quieter, solemn. Rigel and Kep both subdued, following us, I suppose. No plans. One day in front of the other.

Even Trump seems far away, perhaps only an orange smudge floating out over the Atlantic. Our little family so dispersed. Atomic. Held together by the weak nuclear force. Yet, held together.

The two feet of snow melted in the warm days. Our roof not as layered. Our driveway almost clear. Another round coming, maybe today and tomorrow. Colorado.

This space between, a sacred place, a holy place. Happening on our mountain top. In the Rockies, in the West, in Colorado. The Midwest a humid memory. We’ll see what comes. Living. That’s it right now. Living.

Brown Eyes Blue

Imbolc and the waning Shadow Mountain Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Staff at the Burn clinic where Kate’s fingers will go through rehab. Jon’s improvement overnight. A clean refrigerator. Birthday present from Seoah. As well as the holiday meal with sweet potato noodles. Joe’s call. Kate. Always Kate.

A bit of weirdness at the DMV on Thursday. Got there at 7:20 am. My goal, no one there. I was the first. Improbably, with at least three clerks behind the long l-shaped desk that followed the skating rink sized room’s south and west sides and no one else waiting the receptionist said, “Have a seat and your number will be called.” I rolled my eyes.

The clerk nearest me motioned me over. Now, that made sense. A pleasant young woman, maybe early thirties. Cafe au lait skin and bouncy, frizzy hair.

“What are you here to do?” “Renew my license.”

“OK. Last four letters of your social.” I gave them to her.

“What color are your eyes?” “What do you think?”

“Blue,” she said. I nodded. My eyes, my dark brown eyes. No more. For a while the color has been fading leaving me with blue surrounding a shrinking circle of brown. For the next five years, from now on, I have blue eyes. Wow.

Then, “What color is your hair?” Reflexively, “Brown.” She nodded. My hair, now all gray, hasn’t been brown for years, but my brain doesn’t remember. I don’t see it often enough to remember, I guess.

My new license says blue eyes, brown hair. Who is this guy?

They took my picture. My new photo looks like I had a stroke during my renewal. Oh, well. Only five years to a new one. Wonder what colors I’ll have at 77?

Benson Pulikkottil, a hand surgeon, looked at Kate’s fingers. He repaired them a week ago yesterday. They looked good, he said. I found this news story about his work on a man whose face got ripped off by a grizzly bear.

We drove up Broadway from Swedish to St. Joseph’s. Jon is there. He looked and sounded good, chastened by the scare he had Thursday night. I believe this high blood sugar incident may shock him into getting back to good self care. I hope so.

Seoah cleaned the refrigerator for my birthday. It needed it. Looks great. She also made a Korean holiday dish. Very sweet. Talked to Joe, recovering from another week in classes in Singapore. Still no resolution for Murdoch, but we’re all working on it.

The Day After

Imbolc and the Full Shadow Mountain Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Sleep, much needed sleep. Resolution for Gertie. A peaceful house. No doggy conflict, no tension. Another six inches of snow. Pho with Seoah yesterday. Murdoch’s happiness at seeing Seoah and me. The kindness of the staff at Bergen Bark Inn. Another heart to heart with Kate. Our life together. My healing. Orchid, beautiful and white, from Tom and Roxann.

The day after. Gertie is at peace. Murdoch in the kennel. For the first time in our married life we have only two dogs, Rigel and Kep. The house is quieter. Peaceful. Gertie is no longer suffering on her bed in the living room. Murdoch is no longer here, creating a constant possibility of violence. It feels, good.

Not glad Gertie is dead, but very glad her suffering and pain has ended. We couldn’t control it and that tore at Kate and me.

On Tuesday night last week Gertie still had enough will power to go outside to pee. She came in through the downstairs door and I decided to lift her up into the bed with us for the night. She slept between us for the whole night. At about 3 AM she woke up giving me lots of kisses. She kept at it for a long time. It was unusual. Now I imagine she was saying good-bye, letting me know how much she loved me. I will treasure that memory forever.

Yesterday lack of sleep and grief had me. Both battered my sense of self. Why did you let Gertie suffer? Why did you bring Murdoch into the house? Why did Kate marry me? Why am I such a screw up? Went down into that place we can all go, that dark place where our fears, our anxieties wait to trap us, hold us hostage.

Again, Kate came out, sat in my chair while I perched on the ottoman. We talked. In the way only those long together, long in love, bonded, can. She saw me. And in her seeing me I saw myself again. She challenged how I saw myself. And, then, so did I. Oh. The grief. The exhaustion. The last two years. Oh. Yeah.

Our talk allowed me to feel the peacefulness, the quiet in the house and to take some of that and put in my heart. The needle probe withdrew from my psyche.

This morning I fed two dogs. Went out for the paper. Not here. Snow always deters this delivery person from her rounds. Made coffee. Shoveled a path to the loft stairs. Came up here and wrote.

Final note. You might be interested to know that it was difficult for me, missing two days last week. Writing Ancientrails is part of my morning meditation, a freeing of my heart, a way to stay connected with a wide community of friends and family. So important. Glad to be back at it.

Gertie, a Love Dog

Imbolc and the Shadow Mountain Moon

Following the metaphor one post below. Got knocked off my board, almost carried away by rip tides. Gertie has cancer, maybe a couple of weeks to live. Vet this morning.

Pet euthanasia. I’m an outlier on this one, I know. I realized how opposed I am to it when Buck died in my arms at the UofM vet hospital. The pink liquid the vet injected worked. He died. All I could think: he trusted me.

Since then all of our dogs but two, Orion and Sorsha, have received home hospice care until their death. What I want for Gertie, too.

Climbing down into the dark well that is my aversion. The well is deep and cold, might be bottomless. Might be my Mom’s death is in there. I know for sure the issues of trust and choice are. Our dogs trust me with their lives for their whole lives. They have no ability to enter into the decision.

Lots of folks, the majority I imagine, the great majority, see euthanasia as a final kindness. I don’t. It’s wound up in what’s convenient, less messy, easier.

Gertie has trouble walking now. When Orion reached that stage with his osteosarcoma, we had to euthanize him. I couldn’t pick him up, take him outside, bring him back inside. 190 pounds. 30 pounds more than me at the time. Even though I agreed it needed to be done, I still couldn’t stand to be there.

I was in Kate’s sewing room, hyper-ventilating and crying. Feeling like I had betrayed both Orion and myself. Kate was there. I felt ashamed that I couldn’t support her, or Orion, but, I couldn’t.

Now that Gertie’s home I took her doggy bed down from the loft. Kate suggested it. Gertie stayed up here with me most days since we moved here 5 years ago. Even when her back right leg gave her trouble, a botched operation on a torn acl, she came up here on three legs. Now Murdoch is here, lying right where the doggy bed used to be.

Her diagnosis is neither unexpected, nor unusual. Gertie’s an old dog, our oldest, at 12. And, a rascal for all 12 years. So much fun. Sweet, too. Her kisses were meant. Not random licks for salt or submission. How do I know? I just do.

The well. That holy well. I remember the first time. When the doctor told Dad and me, Mom’s stroke had left her in a vegetative state. No coming back. Damn. 17. 3 in the morning at Riley Hospital in Indianapolis. Hard plastic chairs. Down. Down. Down. I didn’t climb back up out of that well until I quit drinking.

The holy wells of Ireland and Wales are portals to the Other World. A place where rags get tied on trees, flowers left by the opening, or, where the water gushes up from Mother Earth.

Suppose this means I need to go down this well again. Still. Live at the bottom for a while. Greet the darkness, my old friend. Might be where I get my love of fecund darkness, of quiet darkness, of the longest night.

Anyhow, Gertie. We’ll make her comfortable.

Yo, U.S.A., You Late!

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Mountain View Waste. Kate’s good humor. Rigel following the treat to bed. Cool weather. The waning crescent moon. All the stars in the sky. All the water in the ocean. The water cycle. The lakes of Minnesota. The mountains of Colorado.

Didn’t write about MLK.

When Joseph got his bars as a second Lieutenant, I drove down to Maxwell AFB to be there. Maxwell is outside Montgomery, Alabama.

I made three pilgrimages on that trip. The first to Dexter Baptist Church, only steps away from the Alabama State Capitol. In his 1963 inaugural address in that Capitol then governor George Wallace said, “…segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

MLK was the pastor at the Dexter Baptist Church, 1954-1960, and organized the Mongtomery Bus Boycott in the basement. To have done that with the state government of Alabama literally looking over you must have been a courageous act for all who participated.

The second stop on my pilgrimage was the Southern Poverty Law Center which has a building just behind and uphill from Dexter Baptist Church. Outside of the modest modern headquarters is a Maya Lin designed Civil Rights Memorial. A large sheet of black marble, top of a sliced in half cone, has engraved on it names of martyrs for the civil rights movement and a chronology of the movement. A sheet of water flows across it all, coming from a fountain in the middle.

In her minimalist style, the other primary part of the sculpture is a black marble wall that has on it MLK’s paraphrase of Amos 5:24: (We will not be satisfied)…until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

These two American institutions, Dexter Baptist and the Southern Poverty Law Center, were and are pillars of fire illuminating racism and burning it out where they can. It surprised to me feel so close to American radical justice while able to see the bright white colonnade of the Alabama capitol.

The third stop on my pilgrimage came after I left Montgomery. I went to Selma. Crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On that bridge, on March 7, 1965, MLK and many, many others encountered state police and city police, hidden on the east by the upward curve of the bridge. Bloody Sunday showed up on television screens across America and helped cement support for the civil rights movement.

In research for a novel I’m currently writing I looked up Edmund Pettus. Not only was he a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army and a U.S. Senator, Pettus was also the Grand Dragon of the Alabama KKK.

When I parked in downtown Selma to walk around… Nah, here’s what I said on June 19th, 2008:

“Yo, Minnesota!  You late.”  Said, on the high sidewalk in Selma, an African man of indeterminate middle age, salt and pepper beard, hair frizzed out, wearing a red shirt.  “”bout time you got down South, North.”

“Yeah, about 30 years too late,” I said, revealing my inner hope that I’m about 15 younger than I really am.

He was cheerful and continued his discussion with a smile and allusions to the Mennonites and some biblical tribes, but I didn’t get it all.  He was what in former times would have been called a character.

When you consider Charlottesburg, when you consider Monday in Richmond, when you consider the anti-immgration policies, when David Duke says, “He’s implementing our policies.”, when a close Presidential advisor admits to his white supremacy convictions, then, why then, we might say to the whole country, “Yo, U.S.A., you late.”

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.

Through our life together

Winter and the Full Future Moon

Saturday gratefuls: the full future moon lighting up Black Mountain Drive when I went for the Denver Post at 6 am. The crunch of the snow. The starry sky. The groomers at Petsmart for spiffing up Gertie, Rigel, and Murdoch. Kep’s on Monday. Kate’s weight at 101. Her increased energy and good spirits. Stefan and Lonnie in Vail. Stefan’s new hip.

Buddy Tom Crane, a cognoscenti of contemporary poets, found a book, A Dog Runs Through It, by Linda Pastan, former poet laureate of Maryland. Thanks for the gift, Tom.

Here’s a stanza from her poem, Envoi:

“We’re signing up for heartbreak

We know one day we’ll rue it.

But oh the way our life lights up

The years a dog runs through it.”

Those years have been, for Kate and me, thirty plus. And not just a dog running through them, but an ever renewing pack, sometimes as large as seven, now down to three plus a guest.

My first dog, Diamond, a puppy with brown and white fur, a misshapen diamond mark on his forehead, I barely got to know before someone fed him hamburger with ground glass. It still makes me sad, 64 years later.

The second dog, whose name I can’t recall right now, a black and white bouncy one, went after a five year old girl who leaned into the stroller to pet my infant brother, Mark. Dad told me he went to a “farm in Tennessee.” Uh huh. One of the reasons I lost trust in my father.

Steppenwolf, a German Shepherd. Dundee, a Sheltie. Both went to better homes than I could provide. Steppenwolf due to divorce and Dundee to my ignorance about how to care for dogs.

Kate was a long time dog owner when I met her. She had Buck and Iris, Whippets, and Bemish, who was old and died before I could get to know him. I learned from her how to be with dogs, how to love them, how to accept their love, how to care for them.

Since then, we’ve had Irish Wolfhounds, many, more Whippets, two IW/Coyote Hound mixes (Vega and Rigel), and two family rescue dogs, Gertie, a German Shorthair pointer, and Kepler, an Akita. Murdoch, also an Akita, is here for eleven months, then he’ll return to his mom and dad.

My heart is full with dog. Licks, kisses, wiggles, jump ups, digging, running, hunting, killing, barking, growling, fighting. Joy over their happiness and grief over their pain and their deaths. So many memories, so many deaths. So much joy. So much sorrow. Life. Life. Life.

When we consider our life situation, it’s not only about us, but also about the dogs. Part of our reason for staying on the mountain is our fenced in yard. Easy for the dogs. Good for them. No heart worm. No fleas. No ticks as long as they stay in the yard.

Hilo who would crawl up into my armpit for a nap. Gertie who lies with her head on my pillow at night. Celt stepping on my snowshoes. Sorsha with a squirrel in her mouth and another in sight, frozen in place. Emma standing on the big downed cottonwood surveying her realm. Vega and Rigel digging holes in Andover. And so many, so many more.

Dogs run through our lives, Kate’s and mine. Sharp teeth, four legs, wagging tails, floppy ears and alert ears, noses, always noses, taking in a world we humans cannot access. Asleep in our lap or near our chair. Eating. Getting treats, heads turned up, expectant.

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.

Cook, Do Laundry, Shop

Winter and the Future Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Kate’s better breathing last night. Our money. That stuffed green pepper recipe. Being able to communicate with Joe, Mary, and Mark so easily in spite of the thousands of miles. The guy who brought out my King Sooper Order. The dark of night. The light of day.

Having Murdoch here. Has made things more complex. Kep and Murdoch cannot be in the same space. Kep and Gertie can’t be together outdoors. Rigel and Murdoch sleep together now in the dog room, aka the guest room. I believe it’s better for Murdoch to have a warm body near him since he slept with Joe and Seoah. Can’t prove it, but it seems to help.

Means I have to have dog management on my mind all day. Like having toddlers. And, like having toddlers, it’s both fun and exhausting.

Speaking of sexism. Oh, I wasn’t? Well, let’s start right now. Realized that my tension between the domestic work I’m doing and the work that expresses me was due to unexamined sexism. Domestic work is work done by women. Perhaps not quite as much any more, but studies show women still do the bulk of home related work.

The man came home from the office, tired from a day at real work. He expected a meal on the table, a clean house, well disciplined kids, a full pantry, clean laundry. He expected it. That it involved real labor, of the back straining, calf tightening sort either didn’t occur to him or he didn’t care. After all…

I transported that same attitude to my own home work. It was something to get done with so I could back to the real work. No.

Chop wood. Carry water. The sacred is found in ordinary things, ordinary activities. Especially those done out of love. When we look at home work this way, it might be that the valences reverse themselves. Home work, done from love, is the real work and the work done for money, or for ambition, or for self-expression is a lesser work.

Yes, some men work out of their love for their family, true especially in blue collar homes where the work itself is often onerous, repetitive, and unrewarding. But white collar men often work more for their own ambition, for the money, for the status as they do for love.

Meanwhile the work of cleaning dirty clothes, shopping for groceries, paying attention to meals for all the residents of the home, cleaning the house itself, raising children, staying up to date on what needs doing in the home was seen as routine. Necessary, yes, but ordinary, not noteworthy.

I harbored these attitudes. After all these years. And turned them on myself when I got into the position of home worker. Shame on me.

It’s still difficult to settle into cooking, to doing the laundry, shopping, straightening things up, taking care of the dogs as more than chores. To learn, in the Zen way, how to chop wood and carry water. I’m grateful to have this chance to learn in a whole body sense what my mind concluded years ago, but didn’t communicate all the way down to my preset assumptions.

Death and Resurrection

Winter and the Future Moon

Saturday gratefuls: The snow, coming down hard. The temperature, 17. All 8,800 feet above sea level. Two weeks of consistent workouts, 5 days, 3 resistance, two with high intensity training. Ruth’s being here. (she’s sleeping with Rigel and Murdoch right now.) The Hanukah meal last night. Hanukah. Whoever conceived and executed Resurrection: Ertugrul. The internet.

Been thinking a bit about resurrection. Not as in Resurrection: Ertugrul, which is about resurrection of the Seljuk state, but in the New Testament mythology. Birth, life, death, resurrection. Christmas, Ministry, Black Friday, Easter. The Great Wheel. Spring, growing season, fallow season, spring. Osiris. Orpheus.

Death is being overcome every spring. Life emerges, blooms and prospers, then withers and dies. A period in the grave. Spring. Resurrection is not only, not even primarily, about coming back from death. Resurrection is a point in the cycle of our strange experience as organized and awake elements and molecules.

Saw an analogy the other day. Twins in the womb. Talking to each other about whether there was life after delivery. How could there be, one said. What else is all this for, said the other. Do you believe in the mother? Yes, she’s all around us. I can’t see her, so I don’t believe in her. How would we get food after delivery? How would we breathe? I don’t know, but I believe we’ll do both.

We know, too, the story of the caterpillar, the chrysalis, and the butterfly.

Might resurrection itself be an analog of these ideas? Could be. Easier for me to comprehend is the death of a relationship, the period of mourning, then a new one, different from the first, but as good or better. The death of a dream. Having to sell the farm, a period of mourning, then a new career, different, but satisfying, too. The death of a certain belief system. Say, Christianity. A period of confusion and mourning. Then, a new way of understanding. The way things are. Consciousness and cycles. This comes; that goes.

A Minnesota life. Well lived and full. Dies. A period of mourning and confusion. A Colorado life. Different, but satisfying, too. The gardens of Andover. The rocks of Shadow Mountain. The lakes of Minnesota. The mountains of Colorado. The Woolly Mammoths. Congregation Beth Evergreen.

Are there other resurrections? Of course. Is there a resurrection like that of Jesus? Unknown. I choose to celebrate the resurrections that I know, rather than the ones I do not. The purple garden that emerged in the spring. The raspberries on the new canes. Those apples growing larger from the leafed out tree. This marriage with Kate, a notable resurrection of intimacy in both our lives.

What is dying? What are you mourning? What resurrection awaits?