We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

At The Feed Store

Winter                                                                 Moon of the Long Nights

Richie is a long time friend, from childhood…

“ALEXANDRIA — A couple of years before he retired from Delco Remy in 2006, Richard Howard bought the Alexandria Feed & Supply on Indiana 9.

On any given day, at any time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., several cars may be parked outside the building, giving the deceptive impression that a vigorous trade in pig, horse and chicken feeds is taking place behind its doors.

But the fact is the store has been closed for about three years.

Instead, the building is used for daily informal meet-ups of retirees who come to solve world problems, trade dirty jokes and reminisce about old cowboy shows.

“It’s become an adult day care center,” Howard said. “We’re not pillars of the community, I don’t think.”

The feed store is one of several places, including the Circle K store in Summitville and the McDonald’s in Alexandria where seniors — most of them men — find companionship once they leave behind the workplace where for decades most of their social interaction took place. With few options for seniors throughout the county, these communities are making their own.

At the Alexandria feed store, where the table is spread with a junk food feast of party peanuts, chips and butterscotch pie, the regulars hang out seven days a week, even on holidays.

The tradition started, Howard said, when he still sold feed.

“A lot of the guys would come up here. We’d have coffee and doughnuts,” the Alexandria native said. “If I sell the building, I’d have to go back home. I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

It’s the place where the regulars, like Stephen McPhearson and Frank Davis, come to keep up with local news, attracting the occasional visit from politicians looking to persuade them to swing votes their way.

“It gets pretty heated up here sometimes. We agree to disagree. It’s about half Republicans and half Democrats,” Howard said.

McPhearson is a 1996 retiree from Delco Remy.

“I can come in here and know everything that’s going on in Alex and everything going on in Frankton,” he said.”

Anderson Herald-Bulletin


Winter                                                                            Moon of the Long Nights

milk man-canada-vancouver

milk man canada vancouver

2018 needs to come to mind now if you still write checks. Remember checks? Charming pieces of paper with which old folks used to transfer money from their bank accounts to someone else’s? Dial phones. Black and white TV. Horse drawn milk delivery. Cars with fins. Poodle skirts and doo-wop.  Electric typewriters. (my personal obsession) Paper newspapers. Newspapers as delivery vehicles for the news.

Nostalgia? No. In most cases what we have now is an improvement, but it’s interesting to consider the cultural and technological distance between childhood and adulthood in any time period, I imagine. Might be an interesting academic discipline. How does the past look from an adult perspective? The gap between adult’s historical knowledge and their children’s immersion in their own time is always a source of entertainment at least.

signoffMy grandmother called cars the machine. “Dad, would you get the machine and take the kids downtown?” We had Ray Carver whose horse drawn milk wagon survived into the late 1950’s. Television stations used to turn off for the night. Just had a conversation with some old friends about the sign off image with the Indian in an eagle feather headdress.

My childhood is vintage now and I have the images to prove it.

Ordinary, Sacred Times

Winter                                                           Moon of the Long Nights

Looking at last year. Where did it go?

Looking at last year. Where did it go?

It’s easy, at least for me, in scanning back over a period of time to focus on the struggles, the difficult bits while forgetting the ordinary miraculous, the sacred mundane. When I set out yesterday to capture last year in photographs, two per month, though, that was exactly what I saw. The photos, taken with my Samsung handheld computing device, show a year encapsulated by Kate and I renewing our vows on one end and our whole family together on Christmas Eve on the other.

In between were visits to and of friends, birthdays and dinners, private moments of beauty, the total eclipse, Mary and Guru visiting, choosing Murdoch, hunting for bones with Gabe. None of these were extraordinary, they were times spent nurturing relationships and celebrating them. Yes, the eclipse was extraordinary but the viewing of it was a family weekend.

faith-in-what-will-beMy point is that our take on the past, as for writers of history, depends not only on our perspective, but on the documentary evidence we use to express it. As I looked back on 2017 mentally, recent events of a dystrumpian nature colored it, as did Kate’s various medical struggles, that coloration bled backwards, had me looking for the other things that created turmoil and upset. Surprise! I found them.

When I went back through the monthly folders I use to organize my personal photos though, I found myself seeking out mostly family and friend oriented images. Oh, yeah. That night Ruth lit the menorah, Kate and I renewed our vows, an unexpectedly touching moment. The sparkles in the air on Gabe’s birthday. Tom and Bill out here for a visit. Jon’s new house. Mary and Guru at The Fort. The time at BJ’s in Idaho watching the eclipse. Joe and SeoAh and Murdoch. Good times, times that happened during and in spite of the very real struggles also going on.

In other words it was an ordinary year, filled with happy, precious times and difficult, hard to take times. In other words it was a year filled with the sacred, the divine within and the divine in human and animal and meteorological form. Looking forward to another one.

The Year In Photographs

Winter                                                                   Moon of the Long Nights


Ruth, Kate and I in the Canyon Courier

Ruth, Kate and I in the Canyon Courier

Jon's car

Jon’s car


The Resistance

The Resistance

Mountain Lion, Feb 2 Jeffco sheriff photo

Mountain Lion, Feb 2 Jeffco sheriff photo


Ruth's Destination Imagination Team

Ruth’s Destination Imagination Team

First year of Hebrew

First year of Hebrew


Gabe's birthday

Gabe’s birthday



Growing the wizard beard

Growing the wizard beard

Ruth's musical

Ruth’s musical


Seeing Joe in Colorado Springs

Seeing Joe in Colorado Springs

Ruth's final day at Swigert

Ruth’s final day at Swigert


At Domo

At Domo

New do

New do


Totality, Idaho

Totality, Idaho

Mary and Guru

Mary and Guru


Jon's new house, Aurora

Jon’s new house, Aurora

Gabe hunting for bones

Gabe hunting for bones


Murdoch's last day at his birth home

Murdoch’s last day at his birth home

Weather station installed

Weather station installed


Tom and Bill, Guanella Pass

Tom and Bill, Guanella Pass

Raris avis, a Thanksgiving capon

Raris avis, a Thanksgiving capon


Christmas eve

Christmas eve

Breathing in the last of 2017

Breathing in the last of 2017

The Ancientrail of Family

Winter                                                        Moon of the Long Nights

Sushi Win last night

The last of the holiseason guests leave today. Joseph, SeoAh, and Murdoch load up the Subaru, including some very appreciated sports cards; one could be worth thousands! It has been so sweet to see these two and their puppy. Their second anniversary is only three and a half months away. Joe’s got a lot of travel with his Weapons Officer position, especially with the sword rattler-in-chief, so SeoAh and Murdoch get to spend a lot of time together at Robbins AFB.

We had the talk with Joe yesterday. No, not that talk, but the other one about estate plans, medical powers of attorney, money, disposal of cremains. Being in the military has made him very aware of such matters. As an officer, he’s required to understand them for the personnel he commands. He said, “I hope you live until I retire in ten years.” Me, too. But you never know.

typical of their relationship

typical of their relationship

This is another purpose of holidays, to bring families together and to allow opportunity for sorting out the business side of their affairs. These are often emotional and difficult issues, also, for the same reasons, often avoided. We’re lucky that we can have these conversations easily.

Kate got a call every patient appreciates. “Oh, that C.T. scan? They didn’t do the contrast dye so we have to do it over.” Great. On the upside it looks like the portable O2 concentrator battery has decided to come back on side. Tammy, from the O2 concentrator store tech support, had me recalibrate the battery. Recalibration involves running the battery down to zero, then charging it fully. “You should do this every quarter since the batteries are so expensive.”

goofy-droopy-glasses-bigAs with the whole United States (except for the 30% or so who still see Trump through those crazy glasses with the eyeballs that fall out on slinkys), I’m going to be very, very glad to put 2017 to bed. You know. The gradual rehab of the knee. Jon’s final eight months with us. The turmoil in his life and the kids. Kate’s gradual and painful introduction to Sjogren’s. Her shoulder. Trump. And, of course, Trump. The troubles in Korea, now of significance to us in a new way. It’s been a tough year, expensive and emotionally trying.

Rice Cake Soup. And more.

Winter                                                                     Moon of the Long Nights

rice cake soup ddeok-kookYesterday SeoAh taught me how to make rice cake soup. It’s delicious, a good breakfast soup. It has an unusual role in Korean culture. At the New Year, the spring festival, (same time as Chinese New Year), all Koreans eat, with their families, a bowl of rice cake soup. When they’re done, they’re all a year older. The entire nation becomes a year older on the same day, using the same ritual.

The new InongenG3, Kate’s portable O2 concentrator, has refused to charge beyond 16%. Called service and they suggested a hard reset. “Set the unit on the right and the battery on the left of the table. Set an egg timer for thirty minutes. At 30 minutes, plug the unit in for 30 minutes. After that, put the two back together and charge.” Just a bit condescending. Didn’t work the first time. Trying one more time, then this puppy is getting rehomed and  exchanged for a new one.

20171225_162548Kate had a battery of tests, some blood work and a CT scan. The CT scan showed nothing. Which is good since they were looking for a possible pulmonary embolism. She may have a stress test next. The question moves on to cardiac issues. It’s been a tough year for Kate physically, but she’s handled it with calm and resolve. Still more stuff to workout. That damned right shoulder, too.

Joe and SeoAh decided to stay today, leave tomorrow. Joe and I took down the boxes of his stuff that we moved here from Andover. He’s going to sort through them, making a throwaway pile, a keep here pile, and a move to Robbin’s pile. He’ll start by taking some of that last pile tomorrow. He has many, many baseball, basketball, football cards. There are Transformers, a train set, the Great Books, college text books, Christmas decorations, fun things he had on the ledge in his room back in Minnesota. All that between high school and after college stuff.

Auld Lang SyneWe watched the Murdoch detective series last night. The detective is Murdoch the Akita’s namesake. There is a great ease in family relationships of long standing. So much that does not have to be said. So much confidence in the future of those relationships. Holiseason moments abound in these experiences, giving us fuel and stability for the months ahead.

May your days-and nights-be merry and bright, may old acquaintance be recalled and a cup of kindness lifted to them all.



Winter                                                                 Moon of the Long Nights

Meanwhile, back in Minnesota:

“We just heard on the news that it is colder in Minneapolis tonight than the Amundsen-Scott weather station in the South Pole. We are -4°; the South Pole is a balmy -1°. Sheesh.” Joann Bizek Platt, Facebook

On the Path

Winter                                                                Moon of the Long Nights

86Winter break continues. The identity crisis has passed as I knew it would. The crisis focused on my passive choices, taking the path of least resistance after college and I did do that, giving up my intentionality about career to a socialization experience with clergy-focused fellow students. But. Within that decision to just follow the education I had chosen as a way to get out of a dead end job and an unhappy marriage, I was intentional.

The threads that continued from high school through college, into seminary and afterward during my fifteen years in the church were three: a commitment to political action, a desire for spiritual growth, and a thirst for learning. These same threads continue today though political work has taken a diminished role to the other two. When I met Kate, writing became my chosen focus and added itself to the other three as life long pursuits.

My career, if that’s the right word, has involved expressing in whatever context I’ve found myself, a journey on four ancientrails: act, grow, learn, write. The container has not mattered. And, it still doesn’t. That was the piece I was missing the other day, a brief regression, a going back to pick up something lost. Found.


“You’re not supposed to do that.”

Samain                                                                       Bare Aspen Moon

Assistants_and_George_Frederic_Watts_-_Hope_ 1886

Assistants and George Frederic Watts                         Hope  1886


Yesterday the bagel table, an informal shabbat service with, yes, bagels, focused on three stories in the Torah that dealt with difficult situations involving sexuality: the stories of Dinah, Tamar and Potiphar’s wife.

The conversation included several #metoo acknowledgments, including my own. I was ten or eleven and on the train to Dallas for a couple of weeks with my Uncle Charles. I regularly took the Greyhound to visit relatives in Oklahoma, but this was my first time on the train. There was a layover in St. Louis and I decided to get out and see the downtown.

It was a Sunday so the streets had almost no people on them. I had my brownie camera with me and went looking for someplace to take pictures. I did that, finished a roll and needed to change film. The air was pulsing with heat, so I went into the alcove of a closed store to be in the shade. I had the camera open when a man approached me.

Squatting down beside me, I was also in a squat, he reached between my legs and touched my testicles. I said, “You’re not supposed to do that.” got up and left. He did not resist my leaving and my memory is that he was gentle. Though it did ruin the moment, I recall feeling relieved that he didn’t use force. He did accept my no as a no.

It’s a little hard from the distance of 60 some years to recall how I felt, but I know that for me it was scary, but not scarring. I remember it, so it obviously had an impact, but I don’t remember it as different from any other sort of scary moment in my childhood. It was the only time I had that sort of experience and that may have weighed against any larger impact. If I’d had a string of them, as some girls and women do, I sense my reaction may have been stronger.


So cold

Samain                                                               Bare Aspen Moon

668-zero-630x522The great wheel has turned again, moving Orion further down the southwestern horizon in the early morning. The air is cooler here. A Beth Evergreen friend, Alan, came in to the kabbalah class and announced, “Winter is really here. It’s so cold outside!” It was 22. Now in my fourth winter season here I’ve stopped commenting.

Temperature tolerance is so much about perspective. I saw a meme on Facebook that featured two parka clad folk with frost on the edges of their hoods. “What people in Texas are like if the temperature dips below 80.” A man from Texas wrote, “This is true.” Another posted a photograph of a red bench rest with two snow flakes, “It’s a blizzard in Dallas!”

faith-in-what-will-beThose -40 degree nights at Valhelga during one Woolly retreat. Working out on my snowshoes in the woods behind the library in Anoka, -20 degrees. The moments of -50 degree wind chill. Days with the temperature below zero, many days in a row. Minnesota. Not a lot of snow, but pretty damned cold.

And, yes, my body has begun to change its reaction, 22 does seem cold. Yet my brain. Nope. T-shirt weather. Rock the sandals and the shorts.

The Winter Solstice, no matter what the temperature, is coming. My favorite time of the year.

January 2018
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