Baptized in the Underground Stream

Beltane                                                                     Cancer Moon

20190506_131302Lots of Catholic kitsch in the Mother Cabrini giftshop. I mean, lots. In fact, that’s almost all they have. St. Expeditius here is my favorite, especially his arms.This is a refrigerator magnet and there are others. Including St. Gregory the Wonder Worker invoked in desperate situations.

But, there’s more, so much more. I may pick up an action figure of St. Michael since I find Michaelmas an important holiday. The springtime of the soul, September 29th.

Mother Cabrini action figures, too, some of them very well made. Crucifixes. Prayer cards for particular ills and problems. Mugs with www.anamazingparish on them. Mother Cabrini shrine mugs. Medallions. Jewelry. Lots.

Wandered through the gift shop on the way into the refectory. Good food. Fish, rice, vegetables and a wonderful cherry pie.

The first segment of the workshop is over. It’s called Life Context. The Progoff process plows up the unconscious, kicks up into consciousness both bits from your own unconscious and from what Progoff calls the underground stream. Progoff studied under Jung and the Jungian collective unconscious seems to have influenced him in a profound way.

Another exercise, I mentioned steppingstones yesterday, is inner wisdom dialogue. Progoff wondered, after his time in the army during WWII and the holocaust, what would happen if all the sacred texts disappeared. We would, he decided, write others. After all, we wrote the first ones and that knowledge has to be out there still. Or, better, in here.

Each intensive journal, Progoff believed, is a sacred scripture, a bible of the writer’s own creation. Why? Because it draws on the same source as the Koran, the Torah, the New Testament, the Tao Te Ching, the Diamond Sutra-the underground stream. This is a radical claim, but comports well with, say, Buber, the mystics, Emerson.

The inner wisdom dialogue predicates the underground stream. Each of us made our own list of as many wisdom figures as we could. These wisdom figures can be living or dead, mythological or literary, organic or inorganic. Among mine were Lao Tse, Emerson, Herman Hesse, Shadow Mountain, and the tree I used to visit at the Boot Lake Scientific and Natural Area. It abutted the Carlos Avery Wildlife Reserve in Anoka County.

After entering into a twilight state, a way of getting below the intellect to tap into the unconscious and the underground stream, I wrote my dialogue. I spoke with my tree. It’s a back and forth, leading wherever it goes. The pen follows the deeper you, not the rational mind. At least if the exercise is working well. Mine did.

That tree, with a curved, forked trunk, got passed by when the lumberjacks came because it was not straight enough for lumber; a tall white pine, it grows on an earthen island between two marshy areas. Boot Lake is largely marsh. I scattered Tully’s ashes, some of them, there. I snowshoed to this tree in the winter, walked to in the spring, summer, and fall. I often sat with my back up against its trunk, nestled between two thick roots.

It spoke to me of rootedness, of choosing your place, of reaching deep for what you need, of climbing high for the energy from above. I asked my tree about cancer and it answered. Trust your arborist. Follow through on your treatments. The tree knew of its kindred who have died due to the pine bark beetle. We know illness and death, the tree said.

We also did dialogues with persons important to us, our body, and our creative work.

Today we start the Depth Dimension segment.

 

The Ides of April

Spring                                                                           Rushing Waters Moon

Whoa. Tiger Woods won the Open. After 11 years of shame, rehab, shambling along. A victory for aging. For never letting go of the dream. For living into the present and the future, not being bridled by the past. I’m glad, for all of us.

tax_dayTax day. Still puzzled by the acrimony taxes create. Taxes express our solidarity as citizens of this nation. They do the work of road building, of feeding the hungry and housing the homeless, of war fighting, of space exploration, of consumer and environmental protection. Or, at least they do under reasonable, non-tyranny leaning Presidents. I’m happy to pay them, federal and state and property. Always have been.

Do I always agree with the use to which my tax dollars are put? Of course not. I understand the nature of politics. It’s about compromise, about negotiating the differences we have. Politics define how we live together as a people, at least in the public sphere.

No taxation without representation. That was the Boston Tea Party demand of King George. Its corollary is that when you have representation the taxes are legitimate, whether you agree with their aims or not. If not, change your representation.

There’s an article in this morning’s NYT titled, “Is America Becoming an Oligarchy?” I wrote a comment, “Whaddya mean, becoming?” That is, of course, the trouble with our government and with the notion of representation. I know that. It doesn’t make no taxation without representation inapplicable, rather it defines the struggle ahead.

Further down the page was an article titled “Want to Escape Global Warming?” It features Duluth as a climate-change proof city. Which, I imagine, makes Canada look pretty good, too. With decent forest management Conifer could be such a place, as well. Duluth’s a great town, situated between the Twin Cities and northern Minnesota, sitting on the largest body of fresh water in the world save Lake Baikal in Siberia. Kate and I considered moving there when she left Metro Peds.

A menu from a 1999 visit

Menu from a 1999 visit

60 today here in Conifer. Snow later in the week. Colorado.

And, my appointment with Anna Willis. I have some anxiety though my rational side says it’ll be fine. At least I’ll get a professional opinion about my rising PSA. What’s life in the third phase without a little medical frisson every once in a while?

Friend Tom Crane and Roxann have returned to Minnesota after several days on Maui. To snow and cold. Of course. They stayed at the condo near Duke’s restaurant on Kaanapli beach while the grandkids and their parents were with them and moved to Mama’s Fish House Inn after.

Mama’s has been a favorite spot of Kate and mine’s since our first trips to Hawai’i. Celebrated several birthdays there. Mine, since Kate’s CME’s often fell in February, a great time to be someplace else other than Minnesota.

 

 

29 years ago

Imbolc                                                                         Recovery Moon

kate and me in time29 years ago tomorrow Kate and I stepped on a glass* in Federal Court Chambers, the Landmark Building, Rice Park, St. Paul. The next day, just to show how long ago 29 years is, we flew Pan Am to Rome. We wrote thank you notes on the plane and mailed them from the Vatican Post Office. Probably wouldn’t make that decision today, but then it seemed sorta cool. Cousin Diane Keaton was my best person.

The honeymoon followed spring north in Europe proceeding from Rome to Venice, Vienna, Paris, London, Inverness, Edinburgh, and London again. We also made it to Florence, Salzburg, and Bath. Along the way we discovered what it meant to be together.

Pompeii was a revelation about humanity in the face of catastrophe. The Uffizi a revelation about the human creative spirit. Venice showed the adaptive capacity of our species. Vienna. We arrived at 10 pm, hungry after a foodless train ride that passed through the Dolomites from Venice. Wiener schnitzel in a small restaurant with red table cloths. Paulaner non-alcoholic beer. Later Andean musicians played the pan pipes under our balcony at the Hotel Astoria on the ringstrasse. Paris. Of course the Louvre. The Rodin museum. Life as a graceful and elegant soiree. Crossing the English Channel by ferry. Before the Chunnel. London. The Basil Street Hotel had a women’s club like the better known men’s clubs for which England is famous. From there to Inverness where we walked hand in hand along the Ness river at night, fog rolling off it, spilling over the sidewalk. We ate breakfast at the Station Hotel in a large ballroom with a carpeted corner they used for dining. Then, Edinburgh where we ordered room service and stayed in bed watching movies on tv. Back to London. At the Reject China shop where we bought our Portemerion dinner ware the clerk suggested I might like to go to a pub while Kate shopped. I visited antique stores instead. Then, home.

Astoria SignThe last 29 years have seen other adventures. Cruising the Mediterranean. Twice the Panama Canal. Once almost all the way around Latin America. Hawai’i several times. Korea for the wedding. Singapore. New York, of course. New Orleans. Chicago. Other places, too.

Those are frosting on the life we created 29 years ago. The life itself, that’s the cake. We’ve moved three times. Once into the house on Edgcumbe Boulevard in St. Paul. The one with the pool. Where we lived with our first Irish Wolfhounds, Celt and Sorsha. Where Joseph played baseball with the Hasidic kids next door. After that, Andover. 20 years of exurban life. Flower gardens. Vegetable gardens. Bees. An orchard. A firepit. The lives and deaths of many dogs. Joe finishing high school. Jon off to Colorado to teach. Then Joe off to Breckenridge to work and ski for three years before he joined the Air Force. And now, Shadow Mountain. Seeing the grandkids often, the many insults life has thrown us, even so, just life. Joe married. SeoAh in our lives. Congregation Beth Evergreen. A Colorado finish to a life begun at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, an easy stroll to the Landmark Center. Will we stay here on Shadow Mountain? Don’t know. TBD.

20190127_163835I love the arc of our life together, the suffering and the joy. No life has only one or the other. The key factor of our love has been this: support each other in living our best life. We’ve mostly succeeded. Kids, grandkids, dogs, gardening together, harvesting honey together, traveling together. Kate sewing, me writing. The MIA. Music, jazz and classical. Seeing the world. Living in the mountains. Life now in its third phase.

I love her still, always. I know her better, she knows me better, and yet we’re together. That’s proof of the broken glass moment. Till death do us part. And beyond even that.

 

 

*”The fragility of glass suggests the frailty of human relationships. Since even the strongest love is subject to disintegration, the glass is broken as a kind of incantation: “As this glass shatters, so may our marriage never break.” For more interpretations: myjewishlearning.

Stress is good

Imbolc                                                                              Valentine Moon

Minnesota-Winter-Weather-Forecast 2019Zoomed yesterday with old friends Paul, Tom, Bill, Mark. Paul’s in Maine, the other three are still in the homeland, getting blasted by an old-fashioned grit your teeth, squeeze the steering wheel, freeze up the nasal passages Minnesota winter. Nostalgic, eh? Given my 40 year residence there I’m ashamed to say that I’m not sorry to have missed it. Minnesota macho no longer.

30 years + I’ve known these guys. There’s an ease to being with them, even in little squares (Hollywood Squares sort of) created by the magic of pixels and bytes. We know the back story, the good times and bad, the struggles and the victories. When we speak together, the subtext is often as loud as the spoken. When Roxann’s mother faces the transition from home to assisted living, we know about Tom’s mother and the long process finding her a safe place. When Bill says, how do you solve a problem like Regina, paraphrasing the Sound of Music, his history with the Jesuits and hers as a nun is unspoken. So is the difficult time span of her death from cancer now some years ago. Old friends, like old dogs, are the best.

Ode signed in from near Muir Woods, a cottage overlooking the Pacific. Two weeks of vacation. Tom’s headed for Hawaii and Mama’s Fish House later in the month. Bill spent five days in Florida. Paul had, and I think I had something very similar, a disease that his doctor called the plague. His doctor fingered the same culprits as Kate did for me: kids. Fomites, Kate says. Paul visited grandkids; I taught 6th and 7th graders.

post furmination

post furmination

Took the Kep in for furmination yesterday. Before our now below zero temps we had a run of 50 degree weather. (The reason Minnesota macho has faded from my body.) Blew his coat. When he blows his coat, he looks like a ragamuffin, small tufts of fur his body deems not necessary hanging all over, falling off, making Kate crazy. Off to Petsmart for a thorough wash, comb out, vacuuming. He looks pretty good now.

Ode talked about living a stress free life. I know what he means, no work deadlines, no income needs, no drama at home, much less home maintenance (condo), the chance to go where you want, when you want. Like California in the midst of a brutal Minnesota winter. The chance to work on art projects either set aside while working or not pursued. The chance to visit with old friends, go to the Robert Bly evening at Plymouth Church. In general a life peaceful, not troubled by the undercurrents of the workaday world. He calls this The New Senior Reality Game-plan. And good for him.

reslienceNot my goal. I thought about it. I see the allure. In some ways I wish I could want that, too, bow out of the ongoing stream of pressures, both domestic and personal. But I don’t want it. To be clear I’m not a stress junkie, nor an adrenaline junkie. I manage my anxiety much, much better than I ever have, not letting the day’s troubles spill over into what might happen next. I’ve tried and often succeed at acting without care for results. But stress per se still keeps me engaged.

I like the challenge of learning to teach middle schoolers, of integrating enough of the Jewish tradition to walk among my friends at CBE, of caring for Kate and the dogs. I like the challenge of coming up with a new novel, even though I’ve never sold one. I like the challenge of becoming a better painter, of finding my voice with oils.  I could give up home maintenance responsibilities, like when we have ice dams to deal with or a driveway to plow or electrical matters to resolve. The priority of the living ones in our nuclear family, Kate, the dogs, and myself vitiate that for now, however. I enjoy the challenge of learning about astrology, keeping up with science, especially NASA and genetics.

still me

still me

Stress itself is neutral. In fact, it can be a good thing, motivating us to stay in life, to learn, to engage, rather than become socially isolated. It can, of course, be too much. And recently I’ve had more, much more, than I want. I would appreciate it if some of this stress would fall away. Kate gains 20 pounds, gets her stamina back. I’m back to working out, a real stress reducer. I have a novel and a painting underway again. But for all the stress in my life to go? No, not for me.

I’m in this life fully until it’s over and for me that means stretching myself intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. Stress free is not for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Became Native to This Place

Imbolc                                                                Valentine Moon

we're waiting to transition to a feeding tube placed in the jejunum

we’re waiting to transition to a feeding tube placed in the jejunum

UPS delivers vitamins and bags of nutrients for Kate. On Tuesday we got a box with a styrofoam container, two gel packs to keep things cool, bubble wrap filling the container, about 12x12x12. Two vials of vitamins. Next day, two more boxes, same size, syringes, nutrient bags, batteries (a fresh 9 volt goes into the pump every day), saline flushes, heparin locks, tubing for the pump that connects to Kate’s picc line.

The logistics of this tpn feeding are remarkable. Not only do they have to ship us the right amount of stuff, it has to get here on a timely basis. And, the nutrient bags have a mixture that is tuned according to Kate’s labs, which can change on a weekly basis. Somebody has to coordinate all that and make sure the counts are right, the nutrient’s up to date, and that it gets here so we can use it. But, you can’t send too much at once because the tpn might be stopped, or certain things, like the vitamins and nutrients might spoil.

tpn4It’s no wonder medical costs are high. All of these things are one use only: syringes, nutrients, saline flushes and heparin flushes (each in their own individual packing), batteries, tubing, alcohol wipes, even the packaging for the deliveries. The need for sterility drives most of this. Kate’s picc line ends near her heart in the superior venous cava, which means there is a direct link between the outside, non-sterile world and that vip organ. Even the tiniest mistake in sterile procedure could have disastrous, catastrophic results. No pressure, eh?

I’ve gotten more facile with the various steps required to change out Kate’s nutrient bags. She draws the vitamins out of their vials using syringes. She and Julie, the home health nurse, make that look easy, but my fingers don’t find it so. As Kate said, my dexterity is in my brain, not my fingers. The rest of it, I can do. I could figure that one out, too, but with Kate’s expertise, why?

20181230_064700Grieving now. Looking at things around the house with that critical, ok what do we need to do with this in order to sell the house eye. Driving up the mountain considering how many more times I’ll be able to see Black Mountain on my left as I climb Shadow Mountain to our home near its peak. Not anxious about it, just sad.

Place is very important to me. Andover taught me that. Even though we lived there twenty years I never made my peace with the suburban blandness. No there there, was the way I put it. Oh, yes, our property had a definite sense of place, but it was set in a context that numbed the mind. At least my mind. Here, the opposite is true. I love the mountains, the vistas, the curves in the road. The weather. The ever changing face of Black Mountain.

As the John Muir quote on my e-mails says, “You are not in the mountains, the mountains are in you.” It’s an aesthetic sensibility. Over my years at the MIA I learned how important aesthetics were to me. Always have been. Deep in my soul. Perhaps it’s even the root of my pagan leanings, the aesthetic link I feel between myself and the natural world.

 

Puzzled

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

20190127_163835Snowing here. About an inch already. Then comes the cold. But not like the cold my friends in Minnesota are going to feel. For example, Tue -7 for a high, -27 for a low. Wed -15 for a high, -30 for a low. Also, winds in the 10 to 19 mph range. Wind chill will be brutal. Enduring the last of  any January will qualify you for Minnesota macho. Plan a trip there now to claim it for yourself.

We got started on the 1,000 piece jigsaw. Kate may have underestimated how long it will take to do all five. She said ten years. After yesterday? Maybe into our 90’s. New to me. Surprised how satisfied I was when a couple of pieces fit together. Kate’s pretty good at this. As you might expect.

Wondered yesterday about the origin of jigsaw puzzles. Kate thinks it was somebody who wanted something for the kids to do. So, I let wikipedia teach me.* Coulda been the Spilsbury kids, I guess.

20190127_174935The bulgogi was good. So was the dumpling soup. The porkbelly last night? Not so much. Got a little rushed since I fried the smelt at the same time. Shouldn’t have done both. The smelt, which I realize now were considerably smaller than the Lake Superior smelt, fried up fine, but I bunched them together too much. And, fried things don’t work so well as left overs. In the trash after my meal. SeoAh sent me her sauce for the porkbelly, which I used. It couldn’t rescue a too fatty, not enough taste dish. Not sure I’ll try that one again. Didn’t seem worth learning how to do well. Tonight straight up American fare. Macaroni and cheese? Hamburgers? Steak and potatoes? Something more in my wheelhouse.

no f-ng way

no f-ng way

The snow falls straight down, looks like a gentle, white rain. A flour sifter somewhere above us, gently shaken by the deity we know isn’t there.

I’ve started on a cleanup, straighten, reorganize project for the whole house, loft and garage. Working on one room a day, or more if needed. I’m no Marie Kondo. Just want to get things spruced up a bit. Read an NYT article on stocking the modern pantry. When I get to the kitchen, I’m going to follow its suggestions. Suppose this is a cabin fever moment.

*”Jigsaw puzzles were originally created by painting a picture on a flat, rectangular piece of wood, and then cutting that picture into small pieces with a jigsaw, hence the name. John Spilsbury, a London cartographer and engraver, is credited with commercializing jigsaw puzzles around 1760.[1] Jigsaw puzzles have since come to be made primarily of cardboard.” wiki

2018

Winter                                                                         Stent Moon

January 2018

January 2018

Buddy Paul Strickland, living in Maine very close to New Brunswick and the Bay of Fundy, has a year theme: Bumping into Wonder. I haven’t discussed it with him so I’m not even sure what a year theme is and I don’t know why he chose random acts of amazement. (though it’s a wonderful idea)

But. I like the idea of a year theme. Our men’s group, The Woolly Mammoths, of whom Paul and I represent two-thirds of the diaspora from Minnesota/Wisconsin, often had year themes. Pilgrimage. Mothers. Fathers. Like that.

Numa's Janus Temple on a Neronian coin

Numa’s Janus Temple on a Neronian coin

Not sure I’m ready to declare a theme quite yet. Maybe later today. I am inviting Janus to take up residence with my psyche for today only. Today is the gate of my Numa shrine. It closes at midnight until February 14th when it will swing open again for a day. I’m putting on the backward looking face and the forward looking one, try to see the last year as it was and the next year as I hope it can be.

At the VRCC, Jan. 2018

At the VRCC, Jan. 2018

 

2018. September 28th was the date of Kate’s bleed and the events since then dominate my thinking about 2018. The misery of Kate’s illness the nausea, cramping, weight loss, and food aversion existed, and worsened, over the whole year.

She was not the only one in the family with intestinal issues. Rigel had begun losing weight in 2017 and we feared liver cancer. A visit of to the Veterinary Specialty and Emergency Hospital however found she had an allergy to chicken proteins. We shifted her to rabbit based food and she began to thrive. A year later she’s bounding around the yard like a puppy. At 9 years old. Very old for a large sight hound.

Rabbi Jamie and Kate, Purim

Rabbi Jamie and Kate, Purim

In February Kate went on a quilting retreat at the Liar’s Lodge in Buena Vista. The drive out was a joy, all the way across South Park, the high plains, past the headwaters of the Arkansas river and into the Collegiate Range which rises to the west of Buena Vista. At Purim Kate got into the spirit of the day and dressed up in the coat of many colors she made for our youngest.

 

Kate’s shoulder surgery in March marked the end of a sleep wrecking, daily life function disrupting arthritic shoulder joint. We met Dr. Schneider, an orthopedic surgeon, and a helluva good guy. He would not be the only surgeon we met in 2018, but the work he did ended a source of constant pain for her. I was deep in my third kabbalah class, this one focused on Hebrew and its mystical qualities. Since I was already playing with sumi-e, I focused on creating Hebrew letters with Japanese brushes, pairing them with quotes focused on that letters deep meaning. I also got to use my chop bought in Beijing in 1999.

Kate at Domo

Kate at Domo

Both Ruth and Gabe are April babies. Ruth on the 4th and Gabe on Earth Day, the 22nd. Ruth loves Domo, the rural Japanese restaurant in Denver, so we took both of them there. SeoAh came out to help with Kate’s recovery, a gift she would give us twice more in the year. The Sjogren’s Foundation had its annual conference in Denver, so Kate went. Gabe was at Children’s Hospital for an operation occasioned by a port problem. April is also an annual art show by art teachers in the Aurora School District. Yam Hashoah, a holiday added to the Jewish liturgical calendar after the holocaust, fell in April. A wonderful ballet memorialized the day at CBE.

Rabbi Shapiro at Alan and Cheri Rubin's, talking about his book, Holy Rascals

Rabbi Shapiro at Alan and Cheri Rubin’s, talking about his book, Holy Rascals

More lumberjacking in May. There was still some fire mitigation to do and I wanted to clear a spot for an outdoor room. Kate recovered well from her shoulder surgery and was able to attend a CBE sponsored tour of the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Natural History and Science. May also found controversial Rabbi Rami Shapiro at CBE as a visiting scholar. An important, iconoclastic figure in the Reconstructionist movement (and, therefore, Judaism as a whole) Rami considers himself a Holy Rascal and has a book with that title, among many he’s written.

 

Leaving for Durango

Leaving for Durango

Visiting ancient pueblo dwellings at Mesa Verde with buddies Paul Strickland, Tom Crane, and Mark Odegard was the highlight of June. We stayed in Durango and Mark bought his first legal marijuana in a dispensary there. Our hotel was on the Animas River, recently of Gold King mine spill fame, was running blue and clear. In 2015 it was a sickly mustard color. I finished my fourth kabbalah class with a sumi-e enso drawing exercise for my project. Somewhere in this time period Alan Rubin asked me to co-teach the 6th and 7th grade B’nei Mitzvah class in CBE’s religious school.

ICE detention facility, Aurora

ICE detention facility, Aurora, July

Never written a lesson plan. Started in June, continuing in July. Alan and I started almost weekly meetings, our goal: plan a full year of classes. We did it, though we didn’t finish until late August, just before CBE’s religious school began. Some more lumberjacking, continuing the earlier work. After a powerful presentation on the detention and fragmentation of refugee families by ICE, Kate and I decided to join other Jews from the Denver/Boulder area in a protest outside a Geo detention facility in Aurora. The wonder of it (bumping into wonder, eh?) was rainbow which came to earth right over the detention facility.

Lake Minnetonka. Tom's boat

Lake Minnetonka. Tom’s boat

I’ve been back to Minnesota only twice since we moved. Once in May of 2015 for an annual Woolly Retreat near Ely and August, 2018. Groveland UU invited me back to speak at their 25th anniversary.  I took the opportunity to visit old haunts: everywhere I lived in Minnesota, except for the Peaceable Kingdom near Nevis, the Walker and the MIA, neighborhoods and restaurants in both St. Paul and Minneapolis. Also connected with Tom and Bill, plus other Woollies, and some docent friends at a small jazz club listening to Hoaxer, fronted by Grace Goggin’s son.

 

20180928_070847

ER, Sept. 28

September started with the Days of Awe at CBE. Kate and I helped set up and serve the Board’s luncheon during Rosh Hashanah and attended Kol Nidre, then Yom Kippur. It was also the start of the religious school and I had my first encounter with a class of bright Jewish tweens. Oh, boy. I felt exhausted after that class.

The big event though held off until nearly the end of the month. “I’m bleeding.” This at 5:30 a.m. Didn’t know it then, but this was the start of a month away from home for Kate, two weeks at Swedish Hospital and two weeks at Brookdale Rehab. The three days left in September found her in the E.R., then on the 8th (surgical) floor. She had several units of blood, a colonoscopy, a nuclear imaging study of the bleeding, an attempted embolization of the bleed site which failed, and finally a decision to cut out part of her large bowel as the likeliest source of the bleeding.

20181030_121656

Kate at home wrapped in the friendship quilt made by the Bailey Patchworkers

Institutionalization. That was October for Kate. Ten units of blood. Post-surgical disorientation. Deep pain. Nights in a hospital bed, days ruled by hemoglobin results, morphine, and a slow, often literally painfully slow, recovery. Gastric tube for feeding. Slowly back to solid foods. Then, not home, but off to Brookdale, a home, a very nice one, but one that would reveal the limits of even a well-appointed place. She had to learn to walk on her own again, though with the aid of a walker. She did get her diet back to sort of normal.

Installing the new pump

Installing the new pump

SeoAh came again, driven here by Joe with Murdoch. She stayed two weeks and made life much easier for both me and Kate. She cooked, cleaned, smiled, laughed. A joy to have around. One evening she came down and said, “Charlie. There is no water.” What? Sure enough. No water. Kate home now, but still in recovery. Perfect. Quick diagnostics the next day showed it was the pump for our well. And so we have a brand new stainless steel pump installed by the folks at Living Waters.

Near the end of October I went into Dazzle Jazz to hear Frannie and the Jets. Frannie is Alan Rubin’s daughter and this was, at 22, her swan song as a jazz singer. It was a touching evening.

20181022_174724

SeoAh on right. Birthday party at Brookdale. Oct.

SeoAh stayed into November. The bad news in November was that all the medical care Kate received after her bleed had done nothing for her nausea, cramping, and food aversion. She was miserable and weak from the weeks at Swedish and Brookdale. The nausea and cramping meant she couldn’t keep down enough calories to gain weight, even slipping back some.

Jon’s big news in November was an arrest and subsequent court appearances on a violation of a court order charge. I went with him both times, at the preliminary hearing and the hearing where he entered his guilty plea. Gabe had his fifth grade choral concert and because of the restraining order changes made in the last hearing, Jon couldn’t attend, so I went to represent him.

Kate and the machine

Kate and the machine

The good news in November came near the end of the month. After another round of visits to our internist and to Kate’s G.I. doc a last round of imaging studies was ordered, sort of a last gasp. She had two studies, an ultrasound sonography of the arteries feeding her bowels and a small bowel follow through study which checked its efficiency. And there it was at last! A diagnosis. The ultrasound picked up a stenosis, narrowing, in the superior mesenteric artery. A narrowing of this vessel can lead to nausea, cramping, food aversion, and weight loss.

Some frustration after the diagnosis. We saw an interventional radiologist who confirmed the stenosis and offered a procedure, a catheter placed stent in the effected artery. A couple of weeks passed and nothing happened. We decided to push. After a round of phone calls and e-mails, we got a date for the procedure in January.

Our Korean angel

Our Korean angel

Then, on December 19th Kate turned to me in bed and said, “I have news.” An hour later we were once again in the ER at Swedish. She’d had another bleed and determined not to let it to the point it had in September. This one stopped and there was no recurrence. She went again to the 8th floor, this time of observation. After two days of observation, the interventional radiologist decided to go ahead and place the stent while she was already in the hospital. Dr. Mulden positioned the stent without incident on the winter solstice, four years to the day after we moved here.

Going for calories

Going for calories

SeoAh and her husband came for the holidays as they had planned. She’ll be here for another two weeks, maybe three. Their support, and hers in particular, has made this whole unfortunate mess bearable for us. She deserves, and gets, our deepest gratitude.

The nausea and cramping after eating has stopped. The food aversion may take a while to reverse, but Kate’s eating better now. It took a long time for her to decline to her current weight and it will take a while to get it back. She’s visibly less stressed and happier, though still pretty tired.

 

 

My dreaming

Samain                                                                               Stent Moon

dreamsThe dreaming. Elisa told me I’d start remembering dreams during Mercury in retrograde. And, I have.

A recurring theme has shown up, one that’s occurred several times over the last few months. It puzzles me, so I’m going to write about it here, see what writing has to tell me.

The theme, present in several variations, is this. I go somewhere, often to a hotel in a large city, maybe for a conference, maybe for a temporary move. Last night I was somewhere, perhaps a college, but with friends, a new addition to the theme.

I never know the reason but I have moved boxes and boxes of stuff, mostly books, into the rooms I’m occupying. After some time I have to go. But I never seem to have enough time to remove all the stuff I’ve brought, especially the books. I become frantic, trying to find boxes, get stuff moved. In some dreams I worry about the hotel bill, will I be able to pay it if I can’t get my stuff out by the time my reservation is up. Last night I had books scattered over different spaces, but there were friends that offered to help me pack up. Even with the help I felt trapped. I can never get done in time. This is just too hard. Why did I bring so much stuff? The dreams never resolve. They finish with me still running through all the things I need to do to move my stuff. (btw: George Carlin.)

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Andover

Last night’s addition of friends did lower my anxiety level. I had offers to help pack. A group of African-American street guys offered to move some boxes in the trunks of their cars. Friends at the college, or whatever it was, packed a whole room full of books. Another group had a pick-up truck. Some were going to help me find boxes. It occurred to me for the first time in any of these dreams that I could go to a day labor place and hire folks to help me.

Obvious associations. The move to Colorado. It took weeks to pack all my books, even with eliminating about a third of my library. Each time I’ve moved since college, since 1969, I’ve moved more and more books onto the next place. It can feel overwhelming. And, book boxes are heavy. Each day now I come into the loft and the books are here, on shelves, on stands next to chairs, on desktops, open next to me on the table or the small laptop desk I use for holding things I’m using for writing.

I don’t want to move. Ever again. There’s a threshold effect, one I apparently exceeded in the move out here. I don’t want to do it again. It just feels like too much. And that feeling synchs up pretty well with the feeling I get as these dreams fade. Too much. I can never get done. What can I do?

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Colorado

Another association. The learning of a lifetime. All that knowledge stored in the neurons blinking on and off in my brain. Stuffed full. Like a crowded attic. Can I get any real use from it, crammed in and over abundant as it is? Or, is that the exact question? What if I can’t get any use from all the boxes of knowledge I’ve stored? Even as I write this I feel a slight tension in my abdomen. My feet went up on the chairs legs. Anxiety.

A realization as I wrote. This might be about death, about legacy, about “success.” Have I added so many boxes to my life that I can never use them all before I go home, the home Ram Dass says we’re all walking toward together? Could this be reminding me that check-out time is coming and I’m not done yet. That I need to figure out a way to get done? What would that mean?

I’m open to thoughts on this.

Maybe a New Show?

Lughnasa                                                              Harvest Moon

A Robert Indiana sculpture: Ahava, Hebrew for love

A Robert Indiana sculpture: Ahava, Hebrew for love

At Tu B’av, a minor holiday, now a celebration of love in Israel and dubbed by its restorers as Jewish Valentine’s Day, unmarried women would come together, all dressed in white, dance, and hope to find a partner. Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match.

We celebrated Tu B’av on August 15th at Beth Evergreen and Kate won a silent auction for a backstage experience at a local production of Funny Girl. We went last night. It’s tech week for Funny Girl and our friend Alan Rubin is a player.

I had nearly enough theater credits for a minor and acted quite a bit in high school, college and seminary. After that, nada, but Kate and I were regulars at the Guthrie. When I was in high school and middle school, our parents took us several years in a row to Stratford, Ontario, to the Stratford Shakespeare Festival. A passion, really, but one that has slowly faded.

TheatreJust before getting up this morning a strange, but somehow obvious thought occurred to me. While on the backstage tour we visited the dresser, an energetic guy who made or altered 490 costumes for the women in this performance. !. We saw the multiple props, a day bed, a drinks trolley, several doors with wheels, a set of steps for musical numbers, a kitchen table, a dressing table. Downstairs we saw the storage areas for costumes and prop making materials. We spoke with the dresser, the stage manager, the director, the actors, several of them, the lighting and sound people. All, to a person, warm and friendly.

We watched the rehearsal through until intermission at 9:30, then these old folks began to tire and went home.

Theatre2Here’s the thought. Going backstage, seeing all the accoutrements for staging a play, especially going into the basement area, made me think of id, ego and superego. Of the masks and personas we wear. Of our brain as backstage, where we store props, costume changes, makeup, where we put together the elements of the show that is our lives. The show itself, and its superego, the director, is the life others see, the one we present as we strut and fret our hour upon the stage, then are heard no more.

Let me extend (overextend) the metaphor in one more significant way. All these various elements costumes, props, actors, the stage itself alter themselves for each new script. In other words it is the nature of the theater to be plastic, to use familiar elements for telling unfamiliar stories.

As our life goes on, we often get stuck in Groundhog Day times when we simply repeat the same script over and over. We don’t hear the audience, we don’t see the repetitiveness, are not aware that we’ve been mounting the same play again and again.

Here’s the takeaway for me. Examine the script. Become aware of the lines you’re delivering, the plot you’re pushing forward. Is it still the one you want? Is there another play you can put together with the props, the roles you’ve already played, the stage to which you’re committed? Could be. We can put on new productions, use familiar elements for unfamiliar stories. Might even be fun.

The Journey, It’s Always About the Journey

Lughnasa                                                           Waning Summer Moon

The first day of our Latin American cruise

The first day of our Latin American cruise

We may be inching toward a diagnosis for Kate’s nausea. As successive hunches and medical tests have identified nothing wrong with her G.I. tract, trés frustrating, one of Kate’s early notions might turn out to be correct.

She saw her rheumatologist, Dr. Westerman, yesterday and he conceded that gastroparesis may be the cause of her nausea. It’s a bugger. Something, usually unknown, causes the stomach to lose its motility. The result is that the stomach does not empty as well, sometimes, in severe instances, not at all. Weight loss, malnutrition, lack of appetite. All symptoms, all one’s she has.

Still, knowing the cause would mean we can begin to adjust things like diet for her. If gastroparesis turns out to be right, there are other things we can do, too, including possible experimental drugs.

this morning

this morning

Rain and chill here this morning, 43 and gray as the sky begins to lighten. All rain is welcome. Sleeping is much better with the cooler nights.

I zoomed again yesterday, this time with Jen Kraft of Moving Traditions (the b’nai mitzvah curriculum), Alan, Rabbi Jamie, and Tara Saltzman, director of religious education at Beth Evergreen. We were nailing down roles and expectations for the first night of religious school, tonight. My anxiety level has gone down as we approach the actual launch, which means I’ve prepared as well as I can. After that, inshallah.

hiit2Getting back to five days a week exercise. Always feel better. Trying to regain my former high intensity workouts on the off days from resistance work. These workouts increase cardiac fitness, important especially in the mountains. In my case I do two five minute sets, varying speeds each minute from medium intensity (30 seconds), high intensity (20 seconds), and as fast as possible (10 seconds), with a two minute rest between them. I like high intensity because it’s effective and short in duration.

625448_164319917056179_937468223_nLooked into stamina after last week’s exhausting day at CBE with Alan. Discovered that I’m doing, mostly, what can be done. The part I’d let drift away was the high intensity workout. So, I’ll return to that. But, the real message is that stamina decreases with age, even with good sleep, decent diet and exercise.

What’s happening for Kate and me, I think, is a difficult and grudging acceptance of certain physical changes. It’s easy, and understandable, to focus on what’s wrong, to look for the better tomorrow if only we can do this or that. Yet, and it’s a big yet, I feel there may be a tricky, more important, and nuanced reaction available. We need to also concentrate on what we can do well, even given the limitations of stamina and chronic medical conditions.

Back in the long ago faraway I went through a series of therapists, one a guy, Brian, I really liked. He was a former Catholic priest, insightful and well-educated. But, his approach, existentialist psychology, focused on what was wrong. Each session we would identify problems and seek solutions, changes in behavior or inner narrative. Each session. Problems, work for solutions. Always what was wrong, what needed to change.

Abandon all attachment to the results of action and attain supreme peaceI finally realized that a problem oriented therapeutic approach kept me trapped in a continuing circle of what’s wrong? What do I need to do? How can I change? In other words my life was always problematic. Like whack a mole for psychological issues. No relief, just unending work on what was wrong. What was wrong was me.

Nope. Needed to get out from under that weight, accentuate the resources I had, the strong parts. I needed a therapeutic approach (and, a concomitant approach to myself) that found strengths, that put my struggles in the broader context of a life that was not a problem, not a puzzle, but a human journey. Jungian psychology and John Desteian did that for me. What a relief and I finally got movement in my inner life.

yourselfKate and I, I think, are at a similar cross roads. We need to accentuate the resources, the strengths that we each have, and they are considerable. Loss of stamina and chronic diseases (which we both have) are part of our lives, yes, but they are not our lives. Our lives are about sewing, quilting, the board at CBE, old friends, grandchildren, sons, our life together. They’re about writing and teaching and hiking and reading. About filling our days with purpose and love. Death is a certainty, but we don’t have to reach for it. It will come for us, in its own time. Until then, carpe diem!