Broken. Replaced.

Winter and the Future Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Hot water in San Francisco! Diane’s recommendation of “Getting Open.” Sleep. Rest. Feeling rejuvenated. The U.S. grocery store. The NYT for endorsing Amy and Elizabeth. Blizzaks. AWD on Ruby. Healing from the dog bite. Almost done.

Cooked last night. Deep fried chicken chunks from a deli chicken. Coated with bread crumbs. Surprisingly good. Broke our vegetable chopper, too. A second time. I prefer hand tools in the kitchen for food prep. Knives, choppers, dicers, zesters. We have a mandolin somewhere and I want to find it. Just ordered a Swedish chopper, made of metal. More durable.

Broke the chopper making a version of Israeli salad. It was the onions that did it in. Well, not the onion, but me, pressing down quick and hard on the onion. Little blades popped off the cutting grid. Not supposed to happen. Got the salad, diced onions (by knife), tomatoes, cucumber, and a generous sprinkling of cilantro. Some lime juice. Some Italian seasoning.

But. I was also gonna warm up the cabbage and potatoes in the microwave. Put them in the microwave at the start. Kate’s taught me to get all the ingredients out before I begin. Forgot about the potatoes and the cabbage. Still in the microwave this morning.

Oh, yeah. Finally got the microwave installed. After the first appointment, I had to have an electrician come out to create a wall socket for it, then reschedule the installation. Happened Saturday. Kate is very happy. She can reheat her coffee. Hot coffee and the crossword in the morning make Kate a happy gal. I’m indifferent to coffee temperature. Cold. Hot. Meh. Not a gourmet.

Spent time yesterday on another modern chore. Cutting up boxes. We get our dogfood through chewy.com. Great service. Reasonable prices. Free shipping. And large cardboard boxes. Bought some airtight dogfood containers, too, through Amazon. Really big boxes. As I’ve noted before, the home has become a shipping and receiving department. All those cardboard boxes that used to get cut up at the warehouse or in the back of the store are now in living rooms across America. Or, garages.

Anyone rural appreciates the chance to look things up online and order them for delivery. Beats going on a Saturday morning quest for the right pan or sheets or, say, a vegetable chopper. Especially if the stores are miles and miles away. Makes a huge difference to caregivers like me, too. It’s why Sears and Roebuck did so well with their catalog. A shame they couldn’t make the transition to an economy much like the one they introduced back in the late 19th century.

Got doggy things to do now. Tomorrow.

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.

Downsize?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

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.

Mountain Strong

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: For Paul’s idea of the 60 second hug and zero negativity. For Bill’s call yesterday. For Rabbi Jamie and Art Green, the class at Kabbalah Experience by Zoom. For Sandy, who cleans with energy and whose tumor has begun to shrink. For all the good dogs everywhere. All dogs are good dogs. For Mountain Waste who takes away the stuff we can’t use, don’t need.

Mountain strong. See that a lot up here. Bailey’s town motto is Mountain Strong. Has a sort of defiant, libertarian meaning to most. Clues: lots of comments about guns as a primary home defense system. About citiots. (city idiots) Griping about service up here when we know the difficulties involved.

Also, though. We can handle it our own. We’re neighbors, let’s help each other. Respect the wildlife. Keep the night dark.

I like it. Mountain strong. That’s how Kate and I feel. We’re mountain strong. Can it be difficult up here? Oh, yes. The thin air has caused both of us problems most of the time we’ve been here. On certain days the snow is so good we can’t go anywhere. IREA, the local electrical company, has miles of lines in difficult to reach, yet sensitive to weather places. Like up and down whole mountains. Outages are not uncommon and Kate needs O2 24/7. Generator. Delivery is episodic rather than consistent though we have an exceptional (for the mountains) mail carrier. Not to mention that it’s far away to all the services we need.

All true. What I call the Mountain Way. Just more molasses to crawl through for certain aspects of daily life.

However. The bare rock, the lodgepole pines, the aspen groves, the cold rushing creeks, the deep valleys and tall mountain peaks, the moose, the elk, the muledeer, the fox, the lynx, the bobcat, the mountains lions, the bears, the magpies and the Canada Jays, the crows and the ravens, the curvy roads, the changing seasons. And the clear, dark nights with the Milky Way and Orion and Ursa Major, Gemini and the whole zodiac. The clouds, the lenticular clouds and the clouds with a long straight front coming over Mt. Evans. When they’re lit by the rising or setting sun.

And for me, the two visits from the mountain spirits. The three mule deer bucks who greeted me when I came to close on the house on Samain of 2014. The two Elk bucks who stayed in our yard for a day eating dandelions. The day before I started radiation treatment.

Mountain strong. They promised that, welcomed me on the close of the Celtic year. They promised that, assured me on the day before the Cyber Knife visits. We are neighbors, mountain spirits and humans. We need mutuality to survive. The mountains themselves have greeted me and come to me as companions. Our mountain journey is now five years old and only just begun.

Mountain strong.

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?

Merry, Merry Meet

Winter and the Gratitude Moon, waning sliver

Christmas gratefuls: the silence on Black Mountain Drive. Black Mountain itself. The stars above Black Mountain. Shadow Mountain. Our home. This loft, a gift from my Kate, now five years ago, and still wonderful. Kate and her increased health. The sacred side of Christmas. The pagan (also sacred) side of Christmas.

When I went out for the paper this morning, it was dead quiet. No dogs barking. No cars or trucks on the road. No mechanical noises. The sky was the deep black of the cosmic wilderness, lit only by bright lights: planets, stars, galaxies. Silent night, holy night.

Those shepherds out there tending their flock, sheep shuffling around. A baa and a bleat here and there. Visitors on camel back. All that singing. As imagined, probably not a quiet night.

Here though, this dark Christmas morn. The deer are asleep. The elk, too. Pine martens, fishers, foxes, mountain lions might be prowling, but part of their inheritance is silence. Black bears went to sleep long ago. Millions of insects are quiet, too. The microbes in the soil, the growing lodgepole pines, the aspen organisms, their clonal neighborhoods, bulbs, corms, rhizomes all alive, all quiet.

Silent night, holy night. Yes. Sacred night, holyday night. Yes.

I read this long essay on consciousness by the president and chief scientific officer of the Allen Institute for Brain Science. In it he says this:

” Yes, there’s this ancient belief in panpsychism: “Pan” meaning “every,” “psyche” meaning “soul.”…basically it meant that everything is ensouled…if you take a more conceptual approach to consciousness, the evidence suggests there are many more systems that have consciousness—possibly all animals, all unicellular bacteria, and at some level maybe even individual cells that have an autonomous existence. We might be surrounded by consciousness everywhere and find it in places where we don’t expect it because our intuition says we’ll only see it in people and maybe monkeys and also dogs and cats. But we know our intuition is fallible…”

Even silence, since it presumes an awareness of noise, is a proof of consciousness. All that consciousness around us here on Shadow Mountain. The trees and wild animals, grasses and microbes, dogs and humans, all here, all experiencing a self.

I take panpsychism a bit further than Koch with the kabbalistic idea of ohr, the divine spark, resident in every piece of the universe and the process metaphysical view of a vitalist universe creatively moving toward greater complexity.

This waking up mornin’ we can see the baby Jesus as an in your face message that, yes, of course we are holy. Yes, of course the universe sings to us from the depths of the sea, the top of the redwoods, and the person or animal across from us this morning. And, to get downright personal, from within the deep of our own soul.

A Holiweek

Winter and the Gratitude Moon

Saturday gratefuls: For this spinning, traveling planet. For ways to get from one spot to another: cars, trains, planes, bicycles, feet. For the new Woolly Calendar, produced again by Mark Odegard. Over 30 years. For cities like Minneapolis, San Francisco, Denver. And for those of us who live outside of them.

The long dark Solstice night still wraps Shadow Mountain, quiet and black. For those lovers of the summer this marks a key moment as the night begins, gradually, to give way to the day. Six months from now the Summer Solstice will celebrate the longest day, which marks the moment when the day gradually begins to give way to the night. A cycle that will last as long as mother earth does.

A cycle that can remind us, if we let it, of the way of life. That darkness comes, fecund and still. That light comes, spurring growth and movement. That we need both the darkness and the light, both are essential. When dark periods enter our life, they are usual, normal and will pass. When light periods enter our life, they are usual, normal and will pass.

Our time with Seoah ends today. She heads off to Singapore for a year, leaving Denver this evening. We’ll head out to the airport early. It’s Christmas travel weekend and the airport will be buzzing.

Her English is much better and she studies hard. She hopes that her time in Singapore will push her all the way to fluency. Mary has a Korean friend who will help Seoah hook up with the Korean community there and English language tutors.

Hanukah starts tomorrow night. The first candle. Tuesday is Christmas Eve, then Wednesday, Christmas Day. Festivals of light. Showing our human preference for the day, for the growing season. Showing our confidence in the long ago, when the Maccabees revolted, kicking the Seleucids out, entering Jerusalem, and rededicating the Second Temple after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes. And, when the miracle baby, Jesus, entered this world, like the Shekinah.

A holiweek. Filled with candles, presents, songs, family. The most sacred part of this holiweek is the coming together of friends and family.

The West

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Seoah and her light presence as a guest, Murdoch again, the Grandmother Tree at CBE, the night drive up Brook Forest, then Black Mountain drives, the fox that crossed our path, the mule deer doe standing, looking toward the road, the nightlife of the wild, the ultimate wildness of the heavens

December 20, 2014 “The enormity of this change is still a little hard to grasp. We’re no longer Minnesotans, but Coloradans. We’re no longer flatlanders but mountain dwellers. We’re no longer Midwesterners. Now we are of the West, that arid, open, empty space. These changes will change us and I look forward to that. The possibility of becoming new in the West has long been part of the American psyche, now I’ll test it for myself.”

December 18, 2019 The usual mythic significance of the West, where the light ends, where souls go when they die, seems quite different from its American mythos as almost a separate country, an Other World where you could leave Europe behind, leave the East Coast behind and rejuvenate, remake yourself. (yes, Native Americans were here already. But I’m talking about the frontier, the Old West, the place where Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and lots of versions of John Wayne lived. And, yes, the Spaniards on the west coast and as far north as what is now New Mexico. The Russians, too.)

Seems quite different. Yes. However, “the possibility of becoming new in the West.” The American mythic West is about where souls go when they die, when they die to a past that had not prospered in the East, to a life no longer well lived, to a life lived in the all too usual way, to a life of boredom.

What would we become? When would the West become home? When would this house on Black Mountain Drive become home? All those boxes. All that altitude adjustment. And, we would gradually learn, an attitude adjustment to mountain life.

We have become people of the mountains, in love with them enough to adapt our lives to thin air in spite of the difficulty it presents to us. We have become people of the tribe, of clan Beth Evergreen, part of a strange and intriguing religious experiment, a new community. That was part of what people sought in the West. A chance to build community anew, to different rules.

We have become embedded in the lives of our grandchildren, of Jon. They love the mountains, too. Our choice, to live close, but not too close, has had its challenges, but has worked out well. It’s hard for us to provide day to day support for Jon and the kids. We’re too far away and too physically challenged (of late). We are, however, a mountain refuge for them, a place away from the city where they can come to refresh. We’re also on the way to A-basin, Jon’s favorite ski area.

When we travel now, the return no longer involves a turn north, toward the Pole, but a turn West, toward the mountains and the Pacific. Our friends in the north, in Minnesota have stayed in touch. We’ve not gotten back much; it’s so good to still have solid connections.

We change altitude frequently, often dramatically during a day’s normal routine. No more mile square roads, farmland templates. No more 10,000 lakes. And, up where we live, in the montane ecosystem, no deciduous trees except for aspen. No more combines on the road, tractors, truck trailers full of grain and corn headed to the elevators. (yes, in Eastern Colorado, but we’re of the mountains.)

The pace of life in the mountains is slower. Many fewer stoplights, fewer stores, less nightlife. Service of all kinds is slower, too. Plumbers. HVAC guys. Mail folks. UPS. Fedex. Denver Post. Painters and electricians. Once we quit expecting metro area level of service, especially in terms of promptness and predictability, life got better. The mountain way.

Our life in the West has also been shaped, profoundly, by medicine and illness. Tomorrow.

A Five Year Anniversary

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Gertie and Kep slept until almost 5:30. An extra hour of sleep for me. Brother Mark’s feeling better over in Saudi Arabia. Joe’s movers will come today. Sister Mary reports heavy rains in Singapore. My dispersed family. My diverse family.

Second iteration of the new workout yesterday morning. I like this one. It uses the TRX and kettlebells. Still working to cement the five days a week: resistance, cardio, resistance, cardio, resistance. It’s in my head now as a routine, but scheduling sometimes breaks it up.

Friend Tom Crane reminded me of an old holiday, one remembered now with Christmas, some say. He wrote this morning: “Today would mark the beginning of the seven-day celebration of Saturnalia in ancient Rome. For the winter festival, the Romans made and exchanged gifts, decorated their homes with holly and ropes of garland, and carried wreaths of evergreen branches to honor the god Saturn.” Here’s a bit more from the same website Tom found: “By the beginning of December, writes Columella, the farmer should have finished his autumn planting… Now, with the approach of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing was honored with a festival.” Saturnalia

Sound at all familiar?

Here’s another odd fact. A couple of weeks ago I went looking for quotes about the West and the Rocky Mountains. Found out that the lowest point in Colorado, around 3,000 feet, is higher than the highest point in twenty other states. We’re all high here.

In three days we will have been in Colorado five years. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from back then: “The moving moon has waned, a sliver this early. It will go dark tomorrow, the Winter Solstice. Our first full day and night here at Black Mountain Drive. Tom Crane, Rigel, Vega, Kepler and I pulled into the garage about 12:15 am this morning. We drove in over several inches of snow, so a first task will be getting the driveway clear for the moving van which comes on Monday…Tom drove the whole way, 14 hours in one whack, stopping only briefly for food and gas. It was a great treat to be able to watch the miles roll away.” December 20, 2014. Ancientrails.

Over the next three days I’m going to revisit that time, the move. Five years is an important anniversary. And, it will occur days before the calendar ticks over into a brand new decade, the 2020’s. Our first full decade in Colorado, in the Rockies. Time to do an assessment.