Still stuff to do

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Deer Creek Canyon Fire, 8/14-8/16

My no glow first week is over. I feel better, gut behaving like old times. More energy. I’ve put together a list, checked one off. This list will take me well into the fall. It includes more fire mitigation based on Ben Yellin’s report back to us. He visited last Tuesday.

Example. Going to put down landscape cloth five feet out from the house. Then, river rock on top of that. This is the no ignition zone. Ben also marked many trees, adding his thoughts about strings of trees that lead from tree to tree to house. He explained the thirty foot out and hundred foot out zones clearly.

The idea is to get the fire to drop down from the trees to the ground, then run up to a no ignition zone around the house. This will, he said, give our house a good shot at surviving even a crown fire.

He also said, “Risk rating agencies around the country say the Evegreen/Conifer area is the most at risk for a big, damaging fire.” Oh, that was good to hear. A spur to more action though.

The photos above come from the Deer Creek Canyon Fire, now 100% out. This is along a route I use to get to my docs, so I know it well. Not that far from us as the fire crowns.

Continuing to do my three workouts a week, cardio plus resistance. Working hard to counteract the sarcopenia caused by the Lupron.

Did you turn the heat up in this room has become a favorite question. Kate still has hot flashes, too. The family that flashes together, sweats together. Carrying this togetherness thing to its absurd conclusion.

Doc said I’ll gradually return to pre-radiation mode in about a month, so three weeks from now.

Lunar Awe

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Ogata Korin After: Crows and the Moon

The full Moon of the First Harvest floated above the mountain tops as Kate and I drove home last night from Beth Evergreen. I love these night drives through the Arapaho National Forest, wild animals sleeping, hunting, drinking from the mountain streams, a full moon casting its light down among the lodgepole pines and aspen.

The Mussar Vaad Practice Group met. We checked in on our awe practices for the last month. Instead of cultivating this middah, as we do with patience or joy or enthusiasm, the consensus was that we open ourselves to awe. As I’ve written here a few posts ago, considering awe this month led to an insight for me, one I’ve been seeking for years.

Katsushika Hokusai Mt. Fuji seen from a mountain path

Opening ourselves to awe is, I believe, the act of opening ourselves to revelation, to seeing the Otherworld, the one that lies close to us, even within us, but which habit, culture, language, fear, denial, inattention blocks from view. When we open ourselves to awe, we find the cracks in those all too human barriers. At first we may glance behind the curtain only briefly, but this openness we can cultivate.

There was the Moon of the First Harvest yellow gold, round, luminous. It slipped behind this peak, this grove of trees, then reappeared as we drove up Brook Forest Drive and on to Black Mountain Drive. You could say, oh, that’s the moon. Nice. Or, you could open yourself a bit and see, maybe first, our rocky satellite come round again. Keeping the aperture open a bit longer you might feel the beauty of its loneliness in the night sky. The wonder of its soft light. Imagine what it means to sleeping deer, elk. To prowling mountain lions or foraging bears.

Chikanobu Plum garden moon

You might find yourself lost in the legends of moon phases or practices like moon watching parties in Japan. Or, you could open yourself to this particular full moon as the skies memory for those first nights of harvesting wheat. Smell the bread. See the corn dollies and the shocks of cut grain. This full moon is not just another full moon but one embedded in a natural context, a cultural context, a personal context. Each of these available if we only pause, push away the occulting screens of routine and the need to hurry home.

The MVP group is precious to me. It’s a chance to be honest, to think clearly, to learn from the inner work of others. I love these people: Susan, Judy, Marilyn, Ron, Rich, Kate, Jamie, and Tara. And that love is part of the experience of awe. We met as strangers not many years ago and now we see each other, really see each other.

Yamantaka. Yes.

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

wow. Beano and a Woolly Mammoth!

Still in the weekend. First day with no radiation is tomorrow. And tomorrow, and tomorrow. Not fully sunk in yet. Except for putting away the Miralax, the Beano, the Renew Life. Back to regular bowel life in a week or so. Yeah! Spent Friday night and Saturday eating forbidden foods like cucumbers, carrots, ice cream, fried falafel. Bring on the gas.

Kate got up yesterday, wasn’t feeling well. I can tell quickly. She went back to bed. Sometime around noon she realized she’d not taken her morning meds. Oh, she said. Turns out they’re really important. A better afternoon.

It’s been cooler here the last three days. Nice sleeping. Overcast this morning. What my Aunt Roberta would have called a dull, gray day. She often opened letters with that line. A variation, I think, on: it was a dark and stormy night. In this usually sunny state overcast is an oddity.

Sent out notes about the end of radiation. Receiving messages back. The support of such a wide group of folks has given me a safety net for those times when the weight bore down. Thanks to you all. You know who you are. Especially to Kate who has role modeled a phlegmatic response to medical issues. Thanks, sweetheart.

More convinced than ever that resilience is key to the third phase. By definition we’re going to hit tough, scary bumps in the road at our age. How we respond will determine how miserable they make us.

In my case I’m pretty sure it’s acceptance of death that has undergirded me. Got into accepting my own death thanks to the Yamantaka Mandala that hangs in the Minneapolis Institute of Arts Himalayan gallery. He is not, as often identified, the Tibetan Buddhist God of Death. He’s the god of conquering your own death. Contemplate yourself as a corpse. Feel what it will be like for your loved ones when you die. Practice being calm in dire physical situations. Whatever makes you really feel your absence from this world.

If death is not scary, then a potentially terminal disease isn’t either. What Yamantaka taught me has allowed me to go through this whole process with little anxiety. It allowed me to be present for conversations about what to do, for the treatments, and for the possibility of failure. It also helped me accept support and not push it away.

Worth considering for all of us in the third phase, I believe. Second phase, too, but definitely now as we live into the last phase of life.

Defendable Homes

Summer and the waning (4%) Radiation Moon

Down to single digits. Nine more treatments. Life after radiation (a bit of a joke, ha) is coming next week. Only three bedbugs were ever found. There was a “bubble” of people who sat in that chair at the approximate time Anova suspects the bugs transferred. They’re having them do extra preparation before they can come into treatment. Not me. Nope. No bedbugs here on the mountain. Gratitude. Probably means I’ll finish on August 9th.

My friend Dave, personal trainer Dave, has calmed down the nausea from his brain cancer chemo. Deb told me yesterday that he rode 78 miles last week, 20 miles that day. He’s in phenomenal shape. You might remember my mentioning that he ran a 15 mile endurance race in British Columbia, the Fitzsimmon Mountains. Lots of elevation gain. This was a year ago. Part of the motivation for staying in shape during cancer treatment is to prove you’re still alive, still have agency over your body. Take that, brain cancer. Take that, prostate cancer.

Found all this out when I took in the check for a large lug of Western Slope peaches. There’s a small section of the Western Slope (of the Rockies, in Colorado) that’s perfect for growing fancy peaches. Tents pop up along roads selling Colorado Peaches. On the Move Fitness takes orders from clients and organizes a bulk purchase from Green Barn Produce. Pick’em up next week. Kate’s going to make a sizable batch of peaches frozen in orange juice.

Another Colorado moment yesterday. On the way to Kate’s hearing test (she’s good in both ears. yeah.) we drove past a long dump truck, a side dumper, full of boulders. When I see a large truck here with boulders, I think of the golf carts leaving Minnesota each year for southern courses. Or, the Christmas trees beginning to head out of state by truck in November. Moving rock is a big business here. Including moving those rocks that fall onto roadways.

Sent a note yesterday to Elk Creek Fire District. They have a staff person who does two hour assessments of fire mitigation needs on your property. It’s been three years since I thinned our lodgepoles and I stopped at that. Might be other things I’m missing.

There were 30 wildfires within the Elk Creek District last year. The recent newsletter points out that firefighters “…must focus on evacuations and effectively apply available resources to defendable homes. In these scenarios, it is crucial that homeowners have already implemented Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) best practices.”

In practical terms this defines the triage that firefighters do in case of a wildfire threatening homes. They leave those already in flames and those too difficult to get to, think way up high or very steep driveways or in an unmitigated stand of trees. Those with short driveways, near major roads, who have done mitigation in their HIZ, will be defended. Our house meets all those criteria and I want to make sure it continues to.

Life in the WUI (pronounced woo-eee), the Wildland/Urban Interface. Yes, it makes about as much sense to live here as in a flood plain or in a coastal city waiting for sea level rise or a bad hurricane. But, we love it here, as residents of those other areas must love their home turf. So…

22

Summer and the Radiation Moon

22 fractions absorbed. 13 to go. Bed bug means I won’t be ending on August 6th. August 7th. Two weeks plus three days and I’ll have the full 7000 cGy of photons.

This week’s been difficult. I’ve tried various strategies for managing my ouchy gut. Anti-nausea meds. Zofran. Miralax. Immodium. Results mixed. A general sense of gut not feeling right has pervaded my days and nights. Add to that fatigue from the radiation itself and the couple of hours in traffic. Result: low energy, unsettled, spotty eating. Glad I’m over halfway done.

Could have been worse. Could get worse. Seems like a fair price to pay for the possibility of a cure.

The fans up here are cooling the loft. A breeze is coming down from Black Mountain. The sun is up. The sky is blue. Another beautiful Colorado Rocky Mountain day.

2014

Kate went to mussar on Thursday while I was in Lone Tree. Yesterday she went to a memorial service for Vanessa, a long time member of the Thursday afternoon mussar group. I mentioned her a while ago. She had a degenerative disease that slowly shut down her organs.

Vanessa’s mind remained strong, supple but eating, chewing, swallowing was very difficult. Over the last week or so she had had trouble breathing. Her spirit remained good.

We had a neighbor in Minnesota, Greg, who developed MLS. He also deteriorated over time, but his spirit turned sour. Why him? Why this disease? Why didn’t people treat him better? He died last year.

We’re not promised a smooth ride. And, most of us don’t get one. Gratitude is one antidote. Vanessa remained grateful for life, for friends, for family, for her faith. She lived fully even as her body betrayed her. Greg was not grateful. He lived miserably, then died.

Kate and I have plenty of opportunity to express our gratitude. From distant friends who stay in touch to family, grandkids, CBE folk. Lots of help, encouragement and love. Thank you all, again. Still.

Awe

Summer and the Radiation Moon

An orange disc slipped up between two cumulus clouds, darkening one and throwing rusty beams on the other, the Radiation Moon. We drove home from MVP. Up Brook Forest Drive.

At the curve before Upper Maxwell Creek the moon rise showed itself in the cleft of Shadow Mountain. These vignettes, available and free for those who choose to see, give us a glimpse into the wonder, the beauty, the power, the mystery of our universe. Those who knew it as caterpillar may not recognize the butterfly.

The middot of that night’s meeting was awe. Yirah. Often translated, especially in Christian translations of the “old testament” (doesn’t feel old when it’s ever present in the life of CBE) as fear. Fear of the Lord is a common phrase, usually meaning faith.

Marc Chagall

“We are to love God. Can we love that which we fear? Stockholm Syndrome. Can we love that which is distant? What is love? Are we in some way held in relationship by fear? What does that say about our relationship with God?” Susan offered several provocative ideas for discussion. We left-my stomach made me do it-before the conversation got to this set of questions.

Sent this note to Susan about them: “Awe is the main driver of my (small r) religious life. I experience awe looking up at Black Mountain, down at the Columbine, when I eat, the true transubstantiation, when I see others, knowing their inner life is as rich as mine, but hidden. Awe begets gratitude. Gratitude begets simplicity. Enough for me.”

And so it is.

Half Way

Summer and the Radiation Moon

You can see the orienting lasers on my right hand

18 fractions absorbed. 180 minutes, exactly three hours under the watchful iris of the Cyber Knife. Roughly 3500 cGys of the total 7000 cGy* prescription. This is over half-way. 18/35ths.

Hard to separate out causality. Does my occasional fatigue come from the radiation? The Lupron? Indolence? What’s causing my crampy stomach, over eager bowels? Are those prickly hot feelings transient hot flashes trying to break through? Or, are all of these some crummy bug that came along at a time when there were multiple possible causes? Not sure.

This weekend respite is very, very welcome. I need some time to relax. Decompress. Gather myself again. Three weeks plus a couple of days before all 7000 cGys are in place. A marathon, not a sprint.

Ruth and Gabe are here. Ruth mowed the fuel yesterday. Gabe picked up the detritus of Rigel’s bunny lust fueled attack on our back deck. They picked flowers for us among them Columbines and Daisies. Kate cut two of our blooming iris. Maroon bearded. Have not bloomed the last couple of years.

Another Great Wheel consolation. The iris will bloom. The daisy’s, too. Lodgepole pines will release their pollen in June. The mountain streams will race as soon as the snowpack melts. The elk rut will send the strangled bugling of the bull’s out into the fall air. Snow will fall in December. Rain will come on July afternoons. The altitude on Shadow Mountain will keep a cool gap open between temperatures down the hill and those up here. Long after we’re all dead. Oh, yes, over a long time even these things will change in some way, but the cycle of the natural world to which death belongs will continue.

* ( a unit of absorbed radiation dose equal to one hundredth (10−2) of a gray, or 1 rad FreeDictionary)

America the Beautiful

Summer and the Radiation Moon

So easy to get lost in the polluted haze of Trump’s venal presidency.
To have our heads down, shaking in disbelief. Wondering when this horror show will end.

So easy. Today though, on this day of tanks and flags, this day when we become like all the nations who try to show bellicosity as a symbol of national strength, I’m very aware it’s all happening far to the east.

Happy to sit high in the Rocky Mountains, far away from the beltway. I lift my head up and look out the window. Black Mountain is bathed in sunlight. So are the tops of the lodgepole pines in our front yard. The sky, a robin’s egg blue, makes all the green pop.

If I were to drive across the plains again, from here to the Twin Cities as I have done so often, I would cross green fields of wheat, of corn. The horizon would be once again flat instead of jagged. Reaching into Minnesota the plains slowly disappear, bumping up against the remnants of the big woods. It’s said that once a squirrel could go tree to tree from the Atlantic coast to Minnesota without ever touching the earth.

The Corn Palace, Mitchell, South Dakota

Near where the prairie begins to morph into another land form is Pipestone, Minnesota. A sacred place for many peoples native to this land. There the blood of mother earth has congealed into a soft, red stone, perfect for making the pipes used in so many rituals. If you go to the quarries, you can sometimes see folks working there, seeking blocks of pipestone. A very low tech procedure.

Driving on toward the Twin Cities, angling north and east, bean and corn fields begin to dominate. Cattle, pigs. Close to sea level and well east of John Wesley Powell’s demarcation line for the arid West, the 100th parallel (really now the 98th), Minnesota is in the humid east. Summer air is sticky, wet, and filled with bugs of various kinds.

In Minnesota the glaciers that bulldozed the plains left behind small depressions in the earth, over 16,000 of them. A journey north and east, turning due north some where beyond the middle of the state, will find a traveler in the North Woods, filled with lakes, and still more wild than civilized.

Burntside Lake, near Ely, Minnesota

It is up there, in the Arrowhead Region, where wolves retained their paw-hold on a U.S. presence. The Arrowhead’s eastern boundary is all shoreline, washed by the cold, deep waters of Lake Superior.

These are the parts of America the Beautiful that I know best. Minnesota and its northerness. The plains and their great level expanses, once filled with grass and buffalo. The Rocky Mountains which rise up from those same plains, suddenly, abruptly, far to the west of any silliness on the National Mall.

I will hold in my heart this day neither tanks, nor flags, nor bluster, but the rocky beaches of the Great Lakes, the farmland of southern Minnesota, the vast wheat fields of South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, the upthrust mantle of Mother Earth’s crust where I now sit.

Camp Du Nord, Northern Minnesota

I’ve lived my life in these interior places of the North American continent, held for now under the politic rubric United States of America. They will still exist when this nation has faded into obscurity. And that makes me glad.

That Damned Tunnel

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Thought more about the tunnel I mentioned in the post below. For a long while, especially from February through mid-May or so, I thought the light at the end of the tunnel was the ironic oncoming train. Seemed like the tunnel had shrunken and passing through it was a unit train headed in our direction.

Once Kate began to gain weight, smile, the tunnel expanded a bit. A small path opened up that we could jump onto and wait out the train. When the cancer diagnosis went from psa to imaging studies, and the imaging studies showed no mets, the small path widened up enough for both of us to stand next to each other.

The exit from the tunnel is still far off. I’m estimating September, late September, as the time when we see if the track outside the tunnel runs through a pleasant valley or back into another mountainside.

When I did the Progoff workshop in May I thought mostly about the time since Kate’s bleed. On the way to radiation today I turned this over again and decided that the move to Colorado was the key moment. Since then four aspects of our new life came to dominate.

supervised trip, A-Basin, 2016

Family. Since we moved here on the Winter Solstice of 2014, Jon has gone through a bitter divorce, lived with us for a year and purchased his own home. The grandkids have gone from traumatized to tween and teenager. In 2016 we went to Korea for Joe and SeoAh’s wedding. Since then, SeoAh has become an important part of our family, too.

Colorado. We live in this remarkable state, close to many things people spend thousands of dollars to visit. We’ve seen few of them. The tunnel has contained us. Perhaps as we emerge from the tunnel, we’ll be able to plan trips. 5280, a magazine, has an insert this month, 10 classic Colorado road trips. A good place to start.

We live in the mountains among the lodgepole pines, aspens, craggy cliffs and fast flowing streams. Mule deer, elk, fox, bears, and mountain lions are our neighbors. Making our life here on Shadow Mountain has given us great joy, the beauty and the changing seasons

Kate at the CBE board’s oneg, Rosh Hashanah, 2018

Judaism. Congregation Beth Evergreen has been a refuge, a joy. The folks there have shown us what community means, what mitzvah means, that life together is better than life apart. Friends, intellectual sustenance, spiritual growth.

October 8, 2018

Healthspan. It was the diagnosis in 2015 that started it. Oh. Cancer? Really? Let’s get it out and move on. Tried to do that. Next up. Arthritic knee. Get a new, titanium one. Yes. Good choice. Kate needed a new right shoulder. Also a good choice. Sjogren’s began to eat into Kate’s well-being, dragging her weight down, causing fatigue, nausea. The bleed made it all more problematic for her. Second bleed. Pneumothorax. Each meant time in the hospital, starting in the E.R. at Swedish. Flu. Pneumonia. Me. Rising psa. Oh? Really? Later here we are in week 3 of the radiation. Hopeful for the near term future. How our lifespan has been affected? Probably shortened.

First day of radiation

It is my feeling that emergence from the tunnel will call on us to interact more fully with all of these four. I’m excited and ready.

A Yellow Tinged Orgy

Summer and the Recovery Moon

Pine pollen, June, 2015

The wind blew up last night as the sun set. With it came the yellow cloud, lodgepole pine pollen. The yellowness, which looked like smoke, refracted the deep reds of the evening sky. Coulda been fire. The fine yellow powder settles on everything. We’ve been lucky so far because the rain has knocked down a lot of the pollen. Not now.

It’s a wild sexual orgy, a sign of midsummer, as the lodgepoles go through their ancient reproductive strategy. Here’s an evocative sentence from Walking Mountains: “With their strobili unabashedly protruding and their ovules wide open, the young gametophytes stand ready to receive the blasts of pollen from trees near and far.” 50 shades of green.

When I was in Lone Tree yesterday, the truckometer read 100. I drove the older Rav4 since Kate volunteered to take Mary all the way to the airport. Stifling.

Sushi Rama

Two weeks out of seven over, 10 fractions beamed into my prostate fossa. The weekends are off. I’m finding I really like the break. To reward myself for a solid two weeks of radiation therapy I followed Ruth’s recommendation and found Sushi Rama. So-so. But fun. The conveyor belt idea works very well, I imagine, when the customer base is large and consistent throughout the day. Variability in a burb makes some sushi get that old and tired look.