We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

This and that

Beltane                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

All the Woollies are back in their places with bright shiny faces. Mark and Tom in the Twin Cities, Paul in Robbintson, Maine.

Kate had her first board meeting last night. She dressed up in her serious adult clothes, put on a coat of many colors and went to Evergreen. I stayed home. Felt good after the long drive.

It’s 50 again this morning, cool, but clear. Yesterday the rain continued in the evening. A bit of nostalgia on the weather website, a tornado watch! Felt like the Midwest. Don’t recall having had one while we’ve lived here. Lots of red flag days, flash flood warnings, winter storm warnings, but no tornado watches. A few severe thunderstorm warnings, usually announcing the possibility of killer hail. Colorado has significant hail damage, among the highest in the nation. Climate in the montane region of the Rockies.

With the Durango trip over I’m finished with traveling until early August when I’ll head back to the Twin Cities for Groveland U.U.’s 25th anniversary celebration. Look forward to reconnecting with both Woolly friends and fellow docents from the MIA, seeing the MIA and the Walker, a jucy lucy at Matt’s.

Tan clumps are stump detritus

Tan clumps are stump detritus

We go into Denver less and less, our out of the house time spent either in the mountains themselves or in Evergreen, mostly at Beth Evergreen. Not an intentional thing, though the heat during the summers is a barrier for us, just that our life is now in the mountains and the city seems more and more foreign each time we go. Of course, we lived in Andover for twenty years, well outside Minneapolis, but we got into the Cities with greater frequency there. I had the MIA and the Sierra Club, the Woollies that drew me in; Kate had friends.

The stump grinder did a great job. Feels like we’re beginning to move in, a process attenuated by the medical and familial upsets that came bang, bang, bang after we moved. Jon’s bench is a good step in that direction, placing the fans, adding the light in the living room. Plenty more to do. We spent a lot of money early on installing the generator, a new boiler, solar panels, the new bathroom downstairs, sealing and staining the garage, new kitchen. Decor has waited. I’m close to having the garage organized again, may do some more work on that today.

 

Woolly’s In the Rockies

Beltane                                                                               Woolly Mammoth Moon

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Paul and Tom

Ode and All Hat and No Motel

Ode and All Hat and No Motel

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Cliff Palace, Mesa Verde

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

Pensive Tom

Pensive Tom

The Trailhead, Buena Vista

The Trailhead, Buena Vista

Home Again

Beltane                                                                               Woolly Mammoth Moon

HelmsmanBack from the lands of the ancients. Back from the still growing 416 fire, now 30% contained. Back from an immersion in my old life so complete that I would occasionally say here, referring to the Twin Cities or Minnesota. The web of context and thick memories with Tom, Mark and Paul is old and deep.

We ate breakfast (thanks, Mark) in Durango at the Doubletree where we stayed. Packed up and left in the rain. It rained or sprinkled the whole time we were in Durango and that same pattern continued all the way back to Conifer. This meant my three amigos got to see the mountains with clouds hanging over them, the forests with mists boiling up in and through them, the grasses green, and small, temporary creeks flowing as the rain sought lower ground through rocky elevated terrain. It was a picturesque drive made mythic.

Paul's t-shirtNew memories. Climbing the ladders out of Cliff Palace. Talking with Doug Crispin about Mesa Verde. Tom as the Great Helmsman. Mark with his notebook open, sketching as we drove. “Riding loosens me up, makes it better.” Paul’s Common Ground County Fair t-shirt. (see poster) Wandering through the Durango RR museum with its odd, large and varied collection: the blonde black bear, the bi-plane, the solar car, a private train car, memorabilia from the capture of Saddam Hussein and  a thousand miniature soldiers, among other things. Visiting the Telluride Bud Company with Mark, his first visit to a legal pot shop.

The rain, a constant for the last couple of days, has to have helped our fire situation, too. A good thing.

 

Cliff Palace

Beltane                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

The Quadruplets

The Quadruplets

We drove yesterday where others walked long ago. The drive from the visitor center at Mesa Verde to the Cliff Palace where we went on an hour long tour took a long while, maybe 30 minutes up an incline. The land at Mesa Verde slopes up at an angle with fingers of land separated by eroded valleys. At the end of these wide fingers the land slopes down again, gently. As a result, according to an exhibit at the Spruce Tree dwelling museum, Mesa Verde is not a mesa at all, but a cuesta. Mesa’s have sharp cliffs while cuesta’s slope, as they do here, toward the lower ground.

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Paul and Mark descending

The route down to Cliff Palace (I’ll post pictures when I get back home) was the same one the cliff dwellers used, narrow steps cut into sandstone, augmented a bit by the occasional iron railing. There was, too, a ten foot ladder on the way down and two ten foot ladders on the way out which also followed a cliff dweller path. It would have been a fun place to grow up as a kid, scrambling up and down over rock and ladders, a more or less level surface above the home site where games could be played.

As at many sites where rock was a primary building material, the skill level was high with walls that were plumb, right angles, and a mortar that both bound the rock together and allowed water to seep through without loosening.

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Cliff Palace

Mark asked an interesting question about wall coverings. These rocky appearing structures would have had several coats of plaster on them and would have been painted. That means they would have looked much different than they do now.

A ranger at the visitor center compared Mesa Verde to Giza and other World Heritage sites. When Tom asked him what was good about working there, “We get visitors from all over the world.” Another Ranger I talked to, Doug Crispin, had an obvious reverence for this Park. He was a first generation immigrant and said, “This is an American story. I’m honored to be here to share it.” He and I mused over a thousand years from now, “Will anyone be coming to look at the ruins of Durango? Probably not. But Mesa Verde will still be here.”

Right outside my hotel room is a small balcony with two chairs, a small table and a view of the Animas River. Had I been in this room on April 7th of 2015 the Animas would have been a sickly, mustard yellow thanks to the toxic spill from the Gold King Mine upstream from here. It’s clear now, with people kayaking, long  boarding, even fishing, but it took a long time. Here’s a hardly reassuring couple of paragraphs from the Durango Herald, April of this year:

Spruce Tree House

Spruce Tree House

San Juan Basin Public Health said water samples taken throughout the Animas River indicate there’s no risk to human or environmental health from normal use of the waterway.

However, the health department suggests people who come in contact with the river to wash with soap, keep a close watch on children who are more susceptible to unintentionally swallowing river water and treat water before consumption.

Meanwhile, the 416 fire, from the same newspaper, an hour ago: “The 416 Fire hasn’t exhaled its last column of smoke yet, but steady rainfall Saturday did help tame the 16-day-old wildfire and allow firefighters to increase containment lines around the 34,161-acre blaze.

20180616_122340I slept last night with the patio door open, screen closed. I could hear the Animas, the river of souls, running. When I woke up this morning, it was raining. My ear was eager for the sound, found it soothing, familiar in a humid East, Midwestern way.

Being with Tom, Paul, and Mark has reminded us all of the depth our long time relationships has nurtured. We move together through the day easily, listening to each other, making decisions, continuing lines of thought, sparking new ones. One of Paul’s hopes is that this trip might encourage us to use a meeting app like Zoom to get together even while far apart physically. I’d like that and hope we can make it work, too.

Kate says the stump grinder got a lot done in 2 hours. I’m excited to see it. An outdoor room. Later we’ll have him back to do the front, leaving widely spaced trees with no stumps.

 

Fire on the horizon

Beltane                                                                                 Woolly Mammoth Moon

We’re out here in the land dominated, for the moment, by the 416 fire. I smell no smoke, see no smoke, but the fire’s presence a few miles north of here is evident in conversation, google searches, and the need to plan around it. It’s grown now to over 32,000 acres with 18% containment.

Yesterday was a red flag day, today is 90% chance of rain. Sounds good, right? Water puts out fire. Well. Water also courses down fire hardened soil, soil made, as inciweb calls it, hydrophobic. Result? Flash flood warnings, especially for Hermosa Creek and Tripp Gulch. Flash floods are one of the sequelae of these big fires that last long after the fire is out.

Our plan today is to head over to Mesa Verde, see what we can see, then, this afternoon or so, find the Durango RR museum. Google says Mesa Verde is about 40 minutes to the west. Not much further north is the Canyon of the Ancients where the mysterious Anasazi culture had its home base. We’re in land settled long ago by descendants of those adventurous souls who crossed the Bering Land Bridge. A sense of humility is in order out here.

The drive from Conifer to Durango is a lesson in geology, following Hwy 285 through the long Platte River Canyon up to Kenosha Pass, then the sudden appearance of the broad, flat plain, South Park. South Park and its fellows, Middle Park and North Park are Colorado’s high plains, South Park at an average altitude of 9,000 feet. Turning south at the road to Buena Vista (where Kate had her quilt retreat in February) we drove along more high plains, and, as the mountains impinged more and more on the road, found a long stretch of beetle-killed pines.

This is poor country with makeshift shelters made from hay bales and shipping containers, old pickups parked forever, and a general feeling of hard lives. Until Pagosa (or, in the Ute, as Paul found, Stinky) Springs. Pagosa Springs (stinky from the sulfur) is a fairly large town as is Durango. Surprisingly so given the land that precedes them from the north.

The creeks here are full, running fast. The mountains steep and tree covered. Yet I’m sitting in a Doubletree Hotel room with all the appointments you would expect. Colorado is a land of heights and valleys, rocky rivers and streams, elk and mule deer, black bears and mountain lions, sprinkled with pockets of population, often upscale.

There is a conversation, now over thirty years old, that continued on the way here. We know each other, have memories and friends in common. What are you reading? What is the nature of time? How do whirlpools form? Wives and kids. Dogs. Hopes. Fears. Creation of tidal tables. What have you been up to?

Well, gotta get a shower, then breakfast. Traveling to do.

Venn Merging

Beltane                                                                                  Woolly Mammoth Moon

Yesterday two worlds came into contact, even if only briefly. The first was Kate and mine’s current world, the world of the Rocky Mountains and Reconstructionist Judaism, Evergreen and Shadow Mountain. The other was our old world, the world of the Land of Lakes and the Woolly Mammoths, Andover and the Twin Cities.

First, Ode showed up at mussar. Then, Tom and Paul. The middot of the week is grace and reading Rami Shapiro’s book, The Art of Loving Kindness, carried us into a discussion about shabbat as a “counter-cultural rebellion” which encourages living one day a week as if work and worry are not the point of life. Has always made sense to me, BTW, long before Beth Evergreen, but I’ve never acted on it, never observed a sabbath day.

Anyhow the context of the conversation made me realize what a grace-full moment it was for me when Tom, Paul and Mark showed up here in Colorado. It was, in one sense, perhaps even the best sense, ordinary. I knew they would find the conversation fascinating, because it was a conversation we’d been having for over thirty years. How do you live? What about life is important? How can we move ourselves into a more meaningful, graceful, gratitude filled existence?

So that moment at the synagogue smooshed together two venn diagrams, Minnesota and Colorado. And it felt really good. They met Rabbi Jamie. Debra referred to the four of us as the quadruplets, older white haired white guys of similar size and habitus and life.

Then the party moved over to Shadow Mountain. My slow cooker Irish stew was, well, partly there. The lamb was tender, but the potatoes were not. Neither Kate nor I, though she is much more able at it than me, are big on hosting events at our house. Too busy at one point, now a bit less able. But these were friends who would forgive an underdone potato for the  conversation around the table. And the occasional poking of Rigel’s head under their arms.

Kate went to bed, then got up, came out and said, “You have the best friends.” Indeed, I do.

This morning at 8:30 we’ll take off in the giant SUV that Tom has rented. First stop, the Crow Hill Cafe, then The Happy Camper. Maybe the Sasquatch Outpost? Certainly Kenosha Pass, South Park, Fairplay. On down through South Park. Maybe we’ll look at the Rocky Mountain Land Library, maybe we’ll stop in Pagosa Springs for a soak in the hot springs. Not sure. Doesn’t matter.

We’re headed to Durango in the southwest corner of the state. The 416 fire, north of Durango, as of yesterday:

“While residents in two areas were allowed to return to their homes Thursday, the 416 Fire grew to 32,076 acres with no update on containment.

The fire, burning just 13 miles north of Durango, is still being worked by over 1,000 firefighters who are battling this thing from the air and the ground. Burn out efforts, that is, efforts to burn up the fire’s potential fuel, continued throughout the day.” 9News, Denver.

Here’s a link to a Durango Herald article on fire analysts, very interesting.

Mowing the Fuel

Beltane                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

WildfireOf course, one of the things I forgot to mention about my brief, successful excursion into small engine repair is this. Now I can mow the fuel. That clogged carburetor had given me a pass for a week or so until I decided to tackle it myself. Mowing the fuel is much different from mowing a yard. The purpose has little to do with aesthetics or neighbor pleasing. The fines, as the fire experts call them, are grasses and flowers that, when dry, serve as a fuse so that ground fires can travel from place to place.

That’s why the 10 foot rule on limbing trees. All limbs must be at least 10 feet off the ground when there are fines because flames can leap from ground to tree otherwise. There are also ladder fuels like shrubs and young trees which can ignite from the fines and carry the fire up, like a ladder, to the higher branches of the conifers. Reduce (mow) fines, cut down ladder fuel and limb trees. After creating spaces among and between trees, these are the usual annual chores to make a property as fire resistant as possible. They also include cleaning gutters. Fire mitigation in the WUI is never done. Until, that is, a big fire. Then you can wait a while to return to fire mitigation.

 

The True Yellow Peril

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

20180610_061444

This morning

In January the solar panels often disappear under snow cover. In June they’re more likely to be covered in pine pollen. Both reduce their effectiveness. Snow, however, does not reduce my effectiveness while the true yellow peril does. Fuzzy, nose focused, weighed down not only by the pollen but by the helps (and thank god for them) for the symptoms. No good solutions here. Do what you can. Wait.

the orgy continues

the orgy continues

Two full days now, Friday and Saturday, given over to sneezing, lack of sleep (due to sneezing), consuming nasal steriods, second generation antihistamines (so called non-drowsy), and using saline sprays. Not to mention eliminating the current stash of kleenex we have. All this more for the record here than anything else.

Whinging stops.

 

 

Yellow Haze

Beltane                                                                     Sumi-e Moon

an offender

an offender

Winding down Brook Forest Drive toward Evergreen a yellow haze drifted over the road. My nose knows it. This is a two week + lodgepole pine orgy. My night stand had enough pollen on it to change the color of the wood top. We leave our windows open for the cool night air. As with many things unpleasant, this one requires riding out and I’d ride faster if I could. Somehow being in the present moment doesn’t sound quite as appealing right now. Wish I could make a short time jump over this oh so natural phenomenon.

Yesterday was a rest day, catching up on lost sleep, emptying kleenex boxes. At the cliched end of the day I felt better. Pollen counts lower by the end of the day.

Glacier alley, the Chilean fjords

Glacier alley, the Chilean fjords

Kate’s struggling again, still, with her weight. We had her on a positive up tick, but her dogged, and admired, following of the dietitian’s recommendations led back to nausea. Now it seems that each time she eats she becomes nauseated and/or has colon related discomfort. This is aversive conditioning around a basic human need: eating and is a problem we have to solve if she’s to have any quality of life.

Milieu therapy. Last night was a chair-ity event at Beth Evergreen. The old blue chairs, heavy and now showing their age, need replacing before the High Holidays in September. So it was a dunk the rabbi and the congregation president night. Hot dogs (Hebrew Nationals, of course), hamburgers, chicken breasts, potato salad, baked beans, chips. Beer, vodka, mineral water. Salad and condiments. All outside on the back patio.

20180608_181803Over the course of the evening I discussed quantum physics in relation to time, the placing of a second hive box at the Herman’s, travel to Peru, working as a marketing consultant, “In business, as a consultant, you’re always justifying your existence,” and watched Rabbi Jamie’s yarmulke float to the bottom of the dunk tank.

20180608_181810The weather was perfect. 75 degrees, dry and blue sky sunny. It was a good event for both of us. Folks came up to Kate and said they were glad she was going to be on the board. Two other recent shoulder surgery folks attended, their effected arms still attached to their body with slings. Kate has been consistent with her rehab. The pain relief alone has been enough to make it a successful procedure, but now she’s regaining range of motion, too.

The benefits of being seen, remembered, cared for. Huge. Necessary. Welcome.

Pele. Still. Going.

Beltane                                                                           Sumi-e Moon

All images courtesy of USGS Hawai’i Volcanoes Observatory website

Around 3:00 a.m. HST today (June 8), lava fountains erupting from fissure 8 on Kīlauea Volcano's Lower East Rift Zone were reaching heights of 180–220 feet.

Around 3:00 a.m. HST today (June 8), lava fountains erupting from fissure 8 on Kīlauea Volcano’s Lower East Rift Zone were reaching heights of 180–220 feet.

Kapoho Bay, June 8, New land

Kapoho Bay, June 8, New land

June 8 Halema'uma'u

June 8 Halema’uma’u  Twin plumes as Pele’s house undergoes reconstruction

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