Satisfaction

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Yesterday. Packed with stuff. AM I got out there and began cutting down trees. Got a lot of trees down, many smaller spruces. Managed to hang one smallish lodgepole. Will have to deal with that today. It felt so good. I love manual labor of a certain kind. Logging is one. Working in gardens and orchards is another. There’s something about using my body, working with plants and the soil that feeds me. Chainsaw work has serious man cred, too. With all that lupron swimming around, I need it.

Two of the lodgepole pines I felled, one good sized, had the bluish stain of the pine beetle. Both had been dead for some time. One in the front, also showing the blue streaking, has not been dead over a couple of years. Not sure whether this means an infestation will take out all of our lodgepoles. The beetles don’t seem as pernicious here as on those mountain sides along I-70 out toward Silverthorne. On them whole mountain faces are the rust color of dead lodgepole pine needles. The sight shocked me the first time I saw it.

When I got tired using the chain saw, I put it away and got out my limbing ax. I don’t use the chain saw when I’m tired. However, I also love whacking off tree branches with the smaller of my two Swedish axes. I got the two dead trees limbed. Satisfying.

Susan came around noon. She’s the chair of the mitzvah committee at CBE and has stayed in constant touch with Kate and me over the last year plus. The main thing the committee does is meals and when we needed them what a help they were. However, another thing I love to do is cook, so once I got out from under the radiation fatigue, we stopped the meals.

In conversation Susan teased out of me that fire mitigation had me concerned. She offered to coordinate, if possible, a CBE crew to help. With Derek, neighbor Derek, helping, I don’t need them. She brought lunch and dinner anyhow. We had a good conversation over the meal.

Derek is a really good worker and will be taking the bulk of the logs for heating. He also had a call into Elk Creek Fire to chip slash he had generated from his property. Due to equipment malfunctions the chipping crew has gotten behind. They have 150 slash chipping reservations and they stopped taking reservations on the 10th of October. Derek suggested moving slash from our work onto his piles since they’re not to him yet. Excellent plan

After Susan left, Kate and I took a nap, waiting on the arrival of Jon, Ruth, and Gabe for hamburgers, tater tots, salad, and ice cream. Also laundry.

They got up here around three and we had the usual swirl of Gabe and Ruth. Ruth wanted to bake. She made a fudge and cornbread muffins. Gabe went around to all the dogs, one at a time, talking to them, petting them, then disappeared upstairs to watch TV.

Cooking the meal in the kitchen after Ruth’s baking had some challenges, but we overcame them. Ruth cut up tomato, onion and avocado for the burgers. She also tossed the salad. I took care of the tator tots and the meat.

Ruth’s designing the lighting for her drama classes production of Alice (in Wonderland). She had a self-described mental breakdown when she didn’t get the role of Alice. One manifestation of the breakdown was cutting her bangs short. She got over it.

I asked her if her friends liked to cook. She nodded and said, “Really, we like to eat.” Eighth grade. Next year high school. As they were leaving she put on her sandals and came to me for a hug. “Oh, my, you used to be way taller than me.” Yep. With sandals she’s getting close to my height.

Busy, satisfying, loving day.

The Wild World

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

A scrim of clouds played with Orion and the Sukkot Moon, revealing and then hiding, hiding and then revealing. The walk to the mailbox is short, but as I take it my mind whirls up to the distant stars, to Greek myths, to the peak of Black Mountain faintly illuminated by the moon. It is a delightful way to start the day, quiet, usually no cars, still a bit early for commuters.

Scattered clouds change the night sky, creating mystery. A lesson in the occult. If you’re an early bird and can see the sky, I recommend this consciousness expanding morning ritual. It places the day in context. The universe observing itself through my eyes. A quiet joy.

We drove down the hill yesterday in the early morning, out of the house at 6 am headed for Corneal Consultants. Kate’s first cataract surgery. On the way she asked me, Do you know why Kirby Puckett was such a good hitter? No. He batted right, but had a dominate left eye. Oh. I see. I was a good hitter. I have left eye dominate and bat right handed. The stuff you learn about someone.

In case you got to wondering, as I just did, about the relationship between eyeball and river uses of the word. Latin cataracta waterfall, portcullis, from Greek kataraktēs, from katarassein to dash down, from kata- + arassein to strike, dash Merriam-Webster. I’ll have to check the OED later.

It went well. She’s wearing a clear plastic eye-shield and the dark pupil of her dominate eye gives little space for the beautiful blue green of her iris. Drops every two hours. A visit to the doctor today.

On the way into Evergreen last night to pick up pizza at Beaujo’s an emergency vehicle came out of the fire house, cutting through the rush hour traffic which lined both lanes of 73. While I drove as close to the slight drop off as I could, an Elk cow looked in at me. Neither Gertie nor Rigel went nuts. Thankful for that.

In a front yard on the other side of Cub Creek nine or ten of her sister cows laid on the grass, eating their cud, looking very relaxed and at home. During the rut and into the winter the elk are more present in Evergreen. Not like Estes Park where they wander into businesses, but still visible.

Today Alan and I have brunch at 11:00. The first time I’ve seen him since my bagel table in late September. Kate had a bad couple of weeks and he had acting in Cabaret, singing at the High Holidays, and the Rotary Club’s recycling day. Looking forward to catching up with him.

Kate’s friend from both Bailey Patchworkers and CBE, Jamie Bernstein, has agreed to take her to her follow-up appointment so I can see Alan. Thanks, Jamie and Kate for setting it up.

Ikigai gone

Fall and the Full Sukkot Moon

Each morning Orion is a bit further to the west, hunting must be better on the other side of Black Mountain. That’s where he’s headed. This morning the full Sukkot moon lit his search for game, hanging in the west over the northern most peak of Black Mountain. Seeing Orion, Cygnus, Draco in the early morning sky makes me joyful. Visiting old friends each time I go out for the newspaper. A reminder of how non-earthcentric our galaxy and the universe are.

Trying to reach down inside, find an ikigai. Hard right now. My usual pattern of working daily on a novel or the garden or fire mitigation has disappeared. Not been seen for months. Yes, I get Ancientrails done each day, and I’m glad for that, grateful I have the early morning time.

Rabbi Jamie talked about loneliness in his erev Rosh Hashanah sermon. Embrace it, David Whyte counsels. Lean into it. What I’m experiencing is not the same as feeling alone, lonely, but I sense I’d do well to lean into this defocused state. It’s similar to loneliness in that it involves distance, but in this case I’m not feeling distance from others, but distance from a self I’d come to appreciate.

I’ve chosen, so far, to feel uncomfortable about this. Why aren’t I getting anything done? Why has my writing stopped? It’s not like I don’t have time, I do. But when I have time I could use, I wander around, not sure what comes next. Sometimes I paint. Sometimes I read articles on the web. Sometimes I read a little. Could read a lot more. I say I want to.

What if instead I decided to go with the schedule I have rather than the one I want or think I need? What Self would emerge then? Taking the pressure off to be something, someone else? That would be the wu wei move. Let life be. Flow with it, don’t force it.

My old Tao Te Ching teacher, I took a series of online Taoism classes several years ago, says forcing things is a Westerner’s style. When I read that, I thought of my choosing to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing, end them. Guess I’m a Westerner.

Actually, I’m more bi-cultural. Strong forcing, yes, but also a willingness to let things take their course, to emerge, to flow with them. Right now feels like a wu wei moment. Perhaps for a good while.

Tough Weekend

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

On her birthday

Kate’s had a tough weekend. Short of breath, feeling tired. We didn’t make it to Rosh Hashanah services last night. A year and two days after her bleed. She’s made great progress on weight, nausea, even her Sjogren’s is less problematic. Her stamina, up till this weekend, had increased and she was doing more.

Her daily life involves a lot of tubing and schlepping. At night she carries her Inogen, portable CO2, as well as her pump and feeding supplies. Heavy for her. She does remarkably well with all of it, but this alone takes a toll, too. Hoping for a better day for her today.

Need a lung disease diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan. So slow.

Yesterday was Tom and Roxann’s 16th anniversary. At their wedding they featured the mandorla. “In icons of the Eastern Orthodox Church, the mandorla is used to depict sacred moments that transcend time and space…” Wiki Marriages, good ones at any rate, live into their own mandorla. Happy anniversary! It was also the 7th anniversary of Regina Schmidt’s death. Bill continues to honor her and their love. A mandorla still, I think.

Tomorrow, October 1st, I get my second Lupron shot. 9 am at Urology Associates Swedish offices. In the butt. Thank you, Sherry.

works for both paragraphs

Then, let the fun begin! Hot flashes have become more frequent, a bit more intense. Still only annoying, but, they are annoying. They creep up the body, making it flushed and warm. Last night I had my sweatshirt off and the window open, the cool night breeze a relief.

Extreme fire danger here. Red flag warning yesterday and today. We have a higher fire risk rating than the area around Paradise, California. One of the highest in the country. Good times. I’ve been too nervous about the fire danger to get my chain saw going. Maybe this week.

My friend Dave, personal trainer, had bad news about his brain cancer. The tumor is back after surgery only a few months ago. He’s at the extreme end of survival time for glioblastoma. As he said, it’s a horrible place to be. 53 years old.

You might think I would be stressed and anxious, but I’m not. Living today. Will wait for tomorrow.

This Week

Fall and the waning crescent Harvest Moon

Long mountain in the background is Shadow Mountain, taken from Black Mountain
Closer look at the peak of Shadow Mountain. We live to the right in this photo, about a mile up Black Mountain Drive
Fox Squirrel getting ready for winter. A bit faraway for my phone camera.
Chainsaw Bob’s. I first saw these signs when his wife, Patty, was the only one in the shop. I needed new, sharpened chains and to have that one little glitch fixed. He’s the closest. And, as you can tell he has strong opinions. (Not just about women.)
CJ’s is a Chicago food hero in Evergeen. I stood at their door when I took the photograph above. Kate and I get Italian beef sandwiches there every Thursday after Mussar.
Black Mountain hike, Tuesday
Same hike

You know your body

Fall and the beautiful crescent of the Harvest Moon

And another diagnosis. Geez. I have what can be called either COPD or asthma. I prefer asthma but if it hacks like COPD and interferes with breathing like COPD, then it’s also that. Short story: smoking related. Errors of my youth coming back to grab me by the lobe.

You might be surprised to learn that this diagnosis gave me joy. Yes, it did. Several factors. 1st. Caught early and treated it’s not likely to progress, so permanent but manageable. 2nd. A low level concern about my breathing that I’ve had for several months has a name and a treatment. 3rd. Told Dr. Gidday that I’d felt a constriction in my lungs. That I knew my body and something was off. After the pulmonary function test, she said, “You do know your body.” I liked that. So, yippee, I’ve got COPD. No, to me asthma. But you get the drift.

The treatment is a prednisone inhaler, two puffs at night before bed. Also, for a while, I’ll use the albuterol inhaler before exercise. Lisa says I probably won’t need it after a while. “You’ll find exercising and breathing a lot easier. You’ll feel better.” Gotta like that.

Kate and I left Lisa’s office and went to NoNo’s for dinner. A New Orleans place. Great po-boys and wonderful beignets. I felt light, like a burden had gone. And, indeed it had. Strange, I know.

November, 2015

Should help with the fire mitigation work once I get my chain saw fixed. Yeah, about that. I did do the guy thing. I took it apart. I put it back together. But. In the process I jiggled some little hose thingy loose and couldn’t get it to return to its former location. Sorta deflated the guy thing. Guess it got Luproned.

Talked to Derrick yesterday and he’s ready to help and accept logs. I plan to put a sign up if he doesn’t take them all and offer the rest to folks who heat with wood. There are several up here. Cheaper than having them chipped. By a lot. I’ll keep one or two sawed up and split for our fireplace.

Sound like Dad

Fall and the Harvest Moon

Black Mountain from our mailbox

The dark sky. Orion high in the south over Black Mountain. The waning crescent of the Harvest moon to his left. Other stars set like diamonds. A regular moment of awe. So lucky to live here.

Yesterday I was sad. Woke up the night before with debbie downer thoughts. Does anyone like me? What have I done with my life? Is there any point to all this? Some part of me pounding on other parts of me. Who’s the witness in this conversation? Who’s the protagonist? It felt so out of character, especially for how I’ve felt over the last several months. Oh. The Lupron. This was a hot flash in my soul. No fun. Last night was fine.

Kate helped a lot that morning over breakfast.

Second injection a week from today

Though I’ve done my share of psychotropics I’ve not made my peace with this alien chemical dominating my testosterone, turning up the thermostat at unusual moments, twisting my emotions. I’d still characterize the side effects as mild though there have been a few moments like last night, a few with Kate, a couple of searing hot flashes. There’s also the fatigue and the sarcopenia. These last two make working out difficult.

Since I’m 72, sarcopenia is already having its way with me. Lupron adds to that, reinforces it. Maybe bumps it up? I get tired quicker. Have trouble advancing my weights. It’s like having a small parachute attached to my belt, extra drag.

Staunton State Park, 2017

Gonna test this on a hike this morning. I’m embarrassed to say I’ve done little hiking since we got here. No excuse. Just haven’t gotten in the car and gone to one of the many mountain trails. I worked out three, four times a week outside when we lived in Anoka county. Hiking, fast walking, snowshoeing. Not here, partly because of my breathing issues.

Going in to see Dr. Gidday today about those breathing issues. My O2 sats are low normal up here, usually ok down the hill. In the evening however and sometimes right after I go to bed they crater, going down once into high seventies. This has been true for most of the time we’ve lived here. I’ve never sought help for it before because I was doing treadmill work with no trouble.

2017, Mt Goliath Natural Area, Bristlecone Pines

On Saturday though I did my usual twenty minute pre-resistance work cardio. It was hard. My lungs felt tight. I struggled. Did it all and at the speed and elevation I wanted, but it was hard. Like with my bicep weights I’ve had difficulty moving my speed and elevation up. Also, lots of coughing, hacking.

I sound like my dad who was an asthma and allergy sufferer his whole life. Things have not been the same for me since the flu/pneumonia episode in February and March. Sorta shoved this aside for the cancer treatment, but I feel like I have to address it now. I really have no desire to wrestle with another organ system right now. But…

The Equilux

Fall and the Harvest Moon

I’m changing seasons on the equinox, which is today. Learned a new word reading some material for this post: equilux. An equilux happens after each equinox and occurs this fall on September 26th. If you look at a table of sunrise/sunset, on September 26th, at roughly our latitude, the sun rises at 6:59 am and sets at 6:59 pm. After the equilux, for 172 days, until the next equilux on March 17th, the sun will shine for less than 12 hours.

Yeah! Though born in Oklahoma near the Red River, almost to Texas, I’ve always been a child of the cold and snow, influenced by too many Jack London novels. And, Renfrew of the Royal Canadian Mounted. Moved to Appleton, Wisconsin in September of 1969 and lived up north until the Winter Solstice of 2014. In our particular location on Black Mountain Drive, just east of 14er Mt. Evans, we get lots of snow, some cold, but easier winters. Better for septuagenarian bones.

from “What is Michaelmas?”

Six days from now is the 29th of September, the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel. It is, as regular readers of ancientrails already know, the springtime of the soul. At least according to Rudolf Steiner.

Rosh Hashanah, September 30th this year, the Jewish new year (one of four), begins the month of Tishrei in Judaism’s lunar calendar. Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, follows ten days later on October 9th. 5 days later on October 14 and 15 is Sukkot, a harvest festival. A week after the second day of Sukkot is Simchat Torah, joy of the Torah.

On October 31st, 6 weeks from last Friday, the next Celtic holiday is Samain, or Summer’s End. The Celtic New Year comes at the beginning of the fallow season.

I am the hallow-tide of all souls passing,
I am the bright releaser of all pain,
I am the quickener of the fallen seed-case,
I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain.
I am the hollow of the winter twilight,
I am the hearth-fire and the welcome bread,
I am the curtained awning of the pillow,
I am unending wisdom’s golden thread.
~ Song of Samhain, Celtic Devotional:
Daily Prayers and Blessings, by Caitlín Matthews

The transition from the growing season when farmers and gardeners harvest its fruits to the fallow season when plants in mid and northern latitudes rest has ultimate significance for non-tropical humanity. Not so long ago a failed growing season would lead to a limited harvest. Unless adequate stores from years past were kept, starvation over the winter was a real possibility.

7 Oaks garden, 2014

Oh, you might say, well, that doesn’t apply to us in the modern age. Think not? Perhaps one really bad harvest could be accommodated by trade and stored foods. Maybe even two bad harvests. But if the world saw several bad harvests in a row, say because of a dramatically changed climate, starvation over the winter could become a real possibility even in the developed world.

Mabon, Sukkot, Samain. With Lughnasa on August 1st, the first harvest festival, the months August through October have evoked human expressions of gratitude, of thanksgiving for soil, seed, and sacrifice. Certain animals and plants become offerings to feed others, including the now unwieldy population of humans.

The heart of the harvest season, right now, is a deeply spiritual moment. The complex web of life bares itself to our witness. Any Midwesterner is familiar with trucks of yellow corn, soy beans, golden wheat, rye, rolling down highways to grain elevators. Hay gets mowed perhaps a third time and baled either in rectangular bales or huge round ones.

This is also a traditional time for the slaughtering of animals. Now slaughterhouses and intensive livestock farming have allowed slaughter throughout the year.

I’m grateful that farmers and ranchers are able to feed us still. I’m grateful that the soil, that top six inches especially, feeds and stabilizes the foodstuff that we grow. I’m grateful that photosynthesis allows us to harvest the sun’s energy by transforming it into vegetables, fruits, grasses, grains, nuts. I’m grateful for each and every animal that dies for our table. I’m grateful for the grocers who buy and display the food for us to purchase.

It is a time of thanksgiving followed by an increasing darkness. That darkness is fecund, for me at least. Steiner’s idea of Michaelmas as the springtime of the soul, the placement of so many Jewish holidays, in particular sukkot, during this harvest time, and the major Celtic holidays of Lughnasa, Mabon, and Samain offer us many chances to open our hearts to the wonder of this world and its blessings.

Slightly outside of these three months is the Day of the Dead celebrated throughout Latin America and the Feast of All Souls.

WINTER SOLSTICE by Willow, Celtic Lady

As the harvest wanes and summer ends (Samain), we have time to take stock of our lives, of our hopes and dreams. We can lean into the darkness after the equilux, celebrate its fullness on the Winter Solstice. It is in the fallow season that we learn the why of death. In this coming season we can make our peace with mortality.

Simcha

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Hmmm. A bit over eager again. For all my equanimity about cancer I’ve made some moves that reveal a reservoir of anxiety. When I wrote my urologist initially about my PSA rise, I convinced myself that I’d overstated it, moved the decimal point in error. I said this out loud to Dr. Eigner and his PA, Anna Willis. They had to call me a couple of weeks later and say, nope. It’s ten feet high and risin’. Oh.

Apparently I bounced out of the blocks ahead of the gun in the PSA I mentioned below. Supposed to be at three months. I imagine they told me that but when I got the lab order in the mail I went in to do it now overdrive. So I got’er done. It is three months, almost, from the start of the Lupron, but it’s only a month and a half from the end of the radiation. Not sure if it I’ll need another one later. Maybe.

Got reassurance yesterday from Carmela. She said, “Those are great numbers!” Feeling a little sheepish here, but it does speak to my eagerness to have information about the state of my cancer. Forgivable, I think.

Kate and I are on the lookout for joy. Simcha. Been in short supply here for a while and we’re both missing that middah. This PSA result brings me joy. Kate’s going off to the CBE board meeting last night, on her own, brought me joy. Rigel’s nose this morning as she pushed against my hand. The softness of Kep’s coat. Gertie’s wiggly desire to get outside. The waning gibbous Harvest moon this morning has shining Aldebaran beneath it. Orion is there, too. The night sky with Black Mountain below lifts me into the broader universe. Joyful.

Drove down to Caliber Collision. Got there at 7:30 am. The guys were still in a conference so I had to wait a bit. Ryan came out, beefy guy with a thick beard. Hmmm. We’ll have to replace those three panels. And, good news, it looks like the dent in the door hasn’t impacted the rest of the door. Back in five minutes.

Coulda been worse

Ryan returned bearing several pages stapled together. It looked like a hospital bill. Now this number is before we’ve looked inside. If there’s any damage to the robotics, for example, there will be supplemental work. Traveler’s requires review of all supplementals.

How long once we’ve got approval? 7 days, I’d say. That’s without supplementals. If we have to do more? Ryan shrugged. The work and the bureaucracy. Yeah. I get it.

Back up to Evergreen where I had breakfast at the Dandelion. Home. New workout in the home space. Oh, those one legged squats. My quads burned. And, those bicep curls into a shoulder press? Shoulders feeling it.

Dr. Gidday said the other day, “You have to retire to have enough time for all the doctor appointments.” All this other stuff takes time too and my stamina is not what it once was. I’m feeling crowded in my schedule with fewer things to do.

See As Seen

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

42 degrees this morning on Shadow Mountain. Orion standing guard over the Southern gate, the sky black. Walked out to the white Denver Post tube nailed next to our mailbox, picked up the paper, took it back inside. Put it at Kate’s place so she’ll have it when she gets up around 7.

Spent most of yesterday with buddy Tom Crane in from the Twin Cities. We went to the Cutthroat Cafe in Bailey for breakfast. Have to remember that the room there is very live, lots of ambient noise.

front left, Mark, front right, Warren. Back left Jim, Bill, Paul, Tom, Me June, 2012

Catching up. The Woollies, our men’s group, the place we met as sort of initiates well over thirty years ago, continues to age, but with no deaths. Two Woollies turn 75 around now: Warren and Mark. Frank and Bill are 82. Or is Frank a bit older? Can’t recall. Haislet’s over 75 as is Jim Johnson. Paul and I are 72. Tom’s 71 and Scott must be about that. Stefan is the youngster, still in his mid-sixties.

Tom made an interesting comment about friendship, recalling something I’d said about foreign travel. I travel, I said, to see how other cultures eat, love, do the ordinary things of life, and to then, in turn, reflect on the options my own culture has chosen. Long term friendships are the same, he suggested. A way we can see how others live their lives.

Yes. We’re all anthropologists to one degree or another, trying to draw understanding from other cultures and from the lives of others we know well, about ourselves, the paths we’ve chosen.

It was a topic we discussed, our own paths now since we’ve laid aside some of the paths we loved. Tom the pilot is in the past. Tom the CEO, mostly in the past. Charlie the horticulturist, the beekeeper. The docent.

Bill (foreground), Tom. On his boat on Lake Minnetonka, August 2018

We drove up the Guanella Pass, repeating a journey Tom, Bill Schmidt and I took a few years ago. At 11,670 feet it’s almost exactly 3,000 feet higher than Shadow Mountain. And, chilly, with a stiff wind. While up there, I mentioned to Tom how much I love the mountains, their wildness. Later, over ice cream in Georgetown, he said much the same thing about the ocean. These are paths we’ve not given up.

Tom keeps a boat on Lake Minnetonka, a cabin cruiser, that continues his passion for the water. He built a boat, an eight-footer, when he was young. Went to sea as an officer in NOAA’s uniformed service. Spends downtime often in Mendocino, California and on Maui.

To see yourself as another sees you is to receive a gift, a gift of self-awareness stimulated by an honest, loving gaze from outside. A rare and precious thing.

Friendship, family, marriage. And unique communities like Congregation Beth Evergreen, the Woollies. That’s where we go to find out things about ourselves that we’ve overlooked, underestimated, suppressed. In a real sense the examined life is not possible without others, an irony of a sort.

Tom sent me this photograph, Guanella Pass Summit, with a caption, “You’ve found your path.” Not sure if he meant that literally, the path there beside me, or metaphorically, but it hit me in a profound way. Oh, yeah. The mountains. They’re my path. Altitude. Wildlife. Wild and stony places.

A quote often seen here on t-shirts, back windows of cars and suv’s, attached to the ubiquitous Thule cargo carriers on tops of Subarus: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” John Muir. Kate and I chose for Muir, for the mountains.

Gabe, ninth birthday, 2017

While Tom and I ended his visit with a meal at Sushi Win in Evergreen last night, Kate called. Gabe was in the hospital again. This time with a bowel obstruction. He had surgery at 1 am this morning. Seems he had swallowed a couple of magnets that screwed up his small intestine as they danced around each other. WTF.

We’ll see Gabe today after Kate’s pulmonology appointment. This one, we hope, will move us toward a diagnosis, prognosis, and treatment plan for her lung disease. National Jewish docs this time, not Colorado Pulmonology Intensivists.