We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

CNS and Social Change

Spring                                                                   New (Rushing Waters) Moon

book-coverToday I’m making chicken noodle soup and Kate’s making Vietnamese pho. We’ll serve this at a Beth Evergreen leadership dinner for Rabbi David Jaffe, author of Changing the World from the Inside Out, a Jewish Approach to Social Change. Along with our friend Marilyn Saltzman, chair of the adult education committee, who is making a vegetarian squash soup, we’ll provide the soups for a soup and salad meal. I really like this low key involvement. It feels manageable.

Although. I am hoping that Rabbi Jaffe’s time here at Beth Evergreen, tomorrow through Saturday as a visiting scholar, will spur the creation of an activist group focused on some form of response to the Trump/oligarch era. In that instance I’m willing to move into a more upfront role, though I would prefer to remain a follower.

Then, there’s the Sierra Club. I wrote here about my excitement with Organizing for Action, Conifer. That was back in January, I think. Lots of people, lots of energy. Good analysis. I thought, wow. Here’s my group. Then, I never heard from them again, my e-mails went unanswered. Weird, but true. Weird and disqualifying for a group that’s organizing political work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I renewed my effort to connect with the Mt. Evans’ local group of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club. Colorado seems to work more through these regional clusters than as a whole. There are nine of them, covering the entire state. The Mt. Evans’ group includes our part of Jefferson County, Clear Creek County and a northern portion of Park County. It’s titular feature, Mt. Evans, is a fourteener (over fourteen thousand feet high) which has the highest paved road in North America leading to its summit. According to locals here it’s also the weathermaker for our part of Conifer.

I finally made it to a meeting a couple of weeks ago. When I came back, Kate said, “You seem energized.” I did. And, I hadn’t noticed. Something about that small group plugged me back into my reigning political passion of the last six or seven years: climate change. Oh, yeah. With OFA I’d tried to head back toward economic justice, my long standing motivation for political work, dating back to the UAW influences I picked up as a teenager in Alexandria. Guess the universe understood me better than I understood myself. Not much of a surprise there.

buy this here

buy this here

My mind began ticking over, running through organizing scenarios, figuring out how we could (note the we) raise the visibility of the Mt. Evans group, gain more members, influence local policy. This is my brain on politics. I might be willing to play a more upfront role here, too, though I want to explore other ways of being helpful first.

Anyhow, between these two, I’m sure I’ll get my political mojo working in some way. And that feels good. Want some soup?



A Year and 7 Days

Spring                                                                          Passover Moon

Subway in Singapore

Subway in Singapore

It’s been a year and a week since Joseph and SeoAh were married in Gwangju, Korea. We were in Singapore on this day a year ago. We met Anitha, mentioned below, at Relish, a restaurant near Mary’s home and dined that evening at the Tanglin Club, a holdover of the British raj, a private club for owners of rubber plantations.

After coming home to a 46 inch snowfall, we picked up our dogs from the Bergen Bark Inn. Vega got bloat, was operated on the same day and died the next morning. A huge heartache, doubled by its surprise.

Passover 2016

Passover 2016

That May Jon and I dined at a Mexican restaurant in the heavily Latino portion of Aurora where his school is located. “Jen and I are getting divorced.” Oh. My. Still echoing today though the final orders for the divorce were read into the record in November of last year.

That same month I got a letter from a photographer accusing me of using one of his photos without a license. He had me. I was guilty, guilty, guilty. A negotiated settlement passed a thousand dollars to him and inspired a weeks long project of removing all photographs and suspect images from Ancientrails.

The Old Man of the Mountain

The Old Man of the Mountain

Last year was also the peak of fire mitigation work. The sound of the chainsaw was heard in the land for hours at a time. It was fun work and created a zone of safety around our house.  I’m especially grateful for that work this year since we’ve had very little snow and it looks to be a long and potentially hot summer.

In June Timberline Painting put stain on the garage, our two decks and the shed. It was in the same month that Kate and I began to attend the mussar sessions at Beth Evergreen. This was Kate taking up the law of return, re-embracing a decision she’d made 30 years ago to convert.

Too, the Presidential campaign was very much with us. Even though Trump made us shudder, his chance for victory, either for the Republican nomination, or God forbid, for the Presidency itself, seemed very, very unlikely.

20160925_133910That August buddy Mark Odegard, older than me, pushed himself to do prints of all the bridges crossing the Mississippi in Minneapolis and St. Paul. He finished and had a show of his work. That same month we contracted with Bear Creek Design to redo our downstairs bathroom into a zero entry shower.

In September I traveled by car to Minnesota, taking in a reception for Joseph and SeoAh at Raeone’s new home near Central High School in St. Paul. The Woolly’s were having a retreat day that same weekend, so I got to reconnect with my brothers in Stillwater, overlooking the St. Croix.

20161201_201051That driving trip convinced me that my left knee had to get better. Driving made it so painful that sleeping was tough and long stretches on the road difficult. After consulting with Lisa Gidday, my internist, I visited orthopedic surgeon William Peace. We scheduled the replacement for December 1st.

Kate and I observed our first Sukkot in a booth built on the grounds of Beth Evergreen. We continued to get more deeply involved there, attending High Holy Day services and some evening mussar events.

20161022_113629We voted by mail on October 19th. Didn’t help. Trump got elected. Joseph deployed to Qatar. Mark (brother Mark) continued to teach in Saudi Arabia. Final orders for the divorce were handed down and we celebrated Thanksgiving.

Then I had knee surgery. Ouch. I woke up about six weeks later. Only to discover that Donald Trump had, in fact, been elected and that, even worse yet, he would be inaugurated on the 20th of January. Not even the morphine, oxy and tramadol could repress the pain of that realization. And so it came to pass.

It was in the context of all this swirl and drung that I reached the biblical three score and ten. A new decade of life, a sense of completion and a feeling of a new beginning. Still seems odd, still living into that. Somewhere over the course of this time I joined Beth Evergreen, made friends there.

Ruth at Wild Game

Ruth at Wild Game

This month Ruth turned 11 and Gabe will turn 9. Jon’s begun to look for houses, to check out mortgages. Kate and I have our physicals tomorrow. She’s got some serious issues that will become clearer over the next week or so. I have some anxiety about them. My health seems pretty good, even though our time here in Colorado has seen me down a prostate and up a new prosthetic knee.

The year after Joseph and SeoAh’s wedding has been full. Maybe a quieter one coming up?

Delights and Horrors

Spring                                                                  Anniversary Moon

rumiThe third phase, that phase after the career and nuclear family focused portion of our life has come to an end or is winding down, has its own delights and horrors. Auto-didacts, those with pleasurable, but challenging hobbies, those with adequate funds, those with a close network of friends and family have a good chance of enjoying the third phase more than any other part of their life. It’s a time when the pressures of achievement and child-rearing recede. They may not disappear, but their initially critical significance shifts to the margins.

This leaves the possibility of centering on who you truly are, expressing the soul/Self, the unique you created when sperm hit egg all those years ago. A rich time, filled with creativity and exploration, can be the result. It certainly has been that way for Kate and me. We’ve traveled, gotten closer to our kids and grandkids, gardened, raised dogs, moved to the mountains. She’s quilted, sewn, cooked and finally taken up the spiritual journey she started so long ago with her conversion to Judaism. I’ve continued to write and study, my primary passions. We’ve both nourished friendships from our Minnesota life and begun to develop friendships here in Jefferson County, Colorado.

It is also in the third phase, however, when the body begins to signal its eventual end. Even if there are no presenting issues of the moment, the third phase, by its very definition occurs as our age passes into the mid-60’s and beyond. The implications of this becomes clear when we make the calculation about doubling our life span so far. At 50 it’s just possible to conceive 100; but at 60, 120 is a stretch. At 70 the notion of reaching 140 is ridiculous.

will-testament_audible-wisdom-org_CCWith prostate cancer two years ago and a total knee replacement last year my body has given notice that its sell-by date is approaching. Yes, both of those have resolved well, at least so far, but they are concrete proof that I will not live forever. Something, sometime. Now it seems to be Kate’s turn to face her mortality. She has a cluster of medical issues that are challenging, making her low energy and too thin.

The horrors I mentioned above are not these, these are normal, though disconcerting. We age. Our bodies break down, then stop. Hundreds of thousands of years worth of hominid deaths makes this all too common.

20170310_174900The horrors are the loss of the one you love, the person whose life has become so entwined with your own, not enmeshed, I don’t mean here a situation where life going on without the other is inconceivable, but the loss of a person whose life has been a comfortable and comforting fit with your own, a bond of mutual affection. Imagining life without Kate leaves me with a hollow feeling.

This loss, too, is common. Just read the obituaries and see the list of “survived by.” It is different from your own death because your life goes on with a big hole. I know this feeling too well. My mother died when I was 17. This is horror. Is it survivable? Of course. But life after the death of a spouse is a change none of us who are happily married seek. Yet, it seeks us. It is the nature of two finite creatures bonded through love. One leaves first.

These matters are on my mind today as we try to hunt down and fix what’s ailing Kate. I’m not ready, will never be ready, for life without her. May it be far in the future if it happens for me at all.


Stuff Going On Here

Imbolc                                                                          Anniversary Moon

Gertie helps me work out

Gertie helps me work out

It was 68 here yesterday. And dry. So little snow left, just in the northern shadow of our home, here and there in shaded parts of the forest. This is a typical La Nina year, according to weathergeek, our pinecam.com meteorologist. The result? A long, potentially too hot, summer and fall.

Working on the last of the cardboard to plastic transfer process. Yesterday I found complete drafts of Phantom Queen, The Sacrifice, The Wild Pair, Missing, Hunting Gods, Only To Be Born and the Last Druid. They’re now resting in file folders in one box. Even the God’s Must Die will go in there today. I don’t have a printed out copy of Superior Wolf yet, not done, but close. Jennie’s Dead, a partially finished novel, and work on Loki’s Children, the second in the Tailte trilogy, will have files here, too, because they are ones I will finish eventually. Feels good to see these drafts all in one place, in the physical world of paper, not just bytes. I have another file box full of short story drafts, some edited.

The research and writing group/beta reader comments for each novel and story will go into the banker’s boxes and get moved downstairs to the shelving in the garage.

The dogs are all healthy right now. I’ve stopped letting them out after breakfast in the morning (at 4:45/5:00 am) due to the mountain lion problem. They’ll go out after the sun comes up. It’s strange, but part of mountain life, to have to consider predators killing them. When I was a kid in Indiana, the worry was your dog getting run over by a car.




A Quiet Day

Imbolc                                                                             Anniversary Moon

In Process

In Process

A quiet day. Kate had the Bailey Patchworkers, a sewing group that meets once a month, and I stayed home with the dogs. Still transferring files from cardboard to translucent plastic. Slow process. As I touch files I’ve had for years but not revisited in a long while, I stop to read, wonder why the hell I kept this?

These are still remnants of the move from Minnesota, tasks partially done, enough to start functioning, but needing more careful organization for things to really hum. Our two very large paintings done by brother-in-law Jerry remain in their crates, built especially for them. Lots of other art hangs out with its brothers and sisters leaning against walls, shelving, in closets. Slowly. Slowly.

Kate and I have been studying mussar for nine months or so. Tonight Rabbi Jamie has an introductory class in Kabbalah. I know very little about this Jewish mystical tradition (I knew nothing about mussar.), but I’m going to go, find out a bit more.

Yesterday Morning

Yesterday Morning

The lenticular clouds over Black Mountain have mini-rainbows as the sun sets behind them in the west, delicate pinks and blues. It gets cool fast up here when the sun goes down, summer and winter. Part of the joy of living here. For us.


A Flat Out Lie

Imbolc                                                                      Anniversary Moon

Fire danger continues high. If we don’t get some moisture, it’s gonna be a long summer. Weather5280 says some changes may be ahead in the latter part of March. Go moisture. Bring on some cold. Let it snow.

walnut shelving Jon made and installed this week

walnut shelving Jon made and installed this week

Still moving files from banker’s boxes to translucent plastic bins. Finished all my art files yesterday, today I plan to begin on my writing files which make up most of the rest. When I finish this work, I’ll have left only reorganizing and hanging art plus a final pass at organizing the books within categories. It’s funny, but I can feel a growing excitement about having the loft as I envisioned it two plus years ago, a sort of liberation and consolidation of potential. Ready to move forward with writing and Latin and other work facilitated by this amazing space Kate found for me.

Had Sky Country Pump come out on Friday to replace the water pressure tank that had, according to Geowater, gone bad. I called Sky Country because Geowater tried to install things I hadn’t ordered, then ordered a pressure tank replacement, $1,000 plus. I stopped all of it, having them only install the acid-buffering system I wanted. Our water has a ph of 5.2. They were unhappy; I was mad.

what we did not have

what we did not have

So, I wasn’t surprised when the Sky Country Pump folks said, “No problem with the water pressure tank. We’d love to sell you a tank, but you don’t need one.” Ah.

Now that means that either Geowater is incompetent or flat out lied. I’m thinking the latter. In effect it would have been theft had I said yes, go ahead with the tank. It would have appeared to be my decision, but it would have been based on alternative facts, as KellyAnne might say.




Imbolc                                                                           Anniversary Moon

20170310_174900The full anniversary moon lit up our way home from Bistro Colorado. It was the 27th time we’ve celebrated our wedding day and it was peaceful, funny, thoughtful. With flowers and chocolate.

I’ve been moving and reorganizing stuff in my loft. A favorite activity. This time though I can see the end. After Jon installed the walnut shelving, it was possible to replace and rearrange stuff I’d had lying around on the floor. Now that’s done and the art cart has been cleared. That means I can put the bankers boxes on it and sort through the files in them, putting them in translucent plastic file bins. Part of my idea with them is to have my files easily accessible and readable. The other is to unify the look of the file holders.

On Thursday I stayed after mussar to attend the adult education meeting at Beth Evergreen. After the meeting both Tara Saltzman, director of life-long learning, and Marilyn Saltzman (not related as far as I know), chair of the committee, made it clear that I was part of the Beth Evergreen community. Just how I can’t quite articulate, but it was an immediate, warm feeling of acceptance. And I felt very good about it. Another mile marker on the ancientrail of becoming Coloradan, of supporting Kate in her journey further into Judaism and of my own spiritual journey.


Oh, well. A pause would have been better.

Imbolc                                                             New (Anniversary) Moon

Black Mountain barely shows itself in the cloud of snow over it. We’ve had snow since yesterday, winter is back. We’re glad here on Shadow Mountain. This Colorado feint of warm weather in the middle of winter keeps me thinking spring, then the sky turns white.

It’s been one of those days when the adult quotient required exceeded my ability to manage it. When I went out and found the guy from Geowater working on our well-head, installing a product I didn’t want, then found out he’d ordered a $1,000 pressure tank to replace our current one, well, let’s just say I didn’t handle it well. WTF! No, I didn’t think it, I said it. Oops. I had them walk back the work order, pushing the day’s bill down from around $7,000 to $2,000.

Then, they nicked a water line from the boiler and had to call a plumber to fix it. That set things back on the right emotional track. I had to get on my hands and knees, literally, to crawl into the space under our house and apologize. I was hot and said sorry. One of the guys fist bumped me and said thanks. The other guy was not quite so quick to forgive. Still, after I apologized that was his issue.

One of those situations where I wish I’d taken the mussar way and introduced a pause between the match and the fuse. I could have gotten the same result without being hostile. Maybe by the time I’m 80?

Anyhow, the ph in our water is now up from 5.2 to 7.5. Much better for the boiler and the copper piping. This was preventive maintenance, something I seem to be doing a lot up here. Of course, our Andover house was a model so everything was new; though over 20 years, we did end up doing some preventive work and some replacements.


Red Flag

Imbolc                                                                    Valentine Moon

Fiskar-Pole-Saw-Went out yesterday with the pole saw and began the task of trimming branches on our lodgepole pines. OMG. Working that saw, always over my head, wore me out pretty fast though I did get several trees limbed. Splintered Forest rents power pole saws and I might rent one for the rest of the work.

I did this work in honor of the red flag warning (highest fire danger) we had yesterday. Limbing up to ten feet prevents a grass fire’s spread into the trees. The branches below 10 feet act as ladder fuel, giving the fire a way to climb. Otherwise the trees are not nearly as combustible. It felt good to be outside, a sunny day, warmish but still cool.

Shadow Mountain is just below the R in warning.

Shadow Mountain is just below the R in warning.

There was a video clip of the recent Meyer’s Ranch grass fire on Pinecam.com. Meyer’s Ranch is near us. When I saw the fire licking up around the tree trunks, it prompted thinking about ladder fuel. The reality was very easy to see.

We chose to live here, so we have to take these matters into account. In a big fire, a crown fire or one whipped by the winds that often roar down mountain, we’ll probably lose the house anyway. This work means that in something less than that it might survive. Being close to the main road, Black Mountain Drive (aka Co. 78), and having a flat, short driveway means firefighters will work to save our house. That ups our odds, too.

And, on that cheery note, I’ll make all this a metaphor. Donald Trump is a red flag warning for our democracy. If we don’t do the important maintenance now and for the next four years, we might lose the White House and self-governance. Get out that pole saw and call your congressperson.


Becoming Coloradan

Imbolc                                                             Valentine Moon

No snow. 10% humidity. A spate of small wildfires. Result: stage 1 fire restrictions put in place by Jeffco. In February. Winter has gone on holiday and the outlook for summer is fiery if we don’t get more moisture in March and April. Like death, oddly, I find the whole wildfire possibility invigorating. It motivates me to work on our lodgepole pine and aspen and it brings those of us who live in the mountains closer together. A common foe.


Lodgepole pine. From our bedroom window I look out and up to a jagged line of tree tops. On clear nights stars often align with the tops of the pines, giving them a decorated for Christmas look. Sometimes stars also align with branches further down, emphasizing the effect.

Which reminds me. Monday or Tuesday night of this week I looked up at the pines, as I often do before falling asleep. They were lit up with what looked like lightning bugs. What? The phenomena went on for quite a while, small specks of light flashing off and on. Obviously in February and up here on Shadow Mountain, no lightning bugs. A complete mystery.


While waiting on the Rav4 to finish its spa day at Stevinson Toyota I spent some time considering whether I had become a Coloradan yet. First thing. I left my prostate and significant portions of my left knee in Colorado. No flowers in my hair, but I do feel I’ve contributed in a meaningful, whole body sort of way. Then, living in the mountains. Everyday. Learning the rhythms of mountain seasons, the wildlife, the vast number of hikes and sights and sites to see. And we’re adjusted to life at 8,800 feet. A very Colorado and mountain thing.

Of course, there are Jon and Ruth and Gabe, family links to schools, synagogues, sports, life as a child in the Centennial State. Our dogs, too, as Dr. Palmini said, are mountain dogs now. Due to the spate of mountain lion attacks on dogs in the last month or so, I have a concern for their safety that is very Coloradan. In fact I bought a powerful LED flashlight and have my walking stick ready to do battle with a mountain lion if necessary.

Kings Peak near us 4 pm 12 29

Kings Peak near us 4 pm 12 29

Congregation Beth Evergreen, in addition to a religious community, also facilitates ties with people who live up here like the lawyer, Rich Levine, we saw last week. Many others, too. Kate has integrated quickly thanks to the two sewing groups she belongs to: Bailey Patchworkers and the Needlepointers. Her integration helps mine.

The town of Evergreen has many great restaurants, as does Morrison. We go to jazz and theater in Denver.


That’s the coming to Colorado part of the story. The other is my relationship to Minnesota. Of course there are the Wooly friends, especially Tom, Mark and Bill and the docent friends, many of whom I connect with through Facebook, but also through visits, e-mails, the occasional phone call. Those connections are still strong, even though attenuated by distance.

Minnesota will always occupy a large, 40-year space in my heart. That’s a long time, enough to become home. So many memories, good ones and bad ones. But, it is just that now, a 40-year space in my heart. I do not want to return. Life is here, now, and that, more than anything else, tells me that, yes, I have become and am a Coloradan.


April 2017
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