We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Live long

by Gage Skidmore

by Gage Skidmore

Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

Pushing myself. Up to 10,000 steps on the four days I don’t do resistance work, 5,000 on those days. Feels good, so I’ll probably stay at it. The resistance work is helping, too. Less knee pain, less stiffness, better balance.

Looked at lilacs on Monday. After reading some material online, it looks like Syringa vulgaris (guess what? common lilac) and Syringa x prestonia, a Canadian cultivar, work well at our altitude. Gonna put in two bushes this year and see how they do. If they do well, I’ll add more next year. Cautionary note: don’t add fuel where it might feed a fire in the trees. They both need full sun and at least some amended soil. That we can provide.

Blessing that is the origin of the Vulcan salute

Blessing that is the origin of the
Vulcan salute

Last night I went to an interesting session, Star Trek and Judaism at Beth Evergreen. Several original cast members were Jewish, most prominent among them William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy.

A fascinating take away was the origin of the Vulcan salute. Nimoy, as the sole Vulcan in the main cast, got to have a lot of say about developing Vulcan culture. He attended a service in which the shekinah, the feminine aspect of God, gets invited in. She’s so powerful that everyone shields their eyes and a group of men upfront were wailing, according to Nimoy in a video clip. He decided to peek and noticed that they were holding their fingers in what you would immediately recognize as the familiar Vulcan greeting. It’s the Hebrew letter shin, the first letter of shekinah, shalom, sabbath.

 

 

 

As the World Burns

Beltane                                                                  Moon of the Summer Solstice

images (2)While the world burns, at least the Trump world, kabbalah suggests a bigger world, more worlds, right next to this one. There is, as Rabbi Jamie said, a bigger picture. I learned a similar lesson from Deer Creek Canyon during my cancer season two years ago. These Rocky Mountains, still toddlers as mountains go, were and will be present when we are not. In their lifetime humanity will likely have come and gone.

It’s tempting to use this perspective-and I believe it’s real, I want to emphasize that-to diminish the swirl of issues like climate change, decent health insurance, jobs that no longer pay a living wage. In time they will be finished, one way or another. We were neither present during the Rockies orogeny, nor will we be present when they become as smooth as the Appalachians. Just so, you may say.

38d9f3b4e2e64361ce68ca237f270a42Yet. We do not live either in the deep geological past nor in the distant geological future, we live now. Our lives, our mayfly lives from the vantage point of geological time, come into existence and blink out, so we necessarily look at the moment, the brief seventy to one hundred year moment into which, as Heidegger said, we are thrown.

This is all we know of life, this moment. In it our whole awareness comes into existence, matures, then winks out. From that mayfly perspective then climate change, decent health insurance and a living wage are not insignificant. Albert Camus spoke of the great river which carries us toward the ocean of all souls. Ram Dass reminds us we’re all just walking each other home. And Lord Keynes famously said in the long run we’ll all be dead.

Time_Clock-620x587Somehow we have to realize that though our lives are small compared to the immensity of the universe and the imponderable nature of time, they are everything while we have them. As for me, I find all this comforting. Putting my efforts in the larger perspective gives me peace, putting them in the immediacy of my life gives me energy. We will not complete the task, no, we will not. But we are not free to give it up either.

 

 

The Road to Mountain Home

Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

roadSign9Came home last night from studying the mysteries of the universe in kabbalah. A nearly full moon of the summer solstice hung high in the sky, giving the lustre of, well, not midday, more like late evening, to the forest below. Brook Forest Road, which becomes Black Mountain Drive, winds along Bear and Maxwell Creeks through a long valley before it gets serious about gaining 1500 feet of elevation. A couple of miles from home, after it has turned to Black Mountain Drive, this two lane asphalt heads uphill through the Arapaho National Forest.

When driving at night, especially at dusk or a bit later, vigilance is necessary since mule deer and elk don’t signal their intent to cross the road. Fortunately, having lived in Wisconsin, I learned long ago to look for the telltale flash of light from a Cervus eye. Turning off the headlights can help the animal see and cross the road rather than stop and stare. Even so, the road curves and the view is often blocked by rock massifs or large stands of trees, so thirty mile an hour is about all you can safely do. It makes me feel good to have to exercise caution for the wildlife here.

The first night I came to 9358 Black Mountain Drive, I just couldn’t wait until morning to see our new house, I left the Best Western Dinosaur Inn in Lakewood and found my way up Hwy. 285. Just as the road begins to rise after the Denver metro plateau there was an l.e.d. road sign that read: Watch for Wildlife and Rocks. I knew I was home when I saw that sign.

Outer, Inner

Beltane                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

rumiOur next Sierra Club meeting will be on June 19th, one day before the summer solstice. Sierra Club work is paganism stripped bare of its mythic content. There is passion for sure, but not the poetry, no ritual, no inner work. It’s all outer work: hike, lobby, analyze, network, persuade. We may, for example, show the next Al Gore movie, Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power. See trailer below.*

The work is good, necessary. It is even, as Thomas Berry said, the great work of our generation, but it often feels mechanical to me. Pull this lever. Have this meeting. Create this sign. Monitor Polymet. Call the governor. Write your Senator. Hike this trail. In its mechanistic form this does not feel like my love for our home, this earth, this planet, third rock from the sun.

tree_of_lifeSomehow I need to find a way for my inner work to imbue my outer work. Todd, a long-time member of the Mt. Evan’s local group to which I belong, talked about a hike he took yesterday in Reynold’s Park. He named a particular orchid that he found and his face lit up. “A bullsnake, too.” It may be that these folks, tied to the very local region encompassed by our borders, find their inner work in being on the trail, hiking Mt. Bierstadt, taking the Mt. Evan’s road, helping clear trail.

The hike I took at Flying J Ranch (see posts below) was shinrin-yoku, forest bathing. Perhaps that’s a way to combine the inner work with the outer work. Or, perhaps I could follow the mussar notion of outer work affecting the inner work. Not sure. But, there is a need for me to more closely match my spiritual journey with this work. Maybe the mountain art notion will fit here, too. More to come.

 

 

*

This, That

Beltane                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

altitude and oxygen levelsSo. Because physics. No black tea up here, at least not at a proper temperature. Thanks Tom and Bill for your help. When you relieve the pressure, the water reverts to the pressure of the air and the temp goes down as it does. Sigh.

Black Mountain is covered in cloud, hidden behind an opaque scrim of greyish white. Bishop Berkeley would suggest it’s not there at all, but I think it is. We’ll find out sometime today.

6702011 01 20_0603Went into Kate’s hairstylist with her yesterday and got my ears waxed. Jackie put hot wax on my ears, then pulled it off, removing those hairs that seemed to follow receipt of my Medicare card. This is my second time. She says if we do this often enough, the follicles will not push up hair. I mean, hair on the ears is so last iteration of our species.

Kate spent the rest of the day at Bailey Patchworkers. This is a sewing group that meets at the Bailey Library. Kate joined in our first year here. Another group with some of the same members, a needleworkers group, invited her to join them. As a result, she’s had two circles of friends here for almost the duration of our time in Colorado. This is a woman who listens to lectures and does counted cross-stitch or needlepoint. She’s sew into it.

IMAG0674 Planted a tomato plant yesterday in a five-gallon plastic bucket. When I opened the bag of garden soil (we don’t have anything a Midwesterner would recognize as soil), the smell of the earth almost made me cry. I miss working in soil, growing plants and my body told me so. A greenhouse went up higher on the priority list.

I love living at altitude, among the Rockies and all their flora and fauna. See the post below. I also loved living in Andover where horticulture, in retrospect, was so easy. It is possible to recreate that experience in miniature, inside four walls and a roof. I want to do that.

April

Beltane                                                                         Rushing Waters Moon

quote-april-is-the-cruelest-month-breeding-lilacs-out-of-the-dead-land-mixing-memory-and-desire-t-s-eliot-35-3-0387

April was fraught. Physicals and other medical matters created, if not anxiety, then very close attention. Kate’s shortness of breath and fatigue triggered imaging, a chest x-ray and an echocardiogram. There’s a physician’s nostrum that goes: if you look, you’ll find something. And so it was. Some scarring on her lungs, a short list of heart issues that “do not require surgery at this time.” For us anyhow, knowing is better than not knowing and the increased clarity eased concerns about her overall health. At least right now.

20170423_091304 (2)Ruth and Gabe turned 11 and 9. With the divorce birthdays have become contentious. Jen planned a birthday party for Ruth that didn’t include Jon. Ouch. Still in its first months after final orders the divorce means Jon and Jen have to establish new norms about how to deal with such things. Not easy when the breakup itself created more conflict.

Jon also needs to buy a home, get back into the city so his commute won’t be so long. Once he has a new place the custody arrangement will become more equal and parenting should be easier for him. The spring housing market is the right time, lots of houses on the market, though the still heated Denver housing market, one of the hottest in the country, affects affordability.

He’s been here almost a year and our garage plus outside it has overflow from his storage unit, enough to make our capacious garage (space for four cars) feel cramped. We’re ready to get back to our quieter, septuagenarian lifestyle, too.

April included several events at Beth Evergreen. A passover cooking class, a community seder, and the three day presence of Rabbi David Jaffe. Kate and I took the cooking class and helped set it up. We also did several different things for the Rabbi Jaffe events.

We spent a night and a day at a hotel in Lone Tree learning about hemophilia.

April, Eliot said, is the cruelest month. Maybe not exactly cruel this year, but stressful? Yep.

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.

 

 

 

June 2017
M T W T F S S
« May    
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
2627282930  

Breadcrumbs

Trails