We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Happenings on Shadow Mountain

Imbolc                                                                         New Life Moon

Single digits. Passes for really, really cold here. Cold enough that I’d forgotten blue jeans are not comfortable at those temps. When I went to kabbalah on Tuesday night, the cold seeped through that cotton as if it wasn’t there. Oh. Yeah. I remember that.

Sjogrens-Syndrome1Kate’s having a Sjogren’s flare. That means symptoms intensify, particularly fatigue and a general feeling of dis-ease. She gets low grade fevers, an annoying sore throat. The good news here is this time we know what it is and she has strategies for coping. It’s not frightening in the way the first flare was back in March or April when she developed thrush and had an ENT guy look at her throat and say, “That looks a little funky.” Doctor speak for, OMG. Fortunately, the funky spot resolved itself. Not throat cancer after all.

Ted, of Ted of All Trades, came by yesterday. Ta dah! Jerry’s paintings, the two big ones you may recall if you ever visited us in Andover, are now hung. 3 years later. One on the wall perpendicular to the fire place and the other in our bedroom. Those damned cabinet hinges? Repaired. We tried to swap out a ceiling fan for a light fixture but when Ted opened the box it had a broken sconce. Grrr. Back to Home Depot.

full disclosure. this is not me.

full disclosure. this is not me.

In the loft Ted repaired my door, a missing bolt to hold one door firmly shut, hung the big map of Hawai’i, the island not the state. Kate got it for me as a consolation prize one year when she went to Maui for continuing medical education and I stayed home. An antique and beautiful. A mirror went up on the wall so I can investigate my form while I work out. Or, just admire my buff body. If it ever comes in the mail! And, a mount for the TRX, a weight suspension workout tool, is now affixed to the ceiling.

Feels good to have those projects finished. Even better to know that Ted is now part of our resource base. He will help us stay here as long as possible by getting small projects done that add up to big improvements in daily living.

abraham_012413_620pxKate and I decided to drop out of Hebrew for this year. We’d not been studying. Doesn’t really reflect lack of interest so much as an unwillingness to dedicate the necessary time we know learning a language needs. May pick it up again in September. My kabbalah class this session though is on the Hebrew letters, so I’m gaining familiarity if not facility.

Still no lifting of the melancholy though I’ve been busy and as I said below it tends to slip away as life pushes itself on me. Last night, for example, I made Grandma’s beef and noodles,  a recipe from the newspaper. Just what it sounds like. Got a 3 pound slab of chuck shoulder roast out of the freezer, unthawed it, cut out the fat and fascia (which took a while), discovered we have a pressure cooker, used it. My first time. Kept hoping it wouldn’t blow up. It didn’t. Whew. Cooking, mindful cooking as I’m trying to remember to do, requires close attention and close attention shuts off the spigot for negative emotions.

 

Becoming Native

Imbolc                                                                      New Life Moon

20180211_120056Life still trickling by. A bit of snow over the last few days, colder now, in the Colorado measure of that term. So relative. Saw a facebook meme with Texans in parkas at 70 degrees. Could have countered that with a Minnesotan in shorts at ten below. Meanwhile 11, last night, felt pretty cold after three years here. These gross physical acclimatizations  are easy to spot, but what about the more subtle mental adjustments?

How does the mind change, for example, when it goes up and down mountains, around curves into canyons, rather than coasting across the flat lands of the Midwest? Or, what about looking up and seeing ovular lenticular clouds, high flying cirrus against blue sky? When fall comes and the changes are only in the aspen, a mass of gold variations, what happens to the heart used to deciduous colors?

Political colorations are different here, too. That thick vein of let me alone libertarianism too often gets mined for political results that would make even conservative Minnesotans cringe. Immigrants to the state, like Kate and me, drag along with us expectations that government should be of, by and most of all, for the people. This is a far from universal sentiment in the West. We’re adding new strata to the political geography, but the whole still feels very alien to me.

becoming nativeThis is all by way of becoming native to this place, a key element in my pagan creed borrowed from Wes Jackson at the Land Institute. Sounds like an oxymoron, right? That’s why I love it, the challenging notion that we can be of a new place in a very old, intimate way, through what Rabbi Jamie would call Torah study, close attention, close attention to details and to our own inner world, compassionate attention willing to be shaped by what we find.

IMAG0861Kate and I did it on the Great Anoka Sand Plain. Over the Andover years we listened to the soil, to the rhythms of the growing season. We stuck our hands in the soil, partnered with it. We planted trees and fruit bearing shrubs. There was the open prairie we cultivated on either sides of the more traditional suburban lawn carpet. Bees, with whom we partnered, for honey. Dogs who used the woods as their home and hunting ground. By the time we left we were native to that place. Its rhythms shaped our own and together we created a place to live.

It’s happening here, too. A long and nuanced process, still in its early days, but one that has promise for the Great Work, creating a sustainable presence for humans on this planet.

 

Radon

Imbolc                                                                  Imbolc Moon

radon-elementSort of feeling crummy yesterday, Kate, too. Not sure whether last month’s illness lingers. Or what. Kate said, “Maybe the radon mitigation system’s not working.” Oh. Well. Damn. “I’ll go check.” The radon mitigation system has a fan that disperses radioactive particles, blowing them up and out of the house. If it’s on and the barrier’s intact, the system’s working.

Sure enough, the fan was off. I’d not checked the particulars of this setup before because it had always been running. Off to the crawl space. Not my favorite place because even though I’m very far along in the healing process, my left knee still ouches when I kneel on it. Unavoidable in the crawl space. Still, to prevent radiation poisoning, what’s a little discomfort, right?

radon2Going into the crawl space is a bit like opening the closet to go to Narnia. The makeshift door to the crawl space is in a closet and opens to the world beneath our house. However, even before I removed the door, I reached up to switch on the light. By god, right there, beside the crawl space light switch was another switch. It said, fan. Oh. Could it be this simple? It was. I hit the switch, which was in the off position, then went back outside to listen to the fan. On.

Part of the problem solved. Then, onto Amazon for a radon detection kit. Just to be safe. It’ll be here soon. I did a radon sample in Andover, so I know it’s a relatively simple process. We’re probably not experiencing radiation poisoning, but better to know than not.

Night and Death. Yes.

Imbolc                                                                      Imbolc Moon

20180131_185045The Imbolc moon has had its night in earth’s shadow, its night as super and blue and red. Hey, up in the sky, it’s Supermoon! And last night it was wonderful again. High, full, behind a faint veil of clouds. Orion and the moon. My two favorite celestial objects. Well, ok, the sun, too, but I can never look at it.

Something in a full moon moves me to the depths of my soul. I can find myself tearing up, a catch in my throat at the sheer extravagance of its beauty. It’s offered over and over, available to all, free.

So, too, Orion. He rises. Greets any who bother to find him. He stands always ready astride the horizon, a hunter and his dog. I don’t know whether he remembers our nights in Muncie while I watched over the entrance gate at the factory, but I like to think he does.

The night sky, in its shorter versions and in its Winter Solstice maximum, offers solace to those of us who want it. The night is, to paraphrase LP Hartley, a foreign country. They do things different there.

caphLast night I went back to Beth Evergreen, more kabbalah. Studying the kabbalah at night, especially under a full moon. Yes. Learning about more double letters: Pey, Caph, Reish, Tav.

I know this Jewish immersion of mine must seem odd to some of you who read this; but, it’s happened over many years, a sort of there and back again phenomenon. In this current instance Kate’s conversion long ago made us seek out a synagogue, just to see. We found Beth Evergreen, a special place, unique I imagine, even among Reconstructing congregations.

It was long ago though I read Isaac Bashevis Singer. Chaim Potok. Later, Rebecca Goldstein. It was long ago that I walked into the synagogue in Muncie for an anthropology assignment. It was long ago that I dated the jeweler’s daughter, Karen Singer, and found her father’s knowledge of philosophy astounding. Over the years many Jews have come into my life and I’ve always felt comfortable around them. As if we shared a common spirit. At Beth Evergreen that feeling surfaced immediately and has grown deeper over time.

green Natural-Burial--275x275Being part of the tribe? No. Not for me. Walking along with the tribe as it wends its way through this moment in time? Yes.

Let me give you an example. The friend I mentioned yesterday, Bonnie Houghton, the green cemetery and burial, rabbi in training, Bonnie, got me going on the Recycle Me idea. It fits so well with my pagan sensibility and it’s something I can act on through this community.

Yesterday was Tu B’Shvat, the new year of the trees. It’s a part of the Jewish holiday year, just like Yom Kippur, Purim and Passover. Kate and I went to the celebration yesterday before kabbalah. Later, as I rested before returning for kabbalah, an image struck me: a Tu B’Shvat celebration in our yet-to-be green cemetery. We would be honoring trees, trees of all kinds yes, but especially, in this celebration, those trees growing from the graves of deceased members of Beth Evergreen.

Can you imagine? An ancient holiday celebrating trees and the gifts that they offer, now including trees with their roots literally in members of the congregation? How mystical, how wonderful would that be. Out there, on the mountain side, perhaps a mountain stream running nearby, a breeze rolling down the slope and my tree, the tree that is a tree and me, our leaves rustling as the gathered folks sing, pray. Yes.

 

 

A Blue Blood Moon

Winter                                                                   Imbolc Moon

The Imbolc Moon put on a show this morning. I got up just as the first finger of black touched it. Kate and I sat on the loft’s balcony and watched as the finger pushed its way across the moon’s surface. Hints of red began to show up at the moon’s edge as the penumbra of the earth covered more and more. The moon was to the north of Black Mountain, putting it directly in the sight line from the balcony. As it moved north, however, the nearest lodgepole pine got in the way. After the full eclipse, it sank below the treed horizon and out of our sight, so we did not the see the super part of the blue blood moon.

This is the second eclipse, the other being the solar eclipse last August, that Kate and I have been able to observe from a balcony, sitting in comfortable chairs. Astronomy does not often provide such creature comforts and I was grateful in both instances.

The clouds have been amazing this past week. Last night I took the darker photograph of a Ponderosa pine at Beth Evergreen and the soon to super and bloody blue moon.

20180130_18233420180130_06564420180129_174932

 

Mystifying Move

Samain                                                                             Bare Aspen Moon

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

A friend wrote that he found our move here mystifying. No doubt. At age 67 and 70 respectively Kate and I left our lifetime home, the American Midwest (except for her brief sojourn in Houston), flat and humid, for the Rocky Mountains, high and arid. We had built a substantial life based on flat and humid, lots of horticulture, a woods of our own, plenty of space for our big dogs to roam. There was room in the Andover house for Kate’s sewing, my books and writing, an exercise space, a kitchen and dining area that worked for us.

We both had professional and friendship links of over 40 years in Minnesota. We made consistent use of the many cultural assets in the Twin Cities, having met at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. We attended the Guthrie and other theater and musical events. I was a docent and guide at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for 12 years with frequent visits to the Walker, the Russian Museum and led a group that made monthly visits to quirky art related venues. Political engagement over a long period of time had, at the point of the move, led me to the Sierra Club where I helped work on the legislative program.

In other words we were both literally and figuratively well-rooted.

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, 2014

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, 2014

Ira Progoff Intensive Journal Workshops intervened. Progoff was a psychoanalyst in the Jungian tradition, the same theoretical framework used by my long time personal analyst, John Desteian. I first attended a Journal workshop in 1988 in southern Wisconsin. It altered my perception of the world through a six day process of guided meditations, journal writing guided through Progoff’s books and by a skilled facilitator. From this first one I developed a mantra, Stream flowing, White Pine rooting, that I used for decades in personal meditation. At a second Journal Workshop in Georgia, I deepened my appreciation of these workshops. They have an uncanny way of illuminating the current moment of my life in a way that’s both connected to the past, yet focused on the future.

Progoff’s intention is that the Journal be a source of continuing self-analysis. You learn the method at a workshop, then continue to use in daily life. I’ve found the journals too unwieldy for daily use, but the Journal workshops themselves transformative. I hope to attend one next year to get more insight into our life after the move.

IMAG0096It was the Tucson workshop that triggered the move. I say triggered advisedly because it shifted my sense of priorities after Kate’s retirement. Up till then the long, well-established roots I mentioned earlier made leaving Minnesota unthinkable to me. We had seriously discussed a move to Duluth, to Hawaii and often, to Colorado, but for me Minnesota’s thumb on the scale proved decisive. How could I leave the Woolly Mammoth’s, my men’s group of over 25 years at that point? How could I leave the political work and the work at the MIA? How could we leave our gardens and orchard, the bees?

However the various exercises in the Tucson workshop led me down a different path. First, it established clearly that my life phase that time, March/April of 2014, was defined by Kate’s retirement. It allowed me, encouraged me, to go into that phase with clearer eyes, to consider what our mutual life could mean now that she was free of daily work. With the exception of Anne, Kate’s sister who lives in Waconia, our family had moved on, both boys having left for Colorado, Jon around 2000, Joseph in 2005. Though Joseph had since joined the Air Force and left Breckenridge, Jon married and had two children.

Ruth and Gabe were 7 and 5, turning 8 and 6 the month of the Journal workshop. I planned to make a visit on the way home, driving from Tucson to Denver to surprise Ruth for her birthday. This meant the grandkids were on my mind.

Ruth, late March, 2014

Ruth, late March, 2014

I sensed, in meditation and through writing occasioned by the workshop’s flow, that our family’s center of gravity had shifted, for good, to Colorado. Both Jon and Joseph moved to Colorado for the skiing. Joseph would likely return to Colorado after his time in the Air Force (it seemed like that then, maybe not quite as much now) and our grandchildren were young. If we stayed in Minnesota, we would see them only occasionally and have little chance to play much of a role in their maturation.

This realization, that our family had shifted its home base from Minnesota, which we both loved, to Colorado, made me think moving to Colorado made some sense. Kate had gotten there long before me, so when I raised the question on my return, a decision to leave came quickly. We soon had a realtor, began making regular trips to G-Will Liquors for boxes and purchased colored tape.

First project, fence for the dogs

First project, fence for the dogs

Living in the mountains, at altitude, had three main drivers. The first was free air-conditioning. “If there’s no snow (or rain) falling from the sky and you’re not in a cloud, then the temperature decreases by about 5.4°F for every 1,000 feet up you go in elevation.” on the snow. So you can do the math for 8,800 feet. The second was to live in a distinctly different environment from our Midwestern home. Denver didn’t meet this criteria since it’s at what I consider the western terminus of the Midwest, where the plains wash up against the Front Range of the Rockies, and it’s a metro area, therefore not very different in kind from the Twin Cities. The third was to put some distance, though not too much, between us and the grandkids. We didn’t want to be used as babysitters, but to be available as grandparents.

Ruth and Jon helping us get ready for the moving van, Dec. 2014

Ruth and Jon helping us get ready for the moving van, Dec. 2014

This latter desire on our part, to engage the grandkids, but not be engulfed by them, was a distinct point of conflict with Jen, Jon’s then wife. She complained, from the first time we decided on Black Mountain Drive, that we were living too far away. No matter how often we pointed out that we had moved 900 miles closer, she always came back to how far away we were. While we understood her point, it was exactly that sort of attitude that had made us choose some distance.

So we moved to the mountains on the Winter Solstice of 2014, barely 9 months after the workshop in Tucson. We came into alignment as the workshop changed my attitude toward the relative virtues of staying in Minnesota or being close to the grandkids. In effect, it brought me around to Kate’s thinking.

 

Sarcopenia is a bitch

Samain                                                                           Bare Aspen Moon

quantumTrying out another browser, Firefox Quantum. Changing browsers is a hassle, but the benefits of Quantum seem considerable. Right now I’m still on Chrome, but I plan to complete the transition today. I’ll let you know how the transition goes-for those who might care.

Spitting snow this morning, colder. 26. Heading into a cooler week, but then again, it is November 28th. A La Nina year.

Finally back at Jennie’s Dead. Again. Been bumpy. Holidays and “getting stuff done before winter sets in.” This latter is a holdover from 40 years in Minnesota. It’s a now thoroughly ingrained instinct inculcated by years of gardening, bee-keeping and brutal winters with little let up in the cold. Then, too, there’s Hebrew, kabbalah, the Evergreen Forum, ancientrails, all demanding in their own way. A good way.

agingSet a time on Thursday to get a new workout. The old one has grown stale, but it brought me to a new level of fitness, one I can feel in day to day activities. Exercise kicks in endorphins for a right now feel good, but it’s most important role is health maintenance. Sarcopenia, the slow decrease in muscle mass that begins in our 40’s, accelerates in our 70’s. You know, opening jars, lifting boxes, pushing a snow shovel, cleaning up the garage, carrying in groceries, all those everyday uses of our body become harder and harder.

In a nod to this change in both Kate and me, for example, I’ve put blue masking tape on all of our round door knobs because our grip strength is less. Arthritis in the thumbs and fingers can make turning the knobs painful. The tape is a temporary fix, a workaround, eventually we’ll have press down door handles installed. Sarcopenia is a bitch.

aging2Exercise is a way to push back against these changes. It doesn’t solve them, but it helps. The cardio work maintains the pump that literally keeps us alive, helps it respond to crisis modes without giving up. Been at it so long it’s just part of my day.

Restrung the lights out front trying to get even spacing between the two strands, but my skills don’t seem up to the task. However, I did not allow the best to be enemy of the good. They’re up and I like’m. Just the way they are.

 

 

The Holiseason Zone

Samain                                                                          Bare Aspen Moon

Getting ready to cook

Getting ready to cook

You have entered the holiseason zone. Of course, it’s well underway since it begins now with Rosh Hashanah, but Thanksgiving, with its grocery shopping, tablescaping, bedroom preparing and gathering of family is a key moment, the holiday that marks the start of a remarkable run: Advent, Posada, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s. Wow. The metaphysical crackling in the air gets intense with lights and ideas and gods and astronomical night. It’s my favorite time of the year.

The Thanksgiving project for me is a golden capon with pancetta and fig stuffing. A lot of oranges are involved, too. The challenge of finding a capon found its match in finding fresh figs. A nice man at Whole Foods explained that northern hemisphere figs are available in the summer and southern hemisphere figs just before Christmas. Oops, not in time for Thanksgiving. Then, a Thanksgiving miracle! Kate found them at King Sooper after I’d called specialty stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocers and gotten nada. Yeah.

thanksgiving-farm-harvest-postcardThe whole gathering in of items for pecan pies, Ruth made ours last night, and yams and green beans and potatoes is a simulacrum of growing it all, or hunting and gathering for the feast. And, yes, our finding a retailer with figs and capons is no match, but it did add uncertainty and joy in discovery.

A mountain Thanksgiving is like others, but with a lot more altitude.

 

Moose

Samain                                                                    Joe and SeoAh Moon

Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA

Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA

The Moose.  Been awhile since I’ve written about my totem animal. I didn’t gain the moose in a sweat lodge or a vision quest. Nor did a psychic or friend suggest it.

Nope. Got to thinking about myself a long while ago. Introverted, wandering the forests by myself, not easily cowed, even by predators. Usually alone. And the moose came to mind.

May not be pretty, but they stand tall and act with vigor. I know no one picks a field mouse as their totem animal and that self-selection is sort of frowned upon; but, moose just seemed to fit.

Up here they live not far away, wandering the Arapaho and Pike National Forests. In fact, a male showed up in the meadow at the base of Shadow Mountain just over a month ago. Their only foe, the wolf, is no longer present here, so their numbers have gone up after a recent re-introduction by Colorado Natural Resources. The moose in Minnesota are in trouble, thanks mainly to global warming. The winters are no longer cold enough to consistently kill off the ticks that plague them. Not sure why that isn’t true here in Colorado.

I guess what appealed to me about the moose is its solitary nature, its home turf in the wilderness, its majesty. Moose are one of the iconic animals of the north along with wolves and loons and ravens. Out here in the Rockies they join the buffalo and the wild horse, the grizzly bear, the mountain lion, the elk. I see myself as a man of the north and now, too, of the west, but especially the mountains, so we share a home range, two of them in fact.

Saw Revival

Samain                                                                         Joseph and SeoAh Moon

chainsawGot my chainsaw back. Cleaned up, sawblade sharpened. Ready for another 20 years. This Jonsered has been my friend in some heavy labor for a long time. Glad the folks at Broadway Total Power could revive it. This is a skill I learned at the Peaceable Kingdom in Hubbard County, Minnesota. Circa 1974 or so.

Feeling tired today, slept in and didn’t get up here to write until now, 5 pm. The sun’s sinking behind Black Mountain, the earth spinning again, putting  light to sleep for the night.

Got some lights up on the house, not Christmas, not Hanukkah, but lights anyhow, festive in their way. For all the year. Gonna add another string. Soon as they come.

Needed a rest day, been travelin’ through life a little fast for this 70 year old body. My new workout routine left me tired, too. That’s a good thing, until it isn’t. Saw a meme on Facebook, “OMG, I forgot to go to the gym this morning! That makes 5 years in a row.” One way to avoid overworking the body.

It’s a la nina year, which often means less snow for us here in Colorado. Looks like that’s going to hold true through Thanksgiving anyway. Does not make us happy.

Planned to spend this a.m. reviewing homeowner’s insurance with our agent. Big fun. She had to cancel so it’s on next Monday morning. Adult stuff.

5f8f6455-28c0-4eb8-a817-6a49c01c862fI’m hunkering down, staying home this weekend. Maybe cut down a tree or two, shave some stumps off closer to the ground. Work in the garage. Sort of a guy weekend.

BTW: Broadway Total Power, the place that fixed my saw, is a real guy place. My testosterone level went up just walking in there. Snow plow blades, huge snow blowers, chain saws, power mowers, professional arborist saws. The smell of oil and gas. Huge bins for distributing salt or other chemicals out of a pickup truck. Landscaping crews’ trucks parked outside.

 

 

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