We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Kate and radiation

Summer                                                                      Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180526_143004Kate’s had a big couple of days. Tuesday night was the Beth Evergreen board meeting. “I feel like I’m among my peers.” And yesterday was the Needleworkers here at our house. She presented food in abundance: cherries, strawberries, blueberries, cranberry muffins, angel food cake with orange icing, brie, cooked shrimp, crackers, coffee both caffeinated and pointless.

Mailed off the 90+ day radon test. The last one a few months ago was over the minimum radon level, but I discovered that the radon system fan had been inadvertently turned off. Decided to try again, but with a longer, more definitive test. If it comes back positive, I’ll have the radon folks out. Duck and cover is no good against radon.

42 this morning as the summer solstice rolled in. 4:07 a.m mst.


This and that

Beltane                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

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

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

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

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

Tan clumps are stump detritus

Tan clumps are stump detritus

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

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


Mowing the Fuel

Beltane                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

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

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


Beginner’s Mind

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

20180315_080258Odd things. First, a small group of folks at Beth Evergreen, mostly qabbalah students like myself, report seeing me as an artist. A visual artist. This is based on my last two presentations, the first being Hebrew letters with quotes relating to their deeper meanings and the second, last Wednesday, that used the sumi-e zen practice of enso creation. Now I’m far from a visual artist, I have two very good ones in my immediate family, Jeremiah Miller and Jon Olson, but to be seen even modestly in their company is a real treat.

repair2Second. Damned mower wouldn’t start. As I said earlier. Put in fresh gas. No joy. Hmmm. You Tube. You Tube, that Chinese patron saint of the do it yourselfer. Looked up mower won’t start. Found a video of a guy. One with a small wrench who showed how to take apart the carburetor, poke wire into various holes and then, voila, vrrooom. Didn’t look too hard.

Took the mower out, put it on the deck so I could reach the carburetor easily, found a wrench, took off the cap, got out my wire, poked the holes in the thingy four or five times and put the cap back on. Oh, I forgot. I did the video one better. He said you had to drain the tank or gas would flow out. I’d just changed the gas and don’t like siphoning. Yuck. Gas not taste good. Thought of surgical clamps. Got a vise grip, tightened it down on the fuel line and Bob’s your uncle, no drip!

fix itBest of all, when I yanked the starter cord after closing the carburetor back up, the mower started. To those of you with a mechanical gene this no doubt sounds trivial, probably very trivial, but to me. Wow. I fixed it myself.

I mention both of these because they relate to each other. I like to challenge myself, see if I can do something I previously thought I couldn’t do. Exercise was one such challenge, now over 30 years ago. Still at it. So was Latin. No good at language. So? I’ll give it a try anyhow. Then in my recent melancholic phase I realized I needed more touch, more tactile experience in my day. That led to the sumi-e work and prompted me to see the non-starting lawn mower as an opportunity.

beginners mindI’m not an athlete, not a Latin scholar, not a very good visual artist and definitely not much of a mechanic, but I have an amateur’s capacity. Trying these things makes my heart sing, keeps life vital. I suppose, going back to yesterday’s post, you could say I have faith in myself. Not faith that I can do anything I try, that’s just silly, but faith that if I try I can learn something new, maybe introduce something important to my life.

Who knows, maybe someday I will be a visual artist. Nah. Probably not. But, you never know.



The True Yellow Peril

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon


This morning

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

the orgy continues

the orgy continues

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

Whinging stops.



Livin’ Is Easy. Sort of.

Beltane                                                                        Sumi-e Moon

20180604_122702After sledging and searing the meat and softening the vegetables in the fat, I put a three or four pound hunk of chuck roast in the slow cooker along with potatoes, carrots, onions and celery. It cooked all day, coming out fork tender. An easy meal. Jon and the kids got stuck in traffic so they ate later.

Had a visitor, a young mule deer buck with velveted horns, a small knob on top of each one. He loved our front yard, carefully eating only dandelion blooms. Wish I could have gotten him in the back, he’d have loved the delicacies there. In this brave new world on Shadow Mountain, dandelions are a beautiful addition to the late spring, early summer yard. Mowing only to keep down the fuel. Gonna have a go at that today after I put fresh gas in the mower.

Ruth and I are going to practice sumi-e today. I want to mimic my presentation for Thursday night. Enso practice, then a keeper. I also want to learn the kanji for ichi-go ichi-e.

Summer temperatures have come to the mountains, but in the way of heat in this arid climate, it’s not unbearable. The new fans in the loft, bedroom and over the dining room table help.


Get Ready

Beltane                                                                                 Sumi-e Moon

20180516_144714So. Couldn’t get the mower started. Last year’s fuel still in there. Don’t know how I missed that, but I did. Gonna have to siphon it out, didn’t feel like it yesterday. I did run the snowblower out of fuel last week, so that won’t be a problem come winter. I also got all the chairs and the table moved, the swinging chair and the yellow lounger, too. An outside space for eating, hanging out. Not happy with it yet. Also picked up a lot of loose wood, not all of it, but a good chunk. By the time I got to the chainsaw I was tired. And I don’t do the chainsaw when I’m tired. Too damned risky.

A good start. One thing writing novels has taught me is that even a big task can be accomplished if done through persistence. A big push often wears me out, makes me task phobic for a while. Small increments get progress and a feeling of accomplishment that keeps me engaged. Doesn’t always work, of course. Reimagining, for example. Guess I’ve never figured out the incremental steps.

bullfightIn writing the short story Jail Break yesterday, I found myself tapping memories of my day at the Plaza del Toros in Mexico City. Hadn’t expected that, but it is a good example of how much travel can offer to writing. That trip was in 1994, I think. Still clear and present.

Regression. Kate got eager on Saturday and helped me as I cleaned out the garage. She helped herself into a very sore shoulder, neck muscles and bursitis. A three vicodin day on Sunday. I saw it as a good thing. Not the pain of course, but that she’s healed enough to overdo it.

Jon and the kids are coming up this afternoon. They’ll spend the night, go hiking tomorrow.

bat mitzvahA big Beth Evergreen week. Tomorrow is an adult ed session on linguistics. On Wednesday afternoon Tara, Alan Rubin and I meet with Rabbi Jamie to discuss the curriculum for the 6th/7th grade religious school. Tara (director of religious ed) started her note to us with, “You brave men.” Oh, my. Turns out the curriculum focuses on bar/bat mitzvah preparation. I’m honored that they trust me. This rite of passage is important, though not universally observed. Wednesday night is the MVP, mussar vaad practice group, Thursday has mussar and qabbalah.



Recent Workers at Our House

Beltane                                                                          Sumi-e Moon

Recent workers at our house:


Yellow Cloud

Beltane                                                                              Sumi-e Moon



That old debil clutter got another whack yesterday. The garage. Two bays cleaned out, a third organized. All that remains is the tool and work area. The most detailed and picky work of the four. Jon’s got almost all of his stuff out plus it warmed up a bit. Feels good.

Today. Pick up the backyard, move some items around: swinging chair, yellow chair, metal table and chairs, mow the fuel, cut down some dead trees in the back.

Finished Main Street yesterday. A short one. 2, 500 words. Today starting on Jail Break. The Alexandria Cycle.

Over the next two weeks plus the yellow clouds of lodgepole pine pollen will descend on us. My nose tells me it’s already started. My one certain allergy. A lot of sneezing and benadryl. This stuff gets inside, coats everything, leaves yellow stains on the driveway. Another mountain seasonal marker like the emergence of the bears from hibernation and the placer gold of the aspens in fall.

Projects, More Projects and Lost Gold

Beltane                                                                             Sumi-e Moon

Ted of All Trades came by yesterday. We want to add a screen door on the front so we can keep the front door open during the summer. Screen not for bugs, in this case, but dogs. He offered a couple of suggestions, one we’re considering. Maybe have it open left instead of right. Why? Chinooks and other high winds, often well 0ver 60 mph, can catch, in our situation, a right hand swinging door and wham it against the house.

The Gap

The Gap

There’s a gap between our composite deck at the east facing door and the garage. For younger folks, not a big deal, but for Kate, with neuropathy in both feet, the jagged surface created after several snows becomes treacherous. We had a work around the last two years with rubber mats I threw over the snow once I shoveled it, but that’s an imperfect solution. The advantage of the composite decking is that I can use a plastic snow shovel and just shove the snow off. A back preserving snow removal method and one I can then extend all the way to the garage. Ted proposed a floating deck extension. Sounds fine.

Denver, South Park & Pacific Railroad2In other trade folk news I had Will out on Tuesday to talk about stump grinding. Two years ago I cut down about 60 trees for fire mitigation. I can do it, but I can’t leave stumps cut very close to the ground, too hard for me to hold the saw steady far below my waist. Lots of centrifugal force on a chainsaw blade and I tip it into the ground. Instant dull blade. With 60 I’m not going to do it. He’s not gotten back to me with a bid because he usually bids stump removal by the inch diameter and I think he’s shocked at the potential cost.

Anyhow he knew a lot of cool stories about our area. Two for instances. Back when Denver was being built, end of the 19th century, there was a mining railroad that ran from Denver all the way to Fairplay, about 60 miles. It ran along the present route of Hwy. 285, our main thoroughfare east and west now. Ore on the train, into the Denver. Smelting.

But. Some smart guy realized that the train also ran through the mountains. Which had lots and lots of old growth Ponderosa and Lodgepole pine. Never been forested. Wait. So much building in Denver, all this wood. Aha. The lumberjacks left the forested east face of the Front Range untouched, a first acknowledgment of a view shed, I suppose, but between there and Fairplay they clear cut everything! Made sense back then. Just trees. Far away from civilization. Free. Today though the small, evenly aged forests that we have, that create much of the fire danger for us are a direct result of this work. Young forests, never thinned, and now with a century + of fire suppression. A combination of the worst possible forest management techniques.

A building left in Webster, now a ghost town

A building left in Webster, now a ghost town

Second story. The Reynolds Gang gold. This was one’s good if you’re a little short on retirement funds. Back in the same time period there was a rip-roaring, bar and brothel filled town called Webster beyond Guanella Pass but before Kenosha Pass. There’s no visible evidence of Webster from 285 today, but then it was a place where miners and lumberjacks came to relax. Or, their equivalent of that idea. Not the sabbath, for sure.

Lots of gold and silver. The Reynolds Gang, twice, robbed Webster, getting away with a substantial horde. A railroad guy asked then governor of Coloradao, John Evans, (a main Denver thoroughfare is named after him), for help. “Sure,” he said. He sent out the Colorado Militia, a group of state paid thugs who had recently mustered out of the civil war. They knew killing.

Reynold's Gang robbingOne night they found the gang around a camp fire somewhere still in the Webster area. The Militia, which I think was modeled after the Texas Rangers, did not what any upstanding law enforcers would do. They went in with guns hot, lighting up the night with muzzle flashes. All dead, except a small group, maybe 2 or 3, who escaped with the loot. No one saw them leave and they ran in the dark so they didn’t pay attention to where they ran.

Reynold's gang lootYes. They dug a hole or found a small cave or animal den, stashed the loot and ran on to escape the militia. They lived long enough to mention to somebody that they’d stuck a knife in a tree to mark the sport. But the militia caught up with them later. Dead. So somewhere in the mountains around the former townsite of Webster is a tree with the tang of a knife protruding, probably about 20 feet up now, allowing for the growth of the tree.

And, no. No one’s ever found it. Get out the metal detector. Or, Kate suggested, power up your drone. We could live large in the third phase on Reynold’s gang gold.

June 2018
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