We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

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.

 

 

Getting Things Done

Samain                                                                                   Joe and SeoAh Moon

typhonIt’s been a while now since I got good writing done on Jennie’s Dead. I’ve gotten a bit done on two new projects, Rocky Mountain Vampire and my version of the Way of a Pilgrim, but mostly I’ve been focused on keeping up with kabbalah, mussar and Hebrew, working out and getting stuff done around the house.

This latter, getting the chainsaw in for repairs, setting up a time to talk house insurance with our broker, hanging a set of decorative lights out front, making chicken noodle soup, moving paintings, cleaning up the garage is driven by two forces: Jon’s finally moving out and the onset of winter. The onset of winter motivation is conditioned by 20 years of gardening and caring for bees and property in Minnesota. There, once winter sets in some outdoor things simply cannot be done. Too damned cold. Frozen ground. Lots of snow. That sort of thing.

Up here, see the post below, winter is more episodic. One day it’s challenging to get to the mailbox, the next day it’s totally dry, maybe even warm. Still, the coming of snow and cold and ice pushes a conditioned response. Get the nest warm and cozy. Now.

While my productivity meter is the positive range, I feel scattered. Part of that is the evening events at Beth Evergreen: Gary Hart on Sunday, Difficult Conversations on Tuesday and kabbalah last night. After my knee surgery, I started going to bed early, 8 pm, and getting up early, usually between 4:30 and 5:00. All of these evenings pushed past 9 pm and one went closer to 10. That leaves me tired and not as able intellectually. My mind does not work nearly as well under these circumstances, gone are the days of cramming and long nights with the books.

20170919_155736I also feel scattered because I consider my writing primary and when I let it slide, I feel like I’m shirking even if I’m getting other stuff done. Yet, to contradict this, Kate and I have done a lot together, the Gary Hart and Difficult Conversations evenings, putting up the lights, getting ready to work on the garage, studying Hebrew. And that feels great. I love being with her, getting thing done with her.

Mostly I solve this kind of dilemma with a schedule, a routine that keeps space for writing, for time with Kate, for time to work on the house, for time to study and be active at Beth Evergreen. Right now, that’s been interrupted and I’m feeling a little down, a little off.

I do remember the quote that goes something like, “Those aren’t interruptions, that’s your life calling.”

Looking forward next week to the visit of Bill Schmidt and Tom Crane. Oh, the fun we will have.

Language of the Dumb

Samain                                                                      Joe and SeoAh Moon

moon-to-the-moonWhen Kate and I came home from the Gary Hart presentation on Sunday night, the moon, nearly full, rode low on the horizon, huge and white, half covered by scudding clouds. It then played with us like a bubble dancer, grabbing this cumulus and that one to cover itself, showing more then less of the old man on its face. After the horizon was no longer visible the moon shone through the lodgepole pines of the Arapaho National Forest, illuminating this home to wild critters as we climbed the mountains on our way to Black Mountain Drive.

The everyday and everynight beauty of these mountains still makes my heart sing, now almost three full years into this move. Yesterday coming up Shadow Mountain Drive, it came to me that I was learning the rhythms here, driving with more confidence because it was daytime and the deer, the elk normally show up at dawn and dusk. At that exact moment, as this thought came to me, a movement on the shoulder caught my eye. A fox. A healthy red-orange fox with a huge bushy tail had started out to cross the road, noticed me coming and paused. The mountains had spoken.

1509361960968The language, the speech of the inanimate and the dumb, is all around us, sending us clear messages. Dogs are an obvious example. The longer you live with dogs, especially multiple dogs, the more their language becomes clear. The lean, the movement toward a door, the excited dance, the playful bow, the bark of warning, the one of joy. Friend Bill Schmidt, a farmer as well a nuclear engineer and cyber mage, has told me of dairy cattle and their affections.

As a gardener, the soil communicated with me through the health or dis-ease of the plants Kate and I grew. If the leaves were less than a deep green, I suspected missing soil nutrients and worked to correct them. The plants themselves told me when they were too dry with droopy leaves, when they needed pruning with too many branches or stalks, when they were ready to yield their work for the season.

On a more mystical level three mule deer visited me on the Samain afternoon when I first came to this house. We stood, eye to eye, for several minutes as they told me they lived here, were my neighbors, that we would be together after that moment, that we were welcome. They came not for feed or attention, but as emissaries, messengers, angels of the mountain and the forest.

The sky tells us what weather comes, then delivers it to us, helping us gauge the nature of our changing climate. In this same way people we meet communicate to us through body language, a hunched shoulder, a slight turn away, eyes that light on some aspect of a room. All around us language, everywhere communication. If only we see.

Seeing the sights

Samain                                                                   Joe and SeoAh Moon

20171027_161725Slowly. Things change. Sometimes fast, but often slowly. Jon has most of his stuff removed from the house, a few things remain in the garage. The bench he’s making will soon have colorful cushions. Kate’s already hard at work thinking about colors, about furniture arrangements, window treatments for the rest of the house.

Yesterday we did a marathon, sitting in the Rav4 of course, to get those cushions ready for Thanksgiving. Colorado Fabrics, the place to go for quality cloth in the Denver metro, is in Aurora, far to the east in Aurora. Aurora is the eastern edge of the metro. We live 35 miles west of Denver. So, navigating the entire metro, and on city streets because the southern metro area has no freeways to help cross it.

Then, roll of fabric in the back, we turned around and drove back three quarters of the way home to Diane’s. Diane is a fabricator. She takes the foam Kate purchased, cuts and sews the fabric, puts in zippers and stuffs the covers. They’ll be done by the big meal. Jon, Anne, Ruth and Gabe, at least, will be here.

I like these sojourns that take us on city streets. I’m still an avid student of the way cities form, shape themselves, develop character. Getting to Colorado Fabrics is a lesson in the way Denver has pushed its way south, overwhelming Hampden Avenue, Highway 285, which was once a four lane, relatively easy to use transit across the line where the ‘burbs began. No more. Now it’s a clogged thoroughfare sandwiched between the Denver city limits and a string of homes and businesses that extends miles beyond it in all directions. But it’s not been replaced by anything better.

Diane’s place is in Lakewood, a you can’t tell you ever left Denver behind part of the metro area, but to the west, in the same fashion as Aurora is to the east, though not nearly as big. While driving on Sheridan north, we had to turn around due to a navigational error in the wetware I use to find my way. As we turned around, Kate said, “Goats.” Sure enough, a house with concrete gargoyle statues, a lion or two and lots of other stuff I assume meant to be decorative had a large field in back with maybe 10 or 12 goats wandering around. Kate then noticed horses and gardens. Mind you we’re still well inside the metro area, not far out of Denver proper. This is the West. It’s different out here.

Diane herself lived in a neighborhood that was new, I imagine, in the late 50’s, perhaps early 60’s, in the last century of the millennia just past. Mostly small bungalow type houses with smallish lots, most of brick. She had a large silver maple tree in her front yard and we walked through fallen leaves to her front door. The crushing of those leaves under our feet gave off the smell of a midwestern autumn, something we no longer experience in the mountains. Instant nostalgia. Raking the leaves. Jumping in the piles. Pushing them into the street and setting the on fire. God, I can’t believe we really did that. But we burned our trash, too.

Diane is a large, friendly woman with a home full of items with an oriental flavor: buddha statues, a Japanese style painting, a Chinese acrobat holding a small table up on his legs. She had a couple of small dogs who were very noisy when we first got there. She went through, carefully, what we wanted done with the fabric. Did we want the pattern to run horizontally or vertically? Did we want to emphasize the darker or the lighter aspect? Where could she place the zippers so we could flip them if we needed to? She had a small desk in an alcove area next to her kitchen. Kate and I were on a settee next to it.

Since this was rush hour time, Kate and I ate at a buffet I’d discovered when I was out for the closing on our house, exactly three years ago. The closing was on Halloween and I did this and that for three or four days afterward.

Finally, home. We left Black Mountain Drive around 1 p.m. and it was 5:30 by the time we got back. Turns out excursions of this length now leave us both a bit tired, Kate often a lot. Just the aging process accentuated in her case by Sjogren’s and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

The Weather on Shadow Mountain

Fall                                                                       Harvest Moon

20171015_071504Jon put brackets around the pole for the Vantage pro2 weather station. Secured to the deck now with the anemometer up maybe 20 feet off the ground, I’ll attach the weather station itself to the pole this morning. It’s out there right now though and functioning, sending information back to the console.

These are the conditions at 7:20 a.m. this morning, October 15th. Temp outside, 35. Humidity outside, 15%. Barometric pressure 22.60. No wind. No rain or snow.

Next step is to set up the console so I can toggle various data points such as wind chill and dew point. That requires digging back into the manual. After that comes linking the weather station to the internet so I can both share my data and collect it in files for future reference.

tornado-risk-mapThis system is not as important on Shadow Mountain as it was in Andover because we have no orchard or a garden, but it feeds a lifelong interest in the weather, a hobby of sorts. Alexandria, Indiana, where I was raised, is in tornado alley, as is my home state of Oklahoma. The weather could get you.

A group of Twin Cities’ residents shared weather data and commentary on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune website for a couple of years. I used my weather station for very localized weather reporting. That was fun, but it got onerous. It made me realize how much work it is to forecast or even comment on the weather each day, throughout the day.

Vantage pro

Vantage pro

Here in the Rockies our weather changes from valley to valley, from altitude to altitude, mountain to mountain. Many, many microclimates. That means weather reporting and forecasting is often too broad in its sweep to accurately predict what’s going to be happening on, say, Black Mountain Drive.

The weather itself here, unlike the tornadoes of Indiana or the deep, dangerous cold of Minnesota, is not so severe, but the local effects of the weather can be devastating. When the humidity is low, winds are high, and there’s been no moisture for a while, then we get red flag warnings. Wildfire danger goes up and down with these conditions. Since winter is our humid season, it’s usually less worrisome in that regard.

It’s fun to have the console up and the weather station functioning.

 

Falling

Lughnasa                                                                     Eclipse Moon

- Nancy Drew, “Morris Louis, 1959″, (96 x 92) acrylic, flock and glitter on canvas, 2002 (This piece was created as an homage to Morris Louis, influenced by his work from 1959) Dana McClure

– Nancy Drew, “Morris Louis, 1959″, (96 x 92) acrylic, flock and glitter on canvas, 2002 (This piece was created as an homage to Morris Louis, influenced by his work from 1959) Dana McClure

The eclipse moon, still in the sky, now three weeks after blotting out the sun at midday, has become a crescent. I just looked up the moon calendar and noticed that the new moon falls on the two days prior to the fall equinox. The beginning of fall on the Great Wheel comes, this year, with the new energy of a rising and waxing moon.

Golden spears have begun to show up among the lodgepole pines on Black Mountain. Fall here announces itself with a subtle show of a single color, gold amongst green. As fall progresses, the subtlety disappears in wide swaths of yellow gold splashed across the mountains as a colorfield artist (Morris Louis, for example) might. Mountains become three dimensional canvases, temporary installations, a visual treat announcing the coming of the white season.

The angle of the sun has changed, it’s lower in the sky now, spreading its considerable energy over wider and wider areas, lowering the amount of warmth we receive over the course of a day. The trees and the birds and the bears and the elk and the mountain lions know this. The elk rut has begun and there are reports of bugling elk with large harems of twenty five cows coming in from many locations. A photograph and video collection on a local facebook group showed two bull moose with their velvet recently scraped off, clacking their wide racks against each other in a marshy area about twenty miles from here.

The Mt. Evans’ road has been closed for two weeks now, not to open again until after Memorial Day, 2018. OpenSnow, a website for skiers, announced the first snow of the season in the Cascades, noting that it should help fight the wildfires burning now in the northwest.

This turning of the Great Wheel brings with it, at least for me, renewed energy, an eagerness to engage the world fully. Heat saps me, makes me want to put on one of those funny hats that has room for two beer cans fitted to plastic hoses for constant cooling sips, sit down, and wait until, well, now.

I’m grateful for this seasonal change, though the growing season has its definite charms, too. It’s just that the temperatures important for plant growth are not so pleasing to me. And, BTW, Kate has pulled off a mountain gardening trick. She has several tomatoes ripening in our single 5 gallon plastic bucket container garden. My Demeter.

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