Mountain Living

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Friends who know about your own friendship with a constellation. Mt. Evans, which controls our weather. Black Mountain, which dominates my view from this computer. Conifer Mountain, which graces the left side of our journey up Shadow Mountain Drive. Hell, I’ll even give a shout out to the Verizon cell tower on top of Conifer Mtn. And to the folks who put it there.

Thanksgiving here officially ended. Annie’s cell phone went back to Waconia yesterday afternoon wrapped in bubble wrap.

Going to the Conifer Post Office is always a bit fraught. Our Next Door Shadow Mountain lights up with folks complaining about delivery times, deliveries not made, boxes stolen or misdelivered, letters and other mail delivered to neighbors, boxes shown as delivered and never seen. The staff at the front desk is often cranky, too.

Apparently this is a problem for Morrison, Pine, and Evergreen, too. Rural post offices. Also, mountains. Also, snow and rain and curves. Nothing like stopping your vehicle in the road on a snowy day, around a blind curve. Wouldn’t want this job or garbage pickup either. Having to stop a vehicle on the road in the mountains for any reason is hazardous and these folks do it at every house. Every house.

There are a lot of folks who make mountain living now much different from the Jeremiah Johnson era. The folks at IREA who construct and maintain the electrical grid up here. Mail and garbage folks as previously mentioned. The propane folks. Colorado Natural Gas that piped us and many of our neighbors. The Centurylink folks who build and maintain our phone and DSL lines. Jeffco public works responsible for roads, bridges, shoulders. Truckers who bring groceries and other goods to our stores. Workers in various professions who choose to live up here and often accept lower wages to do it. Think vets, doctors, eye care people, dentists.

We are not, contrary to the libertarian mythology, able to live free or die. We need not only family and friends, but a constellation of services and their employees to maintain ourselves up here. God bless them, everyone. Tiny Tim, too.

Shadow Mountain Gratefuls

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Everybody got here. 8 of us. Ruth, Jon, Gabe, Joe, Seoah, Annie, Kate and me. Plus a very interested Gertie, Rigel, Kepler, and Murdoch. Our oven thermometer allowed me to calibrate the lower oven since its heat is different from what gets set. Ruth’s pies, pumpkin and pecan, were wonderful. The heated side dishes made the meal easy to prepare. Love around the table. None of my burns were too bad.

The heated capon was ok, as were the side dishes. Hardly gourmet though tasty. We ate downstairs around the Stickley table that largely gets used for folding laundry. The red table cloth was festive as were the Happy Thanksgiving paper plates.

We used a few questions from a set by a company called Vertillis. The intent was to have a conversation that did not feature Trump tirades, one that was, instead, about us. It worked. After the plates of sage stuffing, mashed potatoes, capon, cranberries, and green beans were empty we broke into groups.

The women, with Kate at the head of the table, stayed downstairs talking while us guys put away food, cleared the table. A moment of gender parity. I mentioned it and Jon said, “Yes. And, two male dogs and two female dogs.” True.

Later Annie, Kate, and Ruth went upstairs, Jon sat in the chair and dozed while Joe, SeoAh, and I talked. The spirit of those questions seemed to linger even after the meal. Seoah said Joseph was her first true love. Who was mine?

The question set me back. After three visits to the altar and many women friends/lovers over the years, I wasn’t sure at first. “Kate,” I said. Raeone and Judy were both relationships formed while I was drinking and their dissolution reflected their flawed premises. Kate though was, pardon the not really a pun, my first sober choice. It’s true love because we both want what’s best for each other, will sacrifice for each other, and share convictions, core convictions, about politics, mother earth, dogs, family.

The essence of holidays, these sorts of conversations reinforce family ties, deepen them. We come together out of individual and nuclear family lives to bathe for a moment in the larger, extended field of our relationships. SeoAh said Koreans celebrate a harvest festival with similar themes.

Even though Kate’s going through some kind of disturbance in her force, nausea and fever, it nonetheless felt to me that this holiday put away the old, bad year and began a new one. Next year Joe and Seoah will be in Singapore, so it will be different.

Murdoch will stay with us for a year since Singapore wouldn’t let him in. Means considerable jockeying since both Murdoch and Kepler are male Akitas with the dog on dog aggression that comes with the breed. We’ll work it out, get a routine down.

Dogs, I read recently, like certainty. If we can get a system that works, when to feed, when to let this one out, then that one, keep Murdoch outside while Kep is inside and vice versa, we’ll avoid squabbles. Squabbles being a euphemism for teeth tearing flesh, blood, wounds, squeals of pain, and my forced interventions.

At two years old Murdoch still has a lot of puppy in him. That’s delightful and will warm up our house. He’s also a sweet boy, nice to have around.

Today is Thanksgiving on Shadow Mountain

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: Joe and SeoAh arrived with Murdoch after a long drive. Our plowed driveway. Thanksgiving when everyone can be here. Learning how to make chili from scratch. Discovered that smoked paprika adds to chili. Murdoch’s happy, puppy presence. This computer on which I do so much work. This loft in which I paint, write, read, exercise.

Joe and SeoAh’s arrival delayed Thanksgiving. They encountered several accidents on their way to Missouri for a night’s rest. Didn’t get there until 3 am. I decided we’d wait Thanksgiving rather than have them rush while sleep deprived. Cooked the capon last night, sliced it, covered it in tin foil. Will go in the oven to warm up today.

The big box of side dishes from Tony’s rests in the back of Ruby, cooled by what Kate and I call the great outdoor refrigerator. They, too, will go into the oven to warm up. Then those fancy plates and napkins I picked up at the Paper store will adorn our downstairs table. Around it will be Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Annie, Joe, SeoAh, Kate, and I. Eight souls. The animal souls will be in various places to avoid hassles.

We have 18 inches of snow on the ground and on our roof. A Colorado Thanksgiving. The solar snow shovel will gradually remove it.

Thankful Kate’s health is so much better.

Gathering

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: lodgepole pine and their snow shedding branches, aspens and their massive cloned groves, Maxwell, Blue, Shadow, and Bear creeks, the mule deer, the elk, the rabbits, the voles, the mice, the cougars, the bears, the foxes, the pine martens, the porcupines, the Canadian jays, the magpies, the ravens, the crows, the trout, the minnows, the willows and dogwood. And all the critters I don’t know about and all the soil organisms and grasses and flowers

Annie comes in today. Her flight arrives at 8 am. Joe and Seoah will get here tomorrow. We’re going to eat later as a result, probably around 5. Plus Murdoch, who, it turns out, will be staying with us for the next year. Gonna be interesting.

Jon, Ruth, and Gabe will come up for the day. Since Ruth has agreed to make the pumpkin pie, they have to get here early enough for her to work.

Getting the side dishes made by Tony’s means I can concentrate on the capon. I want to do it well. I hope our oven does not recapitulate its last Thanksgiving performance where it didn’t reach an adequate temperature. It’s been fine since then. Of course.

Lupron has been swinging my moods, giving me hot flashes, making me weaker than usual. Lotta fun. Better than the alternative.

Got plowed yesterday. But. New guy since Ted, our usual plow guy, fell off a ladder at a job and broke several bones. Chris is a substitute. He did an ok job, but he doesn’t know our driveway like Ted does. On Thanksgiving day we’ll have three extra cars here: Annie’s rental, Jon’s, and Joe’s. Ought to be interesting.

A Holiday Week

Samain and the Fallow Moon

Monday gratefuls: the folks at Weather5280, Ted the snowplower, our mail guy, Greg, our Denver Post most of the time delivery person, the UPS and Fedex drivers who deliver our packages. A small web of people who help us in this isolated, yet hyper connected age.

Yesterday I got up around 6 am, late for me, and Orion already had his boots behind Black Mountain. This morning he stood fully above it, the soles of his boots resting on the peak. He’s hunting Lepus the rabbit who always scoots away, just out of reach. Lucky Lepus.

Saturday included picking up a grocery order and a trip to the Happy Camper in Bailey after the bagel table. Tired.

On Sunday we began a ritual going on in many households around the whole nation. Decluttering. Not a lot to do, but still some. Books piled up on the downstairs table where we’ll eat the meal. Papers of various sorts stacked by my place at the table. There are photographs in boxes in the room Kate’s using for exercise. Some jigsaw puzzles going up to the guest room.

Sandy, our housecleaner, will come on Wednesday. Her usual day was last Friday, but we had a snowstorm that prevented her California raised self from coming up the hill.

The capon and the side dishes I’ll pick up Wednesday morning at Tony’s. I’ll also get pizzas for supper Wednesday night when Joe, Seoah, Murdoch, and Annie will be here.

Last year Kate was recently home from Brookdale Green Mountain rehab. Cooking was not part of the plan. “At 2 pm I drive over to Littleton to Tony’s Market to pick up our Thanksgiving meal, a turkey breast and several sides. We decided putting out a big meal this year was beyond us.” Nov. 21, 2018

Inching our way back to a full meal. I love capon and wanted to cook one, but didn’t want responsibility for the whole meal. Kate suggested we go with the side dish bundle from Tony’s again. No pushback from me. Maybe next year we’ll get back to the full meal. Ruth’s agreed to make the pumpkin pie. She’s a good cook and loves to make pies.

The big storm, thankfully, gratefully, comes tonight and tomorrow, leaving Wednesday and Thursday clear. Joe and Seoah should have clear roads.

Over the curves and up the hill…

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The waning half Fallow Moon was beautiful this morning. It was the half closed pupil of an eye surrounded by a circle of silvered moonlight within a larger circle of blue moonlight. The eye followed Orion and his dog as they hunted, looking all round Black Mountain for prey.

While Minnesota and points east have been cold, we’ve had a milder, less snowy first half to November. That’s about to change. How much remains to be seen, but it looks like Thanksgiving week will be both colder and snowier.

Kate and I drove up the hill yesterday afternoon after yet another doctor’s appointment. I asked her if she felt different, more at ease with at least the immediate future. Yes, she said. Me too, I agreed. It’s an adjustment to see fewer appointments ahead, less likelihood of drastic news. A good adjustment, yet it also has a when will the other shoe drop tonality. I believe that feeling will pass as long as our mutual health conditions remember stable over a longer period of time.

I ordered a capon from Tony’s last week. Kate decided to get their side dish bundle: gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans. Ruth agreed to make a pumpkin pie. Joe, SeoAh, and Murdoch plan to get here on Wednesday. Annie, too. Jon, Ruth, and Gabe will join us on Thanksgiving. A full house plus.

As many of you will understand, we’re both looking forward to these visits, a lot, and dreading them, a little. Having three extra people and a now larger Murdoch in the house for five or six days presents psychological and logistical challenges. All worth it, but challenges none the less.

Not nearly as big though as the Keaton Thanksgivings. Mom’s family. Muncie, Indiana. Aunt Marjory’s. She was the acknowledged culinary guru and must have worked very hard to feed 18-20 people. There was a kid’s table, lots of comic books (often brought by me). Uncle Ike, Uncle Riley, Dad, Uncle Ray, if they were all there, would retire to Uncle Ike’s den to smoke cigars and watch football. Aunt Roberta, Aunt Virginia, and Mom must have helped Aunt Marjory in the kitchen, but I don’t remember it.

This was a key link in our extended family’s year, the other major one being a family reunion in James Whitcomb Riley park in Greenfield, Indiana. Jane Pauley would occasionally come. Her father Dick Pauley and Uncle Riley were close friends.

Thanksgiving memories. An American tradition. A strong one because it is non-sectarian, focuses on food and family. Probably my favorite holiday of the year after the Winter Solstice. One for the family, one for solitude.

A landmark day

Samain and the Fallow Moon

7 degrees and snowing here on Shadow Mountain. Means I must have a doctor’s appointment today. Yep, COPD follow up with Lisa. I’m interested in staging. I want to have a prognosis and a plan for what I need to do to manage this disease. Perhaps a referral to a pulmonologist. It’s been about two months since my diagnosis.

Yesterday was a landmark day here. We started prepping Kate’s sewing room for her return to this domestic art form. Gathered up cloth, moved embroidery thread, organized papers, put the repaired Bernini back on its table, cleared off her work surface. Exciting to see her willing and able.

Gonna need to cook Thanksgiving dinner. Thought I had SeoAh set up to do it, but turns out they won’t arrive until the day before. She’ll do her Korean holiday meal on Friday or Saturday. At least this Thanksgiving I feel able to do it. Last Thanksgiving, with Kate barely back from rehab, I didn’t. We catered from Tony’s Market.

Capon. I love capon, don’t like turkey. I’ll handle the bird, Kate’s going to organize side dishes and parcel them out to other cooks like SeoAh and Ruth. I might make a stuffing. Not sure yet.

We’ll have a full house with the Georgia three and Annie staying here. Jon, Ruth, Gabe will come up for the meal from Aurora. 8. Just right.

Painting. Right now I’m trying to recreate Mark Rothko paintings. I want to imitate him, figure out how he created the mood, the emotional resonance. At some point I’ll go off on my own, but right now I want to learn from one of my favorites. Autodidact color field painter. That’s me.

Change it up, dude

Fall (last day of) and the Fallow Season Moon

-8. That’s right. -8 degrees here on Shadow Mountain, the day before Halloween. In October. We’ve had a taste of Minnesota winter the week before Halloween.

Been changing my morning routine a bit. Read an article that said the first three hours of your day are the most important. Mine starts between 4 am and 4:30 am. I wake up, the dogs get restless, Kep rolls over for a tug and tussle. Gertie comes up to check that I’M REALLY GETTING UP. Gives me a quick kiss to be sure. Rigel raises her head, looks at me. She requires a personal request to get out of bed.

That first half hour is dog feeding, getting the newspaper, and, on Wednesdays, today, taking out the trash. The trash has to be wheeled out through whatever has fallen on the driveway. Some snow today, not too bad.

One of the containers, the green one for recycling, testifies to America’s changed economy. It’s filled with cardboard from Amazon orders, Chewy dogfood boxes, boxes from Kate’s tube feeding supplies. Each home is now a shipping and receiving depot with the resulting obligation to handle no longer needed shipping materials.

After this work finishes, I go upstairs in our garage, to my loft, a 900 square foot space filled with books, art making supplies, exercise equipment and my computer desk. Over the last 14 years the first thing I’ve done in the morning is read e-mails, then write Ancientrails. That’s what I’d call a habit.

But, when learning is needed, the teacher appears. A writer whose blog I sometimes read suggested the first three hours make your day notion. He was making the common millennial complaint about spending too much on social media: facebook, instagram, snapchat, tiktok, whatever the latest is. That’s not me, but I took his point.

Ready for a change I switched up. First, back to meditating. Having done that on a regular basis in a long while. Goal is for 20 minutes. Up to 10 this morning. Then, I read. I’ve been wondering about why I’m not reading more. Oh, I read science fiction, the occasional novel, Tears of the Truffle Pig right now, but serious reading has become a difficult task. Fitting it in. Being able to sustain attention. Turns out the early am is wonderful for that kind of attention.

Reading this morning in the Beginning of Desire, by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. Subtitle: reflections on Genesis. She’s amazing. A new thing under the sun of biblical commentary. Her method, which I’ll write about here at some point, is so subtle, so profound, so intimate, and very learned. I got hooked on her by plucking a book of hers somewhat by random off the library shelf at CBE. I opened, read a couple of sentences, and knew this was genius. Not a term I use lightly.

That was a year ago during the High Holidays, Yom Kippur, and Rabbi Jamie had just finished the whole High Holidays. A lot of work. He sank into the chair next to me. Nobody else there. All had left.

I enthused about Zornberg. He brightened. Yes, he’d met here. Yes, she was the best Torah commentator, maybe ever. He and his brother Russ, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, and professor at Regis University in Denver, who lives in Evergreen, had talked about a joint class using one of her works, a series of essays on biblical interpretation. Hasn’t happened yet, but when things normalize here, I’m going to see if I could give the idea a boost.

Anyhow, I got into her this morning and combined with some other thinking I’ve been doing, got into a revery about myth, fairy tales, long books, the true anchors of my inner life. This is my work, my lifelong work and fascination, the attempts we humans make to discern the occult, the hidden, the other world, the that beyond the this. This is my heart’s labor. Politics was reasons labor, fueled by the heart, too, of course, the misery of oppression, but calculating, power oriented, perhaps a diversion?

I’m writing this now, an hour and a half later than I would have in the past 14 years. So, changes. More to come.

Things I love to do

Fall and the Crescent Moon

Oh. Achy this am. More mitigation. Closing in on all the trees I intend to take down. Maybe I’ll finish today. For sure by the weekend. In between, we’ll have 8-12 inches of snow overnight tonight. It will be gone Friday. The Solar Snow Shovel.

The density of trees in a lodgepole forest means it’s harder to drop a tree without snagging it. I’ve had several opportunities to practice snag cutting techniques I learned on youtube. They work and I’m glad to know them. Snags cause most deaths in the logging industry. Their often strange lines of force make cutting them an exercise in observational physics. The more upright, the more difficult.

One tree I cut yesterday bounced off the stump to land straight up and down about a foot away. Grrr. An angled cut, watch for the cut to begin to close, pound a wedge in the cut, then complete the cut from below. The tree drops straight down, hopefully away from the branches snagging it. My first cut today.

Decided to hire a landscaper to do the five foot ignition zone around the house. Landscape cloth, stakes, river rock. It will affect how the house looks and I’d like a neater job than I’m capable of pulling off.

When this round of mitigation is complete, I’ll have very little of this sort of work left. I’ll miss it. Weeding and thinning. The plants are big, but still plants.

Of course, I have to release the chain on the saw. It bound up on me right at the end of yesterday’s felling. Not sure what the problem is. I worked on for awhile using my wonderful limbing ax from Gränsfors in Sweden. My felling ax and my log splitter from them have not seen as much use as it has.

Went to Tony’s Market again. Love their food. I could shop there all the time, except it’s pretty expensive. Worth it. Always high quality meats, deli salads, veggies and fruit, baked goods. Realized their secret yesterday. Supermarkets make their money off the goods sold along the walls, not so much off the goods in the aisles. Tony’s only sells items sold on the walls.

After that I spent an hour or so on something else I love to do. Research. Read through the parsha for Nov. 23rd again, focusing this time on geography. Where was Canaan? The Cave of Machpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs? What about Mamre and its oak? Found them. Also read the parsha in RJ Crumb’s illustrated Genesis. Mr. Natural goes to the Middle East.

When I first read the parsha, pen in hand, I focused. My mind was right there, engaged. I felt comfortable, excited. Much like getting ready to cut down trees. Or, cook a meal. I’m treating it as myth, a myth that has shaped not only Jewish traditions, but Christian and Muslim ones as well.

Parshas get their names from the first words in them, in this case, chayei Sarah, the life of Sarah. Chayei Sarah recounts the death of Sarah and Abraham, the finding of Rebecca at the well, a wife for Isaac, and the sons of Ishmael, born to Hagar, Abraham’s concubine.

Satisfaction

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Yesterday. Packed with stuff. AM I got out there and began cutting down trees. Got a lot of trees down, many smaller spruces. Managed to hang one smallish lodgepole. Will have to deal with that today. It felt so good. I love manual labor of a certain kind. Logging is one. Working in gardens and orchards is another. There’s something about using my body, working with plants and the soil that feeds me. Chainsaw work has serious man cred, too. With all that lupron swimming around, I need it.

Two of the lodgepole pines I felled, one good sized, had the bluish stain of the pine beetle. Both had been dead for some time. One in the front, also showing the blue streaking, has not been dead over a couple of years. Not sure whether this means an infestation will take out all of our lodgepoles. The beetles don’t seem as pernicious here as on those mountain sides along I-70 out toward Silverthorne. On them whole mountain faces are the rust color of dead lodgepole pine needles. The sight shocked me the first time I saw it.

When I got tired using the chain saw, I put it away and got out my limbing ax. I don’t use the chain saw when I’m tired. However, I also love whacking off tree branches with the smaller of my two Swedish axes. I got the two dead trees limbed. Satisfying.

Susan came around noon. She’s the chair of the mitzvah committee at CBE and has stayed in constant touch with Kate and me over the last year plus. The main thing the committee does is meals and when we needed them what a help they were. However, another thing I love to do is cook, so once I got out from under the radiation fatigue, we stopped the meals.

In conversation Susan teased out of me that fire mitigation had me concerned. She offered to coordinate, if possible, a CBE crew to help. With Derek, neighbor Derek, helping, I don’t need them. She brought lunch and dinner anyhow. We had a good conversation over the meal.

Derek is a really good worker and will be taking the bulk of the logs for heating. He also had a call into Elk Creek Fire to chip slash he had generated from his property. Due to equipment malfunctions the chipping crew has gotten behind. They have 150 slash chipping reservations and they stopped taking reservations on the 10th of October. Derek suggested moving slash from our work onto his piles since they’re not to him yet. Excellent plan

After Susan left, Kate and I took a nap, waiting on the arrival of Jon, Ruth, and Gabe for hamburgers, tater tots, salad, and ice cream. Also laundry.

They got up here around three and we had the usual swirl of Gabe and Ruth. Ruth wanted to bake. She made a fudge and cornbread muffins. Gabe went around to all the dogs, one at a time, talking to them, petting them, then disappeared upstairs to watch TV.

Cooking the meal in the kitchen after Ruth’s baking had some challenges, but we overcame them. Ruth cut up tomato, onion and avocado for the burgers. She also tossed the salad. I took care of the tator tots and the meat.

Ruth’s designing the lighting for her drama classes production of Alice (in Wonderland). She had a self-described mental breakdown when she didn’t get the role of Alice. One manifestation of the breakdown was cutting her bangs short. She got over it.

I asked her if her friends liked to cook. She nodded and said, “Really, we like to eat.” Eighth grade. Next year high school. As they were leaving she put on her sandals and came to me for a hug. “Oh, my, you used to be way taller than me.” Yep. With sandals she’s getting close to my height.

Busy, satisfying, loving day.