What To Do?

Imbolc                                                                                             Valentine Moon

relaxMy birthday month passed in a blur of illness and caregiving. February, my seventy-scond February, got underway two days after a difficult day, a full day. I felt exhausted around noon and had several more places to go. Like moving through jello, thick jello on the way home.

The next two weeks was a symptom buffet. Somebody was spinning a large wheel and where it stopped? That was the new insult. Hit me like a freight train. My memory of those days is absent, therapeutically so, I think. Pneumonia came after that. And after pneumonia, recovery from three weeks of misery. Mostly back to normal now, just a bit of stamina to regain.

However. A month, a whole month, even if it’s a short one, mostly erased. No painting. No writing. No visits to CBE. No exercise. Having to rethink life. Again. Home now, no more regular CBE obligations. Being available for Kate’s needs is top of my list. Doesn’t consume all of my time, not even close, so I’m beginning to itch, to want some fruitful self-directed activity.

A new novel? That one I’ve been mentioning? More painting? Reading about art, astrology. Judaism. I need a focus, an outlet for my own work. Nothing sticks right now. Guess I’ll just mosey along like I have been, see what comes. Maybe I’ll try some free writing a la Natalie Goldberg. Painting equivalent.

No big deal here, trying to get myself reoriented, start the engine. Sputtering. Too much choke.

So Beautiful

Winter                                                                             Waxing Moon

Our snowpack. Needed for the trees and our well

Our snowpack beside the front door. Needed for the trees and our well

Another 6 or 8 inches of snow yesterday. Snowiest January since 1993. The northern half and eastern quadrant of Colorado watersheds have above average snowpack. Critically, the Colorado Headwaters area is at 116%. The south western quadrant of the state though is below average in two spots, including the Durango area where the big fires burned last summer.

So beautiful. The lodgepoles carry snowy covers on their branches. The deer, rabbits, fox that come through our yard leave their tracks.The rising sun colors the snow on Black Mountain, right now a light flush pink. Bright blue sky behind the mountain.

Not so good for those of us animals who need carapaces and wheels. This is the google traffic map from yesterday. Rush hour. Add in altitude and you get a real mess. This is when commuting to Denver from Conifer separates the brave from the foolish.


metro roads 1 28

Kate’s initiated a get-out of the house plan. She said last week that she felt isolated and alone, so we’re going to go somewhere each day. Yesterday we went to the post office. Today, the King Sooper Starbucks for Kate while I pick up some groceries. Tomorrow? Who knows?

creation of the waters

creation of the waters

Last week I painted the creation of the universe, the shattering of the ohr. Followed it with the creation of the waters. Next up: land. I tried to show an island in my first attempt. Not so good. I like the first two, I’m starting over today on land. I’m going to get somehow to Eden and humans and that tree. Will take awhile. Hard to say in the abstract paint language I’m using. But, that’s part of the fun.

Astrological learning has been on hold. Painting, exercise, and Kate have gotten my focus along with CBE. Gonna get back to it, though. Probably a reading with Elisa’s astrologer, John, to kick off the next phase of my learning.

Just entered the Chicken soup cookoff at CBE. Gonna get some practice today, picking up soup supplies during the grocery shopping at King Sooper. Taking some to a friend, leaving some behind for Kate and me. Kate loves my chicken soup. My heirloom recipe came off the Golden Plump packages when I bought chickens in Minnesota. Here, I do it from memory.

On Working at Your Best

Winter                                                                         Waxing Moon

20181214_081606Painting. A long, long ancientrail. Walked by so many. A few well, more journeypersons, and the rest of us.

Mediocre. An interesting idea, mediocre. If you’re working to your best capacity, your work is wonderful. Mediocre arrives on your doorstep when you begin comparing your work to others. I’m a writer of wonderful novels and short stories. I create wonderful paintings. Am I going to be hung in the National Gallery? No. Any gallery? Probably not. Am I going to make the NYT times best seller list? Unlikely. Have I done less than my best? No.

Success, I’m gradually beginning to learn, is not about the other. It is about yourself. If Michelangelo painted like me, he’d be mediocre because he had the skill to paint well. If Tolstoy wrote like me, same. Where do I fit? Hell if I know. I’ve had the chance to work at my best level in two fields where criticism is a given. I’ve learned to quiet my inner critic, to stay away from sweeping generalizations about my books, my paintings. Now you may read them, look at them, and say, “He’s no Song Dynasty landscape artist.” Or, “He’s no Marquez.” And you would be right. I’m just and only me.

breathe thich-nhat-hanh-calligraphyThis does not mean I’m uninterested in the quality of my work. Hardly. I want it to be the best I can do. Do I always work at my best level? Of course not. But I do as often as I can. Which is most of the time. I’ll leave the judging to others. I did write that novel. Several, in fact. I did create that painting. Several, in fact. Enough for me. Could I have done this without Kate? No. But Kate is in my life and I in hers. Both of us have sought the best for each other, have sought to create a home environment that encouraged our best work.

Quilting, making clothing, writing novels, and painting are not the only things we’ve done. Kate healed children. I worked hard at social justice, at following a small r religious path. Both of us have raised kids, learned how to be grandparents. Grew much of our own food, our own flowers, our own fruit, our own honey. There is no accounting, no form of critique that can measure these things. They are past. And we don’t live then. We live forward, on the ancientrail that leads into the time beyond this moment. What we have done is not what matters anymore. What matters now is what we do today, right now. As my buddy Bill Schmidt says, “Show up.”

crane2Life allows no do overs. We can reconsider, reframe, reevaluate, remember, but we cannot change yesterday, or any yesterday. We can make choices right now.

Today I chose to use turpentine to wipe out, literally, work I did yesterday. And, I’ll do new work on that painting today. I’m not doing over what I did yesterday. I’m going in a new direction today.

It feels to me like I’m beginning to get this, to accept the truth of the past, of my intentions, and to find a path with no attention to results. Not sure why but this excites me. A form of liberation, I guess. Not giving up, just going forward. Working at my best. Nothing else is possible, except apathy. And that’s not me.

The Left Behind

Winter                                                              Waxing Moon

A Basin. Ski maps are a Colorado art form

A Basin. Ski maps are a Colorado art form

Gabe came up and spent the night on Saturday. He was his usual self, watching TV, playing with the dogs, building some contraptions with a new construction toy he got. Ruth and Jon went to A-Basin, skied in great powder and got here around 5 pm. When they left for the day, it was the first time since Christmas eve that Kate and I, Gertie, Rigel, and Kepler were without guests.

Murdoch, SeoAh, and Murdoch’s daddy left at 10 am headed through Kansas and on into Missouri, then back south to central Georgia. We have products with the Korean language in our refrigerator, frozen rice cakes and dumplings, hoisin sauce, and our pantry has rice cakes, a specialty soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil. She left her tea kettle and a vacuum, too. I think she’s going to be back. She’s an unusual guest; her presence is unobtrusive and helpful.

20190121_065343 (2)I finished the creation of the waters yesterday. Some gold flake to give continuity with the first one, not finished yet because I’m waiting on some Elmer’s glue for the gold leaf.

When Mark was here, I asked him a question that’s been on my mind. “How do you know when to stop?” He laughed and said that was every artist’s question. Too often, he said, we wish we could go back to an earlier version. Oils are a bit more forgiving in that regard than, say, watercolor, or, as Tom suggested, sculpture.

Awaiting Elmer

Awaiting Elmer

Mark then added, “The next problem is storage.” So true. I have all my paintings now resting on bookshelves, blocking access to certain volumes. Gotta get a different solution. In this case oils are less forgiving. Oils dry very slowly, like taking years to completely dry. That makes putting them against each other even in a vertical file impossible. Hmmm.

Gertie and Kep are happy to have the house all to themselves. No more long stints in the sewing room while Murdoch got his downstairs time.

Snow coming tonight and tomorrow. May it continue.


Winter                                                                   Waxing Moon

20190120_104200Shhh. Don’t tell anybody or you might jinx it, but I think Kate’s starting to gain weight. She’s at 84, past the 82 pound barrier that seemed so intractable. yay. shhh.

SeoAh and Murdoch are on their way today. Back to the warmer climes of Peach and Pecan country. Gonna miss her though she needs to get back and we need to settle in again to our own rhythms. SeoAh loves pho so I took her to the pho place near Evergreen’s King Sooper yesterday. A going away present. We had a long talk about her life in Seoul. She sold clothing and cosmetics door-to-door for a good while. What a tough way to make a living.

In that conversation she made an interesting point about American culture, one that wouldn’t have occurred to me. In Korea women expect each other to dress well, to the point of putting on make-up even when going to the store for groceries. And, they’re unforgiving of those who don’t. “Most Asian women are like this,” she said. “But, I love American culture.” We don’t have the same blanket expectation for women. (not saying it doesn’t exist here, but it’s not everywhere.) That makes a big difference to SeoAh.

20190101_103345Went out to DIA late last night and picked up SeoAh’s husband. Got back here about 11:00 pm, well past my sell by date in terms of sleep. The dogs didn’t get fed until 7:30 am. Gabe’s here, too. Jon brought him up last night. Jon and Ruth will go skiing today at A-Basin, then pick Gabe up on their way home. It’s been a very family oriented Christmas and New Years and January. Friends, too.

We’re expecting snow again tomorrow evening. Hopefully the pace will pick up.

Got some gold leaf yesterday for a painting I’m working on portraying the ohr penetrating the ein sof. Considering a series on Genesis with this being the first of them.





Winter                                                                    Waxing Moon

Big excitement this morning. Into Stevinson Toyota for a Rav4 oil change. Last oil change came on the Monday of Kate’s no good, very bad, horrible weekend at the end of September. That oil has degraded over the whole twilight circus of events since then. This fresh oil comes as the news begins to look better. It will degrade as the Waxing Moon works and puts the unhappy last quarter of 2018 to rest. Looking for a better story in the first quarter of 2019.

Painted some yesterday. Both sumi-e and oil painting have put me back in a tactile world gardening occupied in Minnesota.

Here’s my latest, akeda. Akeda means binding in Hebrew and in Jewish tradition evokes the binding of Isaac by Abraham.



Yesterday morning I created a lesson plan for the religious school. Yirah. The akeda could be used as an example of yirah. How terrible, how frightening. Sacrifice the son whom Sarah bore in her 90’s. Isaac means, he laughed, to remember Abraham and Sarah’s response to the news that she would bear a child. Not only was Isaac the improbable son of Sarah’s old age, he was also the son who would fulfill the covenant God made with Abraham that his descendants would be as numerous as the “stars in the sky.” Killing him as a sacrifice would mean the end of Sarah’s miracle and the promise of God. Yet, he went ahead with the akeda.

A friend of mine in Minnesota, a Sierra club activist, was in an accident on January 14th. Her 18 year old son, Henry, a freshman at Bowdoin college, drove. She was in the passenger seat. A pickup truck drifted into their lane. The wreck killed Henry. Sarah survived with non-life threatening injuries. Since her brief announcement on facebook, “Devastating news. We lost Henry in a car accident. Only 18. So much potential,” I’ve been cycling through imagining the awful pain of losing a child.



Winter Has Come

Winter                                                                                Waxing Moon

Dominant white. Black Mountain is white. The lodgepoles have white flocking. The solar panels have disappeared under individual mounds of snow. The sky is a whitish blue. The steps up here are still snow covered. No new snow though since yesterday. Huge piles of snow from Ted’s plowing twice. 14 degrees. Winter on the mountain. This is, however, Colorado and the next few days have sunshine. The roads are clear.

This morning

                                         This morning

These last three days I’ve had no obligations. Love that. SeoAh and I went to Walmart yesterday in Evergreen. She has glaucoma and needs eyedrops, like I do, but had run out. Thanks to modern tech the Evergreen pharmacy could contact Georgia, Georgia could, as the pharmacy clerk said, “Push a button.” Then, a text would go to SeoAh’s phone as we shopped. Not a fan of Walmart due to its low wages and small town downtown busting habits, but in this instance a good deal for SeoAh. It happened that way. While she shopped for bleach to give her hair highlights, a text came in.

Ran into a mussar friend at Walmart. Her husband has prostate cancer that has spread to his spine and, perhaps, his lungs. MRI tomorrow. He’s starting radiation and is already getting hormone treatment. Doesn’t sound good. I do like running into folks I know at the store. Small town living.

Apparently Saturdays are for new recipes. SeoAh made a sweet tofu wrapped rice confection, Japanese. Wonderful. Also, an egg drop soup with dumplings and rice cakes.

Jon’s got a new printing technique, one he used yesterday to “print” a paper bag. It’s amazing. He’s using found objects, mostly metal, to create colorful prints of shapes that look vaguely familiar, yet also abstract. He said in a later text that he’s glad Ruthie and I are exploring oils together. Me, too.



Feliz Ano Nuevo

Winter                                                                            Stent Moon

20181230_180856Here we are in another year. Took second son to the airport at 7 am. Big traffic jam about 10 minutes from the airport on Pena Road. Took 20 minutes to clear. Lot of pissed off people.

Went out to get gourmet food for New Year’s Eve. The whole family was here. KFC Littleton. I was the only customer. Drove down the hill, cussing at the Colorado drivers who don’t understand snow. Still seems weird to me, but there you are. Snowing, some snow on roads, a normal winter evening for Minnesota. Of course, add in altitude and it does change the equation some. But not down to 30 mph. Sigh.

Cold here. -9 last night. Some snow. Maybe 3 inches or so. Better than none.

On the drive last night I thought about year themes and resolutions. Not a big resolution maker anymore. Nonetheless, I made some anyhow. In short form they are eat, write, paint, exercise, read, teach, cook.

Long form. Eat no processed meats. Write new novel. (primal ensouled universe/enlightenment disenchanted universe. Next?) Keep painting, learning more techniques. Back to 3 days resistance, 3 days cardio. Learn how to read birth charts. Become a better teacher. Cook Korean and salt/fat/heat/acid. Continue kabbalah and mussar. Hike. Not resolutions so much as continuing, ramping up activities from 2018.

Having the whole family here for New Year’s Eve and morning made the house feel like a launching pad for the future. Us two old folks, our two kids, SeoAh and the grandkids. This family, these memories will live on into the hot future. Though Kate and I won’t be there; we will.

20190101_155858Ruth has paint brush in hand working on a black and white version of a SeoAh and Murdoch photo. It’s so much fun to have her up here painting while I write this. Creativity bonds us. She’s using my oil paints, a medium with which she has little experience. She does have a lot of experience in acrylics, watercolors, photography. Her training has helped me a lot, too.

Ruth, SeoAh, and I have a trip planned tomorrow to Red Herring Art, then over to Stanley Marketplace for sushi. We all love sushi. I’m going to buy Ruth some paint and maybe a brush or two. Red Herring is the Denver art supply store that has the most sumi-e materials. This time though I’m going for its oil painting brushes and paint.

Ruth chatters on about her painting process. She’s a perfectionist, not necessarily a bad thing in an artist, but demanding. She did help me with one of my favorite tool paintings. This is the chef’s knife I use a lot. Top is mine before I finished filling it in, bottom is after I filled it in and Ruth helped me with blending on the knife.




Winter                                                                       Stent Moon

20181110_16410310 degrees on Shadow Mountain. A couple of inches of fluffy powder fell over night, a minor storm compared to what had been predicted earlier. The lodgepoles have white flocking. Black Mountain hides behind a gray blue cloud. The neighbor’s Christmas lights, now past their expiry date, still glitter.

Frustrated here by realpolitik. Can’t say more about it.

Kate’s Sjogren’s flare has subsided. She’s still fatigued, both from all the insults her body has received since September 28th and Sjogren’s. There may be an anemia component in there, too. Fatigue, when it’s constant, carries with it its own malaise. Sleep, get up for a bit, sleep some more day and night. Her face does not, however, have the stress lines brought on by repeated bouts of nausea and cramping, bouts that followed every meal until last Friday. That’s a marker on the road leading out of this mess.

I’m working in a slightly larger format now, 8×10 canvases, trying to think more about design. The Western icons idea will require more gathering of props. I turned to items I had close to hand. My favorite tools. Those of you who know me well know I’m not a shop guy, not a handy guy, but I do have some tools I love.

astrologyMercury-RetrogradeThe learning curve in both astrology and oil painting slopes almost straight up for me. My mind gets short of breath at times. I remember this from Latin. Slog. Slog. Slog. Oh! “Confusion,” I read, “is the sweat of the intellect.”

Back in 1966 I was a very young student of symbolic logic. My second semester at Wabash. German had already defeated me and I was feeling the shock of intellectual challenges that seemed beyond me. Larry Hackstaffe, the professor who wandered around on off days with a six-pack of Bud hanging by one of its plastic rings from his belt loop, was a good teacher. After the D on a German test, a D!, my sense of myself was in trouble. Study. Study. In the library, in a carrel. My safe place.

The mid-term. When I sat down, my palms were sweaty and my socks uncomfortably moist. My neck hurt from slumping over in the study carrel. Larry passed out the blue books and the exam. And away I went, developing proofs, using the symbols like I’d had them from birth. That exam was a revelation to me. With hard work I could master something difficult, really difficult. I didn’t need the grade after that, though it was an A and I was glad. I had taught myself a life lesson, not in logic, but in persistence.

logicAt almost 72 I’m no longer naive enough to think I can master anything, but I’ve proved to myself over and over that with patience (difficult for me at times) and either a good teacher or a lot of autodidactic effort, I can learn new things. Even new things that might seem unusual for me. Organic gardening. Beekeeping. Raising perennial flowers. Writing novels. Teaching Jewish religious school. Living at altitude. Cooking. The downside of this valedictory life, that’s a thing, is that I’ve not become Tolstoy or a commercial beekeeper or Top Chef, certainly no Latin scholar. But I have had the chance to peek behind the curtain of numerous activities I might have once thought, like German, beyond me.

A lot of blather to introduce you to some paintings by me. As you can tell, I’m still breathing hard, looking for handholds on the ancientrail of creating beauty, of making pigments tell their story, but I’m having a hell of lot of fun. As I am with astrology.

These are in the order in which I painted them.

Here they are:

JUrsa Major

Ursa Major

Felling Ax

Felling Ax

Limbing Ax, 1.0

Limbing Ax, 1.0

Limbing Ax, 1.1

Limbing Ax, 1.1

My Inner Five Year Old

Samain                                                                                 Stent Moon

Kate seems to be getting worse. It takes less food to trigger an episode of nausea and cramping. We’re going to work the phones tomorrow. See if we can get this procedure scheduled soon. Sooner. Soonest.

my inner five year old

               my inner five year old

We’re in a warm streak here. 50 yesterday. Not sure about snow totals but it’s been a light season for us so far. We need the snow for several reasons. Fire mitigation. Restore our wells. Beauty. Seasonal spirit. West of the divide though the snow’s been better than good. Many of the resorts like Breckenridge opened portions of their properties a month earlier than usual. Good for the economy. Also, good for the snow pack. 103% of average right now. Means so much downstream.

Impressed by our local King Sooper.  I went yesterday morning. Most of the carts were in use, only 8 of the smaller ones remaining in the huge bay that holds them. The wait for a cashier was minimal. Got done and out. I enjoy grocery shopping, but I don’t enjoy waiting in long check out lines.


                     How it looks right now

I bought a set of very cheap canvases, 5×8. Less than a dollar each. 10. I’ve painted all ten. I bought another set of cheap canvases, 8×10. I’ve painted one of those. Still color drunk. Working on the larger canvas was different than the smaller one. More expansive, yes, but also more room to fill. Tried to convey clouds. Not so well. Took out the turpentine and edited one cloud away.

What I want to do is to find organic, Western objects, like the strange clouds we have in the mountains, deer antlers, old fence posts, mountains and abstract them, somewhat like Georgia O’Keefe, but with the Rothko sensibility. Throw in a surrealistic touch like the carmine rectangle in a blue sky. Keep the colors simple, the shapes, too. I mean, a guy has to have a direction, right?

Today is work on reading birth charts day. I see Elisa on Tuesday. She’s going to help me with my own chart. Before that I meet with Alan to discuss the religious school curriculum we’ve been doing as early adopters for the national program, Moving Traditions. A mid-year evaluation is coming up and I’ll have to represent both of us. Might head over early and go to Red Herring art supplies where I picked up rice paper and a couple of sumi-e brushes.