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.

This Week

Fall and the waning crescent Harvest Moon

Long mountain in the background is Shadow Mountain, taken from Black Mountain
Closer look at the peak of Shadow Mountain. We live to the right in this photo, about a mile up Black Mountain Drive
Fox Squirrel getting ready for winter. A bit faraway for my phone camera.
Chainsaw Bob’s. I first saw these signs when his wife, Patty, was the only one in the shop. I needed new, sharpened chains and to have that one little glitch fixed. He’s the closest. And, as you can tell he has strong opinions. (Not just about women.)
CJ’s is a Chicago food hero in Evergeen. I stood at their door when I took the photograph above. Kate and I get Italian beef sandwiches there every Thursday after Mussar.
Black Mountain hike, Tuesday
Same hike

You know your body

Fall and the beautiful crescent of the Harvest Moon

And another diagnosis. Geez. I have what can be called either COPD or asthma. I prefer asthma but if it hacks like COPD and interferes with breathing like COPD, then it’s also that. Short story: smoking related. Errors of my youth coming back to grab me by the lobe.

You might be surprised to learn that this diagnosis gave me joy. Yes, it did. Several factors. 1st. Caught early and treated it’s not likely to progress, so permanent but manageable. 2nd. A low level concern about my breathing that I’ve had for several months has a name and a treatment. 3rd. Told Dr. Gidday that I’d felt a constriction in my lungs. That I knew my body and something was off. After the pulmonary function test, she said, “You do know your body.” I liked that. So, yippee, I’ve got COPD. No, to me asthma. But you get the drift.

The treatment is a prednisone inhaler, two puffs at night before bed. Also, for a while, I’ll use the albuterol inhaler before exercise. Lisa says I probably won’t need it after a while. “You’ll find exercising and breathing a lot easier. You’ll feel better.” Gotta like that.

Kate and I left Lisa’s office and went to NoNo’s for dinner. A New Orleans place. Great po-boys and wonderful beignets. I felt light, like a burden had gone. And, indeed it had. Strange, I know.

November, 2015

Should help with the fire mitigation work once I get my chain saw fixed. Yeah, about that. I did do the guy thing. I took it apart. I put it back together. But. In the process I jiggled some little hose thingy loose and couldn’t get it to return to its former location. Sorta deflated the guy thing. Guess it got Luproned.

Talked to Derrick yesterday and he’s ready to help and accept logs. I plan to put a sign up if he doesn’t take them all and offer the rest to folks who heat with wood. There are several up here. Cheaper than having them chipped. By a lot. I’ll keep one or two sawed up and split for our fireplace.

The Equilux

Fall and the Harvest Moon

I’m changing seasons on the equinox, which is today. Learned a new word reading some material for this post: equilux. An equilux happens after each equinox and occurs this fall on September 26th. If you look at a table of sunrise/sunset, on September 26th, at roughly our latitude, the sun rises at 6:59 am and sets at 6:59 pm. After the equilux, for 172 days, until the next equilux on March 17th, the sun will shine for less than 12 hours.

Yeah! Though born in Oklahoma near the Red River, almost to Texas, I’ve always been a child of the cold and snow, influenced by too many Jack London novels. And, Renfrew of the Royal Canadian Mounted. Moved to Appleton, Wisconsin in September of 1969 and lived up north until the Winter Solstice of 2014. In our particular location on Black Mountain Drive, just east of 14er Mt. Evans, we get lots of snow, some cold, but easier winters. Better for septuagenarian bones.

from “What is Michaelmas?”

Six days from now is the 29th of September, the Feast Day of St. Michael the Archangel. It is, as regular readers of ancientrails already know, the springtime of the soul. At least according to Rudolf Steiner.

Rosh Hashanah, September 30th this year, the Jewish new year (one of four), begins the month of Tishrei in Judaism’s lunar calendar. Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, follows ten days later on October 9th. 5 days later on October 14 and 15 is Sukkot, a harvest festival. A week after the second day of Sukkot is Simchat Torah, joy of the Torah.

On October 31st, 6 weeks from last Friday, the next Celtic holiday is Samain, or Summer’s End. The Celtic New Year comes at the beginning of the fallow season.

I am the hallow-tide of all souls passing,
I am the bright releaser of all pain,
I am the quickener of the fallen seed-case,
I am the glance of snow, the strike of rain.
I am the hollow of the winter twilight,
I am the hearth-fire and the welcome bread,
I am the curtained awning of the pillow,
I am unending wisdom’s golden thread.
~ Song of Samhain, Celtic Devotional:
Daily Prayers and Blessings, by Caitlín Matthews

The transition from the growing season when farmers and gardeners harvest its fruits to the fallow season when plants in mid and northern latitudes rest has ultimate significance for non-tropical humanity. Not so long ago a failed growing season would lead to a limited harvest. Unless adequate stores from years past were kept, starvation over the winter was a real possibility.

7 Oaks garden, 2014

Oh, you might say, well, that doesn’t apply to us in the modern age. Think not? Perhaps one really bad harvest could be accommodated by trade and stored foods. Maybe even two bad harvests. But if the world saw several bad harvests in a row, say because of a dramatically changed climate, starvation over the winter could become a real possibility even in the developed world.

Mabon, Sukkot, Samain. With Lughnasa on August 1st, the first harvest festival, the months August through October have evoked human expressions of gratitude, of thanksgiving for soil, seed, and sacrifice. Certain animals and plants become offerings to feed others, including the now unwieldy population of humans.

The heart of the harvest season, right now, is a deeply spiritual moment. The complex web of life bares itself to our witness. Any Midwesterner is familiar with trucks of yellow corn, soy beans, golden wheat, rye, rolling down highways to grain elevators. Hay gets mowed perhaps a third time and baled either in rectangular bales or huge round ones.

This is also a traditional time for the slaughtering of animals. Now slaughterhouses and intensive livestock farming have allowed slaughter throughout the year.

I’m grateful that farmers and ranchers are able to feed us still. I’m grateful that the soil, that top six inches especially, feeds and stabilizes the foodstuff that we grow. I’m grateful that photosynthesis allows us to harvest the sun’s energy by transforming it into vegetables, fruits, grasses, grains, nuts. I’m grateful for each and every animal that dies for our table. I’m grateful for the grocers who buy and display the food for us to purchase.

It is a time of thanksgiving followed by an increasing darkness. That darkness is fecund, for me at least. Steiner’s idea of Michaelmas as the springtime of the soul, the placement of so many Jewish holidays, in particular sukkot, during this harvest time, and the major Celtic holidays of Lughnasa, Mabon, and Samain offer us many chances to open our hearts to the wonder of this world and its blessings.

Slightly outside of these three months is the Day of the Dead celebrated throughout Latin America and the Feast of All Souls.

WINTER SOLSTICE by Willow, Celtic Lady

As the harvest wanes and summer ends (Samain), we have time to take stock of our lives, of our hopes and dreams. We can lean into the darkness after the equilux, celebrate its fullness on the Winter Solstice. It is in the fallow season that we learn the why of death. In this coming season we can make our peace with mortality.

Guy Thing I Did

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Better rested yesterday. Less fatigue.

Though. Workout a.m. New one. First part is cardio, twenty minutes. Treadmill. I’ve been doing this for years, 25 at least, and yesterday I struggled with breathing as I went up on speed and elevation. I made it through the twenty minutes, pushing myself further than I have in a while, but it was tough.

Gonna see Lisa about respiratory issues. Don’t really want to go down another medical trail right now, but it’s time to get some clarity.

Did, for me, a serious guy thing. I took apart my chain saw, cleaned it, and, ta da! Put it back together. I know this is minor league for most of you, but for me it’s a big deal. Last time I used the chain saw I tried to cut the stall mats with it to make Kate’s walkway to the garage. Did. Not. Work. It did however coat the saw with rubber particles.

Getting ready to make use of fall weather for fire mitigation work. Going to start at the thirty foot ignition zone by taking down trees, limbing them, bucking them. Gonna hire a teenager or two to help move slash, clean up the back. We’ll see about my stamina. If necessary, I’ll take frequent breaks.

Below freezing last night with a spitting rain or meager snow. 34 when I got up. With Mabon behind us and the autumnal equinox tomorrow we’re moving toward fall and already in it. Great sleeping.

Made pork tenderloin last night. Used a Joy of Cooking recipe. Cut the tenderloin into 3/4″ chunks, doused them in beaten egg and covered them with bread crumbs. Plopped them in my new Lodge cast iron skillet. Tasty.

Waiting

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Hard to lean into life right now. My ikigai is faint, a shadow flickering from the last log on the fire. Whether it’s lingering effects of the radiation, the Lupron, or the dismal psychic space of too much stress for too long, my motivation level looks like the bathtub ring on Lake Mead. I can see where it used to be and can’t imagine what will fill up the lake again.

The feeling is not despair or depression, rather it’s like I’m witnessing my own life right now. Not a full participant.

October, 2016, Mitigation round 1

Fire mitigation entails a lot of manual labor. Which I like. Work with the chain saw. The peavey. Wheel barrows. Lifting, pushing. Moving rock. The heat we’ve had and the weakness I feel in spite of continuing my workouts has made it seem too hard. I can feel the pressure of fall turning into winter pushing back at me, reminding me that this work is seasonal and that season is now.

Ancientrails, two million words worth, sits in year stacks on a long desk/table. I got that far, but haven’t done more. The years need to get drilled and put into binders. Superior Wolf, too. I want to revise it, take it apart and put it back together, but when do I do that? I just turn away from the task.

Cooking is fun again. I’ve done some painting. My bagel table prep work has gone well. I’m ready. This blog gets written, every morning. I read. Finished Second Empire, the fourth in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation novels. Listening to books on my phone, through blue tooth in the car. I have meals with friends.

Even with these though I feel like I’m waiting for something. Something else. Something more. A new pattern of life, a new enthusiasm.

The trick is, waiting is wu wei. Sitting beside myself as my life flows on around me. At some point my ikigai will resurface or reform. I know it will. But waiting? Still hard.

I Recommend

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Three high quality but very different offerings on TV right now. On Hulu, the least strange show of the three: Veronica Mars 4th season. The first three seasons ended in 2007, so number four is set 12 years later. The show’s first three seasons are also on Hulu, which paid for the late addition.

characters in the 3rd season of Veronica Mars

If you never met Veronica, you’ve missed an iconic character in American television. Smart mouthed, brave, petite, beautiful, and brainy, she’s first in high school solving the problems of students at Neptune High. (California) In the third season she’s in college. Ditto. By season number four she has a Stanford law degree, but chooses to return to Neptune to work as private investigator with her father, Keith.

Four stars out of five. Four only because I like things a little stranger. So, a biased ranking. (But, aren’t they all?)

Amazon Prime Video put up Carnival Row on August 29th, so it’s brand new. Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne star. A British production, it’s loaded with character actors you might have seen on BBC shows and has a fascinating set complete with monorails, gritty streets, and an overall Victorianesque tone.

There’s been a long war between the fae with their human allies and the Pact, a mysterious and brutal enemy to both. There are pixies with wings, trotters with rams horns on their heads, lots of Midsummer Night’s Dream references (this is a British show after all), and yet another take on zenophobia. This last is a bit disappointing though I get it as an of the moment plot device. Disappointing, btw, in its overuse, not in its broader significance.

High production values, great cast, an edgy plot. Four and a half stars. Right now. I’ve not finished it so I may go up to five or down to four when I’m done.

As I said in yesterday’s post, Netflix has taken the biggest chances by funding shows and limited series from a diverse collection of nationalities and story telling traditions. My recent and so far all time favorite is Frontera Verde, the Green Frontier, made by Colombians and filmed in and near Leticia, Colombia’s southern most point. Leticia is the capital of the department of Amazonas, and borders Brazil’s state of the same name.

A detective from Bogota is sent to Leiticia to investigate the murder of four missionaries in the jungle. Helena Poveda was born in the jungle near Leticia, but sent to Bogota as a young girl and has not returned until this trip. The murder of the missionaries, from Edens Church, and the solution to them, does make this a mystery.

Solving the murders is a vehicle that takes us into the botanical mystery that is the Amazonian jungle and the lives of those indigenous communities who live there. The old days of rubber plantations, the current threats of rogue loggers and a secretive group intent on penetrating the mystical center of the jungle for their own purpose provide the villainy.

The story telling has a Gabriel Garcia Marquez inflection, magical realism often taking the story in surprising directions. Early on a hand, covered in black pigment, comes to rest on a root and the root glows and pulses. This is Yua, the eternal slave, and a guardian of the jungle. Ushe is his long time companion, both many decades older than they appear. Ushe’s murder, discovered by Elena while investigating the killing of the missionaries, is the central plot line though it takes a long time for that to become evident.

I love the undercurrents here. An indigenous detective has to choose between his police duties and his community, the Nai. Elena discovers the true depth of her home coming. “The jungle is in your heart,” says the indigenous detective’s grandfather to her. Yua and Ushe navigate the jungle’s essence, sometimes using magic, other times their knowledge of the communities, other times their vast botanical lore. Edens Church has a much different belief system than its predecessor, an order of Catholic nuns.

Ushe and Yua

The videography is wonderful. A slim boat travels quickly up the wide, brown Amazon. Ushe and Yua meet in a cosmic space held together by mother jungle. The jungle itself is by turns claustrophobic, vast, and alive.

I realized last night that by an odd coincidence Colombia is the foreign country I have visited most. Three times. Once in 1989, Bogota. Once in the 1990’s with Kate, Cartagena. And once in 2011, Santa Marta. Long before any of those trips I had found Marquez and his Hundred Years of Solitude.

Santa Marta, Colombia 10/23/2011

With those trips to Colombia, our two transits of the Panama Canal, and the 7 week cruise we took around Latin America in 2011, I feel I’ve had a modest immersion in the often strange world of this continent where the Portugese and Spanish ran headlong into indigenous communities. Might be why I like this so much.

I’ve begun a second watching of Frontera Verde, something I almost never do. It’s mixture of indigenous magic and shamanism with contemporary problems of the “earth’s lungs,” as the Amazon is often referred to in the stories about its many fires, makes it compelling to me.

Five stars. Good acting, wonderful landscapes, strange plotlines. Another world brought to life. Compelling.

Second Act

Lughnasa and the 1% crescent of the Moon of the First Harvest

Workout yesterday. Used my new 10 kilogram kettlebell for goblin squats. My legs could tell. Even this morning coming up the stairs to the loft. Good to feel the work.

Kate finished up the peaches, preserving them in oj. Put them in the freezer, ready for dessert or snacking anytime we want. Western Slope goodies.

The hot flushes have held off the last couple of days. Good. They can stay away. Side effects from the Lupron not bad so far. I’ve hit the cancer back, hard. Kept up exercising. Altered my diet some, not as much as I could.

2015, first act

Spent some time yesterday blocking out a plan for wildfire mitigation, the second act. Lots of moving parts, many requiring a chain saw. Not sure what my stamina is like now, but I hope to do much of the work myself. Before the snow.

Not sure if I mentioned our new neighbor Derrick. He lives in the rental next to us. They’re heating with wood, so I imagine most of the downed trees will end up at his place. Good for him, good for us.

Today is finish mowing the fuel day. Also roundup on the grasses and plants around the house, the shed, and the garage out to five feet. Where the landscape cloth and rocks will go. It’s been way too hot for tree work. At least for me. Cooler days are ahead.

So Good

Lughnasa and the crescent Moon of the First Harvest

Our beautiful Rigel. Nine and a half.

Cool again this morning. Great sleeping. So much so that Rigel couldn’t be bothered to get up and go outside before breakfast. I had to go down and roust her. All that barking at the bunnies under the shed tired her out, I guess. Thankfully she seems to be calming down about them.

Brother Mark is back in Saudi Arabia. His employment there has taken some odd turns. He’s headed to Riyadh instead of either Arar or Qassim. As he says, Saudi can be a challenging place to work.

Uncle Mark in the Saudi desert

Today is sister Mary’s birthday. Happy birthday, Mary! She’s starting another year as a professor at the teacher’s university of Singapore.

In other family news Kate and I went on an errand run yesterday. We were out so long that the battery on her O2 concentrator died. Happened on the way home. Even with that she was not exhausted. Still upbeat. Her stamina has improved remarkably with regular, balanced nutrition. It was so good to have her with me, doing things. Today is eleven months since her bleed. September 28th, 2018.

A 75th birthday present

We stopped at Babcock Gardens and Feed in Kittredge. Investigating river rock to cover the landscape cloth I’m going to put all around our house. That’s the 5 foot ignition zone. The one and a half inch river rock covers 80 square feet per ton. We’ve got about 500 square feet, maybe a bit more. 5 tons* of rock to move. And, the woman at Babcock’s said river rock is hard to shovel. Hmm. Time for teenagers. Or, it just occurred to me, a bobcat. Course it would have to fit through our gate. Hmm, maybe not.

One odd element of wildfire mitigation is that, if you’ve done it, the firefighters are much more likely to protect your home in case of a fire. If we try, they’ll try.

*All you math folks can tell that’s only 400 square feet worth, right? Well, they only deliver 5 tons at a time. Gonna try to make that much work.

Slow. But steady.

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Early human radiation experiments

As my energy returns, I can feel how much the radiation and the trips to Lone Tree wore me down. A lot. Cancer treatment is often like that. It beats up on the cancer, yes, but it also beats up on the rest of you.

The hope is a u-turn. Goes like this. Diagnosis. The stroke down. Treatment, the curve at the bottom of the letter. Recovery and cure. The stroke up.

Got a call about my DEXA scan on Tuesday. No osteoporosis. Some osteopenia in my left femoral ball. Soft bone there. Good news. Taking calcium and vitamin D together in one pill large enough to choke a horse. Might need something to help. Danger is a fall, a minor fall, that results in a broken femoral ball. Ouch.

Making a visit to Bailey today, the Happy Camper. Last night an 8 year old boy in Bailey got attacked by a mountain lion. He’s in the hospital. Not common though a mountain lion attacked a hunter in northwest Colorado a couple of weeks ago and another attacked a runner earlier in the summer.

Got a passport photo taken yesterday. Sending mine in for renewal. Want to be ready once Joe and SeoAh move to Singapore. Gonna hit Taipei, too. The National Museum.

Starting to tick things off a list I made a few days ago. Two months worth of errands. Need to mow today. Landscaping fabric and stakes came yesterday. Five foot no ignition zone all around the house. River rock on top of it. When that’s done, clearing trees in the thirty foot fire drop down zone. Chainsaw work.