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.

An Old Friend

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Orion has returned. He’s visible just above the south-eastern horizon around 5 am. A friend since my time as a security guard for a cookware factory. On the midnight shift I worked alone and during the fall and winter months we became acquainted. He signals the season of inner work.

As the growing season yields its bounty, the plant world gets ready for the fallow season that will start on October 31st, Samain. The nights grow longer and cooler. On September 29th Michaelmas, the springtime of the soul. Perennials send food down to their corms, tubers, bulbs. Their leaves turn brown and die back to the ground. Annual flowers finish their summer long journey by spreading seed for the next year.

This is the Great Wheel and it repeats each year, spiraling out along earth’s orbit. Lived too, in lifetimes of birth, youth, maturity, and senescence. It is the way of the earth. For living things, the most ancientrail of all.

This is the lens through which I see my life, the one I use for comfort in difficult times, celebration, understanding.

Saw a movie yesterday, Midsommar. Its opening scene shows winter, spring, summer, and fall in a tableau. You may be aware of the naked dancing the Swedes (and others, too) enjoy at their midsommar bonfires. Well, this isn’t about that. It shows the dark side of a pagan worldview, how it can devolve into traditions every bit as dogmatic and frightening as any inquisitor. I loved this movie. Kate hated it.

Fans of Wicker Man will see Midsommar as an instant classic in the same vein. Kate said, “It made me glad I’m not Swedish.” Spoiler alert: the character named Christian does not fare well.

Lughnasa 2019

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest


Today is Lughnasa, the Celtic first fruits festival, celebrated by baking bread and other foods from the wheat gathered now. I started my radiation treatments four days before the summer Solstice and will end them 9 days into Lughnasa. On the Celtic calendar, summer has come and gone during my time with the CyberKnife. Since the CyberKnife uses photons, it seems apt to have had the summer sun as my companion.

Perhaps this year my own first fruits will be the elimination of my cancer. I won’t know, of course, for some time, up to two years and three months depending on the duration of the Lupron. It’s possible (likely?) that the primary salvage treatment, radiation in my case, will have ended this return bout on or around August 9th.

Next week, too, are the anniversaries of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The atom as city killer. I’ve not forgotten either that June 17th, the day of my first treatment, was the day after Father’s Day.

Lughnasa is the first of three harvest festivals in the Celtic year. Following Lughnasa is Mabon which falls on the Autumnal Equinox. It coincides with what this Midwestern boy has known as the main harvest, and the Harvest Moon. After that is Samain, or summer’s end, the final harvest festival, on October 31st.

As I’ve mentioned often here, my soul gets fed best as the days grow shorter and the nights longer. I consider Lughnasa the beginning of the inner journey that culminates on the Winter Solstice.

Yes, it really starts on the summer Solstice, the day of light’s triumph, but the summer season, just ended, is a celebration of light’s triumph. A good thing, too, since it provides the energy and the heat for vegetables, fruits, and the big cash crops like wheat and corn and beans. We’ll need them as the fallow season commences on Samain.

I can feel the Great Wheel’s dark energy. Since the summer Solstice, we’ve gained 45 minutes of night. This is my favorite part of the year, these next 8 months, Lughansa to Ostara, the vernal equinox. I’m glad the next part of this inner world journey will occur now.



Defendable Homes

Summer and the waning (4%) Radiation Moon

Down to single digits. Nine more treatments. Life after radiation (a bit of a joke, ha) is coming next week. Only three bedbugs were ever found. There was a “bubble” of people who sat in that chair at the approximate time Anova suspects the bugs transferred. They’re having them do extra preparation before they can come into treatment. Not me. Nope. No bedbugs here on the mountain. Gratitude. Probably means I’ll finish on August 9th.

My friend Dave, personal trainer Dave, has calmed down the nausea from his brain cancer chemo. Deb told me yesterday that he rode 78 miles last week, 20 miles that day. He’s in phenomenal shape. You might remember my mentioning that he ran a 15 mile endurance race in British Columbia, the Fitzsimmon Mountains. Lots of elevation gain. This was a year ago. Part of the motivation for staying in shape during cancer treatment is to prove you’re still alive, still have agency over your body. Take that, brain cancer. Take that, prostate cancer.

Found all this out when I took in the check for a large lug of Western Slope peaches. There’s a small section of the Western Slope (of the Rockies, in Colorado) that’s perfect for growing fancy peaches. Tents pop up along roads selling Colorado Peaches. On the Move Fitness takes orders from clients and organizes a bulk purchase from Green Barn Produce. Pick’em up next week. Kate’s going to make a sizable batch of peaches frozen in orange juice.

Another Colorado moment yesterday. On the way to Kate’s hearing test (she’s good in both ears. yeah.) we drove past a long dump truck, a side dumper, full of boulders. When I see a large truck here with boulders, I think of the golf carts leaving Minnesota each year for southern courses. Or, the Christmas trees beginning to head out of state by truck in November. Moving rock is a big business here. Including moving those rocks that fall onto roadways.

Sent a note yesterday to Elk Creek Fire District. They have a staff person who does two hour assessments of fire mitigation needs on your property. It’s been three years since I thinned our lodgepoles and I stopped at that. Might be other things I’m missing.

There were 30 wildfires within the Elk Creek District last year. The recent newsletter points out that firefighters “…must focus on evacuations and effectively apply available resources to defendable homes. In these scenarios, it is crucial that homeowners have already implemented Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) best practices.”

In practical terms this defines the triage that firefighters do in case of a wildfire threatening homes. They leave those already in flames and those too difficult to get to, think way up high or very steep driveways or in an unmitigated stand of trees. Those with short driveways, near major roads, who have done mitigation in their HIZ, will be defended. Our house meets all those criteria and I want to make sure it continues to.

Life in the WUI (pronounced woo-eee), the Wildland/Urban Interface. Yes, it makes about as much sense to live here as in a flood plain or in a coastal city waiting for sea level rise or a bad hurricane. But, we love it here, as residents of those other areas must love their home turf. So…

My Ancient Spiritual Trail

Summer and the Radiation Moon

My friend Rich sees mussar as a metaphysical, not a psychological discipline. It’s soul work, deeper and more consequential than therapy.

Over the last year and a half my skeptical view of soul has begun to break up, fade away. First, from the Cosmos and Psyche (thanks, Tom) insight: Skepticism is a tool, not a lifestyle. Second, from a spiritual realization that despite its implication in the arguments over, say, original sin, soul nonetheless points to a felt reality for me, a phenomenological knowing. Not a dogmatic or doctrinal one.

Big deal, right? You always knew this? Or, no way, dude. Either way, so what?

And, of course, you’re right if you follow this often used, little understood idea back to its sources in Judaeo-Christian thought. Its use either assumed-you always knew this, or, so mean and inhuman, eternal hell for a few years on earth-no way, dude.

The Judaeo-Christian understanding incorporated the Greek notion of psyche, “…the mental abilities of a living being: reason, character, feeling, consciousness, memory, perception, thinking” with a notion of immortality connected to behavior in this life.

I want to push back, back beyond this narrow conception of soul. There was an assumption among the ancient Greeks that soul had to have a logical faculty, and, that it was the most divine attribute of a human soul. ( The current scientific consensus across all fields is that there is no evidence for the existence of any kind of soul in the traditional sense. Wiki.)

First I want to speak for the trees. Let’s call it the Loraxian understanding of the soul. The lodgepoles in our yard, crawling up Black Mountain, growing along Brook Forest Drive as it winds down the mountain. They have souls. They are both alive and animate, creatures with a telos, or end goal. They interact with their environment and grow strong or weak, tall or short, but they remain lodgpole pines, trees with a particular role in a montane ecosystem, a role which they give all they have to fulfill.

The same is true for the mule deer, the mountain lion, the marsh marigold, the elk, the bear, the fox, the squirrel, the dandelion, the cheatgrass, the Indian paintbrush, the mountain trout, the raven and the magpie. Are their souls more or less than ours? Wrong question. Are their souls more like ours or more unlike? Don’t know. I just know that living things on the planet share the wonder of life, an independent spark. That spark gives us organic matter that moves and does so with intention.

Holy Well, Wales, St Dynfog

I’ve felt this way about the world for a long, long time. Taoism, Emerson, the Romantics, gardening, the Celtic Great Wheel. The mystical moment on the quad at Ball State. Oneness. With it all. I’m even willing to entertain faeries, elves, duendes, daiads, Gods and Goddesses. OK, I know I lost a lot of you with that one, but I’m going with my gut, my revelation to me rather than the dry dusty bones of theirs.

But. I want to push one step further. I believe in the spirits of the mountains. They have visited me here on Shadow Mountain, the mule deer on Samain, 2014, and the elk on my first day of radiation. The mule deer and the elk were angels, that is, messengers of the mountain gods, dispatched by the careful, slow, deliberate entities that are the Rocky Mountains.

I believe in the vitality of rushing water in Maxwell Creek, Cub Creek, Blue Creek, Bear Creek, the North Fork of the South Platte. I believe in the entity that is Lake Superior, that is the great deposit of ores on the Minnesota Iron Range, the ebb and flow of the Oglalla Aquifer.

I believe in Mother Earth, the great Gaia, a living system of ecosystems, biomes watered by rains and the snows, irrigated by streams and rivers, planted by Boreas and Zephryus, and given power to change by the true god, Sol.

Neither animals nor plants can grow without the sun’s energy or the food locked in minerals and vitamin: “Our soils support 95 percent of all food production, and by 2060, our soils will be asked to give us as much food as we have consumed in the last 500 years. They filter our water. They are one of our most cost-effective reservoirs for sequestering carbon. They are our foundation for biodiversity. And they are vibrantly alive, teeming with 10,000 pounds of biological life in every acre. Yet in the last 150 years, we’ve lost half of the basic building block that makes soil productive.” Living Soil film

As it appears, I am an animist, a pagan, a person who has found his spot in the great scheme. I’m a moving instance of matter formed in the great fusion furnaces of stars. I’m a temporary instance, holding together a few atoms for a human lifetime. I’m a significant instance of meaning created by the universe observing itself, throughout my short path, as the dynamic, interlocked, soulful reality that it is.

I need no human word to guide me. I need no idea, no rule. I am and I am within all this. The Arapaho National Forest. The Rocky Mountains. Our nuclear family. Our extended family. The community of folks at CBE. The United States. The Mind of God.

My soul and that of Kepler, Rigel, and Gertie dance with each other. In Andover Kate and I danced with bees, fruit trees, perennial flowers, vegetables, raspberry canes. Here we dance with the mountain spirits.

Long ago I set out on a spiritual journey that went down and in rather than up and out. That is, I would not find validation somewhere outside of myself whether Torah, Gospel, Constitution, or political ideology. I would not privilege the idea of transcendence, or a three-story universe. No god is in heaven, and yet all’s right with the world. My ancient spiritual trail has been to turn within for the source of my revelation. And, I have not turned back.

Half Way

Summer and the Radiation Moon

You can see the orienting lasers on my right hand

18 fractions absorbed. 180 minutes, exactly three hours under the watchful iris of the Cyber Knife. Roughly 3500 cGys of the total 7000 cGy* prescription. This is over half-way. 18/35ths.

Hard to separate out causality. Does my occasional fatigue come from the radiation? The Lupron? Indolence? What’s causing my crampy stomach, over eager bowels? Are those prickly hot feelings transient hot flashes trying to break through? Or, are all of these some crummy bug that came along at a time when there were multiple possible causes? Not sure.

This weekend respite is very, very welcome. I need some time to relax. Decompress. Gather myself again. Three weeks plus a couple of days before all 7000 cGys are in place. A marathon, not a sprint.

Ruth and Gabe are here. Ruth mowed the fuel yesterday. Gabe picked up the detritus of Rigel’s bunny lust fueled attack on our back deck. They picked flowers for us among them Columbines and Daisies. Kate cut two of our blooming iris. Maroon bearded. Have not bloomed the last couple of years.

Another Great Wheel consolation. The iris will bloom. The daisy’s, too. Lodgepole pines will release their pollen in June. The mountain streams will race as soon as the snowpack melts. The elk rut will send the strangled bugling of the bull’s out into the fall air. Snow will fall in December. Rain will come on July afternoons. The altitude on Shadow Mountain will keep a cool gap open between temperatures down the hill and those up here. Long after we’re all dead. Oh, yes, over a long time even these things will change in some way, but the cycle of the natural world to which death belongs will continue.

* ( a unit of absorbed radiation dose equal to one hundredth (10−2) of a gray, or 1 rad FreeDictionary)