Cycles of life, and death

Beltane                                                                       Cancer Moon

green knight

The Green Knight

Cancer has come up in several of my exercises so far, as you might expect with depth work. This work has helped me put it in the perspective of my life as a whole. Here’s one odd way. Progoff saw that many aspects of our lives went through conception, growth, decline, then death or significant waning. Children. Jobs. Creative projects. Hobbies. Places we live. Even illnesses. Cancer can be a metaphor for a project or relationship or job that has taken over our life, growing and demanding more of us than we have to give.

Cancer begins as cells in the body get out of whack, seek immortality at the expense of those cells that go through the life cycle. It grows unchecked unless a medical intervention occurs. If things go well, the cancer weakens, slows down, then dies. If not, the body weakens, slows down, and dies. Either way the cancer ends. So, cancer is not an exception to this experience of conception and growth, though it tries to hard to avoid decline. In this case I’ll actively seek its death, as we sometimes actively seek the finish of a career, a marriage, a creative project.

Samuel Palmer, The Harvest Moon (c 1833)

Samuel Palmer, The Harvest Moon (c 1833)

This perspective helps me see cancer not as a violent exception, but as an organic process like others. Which does not mean I’m embracing it. I know some people prefer not to see cancer as an enemy, but that’s not me. I’d like the archangel Michael to come in with his sword and whack every last cell of it.

This is also a Great Wheel insight. The ancient Beltane began with literal conception, saw the greening of the fields as crops began to flourish, then transformed into the heat and frenzy of summer at the summer solstice. As the crops matured, the harvest began at Lughnasa and continued through Mabon, the fall equinox, coming to a close at Samain, Summer’s End. Then the long fallow season commenced.  It’s a cycle that repeats year after year with the coming of spring, the greening of the fields, harvest, then the fallow time.

Cancer is, then, normal. Usual. Part of a cycle, with its own cycle, too.

Baptized in the Underground Stream

Beltane                                                                     Cancer Moon

20190506_131302Lots of Catholic kitsch in the Mother Cabrini giftshop. I mean, lots. In fact, that’s almost all they have. St. Expeditius here is my favorite, especially his arms.This is a refrigerator magnet and there are others. Including St. Gregory the Wonder Worker invoked in desperate situations.

But, there’s more, so much more. I may pick up an action figure of St. Michael since I find Michaelmas an important holiday. The springtime of the soul, September 29th.

Mother Cabrini action figures, too, some of them very well made. Crucifixes. Prayer cards for particular ills and problems. Mugs with www.anamazingparish on them. Mother Cabrini shrine mugs. Medallions. Jewelry. Lots.

Wandered through the gift shop on the way into the refectory. Good food. Fish, rice, vegetables and a wonderful cherry pie.

The first segment of the workshop is over. It’s called Life Context. The Progoff process plows up the unconscious, kicks up into consciousness both bits from your own unconscious and from what Progoff calls the underground stream. Progoff studied under Jung and the Jungian collective unconscious seems to have influenced him in a profound way.

Another exercise, I mentioned steppingstones yesterday, is inner wisdom dialogue. Progoff wondered, after his time in the army during WWII and the holocaust, what would happen if all the sacred texts disappeared. We would, he decided, write others. After all, we wrote the first ones and that knowledge has to be out there still. Or, better, in here.

Each intensive journal, Progoff believed, is a sacred scripture, a bible of the writer’s own creation. Why? Because it draws on the same source as the Koran, the Torah, the New Testament, the Tao Te Ching, the Diamond Sutra-the underground stream. This is a radical claim, but comports well with, say, Buber, the mystics, Emerson.

The inner wisdom dialogue predicates the underground stream. Each of us made our own list of as many wisdom figures as we could. These wisdom figures can be living or dead, mythological or literary, organic or inorganic. Among mine were Lao Tse, Emerson, Herman Hesse, Shadow Mountain, and the tree I used to visit at the Boot Lake Scientific and Natural Area. It abutted the Carlos Avery Wildlife Reserve in Anoka County.

After entering into a twilight state, a way of getting below the intellect to tap into the unconscious and the underground stream, I wrote my dialogue. I spoke with my tree. It’s a back and forth, leading wherever it goes. The pen follows the deeper you, not the rational mind. At least if the exercise is working well. Mine did.

That tree, with a curved, forked trunk, got passed by when the lumberjacks came because it was not straight enough for lumber; a tall white pine, it grows on an earthen island between two marshy areas. Boot Lake is largely marsh. I scattered Tully’s ashes, some of them, there. I snowshoed to this tree in the winter, walked to in the spring, summer, and fall. I often sat with my back up against its trunk, nestled between two thick roots.

It spoke to me of rootedness, of choosing your place, of reaching deep for what you need, of climbing high for the energy from above. I asked my tree about cancer and it answered. Trust your arborist. Follow through on your treatments. The tree knew of its kindred who have died due to the pine bark beetle. We know illness and death, the tree said.

We also did dialogues with persons important to us, our body, and our creative work.

Today we start the Depth Dimension segment.

 

33 foot Jesus

Beltane                                                                            Cancer Moon

progoffMeet up in cyberspace. My old friends Paul, Mark, Tom, and Bill zoomed into the bits and bytes yesterday from the land of first light to my spot among the purple mountain majesties. We spoke of those things that matter now. Mark is done with his second book. Bill’s going to Tanzania next year as his long term project, U-Face Me, takes off. Paul’s about to join the joint replacement club with a new hip. Tom’s adjusting to life as an eminence grisé.

Woke up yesterday realizing I’d not prepared any food for Kate. After breakfast I made her a pound of sloppy joed hamburger and a couple of quarts of vermicelli soup, a favorite of hers from our Monastery Soups cookbook. Got ready to go to Progoff.

At noon I headed down the hill toward Evergreen, hopped on I-70 for a short run to the Genesee Exit. U.S. 40, the old cross country national highway which I-70 more or less parallels has a short run between that exit and Golden. Gonna stop this afternoon at the buffalo overlook, just off that same exit. An article in the Denver Post says there are buffalo calves. Makes sense. It’s spring/summer.

Progoff cabrini

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue at the Shrine

Down old 40 toward Denver you can access Lookout Mountain, Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave, museum plus giftshop, and the world famous, to Catholics, shrine of Mother Cabrini. The most prominent feature at the shrine is a 33 foot high statue of Jesus, set at the shrine’s highest point. When I left last night at 9, Denver’s lights twinkled below me and Cabrini Jesus stood lit up and proud above.

If you’ve ever been on a retreat at a Catholic retreat center, you’ve been to the Cabrini set up. Hallways with one bedroom rooms on either side, large kitchens, kitschy paintings, and furniture bought with comfort not fashion in mind. A chapel. And, since this is the Rocky Mountains, vacationland U.S.A., a big gift shop.

When I arrived yesterday, the large parking lot was about three quarters full and most of the visitors I saw were Latino. The retreat center cum chapel cum giftshop is at the end of a switchback road that climbs several hundred feet up a rounded peak, one of the first of the foothills. It overlooks Golden, then Denver, to the east and the continental divide to the west.

Joann Hackett, the workshop leader, flew in Saturday from Hawai’i. Quite a shift from humid, warm Hawai’i to the dry, 60 degrees Rocky Mountain foothills. She was the workshop leader in Tucson, my last Progoff workshop. She began this work when she went to a Journal workshop lead by Ira Progoff. She got to know him very well, found his intensive journal idea compelling.

progoff2There are seven of us, a small group by workshop standards. Two folks from Denver, one from Berthoud, another from Boulder, one from Ft. Collins, and one man from Santa Fe. One other commuter. This first segment, all the segments are two days in length, begins with identifying the current period of your life. Mine had an obvious starting point, the move to Colorado. You spend time fleshing out what makes this the current period of your life, then move on to an exercise called steppingstones. Steppingstones, in the Progoff work you get 12, are key moments in your life that led you to this period of your life.

As I wrote them this time, mine were roughly, polio, mom’s death, participating in the 60’s, adopting Joseph, marrying Kate and leaving the ministry to write, becoming a docent at the MIA, working on the Great Work, the move to Colorado, cancer, Jon’s divorce and Kate’s illnesses, cancer’s reemergence. The steppingstones, I’ve discovered, change according to the perspective you bring to the exercise, a perspective shaped by what you’ve defined as the current period. Over the course of the workshop you expand on each of these, writing about them, following the memories and the feelings they evoke.

Gotta get ready for today’s session. Talk to you later.

 

 

 

Spinning out

Beltane                                                                     Rushing Waters Moon

High Holidays at CBE, before the bleed

High Holidays at CBE, before the bleed

22 degrees. A thin layer of snow on the solar panels, Black Mountain’s lodgepoles topped in a floury white and the sky that Colorado western blue. Bright sun. Why we love the mountains.

Still spinning out, not working much, floating in caregiver world, distracted. It’s ok. I’m waiting intentionally now, Progoff workshop starts Sunday and I’ll go deep into this current version of me, self-guided, self-analysis, Jungian style. The week after it finishes I have my pet scan, then the meeting with the oncologist. Into the unknown, first my psyche, then my body. All in two weeks.

The Progoff method is a pet scan for the psyche, letting me see the things within that have been hidden by busyness, anxiety, stress, competing demands, looking away. Once I’ve seen them, like the pet scan’s images of my cancer, I can diagnose my situation and make a plan. That’s diagnose in its etymological sense: from Greek diagnōsis, from diagignōskein to distinguish, from dia- + gignōskein to know. Merriam-Webster

My suspicion is that I’ve entered a different moment in my life, one that began with two dramatic changes, the first being the move to Colorado. It took about a year to process. All the financial squirming of two houses, moving and pitching stuff, lots of stuff, removing ourselves from Minnesota and moving onto Shadow Mountain. The second change. Prostate cancer. In which I went from a normally healthy aging man to a cancer patient. The sudden push back into the space of a cancer patient, after thinking I’d put it in the past, been cured, has jarred me in ways I’ve barely begun to realize.

20180909_183444

September 9th, easing the SMA induced nausea and cramping

Kate’s slowly, but now surely, rebounding from her long ordeal. She’s able to take on the dog’s second feeding, a modest, but real return to pre-bleed life. Our visit to Dr. Gidday, a post the most recent hospitalization appointment, gave her situation much more clarity. Dr. Gidday agreed that if her hemoglobin numbers don’t stay up, she has labs drawn weekly for the tpn feedings, then she’ll go to iron infusions. That will resolve, or at least attenuate, her anemia. Continued weight gain will happen through the j-tube placement. (remember the j-tube?).

The final piece of the puzzle, her lung disease, awaits either a lung biopsy, which she does not want, or a close reading of the high-resolution CT scan she had on April 2nd. With a diagnosis and the resulting treatment for the interstitial lung disease all the presenting problems of the past year plus should be addressed. A long, long time coming. Just how far back toward her old life she can expect to come is unknown, but if she can get back to sewing, driving, going to CBE and to Bailey Patchworkers and the Needleworkers group I’ll count her better.

Then, maybe I can get back to more abstruse obfuscations here rather than this medico-journalese I’ve had to adopt over the past several months. The tincture of time, as Kate would say.

At a Journal Workshop

Beltane                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

My Intensive Journal from 2014

My Intensive Journal from 2014

This Sunday I start my fourth Intensive Journal Workshop. It runs each day through Friday, the 10th. The whole rising psa, get in the oncological spirit matter has come up since I decided to attend. Makes the whole process even more important. What’s life like for me post the move to Colorado? What’s the next few years’ focus?

No question that health matters have had pride of place almost from the time we got here. My prostate cancer diagnosis came in April and May of 2015, only months after we moved into our house. Kate’s multiple issues, Sjogren’s, the bleed, food aversion and weight loss, anemia, and lung disease have dominated for almost 18 months. We both had joint replacements, my knee, her shoulder.

20190501_090802Having said that, they don’t compare to the importance of having been here for Jon and the kids during that messy divorce and its aftermath. Which continues. Nor do they compare in importance to finding Congregation Beth Evergreen. Or, the constant wonder and awe of living in the Rocky Mountains. Or, the creation of a new family with Joe and SeoAh’s marriage.

How have all these things changed me? What do they suggest for things that need emphasis, and things that need to go in the compost heap of my life? An introvert’s delight, the journal workshop. It’s my birthday present, maybe the best one ever. Thanks, Kate.

At the Jabbok Ford

Spring                                                                      Rushing Waters Moon

jacobPhone call today from buddy Tom Crane. In referring to the current kerfuffle within my body, those cancer cells, he said I was “wrestling with a dark angel.” That is so.

Yet what it called to mind was one of my favorite biblical passages, one I’ve written about here before and about which there are many wonderful works of art. Jacob at the Jabbok Ford.

Through the night Jacob wrestles with what the text refers to at first as a man. When the man, now revealed as an angel, sees he cannot best Jacob, he says, “Let me go, for dawn is breaking.” Jacob, strong enough to hold an angel fast through an entire night, is not willing to do that. “I will not let you go unless you have blessed me.” It is at this point that the angel, who had to dislocate Jacob’s hip to keep from losing the match, agrees: “Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, because you have commanding power with [an angel of] God and with men, and you have prevailed.” Jacob (now Israel) continues to limp the rest of his life. He names the spot Peniel, (I) saw the face of God.

Wrestling with angels is a tricky business. Just ask the Egyptians. That one, the angel of death, sometimes called Azrael, passed over the lamb blood smeared doors of the Hebrew slaves and killed the firstborn of Egypt. What would have happened to Jacob if he’d been beaten by the angel? No blessing, I’m sure.

Wrestling with Azrael, cancer forces this struggle on the psyche in the same way Jacob’s angel blocked his passage across the ford, could be represented as happening at a ford of the river Styx. Lose a match to Azrael and, to mix mythological systems a bit, you can catch a ride with Charon.

As with Jacob’s angel, no contest with Azrael will result in victory, Azrael wins all struggles in the end. But in the interim, as with Jacob’s life after the Jabbok Ford, we can go away changed in heart, identity, and fate.

ruin_stairs_leave_destroyed_broken_dirty_building_factory-921666.jpg!dRecalled as I wrote this that I had a dream:

“I was in a non-descript house or building, bare of furniture. Someone, or something, was in the basement. I could hear gun shots. I hunted for entrances to the basement and found two, one a door and one a grate.

Down there were steel pillars covered in concrete.  Whoever or whatever down there wanted to bring the building down. The blue painted concrete had shattered on many of the pillars exposing steel beams. They still stood strong.

Somebody handed me a rifle. I readied myself, though frightened, to go down and save the building.”

Surely this is Azrael. I woke up before the contest could begin, so I’m going to imagine the rest.

I went down the stairs, grateful for the rifle, thankful for whoever handed it to me. But, could I use it? I’m not a man of peace exactly, but I’m not a man of violence either. Still, desperate times. The basement had a little light, enough to make shadows. Gunfire echoed more loudly as I got to the bottom. Whoever it was, was serious.

The gunfire stopped. “You shouldn’t be down here.” A voice cold and firm. From the depth of the shadows. “Leave now and I won’t destroy you. Not right now.”

OK, I thought, back up the stairs. This is too scary. However, I didn’t move. I lifted my rifle and aimed it toward the voice. When I pulled the trigger, it clicked. A rifle with no ammunition. Well, that settles it. Back up the stairs. Nope. Stayed. Scared, but unwilling to give up.

The gunfire did not resume. The air had faint patterns of blue dust from the pillars that had been shot up. The silence was complete. No voice. No evidence of another.

Fates

Fates

My feet began to move before my mind caught up. Whoa, I thought, feet where are you going? I knew, though. Straight toward the depth of the shadows. I heard what I imagined was a rifle clatter to the ground. Hmm. Even up, I guess.

“Come no further unless you want to meet your end.” Cold, firm. Closer.

My mind said, back up the stairs. My feet kept moving until I lost sight of them in the darkness of the deep shadow. Heart racing, adrenaline swimming through my bloodstream, setting me on fire. We closed.

How long we struggled, I no longer remember. He was strong. Much to my surprise, so was I. We went back and forth, pushing, straining legs and arms, trying to gain an advantage. This was all in the darkness of the shadow. I could not see him and I assumed he could not see me.

Oh. Wait. Not a he. At one point, arms locked together, we touched at the chest. Breasts. A woman! Didn’t change my situation. She was still there to bring down the foundations of my life.

This went on. And on. I grew weary. So did she. Panting, both of us. Our moves more feeble. She touched my left shoulder and my left hip. Pain. Agonizing pain. Giving up not possible, I hung on, endured the pain, chose it.

Isle of the Dead, Arnold Bocklin

Isle of the Dead, Arnold Bocklin

“We must end this,” she said.

“Not until you stop. I need those pillars, I can’t let you wreck them.”

“If not tonight, later. You know that.”

“Of course. Yes. I know. And when it’s time I will not fight you, but come willingly.”

She dropped her hold on me. My shoulder and my hip blazed. The adrenaline was gone. I felt weak. “You must bless me and I will leave.”

Later, back up stairs, the door to the basement closed and locked, I sat at a small wooden table, drinking coffee. I had a new name. Just like Jacob.

A Difference Maker for My Heart

Spring                                                                              Rushing Waters Moon

20190420_173752Back to mussar yesterday. First time in quite a while. It was a gift, as was the minyan for Debra Copes’ mother’s memorial the night before.

Odd though, in both instances. I find myself an insider and an outsider. There is no question that Beth Evergreen accepts both Kate and me. I’m of the community, not a Gentile pagan interloper. Yet when the prayers are said and the knee bending and bowing begins, I feel like an outsider. I don’t know the words, nor do I fully understand why we’re bending and bowing. I try to follow the person next to me, but I feel awkward and a bit inauthentic. Also, I don’t wear the kippah during services. Again, it doesn’t seem authentic for me since I’m not of the tribe.

When Alan Rubin and I went to lunch on Wednesday, for example, I ordered a reuben, a pannini. When Alan ordered a salad, I said, “Oh, on your diet, eh?” “Well, yes, but also we can’t eat bread during Passover.” Oh? Oops. Passover, it turns out, is 8 days and eating leavened anything during this time is out. Yet they trust me enough to teach in the religious school.

high holy daysBeing away for a while makes me more aware of these moments. Yet Debra wanted me at her mother’s minyan. She did a universal worship service which consists of lighting candles for Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and a general candle for other witnesses to the divine. Rabbi Jamie said, at a meeting a couple of weeks ago, “This ex-Presbyterian understands Reconstruction better than anybody else around this table.” Around the table were key leaders of the synagogue.

Yesterday I offered what was for me a mussar interpretation of a table of virtues set out by Renee Brown, a favorite author of many in the congregation. Yes, to generosity. But, also, yes to retaining sufficient resources for yourself and your family. Yes, to freedom, but also yes to submission, to recognizing those times when serving others is more important. Yes, to accountability, but also yes to breaking the rules, to recognizing that not all instances of being held to account (even by ourselves) are equal or worthy.

20180316_191858The Jewish approach to death, too. Sitting shiva with someone after a death. Having those in mourning stand and be acknowledged during the mourner’s kaddish at every worship service. Celebrating each year the yahrzeit, the year anniversary of a loved ones death. Calling together a minyan as Debra did for honoring her mother. Those who knew it, repeated the mourner’s kaddish from memory. A vital and key part of maintaining community, acknowledging that the dead live on, not gone, just absent.

When I told Alan about my new reality with the axumin scan and oncologists, he said, “You know you’ve got the whole congregation behind you?” He meant it. Wow. Makes me feel like crying. Because I’ve always chosen an outsiders role, I’ve rarely known complete acceptance in a group; but, I feel it at CBE like I felt it in the Woollies. Profound. A difference maker for my heart.

 

 

 

No Cheffing Required

Spring                                                                         Rushing Waters Moon

Two favorite tools

Two favorite tools

Kate and I discussed ways to relieve my stress. One source of stress for me was the evening meal. Part of me, a very strong part, wants to be a chef every night. Something new, something remarkable. Understand the ingredients, bring out their best, try new techniques. Problem. That requires a lot of forethought. Buy the right ingredients. Have them to hand. Try to replicate things I barely understand. And, it results in duds. Failures. Sometimes. Unnecessary stress.

Kate’s solution? She’ll make a menu plan for a week and I’ll cook it. Oh. I can do that. That relieves me of the need to create and in this instance I’m happy to let it go. Last night I followed her suggestion: spaghetti and sauce, spinach. Straightforward. Tasty. And, no cheffing required. Doesn’t seem like it would be much, but I felt so much better when I saw that menu plan.

No word yet on the Progoff workshop. When I registered, there were only 4 of us and they require 7. Hope it happens. I need the clarity about this time that these workshops always give me. The Colorado years have been wonderful, filled with family as we wanted, saturated with mountains and wild life and blue sky, anchored by new friends and community at CBE. The Colorado years have been awful. Cancer. Sjogren’s. Knee and shoulder replacements. (which have helped us both) Kate’s bleed and the sequelae. Interstitial lung disease. Trips to the E.R. Hospital stays. Vega’s death.

alvarez-adventure-caving-spelunking-1So much here. The grit of my life over the past three and a half years. How has all this changed me? What direction does it suggest? How might I live into it with greater joy, greater passion, greater serenity? I also need a break from the every day. Not just because it’s been stressful as I said below, but because it’s been a long time between breaks. Tom and Mark’s visit was a nice respite, but too short.

The Progoff workshop is five days, morning and afternoon in a retreat center. I’ll be a commuter because of the dogs and Kate’s tpn, plus it’s cheaper. If it doesn’t happen, I’ll have to figure out some other way to get perspective and get a break.

Death, and given the date, Taxes

Spring                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

This time the snow storm underperformed. Maybe 3 inches. Good news, really, since it means Colorado Pulmonary Intensivists won’t close and we’ll finally get to have a delayed visit there, pick up Kate’s ct reading and discuss her j-tube surgery.

fearGot my own thing going on, too. Second PSA showed a slight uptick from a month ago, from .12 to .13. As Kate said, probably in the lab’s margin of error. Still, it is cancer we’re talking about here. Any increase over .1 sends some sort of signal, just how serious a one I don’t know. Going in to see the urologist as soon as I can get an appointment.

Not the best judge of my anxiety about this. When I sent the note to Dr. Eigner, the surgeon who removed my prostate, I said my psa had gone up to 1.2. That’s a huge difference from .12. I misplaced the decimal point. Not at my calm best on that e-mail.

As I hear myself thinking, my self talk is like this. I need more information. I don’t know enough to  know whether this is bad or just something we’ll need to watch. Or, both. But wait. It’s cancer. You know, CANCER. I don’t want to have a sell-by date given to me, or worse an expiration date. This body no good after 13 years. Oh, come on. We all die. And, you’ve even referred to your eventual cause of death as your friend.

Yamantaka

Yamantaka

Death is not an enemy. It’s an inevitability. Yes, it takes my breath away when my inner conversation veers towards my absence, my annihilation. Sometimes. Other times, I take it in, embrace it. I take from the Tibetan Buddhists that being calm at the moment of your death is a spiritual goal. It is for me and that also means being calm about death since it always approaches, is never further away than your next breath.

We begin and we end. This much we know with certainty. If life, that time between a sleep and a sleep as the Mexica say, is filled with apprehension about the end, then this brief mayfly moment will be wasted. That’s why Yamantaka encourages us to consider our death in as realistic as a fashion as we can. See our dead body. Imagine it in a coffin. Feel the last breath leaving your body. Imagine the world without you.

Not sure about the notion of an afterlife. Reincarnation? The Buddhists think so. Heaven or hell? Very unlikely since I know the literary sources for both of them. Absorption back into the 10,000 things? Makes the most sense, but sense is an artifact of this life and in particular an artifact of human reason. All the data we have comes from our singular experience in this body, in this lifetime. We have no prebirth memories (I find past-life regressions difficult to believe. Which does not mean untrue.). We have no post-death returns save for those who have experienced death and been revived in some way. Even those experiences are brief and inevitably the product of a difficult moment.

death Osiris-nepraWhat about Jesus? There again, I know the literary sources. The earliest gospel, Mark, probably did not include a resurrection narrative. The dying and rising god is a motif of certain Middle Eastern belief systems, the story of Osiris for example.

Would we all like to have a definitive report back from beyond the pale? Not sure. What if it contradicts our hopes, our beliefs?

Here’s the nub of it. I know and love life. But it is, I admit, all I know for certain, except that it also ends. I’m not eager to trade a known good for an unknown. Most aren’t, I suppose. When a mortality signal like a possible return (or more like a reemergence) of cancer comes, part of me responds with fear, with anxiety. Another part of me responds with acceptance of my death.Which is, in any case, not  yet.

Charon and Psyche, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope. 1883

Charon and Psyche, John Roddam Spencer Stanhope. 1883

The older I get I realize carrying contradictory states is the norm, at least for me. It’s like pneumonia. I learned this February that you can have both viral and bacterial pneumonia, in fact, you can have different strains of both. At the same time. We’re more complex, less simple than our reductive thinking processes can usually entertain.

One thing I find odd is being given thirteen years to live (a possible prognosis if this is a reemergence), makes me more anxious than not having such a number. Which is silly from a rational perspective. All that’s being taken away, all he said, is the fantasy of immortality. Without such a prognosis I could continue to live, well, ongoingly. Which of course we know not to be true. Anyhow at 72 I’m already two years into the bonus range beyond three score and ten.

Consistency, Emerson said, is the hobgoblin of small minds. On the matter of death and cancer I’m not a small mind.

A Beloved Community

Spring                                                                              Rushing Waters Moon

Maxwell Creek is full and running. Another bomb cyclone is on its way to the plains and the Front Range, blizzard warnings are up for lower elevations. We’re in a 6-10 inch forecast area. Right now the clouds are below 8,000 feet, meaning Black Mountain is behind a thick fog as I write this. Temperatures will drop fast. Yes, a mountain spring.

Buddy Tom Crane is on his way home to Minnesota after a week plus on Maui. The same storm will welcome him and Roxann with weather similar to what we’ve got coming. Uff dah.

Tara and Marilyn, CBE

Tara and Marilyn, CBE

An interesting evening at Beth Evergreen. Dan, next president of the board, invited Kate and me to come to a session with each of the two candidates for synagogue executive director. We couldn’t go last Thursday since that was Ruth’s 13th, but I made it for this one. Kate stayed home. She’s saving herself. For Friday night’s Grateful Dead sabbath that honors the outgoing exec, Leah, whom we both really liked.

There were about 20 of us. Some had been members since 1979 when CBE was just a twinkle in a havurah’s eyes. Havurah is Hebrew for fellowship and CBE started as a small group of Jews, mountain Jews living in and around Evergreen. Some of us were more recent members. Kate, myself, and Sheri joined in 2016 or so. The rest, including my buddy Alan, had been members for varying lengths of time, though most joined in the 1990’s.

The idea was for us to meet the candidate, this woman is from Bethesda, Maryland, hear her talk about herself a bit, then introduce ourselves and say what CBE means to us. Here’s what was interesting. With no irony or sarcasm at all folks around the table referred to CBE as family, as place where people felt comfortable, where we loved each other. All adults, all older with a couple of exceptions. It was a powerful evening for that reason. I’m not used to adults sitting around describing their love for folks that are not blood relatives, but that’s what happened.

Chicken Soup cookoff, my entry #7

Chicken Soup cookoff, my entry #7

When it came my turn, I referred to CBE as the beloved community that all Christian churches aspire to. A brief article on caregivers in the Denver Post had pointed to some of the problems they experience. I’ve not experienced any of them except stress. The reason, I said last night, is that we were called and offered help constantly. Kate and I have backup and we know it. We’re relatively new members, yet we’re treated like we’ve been around a long time. That’s a characteristic, a cultural norm, of CBE, and it’s rare.

All this is an important reason for us to stay where we are in spite of oxygen related issues. We can get more oxygen up here, but finding another beloved community elsewhere? Unlikely. Today, for example, I have lunch with Alan. Easy from here.

Kate and Seoahs mother, April 10, 2016

Kate and Seoah’s mother, April 10, 2016

Tomorrow Kate has a pulmonology appointment. Unless they close again for the snow. This appointment is with a nurse practitioner since Dr. Gupta is away. Probably on Maui eating next to Tom and Roxann at Mama’s Fish House. Kate wants to get the radiologists reading of the high resolution c.t. she had last week. We’re also looking for an assessment of her fitness for surgery. The J-tube. Don’t know whether a nurse practitioner can give one or not.

Today is Joe and SeoAh’s 3rd anniversary. This picture is one of my favorites of the wedding. A Norwegian in Korea.

Their marriage has been a blessing for Kate and me. SeoAh has helped out in the last 6 months, coming twice, once for a bit more than month in December/January. As a dad, I’m glad Joe has a partner. As a father-in-law, I’m glad he chose SeoAh. She’s a sweetheart.