We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Absence makes the heart grow wiser

Spring                                                                            Mountain Moon

Black Mountain white

Black Mountain white

Yes, it arrived. The bad Samsung got hauled away ignominiously with nary a tear of loss or grief. The new Kitchenaid now glares from its Cylon lens, hunting for dirty dishes, pots and pans that need a wash. This morning I walked past it and a single word glowed on the small screen visible from the front: CLEAN. Oh, joy. Oh, bring on the robotic revolution.

interstellar mediumBuddy Bill Schmidt shared a paper sent to him by a friend from JPL, Jet Propulsion Laboratories. It’s title is: Science and Enabling Technologies for Exploration of the Interstellar Medium. Exploring among the stars. I mean, wow. Still an avid reader of science fiction, I thanked Bill and noted in my reply that we live in a time when science fiction and science fact often intersect. One of the delightful realities of living through this particular era.

Since we have a deep freezer drawer filled with ground beef from our quarter we bought last fall, I picked up an important cookbook, The Essentials of Cooking Ground Beef. In it, to both Kate and mine’s delight, is a recipe for the famous Matt’s jucy lucy’s. This recipe is for sliders and last night I divided a pound of hamburger into eight parts, balled them up, dented the ball with my thumb and stuck white cheddar inside. Hmmm. Tasty. Served with frozen Arby’s curly fries, dill pickle slices and haricourt vert. OK, that last dish didn’t really fit, but I always like to have a vegetable and it was available.

jucy-lucy-burger-042

As the photo at the top shows, we did get another round of snow yesterday. Maybe four inches. All of it welcome. Precipitation, especially now, aids to some extent in fire protection and recharges the ground water. When your daily water comes from the ground water, having moisture to replace what’s been used is important. Water is safety as well as life here. Without it we become vulnerable to lightning strikes, visiting campers and the odd animal trying to navigate high voltage power lines.

ch'an

Kabbalah tonight. More about time. Qabbalah is another way to explore the interstellar medium, a matrix of space/time with its deep roots in what I’ve learned the mountain and rivers poets of ancient China called absence. Absence is at the heart of Ch’an Buddhism, that peculiar blend of Taoism and Buddhism that emigrated to Japan to become Zen. Absence is the place of the Tao, the generative force that gives rise to the ten thousand things in all their uniqueness and detail. Learning to penetrate the gauze of sensation and feel your way into the absence behind it leads to enlightenment. In fact, both Ch’an and its child, Zen, believe in instant enlightenment; once you learn this truth in your core, you know what needs knowing. Absence makes the heart grow wiser.

Oh. I did get my cleaning, reorganizing finished. Spiffed up and ready for a return to both writing and sumi-e.

Life Extenders

Spring                                                                  New Shoulder Moon

bunnyus“I’m a doer.” Kate said this yesterday. Yes, she is. So much so that we often referred to her as the energizer bunny. Jon’s divorce, Sjogren’s and arthritis has made doing difficult, often downright painful. The combination put her in a tough place psychologically; but, it feels now, for the first time in a year plus, that she’s going to push through it. As Winston Churchill said, “If you’re going through Hell, keep on going.”

shoulder reversalWe had her first post-op appointment yesterday and got to see an x-ray of the new appliance. This isn’t hers, but it’s an accurate representation of what we saw.  As this image shows, the ball of the shoulder is now where the socket used to be and the socket where the ball used to be. This reverse total shoulder uses different muscles to power the arm, the deltoid in the main. It also reduces pain more for certain patients though I’m not sure why.

Seeing the screws, poking out from the ball, seemed strange to me, but it underscores orthopedics as the carpentry of medicine. Sawbones. The multiple uses of the inclined plane. Thanks, Archimedes.

These surgeries, joint replacement, aren’t perfect, but they’re way better than doing nothing. My knee, for example, is not the knee I had when I was 40, but it is pain free and I can work out without contorting myself. I can’t stand for long periods of time, but I can stand without pain. Kate has two artificial hips and now an artificial shoulder. Pain reduction is a primary benefit of all these procedures and it’s usually pain that leads to them in the first place.

peasantsWe often talk about folks for whom physical labor is key to their job: trades people, movers, utility workers, lumberjacks, mechanics, farmers, even physicians. Prior to joint replacement as an option, they had to suffer through the pain or stop working. Imagine what it was like on the frontier to have debilitating hip pain, a shoulder that would no longer move above a right angle, a knee that buckled under pressure. Or, in the middle ages, for peasants. Soldiers. Domestic servants.

bionicsIt’s likely, for example, that Kate’s years of lifting babies and young children led directly to the arthritis that ruined her right shoulder. That’s the Schneider hypothesis since the sort of dysfunction her shoulder displayed is most common in women.

These are life extending surgeries, making it possible to live, rather than exist. I imagine that soon bionics will be more generally available and will complement this sort of procedure, perhaps making up for atrophied muscles which are a common sequelae of joint problems. All this is part of the glass half full view of the future.

 

 

“Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.” Einstein

Imbolc                                                                  New Life Moon

“Our task must be to free ourselves by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature and its beauty.” Einstein

albert_einstein_quote

 

Happy Pi day! And, happy birthday, birthday boy Albert Einstein! Instead of grieving the loss of Stephen Hawking, I’m going with celebrating his life and his thought, his determination, grit.

So, permanently joined now: Pi day, Einstein, Hawking. Who says the universe isn’t poetic? “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” This Einstein quote could be the headline for Pi day from now on.

Physics. I admit certain ideas in high school physics still elude me. Latent heat, for example. Never did get that. There are trajectories I could imagine, ways my life would have been different, not better, necessarily, just different. One of them would have had me follow mathematics and physics in college. I enjoyed both of them, had plenty of aptitude for mathematics especially, but I set them aside after high school, heading into religion and philosophy and politics.

hawkingHappy with that direction since it’s borne fruit for me all along the path of my life, kept my bicycle moving. Still does. Though. The sort of attention to detail demanded of scientists and mathematicians would have been a good thing to cultivate, too. Peering behind the curtain of the sensible world, a feat much like translation from one language to another, appeals to me, too. I’ve tried to keep up with science, in a not very organized way.

Pi day is a good reminder, a scientific holiday.

Archimedes_by_Giuseppe_Nogari

Archimedes_by_Giuseppe_Nogari

Maybe I’ll pull that Great Courses dvd off the shelf and finally explore calculus. Never have done it. Ruth loves math. She indicated some interest. Kate, Jon and Joseph all have calculus. “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

Today the tao pokes out from behind the faces of Einstein and Hawking, illuminates the mysterious number of pi, transcendental, irrational and downright useful in spite of all that.

Water, water somewhere

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

snowpack 2.19.18Wow. Weather station says the humidity outside is 66%. Inside 2%. Aridity is the norm, humidity a rare phenomenon here. Like most rarities it’s welcome. Most welcome.

4 or 5 inches of snow yesterday. Every flake helps in this dry year. Old timers here are not worried yet because March and April are the big snow months. If the patterns change, we’ve had a big ridge over us for most of the winter pushing cold and snow to the east, north of us, we may recover. In this case recovery means two things, a wetter forest heading into fire season and a snowpack closer to average.

In the land of 10,000 lakes water was abundant and loved, not so much for its quality as water, but for its pleasing manifestation in the landscape. Cabins on the lake. Walleye fishing. Lakes in the cities. The Mississippi rising in Itasca and flowing down toward New Orleans, passing through Minneapolis and St. Paul on its way there. The majesty and wonder of the great lake, Superior.

Here though water is water, aqua vita. Its necessity for human life, for livestock, for healthy more fire-resistant forests is never far from the minds of folks in the West. As I read recently in 365 Tao, the earth breathes out, clouds form and water moves from place to place. This fundamental physiology of our planetary eco-system is, oddly, more apparent in its absence than in its over abundance. The humid east and the arid west.

Since we got just less than 6 inches, it means I blow the driveway. Ted plows six inches and above. Gonna wait another hour or so though since it’s only 6 degrees and I’m more cold sensitive now, both as a Coloradan and a septuagenarian.

Flash ride for a flash ride

Imbolc                                                                                  Imbolc Moon

Whimsy. Dreams. Finally, a flying car.

First, a before the launch video, then, live streaming of Starman.

And, then. Buck Rogers!

 

In the Veldt

Imbolc                                                                      Imbolc Moon

bush, South Africa

bush, South Africa

Brief continuation of the post below. Thinking about destinations and journeys some more. A thought triggered by a BF Skinner example of creativity, “A chicken is an egg’s way of making more eggs.” Perhaps destinations are our way of creating journeys. Perhaps destinations exist to insure that we travel, get out of our comfort zones and investigate ourselves on the road.

I don’t know whether it’s still au courant in physical anthropology but there was a theory that travel in the African bush was responsible for our increase in brain size as a species. When we crossed large open spaces while hunting and gathering, we were vulnerable, a predatory species without the usual predatory equipment of fangs, claws, rippling muscles.

The theory was that to stay alive we had to be very good at noticing movement, noticing danger and that that increased work for the brain. The humans or pre-humans who were best at that task survived and presumably selected for large brains. As a result, some have speculated that our brain works best when we’re in motion.

Just thinking out loud here.

Splitters and lumpers

Imbolc                                                                           Imbolc Moon

splitters2Last night at Beth Evergreen three presenters, a University of Colorado Regent, a newly hired diversity specialist for Jeffco schools and an Evergreen woman, formerly a philanthropist and LGBT activist, now working in corporate social responsibility spoke about labeling and identity. It was, in some ways, disappointing.

Though the focus was on labeling, someone or something else (like census forms, school boards, the dominant culture) describes you, and identity, you describe yourself, the topic veered rapidly into a mode of doublespeak. It’s difficult to describe, but identity politics has become a minefield of careful positioning, trying not to cause offense, and further and further journeys into talking but not changing. Each person in the room last night, presenters and audience included, brought authentic concern and a willingness to be part of a solution. But, to what?

I kept thinking of the hoary argument in plant classification between lumpers and splitters. The same analytical dynamic plays out in many fields. Lumpers look for commonalities, seek to reduce the number of categories in any particular area of study while splitters look for differences, for nuanced distinctions that allow uniqueness to flourish. Neither approach is right or wrong, it’s almost a psychological tendency, I think, rather than a reasoned stance.

splitters3In identity description the nod now goes to splitters. As one presenter last night said, “I see gender like the stars in the sky, some may be brighter, more prominent, but there are many stars in the sky.” That’s breathtakingly broad.

A key word that emerged last night was fluidity. It basically means that the ground shifts frequently in this conversation, not least because people claiming their own identity often make different distinctions as they learn more about themselves and their community. There are, too, regional differences and age cohort differences. It’s a splitters’ paradise.

Here’s why it was disappointing to me. It felt like conversations from the mid to late sixties, though those were blunter in their focus. They were, at least at first, focused on civil rights for African-Americans, or Blacks, or Black-Americans. The power moves involved in labeling versus identifying were in bold relief. We’re not niggers or coloreds or darkies. We’re Americans with a particular historical background.

Remember Black is beautiful? Afros. Kente cloth. Angela Davis. Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. Last night was the contemporary version: male, female, bisexual, pansexual, transsexual, intersexual, asexual. Gay. Lesbian. It all felt depressingly familiar, as if we’d moved in time away from the sixties, but not in content.

beltane2017gorbachevThat’s not to say that “racial” distinctions were absent from the conversation. Not at all. Unfortunately. The strange, weird thing about this is that race is a nonsense category, not supported by genetics at all. So creating a splitters nomenclature for various “races” reinforces a non-existent and damaging conceptual paradigm. Of course, the culture, in diverse ways, uses race as a placeholder for attaching secondary characteristics to others. Of course it does. But how do we move away from that convenient slotting, or lumping of people based on skin color? Does it happen by emphasizing color? It cannot. Does it happen by ignoring the racist who does? No.

And that was the problem I had with evening. There seems to have no movement forward in the land of identity politics, only movement crabwise.

I did not ask my question, because it occurred to me on the way home, naturally. “Has identity politics by the left contributed to, even caused, the rise of populism now roiling our nation?” That is, have we, in slicing and dicing the particulars of personal difference blinded ourselves to the plight of working class Americans? It seems so to me.

A movement against oligarchy, plutocracy and autarchy must be first made of lumpers. These lumpers must find, express and celebrate the commonalities among those who suffer as a result of concentrated wealth, purchased power, dynastic ambition. Right now we have given away our power with a navel-gazing splitter mentality. Of course, we must be able to define and describe ourselves. Yes. But we must not only reach for the unique and particular, but for the broader and more universal. No political change can come without joining hands, so the more difficult, the more necessary task in the Trump era belongs not to the splitters but to the lumpers.

 

 

 

A Blue Blood Moon

Winter                                                                   Imbolc Moon

The Imbolc Moon put on a show this morning. I got up just as the first finger of black touched it. Kate and I sat on the loft’s balcony and watched as the finger pushed its way across the moon’s surface. Hints of red began to show up at the moon’s edge as the penumbra of the earth covered more and more. The moon was to the north of Black Mountain, putting it directly in the sight line from the balcony. As it moved north, however, the nearest lodgepole pine got in the way. After the full eclipse, it sank below the treed horizon and out of our sight, so we did not the see the super part of the blue blood moon.

This is the second eclipse, the other being the solar eclipse last August, that Kate and I have been able to observe from a balcony, sitting in comfortable chairs. Astronomy does not often provide such creature comforts and I was grateful in both instances.

The clouds have been amazing this past week. Last night I took the darker photograph of a Ponderosa pine at Beth Evergreen and the soon to super and bloody blue moon.

20180130_18233420180130_06564420180129_174932

 

Triple Lunacy

Winter                                                                               Imbolc Moon

Time lapse of October 8, 2014 lunar eclipse as reflected in a pond in central Illinois, by Greg Lepper.

Time lapse of October 8, 2014 lunar eclipse as reflected in a pond in central Illinois, by Greg Lepper.

Friend Tom Crane noticed this on EarthskySuper Blue Moon Eclipse. A super moon, a blue moon and an eclipsed moon on January 31st, coming to the night sky near you. In the America’s this is the first blue moon eclipse in 150 years, so a once in a lifetime experience for us.

It will happen before sunrise here so if you want to see it you’ll have to rise before dawn. Here are the times:

Eastern Standard Time (January 31, 2018)
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 6:48 a.m. EST
Moon sets before start of total eclipse

Central Standard Time (January 31, 2018)
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 5:48 a.m. CST
Total eclipse begins: 6:52 a.m. CDT
Moon may set before totality ends

Mountain Standard Time (January 31, 2018)
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 4:48 a.m. MST
Total eclipse begins: 5:52 a.m. MST
Greatest eclipse: 6:30 a.m. MST
Total eclipse ends: 7:08 a.m. MST
Moon sets before end of partial umbral eclipse

Pacific Standard Time (January 31, 2018)
Partial umbral eclipse begins: 3:48 a.m. PST
Total eclipse begins: 4:52 a.m. PST
Greatest eclipse: 5:30 a.m. PST
Total eclipse ends: 6:08 a.m. PST
Partial umbral eclipse ends: 7:11 a.m. PST
Moon may set before end of partial umbral eclipse

 

 

Humans don’t try to dominate. We listen. We adjust.

Winter                                                                  The Moon of the Long Nights

lunarflow, Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

lunarflow, Gouache on paper by Heron Michelle

The full Moon of the Long Nights glows in the west this morning, roughly over Evergreen. Its gentle light blots out many stars, but makes up for that in its own silvery beauty.

The moon is a place alien to us in spite of its ubiquity. We see it most nights, know its facing terrain intimately, most of it visible through good binoculars. We’ve even sent a few humans to walk upon it, twelve all told, but that small number underscores rather than challenges its wildness. Even if humans settle on the moon, its surface will still be no place for unprotected human bodies. We were not made for that place even though it is our closest solar system neighbor. It is the first outpost of the wilderness, the strange and foreign place, that is everything else in the vastness of space.

There are still places on earth where we can experience wildness. High Country News, a magazine that focuses on issues effecting the contemporary West, has become a favorite read of mine; and, in its Christmas issue, featured an article by Outside writer and editor, Christopher Solomon, “In the Home of the Bear.”

mcneil_travelSolomon recounts a visit to the McNeil River Sanctuary. He won a chance to visit this protected spot for the Alaskan brown bear in an annual lottery. The fairly long quote below has rattled around in my mind since I read it a week or so ago. It reveals, at least to me, a path we could walk to accomplish Thomas Berry’s Great Work for our time, creating a sustainable human presence on this planet, our home in the wildness of space.

The he in the first sentence is Larry Aumiller, a manager of the sanctuary for three decades. He “spent three decades studying how humans could live in harmony with Ursus arctos on the landscape.”

McNeil_Falls_in_July, DrewHH - Own work

McNeil_Falls_in_July, DrewHH – Own work

…over time, he learned how humans and bears could reside together.

And what works? First of all, restraint — not bulling into the landscape. Bears don’t like surprises. Moving slow and being predictable are good starts. That’s why humans walk the same trails, about the same times every day, and in the same group size. Over decades of such long and careful practice, the bears here have learned to see humans as another presence on the landscape — neither the source of a meal, nor the cause of pain or fear. They are “neutrally habituated,” in the argot of this place…

Almost everywhere else, the ability for humans and bears to move easily among each other has been lost. What is different at McNeil is that humans don’t try to dominate. We listen. We adjust. We find out how it all fits together, and where we fit in. “Here we learn that we can live among the great bears,” Fair writes. “Here we learn the human behaviors that allow this.””  In the Home of the Bear, High Country News

Humans don’t try to dominate. We listen. We adjust. We find out how it all fits together, and where we fit in. Oh, what a wonderful world it would be…

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