We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Out and Back Again

Spring                                                                       Mountain Moon

20180422_182925Earth Day. Thanks, Gaylord Nelson. Gabe’s birthday, too. 10 this year. He got a fidget spinner, an infinity box and a red envelope with money, $10 for each year. This year Earth Day is also Kate’s one month mark after surgery. She’s on an upswing in many ways, weight, pain, nausea.20180422_173735

We were at Domo again, the rural Japanese restaurant that was one of Zagat’s five best Japanese restaurants in the U.S. in 2007.

Quite awhile ago I told Ruth that I liked restaurants that transported me to another culture or offered a very different experience than my day to day life. She remembered and asked me last night if Domo was one of those. “Yes. Definitely.”

20180422_174528In addition to having an Akido studio that is one of the oldest in the country, Domo has a museum of rural Japanese objects, many related to farming or carpentry. They also have art hung in many spots, but in an unobtrusive, organic way. It’s located in an older, warehouse looking building in what is now a rapidly growing part of Denver. A brand new apartment building is under construction right next to it.

It’s not surprising, then, that there is a disclaimer on the door that reads, “No. We are not closing. Domo has no intention or plans for closing. We look forward to serving you in the future.” Both Domo and the equally unique Buckhorn, which is about three blocks further south on the same street, have been enveloped by Denver’s hot housing market and its drive for non-vehicular transportation. The Buckhorn, liquor license #1 in the City of Denver, sits in the curve of a rapid transit station and shares with Domo new housing starts, mostly apartments, all around it. The old city, Buffalo Bill Cody ate at the Buckhorn, and the new smooshing together.

20180422_174540It’s been an unusual weekend visually with the suspended bee hives and the elk Saturday, the 4/20 celebration at Happy Camper on Friday and Domo yesterday. There is, too, of course, always the mountains. When we drive down the hill into Denver, we leave them behind for a bit, decanting ourselves onto the terminus of the great plains, still high at 5,280 feet, but flat all the same. Last night when we came home, a mountain in the distance toward Evergreen was a flat, pastel teal with pink ribbons of clouds behind it. Only Cezanne could have done it justice.

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

We go into Denver less and less, remaining in the mountains unless family or medical matters call us. On occasion we do visit jazz clubs, go to a movie, head into a museum, but not often. As a result, each time we drive into the city, I feel a little more strange, a little more estranged from the (relatively) crowded streets, the hurry, the built environment. When we turn west, which from Denver means headed toward the Front Range, I get the same feeling of peace now that I used to get when I turned north on a trip and headed back toward Minnesota.

We can return home three different ways, each offering a different sort of return to the mountains. The most dramatic is to take I-70 to Evergreen. After passing through the first foothills and getting up the rise, the snow-covered (now) continental divide appears in the distance, the sort of mountain scenery that is post-card worthy. We can also turn off 470 and head through the small touristy mountain town of Morrison, up past the famous Red Rocks Amphitheater and onto a windy road with rocky cliffs and Bear Creek tumbling alongside. The most common way home is up Hwy. 285 which enters the foothills through a dynamited opening in the hogback. 285 winds in largely gentle curves up to Conifer. All three take us home by gradually reintroducing us to elevation and the rocky, fir covered slopes where the great plains come to end.

Mountain Scenes

Spring                                                                    Mountain Moon

On the way over to Rich’s (see post below), I saw these gals lounging around in front yards.

20180421_10235620180421_10263220180421_102433

This morning, looking east on Black Mountain Drive.

20180422_062610

See

Spring                                                                            Mountain Moon

Slate sky behind snow loaded lodgepole pines,

Scraping blades scritch, push, push, push

While more white falls, softening the edges.

Our house has a white roof, like me.

20180327_094904Find myself leaning into a favorite phrase of Bill Schmidt’s, “See what you’re looking at.” It’s a mantra now as I drive in the mountains, trying to see their essence. What about their shape, their altitude, their rock, their trees tell me, this is a mountain? Close looking is a skill, a hard to develop one since distractions of all kinds, a key this-moment-in-time issue, lead us away from direct experience to mediated experience. Close looking, like the close reading of poetry, opens up the unseen, the unexpected.

As I continue to develop my sumi-e skills, I’ve decided I want to focus on only a few things: mountains, Hebrew letters, Tarot major arcana, and objects I’ve used and love like chain-saws and axes, garden tools, bee equipment, maybe dogs, too. I plan to seek what I understand is the central objective of sumi-e painting, expressing the essence, the soul of an object rather than aiming for a Western representational rendering. Good thing, since I don’t have the patience to attend an atelier like my friends Lonnie and Stefan Helgeson.

 

 

Up in Smoke

Spring                                                                Mountain Moon

A cloud crawls down Black Mountain,

Cotton embraces ski runs, blue above.

A light scrim of snow covers our solar panels,

The sky falls toward us, slowly.

 

four twentyToday is 4/20. In Colorado and elsewhere it’s a pot linked holiday and here’s a brief explanation of its strange origin.* A couple of years ago I was downtown Denver near the National Western Stockshow Grounds on April 20th. Driving to a small taqueria for lunch I passed hundreds of people walking along the road, smoking joints, smiling, lots of dreadlocks under Rastafarian knit saggy caps. Last year the 4/20 crowd made such a mess at a city park that Denver stopped the celebration for this year.

4/20 is also Adolph Hitler’s birthday, my brother Mark reminded me. Hitler is a figure in the childhood dark closet of most Baby Boomers whose parents, like mine, were veterans of WWII. My dad had a beaten up copy of Mein Kampf, Hitler’s autobiography. It always seemed strange to me as a boy; but, as an adult, I came to realize how large Hitler loomed over his life, occasioning several years in the military for both him and my mom.

Nazis+on+parade.Now Hitler is mostly a boogeyman, a perfect example of either evil or the potential power of white supremacy. His Nazi party serves a similar function, offered up in movies if an ultimate villain is needed. Just as the Vietnam War, which dominated my life in the late sixties and early seventies, has faded from the memory of millennials, so even the holocaust has begun to fade from memory. Yes, it’s dangerous to lose sight of this horror; but, it’s also human. As an event moves further away from us, it changes, transforms.

Most, all?, religions are an attempt to hold a historical moment close, to keep it vibrant, vital. Easter and Passover. Even these though show the great difficulty in maintaining the urgency of something that has been covered over by distance and lack of direct experience. Max Weber called this the rationalization of charisma. As the charismatic figure or moment recedes, institutions grow up to protect its memory, but that very fact, the institutionalization of a matter of the heart, encrusts the event and eventually depletes it of its power. It becomes covered over by dogma, by tradition, by the ridigities of too much thought.

Emerson'Emerson knew this. “The foregoing generations beheld God and nature face to face; we, through their eyes. Why should not we also enjoy an original relation to the universe? Why should not we have a poetry and philosophy of insight and not of tradition, and a religion by revelation to us, and not the history of theirs?” From the introduction to his essay, Nature.

We need to discern not only, perhaps not even most importantly, the facts of the holocaust, though they are incalculably significant, but we need to look evil in the face in our time, confront it now, name it now. Stop it now. Evil, like good, does not stop in a historical moment, but gains new, contemporary expressions. If we keep looking for revelation about what it means to be human in sacred texts or historical tragedies, we can easily miss the revelation appearing in the neighborhoods and rural areas of our own country.

 

*In 1971, Steve Capper, Dave Reddix, Jeffrey Noel, Larry Schwartz, and Mark Gravich, five high school students[4] in San Rafael, California,[5][6] calling themselves the Waldos[7][8] because “their chosen hang-out spot was a wall outside the school”,[9] used the term in connection with a fall 1971 plan to search for an abandoned cannabis crop that they had learned about,[7][10] based on a treasure map made by the grower. wiki

 

Rivers and Mountains, Bees and Kate

Spring                                                            Mountain Moon

fan kuan, travelers among mountains and streams

Fan Kuan (960-1030, a.c.e.), travelers among mountains and streams, Song Dynasty

So my mind is filling with rocks, pines, mountain streams, magpies and mountain lions; a sign that the mountain theme has begun to take hold. I plan to spend this spring and summer sketching and photographing rock formations, mountains, summits, animals, water, trees and other plants, then interpreting them with sumi-e. I’m continuing to read the shan-shui (mountains and rivers) poets, moving back into the world of Chinese classical painting.

Qabbalah study continues. We’re investigating time and the qabbalists have their own unique approach to it. Here’s an example. To experience what I would call sacred time-they use the phrase eternal time-qabbalists want us to pay closer attention to what I would call ordinary time. This is far different from trying to collapse the hold of ordinary time through meditation or koans or mystical experience. The easiest example is the week. In the qabbalist’s world we count six ordinary days, then we experience shabbat. Shabbat is a time out of time, a moment in the week when the observer exits the world as usually experienced and enters sacred time. But. It’s observable as sacred time because of its contrast to the six days that precede it and the six that follow it. Thus we can find sacred time through attention to measured/ordinary time.

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

honey supers after the harvest, 2013

Getting ready to hive bees for Beth Evergreen on Saturday morning. Had to dig around in all the bee stuff we brought from Andover since Rich Levine, local bee enthusiast, needed a hive box and twenty frames plus accessories. I had enough. Getting out the hive tool, scraping propolis off the frames, moving supers put me right back into beekeeper mode. Still don’t think I’m willing to do it here, too much hassle with the need for a bear proof enclosure which means strong electric fencing. I will enjoy helping others, though.

Singapore, 2016

Singapore, 2016

Kate’s gained almost five pounds! This after a long period of weight loss. I called her my incredible shrinking wife. Our consult with Betsy, the nutritionist for New West Physicians, was a turning point.

Kate’s building momentum. The Sjogren’s conference left her feeling less alone with this nasty disease since there were hundreds in attendance from all across the U.S. who not only have it, but have similar experiences to hers. She also had her second session of physical therapy this morning and continues to be excited and enthusiastic about it.

Makes me smile.

 

 

Homey

Spring                                                                        Mountain Moon

the political side

the political side

Played domestic goddess yesterday. Wash dishes. Make taco meat. Three loads of laundry. Feed dogs twice. Make supper. Pick up. Take out the trash this morning. The duties of an ordinary housewife of the 1950’s, coupled with raising the kids, would have been physically and mentally exhausting. No wonder they wanted to go to work. It’s easier.

Whole process getting simpler, better understood, flowing with the tao of the moment which is nurture and be nurtured.

We went to see Jackie yesterday at Aspen Roots. Better coiffed now. I’m enjoying the well groomed look. It’s all persona. Cut the hair. Let it grow. Trim the beard. Let it flow. Just different. Since this look is less counter cultural, I feel it less. It’s a way of hiding in plain sight.

Cleaned up

Cleaned up

Decided a few days ago that I’d stick, for now, to my resistance workouts and some modest cardio before and after them. That’s three days a week, leaving me four days to do house work or take care of other matters. It’s better because I’m not feeling short changed on those days I usually do my longer and high intensity cardio. I’m good at getting back to the routine after I’ve changed it, so it’s only a matter of time.

Today is a workout day but before that I’m going to fold laundry and wash my bee suit. Hiving some bees on Saturday morning for Beth Evergreen and I want to look spiffy. Part of the well-coiffed thing, I guess. Can’t find my hive tool or my full body bee suit. Gotta be here somewhere, but I can’t find them.

Kabbalah tonight. More on time.

housework_thumbWhich brings me back to housework. Housework, in its earthy, basic realm, is a microcosm of the Great Wheel. It’s a cycle that never finishes, food must be bought and cooked, trash discarded, dishes cleaned. Then again and again and again. Likewise clothing gets soiled and must be washed, folded, put away. Toilets and counters and floors and windows get dirty, then cleaned, then dirty, then cleaned. It’s a great wheel because it relates to the true life needs of us all and is, as a result, repetitive, but powerful.

 

Gabe and Kate

Spring                                                                        Mountain (New) Moon

Nurse checking Gabe's blood pressure post-op

Nurse checking Gabe’s blood pressure post-op

Gabe is now portless. The port through which he received his infusions of clotting factor, essentially a plastic plug set into his upper left chest, is gone. He’s had one for eight years, 80% of his young life. I asked him if he missed it. “Sort of.” The port was the culprit in his septicemia returning last week, harboring a nidus of the bacteria, “a place in which something is formed or deposited.” Jon’s had to be there in his room for most of the time since Thursday night at 12:30 a.m. when the lab called with the blood test results. It’s a long stint. For both of them.

I went to the afternoon sessions of the Sjogren’s conference with Kate, listening to lectures on joint pain and Sjogren’s, dry mouth and its dental implications, and on dermatological issues. Sjogren’s, as a syndrome, is a collection of symptoms that may seem unrelated, but have an underlying cause, in this case a dysfunction in the autoimmune system. The number of symptoms are a problem for researchers, physicians, drug companies and, particularly, patients. Each symptom like dry mouth, dry eyes, dry skin, fatigue is a separate entity that must be dealt with in its own way. This means an often bewildering number of ointments, salves, mouth rinses, eye drops, as well as methods for managing both stress and fatigue. And the need for treatment is at least daily and in most cases a number of times per day. That’s exhausting in and of itself.

20180414_130149For example, we measure Kate’s energy in K.U.’s, Kate units. When she’s used up her K.U.’s for a day, she often goes to bed. No matter what time it is. One woman, Sjogren’s is overwhelmingly a woman’s disease, measures her energy in spoons. She sets out 6 spoons and as she does a task, she removes a spoon. When the spoons are all gone, so is her capacity to do things.

It is, in other words, hard.

Right now, as well, Kate’s doing all these with one hand literally tied up. Makes it good that we’re together.

tao2Even here the tao flows. Tapping into it means feeling the surges of healing, of exhaustion, of relationship weakening and strengthening, of giving and receiving. Accepting them as they come, not fighting them, not trying to be stronger than we are, yet finding the moments and the things we can do to make healing hasten. In this moment the tao reminds me of the power of love, the wisdom of the body, the necessity of rest. Going with it. Letting it come through me. Like water rushing down the mountain.

 

 

Old Man of the Mountain

Spring                                                                              Mountain (New) Moon

Filling the Rav4 with gas, Legault Mountain behind me

Filling the Rav4 with gas, Legault Mountain behind me

Today the new shoulder moon sets. Since I name the moons each month, either using a traditional name or one I’ve created, I sometimes use them to remind me of something over the course of the month. Without melancholy this time I’ve come to an additional revelation, a sudden insight into who I am here in Colorado. Sorta obvious, but I’m a mountain man, a man of the mountains.

Song dynasty

Song dynasty

However. I’ve been reading a lot of the mountain poetry of China, a very old tradition extending from the Eastern Jin Dynasty into the present. The Eastern Jin Dynasty began in 317 A.C.E. T’ao Ch’ien (365-427) began writing poetry about his mountain life.

I’d long felt these mountains and lakes

Calling, and wouldn’t have thought twice,

But my family and friends couldn’t bear

Living apart…

After Mulberry-Bramble Liu’s Poem, T’ao Ch’ien

I just ordered more books of Chinese mountain poetry and I’m going to start looking for more poetry about mountains. If you know any, I’ll appreciate the reference. Not just poetry though. I’m also looking through my books of Chinese art, especially the (many) paintings that feature mountains, often scholars and poets by streams or in mountain huts. I want to learn from these how to use sumi-e to paint mountains. Lots of them here to serve as subjects and they politely remain in their pose. There are also many paintings in the Hudson School tradition: Bierstadt, Cole, Church, e.g.

Cotopaxi, Frederic Edwin Church

Cotopaxi, Frederic Edwin Church

Too, I’m fascinated by the geology and orogeny of the Rockies. How did they get here? Where are they going? How do they compare to other mountain ranges?

And, even more obvious. Get out there, dude. No use repairing the knee if you don’t use it to wander in the mountains. To be my kinda pagan you need to immerse yourself in the local, the around you. It’s not only the soil, the animals, the plants, the trails, the streams and lakes though they are essential. It is too the human deposit of art about the place to which you’ve become native. Science, too. Also, if you can, adding to the expressive vocabulary that art shares with the world.

So, this is the Mountain Moon and I’m under it, nourishing another new turn in my attention.

 

 

Memories

Spring                                                                     New Shoulder Moon

The new shoulder continues its impact on our lives.

20160410_122224SeoAh’s here and cooking suppers, cleaning, chatting. We had a long conversation about dogs yesterday while watching a youtube video in Korean. It’s one of a series made by a Korean man whose father owned a dog food factory. That is, a factory in which dogs were turned into food for humans. This made him angry and he decided to start a one man crusade to change the way Koreans treat and think about dogs. SeoAh says he’s having a large impact. He’s sort of Caesar Milan and the Animal Defense League.

Yesterday was Joe and SeoAh’s second anniversary and she spent it helping us. And says, in her heavily accented English, “It is my pleasure.” Makes this 71 year old’s heart feel full.

weightKate and I went to a nutritionist yesterday for a consultation on how to help Kate gain weight. The most salient point Betsy made was this, “Make every bite count.” Every food needs to be considered for not only nutritional value but for its caloric value, ideally, and ironically, high. Add oils to salads, to pasta. Use peanut butter powder as an additive in shakes. Eat cheese. Given Kate’s past struggles with her weight, a lifelong problem until her bariatric surgery, being encouraged to eat foods high in calories is mental whiplash which makes the whole weight gain and weight maintenance goal difficult emotionally.

Betsy also suggested, after asking if she could raise a personal question (geez, what kind of personal question does a nutritionist ask?), medical marijuana. It’s truly a new day in the neighborhood. In this case of course she was suggesting using some marijuana to enhance appetite. A good use for the munchies.

marijuanaAfter the nutrition consult, which was in Golden, I drove Kate to Bailey for the monthly meeting of the Bailey Patchworkers. Bailey is also the home of the Happy Camper so I stopped and stocked up on indica edibles, our homemade sleep enhancement. We may branch out into sativa, which brings on more of the munchies. Sativa and indica are strains of marijuana with very different characteristics. Indica makes you sleepy while sativa is a classic stoner strain, often smoked.

In the evening Jon, Ruth, and Gabe came up. SeoAh made rice cake soup, the soup I’ve mentioned that’s served at the spring festival, Korean New Year’s. She also made a sweet potato noodle dish with peppers that she says is typical when family’s gather for something important. Both were delicious. She uses her mother’s recipes.

Tteokguk.jpg2Gabe’s in much better shape physically than he was a couple of weeks ago. His earth day birthday is coming up and he wants a pocket knife. I reached in my pocket and took out a small pocket knife I’d purchased a while back. “Here you go. But. Don’t stab yourself in the leg, or the arm or the head or the ear.” Gabe laughed and said, “Or in the butt.”

Ruth’s doing well. She seems mostly level emotionally. A recent shift from Risperidone, an adult anti-psychotic, to Lexipro, an anti-anxiety medication, is underway right now. I forgot to ask her about it last night.

Memories build and sustain families. Friendships, too, of course. Last evening was one of those memories for the Olson/Buckman-Ellis family. And a sweet one.

 

Yesterday and Today

Spring                                                                  New Shoulder Moon

exerciseMade it to three sets on my workout. This is slow for me since I’ve had this routine for over six weeks, the time frame in which I usually go back for new exercises. No matter. Things have been busy. Feels good to be have gotten this far given the situation.

Dream last night. I had been called to organize a protest at a factory, Johns-Manville, where I worked during high school. The rationale (which I forget) was good; I saw a clear path to getting folks ready to take on management. The meeting was held at the factory and lots of workers had come. However. Just before I was to get started, everyone suddenly left the room. They came back in, slowly, and while they were coming I looked at my self in a mirror, getting ready to go onstage. My hair was a mess. I couldn’t get it to lie down.

ruins of the old Johns-Manville factory in  Alexandria

ruins of the old Johns-Manville factory in
Alexandria

By the time I got onstage I could tell that management had a plan and it involved disrupting the meeting by distracting the audience. It worked. People kept coming and going. I started out with a question, “Did any of you work here in 1964?” One older man, his back turned to me, raised his hand. “Well, you might have seen me here as a shipping and receiving clerk.” (actual job) That got the reaction I’d hoped for, a mild bond. After that the meeting dissolved.

As I began to leave the dream and wake up, I was frustrated, disappointed. Then I thought. Ah, I see the mistake. We let the meeting happen at the factory. The next one will be in the union hall.

20180408_121101SeoAh made a Korean chicken soup. Her mother’s recipe. It was wonderful. She used the leek, some mushrooms, spring onions, and rice noodles. SeoAh used silver ware and I used chopsticks.

She came at just the right time. Kate’s recovery has begun to accelerate. She’s sleeping better, doing her exercises, getting outside and walking. SeoAh has relieved the pressure on me by cooking, cleaning. Next week Kate starts physical therapy. I can see the arc of this moving up now. Makes a big difference.

But the best part is the deepening relationship with SeoAh herself. “You are my parents. Do you understand?” Yes, we do. And, we feel the same way.

 

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