Wobbly

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Something’s making me wobble. I thought it was a too eager use of bowel prep. When I got back from picking up our groceries, I came in the door with three plastic bags in hand, rushed past Kate, “I think I’m going to be sick.” I retched. Then, went to bed. Sunday.

Monday am was ok, even my treatment was ok, but when I got home, I felt off. A little nauseated, a little fatigued, generally uncomfortable. My body wanted food; but, my stomach said, go slow, so I stuck to ramen. Kate made me ginger tea, which helped, and some chicken flavored ramen. Felt better afterwards.

This morning I’m sleepy, tired. Stomach not quite right. I have a team meeting today, I think, with a nurse and Dr. Gilroy. Will check if these seem like side effects to them. Hope not, but they never promised a smooth experience.

Kate’s new choppers

Kate went to a Bailey Patchworkers meeting in the white Toyota. And, she has Needleworkers on Wednesday morning. She’s venturing out on her own, not carrying much, but at least showing up. Big, big advances. CBE’s annual meeting is Thursday night.

There’s progress here. Kate’s stamina has improved over an already big leap. Her weight is in the zone she wants. Perhaps not quite as much as she would like, but ok. We’re kidding and joking. She had enough energy even after a long day to make me some food last night.

Today is day 15 for me. When I get to day 17/18 (Th/Fr), I’ll be halfway done. Beatles yesterday. Stones today?

We’re getting afternoon rains, the monsoons. They help keep the wildfire threat down. Very grateful about that.

Ikigai

Beltane Cancer Moon

This Morning

It’s been this kind of May. And it looks as if June will be cooler and wet, too, according to Weather5280. Good news for us, not so much for those lower down when the huge snowpack starts to melt.

Got further along on print Ancientrails. Am now in late 2017, quite a ways in. Then, print spool error. Again. Well. Gotta go back to whatever I did that solved it once. Tried so many things I’m not sure which one worked. Something did. For a while. Soon though. Then, I’ll take everything for three hole punching and decide what kind of binders I’m going to buy. Each folder with month tabs.

Also figured a way to unzip Superior Wolf and focus on Lycaon’s story. Don’t know whether I’ll follow up later on Christopher and Diana. The hunt for immortality is almost a cliche these days. And the central conceit of their story, a hedgefund group that funds Diana’s research, is not fiction anymore. Geez.

That means I’ve got months of work ahead, maybe years. My ikigai. A Japanese word that means reason to live. This article talks about ikigai in more depth as an explanation for Japanese longevity. Squares with my own intuition. Purpose keeps you alive and flourishing.

The Japanese have a lot about life figured out. Ichi-go, ichi-e is another favorite of mine. It comes from the Japanese tea ceremony and means each moment is once in a lifetime. No such thing as an insignificant experience with another person.

Sekkyakushi, 15th century, Muromachi period, Metropolitan Museum of art

Reading a book right now by the wonderful travel writer, Pico Iyer: Autumn Light, Season of Fire and Farewells. It’s a follow-up to his The Lady and the Monk, which I have not read, in which he recounts meeting Hiroko, the Japanese woman who would become his wife. He had moved to Kyoto to immerse himself in Japanese culture, sensing, as I do, that their approach to life is worth learning, perhaps adopting. Twenty-three years later he lives in Japan with Hiroko six months out of the year and six months in the U.S., caring for his mother and working for the New York Times. Recommended.

Each time I dip into some aspect of Japanese culture I find I want to know more. The MIA’s Japanese collection gave me a chance to interact with tea bowls, tatami mats, sumi-e, Buddhist and Shinto sculpture, put me deeper into my own Asian pivot.

Zen itself has not intrigued me, but I did follow Zen back to its roots in Chinese Chan Buddhism, a melding of Taoism and Buddhism. The Taoist aspect of Zen, and Chan. Yes.

Tomorrow. The CT scan. Probably the last of the imaging work. It will either show metastatic disease or a localized recurrence in the prostate fossa. If the former, one kind of treatment. And, prognosis. If the latter, 35 days of radiation and a possible cure. Hopeful, of course, that it will be localized, but aware that it might not be. In either case I’ll know. That’s been the hardest part of this time (well, no, that’s not right. The hardest part has been dealing with insurance and the hospital’s “benefits” office.), knowing the cancer has reasserted itself, but not knowing what that means for my life.

Will be glad to have this work done so I can move onto what’s next.

Tajikistani Comfort

Winter                                                                Waxing Moon

20190118_104419Quick geopolitical quiz. Where is Tajikistan? No googling, no globe, no world map. Where is it? If you know, you get the sister city of Boulder appellation, Friend of Dushanbe. Friend of what? Oh, you didn’t know that Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan? No, we’re not revoking your nametag. Not only are we not revoking your nametag, we’re inviting you over to tea at a traditional Tajikistan Tea House donated to Boulder by the citizens of Dushanbe. And, it’s a stunner.

The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse was fabricated in Tajikistan and then reassembled in Boulder, much like the Teahouse exhibited in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Japanese galleries. The result puts you in another place. The intricate, colorful glazed tiles and the carefully hand carved wooden pillars lit by floor to ceiling windows makes the dining room seem both familiar and exotic, intimate, yet expansive. 20190118_123043Though we didn’t sit on one of them, there were also raised platforms with cushions and short tables. Looked like fun to me.

The menu has an assortment of dishes ranging from Lapsang Souchong Bulgogi to a Russian Beet Salad. We spent a leisurely hour and a half eating hummus, samosas, and the Russian Beet Salad. The deserts were wonderful, too.

I picked up an ounce of white tea, Silver Needle. My disappointment with the physics of boiling water at 8,800 feet sorta knocked me out of the tea making habit I’d developed in Andover. The Teahouse inspired me to suck it up and get back to it. Starting today, I plan to add tea-making back into my daily routine.

Fellow Travelers

Fellow Travelers

While we ate a gentle snow fell, visible through the large windows. Could have been a morning in Dushanbe. After our meal, we drove over to McGuckin’s. It’s a hardware store, but so much more. First, it’s the size of a big box retailer. It’s aisles have that distinctive hardware shelving and signage, but they include furniture, fly fishing equipment, art supplies, humidifiers, a dizzying range of power tools, garden tools. The atmosphere was laid back, many folks meandering around, like us, taking in its immensity. I found a large brush to paint backgrounds and some tape to use for outlining. A few sponges, too.

Dark Lane, Southowram, England

Dark Lane, Southowram, England

The drive back home, about an hour in normal conditions, took almost two. Tom did his usual masterful, calm job as helmsman. Unfortunately the timing meant that he and Mark dropped me off, then headed back down the mountain to make their 7:00 pm flight. DIA is far from our house and you have to traverse the whole of the Denver metro to get there. Not a fun drive.

Ram Dass sums it up: We’re all just walking each other home. Tom and Mark came out and we hiked another few miles toward that final destination, the most ancientrail of all. The precious value of knowing we’re not walking alone turns us into fellow pilgrims. Life without travel companions is a burden; with fellow pilgrims it’s a rich, exciting journey toward the unknown.

 

Book of Life, Black Holes

Summer                                                                    Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180622_193239Yesterday was a big day. Up early to write, workout. Lunch with Alan Rubin to start planning for the 6th and 7th grade religious school at Beth Evergreen. Home for a fitful nap. Left at 5:30 pm with Ruth for Boulder. We had a reservation at Japango on the Pearl Street Mall before seeing the Fiske Planetarium show on black holes. Driving home under the waxing gibbous moon with Jupiter below it, Mercury and Venus visible, too, as well as Mars and Saturn. A planetary moment. No twinkling please.

A highlight from the Alan Rubin meeting was deepening my relationship with him, learning more of his history, sharing some of my own. I agreed to take on the task of researching Jewish Liturgical history.

Rosh-HashanahWe want to reframe the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah through Yom Kippur, in a reconstructionist way, then help the kids come to their own way of reframing. In the traditional understanding, taken here from the Chabad website, each year on Rosh Hashanah “all inhabitants of the world pass before G‑d like a flock of sheep,” and it is decreed in the heavenly court “who shall live, and who shall die … who shall be impoverished and who shall be enriched; who shall fall and who shall rise.” After ten days to seek repentance from those we have harmed in the previous year, God closes the Book of Life, sealing the fate of each worshiper.

book of lifeThe tradition implies a white bearded, Santa Claus like God who checks on the naughty and the nice. He takes out his celestial quill pen and starts scratching. He pauses, waiting to see what you have to say for yourself, then after a reasonable interval (the ten days), he writes fini.

How did these holidays come to be celebrated in the first place? Why? Who observed them and how? Have the observances and meanings of those observances changed over time? How? This is the exegetical move, gathering as much data as possible about the historical holidays. The hermeneutical move comes after it, asking what in our current circumstance, our present moment, if anything, corresponds to the original intentions. There is, too, a theological move here, asking if the metaphysics of the holiday can still be plausible. If not, that informs the reframing, too.

japangoIn my peculiar little world this is great fun. Looking forward to engaging similar research throughout the upcoming liturgical year.

Contrast this with my evening with Ruth. (Ironically, she is exactly the target audience for the above work, being a Jewish girl about to enter 7th grade.) We went to a sushi restaurant in Boulder where she had a sushi Tokyo plate. I had a sashimi plate, chef’s new choices. Green tea, too, for both of us. Ruth said, “You know me so well.”

black-holeAfter the dinner we drove back up Broadway to the Boulder campus of the University of Colorado, about 5 minutes. At the planetarium, where we’ve gone many times, we saw a presentation on black holes. It covered the usual topics of star death, neutron stars, supernovas and the formation of black holes with their extraordinarily deep gravity wells. It also covered recent observation of the long pursued gravity waves at the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO).

From the book of life to the heat death of the universe in one Friday. Quite the journey.

 

 

 

One meeting, one moment

Beltane                                                                                    Sumi-e Moon

ichigo-ichie_6

enso-zen-circleMy presentation on time falls under the sumi-e moon and I plan to use sumi-e. I’m taking my brushes, ink, ink stones, red ink pad, Kraft paper, and rice paper. As well as my hourglasses. I will do Shakespeare’s soliloquy from Macbeth as a counter point. Each person will first practice an enso on the Kraft paper, then do one on rice paper.

icho.go.ichi.e3What is an enso? The word means circle in Japanese. In Zen it has a much more expansive meaning.* Zen is, of course, Chan Buddhism, a curious blend of Taoism and Buddhism created in China. Monks from Japan went to China to learn about Chan and brought it back to Japan. They also brought back the practice of drinking tea, which initially was a stimulant to help with long meditation sessions. It later transmogrified into the Japanese tea ceremony with its beautiful idea of ichi go ichi e, or once in a lifetime.

*”In the sixth century a text named the Shinhinmei refers to the way of Zen as a circle of vast space, lacking nothing and holding nothing in excess. At first glance the ancient ensō symbol appears to be nothing more than a miss-shaped circle but its symbolism refers to the beginning and end of all things, the circle of life and the connectedness of existence. It can symbolize emptiness or fullness, presence or absence. All things might be contained within, or, conversely, excluded by its boundaries. It can symbolize infinity, the “no-thing”, the perfect meditative state, and Satori or enlightenment.  It can even symbolize the moon, which is itself a symbol of enlightenment—as in the Zen saying, “Do not mistake the finger pointing at the moon for the moon itself.” In other words, do not mistake doctrines, teachings or explanations, which are intended to guide one toward enlightenment, for enlightenment itself. Ensō can also represent the moon’s reflection on water, thereby symbolizing the futility of searching for enlightenment outside oneself.”  Modern Zen

This, That

Beltane                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

altitude and oxygen levelsSo. Because physics. No black tea up here, at least not at a proper temperature. Thanks Tom and Bill for your help. When you relieve the pressure, the water reverts to the pressure of the air and the temp goes down as it does. Sigh.

Black Mountain is covered in cloud, hidden behind an opaque scrim of greyish white. Bishop Berkeley would suggest it’s not there at all, but I think it is. We’ll find out sometime today.

6702011 01 20_0603Went into Kate’s hairstylist with her yesterday and got my ears waxed. Jackie put hot wax on my ears, then pulled it off, removing those hairs that seemed to follow receipt of my Medicare card. This is my second time. She says if we do this often enough, the follicles will not push up hair. I mean, hair on the ears is so last iteration of our species.

Kate spent the rest of the day at Bailey Patchworkers. This is a sewing group that meets at the Bailey Library. Kate joined in our first year here. Another group with some of the same members, a needleworkers group, invited her to join them. As a result, she’s had two circles of friends here for almost the duration of our time in Colorado. This is a woman who listens to lectures and does counted cross-stitch or needlepoint. She’s sew into it.

IMAG0674 Planted a tomato plant yesterday in a five-gallon plastic bucket. When I opened the bag of garden soil (we don’t have anything a Midwesterner would recognize as soil), the smell of the earth almost made me cry. I miss working in soil, growing plants and my body told me so. A greenhouse went up higher on the priority list.

I love living at altitude, among the Rockies and all their flora and fauna. See the post below. I also loved living in Andover where horticulture, in retrospect, was so easy. It is possible to recreate that experience in miniature, inside four walls and a roof. I want to do that.

A Graphic Problem

Beltane                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

boiling_point_water_elevation_feet

Gong fu cha requires specific temperatures for different sorts of tea. Black teas like pu’er, lapsang souchong, iron buddha require water temperatures of at least 203 degrees F. Unfortunately, these are some of my favorite teas. Unfortunately is easy to understand from this simple graph. We’re at 8,800 feet above sea level, call it 9,000 for this instance. Follow the line and you’ll see the problem.

Oolong teas require water temperatures between 194 and 206 F. I haven’t tried oolong yet, but it’s obvious that its needs are right at the cutoff point for our elevation. Water boils at around 195 F up here.

If any of my engineering oriented friends have an idea about how I can get water to the higher temperatures, barring use of a pressure cooker (too clunky), I’d love to hear it.

 

Ichi-go ichi-e Once in a lifetime

Beltane                                                                                   Rushing Waters Moon

Fog this morning over Black Mountain. It comes in and out of view as the mist moves toward us. Now it’s gone altogether. There’s a thin scrim of icy snow on the solar panels. Colder last night.

Kanō Eitoku (1543–1590), Cypress Trees

Kanō Eitoku (1543–1590), Cypress Trees

My Japanese informed aesthetic often finds resonance here in the mountains. The ponderosa pines that surround Beth Evergreen’s synagogue present heavily crenulated bark, twisted branches and a sturdy calm. From the sanctuary, looking south and east, one window pane has an especially crooked branch that reaches up like a hand. When the snow comes, it looks like a portion of a Kano school gold screen. Ravens and crows land on these branches, too, also emulating the scenery that inspired so many Japanese painters and printers.

Moon watching, a Japanese pastime, has its analogue here as well. The moon rising and setting among the mountain peaks, clouds placing a thin gauze in front of it, the stars as its context, emphasize the moon’s romance. I can stand on my deck here off the loft and watch clouds cross the moon’s face. Its silvered light makes beautiful shadows of the lodgepole pine.

Hokusai (1760-1849), Boats and Moon, an ukiyo-e print

Hokusai (1760-1849), Boats and Moon, an ukiyo-e print

Big eared mule deer and thick, tall elk come down to Maxwell and Cub creeks, lapping up the cold fresh melted snow. Mountain lions slip noiselessly through the undergrowth, lie prone on rock cliffs waiting for them to pass nearby. Bears root up tubers. Minx, bobcats, pine martens, smaller predators, hunt for prey. Rabbits and squirrels and mice feed, look over their shoulder. The web of life is vibrant.

Bull Elk, Evergreen, 2015

Bull Elk, Evergreen, 2015

Ichi-go ichi-e is a Japanese phrase often associated with the tea ceremony. The tea master arranges art in the tokinama, chooses teas and sweets, decides which tea bowls and tea pots and tea utensils to use, then greets their guests as they arrive, often no more than one or two. He does this to create an ichi-go ichi-e, a once in a lifetime moment or for this moment only. It connotes the treasure of each meeting between or among people.

Each moment of the day Black Mountain offers ichi-go ichi-e to those of us who live near it, if only we stop and look. To appreciate ichi-go ichi-e though we need to pause, or as mussar teaches us, put a space between the match and the flame. If we slow down our glance, our gaze, let it come to rest, if we take a breath and consider what is right there in front of us, then we find once in a lifetime moments happening throughout our day.

Ponderosa Pine, Beth Evergreen, April, 2017

Ponderosa Pine, Beth Evergreen, April, 2017

These do not, as you might think, cheapen or dilute over time, rather they enhance our experience of the world. We recognize the fleeting nature of life, of this moment and that moment, of the unique and precious and irreplaceable flavor to each encounter. Nothing is old, all is new, always.

In fact, to the extent that we can gain an appreciation of ichi-go ichi-e, then we never age.

 

Gong Fu Cha

Spring                                                                        New (Rushing Waters) Moon

Friend Bill Schmidt knows me well. A while back he noted I’d not yet written anything about tea while here in Colorado. He was right. Two or three years before the move out here I’d somehow gotten to making tea the Chinese way, gong fu cha. This was after years of tea from tea bags and the occasional loose tea steeped in tea infusers.

Song dynastyThe impetus may have been my favorite object in the entire collection of the Minneapolis Institute of Art, a Song dynasty tea bowl. I don’t recall now.

Gong fu cha involves various implements and techniques that differ significantly from British/American tea preparation and drinking, but also from the Japanese chanoyu, which is a direct descendant of gong fu cha.

20170425_070506Gong fu cha inspired visiting Japanese monks to introduce tea to their Buddhist compatriots as a way of staying awake during long sessions of meditation. The Japanese tea ceremony grew out of this cultural exchange beginning in the 12th century.

Over a period of years I acquired several yixing teapots, many different teabowls (including one with a leaf embedded), tea scoops and picks for tightly compressed chunks of pu’er tea, a bamboo tea tray and, of course, several varieties of tea.

20170425_070713

Zojirushi

The Zojirushi is my favorite tea appliance. The Zojirushi, a Japanese model, boils water to a particular temperature and has a large reservoir so water at the right temperature is always available. Water temperature, the teapot and the quality of the tea itself are the critical variables in gong fu cha.

I considered making tea in the loft a final flourish to the work on it, so I waited until everything else was finished: book cases, art table, things put in their places. Why? I don’t know. Gong fu cha became, in my mind, a symbol that this space was ready for serious work.

20170425_070423Right now I’m drinking Master Han’s loose leaf pu’er from 2000. Very smooth and smoky. I guess that means I’m getting serious about the work.

Bill knew me well. Now I’m truly here. Yixing pot in hand.

 

Chilly

Samain                                              Moon of the Winter Solstice

Woke up this morning to a text from Tom Crane. He lives in the western Twin Cities’ suburb of Shorewood. It was, he said, -20. Now that’s getting chilly. Up here we started out at zero, but hit 28 later in the day. The solar snow shovel is hard at work. Yeah.

Due to my delicate condition we hired a snow plow guy, Ted. Ted moved here from Ames, Iowa, the closest town to Nevada where Kate grew up. Weird. He came early yesterday, did a great job.

I’m looking forward the next couple of weeks because I’ll begin to get up to the loft. December and January are my finishing touches months. Hang art. Make sure all bookshelves are organized. Get standard file holders for my shelves of files. Get the tea going, all things that have been waiting, I want to see them finished.

The grandkids come on the 21st, the Winter Solstice. With a short break we’ll have them through New Years. A strong family inflection to the end of the year. It feels appropriate.

Due to the pain and the drugs I’ve had less thinking time than I imagined. Not a bad thing, just a surprise. What I have had is an intense couple of weeks with my body and its limits. Being focused and present to my body has been a good thing. I probably don’t take as much of that kind of time as would be helpful.

Kate has had four days of sleeping and resting though today she ventured out shopping. Crazy, she said. She’s my beauty, my strength.

Anyhow, to all of you, happy holidays.