We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Mystifying Move

Samain                                                                             Bare Aspen Moon

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

A friend wrote that he found our move here mystifying. No doubt. At age 67 and 70 respectively Kate and I left our lifetime home, the American Midwest (except for her brief sojourn in Houston), flat and humid, for the Rocky Mountains, high and arid. We had built a substantial life based on flat and humid, lots of horticulture, a woods of our own, plenty of space for our big dogs to roam. There was room in the Andover house for Kate’s sewing, my books and writing, an exercise space, a kitchen and dining area that worked for us.

We both had professional and friendship links of over 40 years in Minnesota. We made consistent use of the many cultural assets in the Twin Cities, having met at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra. We attended the Guthrie and other theater and musical events. I was a docent and guide at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts for 12 years with frequent visits to the Walker, the Russian Museum and led a group that made monthly visits to quirky art related venues. Political engagement over a long period of time had, at the point of the move, led me to the Sierra Club where I helped work on the legislative program.

In other words we were both literally and figuratively well-rooted.

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, 2014

Saguaro National Park, Tucson, 2014

Ira Progoff Intensive Journal Workshops intervened. Progoff was a psychoanalyst in the Jungian tradition, the same theoretical framework used by my long time personal analyst, John Desteian. I first attended a Journal workshop in 1988 in southern Wisconsin. It altered my perception of the world through a six day process of guided meditations, journal writing guided through Progoff’s books and by a skilled facilitator. From this first one I developed a mantra, Stream flowing, White Pine rooting, that I used for decades in personal meditation. At a second Journal Workshop in Georgia, I deepened my appreciation of these workshops. They have an uncanny way of illuminating the current moment of my life in a way that’s both connected to the past, yet focused on the future.

Progoff’s intention is that the Journal be a source of continuing self-analysis. You learn the method at a workshop, then continue to use in daily life. I’ve found the journals too unwieldy for daily use, but the Journal workshops themselves transformative. I hope to attend one next year to get more insight into our life after the move.

IMAG0096It was the Tucson workshop that triggered the move. I say triggered advisedly because it shifted my sense of priorities after Kate’s retirement. Up till then the long, well-established roots I mentioned earlier made leaving Minnesota unthinkable to me. We had seriously discussed a move to Duluth, to Hawaii and often, to Colorado, but for me Minnesota’s thumb on the scale proved decisive. How could I leave the Woolly Mammoth’s, my men’s group of over 25 years at that point? How could I leave the political work and the work at the MIA? How could we leave our gardens and orchard, the bees?

However the various exercises in the Tucson workshop led me down a different path. First, it established clearly that my life phase that time, March/April of 2014, was defined by Kate’s retirement. It allowed me, encouraged me, to go into that phase with clearer eyes, to consider what our mutual life could mean now that she was free of daily work. With the exception of Anne, Kate’s sister who lives in Waconia, our family had moved on, both boys having left for Colorado, Jon around 2000, Joseph in 2005. Though Joseph had since joined the Air Force and left Breckenridge, Jon married and had two children.

Ruth and Gabe were 7 and 5, turning 8 and 6 the month of the Journal workshop. I planned to make a visit on the way home, driving from Tucson to Denver to surprise Ruth for her birthday. This meant the grandkids were on my mind.

Ruth, late March, 2014

Ruth, late March, 2014

I sensed, in meditation and through writing occasioned by the workshop’s flow, that our family’s center of gravity had shifted, for good, to Colorado. Both Jon and Joseph moved to Colorado for the skiing. Joseph would likely return to Colorado after his time in the Air Force (it seemed like that then, maybe not quite as much now) and our grandchildren were young. If we stayed in Minnesota, we would see them only occasionally and have little chance to play much of a role in their maturation.

This realization, that our family had shifted its home base from Minnesota, which we both loved, to Colorado, made me think moving to Colorado made some sense. Kate had gotten there long before me, so when I raised the question on my return, a decision to leave came quickly. We soon had a realtor, began making regular trips to G-Will Liquors for boxes and purchased colored tape.

First project, fence for the dogs

First project, fence for the dogs

Living in the mountains, at altitude, had three main drivers. The first was free air-conditioning. “If there’s no snow (or rain) falling from the sky and you’re not in a cloud, then the temperature decreases by about 5.4°F for every 1,000 feet up you go in elevation.” on the snow. So you can do the math for 8,800 feet. The second was to live in a distinctly different environment from our Midwestern home. Denver didn’t meet this criteria since it’s at what I consider the western terminus of the Midwest, where the plains wash up against the Front Range of the Rockies, and it’s a metro area, therefore not very different in kind from the Twin Cities. The third was to put some distance, though not too much, between us and the grandkids. We didn’t want to be used as babysitters, but to be available as grandparents.

Ruth and Jon helping us get ready for the moving van, Dec. 2014

Ruth and Jon helping us get ready for the moving van, Dec. 2014

This latter desire on our part, to engage the grandkids, but not be engulfed by them, was a distinct point of conflict with Jen, Jon’s then wife. She complained, from the first time we decided on Black Mountain Drive, that we were living too far away. No matter how often we pointed out that we had moved 900 miles closer, she always came back to how far away we were. While we understood her point, it was exactly that sort of attitude that had made us choose some distance.

So we moved to the mountains on the Winter Solstice of 2014, barely 9 months after the workshop in Tucson. We came into alignment as the workshop changed my attitude toward the relative virtues of staying in Minnesota or being close to the grandkids. In effect, it brought me around to Kate’s thinking.

 

The Time Has Come. Again. And will come once more.

Samain                                                                    Joe and Seoah Moon

Walrus-Carpenter, John Tenniel

Walrus-Carpenter, John Tenniel

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

 

And so it is, every time Tom and Bill and I find ourselves on the shore of the ocean surrounded by oysters, or on Guanella Pass or in the strange Buckhorn Exchange, holder of Denver’s liquor license number one.

It is, I suppose, possible to think of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass as excellent examples of life’s true way, one governed by chance and the exigencies visited on us. Or, another way of explaining it, other than chance, might be, the universe speaking to us. Could be synchronicity, could be a kabbalah experience, could be the photographer/novelist at the artist’s co-op in Georgetown.

20160813_161919Skiing is an example. Jon’s love of skiing, learned in the flatlands of Minnesota, with bumps just big enough to gain some momentum, occasioned, much later in his life, a move to Colorado. Joseph came here, too, to live in Breckenridge. Jon met Jen. Ruth and Gabe. Years of traveling from Minnesota to Colorado. Then, our own move to Colorado. Now here we are, near the Guanella Pass, near Georgetown with a friend who lives there. So Tom and Bill could come visit and we could meet the photographer and former petroleum engineer, Ellen Nelson. We could, too, as Tom said, reenter the conversation that defines our lives.

There is, too, for me, the chance experience of Kate, all those many years ago, when she went to Temple Israel in Minneapolis and felt immediately at home, tears streaming down her face. Without that moment we wouldn’t have sought out, just on a whim, two classes on King David being held on a cold night in nearby Evergreen. That was two years ago to the day tomorrow. We found Congregation Beth Evergreen. Now we’re there among friends, contributing and growing more deeply involved. And my pilgrimage across the landscape of life, which began in Oklahoma in the Red River Valley, now continues with a strong Jewish inflection in the mountains of Colorado.

 “Every Man Knew” was commissioned from artist David Conklin by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

“Every Man Knew” was commissioned from artist David Conklin by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

None of this was part of a plan. Yes, plans can help us in certain parts of our lives, but if we fool ourselves into believing that the planful side of us guides the most important parts of our lives then we miss the larger, more significant streams on which we drift. Kate sews. So she has met the women of Bailey Patchworkers and the Needleworkers. I love Kate, so I’ve met the folks at Beth Evergreen and taken another right hand turn on my pilgrimage. Bill and Tom and I met through chance in a group of men called Woolly Mammoths. How weird is that? Yet here we are, together now in the Rockies, thirty years later.

Somehow we have to stay open, to not ratchet down the hatches of our mind. This is counter-intuitive as the heavy storms of life wash over our bows, threatening to sink us. In fact we often need to sink, to go under the surface of our life, to allow the stormy waters of a new life to rush over us, fill us, even drown our old life; so that we can pop back to the surface, water streaming, eager for the changed world that now exists up there.

JackLondonwhitefang1It is no wonder that many folks can’t do this. It’s just too scary. But I can tell you, from the vantage point of 70 years, that the intentional has very rarely taken me where I thought it would. Studying hard in high school? Yes, I followed that thread off to college, but college waters quickly swamped my little vessel, pushing me under. I drowned many times in the ensuing years. Philosophy overcame my fragile barque. Then, opposition to the Vietnam War. Alcohol, met in my freshman year, held me under from 1966 to 1976. A long time love of Jack London’s novels, especially Call of the Wild and White Fang, awakened in me a desire to see lands where pine trees and lakes, wolves and moose were. After a move to Wisconsin pursuing those lands, the ocean of Christianity once again swallowed me. Which led me to Minnesota. And, eventually, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, where, after a divorce, I would meet Kate, who cried in the Temple and whose son, Jon, now mine, too, loved to ski. Which led, in its own, very unplanned way, to this home on Shadow Mountain. So many other instances.

 

 

 

Kavanah

Fall                                                                         Joe and SeoAh Moon

But the end is not yet

But the end is not yet

2017 Woolly Mammoth Retreat Question. Three Mammoths are not yet 70, a couple at 70, four mid-70’s and two in their 80’s. All, however, firmly in what I call the third phase, the phase of life after career and family building are usually over. That’s the time frame this question referents.

Since I will not be attending this year, I’m going to write my answer here and send it along to the retreat.

What is our intention for this phase (or the remainder) of our life; hopes, truths, fears, losses, sufferings, challenges, inspirations, duties and non-duties?

It is different now, in the third phase of life. With a career and a family we built our lives to a crescendo and this, this is the denouement*:  the final part of a play, movie, or narrative in which the strands of the plot are drawn together and matters are explained or resolved. Other words: conclusion, finale, epilogue, coda, final scene, finish, end.

It is not retirement, at least not any more. This is not the finish line, it’s the period before the finish line, after the race has largely been run. But not all the way. The finish line might be a fourth phase, a sort of lingering in the face of medical challenges that end only one way, death. None of us, to my knowledge anyhow, are in that fourth phase and we have at least one who is still flirting with the end of the second phase, but for the most part we’re in life’s epilogue.

One of the reasons I came up with notion of the third phase was that the retirement model of my childhood was more like the fourth phase, a lingering that, though it might include golf, fishing, a grandkid on the knee, was still a lingering that saw death close by. It was a time of not-working, defined by whatever leisure pursuits one chose.

2010 01 19_3454Not for us. As all of you (Woolly Mammoths at least) know, I entered the third phase from a different vantage point, having left the ministry behind as a full-time vocation in 1991. I focused on writing novels though there was a regressive moment in which I moved over to the UU ministry, at least partway.

I have written several. And I’m not done. My 8th, Superior Wolf, has a finished first draft and I’m working on my 9th, Jennie’s Dead. Not to mention the vampire novel I’m plotting in my head right now, one set around a castle hidden away in the Rocky Mountains. So, the not-working, retirement focused third phase is not for me. I’m having too much fun.

The third phase began in earnest for me when we decided to move to Colorado. Why? Because we were leaving behind not only the political and museum work I’d done for years in the Twin Cities, but we sold our garden, our orchards, our woods, our flower beds. We also stored all the bee equipment we’d purchased over the years. Those were the work equivalent activities of my post-ministry years, equal in some ways to novel writing.

So my intention for the third phase had, at the point of the move, at least these components: a focus on Jon, Ruth and Gabe, continued writing, immersion in the West and the Rockies, seeing what new life Kate and I could construct outside our Midwestern home places.

20171016_070053Of course, and I think this is true even if you remain in a familiar place, the unexpected always shapes things, too. How could we know, for example, that our family focus, the proximate reason for the move, would shift dramatically when Jon and Jen headed into fourteen months (and counting) of an acrimonious divorce. How could we know that in my first physical with our new physician, Lisa Gidday, that she would find a hard spot on my prostate? How could we know that Kate would face challenges from rheumatoid arthritis and Sjogren’s Syndrome?

How could we know, in a more positive vein, that the mountain streams would be so interesting in their seasonal variation, the aspens so wonderful in their monochromatic fall splendor? How could we know that mule deer and elk, mountain lions and bears and fox would become part of our everyday life? How could we know that a small Jewish community, a community of mountain Jews as they call themselves, would become central to our lives?

What is intention? It’s an important idea for Jews. Kavanah**, or intention, can determine the religious efficacy of prayer and ritual. If the intention, the kavanah, is not sincere and focused, the prayer or ritual is considered deficient.  I’m not trying to be theological here, or, maybe I am, but not in a traditional sense. The kavanah of our third phase is critical, I think. It does need to be sincere and focused to prepare and establish an orientation of our heart/mind.

kyudo3_250Intention matters a great deal because, unlike Jewish prayer and ritual, so much of our life is unknown. What can we bring to life as it twists and turns, zigzags its way? A willingness to treat life with love, care, awe, joy will allow us to navigate the planned and the unplanned with grace. That is my intention for this (and, for that matter, any) phase of life, now this third phase. I will be open to the new, approach others with chesed, loving kindness, embrace awe, seek out the joyful and the laugh filled.

Whether I write, spend time with family, hike in the mountains, learn the ancient Jewish ways in their modern clothing, engage in the day to day with Kate and the dogs, or maintain relationships in the far away, I intend to laugh, love and play. After that? Well, there is no after that.

 

 

*1752, from French dénouement “an untying” (of plot), from dénouer “untie” (Old French desnouer) from des- “un-, out” (see dis-) + nouer “to tie, knot,” from Latin nodus “a knot,” from PIE root *ned- “to bind, tie.” etymology online

**”Kavanah comes from an ancient verbal root also found where the object or subject is the “heart”. It connotes “to direct, to prepare, to establish”, an orientation of mind, heart, intention. According to Moshe Halbertal, it implies concentration and sincerity…” wiki

In A Techno-Desert, Thirsty for Human Interaction

Fall                                                                             Harvest Moon

5:20 am on Shadow Mountain. 43 degrees. 12% humidity. Pressure 22.60. No wind. Crescent moon. All the same without knowing these data points, I know. Still. I like to know them anyhow.

naisbittThis week Thursday I get to see Joe and SeoAh. I’m excited just to see them, to have some high touch in this high tech age. Remember Alvin Toffler? A futurist, he posited that the more complex and sophisticated our technology becomes, the more necessary direct human interaction. (Toffler preceded Naisbitt by at least two years with this idea, but Naisbitt made it a corporate buzz phrase. I find his notion of balance between our physical and spiritual reality an interesting idea.)

True. We exist, at least many of us, especially those younger than a certain age, in a cloud (pun intended) of virtual data. This blog, for example. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Email. Text messages. Twitter. I see, regularly, information and pictures about high school friends, old college friends, friends in Minnesota, family. I don’t use Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, not enough time in a day, but I’m on Facebook at least daily. I send and receive many e-mails, text messages. All this keeps me up to date, to some extent, on people I care about, a gratifying level of connection available, in yesteryear, only to voluminous letter writers.

1954-09 Galaxy Magazine by Ed EmshwillerBut the connection is, of course, partly, maybe mostly, illusory. We get only snippets, usually disconnected snippets. No hugs. No careful listening. No smiles. No touch on the hand during a conversation. No walks. No meals. The further out from our fleshly world, the less real information about another we receive because the context for what we know is very limited.

I don’t happen to see this as bad. I’m grateful for the chance to learn about even parts of the lives of people who once belonged to my fleshly world. But it does create a longing for in person moments, to embrace Joseph and SeoAh, for example. Or, to attend a 55th high school reunion, or show up at a Woolly Retreat in November,which I will not be able to do this year.

High Tech High TouchAs we age and travel becomes more difficult, I imagine this will become an even more poignant issue, extending even into our fleshly world. There’s promise, yes, in telemedicine, for example. We already meet with our financial planner over Skype. How many of our now daily or weekly interactions will become virtual? The key issue here, the one I think Toffler alluded to, though he may not have named it outright, is isolation.

We are on the map of the future where a cartographer might write in florid typescript, “Here there be dragons.” We just don’t know what the combination of high tech and increasingly low touch world might mean. Isolation is deadly, killing the spirit and ravaging the soul. Will we end up in a technological desert, thirsty for real human interaction, seeing it in the shimmering illusions of social media, but not being able to reach it? If so, what can we do about it?

 

The Journey So Far

Fall                                                                                       Harvest Moon

copertasign_wide_web

Because we began our married life together in Rome, Italian restaurants have a special place in our hearts. Not to mention that the Italians really know food. We went to Coperta last night in downtown Denver. The name means blanket and connotes a warm, comfortable place. It was.

Realized we hadn’t done this in a while, gone out together, into the city. It was revivifying.

We mulled over the move, again, congratulating ourselves on doing it when we did; when we had tired of the work in Andover, but before we’d gone deep into old age. We love living in the Rockies, seeing wildlife and rock, mountain streams every day. Our house fits us perfectly and provided a good respite for Jon and the kids during the last 14 months. The dogs like the yard. Beth Evergreen has given us a community of like minded folks, all searching for their best selves.

IMAG0927_BURST002January 2015

The first three years have had their challenges, most readers of this blog already know them: prostate cancer, Kate’s struggles with rheumatoid arthritis and now Sjogren’s Syndrome, total knee replacement, and Jon’s divorce, his moving in with us. It would be nice if the universe would let up on the lesson plan, give us some time to regroup, get our breath. Could happen.

27 years. 28 next March. Years of learning each other, of supporting each other through thick and thin, challenging each other, cheering each other. Last night we ate Italian and enjoyed the memories it evoked.

Kate and me

A Moving Experience

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

This post is for my buddy who’s about to embark on a third phase move. I told him I’d go back through my notes (posts) and see if I could find helpful ideas. This is a very edited sequence, from near the first notion of moving through arrival in Colorado. They’re fragments of longer posts, all from the year 2014, starting roughly in April, when we decided Colorado was in our immediate future. The bold first word indicates an entry.

Two main ideas in here (IMHO) are live in the move and move stupid. Live in the move means, stay focused on what needs to get done, not fantasizing about the future or agonizing about the past. Move the process forward, don’t stew. Move stupid means that the tsunami of decisions, actions, even staying focused takes energy and makes you, at times, dull. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, differences of opinion, problem solving. It goes with the territory.

We used A1 moving, a Stevens Van Line company and were happy with them. We also used a local outfit, SortTossPack, that helped us develop a strategy for eliminating things, then helped us pack early. They took items we didn’t want to move and sent them to their consignment shop. We made a little money from that and got rid of things that were in our way.

Here are the fragments. They end in December 2014:

Since making the decision a little over a month ago, we’ve made concrete step after concrete step, each one headed west toward the Rockies. And each one makes a bit more excited. Living in the move, instead of Minnesota or Colorado, has let me go with the process as it flows, allowing my daily actions to flow with it, rather than struggling against difficulties. So far that seems to be working fine.

William Morris has proved helpful as I make decisions about what to move to Colorado and what we want to sell or donate. His principle, have nothing in your home which is not beautiful or useful, sound on its own in my opinion (and one I’ve honored in the breach for the most part), makes wonderful sense when sorting through, say, crystal.
All of this living in the move means staying in the flow toward Colorado, realizing where the energy naturally goes at this stage and following it. Putting our shoulders behind work at the time it needs to be done means we use the momentum of change to our benefit. Easier than fighting against it, trying to push things to move faster. Then the momentum of change works against us.

Both of us have experienced moving/gardening fatigue this week. Living in the move helps, but it doesn’t eliminate the stress of so many decisions large and small and the feeling of hanging over a precipice neither able to fall or retreat…

It’s a relief to share these feelings, to know that your partner has the slows as well as you. Of course, that’s the definition of a good relationship, sharing the journey, the ancientrail of marriage.

This is a chance to prune my work over the last third of my life, clear out the branches that have grown across each other. Take out that large branch that flourished then died.

 

It’s the decisions that slow me down. And the memories. And sometimes the memories make the decisions hard. Sometimes not.

 

Interesting. I’ve been living in the move. Too much. Pushing to get stuff packed, get the exterior work, house and grounds, underway, looking at movers and thinking about storage. Pushing. Turning on my phone and my jambox, listening to country music, Porgy and Bess, the blues, Coltrane while I fill boxes. Stuffing my life in liquor boxes, slapping on red or green tape, some packing tape, stacking them up. In the move. In it.

 

A weariness has affected both Kate and me. I think I know its source: the move. We’ve pushed in several directions: decluttering, packing, fixing up the house… Yes, we’ve chosen this. And, yes, perhaps even more important, we’re trying to pace ourselves. Which, btw, I think we’ve done pretty well. But the pace has been constant. Add in the growing season and four dogs. You get the picture. Not to mention that we both have had our medicare cards for more than a year.

 

SortTossPack

Kate said this morning that she had surreal moments with the move. Me, too. We both work along, packing, getting other matters taken care of but the move itself feels unreal, as if a mirage.

 

Saw an ad for Army Strong. Well, I’m move stupid.

 

When there’s a lot of details to sort out in something, I focus, a form of move-stupid, and become almost affectless, plowing through things I don’t like to do, but things that stand between here and there.

 

Our process continues to serve us well, keeping us just ahead of looming deadlines and schedules. It’s been a joint effort all the way.

 

Back to packing this morning, but the heart’s not in it. It’s not a reluctance to move on, not at all. Rather, it’s a weariness, evident today. Push, push, push.

 

The trick is to just stay in the moment. Let the day’s packing be sufficient there unto.

 

Packing takes a toll in these last days. Not sure why, but each day I spend a good deal of time packing really wears me out. Not physically, but emotionally. It’s not resistance to the move itself, as I’ve said here before, rather I think it feels as if the packing has gone on too long.

 

Things feel chaotic, not out of control, but easy to tip over in that direction. Then, there’s the I can see the other side from here feeling and things tip back into balance, or as much balance as this part of the move allows…

 

I don’t know whether the speed is good or bad, probably neither, but I do know that once the decision was firm, the desire to execute it swiftly grew. At the same time we have wanted a measured pace, one that allowed us to pack easily

 

Today packers will finish up what we didn’t get done or didn’t intend to get done. Tomorrow, too, if necessary.

 

This is, for me, a difficult stretch. Lots of strangers, lots of activity in the house, details. Unfinished business that has to get done by a deadline. Yikes.

 

Decisions now are summary. Yes, that goes in trash. No, we’re going to put that in the trash, too. Trash wins all ties.

 

The sleep deprivation demon has come out to play the last couple of nights. Wake up for any reason and, wham! … Just like that your mind is awake and generating a list of things you hadn’t even considered up to that point. How energetic of you, mind.

 

I’ve noticed, more in recent years, that physical activity which had once been, if not easy, at least doable, taxes me, makes my muscles quiver slightly. Weakness like this has a similar effect to sleeplessness. A doubled effect in this instance. The lowered ability to do work-decline in muscle strength-also affects my sense of maleness. I’m weak, unable to do (fill in the blank), and therefore less of a man. Do I know this is nonsense? Intellectually, yes. Politically, yes. Emotionally? Not so much.

 

We had help, lots of help. Two different companies helped us pack. Various individuals helped us get our property ready for sale. Realtors have helped us find this house we have now and are helping us sell the one in Minnesota.

 

And always packing. List making. Lots of communicating, mostly with each other, but with wider family and friends. E-mails, phone calls. More packing, always. Up to the day the movers came and finished the packing for us.

 

So many decisions, big and small. Working out how to live in the move rather than constantly projecting ourselves out of the present and into the future, so tempting, so damaging.

 

A major goal of living-in-the-move as an idea was to tamp down the holds and let the anxiety leak out in controlled doses.

Legacy

Fall                                                                              Harvest Moon

A friend is moving and he had me going back to the entries in Ancientrails made during the seven month process of our first deciding to move, then executing the move. Here are two that struck me:

From October, 2014

Going to lay down the broadcast in the vegetable garden and the orchard this morning, then mulch. Kate and Anne planted next year’s garlic crop while I was in Colorado. With no additional effort then, the new owners will have apples, pears, plums, cherries, currants, raspberries, gooseberries, strawberries, rhubarb, asparagus and garlic from their orchard and vegetable garden. In addition they will have daffodils, liguria, monkshood, many varieties of Asiatic lilies, iris and hemerocallis. Clematis, daffodils, tulips and fall crocus will IMAG0683bloom, too. Wisteria, lilac, bushy clematis and snakeroot put fragrance, delicate and sweet, in the air. They will have three different sheds in which to organize their outdoor life and a firepit for family evenings. There are, too, the separated plantings of prairie grass and wildflowers that bracket the front lawn, providing habitat for butterflies and other wildlife.

In addition the property has about 1.5 acres of woods, including a morel patch that shows up in the late spring. With the inground irrigation system this is a place for a person with an interest in living closer to the earth and harvesting the literal fruits of such a lifestyle.

 

From June or so, 2014

Today and until I’m done I will be packing the study in which I work every day. That means the sorting will get harder, green tape boxes outnumbering red tape ones. Probably by a lot. It also means the confrontation between time remaining (in my life) and the projects (intellectual and creative) that keep me excited will come center stage. I’ll try to sort out the ones I feel I can fruitfully engage over the next 20 years from the ones I can’t.

That means I’m considering active intellectual and creative work at least into my late 80’s. That feels like a stretch, maybe, but one I believe my health and potential longevity justifies.

Let me give you an idea of what I have in mind. Complete the translation of Ovid’s Metamorphosis. Write at least four more novels. Write essays or a book on Reimagining My Faith. Write and read much more poetry. Write essays or a book on matters related to the Enlightenment, liberal thought, modernism. Write essays or a book on matters related to the Great Work. Include in this work considered attention to Asian literature, art and thought, especially Chinese and Indian. Continue regular art historical research and write essays about aesthetics and particular art/artists.

Why? Because I can. I’ve no evidence so far that my thinking is strikingly original or unusually deep, but my intellectual maturation has taken a longer time than I imagined it would. So the best may yet be ahead. Or so it feels to me. Under any circumstances such work will keep me alert and focused.

Here on Sufferance

Lughnasa                                                               Eclipse Moon

20170519_060312Vast, blue sky with puffy white clouds. Jagged mountains and flat plains, forests and wildlife. Wildfire. Snow, rivers, a few lakes. Air, earth, fire and water. The West is so elemental. It’s no wonder that it has enlivened the imagination of those who visit it or read about it, yet is so difficult a place to live. Here the natural world apart from the built world (also natural in its way) dominates. The cities like Denver and Salt Lake City, Cheyenne and Boise, Vegas, Tucson, Phoenix are islands, admittedly big islands, but islands nonetheless, of concentrated human habitat. They disappear around the bend of a mountain pass, or are obscured by arid land with few towns.

It is obvious that we humans are here on sufferance, ravaged by fire, made thirsty by drought in an already arid land, moving slowly even in our cars and trucks across mountain reaches, unable to grow enough to eat. It is, I think, this stark contrast between the wealth and power of human civilization humbled by the land and the sky that makes the west mythic, much like northern Minnesota and Michigan.

The west has begun to seep into my bones, become my home. I live here and have begun to feel it, the place. Still learning, though.

 

Fellow Traveler

Lughnasa                                                           Eclipse Moon

Arthur_Szyk_(1894-1951)._The_Holiday_Series,_Rosh_Hashanah_(1948),_New_Canaan,_CT.jpg

Arthur Szyk (1894-1951). The Holiday Series, Rosh Hashanah (1948), New Canaan, CT

Judaism as a civilization, a culture, appeals to me on several levels. As practiced at Beth Evergreen it focuses on ethical living through character development, mussar, offers solace to mourners through kaddish at regular services, nourishes a vibrant community where folks actually care for each other and their daily lives, and punctuates the year with the celebration of meaningful holidays.  There are also multiple opportunities for learning. This fall I will participate in the adult education series Words, Words, Words, take Hebrew and later the second kabbalah class.

Mussar yesterday focused on forgiveness. It was timely. Forgiveness couples with the energy of a new year during the high holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Giving and seeking forgiveness for wrongs committed in the past year is on the hearts of everyone in Jewish communities around the world. There are of course more involved theological reasons for both holidays, but at its humanist level Yom Kippur, the day of atonement, underscores the impulse to punish others in ways great and small for their actions that hurt us. And reminds us forcefully to resist it by forgiving those actions in others and seeking forgiveness for the wrongs we have done to them. In a small community where relationships really matter, like Beth Evergreen, like your extended family, forgiveness makes ongoing community life possible, reducing rancor and hostility while opening relationships up for movement into the next, new year.

 

Change Happens

Lughnasa                                                                        Eclipse Moon

20170731_182340Kepler has kennel cough, caused by the same organism, a bordetella variety, that causes whooping cough in humans, especially children. He got the bordetella vaccination, as did Rigel and Gertie, but he either got less of a dose-he didn’t want it-or he contracted a strain resistant to the vaccine. His racking, barking cough produces tenacious. Kate says this is a medical term designating a stringy, hard to clean up secretion. Well, it’s accurate. A visit to the vet later he’s on the mend, but the symptoms may last a while, depending on whether the organism is a virus or a bacteria, longer with the virus, shorter with bacteria.

Gertie went to Aurora with Kate and me yesterday evening when we took in the sleeping mats that came here late in the afternoon. She enjoyed the ride, she likes to go, but the heat, 95 degrees when we reached the Denver heat island, had her tongue lolling out of her mouth. Ours, too.

We got to the new house a bit before the kids and Jon returned from an initial trip to Target for essentials like food and clothing for Gabe, who’d forgotten to pack any. I suggested he go naked to school and he said, “No.” Ruth came in with groceries and began putting them away in the refrigerator. Gabe, also with packages, followed her, shouting in his high-pitched voice, “Gertie! She’s going to stay all night with us, right, Grandma?” Uhh, “No.”

Gertie and Ruth

Gertie and Ruth

Jon looked frazzled, a full day of teaching behind him and an evening and morning of single parenting ahead of him. This will be his first week on his own with the kids, except for the June vacation, since the divorce process began a year ago May. Right now there’s excitement and promise, enough to carry them through the first week, but not enough to ensure against upset and confusion.

Single parenting, as any of you who’ve done it know, has distinct challenges occasioned by full-time work and the rest of the time responsibility for the kids. Joint custody relieves this challenge half of the time, but creates challenges of its own. Jon and Jen are in the first weeks of creating a rhythm that not only serves Ruth and Gabe, most important, but that also serves them. It will take weeks, maybe months. In the meantime there is the potential for disagreements over pick up and drop off times, medical issues, school matters and the other things, large and small, that go with being a family, but a family divided by divorce.

Brother and sister filling the fridge for the first time

Brother and sister filling the fridge for the first time

As we drove home, back to the 35 degree cooler Shadow Mountain, both of us were a bit sad, a year plus worth of Jon living with us and the grandkids visiting on weekends behind us, memories now. There is, too, though, an exhilaration at having our house back. We can finish moving in.

 

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