We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

This and that

Beltane                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

Ode, Tom, Paul overlooking the Animas River in Durango

All the Woollies are back in their places with bright shiny faces. Mark and Tom in the Twin Cities, Paul in Robbintson, Maine.

Kate had her first board meeting last night. She dressed up in her serious adult clothes, put on a coat of many colors and went to Evergreen. I stayed home. Felt good after the long drive.

It’s 50 again this morning, cool, but clear. Yesterday the rain continued in the evening. A bit of nostalgia on the weather website, a tornado watch! Felt like the Midwest. Don’t recall having had one while we’ve lived here. Lots of red flag days, flash flood warnings, winter storm warnings, but no tornado watches. A few severe thunderstorm warnings, usually announcing the possibility of killer hail. Colorado has significant hail damage, among the highest in the nation. Climate in the montane region of the Rockies.

With the Durango trip over I’m finished with traveling until early August when I’ll head back to the Twin Cities for Groveland U.U.’s 25th anniversary celebration. Look forward to reconnecting with both Woolly friends and fellow docents from the MIA, seeing the MIA and the Walker, a jucy lucy at Matt’s.

Tan clumps are stump detritus

Tan clumps are stump detritus

We go into Denver less and less, our out of the house time spent either in the mountains themselves or in Evergreen, mostly at Beth Evergreen. Not an intentional thing, though the heat during the summers is a barrier for us, just that our life is now in the mountains and the city seems more and more foreign each time we go. Of course, we lived in Andover for twenty years, well outside Minneapolis, but we got into the Cities with greater frequency there. I had the MIA and the Sierra Club, the Woollies that drew me in; Kate had friends.

The stump grinder did a great job. Feels like we’re beginning to move in, a process attenuated by the medical and familial upsets that came bang, bang, bang after we moved. Jon’s bench is a good step in that direction, placing the fans, adding the light in the living room. Plenty more to do. We spent a lot of money early on installing the generator, a new boiler, solar panels, the new bathroom downstairs, sealing and staining the garage, new kitchen. Decor has waited. I’m close to having the garage organized again, may do some more work on that today.

 

Traveling Mercies

Beltane                                                                                Woolly Mammoth Moon

about+friendship+best+fMario is already in town, taking wildfire pictures with his usual acumen, traveling over mountain passes. Tom and Paul fly in today and we’ll have a slow cooker Irish stew up here on Shadow Mountain, all of us. These are friends of well over thirty years, men with whom I shared twice monthly meetings over that time, plus annual retreats. That bond was the toughest thing to leave behind when Kate and I moved out here.

This was a men’s group in the old style, one supported by, though not directly part of, the Men’s Movement. Robert Bly, the well known poet who lives in Minneapolis, was a key figure in that movement and a friend of several Woollies. He and the early Men’s Movement folks rooted the movement in Jungian psychology, considering archetypes in particular. Our group, the Woolly Mammoths-“We’re not extinct yet.”-, went in that direction, too, discussing fathers and mothers, dreams, career, love, pilgrimage and many other topics with vulnerability prized rather than shamed.

left to right, back row first: Jim, Bill, Paul, Tom, Me, Mark, Warren

left to right, back row first: Jim, Bill, Paul, Tom, Me, Mark, Warren

I’ve been gone three years now and I felt the loss keenly in the first couple of years. These were my confidants, my friends, an external ballast that helped steady the little barque that is my life. Due to illness and divorce (Jon’s) our first years  here have focused on recovery and left little money or time or stamina for travel. There were visits here, which I appreciated very much.

Now Paul, Tom, and Mark will be here for a trip to Durango, current site of the 416 fire, and jumping off spot for seeing such sights as Mesa Verde and the Four Corners in addition to the Durango/Silverton RR, closed due to the fire.

I feel so happy that these guys are coming out here, that we’ll have time together, to talk, to go deeper in the way only long time friends can do. Seeing more of Colorado, all of which will be new to me after Fairplay or so, is also exciting. Looking forward to a memorable few days.

 

Life Improving

Beltane                                                                                                 Sumi-e Moon

Pulled a couple of t-bones out of the freezer yesterday. Two inch thick. But chewy. Still, the flavor was good. Mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. Saturday night meal with my sweetheart.

20180513_105811Kate looks and feels so much better. The pain is gone in her right shoulder which created a lot of stress throughout the day and made sleeping difficult, requiring vicodin from time to time. She’s exercising regularly as she goes through her p.t., using the pulley we set up in her sewing room, using a walking stick for two-handed shoulder movements, rolling an exercise ball.

Sjogren’s, right now, is manageable, which it seems to be in the absence of a flair. Her weight is headed up, zigzagging, as weight can, but moving in a positive direction. Her energy level and stamina are both much improved. She’s sewing favors, mug rugs, for a Bailey Patchworkers event in August for which she is the food chairperson.

20180414_162058Jon, too, has positive news. He bought some appliances, a Viking cooktop and two wall ovens, a microwave and dishwasher. He also had a date which he described as amazing. Ruth is out of school, Gabe is next week and I believe Jon finishes the week after. He has the summer for working on his house, something he’s looking forward to. I plan to help him with his landscaping.

SeoAh had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic and ended up in the emergency room. She’s better now. Joe’s doing major things. Murdoch continues to get bigger.

I’m doing well. Back at Jennie’s Dead, closing in on 50,000 words, printing out Ancientrails. I’m only up to April of 2008, but I’m making progress. I named this moon sumi-e so I can get a more organized approach to working with the brushes, learning instead of just playing. Which is fun, too. Reading a lot. Finished God Save Texas and went on from that to Rovelli’s Order of Time which I also finished. Right now I’m reading short stories by Robert Aickman. He’s weird. Surprised I never heard of him before now.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition runs from March 16 to Sept. 3, 2018 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The exhibition showcases ancient artifacts predominantly from Israel. Photo courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Today 24 of us from Beth Evergreen are going in to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Rabbi Jamie’s brother, a Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies, will give us a personal tour.

Speaking of stress reducers, we’ve had rain and even snow yesterday, for the last few days. More on moisture ahead, too. Tamps down fire risk. Also makes the mountains atmospheric. Lots of mist and fog, partial glimpses. Black Mountain as Gypsy Rose Lee.

Elevation Elation

Spring                                                                          Mountain Moon

The full mountain moon lit up the backyard last night. The mountain landscape changes throughout the day and throughout the moon’s cycle as light creates shade here, then there, casting into relief rock structure or limning tree stumps. The moon puts down a quiet, gentle light in which all seems peaceful even though predators still stalk through the forests.

I’m halfway into the mountain emphasis, still reading the mountains and rivers poets of China, still looking carefully, learning how to see what I’m looking at. Tried some sumi-e paintings but realism, even of the mountain essence variety, is beyond me right now.

I did print out both Rocky Mountain Vampire and Jennie’s Dead. Read through the Vampire’s few words, 2,500 or so. Some of it I liked, some I didn’t. Setting it aside right now. Jennie’s Dead is at 45,000 words, about halfway. Still reading it, liking it. It’s different from my others in the amount of mythology retelling and reimagining I’m doing in it. Once I finish reading it, I’m going to get back at it.

pape_de_abraham-a_hermit_writing_in_his_bookWhile I read yesterday, I realized (again) that this is what I love, the mechanics of writing, words and sentences, paragraphs and chapters, the letting something new come into the world like Athena born from the forehead of Zeus. It always surprises me, just as I imagine Zeus was surprised when a goddess burst forth. Well, maybe not quite that grand of a surprise, but you get the point.

Even though Kate is still struggling with nausea, persistent and dispiriting, her recovery still moves forward. She’s using her right hand and forearm more and more. Her weight, which dipped after the pain of the deep massage, has rebounded. Her right shoulder pain is gone and her p.t. will help her get her strength back.

As her recovery continues, I can feel myself ready to get back to full-time writing. I’m excited about that. I’d gotten away from it well before her surgery, so her surgery didn’t effect my writing, but the energy I feel from her progress has affected my return.

My Colorado life has begun to come into focus. Keep writing. Learn more sumi-e, practice, then practice some more. Continue to read the shan shui (rivers and mountains) poetry of ancient China, read geology, sketch and paint the shan shui here. Cook. Go deeper into the community of Beth Evergreen and the tradition of Judaism. Workout and hike. Spend time with Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe. Consult with Beth Evergreen’s beekeepers. Dogs. Do the things that only I can do. Speak with the voice only I have. Travel the state. Looking forward to the June trip with Tom, Paul, and Mark. Maintain long distance connections to SeoAh, Joe and Murdoch and to friends from college and high school. Continue learning more about the West.

ancoraI keep seeing articles about how to find meaning in old age. I don’t think there are any secrets. It’s the same process as finding meaning in young age. You have to actively seek it and create it for yourself. Sure, your possibilities and capacities change with different ages, but that’s all. There’s a presumption that old age is a paradigm shift in how to live. No. It’s not.

The third phase, while certainly significantly different than the other two, is still life, still your life. Your old sources of meaning don’t disappear though they may, probably will, transform. You may find new ones. I have since we moved to Colorado. But you found new sources of meaning before, didn’t you? Same now. Your job then, your job now. I find this very liberating, freeing me from the social constructs about what an old person is or does. As an older person, I’m still learning, still changing, still growing. May it continue.

 

 

Deepening, Growing Richer

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

20180119_095931

Dogs, too

Thinking about the previous post I celebrated the move to Colorado. We’re here to support Gabe and Jon. Congregation Beth Evergreen is here to support us, SeoAh and Joe, too. In turn the Woollies are there to support Mark and I retain powerful ties to them, too, and him. It’s so gratifying, at age 71, to find ties of family and friendship and community deepening, growing richer.

The Great Wheel turns, the moon rises and sets, day and night follow each other. And we reach out to each other, fellow travelers through the seasons, months, and days.

Regress to advance

Imbolc                                                                             New Shoulder Moon

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.”
– Anatole France

melancholyThe last letters of the Hebrew alphabet now have renderings in sumi-e, lying on my table ready for quotes and the chop. A member of Beth Evergreen last night referred to me as an artist. Oh. I thought he said audience. Artist is not a word I’ve ever associated with myself so my brain heard something else. A revealing moment. How others see us is not always, perhaps often, not the way we see ourselves.

An obituary on Terry Brazelton had this summary of a major finding of his research: “Development does not occur on a linear path, with each skill building on earlier ones. Rather, it unfolds in a series of major reorganizations in which children temporarily regress before mastering a new developmental milestone.” NYT

Well. That explains melancholy, at least as I’ve experienced it. There’s a plateau effect, then a hesitation, a pause while the psyche incorporates a new way of being, one probably not available to consciousness at the time of the pause. Since it’s inchoate, the reorganization seems like a regression, a stutter. The mind and the body both slow down, awaiting something they don’t understand. Result: melancholy.

 Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

Van-Leyden St. Jerome in his Study by Candlelight (1520)

If you’ve read my posts over the last month or so, I think you’ll see what I’m talking about. My psyche had moved on, already aware that I needed more tactile moments in my daily life, already aware that it was time to resort my priorities based on a new constellation of possibilities made real by our move.

Last night at the shabbat service a rabbi friend of Jamie’s gave a short reflection. She had us consider an unusual moment in the Torah when the former Hebrew slaves remembered fondly the foods they had in Egypt. Using this seemingly inscrutable nostalgia for a time of bondage, she suggested that during transitions, a time of instability, wandering in the dessert for example, we often want to return to the stable state we know to ease the anxieties and uncertainties of a transition. Thus, when faced with a period of eating manna during an often frustrating movement toward the land promised, but not yet reached, even slavery seemed to have its charms.

That nostalgia, I think, is the root of melancholy, a hope that the past can ease the upset of the present. The psyche knows that’s a false hope, a trap, but is unable to articulate why. So, stasis, moving neither forward nor backward, which the ego interprets as negative without knowing why. Really, the moment is gestational, a new way awaits its birth. Not back to Egypt, but on to the promised land. Not back to the life of forty years in Minnesota, but on to the new life developing in Colorado.

 

 

 

The Work of Sadness. Of Grief.

Imbolc                                                                        New Life Moon

Melancholy, Munch 1894

Melancholy, Munch 1894

The melancholy has done its work. Still listening, paying attention, but here’s what I’ve discovered this time. My life was out of balance. I needed more time working with my hands, using my body. Also, I had neglected reading of certain kinds, especially reading that advances my reconstruct, reimagine, reenchant project.

This latter work has gotten quite long in the tooth, has become more of a forever, at least until I die thing. And I don’t want that. I want to write at least some essays, preferably something book length.

20171217_175903It was also time to slough off some of the Minnesota based, second phase lingering work. Especially the political. I am going to the caucus this Tuesday; however, I no longer see myself as a dedicated activist. But, and I consider this great news, Ruth told me she was walking out on April 9th, standing outside Mcauliffe, her middle school, for seventeen minutes, one minute for each of the Parkland victims. She’s doing it in spite of the fact that adults tell her no one will listen. Go, Ruth!

And writing. Not giving that up, yet I feel the need now to shift at least some of that energy to the three R’s. I’ve felt this way before, yes, but something feels different now. Not sure what exactly.

20180303_171938The melancholy also uncovered a tension I’d been feeling between leaning in to the domestic, cooking, for example, and Kate and mine’s presence in the Beth Evergreen community, and what I consider my work. Recalibrating second phase expectations about work, which I have not yet fully done, feels like a task for this time. In fact, I enjoy the domestic part of our lives and it feels good to devote more energy to it.

Recalibrating. More on this as it continues.

 

 

Moody Blues

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

mood ringAs melancholy begins to lift, where does it go? Does it go back into memory, added to a store of melancholic episodes over a life time, each one different, unique, becoming part of the polyvalent stew that is our psyche? What triggers the end or, better, the gradual tailing off of doubt? Of the heaviness? Of the stasis? Where do all those moods and temporary inner states (and, they’re all temporary) go? Do they just float up into some neuronic cloud, then get washed away through the body’s toxic cleansing processes?

Psychic moods are more important than we realize and they’re little understood, little discussed; but, these colorations of our inner world directly influence how we react to others, to events in our lives. A positive mood contributes to resilience, to the ability to take in an insult, large or small, and respond in a constructive manner while a negative mood can take an insult as devastating, catastrophic.

moodsI’m not talking here about depression or anxiety or mania, serious and long lasting mental states; rather, I’m talking about fleeting, sometimes changing moment by moment, atmospherics. Joy. Sadness. Glad. Mad. Eager. Reluctant. Energized. Slow. Crisp or dull. They come and go like the lenticulars over Black Mountain or the high white mare’s tail cirrus. Sometimes they crowd our mind with the darkness of a thunder head or roar through us like a tornado. And then they go, pushed away by a high or low pressure system, perhaps a psychic La Nina.

moodphases

moodphases

Some moods last a bit longer. Melancholy is one for me. I can feel it beginning to leave, pressed out, as it usually is, by a renewed sense of purpose; yet, right now that renewed purpose is not clear. That means the melancholy cannot fully go because its reason for emerging has not been resolved.

Still waiting on the outlines of the new life melancholy seeks. It starts out, I think, with dissatisfaction, usually inchoate, not yet conscious, about some aspect of my life. And, I think, further, that that very inchoate state is what develops into melancholy. A sort of psychic brake gets pressed as the mind tries to grasp both the dis-ease and a route forward. The melancholy lasts as long it takes for the reordering of life’s energy into a new way of being in the world.

 

 

The Inner. The Outer.

Imbolc                                                                                  New Life Moon

visual_field_testGlaucoma stable. Did a visual field exam yesterday, space invaders with a clicker and dots of light flashing off and on, testing peripheral vision.

Kate went with me so we could go to the Village Gourmet and buy a carving knife and a better potato masher. Turns out what I thought of as a carving knife was a filleting knife, a boning knife. What I wanted in spite of its different purpose. It’s in the knife rack now awaiting the time I have to cut up more chunks of beef or a chicken or a capon. Remember the capon saga around Thanksgiving? Found a potato masher, too. With a horizontal grip, easier on old hands.

My birthday present is to change out my wardrobe. That is, get rid of the old work related shirts and suits and shoes and pants and replace them. It’s been a long, long time since I had to show up at the office or appear in a tie, so this is not a sudden decision.

No. Not cowboy boots and shirts with triangle shaped pockets, pearl snaps. Not cowboy hats and big belt buckles. Just not me. But. Part of the motivation is to dress as the Coloradan I now feel myself to be. I’m no cowboy, nor are most of the folks who wear Western style clothing either. My Colorado is more mountains than ranches, more forests and streams than ski slopes. And, in that, my Colorado has definite affinities with my other favorite places, northern Minnesota with its clear lakes and thick forests, Lake Superior, especially its western and true northern shore, and northern Anoka County in Minnesota.

flannelSo. More flannels and plaids. Fleece vests. Another pair or two of blue jeans. Some new hat, though I don’t have a particular one in mind right now. There is a tiny part of me that relates to loggers, lumberjacks. Not the whole lumberjack look that spread out from Minnesota a few years back. That’s not still a thing, is it? But related to it. With all the chainsaw work I’ve done over my lifetime I feel I’ve earned some of that.

Mussar puts a significant inflection on changing outward behavior to change inner attitudes. As part of a strategy for self work, this makes sense to me though it conflicts sharply with my understanding of authenticity. In the case of defining a new look it feels appropriate.

What I want is my costuming, my outer look, to reflect my inner attitude, my changing sense of the place to which I belong. It’s definitely no longer oxford cloth shirts and polished wool pants, silk ties and Cole Haan shoes. Finished with that. For good.

A more comfortable, rumpled, casual look. One with a north woods, mountain feel. We went to a thrift shop yesterday after the Village Gourmet and I found two flannel shirts and a brown fleece vest. $16. I’ve gotten started. My plan is that for each new (new to me) shirt or accessory I buy, I’ll put an existing shirt or pair of pants in a box for the Mountain Resource Center.

This feels of a part with the melancholic turn, not a symptom of the melancholy, but of the inner change struggling to express itself. The who am I now question that has me stalled for the moment. And that’s ok. Maybe when I put on that new(er) Clear Creek Outfitter flannel shirt a piece of this journey will come into focus.

 

 

 

A Very Jewish Weekend

Imbolc                                                                            New Life Moon

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains

Silhouette of hiking man jumping over the mountains

In psyche news. The heaviness seems to be gone, that drug down, want to keep going down feeling. When I’m in it, my soul seems more attracted to weight, willingly binding itself to a fall. The heaviness is a major physical clue to melancholy for me, a way I know to check for other signs. Its absence does not mean the melancholy has lifted, but does usually precede it. May it be so.

A very Jewish weekend. On Saturday we attended bagel table, an informal sabbath worship with conversation and, you guessed it, bagels. The presenter this week though wasn’t Rabbi Jamie, but Rabbi Evet of B’nai Havurah, a reconstructionist synagogue in Denver proper.

A congregant of Beth Evergreen, loved and respected, a mensch, had died suddenly, just that morning. The conversation about his death after operation for a malignant brain tumor was hushed, shocked. When Rabbi Evet started the service, the conversation quieted, but the looks, the feeling of it was still palpable. She stopped the service and had us focus on his death. It was a powerful moment, one in which what was being suppressed got lifted up. People told stories about Jeff, about what he meant to Beth Evergreen.

Evette_Lutman2-350x247Rabbi Evet teased out characteristics from those stories after a bit and suggested that a way to honor his memory was to figure out how to put back into our little community the attributes lost by his death. His smile. His willingness to help. His commitment to education.

Steve turned to Marilyn and said, “Marilyn, I really appreciate everything you do here. We don’t say those things out loud while people are alive. Maybe we could.” And, later, after the service was over, Marilyn came up to Kate and me and said, “I want to tell you both how much you mean to me.”

“And you to us,” I said. “Through having met you and found Beth Evergreen, we feel like we’ve finally moved to Colorado. This is our community now.”

“Makes a difference, doesn’t it?” Marilyn replied.

“It makes all the difference.”

Lev_Poster_LBI meant that and this experience with Rabbi Evet illustrates it. Beth Evergreen is a place where the heart and the mind both get their due. In fact, lev, the Hebrew word for heart, is also the word for mind. There is no other word for mind. Mind and heart are lev.

On Sunday we drove over to North Turkey Creek, up Peaceful Hills to Meadow View Road. The occasion was a new member/prospective member gathering at the home of Dan and Kristin. 40 or so folks, some board members, Rabbi Jamie and Tara, folks I knew and many I didn’t gathered around, yep you guessed it, bagels and lox and fruit and veggies.

The energy was good. There were little kids and older adults, all milling around, getting to know each other. I enjoyed the time. As is now usual for me though, I felt a sense of relief when we left and I got outside, to the quiet. Like the candidate event at the Friedman’s a couple of weeks ago I can hear in these settings, but it’s hard and stressful. I don’t always notice the stress until it’s absent.

 

 

 

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