Stick to it

Winter and the Full Future Moon shining through the lodgepole pines in the west

Friday gratefuls: for the Mussar group. for the Daf Yomi, now day seven. for the chance to do the Murdoch mitzvah. for the fresh new snow. for the 12 degree weather, what they call here, Stock Show weather. for Black Mountain who watches over me from above. for Shadow Mountain who supports me from below. for the crazy people who go out on Evergreen Lake for ice-fishing. May there always be crazy people.

Kepler to the vet yesterday. No, not bites and rips from Murdoch’s teeth. Rashes and hot spots. Antibiotics and an increased prednisone load for a week or so. Dr. Palmini has lost weight and buffed up. When I asked him if he would go to the Iditarod this year. The jury’s still out, he said. It’s a long time to be gone. But, it’s fun, isn’t it? Well, some of it, but when you get up at 3 am…? He goes as a volunteer vet for the sled dogs in the race. Lots of Iditarod memorabilia on the walls of his practice.

Back to HIIT workouts for cardio. Hi intensity interval training. A new one. Slow, 90 seconds. Fast as possible, 6mph for me, 30 seconds. Repeat four times then 3 minute cool down. I increased the number of intervals and the incline, from 1% to 2%, this week. Intervals are the best workout for cardio and they take a shorter time period that most cardio workouts.

Mussar. Got caught out nodding like I understood something that was said. Had to admit it, because the conversation expected me to say something about I’d already said. Everybody laughed when I told them. First time I can recall being caught in this oh, so usual gambit of not only me, but all folks hard of hearing. Gotta work on the ear wax thing. Seems to bother my hearing aid a lot.

The quality of the day, see Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities, was perseverance. A lot of discussion, an amusing number of examples about math, not unusual in a group with literary inclinations. Perseverance is in my toolkit.

Mostly. I can write novels. Start and finish them. Not easy, often taking over a year. I did not persevere so well with marketing them, though. I enjoy, as I said a few posts back, long books, long movies, long tv series. I can start all of these and finish them. Think War and Peace, Dante’s Inferno, Spenser’s Fairie Queen, Faust, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 10 Commandments, the Irishman, Gone with the Wind. And, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I’m finally in the fifth and last season. It only has 88 episodes.

I can make a commitment and stick to it for years, a lifetime. One of my youthful commitments was to keep reading difficult material. Stay political. College. Keep asking the fundamental questions and don’t shy away from difficult answers. Never work in a setting that compromises your values. Kate, now for over 30 years. The Woollies, about the same. Joseph, now going 39 years. Exercise, since my forties.

When I didn’t persevere, marketing and college German being the ones that come to mind, it was out of fear, I think. Fear is not a guide, it’s a caution, but I let myself get stuck in its glue at least those two times and I regret it. Anxiety grows along with fear and fear increases the anxiety. As I’m learning to be easier with myself, I’ll give myself an “I’m sorry to hear that, but you’re ok now.” bit of self-talk.

Five Years

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: SeoAh’s pasta and shrimp. SeoAh. Joe, who is in Hawai’i right now. Kate and her doggedness, her get up and keep goingness. That her fall last night was not serious. The snuggling of Gertie, Rigel, and Kepler. The grandmother tree, alive after her loss of a limb. Each and every soul soaked particle in this and all the other universes.

December 19, 2014

” When the dogs got here last night, they jumped out, ran around in the backyard for a moment, then promptly turned around, ran back in the garage and jumped back in the Rav4. Like a vintage Keystone cops moment, it took more than one try to get them inside the house. Two would come in and a third run back to the garage, then one would come in and two would rush back to the garage. When I opened the Rav4’s front door to retrieve some belongings, all three dogs quickly pushed passed me into the driver’s and passenger’s seat’s to stage a sit-down, lie-down strike.”

December 20, 2014

“The pack has come together. Kate and Gertie arrived around three. There was a good deal of mutual sniffing and wagging of tails. Kate the Intrepid, as Jane West calls her, dismounted from the cargo van with a victorious grimace. She had driven it all the way, by herself. See.”

Five years ago today Kate and I were here. Tom had gone to the airport and we were alone in a house empty except for six mammals trying to get used to new and different surroundings. Kate and I huffed and puffed. I emptied the rental cargo van and drove it back to Enterprise. We had to pay an extra relocation charge on it since I wasn’t gonna drive it back to Minnesota.

It wasn’t easy. The mover couldn’t get the van in our driveway. It had to go back down the mountain while the driver rented two u-haul trucks. I’ve seen this several times since. Movers call it shuttling. Adds a couple of grand, but, hey. What you gonna do? Go back?

But, in our case. The first shuttle truck got stuck in the ditch. Snowing, cold. A tow truck called. It didn’t come. Later we learned it had gotten stuck on the way up here. By this time everybody’s frustration level had mounted. Got sorted, as these things do, and here we are. An introduction to mountain living.

The darkness of the longest night, the winter solstice night, lay ahead. I was glad for the quiet and the depth it offered. Tomorrow night will be our sixth Winter Solstice here. Celebrating in the usual quiet way.

SeoAh leaves tomorrow at 7 pm, headed to San Francisco where she’ll meet Joe, then fly on to Singapore. Murdoch’s first night without her will be the solstice.

The West

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Seoah and her light presence as a guest, Murdoch again, the Grandmother Tree at CBE, the night drive up Brook Forest, then Black Mountain drives, the fox that crossed our path, the mule deer doe standing, looking toward the road, the nightlife of the wild, the ultimate wildness of the heavens

December 20, 2014 “The enormity of this change is still a little hard to grasp. We’re no longer Minnesotans, but Coloradans. We’re no longer flatlanders but mountain dwellers. We’re no longer Midwesterners. Now we are of the West, that arid, open, empty space. These changes will change us and I look forward to that. The possibility of becoming new in the West has long been part of the American psyche, now I’ll test it for myself.”

December 18, 2019 The usual mythic significance of the West, where the light ends, where souls go when they die, seems quite different from its American mythos as almost a separate country, an Other World where you could leave Europe behind, leave the East Coast behind and rejuvenate, remake yourself. (yes, Native Americans were here already. But I’m talking about the frontier, the Old West, the place where Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and lots of versions of John Wayne lived. And, yes, the Spaniards on the west coast and as far north as what is now New Mexico. The Russians, too.)

Seems quite different. Yes. However, “the possibility of becoming new in the West.” The American mythic West is about where souls go when they die, when they die to a past that had not prospered in the East, to a life no longer well lived, to a life lived in the all too usual way, to a life of boredom.

What would we become? When would the West become home? When would this house on Black Mountain Drive become home? All those boxes. All that altitude adjustment. And, we would gradually learn, an attitude adjustment to mountain life.

We have become people of the mountains, in love with them enough to adapt our lives to thin air in spite of the difficulty it presents to us. We have become people of the tribe, of clan Beth Evergreen, part of a strange and intriguing religious experiment, a new community. That was part of what people sought in the West. A chance to build community anew, to different rules.

We have become embedded in the lives of our grandchildren, of Jon. They love the mountains, too. Our choice, to live close, but not too close, has had its challenges, but has worked out well. It’s hard for us to provide day to day support for Jon and the kids. We’re too far away and too physically challenged (of late). We are, however, a mountain refuge for them, a place away from the city where they can come to refresh. We’re also on the way to A-basin, Jon’s favorite ski area.

When we travel now, the return no longer involves a turn north, toward the Pole, but a turn West, toward the mountains and the Pacific. Our friends in the north, in Minnesota have stayed in touch. We’ve not gotten back much; it’s so good to still have solid connections.

We change altitude frequently, often dramatically during a day’s normal routine. No more mile square roads, farmland templates. No more 10,000 lakes. And, up where we live, in the montane ecosystem, no deciduous trees except for aspen. No more combines on the road, tractors, truck trailers full of grain and corn headed to the elevators. (yes, in Eastern Colorado, but we’re of the mountains.)

The pace of life in the mountains is slower. Many fewer stoplights, fewer stores, less nightlife. Service of all kinds is slower, too. Plumbers. HVAC guys. Mail folks. UPS. Fedex. Denver Post. Painters and electricians. Once we quit expecting metro area level of service, especially in terms of promptness and predictability, life got better. The mountain way.

Our life in the West has also been shaped, profoundly, by medicine and illness. Tomorrow.

A Five Year Anniversary

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Gertie and Kep slept until almost 5:30. An extra hour of sleep for me. Brother Mark’s feeling better over in Saudi Arabia. Joe’s movers will come today. Sister Mary reports heavy rains in Singapore. My dispersed family. My diverse family.

Second iteration of the new workout yesterday morning. I like this one. It uses the TRX and kettlebells. Still working to cement the five days a week: resistance, cardio, resistance, cardio, resistance. It’s in my head now as a routine, but scheduling sometimes breaks it up.

Friend Tom Crane reminded me of an old holiday, one remembered now with Christmas, some say. He wrote this morning: “Today would mark the beginning of the seven-day celebration of Saturnalia in ancient Rome. For the winter festival, the Romans made and exchanged gifts, decorated their homes with holly and ropes of garland, and carried wreaths of evergreen branches to honor the god Saturn.” Here’s a bit more from the same website Tom found: “By the beginning of December, writes Columella, the farmer should have finished his autumn planting… Now, with the approach of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing was honored with a festival.” Saturnalia

Sound at all familiar?

Here’s another odd fact. A couple of weeks ago I went looking for quotes about the West and the Rocky Mountains. Found out that the lowest point in Colorado, around 3,000 feet, is higher than the highest point in twenty other states. We’re all high here.

In three days we will have been in Colorado five years. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from back then: “The moving moon has waned, a sliver this early. It will go dark tomorrow, the Winter Solstice. Our first full day and night here at Black Mountain Drive. Tom Crane, Rigel, Vega, Kepler and I pulled into the garage about 12:15 am this morning. We drove in over several inches of snow, so a first task will be getting the driveway clear for the moving van which comes on Monday…Tom drove the whole way, 14 hours in one whack, stopping only briefly for food and gas. It was a great treat to be able to watch the miles roll away.” December 20, 2014. Ancientrails.

Over the next three days I’m going to revisit that time, the move. Five years is an important anniversary. And, it will occur days before the calendar ticks over into a brand new decade, the 2020’s. Our first full decade in Colorado, in the Rockies. Time to do an assessment.

Mountain Living

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Friends who know about your own friendship with a constellation. Mt. Evans, which controls our weather. Black Mountain, which dominates my view from this computer. Conifer Mountain, which graces the left side of our journey up Shadow Mountain Drive. Hell, I’ll even give a shout out to the Verizon cell tower on top of Conifer Mtn. And to the folks who put it there.

Thanksgiving here officially ended. Annie’s cell phone went back to Waconia yesterday afternoon wrapped in bubble wrap.

Going to the Conifer Post Office is always a bit fraught. Our Next Door Shadow Mountain lights up with folks complaining about delivery times, deliveries not made, boxes stolen or misdelivered, letters and other mail delivered to neighbors, boxes shown as delivered and never seen. The staff at the front desk is often cranky, too.

Apparently this is a problem for Morrison, Pine, and Evergreen, too. Rural post offices. Also, mountains. Also, snow and rain and curves. Nothing like stopping your vehicle in the road on a snowy day, around a blind curve. Wouldn’t want this job or garbage pickup either. Having to stop a vehicle on the road in the mountains for any reason is hazardous and these folks do it at every house. Every house.

There are a lot of folks who make mountain living now much different from the Jeremiah Johnson era. The folks at IREA who construct and maintain the electrical grid up here. Mail and garbage folks as previously mentioned. The propane folks. Colorado Natural Gas that piped us and many of our neighbors. The Centurylink folks who build and maintain our phone and DSL lines. Jeffco public works responsible for roads, bridges, shoulders. Truckers who bring groceries and other goods to our stores. Workers in various professions who choose to live up here and often accept lower wages to do it. Think vets, doctors, eye care people, dentists.

We are not, contrary to the libertarian mythology, able to live free or die. We need not only family and friends, but a constellation of services and their employees to maintain ourselves up here. God bless them, everyone. Tiny Tim, too.

Oh, yes. My answers came.

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

A friend asked me: “(As a result of facing death) have you been informed by any wider sense of the simple joy of being?  Or any other description of the immediate worth of being?”

Mortality signals. They’ve been in my life since toddlerhood. Polio in 1949. Mom died in 1964. Lost all hearing in my left ear suddenly at 38. MRI for brain tumor as a result. High blood pressure. Took me years to come out from under mom’s death. An alcoholic haze lasting until my late 20’s.

Even after I emerged from my grieving sober, there was still rage, still self-loathing, still so much overburden. Took another decade of Jungian therapy. Then, finally, I met Kate.

She was my chance to live a different life, one unhooked from the patterns and history, or, at least, unhooked from their power over me. We made a pact to support each others creativity, each others deepest hopes. And, we have done that.

We’ve raised two boys into men. We went as close to Mother Earth as we could. Years of soil amendments, planting seeds. Corms. Tubers. Bulbs. Slips. Trees. Shrubs. Harvesting tomatoes, leeks, onions, beans, beets, carrots, raspberries, apples, pears, plums, cherries. Bee keeping. Artemis Honey for friends and for ourselves.

Kate’s quilting and sewing became her place to express love and imagination. I wrote. Many novels. Literally millions of words on this blog. We both supported, in our own ways, political values of compassion, love, justice. Or, leadership as my friends Paul and Sarah Strickland, Lonnie Helgeson, and Gary Stern defined it for Leadership Minneapolis back in the 1980’s. (funny story there. for another time.)

We moved. For family. And, because, as John Muir said, “The mountains were calling.” Mortality signals began coming with more urgency. Prostate cancer once. New knee. Prostate cancer twice. Kate’s Sjogren’s, her bleed, weight loss, lung disease. Her new shoulder and, earlier, hips.

All this time, even from my youth, besotted with religion, small r. The deep, the awesome, the wonderful. Sure, in my childhood it had Methodist as a label. Threw that away in my junior year of high school. “Your god is too small.”

Went looking for other clues. First in Roman Catholicism. Then, existentialism. Later, a more examined, more intellectual, more spiritual Christianity. The ministry. Disillusionment.

Here’s the synchronicity. Before I met Kate, a year or two, I’d been in spiritual direction with John Ackerman at Westminster Presbyterian. As I explained to him where I found spiritual sustenance, in the earth, a tactile spirituality, I said, he had an ah-ha, “Charlie, you’re a Druid!”

By the time I met Kate I was well on my way out of Christianity. In fact, I was all the way out, yet still, Grand Inquisitor fashion, working in the ministry. When she agreed to my quitting the ministry to write, the timing saved my soul.

She recommended I find a niche, a place to call my own when writing. Hmmm. Looked to my ancestors. Knew I had some Irish and Welsh blood, Ellis and Correl, so I went searching into Celtic thought.

The Great Wheel. Seems innocent enough, ordinary. An agricultural focused calendar. The Celts started out with only two seasons: Summer and the fallow time, Winter. They added the solstices and the equinoxes, then named the cross-quarter holidays: Beltane, May 1, Lughnasa, August 1, Samain, October 31st, and Imbolc, February 1, each halfway between either a solstice or an equinox.

The sequence was “…a Druid!”, Kate, Celtic thought, Andover and the perennial flowers, the orchard, the raised beds, the fire pit, the bees.

After, in Colorado, living in the Rockies, I found the consolation of Deer Creek Canyon. Drove back home to Shadow Mountain after my biopsy results confirmed my cancer diagnosis. Through Deer Creek Canyon.

The mountains on either side of the road that followed Deer Creek Canyon. Exposed rock, cliffs, peaks. Deer Creek moving rapidly down toward the South Platte. Their age. The Laramide Orogeny. Rock thrust up from its place in the earth’s crust. Started 80 million years ago, ended 33 million or so years ago.

Those rocks reached out to me as I drove, called to me. I thought about the Appalachians, once mighty and tall, now worn down by millennia of rain and streams and trees and grass. They formed 480 millions years ago. These mountains, these rocky mountains through which I drove were young. Still jagged, still exposed in parts. Might take 400 millions years, maybe more, to wear them down to Appalachian size.

The may fly. Flies up and mates in one day. Then, dies. Oh. I see. My life. A may fly life. Shorter, even, compared to the Rockies. More like a fraction of a second. When I’m gone, my may fly life ended by prostate cancer or something else, these mountains (I’m still driving and thinking and feeling shocked) will look as they do now. Yet, even their life above the earth’s crust has limits.

So, too, the earth. When the sun comes to the end of its life and becomes a red giant, it will engulf the earth and our planet, our only home, will be gone.

That day the strongest mortality signal I’ve ever received cracked me open, laid my soul bare to the complex interleaving of human life, of life itself, and the souls of the mountains. We are one, all part of the cycling of elements that began with the Big Mystery. We have our time, long or short, then we return to the primal forces that wander among solar systems and galaxies.

That was the Great Wheel realized at its most expansive, a repeating series of beginnings, growth, harvest, and decay. The movement from Beltane to Samain. It became enough for me, spiritually and religiously.

When the cancer reemerged, I was in a different place. The consolation of Deer Creek Canyon, the fundamental and universal rhythms of the Great Wheel had reshaped my inner landscape. I do not need a text based religion to tell me who I am or what life means. I do not need a guru or a silent retreat to go into my own deep well.

This is me. 72. Prostate cancer. Still alive. Still living my life. I sleep well at night. When I wake, I do not ruminate. I have a pleasant, floaty feeling, then return to sleep. This is new for me. Not something you’d expect after a recurrence of cancer, but true anyhow.

Here’s my direct answer to my friend. “Have I been informed by any wider sense of the simple joy of being?  Or any other description of the immediate worth of being?” Shifting one word is enough. “Have I been informed by any wider sense of the joy of becoming? Or any other description of the immediate worth of becoming?

Deer Creek Canyon finished my long journey from monotheism to a process theology. I was not. I am. I am not. I don’t care. A Roman epitaph. I would change it to: I was becoming. I am becoming. I will become. I love this butterfly turning of the Great Wheel.

With Chuang Tzu, I don’t know if I’m a butterfly dreaming of Charlie or Charlie dreaming of a butterfly.

That Damned Tunnel

Summer and the Radiation Moon

Thought more about the tunnel I mentioned in the post below. For a long while, especially from February through mid-May or so, I thought the light at the end of the tunnel was the ironic oncoming train. Seemed like the tunnel had shrunken and passing through it was a unit train headed in our direction.

Once Kate began to gain weight, smile, the tunnel expanded a bit. A small path opened up that we could jump onto and wait out the train. When the cancer diagnosis went from psa to imaging studies, and the imaging studies showed no mets, the small path widened up enough for both of us to stand next to each other.

The exit from the tunnel is still far off. I’m estimating September, late September, as the time when we see if the track outside the tunnel runs through a pleasant valley or back into another mountainside.

When I did the Progoff workshop in May I thought mostly about the time since Kate’s bleed. On the way to radiation today I turned this over again and decided that the move to Colorado was the key moment. Since then four aspects of our new life came to dominate.

supervised trip, A-Basin, 2016

Family. Since we moved here on the Winter Solstice of 2014, Jon has gone through a bitter divorce, lived with us for a year and purchased his own home. The grandkids have gone from traumatized to tween and teenager. In 2016 we went to Korea for Joe and SeoAh’s wedding. Since then, SeoAh has become an important part of our family, too.

Colorado. We live in this remarkable state, close to many things people spend thousands of dollars to visit. We’ve seen few of them. The tunnel has contained us. Perhaps as we emerge from the tunnel, we’ll be able to plan trips. 5280, a magazine, has an insert this month, 10 classic Colorado road trips. A good place to start.

We live in the mountains among the lodgepole pines, aspens, craggy cliffs and fast flowing streams. Mule deer, elk, fox, bears, and mountain lions are our neighbors. Making our life here on Shadow Mountain has given us great joy, the beauty and the changing seasons

Kate at the CBE board’s oneg, Rosh Hashanah, 2018

Judaism. Congregation Beth Evergreen has been a refuge, a joy. The folks there have shown us what community means, what mitzvah means, that life together is better than life apart. Friends, intellectual sustenance, spiritual growth.

October 8, 2018

Healthspan. It was the diagnosis in 2015 that started it. Oh. Cancer? Really? Let’s get it out and move on. Tried to do that. Next up. Arthritic knee. Get a new, titanium one. Yes. Good choice. Kate needed a new right shoulder. Also a good choice. Sjogren’s began to eat into Kate’s well-being, dragging her weight down, causing fatigue, nausea. The bleed made it all more problematic for her. Second bleed. Pneumothorax. Each meant time in the hospital, starting in the E.R. at Swedish. Flu. Pneumonia. Me. Rising psa. Oh? Really? Later here we are in week 3 of the radiation. Hopeful for the near term future. How our lifespan has been affected? Probably shortened.

First day of radiation

It is my feeling that emergence from the tunnel will call on us to interact more fully with all of these four. I’m excited and ready.

The Right Thing for Us

Beltane Cancer Moon

Things I think about while falling asleep. Life. A stream rushing down the mountain of time, a branch into a tributary, tributary to river, river to the gulf of eternity, a small part of the sea of infinity.

Project print ancientrails update. Got into May of 2015. Then, printer spooling error. Spent an hour on it yesterday, got tired. Learned long ago to quit at a point when I’m doing the same thing over and over. Come back the next day with fresh eyes. Later this morning I’ll be back at it.

Looked out the bedroom window this morning. Frost. Rained over night and the temperature is just below freezing. A nubbly ice covered the deck and the stall mats, but the driveway was only wet. Saw a mule deer crossing Eduardo and Holly’s yard.

The sun is now well up at 5:30. The victory of the light will peak in three weeks. I look forward to the Summer Solstice as the moment when night begins to claw its way back into prominence.

Jon and Ruth left Gabe here yesterday while they went skiing. A-Basin. It still has peak snow cover, may be open until July 4th. Unusual. When they got back, Ruth and I made spaghetti and meatballs. She’s turning into a sweet, loving person. A real pleasure to see.

While walking back to the house after getting the paper this morning, I thought about her and Gabe. We moved here to have these kind of interactions with them, casual and frequent. It was the right thing for us to do.

50th High School Reunion, Alexandria, Indiana

When I was in school in Alexandria, Memorial Day marked the end of the school year. Summer begins! Days of freedom wandering alleys collecting pop bottles for small change. Going to the field with Rick Meyers and the Kildow boys to play army. Playing blackjack every weekday afternoon in the paper boys shack of the Times-Tribune. The occasional pickup softball game. Riding bikes around town. Outside until well after dark. No thoughts of pedophiles, school shooters, terrorists. No climate change worries. No computers. No cell phones.

Here in Colorado school typically ends in June though Ruth, because of McCauliffe’s schedule, got out a couple of weeks ago. This is Gabe’s last week. They will both start school again in the second week of August, both at McCauliffe for this one year, Ruth in the 8th grade and Gabe in the 6th.

Ruth, as do most of her friends, has a season pass to Elitch Gardens, an amusement park that serves as summer day care for many Denver teens. They have rides named Brain Drain, Mind Erase. You can see the attraction after school’s over.

33 foot Jesus

Beltane                                                                            Cancer Moon

progoffMeet up in cyberspace. My old friends Paul, Mark, Tom, and Bill zoomed into the bits and bytes yesterday from the land of first light to my spot among the purple mountain majesties. We spoke of those things that matter now. Mark is done with his second book. Bill’s going to Tanzania next year as his long term project, U-Face Me, takes off. Paul’s about to join the joint replacement club with a new hip. Tom’s adjusting to life as an eminence grisé.

Woke up yesterday realizing I’d not prepared any food for Kate. After breakfast I made her a pound of sloppy joed hamburger and a couple of quarts of vermicelli soup, a favorite of hers from our Monastery Soups cookbook. Got ready to go to Progoff.

At noon I headed down the hill toward Evergreen, hopped on I-70 for a short run to the Genesee Exit. U.S. 40, the old cross country national highway which I-70 more or less parallels has a short run between that exit and Golden. Gonna stop this afternoon at the buffalo overlook, just off that same exit. An article in the Denver Post says there are buffalo calves. Makes sense. It’s spring/summer.

Progoff cabrini

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue at the Shrine

Down old 40 toward Denver you can access Lookout Mountain, Buffalo Bill Cody’s grave, museum plus giftshop, and the world famous, to Catholics, shrine of Mother Cabrini. The most prominent feature at the shrine is a 33 foot high statue of Jesus, set at the shrine’s highest point. When I left last night at 9, Denver’s lights twinkled below me and Cabrini Jesus stood lit up and proud above.

If you’ve ever been on a retreat at a Catholic retreat center, you’ve been to the Cabrini set up. Hallways with one bedroom rooms on either side, large kitchens, kitschy paintings, and furniture bought with comfort not fashion in mind. A chapel. And, since this is the Rocky Mountains, vacationland U.S.A., a big gift shop.

When I arrived yesterday, the large parking lot was about three quarters full and most of the visitors I saw were Latino. The retreat center cum chapel cum giftshop is at the end of a switchback road that climbs several hundred feet up a rounded peak, one of the first of the foothills. It overlooks Golden, then Denver, to the east and the continental divide to the west.

Joann Hackett, the workshop leader, flew in Saturday from Hawai’i. Quite a shift from humid, warm Hawai’i to the dry, 60 degrees Rocky Mountain foothills. She was the workshop leader in Tucson, my last Progoff workshop. She began this work when she went to a Journal workshop lead by Ira Progoff. She got to know him very well, found his intensive journal idea compelling.

progoff2There are seven of us, a small group by workshop standards. Two folks from Denver, one from Berthoud, another from Boulder, one from Ft. Collins, and one man from Santa Fe. One other commuter. This first segment, all the segments are two days in length, begins with identifying the current period of your life. Mine had an obvious starting point, the move to Colorado. You spend time fleshing out what makes this the current period of your life, then move on to an exercise called steppingstones. Steppingstones, in the Progoff work you get 12, are key moments in your life that led you to this period of your life.

As I wrote them this time, mine were roughly, polio, mom’s death, participating in the 60’s, adopting Joseph, marrying Kate and leaving the ministry to write, becoming a docent at the MIA, working on the Great Work, the move to Colorado, cancer, Jon’s divorce and Kate’s illnesses, cancer’s reemergence. The steppingstones, I’ve discovered, change according to the perspective you bring to the exercise, a perspective shaped by what you’ve defined as the current period. Over the course of the workshop you expand on each of these, writing about them, following the memories and the feelings they evoke.

Gotta get ready for today’s session. Talk to you later.

 

 

 

Illness and Legacy

Beltane                                                                           Cancer Moon

Saguaro National Park, edited

Saguaro National Park, 2014

Struggled a bit with naming the moon for this new month. Didn’t want to put up my first idea. It seemed, dark. Yet when I went to other ideas, nothing came. Usually the new moon’s name comes easily. It’s a fun way to emphasize an important aspect of the upcoming lunar month. This time though. Not fun. I try to think of something that might dominate the next 30 days or an important (to us or the mountains) event. Recovery Moon. Rushing Waters. Valentine. So. Cancer.

But. Ewww. Debbie Downer. Even so. Axumin scan. Meeting with Dr. Gilroy, a radiation oncologist. Most probably treatment. In my world cancer will dominate. So. Cancer.

Jon, Ruth, and Gabe came up last night. Ruth brought a wonderful loaf of challah she’d made. Tasted like Irish soda bread. The braids were clear. I brought up the silver platter I bought for Kate a long time ago. A set, with a serrated knife. For the sabbath meal. I had my pastrami on chunks of challah. They’d stopped at the New York Deli on their way up, buying matzo ball soup as well as stuff for supper and eating it on the way.

Ruth and Gabe laugh easily now, tease each other. As happy now as they were angry and sullen a couple of years ago. Jon’s doing something right as a parent and it’s a pleasure to see. He’s been out of school for a week or so now. The Aurora school district chose Montview to renovate this year. His art room will have a patio and windows. His old room had no windows. Hard to imagine for an art classroom, eh?

The Great Kiva, Chaco Canyon

The Great Kiva, Chaco Canyon

The move. In 2014 my last Progoff workshop stirred something in me, made me realize if Kate and I were going to make a change in our lives right then was the time to do it. We were both still in good health. We had enough money. Kate had retired.

On the way up here from Tucson I saw the Mogollon Rim, Ship Rock, and stopped at Chaco Canyon. The Mogollon Rim is the southern edge of the Colorado Plateau, the massive geological feature that underlies parts of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado west of the Rockies with its center roughly at the Four Corners. Ship Rock, if you’ve read any Tony Hillerman mysteries already familiar to you, has a sacred role in Diné culture. Chaco Canyon was the Vatican of the Anasazi, direct ancestors of the Pueblo people. As I drove the Mogollon Rim in the early hours of March 28th, 2014, the full moon rose.

Ruth, March 29, 2014

Ruth, March 29, 2014

Ruth, April 5, 2019

Ruth, April 5, 2019

I could feel, and wrote it about even then, a Colorado self forming. That same Colorado self that I chose to dress last summer. The one with the plaid flannel shirts and jeans. Unexpectedly a lot like my Minnesota self. Yet not. This is a self not with its roots in Lake Superior, North Woods country, but in the Colorado Plateau, in the Rocky Mountains, in the ancient history of human settlement here. And that Colorado self, forming as I drove, wanted that. More than I knew at the time.

I left the Colorado Plateau and drove north to Denver.

Jen wanted to surprise Ruth. Her 8th birthday was only days away when I got to Denver. This from a post on March 29th, “When I knocked on the door, Ruth, the birthday girl who did not know I was coming, fluttered her hands and got a shy look.  Taken aback and surprised.  Then, glad to see me.” In retrospect I think it was in that moment I took an internal turn away from my home of 40 years and turned to face the Rockies.