We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Shadow Mountain Seen

Beltane                                                                  Moon of the Summer Solstice

When ancientrails came into being, it was to fill time while I healed from surgery to repain (ha, I meant repair, but this covers it, too) an achilles tendon rupture. I was off my feet for two months, crutches after that.

This morning I enjoyed the results of another surgical procedure, the total knee replacement I had on December 1st of last year. The work out I got from On the Move Fitness has strengthened my abductors and adductors, giving me more ease with hiking over rocks as well as climbing and descending on the trail.

Today Rigel really, really wanted to go with me. I had to get some stuff out of the car and left the door open. She crawled in and sat up, regal Rigel, in the seat, ignoring me when I asked her to come out. She was hurt that I wanted her to give up a spot she’d earned on her own. So, I took her.

As a result, I stopped at a spot where I’ve seen cars parked many times, a spot where there is no trailhead, no named trail. It’s close to our house and I decided to do a shorter hike since Rigel, hardly leash trained, needed to stay in the car. It was cool, low 50’s, but I didn’t want her in there too long.

The trail I found ushered me out, after maybe half a mile, onto a series of rocky cliffs that overlooked Shadow Mountain. It’s the first vantage point I’ve found, in the two and half years we’ve been here, where you can actually see Shadow Mountain. That was exciting. The vista was almost pristine, with very few houses visible. Unusual up here, so close to the city. Here’s what I saw.

Shadow Mountain. We live off to the right and behind what you can see.

Shadow Mountain. We live off to the right and behind what you can see.

Shadow Mountain

Shadow Mountain

Toward Evergreen with Brook Forest Drive/Black Mountain Drive in the distance

Toward Evergreen with Brook Forest Drive/Black Mountain Drive in the distance

Along the trail

Along the trail

Me, amazed or just gasping for

Me, amazed or just gasping for breath


Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

09 11 10_Joseph_0256Fatherhood. Sharp knives. Explosions. Football. Muscle cars. PBR. Fishing. Fixit. Harsh discipline. Stuffed feelings. Dutiful, not loving. Nope. None of us all the time, some of us some of the time. Men and boys.

It’s complicated. Motherhood has obvious physical triggers: pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding. Can’t beat those for intimacy. Too, the stereotypical domesticity of wives/mothers, challenged but not diminished much, means early childhood intimacy as well. Where does a dad fit in?

The push of the culture of Alexandria pressed and presses fathers into work, outside to the lawn and the garage, into the military, away from the kids. Men earn, protect, fix. Except when they don’t, as is now the case for many of the white working class men in my hometown in eastern Indiana. The whole county, region.


As many of you know, my father and I were estranged from my age 21 until his death in 2003. We made efforts to reconnect, especially during regular visits after Joseph came into my life, but the damage was too deep, too long lasting. Whether my mother’s early death forced us into a level of intimacy we couldn’t sustain, or our mutual pride during the difficult years of the Vietnam War wounded us both more than we could mend, or the distant father role he shared with most of his peers were most to blame, I don’t know. It was, no doubt, a toxic mix of all three.

At this vantage point, now an older man myself, the anger is long dissipated and what remains is sadness, a certain wistfulness for what might have been. But wasn’t. We were, as all of us are, flawed. At perhaps the crucial juncture, during a time period when I got ejected from campus for public drunkenness and had to live back home during my junior year for a bit, I was ashamed. He reached out, bought me a car, let me come home. But a war was raging.


Vietnam. We were on different sides. He was a WWII veteran of the Army-Air Force, a Roosevelt liberal, and deeply anti-communist newspaper man. I was young, radical, counter cultural and deeply anti-war. One afternoon he came up to me and asked, “Charlie, are you a homosexual?” I laughed. “No, why do you think that?” He indicated my long hair. Long hair then was for classical musicians and gays in his thinking. “Cut it.” “No.” “Cut it or get out.” It was ten years before we spoke again. Pride. On both our sides.

It may be that adopting Joseph was an attempt for a do over on father and son. If that wasn’t a primary motivation, it certainly became a primary preoccupation. My father was not a bad father, just a father of his generation. I was probably a worse son than he was a father. The obedience and dutifulness that he expected, partly a result of his German upbringing, partly a result of lack of parenting by Elmo, my grandfather whom I never knew, was not possible for me. And I didn’t even try. At this point, he’s been dead 14 years, I’ve forgiven both of us.


Joseph is the redemption. He’s a fine man, a loving son and husband, dedicated to a life of service. He will, I’m sure, make a great father. Healing the disruption that my experience with Dad created in both me and him was a constant drum beat in me during Joseph’s childhood. And, yes, I made many mistakes raising him. Not possible to raise a kid and not make mistakes. The key though, at least I think it’s the key, is to sustain the relationship, to realize that love bonds us even through deep disagreement.


When I had lunch with Joseph a couple of weeks ago during his unexpected visit to Colorado Springs, I knew we’d made it past the storms of mid-life. There was my boy, the one I carried home from the airport in a wicker basket, the one I held on my shoulders so often, the one I went to baseball games with, the one who calls me when life gets hard or scary, the one who asked me to perform his marriage to SeoAh, the woman he loves. He was there at the Black Bear Cafe. He was there with Pikes Peak craggy and snowy looking on. He was there and we were father and son and it was good.


10,000 Things

Beltane                                                                       Moon of the Summer Solstice

Hiking Staunton State Park yesterday launched me on my first day ever of 10,000 steps, actually 11,435. A weird thing to be proud of, I know, but still, I am. My eventual goal is to hit at least 10,000 every day. First though, I had to do it once and yesterday was that day.

A few memories of that hike:

20170610_08375420170610_09011620170610_092514 20170610_094341


Beltane                                                                              Moon of the Summer Solstice

resilience-Disaster-risk-reduction-Climate-Change-Adaptation-guide-englishAnother short trough of time where work here will focus on moving, rearranging, hanging.

Decompressing after finishing a long project starts now.  The joy of holding the weight of the manuscript in my hand as I passed it to Kate, always my first reader, pleases me in a deep way. Superior Wolf is the first work I’ve finished in Colorado, on Shadow Mountain, yet its bones are deeply Minnesotan.

The inspiration for Superior Wolf came from the last native packs of timber wolves in the USA, those in the Arrowhead region of northern Minnesota. It merged along the way with the Latin work I’d been doing, translating Ovid, which included the story of Lycaon, the king of Arcadia. Minnesota and Ovid, the core of this novel.

There is, too, the usual regret that I couldn’t have done better, written more poetically, created more tension, brought the characters to life more convincingly. These regrets are, strangely, the fuel that will carry me into my next novel, probably Jennie’s Dead. Perhaps it will be the one where my language sings and the plot cannot be put down, where the characters take over the work.

disenchantmentBut not yet. The next period of time belongs to another very long term project, reimagining faith. There is that bookshelf filled with works on emergence, of pagan thought, on holiness and sacred time, on the Great Wheel, on the enlightenment, on nature and wilderness. There are file folders to be collected from their various resting places and computer files, too. Printouts to be made of writing already done. Long walks to be taken, using shinrin-yoku to further this work. Drives to be taken in the Rocky Mountains, over to South Park, down to Durango, up again to the Neversummer Wilderness. The Rockies will influence reimagining in ways I don’t yet understand.

Reimagining is already underway, has been for awhile. The first task is to collect all that work I’ve done, so what comes next will be clear. Maybe in a week or two. First though I want to wander around some, move some books, hang some art.

The Road to Mountain Home

Beltane                                                                          Moon of the Summer Solstice

roadSign9Came home last night from studying the mysteries of the universe in kabbalah. A nearly full moon of the summer solstice hung high in the sky, giving the lustre of, well, not midday, more like late evening, to the forest below. Brook Forest Road, which becomes Black Mountain Drive, winds along Bear and Maxwell Creeks through a long valley before it gets serious about gaining 1500 feet of elevation. A couple of miles from home, after it has turned to Black Mountain Drive, this two lane asphalt heads uphill through the Arapaho National Forest.

When driving at night, especially at dusk or a bit later, vigilance is necessary since mule deer and elk don’t signal their intent to cross the road. Fortunately, having lived in Wisconsin, I learned long ago to look for the telltale flash of light from a Cervus eye. Turning off the headlights can help the animal see and cross the road rather than stop and stare. Even so, the road curves and the view is often blocked by rock massifs or large stands of trees, so thirty mile an hour is about all you can safely do. It makes me feel good to have to exercise caution for the wildlife here.

The first night I came to 9358 Black Mountain Drive, I just couldn’t wait until morning to see our new house, I left the Best Western Dinosaur Inn in Lakewood and found my way up Hwy. 285. Just as the road begins to rise after the Denver metro plateau there was an l.e.d. road sign that read: Watch for Wildlife and Rocks. I knew I was home when I saw that sign.

Kabbalah and Son

Beltane                                                                   Moon of the Summer Solstice

maxresdefaultA whirlwind. Left home at 6:15 pm last night for kabbalah at Beth Evergreen. First class in this esoteric Jewish mystical tradition. A lot of it unexpected. More as it comes into focus. It’s sort of blurry right now.

Decided to skip going to Boulder for a long Shavuot evening on holiness. Joseph unexpectedly had a trip to Colorado Springs and there was an opportunity to see him for breakfast this morning.  I drove down there from Evergreen, spent the night and saw him at the Black Bear Diner on Academy Avenue.

Turned around and drove back home, through the mountains this time, passing through Manitou Springs, Woodland Park, Decker and Pine Junction on my way to Hwy. 285, coming out about 7 miles southwest of Conifer. Got home around 11:30 am this morning.

At 2:30 Kate and I leave for Beth Evergreen today for its Shavuot celebration. I have to help set up.

More later, but kabbalah left my heart and my epistemology spinning. In a good way, but it was decentering. Seeing Joseph filled my heart, then left me sad when he had to go for a day learning about future Air Force tech. On my home my inner world kept insisting on its presence, pushing its way into the drive. Feelings tumbled all over the place. Guess you could say I was alive.

Outside in the Rockies

20170526_095523Beltane                                                                         Moon of the Summer Solstice

Drove the fifteen or so minutes to Staunton State Park yesterday. Since we moved here I’ve wanted to include regular hiking as part of my fitness routine, but I let first one thing and then another get in the way. No longer. Bought an annual state park pass. “Sir, could I ask you if you are over 65?” Saved me ten bucks. Sure. Ask away.

Debbie, the personal trainer who put together my new workout plan has suggested I alternate cardio days with resistance work. Since I’m paying her for her expertise, I’m going to go follow her suggestion. She also said hiking would be good for abductor/adductor strengthening, uneven terrain. “The Davis Pond trail at Staunton would be a place to start.”

Here are a few pictures from that very trail. I used to exercise outside a lot: Crosby Park in St. Paul, Lake George Regional Park and Rum River Regional Park in Anoka County, but the ease of the treadmill and inertia moved me away from it. Glad to be getting back. And the scenery here is amazing.


Elliptical Reasoning

Beltane                                                                         Rushing Waters Moon

landiceI put myself in a corner with my workouts. In an effort to get to 10,000 steps a day I began to place more and more emphasis on cardio, increasing my time on the treadmill and on the elliptical for high intensity. Problem. I got too tired to do my resistance work. I prioritize cardio since a heart attack or stroke is a real risk for a white male in his 70’s and cardio can help lower the risk. Even so, balance and a certain amount of functional muscle strength is important to daily life so I don’t want to ignore those either.

Full recovery from the total knee replacement also requires resistance work, strengthening muscles that support the knee as it works. The good news is that the increased cardio does strengthen the quads, very important for the knee, but moving always in that straight line way does little for the abductors and adductors which stabilize the knee. What to do?

anatomy-of-the-knee-joint-33-638Hire a personal trainer. I went to a small fitness center situated next to Select Physical Therapy where I did my post-op p.t. Both are in store front settings in a small mall with a raised boardwalk and other businesses like a hairdresser and Altitude Martial Arts.

I met with Debbie yesterday for about an hour and a half. She’s good. She listened to what I’ve done in the past, what I’m doing now. She took my blood pressure and reviewed my medical history. After that we did some warm up and a few exercises, some new to me, some the ones I’ve carried over from the end of physical therapy.

staunton state park: elk falls

staunton state park: elk falls

Though she’s developing a complete body workout for me that I’ll learn on Thursday, she made two suggestions yesterday that I think will prove important over time. First, she noted that I had little in my routine to work the abductors and adductors. Exercising them will require working in different planes of motion than straight ahead. Second, hike outside. This one, while obvious to someone in the mountains, was important to me because I’ve allowed inertia to keep me at home. I needed a push to get out, to hike regularly and she gave it to me. Already worth the price of admission.


Memorial Day

Beltane                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

To any Hoosier boy Memorial Day announces the Indy 500. Likewise, as a Hoosier student it meant, summertime! But up here on Shadow Mountain? We’re not quite ready for the parades and “Gentlemen, start your engines!”

May 20th, 2017

May 20th, 2017


The Calm

Beltane                                                                             Rushing Waters Moon

20170519_054119White and gray. The 18 inches or so of snow lies thick on our roof, solar panels hidden from our star. That unusual characteristic of snow to move upwards with the shape of an obstacle like a fence post, a statue, mailbox, or birdbath has created several objects in our yard with white caps reaching skyward, simulacrums in snow of the surface beneath them.

The lodgepole pines have puffy sticky snow that conforms to their branches, weighing them down, pointing them towards Shadow Mountain. One by one the weight will become too much and the whole pile on one branch slides off with an oof and a powdery white trail following it to the ground followed by another, then another until the branches spring back up, ready to receive sunlight. Until then, the trees, like our solar panels, are cut off from the source of their power.

A member of Beth Evergreen sent an e-mail from Boston yesterday, “It’s a hot, sticky 95 here.” This reminded me that the legendary speaker of the house from Boston, Tip O’Niell said, “All politics are local.” So to with weather.

20170519_060312The storm seems to have quieted overnight. No snow falls now. The sun, already well up over Denver, has begun to light the clouds over Black Mountain, accentuating the blue sky. The whiteness of the scene from my loft window seems to impose a silence borne of the color itself, soundlessness corresponding to the fresh, but otherwise colorless, snow. Along with the silence comes a profound stillness, as if for the moment nothing moves. Perhaps the mountain lion has retreated to its den, the bear to its former place of hibernation, the mule deer and elk bedded down among the willows and dogwood out of the wind.

As for this mammal, I’m sitting here, quiet and thoughtful, happy to have a meditative scene out my window. Black Mountain is my writing companion, often my muse. In fact, just now I watched the sun’s light slowly descend from Black Mountain’s peak toward the shelf of rock well below it. The peak itself shines as the sun reflects back off the high albedo of its snow cover. The sun itself, our own star among the heaven’s billions or trillions, seems to have picked out Black Mountain saying, “Behold this wonder so near to you, yet so different.” The sun, God’s spotlight.



June 2017
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