We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Baked In

Lughnasa                                                                      Kate’s Moon

earth first“Earth rapidly is approaching the point where the amount of warming locked in by human pollution exceeds the limits nations set last year at the international climate meeting in Paris, according to government-backed research unveiled Monday.

The planet faces “committed warming” by 2.7 degrees before 2100 if fossil fuels are burned at current rates for another 15 years, the scientists based in Colorado and Germany determined.”   Denver Post 7/31/2017

When I took a serious Climate Change MOOC three years ago, the scientists who taught in the course referred to this committed warming as baked in. It was clear three years ago that the attempt to limit warming to 2 degrees would fail for two reasons. One, that amount is baked in by the amount of CO2 already in the atmosphere. Second, the rate of emissions continues to grow overall, not stabilize or decline.*

dark ecologySo there is not only the Donald to wreak havoc with the future, but the already emitted carbon dioxide and other gases like methane.

Yes, we need to make clear to any who will listen that these are the facts, not the fake news of our current government or self-interested fossil fuel barons. And, yes, we need to work toward as much mitigation of emissions and their effects as we can. But. We also need to face the coming changes as they will be and, even, as they probably will be, worse than we imagine.

This means taking a doubled view into the world with us. The first view sees what we can do now as necessary, as critical, yet realizes the messiness of global politics is not going to push over the line to sensible policy. The second view absorbs the first and sees the future clearly rather than through solar powered/wind energized eyes. It’s going to be bad, probably not too bad for those of us with less than thirty years to go in our remaining lifespan, but for our children and their children? Bad, trending to worse.

beltane2017gorbachevHow can we work now to help them be resilient, proactive in their adaptive strategies? How can we work now to help them develop psychological/spiritual tools for coping with the cultural stresses that are inevitable? We cannot brush away the bad effects by magical thinking. Oh, the world will catch on and act in time. No, it won’t and it hasn’t. We need sober work on how to live with changed weather, increased heat, moving targets for animals and crops in terms of altered seasons, the disruptions of sea level rise, spread of insect borne diseases and the like.

This doubled view, pragmatic when looking at the long run, yet hopeful enough to maintain action in the short term, is critical so that we do what we can now, yet plan realistically for our next generation’s life.

*“The annual growth rate has increased since record keeping began in 1960 from just under 1 ppm in the 1960s to more than 2.4 ppm through the first half of the 2010s. The past two years have set a record for the fastest annual growth rate on record.”  Climate Central.org

Measure once. At least once.

Midsommar                                                                     Kate’s Moon

ted

So that happened. Ted of All Trades, a former Iowa handyman now living here, came over to install the 15,000 BTU air conditioner in the loft. The loft is 850 square feet so it has to be that big or it would run all the time. I researched this, found the right air conditioner, bought it and brought it home. Forgot one thing. “That’s a big box,” said Ted, a hyper masculine, shaved head, brawny guy. Oh. “You have 25″ of window and a 29 1/2″ air conditioner.” Oh. Right BTU, wrong size. 70 years old and I haven’t learned to measure things. So, back it goes. Not sure what I’m going to do to cool the loft now.

Ted does not impose a trip charge. “Nope, I don’t do that. I want to earn my money.” We then had a conversation about the mountain way when it came to trades. “I went to a customer’s house. Said I’d be there at 8 am, got there about 7:45. Knocked on the door.” He shook his head, “The guy came to the door and said, ‘Who are you?'” “Ted,” I said, “Ted of All Trades.” “Holy shit, I wasn’t expecting you until 9:30 or later.”

The Midwestern work ethic, especially one grounded in the agricultural ethos of Iowa, would chew up and spit out guys who don’t show up on time. Ted’s on time, start to finish attitude about his business has him booked until October in spite of having been in the mountains only a year.

Grief

Midsommar                                                                         Kate’s Moon

arid westWe’re grieving. Kate visited her rheumatologist yesterday. She has both Sjogren’s Syndrome and rheumatoid arthritis. Eric told her that patients with Sjogren’s struggle in the arid west since it’s a disease that creates dryness in the mouth and the eyes. The low humidity here exaggerates and reinforces those symptoms. In addition both Sjogren’s and r.a. (rheumatoid arthritis) can sap energy, cause joint stiffness and generally make life difficult. “This is the new normal,” Kate said.

Jon also has multiple significant diseases: type 1 diabetes, hypothyroidism, Addison’s disease (low production of cortisol), r.a. and has managed them very well. He’s 48 now and shows none of the sequelae normally associated with a long history of type 1 diabetes. These chronic conditions take up money, time and a lot of attention, requiring daily, and often more frequent than that, self-care.

grief-quotes-quotes-about-griefLife is different now and will remain that way, that’s what we’re grieving. We had hoped there would be some medicine, some procedure, some magic that would put these insults behind us, but no.

Most of us, by the time we reach our seventies have some cluster of physical irritations and annoyances: hearing loss, kidney disease, bad joints, high blood pressure, generalized anxiety disorder, for example. If we’re lucky, we can absorb these changes, mitigate their problems and live our lives in spite of them. There is, however, always a period of adjustment, of realization that, yes, this body or this psyche has a now permanent malfunction, a condition of dis-ease.

They are reminders, often not gentle, that someday, sometime, something will end it all. The grief involved in these lesser problems is a precursor to the larger grief, the loss not only of function, but of life itself. If we let them, these short of fatal conditions can teach us how to confront and absorb the larger grief.

Wherever you go, there you change.

Midsommar                                                             New (Kate’s) Moon

travelIf you’re an alcoholic like I am, you learn early in treatment that the geographical escape won’t work. Wherever you go, there you are is the saying. It’s true that the addictive part of my personality follows me from place to place as well as through time. Even so, this move to Colorado has awakened me to an unexpected benefit of leaving a place, especially ones invested with a lot of meaning.

I lived in Minnesota over 40 years, moving to New Brighton in 1971 for seminary. I also lived in Alexandria, Indiana until I was 18, so two long stays in particular places. In the instance of Alexandria, I was there for all of my childhood. In Minnesota I became an adult, a husband and father, a minister and a writer.

Here’s the benefit. (which is also a source of grief) The reinforcements for memories and their feelings, the embeddedness of social roles sustained by seeing friends and family, even enemies, the sense of a self’s continuity that accrues in a place long inhabited, all these get adumbrated. There is no longer a drive near Sargent Avenue to go play sheepshead. Raeone and I moved to Sargent shortly before we got divorced. Neither docent friends nor the Woolly Mammoths show up on my calendar anymore with rare exceptions. No route takes me past the Hazelden outpatient treatment center that changed my life so dramatically.

2011 05 09_0852While it’s true, in the wherever you go there you are sense, that these memories and social roles, the feeling of a continuous self that lived outside Nevis, in Irvine Park, worked at the God Box on Franklin Avenue remain, they are no longer a thick web in which I move and live and have my being, they no longer reinforce themselves on a daily, minute by minute basis. And so their impact fades.

On the other hand, in Colorado, there were many fewer memories and those almost all related to Jon, Jen and the grandkids. When we came here, we had never driven on Highway 285, never lived in the mountains, never attended a synagogue together. We hadn’t experienced altitude on a continuous basis, hadn’t seen the aspen go gold in the fall, had the solar snow shovel clear our driveway.

jewish-photo-calendarThis is obvious, yes, but its effect is not. This unexperienced territory leaves open the possibility of new aspects of the self emerging triggered by new relationships, new roles, new physical anchors for memories. Evergreen, for example, now plays a central part in our weekly life. We go over there for Beth Evergreen. We go there to eat. Jon and the grandkids are going there to play in the lake this morning.

Deer Creek Canyon now has a deep association with mortality for me since it was the path I drove home after my prostate cancer diagnosis. Its rocky sides taught me that my illness was a miniscule part of a mountain’s lifetime and that comforted me.

This new place, this Colorado, is a third phase home. Like Alexandria for childhood and Minnesota for adulthood, Colorado will shape the last phase of life. Already it has offered an ancient faith tradition’s insights about that journey. Already it has offered a magnificent, a beautiful setting for our final years. Already it has placed us firmly in the life of Jon, Ruth and Gabe as we’ve helped them all navigate through the wilderness of loss. These are what get reinforced for us by the drives we take, the shopping we do, the medical care we receive, the places we eat family meals. And we’re changing, as people, as we experience all these things.

Well over fifty years ago Harrison Street in Alexandria ceased to be my main street. The Madison County fair was no longer an annual event. Mom was no longer alive. Of course, those years of paper routes, classrooms, playing in the streets have shaped who I am today, but I am no longer a child just as I am longer the adult focused on family and career that I was in Minnesota.

Wherever you go, there you change.

Independence from DJT

Midsommar                                                                    Most Heat Moon

trumpYesterday was the fourth of July. Our September 16th, viewed from Mexico. Our July 1st, from the northerly perspective of Canada. A day to launch an almost-ICBM from Pyongyang. A day not long after our President, OUR PRESIDENT, released on Twitter a video of himself wrestling, during a WWF event, another person whose head had been replaced by the CNN logo. I can’t believe I just wrote that. I can’t believe I’ve seen the video. I can’t believe DJT is in the Whitehouse.

Sigh. Yes, I can. That’s worse, actually, than disbelief. Disbelief holds out hope that incredulity might synch up with reality. Belief, in fact not even belief, but empirical observation shows that DJT did in fact post such a video and I’ve seen it. He is, too, actually in the Whitehouse, in the Oval Office, behind the desk where President’s sit, his long red tie brushing the floor, his floppy comb over shedding wispy blond hair and flakes of orange self-tanning lotion falling with them. In our Whitehouse. In our Oval Office.

Declaration of Independance

Declaration of Independence

On our Independence Day. Question. How do we get independence from him? And his minions. I know how. Elections. But, can the Democratic party pull off a win in the 2018 elections? Hell, I don’t know. And, more importantly, the 2020 election. Don’t know.

Sitting here on Shadow Mountain, with a beautiful blue sky framing Black Mountain, I’m far away from Washington, D.C. in miles and in altitude. And attitude. A benefit of this distance is no Beltway Fever. I can still see the United States from here, looking toward the humid east, the cold north, the hot dry south and the intermountain West. The mountains defy politics. They stand tall against the arrogance of politics, a granite wall solid, lasting. The cold drifts down from the pole, cooling the overheated rhetoric. The West retains its contradictory spirit of liberty, wide-open spaces and corporate overlords. The south. Well. Perhaps Trump could go unprotected by sunscreen to Arizona.

20170701_094556We are more than our government. We are a nation of vast reaches, landscapes that fire imaginations around the world. We are a nation of immigrants, a nation to which immigrants from that same world still desire to come, even if the xenophobic, chauvinistic politicians infesting Washington try to make us undesirable. We are a nation of hopers and dreamers in spite of the dreamkillers on Pennsylvania Avenue.

Yes, we can lose all this to demagogues and mean-spirited fundamentalist ideologues. But I don’t think we will. Perhaps that’s the nostalgia of an old man for the country of his youth. Perhaps. Except the country of his youth exuded sexual repression, feared communism, had sundown laws, treated women like chattel and children. This country, the one now dominated by fearful men who would like to return to just that time, has seen clear advances in the treatment of women, people of color, various sexual preferences. It is, too, a nation whose economy links it in trade to most nations of the world. So, change is not only possible, it has happened in my lifetime and will, I know, happen again in my lifetime.

Throw the bums out.

 

 

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

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:

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After

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.

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.

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