Downsize?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

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.

Over the curves and up the hill…

Samain and the Fallow Moon

The waning half Fallow Moon was beautiful this morning. It was the half closed pupil of an eye surrounded by a circle of silvered moonlight within a larger circle of blue moonlight. The eye followed Orion and his dog as they hunted, looking all round Black Mountain for prey.

While Minnesota and points east have been cold, we’ve had a milder, less snowy first half to November. That’s about to change. How much remains to be seen, but it looks like Thanksgiving week will be both colder and snowier.

Kate and I drove up the hill yesterday afternoon after yet another doctor’s appointment. I asked her if she felt different, more at ease with at least the immediate future. Yes, she said. Me too, I agreed. It’s an adjustment to see fewer appointments ahead, less likelihood of drastic news. A good adjustment, yet it also has a when will the other shoe drop tonality. I believe that feeling will pass as long as our mutual health conditions remember stable over a longer period of time.

I ordered a capon from Tony’s last week. Kate decided to get their side dish bundle: gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans. Ruth agreed to make a pumpkin pie. Joe, SeoAh, and Murdoch plan to get here on Wednesday. Annie, too. Jon, Ruth, and Gabe will join us on Thanksgiving. A full house plus.

As many of you will understand, we’re both looking forward to these visits, a lot, and dreading them, a little. Having three extra people and a now larger Murdoch in the house for five or six days presents psychological and logistical challenges. All worth it, but challenges none the less.

Not nearly as big though as the Keaton Thanksgivings. Mom’s family. Muncie, Indiana. Aunt Marjory’s. She was the acknowledged culinary guru and must have worked very hard to feed 18-20 people. There was a kid’s table, lots of comic books (often brought by me). Uncle Ike, Uncle Riley, Dad, Uncle Ray, if they were all there, would retire to Uncle Ike’s den to smoke cigars and watch football. Aunt Roberta, Aunt Virginia, and Mom must have helped Aunt Marjory in the kitchen, but I don’t remember it.

This was a key link in our extended family’s year, the other major one being a family reunion in James Whitcomb Riley park in Greenfield, Indiana. Jane Pauley would occasionally come. Her father Dick Pauley and Uncle Riley were close friends.

Thanksgiving memories. An American tradition. A strong one because it is non-sectarian, focuses on food and family. Probably my favorite holiday of the year after the Winter Solstice. One for the family, one for solitude.

Accounting

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

MiguelAlmagro, on Deviant Art

A hot August, the third hottest on record for Denver, boiled over the border to meteorological fall. Too warm yesterday even here on the mountain top. Neither Kate nor I like the heat, wait for the cold weather.

Labor day weekend special meal. Ribeye, asparagus, heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella, bay leaves and balsamic vinegar. Garlic bread. I love to cook, would like knowing more.

SeoAh and Murdoch

SeoAh is in Korea. Murdoch is in doggy university for 28 days learning how to be a canine good citizen. Joe’s home alone at Robbins AFB. Mark’s in Phnom Penh getting a visa for Vietnam. Mary’s in the classroom in Singapore. We’re up here on Shadow Mountain.

Yesterday was the 1st of Elul, the last month in the Jewish lunar calendar. Elul is a month for heshbon hanefesh, an accounting of and for the soul. When Elul ends, the High Holidays begin, starting with Rosh Hashanah, New Year, and ending with Yom Kippur, the day of atonement.

This corresponds well to my own inner work which begins to get grittier and intense as the night creeps up over daylight. Picking up this idea, going to use Elul for my own heshbon hanefesh.

An accounting of the American soul would surely include consideration of mass shootings. Our complicity in carbon emissions. The mess we’ve made of a once revered style of governance. How we’ve pushed ourselves into red tents and blue tents. But, too, the daily mitzvah’s of thousands, millions. The energy of our hope, our resilience. The vast diversity of our body politic. Those who still stream toward us from places of violence, of desperate poverty, of authoritarian regimes. Our wonderful, wild public lands.

When the book of life closes on Yom Kippur, will the USA be in it or not?

So Good

Lughnasa and the crescent Moon of the First Harvest

Our beautiful Rigel. Nine and a half.

Cool again this morning. Great sleeping. So much so that Rigel couldn’t be bothered to get up and go outside before breakfast. I had to go down and roust her. All that barking at the bunnies under the shed tired her out, I guess. Thankfully she seems to be calming down about them.

Brother Mark is back in Saudi Arabia. His employment there has taken some odd turns. He’s headed to Riyadh instead of either Arar or Qassim. As he says, Saudi can be a challenging place to work.

Uncle Mark in the Saudi desert

Today is sister Mary’s birthday. Happy birthday, Mary! She’s starting another year as a professor at the teacher’s university of Singapore.

In other family news Kate and I went on an errand run yesterday. We were out so long that the battery on her O2 concentrator died. Happened on the way home. Even with that she was not exhausted. Still upbeat. Her stamina has improved remarkably with regular, balanced nutrition. It was so good to have her with me, doing things. Today is eleven months since her bleed. September 28th, 2018.

A 75th birthday present

We stopped at Babcock Gardens and Feed in Kittredge. Investigating river rock to cover the landscape cloth I’m going to put all around our house. That’s the 5 foot ignition zone. The one and a half inch river rock covers 80 square feet per ton. We’ve got about 500 square feet, maybe a bit more. 5 tons* of rock to move. And, the woman at Babcock’s said river rock is hard to shovel. Hmm. Time for teenagers. Or, it just occurred to me, a bobcat. Course it would have to fit through our gate. Hmm, maybe not.

One odd element of wildfire mitigation is that, if you’ve done it, the firefighters are much more likely to protect your home in case of a fire. If we try, they’ll try.

*All you math folks can tell that’s only 400 square feet worth, right? Well, they only deliver 5 tons at a time. Gonna try to make that much work.

Defendable Homes

Summer and the waning (4%) Radiation Moon

Down to single digits. Nine more treatments. Life after radiation (a bit of a joke, ha) is coming next week. Only three bedbugs were ever found. There was a “bubble” of people who sat in that chair at the approximate time Anova suspects the bugs transferred. They’re having them do extra preparation before they can come into treatment. Not me. Nope. No bedbugs here on the mountain. Gratitude. Probably means I’ll finish on August 9th.

My friend Dave, personal trainer Dave, has calmed down the nausea from his brain cancer chemo. Deb told me yesterday that he rode 78 miles last week, 20 miles that day. He’s in phenomenal shape. You might remember my mentioning that he ran a 15 mile endurance race in British Columbia, the Fitzsimmon Mountains. Lots of elevation gain. This was a year ago. Part of the motivation for staying in shape during cancer treatment is to prove you’re still alive, still have agency over your body. Take that, brain cancer. Take that, prostate cancer.

Found all this out when I took in the check for a large lug of Western Slope peaches. There’s a small section of the Western Slope (of the Rockies, in Colorado) that’s perfect for growing fancy peaches. Tents pop up along roads selling Colorado Peaches. On the Move Fitness takes orders from clients and organizes a bulk purchase from Green Barn Produce. Pick’em up next week. Kate’s going to make a sizable batch of peaches frozen in orange juice.

Another Colorado moment yesterday. On the way to Kate’s hearing test (she’s good in both ears. yeah.) we drove past a long dump truck, a side dumper, full of boulders. When I see a large truck here with boulders, I think of the golf carts leaving Minnesota each year for southern courses. Or, the Christmas trees beginning to head out of state by truck in November. Moving rock is a big business here. Including moving those rocks that fall onto roadways.

Sent a note yesterday to Elk Creek Fire District. They have a staff person who does two hour assessments of fire mitigation needs on your property. It’s been three years since I thinned our lodgepoles and I stopped at that. Might be other things I’m missing.

There were 30 wildfires within the Elk Creek District last year. The recent newsletter points out that firefighters “…must focus on evacuations and effectively apply available resources to defendable homes. In these scenarios, it is crucial that homeowners have already implemented Home Ignition Zone (HIZ) best practices.”

In practical terms this defines the triage that firefighters do in case of a wildfire threatening homes. They leave those already in flames and those too difficult to get to, think way up high or very steep driveways or in an unmitigated stand of trees. Those with short driveways, near major roads, who have done mitigation in their HIZ, will be defended. Our house meets all those criteria and I want to make sure it continues to.

Life in the WUI (pronounced woo-eee), the Wildland/Urban Interface. Yes, it makes about as much sense to live here as in a flood plain or in a coastal city waiting for sea level rise or a bad hurricane. But, we love it here, as residents of those other areas must love their home turf. So…