Tears

Samain and the Full Gratitude Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: The Geminid Meteor Showers, peaking on Dec. 13th. Kate. Always Kate. The cooling as we move deeper into December. Chickens and their eggs. Seeing, really seeing. Colors. Especially dark blues. Princeton paint brushes. Glass. A wonder on its own. [after finishing this. Lupron.]

As I wrote before, lupron clouds the source of my feelings. Here are three things this week that have moved me to tears.

  1. Most recent. Reading about the North Dakota capital’s county commission voting to continue admitting immigrants. Compassion trumps Trump.
  2. The videos of women singing the rapist is you (see video below) in protests across the world. Claiming your own power makes you powerful.
  3. A dream I had the other night in which my mother hugged me.

People coming down on the side of compassion instead of cruelty. My heart stands with them, wherever and for whatever reason. Right now the North Dakota vote says no to humans in cages, to separated families, to the cold hearts and small minds resident in the White House. When humans act like humans, I’m shaken in a good way.

Empowerment, especially taking back power stolen by the patriarchy or whiteness or greed, reaches deep into me, makes me feel glad. Over againstness in the name of women, of people of color, of the poor is a sacred duty, a holy duty. When an oppressed group faces off against their oppressor, my heart sings, overwhelms me. Bless them all.

My mother died 45 years ago, her yahrzeit is in October. Since then, I can recall no dreams of her. I must have had some, but they disappear on waking. For the first time I remember in those 45 years, I dreamed of her. She was mute, curled in an almost fetal position, but awake and aware. She hugged me, smiled. I felt her warmth and her love. Her physicality.

She lay in a position very like the one in which I last saw her. We rode up together in an elevator for a surgery that failed to save her life. She was on a gurney. Her eyes looked away from me, but I could tell the stroke had made that the way she could see me best. Her lips moved and she said, “Son.” The last word I ever heard from her.

Tears come as I write this. The power of feeling her close to me, of her hug, so long gone. A dream long suppressed or repressed.

It felt to me as if the grief of her death had finally come to resolution, as if she were forgiving me and blessing me. Forgiving me for living on. Blessing me for living on. Breathtaking.

Maybe the lupron does not cloud the source of my feelings. Maybe it opens me, flushes out excuses I give myself for not being moved.

A confusing time for me. But. Not without its merits.

Impeach

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Monday gratefuls: Facebook. Yes, I know how evil it is, but I love it anyhow. Keeps me up with friends from faraway-in distance and time. Internet. Wow. Keeps on enthralling me (literally [sigh] and figuratively). This desktop computer that works. Always. My handheld computer which I rarely use as a phone. Electricity, whether from IREA, our solar panels, or our generator. And, by free association, Nicholas Tesla.

I’d like to apologize to all of you who read this about my near constant airing of my existential crisis. Must get old, but it’s on my mind. This is an online journal, meant to be an airing of what’s up, what’s current in my life and thinking. Not trying to be commercially friendly. Still, I like readers, so I hope I don’t lose you to the scattered thoughts about this guy’s attempt to grab hold of life. Again. And, again.

So. Whaddya think of this impeachment thing? I don’t know how to read it. Impeachment will happen, I’m sure. Removal from office will not. I’m pretty sure. In that case will we have accomplished anything as a body politic or will we have (or, have we already) baked the Trump bloc into our lives?

The separation of powers is, to me at least, sufficient reason to have proceeded. Congress needs to reassert its fiscal, policy, and military roles against an increasingly imperial presidency. Which, if we’re to be honest, Obama did a lot to nurture, too.

The shifting stances of the propagandists who want to keep Trump in office are not as friendly to democracy as we need them to be. The Trump faithful, an unreasoned but strong cult, is strengthened, not weakened by impeachment; they are driven more into each others arms. DJT right or wrong. Political differences, yes. Political battles, yes. But a devotional attitude toward this guy, no.

Where does all this lead us? I come from the rust belt. I know its politics, its people. I’m one of them. Those of my hometown who follow the Trump are many, but not varied. They have lost well-paying factory jobs, now in the long ago 1970’s, and nothing comparable has replaced them. Their community, Alexandria, which thrived while General Motors had Delco Remy and Guide Lamp in Anderson (25,000 jobs), has become a wasteland of dollar stores, boarded up businesses, and many homes with deferred maintenance. Where do they find hope?

The children of my classmates, who’ve known only this depressed economy, have a right to their disenchantment. We’ve earned it as a country by ignoring their needs. Their parents voted Democrat, understood strong unions, but the day the factories died, so did their political will. Trump has stepped into their hearts and into their children’s hearts. He and his kind will not be easily dislodged from them.

Not hopeful about this at the moment.

Live Long, and Prosper

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Sunday gratefuls: for the poetry and philosophy contained in the world’s religions. for not having to believe in them. for the intimacy and wonder of holidays. for deep thinkers and their ability to change our minds, to see what we cannot. for the pain and struggles that teach us what’s important and what’s not.

Seoah made a bulgogi soup last night. Delicious. Each time she comes I think, “I’ll cook like that, too.” Then, she leaves. And my cooking returns to its Western, American ways. I’ve added few Korean dishes to my repertoire. Maybe, over time…

Murdoch bounces around, happy and energetic. His teeth still have the pointy sharpness of a young puppy. He discovered the loft the other day, came running in, wagging his tail, rushing around, smelling this, then that. And left. He’s come back. He may join Gertie for longer time periods if he can contain himself.

Stanford University has a recent initiative, A New Map of Life. I like it because it recognizes the three blocks of life I call first, second, third phase: education, family and work, and the third phase. Not retirement, at least not the finish line model, but a new phase of life previously unavailable due to shorter life spans. And, as a result, one without cultural guard rails or guidelines.

Their approach makes so much sense. They want to to redefine, reshape the cultural paradigms for all the phases, not just old age. “Longer lives present us with an opportunity to redesign the way we live. The greatest risk of failure is setting the bar too low.” WP article: We need a major redesign of life. Dec. 8, 2019

Will investigate in greater depth and report back. I’m going through what seems to be an annoyingly long rethink of my own life. This is the fifth year (in 12 days) of our Colorado mountain life. It has peaks and valleys (hah) and they keep on coming.

Old age doesn’t seem to be the real issue for me though it plays a role. What’s more salient is the unpredictable nature of our daily life and the difficulty of getting into a rhythm for creative work. Health span is a key issue. Kate, though much better now than six months ago, still has occasional nausea, occasional fevers and fatigue, occasional heartburn, constant weakness. I have bouts of fatigue, muscle weakness, and general uncertainty added with prostate cancer and COPD.

Not complaining, observing what’s real for us. How do we build a mutual life that reflects and respects these difficult elements without capitulating to them? There is a disparity between us, too. I am younger than Kate by three years and though I have my own serious illnesses I don’t get derailed by them as often as she does from hers.

There’s a question of mutual life and its outlines and our individual lives. I’m admitting here that our answers so far have not been satisfying. It’s a project for both of us and it continues.

Learning and Doing

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: The grandmother tree at Congregation Beth Evergreen which just lost a large limb. It’s a large Ponderosa. Looks like it will be fine. The mind of Rabbi Jamie. Filled with knowledge and caring. SeoAh’s energy. She cleaned our whole house yesterday afternoon.

Learned something again. That I seem to have learned again and again only to forget. Hot dogs give me gas. I’ve stopped eating bacon and hot dogs except when I’m out. Bought two CJ’s classics. Vienna all beef wienies with mustard and relish. Oh, my. Desire is often not a good match with need.

A strange and unsettling moment on Wednesday. No, not buying the hot dogs. SeoAh and I went to the post office to mail Annie’s phone back to her. The priority mail box that I chose came flat and needed to be folded. As Kate will tell you, spatial reasoning is not my long suit, not by far.

Anyhow I began to fuss with it. SeoAh’s right beside me. When I couldn’t get it, at first I laughed. Then, I began to become self-conscious. What if she thinks I’m getting senile? Made it harder. Which made me more self-conscious. Finally got it, but the momentary damage had already been done. By me to me.

We went from there to King Sooper. Got out of the car in the parking lot and went to lock it. Nope, keys not in that pocket. Or, that one. Surely… Nope, not that one either. Or, that one. In the jeans? Right side, no. Left side. No. OK. Car started when I got in it at the post office so my keys are here. Somewhere. Check all the pockets again. Nope. Nada.

These two incidents left me a bit shaken. Not because I considered them signs of anything other than my usual self. (the keys had slipped between the seat and the center console. I’ve done it before with glasses and phones.) But because they could have made me look feeble in SeoAh’s eyes. A realization for me about aging. Oh, so this happens to me, too.

Little things. Hard, though. We laughed about it.

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.

Might Be

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: the dog, a tail wagging, face licking bundle of love. the grocery store, especially Tony’s Market. Kate’s successful cataract surgery. Williamsburg oil paints. Princeton brushes. Flovent for the COPD. Landice treadmills. Colorado Natural Gas for bringing natural gas to Shadow Mountain.

Might be the lupron, but when Joseph left yesterday a deep wave of sadness swept over me. Seoah came in and my head was down a bit. Are you o.k.? Just sad that Joseph left. She looked at me. I know how you feel.

Might be the lupron. Might not.

The lupron and the holidays. Might be why I feel so disoriented, so low energy. Trying to read, but find it hard to focus. Trying to paint, but ideas seem stuck somewhere, gluon neuron?

Glad Thanksgiving is over. It was good, but it knocked us out. Could be the lupron. Might not. Hard to know.

The metaphysical or the psychological effects of chemotherapy are tough to define, hard to limn. At least for me. Is the fatigue from preparing and managing a big meal? Staying up with the guests? Am I seeing the world right now as others see it? Not asking the perspectival question, obvious no, but the social consensus question. Is this world the one you know, too?

These are often subtle cracks in my perceptual world, making me question my own assessment of so many things. Can’t say I like this much.

Mark O. and Paul S. both have set learning guitar as a winter activity. Just after Thanksgiving I had decided I would concentrate on painting and justice, justice in this case as a mussar, or character, trait. For a month or more on the painting. Until December 17th when I present my thinking on justice to the mussar vaad practice group.

And, I need to add, reading. I want to up my reading schedule, read more. But I have this strange physical reaction to sitting still, focusing on a book. I want to get up, move around, do something with my hands. Shut off my brain. Sometimes I find a text that wrestles that reaction into submission, sometimes not.

Could be stress from the year plus storm of medical matters. Could be. Could be the lupron. Could be the holiday blues. Could be all of these, probably is, some dark mixture swirling around my consciousness.

Gonna let it be. Be whatever it is. Meanwhile I’ll read as much, paint as much, learn as much as I can.

I & We

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Monday gratefuls: Joe’s visit. Annie’s visit. Seoah’s staying on. Murdoch’s staying on. The engineers who designed our Rav4’s. The laborers who assembled them. Deb and Dave at On the Move Fitness who prepare my workouts every six to eight weeks. The oxygen concentrators that make it possible for Kate and me to live up here.

I’ve mentioned the Turkish TV series Resurrection (see the post for Oct. 21). It’s a long one, well over 400 episodes. A huge work of historical fiction, a novel on the small screen. It holds my attention, though I imagine many would stop watching over its persistent Muslim bias against non-Muslims, its more than occasional violence, and its often laughable translations. Immersion in it and our several years at Congregation Beth Evergreen have combined to make me reconsider individualism.

As an American, as a confirmed existentialist, as an ex-Christian, as a phenomonologist, as a thinker, as an introvert, the individual has always loomed bigger to me than the collective. The notion of a hermetic life. Yes. The life of a scholar hidden in the library. Yes. The life of a novelist obscured by working alone. Yes. Even a move to a mountain home far away from 40 years of friendship and memories. Yes.

The tribal life of frequent, intimate contact with many others has not been mine. Growing up among the 5,000 or so souls in Alexandria, Indiana had its similarities, but we were not bonded by shared purposes, traditions, and genetics. We were a loose collection of families and individuals who shared a common marketplace and a school system. Beyond that we divided into different Christian denominations, extended families, and had no intrinsic loyalty to a lifetime with the folks in town.

The Christian ministry experience is more complicated and I don’t want to go into much depth about it here, but the rise of Protestantism enhanced individualist tendencies as it clambered out of Catholicism in tune with the Enlightenment. Being, say, a Presbyterian is not the same (tribally) as being even a Catholic, and it’s very far from being a Jew or a Muslim.

Beyond those two, a small town childhood and the odd life of an ordained clergy, I’ve followed the path of developing my potential, getting analysis for my psyche’s troubles, and eschewing joining. Love of family and of my Woolly friends, though both dear to me, is not a tribal experience. And, they’ve been enough. More than enough, satisfying.

But. My first taste of tribalism’s benefits came in the year after 9/11, when my ignorance of Islam came into sharp relief. I read the Koran, the whole thing, over Ramadan, fasting during the day and reading it in the segments suggested. I read a lot of other things, too. Volumes of history. Poetry. Works by famous Muslim scholars. Lots of reading. What was the caliphate? What were the five pillars? How did Islam grow and spread so rapidly?

After attending a three day conference on Islam at the University of Minnesota, I went to a break the Ramadan fast event at Dar Al-Farooq mosque near the U. The congregants welcomed me warmly. I sat against the back wall as the men prayed. The women were downstairs. A small boy came over to me, smiled, sat in my lap, and asked, “Are you a kafir?” An unbeliever? Yes, I said. I was. His eyes got big.

The meal was good, eaten on the same floor where the prayers had been offered, covered in clear plastic sheeting. Afterward a group of men talked to me, took me to a library, offered me books to take home, answered questions. It was a warm and inviting experience.

Resurrection shows the same warmth in the Kayi and Dodurga tribes. Their lives are for each other, with each other. They also fight, intrigue, and betray. But the benefits of a tribal identity and life are obvious.

At Beth Evergreen the sense of tribal identity probably doesn’t occur to most congregants. It’s just there. They know the holidays, some of the rituals, know what a b’nei mitzvah is, maybe have some knowledge of Hebrew. Islam permeates the tribal life in Resurrection, but observance is a good deal more casual in this Reconstructionist synagogue.

Think of this. When they read the Torah, it’s a book by and about their ancestors. Yes, maybe its more myth than fiat, but it’s still about the development of the Jewish world and the Jewish worldview. While eating in the Sukkah, they recapitulate a harvest festival celebrated centuries before the common era, by their ancestors, in the promised land. See that? I slipped in promised land. Well, it was promised to them, their ancestors.

On a more immediate basis the caring among members of the congregation, as expressed by the Mitzvah committee, the e-mails and phone calls we’ve gotten over Kate’s illness and mine, the connections outside of the synagogue among members, like my breakfasts with Alan for example and Kate’s time with her friend Jamie, evidence a degree of intimacy and community I never found in a Christian church. I’m sure there are some that have it, I’ve not experienced it.

In rereading this I noticed the theys and theirs in the paragraphs above. I’m not a Jew, nor do I want to become one. But, I love these people and they are my people. I’m not of them in the formal sense, however.

Instead of leaning toward individualism, I may be standing up straight, inclined toward Self and community in somewhat equal parts. That’s still not the tribal modality. In that case the collective overwhelms the individual and their needs. Not gonna be me.

And yet.

The Day After

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Sunday gratefuls: the water in our broken granite aquifer and its replenishment by rain and snow, the rocky mountain on which we live and its brother and sister mountains around us, the Arapaho National Forest that covers them, the regular coming of day and night, the winds of yesterday.

The day after. The paper plates and plastic cups, the napkins with the turkeys on them. All in the trash. Jon and Ruth left on Friday night, but Gabe asked if he could stay over. Sure, but you’ll have to sleep on the couch. That’s ok. Annie and Joe are here till Monday. Seoah will stay until mid-December when she will leave from DIA for Singapore.

The mood changes when the holiday is in the past. Less ritualized, more homey time. Sitting around with casual conversations. Joe talking about his comic book collection. “This one’s worth $4,000,” he says, showing me an old Avengers I gave him a couple of years ago. The old comics in the attic routine. Turns out mine were were worth some money. Several thousand as it happens.

It’s compensation for that Michael Jordan rookie card I wouldn’t help you buy. He’d wanted me to help him buy a $200 Michael Jordan rookie card now worth thousands. I said no. It’s a running joke (sort of) with us.

Joe and Seoah went to H Mart, the big box Asian grocery store in Aurora, near Jon’s house. Annie and Gabe went with them. Gabe went back home and Annie got her first taste of Asia.

H Mart, with its bins of durian, dragon fruit, lemongrass, its coolers with various meats and cuts not available at King Sooper, its aquariums with fish and shrimp, boxes of instant white rice and seaweed, stacks of fifty pound bags of basmati, has a pan-Asian clientele. East Indians, Chinese, Japanese, Malay, Filipinos wander the aisles looking for food they cooked back home or food their parents cooked back home.

H Mart has Korean owners. The first time Seoah came here we stopped at H Mart on the way home from the airport. I remember her delight when a stockboy talked to another employee in Korean. Her face lit up. My language! In America.

The original plan for Thanksgiving was to have Seoah cook a Korean holiday meal instead of the whole capon, side dish thing. When I realized they would arrive on Wednesday, the day before, I wrote back and suggested we wait on that. She agreed. Instead she made the dish last night

Chopche is my phonetic spelling of what she called it. Which, I just looked up, is not too far off: chop chae. Mixed vegetables and beef. It’s one of those Asian dishes that has most of its time in the prep work. She thinly sliced carrots, thicker chunks of bell peppers (red and yellow), mushroom, green onion. Transparent sweet potato noodles. Long, narrow slices of beef. All stir fried, one at a time, except for the noodles. A zucchini cut into slices, breaded, and fried.

When do you make this? Any big holiday. New year. Death. Birthday. Happy occasion. Tasty. Worth learning. Her cooking seems simple, but it’s not. She has a lot of knowledge picked up from her mother and now many years of cooking herself. Her moves have an economy to them that only comes with much practice. I watch her, trying to pick up at least some of her skill.

“I like to organize,” she says. When I try to wipe off the kitchen counter, she says, “Not needed.” Spreads her hands indicating the kitchen, her domain. “It is my pleasure.”

Shadow Mountain Gratefuls

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Everybody got here. 8 of us. Ruth, Jon, Gabe, Joe, Seoah, Annie, Kate and me. Plus a very interested Gertie, Rigel, Kepler, and Murdoch. Our oven thermometer allowed me to calibrate the lower oven since its heat is different from what gets set. Ruth’s pies, pumpkin and pecan, were wonderful. The heated side dishes made the meal easy to prepare. Love around the table. None of my burns were too bad.

The heated capon was ok, as were the side dishes. Hardly gourmet though tasty. We ate downstairs around the Stickley table that largely gets used for folding laundry. The red table cloth was festive as were the Happy Thanksgiving paper plates.

We used a few questions from a set by a company called Vertillis. The intent was to have a conversation that did not feature Trump tirades, one that was, instead, about us. It worked. After the plates of sage stuffing, mashed potatoes, capon, cranberries, and green beans were empty we broke into groups.

The women, with Kate at the head of the table, stayed downstairs talking while us guys put away food, cleared the table. A moment of gender parity. I mentioned it and Jon said, “Yes. And, two male dogs and two female dogs.” True.

Later Annie, Kate, and Ruth went upstairs, Jon sat in the chair and dozed while Joe, SeoAh, and I talked. The spirit of those questions seemed to linger even after the meal. Seoah said Joseph was her first true love. Who was mine?

The question set me back. After three visits to the altar and many women friends/lovers over the years, I wasn’t sure at first. “Kate,” I said. Raeone and Judy were both relationships formed while I was drinking and their dissolution reflected their flawed premises. Kate though was, pardon the not really a pun, my first sober choice. It’s true love because we both want what’s best for each other, will sacrifice for each other, and share convictions, core convictions, about politics, mother earth, dogs, family.

The essence of holidays, these sorts of conversations reinforce family ties, deepen them. We come together out of individual and nuclear family lives to bathe for a moment in the larger, extended field of our relationships. SeoAh said Koreans celebrate a harvest festival with similar themes.

Even though Kate’s going through some kind of disturbance in her force, nausea and fever, it nonetheless felt to me that this holiday put away the old, bad year and began a new one. Next year Joe and Seoah will be in Singapore, so it will be different.

Murdoch will stay with us for a year since Singapore wouldn’t let him in. Means considerable jockeying since both Murdoch and Kepler are male Akitas with the dog on dog aggression that comes with the breed. We’ll work it out, get a routine down.

Dogs, I read recently, like certainty. If we can get a system that works, when to feed, when to let this one out, then that one, keep Murdoch outside while Kep is inside and vice versa, we’ll avoid squabbles. Squabbles being a euphemism for teeth tearing flesh, blood, wounds, squeals of pain, and my forced interventions.

At two years old Murdoch still has a lot of puppy in him. That’s delightful and will warm up our house. He’s also a sweet boy, nice to have around.

Today is Thanksgiving on Shadow Mountain

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls: Joe and SeoAh arrived with Murdoch after a long drive. Our plowed driveway. Thanksgiving when everyone can be here. Learning how to make chili from scratch. Discovered that smoked paprika adds to chili. Murdoch’s happy, puppy presence. This computer on which I do so much work. This loft in which I paint, write, read, exercise.

Joe and SeoAh’s arrival delayed Thanksgiving. They encountered several accidents on their way to Missouri for a night’s rest. Didn’t get there until 3 am. I decided we’d wait Thanksgiving rather than have them rush while sleep deprived. Cooked the capon last night, sliced it, covered it in tin foil. Will go in the oven to warm up today.

The big box of side dishes from Tony’s rests in the back of Ruby, cooled by what Kate and I call the great outdoor refrigerator. They, too, will go into the oven to warm up. Then those fancy plates and napkins I picked up at the Paper store will adorn our downstairs table. Around it will be Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Annie, Joe, SeoAh, Kate, and I. Eight souls. The animal souls will be in various places to avoid hassles.

We have 18 inches of snow on the ground and on our roof. A Colorado Thanksgiving. The solar snow shovel will gradually remove it.

Thankful Kate’s health is so much better.