Things I love to do

Fall and the Crescent Moon

Oh. Achy this am. More mitigation. Closing in on all the trees I intend to take down. Maybe I’ll finish today. For sure by the weekend. In between, we’ll have 8-12 inches of snow overnight tonight. It will be gone Friday. The Solar Snow Shovel.

The density of trees in a lodgepole forest means it’s harder to drop a tree without snagging it. I’ve had several opportunities to practice snag cutting techniques I learned on youtube. They work and I’m glad to know them. Snags cause most deaths in the logging industry. Their often strange lines of force make cutting them an exercise in observational physics. The more upright, the more difficult.

One tree I cut yesterday bounced off the stump to land straight up and down about a foot away. Grrr. An angled cut, watch for the cut to begin to close, pound a wedge in the cut, then complete the cut from below. The tree drops straight down, hopefully away from the branches snagging it. My first cut today.

Decided to hire a landscaper to do the five foot ignition zone around the house. Landscape cloth, stakes, river rock. It will affect how the house looks and I’d like a neater job than I’m capable of pulling off.

When this round of mitigation is complete, I’ll have very little of this sort of work left. I’ll miss it. Weeding and thinning. The plants are big, but still plants.

Of course, I have to release the chain on the saw. It bound up on me right at the end of yesterday’s felling. Not sure what the problem is. I worked on for awhile using my wonderful limbing ax from Gränsfors in Sweden. My felling ax and my log splitter from them have not seen as much use as it has.

Went to Tony’s Market again. Love their food. I could shop there all the time, except it’s pretty expensive. Worth it. Always high quality meats, deli salads, veggies and fruit, baked goods. Realized their secret yesterday. Supermarkets make their money off the goods sold along the walls, not so much off the goods in the aisles. Tony’s only sells items sold on the walls.

After that I spent an hour or so on something else I love to do. Research. Read through the parsha for Nov. 23rd again, focusing this time on geography. Where was Canaan? The Cave of Machpela, the Tomb of the Patriarchs? What about Mamre and its oak? Found them. Also read the parsha in RJ Crumb’s illustrated Genesis. Mr. Natural goes to the Middle East.

When I first read the parsha, pen in hand, I focused. My mind was right there, engaged. I felt comfortable, excited. Much like getting ready to cut down trees. Or, cook a meal. I’m treating it as myth, a myth that has shaped not only Jewish traditions, but Christian and Muslim ones as well.

Parshas get their names from the first words in them, in this case, chayei Sarah, the life of Sarah. Chayei Sarah recounts the death of Sarah and Abraham, the finding of Rebecca at the well, a wife for Isaac, and the sons of Ishmael, born to Hagar, Abraham’s concubine.

Satisfaction

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Yesterday. Packed with stuff. AM I got out there and began cutting down trees. Got a lot of trees down, many smaller spruces. Managed to hang one smallish lodgepole. Will have to deal with that today. It felt so good. I love manual labor of a certain kind. Logging is one. Working in gardens and orchards is another. There’s something about using my body, working with plants and the soil that feeds me. Chainsaw work has serious man cred, too. With all that lupron swimming around, I need it.

Two of the lodgepole pines I felled, one good sized, had the bluish stain of the pine beetle. Both had been dead for some time. One in the front, also showing the blue streaking, has not been dead over a couple of years. Not sure whether this means an infestation will take out all of our lodgepoles. The beetles don’t seem as pernicious here as on those mountain sides along I-70 out toward Silverthorne. On them whole mountain faces are the rust color of dead lodgepole pine needles. The sight shocked me the first time I saw it.

When I got tired using the chain saw, I put it away and got out my limbing ax. I don’t use the chain saw when I’m tired. However, I also love whacking off tree branches with the smaller of my two Swedish axes. I got the two dead trees limbed. Satisfying.

Susan came around noon. She’s the chair of the mitzvah committee at CBE and has stayed in constant touch with Kate and me over the last year plus. The main thing the committee does is meals and when we needed them what a help they were. However, another thing I love to do is cook, so once I got out from under the radiation fatigue, we stopped the meals.

In conversation Susan teased out of me that fire mitigation had me concerned. She offered to coordinate, if possible, a CBE crew to help. With Derek, neighbor Derek, helping, I don’t need them. She brought lunch and dinner anyhow. We had a good conversation over the meal.

Derek is a really good worker and will be taking the bulk of the logs for heating. He also had a call into Elk Creek Fire to chip slash he had generated from his property. Due to equipment malfunctions the chipping crew has gotten behind. They have 150 slash chipping reservations and they stopped taking reservations on the 10th of October. Derek suggested moving slash from our work onto his piles since they’re not to him yet. Excellent plan

After Susan left, Kate and I took a nap, waiting on the arrival of Jon, Ruth, and Gabe for hamburgers, tater tots, salad, and ice cream. Also laundry.

They got up here around three and we had the usual swirl of Gabe and Ruth. Ruth wanted to bake. She made a fudge and cornbread muffins. Gabe went around to all the dogs, one at a time, talking to them, petting them, then disappeared upstairs to watch TV.

Cooking the meal in the kitchen after Ruth’s baking had some challenges, but we overcame them. Ruth cut up tomato, onion and avocado for the burgers. She also tossed the salad. I took care of the tator tots and the meat.

Ruth’s designing the lighting for her drama classes production of Alice (in Wonderland). She had a self-described mental breakdown when she didn’t get the role of Alice. One manifestation of the breakdown was cutting her bangs short. She got over it.

I asked her if her friends liked to cook. She nodded and said, “Really, we like to eat.” Eighth grade. Next year high school. As they were leaving she put on her sandals and came to me for a hug. “Oh, my, you used to be way taller than me.” Yep. With sandals she’s getting close to my height.

Busy, satisfying, loving day.

A small c convert

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

I had a dream awhile back. Don’t remember much, but I do remember being around the table at CBE. Rabbi Jamie was there, I don’t recall who else. At some point, I said, “I’m a convert.” And, I suppose it’s true enough in some ways.

Definitely a convert to CBE. Both Kate and I are members. She, who is a convert, with her Jewish identity and me, a pagan “suckled in a creed outworn.” to quote Wordsworth in “The World Is Too Much With Us.”*

This community is diverse in its way: Orthodox, Reform, Conservative, and Reconstructionist flavors of Judaism show up in conversation and have persons who either identify with them or used to. There are transgender folk and there must be some gay folks. One or two people of color, rare for the Evergreen/Conifer area. Politically conservative, liberal, and radical. I’ve not met a libertarian, but I imagine there are some of those, too. A lot of former East Coasters, but a number of native Coloradans. Some come from Evergreen, Conifer, but many live in Denver or its burbs. A few from Israel, others who’ve lived in other countries for some period of time.

Nearly all though are at least well enough off to own a car, a home. I don’t know the average educational attainment, but it’s high. Might even tip over into the post-graduate level. Almost all are white. Almost all are Jewish. I’m the only outlier who is a member, as far as I know.

CBE reflects an old immigrant motif in America where folk of similar religion and, often, of country of origin, gather in a religious community. Polish Catholics. Shinto Japanese. Muslims from many countries. Irish Catholics. Puritans. Buddhists from many Asian lands. Up here in the Front Range there aren’t many options if you’re Jewish. You come to CBE or go into Denver which has a large Jewish community. (There is one other small Jewish congregation up here.)

But the dream notion of conversion goes deeper than just the community for me. I’m a convert to the reconstructionist way of approaching religious questions. That is, if it’s working, keep it. If it’s not, change it.

In my pagan turn, which came many years ago when I started researching Celtic lore, I have found most of what passes for pagan these days just plain silly. Much of it comes from rehashing, in not very careful ways, 19th century Victorian fantasies, or grabbing parts of other auld faiths, like Nordic mythology. See Asatru, for example. Some of it tries to revive the Olympic deities in various ways. There’s even a clever Satanist twist which has claimed Lucifer’s rebellion as a model for standing against the established order.

At CBE I’ve found a series of parallels with my own (possibly silly to you) approach to paganism. Jews use a lunar calendar, for example, and much of their liturgical year has its grounding in agricultural practices. In fact tomorrow at CBE a Sukkot ritual will celebrate the harvest, out doors, in a structure that by tradition is open to the sky. There is a ritual for each new moon, not often observed, but it’s there.

There is also in Judaism a distinctive body positive attitude that encourages good eating, good sex, good self care. Asceticism is not Jewish. One of the aspects of Judaism, related to this, is a candor about death, a way of including mourners in the community through sitting shiva, care of the body immediately following death, and including mourners in every worship service.

With the horrible turmoil after my mother’s death I find this approach soothing. Wish we’d had it then. This is, btw, the 55th anniversary of her death this month, her yahrzeit.

In the kabbalah, which I have studied a bit, there’s a universalism that comes from believing that every bit of the universe has a shard of divinity, of ohr the divine light. I can move from this understanding to an animist position very easily.

Here again I’m a convert to CBE. I don’t have to give up or alter any of my beliefs to be a full member. In fact I lead adult education, taught middle-schoolers, and participate as an “out” pagan in all parts of CBE’s life.

Jewish tradition and Jewish civilization has much that is humane, justice oriented, thoughtful. It is, like many faiths, a repository of human wisdom, of poetry, of answers to the big questions. I’m learning a lot at CBE and am glad for the particularity of its Jewish life. So, yes, I’m a convert. A small c convert.

* The world is too much with us; late and soon,
Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers;
Little we see in Nature that is ours;
We have given our hearts away, a sordid boon!
This Sea that bares her bosom to the moon,
The winds that will be howling at all hours,
And are up-gathered now like sleeping flowers,
For this, for everything, we are out of tune;
It moves us not. – Great God! I’d rather be
A Pagan suckled in a creed outworn;
So might I, standing on this pleasant lea,
Have glimpses that would make me less forlorn;
Have sight of Proteus rising from the sea;
Or hear old Triton blow his wreathed horn. 1802

Flow

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Took down two more trees yesterday, dead ones. Beginning to get into a rhythm. More today. Derek, next door neighbor, showed up. You said to come over when I heard the chain saw. I wouldn’t feel good lounging around with you out there working. Good man, Derek.

One of these trees was large and my cuts didn’t fell it. Makes me nervous since it’s cut, and could fall over on its own. Not how I want to die. Giving it wide berth I returned to the garage, got my two felling wedges and a hand-held sledge.

Pounded the yellow plastic one in the back cut. On the last hit with the sledge hammer the tree cracked, gave a mighty roar and crashed to the ground. Not quite where I’d hoped to put it, but close.

Weaker than I’d like. Carrying the saw, I feel it. Pounding the wedge wore me out. Take it slow. Gonna get a wagon to transport stuff. Fuel. Bar oil. Wedges. I can do this. Will take time.

Wu weiing through the days right now. Taking stuff as it comes, letting it be. I’ll leave forcing, slings and arrows, to the young ones. This guy’s gonna go with the flow. (this last sentence is aspirational, but my intent anyhow)

Flowing through the day today: workout, tree felling, cooking shrimp. Enough.

Without this attitude I search for what I haven’t done. That’s clear in many of these posts. I’ve not gotten back to the writing. I’ve not been to CBE. I’ve not read enough. These things reach around, make me feel as if I’m never finished. Always more to do. Always something I’ve neglected.

That fuels a sense of incompleteness, of not having accomplished everything. Instead of an emphasis on the actions of the day, the focus is on apparent inaction. Not necessary and damaging.

The Wild World

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

A scrim of clouds played with Orion and the Sukkot Moon, revealing and then hiding, hiding and then revealing. The walk to the mailbox is short, but as I take it my mind whirls up to the distant stars, to Greek myths, to the peak of Black Mountain faintly illuminated by the moon. It is a delightful way to start the day, quiet, usually no cars, still a bit early for commuters.

Scattered clouds change the night sky, creating mystery. A lesson in the occult. If you’re an early bird and can see the sky, I recommend this consciousness expanding morning ritual. It places the day in context. The universe observing itself through my eyes. A quiet joy.

We drove down the hill yesterday in the early morning, out of the house at 6 am headed for Corneal Consultants. Kate’s first cataract surgery. On the way she asked me, Do you know why Kirby Puckett was such a good hitter? No. He batted right, but had a dominate left eye. Oh. I see. I was a good hitter. I have left eye dominate and bat right handed. The stuff you learn about someone.

In case you got to wondering, as I just did, about the relationship between eyeball and river uses of the word. Latin cataracta waterfall, portcullis, from Greek kataraktēs, from katarassein to dash down, from kata- + arassein to strike, dash Merriam-Webster. I’ll have to check the OED later.

It went well. She’s wearing a clear plastic eye-shield and the dark pupil of her dominate eye gives little space for the beautiful blue green of her iris. Drops every two hours. A visit to the doctor today.

On the way into Evergreen last night to pick up pizza at Beaujo’s an emergency vehicle came out of the fire house, cutting through the rush hour traffic which lined both lanes of 73. While I drove as close to the slight drop off as I could, an Elk cow looked in at me. Neither Gertie nor Rigel went nuts. Thankful for that.

In a front yard on the other side of Cub Creek nine or ten of her sister cows laid on the grass, eating their cud, looking very relaxed and at home. During the rut and into the winter the elk are more present in Evergreen. Not like Estes Park where they wander into businesses, but still visible.

Today Alan and I have brunch at 11:00. The first time I’ve seen him since my bagel table in late September. Kate had a bad couple of weeks and he had acting in Cabaret, singing at the High Holidays, and the Rotary Club’s recycling day. Looking forward to catching up with him.

Kate’s friend from both Bailey Patchworkers and CBE, Jamie Bernstein, has agreed to take her to her follow-up appointment so I can see Alan. Thanks, Jamie and Kate for setting it up.

Simcha

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

Over to Aspen Roots. No, not a nursery, our hair stylist Jackie’s place. We’re as beautiful as we can get for a couple of days. Thence to King Sooper for soup ingredients: golden leek and potato. Picked up fresh sage, fresh thyme, leeks, Yukon Gold potatoes. And, some pita chips while Kate went to the bank.

Back home to cook. Simple, but labor intensive. A pound and three quarters of potatoes halved and sliced thin. Garlic sliced thin. Leeks washed and, yup, cut thin. Made a bouquet garni. Cheese cloth with the sage, thyme, bay leaves tucked in and tied up. Fun, but I find it tiring to stand so long. Maybe an hour plus.

The soup went with us to the mussar evening group. It was enjoyed. I’m always a bit nervous taking my cooking outside our house. My cooking style is innovative, not always to the recipe.

Kate presented on joy, simcha. I read Wendell Berry’s poem: Before Dark. We discussed the barriers to joy, how to cultivate, recognize joy.

Rabbi Jamie had to leave the group early. The second or third kid who drew swastikas on cars at a school parking lot came in for a talk. With his very dressed up parents. Jamie does this every once in a while. Last year he spoke to a kid who didn’t believe in the holocaust, an active anti-semite. He said the kid came around in the conversation. This kid and the others had followed along. Still pernicious, of course, but different.

Home in the behemoth. We have a Nissan SUV that looks like a gun boat and drives like an RV. It was the only thing they had at the Enterprise agency last Friday. The new Rav4 is at Caliber Collision having its rear bumper and rear door repaired. Kate’s accident a month ago or so.

Leaving early this morning, about 6:15 for Corneal Consultants in Littleton. Kate’s having her first cataract removed. The next one in two weeks. Hope to get some mitigating in later today.

Guy Card

Fall and the Sukkot Moon

So my guy credentials are more or less intact.

More. Got the chainsaw to work, cut down one tree. Mitigation started. The starter rope was cranky, not dysfunctional. Means I got it all put back together correctly except for that one little hose. Over the next few weeks I’ll gradually cut down the trees that the guy from Elk Creek Fire marked.

After I limb them, the slash will need to be moved to the front so the Elk Creek crew can come chip it. Much cheaper ($0) than the the six hundred bucks I paid for my first big slash chipping in 2016. A sign will go up in the front offering my downed trees to neighbors who heat with wood.

Right now I’m planning on paying somebody to put the landscape cloth and river rock down. Seems like too much work and I don’t think I’d do a good looking job. Whether it gets done this year will probably be down to the weather.

Less. The lupron continues suppressing my guy hormone. Hot flashes have lessened, as Sherry said they might. A lupron influenced mood swing now and then. Fatigue and sarcopenia are the major side effects right now. I’m working out, but not advancing as much on the weights as I’m used to.

Cardio is harder, too. That might be the copd (or ashtma, I’m a bit confused on this right now.) or it might be the fatigue and sarcopenia. Or, it might be that I’ve not pushed myself enough. This is important to figure out. Cardio is one of those key non-medicinal elements in fighting whatever brand of lung disease I actually have. Resistance, too, because chest muscles have a lot of influence on breathing.

Anyhow this will all settle down over the next month or so. I see Lisa again for a followup on the lungs, November 11th. I want to know exactly what I have, copd or asthma. Is there a difference?

I also want a better handle on what I can do to stay healthy. Example: pine pollen. I moved 900 miles west and 8,800 feet up to discover I have an allergy to pine pollen. Initially annoying, but with the lung disease it might be a real problem. Probably see an allergist.

Not to mention I want a prognosis. Is this mild or moderate? Does it have to progress or can I slow it down, stop it?

November 5th I see Anna Willis, Dr. Eigner’s P.A. In case you haven’t kept a scorecard handy Eigner is my urologist. He did the prostate surgery in 2015 and he ordered the radiation and lupron.

I have two main questions for her. 1. Does the .03 PSA mean the radiation didn’t work? See a few posts back. 2. How long do I have to stay on the lupron?

In spite of this post and the others on medical issues I don’t spend much time thinking about them. I’ve done what I can with the prostate cancer. It doesn’t worry me though there are questions I have. The lung stuff is a little more up front for me. That’s because it’s new and I don’t understand it well yet. Even so most of my day and my nights (I’m sleeping well.) are unencumbered.

As buddy Tom said, chop wood and carry water. Where I’m trying to be right now.

Wandering. Bored. That’s me.

Fall and the Full Sukkot Moon

Made shawarma yesterday. Not bad. Used both my cast iron skillet and the instapot. Seared the chuck roast in the pan, deglazed and put it all in the instapot. An hour or so later, done. This is a favorite food for me, so I’ll work to perfect this. Also made tabbouleh and bought some hummus. A real Middle Eastern meal. Put some of the leftover meat in the borscht I made for Kate a week or so ago.

Kate, a much better cook than I am, backs me up, gives me the benefit of her knowledge. On Friday, for example, I wanted to make french toast from a baguette that had dried up. It had to be easy, I imagined, but I still didn’t know how. Instead of using a cook book I asked Kate. Vanilla in a beaten egg, coat the bread, fry them. Cinnamon and sugar on them while they’re cooking. And it was so.

Both of us have less of an appetite in the evenings so I made this meal for late lunch, Sunday dinner.

Still bored. I guess that’s the feeling. Don’t wanna do this. Don’t wanna do that. Wandering around. Tried the chain saw, get started on fire mitigation, Round II. Starter rope won’t pull. Guess I really fixed it when I took it apart and put it back together. Going to the chain saw e.r. today.

Had some success yesterday with wu wei. When I cooked, I cooked. When I ate, I ate. When I painted, I painted. But I got back to wandering around. Felt like I was waiting for Godot.

In that mood I decided to mess around with my webhost. They’re the folks that provide a server and security for Ancientrails. Got right in there and changed my PHP settings, then added SSL. Closed out AncientrailsGreatWheel and CharlesBuckmanEllis. Don’t use them, no need to pay for them.

Felt good about all that. Clicked on Ancientrails to see if things had changed. Ah, they’d changed. Ancientrails had disappeared! OMG. So I messed around a bit more. No joy.

Knew that this was not a matter to settle while I was tired, so I waited until this morning. It was baaaaccckk. Why? I don’t know. But, I’m glad.

Still not able to load images. Gotta get on that in a more disciplined way.

This whole year plus, since last September 28th, has been a transitional time for both of us. At first the transition focused on Kate’s health, especially her malnutrition and her bleed. Then, while in for her pneumothorax in April, a pulmonologist thought he saw lung disease. That got added to the cart.

In February, I had the flu and my annual physical. PSA 1.0. Too sick to recognize it for what it was. But you know what happened when I tumbled to it. Radiation, lupron. Ongoing. Last month I went in to see Lisa about some tightness in my lungs. COPD. Oh, damn.

The transition has forced us both to acknowledge that our lifespans are probably not as long as we imagined. Sobering. But, o.k. They were limited to begin with. Death is not an optional experience. Or, as an Arab saying goes, Life is an inn with two doors.

The wandering and the boredom, I think, comes in here. A month ago I was imagining beating prostate cancer and living into my 90’s. Now? Not so sure. What does that mean? A foreshortened life span? Maybe. And what would that mean? That’s where my ikigai got lost, I think. Unclear how to live into this reality.

So, wandering and bored it is. Except when I engage. You know cooking, shopping, doctor appointments, fire mitigation. Getting the new Rav4 repaired. At some point a new direction will emerge. Perhaps it will simply be what I’m currently doing, but I don’t think so. Just don’t know.

Days of Awe

Fall and the Yom Kippur Moon

This is a day of fasting, prayer, and repentance for Jews in all places. Yom Kippur. The holiest day of the year, one when the soul is bare before the Self and all creation. Asking and seeking forgiveness. Putting in the past wherever you fell short. Cleansing for the year ahead. The Day of Atonement.

Kate and I will probably go to services this morning though we missed Kol Nidre last night. She wasn’t feeling good.

It’s been a tough week or so. Again. Her feeding tube has been giving her fits. Leaking. Since it’s now her primary source of nutrition, any hassle with it is significant. And, her shortness of breath seems to be worsening.

We see a cardiac-thoracic surgeon tomorrow morning to plan both her lung biopsy (which she dreads, understandably) and how to assess the new nodule that was found during her last c.t. Not a pleasant prospect, either one.

I’m dog paddling these days, trying to keep my head dry. I work out, cook, shop, do the laundry, dabble with gouache. This doesn’t sound like much, I know, but in the times between these activities I have no motivation. Frustrates me a bit since I have other things I want to get to: fire mitigation, revising Superior Wolf, starting a new novel, getting back to sumi-e, going to classes at Beth Evergreen. Some day soon.

Hmmm

Fall and the Rosh Hashanah Moon

A culinary Saturday. With a few oddities.

Invited Jon and the grandkids up for a High Holiday meal of brisket. I bought a brisket, two actually, at Safeway. Brought them home, froze one, put the other in the fridge for the meal. Looked up a holiday brisket recipe. Found one for the Instapot. Chopped the onions, salted the brisket, added the tomatoes. Put it in for 65 minutes. Got it out. The meat was tender. Looked good. The jus in the pot also smelled wonderful.

Kate came by and looked at it. That’s corned beef, isn’t it? Oh, boy. Category mistake. I had bought, technically, a brisket. But, well… Anyhow I’d also picked up a white cabbage for the borscht I wanted to make for Kate. It only required a quarter of the head. I cut up the rest, threw it in boiling water and, voilá, corned beef and cabbage! The meal included baked potatoes, not normally part of this actually Jewish, too, dinner, but they fit well with the original brisket plan.

Everyone said it tasted good even though the menu got altered in a strange way.

Made mine with golden beets, too.

I did make the borscht, too. That was all day in either the grocery store or the kitchen. Tired.

Jon and the kids were late. Very. When Jon came in the door, I’d just gotten off the phone, the dogs were sending up their usual storm of barks for visitors. I came into the living room. Jon, I gotta tell you, I’m pissed. Oops. Not in front of the grandkids, Charlie. Too late, outta the mouth.

OK. I’ll try to remember this.

I wanted to talk to him about his chronic lateness, explain that it upset me, see how we could change the settings. Kate suggested this after I fumed when they were almost an hour late. She was right. Didn’t intend (mostly, anyhow) to do in that manner.

Apologized to Jon, Ruth, and Gabe. Not for what I said, but for when and how I said it.

Family. Not always easy.