Yo, U.S.A., You Late!

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Mountain View Waste. Kate’s good humor. Rigel following the treat to bed. Cool weather. The waning crescent moon. All the stars in the sky. All the water in the ocean. The water cycle. The lakes of Minnesota. The mountains of Colorado.

Didn’t write about MLK.

When Joseph got his bars as a second Lieutenant, I drove down to Maxwell AFB to be there. Maxwell is outside Montgomery, Alabama.

I made three pilgrimages on that trip. The first to Dexter Baptist Church, only steps away from the Alabama State Capitol. In his 1963 inaugural address in that Capitol then governor George Wallace said, “…segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever.”

MLK was the pastor at the Dexter Baptist Church, 1954-1960, and organized the Mongtomery Bus Boycott in the basement. To have done that with the state government of Alabama literally looking over you must have been a courageous act for all who participated.

The second stop on my pilgrimage was the Southern Poverty Law Center which has a building just behind and uphill from Dexter Baptist Church. Outside of the modest modern headquarters is a Maya Lin designed Civil Rights Memorial. A large sheet of black marble, top of a sliced in half cone, has engraved on it names of martyrs for the civil rights movement and a chronology of the movement. A sheet of water flows across it all, coming from a fountain in the middle.

In her minimalist style, the other primary part of the sculpture is a black marble wall that has on it MLK’s paraphrase of Amos 5:24: (We will not be satisfied)…until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

These two American institutions, Dexter Baptist and the Southern Poverty Law Center, were and are pillars of fire illuminating racism and burning it out where they can. It surprised to me feel so close to American radical justice while able to see the bright white colonnade of the Alabama capitol.

The third stop on my pilgrimage came after I left Montgomery. I went to Selma. Crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge. On that bridge, on March 7, 1965, MLK and many, many others encountered state police and city police, hidden on the east by the upward curve of the bridge. Bloody Sunday showed up on television screens across America and helped cement support for the civil rights movement.

In research for a novel I’m currently writing I looked up Edmund Pettus. Not only was he a Brigadier General in the Confederate Army and a U.S. Senator, Pettus was also the Grand Dragon of the Alabama KKK.

When I parked in downtown Selma to walk around… Nah, here’s what I said on June 19th, 2008:

“Yo, Minnesota!  You late.”  Said, on the high sidewalk in Selma, an African man of indeterminate middle age, salt and pepper beard, hair frizzed out, wearing a red shirt.  “”bout time you got down South, North.”

“Yeah, about 30 years too late,” I said, revealing my inner hope that I’m about 15 younger than I really am.

He was cheerful and continued his discussion with a smile and allusions to the Mennonites and some biblical tribes, but I didn’t get it all.  He was what in former times would have been called a character.

When you consider Charlottesburg, when you consider Monday in Richmond, when you consider the anti-immgration policies, when David Duke says, “He’s implementing our policies.”, when a close Presidential advisor admits to his white supremacy convictions, then, why then, we might say to the whole country, “Yo, U.S.A., you late.”

Broken. Replaced.

Winter and the Future Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Hot water in San Francisco! Diane’s recommendation of “Getting Open.” Sleep. Rest. Feeling rejuvenated. The U.S. grocery store. The NYT for endorsing Amy and Elizabeth. Blizzaks. AWD on Ruby. Healing from the dog bite. Almost done.

Cooked last night. Deep fried chicken chunks from a deli chicken. Coated with bread crumbs. Surprisingly good. Broke our vegetable chopper, too. A second time. I prefer hand tools in the kitchen for food prep. Knives, choppers, dicers, zesters. We have a mandolin somewhere and I want to find it. Just ordered a Swedish chopper, made of metal. More durable.

Broke the chopper making a version of Israeli salad. It was the onions that did it in. Well, not the onion, but me, pressing down quick and hard on the onion. Little blades popped off the cutting grid. Not supposed to happen. Got the salad, diced onions (by knife), tomatoes, cucumber, and a generous sprinkling of cilantro. Some lime juice. Some Italian seasoning.

But. I was also gonna warm up the cabbage and potatoes in the microwave. Put them in the microwave at the start. Kate’s taught me to get all the ingredients out before I begin. Forgot about the potatoes and the cabbage. Still in the microwave this morning.

Oh, yeah. Finally got the microwave installed. After the first appointment, I had to have an electrician come out to create a wall socket for it, then reschedule the installation. Happened Saturday. Kate is very happy. She can reheat her coffee. Hot coffee and the crossword in the morning make Kate a happy gal. I’m indifferent to coffee temperature. Cold. Hot. Meh. Not a gourmet.

Spent time yesterday on another modern chore. Cutting up boxes. We get our dogfood through chewy.com. Great service. Reasonable prices. Free shipping. And large cardboard boxes. Bought some airtight dogfood containers, too, through Amazon. Really big boxes. As I’ve noted before, the home has become a shipping and receiving department. All those cardboard boxes that used to get cut up at the warehouse or in the back of the store are now in living rooms across America. Or, garages.

Anyone rural appreciates the chance to look things up online and order them for delivery. Beats going on a Saturday morning quest for the right pan or sheets or, say, a vegetable chopper. Especially if the stores are miles and miles away. Makes a huge difference to caregivers like me, too. It’s why Sears and Roebuck did so well with their catalog. A shame they couldn’t make the transition to an economy much like the one they introduced back in the late 19th century.

Got doggy things to do now. Tomorrow.

WWMD?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Kate’s feeling better. Stefan and Lonnie on zoom. Tom’s gift of cartoons by Sack. Beau Jo’s pizza, novel and tasty. Driving in the mountains. The three deer I saw on the way to Evergreen, especially the tiny one. The bare rock, the cold streams, the lodgepole and aspen. Steep slopes. Florence and its art.

After a somewhat comical series of no-goes, I gave up on going to Vail to see Lonnie and Stefan. Stefan had a new hip done at the Steadman Clinic. Snow came to Vail on the first two days I offered. Not unusual, but enough to not make me want to do a two hour drive in it. Yesterday, my third choice, was MLK weekend. The second busiest of the entire year for ski traffic. And, Sunday, the Denver Post said, would be the busiest of the four day holiday. So, zoom.

Good to talk to them. Four years ago they decided to learn painting in an atelier in Florence. They’ve become patrons of the school as well as students, spending much of each year in Italy. Now they face an existential choice between remaining most of the year in Florence, where they’ve become part of an international crowd of artists and art students, or returning to the Twin Cities where their family lives. Would be a tough call for me.

The mood here is lighter. After a tough period of dog bites and exhaustion, I’m rested again. Kate’s had some issues, but eliminating tramadol from her daily meds has given her easier breathing. It’s nice to have a respite from angst.

Today’s MLK. I wonder what he’d do right now? Would he organize mass marches in the face of the rising right wing threat? Would he stay away from such events as the pro-gun rally in Richmond, Virginia today?

Will the MLK holiday become a neo-nazi, white supremacist rally day? A day to show “racial solidarity” and protest for the right to gun ownership. IDNK.

His dream, MLK’s, is mine and probably yours. I’ve always been soothed by his quote from Theodore Parker, Unitarian clergy and anti-slavery activist, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” Still am though this seems to be a time when it’s not bending very much in the direction of justice.

Co-caregiving

Winter and the Future Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Sleep. Again. Still. Kate. Always. The sun. Also, always. A true divinity who gives life and warmth. God or goddess. My heart. Beating faithfully. My feet, meeting the ground, providing a stable base. My fingers, so familiar with this keyboard. My eyes. So much to see. My ears, even my left one who quit on me years ago. My tongue. My lungs. To whom I am sorry for having abused them in my youth. Even my now long gone prostate. You provided years of faithful service. All of it, working together, my body, my soul, my link to all.

Co-caregiving. Kate’s kind gesture on Friday night, taking me out for sushi, got the leetle gray matter going. Caregiving, as a word, has a one way dimension to it. I give Kate care. She receives it. And, that was the way I was looking at it up until Friday night. Of course, our love remains mutual and our partnership in our marriage, too. But the whole caregiving notion. Not so mutual. Not much of a partnership.

I buy, pick up and shelve the groceries. If there’s cooking, I do it. I fix breakfast often in the morning. I feed the dogs, take them to the groomers. I drive Kate to her doctor’s appointments. I call the insurance company, negotiate with the business office at Anova Cancer Care, see to the cars’ repair and maintenance. I do the laundry, pick up. Open boxes, move stuff from one place to another. And on and on.

And, I see none of it as a burden. None. Part of loving someone. Doing what’s needed. Always. That does not mean I don’t get taxed by it. I do, especially when I’m tired as I have been this week. I feel like I’m doing it alone.

I’m not. Kate is a co-caregiver. She supports me as I do these things with kind words, dinners out, understanding me when the stress boils over like it did last Tuesday. And, no, this is not a pretty papering over of a difficult situation. Her role is every bit as important. Mine has a large physical component to it which hers does not, but our mutual need for love and acceptance is key. Mutual.

This is, for me anyway, a paradigm shift. Caregiving is not one way; it’s mutual. If it’s not, the psychic load on both parties can get overwhelming. Being a passive recipient of care is difficult. Agency is one of the defining marks of our life. Until it isn’t. Not easy to bear its diminution, its outright loss. Shifting into new roles and maintaining them over a long period of time is also hard. There’s a learning curve. No bleach with the colored loads. Don’t forget toilet paper and napkins. About four minutes a side for thick ribeyes, but pay close attention.

Love picks up the burden and makes it a joy, a gift. We’re doing what we need to do for each other, just with a different mix of roles and responsibilities. The more physical caregiving cannot be shared, that’s the whole point; but the stress and the constancy of it can. A hug here. A kiss. A thank you. Helping the other to see when matters get too hard, when the stress nears its worst. How important? Critical. Necessary.

Co-caregiving. Of course there will be caregiving situations where this is not a realistic expectation: dementia, a chronic illness with constant pain, mental illness; but, in the majority of the ones I’ve known, co-caregiving is not only possible, it’s necessary.

Someone less thick than me might have come to this insight a year ago, two years ago even. There is, though, an element of shock, displacement, dislocation that goes with a partner’s sudden serious decline. That shock, if the illness or need continues, can turn to grief over what was, fear for what might be. I’ve experienced all of this over the last couple of years.

The shock and the grief have their own needs, often, at least in my case, obscuring insight. And, of course, the shock and grief applies to the ill partner, too. They’re having to adjust to a life much, much different than their normal one. The mutuality of the shock and grief, different, yes, but strong and demanding for both, can also obscure insight into what’s needed, what’s going on.

We’re two years plus into Kate’s Sjogren’s problems which saw her lose weight down to 77 pounds. She couldn’t eat enough to sustain herself. We’re sixteen months away from her bleed which saw a cascade of procedures, treatments, diagnoses, doctor’s visits. Lung disease and a blocked artery to her mesentery slowed her recovery. She’s better now, but far from well.

My radiation is long past. The Lupron continues. My COPD has proved manageable. I’m calm about my situation, believing I’m cured, but still uncertain. Summertime.

Things have quieted down enough, the shock and the grief mostly in the past, that we can see our situation more clearly. Co-caregiving is the result of that clarity.

Early to bed…

Winter and the Future Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Marilyn Saltzman, who works so hard. Rabbi Jamie’s The Human Narrative class. Truly radical religion. Extra sleep this am. (writing this at 9 am. way late for me) Heirloom tomatoes. Honeycrisp apples. Metamucil. The old garden in Andover where I learned so much. The beautiful light illuminating Black Mountain.

Still tired today, but less so. Got back to the house about 9pm last night after a focus group at Beth Evergreen. The first one of several. Part of a five year strategic planning process. They put me in this group with mostly founding members and other long termers. I was the only Gentile in the room. The focus group started at 7 pm, a time when I’m in my jammies and within an hour of going to bed. Not my time for peak performance.

Felt dull on the way home. Don’t like evening meetings anymore. Used to be my bread and butter. Now I fade after 6, 6:30 pm. The pattern we’ve gotten into. Since I get up between 4:30 and 5:00, it makes sense. But it makes evening sessions requiring, as Hercules Poirot says, “…the little gray cells,” hard.

More sleep still needed, but much better.

Fumes

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Debra Cope, who came by for dinner. Safeway for deli salad and the baguette. The E-collar that solved the Murdoch no come in problem. Kate’s advice in that matter, and in so many others. Gertie, who will not let up on being a rascal. Mike who put in a wall socket for our new microwave.

Exhaustion. Creeps up, miss a nap here. Have Gertie chewing on a box in the sewing room after leaping out of the bedroom window there. Murdoch not wanting to come inside. The constant Game of Rooms necessary to keep Kep and Murdoch apart. Also, of course, the long term stress of first Kate’s Sjogren’s and loss of weight, then her bleed, then all that came after. Toss in a dash of cancer recurrence and a soupcon of COPD.

Plain weary. Short tempered. Thoughts not as crisp. Ashamed of myself for not being able to reign in my anger. Not new. Anger is hard for me. It comes, rising red and proud, sudden. Pushing. Demanding release. I do not have the mussar attitude here, lengthening the pause between striking the match and lighting the candle.

Right now. Up. Tired.

Supernova Era

Winter and the Future Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Kassi at Petsmart, who groomed Kepler so well. All the kids from Collegiate Academy who came into the Starbucks while I waited for Kep. Growers of coffee. Dairy farmers. Cappuccino. The checkout clerk at Petsmart so proud of her dog. Passing the emissions test. Emissions testing. Friend Debra who we’ll see for dinner tonight.

A confluence of literature and place yesterday. Started reading Supernova Era by the brilliant contemporary Chinese science fiction writer, Cixin Liu. A star goes supernova close to earth. His astronomical knowledge is profound, the explanation for this event detailed and lengthy.

The resulting energy burst damages the DNA of everyone on earth. Those above middle school age no longer have the capacity to recover from such an insult. Over the course of a year all the adults will die, leaving about one billion children under school age all across the globe.

While I waited for Kep at the Kipling Avenue Starbucks, I read chapters about the transition from an adult run world to a child run world. Parents taught their children the occupations they were in as the most efficient way to transfer knowledge quickly. Cixin focuses on the case of China.

As I read this, kids from the Collegiate Academy about two blocks away began to stream into the Starbucks. One tall senior high youth had a fade and a topknot grown from the crown of his head. A girl with whom he would later play fight had piercings, black lipstick and a friendly demeanor. She asked politely if she could have the chair at my table.

A younger, perhaps middle school girl, had on an orange athleisure top and carried, of course, her phone. She seemed serious until her friend came in, then they laughed and shared pictures off their phones.

The Starbucks lit up with the energy of young folks performing the person they thought they wanted to be or should be or could be.

At one point a college aged woman walked through them. Pant suit, blouse, briefcase. Not that far away in age, but so distant in sense of self and composure. At least outwardly. Her mask was adult.

My mask was that of the elder amused at the antics of the young, serious in his reading, but willing to laugh with the kids, too. Kabbalah teaches that we all wear masks, all the time. That everything is a mask for the ohr, the divine light of creation shattered after the tzimtzum, the sacred’s self contraction to allow space for other.

Saw all this through the lens of Cixin Liu’s middle schoolers taking over the adult world. Three children from the same middle school class in suburban Beijing were chosen to become the President, Prime Minister, and head of the military. No time for elections.

As I read, I looked up and saw the kids around me, released from the strict parameters of schooling, letting their still forming selves out to play. And tried to imagine this group here designated to run Colorado.

She’s the governor. He’s the head of the Highway Patrol. That one the Mayor of Littleton. Topknot guy following his mother as a bulldozer operator.

A fun collision of reading and immediate reality.

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.

Rocking my inner boat

Winter and the Full Future Moon (98%)

Thursday gratefuls: for the Geek Squad guy who came to install our microwave. for his calling out an electrical problem. for Altitude Electric for coming next Monday. for the Geek Squad coming back next Saturday. for the first session in the Human Narrative, the Kabbalah class using Art Green’s book, Radical Judaism. for Zoom which allowed me to both here and there. Bi-location!

Kate and I have been doing sixty second hugs. As Paul Strickland mentioned in his review of a conference he and Sarah attended. What a great idea! We hug anyway, but often short ones. Sixty seconds encourages intimacy. More intimacy is welcome.

Also, we’re dancing with zero negativity. Same conference’s idea. For us, a real challenge. Not so much because we’re negative toward each other, but because both of us have minds that veer easily toward the critical, the analytical. And, we both know a lot so challenging each other’s conclusions comes with breathing. Still. I know where this concept heads and I would like to get there. So…

I describe myself as a neo-pagan by which I mean that my faith is located in this reality, not in some other, supernatural place. And that my faith reads revelation first from the ur sacred text, the book of Nature. This does not exclude other sacred texts as sources of wisdom, inspiration, even revelation, it places them second to seeing what you’re looking at. (Casey Reams) Or, being mindful. Or, deep listening. Or, respectful touching.

It also means that I’ve backed myself into an interesting corner, or, maybe, an interesting geodesic dome. If the cosmos itself reveals the sacred to those who see, the sacred underlies the whole cosmos. If the sacred underlies, is within, permeates the cosmos, then the Kabbalistic notion of divine light, ohr, waiting for us in everything begins to make sense to me.

If that makes sense to me, then the notion of an underlying unity also can come into focus. Is that unity the shekinah? That is, the feminine aspect of the divine said by the Kabbalists to constitute this material world? Not ready to go there yet, not sure I want to put a label on it. But, the idea of the shekinah does work for me at the level of analogy, metaphor.

Challenging. Rocking my inner boat. Yes.