We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Ruth

Samain                                                                        Bare Aspen Moon

Conversations with Ruth. Yesterday Kate wasn’t feeling so well in the a.m., nausea that plagues her mornings on occasion. So I was the breakfast guy for Ruth and Gabe, who stayed here starting on Sunday evening through last night. Ruth came down first, unusual because Gabe is usually the early riser. She fixed herself some ramen, she’s a good cook all on her own, learned from Grandma.

mcauliffe_masthead1_M_r32

We started talking. She loves her new school, Mcauliffe. It’s not in a modernist soul stealing box like Sweigart, her elementary school. It has ornamentation, having been built in 1914, which she described in some detail. Gothic arches over drinking fountains, molding with inlays, stair rails with decor under the polyurethane, big windows and the exceptional cupolas visible in this photograph. She’s an arts oriented girl, very aware of the design of her surroundings. We both like this older, more whimsical era of architecture.

Ruth, Wilson, Kate at a cross country meet

Ruth, Wilson, Kate at a cross country meet

Mcauliffe also has periods, unlike the daily grind in an elementary classroom where you only leave for recess and lunch. The freedom that grants her between classes means a lot to her. She’s taking Mandarin, robotics, math, language arts, gym, earth science and art. It’s a more challenging environment for EGT’s, extremely gifted and talented, which she’s finally beginning to embrace as describing herself.

Polaris is the GT middle school, but she chose Mcauliffe because all save one of her friends from Sweigart chose it, too. Her bffs Wilson and Annika in particular are at Mcauliffe. Annika is a competitive climber, traveling the U.S. to participate in timed ascents of climbing walls. Wilson ran cross-country as she did. They spend a lot of time together outside of school.

This transition to middle school, along with declining stress from the divorce, seems to have allowed her to open up, blossom in ways that are beautiful to see.

We also talked about books. She’s a voracious reader, currently focusing a lot of her reading on Jodi Picoult, though she just started Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. Of course, she also has books to read for school, the humorous part there being that the first book assigned to her she had already read. In the third grade.

20171027_152110She wanted to know who my favorite authors were. Always a stumper for me since I’ve been reading much like Ruth for over 60 years. Lots of typeface over the eyeball transom, not all of it stuck in the memory banks. Yesterday I went with Herman Hesse, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, and William Gibson. Asked today I would add Philip Kerr, Kim Stanley Robinson, Kafka. Tomorrow another group. Not to mention poets and classical authors, playwrights and non-fiction writers.

I put together an Ikea reading chair for her and an almost identical one for myself. She sat in hers, me in mine. She also loves art and wanted to know what my favorite piece of art was here in the loft. I have an Andy Warhol print of soup cans that I like a lot. She likes my Mike Elko print satirizing the Bush terror propaganda.

She’s a young lady with many interests, including alpine skiing. She’s been skiing since she was three and at this point is very accomplished. She and Jon are going to ski on Friday at Arapahoe Basin, or, as it is more usually known here, A-basin. She also loves to cook. Yesterday she made banana bread, rosemary bread, a pecan pie and cut up the yams for caramelized sweet potatoes. Today she’s making deviled eggs to bring to Thanksgiving tomorrow.

2011 01 09_1223She’s still very tender on matters related to the divorce, not yet ready to sort out how she feels about it. The more I see her on this side of it, the more I believe the negative effects of Jon and Jen’s explosive fighting were awful for her. She has an inquisitive spirit, is very observant, and, unfortunately, is not inclined to talk about her feelings. All of these facets of her personality have made processing the turmoil of the last few years difficult for her. In the extreme.

It’s exciting to see her beginning to know herself, to gain agency in her life in a positive, not angry way. I’m grateful to have her as a grandchild, one I see frequently.

 

The Holiseason Zone

Samain                                                                          Bare Aspen Moon

Getting ready to cook

Getting ready to cook

You have entered the holiseason zone. Of course, it’s well underway since it begins now with Rosh Hashanah, but Thanksgiving, with its grocery shopping, tablescaping, bedroom preparing and gathering of family is a key moment, the holiday that marks the start of a remarkable run: Advent, Posada, Hanukkah, Winter Solstice, Saturnalia, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Year’s. Wow. The metaphysical crackling in the air gets intense with lights and ideas and gods and astronomical night. It’s my favorite time of the year.

The Thanksgiving project for me is a golden capon with pancetta and fig stuffing. A lot of oranges are involved, too. The challenge of finding a capon found its match in finding fresh figs. A nice man at Whole Foods explained that northern hemisphere figs are available in the summer and southern hemisphere figs just before Christmas. Oops, not in time for Thanksgiving. Then, a Thanksgiving miracle! Kate found them at King Sooper after I’d called specialty stores like Whole Foods, Sprouts, Natural Grocers and gotten nada. Yeah.

thanksgiving-farm-harvest-postcardThe whole gathering in of items for pecan pies, Ruth made ours last night, and yams and green beans and potatoes is a simulacrum of growing it all, or hunting and gathering for the feast. And, yes, our finding a retailer with figs and capons is no match, but it did add uncertainty and joy in discovery.

A mountain Thanksgiving is like others, but with a lot more altitude.

 

The Raw and The Cooked

Samain                                                                           Bare Aspen Moon

The Raw and The Cooked, French Edition

The Raw and The Cooked, French Edition

After a very busy week, a good busy with friends and Hebrew, kabbalah and time with Kate, yesterday was a rest day. Wrote, did my workout (which takes a while), napped, had a wonderful lamb supper cooked by Kate, who’s a wizard with meat. Watched some more of the Punisher on Netflix. On seeing that on the TV as she went to bed Kate said, “I don’t like your choice of programs.” “I know,” I said. Eating red meat and watching TV are hangovers from my Indiana acculturation, neither of which would I recommend to my children or grandchildren, but which I also thoroughly enjoy. No excuses.

Admitting to liking television in the crowds in which I tend to run is like admitting you enjoy belching or farting in public. Declassé. And it is, I suppose. My rationale (or, perhaps, as is often the case with rationales, my rationalization) is relaxation, in particular relaxation from a day usually spent in intellectual and physical activity. I love stories and TV, especially right now, is full of good storytellers who use visuals to enhance their storytelling. I’m sure there’s a sophisticated psychology explanation for this habit, but TV serves a purpose in my life. So there.

Thanksgiving this week. I’ve got a Martha Stewart recipe for capon with pancetta and fig stuffing. Which, of course, requires finding a capon, a mystery meat, as I said yesterday, to Colorado butchers. Tony’s Market. I ordered one and I’m going to call them today just to make sure it’s really coming. I did try to find a capon on which to experiment, but the only one I could find was $63.00. Ouch. Thanksgiving will be the experiment.

capon2I really like cooking, used to do a lot more. It requires mindfulness and produces a meal for others to enjoy. Just popping up from my days of anthropology: The Raw and the Cooked, by Claude Leví-Strauss. In this book the French anthropologist talks about the binary of raw food to cooked, prepared food, seeing the development of cooking as fundamental for the human species, a key movement leading toward civilization. (I’m not going to go into it here, too complex, but if you’re interested in dialectical thinking, the raw-cooked distinction is an example of binary opposition, a distinctively French version of dialectical thought which underlies Leví-Strauss’s idea of structuralism, a short introduction to it is here.)

My point in this last paragraph is that cooking is central to being human; so, engaging in it, at any level, links us directly to the story of human evolution. In that way we can look at Thanksgiving, or any big holiday meal, as linking a key step in our change from merely animal to animal with culture, to another key step, the abstraction of particular days, the elevation of particular moments in time, into holidays. The other night I realized that for dogs all days are the same no Tuesdays or passovers or superbowls, no Guy Fawkes or Mexican independence days, rather sequences of day and night, with food and friends, human contact.

EmersonWe’re not like dogs in that fundamental sense. As Emerson observed, “The days are gods.” Another binary opposition is the sacred and the profane, like the holy and the secular, ordinary time and sacred time. We imbue, out of our speculative capacity, the passing of time with certain significance. The day we were born. The yahrzeit notion in Judaism, celebrating the anniversary of a death. A day to celebrate the birth of a god, or to remember a long ago war against colonial masters. We identify certain days, a vast and vastly different number of them, as new year’s day, the beginning of another cycle marked by the return of our planet to a remembered spot on its journey.

20161229_161617_001When we merge our speculative fantasies with the chemistry of changing raw food into a beautiful cooked meal, we can have extraordinary times. The natural poetics of wonder join the very earthy act of feeding ourselves to create special memories. Very often on those days we gather with our family, a unit that itself memorializes the most basic human purpose of all, procreation of the species. We don’t tend to think of these most elemental components, but they are there and are sine qua non’s of holidays.

So, cook, pray, celebrate. Laugh. With those you love. If you care to, take a moment to consider these amazing things, too. That we know how to transform a neutered rooster into something delicious, something that will undergo the true transubstantiation, the changing of soil chemicals, the bodies of animals and plants into a human body. That we have the idea of Thanksgiving, or the idea of Hanukkah, or the idea of Labor Day and mark out a chunk of the earth’s orbit as special for those ideas. That we choose to gather on them with our small unit of humanity’s long, long ancientrail of development and critical change and doing so honor all of these elementals.

 

 

 

The Time Has Come. Again. And will come once more.

Samain                                                                    Joe and Seoah Moon

Walrus-Carpenter, John Tenniel

Walrus-Carpenter, John Tenniel

“The time has come,” the Walrus said,
“To talk of many things:
Of shoes–and ships–and sealing-wax–
Of cabbages–and kings–
And why the sea is boiling hot–
And whether pigs have wings.”

 

And so it is, every time Tom and Bill and I find ourselves on the shore of the ocean surrounded by oysters, or on Guanella Pass or in the strange Buckhorn Exchange, holder of Denver’s liquor license number one.

It is, I suppose, possible to think of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass as excellent examples of life’s true way, one governed by chance and the exigencies visited on us. Or, another way of explaining it, other than chance, might be, the universe speaking to us. Could be synchronicity, could be a kabbalah experience, could be the photographer/novelist at the artist’s co-op in Georgetown.

20160813_161919Skiing is an example. Jon’s love of skiing, learned in the flatlands of Minnesota, with bumps just big enough to gain some momentum, occasioned, much later in his life, a move to Colorado. Joseph came here, too, to live in Breckenridge. Jon met Jen. Ruth and Gabe. Years of traveling from Minnesota to Colorado. Then, our own move to Colorado. Now here we are, near the Guanella Pass, near Georgetown with a friend who lives there. So Tom and Bill could come visit and we could meet the photographer and former petroleum engineer, Ellen Nelson. We could, too, as Tom said, reenter the conversation that defines our lives.

There is, too, for me, the chance experience of Kate, all those many years ago, when she went to Temple Israel in Minneapolis and felt immediately at home, tears streaming down her face. Without that moment we wouldn’t have sought out, just on a whim, two classes on King David being held on a cold night in nearby Evergreen. That was two years ago to the day tomorrow. We found Congregation Beth Evergreen. Now we’re there among friends, contributing and growing more deeply involved. And my pilgrimage across the landscape of life, which began in Oklahoma in the Red River Valley, now continues with a strong Jewish inflection in the mountains of Colorado.

 “Every Man Knew” was commissioned from artist David Conklin by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

“Every Man Knew” was commissioned from artist David Conklin by the Great Lakes Shipwreck Historical Society

None of this was part of a plan. Yes, plans can help us in certain parts of our lives, but if we fool ourselves into believing that the planful side of us guides the most important parts of our lives then we miss the larger, more significant streams on which we drift. Kate sews. So she has met the women of Bailey Patchworkers and the Needleworkers. I love Kate, so I’ve met the folks at Beth Evergreen and taken another right hand turn on my pilgrimage. Bill and Tom and I met through chance in a group of men called Woolly Mammoths. How weird is that? Yet here we are, together now in the Rockies, thirty years later.

Somehow we have to stay open, to not ratchet down the hatches of our mind. This is counter-intuitive as the heavy storms of life wash over our bows, threatening to sink us. In fact we often need to sink, to go under the surface of our life, to allow the stormy waters of a new life to rush over us, fill us, even drown our old life; so that we can pop back to the surface, water streaming, eager for the changed world that now exists up there.

JackLondonwhitefang1It is no wonder that many folks can’t do this. It’s just too scary. But I can tell you, from the vantage point of 70 years, that the intentional has very rarely taken me where I thought it would. Studying hard in high school? Yes, I followed that thread off to college, but college waters quickly swamped my little vessel, pushing me under. I drowned many times in the ensuing years. Philosophy overcame my fragile barque. Then, opposition to the Vietnam War. Alcohol, met in my freshman year, held me under from 1966 to 1976. A long time love of Jack London’s novels, especially Call of the Wild and White Fang, awakened in me a desire to see lands where pine trees and lakes, wolves and moose were. After a move to Wisconsin pursuing those lands, the ocean of Christianity once again swallowed me. Which led me to Minnesota. And, eventually, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, where, after a divorce, I would meet Kate, who cried in the Temple and whose son, Jon, now mine, too, loved to ski. Which led, in its own, very unplanned way, to this home on Shadow Mountain. So many other instances.

 

 

 

The Rockies, Not Far From Home

Samain                                                                    Joe and SeoAh Moon

Old Men and the Mountains

Old Men and the Mountains

 

Mt. Bierstadt, Mt. Evans from the Guanella Pass summit

Mt. Bierstadt, Mt. Evans from the Guanella Pass summit

Downtown Georgetown and Silvery Plume Mtn.

Downtown Georgetown and Silver Plume Mtn.

Moose

Samain                                                                    Joe and SeoAh Moon

Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA

Moose, Superior National Forest, Minnesota, USA

The Moose.  Been awhile since I’ve written about my totem animal. I didn’t gain the moose in a sweat lodge or a vision quest. Nor did a psychic or friend suggest it.

Nope. Got to thinking about myself a long while ago. Introverted, wandering the forests by myself, not easily cowed, even by predators. Usually alone. And the moose came to mind.

May not be pretty, but they stand tall and act with vigor. I know no one picks a field mouse as their totem animal and that self-selection is sort of frowned upon; but, moose just seemed to fit.

Up here they live not far away, wandering the Arapaho and Pike National Forests. In fact, a male showed up in the meadow at the base of Shadow Mountain just over a month ago. Their only foe, the wolf, is no longer present here, so their numbers have gone up after a recent re-introduction by Colorado Natural Resources. The moose in Minnesota are in trouble, thanks mainly to global warming. The winters are no longer cold enough to consistently kill off the ticks that plague them. Not sure why that isn’t true here in Colorado.

I guess what appealed to me about the moose is its solitary nature, its home turf in the wilderness, its majesty. Moose are one of the iconic animals of the north along with wolves and loons and ravens. Out here in the Rockies they join the buffalo and the wild horse, the grizzly bear, the mountain lion, the elk. I see myself as a man of the north and now, too, of the west, but especially the mountains, so we share a home range, two of them in fact.

Not All Who Wander Are Lost

Samain                                                      Joe and SeoAh Moon

38d9f3b4e2e64361ce68ca237f270a42The pilgrim notion, layered over my pagan orientation, has begun to take hold. It makes so much sense, not sure why I didn’t latch onto it until now. Since I was young, I’ve questioned, well, almost everything. In the year after college, that would be 1970, I visited a psychiatrist, don’t recall why. He gave me an MMPI. Diagnosis? Philosophical neurosis. Odd, eh? 47 years of self-exploration later, I’d say the MMPI really meant, permanent pilgrim.

Some of us can find a spot on the path, say, Buddhism, Christianity, Transcendentalism, Islam, Judaism, settle in and deepen our journey within a tradition. Some of us abjure the path, say it leads nowhere, dulls our mind and clouding our senses. Others, and I know a surprising number who fit this, define themselves over against a tradition, choosing to be Not Catholic, Not Jewish, Not conservative Christian. I have a friend, let’s call him Frank, whose identity as an anti-Catholic colors all of his interactions.

There are some of us though who, for one reason or another, slip out from the covered path of our childhood tradition to walk in the rain. I began to question Christianity late, in early high school, but I remained under its covered walkway until my freshman year of college. Once the intellectual roof of that tradition got blown off I discovered I liked the rain. And, that the weather on the uncovered path changed, could be sunny as well as stormy.

Canterbury_Cathedral_Cloisters,_Kent,_UK_-_Diliff.jpg

Canterbury Cathedral Cloisters, Kent, UK. Diliff

I found my back to the Christian path not long after my diagnosis of philosophical neurosis. In fact, I’m recalling now that the psychiatrist thought returning to my childhood faith might help me with my “condition.” And, you know, I think it did. In an obtuse way. When I entered seminary, I didn’t know about Paul Ricoeur’s concept of second naivete. But I lived it.

Returning to the inner world of the gospels, to the flow of the Christian tradition over time, to the close study of both testaments, to contemplative and meditative spirituality reminded me that the way of the pilgrim was real. It was not an afterthought, but a way of its own. Yes, I could and did learn about how to approach sacred texts and learn from them. Yes, I could and did learn from those who loved the covered walkways of Christianity’s various paths. Yes, I could and did learn the awesome (and I mean this word in all its nuances) responsibility of caring for the faith life of others. But I came to understand, not long after the beginning of my ministry, that all of these were tools, not ends in themselves. At least for me.

Meridian Gate, Forbidden City, West Wing

Meridian Gate,
Forbidden City, West Wing

Though the world of the scholastics was putatively over in the late middle ages, in fact it continues to this day in all those traditions that rely on sacred texts as their raison d’etre. Why? Because any time your learning comes from the words of others, be they ancient or contemporary, you have put a barrier between yourself and the sorts of truths that religions espouse. These words can be evocative, can be inspirational, can be vivifying for the spirit. They can be poetic, dramatic, regulatory, awe inspiring, yet they are always the perceptions of others, written in words that conceal as much, more, than they reveal.

Some of us, most of us, want to remain under a covered walkway whether that walkway is a particular faith tradition or the covered walkway of atheism, permanent skepticism. Either way, the sky is hidden and the path winds along in a direction, headed toward a destination defined by itself. This is soothing and can allow for a genuine in depth exploration of that path.

peregrinationes-in-terram-sanctam-enA few of us, for reasons probably unclear to us, find a covered walkway claustrophobic, confining. Even if we give ourselves over to such a path for a while we always find a spur that leads out under the open sky. I have walked under the open sky most of my life, with a fifteen year hiatus on the covered path of the Reformed tradition of Christianity. Since 1990 or so, really earlier, but this is the clear demarcation, I wandered out from under the protection of that path and have not looked back.

Right now I’m trekking alongside the Jewish path, its Reconstructionist lane. Mussar, kabbalah, even Hebrew itself, have much to teach. The culture, the civilization created by Jews over the millennia, is rich and cultivates responsible, caring persons. I’m grateful for the opportunity to explore its learnings in a wonderful community.

When I was in the Unitarian-Universalist movement, I found it, appositely, too eclectic, too rootless. It was like a garden with so many different flowers that there was no beauty, just many, many different blooms. To me. For the right person, it can be a pilgrim path, too, or even a covered walkway, but for me it lead in too many directions at once.

pilgrimThere were monks in the ancient Celtic Christian church, the blend of the auld faith of the Celts and Christianity that preceded Catholicism in the Celtic lands, that defined their spiritual practice as peregrinatio, wandering around. They went from village to village staying in huts. They had no permanent homes, no monastery. Like the staret featured in the Russian spiritual classic The Way of the Pilgrim, they were, in a real sense, homeless. Both Taoism and Hinduism have wandering adherents, too. Buddhist monks traveled the Silk Road.

I consider myself in their tradition, unattached to a religious institution, yet a follower of a mystical way, one that can express itself in the language of many, perhaps any, tradition, while remaining outside in the rain.

 

Getting Things Done

Samain                                                                                   Joe and SeoAh Moon

typhonIt’s been a while now since I got good writing done on Jennie’s Dead. I’ve gotten a bit done on two new projects, Rocky Mountain Vampire and my version of the Way of a Pilgrim, but mostly I’ve been focused on keeping up with kabbalah, mussar and Hebrew, working out and getting stuff done around the house.

This latter, getting the chainsaw in for repairs, setting up a time to talk house insurance with our broker, hanging a set of decorative lights out front, making chicken noodle soup, moving paintings, cleaning up the garage is driven by two forces: Jon’s finally moving out and the onset of winter. The onset of winter motivation is conditioned by 20 years of gardening and caring for bees and property in Minnesota. There, once winter sets in some outdoor things simply cannot be done. Too damned cold. Frozen ground. Lots of snow. That sort of thing.

Up here, see the post below, winter is more episodic. One day it’s challenging to get to the mailbox, the next day it’s totally dry, maybe even warm. Still, the coming of snow and cold and ice pushes a conditioned response. Get the nest warm and cozy. Now.

While my productivity meter is the positive range, I feel scattered. Part of that is the evening events at Beth Evergreen: Gary Hart on Sunday, Difficult Conversations on Tuesday and kabbalah last night. After my knee surgery, I started going to bed early, 8 pm, and getting up early, usually between 4:30 and 5:00. All of these evenings pushed past 9 pm and one went closer to 10. That leaves me tired and not as able intellectually. My mind does not work nearly as well under these circumstances, gone are the days of cramming and long nights with the books.

20170919_155736I also feel scattered because I consider my writing primary and when I let it slide, I feel like I’m shirking even if I’m getting other stuff done. Yet, to contradict this, Kate and I have done a lot together, the Gary Hart and Difficult Conversations evenings, putting up the lights, getting ready to work on the garage, studying Hebrew. And that feels great. I love being with her, getting thing done with her.

Mostly I solve this kind of dilemma with a schedule, a routine that keeps space for writing, for time with Kate, for time to work on the house, for time to study and be active at Beth Evergreen. Right now, that’s been interrupted and I’m feeling a little down, a little off.

I do remember the quote that goes something like, “Those aren’t interruptions, that’s your life calling.”

Looking forward next week to the visit of Bill Schmidt and Tom Crane. Oh, the fun we will have.

Soul Curriculum

Samain                                                                     Joe and SeoAh Moon

big-ben-clockface-super-teaseFed the dogs at 4 a.m. today. Didn’t mean to, but the ever interesting saving of daylight rendered it so. We’ve stopped saving daytime as of 2 a.m. this morning, so I’m up an hour “earlier.” I will say no more. Longtime readers of this blog know my feelings. I’m glad we’re back to standard time.

The Joe and SeoAh moon is high in the south, over Black Mountain, hanging above and to the right of Orion’s still visible left shoulder (his left). That’s one reason I’m glad to be up this early. I can see the dark sky and the wonders that it holds.

soul trait profileMussar works with the idea of a soul curriculum. This old Jewish system of character development, as I’ve said here before, works with middah, or character traits, for example: awareness (watchfulness, accounting for the soul), gratitude, joy, humility, loving kindness, honor, truth, awe. (for one full list see). A soul curriculum encourages the practitioner to find those traits which are already strengths and to build on those while identifying the traits that are less well developed for more work. (an example, not mine)

In my case awe, truth and awareness are traits I count as strengths. That doesn’t mean they’re automatic or always available to me, just that they’re in my quiver. One of the things I find useful about mussar is that it doesn’t assume, or even anticipate a sudden, self-help like jump to perfection if only you follow these steps. In fact it emphasizes the incremental nature of this work, the difficulties all of us face in it, and a certain tolerance for our tendency to go off track in our efforts.

curriculumofthesoulv2On my soul curriculum right now are joy, simcha, and gratitude, hakar hatov. There are and will be others as the months, weeks and days of this new year roll round, but right now I’m searching for those places in my day where I can say thank you and those instances where I experience joy. By having them on my curriculum I mean I’m actively working with them, using a focus phrase: Thanks and Yes! in this case. I’ll write about them here because that’s a way of reinforcing and integrating them in my life.

A brief word about theology. Mussar works with or without a belief in God, or at least, the traditional belief. All of the traits have  relevance in a secular view of the world. As a pilgrim, I’m learning about them because they’re helpful to my daily life and I really like the people engaged in this work. It’s also a common language for Kate and me as we negotiate our daily lives.

A pilgrim sees what is on the path and engages it, often without question, knowing that the path winds on beyond this place. Right now mussar and kabbalah are on my path just as Christianity, existentialism, and paganism have been on it, too. The pilgrim does not lose what he’s been taught. It all goes into the journey, enriching it, making it deeper, better.

Still on the ancientrail.

Seeing the sights

Samain                                                                   Joe and SeoAh Moon

20171027_161725Slowly. Things change. Sometimes fast, but often slowly. Jon has most of his stuff removed from the house, a few things remain in the garage. The bench he’s making will soon have colorful cushions. Kate’s already hard at work thinking about colors, about furniture arrangements, window treatments for the rest of the house.

Yesterday we did a marathon, sitting in the Rav4 of course, to get those cushions ready for Thanksgiving. Colorado Fabrics, the place to go for quality cloth in the Denver metro, is in Aurora, far to the east in Aurora. Aurora is the eastern edge of the metro. We live 35 miles west of Denver. So, navigating the entire metro, and on city streets because the southern metro area has no freeways to help cross it.

Then, roll of fabric in the back, we turned around and drove back three quarters of the way home to Diane’s. Diane is a fabricator. She takes the foam Kate purchased, cuts and sews the fabric, puts in zippers and stuffs the covers. They’ll be done by the big meal. Jon, Anne, Ruth and Gabe, at least, will be here.

I like these sojourns that take us on city streets. I’m still an avid student of the way cities form, shape themselves, develop character. Getting to Colorado Fabrics is a lesson in the way Denver has pushed its way south, overwhelming Hampden Avenue, Highway 285, which was once a four lane, relatively easy to use transit across the line where the ‘burbs began. No more. Now it’s a clogged thoroughfare sandwiched between the Denver city limits and a string of homes and businesses that extends miles beyond it in all directions. But it’s not been replaced by anything better.

Diane’s place is in Lakewood, a you can’t tell you ever left Denver behind part of the metro area, but to the west, in the same fashion as Aurora is to the east, though not nearly as big. While driving on Sheridan north, we had to turn around due to a navigational error in the wetware I use to find my way. As we turned around, Kate said, “Goats.” Sure enough, a house with concrete gargoyle statues, a lion or two and lots of other stuff I assume meant to be decorative had a large field in back with maybe 10 or 12 goats wandering around. Kate then noticed horses and gardens. Mind you we’re still well inside the metro area, not far out of Denver proper. This is the West. It’s different out here.

Diane herself lived in a neighborhood that was new, I imagine, in the late 50’s, perhaps early 60’s, in the last century of the millennia just past. Mostly small bungalow type houses with smallish lots, most of brick. She had a large silver maple tree in her front yard and we walked through fallen leaves to her front door. The crushing of those leaves under our feet gave off the smell of a midwestern autumn, something we no longer experience in the mountains. Instant nostalgia. Raking the leaves. Jumping in the piles. Pushing them into the street and setting the on fire. God, I can’t believe we really did that. But we burned our trash, too.

Diane is a large, friendly woman with a home full of items with an oriental flavor: buddha statues, a Japanese style painting, a Chinese acrobat holding a small table up on his legs. She had a couple of small dogs who were very noisy when we first got there. She went through, carefully, what we wanted done with the fabric. Did we want the pattern to run horizontally or vertically? Did we want to emphasize the darker or the lighter aspect? Where could she place the zippers so we could flip them if we needed to? She had a small desk in an alcove area next to her kitchen. Kate and I were on a settee next to it.

Since this was rush hour time, Kate and I ate at a buffet I’d discovered when I was out for the closing on our house, exactly three years ago. The closing was on Halloween and I did this and that for three or four days afterward.

Finally, home. We left Black Mountain Drive around 1 p.m. and it was 5:30 by the time we got back. Turns out excursions of this length now leave us both a bit tired, Kate often a lot. Just the aging process accentuated in her case by Sjogren’s and rheumatoid arthritis.

 

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