Pupating

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Work out yesterday. Wore myself out. Guess that’s the point. I made a promise to myself that I would hit all of my workouts during the radiation treatments. I did that. Ready for the new set of exercises. See Deb on Tuesday at 10 am.

Made spaghetti bolognese last night. Tony’s bolognese sauce and an Italian durum pasta. Vegetables. Easy. I’m enjoying cooking again. It’s not the slog it was during the early weeks of radiation.

The post below outlines my current dilemma. Hanging from the yardarm, neither on the boat nor in the sky. The ocean beneath both. Won’t last. Just like my current, I’m a TV critic level of watching won’t either.

Serious illness spins a chrysalis around us, a secluded darkness in which matters of previous importance drop away. All energy focuses on transformation, altering the sick person and his past, imaginal cells bending and twisting, changing. What will he become?

Zhuangzi

I’m impatient for my wings. Guess this is a good opportunity to practice the middah of the month, equanimity. Back off the accelerator. Lean in to the healing, transformative moment, even if the moment lasts months. Practice wu wei. Yes.

I’m not impatient for angel wings. So, yes, the chrysalis moment is necessary. The caterpillar can’t envision the butterfly.

Ikigai

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Radiation done. Lupron still on board. At least one more injection. Oct. 1st. If that’s it, three months after January 1, I’ll have a PSA that tells the tale of the radiation. Did it work?

Hot flushes, the occasional flash. One drastic mood swing. All I have to show for the forces of life vs. the forces of mortality. Leaves me in this in-between place. Cured? Maybe. Can’t know until I’m off the Lupron. Cancer still stalking me? Can’t know until I’m off the Lupron. So. Caught between knowing I have a reemergence and not knowing what my oncologist’s treatments have accomplished. In the quickest scenario it will be a year from the diagnostic PSA in March of this year.

Though I feel calm, not agitated or anxious about this, that’s not to say there’s no effect. The chief of which is a floaty, not grounded sensation. Am I living or am I dying? To be sure both are always true, but in this instance I’m not sure whether the dying has gotten the upper hand. Leaves me unmoored. The dirigible of my Self has broken loose from its tie down on the Empire State Building and has drifted out to sea.

Result. Not sure what comes next. Motivation hollowed out. Sense of purpose broken up like ragged clouds in a high wind.

Ikigai (生き甲斐) – Reason for Being “Finding it requires a deep and often lengthy search of self-discovery and reflection… The word “ikigai” is usually used to indicate the source of value in one’s life or the things that make one’s life worthwhile… In the culture of Okinawa, ikigai is thought of as “a reason to get up in the morning”; that is, a reason to enjoy life.” from Creative by Nature.

Right now the reason I get up is to feed Rigel, Gertie, and Kepler. After that I write Ancientrails. On three days I follow breakfast with a workout. After that my day begins to wander, to pull away from my choosing. Not used to that. At least not for any length of time. I don’t want to be at this in March of next year.

Maybe my ikigai right now involves finding my ikigai for a place between life and death. So the search is the thing. Not the destination? I don’t know. Wish I did.

Flaneur

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

One of our O2 concentrators, Kate’s for night time, has a problem. Not sure what, but it was not producing enough O2. Her O2 saturation dropped and she could tell. Had to switch her onto the machine I use at night. This morning. O2 concentrator store service call.

Saw Alan yesterday. Breakfast at the Wildflower in downtown Evergreen. Even during the week after Labor Day and at 10 am the place had lots of customers. Alan’s got play rehearsals, a recycling day for the Rotary, a big deal, prep for the High Holy Days. He’s singing. A friend.

After breakfast I wandered down the board walk, a flaneur in a mountain town. Don’t often go in stores along the way. They don’t open until 11 for the most part. A tourist schedule. I’m rarely there after 11. Today I was.

The Evergreen Boot and Shoe Service has knives. The owner, Steve Repaz, is a collector. Pushed open the door next to the shoe shaped open sign. The familiar shoe repair smell. Leather, shoe polish, glue, a metal tang. Steve was polishing an oxblood slipper with a small piece of cloth. He lifted something, glue?, out of a volcano shaped mound on his worktable. Applied it.

I’m just here to look at the knives. Where you from? Conifer. Oh. I’ve been here 41 years and 10 months. Wow. Bet you’ve seen a lot of changes. Yes and no. I can’t really see out.

His windows had thick wooden blinds, half closed. The shop was its own small universe.

We talked for 20 minutes or so. Rather, Steve talked. He told me his family history. Swiss. How his ancestors fared in the Civil War. Pickett’s brigade. Cousins killed at Manassas. He warmed to his tale. Oh, this is a good story.

The bell on the door sounded. Steve mentioned Allentown, Pennsylvania. Oh, that’s where I’m from said the stocky man who’d just come in with his friend. I eased myself out the door.

Did some more work on my bagel table. Happening on the 14th. It will be different from Steve Tick’s. Writing and introspection, dealing with the purpose of revelation and how we experience revelation ourselves. How does sacred scripture model revelatory experience? What’s the purpose of revelation? Could we write sacred scripture ourselves? Looking forward to it.

Accounting

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

MiguelAlmagro, on Deviant Art

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

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

SeoAh and Murdoch

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

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

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

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

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

I Recommend

Lughnasa and the Harvest Moon

Three high quality but very different offerings on TV right now. On Hulu, the least strange show of the three: Veronica Mars 4th season. The first three seasons ended in 2007, so number four is set 12 years later. The show’s first three seasons are also on Hulu, which paid for the late addition.

characters in the 3rd season of Veronica Mars

If you never met Veronica, you’ve missed an iconic character in American television. Smart mouthed, brave, petite, beautiful, and brainy, she’s first in high school solving the problems of students at Neptune High. (California) In the third season she’s in college. Ditto. By season number four she has a Stanford law degree, but chooses to return to Neptune to work as private investigator with her father, Keith.

Four stars out of five. Four only because I like things a little stranger. So, a biased ranking. (But, aren’t they all?)

Amazon Prime Video put up Carnival Row on August 29th, so it’s brand new. Orlando Bloom and Cara Delevingne star. A British production, it’s loaded with character actors you might have seen on BBC shows and has a fascinating set complete with monorails, gritty streets, and an overall Victorianesque tone.

There’s been a long war between the fae with their human allies and the Pact, a mysterious and brutal enemy to both. There are pixies with wings, trotters with rams horns on their heads, lots of Midsummer Night’s Dream references (this is a British show after all), and yet another take on zenophobia. This last is a bit disappointing though I get it as an of the moment plot device. Disappointing, btw, in its overuse, not in its broader significance.

High production values, great cast, an edgy plot. Four and a half stars. Right now. I’ve not finished it so I may go up to five or down to four when I’m done.

As I said in yesterday’s post, Netflix has taken the biggest chances by funding shows and limited series from a diverse collection of nationalities and story telling traditions. My recent and so far all time favorite is Frontera Verde, the Green Frontier, made by Colombians and filmed in and near Leticia, Colombia’s southern most point. Leticia is the capital of the department of Amazonas, and borders Brazil’s state of the same name.

A detective from Bogota is sent to Leiticia to investigate the murder of four missionaries in the jungle. Helena Poveda was born in the jungle near Leticia, but sent to Bogota as a young girl and has not returned until this trip. The murder of the missionaries, from Edens Church, and the solution to them, does make this a mystery.

Solving the murders is a vehicle that takes us into the botanical mystery that is the Amazonian jungle and the lives of those indigenous communities who live there. The old days of rubber plantations, the current threats of rogue loggers and a secretive group intent on penetrating the mystical center of the jungle for their own purpose provide the villainy.

The story telling has a Gabriel Garcia Marquez inflection, magical realism often taking the story in surprising directions. Early on a hand, covered in black pigment, comes to rest on a root and the root glows and pulses. This is Yua, the eternal slave, and a guardian of the jungle. Ushe is his long time companion, both many decades older than they appear. Ushe’s murder, discovered by Elena while investigating the killing of the missionaries, is the central plot line though it takes a long time for that to become evident.

I love the undercurrents here. An indigenous detective has to choose between his police duties and his community, the Nai. Elena discovers the true depth of her home coming. “The jungle is in your heart,” says the indigenous detective’s grandfather to her. Yua and Ushe navigate the jungle’s essence, sometimes using magic, other times their knowledge of the communities, other times their vast botanical lore. Edens Church has a much different belief system than its predecessor, an order of Catholic nuns.

Ushe and Yua

The videography is wonderful. A slim boat travels quickly up the wide, brown Amazon. Ushe and Yua meet in a cosmic space held together by mother jungle. The jungle itself is by turns claustrophobic, vast, and alive.

I realized last night that by an odd coincidence Colombia is the foreign country I have visited most. Three times. Once in 1989, Bogota. Once in the 1990’s with Kate, Cartagena. And once in 2011, Santa Marta. Long before any of those trips I had found Marquez and his Hundred Years of Solitude.

Santa Marta, Colombia 10/23/2011

With those trips to Colombia, our two transits of the Panama Canal, and the 7 week cruise we took around Latin America in 2011, I feel I’ve had a modest immersion in the often strange world of this continent where the Portugese and Spanish ran headlong into indigenous communities. Might be why I like this so much.

I’ve begun a second watching of Frontera Verde, something I almost never do. It’s mixture of indigenous magic and shamanism with contemporary problems of the “earth’s lungs,” as the Amazon is often referred to in the stories about its many fires, makes it compelling to me.

Five stars. Good acting, wonderful landscapes, strange plotlines. Another world brought to life. Compelling.

Second Act

Lughnasa and the 1% crescent of the Moon of the First Harvest

Workout yesterday. Used my new 10 kilogram kettlebell for goblin squats. My legs could tell. Even this morning coming up the stairs to the loft. Good to feel the work.

Kate finished up the peaches, preserving them in oj. Put them in the freezer, ready for dessert or snacking anytime we want. Western Slope goodies.

The hot flushes have held off the last couple of days. Good. They can stay away. Side effects from the Lupron not bad so far. I’ve hit the cancer back, hard. Kept up exercising. Altered my diet some, not as much as I could.

2015, first act

Spent some time yesterday blocking out a plan for wildfire mitigation, the second act. Lots of moving parts, many requiring a chain saw. Not sure what my stamina is like now, but I hope to do much of the work myself. Before the snow.

Not sure if I mentioned our new neighbor Derrick. He lives in the rental next to us. They’re heating with wood, so I imagine most of the downed trees will end up at his place. Good for him, good for us.

Today is finish mowing the fuel day. Also roundup on the grasses and plants around the house, the shed, and the garage out to five feet. Where the landscape cloth and rocks will go. It’s been way too hot for tree work. At least for me. Cooler days are ahead.

Not Giving It My Life

Lughnasa and the waning crescent of the Moon of the First Harvest

Orion glistened in the dark morning sky. Looked fancy, like a huge piece of jewelry hung to adorn the heavens. Soon we’ll have a new moon. Might be able to see the Milky Way. Hope so.

Kate and I had a workday yesterday. So good to do things together. She fixed some Western Slope peaches in orange juice for freezing. I gathered up trash and recycling, took it out. Moved boxes and hung photographs of the grandkids. She swept up Kepler hair. Things like that. Ordinary things have become extraordinary.

We had lasagna, the last of the mitzvah committee’s work for us. Thanks, Annie. Tonight I’m cooking for the first time in over a month. Not sure what yet.

When I was in the radiation treatment slog, I felt like I was doing something to counter the cancer. But. It also reminded me everyday that I had cancer. Now that I’m over two weeks out from my CyberKnife days, I go hours, sometimes almost a whole day without thinking of it. Then, I get a hot flush. Oh. Right.

After prostate surgery, it took some time, maybe three/four months, maybe a bit more, and I forgot about prostate cancer. Where I want to be. Of course, every PSA reminded me, but they were only occasional. Don’t believe I’ll achieve cancer as a thing of the past until I’m off the Lupron for three months and get that definitive PSA.

Will cancer kill me? Don’t know. Something will. Whatever it is, it will bring my death, but I’m not giving it my life. Life is precious, short. Don’t waste it fearing things you can’t control.

Once and Future Denver

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Into Lakewood yesterday, Colfax Avenue. For those of you from the Twin Cities, Colfax is Lake Street. Really long, with several interesting transitions as it passes through Denver to the east and west. An A&W Rootbeer Stand had an America’s Road sign on it. Colfax is also U.S. 40, a coast to coast highway from the days before Interstates.

Denver begins at Sheridan, several blocks further east from Kipling which I took up from Highway 6. In that stretch was, when Alan grew up, old Jewish Denver. On Friday, he said, it looked like Brooklyn with women hustling to get their shopping and shabbat cooking done. Then, lots of folks walking to their schuls. Jewish Denver concentrates now to the south and somewhat east of downtown, a long ways away from Colfax Avenue.

Dino’s has red checkered table cloths, booths with naugahyde backs, and waitresses scurrying around in black uniforms. Pizzas. Heros. Spaghetti. The smell of tomato sauce and Italian sausage. On this Sunday afternoon Dino’s has a crowd, folks waiting thirty and forty minutes to get a seat. From the crush of people in its overdone lobby you couldn’t tell Dino’s would soon fade away like old Jewish Denver.

The owner has decided to close. A place of nostalgia and lots of folks want their last pizza, their last salad, their last coke leaving a wet impression on the oil cloth. Cities change, sometimes too much, wiping out their past in an effort to accommodate the future.

As some of you who read this know, I’m a city guy as well as an exurb guy. It’s special to me that Alan has chosen to share his love of the old spots from his youth. It gives me a sense of Denver as it was, often hard to see in this rapidly growing first in the West metropolis.

What Torah Might We Write?

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

sumi-e Hebrew script

Went to a bagel table at CBE yesterday. Steve Tick, a congregant and a lawyer, presented on the parshah for the week, Deut. 7:12-11:25. We read all the way through it, taking turns. He’s got a lot of torah knowledge, having studied with a scholar/rabbi for over 25 years.

A bagel table is done in lieu of a Friday night service and usually involves discussion of the week’s parshah. The congregation buys bagels, lox, and shmear. Steve brought coffee, Starbucks in four tall paper cups. He led us through the parsha with his own commentary, asking questions as we worked our way through the text.

My bagel table on September 14th has a parshah much further along: Deut. 21:10–25:19. Torah portions have names, their first words. In this case Ki Teitzei, which means when you go out. Not sure how I’ll use the parshah.

Torah as the first five books of the Tanakh, written by Moses in the traditional understanding, are read and re-read each year. The Jewish lectionary runs from Simchat Torah to Simchat Torah, the joy of the Torah, when the annual cycle of public torah readings finishes and a new one begins with Gen. 1:1.

Torah, or to instruct in Hebrew, can mean all the books of the Tanakh. It can also mean the whole body of Jewish law and teaching. This broad sense of the torah is where most Jewish scholars stop, the broadest sense then.

Rabbi Jamie goes beyond even that. He sees torah as anything that instructs us, anything from which we learn what it means to be (become) human. Nature. Other people. Animals. Thought. Literature. Poetry. Our own life history.

At the bagel table on the 14th we’ll use ki teitzei as a sample text for Rabbi Jamie’s expanded sense of torah. With Emerson’s introduction to nature, we’ll explore how revelation comes to us now. What torah might we write?

Sunny Saturday Morning

Lughnasa and the Moon of the First Harvest

Kate’s second birthday. Yesterday Jon, Ruth, and Gabe came up after school. Ruth brought a special piece of lemon cake for Kate. Ruth made a birthday card at school with 75 in raised numbers and a sweet note on the back. Gabe sent photographs of minions wishing Grandma a happy birthday. Jon made her a card, too.

I drove over to Golden, to Ali Babba’s, and picked up a gyros meal for 5. We dined like sheiks in a tent.

Earlier in the day I worked out. Something odd in the workouts. I’ve been able to advance weight on most of the exercises: inclined bench press, lawnmowers, triceps. I’m holding my plank a bit longer, doing more crunches, increased my goblin squat. But bicep curls. I’m still at 12 pounds and can’t seem to get past it. Unusual. My cardio is harder right now, too. Might be the Lupron.

Rigel has developed a rabbit habit. She goes out, goes straight to the shed and starts digging under it. And barking under it, too. Come on out, rabbits! Come on out. I’m hungry.

I’ve never believed in this tactic, but she’s used it for years. She’s also chewed up boards on our back deck, dug under it, plucked a board off one of the pallets. A board nailed to the pallet’s supports. The definition of dogged.

All this began again after she dug up a vole a couple of years ago. It reignited her inner predator and she’s been trying for critters ever since. She’d calmed down about this stuff after our move. At nine and a half years she’s older, but still very strong, graceful, powerful.