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.”

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.

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.

A Certain Woolly Center of Gravity

Winter and the Future Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Snow, at night. Stefan and Lonnie in Colorado. Having plenty of leftovers. Hugs. Tears. This whole miracle the world. Life. Death. All of it. Again, still the mountains. This nation, tested as it is. This nation, for what it still is. This nation, for what it still can be. My heart which fills up, then flows over.

Three clean, sparkly, sweet smelling dogs: Gertie, Rigel, Murdoch. Gotta love it. Do this more often. Kep on Monday.

Kate went into her sewing room! Yeah! She fixed my gray, alpaca wool scarf. It got damaged in the Akita mixed-martial arts match two weeks ago. Lots of holes.

This scarf was born along the west coast of Latin America as Kate sat on our deck chair, viewing the wide Pacific. She made it for me because, as you go further south below the equator, it gets colder. I had it on when we sailed through the Chilean fjords, a remarkable one-hundred and twenty mile long stretch of mostly uninhabited islands, glacial bays. I had it on when we sailed into Ushuaia, the southern most town on the continent, and, in the world. Around Cape Horn. On the Falkland Islands. Now when I go get the newspaper. Or the groceries.

The dogs. With Murdoch added to the mix they require some Tetris like shuffling all day long. Where Kep is, Murdoch cannot be. And, vice versa. When Gertie is out, Kep cannot be. And, vice versa. Lots of intercom calls between upstairs and downstairs. What’s the disposition of the dogs? Where’s Kepler? I’d like to let Murdoch out. And so on until the moment when Murdoch and Rigel go up the stairs to the guest aka dog room for the night.

The payoff. A happy Joe and SeoAh, knowing Murdoch is safe and loved. Murdoch here with his puppy bounce and energy. Lots of kisses and wriggles and smiles. Life in the house with our life. Full. Good. Tiring.

Was gonna go see Stefan and Lonnie today in Avon, near Vail, but the weather out that way was nasty. No need to do that to myself. Gonna try again Friday. Stefan had a hip replacement at Steadman Orthopedics and is recovering at the Westin Spa and Resort. Why not?

There’s a certain Woolly center of gravity gathering energy here in Colorado. Paul’s daughter Kate and her husband, Michael, moved to Boulder. Scott’s son and daughter are both in Colorado: Pagosa Springs and Carbondale. Warren and Frank both have relatives out here. Tom’s visited several times. Mark and Bill and Paul have come out, too. Lonnie and Stefan come to Colorado regularly, this time for a new hip.

Finished my ninth page of Daf Yomi. As I read, I keep thinking of the 60’s, what a long, strange trip it’s been. Gonna keep at it. It’s alternately boring, fussy, and poignant. At some point I’ll do a post about what I’m learning.

Murdoch

Winter and the Gratitude Moon

Monday gratefuls: Joe and Seoah landed. An adventure begins. Cousin Diane sent a thoughtful note about my mom. Kate’s nightly feedings. (no, she’s not a vampire. feeding tube.) Murdoch’s first day went fine. Feeling the vibrations of children as Santa loads up. The lights of Hanukah.

Murdoch. He and Rigel spent the night together again. Rigel loves the bed in the guest room. Finally, a bed my size, she must think. Rigel gets along with all dogs and people. She’s also top dog here. My thinking on this is that Murdoch needs a warm body with him at night. He’s used to sleeping with Joe and Seoah. Seoah was around during the day, so being alone was not a frequent thing for him. It’s working so far. (OK. Day 2, but still…)

This is a major change in the morning. I get up at 4:30 or so, but now with just Gertie and Kepler, feed them, take them back downstairs for Kate. No Rigel. Her feeding time has shifted to Murdoch’s, around 8 am. Oh. Realization. That’s why she didn’t eat much yesterday for her lunch. She’d just eaten. Might have to shift her second feeding to Murdoch’s time, too.

Shuttling them all around so Kep and Murdoch are not in the same place at the same time makes the day a bit of a logistical puzzle. We’ve done it before though. With Kep and Gertie outside most recently. They’re ok inside, but outside? Not so much. We also had Tully, a very sweet Irish Wolfhound, who one day decided our whippets were prey. That required care with her presence and theirs until she died.

We’ve been told that once the prey circuit gets switched on in a dog no training will extinguish it. Too deep in the genes. Kep’s aggression is not a prey drive, but a need to control unruly, wild (in his opinion) dogs. Murdoch has the same issues. An Akita thing, probably related to their role as guard dogs. Easier to manage than Tully’s situation.

Dogs. They’re so important to our lives, Kate and mine. We’ve seen many different behaviors, positive and troublesome, over the years. Our experience serves us well.

If it’s your holiday, Merry Christmas! Or, happy Hanukah. Or, hope you had meaningful Winter Solstice and will have a happy New Year. Thoughts about 2020 coming over the next few days.

Up, Up, And Away

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Joe and Seoah found each at San Francisco International, got a seat together. In the air right now. Rigel and Murdoch spent a so-far quiet night together. Hanukah. Which starts tonight. For the United folks at DIA yesterday. A smooth process checking Seoah in. As she might say, Amazing.

Seoah came with Joe on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. More Murdoch time. I took her to the airport yesterday. The short-term lot was full so we had to use Valet parking. Which I didn’t know they had. Not cheap, but in the circumstance, worth it.

We’ll miss her, Good Morning! Her cooking skills. She’s really good. Her willingness to clean. Mostly though her presence. She has a light heart and a cheerful manner. Much like Murdoch.

We’ll also miss our over the stove microwave which chose the holiday season as its death time. It died gradually, losing one function after another. The good news is that over the stove micros are really expensive! And, we’ll have to pay to have it installed. Merry Christmas!’

Odd product information. In a pick-up order at King Sooper I got Simple Truth Organic Seltzer Water as a replacement for my order of another brand. On the can, which is sized like an energy drink, less diameter, but more height, it says: What makes S.T. Seltzer water so refreshing? A. Organic, naturally flavored and free of calories… It’s water! They forgot to add gluten free.

A Holiweek

Winter and the Gratitude Moon

Saturday gratefuls: For this spinning, traveling planet. For ways to get from one spot to another: cars, trains, planes, bicycles, feet. For the new Woolly Calendar, produced again by Mark Odegard. Over 30 years. For cities like Minneapolis, San Francisco, Denver. And for those of us who live outside of them.

The long dark Solstice night still wraps Shadow Mountain, quiet and black. For those lovers of the summer this marks a key moment as the night begins, gradually, to give way to the day. Six months from now the Summer Solstice will celebrate the longest day, which marks the moment when the day gradually begins to give way to the night. A cycle that will last as long as mother earth does.

A cycle that can remind us, if we let it, of the way of life. That darkness comes, fecund and still. That light comes, spurring growth and movement. That we need both the darkness and the light, both are essential. When dark periods enter our life, they are usual, normal and will pass. When light periods enter our life, they are usual, normal and will pass.

Our time with Seoah ends today. She heads off to Singapore for a year, leaving Denver this evening. We’ll head out to the airport early. It’s Christmas travel weekend and the airport will be buzzing.

Her English is much better and she studies hard. She hopes that her time in Singapore will push her all the way to fluency. Mary has a Korean friend who will help Seoah hook up with the Korean community there and English language tutors.

Hanukah starts tomorrow night. The first candle. Tuesday is Christmas Eve, then Wednesday, Christmas Day. Festivals of light. Showing our human preference for the day, for the growing season. Showing our confidence in the long ago, when the Maccabees revolted, kicking the Seleucids out, entering Jerusalem, and rededicating the Second Temple after its profanation by Antiochus Epiphanes. And, when the miracle baby, Jesus, entered this world, like the Shekinah.

A holiweek. Filled with candles, presents, songs, family. The most sacred part of this holiweek is the coming together of friends and family.

The West

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Seoah and her light presence as a guest, Murdoch again, the Grandmother Tree at CBE, the night drive up Brook Forest, then Black Mountain drives, the fox that crossed our path, the mule deer doe standing, looking toward the road, the nightlife of the wild, the ultimate wildness of the heavens

December 20, 2014 “The enormity of this change is still a little hard to grasp. We’re no longer Minnesotans, but Coloradans. We’re no longer flatlanders but mountain dwellers. We’re no longer Midwesterners. Now we are of the West, that arid, open, empty space. These changes will change us and I look forward to that. The possibility of becoming new in the West has long been part of the American psyche, now I’ll test it for myself.”

December 18, 2019 The usual mythic significance of the West, where the light ends, where souls go when they die, seems quite different from its American mythos as almost a separate country, an Other World where you could leave Europe behind, leave the East Coast behind and rejuvenate, remake yourself. (yes, Native Americans were here already. But I’m talking about the frontier, the Old West, the place where Hopalong Cassidy, the Lone Ranger, and lots of versions of John Wayne lived. And, yes, the Spaniards on the west coast and as far north as what is now New Mexico. The Russians, too.)

Seems quite different. Yes. However, “the possibility of becoming new in the West.” The American mythic West is about where souls go when they die, when they die to a past that had not prospered in the East, to a life no longer well lived, to a life lived in the all too usual way, to a life of boredom.

What would we become? When would the West become home? When would this house on Black Mountain Drive become home? All those boxes. All that altitude adjustment. And, we would gradually learn, an attitude adjustment to mountain life.

We have become people of the mountains, in love with them enough to adapt our lives to thin air in spite of the difficulty it presents to us. We have become people of the tribe, of clan Beth Evergreen, part of a strange and intriguing religious experiment, a new community. That was part of what people sought in the West. A chance to build community anew, to different rules.

We have become embedded in the lives of our grandchildren, of Jon. They love the mountains, too. Our choice, to live close, but not too close, has had its challenges, but has worked out well. It’s hard for us to provide day to day support for Jon and the kids. We’re too far away and too physically challenged (of late). We are, however, a mountain refuge for them, a place away from the city where they can come to refresh. We’re also on the way to A-basin, Jon’s favorite ski area.

When we travel now, the return no longer involves a turn north, toward the Pole, but a turn West, toward the mountains and the Pacific. Our friends in the north, in Minnesota have stayed in touch. We’ve not gotten back much; it’s so good to still have solid connections.

We change altitude frequently, often dramatically during a day’s normal routine. No more mile square roads, farmland templates. No more 10,000 lakes. And, up where we live, in the montane ecosystem, no deciduous trees except for aspen. No more combines on the road, tractors, truck trailers full of grain and corn headed to the elevators. (yes, in Eastern Colorado, but we’re of the mountains.)

The pace of life in the mountains is slower. Many fewer stoplights, fewer stores, less nightlife. Service of all kinds is slower, too. Plumbers. HVAC guys. Mail folks. UPS. Fedex. Denver Post. Painters and electricians. Once we quit expecting metro area level of service, especially in terms of promptness and predictability, life got better. The mountain way.

Our life in the West has also been shaped, profoundly, by medicine and illness. Tomorrow.

A Five Year Anniversary

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Gertie and Kep slept until almost 5:30. An extra hour of sleep for me. Brother Mark’s feeling better over in Saudi Arabia. Joe’s movers will come today. Sister Mary reports heavy rains in Singapore. My dispersed family. My diverse family.

Second iteration of the new workout yesterday morning. I like this one. It uses the TRX and kettlebells. Still working to cement the five days a week: resistance, cardio, resistance, cardio, resistance. It’s in my head now as a routine, but scheduling sometimes breaks it up.

Friend Tom Crane reminded me of an old holiday, one remembered now with Christmas, some say. He wrote this morning: “Today would mark the beginning of the seven-day celebration of Saturnalia in ancient Rome. For the winter festival, the Romans made and exchanged gifts, decorated their homes with holly and ropes of garland, and carried wreaths of evergreen branches to honor the god Saturn.” Here’s a bit more from the same website Tom found: “By the beginning of December, writes Columella, the farmer should have finished his autumn planting… Now, with the approach of the winter solstice (December 25 in the Julian calendar), Saturnus, the god of seed and sowing was honored with a festival.” Saturnalia

Sound at all familiar?

Here’s another odd fact. A couple of weeks ago I went looking for quotes about the West and the Rocky Mountains. Found out that the lowest point in Colorado, around 3,000 feet, is higher than the highest point in twenty other states. We’re all high here.

In three days we will have been in Colorado five years. Here’s a couple of paragraphs from back then: “The moving moon has waned, a sliver this early. It will go dark tomorrow, the Winter Solstice. Our first full day and night here at Black Mountain Drive. Tom Crane, Rigel, Vega, Kepler and I pulled into the garage about 12:15 am this morning. We drove in over several inches of snow, so a first task will be getting the driveway clear for the moving van which comes on Monday…Tom drove the whole way, 14 hours in one whack, stopping only briefly for food and gas. It was a great treat to be able to watch the miles roll away.” December 20, 2014. Ancientrails.

Over the next three days I’m going to revisit that time, the move. Five years is an important anniversary. And, it will occur days before the calendar ticks over into a brand new decade, the 2020’s. Our first full decade in Colorado, in the Rockies. Time to do an assessment.

Platte Canyon Drive

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Seeing Kate cheered by her fellow Bailey Patchworkers at their holiday luncheon yesterday. A drive yesterday along the Platte River Canyon from Bailey to the Shaggy Sheep. The partly running, partly frozen North Fork of the South Platte River. The black squirrel that played along its banks. Finding my heart so exposed.

While Kate had lunch with the Bailey Patchworkers at the Riverbend Restaurant in Bailey, I drove out to the Shaggy Sheep, headed toward Kenosha Pass, Fairplay, and the Pacific Ocean. The Platte Canyon runs from Bailey to the Kenosha Pass which, at 10,000 feet marks the transition to the high plains of South Park, a broad expanse of relatively flat land all above 9,000 feet. The Platte Canyon is around 7,700 feet above sea level, carved out by the South Platte River’s north fork. That makes it a gorge, as well as a canyon, since Highway 285 follows the fairly straight run of the river. A gorge always has a river like most, but not all, canyons.

Sometimes the mountains on either side of the canyon floor come close to the road, gray and rocky, closing the canyon off from the sun. At other points the South Platte runs through long, but narrow fields and pastures. Glen Isle, a beloved and historic resort with a round main building, is on the canyons western side. North Fork Ranch, an Orvis approved dude ranch, features fly fishing, kicking back, horse rides. It’s just beyond the small National Historic site of Shawnee.

Not much further along 285 is the national YMCA camp, Santa Maria, with its not so obviously needed statue of Jesus on a cliff face high above the camp. I passed it looking up at the statue, wondering why it was there.

My destination was the Shaggy Sheep, a restaurant opened by New York City chef fleeing the city. It’s a quirky, but good menu. It has, however, also quirky hours since it sits 14 miles west of Bailey and nowhere near any other towns. Georgetown can be reached between, oh, say, May and November, by the Guanella Pass not far from the Shaggy Sheep, and Jefferson, a very small town in South Park, is a few miles on beyond the Kenosha Pass. Billing itself as a casual mountain cook house, the Shaggy Sheep depends on tourist traffic which slows down in the winter months. Closed Monday-Wednesday during the winter, I learned.

The drive out there was the point though so I wasn’t disappointed. I turned around, drove back to the Riverbend and had a hamburger with truffle fries followed by an excellent canoli. Since I was waiting on Kate and forgot to bring a book (a rare occurrence), I read the articles of impeachment plus commentary and other stories on the NYT.

The wonder of living here is the chance to take a trip through the Platte Canyon just because. Or, up the Guanella Pass to Georgetown. Or, over the Kenosha Pass into South Park and onto Fairplay. And still be home for supper.