We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Gettin’ On a Jet Plane

Fall                                                                         Joseph and SeoAh Moon (new)

Taking off today for Robins Air Force Base in Georgia. Will see Joe and SeoAh together for the first time since the wedding, though I did see Joe earlier this summer. Not sure about a computer setup there, so this may be it until I get back. We’ll see.

Had my first adult Hebrew class yesterday. Ouch. I’m long out of practice. I took a semester’s worth of Hebrew and Greek, mostly just to be able to use lexicons, no grammar in either instance. That was 1972. 45 years ago. And, since I didn’t serve a parish, I had little use for it over the years. Atrophied is too generous for my current state of knowledge.


Painted Ladies on Shadow Mountain

Lughnasa                                                                     Harvest (new) Moon

Belle-dame_(Vanessa_cardui)_-_Echinacea_purpurea_-_Havré_(3)Under the category of awe. In passing I noted a reference to butterflies being around in some numbers. One commenter on pinecam.com referred to them as painted ladies migrating.

This might have passed in and out of my attention, but I noticed a butterfly on Black Mountain Drive. Curious, I walked up the driveway to the road.

Sure enough, spread out sort of like the cross country runners in Ruth’s meet last night, there were butterflies going toward Evergreen, all of the ones I saw using the open space created by the road as a flight corridor.

I watched for a bit and they kept coming, isolated individuals, groups of two or three, sometimes more, flapping their apparently fragile wings, moving, just in my observation, great distances for their body size.

In Europe they migrate from Africa to Britain, as far as 9,000 miles. In our case they’re headed for New Mexico, Arizona and northern Mexico, just like the snowbirds who leave temperate climes for those warmer stretches of mother earth during the winter.

That such tiny creatures can travel so far, flying the whole way, then turn around and do it again, made me pause for a moment of awe. In retrospect it would have been appropriate to have crowds along Black Mountain Drive, cheering, applauding, “you can do it!”, “all the way to Mexico.”, maybe little sugar stands set out.

Those were the painted ladies on Shadow Mountain.

Family Matters

Lughnasa                                                                   Eclipse Moon

GwangjuJoseph. He and SeoAh were in Gwangju for a week plus during which Kim Jong Un and his hermit kingdom exploded another powerful atomic weapon and were said to have prepared an IBM test. They returned home a couple of days ago to Macon. Which is now, according to the most recent projections, directly in the path of Hurricane Irma, a Category 5 hurricane when it passed by Puerto Rico. Wind speeds of 185 with gusts up to 200 mph.

Irma sept. 7Mark. Is in Bangkok on his way to work in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. He wrote me yesterday that he went to Chinatown, which is where I stayed in 2004 when I visited Southeast Asia and spent over a week in Bangkok. Mark lived longest in Bangkok of all the places his traveling life has taken him. So far.

Mary. Turned 65 a week ago, but is still going strong as a professor and researcher at the national teachers university in Singapore.

Jon. This is his first week in the new house on Florence in Aurora without the kids. They moved in together a week or so ago. On Monday they went back to Jen’s for 9 days. Ruth’s first cross country meet is this afternoon, a meet which includes, she thinks, all the middle school teams in DPS, Denver Public Schools. The course is 1.8 miles of hills. Gabe thought putting together the Millennium Falcon lego set might take him “a couple of days. Unless I don’t take a break, then it might take 30 minutes. Or, maybe an hour.” No report yet on the actual time.

303Kepler has finished up his meds for the kennel cough and the barking cough (ha,ha) has subsided. Rigel’s second round of youthful predatory behavior continues as she heads to the shed every time she leaves the house and when she returns she sniffs the deck very, very carefully. Something’s down there! Gertie continues to be a rascal. (note the demonic eye) Yesterday we caught her with her front paws up on the side of a chair, her nose against the shofar. Does she know it’s the high holidays? Or, was she just happy to see it?

The Rav4 blows cool air out of its a.c., having been down to 0.09 pounds of coolant when the specs require 1.9. The detailing also left it super clean on the inside. But, we can fix that. The Challenger has returned to its stall.

We got a snowplowing agreement yesterday from Ted of All Trades. A true harbinger of Game of Thrones favorite epithet. Fire danger remains low, as we like it, thanks to cooler, wetter weather over the last month. Consistent cool weather is still some time away, unfortunately.

Now we wait to see what Hurricane Irma will do to Joe and SeoAh.

The High Road

Lughnasa                                                                  Eclipse Moon

summit lake park, the highest city park in North America

summit lake park, the highest city park in North America

In fact, the highest paved road in North America. Which happens to be only 46 miles from our front door, the Mt. Evans Road. It’s a joint project of the Denver Parks System and the National Park Service with the NPS controlling admission to the road leading to the summit and DPS controlling access to three fee areas: Mt. Goliath (bristlecone pines at the krummholz level), Summit Lake, which is a clear mountain lake with a small glacier poised high above it on Mt. Evans, and the summit itself.

Last year Ruth and I drove up, but were too late to get any further than Summit Lake, the road continuing on past there closed for the season. This year, today, Ruth and I went again. This time we made it all the way to the top. But. The Mt. Evans Road closes every year the day after Labor Day and the summit had a huge number of people with the same idea we had. I knew it would be that way, but it was an incremental improvement over last year.

mt. goliath natural area

mt. goliath natural area

Next year, during the week, early in the morning in June, July or August. It opens on Memorial Day, if, that is, it has no snow.

The road itself, especially the segment after Summit Lake is narrow and, as the orange sign said, Damaged. That makes crawling up and down it with others entertaining. The downhill side of the road, which shifts as it snakes its way up and down the mountain, has no barrier and for much of the road virtually no shoulder.

Since Colorado has many bikers, both bicyclists and motorcyclists, sharing the road with a car in the other lane and a bicycle or two can be challenging. Not to mention the road damage which can include, and in fact often did today, chunks of road missing, eroded away. This phenomenon almost always presented itself on the downhill side of the road. So there’s that big SUV pushing its way up, you’re on the way down, a good long drop with plenty of over and over and over and over again potential if you make the wrong move, and a bicyclist or two, bless their VO2 maxed out hearts, struggling up or down. Yowza.

In visiting it next year I plan to visit it as a mountain deity, one which took my breath away today, even sitting in my internal combustion powered chair. Mt. Evans is our weather god, altering the flow and intensity of weather patterns as they come from the west and cross the continental divide not far away. The result, in our little Evansonian microclimate, is increased precipitation both winter and summer, but more in the winter. Remember that 200 inches plus we had the second winter we were here? Mt. Evans for the assist.

Mt Evans Summit

Mt Evans Summit

There was one mountain goat visible to me today. Improbably it was standing among a bunch of hikers above the Meyer-Womble Observatory, which, until an Indian Observatory opened in 2001 was the highest operating telescope in the world. Apparently the mountain goats lick the soil on the summit to obtain needed salts.

If you ever visit during the summer, let’s go. I’m always up for a visit to the mountain top.

Off the Road

Lughnasa                                                                          Eclipse Moon

20170821_103631_001This old body doesn’t bounce back like it used to. Driving 13 hours from Idaho to Conifer means a slow return to normal. It’s still underway today, Saturday, after our late Wednesday night arrival back home. Not at all unexpected. Still.

On Thursday we had to return the RV, pick up the dogs and chose to attend mussar, so Thursday during the day was not a time for recuperating. Yesterday was easier, some unpacking, our business meeting and going to the post office for held packages.

Today and tomorrow are slow, too, since the grandkids are with Jen for a hemophilia walk. I’m driving to Fairplay for a hike with Beth Evergreen to see an alpine bee research project on Pennsylvania Mountain. Tomorrow Kate and I will take a load of stuff in to Jon’s new house. He has the kids during the week for the first time this coming week, so he has to get ready for them. The 50/50 parenting arrangement takes effect now that he has a house. A big change for all involved, including us. He will move in over the next couple of months.

Gradually replenishing the battery. Realized just now that I’m like an older lithium-ion battery. I take longer to recharge and the charge doesn’t last as long.


Our Own Personal Idaho

Ruths polariods in the RV

Ruth’s polariods in the RV

8/21/2017         Lughnasa                                            Kate’s Moon

A saga of small proportions, but a saga nonetheless. After a late pickup of the RV due to the previous renter breaking a large outside storage container door, we were cramped in getting stuff into it. Ruth and Gabe slept in it in our driveway on Friday night and we finished packing Saturday morning.

We left around 7:30 am. Due to dire traffic predictions I picked a route that would minimize traffic though it would take a while longer to get there. I don’t mind using time on my own volition, but backed up bumper to bumper on an Interstate? Not so much.

Being a little bleary from the previous day I ended up missing the route I had chosen and finding the exit for an alternate instead. Instead of taking the turn for Empire and Granby, right next to Rocky Mountain National Park, we drove to my first idea, a routed going north out of Dillon on Co. 9. Some of the driving was on roads with narrow to no shoulders and I was still getting used to the hippotamus like wallowing of this big beast. One slight run off the road scared the bejesus out of me.

In an attempt to get back to the Granby route I took off east on Co 14. This was fun because it took us through the vast high plain known as North Park. There are three parks, South Park, Middle Park and North Park. South Park is in Park County, close to our home. We turned north again at Walden, a quaint little town that calls itself the moose viewing capital of the state.

Ruth, above the cab

Ruth, above the cab

Somehow though, after we passed into Wyoming, I missed Wy 130 and in the process took us off through the Medicine Bow National Forest. This was also beautiful, but much further south than I intended. This meandering took us about 100 miles out of the way. All good from a not all who wander are lost perspective, but it had a negative effect later on.

By the time we made it to Jackson, after a trip through another National Forest with mountains blued out as the sun sat behind them, a river flowing north beside the road, it was dark. Both Kate and BJ recommended against taking the Teton Pass at night, so I listened. We found a temporary home for the RV in the Jackson KMart parking lot.

For about three hours. At 12:30 pm a knock on the door and very bright lights outside announced the Jackson police department. Contrary to what we had heard KMart does not welcome overnight stays and “Jackson has an ordinance against illegal camping.” Oh. Well. If you put it that way.

So, again bleary eyed, this time after 12 hours or so of driving I put on pants and shoes, started the hippo and we moved away from KMart. Kate suggested we try the Motel 6, a place Jon stays when he comes to ski. $63 a night. They said rooms were $248 a night, a special rate just for the eclipse. Ha. However, the desk clerk kindly said we could stay in their parking lot for free. We did.

About 7 o’clock Sunday morning we fired up the hippo and drove to, wait for it, McDonalds for coffee, potato type food and an egg mcmuffin. We wanted to get out of Jackson and onto the Teton Pass. Which we did.

It’s not a difficult drive in the light, but it would have been treacherous in the hippo at night. Again, beautiful. Natural beauty surrounds us here in the West, especially following the Rocky cordillera north as we did. Sort of.

Once down the Teton Pass we passed into Idaho at Victor, then turned north toward Driggs. BJ, Kate’s sister, lives a half hour out of Driggs, up the side of the bowl that the mountains create here, a small version of a Park. Her home is rustic with wood flooring, weathered porches and an outbuilding that includes a sauna and a greenhouse. It’s quiet here, the opposite of Broadway and 78th in NYC, where she lives in the Beacon Hotel.

Tomorrow is the eclipse. We’ll see it from a meadow near here. More after that.

Losing the Sun


8/22/2017                                    Eclipse Moon

Kate, Jon, and BJ. On BJs deck.

Kate, BJ, and Jon. On BJs deck.

A black sun. Coronal flares shooting out, white against a blue-black sky. No birds flying, a sudden cool silence. Two minutes and twelve seconds passing fast. At 11:35 am, against a clear, just moments before hot blue. Gasps and exclamations came over these lower hills of the Big Horn Range, the ragged Tetons across the Tetonia valley, mute.

A moment of the occult revealed by darkness. The sun always moves across our spinning planet with those vast, hot flames reaching for the edges of the solar system. Unseen. Even the sun itself, except at a quick glance, or in the periphery of vision, stands hidden in its own brilliance. Not yesterday. Not for two minutes and twelve seconds.

A sight reminiscent of a secret society. Only initiates can see the truth. And it is so. It may be a secret society of millions or billions, but it is exclusive, often, as for me, happening, if at all, only once in a lifetime.

Six Olson/Johnsons: Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Anne, BJ, Kate and one Welsh Teuton sat on BJ’s east facing deck, eyes covered in glasses dark enough to make walking with them on impossible. At first we baked, heat from a late Idaho summer crackling down from the sun, naked and fierce as it can be at midday.



A small pinch of black intruded on the faded yellow globe we could see through the eclipse glasses. Baily’s beads, sunlight bouncing through valleys created by lunar mountains, shimmered for just a second then disappeared. The small pinch became a bigger one as our usually nocturnal moon, and a new moon, usually invisible, at that, showed up, its shadow cone moving at hundreds of miles an hour, racing across the U.S. from Portland to Charleston, passing us here just across the Big Horns from the vast potato fields of southern Idaho.

That image, black sun, coronal flares across the deeply bruised heaven is now a permanent resident in my memory. Brief though it was, its violation of the natural order so consistent over my life time, much like an earthquake disturbs our sense of the stability of the earth on which we walk, was so intense that it will stay available to me.

How often in a life do we get to shock ourselves in such a way? The sun shines in through the window of the RV as I write this, back to its old dangerously luminous self, too shiny for my eyes. “There are more things in heaven and on earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.”

Our common sense philosophy allows us to move through our days without recourse to constant surveillance. The earth is solid. The air breathable. Night follows day. Our heart beats. During the day the sun shines unless obscured by clouds. When our experience deviates from these home truths, our inner world shakes. Can’t get enough oxygen? Heart pauses? Earth moves. Night comes near noon on a cloudless day. Even if we know the why, the empirical fact of such an insult to the received wisdom of our lives alters our confidence in what we believe. Alters it in a deep and profound way.

Alpine glow during totality, looking toward the Tetons

Alpine glow during totality, looking toward the Tetons

Perhaps such events are the key to humility. What we assume is true may be mistaken, mistaken in some fundamental way. Once one pillar of our inner temple is shaken, we may need to examine them all.


August 23, 2017   Lughnasa            Eclipse Moon

The day of the eclipse has come and gone. Jon, Ruth, and Gabe left that day for Colorado. The eclipse was on the first day of Gabe’s fourth grade year and Ruth, though already in school for a week or so, missed classes on Monday, too. They had to get back. It took Jon 11 and a half hours to get home.

BJ, Kate, Anne at Kates birthday party apres eclipse

BJ, Kate, Anne at Kates birthday party apres eclipse

Later that day Kate’s two sisters, Annie and BJ, Kate and I, drove into Driggs for a post-eclipse return to this earth. Traffic in that small Idaho farm town was heavy, a traffic jam slowed us down getting to the art fair which was our destination. There were mumblings about how the expected 100,000 people had ended up being only 10,000 and artists seemed disappointed in their sales.

Since we never left BJ’s deck to see the eclipse we escaped any traffic getting into place for a viewing and the traffic coming up from Conifer was never heavy, even on I-80, so that small Drigg’s experience was it for us. Fine with me.

Annie and BJ put together a birthday party for Kate with a happy birthday banner, glow in the dark bracelets, flowers and color changing small candles. We had salmon, potato salad, baked beans and fruit for dessert.



The next morning we had breakfast up at the big house. (what Kate and I from the RV perspective called BJ’s place) Kate ended up feeling crummy and left early to spend the morning resting. I wrote a bit, read, talked with Annie and BJ.

In the afternoon Annie, BJ and I drove 15 minutes over to Tetonia, a smaller town than Driggs, with the same name as the county. As you drive east away from the Big Horn foothills where BJ lives, the Tetons dominate the horizon, especially four jagged peaks that have a distinct alpine feel. The tallest and most severe of the peaks is Grand. Between the Big Horn foothills on the west and the Tetons in the east is a flat plain dotted with fields of wheat, alfalfa and pastures with Angus and horses. There are barns with hay lofts, Harvestor silos, grain elevators and farm equipment dealers on the main road. If you bracketed out the mountains, it could be a location in Iowa or southern Minnesota.

We visited a small shop in Tetonia, a show case for Steve Horn, who makes furniture, carves wood into whimsical fire place mantels with dancing bears or curious elk. The quality of his work is high and the prices reasonable. There were also other local crafts such as white turquoise jewelry and woven pine needle baskets, various rugs of a rustic cabin sort and a few scattered antiques.

Ankole-Watusi Horn, an African breed of cow

Ankole-Watusi Horn, an African breed of cow

There were also four horns, two smaller and two larger, that made me wonder what animal could possibly have worn them. So I asked. The owner came down from her office area above the store. “You know, I’ve been meaning to look them up. Give me a minute.” I did. “Come on up here, I’ll show you.” These were the horns of a central African cattle breed called the Ankole-Watusi. The largest horns of any cattle breed. The pictures she pulled up showed large cattle, perhaps oxen size, with enormous horns.

BJ wanted to eat lunch at the Badger Creek Cafe, a Tetonia restaurant a couple of blocks beyond Steven Horn’s place. “Put together by two chefs from NYC. Really good food.” Also closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. We all liked the name of a small woodworkers shop nearby, Mortise and Tenon.

Because BJ’s realtor and friend, Bobbie, had invited us over for dinner, we went back into Driggs to pick up some dessert. The Austrian pastry shop was closed as was Cicerolls, so we went to Broulin’s, a local supermarket. While there, I told BJ I liked it. For those of you familiar with Minnesota supermarkets, it would have been between a Lund’s and a Bylery’s, nicer than Colorado’s King Sooper.

from Bobbie and Barney's deck

from Bobbie and Barney’s deck

Turns out the locals, Bobbie for instance, view it as an intrusion by Jackson Hole prices and tastes into the area over the Teton Pass in Idaho. Probably so.

Later we met Bobbie and Barney at their home which overlooks the large agricultural plain with the craggy Tetons on display on its eastern edge. A very peaceful place.

The Black Sun

Lughnasa                                                                               Kate’s Moon

PutrefactioA week from today we’ll be on the road in a rented R.V., Ruth and Gabe on board, headed to Driggs, Idaho. It will be Kate’s 73rd birthday.  I wrote a post on Ancientrailsgreatwheel.com about dark ecology and the ecocide. It occurred to me just now that the total eclipse might be the perfect metaphor for it.

As the extinction event occasioned by our rapidly changing climate, both already well underway, slides over the face of our inner sun and blots it out, we will not enter total darkness, but the corona of that black sun will flare in our consciousness, the heavens filled with the stars and galaxies of our inner universe will pop into view. We will have a chance then to consider the majesty of all of which we are a part, often hidden. We will see the world without us and know that it can and will be beautiful, more than we can imagine.

alchemyPerhaps this eclipse on August 21st is an opportunity for us all to merge the outer with the inner, to experience the same fear our long ago ancestors did when they imagined the world might die, the sun might never reappear. It may be a chance to integrate this slow motion catastrophe through which we are living, in which we are implicated, and consider it in a new way.

I’m going to try for that experience. Maybe you will, too.




Easing Back

Midsommar                                                                          Kate’s Moon

books and cupWith concern about my knee prosthetic assuaged, I’ve gotten a better workout routine going. It’s taken me awhile to match my new workout time, start between 9 and 10 am, with productivity on other projects like reimagining and a new novel, but I’m getting there.

Yesterday I printed out work on Loki’s Children, the second part of the Missing trilogy, and the Protectors, a nugget about a group called the Carthaginians. That gives me three stories to consider. I’m also going to through a file I have in Evernote called story ideas. Check out what I’ve been squirreling away for the past couple of years.

Reimagining work right now consists of scissors and a stapler: cutting up the printed out pages from ancientrails, stapling individual posts together, then filing them under the conceptual (chapter?) headings I’ve defined. I ended up with well over 200 printed pages so this is no small task.

kabbalahThe kabbalah class is over until after the high holidays, but I plan to read in both the first volume of the Zohar and the key work by Isaac Luria. No idea right now about how to organize that reading, but Rabbi Jamie will help. Kate and I continue to study mussar, the Thursday at 1 pm group grounding us in both Jewish ethics and a small community.

Sister Mary and her s.o. Guru will be here Tuesday through Thursday. They’re flying here from Tamil Nadu where Mary and her friend Anitha were presenting at a conference. Mary has a conference in L.A. beginning on Friday. She’s got lots of air miles to her credit.

Wherever you go, there you change.

Midsommar                                                             New (Kate’s) Moon

travelIf you’re an alcoholic like I am, you learn early in treatment that the geographical escape won’t work. Wherever you go, there you are is the saying. It’s true that the addictive part of my personality follows me from place to place as well as through time. Even so, this move to Colorado has awakened me to an unexpected benefit of leaving a place, especially ones invested with a lot of meaning.

I lived in Minnesota over 40 years, moving to New Brighton in 1971 for seminary. I also lived in Alexandria, Indiana until I was 18, so two long stays in particular places. In the instance of Alexandria, I was there for all of my childhood. In Minnesota I became an adult, a husband and father, a minister and a writer.

Here’s the benefit. (which is also a source of grief) The reinforcements for memories and their feelings, the embeddedness of social roles sustained by seeing friends and family, even enemies, the sense of a self’s continuity that accrues in a place long inhabited, all these get adumbrated. There is no longer a drive near Sargent Avenue to go play sheepshead. Raeone and I moved to Sargent shortly before we got divorced. Neither docent friends nor the Woolly Mammoths show up on my calendar anymore with rare exceptions. No route takes me past the Hazelden outpatient treatment center that changed my life so dramatically.

2011 05 09_0852While it’s true, in the wherever you go there you are sense, that these memories and social roles, the feeling of a continuous self that lived outside Nevis, in Irvine Park, worked at the God Box on Franklin Avenue remain, they are no longer a thick web in which I move and live and have my being, they no longer reinforce themselves on a daily, minute by minute basis. And so their impact fades.

On the other hand, in Colorado, there were many fewer memories and those almost all related to Jon, Jen and the grandkids. When we came here, we had never driven on Highway 285, never lived in the mountains, never attended a synagogue together. We hadn’t experienced altitude on a continuous basis, hadn’t seen the aspen go gold in the fall, had the solar snow shovel clear our driveway.

jewish-photo-calendarThis is obvious, yes, but its effect is not. This unexperienced territory leaves open the possibility of new aspects of the self emerging triggered by new relationships, new roles, new physical anchors for memories. Evergreen, for example, now plays a central part in our weekly life. We go over there for Beth Evergreen. We go there to eat. Jon and the grandkids are going there to play in the lake this morning.

Deer Creek Canyon now has a deep association with mortality for me since it was the path I drove home after my prostate cancer diagnosis. Its rocky sides taught me that my illness was a miniscule part of a mountain’s lifetime and that comforted me.

This new place, this Colorado, is a third phase home. Like Alexandria for childhood and Minnesota for adulthood, Colorado will shape the last phase of life. Already it has offered an ancient faith tradition’s insights about that journey. Already it has offered a magnificent, a beautiful setting for our final years. Already it has placed us firmly in the life of Jon, Ruth and Gabe as we’ve helped them all navigate through the wilderness of loss. These are what get reinforced for us by the drives we take, the shopping we do, the medical care we receive, the places we eat family meals. And we’re changing, as people, as we experience all these things.

Well over fifty years ago Harrison Street in Alexandria ceased to be my main street. The Madison County fair was no longer an annual event. Mom was no longer alive. Of course, those years of paper routes, classrooms, playing in the streets have shaped who I am today, but I am no longer a child just as I am longer the adult focused on family and career that I was in Minnesota.

Wherever you go, there you change.

Kate and a wandering Woolly

Midsommar                                                                        Most Heat Moon

Back ouching yesterday, still this morning. Annoying.

20170405_152848Drove the hour out to Denver International to get Kate. Found Scott Simpson with her at the arrival gate. He’s on his way to Carbondale to see his son. We took him to Union Station where he planned to board a Bustang for the rest of his trip. Scott’s reading Homo Deus right now and says it’s rocking his world. Good to see him.

Kate hopped up front after we dropped him off. Well, hopped might be a bit too spry. Moved up front. She looked great, the vacation agreed with her health. She’s a flatlander and a child of the humid east. Her dry mouth was much better in Minnesota and Iowa as was the O2 concentration.

She and Anne drove to Nevada, Iowa, both having reunions, 55th and 50th. They had a good time. On her return to Minneapolis Kate stayed with her long time friend Penny Bond and caught up with her lunch lady friends, Mary Thorpe and Jane West.

Good to have her home.



October 2017
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