We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Rising

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

20161112_183554A beautiful day in the neighborhood yesterday. Blue sky. White clouds. Mountains covered with the many shades of green possible after a week of good rain. Maxwell Creek and Bear Creek headed to the Gulf with lots of energy. Lucky we live in the Rockies.

Kate had a good echocardiogram yesterday and a good visit with Tatiana, her cardiologist. It was a long day for her though and by the end she’d expended more than her daily allotment of K.U.’s, Kate energy units. She supervised the challah and it turned out tasty and beautiful. This is no minor feat at 8,800 feet since water doesn’t reach 212 degrees and all parts of the baking process, from flour selection to oven temperature and rising of the bread, change as a result. Ruth did it, but Kate made sure it worked.

On the long list of things to be grateful for these last two days have put a line under family and Shadow Mountain.

Life Improving

Beltane                                                                                                 Sumi-e Moon

Pulled a couple of t-bones out of the freezer yesterday. Two inch thick. But chewy. Still, the flavor was good. Mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. Saturday night meal with my sweetheart.

20180513_105811Kate looks and feels so much better. The pain is gone in her right shoulder which created a lot of stress throughout the day and made sleeping difficult, requiring vicodin from time to time. She’s exercising regularly as she goes through her p.t., using the pulley we set up in her sewing room, using a walking stick for two-handed shoulder movements, rolling an exercise ball.

Sjogren’s, right now, is manageable, which it seems to be in the absence of a flair. Her weight is headed up, zigzagging, as weight can, but moving in a positive direction. Her energy level and stamina are both much improved. She’s sewing favors, mug rugs, for a Bailey Patchworkers event in August for which she is the food chairperson.

20180414_162058Jon, too, has positive news. He bought some appliances, a Viking cooktop and two wall ovens, a microwave and dishwasher. He also had a date which he described as amazing. Ruth is out of school, Gabe is next week and I believe Jon finishes the week after. He has the summer for working on his house, something he’s looking forward to. I plan to help him with his landscaping.

SeoAh had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic and ended up in the emergency room. She’s better now. Joe’s doing major things. Murdoch continues to get bigger.

I’m doing well. Back at Jennie’s Dead, closing in on 50,000 words, printing out Ancientrails. I’m only up to April of 2008, but I’m making progress. I named this moon sumi-e so I can get a more organized approach to working with the brushes, learning instead of just playing. Which is fun, too. Reading a lot. Finished God Save Texas and went on from that to Rovelli’s Order of Time which I also finished. Right now I’m reading short stories by Robert Aickman. He’s weird. Surprised I never heard of him before now.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition runs from March 16 to Sept. 3, 2018 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The exhibition showcases ancient artifacts predominantly from Israel. Photo courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Today 24 of us from Beth Evergreen are going in to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Rabbi Jamie’s brother, a Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies, will give us a personal tour.

Speaking of stress reducers, we’ve had rain and even snow yesterday, for the last few days. More on moisture ahead, too. Tamps down fire risk. Also makes the mountains atmospheric. Lots of mist and fog, partial glimpses. Black Mountain as Gypsy Rose Lee.

Night on Bald Mountain

Beltane                                                             Sumi-e Moon

Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park

On Sunday night we had a thunder storm. While growing up and living in the Midwest, close to sea level and in the humid east, we didn’t think about cloud heights much. Clouds are way up there; we’re down here. Straightforward.

But look at this definition: Cumulus clouds are low-level clouds, generally less than 2,000 m (6,600 ft). Well. Here on Shadow Mountain we are at 8,800 feet. Over the last week we’ve been within many cumulus clouds, dense fog advisories being common, not because of an ocean, but because of our elevation.

That thunder storm Sunday night was relentless. Lightning strikes, bright flashes, big thunder. And a lot of the time it felt like it was happening right where we were. It probably was. This was being in a thunderstorm, not under it.

Quite the experience. Naps the next day all round.

Good-Bye Mountain Moon

Beltane                                                                                  Mountain Moon

Black Mountain, Friday

Black Mountain, Friday

The mountain moon will disappear over the next few days; but, its impact, like that of the new shoulder moon, will continue. I’m now picking up mountain facts, art, poetry, science, including a lot of vulcanology. The mountains that I see everyday speak to me in new ways. See what you’re looking at.

Here’s an example. While on our way to Evergreen the other day, Kate said, “Oh, look. Leaves on the aspens!” This was near the entrance to the Cub Creek trailhead. Sure enough, a grove of aspen (clones of each other) had small bright green leaves. But. As we went further down Brook Forest Drive, the aspens were not leafed out. Their leaves were still furled, mostly colorless. Why? What about the soil, water, location with other trees made that one batch of aspen leaf out earlier than almost all the others we saw further down? Still don’t know.

Another. The last few days have been rainy and foggy. As we passed rock faces bare of trees, the fog and mist on them gave a perfect simulacrum of the Song dynasty paintings that I love, mountains seeming to emerge from and disappear into the clouds.

Another and ongoing aspect of becoming native to this place.

Terraforming. Buck Rogers, eat your heart out

Beltane                                                                                    Mountain Moon

Kim Stanley Robinson: Red, Blue, Green Mars meet the proposal.

Generosity of the Heart, Nedivut ha-lev

Beltane                                                                             Mountain Moon

20180228_182023Another recovery hallmark. Kate drove yesterday, went out on her own for the first time since March 22nd! The bank, a few groceries, gas. When doing these errands feels routine, they can be mindless or even a nuisance; but, this sort of moment allows us a glimpse into the ordinary miracles that make up what we think of as normal, usual. We can get up from the chair, pick up the keys, start the car, drive to the grocery store, the gas station, the bank.

So different from not being able to get out of the chair, being unable to pick up the keys, being too physically impaired to drive. That milk, the bread, the full gas tank, the money in your pocket then become unobtainable. Not a nuisance, not something to go through as if by habit. No. These are vital, though small, increments of  life, necessary and significant in themselves. Worthy of attention, even celebration.

nedivut ha lev6Mussar Vaad Practice Group last night. Vaad = sharing without comments. Mussar = Jewish ethics focused on developing middah, character traits. This is a group, partly because of its nature, partly because of its members that has become a Woolly Mammoth equivalent for me, a place where I can be transparent, share, look inside, gain from the ancientrails that others walk.

Marilyn brought in an article about a child of pogrom survivors. This woman felt she had  to be perfect, show that she was worth saving, worth the sacrifices her parents made. An awful burden. She started her own company by the age of 30, then slowly fell apart in her thirties. Discovering compassion, nedivut ha lev, generosity of the heart, led her to a new way of life. In particular she talked about self-compassion. “Talk,” she said, “to yourself as you would to a good friend.”

Snowing here this morning, fat heavy flakes. Rained and snowed yesterday. All moisture good, welcome.

 

 

Beltane 2018

Beltane                                                                                         Mountain Moon

cernunnosEarth has come round the sun again to the second half of the Celtic year, marked by Beltane or Mayday, the start of the growing season. I’m going to try something new this Beltane and introduce at least a half year’s emphasis, a theme of sorts. Mountains. Yes, I’m working on Jennie’s Dead and the sumi-e and qabbalah, but I want to extend the mountain moon’s influence to Samain, to Summer’s End, six months away. On that day, the Celtic New Year, I’ll reassess.

Beltane is the day when the horned god, Cernunnos, and the Maiden aspect of the triple goddess consummate their sacred marriage which fertilizes mother earth and gives energy to plant and animal life for the season of sun and warmth. The spring ephemerals lance their way toward the sun daffodils, grape hyacinths, bitter-root, crocus among others. The color palette shifts from grays and whites and browns to wild purples, vibrant yellows, subtle whites, deep blues. Buds come on the trees. Animal babies begin their perilous lives here in the mountains. This is the true easter, the moment of resurrection. Celebrate, celebrate, dance to the music.

beltane_2017On this day a market week would commence among the ancient Celts, one where handfast marriages could be performed, women would leap over fires to enhance fertility, cattle would be driven between bonfires to ward off disease and young couples would go into the fields and imitate the marriage of Cernunnos and the Maid, adding their magic to that of the god and the goddess.

I want to take into myself that energy, the fecund moment that Beltane offers us, and use it to enhance my appreciation of our mountain home as the earth blossoms forth with food and flowers, new life of all kinds.

Wednesday

Spring                                                                             Mountain Moon

dishesYesterday was d-2 of the new dishwasher era. I have now seen the wonderful word, CLEAN, on its external panel twice. And, after checking, it’s true! I believe, barring trouble, that this brings the dishwasher saga to an end. Blessed be.

We’ve had maybe 8 inches of snow over the last week. All gone. As if it it never happened. 62 yesterday. Blue skies, small cotton balls of cumulus drifting over Black Mountain. Another day in the Rockies.

Kate sewed yesterday! This is a big deal and I’m happy for her. She can get her right arm up to 90 degrees though she still can’t use the shoulder for the most part. Coming along though. Her weight is up and so are her spirits. “I’m so happy I did the surgery.” Me, too.

whelmAfter the initial overwhelm (what’s a whelm*, I wonder?), I’ve been surprised by the good feelings that have come from my part in Kate’s recovery. Doing more, enjoying it more. Though. I will be happy when Kate’s back to full functioning.

Qabbalah last night. A lot of talk about sacred time, about creating sacred time, especially referenting Shabbat. What kind of practices move us toward eternal time? Observing Shabbat is one.

Allan talked about creating characters as an actor. He’s just been cast in two plays. The formation of a character and then the expression of the character on stage is a lot of work, a technical and often demanding process, but it’s ephemeral. After the rehearsals are done and the play has closed, the work disappears. I imagine each character leaves some residue, but I take his overall point that immersion in another identity allows for a glimpse of sacred time.

time, creation and expulsion

The Creation of the World and the Expulsion from Paradise   Giovanni di Paolo (Giovanni di Paolo di Grazia) (Italian, Siena 1398–1482 Siena)  1445

*who knew?

verb

archaic literary
verb: whelm; 3rd person present: whelms; past tense: whelmed; past participle: whelmed; gerund or present participle: whelming
  1. 1.
    engulf, submerge, or bury (someone or something).
    “a swimmer whelmed in a raging storm”
    • flow or heap up abundantly.
      “the brook whelmed up from its source”

noun

archaic literary
noun: whelm; plural noun: whelms
  1. 1.
    an act or instance of flowing or heaping up abundantly; a surge.
    “the whelm of the tide”

Absence makes the heart grow wiser

Spring                                                                            Mountain Moon

Black Mountain white

Black Mountain white

Yes, it arrived. The bad Samsung got hauled away ignominiously with nary a tear of loss or grief. The new Kitchenaid now glares from its Cylon lens, hunting for dirty dishes, pots and pans that need a wash. This morning I walked past it and a single word glowed on the small screen visible from the front: CLEAN. Oh, joy. Oh, bring on the robotic revolution.

interstellar mediumBuddy Bill Schmidt shared a paper sent to him by a friend from JPL, Jet Propulsion Laboratories. It’s title is: Science and Enabling Technologies for Exploration of the Interstellar Medium. Exploring among the stars. I mean, wow. Still an avid reader of science fiction, I thanked Bill and noted in my reply that we live in a time when science fiction and science fact often intersect. One of the delightful realities of living through this particular era.

Since we have a deep freezer drawer filled with ground beef from our quarter we bought last fall, I picked up an important cookbook, The Essentials of Cooking Ground Beef. In it, to both Kate and mine’s delight, is a recipe for the famous Matt’s jucy lucy’s. This recipe is for sliders and last night I divided a pound of hamburger into eight parts, balled them up, dented the ball with my thumb and stuck white cheddar inside. Hmmm. Tasty. Served with frozen Arby’s curly fries, dill pickle slices and haricourt vert. OK, that last dish didn’t really fit, but I always like to have a vegetable and it was available.

jucy-lucy-burger-042

As the photo at the top shows, we did get another round of snow yesterday. Maybe four inches. All of it welcome. Precipitation, especially now, aids to some extent in fire protection and recharges the ground water. When your daily water comes from the ground water, having moisture to replace what’s been used is important. Water is safety as well as life here. Without it we become vulnerable to lightning strikes, visiting campers and the odd animal trying to navigate high voltage power lines.

ch'an

Kabbalah tonight. More about time. Qabbalah is another way to explore the interstellar medium, a matrix of space/time with its deep roots in what I’ve learned the mountain and rivers poets of ancient China called absence. Absence is at the heart of Ch’an Buddhism, that peculiar blend of Taoism and Buddhism that emigrated to Japan to become Zen. Absence is the place of the Tao, the generative force that gives rise to the ten thousand things in all their uniqueness and detail. Learning to penetrate the gauze of sensation and feel your way into the absence behind it leads to enlightenment. In fact, both Ch’an and its child, Zen, believe in instant enlightenment; once you learn this truth in your core, you know what needs knowing. Absence makes the heart grow wiser.

Oh. I did get my cleaning, reorganizing finished. Spiffed up and ready for a return to both writing and sumi-e.

See

Spring                                                                            Mountain Moon

Slate sky behind snow loaded lodgepole pines,

Scraping blades scritch, push, push, push

While more white falls, softening the edges.

Our house has a white roof, like me.

20180327_094904Find myself leaning into a favorite phrase of Bill Schmidt’s, “See what you’re looking at.” It’s a mantra now as I drive in the mountains, trying to see their essence. What about their shape, their altitude, their rock, their trees tell me, this is a mountain? Close looking is a skill, a hard to develop one since distractions of all kinds, a key this-moment-in-time issue, lead us away from direct experience to mediated experience. Close looking, like the close reading of poetry, opens up the unseen, the unexpected.

As I continue to develop my sumi-e skills, I’ve decided I want to focus on only a few things: mountains, Hebrew letters, Tarot major arcana, and objects I’ve used and love like chain-saws and axes, garden tools, bee equipment, maybe dogs, too. I plan to seek what I understand is the central objective of sumi-e painting, expressing the essence, the soul of an object rather than aiming for a Western representational rendering. Good thing, since I don’t have the patience to attend an atelier like my friends Lonnie and Stefan Helgeson.

 

 

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