We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

In A Techno-Desert, Thirsty for Human Interaction

Fall                                                                             Harvest Moon

5:20 am on Shadow Mountain. 43 degrees. 12% humidity. Pressure 22.60. No wind. Crescent moon. All the same without knowing these data points, I know. Still. I like to know them anyhow.

naisbittThis week Thursday I get to see Joe and SeoAh. I’m excited just to see them, to have some high touch in this high tech age. Remember Alvin Toffler? A futurist, he posited that the more complex and sophisticated our technology becomes, the more necessary direct human interaction. (Toffler preceded Naisbitt by at least two years with this idea, but Naisbitt made it a corporate buzz phrase. I find his notion of balance between our physical and spiritual reality an interesting idea.)

True. We exist, at least many of us, especially those younger than a certain age, in a cloud (pun intended) of virtual data. This blog, for example. Facebook. Instagram. Snapchat. Email. Text messages. Twitter. I see, regularly, information and pictures about high school friends, old college friends, friends in Minnesota, family. I don’t use Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, not enough time in a day, but I’m on Facebook at least daily. I send and receive many e-mails, text messages. All this keeps me up to date, to some extent, on people I care about, a gratifying level of connection available, in yesteryear, only to voluminous letter writers.

1954-09 Galaxy Magazine by Ed EmshwillerBut the connection is, of course, partly, maybe mostly, illusory. We get only snippets, usually disconnected snippets. No hugs. No careful listening. No smiles. No touch on the hand during a conversation. No walks. No meals. The further out from our fleshly world, the less real information about another we receive because the context for what we know is very limited.

I don’t happen to see this as bad. I’m grateful for the chance to learn about even parts of the lives of people who once belonged to my fleshly world. But it does create a longing for in person moments, to embrace Joseph and SeoAh, for example. Or, to attend a 55th high school reunion, or show up at a Woolly Retreat in November,which I will not be able to do this year.

High Tech High TouchAs we age and travel becomes more difficult, I imagine this will become an even more poignant issue, extending even into our fleshly world. There’s promise, yes, in telemedicine, for example. We already meet with our financial planner over Skype. How many of our now daily or weekly interactions will become virtual? The key issue here, the one I think Toffler alluded to, though he may not have named it outright, is isolation.

We are on the map of the future where a cartographer might write in florid typescript, “Here there be dragons.” We just don’t know what the combination of high tech and increasingly low touch world might mean. Isolation is deadly, killing the spirit and ravaging the soul. Will we end up in a technological desert, thirsty for real human interaction, seeing it in the shimmering illusions of social media, but not being able to reach it? If so, what can we do about it?

 

The Weather on Shadow Mountain

Fall                                                                       Harvest Moon

20171015_071504Jon put brackets around the pole for the Vantage pro2 weather station. Secured to the deck now with the anemometer up maybe 20 feet off the ground, I’ll attach the weather station itself to the pole this morning. It’s out there right now though and functioning, sending information back to the console.

These are the conditions at 7:20 a.m. this morning, October 15th. Temp outside, 35. Humidity outside, 15%. Barometric pressure 22.60. No wind. No rain or snow.

Next step is to set up the console so I can toggle various data points such as wind chill and dew point. That requires digging back into the manual. After that comes linking the weather station to the internet so I can both share my data and collect it in files for future reference.

tornado-risk-mapThis system is not as important on Shadow Mountain as it was in Andover because we have no orchard or a garden, but it feeds a lifelong interest in the weather, a hobby of sorts. Alexandria, Indiana, where I was raised, is in tornado alley, as is my home state of Oklahoma. The weather could get you.

A group of Twin Cities’ residents shared weather data and commentary on the Minneapolis Star-Tribune website for a couple of years. I used my weather station for very localized weather reporting. That was fun, but it got onerous. It made me realize how much work it is to forecast or even comment on the weather each day, throughout the day.

Vantage pro

Vantage pro

Here in the Rockies our weather changes from valley to valley, from altitude to altitude, mountain to mountain. Many, many microclimates. That means weather reporting and forecasting is often too broad in its sweep to accurately predict what’s going to be happening on, say, Black Mountain Drive.

The weather itself here, unlike the tornadoes of Indiana or the deep, dangerous cold of Minnesota, is not so severe, but the local effects of the weather can be devastating. When the humidity is low, winds are high, and there’s been no moisture for a while, then we get red flag warnings. Wildfire danger goes up and down with these conditions. Since winter is our humid season, it’s usually less worrisome in that regard.

It’s fun to have the console up and the weather station functioning.

 

populus tremuloides

Fall                                                                     Harvest Moon

Aspen in our yard

Aspen in our yard

Lower down, toward Evergreen, many of the aspen have retained their gold leaves, but up here many of the leaves formerly known as gold have turned brown and black, then begun to fall off. When the aspen leaves fall, their gray-white bark still makes them stand out against the green of the lodgepole pine, but the effect is stark, skeletal.

Aspen’s are interesting. If you’ve ever had one in your yard, their most distinctive characteristic can be quite a pain. They reproduce from roots, sending up new trunks at different spots. This means that in aspen groves the trees are genetically identical, or, said another way, they’re all the same tree spread out over a considerable distance.

This has prompted a curious competition between my adopted home state of Colorado and our immediate neighbor to the west, Utah. Which one has the world’s largest living organism? Aspen groves can be quite large, large enough to qualify by mass as the world’s largest living organisms. For example, from this article: “…the Pando grove in Utah’s Fishlake National Forest contains around 47,000 trunks, which collectively weigh more than 13 million pounds.” That’s pretty damned big.

20170923_065501When I post a picture like this one, in other words, you think you’re looking at many aspen trees on the side of Black Mountain. In fact you’re looking at only a few distinct trees with many, many trunks.

I’m going to investigate this a bit further because it has just occurred to me that this doesn’t, at first glance, seem to be a wise evolutionary strategy. Each trunk of the aspen grove requires nutrients from the soil which means to me that each trunk of this widely dispersed single tree has to compete with the other for a limited amount of nutrients. Over time it would seem they would deplete the soil of the nutrients they need. Curious.

The aspen grove did a lot of heavy lifting at Beth Evergreen over the High Holy Days. The comparison of a synagogue to an aspen grove meant we were all connected to each other, our communal life linked in an intimate way. A somewhat strained idea in my opinion, but you see the point.

aspensThe aspen grove is a wonderful example of the confusion our senses can bring to us. When we look at the grove, we see individual trees. But, no. There is an occult connection, hidden below the earth’s surface, that binds them together and makes them one. It’s not hard, when contemplating the aspen grove, to return to the angel with the flaming sword guarding the gates of Eden. As I suggested a few posts below, that angel can be seen as language, which both conceals and reveals; it reveals itself as language, but conceals the pathway to the Tree of Life. Behind the angel lies paradise.

In a similar way our senses give us individual trees in an aspen grove, but that perception conceals the aspen’s true nature as one organism. Each time you see an aspen grove, you experience in miniature the true experience our senses give us: Where there is an underlying unity, we see discrete things. The aspen grove can help remind us that our senses lie, if not by commission, then certainly by omission.

 

 

White Gold

Fall                                                                                 Harvest Moon

A few pictures from our first significant snow of the season:

Yesterday morning

Yesterday morning

Black Mountain yesterday

Black Mountain 

The aspens are the flames of summers heat leaving the mountains

The flames of summer’s heat leaving the mountains

Before the Storm

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

Wow. Barely into October and I pushed about 5 inches of fluffy, but still wet snow off the back deck just now. The snow began before midnight last night. Thanks to winds blowing from the east, an upslope storm, we’ll get the bulk of its moisture. We’ll probably be on the upper end of the 7-10 inch forecast. This is a relatively rare event where the eastern Front Range gets more snow than the ski areas further west. Still snowing. Will continue, according to the forecast, through late afternoon today.

by Jeremiah, of Sarah, Kates sister

by Jeremiah, of Sarah, Kate’s sister

The weekend had that urgency before the storm feel to it, the first big storm of the season. On Saturday the fines got mowed and I worked on uncrating our Jeremiah Miller paintings. He’s my brother-in-law and an excellent artist. If you remember our Andover house, these are the two very large paintings that hung in the living room and our bedroom. A1 Movers crated them in December of 2014 and they’ve been in their specialized shipping containers since then.

The crates, very sturdy, are taller than I am and heavy. They were clumsy to move. I could maneuver the smaller one onto a small table made of saw horses and a slab of plywood, but the bigger one was too heavy. Jon helped me with that yesterday. Until I opened them, we had no idea how the paintings had fared. The smaller one is in good shape. I plan to open the bigger one today. The dry air here helps, at least in the short run. Over time it might advance the drying out of the paint and cause craquelure, something I’ll have to look into.

The energy surge I get when the air cools down kicked in a couple of weeks ago. It’s reinforced by 20 years of early fall gardening work in Andover. This was the time when the garlic got planted, the last of the leeks, onions, kale, collard greens, beans, beets, lettuce harvested and flower bulbs dug in. The raspberries were ripening constantly and the apples, too. It was also the time of wood cutting and splitting for our fire pit.

I got out the chainsaw and decided to cut stumps left standing from the fire mitigation work a couple of years ago. An Iraq vet, Julie, who heats with wood, stopped by on Friday and asked if she could have the bucked wood. Kate said yes and Julie carted off all of it, front and back. We still have a few dead trees that need to come down so we’ll have firewood. That left just the stumps and they stood out even more.

 a good and trusted tool for over twenty years

a good and trusted tool for over twenty years

The Jonsered I’ve had for twenty plus years, the one I used to cut down the large stand of black locust to clear the way for our gardens and to keep the woods cleared of snags, is past its usefulness. I should have had it rebuilt several years ago apparently. Chainsaw Bob said it’s not fixable. It’s hard to start and dies suddenly. Frustrating. Got four or five stumps cut close to the ground, difficult to do since it involves bending over and holding the saw level with the soil, as close as possible to the surface. Then I noticed I’d been too close to the soil and the saw blade had gone into it. Instant dullness. Gonna go see Chainsaw Bob and see if he has a rebuilt Jonsered I can buy. I’ve got many stumps to cut and those few dead trees.

Also hung the Arcosanti bell Kate got in Arizona years ago. It tolls when the wind blows and we decided long ago that its peeling memorializes our dead dogs. Noticed that the small diamond shaped windcatcher that makes it toll had fallen off, but couldn’t find it. We’ll have to create something in place of it.

typhonIt was a week of this sort of activity, getting ready for the storm, catching up on errands. My exercise, Jennie’s Dead work suffered, but my choice. This week I’m back at all of that, going to On the Move Fitness on Thursday for a new workout.

Jennie’s Dead is going well. Not sure what I’m doing with it, at least not completely. I’m retelling versions of certain myths and those retellings have become extended. I find them great fun to write, but I’m wondering now if they’re overwhelming the main story line. The Typhon/Zeus fight for control of Olympus has a lot of nuance.

Ancora Imparo. I’m still learning.

Mowing the Fines

Fall                                                                 Harvest Moon

January, 2017

January, 2017

As the post below shows, we’re setup to get our first winter storm. We’ve had some snow, though it came and went in Colorado fashion, fast. This one will likely change things here by chilling the ground and preparing the way for snow that actually hangs around a bit. It’s early October, so that’s a bit of a surprise. Looking forward to it, in the way only retired folk can. No commute down the hill, slipping and sliding as everybody tries to remember how to do this. It is way too early to put on the snow tires, isn’t it?

Yesterday was beautiful and today is predicted to be the same. Highs in the 60’s. Mowed the fuel yesterday. Four times this year, I think. We don’t really have a lawn, just lodgepole pines, a few aspen, some rock and bunch grass, though the leach field has a nice plot of green. All those nutrients we send out each day. Reason to mow is to keep what the wildfire folk call “fines”, as in fine fuel, not trees or shrubs, from growing too high. When the fines dry out, they can spread a fire quickly and if there are low hanging branches (below 10 feet) fire can spread from fines to trees. This is known as ladder fuel. The grass burns, a branch catches, then the tree, then its neighbor. After that. Forest fire.

Mitigation, 2015

Mitigation, 2015

Wildfire mitigation has been a primary concern for me since we got here, but after reading Megafire, by Michael Kodas, I have a different perspective. Most of the wildfire mitigation strategies are for ecosystems lower than ours where the ponderosa pines predominate. They tend to have the lower branches, though they are also much more fire resistant than lodgepoles. Much thicker bark and generally bigger, more widely spaced trees. Kodas points out that lodgepole/aspen forests,  dominant in the higher elevations of montane ecosystem between 6,500 and 9,500 feet (we’re at 8,800.), tend to have forest clearing fires every 100 to 300 years.

That means we have less frequent fire risk than the lower elevations, but, when the fire comes it will likely be a crown fire, jumping from treetop to treetop in the closely spaced groves of lodgepole pine. No fire mitigation will protect against a crown fire. When I had the deputy chief of the Elk Creek Fire Department out here to talk about fire mitigation, he said when it comes, a fire will sweep up from the valley through which we drive to get to Evergreen. “Nothing will stand in the way of it,” he said.

crown fireIn a localized fire, mitigation can help a lot. Our house is now pretty well protected with the ignition zone, about 30 feet out from the house, cleared of trees and the trees just at that zone and somewhat further out have had their branches cut to above 10 feet. We have fire-rated shingles and I mow the fines. I’ve not had the gutters cleaned, which is a potential problem, but we’ll get to that next spring. With a flat, short driveway, access from a well tended county road and mitigation our house stands a very good chance of survival. In a crown fire though, no combination of mitigation strategies will keep it standing.

All this means we’ve done what we can. There’s not been a burn here for over a century so our risk, though not high, does exist. We have a lower risk of fire at any one point in time than our lower neighbors. But, when it comes, better be out of here.

So, the key for us now is to have a good disaster plan, a way to make sure we get out what we want and need if we have to evacuate. On Oct. 15th a member of Beth Evergreen is doing a presentation on just that. We’re somewhat of the way there, but we could use some sharpening up.

Weather Forecast Mountain Style

Fall                                                                   Harvest Moon

Jefferson and West Douglas Counties Above 6000 Feet/Gilpin/Clear Creek/Northeast Park Counties Below 9000 Feet Severe Watches & Warnings

Winter Storm Warning
Issued: 4:14 AM MDT Oct. 8, 2017 – National Weather Service
... Winter Storm Warning in effect from 9 PM this evening to 3 PM
MDT Monday... 

* what... heavy snow expected. Plan on difficult travel conditions,
  including during the morning commute on Monday. Total snow
  accumulations of 6 to 10 inches, with localized amounts up to 14 
  inches, are expected.

* Where... Rocky Mountain National Park and the Medicine Bow 
  range, the mountains of Summit County, the Mosquito Range, and 
  the Indian Peaks, the northern Front Range foothills and the 
  southern Front Range foothills

Gasthaus

Fall                                                                                     Harvest Moon

Bull and doe, Evergreen Lake, 2015

Bull and doe, Evergreen Lake, 2015

Coming out of Beth Evergreen last night the full harvest moon hung over the town, silver and wonderful. It limned the mountains, highlighted the blue in the spruce tips on the drive back up Shadow Mountain. Earlier in the evening we saw several mule deer on the way down the mountain, does and bucks, then five or six of the much larger elk wandering around, ironically, right below a flashing Elk Crossing sign.

The Arapaho National Forest wraps around Black Mountain Drive/Brook Forest Drive so as we make our way up and down the mountains into Evergreen we’re surrounded not by residential development, though there is some, but mostly by forest, lodgepole pines, aspen higher up, Colorado blue spruce and ponderosa pine lower down that come right up to the road, as does the slope of the various mountains we pass.

Black Mountain, 2017

Black Mountain, 2017

At night this drive activates my fantasy life. I imagine the mountain lions and bears, the mule deer and the elk, the skunks, pine martens, pikas, Abert and red squirrels, an occasional bull snake all living there, either in hiding or bedded down or up and stealthily pursuing their next meal. Though the portion of the Arapaho National Forest where we are is not wilderness, it does abut the Mt. Evans Wilderness Area and Staunton State Park. Once in awhile moose come through our area, too, though they’re mostly toward the west, in Staunton and toward Bailey. This is the WUI, pronounced wooee, the wildlife/urban interface.

You could say we don’t belong here, we humans, that this mountainous land belongs to the mountain lion and the bear, the magpies and the Great Horned Owls. And you would be right, of course. Yet the truth is we humans do not have a place uniquely ours. We’re an adaptable species, able to live on islands, on the coasts of great oceans, lakes and rivers, on deserts and vast fertile plains. We’ve spread from Africa, where we roamed the veldt, hunting and gathering over vast stretches of land, to colder climates in the north and to all the continents of the planet.

Black Mountain, September, 2017

Black Mountain, September, 2017

I say we do belong here, but only as guests, as itinerant cousins of the wild animals, the sturdy pines. But, then, we are guests, too, on the Great Plains stretching north and south in the center of North America. Guests, too, on Iceland, Greenland, Britain. Guests as well in the Himalayas, in the jungles of the Congo and on the Sahara. Guests in the high Andes and on the distant lands of Tierra del Fuego.

As guests we have to realize we share our living space with species not as adaptable as we are. As guests we owe it to our neighbors to make our presence as unintrusive as possible, as honoring as possible. One manifestation of this honor is driving with care, going more slowly than perhaps we might want because our neighbors could need to cross the road. Another part of it is to see that the land we own (ha. that we temporarily inhabit) is as friendly to the locals as it can be. That we don’t poison the land, that we don’t build more than we need.

I tend to think of it as living in a vast apartment building. Our noise level, our lights, our motors, our driveways all impact the folks living in the next place. So we need to be considerate. When we leave our apartment, when our time as guests of Shadow Mountain and the Arapaho Forest is over, the neighbors remain. They own the condos and they can’t move. Leaving the place better than we found it is the least we can do.

Kavod

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

We’ve had snow. Again yesterday. Modest accumulation since the ground is still too warm. These are the days when snow mixes with the golden aspen leaves, throwing white into the green and gold colors of Mountain High. Go, Shadows.

Yesterday I finished my work on kavod. Here’s the end of it:

Text #3   “Kavod is translated as honour/respect. Kavod is way beyond good manners and saying please and thank you. It’s seeing the spiritual value of a human being and yourself. The greater sense of my own value, the more I don’t need to search for the approval of others and the more I am able to honour other people and see a sense of their value. If I give genuine kavod to another person than they in turn will value and respect me. We say “kodosh, kodosh, kodosh, the entire world is filled with the Kavod/honour of Hashem”.  http://www.shortvort.com/mussar/10450-kavod>

Rabbi Eliezer said: “Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own.” Morinis, Everyday Holiness, p. 114

Before this text I added an image of Claude Monet’s:

Claude_Monet_-_Claude Monet, Haystacks, (sunset), 1890–1891, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Haystacks, (sunset), 1890–1891, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Monet, of course, was part of the Impressionist movement, committed to painting the colors as they were at particular moment in a particular place. They let the colors build the image rather than using color as a tool to build the image in a way that pleased their aesthetic.

This is similar, I think, to the notion of kavod. With kavod we look into the essence of ourselves and others, see that essence and let it build our image of ourselves and the other, rather than using our biases, our assumptions, our judgments. Just as the impressionists did, though, we have to know that our perceptions of that essence change from moment even though the essence, the imago dei, may remain the same. (I have some disagreement with the notion of soul, or essence, as a sort of Platonic archetype, constant and unchanging.)

Anyhow, I’m looking forward to this gathering of the MVP. I’ve done my awe work for the last month and am ready to get started on kavod.

Out With The Old Season

Fall                                                                     Harvest Moon

Snow this morning. Coming down in fat flakes, wet, the small deck outside the backdoor slick. I let the dogs out briefly before their breakfast and they slipped a little. They have to relearn to drive on snow and ice just like us humans. We took an abrupt right turn last week away from a fading summer and toward late fall. This was Black Mountain on Wednesday of last week.

20170928_081848

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