We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

So cold

Samain                                                               Bare Aspen Moon

668-zero-630x522The great wheel has turned again, moving Orion further down the southwestern horizon in the early morning. The air is cooler here. A Beth Evergreen friend, Alan, came in to the kabbalah class and announced, “Winter is really here. It’s so cold outside!” It was 22. Now in my fourth winter season here I’ve stopped commenting.

Temperature tolerance is so much about perspective. I saw a meme on Facebook that featured two parka clad folk with frost on the edges of their hoods. “What people in Texas are like if the temperature dips below 80.” A man from Texas wrote, “This is true.” Another posted a photograph of a red bench rest with two snow flakes, “It’s a blizzard in Dallas!”

faith-in-what-will-beThose -40 degree nights at Valhelga during one Woolly retreat. Working out on my snowshoes in the woods behind the library in Anoka, -20 degrees. The moments of -50 degree wind chill. Days with the temperature below zero, many days in a row. Minnesota. Not a lot of snow, but pretty damned cold.

And, yes, my body has begun to change its reaction, 22 does seem cold. Yet my brain. Nope. T-shirt weather. Rock the sandals and the shorts.

The Winter Solstice, no matter what the temperature, is coming. My favorite time of the year.

Hooray for the Pumpkin Pie

Samain                                                                      Bare Aspen Moon

20171123_063842

My phone camera didn’t do it justice, but Thanksgiving came in over Black Mountain with a gorgeous pink cloud, a penumbra of gold light on Black Mountain itself and a glow over our home. May the rest of the day, and especially the capon, be as beautiful.

Finished the pancetta and fig stuffing by celebrity felon, Martha Stewart, last night. It smells like it will be as good as I imagined. The capon-yes, we have it-thawed out and will go in the oven around 11:00 a.m. Kate made a pumpkin pie and got the caramelized yams ready. Ruthie’s pecan pie is covered in foil. She’s also bringing deviled eggs. They’re planning on coming up around noon or so.

Last night, for some strange reason, the neighbor had his sledge hammer out, using it to pound on a plastic garbage container. For quite a while. Don’t know if his mother or his mother-in-law or both are coming today.

thanksgiving-farm-harvest-postcard

We will be saying our gratefuls around 2 p.m. I’m grateful for you if you’re reading this. I’m also grateful for all the love here: dogs, Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe, Annie. I’m also grateful for the lodgepole pine that spent millions of years acclimating themselves to this particular altitude. And for the clouds and the mountains, which have such great altitude, and the streams and the mule deer. The elk, the red and gray fox, the moose, the mountain lions, the bears, the marmots and pikas. The rattlesnakes. The available oxygen in the atmosphere and the amazing organs we have that convert it to our use. So many things. Endless really. Thankful for all of them, now and forever.

 

Over the River and Through the Woods. To the meat locker.

Samain                                                                              Bare Aspen Moon

13 degrees here this morning. About an inch of snow overnight. Thanksgiving, requiring the horse to find the way to Grandma’s house, is almost upon us.

Over the river and through the woods,
To grandmother’s house we go;
The horse knows the way to carry the sleigh,
Through (the) white and drifted snow!

Yep. They’ll cross the Platte and Cherry Creek and the Mississippi (in the air), drive through valleys and up mountains to get here.

Over the river and through the woods,
Now Grandmother’s cap I spy!
Hurrah for the fun! Is the pudding done?
Hurrah for the pumpkin pie!

Grandmother sans cap

Grandmother sans cap

And, yes, we’re going to have a capon. Capons are mystery meat to the clan of Colorado butchers. Even at Elizabeth Meat Locker yesterday a worker there looked blank when I asked about capons. “What are they?” “Chickens with their balls cut off. They get fat.” Oh.

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

Guanella Pass, an ancientrail. Friendship, an ancientrail

After having breakfast and goodbye with Tom and Bill at the Lakeshore Cafe in Evergreen, I picked up Kate and we took the grand circle route to complete two errands. They both required our presence in the physical world, something I note with greater frequency these days. There are things that absolutely require showing up in person and they often involve physical objects that have to be picked up and moved from one place to another.

In this instance, Diana had finished her work on the cushions for the Jon built benches in our dining area and the Elizabeth Meat Locker had finished carving up our quarter of beef. Diana is in Lakewood, off Sheridan Avenue, a left hand turn from Hwy 285. She’s a friendly woman, proud of her work. And, the cushions look good. Not installed quite yet, due to cleaning required first, but they will support Thanksgiving guests.

ColoradoAfter carrying the two cushions and the remaining fabric, about 3 yards, out to the car, Kate and I drove off in a southeasterly direction toward the high plains town of Elizabeth. We turned east at Castle Rock on Colorado 86. 86 heads resolutely away from the mountains, which are in the rearview the whole way. Elizabeth is a small agricultural town, known to any Midwesterner in its general outline and types of stores and shops. That’s why I said not long after we moved that the Midwest washes up here against the solid reef of the Rocky Mountains and finally disappears. In Elizabeth Kate and I were on familiar turf.

The Meat Locker has several letters missing in its sign and the building could use tuck pointing over its entire surface, but the folks are friendly. They butcher locally raised (Jefferson and Park County being local in this instance.) grass fed animals. The guy who didn’t know what a capon was helped us load our quarter of a beef into the truck using three cardboard trays with handles. We’ve almost finished last year’s beef so this amount seems about right for us.

On the way home Grandma rested, her feet placed over the vent which blew cool air. “The bee’s knees,” she said.

Brick Mortar vs Online - BannerCushions, a frozen beef quarter, groceries these are a few of the physical objects that we still use our truck to retrieve. I imagine at some point we’ll have an economy that divides itself between physical objects that have to be moved, including your own body to doctor’s appointments, for instance, and physical objects that can be purchased online and delivered. I know we’re already there with online sales, but I mean a situation where the economy consciously organizes itself by these categories. Right now we have a transitional situation between brick and mortar businesses built under the old, we have to go there to get it paradigm, and an online retail economy powered to our homes by the USPS, Fedex or UPS. It’s clumsy and not always transparent which is better, online or physical shopping. I think that will sort itself out over the next decade or so, maybe a bit more.

 

Getting Things Done

Samain                                                                                   Joe and SeoAh Moon

typhonIt’s been a while now since I got good writing done on Jennie’s Dead. I’ve gotten a bit done on two new projects, Rocky Mountain Vampire and my version of the Way of a Pilgrim, but mostly I’ve been focused on keeping up with kabbalah, mussar and Hebrew, working out and getting stuff done around the house.

This latter, getting the chainsaw in for repairs, setting up a time to talk house insurance with our broker, hanging a set of decorative lights out front, making chicken noodle soup, moving paintings, cleaning up the garage is driven by two forces: Jon’s finally moving out and the onset of winter. The onset of winter motivation is conditioned by 20 years of gardening and caring for bees and property in Minnesota. There, once winter sets in some outdoor things simply cannot be done. Too damned cold. Frozen ground. Lots of snow. That sort of thing.

Up here, see the post below, winter is more episodic. One day it’s challenging to get to the mailbox, the next day it’s totally dry, maybe even warm. Still, the coming of snow and cold and ice pushes a conditioned response. Get the nest warm and cozy. Now.

While my productivity meter is the positive range, I feel scattered. Part of that is the evening events at Beth Evergreen: Gary Hart on Sunday, Difficult Conversations on Tuesday and kabbalah last night. After my knee surgery, I started going to bed early, 8 pm, and getting up early, usually between 4:30 and 5:00. All of these evenings pushed past 9 pm and one went closer to 10. That leaves me tired and not as able intellectually. My mind does not work nearly as well under these circumstances, gone are the days of cramming and long nights with the books.

20170919_155736I also feel scattered because I consider my writing primary and when I let it slide, I feel like I’m shirking even if I’m getting other stuff done. Yet, to contradict this, Kate and I have done a lot together, the Gary Hart and Difficult Conversations evenings, putting up the lights, getting ready to work on the garage, studying Hebrew. And that feels great. I love being with her, getting thing done with her.

Mostly I solve this kind of dilemma with a schedule, a routine that keeps space for writing, for time with Kate, for time to work on the house, for time to study and be active at Beth Evergreen. Right now, that’s been interrupted and I’m feeling a little down, a little off.

I do remember the quote that goes something like, “Those aren’t interruptions, that’s your life calling.”

Looking forward next week to the visit of Bill Schmidt and Tom Crane. Oh, the fun we will have.

Stranger Things

Samain                                                                    Joe and SeoAh Moon

Yesterday

Yesterday

Colorado weather. Looking at it from 40 years in Minnesota, where only a snow fence stands between Minnesotans and the North Pole, Colorado weather is weird. On Tuesday night Kate and I drove home from a discussion about difficult conversations at Beth Evergreen. Snow blew into our path, hard enough that putting on the brights clouded rather than helped our vision. Snow covered the roads, they were slick and the familiar drive up Brook Forest to Black Mountain Drive went much slower than normal. When we got home, I shoveled off the back deck and we settled into a night that got down to 19 degrees.

Yesterday, exactly 24 hours later, I drove home from kabbalah on perfectly dry roads, a clear sky above with the Joe and Seoah moon. Our solar panels had no snow cover and earlier in the afternoon the weather had warmed enough that putting bulbs in the light fixture I’d strung in front of the house was a pleasant task. Save for remnant patches of snow on lawns, in shaded parts of the forest, it was as if the snow had never been.

Language of the Dumb

Samain                                                                      Joe and SeoAh Moon

moon-to-the-moonWhen Kate and I came home from the Gary Hart presentation on Sunday night, the moon, nearly full, rode low on the horizon, huge and white, half covered by scudding clouds. It then played with us like a bubble dancer, grabbing this cumulus and that one to cover itself, showing more then less of the old man on its face. After the horizon was no longer visible the moon shone through the lodgepole pines of the Arapaho National Forest, illuminating this home to wild critters as we climbed the mountains on our way to Black Mountain Drive.

The everyday and everynight beauty of these mountains still makes my heart sing, now almost three full years into this move. Yesterday coming up Shadow Mountain Drive, it came to me that I was learning the rhythms here, driving with more confidence because it was daytime and the deer, the elk normally show up at dawn and dusk. At that exact moment, as this thought came to me, a movement on the shoulder caught my eye. A fox. A healthy red-orange fox with a huge bushy tail had started out to cross the road, noticed me coming and paused. The mountains had spoken.

1509361960968The language, the speech of the inanimate and the dumb, is all around us, sending us clear messages. Dogs are an obvious example. The longer you live with dogs, especially multiple dogs, the more their language becomes clear. The lean, the movement toward a door, the excited dance, the playful bow, the bark of warning, the one of joy. Friend Bill Schmidt, a farmer as well a nuclear engineer and cyber mage, has told me of dairy cattle and their affections.

As a gardener, the soil communicated with me through the health or dis-ease of the plants Kate and I grew. If the leaves were less than a deep green, I suspected missing soil nutrients and worked to correct them. The plants themselves told me when they were too dry with droopy leaves, when they needed pruning with too many branches or stalks, when they were ready to yield their work for the season.

On a more mystical level three mule deer visited me on the Samain afternoon when I first came to this house. We stood, eye to eye, for several minutes as they told me they lived here, were my neighbors, that we would be together after that moment, that we were welcome. They came not for feed or attention, but as emissaries, messengers, angels of the mountain and the forest.

The sky tells us what weather comes, then delivers it to us, helping us gauge the nature of our changing climate. In this same way people we meet communicate to us through body language, a hunched shoulder, a slight turn away, eyes that light on some aspect of a room. All around us language, everywhere communication. If only we see.

Kabbalah says so, too

Fall                                                                                  Joe and SeoAh Moon (and Murdoch, too)

from Post Secret.

magical

pope

 

Mountain Life

Fall                                                                             Joe and SeoAh’s Moon

happy camper2Business meeting at the Crow Hill Cafe. This a modest place, a hometown joint. It has regulars, including us, several were in yesterday morning. There were the two older ladies who parked their car at a diagonal in the parallel places, paid for their breakfast out of envelopes and shared a meal. There was the long table of folks, maybe a church group, who chat. Well, most of them chat. One guy with long hair and a beard, an older biker, must have hearing loss from loud pipes. He TALKS REALLY LOUD. There was, too, a table of three men with WWII or Korea hats, talking about The War. Older than Kate and me. Because it’s on 285, Crow Hill also gets tourists headed west toward South Park.

One reason we choose Crow Hill Cafe on Tuesdays is that Happy Camper has 20% off on edibles on Tuesdays. Your average dispensary, we’ve been in a few, has a definite sixties, Haight-Ashbury vibe, but I’m not sure it’s intentional. Most of the workers are young, some ordinary looking, like the woman who rang us up yesterday, but others, like the man who checked our I.D., “Cool, man.”, are definite stoner types. There are pre-rolled joints, bud, flake, many kinds of edibles, bongs, and other accessories for the green life.

Yesterday Sandy came, our house cleaner, so we also went out for lunch to 3 Margaritas. While there, we discussed our disaster planning. This is a good time to do that since a forest fire is much less likely, cooler weather and some snow tamp it down. We have snow predicted tomorrow.

20171022_071909Still tired from the Georgia trip. Traveled Thursday, was up all day and into the night with Joe and SeoAh both Friday and Saturday, then back home on Sunday. Not used to being on the go that much. Don’t know how buddy Tom Crane manages all the travel he does. Wears me out.

Over to Beth Evergreen last night to help set up for Minyan Makers, a short course on prayer. Saw Rabbi Jamie, Tara, and Anshel. Since the setup had already been done, I turned around and went back home. Needed the rest. But. There was a warmth just from seeing those three. Beth Evergreen is a place that gives me joy. I’m very glad to have it in our life.

20170902_163055Gertie gets around pretty well considering four tears from the teeth of Kepler. She had sedation and stitching up at Sano Vet on Monday. With the wounds to her haunches and her arthritic left leg she has considerable trouble on slick surfaces like the loft floor and the downstairs wood floor. I’m going to buy some more rugs for the loft so she’ll have better surfaces to get around on. Right now I have yoga mats down. They work ok, but it’s not their best use.

Trips like the one to Georgia produce, for all their brevity, life long memories. This one, in addition to seeing Joe and SeoAh in their first house, will always have Murdoch’s homecoming as its centerpiece. Dogs. He’s playing in the wood chips in the children’s playground in the picture above. That was at 5:30 am.

 

 

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.

 

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