We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Little Forces, Big Results

Spring                                                                           Rushing Waters Moon

Upper Maxwell Falls, 2015

Upper Maxwell Falls, 2015

The mountain streams we see regularly: Shadow Brook, Maxwell Creek, Bear Creek, Cub Creek have begun, a bit early, I think, their post-ice plummet toward sea level. In May these streams are often boiling, filled with snow melt and pushing the limits of their banks. On any given day driving past them as they speed downhill, down the mountain, they look interesting, worth watching for the tumult; but, in fact, these racing streams are much more than merely interesting.

They are the levelers of mother earth. They take the mighty and strip them down to size, pebble by pebble, rock by rock, chunks of soil by chunks of soil. A defining characteristic of a mountain is its imposing size, its thereness. Mountains dominate their landscape, putting up barriers to human passage that often forced the pioneers of nineteenth century America to go around them rather than over them. They seem, in the moment, eternal.

When living in or visiting a relatively young mountain range like the Rockies, no reasonable person would ever expect them to look any different than they do right now. Colorado is proud of its fourteeners, those summits exceeding 14,000 feet. Mt. Evans, for example has a summit of 14,265 feet. That’s precise. And, would you add it to a website or book or road sign if you expected it to change? No.

Near Bailey, 2015

Near Bailey, 2015

But it will. One only has to drive east toward the Atlantic to see what’s in store for even Mt. Evans. Look at the Appalachians. Their mountain building episode (orogeny) happened around 480 million years ago. When it was done, the Appalachians stood as tall as the contemporary Rockies. The Rocky Mountain orogeny was a quite recent, geologically speaking, 80 million years ago. They too will wear down.

In the spring we see this process at its most obvious as mountain streams from every summit in every range of the Rocky Mountains, including here in the Front Range, obey gravity and try to find the lowest points available to them. Of course, the streams are not the only process at work. Drive on Highway 285 out of Conifer, as we do often going down or returning from Denver, and you will see large steel mesh hanging over some cliffs. In other places there are bolts driven into the side of rock faces, giving them a slightly Frankensteinian look. In other spots massive retaining walls of concrete encase an especially troublesome chunk of mountain.

These CDOT efforts are not always successful, witness the many Watch for Falling Rocks signs sprinkled throughout Colorado. Freezing and thawing splits the rock faces and they come tumbling down, creating talus or road obstructions. Just this last year, near Glenwood Springs, a large boulder broke loose from its millions of years long position and crashed down on an SUV on I-70, killing the driver. Winds, too, often reaching high double digit speeds, also wear away the rock.

These forces are slow, miniscule in appearance, but massive in their results over long periods of time. When driving by a mountain stream in full force, remember the Appalachians. They’re coming, but not soon, to a Rocky Mountain range near me.

CNS and Social Change

Spring                                                                   New (Rushing Waters) Moon

book-coverToday I’m making chicken noodle soup and Kate’s making Vietnamese pho. We’ll serve this at a Beth Evergreen leadership dinner for Rabbi David Jaffe, author of Changing the World from the Inside Out, a Jewish Approach to Social Change. Along with our friend Marilyn Saltzman, chair of the adult education committee, who is making a vegetarian squash soup, we’ll provide the soups for a soup and salad meal. I really like this low key involvement. It feels manageable.

Although. I am hoping that Rabbi Jaffe’s time here at Beth Evergreen, tomorrow through Saturday as a visiting scholar, will spur the creation of an activist group focused on some form of response to the Trump/oligarch era. In that instance I’m willing to move into a more upfront role, though I would prefer to remain a follower.

Then, there’s the Sierra Club. I wrote here about my excitement with Organizing for Action, Conifer. That was back in January, I think. Lots of people, lots of energy. Good analysis. I thought, wow. Here’s my group. Then, I never heard from them again, my e-mails went unanswered. Weird, but true. Weird and disqualifying for a group that’s organizing political work.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASo I renewed my effort to connect with the Mt. Evans’ local group of the Rocky Mountain Chapter of the Sierra Club. Colorado seems to work more through these regional clusters than as a whole. There are nine of them, covering the entire state. The Mt. Evans’ group includes our part of Jefferson County, Clear Creek County and a northern portion of Park County. It’s titular feature, Mt. Evans, is a fourteener (over fourteen thousand feet high) which has the highest paved road in North America leading to its summit. According to locals here it’s also the weathermaker for our part of Conifer.

I finally made it to a meeting a couple of weeks ago. When I came back, Kate said, “You seem energized.” I did. And, I hadn’t noticed. Something about that small group plugged me back into my reigning political passion of the last six or seven years: climate change. Oh, yeah. With OFA I’d tried to head back toward economic justice, my long standing motivation for political work, dating back to the UAW influences I picked up as a teenager in Alexandria. Guess the universe understood me better than I understood myself. Not much of a surprise there.

buy this here

buy this here

My mind began ticking over, running through organizing scenarios, figuring out how we could (note the we) raise the visibility of the Mt. Evans group, gain more members, influence local policy. This is my brain on politics. I might be willing to play a more upfront role here, too, though I want to explore other ways of being helpful first.

Anyhow, between these two, I’m sure I’ll get my political mojo working in some way. And that feels good. Want some soup?

 

 

D-I-V-O-R-C-E

Spring                                                        New (Rushing Waters) Moon

Snow and more snow in the forecast. All moisture, good. Good sky, good sky.

The divorce, month 11. The public side of the Jon/Jen divorce started last May. Of course, they’d been getting there for some time before that. Jon is still living with us, still commuting from Shadow Mountain to Aurora, all the way across the Denver metro. The grandkids still come up three weekends a month. Jon and Jen are in the post-final orders time, a time when new norms have to be developed between them. I’d like to say it’s going well, but in fact it’s rocky. From both sides.

The whole matter will change significantly when Jon buys a new home. He’ll move out of here, his stuff will leave our garage. The custody arrangement will change to 50/50 so he will have more parental responsibilities, but also more parental influence on Ruth and Gabe.

Kate and I are ready for this new phase to begin.

 

 

Great Wheel in the Montane Ecosystem

Spring                                                                   Passover Moon

BeltaneAs the passover moon enters its final phase, the Great Wheel heads toward Beltane. No longer spring then, as the wheel turns toward the growing season, toward summer. Up here (above 8,800 feet, the montane ecosystem) there is no real growing season though things do grow: lodgepole pines, aspen, grasses, willows, dogwood, shrubs whose names I haven’t learned.

There are gardens, of a sort. The short warm season and the cool nights make Midwestern style outdoor gardening very difficult. Then, there’s the lack of water. If I were younger, I might take on the challenge, probably with the aid of a greenhouse, but I want to do other things during that time now. Like hiking. Travel in the area.

The only real crop I’ve seen up here is hay, which grows in mountain meadows. The rest of the growing is done by indigenous plants and the occasional plastic covered hoop garden or greenhouse plus a smattering of container grown plants.

modIMAG06205This is so different from my 68 years in the midwest. When I drove back to Minnesota last September for Joseph and SeoAh’s reception at Raeone’s, I experienced an unexpected nostalgia for farming and its sights. I didn’t realize I’d missed tractors in the fields, long rows of wheat and corn and beans, silos and barns, cattle and pigs and sheep. But I had.

To see agriculture in Colorado requires driving east into the high plains. Even there though hay and some wheat, feedlots dominate. Not like Iowa, Indiana, Illinois because even the high plains are still west of Cozad, Nebraska through which runs the 100th parallel which divides the U.S. into the humid east and the arid west.

Here the mountain altitudes and the aridity modify the humid east’s seasonal cycle, conflating spring and early summer, then creating a longer but less colorful autumn. Winter is the most distinct season though it can swing wildly between feet of snow and sunny, warm weeks. The cooling effect associated with altitude means there are few warm summer nights to help vegetables like tomatoes to develop fully.

Beltane, 2016

Beltane, 2016

Beltane in the mountains does not inspire rites of fertility in the fields or the lighting of bonfires for cattle to be driven through. I suppose you could still find a fire or two for those hoping for children to jump over (to quicken the sperm and the egg), but at least in the Colorado I know so far, that’s unlikely.

Beltane is a fire festival and perhaps that’s the true association with the season. Around Beltane the precipitation patterns in the Front Range change, with fewer and fewer chances of rain or snow. The result of this waning of available moisture, which ends, usually, in the monsoons of late August, means fire hazard rises.

More thoughts on how the mountains modify the Great Wheel on May 1st.

Wakin’ Up Mornin’

Spring                                                                             Passover Moon

easterEaster morning. Sunrise services somewhere. The celebration of the resurrection and, by implication, the incarnation. As Passover defines Jews, Easter defines Christians. Whether you find the idea of resurrection absurd or inspiring, it heralds, as does Passover, the coming of spring. It’s not difficult, at least for me, to see the power of resurrection in the emergence of spring ephemerals: daffodils, crocus, grape hyacinth, early tulips, snowdrops, pasque flowers, bloodroot.

The same flowers could be seen as passover metaphors, too. Their emergence from the long sleep of winter makes good on promises made the year before as the bulbs, corms, rhizomes all stored up energy from the sun, drank in nourishment from the minerals of the soil and sipped up water from the sky, all gathered below ground after the leaves and flowers of last year withered away. The hiddenness of these promises and the darkness in which they flourish is like the life of the Hebrew slaves in the Egypt of the Exodus.

haggadahMoses reminds the slaves, and God, of the covenant made with Abraham long ago. That covenant is the bulb planted in the hiddenness and darkness of bondage. When God finally forces Pharaoh to let the slaves go free, the bulb begins to push its stalk toward the surface. Though it takes forty years of wandering for the stalk to break the surface in the Promised Land, the beauty of freedom’s flower has dazzled those struggling with their own personal or political bondage ever since.

My sister Mary’s friend, Anitha Devi Pillai, who teaches in Singapore with Mary, posted on facebook about the Kerala new year, Vishu, which is also celebrated right now. This was new to me, but it underscores the number of New Year holidays that honor the same rhythm of mother earth. The spring festivals in Korea and China, which come earlier, also mark the resurrection in fields and gardens.

These human holidays honor the emergent freedom from darkness and cold as each new flower and vegetable breaks the surface. VishuSo on this great wakin’ up morn, I’m greeting the sun, the greening lodgepole pines, the daffodils, the pasque flowers and bloodroot with a religious fervor.

During my cancer season two years ago I wrote about the consolation of Deer Creek Canyon, the stolid, very long term lifetime of the mountains that create the canyon. Today I’ll make note of the consolation of spring, its power to awaken wonder. We will all die, this we know, but the mountains will continue and so will the daffodils. Blessed be.

Recently

Spring                                                                      Passover Moon

20170405_191415Well. The sun is out, the snow has melted on the roads and it’s a cheery day here on Shadow Mountain. The changes here are fast and often extreme.

Kate and I went to a cooking class for a passover meal last night and stayed out until 9:30. That’s late for us since we turn in between 7 and 8 pm. I remember back when I was young. I could stay up until, you know, 10 pm, 10:30 pm, no problem.

The cooking class featured chicken breasts, a very surprising quinoa cake, asparagus, crepes with a haroset like mixture of sauteed apples, pears, dates and nuts and a coconut chocolate confection for dessert. There were fifteen of us and we spent the time wandering from dish to dish, helping with this or that.

I helped set up. I’m really liking being in a religious community and not having a leadership role. Helping put out tables, arrange chairs, set out plates, glasses and silverware feels good.

We’ve seen lots of elk and mule deer this week, much more than in the month or two prior. Last night at the cooking class there were three female elk dining on the grass outside while we learned the secrets of egg whites and egg yolks inside. Just all us mammals getting what we need from our environment.

Snow, And Lots of It

Spring                                                                      Passover Moon

20170405_144607Switched my work routine around, now writing on Superior Wolf in the early morning, breakfast, Latin, workout, lunch, nap. So Ancientrails comes later in the day. Like now, at 3 pm.

We got somewhere between 12 and 20 inches of snow last night. Our house looks like an old cabin in Switzerland after a heavy snow. When I cleared the deck early this morning, it was challenging. Kep stood at the door when I opened it, looked outside, looked at me, then delicately put a foot outside. A few seconds later he was bounding through the white, a black and white blur.

In the way of mountain weather, our driveway, plowed at 4:30 am by Ted, is now clear. The sun, beating down on it at altitude, transfers heat quickly to the asphalt. This aspect of weather here is a real joy. You can have snow, lots of it, and still find mobility pretty easy not long afterward.

Kate had her first infusion of Remicade, an anti-rheumatoid arthritis biologic, on Monday. We hope it will reduce the pain in her hands, shoulder and back while also reducing the fatigue that RA also creates. The infusion takes two hours, sitting quietly in a chair with up to 8 other people in the room, undergoing the same sort of procedure. It’s hard to know in advance whether these things will work, but we expect good results.

Over at Beth Evergreen tonight Kate’s going for her last or next to last Hebrew class, then to a cooking class for a new approach to the passover meal. At 5 pm, Rabbi Jamie will teach a class, Exodus From Boring Seders. We’re attending a community seder next week on April 12 at Mt. Vernon Country Club. Maybe it won’t be boring.

Jon plans to look at mortgages this month, houses in May. We both hope it goes smoothly for him.

 

 

 

Yet Did Not Fall

Spring                                                                  Passover Moon

sputnikYesterday when I came out to let Gertie and Rigel out of the garage, around 5 am, I looked up at the stars, as I always do, enjoying the clear skies here. That long evolved predator/prey seeking eye caught, right away, a high object streaking across the sky. Was it a satellite, the space station? I don’t know, but I do know that in my childhood, my own childhood, no person on earth could have gone outside, looked up at the sky and seen such a sight. Until Sputnik the only streaking objects in the sky were meteors and comets. Nothing moved quickly across the darkness, up with the stars, yet did not fall or disappear around the sun.

This morning when I came out, at about the same time, the stars were absent, covered by clouds. Six or seven inches of new, wet snow lay on the deck outside our backdoor and it was snowing hard. Still is. This storm is delivering on its forecasted levels. Yeah! This wet snow clogs up the snow blower so we’re having Ted, the handyman/snowplower guy from Ames, Iowa (just across I-35 from Kate’s hometown of Nevada), take care of our driveway. He came about 20 minutes ago and may be back if it the snow continues until midnight as the winter storm warning suggests.

6:45 am today

6:45 am today

It’s light out now and Black Mountain has once again disappeared from view, covered in clouds and snow. The school bus just went past. Being a school bus driver in the mountains in the winter must be challenging. Along with school bus driver, the other two jobs I would not like to have up here are mail person and garbage truck driver. They all have to navigate the mountain roads rain or shine, sleet or snow. They all have to stop frequently, counting on the skills of others not to kill them while they do their work.

The snow shuts off our solar panels just like night. I bought a snow rake to release the snow on them, but I haven’t used it yet. Maybe today.

Put it on, Take it off

Spring                                                                 Passover Moon

“It is easy to see the mountain in the distance. It is not so easy to see the mountain on which you stand.”

20170330_064303

Masks. I’ve been using the kabbalistic notion of masks-personas, complexes, yes, but somehow mask makes thems easier to discover. For me. It’s simple, at least in concept. We wear a mask all the time, often perhaps usually unconsciously. The kabbalistic idea taught by Rabbi Jamie Arnold encourages us to recognize our masks and get to know them with the ultimate goal of being able to take off and put on masks at will.

Masks may have a pejorative connotation for you as concealers of the “true” person, but this understanding suggests that our pure soul, that part of us perfectly attentive to the universe, needs no mask. A Christian might call this pure soul the imago dei. Whatever it “really” is, it is the Self that nests within the necessary apparatus for connecting with the world. It cannot touch the world by itself. When it comes into contact with the world, a mask forms. This enables the Self to see partially rather than comprehensively. (I made up this last idea, but it makes sense to me as far as I understand the concept.)

As I said in a previous post, many masks are obvious: devoted husband, father, brother, scholar, timid business person, brash businessperson, prophet, lover, athlete, lawyer, plumber, mother, sister. Part of the discipline is to stop, to take a moment, and ask what mask am I wearing right now?

For instance, at the moment I’m wearing my Ancientrails mask, a writer, blogger, self-revealer, journaler. I’m also wearing my naturalist, photographer mask which gets called up as Black Mountain goes through its morning changes. My Ancientrail’s mask is introspective, yet also expressive. It does conceal much of my Self because it links to specific and partial aspects of who I am. But. It also reveals. It reveals in the quite literal sense of putting these words on the page, but it also reveals that certain part of who I am when I have it on.

20170330_063248

My naturalist, photographer mask came on me several times as I wrote this because Black Mountain’s changes this morning were strikingly beautiful. This mask took me out of Ancientrails, out of the inner world, and into the Front Range, into the world of mountains and light. I found myself gasping several times as the light changed this 10,000 foot peak’s face to the world, its mask.20170330_065707

 

 

Makes Sense

Spring                                                                    New (Passover) Moon

We had snow. Will have more snow. So good to see moisture. We don’t get much here, this is the arid West after all, so what we get we need.

Right now dewpoint and temps are the same so we’re in a foggy state. Black Mountain is invisible. That something so massive can disappear, either in the dark or in fog, seems odd to me. Still. If I didn’t know it was there, it would not be, from my perspective.

senses

Yesterday afternoon Kate said the hard snow falling was making a sound on the skylights. She imitated it. I couldn’t hear it. As the hearing in my right ear declines, and with total deafness in the left, there are aural Black Mountains in the fog for me. I don’t hear a lot of things within the range of normal hearing, but I don’t know I don’t hear them. Those sounds don’t exist for me.

Of course, all of our senses have a limited range to begin with. Ultraviolet and infrared are light waves outside the visual ability of human eyes, yet, they, too, exist. We exist in a perceptual bubble, our evolved ways of knowing the world shutting out far more than they let in. Science, of course, is a direct attempt to extend human experience beyond the range of our senses, to discover what we don’t know, in fact, can’t know without sophisticated instrumentation.

dry chrysalis

I find this humbling and inspiring. Our inability to see, to hear, to taste, to touch, to smell the comprehensive array of stimuli around us means we exist in a constant perceptual fog. There is not only more than is dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio, there is more all around you. Considering these, our real and dramatic limitations, it’s inspiring to me that we humans have been able to develop our lives and our cultures in the incredibly complex and nuanced way that we have.

I suppose, too, that there may be an important metaphysical point buried here. If we can’t see ultraviolet, smell the 10,000 things that any dog can, hear the very low sounds of whale communication, it’s possible that there are more worlds out there, perhaps places where life goes on. How can we know such things if we can’t even hear the snow on the skylights?

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