We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Staying Open. Paying Attention.

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

Got up late today, around 8:30 am so I’m writing this after noon. Feels a little weird since it’s usually dark outside when I work on Ancientrails.

South-ParkColorado-Fishing-MapKate and I went to Aspen Roots today. Jackie tints and cuts Kate’s hair, cuts mine and trims my beard. She’s a good lady. Learned today that she taught her son fly fishing. Her father worked for Eagle Claw and started taking her fishing when she was five. Can’t be too many sons who’ve been taught fly fishing by their moms. Right now he’s logging and had a nasty accident when the saw cut through his boot and into his foot. She hopes he’ll become a fishing guide.

Coloradans and the snow. There were flurries last night, some periods of heavier snow. So most folks stayed home from mussar vaad practice. MVP. Geez. I find myself saying this every once in a while up here: “If Minnesotans didn’t go out when it was snowy and cold, they’d never leave the house from November through March.” It’s definitely better to have Minnesota conditioning for Colorado winters though than, say, Florida or Texas. Both state contribute their share of new Coloradans.

Melon choly. Still ripening though not as pervasive. I’ve not felt this, as near as I can recall, since Minnesota. A certain heaviness, a certain I don’t really feel like getting out of bed. A gray veil.

Bee-guyMy best guess as to why now is a little odd. First year we were moving in, orienting ourselves. Prostate cancer, too. Second year Jon’s divorce, my knee replacement and then Kate’s first bout we identified with Sjogren’s. Since September though Jon moved into his new house. He’s calmed down, a lot. Sjogren’s and its effects, while not pleasant, are at least known and we have strategies to cope with them. After a year plus with the knee, after p.t. and now several different workouts, the knee has no pain and functions, for the most part, as it did before the bad arthritis set in.

So we’ve had since September to adjust to a Colorado which is no longer introducing us to new medical or familial dysfunction. We have friends and a small community now at Beth Evergreen. Rigel doesn’t have liver cancer. Joe and SeoAh are doing well. The grandkids ask to come up here. Things have calmed down, life has tilted toward the positive side of the scale.

Now what? That, I think, is the cause of the melancholy. What do I do now that I’m finally here in Colorado without serious distractions? Are elements of the Minnesota life germane here? Some are clearly not. The Sierra Club scene was disappointing. Sheepshead, too. The Denver museum scene is dull normal. Gardening and bee keeping seem too daunting here, at least for my current energy level and financial resources. (I’d garden in a decent greenhouse, but $$$$.)

agencyWhat is mountain life? Colorado life? Life in the arid West? For me. Sure there’s reading and writing and thinking. The Great Wheel. There’s family and Beth Evergreen. Good jazz. But how does it fit together? What’s the coherence? Where is the tao of this moment?

Apparently my psyche decided that the way to answer these questions is to slow me down. Push pause on the recent past. Let stuff bounce around a while, let different parts clang into each other. Such slowmo has often preceded life changes for me, sometimes after a period of guided reflection like the Ira Progoff Journal Workshops. Sometimes just after time passes. Staying open. Paying attention. Waiting.

Water, water somewhere

Imbolc                                                                       New Life Moon

snowpack 2.19.18Wow. Weather station says the humidity outside is 66%. Inside 2%. Aridity is the norm, humidity a rare phenomenon here. Like most rarities it’s welcome. Most welcome.

4 or 5 inches of snow yesterday. Every flake helps in this dry year. Old timers here are not worried yet because March and April are the big snow months. If the patterns change, we’ve had a big ridge over us for most of the winter pushing cold and snow to the east, north of us, we may recover. In this case recovery means two things, a wetter forest heading into fire season and a snowpack closer to average.

In the land of 10,000 lakes water was abundant and loved, not so much for its quality as water, but for its pleasing manifestation in the landscape. Cabins on the lake. Walleye fishing. Lakes in the cities. The Mississippi rising in Itasca and flowing down toward New Orleans, passing through Minneapolis and St. Paul on its way there. The majesty and wonder of the great lake, Superior.

Here though water is water, aqua vita. Its necessity for human life, for livestock, for healthy more fire-resistant forests is never far from the minds of folks in the West. As I read recently in 365 Tao, the earth breathes out, clouds form and water moves from place to place. This fundamental physiology of our planetary eco-system is, oddly, more apparent in its absence than in its over abundance. The humid east and the arid west.

Since we got just less than 6 inches, it means I blow the driveway. Ted plows six inches and above. Gonna wait another hour or so though since it’s only 6 degrees and I’m more cold sensitive now, both as a Coloradan and a septuagenarian.

Stormy Weather

Imbolc                                                                           Imbolc Moon

The formerly super, blue and bloody moon is now a crescent in the early morning sky.

There is a slight air of anticipation. That before the storm clarity and stillness. It’s slight because the snow to come will not be much, measured by other years and other storms, but this year, while the east has been cold and snowed in, we’ve been warmer and mostly dry. Sounds like a baby. We still have two big snow months ahead, March and April, so there’s still time for more white stuff, but for now a 3″ forecast is something to celebrate.

 

 

A Blue Blood Moon

Winter                                                                   Imbolc Moon

The Imbolc Moon put on a show this morning. I got up just as the first finger of black touched it. Kate and I sat on the loft’s balcony and watched as the finger pushed its way across the moon’s surface. Hints of red began to show up at the moon’s edge as the penumbra of the earth covered more and more. The moon was to the north of Black Mountain, putting it directly in the sight line from the balcony. As it moved north, however, the nearest lodgepole pine got in the way. After the full eclipse, it sank below the treed horizon and out of our sight, so we did not the see the super part of the blue blood moon.

This is the second eclipse, the other being the solar eclipse last August, that Kate and I have been able to observe from a balcony, sitting in comfortable chairs. Astronomy does not often provide such creature comforts and I was grateful in both instances.

The clouds have been amazing this past week. Last night I took the darker photograph of a Ponderosa pine at Beth Evergreen and the soon to super and bloody blue moon.

20180130_18233420180130_06564420180129_174932

 

Snow

Winter                                                                        Imbolc Moon

Cozy. Kate finishing a quilt gift for Sandy, who will have surgery again this week

Cozy. Kate finishing a quilt gift for Sandy, who will have surgery again this week

20180121_172039Well. Finally. A real snow storm. The white stuff started falling around midnight on Saturday and continued through the day Sunday. Maybe 10 to 12 inches. Ted of All Trades plowed us out in the afternoon. I cleared our deck and the path to garage 5 times as the snow fell. It’s easier to clear it before it builds up too much bulk.

When the temperature drops, the clouds roll in over Mt. Evans and the flakes begin to come down in earnest, I feel Shadow Mountain most keenly. Not sure why, but I know we’re on a mountain top then. It feels secure and cozy, the forest and the peaks around us our real home.

Maybe that’s it. When the snow falls, we are intimately linked to the mountains and the forests, all of us experiencing this change, the soft silence that pervades the lodgepole stands, the aspen groves, that covers the iced over Maxwell Creek with more cold water, that drifts in our open bedroom window. Just as the deer and the fox and the mountain lion and the elk have to wade through the snow, so do I on my way out to get the mail or the newspaper.

Beautiful. Important. A gift from the sky to our thirsty plants. We’re all grateful.

Bees, Dogs, Hearts and Shoulders

Winter                                                                   Imbolc Moon

20180119_095931Rigel’s blood work so far is encouraging. Her liver values are back to normal. This may be a sudden old age shift to intolerance of chicken protein. The rabbit diet food is on its way from Chewy.com. Her appetite is good. If she gains weight on the new diet, that may be all we need to know. Fingers crossed.

Went over to Rich Levine’s yesterday for more bee conversation. He put the flow hive together. It looks very cool. If it works as advertised, it could eliminate the need for honey supers and the back breaking, hot, sweaty work of extraction.

IMAG0873

Kate uncapping a honey frame

I agreed to talk to the religious school about bee symbology since they’re going to decorate their hive boxes in a couple of weeks. When the school, and Rabbi Jamie apparently, hive their bee packages, I’ll assist. And, I imagine, support the hives as they grow over the course of the summer. A good way to keep my hand in without having to do all the work myself.

Snowing today. Yeah! The forests are dry. The Smoky the Bear signs which give us a hint about the future of our homes are all set on High fire danger. In January. That means really bad news for reservoirs and the 2018 fire season unless we get a lot of snow between now and May or so.

We’ve had four, maybe five inches so far and the snow’s still falling. Supposed to last all day. Could be bigger than predicted, which would be more than fine.

2011 01 09_1223

Two Olsons

Kate’s got a big week coming up. Monday she has a nuclear stress test for her heart and a visit, on the same day, with the electrophys doc. Next Monday she has an appointment with David Schneider at Panorama Ortho for a shoulder consult. Her right shoulder is painful and weak. The pain interferes with her sleep, so getting it fixed has become a priority.

We don’t expect the heart work up to show more than normal aging. It’s a followup to the tough times she had at Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. Better now. Stress may be a larger factor than we know.

Rigel’s work up on her GI tract will come back next week. Hope it points in the same direction as Dr. Bayliss thinks.

 

 

Cold

Winter                                                                 Moon of the Long Nights

Meanwhile, back in Minnesota:

“We just heard on the news that it is colder in Minneapolis tonight than the Amundsen-Scott weather station in the South Pole. We are -4°; the South Pole is a balmy -1°. Sheesh.” Joann Bizek Platt, Facebook

A Good Day

Winter                                                                   Moon of the Long Nights

winter solstice4Up well before dawn on the longest night, experiencing its long darkness here on Shadow Mountain. Wrote ancientrails, wrote some on Rocky Mountain Vampire, wandered out to the newspaper tube. No paper. Back inside for breakfast.

Kate does the NYT crossword every morning and when the physical paper, remember those?, isn’t here, she misses it. Unfortunately, like all things mountain the service quality of Denver Post delivery ranges from occasionally tolerable to often annoying. Mail, too. Worse of course during the annual buying orgy which now strains the logistical systems USPS, Fedex and UPS.

Wielding my now year old plus 21 days titanium knee, I got the snowblower going. It was good to be back outside, especially since the fluffy snow allows me to stick the accelerator on 6 and zoom, well, go faster than 1, up and down the asphalt. The snow glittered in the morning sun, hoar frost coated the lodgepole pines in our yard and up on Black Mountain.

winter solstice And The Wheel Goes Round And Round And The Falme In Our Souls Will Never Burn Out. Happy Winter SolsticeWorkout, finally back in the groove. Three resistance plus two high intensity cardio workouts a week and one longer, slower cardio. About six and a half hours or so. Lunch. Nap. Make tamale pie with cornbread crust. Kate did some errands and got home as I poured the cornbread mix onto the cooked hamburger and vegetables. Tasty.

Text from Joe. They’re in Columbia, Missouri, about 11 hours away. Murdoch’s along. Holiseason continues. Lights. Family. Gifts. Food. Deep connections to the horizontal and the vertical.

A good day.

 

It lives!

Winter                                                                 Moon of the Long Nights

cub cadetAh. In my world mechanical victories, no matter how small, are worthy of celebration. After a snowfall on Wednesday and Thursday, I decided to crank up the snowblower. It had not been started since the end of winter in 2016. My knee surgery coincided with the first few storms of the season last year. It wouldn’t start. Just cranked and cranked. Sigh.

I put gas stabilizer in it at the same time I changed the oil at the end of the 2016 season, so I thought it might just start. I was wrong. An old O2 cannula from Kate’s machine went into the gas tank, gas came out, flowing slowly into a red plastic gas can. Once I’d drained the old gas, in went the fresh gas. Punch the o.f. friendly electric start button. Voila!

The oil was a bit stiff and it took a few passes for things to get warmed up and used to the idea of having to go to work-hmm, sorta like me-but soon the snow flew out of the chute as the cub cadet and I wandered up and down the driveway. Now the driveway is clear and the solar snow shovel will finish off the rest.

Yeah!

The woods are lovely, dark and deep

Winter                                                           Moon of the Long Nights

“Out of the night that covers me,

      Black as the pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.”  William Ernest Henley, Invictus

Moon_944x708

astronomy today, formation of the moon

The Winter Solstice. Today and tonight. 23.4 degrees of tilt. Explanation for the tilt is not settled science though at least part of the answer seems to lie in the accretion of matter and the occasional outright collisions that occurred during our planets formation early in the history of the solar system. Another interesting theory, perhaps part of the answer too, is that any large imbalance, say a supervolcano with a huge mass, could have caused the earth to tilt so that mass ended up near the equator.

Whatever the exact reason, the current tilt, which remains constant as the earth revolves around the sun, creates our seasons. As the earth orbits, the tilt causes a reduction and increase of the energy of the sun’s light by either concentrating it during the summer solstice (leaning toward the sun) or by spreading the light over a wider area (leaning away from the sun) during the winter solstice. Today at 9:28 MST the northern hemisphere will be at its maximum tilt away from the sun while, of course, the southern hemisphere is thrust toward the sun and celebrating its summer solstice.

All of this is a continuing evolution caused by forces set in motion by the big bang over 13 billion years ago. The fact that I’m sitting at 8,800 feet on a chunk of rock thrust up by the Laramide orogeny, watching snow drift down as the air up here cools toward below zero temperatures, waiting for the longest night of the year, 14 hours and 39 minutes here in Conifer, showcases the violent origins and their ongoing impacts on earth and her sister planets. When we settle into the chair tonight, or hike outside with a headlamp, or listen to some quiet jazz or Holst’s The Planets, the darkness enveloping us is an in the moment result.

As the earth leans away from the sun, we can lean into the darkness, the long night when the woods are lovely, dark and deep. As we do, we have the opportunity to sink into the fecund darkness within us, a soul link with the darkness all around us and our tiny solar system. In it we can recall sleeping animals in their dens, beneath chilled lake waters, in their lodges made of sticks and branches. In the darkness we can rest a moment beneath the surface of the snow and cold covered soil where roots and microbes work feverishly transmitting nutrients and available water into plants slowed, but not killed by the seasonal temperatures.

anchor deepIn the darkness we can attend to the dark things within us, the places in our souls where our own origins and their ongoing impacts create a climate for our growth, down below the conscious considerations of our day-to-day lives. We can embrace this darkness, not as a thing to fear, but as a part of life, a necessary and fruitful part of life.

I’ll sit in my chair this evening as the night unfolds (I love that imagery.) and consider death, my death, my return to the woods, lovely dark and deep. And, I’ll hug close to my heart the life I’ve been given and this opportunity, granted by the stars, to meditate on it.

 

 

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