Inner Glow

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Oh, gosh. Today.

Driving Kate to Lisa’s office for her annual physical, then heading on to Lone Tree, another 20 minutes. Dressed in blue sweats and my radiation hazard t-shirt from Los Alamos. This first day I’m going to choose The Band for my Pandora station. Tomorrow baroque.

I had a light supper last night, as suggested. Egg drop soup and a cookie. I’m on my second glass of water this morning. Hydration is important. I want Patty to tell me again that my bladder’s a perfect size.

Woke up at 3:30, not ruminating, but uneasy. Went back to sleep for an hour. Up at my usual 5:00. Fed the dogs, got the paper. Came up here to the loft.

The next seven weeks are about healing, staying with the protocols, adjusting to the unknown. Not daunting, but not easy either. Tomorrow is the Lupron injection.

Black Mountain this morning

Leaving the mountain top, going down the hill. From cool (44 right now) to hot. 75 at noon in Lone Tree. Well, that’s hot to us. Will get hotter as the weeks roll by.

Tom and the Woollies are going boating on Lake Minnetonka today. A floating meeting. Tom will motor over from Shorewood to a Wayzata dock to pick up the guys. A better parking lot, a bit easier access from the Cities. Had my druthers, I’d be there instead of staring at the Cyber Knife listening to When They Drove Old Dixie Down.

Rabbited

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Zoomed. Friends as zeroes and ones. Pixelated. Paul near Robbinston, Maine. Way up there near New Brunswick. Bill, Tom, and Mark in the Twin Cities metro.

They said, “If no one else can drive you to radiation, one or some of us will come out and do it.” Had to pause for a minute. Tears just at the edge. Friends.

Beth Evergreen. Community, or, better, as Bill suggested on the zoom, belonging. Made real.

Velveteen Rabbited. Our cracks filled with gold, our selves more valuable. Seeing and being seen.

And of course Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe. Joe and SeoAh. Mark and Mary and Diane. Friends and family. When life gets hard, who we turn to. Thanks. And, I love you all.

Stress is good

Imbolc                                                                              Valentine Moon

Minnesota-Winter-Weather-Forecast 2019Zoomed yesterday with old friends Paul, Tom, Bill, Mark. Paul’s in Maine, the other three are still in the homeland, getting blasted by an old-fashioned grit your teeth, squeeze the steering wheel, freeze up the nasal passages Minnesota winter. Nostalgic, eh? Given my 40 year residence there I’m ashamed to say that I’m not sorry to have missed it. Minnesota macho no longer.

30 years + I’ve known these guys. There’s an ease to being with them, even in little squares (Hollywood Squares sort of) created by the magic of pixels and bytes. We know the back story, the good times and bad, the struggles and the victories. When we speak together, the subtext is often as loud as the spoken. When Roxann’s mother faces the transition from home to assisted living, we know about Tom’s mother and the long process finding her a safe place. When Bill says, how do you solve a problem like Regina, paraphrasing the Sound of Music, his history with the Jesuits and hers as a nun is unspoken. So is the difficult time span of her death from cancer now some years ago. Old friends, like old dogs, are the best.

Ode signed in from near Muir Woods, a cottage overlooking the Pacific. Two weeks of vacation. Tom’s headed for Hawaii and Mama’s Fish House later in the month. Bill spent five days in Florida. Paul had, and I think I had something very similar, a disease that his doctor called the plague. His doctor fingered the same culprits as Kate did for me: kids. Fomites, Kate says. Paul visited grandkids; I taught 6th and 7th graders.

post furmination

post furmination

Took the Kep in for furmination yesterday. Before our now below zero temps we had a run of 50 degree weather. (The reason Minnesota macho has faded from my body.) Blew his coat. When he blows his coat, he looks like a ragamuffin, small tufts of fur his body deems not necessary hanging all over, falling off, making Kate crazy. Off to Petsmart for a thorough wash, comb out, vacuuming. He looks pretty good now.

Ode talked about living a stress free life. I know what he means, no work deadlines, no income needs, no drama at home, much less home maintenance (condo), the chance to go where you want, when you want. Like California in the midst of a brutal Minnesota winter. The chance to work on art projects either set aside while working or not pursued. The chance to visit with old friends, go to the Robert Bly evening at Plymouth Church. In general a life peaceful, not troubled by the undercurrents of the workaday world. He calls this The New Senior Reality Game-plan. And good for him.

reslienceNot my goal. I thought about it. I see the allure. In some ways I wish I could want that, too, bow out of the ongoing stream of pressures, both domestic and personal. But I don’t want it. To be clear I’m not a stress junkie, nor an adrenaline junkie. I manage my anxiety much, much better than I ever have, not letting the day’s troubles spill over into what might happen next. I’ve tried and often succeed at acting without care for results. But stress per se still keeps me engaged.

I like the challenge of learning to teach middle schoolers, of integrating enough of the Jewish tradition to walk among my friends at CBE, of caring for Kate and the dogs. I like the challenge of coming up with a new novel, even though I’ve never sold one. I like the challenge of becoming a better painter, of finding my voice with oils.  I could give up home maintenance responsibilities, like when we have ice dams to deal with or a driveway to plow or electrical matters to resolve. The priority of the living ones in our nuclear family, Kate, the dogs, and myself vitiate that for now, however. I enjoy the challenge of learning about astrology, keeping up with science, especially NASA and genetics.

still me

still me

Stress itself is neutral. In fact, it can be a good thing, motivating us to stay in life, to learn, to engage, rather than become socially isolated. It can, of course, be too much. And recently I’ve had more, much more, than I want. I would appreciate it if some of this stress would fall away. Kate gains 20 pounds, gets her stamina back. I’m back to working out, a real stress reducer. I have a novel and a painting underway again. But for all the stress in my life to go? No, not for me.

I’m in this life fully until it’s over and for me that means stretching myself intellectually, emotionally, spiritually. Stress free is not for me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Left Behind

Winter                                                              Waxing Moon

A Basin. Ski maps are a Colorado art form

A Basin. Ski maps are a Colorado art form

Gabe came up and spent the night on Saturday. He was his usual self, watching TV, playing with the dogs, building some contraptions with a new construction toy he got. Ruth and Jon went to A-Basin, skied in great powder and got here around 5 pm. When they left for the day, it was the first time since Christmas eve that Kate and I, Gertie, Rigel, and Kepler were without guests.

Murdoch, SeoAh, and Murdoch’s daddy left at 10 am headed through Kansas and on into Missouri, then back south to central Georgia. We have products with the Korean language in our refrigerator, frozen rice cakes and dumplings, hoisin sauce, and our pantry has rice cakes, a specialty soy sauce, sesame seeds and sesame oil. She left her tea kettle and a vacuum, too. I think she’s going to be back. She’s an unusual guest; her presence is unobtrusive and helpful.

20190121_065343 (2)I finished the creation of the waters yesterday. Some gold flake to give continuity with the first one, not finished yet because I’m waiting on some Elmer’s glue for the gold leaf.

When Mark was here, I asked him a question that’s been on my mind. “How do you know when to stop?” He laughed and said that was every artist’s question. Too often, he said, we wish we could go back to an earlier version. Oils are a bit more forgiving in that regard than, say, watercolor, or, as Tom suggested, sculpture.

Awaiting Elmer

Awaiting Elmer

Mark then added, “The next problem is storage.” So true. I have all my paintings now resting on bookshelves, blocking access to certain volumes. Gotta get a different solution. In this case oils are less forgiving. Oils dry very slowly, like taking years to completely dry. That makes putting them against each other even in a vertical file impossible. Hmmm.

Gertie and Kep are happy to have the house all to themselves. No more long stints in the sewing room while Murdoch got his downstairs time.

Snow coming tonight and tomorrow. May it continue.

Tajikistani Comfort

Winter                                                                Waxing Moon

20190118_104419Quick geopolitical quiz. Where is Tajikistan? No googling, no globe, no world map. Where is it? If you know, you get the sister city of Boulder appellation, Friend of Dushanbe. Friend of what? Oh, you didn’t know that Dushanbe is the capital of Tajikistan? No, we’re not revoking your nametag. Not only are we not revoking your nametag, we’re inviting you over to tea at a traditional Tajikistan Tea House donated to Boulder by the citizens of Dushanbe. And, it’s a stunner.

The Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse was fabricated in Tajikistan and then reassembled in Boulder, much like the Teahouse exhibited in the Minneapolis Institute of Art’s Japanese galleries. The result puts you in another place. The intricate, colorful glazed tiles and the carefully hand carved wooden pillars lit by floor to ceiling windows makes the dining room seem both familiar and exotic, intimate, yet expansive. 20190118_123043Though we didn’t sit on one of them, there were also raised platforms with cushions and short tables. Looked like fun to me.

The menu has an assortment of dishes ranging from Lapsang Souchong Bulgogi to a Russian Beet Salad. We spent a leisurely hour and a half eating hummus, samosas, and the Russian Beet Salad. The deserts were wonderful, too.

I picked up an ounce of white tea, Silver Needle. My disappointment with the physics of boiling water at 8,800 feet sorta knocked me out of the tea making habit I’d developed in Andover. The Teahouse inspired me to suck it up and get back to it. Starting today, I plan to add tea-making back into my daily routine.

Fellow Travelers

Fellow Travelers

While we ate a gentle snow fell, visible through the large windows. Could have been a morning in Dushanbe. After our meal, we drove over to McGuckin’s. It’s a hardware store, but so much more. First, it’s the size of a big box retailer. It’s aisles have that distinctive hardware shelving and signage, but they include furniture, fly fishing equipment, art supplies, humidifiers, a dizzying range of power tools, garden tools. The atmosphere was laid back, many folks meandering around, like us, taking in its immensity. I found a large brush to paint backgrounds and some tape to use for outlining. A few sponges, too.

Dark Lane, Southowram, England

Dark Lane, Southowram, England

The drive back home, about an hour in normal conditions, took almost two. Tom did his usual masterful, calm job as helmsman. Unfortunately the timing meant that he and Mark dropped me off, then headed back down the mountain to make their 7:00 pm flight. DIA is far from our house and you have to traverse the whole of the Denver metro to get there. Not a fun drive.

Ram Dass sums it up: We’re all just walking each other home. Tom and Mark came out and we hiked another few miles toward that final destination, the most ancientrail of all. The precious value of knowing we’re not walking alone turns us into fellow pilgrims. Life without travel companions is a burden; with fellow pilgrims it’s a rich, exciting journey toward the unknown.

 

Thursday

Winter                                                                             Waxing Moon

The Cutthroat

The Cutthroat

The support team arrived. We went to three Baily landmarks. The Rustic didn’t open until 11:00, so we wandered back across 285 to the Cutthroat Trout Cafe. Which Mark observed, “Doesn’t serve any fish.”

The food was good, straight breakfast, no fancy names or ingredients. Eggs, pancakes, hash browns, coffee, toast, jelly. Our waitress had been there since 5 am. “Yes, mostly coffee drinkers before six, but there are two gentlemen who come in and eat pretty regularly.” She had on an I love Goonies t-shirt.

Since the Sasquatch Outpost was right next door, we walked in there. I bought Kate a Sasquatch doesn’t believe in you either t-shirt from among the many, many Sasquatch themed items on offer: a bar of soap shaped like a Bigfoot foot, a Bigfoot riding a motorcycle, signs: Caution Big Foot Breeding Area, avoid eye contact, Warning Big Foot Area Stay on Marked Trails, hats, sweatshirts, books, scarves.

Shoppin' for weed

Shoppin’ for weed

Next stop. The Happy Camper. These old enough to remember dial phones and black and white tv guys stepped into the brave new world of cannabis with a cash register to take your money. Mark had a bit of culture shock. So many options, so little hassle. He chose some thc capsules. That night both he and Tom enjoyed a better sleep. A big deal for both of them.

After Bailey we came back to the loft and hung out. Talking. Then it was nap time so we rolled out our mats, oops, no, kindergarten. Tom and Mark went back to the unusually decorated B&B, Arrowhead Manor, and I went downstairs.

We reconvened at 5 pm for a trip to Sushi Win. Sushi Wins’ owner no longer accepts credit cards or checks, just cash. Mark had an unusual roll that came in a seaweed cone wrapped in black and white checkerboard paper and presented in an ice cream cone stand. Very mod. Tom and I had the sashimi bowl. As usual Sushi Win had few customers, quiet.

 

 

 

 

The Flame Narrative

Samain                                                                                Stent Moon

20181211_115152Bought this ceramic container a few years back, probably during a Woolly Mammoth retreat at Valhelga, the Helgeson’s family retreat on a lake close to Collegeville, home of St. John’s Monastery. It reminds me of the modest clay cylinders that held the Dead Sea Scrolls and I loved the brown to black glaze, the whoosh.

On the St. John’s campus, Richard Bresnahan fires up the huge Johanna Kiln every fall with the help of students and volunteers who come to feed it wood 24 hours a day while the firing continues. Richard, who hosted us Mammoths several times at his pottery studio on the north side of the large St. John’s campus, introduced me to the idea of flame narrative.

In a kiln like the Johanna, wood-fired, the flame and the heat travel from the firebox at the front up through the dragon like body, hence the name dragon kilns. As the heat and the flame move through and up the various chambers, they pass over the bisque shapes of hundreds of tea-pots, tea cups, storage containers, plates, anything that can be made from clay.

Burned into this container is the narrative of the flame’s passage on that fall day when it sat inside the Johanna Kiln and the dragon’s breath made its way past the wooden platform on which it sat. Literally baked in to the surface of this beautiful pot.

Johanna Kiln Steve Basile photo

Johanna Kiln Steve Basile photo

It’s my choice of a final resting place. I hope whoever cares for my cremains will put them in it and either keep them somewhere, bury them, put them in a mausoleum, or seal the top with wax and cast the whole into the nearest moving water like the Tibetan monks do to their mandalas. I’m fine with any decision.

Not sure why but over the last couple of days the flame narrative idea and my death have been on my mind. They merged. After our deaths, the memory of our life, whatever it is, is like the flame narrative on the ceramics that come out of the Johanna Kiln. The fiery tongue of the dragon breathes life into us, gives us motive energy for our brief sojourn as organized, sentient star dust. As that fire moves through the gigantic kiln of our years, it burns the story of our journey into the universe, never to be gone, never to be repeated. Then, as Beowulf says, “Heaven swallows the smoke.”

 

 

I like this guy

Samain                                                               Thanksgiving Moon

5002011 09 10_1164Happy to have some good news to report about Jon. Went to his court date yesterday. His inner attitude seems to be shifting away from anger about the divorce (understandable, but not helpful) toward getting on with his life, accepting the constraints of the restraining order (unreasonable, but legally enforceable, as he just discovered). He wants to get his art in a gallery or up for sale. This is big because it’s a key part of his identity that lay fallow during the twelve years of his marriage. He needs positive reinforcement and he’s had more than his share of negatives over the last few years.

artistHe’s a very talented, smart guy who can handle all the work necessary to remodel his home, replace an axle in his car, ski a great line down an A-basin bowl, teach elementary age kids how to express themselves. I hope he can organize his life so these thing line up, move him forward, and make him feel good about himself.

Kate had a nausea free day yesterday. She took the ativan and that seemed to help. A day without nausea is like a day with sunshine. It makes her feel good and makes me feel good. May it continue.

breathe thich-nhat-hanh-calligraphyI’m feeling a bit stressed, a lot going on. Religious school tonight. I’m taking pizza makings and teaching a unit on holidays, especially winter holidays. The kids will reimagine, reconstruct a new winter holiday. Tomorrow morning Kate has two imaging studies, looking for zebras. Tomorrow evening is Gabe’s winter concert in Stapleton. A sequelae of the hearing yesterday is that Jon can’t, for the moment, attend. The old protection order carved out an exception to the 100 yards rule for events with the kids, things like parent-teacher conferences, concerts, doctor visits, but the law is a blunt instrument.  Yesterday by default it eliminated those exceptions. Jon wants me to go to represent our side of the family. Important for Gabe. I’ll go.

Stressed, yes, but not anxious. Still. Amazing myself right now. Following the water course way, going with the many changes, leveraging their energy, keeping my feet while wading in a fast flowing river. Not trying to dam it up, divert it, slow it. Finding the chi, aligning mine, taking each day on its own. Most of the time, and this is the part that amazes me, little of this is conscious. Means I’ve integrated something at a soul level, some amalgam of mindfulness, wu wei, and love of life.

tao laoGot reinforced shortly after the move out here when I had to deal with prostate cancer. That shook me. I worked hard to keep myself upright and maybe, in the process, began to consolidate a lot of learning. A major part of that consolidation came from the support I got from family and friends. Oh. Life can be good, even when it’s bad. Weird. Since the move, it’s been one damned thing after another, or it feels that way right now. Those things forced a going deep, being honest, being grateful a lot. Now, four years later, our move anniversary is the Winter Solstice, my Colorado Self, the one born in the alembic of all those insults, has asserted itself.

And I like this guy. This mountain man, man of the West, embedded in family and friends and Congregation Beth Evergreen. Doing ok. Thanks to all of you and some random acts of life.

 

Zoom. Zoom.

Samain                                                                       Thanksgiving Moon

offy 1/3 model, rodauthority.com

offy 1/3 model, rodauthority.com

Zoom. I remember balsa wood airplanes and matchbook cars. Both earned zoom, zoom, zoom. Later, listening to the Indy 500 on the radio, as I did for years the zoom, zoom, zoom of the Offenhauser engine that dominated that track, 27 wins, was background to the sportscaster’s calling of the race.

Now Zoom has moved on, gone into the cyberworld. No longer a sound it’s a brand, a type of online video conferencing (videophones! Dick Tracy!) that captures participants in tv-like rectangles filled with one actor, you. It also moves from screen to screen, following the conversation. It has the feel of an IRL gathering with the ability to span distance with ease. It’s a technology I’ve been eager to see for some time. Would loved to have had it when I chaired the North Star Sierra Club’s legislative committee. Statewide participation would have been easy.

While cranking up the Moving Tradition’s curriculum for Beth Evergreen, I zoomed with their staff and other teachers from synagogues across the U.S. When on the Durango trip last summer with Mark, Paul, and Tom, Paul suggested using it to get together when we returned to our respective homes in Maine, Minnesota, and the Front Range. And so we have.

zoom employeesYesterday Paul, Mark, Tom and I moved into cyberspace. Zoom. Zoom. It was 9 am here in the Rocky Mountain West, 10 in the Midwest, and 11 in the land of the first light. The conversation went deep, over 30 years together makes that easy. We had body language, tone of voice, facial expressions, and shared laughter.

Though. No hugs at the end, no elevation of the trunk as we used to do in our silly, but bonding, post-meeting ritual as Woolly Mammoths. No shared food. Not sure whether profound relationships could be started and nurtured without these, but in the instance of men who’ve known each other long and well, it’s a miracle. (If you were raised, as I was, in the time of the Offenhauser engine.)

“We’re all just walking each other home.” Ram Dass. The ancientrail of human companionship, of friendship now has another path, a virtual one without mountain passes, hostels, gatherings at the Nicollet Island Inn. Zoom. Zoom.