We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Friends and Family

Fall                                              Harvest Moon

The harvest moon and Orion, hanging there in the night sky, suspended as if by magic. No amount of astrophysical knowledge about them, light years away, red giant, suns in themselves, galaxies hidden there, that gray dusty surface now littered with space reaching machines and an American flag or two, can alter the wonder I feel each time, and I mean each time, I see them. This morning. Wonderful. Yesterday. Wonderfull.

Spoke with cybermage Bill Schmidt yesterday. He’s made an interesting circular journey from his days as a novice at St. Bonaventure, through his marriage to Regina and raising a family, back to a spot near that same place where his Jesuit pilgrimage began, now with a lake view and time for contemplation, plenty of time. Those of us who are fine by ourselves, but also love the company of others, don’t need many friends, just good ones. Bill’s a good one.

Kate’s singing the worried song, but I hope she won’t be worried long. Chest x-ray follow-up yesterday. She’s had some more shortness of breath. A medical education becomes a strange sort of curse as aging bears down because each crick and crack can have dire potential. She doesn’t want to worry me, so she keeps her concerns to herself, which amplifies them.

After the x-ray I took her out to lunch at Pho Real, a Vietnamese soup place in “historic” downtown Littleton. It’s a three block, maybe four stretch of older brick stores, much like downtown Stillwater and Anoka in Minnesota. Really just old retail centers before the age of strip malls and Walmart, but beautiful in their pragmatic way and redolent of times not really that long ago, yet culturally far away from Interstate highways, the internet and smartphone, self-contained shopping centers.

Joseph called yesterday. His base commander has tasked him with briefing a two-star Army general in Seattle about JSTAR’s utility. On the 19th. Which is the same day I get to Warner-Robins. He’ll be back later that night or the next morning. Means I’ll have time with SeoAh so we can catch up.

 

 

A Moving Experience

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

This post is for my buddy who’s about to embark on a third phase move. I told him I’d go back through my notes (posts) and see if I could find helpful ideas. This is a very edited sequence, from near the first notion of moving through arrival in Colorado. They’re fragments of longer posts, all from the year 2014, starting roughly in April, when we decided Colorado was in our immediate future. The bold first word indicates an entry.

Two main ideas in here (IMHO) are live in the move and move stupid. Live in the move means, stay focused on what needs to get done, not fantasizing about the future or agonizing about the past. Move the process forward, don’t stew. Move stupid means that the tsunami of decisions, actions, even staying focused takes energy and makes you, at times, dull. Don’t beat yourself up over mistakes, differences of opinion, problem solving. It goes with the territory.

We used A1 moving, a Stevens Van Line company and were happy with them. We also used a local outfit, SortTossPack, that helped us develop a strategy for eliminating things, then helped us pack early. They took items we didn’t want to move and sent them to their consignment shop. We made a little money from that and got rid of things that were in our way.

Here are the fragments. They end in December 2014:

Since making the decision a little over a month ago, we’ve made concrete step after concrete step, each one headed west toward the Rockies. And each one makes a bit more excited. Living in the move, instead of Minnesota or Colorado, has let me go with the process as it flows, allowing my daily actions to flow with it, rather than struggling against difficulties. So far that seems to be working fine.

William Morris has proved helpful as I make decisions about what to move to Colorado and what we want to sell or donate. His principle, have nothing in your home which is not beautiful or useful, sound on its own in my opinion (and one I’ve honored in the breach for the most part), makes wonderful sense when sorting through, say, crystal.
All of this living in the move means staying in the flow toward Colorado, realizing where the energy naturally goes at this stage and following it. Putting our shoulders behind work at the time it needs to be done means we use the momentum of change to our benefit. Easier than fighting against it, trying to push things to move faster. Then the momentum of change works against us.

Both of us have experienced moving/gardening fatigue this week. Living in the move helps, but it doesn’t eliminate the stress of so many decisions large and small and the feeling of hanging over a precipice neither able to fall or retreat…

It’s a relief to share these feelings, to know that your partner has the slows as well as you. Of course, that’s the definition of a good relationship, sharing the journey, the ancientrail of marriage.

This is a chance to prune my work over the last third of my life, clear out the branches that have grown across each other. Take out that large branch that flourished then died.

 

It’s the decisions that slow me down. And the memories. And sometimes the memories make the decisions hard. Sometimes not.

 

Interesting. I’ve been living in the move. Too much. Pushing to get stuff packed, get the exterior work, house and grounds, underway, looking at movers and thinking about storage. Pushing. Turning on my phone and my jambox, listening to country music, Porgy and Bess, the blues, Coltrane while I fill boxes. Stuffing my life in liquor boxes, slapping on red or green tape, some packing tape, stacking them up. In the move. In it.

 

A weariness has affected both Kate and me. I think I know its source: the move. We’ve pushed in several directions: decluttering, packing, fixing up the house… Yes, we’ve chosen this. And, yes, perhaps even more important, we’re trying to pace ourselves. Which, btw, I think we’ve done pretty well. But the pace has been constant. Add in the growing season and four dogs. You get the picture. Not to mention that we both have had our medicare cards for more than a year.

 

SortTossPack

Kate said this morning that she had surreal moments with the move. Me, too. We both work along, packing, getting other matters taken care of but the move itself feels unreal, as if a mirage.

 

Saw an ad for Army Strong. Well, I’m move stupid.

 

When there’s a lot of details to sort out in something, I focus, a form of move-stupid, and become almost affectless, plowing through things I don’t like to do, but things that stand between here and there.

 

Our process continues to serve us well, keeping us just ahead of looming deadlines and schedules. It’s been a joint effort all the way.

 

Back to packing this morning, but the heart’s not in it. It’s not a reluctance to move on, not at all. Rather, it’s a weariness, evident today. Push, push, push.

 

The trick is to just stay in the moment. Let the day’s packing be sufficient there unto.

 

Packing takes a toll in these last days. Not sure why, but each day I spend a good deal of time packing really wears me out. Not physically, but emotionally. It’s not resistance to the move itself, as I’ve said here before, rather I think it feels as if the packing has gone on too long.

 

Things feel chaotic, not out of control, but easy to tip over in that direction. Then, there’s the I can see the other side from here feeling and things tip back into balance, or as much balance as this part of the move allows…

 

I don’t know whether the speed is good or bad, probably neither, but I do know that once the decision was firm, the desire to execute it swiftly grew. At the same time we have wanted a measured pace, one that allowed us to pack easily

 

Today packers will finish up what we didn’t get done or didn’t intend to get done. Tomorrow, too, if necessary.

 

This is, for me, a difficult stretch. Lots of strangers, lots of activity in the house, details. Unfinished business that has to get done by a deadline. Yikes.

 

Decisions now are summary. Yes, that goes in trash. No, we’re going to put that in the trash, too. Trash wins all ties.

 

The sleep deprivation demon has come out to play the last couple of nights. Wake up for any reason and, wham! … Just like that your mind is awake and generating a list of things you hadn’t even considered up to that point. How energetic of you, mind.

 

I’ve noticed, more in recent years, that physical activity which had once been, if not easy, at least doable, taxes me, makes my muscles quiver slightly. Weakness like this has a similar effect to sleeplessness. A doubled effect in this instance. The lowered ability to do work-decline in muscle strength-also affects my sense of maleness. I’m weak, unable to do (fill in the blank), and therefore less of a man. Do I know this is nonsense? Intellectually, yes. Politically, yes. Emotionally? Not so much.

 

We had help, lots of help. Two different companies helped us pack. Various individuals helped us get our property ready for sale. Realtors have helped us find this house we have now and are helping us sell the one in Minnesota.

 

And always packing. List making. Lots of communicating, mostly with each other, but with wider family and friends. E-mails, phone calls. More packing, always. Up to the day the movers came and finished the packing for us.

 

So many decisions, big and small. Working out how to live in the move rather than constantly projecting ourselves out of the present and into the future, so tempting, so damaging.

 

A major goal of living-in-the-move as an idea was to tamp down the holds and let the anxiety leak out in controlled doses.

Third Phase Matters

Beltane                                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

1000Kate and Charlie in EdenGood news here on the medical front. After imaging and functional testing of her lungs, Kate seems to have some impairment, but nothing significantly bad. Also, her echocardiogram showed problems that are manageable and most likely related to aging and altitude. We met with her cardiologist yesterday, Tatiana, and she reassured us about my biggest concern, pulmonary hypertension. Turns out there’s a distinct difference with this diagnosis in Colorado and in, say, Minnesota. It often occurs in aging patients and can have its roots in lower oxygen supply at night, a problem with altitude. We have an oxygen concentrator now for Kate and her O2 levels at night have improved a lot. Also, earlier this year she had an endoscopy and a colonoscopy which found nothing.

The third phase is an interesting mix of the financial, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Challenges can come from any of these aspects of our lives and when they come they can be dire. Knowing this it’s easy to fuss about them. And, it can be easy, too, to imagine the worst possible outcomes. Kate and I are pretty good at managing the anxiety associated with third phase problematics, but it comes up even so.

heart-rateThat’s why a healthy third phase life demands careful attention to all five areas.  Since December 1st, date of my knee surgery, we’ve had physical (medical) matters figure prominently. Now that those concerns have ameliorated we can work on ways to maintain our health.

It’s not just us. Good friend Bill Schmidt heads for the hospital on Monday for some medical care. It’s not only ourselves that these challenges effect, but our friends and family, too. That can produce emotional and spiritual concerns.  I know Bill’s strong and that his genes are good-he looks good in his genes-even at 80, but a hospital is a hospital and surgery is surgery. There are always risks. While not worried about Bill, I am concerned.

Bill Schmidt

Bill Schmidt

In our current abysmal political climate medical matters in particular can also cause financial problems. Which then, cascading like the waters in Maxwell Creek this morning, can cause emotional and spiritual issues. Ah, life in a capitalist paradise. A robber baron’s capitalist paradise, that is.

Kate and I are fortunate that we’ve found a spiritual community where we can stretch and grow our inner strengths. With the spiritual side of life strong most other matters can be handled, even approaching death. Not where we are now, but it is where we will be one day.

Art by Odegard. Finally hung.

Spring                                                                          Passover Moon

20170329_162936

Blessing

Spring                                                                   Anniversary Moon

soul1There are shifts and changes going on, movement in my soul. When we moved here, I left behind relationships precious beyond words. Not entirely, no. I’ve stayed in contact through facebook, e-mails, occasional visits, especially from the Woollies, but the day-to-day, go to lunch chances for nourishing those relationships has disappeared. I was lonely here atop Shadow Mountain.

This in no way denigrates the most special relationship of my life with Kate. I couldn’t have, wouldn’t have made this move without the strong anchor of our marriage. That anchor has only gone deeper into the oceans of my inner world as we’ve been out here.

Neither does it denigrate the wonder and majesty of living in the Rocky Mountains, nor does it denigrate my introverted path, so happy in its loft, this library. That loneliness did not diminish these important parts of my life.

Soul_SpiritBut it was real and significant. It manifested as a sense of yearning, a desire for companionship like what I’ve had with the Woollies and the docent corps at the MIA. I think, had it continued, that it would have become corrosive, perhaps even damaging to those core aspects of my life that remained solid.

Over the last couple of weeks though, perhaps a month or more, our engagement with Beth Evergreen has made that loneliness recede. In both the afternoon and evening mussar groups I’ve found a place to open myself up, to be vulnerable. To be seen. The study of kabbalah that will commence in May will deepen this experience, I’m sure of it.

To be in a religious community and have no professional responsibility for it is unusually freeing for me. Contra to the Dawkins and Hitchens of the world I find religion inspiring, most religions. I guess engagement with religion is a core facet of my self, too. Probably obvious to others, but only becoming so to me now. Beth Evergreen is the most authentic religious community I’ve had the privilege of knowing. In being part of it I’ve found a deep well to nourish the roots of my soul. A blessing.

A Good Sign

Imbolc                                                            Anniversary Moon

found by friend Tom Crane:

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Becoming Coloradan

Imbolc                                                             Valentine Moon

No snow. 10% humidity. A spate of small wildfires. Result: stage 1 fire restrictions put in place by Jeffco. In February. Winter has gone on holiday and the outlook for summer is fiery if we don’t get more moisture in March and April. Like death, oddly, I find the whole wildfire possibility invigorating. It motivates me to work on our lodgepole pine and aspen and it brings those of us who live in the mountains closer together. A common foe.

fire-danger-high

Lodgepole pine. From our bedroom window I look out and up to a jagged line of tree tops. On clear nights stars often align with the tops of the pines, giving them a decorated for Christmas look. Sometimes stars also align with branches further down, emphasizing the effect.

Which reminds me. Monday or Tuesday night of this week I looked up at the pines, as I often do before falling asleep. They were lit up with what looked like lightning bugs. What? The phenomena went on for quite a while, small specks of light flashing off and on. Obviously in February and up here on Shadow Mountain, no lightning bugs. A complete mystery.

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While waiting on the Rav4 to finish its spa day at Stevinson Toyota I spent some time considering whether I had become a Coloradan yet. First thing. I left my prostate and significant portions of my left knee in Colorado. No flowers in my hair, but I do feel I’ve contributed in a meaningful, whole body sort of way. Then, living in the mountains. Everyday. Learning the rhythms of mountain seasons, the wildlife, the vast number of hikes and sights and sites to see. And we’re adjusted to life at 8,800 feet. A very Colorado and mountain thing.

Of course, there are Jon and Ruth and Gabe, family links to schools, synagogues, sports, life as a child in the Centennial State. Our dogs, too, as Dr. Palmini said, are mountain dogs now. Due to the spate of mountain lion attacks on dogs in the last month or so, I have a concern for their safety that is very Coloradan. In fact I bought a powerful LED flashlight and have my walking stick ready to do battle with a mountain lion if necessary.

Kings Peak near us 4 pm 12 29

Kings Peak near us 4 pm 12 29

Congregation Beth Evergreen, in addition to a religious community, also facilitates ties with people who live up here like the lawyer, Rich Levine, we saw last week. Many others, too. Kate has integrated quickly thanks to the two sewing groups she belongs to: Bailey Patchworkers and the Needlepointers. Her integration helps mine.

The town of Evergreen has many great restaurants, as does Morrison. We go to jazz and theater in Denver.

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That’s the coming to Colorado part of the story. The other is my relationship to Minnesota. Of course there are the Wooly friends, especially Tom, Mark and Bill and the docent friends, many of whom I connect with through Facebook, but also through visits, e-mails, the occasional phone call. Those connections are still strong, even though attenuated by distance.

Minnesota will always occupy a large, 40-year space in my heart. That’s a long time, enough to become home. So many memories, good ones and bad ones. But, it is just that now, a 40-year space in my heart. I do not want to return. Life is here, now, and that, more than anything else, tells me that, yes, I have become and am a Coloradan.

 

Three Score and Ten

Imbolc                                                                             Valentine Moon

Got a birthday card yesterday. 70, it said, in large numerals. Wow. A new decade begun under a three quarters Valentine Moon.

vintage-valentine-with-swans

We finally got around to having our estate plan updated yesterday. We saw Rich Levine, a member of Beth Evergreen. We wanted to know whether our documents needed any changes to make them comply with Colorado law. “The law is very good with dead people,” he said, “Everybody dies and we inherited English common law.” He meant there was a significant body of law already in place about death and how to tidy up after it. “So, the good news is that most documents are good across states. Yours are fine.” They just need a codicil here or there.

will-testament_audible-wisdom-org_CC

Health care directives are a different matter. There, state law differs, so he’ll have new ones drafted for us. Kate asked about right to die since Colorado enacted it last year.
“It requires two doctors to certify that you have a medical situation that qualifies, so there’s nothing we can do about preplanning for that.”

All good stuff to get done as I join Kate in the 70’s. Yes, we wink out at some point, as Rich said, “Everybody dies.” I find the certainty of death and its relative closeness invigorating.

20150514_175020

Over the years, with so many dogs, so many of them Irish Wolfhounds who die very young, I’ve come to treasure each moment with each one of them. I know they won’t be with us forever. Of course, there’s sadness associated with that, but there’s also an incredible intimacy that comes from sharing their time with us, knowing we will see their death. I’ve begun, of late, to transfer that awareness to myself, to Kate, to the time we have left with our grandchildren, children and friends. This awareness is visceral, felt in the deepest part of the heart, and so valuable.

My 70th decade will find that awareness grow and become more and more a guide to my life. I know it.

 

Magnum opus

Imbolc                                                                            Valentine Moon

great workDon’t know why it took me so long, but I know how to make America great again. It will not require red baseball hats or xenophobic bluster. No, it only requires listening to the ideas of a Passionate priest, Thomas Berry. Berry wrote a small book, The Great Work. It influenced a turn in my political activity from economic justice to environmental concerns.

This 258 page book is a quick read and it introduces The Great Work. Civilizations, according to Berry, have a quintessential role that only they can perform. The one he identifies for our civilization is this: Creating a sustainable existence for humans on this earth. That is our Great Work. It is the way to make America Great again.

guestsThe phrase, the Great Work, comes from medieval alchemy. The primary, original material of the universe, the prima materia, in the alchemist’s lab can create the philosopher’s stone. The philosopher’s stone could turn base metals into gold or silver and extend the alchemist’s life.

We can take the prima materia of the U.S., its citizens and its land, put them in the alembic created by our need for survival and our need for economic  justice, and turn up the heat until we have our philosopher’s stone. When we have it, we can use it to heal the earth and create good-paying jobs for all.

Then, then America will be great. Not only again, but still and not only still but into the future as well. May it be so.

 

OK, Woollies. I Finally Did My Assignment.

Winter                                                                 Cold Moon

For this meeting, please bring a magazine, journal, newspaper article, book, or something written, that you have read within the last month and that brought a great deal of passion, inspiration, focus, energy, or meaning for you personally.” Scott Simpson, for the Woolly meeting a week ago today

I’ve read three books recently that have stayed with me: Zero K by Don Delillo, Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead and The Nix by Nathan Hill. These are all fiction, all by contemporary authors.

zero kZero K examines, in a minimalist world, our obsessions with death, immortality and technology while recounting a strained father-son relationship. It’s stark and strange, featuring, for example, a compound somewhere in the ‘stans. At this compound, mostly underground, is the center for a cryogenics movement funded by wealthy folk hoping to live forever, or at least until there’s a cure for whatever they have right now.

Underground RailroadUnderground Railroad imagines a real railroad, with tunnels and station masters, which carries escaped slaves. It is not so much the railroad though that commends this novel, but the story of the slaves who escape. This novel puts you inside the minds of slaves on the plantation and as they decide to flee and the ambiguous world that faces them even in relative freedom. Claustrophobic, scary, uncertain life on the run sometimes contrasted favorably with enslavement, sometimes furnished prisons and punishments that did not. I appreciated the chance to live in this world for the time it took to read this novel.

nixThe Nix uses massive online video gaming, the Chicago protests of 1968, and the life of a disappointed assistant professor of English and his estranged mother to reflect on what it means to be human.

The nix is a Norwegian legend, according to the characters in the book, which involves a horse. The horse finds children, plays with them, then invites them, by lowering his head, to climb aboard. At first, the children are delighted. They love the horse. Then, the horse begins to gallop, faster and faster. The child becomes frightened. Finally the horse wades into a lake, throw off the child and kills them. The theme of the Nix is just this: that the thing you love can kill you.

Well worth the read.

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