We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Before the Storm

Fall                                                                            Harvest Moon

Wow. Barely into October and I pushed about 5 inches of fluffy, but still wet snow off the back deck just now. The snow began before midnight last night. Thanks to winds blowing from the east, an upslope storm, we’ll get the bulk of its moisture. We’ll probably be on the upper end of the 7-10 inch forecast. This is a relatively rare event where the eastern Front Range gets more snow than the ski areas further west. Still snowing. Will continue, according to the forecast, through late afternoon today.

by Jeremiah, of Sarah, Kates sister

by Jeremiah, of Sarah, Kate’s sister

The weekend had that urgency before the storm feel to it, the first big storm of the season. On Saturday the fines got mowed and I worked on uncrating our Jeremiah Miller paintings. He’s my brother-in-law and an excellent artist. If you remember our Andover house, these are the two very large paintings that hung in the living room and our bedroom. A1 Movers crated them in December of 2014 and they’ve been in their specialized shipping containers since then.

The crates, very sturdy, are taller than I am and heavy. They were clumsy to move. I could maneuver the smaller one onto a small table made of saw horses and a slab of plywood, but the bigger one was too heavy. Jon helped me with that yesterday. Until I opened them, we had no idea how the paintings had fared. The smaller one is in good shape. I plan to open the bigger one today. The dry air here helps, at least in the short run. Over time it might advance the drying out of the paint and cause craquelure, something I’ll have to look into.

The energy surge I get when the air cools down kicked in a couple of weeks ago. It’s reinforced by 20 years of early fall gardening work in Andover. This was the time when the garlic got planted, the last of the leeks, onions, kale, collard greens, beans, beets, lettuce harvested and flower bulbs dug in. The raspberries were ripening constantly and the apples, too. It was also the time of wood cutting and splitting for our fire pit.

I got out the chainsaw and decided to cut stumps left standing from the fire mitigation work a couple of years ago. An Iraq vet, Julie, who heats with wood, stopped by on Friday and asked if she could have the bucked wood. Kate said yes and Julie carted off all of it, front and back. We still have a few dead trees that need to come down so we’ll have firewood. That left just the stumps and they stood out even more.

 a good and trusted tool for over twenty years

a good and trusted tool for over twenty years

The Jonsered I’ve had for twenty plus years, the one I used to cut down the large stand of black locust to clear the way for our gardens and to keep the woods cleared of snags, is past its usefulness. I should have had it rebuilt several years ago apparently. Chainsaw Bob said it’s not fixable. It’s hard to start and dies suddenly. Frustrating. Got four or five stumps cut close to the ground, difficult to do since it involves bending over and holding the saw level with the soil, as close as possible to the surface. Then I noticed I’d been too close to the soil and the saw blade had gone into it. Instant dullness. Gonna go see Chainsaw Bob and see if he has a rebuilt Jonsered I can buy. I’ve got many stumps to cut and those few dead trees.

Also hung the Arcosanti bell Kate got in Arizona years ago. It tolls when the wind blows and we decided long ago that its peeling memorializes our dead dogs. Noticed that the small diamond shaped windcatcher that makes it toll had fallen off, but couldn’t find it. We’ll have to create something in place of it.

typhonIt was a week of this sort of activity, getting ready for the storm, catching up on errands. My exercise, Jennie’s Dead work suffered, but my choice. This week I’m back at all of that, going to On the Move Fitness on Thursday for a new workout.

Jennie’s Dead is going well. Not sure what I’m doing with it, at least not completely. I’m retelling versions of certain myths and those retellings have become extended. I find them great fun to write, but I’m wondering now if they’re overwhelming the main story line. The Typhon/Zeus fight for control of Olympus has a lot of nuance.

Ancora Imparo. I’m still learning.

On Daily Rhythms

Fall                                                                                 Harvest Moon

20170615_075422_001A peculiar sequelae of my new schedule, afternoons remain inchoate. After the nap and before supper. Not sure yet what to do with that. Might be good for games and puzzles? I want to read then, too, and do Latin (or, Hebrew). Perhaps once kabbalah and Hebrew classes get cooking I’ll find this the natural time for that work. The issue is peculiar because once I’ve fed the dogs, gotten my writing done, finished items off my to do list and completed my workout, I’ve already had 7 plus active hours.

So after the nap there’s this, ok, you’ve done enough, kick back, relax feeling, yet it feels off since it’s still the middle of the day. Weird. These matters do have a way of resolving themselves over time, so we’ll see.

Kate was in fine fettle yesterday. [fettle, what is that? state or condition of health says the online dictionary. Makes sense. Also, oddly, as a verb: trim or clean the rough edges of (a metal casting or a piece of pottery) before firing]. Anyhow she felt good and I felt good seeing her feel good. She’s done a great job of adjusting to Sjogren’s, not easy at all, and days like yesterday are the reward. May she string many of them together.

Life’s Rhythms

Fall                                                                                 Harvest Moon

April, 2016, Songtan, Korea

April 2016, Songtan, Korea

Road trip! I’m planning a visit to see Joseph and SeoAh over his birthday weekend in late October. Since they’re living on base, I’ll get a chance to see Robins AFB from the inside. I saw Joseph on Shavuot, June 1st, when he came on a sudden trip to Colorado Springs, but I’ve not seen SeoAh since the wedding, now a year and a half ago. I’m excited.

Yesterday was a rest day from working out, so I used the morning to pick up and rearrange. My work habits leave papers and books scattered in many places, for many different reasons and every once in awhile restoration is in order. I got most of that cleared away yesterday, leaving now the more demanding tasks of moving a whole shelving unit and changing the location of certain books, especially those relevant to reimagining/reconstructing faith. It took a couple of years to find an arrangement of furniture up here that suits me and the books got shelved before I found it. A process.

Kate and I had our business meeting at 3 Margaritas. Though somewhat strained the last year by Jon and the grandkids, our finances are in good order. That makes life easier. We look out ahead at upcoming expenses like the Georgia trip, that quarter of beef from Carmichael Cattle Company, a boiler inspection, Jon’s work on the bench. We talk about matters that need attention at home like sealing the bathroom’s stone work, moving the Arcosanti bell, yard work. Cooking. We also talk about how we’re feeling, physically and emotionally.

for example

for example

Kate’s various ailments make keeping her energy up a challenge, but she’s developed routines that mitigate the worst effects of Sjogren’s Syndrome, has the Remicade infusions for rheumatoid arthritis and manages her lower o2 saturation at night with the oxygen concentrator. She’s gained weight, which is a big positive, though the irony of having to gain weight is never lost on her.

Jon’s working on his new house. He has the kid’s beds set up and spent the weekend painting. He says painting here can produce an intermediate phase where the low humidity causes the paint to dry prematurely, making it sometimes strip off in panels when he goes back to touch up. Frustrating. His kitchen and bathrooms will require more work than he initially imagined, but he’s skilled in these matters.

He came up last night. We had chili from the last of last year’s quarter beef’s hamburger. He’s adjusting to the new schedule, but discovering what all divorced people do. That is, all the responsibilities you used to share are now your’s alone. That can be overwhelming, but he’s handling it by choosing where he spends his energy, the only real solution.

plutarch-quote-there-are-two-sentences-inscribed-upon-the-delphic-oracWe’re in the middle of the days of awe, between new years and Yom Kippur, the day of atonement when the book of life is sealed for the last year. Life demands examination; the ancient Greeks had it written over the Delphic oracle’s doorway in Apollo’s temple: gnothi seauton, know thyself. This annual juxtaposition of the new year and a time of seeking forgiveness for wrongs committed in the past year, both from others and from the sacred Self which links us to the whole, is in a sense a reminder of a rhythm that examination requires.

We fall short of our best selves, both in our relationships with others and in our own inner life, but Judaism and its liturgical calendar reminds us that this is neither extraordinary nor indelible. We seek repentance, then move on, being trapped neither by the past nor by anxiety about how that past will determine our future. That’s the human message of the days of awe. And it’s a good one, one from which us non-Jews can learn.

 

 

 

Third Phase Thoughts. Again.

Fall                                                              Harvest Moon

birthday dinner at 65

birthday dinner at 65

We had a soaking, all day rain yesterday. Very humid east, not so much arid west. Temperatures were cool during the day and down to 35 degrees last night. After a busy week, having Saturday as a quiet day was good.

The now not as new work schedule has taken hold, at least the before lunch part: Ancientrails, Jennie’s Dead, breakfast, news and e-mails, workout, lunch, nap. The after nap portion, which was to be Latin and reading until 5:00 or so, has still not solidified.

Any schedule has its rhythm broken by errands, medical appointments, maintenance matters like oil changes for the Rav4, scheduling folks to handle things like boiler inspections, circuit breaker fixes, but over time I’ve learned that simply returning to the pattern usually keeps me moving me forward.

caterpillarThat’s especially important for workouts, which are easy to forego. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, I do 20 minutes of cardio, then resistance work, then 20 more minutes of cardio. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I do the high intensity cardio plus 50 minutes or so slower cardio. If I miss a Monday, I go on to the high intensity, slow cardio day. If I miss a Monday and a Tuesday, I still go to the 40 minutes of cardio, resistance work day. For me, keeping the same workouts on the same days of the week keeps me from feeling guilty (I’ve missed so many workouts, it doesn’t make sense to even try and get back to my schedule.)  and guilt stops the process altogether.

Of course, there is the question of why keep at it? At 70 it would be possible to argue that the pace of life should slow down. Why keep pushing, especially if self-esteem doesn’t demand it. And mine doesn’t.

retirementThe third phase is new. It used to be that 65 or so meant the end of a working life, retirement happened, then death, often before 70. Those that made it into their seventies were often burdened with serious medical problems that drained energy and created obstacles to doing much else.

In 1960, when I was 13, U.S. life expectancy was 69.7 years. In 2015 it was 79 years. Our perception of age is not shaped so much by our experience of age itself, but by our attitude towards age created when we were not aware they were forming. In the working class community where I grew up until age 17 65 was retirement and death, at least for men, who were the primary workers then, followed 18 months or so later.

In other words, when I learned what being old meant, it was basically work, stop work, die, and the ages around which those latter punctuations occurred were before seventy. Life after seventy had no shape, no coherence, except frailty, nursing homes, dotage. (for, as Kim Jong Un says, dotards.) Though is no longer true, and has not been for some time, by 1990 the average life expectancy had risen to 75 years, my inner image of aging was shaped in the 1960’s world of Alexandria, Indiana.

We try to adjust to changes like these, but the patterns of our childhood often shape our beliefs about what’s possible. If work stops at 65, what comes after that? No work? No ability to work? Or, relief that work is over, so the 1950’s model of an ideal retirement, gold or canasta or bingo or photography. Life after 65 meant hobbies, doing things you’d put off doing, then dying. But in fact life after 65 was so short for most people that getting traction for some new phase of life, a phase with no work and the responsibilities of in-home child rearing completed, didn’t seem to make much sense.

growing-whole-molly-young-brown-219pxw-330pxh70 is not the new sixty. It’s the new 70. What 70 is the new sixty really means is that for those raised in the 50’s, 70 now appears like age 60 did when we were kids. Big difference though…we’re in that sixties range of health, but we’re 70 and work has fallen away, the kids are gone. What do we do?

So far my response has been to do what keeps me physically, intellectually, emotionally and spiritually engaged. Why? Because the alternative is the Barcalounger, favorite tv programs, the occasional extended family meal, then the funeral home. The old model of retirement, what our financial consultant Ruth Hayden called the finish line model of retirement, was sort of like forever recess, a surcease from the demands of the boss and the day-to-day demanded non-work like activity, otherwise what was the point of retirement?

Now, though, retirement really means (for those of us financially secure anyhow) a change in who determines how we spend our time during the day. We do, not the workplace. If we take on that responsibility with the image of the 1960’s in mind, we take a breath and try to imagine what we always wanted to do when weren’t working. The more pertinent question, it seems to me, is really who do I want to be?

retirementYes, retirement and the life following it, the third phase as I call it, is just that, a new and different time of life, one in which the question of how do I live can have a radically different answer than in the first two phases. Who are you? Who do you want to be? If you want to be a person whose constant focus is recreation, who gets up in the morning for another day of adult recess, you can. If you want to be a dress designer after years as a forensic engineer, you can. Or, as in my case, the work before retirement age was satisfying, self-directed, so there’s little reason to change just because some age-related cultural turning point has been reached.

What this means for me is that as long as I am able, I’ll continue to write, to read, to research, to stay engaged in current happenings. I’ll keep at my spiritual growth, stay connected to friends and family. I’ll work out and do what I can around the house. When I can no longer do these things, if that time comes, I’ll reassess. Death is always ready to greet us, we don’t have to accelerate the process.

Engaged

Lughnasa                                                             Eclipse Moon

The waning Eclipse Moon stands high in the southern sky this morning above Orion’s head and shoulders. The brightness of even a half moon obscures many stars, a good reminder that light does not always reveal. It can hide things, too.

sugar cream pieToday is a busy one. Once I’ve finished my writing, ancientrails and Jennie’s Dead’s 750 words, I’m going to make two sugar cream pies. One is for home, the other for the mussar leadership group that meets tonight. Sugar cream pies are a distinct cultural marker for the Hoosier state, but more than that, they’re really delicious. Why I don’t make them often.

At noon Rabbi Jamie and I are going to eat at Sushi Win, a sushi joint, excellent, in Evergreen. We’re going to discuss the Evergreen Forum, in particular the meeting with the four participants at 4:00 p.m. this afternoon. We have to decide on format, setup, a questionnaire. The topic, prayer and worship in each person’s tradition, is already chosen.

kaddish the first line from Bleichrode prayer book 1923

Judaism, evangelical Christianity, science of mind and Islam will present this coming Saturday night. This will be the first of what we plan to be quarterly events. I’m excited about it, a little nervous, since it’s my idea, but Beth Evergreen is a collaborative place and many others have helped move the concept to this point. Next up will be a Buddhist, a Sikh, a Hindu and a Native American. That will be December 5th. A visiting scholar will present in the first quarter of 2017 on Reconstructionist Judaism’s thinking on these topics.

After lunch with Rabbi Jamie I’m going back to Shadow Mountain. Kate needs to get to the library in Bailey for her patchworkers group which meets there. I’ll take the opportunity to to go over to The Happy Camper and pick up some edibles.

Back home for a nap, then over to Beth Evergreen for the meeting at 4:00. Following this is the mussar leadership group at 6:30. Home around 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. A very full day.

work

Lughnasa                                                           Eclipse Moon

thoth writes

thoth writes

Kate finished the first draft of Superior Wolf. In one day. She made a very helpful suggestion which will require considerable revision, but the book will be stronger for it. A quote by Terry Pratchett, a British fantasy author: “The first draft is telling yourself the story.” Yes. Now I know, for instance, that the lead character is really Lycaon, not the initial main character I imagined. Those two things alone point the way toward a good revision.

The new schedule has taken shape, solidified. I write ancientrails first thing, like I’m doing right now. Then, I move onto Jennie’s Dead, which has begun to live and breathe, I’m excited to say. My goal each morning is to finish a post here and write 750 words in Jennie. I get breakfast either during or after I get those two things done. If I have the time, I’ll spend 30 minutes filing posts from ancientrails for Reimagining. Workout, which ends before lunch. Lunch. Nap.

Many monasteries had Scriptoria, otherwise known as writing rooms where monks made hand written copies of important works. The monks copied Christian writings, including the Bible, as well as works from Roman and Greek authors.

Many monasteries had Scriptoria, otherwise known as writing rooms

The after nap part is not so solid yet. I do read then, Arthur Green’s introduction to the Zohar, for example. I have not started translating again and, since I start Hebrew this week, I think, it might absorb that energy. By 4 p.m. or so, I’m moving toward the evening and happily so.

My life is best when I have large blocks of time I can manage and, when I’ve figured out a rhythm for the work I have underway. That’s happening. I’m grateful to Kate for supporting me in this and, for finding this amazing space. I want to have a library dedication sometime in October, in the main to thank her.

 

 

Fear and desperation

Lughnasa                                                                      Eclipse Moon

20170821_200301_001The new work schedule is good. It’s essentially writing and workout in the a.m., then reading and other study, including Latin in the afternoon. Plus lunch and a nap. Along with the better sleep I’ve been getting this year thanks to thc and tizanidine, I’m able to do the work that only I can do.

With Beth Evergreen as a place for communal life, Jon and the grandkids as immediate extended family, and our home here on Shadow Mountain, life has a rich texture, perhaps the most substantial I’ve ever felt. In the second phase of my life when I focused on work and raising Joseph, daily life had a fullness, but it also had an undertone of fear and desperation that I don’t feel now.

Fear and desperation can cloud the world of career and family building. These latter two are in conflict, for both resources and time. On the one hand we fear not having enough for our kids and spouse, either of time or money, on the other not spending enough of energy and intelligence on work so that we can earn money, be recognized, move forward in our chosen field. The struggle between these two leads to a sense of mild, or not so mild, desperation, the conflict unresolvable.

alchemyNote that this is not the often discussed work/life balance, there is no such no thing. There is only life, during which we work, love, pass our days.

The third phase, if it allows to us move past family building and career, can put us in a life where the conflict does resolve. In our case here on Shadow Mountain, and before this in Andover, Kate and I have been lucky. We got there. The kids moved out long before she retired. With her 401k, our mutual social security and my pension, earning money fell away as a need. Now life can be, as maybe it could be all along if we figured out how to structure things differently, all quilting, writing, reading, grandparenting and being with friends.

Of course, it does come with death no longer far away, but looming. Still, this is always so, though we push the reality away during the second phase. In fact, the known nearness of death gives life a piquancy I find precious, a sort of flavor to the broth that enhances the others.

 

 

All That Falls Shall Be Reborn

Lughnasa                                                                 Kate’s Moon

lughnasaOh. Right. Slept in yesterday until 7:30 am. About 2.5 hours past normal rising. The guy from Conifer Gutter came by to give us an estimate on needle guards for our gutters. Then, well, I worked out and forgot to post.

But, here we are on Tuesday, 48 degrees outside after a drippy, Midwest-nostalgia day of rain yesterday. Kate sewed; I dithered. Read a bit more on Dark Ecology and responding to the ecocide. That sort of uplifting thing.

Still don’t have the rhythm of the new workout routine and actual work down. This is because I shifted my workout to mornings-cooler and less likely to get distracted. That’s also my best working time, for writing and research not to mention stuff around the house. I’ll get it eventually, but the herky-jerky rhythm I’ve got now feels, well, herky-jerky.

Went to an energizing lecture titled Fifty Shades of Talmud. Yes, it was about sex in this compilation of commentaries and arguments that created Rabbinic Judaism. The woman who wrote the book, Maggie Anton, spoke about talmud study with an infectious enthusiasm. Made me glad. I love to see people living from their passion, deep into something that fascinates them.

lughnasa1

Kate, for example, loves to sew and quilt. She finished a great wall hanging for me yesterday, four moose prints on a field of green. I’ve long considered the moose my spirit animal. Thanks, sweetheart.

Rigel continues to spend her every outdoor moment yearning after jaws against the flesh of tiny critters. She sniffs under the deck and on the deck, presumably following the movements of whatever is under there. She digs and sniffs and barks under the shed, too. She’s rejuvenated and following her doggy passion. In fact, she’s my new third phase role model. I want to be like Rigel. No, I’m not going to start sniffing the deck, barking under the shed, but I want to live my life like she’s living hers, all in.

 

 

 

Easing Back

Midsommar                                                                          Kate’s Moon

books and cupWith concern about my knee prosthetic assuaged, I’ve gotten a better workout routine going. It’s taken me awhile to match my new workout time, start between 9 and 10 am, with productivity on other projects like reimagining and a new novel, but I’m getting there.

Yesterday I printed out work on Loki’s Children, the second part of the Missing trilogy, and the Protectors, a nugget about a group called the Carthaginians. That gives me three stories to consider. I’m also going to through a file I have in Evernote called story ideas. Check out what I’ve been squirreling away for the past couple of years.

Reimagining work right now consists of scissors and a stapler: cutting up the printed out pages from ancientrails, stapling individual posts together, then filing them under the conceptual (chapter?) headings I’ve defined. I ended up with well over 200 printed pages so this is no small task.

kabbalahThe kabbalah class is over until after the high holidays, but I plan to read in both the first volume of the Zohar and the key work by Isaac Luria. No idea right now about how to organize that reading, but Rabbi Jamie will help. Kate and I continue to study mussar, the Thursday at 1 pm group grounding us in both Jewish ethics and a small community.

Sister Mary and her s.o. Guru will be here Tuesday through Thursday. They’re flying here from Tamil Nadu where Mary and her friend Anitha were presenting at a conference. Mary has a conference in L.A. beginning on Friday. She’s got lots of air miles to her credit.

Life near the end of Midsommar

Midsommar                                                                   Kate’s Moon

a while ago

a while ago

Jon’s work on the benches for our dining room shows his continuing growth in woodworking. I’ll post pictures when he’s done, but the panels he’s building are cabinet maker good. That’s a pretty high skill level and he’s self taught after an apprenticeship with Dave Schlegel, a renovation contractor in Minneapolis many years ago.

The grandkids were up last night. Ruth’s excited about middle school, “I won’t be in the same classroom all day.” Jon, “That’s good for your teachers.” Ruth, “That’s good for me.” She’s a sweet kid. Gabe wants to be a sweet kid, too, but some misfiring neurons keep pushing him toward ornery. Maybe as the divorce settles and they move into Jon’s new house, achieve a new normal, he’ll come back toward center. But, maybe not.

20170721_172815Kate’s doing a lot of self care. She’s eating more, trying to get her weight up, an irony lost on neither of us. She does facial saunas, sinus clearing saline, pays attention to the development of thrush and knocks it back. Yesterday was her third or fourth infusion of Remicade for her r.a. Her rheumatologist gave her a drug for her dry mouth, a saliva stimulator. She uses the oxygen concentrator at night and sometimes at naps. Its humidifier has been a big help. None of these aggravations are fatal, but they do rob her of energy and sleep, of time, of resilience. Hard. But, she’s a strong, smart woman and able to develop a solid care plan for herself.

In my world I’m rediscovering my love affair with writing novels and my resistance to writing non-fiction. I reread Jennie’s Dead, maybe ten to twelve thousand words. Got excited about entering that universe, finishing it. This one’s about magic, straight up. I’m still going to continue research and general work on reimagining through Samhain, seeing if, as I said the other day on Ancientrailsgreatwheel, I get renewed energy for it in the fall. I am, however, going to look at a few other project fragments and pick one to flesh out, probably Jennie’s Dead, but there are a couple more. I miss the discovery and joy of creativity I experience while writing novels.

Lariat Lodge, Evergreen

Lariat Lodge, Evergreen

Since the visit with my orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Peace, I’ve ramped up my workouts, now aiming for 10,000 steps on the days I don’t do the resistance work, 7,000 on those days. So far, I’m hitting those marks. The new resistance work is good, sufficiently good that I’m considering extending my work with On the Move Fitness so that I can get a new workout every six weeks or so. Keeps things mixed up and I have a tendency to get into a rut with workouts I design myself. Also, my form gets out of whack, or was never in whack to begin with.

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