We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Vanishing

Beltane                                                                               Sumi-e Moon

Tom Wolfe, Phillip Roth and Robert Indiana…all dead in the same week.

Phillip RothRobert Indiana

Robert Indiana 2

Tom Wolfe

Monday

Beltane                                                                       Sumi-e Moon

Still printing out Ancientrails. Wish I’d looked at the pages a little earlier rather than just take them off the printer and add them to the stack. My ink cartridge, which I have had in for quite a while, began to fade in the middle of May, but I didn’t notice. That means I printed out June in faded blotches. Sigh. Do over.

Worked yesterday on my Aickmanesque short story. It’s harder than it looks. Trying to put in shifts in perspective, foreshadowing all without being obvious. Then, wrapping up in 5,000 words or so. Very different from novel writing. A sprint to the novel marathon.

Got a new workout yesterday. Bicep curls during step-ups. Plank raising one leg, then the other. Oh, boy. Crunch with exercise ball. Lower back exercise on exercise ball. Bench press with dumbbells. Row like lawnmower. Other things. Feels good to shift up, change routines.

Kate’s got an echocardiogram today and a visit with her cardiologist. Her overall health has improved so much in the last couple of weeks.  Routine followup though she has had some ankle swelling.

Ruth’s up. She’s on her way to Estes Park tomorrow, but today she and I are going to make challah. And, this evening she and Kate plan to make lamb shawarma. Kate got a couple of new cookbooks at the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit. Ruth’s finished up sixth grade. “Middle school’s so much better than elementary.” She needed the challenge of tougher math, Mandarin, art and she’s flourishing. “I have a talent for language acquisition.” She’s changed so much over the past year. More confident, curious, independent. It’s so much fun to see her life beginning to get back on the track after the divorce.

Gabe still has two weeks of school.

Aickman

Beltane                                                                              Sumi-e Moon

AickmanTrying my hand at a short story in the style of Robert Aickman. If you appreciate strange fiction with a literary style, then you’ll love Aickman. His work is as distinctive as Kafka and some use the term Aikmanesque to reference it, as the word Kafkaesque references Kafka’s unique style. Aickman uses dense description of place and characters to lull the reader into a sense of the narrative, but he subtly tweaks certain aspects that color a character’s mood or personality and the apparently normal world in which they live. At some point in the story, a line gets crossed between this world and a surreal one that you then notice lurked behind even the first few paragraphs.

Life Improving

Beltane                                                                                                 Sumi-e Moon

Pulled a couple of t-bones out of the freezer yesterday. Two inch thick. But chewy. Still, the flavor was good. Mashed potatoes and corn on the cob. Saturday night meal with my sweetheart.

20180513_105811Kate looks and feels so much better. The pain is gone in her right shoulder which created a lot of stress throughout the day and made sleeping difficult, requiring vicodin from time to time. She’s exercising regularly as she goes through her p.t., using the pulley we set up in her sewing room, using a walking stick for two-handed shoulder movements, rolling an exercise ball.

Sjogren’s, right now, is manageable, which it seems to be in the absence of a flair. Her weight is headed up, zigzagging, as weight can, but moving in a positive direction. Her energy level and stamina are both much improved. She’s sewing favors, mug rugs, for a Bailey Patchworkers event in August for which she is the food chairperson.

20180414_162058Jon, too, has positive news. He bought some appliances, a Viking cooktop and two wall ovens, a microwave and dishwasher. He also had a date which he described as amazing. Ruth is out of school, Gabe is next week and I believe Jon finishes the week after. He has the summer for working on his house, something he’s looking forward to. I plan to help him with his landscaping.

SeoAh had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic and ended up in the emergency room. She’s better now. Joe’s doing major things. Murdoch continues to get bigger.

I’m doing well. Back at Jennie’s Dead, closing in on 50,000 words, printing out Ancientrails. I’m only up to April of 2008, but I’m making progress. I named this moon sumi-e so I can get a more organized approach to working with the brushes, learning instead of just playing. Which is fun, too. Reading a lot. Finished God Save Texas and went on from that to Rovelli’s Order of Time which I also finished. Right now I’m reading short stories by Robert Aickman. He’s weird. Surprised I never heard of him before now.

The Dead Sea Scrolls exhibition runs from March 16 to Sept. 3, 2018 at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science. The exhibition showcases ancient artifacts predominantly from Israel. Photo courtesy of Denver Museum of Nature & Science.

Today 24 of us from Beth Evergreen are going in to see the Dead Sea Scroll exhibit at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science. Rabbi Jamie’s brother, a Ph.D. in Hebrew Studies, will give us a personal tour.

Speaking of stress reducers, we’ve had rain and even snow yesterday, for the last few days. More on moisture ahead, too. Tamps down fire risk. Also makes the mountains atmospheric. Lots of mist and fog, partial glimpses. Black Mountain as Gypsy Rose Lee.

Hard Copies, Hard Work, Hard to Understand

Beltane                                                                     Sumi-e New Moon

hard copiesStarted a long project yesterday. I’m printing out all of Ancientrails. Been wanting to do a total backup and I will at some point, but if it’s going to be useful to my ongoing work, hard copy is better. Besides, think how satisfying it will be to hold a copy of all this. Then, I got to thinking. Oh, but a fire! I’m going to make a copy of the copy when it’s done, then make copies of all my hard copies of my novels. I’m going to ask Jon if I can store those copies in his garage in Aurora. Yes, all the novels are on flashdrives (and in a safety deposit box, all except my work on Jennie’s Dead and Rocky Mountain Vampire) and all of Ancientrails is in the cloud, but the hard copies are important, too. The things that come up before we fall asleep.

Haven’t mentioned the dishwasher in a while, certainly not the Samsung of late and unlamented memory, but that’s because the Kitchenaid works. It has eased a burden. Dishwasher, clothes washer and dryer, gas/electric stove and refrigerator. All really are labor saving appliances. No ice delivery. No need to fell trees and split wood. No hand washing of dishes and dirty clothes. No hanging clothes out on the line and bringing them back in. We don’t think about these wonders unless one ceases to work, but they do free us up for other more important matters like facebook and texting. Ha.

similar to the one I used back in 1974

similar to the one I used back in 1974

I have felled trees and split wood to use a wood cook stove and to heat a house with an airtight wood stove. I have washed dishes by hand as a matter of course. No scrub board and clothes line in my past though. Laundromats. I’ve never had an ice box though that was the go to word for the refrigerator when I was a kid. My grandmother called all cars, the machine.

As always we live in a time between this moment and the past, between this moment and the future, never fully leaving behind the ways and memories of the past and never fully engaged in the ways and possibilities of the future. It is in precisely this sense that the present is both past and future, at least in the only useful understanding of them.

By the qabbalah class this evening I’ll have finished Carlo Rovelli’s book, The Order of Time. I rarely read books twice, too much to read, but I will definitely read this again. A lot of it is clear, understandable, but so counter-intuitive that it’s hard to recall, hard to assimilate. For instance, according to Rovelli, whose field is quantum loop theory, time is not a dimension at the quantum level. It’s not necessary for the equations that explain quantum mechanics.

quantum2If I’m understanding his primary argument, time at the Newtonian level is a result of blurring. This may seem like an odd idea, and it is, but it’s not so hard to grasp if you think about the blurring that is necessary for us to perceive the world around us. Example. If you shrank to the atomic level and tried to walk across a table top, you’d fall in. It’s blurring of the quantum world that makes the table seem solid to us. Time is a result, again if I’m getting this, of the blurring of the transitions from event to event which, at the quantum level have no prescribed order.

Anyhow, to really comprehend Rovelli’s work, I’ll need to go through it again having the whole as context for the parts.

 

 

Words

Beltane                                                                     Mountain Moon

BlessedA session last night with writers who are members of Beth Evergreen. Published writers, that is. Beth Evergreen has a large number of creative people actors, musicians, dancers, painters and writers. Joanne Greenberg who was on the panel has published 20 novels, including the well-known I Never Promised You A Rose Garden. Ron Solomon wrote Broken!, a true story of torture told in fictional form, and has written many screen plays, TV treatments, children’s books, games. Another woman wrote academic and fiction books. Nancy Larner has written a children’s book, A Mouse in the Rabbi’s Study. Marilyn Saltzman writes non-fiction, ghost writes and runs her own public relations firm.

“Writer’s block,” Joanne said, “is your character telling you you’re an idiot.” Nods from the other panelists. “I write with a pencil. And they break.” Ron Solomon. “I meditate a lot. In meditation I try to be with the characters.” Nancy Larner. “I have to work hard to get myself out of the way.” Marilyn Saltzman. “I know when my words are right in my body.” The woman whose name I didn’t get, author of academic books and papers and books like Mirriam’s Well.

Tell the truth. Kill your darlings. It’s hard work, nothing mystical. Lightning strikes. I stand up and move around the room. I read my books out loud listening for clunky dialogue.

Five distinct individuals, very clear about themselves, their work, their inner life. I felt inspired, like I was with my true tribe. You might think that my lack of publishing would make me feel out of place, but I found myself engaged, nodding, feeling with all of them.

Made me think another panel of musicians and actors would be fun, too.

 

 

Elevation Elation

Spring                                                                          Mountain Moon

The full mountain moon lit up the backyard last night. The mountain landscape changes throughout the day and throughout the moon’s cycle as light creates shade here, then there, casting into relief rock structure or limning tree stumps. The moon puts down a quiet, gentle light in which all seems peaceful even though predators still stalk through the forests.

I’m halfway into the mountain emphasis, still reading the mountains and rivers poets of China, still looking carefully, learning how to see what I’m looking at. Tried some sumi-e paintings but realism, even of the mountain essence variety, is beyond me right now.

I did print out both Rocky Mountain Vampire and Jennie’s Dead. Read through the Vampire’s few words, 2,500 or so. Some of it I liked, some I didn’t. Setting it aside right now. Jennie’s Dead is at 45,000 words, about halfway. Still reading it, liking it. It’s different from my others in the amount of mythology retelling and reimagining I’m doing in it. Once I finish reading it, I’m going to get back at it.

pape_de_abraham-a_hermit_writing_in_his_bookWhile I read yesterday, I realized (again) that this is what I love, the mechanics of writing, words and sentences, paragraphs and chapters, the letting something new come into the world like Athena born from the forehead of Zeus. It always surprises me, just as I imagine Zeus was surprised when a goddess burst forth. Well, maybe not quite that grand of a surprise, but you get the point.

Even though Kate is still struggling with nausea, persistent and dispiriting, her recovery still moves forward. She’s using her right hand and forearm more and more. Her weight, which dipped after the pain of the deep massage, has rebounded. Her right shoulder pain is gone and her p.t. will help her get her strength back.

As her recovery continues, I can feel myself ready to get back to full-time writing. I’m excited about that. I’d gotten away from it well before her surgery, so her surgery didn’t effect my writing, but the energy I feel from her progress has affected my return.

My Colorado life has begun to come into focus. Keep writing. Learn more sumi-e, practice, then practice some more. Continue to read the shan shui (rivers and mountains) poetry of ancient China, read geology, sketch and paint the shan shui here. Cook. Go deeper into the community of Beth Evergreen and the tradition of Judaism. Workout and hike. Spend time with Kate, Jon, Ruth, Gabe. Consult with Beth Evergreen’s beekeepers. Dogs. Do the things that only I can do. Speak with the voice only I have. Travel the state. Looking forward to the June trip with Tom, Paul, and Mark. Maintain long distance connections to SeoAh, Joe and Murdoch and to friends from college and high school. Continue learning more about the West.

ancoraI keep seeing articles about how to find meaning in old age. I don’t think there are any secrets. It’s the same process as finding meaning in young age. You have to actively seek it and create it for yourself. Sure, your possibilities and capacities change with different ages, but that’s all. There’s a presumption that old age is a paradigm shift in how to live. No. It’s not.

The third phase, while certainly significantly different than the other two, is still life, still your life. Your old sources of meaning don’t disappear though they may, probably will, transform. You may find new ones. I have since we moved to Colorado. But you found new sources of meaning before, didn’t you? Same now. Your job then, your job now. I find this very liberating, freeing me from the social constructs about what an old person is or does. As an older person, I’m still learning, still changing, still growing. May it continue.

 

 

D-Day

Spring                                                                    Mountain Moon

kitchen aidToday is D-Day on Shadow Mountain. Dishwasher Day, that is. Sometime between 8 and 12, the cliched “window”, Best Buy, yes, that old home town favorite, will deliver and install our new Kitchen Aid dishwasher. After five weeks plus of hand washing dishes (the horror!) we’ll go back to the way dishes were meant to be washed, with lots of chugging and rushing and whirring. This has been a sufficiently long and frustrating process that I’ll not believe it’s over until the new appliance is snug in its home and has run its first few cycles.

Rich Levine wrote yesterday to say that our bee equipment is out in the wild now, helping other, new beekeepers. Tara Saltzman, CBE’s director of religious education, felt more comfortable using our half body bee suit. A hive tool, twenty of our built out frames, two hive boxes, bee brush, smoker and pellets went to the bee project. It feels good that they’re in use rather than sitting in our garage and it particularly feels good that they’re encouraging others to learn about bees.

IMAG0784We have more hive boxes, more honey supers, plus all the equipment needed to harvest and bottle honey. We brought the bee stuff with us on the chance that we would want to pick up bee keeping here, but now it’s unlikely. With both gardening and beekeeping the challenges altitude presented might have been overcome, they can be, but that first year enthusiasm after the move, 2015, got absorbed by prostate cancer. In 2016 Jon told me he and Jen were getting divorced. That took our attention for a full year and a half to which I added knee replacement surgery and Kate added Sjogren’s. Unless we decide to purchase a greenhouse, our horticultural life will remain muted.

Kate had her third session of p.t. and I took the time to go to King Soopers and get some groceries. She’s a had a small set back with her appetite, but her progress has given her confidence. This will be only a to be expected dip. Nothing’s linear.

Today's work

Today’s work

Meanwhile I have decluttered the loft. As I work, I pile up books and paper, file folders and magazines, creating temporary archival mounds. When I get to a place where I can poke my head up over the transom and see some light, the mounds lose their archival charm and become just clutter. The act of reshelving books, creating file folders for loose papers, organizing magazines has an energizing effect, both in the satisfaction of a more organized space and in the psychic sense of a new time beginning.

Today is filing, organizing magazines and a task new to me, creating storage for my sumi-e work. Most of it is practice, but there are a few keepers. I don’t understand the value of practice work yet, so I’m going to keep almost all of it even though my instinct is to throw it away. This means finding a way to archive large flat pieces of paper in a way that doesn’t fold or mutilate them. I have some ideas, folded cardboard, removing a few maps from my flat file storage. When I get to working on it, I’ll invent something.

That, plus the dishwasher, is what Tuesday will be about.

 

Here Comes the Book

Spring                                                                    New Shoulder Moon

“A scholar is just a library’s way of making another library.”  -Daniel Dennett, philosopher, writer, and professor (b. 28 Mar 1942)    found by friend Tom Crane

DIGITAL CAMERA

I love this quote. As I wrote back to Tom, it reminds me of an example B.F. Skinner used to talk about creativity within his straight-jacketed behavorist psychology. Think, Skinner suggested, of a chicken as an egg’s way of making more eggs.

chicken2Those of us who love libraries and those of us who have ones of our own take up their content like chicken scratching around in a farmyard. We poke, peck, pick up a few rocks to grind the ideas against the gizzard of our memory and our own mind, wait awhile, then, out pops words. Sometimes enough words come out to fill a book. And, voila, more library.

Well, gotta to get back to digging my little clawed feet, formerly of dinosaur size remember, into the shelves here. Till later.

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.

May 2018
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