Downsize?

Winter and the Future Moon

Monday gratefuls: Ruth and Jon skiing. Gabe peeling potatoes. Kate getting Murdoch upstairs. The picker at King Sooper. Having Sunday free of workout. Cleaning off my table. Organizing and preserving my paintings. Kate paying the bills. Ruth. Murdoch.

My paintings. Whoa. Like my novels and my blog. I’ve done, I don’t know, twenty/thirty paintings since I began. A few end up in the trash because I can’t bear to look at them. A few are standing out so I can look at them, review what I like about them, don’t like. The rest I put between buffered paper and/or cardboard sheets yesterday. Not sure what I’ll do with them. My novels exist in printed form in file boxes and in their revisions on my computer.

Two million words of Ancientrails rest on Kate’s old medical school desk, two thousand plus pages printed out with the wrong margins for binding. Sigh. Going to a bookbinder for an estimate and to be told how or if, if I decide to, I should layout the page for printing myself. Might give them a memory stick with all on it. Or, that might be too expensive. We’ll see.

Gabe stayed here yesterday while Ruth and Jon went to A-basin. I asked Gabe to tell me one interesting thing he’d done last week. I haven’t done much. I did see movies. Oh? Which ones? Lots of them on the Disney Channel.

Clever folks, Disney. They priced their channel, at $6.99 a month, so a kid with an allowance might choose to purchase their own subscription. Both Ruth and Gabe have a subscription.

Stirring inside. Declutter, simplify. Downsize. Example. When we moved, I kept every file I made for my docent work at the MIA. Why? Wanted to keep art as central to my life as it was when I was there. Tried several different things, none worked. And, having the files hasn’t helped either. Out they go. I also want to clean up the filing system (?) in the horizontal file which will mean throwing out yet more files.

The bigger, harder question? What about the books? Is it time to downsize my library? I’m considering it.

Doubt it will stop my book buying. That’s a lifelong habit started, I think, with those book lists from the Scholastic Reader (something like that). Sheets with books, descriptions, and modest prices. We could pay for them at school, then they would come at some other point. Sorta like e-commerce. Oh, how I looked forward to the arrival of those books. I read them quickly, too. I graduated to buying comics and paperbacks at the Newsstand downtown.

My first serious kick was all the James Bond books. I bought them one or two at a time with my paper route money. Lots of others, too. I was also reading books from the Carnegie library, too.

Got into the habit of buying books that interested me, books that followed other books I’d read. Buying books. College was hard in that I passed by the bookstore every day in the Student Union. If I went in, I’d always come out with a book or two.

Later, bookstores. Joseph had been in most of the good book stores in the Twin Cities before he hit first grade. And, finally, Amazon. Oh, right here in my own loft. On my computer. What a great deal.

Over 60+ years I’ve bought a lot of books. My interests have waxed and waned, but the books purchased during my enthusiasms remain. A few: Celtic mythology, fairy tales, Ovid’s Metamorphosis, magic, Jungian thought. An ur religion focused on the natural world, not scripture. Literature of all sorts. Plays. Theology. Poetry. U.S. history. the Civil War. Art. Lake Superior. Latin and the classics. Religion.

Getting rid of them feels like betraying my curiosity. I might finish that book on the Tarot. That commentary on the Inferno? Maybe next year? What about that ecological history of Lake Superior? The work on reconstructing, reimagining faith?

Still, it feels like time to begin paring down. Will take a while. And be hard.

For each of the tags listed here, I have a small or large collection of books.

Stick to it

Winter and the Full Future Moon shining through the lodgepole pines in the west

Friday gratefuls: for the Mussar group. for the Daf Yomi, now day seven. for the chance to do the Murdoch mitzvah. for the fresh new snow. for the 12 degree weather, what they call here, Stock Show weather. for Black Mountain who watches over me from above. for Shadow Mountain who supports me from below. for the crazy people who go out on Evergreen Lake for ice-fishing. May there always be crazy people.

Kepler to the vet yesterday. No, not bites and rips from Murdoch’s teeth. Rashes and hot spots. Antibiotics and an increased prednisone load for a week or so. Dr. Palmini has lost weight and buffed up. When I asked him if he would go to the Iditarod this year. The jury’s still out, he said. It’s a long time to be gone. But, it’s fun, isn’t it? Well, some of it, but when you get up at 3 am…? He goes as a volunteer vet for the sled dogs in the race. Lots of Iditarod memorabilia on the walls of his practice.

Back to HIIT workouts for cardio. Hi intensity interval training. A new one. Slow, 90 seconds. Fast as possible, 6mph for me, 30 seconds. Repeat four times then 3 minute cool down. I increased the number of intervals and the incline, from 1% to 2%, this week. Intervals are the best workout for cardio and they take a shorter time period that most cardio workouts.

Mussar. Got caught out nodding like I understood something that was said. Had to admit it, because the conversation expected me to say something about I’d already said. Everybody laughed when I told them. First time I can recall being caught in this oh, so usual gambit of not only me, but all folks hard of hearing. Gotta work on the ear wax thing. Seems to bother my hearing aid a lot.

The quality of the day, see Ruth Gendler’s The Book of Qualities, was perseverance. A lot of discussion, an amusing number of examples about math, not unusual in a group with literary inclinations. Perseverance is in my toolkit.

Mostly. I can write novels. Start and finish them. Not easy, often taking over a year. I did not persevere so well with marketing them, though. I enjoy, as I said a few posts back, long books, long movies, long tv series. I can start all of these and finish them. Think War and Peace, Dante’s Inferno, Spenser’s Fairie Queen, Faust, Romance of the Three Kingdoms. 10 Commandments, the Irishman, Gone with the Wind. And, Resurrection: Ertugrul. I’m finally in the fifth and last season. It only has 88 episodes.

I can make a commitment and stick to it for years, a lifetime. One of my youthful commitments was to keep reading difficult material. Stay political. College. Keep asking the fundamental questions and don’t shy away from difficult answers. Never work in a setting that compromises your values. Kate, now for over 30 years. The Woollies, about the same. Joseph, now going 39 years. Exercise, since my forties.

When I didn’t persevere, marketing and college German being the ones that come to mind, it was out of fear, I think. Fear is not a guide, it’s a caution, but I let myself get stuck in its glue at least those two times and I regret it. Anxiety grows along with fear and fear increases the anxiety. As I’m learning to be easier with myself, I’ll give myself an “I’m sorry to hear that, but you’re ok now.” bit of self-talk.

Samain and the Gratitude Moon

Friday gratefuls. Deb and Dave at On the Move Fitness. Seoah’s life joy. The inventor of kettlebells. Treadmills. dumbbells. Television. The transformer. The circuit board. The CPU. Software. Sputnik. Laika. Koko. Any random elephant, giraffe, lion, hyena, rhino, cheetah, zebra, hippo. All of them.

Back to the future. New workout from On the Move. Stepup. TRX pushup. TRX row. Kettlebell one arm shoulder press. Quadraped with a three second hold. Reverse crunch circles. Bridge hold. Step and hold, balance. Deb recommended high intensity cardio for the COPD. Did them up until the radiation started in June. I’ll get back to them, slowly.

She pointed out that the COPD will make me feel fatigued. Oh, yeah. Sarcopenia from aging and sarcopenia from lupron, too. No wonder I’m feeling like that guy on the back of the comic book. You know, the one getting sand kicked in his face? Not much to do but keep exercising, wait for the lupron to drop away. Maybe June of next year.

The Mayans considered the last 5 days of the year as useless days. I used to take that week and do a research project on something of interest to me. Now I’m going to expand that time to December and this year I choose painting. I will poke around in color theory, mixing paints, continuing to paint using shades of intense blue as background. Composition, too. I’ll take Ruth to Meiningers art supply store. Might pick up some new Princeton brushes, some new Williamsburg paints.

Then, there’s the issue of the next decade. The 20’s. Whoa. I’ve lived well into the future. But. Where’s my time traveling Delorian? My transport portal? My brain implants? Why haven’t I met a cyborg yet? You know, like from this year’s Blade Runner.

For the first time I’ve considered whether I’ll live out the decade. Hardly impossible. I’d just have to reach 83 and I know two guys that have already made that or very close to it. Frank’s already there. Bill will be on April 8th. But, who knows? Of course, dying is always possible, but with cancer and copd, my clock may have sped up.

If I knew I would die in the next decade, what would I do differently? Anything? Not sure. I’d like to travel more. See more of Colorado. Make it to Taipei and see the National Museum. Paint more. Write more books. But I already do those things. Love more. Laugh more. Again, not new. Maybe it will be the proportion of those things. Or, maybe something new will appear. Whatever happens, it will be the 2020’s! Buck Rogers time.

Hózhó

Samain and the Fallow Moon

A fellow MIA docent posted a Navajo rug and it had this explanation of hózhó:

Hózhǫ́ is a foundational concept in the Navajo world, encompassing ideas of beauty, harmony, balance, order, grace, health, and happiness. It is a state of being, thinking, and acting. Navajo artists embody hózhǫ́ as they weave, and textiles are imbued with and become works of hózhǫ́.

Not a human being. No. A human becoming. Becoming with hózhó, with knowing ichi-go ichi-ge as the rich moment, with an ikigai of life as it is, not as we might want or wish it, but as it is, hózhó always. No matter what.

With wabi-sabi as a preferred way of seeing the world. Tarnished often, broken, yes. But even so a Velveteen Rabbit place. Repaired with gold where the cracks are. Walking this ancientrail of becoming which never ends. Walk along with me, friend.

Reading Zornberg on Genesis (see below), The Beginning of Desire. She found this title in a poem fragment from Wallace Stevens, his Notes Toward A Supreme Fiction:

“And not to have is the beginning of desire.
To have what is not is its ancient cycle.
It is desire at the end of winter…

It knows that what it has is what is not
And throws it away like a thing of another time…”

Sat down this morning to read Zornberg, but I printed out this poem, 23 pages long, yesterday. Thought I’d check where her fragment fit in the whole. Wallace Stevens is a giant to me though I know only a few of his poems. He hits me in a place I do not recall exists until I read him.

Anyhow an hour later I looked up. Read the whole thing. Yowzer. Let me repeat that. Yowzer.

A few lines:

The death of one god is the death of all.

Phoebus was a name for something that never could be named.

…the future casts and throws his stars around the floor

There was a myth before the myth began, Venerable and articulate and complete

The bear, the ponderous cinnamon, snarls in his mountain At summer thunder…

Stevens kept throwing in beautiful lines filled with the horror of nothingness and whether the Supreme Fiction can counter it. I’ve got to read it several more times. But, wow. This poem is something. It’s apparently considered his master work and I can see why.

Reading it reminded me that reading poetry, ancient texts, philosophy has a sustenance all its own. A castle of temporary meanings lodged in stony rooms, waiting for a visitor. Part of life now. Not what’s next. But, now.

Hózhó in this once in a lifetime moment and the next one, a wabi-sabi vision sufficient for ikigai.

Change it up, dude

Fall (last day of) and the Fallow Season Moon

-8. That’s right. -8 degrees here on Shadow Mountain, the day before Halloween. In October. We’ve had a taste of Minnesota winter the week before Halloween.

Been changing my morning routine a bit. Read an article that said the first three hours of your day are the most important. Mine starts between 4 am and 4:30 am. I wake up, the dogs get restless, Kep rolls over for a tug and tussle. Gertie comes up to check that I’M REALLY GETTING UP. Gives me a quick kiss to be sure. Rigel raises her head, looks at me. She requires a personal request to get out of bed.

That first half hour is dog feeding, getting the newspaper, and, on Wednesdays, today, taking out the trash. The trash has to be wheeled out through whatever has fallen on the driveway. Some snow today, not too bad.

One of the containers, the green one for recycling, testifies to America’s changed economy. It’s filled with cardboard from Amazon orders, Chewy dogfood boxes, boxes from Kate’s tube feeding supplies. Each home is now a shipping and receiving depot with the resulting obligation to handle no longer needed shipping materials.

After this work finishes, I go upstairs in our garage, to my loft, a 900 square foot space filled with books, art making supplies, exercise equipment and my computer desk. Over the last 14 years the first thing I’ve done in the morning is read e-mails, then write Ancientrails. That’s what I’d call a habit.

But, when learning is needed, the teacher appears. A writer whose blog I sometimes read suggested the first three hours make your day notion. He was making the common millennial complaint about spending too much on social media: facebook, instagram, snapchat, tiktok, whatever the latest is. That’s not me, but I took his point.

Ready for a change I switched up. First, back to meditating. Having done that on a regular basis in a long while. Goal is for 20 minutes. Up to 10 this morning. Then, I read. I’ve been wondering about why I’m not reading more. Oh, I read science fiction, the occasional novel, Tears of the Truffle Pig right now, but serious reading has become a difficult task. Fitting it in. Being able to sustain attention. Turns out the early am is wonderful for that kind of attention.

Reading this morning in the Beginning of Desire, by Avivah Gottlieb Zornberg. Subtitle: reflections on Genesis. She’s amazing. A new thing under the sun of biblical commentary. Her method, which I’ll write about here at some point, is so subtle, so profound, so intimate, and very learned. I got hooked on her by plucking a book of hers somewhat by random off the library shelf at CBE. I opened, read a couple of sentences, and knew this was genius. Not a term I use lightly.

That was a year ago during the High Holidays, Yom Kippur, and Rabbi Jamie had just finished the whole High Holidays. A lot of work. He sank into the chair next to me. Nobody else there. All had left.

I enthused about Zornberg. He brightened. Yes, he’d met here. Yes, she was the best Torah commentator, maybe ever. He and his brother Russ, a Dead Sea Scrolls scholar, and professor at Regis University in Denver, who lives in Evergreen, had talked about a joint class using one of her works, a series of essays on biblical interpretation. Hasn’t happened yet, but when things normalize here, I’m going to see if I could give the idea a boost.

Anyhow, I got into her this morning and combined with some other thinking I’ve been doing, got into a revery about myth, fairy tales, long books, the true anchors of my inner life. This is my work, my lifelong work and fascination, the attempts we humans make to discern the occult, the hidden, the other world, the that beyond the this. This is my heart’s labor. Politics was reasons labor, fueled by the heart, too, of course, the misery of oppression, but calculating, power oriented, perhaps a diversion?

I’m writing this now, an hour and a half later than I would have in the past 14 years. So, changes. More to come.

Done and dusted

Beltane and the Recovery Moon

Finally. Ancientrails. All 2,000,000 words, through May 26th of this year, printed. It’s a lot of paper and ink. Now I have to sort it into years, get it three-hole punched, and buy those three ring binders.

Kate comes home today. I’m leaving to pick her up right now.

Ikigai

Beltane Cancer Moon

This Morning

It’s been this kind of May. And it looks as if June will be cooler and wet, too, according to Weather5280. Good news for us, not so much for those lower down when the huge snowpack starts to melt.

Got further along on print Ancientrails. Am now in late 2017, quite a ways in. Then, print spool error. Again. Well. Gotta go back to whatever I did that solved it once. Tried so many things I’m not sure which one worked. Something did. For a while. Soon though. Then, I’ll take everything for three hole punching and decide what kind of binders I’m going to buy. Each folder with month tabs.

Also figured a way to unzip Superior Wolf and focus on Lycaon’s story. Don’t know whether I’ll follow up later on Christopher and Diana. The hunt for immortality is almost a cliche these days. And the central conceit of their story, a hedgefund group that funds Diana’s research, is not fiction anymore. Geez.

That means I’ve got months of work ahead, maybe years. My ikigai. A Japanese word that means reason to live. This article talks about ikigai in more depth as an explanation for Japanese longevity. Squares with my own intuition. Purpose keeps you alive and flourishing.

The Japanese have a lot about life figured out. Ichi-go, ichi-e is another favorite of mine. It comes from the Japanese tea ceremony and means each moment is once in a lifetime. No such thing as an insignificant experience with another person.

Sekkyakushi, 15th century, Muromachi period, Metropolitan Museum of art

Reading a book right now by the wonderful travel writer, Pico Iyer: Autumn Light, Season of Fire and Farewells. It’s a follow-up to his The Lady and the Monk, which I have not read, in which he recounts meeting Hiroko, the Japanese woman who would become his wife. He had moved to Kyoto to immerse himself in Japanese culture, sensing, as I do, that their approach to life is worth learning, perhaps adopting. Twenty-three years later he lives in Japan with Hiroko six months out of the year and six months in the U.S., caring for his mother and working for the New York Times. Recommended.

Each time I dip into some aspect of Japanese culture I find I want to know more. The MIA’s Japanese collection gave me a chance to interact with tea bowls, tatami mats, sumi-e, Buddhist and Shinto sculpture, put me deeper into my own Asian pivot.

Zen itself has not intrigued me, but I did follow Zen back to its roots in Chinese Chan Buddhism, a melding of Taoism and Buddhism. The Taoist aspect of Zen, and Chan. Yes.

Tomorrow. The CT scan. Probably the last of the imaging work. It will either show metastatic disease or a localized recurrence in the prostate fossa. If the former, one kind of treatment. And, prognosis. If the latter, 35 days of radiation and a possible cure. Hopeful, of course, that it will be localized, but aware that it might not be. In either case I’ll know. That’s been the hardest part of this time (well, no, that’s not right. The hardest part has been dealing with insurance and the hospital’s “benefits” office.), knowing the cancer has reasserted itself, but not knowing what that means for my life.

Will be glad to have this work done so I can move onto what’s next.

The Right Thing for Us

Beltane Cancer Moon

Things I think about while falling asleep. Life. A stream rushing down the mountain of time, a branch into a tributary, tributary to river, river to the gulf of eternity, a small part of the sea of infinity.

Project print ancientrails update. Got into May of 2015. Then, printer spooling error. Spent an hour on it yesterday, got tired. Learned long ago to quit at a point when I’m doing the same thing over and over. Come back the next day with fresh eyes. Later this morning I’ll be back at it.

Looked out the bedroom window this morning. Frost. Rained over night and the temperature is just below freezing. A nubbly ice covered the deck and the stall mats, but the driveway was only wet. Saw a mule deer crossing Eduardo and Holly’s yard.

The sun is now well up at 5:30. The victory of the light will peak in three weeks. I look forward to the Summer Solstice as the moment when night begins to claw its way back into prominence.

Jon and Ruth left Gabe here yesterday while they went skiing. A-Basin. It still has peak snow cover, may be open until July 4th. Unusual. When they got back, Ruth and I made spaghetti and meatballs. She’s turning into a sweet, loving person. A real pleasure to see.

While walking back to the house after getting the paper this morning, I thought about her and Gabe. We moved here to have these kind of interactions with them, casual and frequent. It was the right thing for us to do.

50th High School Reunion, Alexandria, Indiana

When I was in school in Alexandria, Memorial Day marked the end of the school year. Summer begins! Days of freedom wandering alleys collecting pop bottles for small change. Going to the field with Rick Meyers and the Kildow boys to play army. Playing blackjack every weekday afternoon in the paper boys shack of the Times-Tribune. The occasional pickup softball game. Riding bikes around town. Outside until well after dark. No thoughts of pedophiles, school shooters, terrorists. No climate change worries. No computers. No cell phones.

Here in Colorado school typically ends in June though Ruth, because of McCauliffe’s schedule, got out a couple of weeks ago. This is Gabe’s last week. They will both start school again in the second week of August, both at McCauliffe for this one year, Ruth in the 8th grade and Gabe in the 6th.

Ruth, as do most of her friends, has a season pass to Elitch Gardens, an amusement park that serves as summer day care for many Denver teens. They have rides named Brain Drain, Mind Erase. You can see the attraction after school’s over.

2,000,000 Words

Beltane Cancer Moon

Half of Ancientrails on the right, both stacks. Missing, Superior Wolf, and Phantom Queen out for editing

A long quest for me has ended. I’ve been searching for a way to print out Ancientrails for a couple of years. Not an insignificant undertaking at well over 2,000,000 words. Found a plug-in for WordPress, the software I use (thanks, Bill) called Print My Blog. Prior to Print My Blog the only way I had discovered to print posts was a repetitive process of copying each blog post and then pasting it into a Word document. With over 10,000 total posts that was enough to make the process difficult and time consuming.

Print My Blog has its problems. It only allows starting at the beginning of your blog and printing sequentially from that point. If you have a printer or software issue, as I did twice a couple of days ago, Print My Blog resets to the beginning. Sigh. I was at February 22nd, 2013 on Saturday when I got a printer error. That was about half of the total pages I needed to print. That was the good news. The bad news was that if I wanted to finish I’d have to start all over again, at the beginning. And hope nothing would interfere.

Then it hit me. I can run Print My Blog, get its formatting of all of ancientrails and its content, do a select all, and copy the entire blog into Word. Which I did yesterday. Easy peasy. Printing is much easier in Word with multiple ways to divide a document. I may finish printing it out today. Then, I’m going to get thirteen notebooks, 2007-2019 and have those pages three hole punched at Staples. There will be a written copy of my work on ancientrails except 2005-2007. They exist somewhere in the cyberether, but I can’t find them anymore.

Why are you doing this, Charlie? Kate asked. I have three reasons. I have a cloud backup of Ancientrails using Updraftplus and I’m grateful for that. If my web host crashes or I get attacked by a hacker, I can restore everything. But, when I die, it’s probable that no one will pay my web host and/or no one will be able to use the backup because they don’t know it exists. I’ll leave instructions, but after my death protecting my blog won’t be a top priority. A printed copy solves that problem. If, that is, anyone wants to keep it.

Second reason. My cousin Diane thought some folks might like to read what I’ve written here. At 2,000,000 plus words no one, not even me, has that much interest. A volume devoted to Ancientrails will require editing. A lot of editing. WordPress is good software for writing and posting on the web, that’s what it’s for, but not so good if you want to go back and read, then edit, multiple entries. Pretty clumsy. Reading ink on paper and marking it up? Easier. This is a long term project, but one made simpler by the hoary art of printing.

Third reason. I want to see it printed out. Very satisfying to see all that work in one physical location. The cyber copy of it all is invisible, most of it. Hard to reify. This will make it real in a Velveteen Rabbit way.

Anyhow I’m pretty far along with this now. Word pushes pages out of my laserjet printer even as I write this. The written word has occupied me for the last thirty years. Still does. This is one not so small part of that focus.

Life Goes On, In Endless Song, Above Earth’s Lamentations.

Beltane                                                                                  Cancer Moon

cancer songSpent yesterday and Saturday reorganizing the loft, continuing work in the Intensive Journal. Oh, and made a meatloaf. Better than my mom’s. I printed a copy of Jennie’s Dead as it is so far, about 50,000 words, found my third draft of Superior Wolf, and pulled out the Phantom Queen which I haven’t seen in years. Today and tomorrow I’m going to file the remaining documents from CBE religious school, mussar, First Sundays. Then, I’m going to take each book that is piled up near my chairs, give the top ten priority for reading, and shelve the rest.

In order to create the revised Superior Wolf I’m going to read books featuring werewolves, about wolves and the middle ages, about wolves. I want this draft to be more like The Historian or Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel in its scope, perhaps with a bit of Moby Dick. I had this ambition for Superior Wolf to begin with, but let the task of finishing get in the way. This time, more patience, please.

Today is Kate’s appointment with Dr. Gupta. The lung diagnosis and the fitness for surgery assessment. A big deal, in other words. Later in the day is her coronation, four permanent crowns. Queen Kate.

cancer pet scanTomorrow the whole rising PSA matter gets lit up and scanned by the hospital’s p.e.t. machinery. Takes about 30 minutes, slowly moving from pelvis to head. This moves me from an indicator based concern, PSA, to the reality of where the cancer is now, in my body. I’m hopeful there are no metastases, of course, that whatever has returned is confined to the prostate fossa. I’m not ready for my expiration date, but, then, I suppose nobody ever really is. The best result in this case is a localized reemergence treatable with the Cyberknife.

Today I have to eat a high protein, low carb diet. No exercise 24 hours before. No caffeine 12 hours before. No food six hours before. Only water. Kate’s been going through these high stakes test for almost 8 months now. There’s a rule here. If you look, you’ll find something. Whether that something is important or not, well… It will be up to the radiation oncologists to define the significance of the pet scan. That comes on Friday at 2 pm. I feel fine, no symptoms.