We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Joseph Writing Colorado

Written By: Charles - Dec• 01•18

Samain                                                                             Thanksgiving Moon

Not sure what prompted the realization, but I became aware this last week that I’ve made three very important decisions in my life totally from my gut.

Joe and Seoah wedding pic1979. The first one, the decision, no, the need, to become a father, have a family with kids came as what I characterized as a male biological clock. I was 29, 30 and suddenly I had to have a kid. No reason, no plan, no forethought, just this impulse that my life would not be complete without a child. My decision when I was 25 to have a vasectomy, taking responsiblity for birth control as a male, made sense to me then, a solidarity with the women in my life. I wasn’t chagrined at all, but it was an obstacle.

The reversal failed. My sperm never got their energy back. Low motility, too few in number. It was the first time I’d ever been in a hospital. OK. What next?

Adoption. Raeone and I filled out all the paperwork including the multiply stamped documents that had to be notarized by the person who validated notaries. Paid the money, around $4,000 if I recall correctly, and waited. A referral came, a girl from Calcutta. We got ready. Then, the call. All the babies in the orphanage had died of a salmonella outbreak. Wow. Raeone, who’d just gotten a new job, put the brakes on. “I can’t do this and work into a new job.”

“All right, I’ll take care of the new baby.” I was not to be deterred. When the new referral came and Joseph flew in on a Northwest flight from Calcutta, we were there at midnight on December 15th, 1981 to meet him. The trip home has its own story, not too relevant here, but for the first 18 months of his life, I took Joseph to work with me everyday.

images (9)1990. The second decision. Writing. I’d organized a Doctor of Ministry program that brought professors from McCormick Seminary to Minneapolis. It was a three year course and at the end it required a thesis. In the process of writing the thesis, I ended up with 40,000 words of what would be my first novel, Even the Gods Must Die. I did finish the thesis, graduated, went on to serve on the seminary’s Doctor of Ministry committee, commuting monthly to Hyde Park, Chicago for two years. But the link between me and the ministry had been broken. The writing was exciting and my beliefs had changed dramatically.

But, I was stuck. Joseph was 8, Raeone and I had divorced, and my work with the Presbytery was how I paid the bills, supported my boy. Enter Kate. She read what I’d written and liked it. At the time she was reading a lot of fantasy. We agreed I could write full time. This let me out of the bind I was in with the ministry and gave me a chance to focus on personal creativity. It was a real and true miracle for me, made possible only because Kate was willing and financially able and I had the inchoate sense that writing was a path I needed to follow.

Some 30 years later I’ve written a lot. In retrospect I can’t tell whether it was a good career decision, doesn’t appear to have been. But as a personal decision, it was pure gold. I cooked, played a significant role in raising both Joseph and Jon, encouraged Kate in her creative ambitions, learned how to express myself and spent much of my day alone, as I do now, quite happily.


Dec. 19, 2014. After Tom and I drove them out to Colorado, the dogs wanted to get back in the car and go home.

2014. Colorado. It was a time when a lot of things were in flux. The gardens of Andover, and the orchard, and the bees were becoming difficult to care for. Kate retired. Life was changing. Again. Still. I needed a way to get a handle on it so I chose to go to my third Ira Progoff intensive journal retreat.

The one I selected was in Arizona. I drove, stopping by Carlsbad Caverns on the way, wandering south and west to Tucson. In Tucson I wrote and wrote, going deep into my Self and that time of my life in the way Progoff’s self-guided Jungian analysis facilitates. It was clear a big transition had been reached, but what was its significance?

I had decided from the beginning to go to Denver on the way home, see Jon and Jen, Ruth and Gabe. We decided to surprise Ruth, have Grandpop just show up at the door one afternoon. It was April, both Ruth and Gabe’s birthday month. A good time to visit.

Ruth ran away from me when I got to the door. I know now that surprises are not fun for Ruth, that remains true. She was much younger then, 8, I believe, or still 7. She got over the shock and we had a nice visit.

On the way home though I began to knit together the sense that life for Kate and me was at a definite inflection point. In Tucson I had planted many seeds in the soil of my inner world and like Cadmus’ dragon’s teeth they emerged out of my unconscious fully grown and ready to take on what comes.

Gabe, Nov 29th, 2018

Gabe, Nov 29th, 2018

The main conviction had two components. One, those kids were growing up fast and we could choose either to see them episodically, playing a distant grandparent’s role in their life or we could move closer. Second, if we were going to make a move, now was the time. We were both healthy. Kate was retired. The Andover homestead was more work than either of us wanted to continue.

Kate didn’t take much convincing. So, not very long after Tucson, we began to shift our focus from 40 years in Minnesota to the Rocky Mountains in Colorado, the Front Range. We gave ourselves a full year to get ready for the move, but things moved faster than we imagined. We “lived in the move” for about nine months, winding down affairs in Minnesota, purging our belongings, getting our property ready to sell. Kate made trips as a scout, looking for houses.

That Samain I drove out to Conifer, climbing up Hwy 285 with canned goods in the car, some popping as the altitude exerted less pressure on them than sea level Minnesota. Not knowing it then, these tomatoes and beans augured a long term adjustment to life at 8,800 feet. It was that same day when I wandered out into our back yard here on Shadow Mountain and three mule deer bucks were there, waiting. We were permitted to live here.

Kate, also, Nov. 29th

Kate, also, Nov. 29th

Four years later, four years exactly this Winter Solstice, we moved into our home. As I’ve mentioned before, from a medical perspective and from a family perspective, it’s been one damned thing after another. However. All of these things have happened in the context of family and in the unexpected, but grace-filled (not a metaphor at all) community of folks at CBE. We’ve been there for each other through cancer and joint replacements and Sjogren’s and the bleed and the troubles with Kate’s colon. We’ve been there with Jon and the kids before and following the divorce. We are in their lives and they are in ours. Just what we wanted. No, it’s not been easy, but real life has its smooth paths and its rocky ones.

There is, too, and of equal significance, the wonder of the Rocky Mountains. Every day. I live on a mountain, see mountains out my study window, drive among them to Evergreen, to Bailey, down the hill. The mule deer and elk. The fox. Mountain lions and bears. Here. We live, perhaps selfishly, within a wild environment. I have never been happier about the place where I live. It nourishes me, challenges me, encompasses me. As the post-script says on my e-mails, “I am not in the mountains, the mountains are in me.” John Muir.

Big, life changing decisions. Made because they felt right, even necessary. No regrets.

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