We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Give me liberty, or give me death. Hold my beer: the coronavirus.

Written By: Charles - Jun• 25•20

Summer and the Moon of Sorrow

Thursday gratefuls: Seoah’s back in Singapore. In quarantine. Texting us about how much she misses us. Us, too. Seoah and Joe on the same soil. Finally. Kate’s improving spirits. Blocking the leakage, some skin improvement. Treatments for Kep’s hotspots. Prednisone and Cephalexin. An empty house. Learning from Seoah about housekeeping, cooking. Rising rates of Coronavirus.

Up late today. 7 a.m. Missed the sunrise.

Just got my morning warble (intercom sound) from Kate that she’s up. Most mornings I’m two hours into the day when she calls.

Kate and I both. Missing Seoah. Feeling an emptiness in the house, in our hearts. Much like when the last kid leaves home.

That silver bugling Elk necklace, made by Evergreen Goldsmiths, I got for Kate. We gave it to Seoah. The Elks came up to the balcony attached to her room. She sent videos to Joe, her parents, her sisters, her friends.

She sent a video of her hotel room, her home for the next 14 days. Nice. And, her first breakfast in a plastic bentobox. Joe complained to everyone who would listen and could do something about having to pay for the quarantine. Somebody listened. Not on their dime anymore.

On the simplicity practice I chose Tuesday night. Does this thought bring me joy? Ah, forgot schadenfreude. Those virus outbreaks in the South? I only said the obvious a while back, predicting the outbreaks now hammering Florida, Texas, South Carolina, and my home state of Oklahoma. Other states, too. Look at this NYT map published in today’s paper. The South stands out with red blotches like an embarrassed tween.

Back to schadenfreude. Taking joy in the misery of others. A nasty, unseemly feeling. But, I feel it anyhow when I see these numbers. Of course, I feel terrible for the actual human beings represented by those red splotches and wish their fate on no one. They also show that ideology has consequences.

These red states show the cruelty and outright stupidity of Trump and those who turn toward the Whitehouse in this era, spread out their prayer rugs, and worship. They know what they do. Mammon has a human avatar and his hair is orange. The economy first. Our power first. Grandparents should be willing to die to save the economy.

These flares are empirical proof that Trumpism kills, destroys, maims. Not the enemies of the U.S., but our own citizens. Please, now, see this. Organize. Register. Vote. Please.

One Day at a Time

Written By: Charles - Jun• 24•20

Summer and the Moon of Justice

Wednesday gratefuls: Simplicity. Does this idea bring me joy? Kondoing my thinking. Maybe. MVP. Rich. Susan. Marilyn. Tara. Judy. Zoom. Covid’s forced introspection. What matters in our daily life? What doesn’t? Seoah between Narita and Singapore. Picture of her with mask and faceshield on the plane. Kate finding Kep’s hotspots. Sano. Going down, coming back up.

On Shadow Mountain. The Sun rising, Black Mountain lit. The Air still cool. All the promise of a new day. Each day is the only day in which you’ll ever live. We’re all one day old, every day. Each morning we can choose to continue old patterns, the remnants of other days, or we can choose new habits, new actions. Even new thoughts. Each day is New Year’s. Old Mother Time melted away last night and the infant wrapped in the sash titled TODAY has succeeded her.

What will you do with this one wild and precious day?

We’re taking Kep to the vet. He has several new hotspots that have shown up on his back. Not sure why, not sure what to do next. So, we’re calling in Dr. Palmini.

Kate’s spirits took a dive yesterday when she discovered Kep’s hotspots. Seoah’s gone. She can’t hug Ruth and Gabe. Her stomach acted up. All got to be too much. She’s resilient though. Look at how she’s handled the multiple insults to her body.

Seoah will touch down in Singapore today. Or, rather, tomorrow. The mysteries of the International Date Line. Her flight gets in just after midnight Singapore time.

First Wednesday with no Kabbalah class since January. School’s out. Teachers let the monkeys out. Gonna take a rest over the summer, then pick up the Kabbalah thread again in the fall.

Groveland U.U., the congregation I joined soon after I left the Presbyterian ministry, wrote me a note yesterday asking if I would do some presentations for them over Zoom. An unexpected pleasure, made possible by your friend the Coronavirus.

MVP (Mussar Vaad Practice Group) met last night. The middot (character trait) we discussed was simplicity. As I’ve mentioned here before, mussar involved identifying a character trait and then creating a practice for yourself that you can use to strengthen it. There are many different lists of soul traits, some exhaustive, some short.

Once you find the middot or middah (plural) on which you need to work, you’ve defined what the mussar teachers call a soul curriculum. Judaism is very clear on the journey. You’ll make mistakes, regress. What’s crucial is to not stop. That may sound zealous, but it’s not. It’s a recognition of our humanity.

My practice, if I should choose to accept it, is to ask what thoughts bring me joy. Not sure yet whether I like this. I created it, so I can change it, but it seems interesting. Just not sure whether joy is a good criteria for thoughts. Even so, it intrigues me. I’ll give it a go for a while, see where it leads.

Getting on a jetplane

Written By: Charles - Jun• 23•20

Summer and the Moon of Justice

Tuesday gratefuls: Seoah. At the airport waiting on her 8 a.m. flight. The journey there. Joe. In Singapore waiting on her. Quarantine. Two weeks. Then, a reunion. Rigel, looking out the door at me when I got back. Elk in Evergreen. Mule Deer coming up the Mountain. The Sun. So far away, yet so bright.

Out of the house at 3:30 this a.m. A tupperware container with a grilled cheese sandwich and grapes in my hand. Made by Seoah. The road in darkness and the Stars. Not often I see either one of them in the summer months.

We talked about her stay. About this year. We shook our heads. She came at a perfect time for Kate and me. Helped us through a cascade of events, some shocking like Gertie’s death and Covid. I’ve said it before here, but I’ll say it again: our family is stronger now. Can’t tell you how much satisfaction that gives me.

Kate and I will have to adjust to life without her. She did a lot of the cooking and all of the cleaning. Mostly though she was good energy, loving energy in the house. We will miss all of this, but mostly her loving energy.

There is sadness. And, joy.

And, I have eight pounds of stuff: a curling iron, six bottles of coconut milk, a bottle of Stevia, a Korean/English book. She was 8 pounds over in one bag. A $200 fee. I’ll put it in her room. The guest room is now officially Seoah’s room, loaned out only when she’s not here. She’s not a guest anymore.

정말, Seoah

Written By: Charles - Jun• 22•20

Summer and the Moon of Justice

Monday gratefuls: Seoah. Seoah. Seoah. Seoah Seoah. Seoah. A sweetheart. A good heart. Her visit to TJ Maxx and Whole Foods yesterday. Her cleaning the house one last time yesterday. Showing me her tricks. Joe and Seoah. Together again. After 14 days of quarantine. Seoah.

3:30 a.m. Tomorrow. Off to Denver International, down the hill from Shadow Mountain. As Tom said, little traffic. Cool. Still 3:30 a.m. But that’s travel isn’t it? Unusual times. Off to airports. Train stations. Bus stations. I still get that, ooh, I’m going somewhere feeling whenever I do something like this. Pick somebody up. Drop somebody off. Leave really early. Smell the world in the very early morning.

Seoah’s going back to Joe. Back to Singapore, which neither of them like, but where being with each other will help. Though. Still limited movement. And, 14 days in a hotel room, having to wrangle her own food. She bought a lot of instant food at Whole Foods. Cheaper, she says, than ordering out. She literally dumped it into the new Samsonite bag she bought. Not sure whether she plans to repack it or not. I imagine so since she’s very organized.

When she came at the beginning of February, I had a left arm scarred by two encounters with the Murdoch/Kepler teeth storm. Gertie had begun her slow, then sudden glide toward death. Coronavirus reality was still far away. Over there. I didn’t realize it then, but I was very stressed. Tired out. Exhausted.

After one more teeth storm, which took Kate to the emergency room and Seoah to urgent care, Murdoch moved to Bergen Bark Inn for an almost two month stay. Kate lost the tips of two fingers. Seoah had wounds on her hand and on her leg. Due to her agony from cancer we took Gertie to Sano and had her euthanized.

Boy, just writing that took me back, made my heart sink a bit. Those first weeks of her visit were difficult. Seoah took charge of the kitchen, nursed Gertie, faced up to the need to move Murdoch. The tenor of life changed.

We were beginning to heal. Grieve, yes, but heal in the way grief offers. No longer was there tension about whether Kep and Murdoch would find each other, penetrate flesh, either their own or ours. Murdoch was safe, but away, and the folks at Bergen Bark Inn were very helpful. No longer was Gertie lying on her bed in our living room, panting, crying.

Seoah, Ruth, and Gabe were here for Gertie. We all came together around her, caring for her. Crying together. Our family. Dogs and people. Intense. Beautiful. Sad. Perhaps the moment that we all realized this was our life, our life together. Family life. In families the hard times create bonds, strengthen relationships. Break us down and build us back up. That was February.

Then, the coronavirus began its intrusion into our lives. We wouldn’t see Ruth and Gabe again until April. Locked down. Locked in. Masked. Going through the fear of first trips outside. Safeway with empty produce shelves, no toilet paper (though I had presciently bought two large packages in January), no eggs. No milk. No chicken. Customers looking shocked, uncertain. A certain type of man, and a few similar women, looking brave, or trying, pretending that ideology mattered more than science. Yes, even that early.

I ordered groceries online, had them put in the car by a King Sooper or Safeway pick-up employee. Seoah would go in, masked by Kate. I was afraid. Maybe you were, too?

Seoah, Joe, and I spent many hours working on finding Murdoch a home away from Bergen Bark Inn. Seoah, Murdoch, and I went to Boulder, then Loveland, visiting potential foster homes. Brenton, in Loveland, knew Akitas and worked from home.

Finally, on the day after Governor Polis gave the stay-at-home order for Colorado, Seoah, Murdoch, and I drove to Loveland. On eerily quiet interstates. The l.e.d. signs over the highways all read: Avoid Unnecessary Travel. Well, finding Murdoch a safe place while Joe and Seoah were in Singapore was necessary.

Seoah tried to go home. Joe called and didn’t want her traveling with all the chaos in U.S. airports. We changed the flight. Then, Singapore closed Changi Airport. Missed the next flight. Another date. Kate, the airline whisperer, became familiar with United. Got things sorted, changed. Singapore had an uptick in cases from migrant worker’s packed together in cheap housing. Lock down there. No flights. Changed the flight again. Put it on hold. Finally, Kate made one more call and June 23rd became Seoah’s date to leave. Almost five full months for what was supposed to be a one month visit.

Over that time her cooking, her good spirits, her cleaning allowed both Kate and me to decompress, regather our strength. We’re stronger, calmer. Seoah got us through what was a horrible few months, ones that would that have been exponentially worse without her. Thanks, Seoah. Bon voyage.

Come for the virus. Stay for the ICU.

Written By: Charles - Jun• 21•20

Summer and the Moon of Justice

Sunday gratefuls: Jon. Ruth. Gabe. Joe. The Dad parts of my morning. Regular and grande. Curtis. Even though. Hey, why not throw in Elmo and Charlie Keaton, too? All Dads, all day. A weak brother to Mother’s Day, but still. A fine day yesterday. The crowd in Tulsa.

Summertime and the covid is easy, spreading and growing. Went to Evergreen yesterday to buy wine for Kate and pick up the last pizza’s from Beau Jo’s while Seoah’s here. We both like their Li’l Sicily. Evergreen had a summer crowd, main tourist street jammed, cars on both sides, a full parking lot. And, almost nobody had masks on! Come to the mountains for the afternoon, share or pick up a virus. Go home. Perfect day.

Tourism begets a sense of not having to follow the rules. Who knows you here? If you do something stupid or crass, who’ll find out? That seems normal to me, part of the reason we travel. Adults can, and most do, overcome it, enjoying the feeling of liberty, but not having to exercise it. Combine, however, Colorado’s libertarian streak and tourist whimsy? Oh, hell. We don’t a mask up here. Sigh. We live here.

Most of the time I enjoy the this is where people come to relax and we live here feeling. Masklessness and violating the rules of campfires. Not so much. Tourists come here for the same reason that we live here. It’s beautiful, cooler than the city. But ask anyone who’s ever lived in a touristy spot, say, Breckenridge or Kauai or near the Alamo. Hassles are common.

Happy Father’s day to all you Dads!

Leaning In. To the Sun.

Written By: Charles - Jun• 20•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Saturday gratefuls: The Moon of Sorrow comes to an end. Rain. The smell of the Forest, Pine needles and Pine resin, wet Soil. Petichor. A perfume created by the mistress of all perfumery: Mother Earth. Extra bonus: smelling it while I walked out to get the newspaper. Seoah’s wonderful time with us. She helped us through Gertie’s death, through the Murdoch/Kepler wars, and the coming of the coronavirus. Family. Yes. The sun at its most northerly. And, the longest day.

To a world on fire with virus infections, economic destruction, and spreading demands for real, permanent change, the sun climbs to its highest spot in the north for the year. The Summer Solstice. A fire festival.

Though most of the new age pagan types see the Summer Solstice as a masculine, Sun god holiday, I’m more drawn, again, to the Asian understanding, specifically the ancient Chinese who had the summer solstice as the peak day for yin, feminine energy. They saw this holiday as an earth focused holiday.*

Yin makes most sense to me since the next months grow the crops, fertility as a feminine focus. (BTW: just so we’re clear. Animus and anima, yang and yin, masculine and feminine, active and receptive modes are in all of us-all of Us).

The Earth gives birth to the foods that feed Us all. Us=all living things. Yes, a few exceptions like extremophils which subsist on sulfur or cyanide, but for the rest of Us-Mother Earth or Mother Ocean. The Sun is yang energy, Mother Earth yin. Both required, necessary. Each complementary to the other. This is a day to get naked and dance around the bonfire. If you’re Swedish. If not, you can go ahead. I give you permission.

This holiday celebrates fecundity, mutuality, heat, procreation, gestation. It celebrates those aspects of our lives which support our work, inner or outer. Whatever has emerged from your garden, again inner or outer, will need care to bloom, to fruit, to nut, to mature. Celebrate what you do to lift up yourself, your family, your friends. Make sure that part of your life has enough sustenance, so those relationships, your projects, don’t wither, turn brown before the harvest.

The Earth tilts fully toward the Sun today. 3:44 pm MDT. 23 degrees and 26 minutes, pointing the Tropic of Cancer directly toward our Star. And, it rises as high in the northern Sky or as low in the southern Sky, as it will all year.

Which brings to me my favorite fact about today. This is the longest day of the year. From this day forward the nights grow longer until we get to the yang holiday of the Winter Solstice. Hello, darkness my old friend. I’ll come to visit you again.

*see Ancient History for a brief summary

Juneteenth

Written By: Charles - Jun• 19•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Friday gratefuls: A cooling rain, significant. The lack of yellow stains on the asphalt. The pollen season may be waning. Talking to Joe last night. Clean Rigel. Clean Kepler. Sashimi. Roasted chicken. Seoah and Joe together, far apart. CBE. Jamie and his teaching. Art Green, for such a heart opening book. These days of our lives, “like sands through the hourglass.”

When the protests began to multiply, it made sense that Juneteenth this year would be special. Then, Trump’s campaign chose Tulsa and June nineteenth as the place and date of his first campaign rally of the 2020 election. Send in the scary clowns. In a period of national life marked by massive protests against our entrenched national racism, how could he have chosen a stupider date? And his choice of location, Tulsa, the site of the 1921 race massacre which killed 36 and destroyed Greenwood, the wealthiest black community in the U.S. at the time. Gee, Don. What were you thinking?

The action is in the reaction, Saul Alinsky said. The mythic elements of George Floyd’s death created a reaction by protesters which created an overreaction by the police, a cause and effect cycle that is not yet over. Despite almost a month’s worth of continuing protests across the nation, protests which triggered similar protests in Europe, Canada, Australia, even Latin America and the rim of East Asia, protests that have done what no others have done so far–awakened whites to our privilege and how its maintenance oppresses others–despite them, our fearful leader chose a day in history and a place in history bound to inflame his critics even more. Gee, Don. What were you thinking?

Crucified by the Roman Centurion in a public execution. Yes, I’m going to go there. I see George Floyd as a Jesus figure (not a Christ figure), a man killed by the state. A man whose death ignited a movement that will change history.

I also see him as the Jewish figure from the Passover story, Nahshon. I think I mentioned Nahshon before. When the former Hebrew slaves fled Egypt, they stopped at the Red Sea, fearful, wondering whether they should go back. Nahshon waded into the sea, up to his neck, and God, who had promised to part the waters, to give the slaves a path to freedom, saw his bravery and the waters gave way.

It’s not a perfect analogy in that Nahshon went into the sea voluntarily and George Floyd kept saying, “I can’t breathe.” Even so. Nahshon had to go in neck deep until God would recognize his determination. Neck deep. George Floyd’s neck. A path to liberation opening.

The Roman Centurion and the Egyptian soldier in this story has an unlikely name: Chauvin. Here’s a bit from a Wikipedia page: “Chauvinism is a form of extreme patriotism and nationalism and a belief in national superiority and glory. It can also be defined as “an irrational belief in the superiority or dominance of one’s own group or people”. Moreover, the chauvinist’s own people are seen as unique and special while the rest of the people are considered weak or inferior.”

Derek Chauvin. Donald Trump. Are both in this up to their necks. Chauvin as the direct agent executing his President’s unspoken orders. Trump as the flagrant expression of our national shame. There is a novel here.

At Her Funeral

Written By: Charles - Jun• 18•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Thursday gratefuls: Gauze sponges. Wax o-rings for Kate’s leakage. Stoma powder. The chance to care for Kate. A forty degree morning on Shadow Mountain after 92 degrees in Denver on Monday. That silly Rigel, not acting her age. At all. Kep, the serious. Dog groomer today. The Kabbalah class. Folks liking my presentation. Workout yesterday.

Pine pollen season. Yellow streaks on the asphalt. Pollen lying on wooden tables, adding some color. The winds rushing through the Lodgepoles, shaking loose enough for a yellow storm. Part of the turning of the Great Wheel. That I could do without personally. But, how would we get baby Lodgepoles otherwise? Sneeze and bear it.

Wildfire danger remains high. Dry, Windy. Yesterday the Humidity in the loft was 2%, outside 6%. The arid West. A positive note. It was 80 degrees up here and a slowly rotating fan was all I needed to stay cool. Rigel, we’re not in Andover anymore.

A woman in my kabbalah class wants my Grammar of Holiness read at her funeral, “…whenever that may be.” A strong positive reaction to it from the class. Rabbi Jamie’s going to reprint in the synagogue newsletter, the Shofar.

Always thought my reimagining faith project would be a book, a radical theology with chapters and footnotes and acknowledgements. Nope, two pages. There it is. It feels said to me. We’ll see if I continue to feel that way.

After reading several pieces about Covid and underlying medical conditions, Kate and I have decided to become coronavirus hermits. Our hermitage, Shansin, on top of Shadow Mountain. We’ll ride it out with as little flesh and blood contact as we can stand. Would sound bleak, but Zoom helps, and we’re introverts, happy with each other, ourselves, and our dogs.

And, given recent news, I will add: white, privileged, financially secure, and aging with good medical care.

Still no word from the Singapore government. Seoah may fly there next Tuesday. May not. Covid has impacted lives in so many different ways. This is just one of them, but it’s personal, right here.

From Shadow Mountain, where the sun is rising and the morning is cool.

Cyberknifed

Written By: Charles - Jun• 17•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Wednesday gratefuls: Spaghetti. Marco Polo. China. Cool morning. Kate’s physical. Telehealth. Dr. Gidday. The loft in the morning. The heat. Wildfire. Trees. Lodgepole Pines. Aspen. Colorado Blue Spruce. Dogwood. Lilacs. Iris. Shrub Roses. The New York Times. The Washington Post. The spread out Keaton Clan. The Human Narrative. Holy Land. Holy Water. Holy Air. Holy you.

One year ago today: Cyberknifed. 1st of 35 treatments.

Since then. Luproned. Hot flashes. Suppressed testosterone. Fatigue. Weakness. In the pursuit of a cure. 9 months later now, after the end of radiation. I think much more about the Lupron than I do about cancer though cancer is always present. The Lupron reaches out and touches me while the cancer is either gone or asymptomatic. It feels gone to me.

Think today, for a moment, if you will, of all those impacted by cancer. Those living with it, trying to cure it. Those caring for them. Their families, their friends.

Cancer is global just like Covid. Deadlier, too. 9.7 million deaths in 2017.

A Year Ago

Written By: Charles - Jun• 16•20

Beltane and the Moon of Sorrow

Tuesday gratefuls: Lululemon, it delights Seoah so. Arlet, the clerk at Lululemon who wants to be Seoah’s friend. The Highlands neighborhood of Denver. Its shops and restaurants. Hwy. 285. I-70. All those other drivers. Evergreen. Safeway. Curb pickup. The Mountains. Snow on the Continental Divide. The winds.

Had an idea for yard cleanup. I’m going to text my neighbor Derek, see how much of our wood he wants. Then, I’m going to post on Nextdoor Shadow Mountain for anyone else who heats with wood. Free fuel. You move it, it’s yours. That’ll get rid of the trees. The slash will go to the curb for chipping. I should be able to handle the rest along with Jon. Some of the remaining stuff belongs to him.

One year ago today two Elk bucks jumped in our yard and began eating Dandelions. Shansin, or his Rocky Mountain avatar, sent those angels to our house. You belong here, Charlie. Neighbor.

Resonated then, and now, with the Consolation of Deer Creek Canyon from 2015. The Mountains rising on either side of Deer Canyon Road spoke, but I was still deaf to the full meaning. The unimaginable age of these young mountains, millions and millions of years since the Laramide orogeny pushed them up, let me put my diagnosis, just received, in a different context.

I drove back from Dr. Eigner’s office, stomach hollow and sour, thoughts flitting from imminent death to it’s a mistake to I can handle this. I can handle this. I can handle this.

Deer Creek Canyon helped me see it was just death. Nothing more. How many deaths since the Laramide mountain building? Uncountable. Insects. Deer. Elephants. Mammoths. Humans. Dogs. Whales. Barracuda. Coral. So much death. Yet, these Mountains were young. My death had nothing unusual about it. I would become part of that uncountable number. That soothed me. Not sure why. Maybe because I didn’t feel singled out, picked on, targeted.

With the recurrence a lot of those old fears and those old reassurances came marching back onto the field. No, said the Angels. This is new. We have come, neighbor, to tell you it is both new and old. The Mountains will embrace you each day as you drive to and from the radiation. Our brothers and sisters will hold you in their wild hearts, as you hold them in yours. We know death and pain and whatever your journey, your ancientrail becomes, we will not abandon you.

Three Mule Deer bucks stood in my backyard on Samain, 2014, when I came for closing on the house. We spent a long time together. They were the wilderness welcome I didn’t even know we needed, yet there they were.

This year three Elk bucks came. This year, probably not until November, I’ll find out whether I have a cure. Again. Reassurance again, from the wild hearts beating all over our home in these Rocky Mountains. More than enough for me.