Fumes

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Debra Cope, who came by for dinner. Safeway for deli salad and the baguette. The E-collar that solved the Murdoch no come in problem. Kate’s advice in that matter, and in so many others. Gertie, who will not let up on being a rascal. Mike who put in a wall socket for our new microwave.

Exhaustion. Creeps up, miss a nap here. Have Gertie chewing on a box in the sewing room after leaping out of the bedroom window there. Murdoch not wanting to come inside. The constant Game of Rooms necessary to keep Kep and Murdoch apart. Also, of course, the long term stress of first Kate’s Sjogren’s and loss of weight, then her bleed, then all that came after. Toss in a dash of cancer recurrence and a soupcon of COPD.

Plain weary. Short tempered. Thoughts not as crisp. Ashamed of myself for not being able to reign in my anger. Not new. Anger is hard for me. It comes, rising red and proud, sudden. Pushing. Demanding release. I do not have the mussar attitude here, lengthening the pause between striking the match and lighting the candle.

Right now. Up. Tired.

Supernova Era

Winter and the Future Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Kassi at Petsmart, who groomed Kepler so well. All the kids from Collegiate Academy who came into the Starbucks while I waited for Kep. Growers of coffee. Dairy farmers. Cappuccino. The checkout clerk at Petsmart so proud of her dog. Passing the emissions test. Emissions testing. Friend Debra who we’ll see for dinner tonight.

A confluence of literature and place yesterday. Started reading Supernova Era by the brilliant contemporary Chinese science fiction writer, Cixin Liu. A star goes supernova close to earth. His astronomical knowledge is profound, the explanation for this event detailed and lengthy.

The resulting energy burst damages the DNA of everyone on earth. Those above middle school age no longer have the capacity to recover from such an insult. Over the course of a year all the adults will die, leaving about one billion children under school age all across the globe.

While I waited for Kep at the Kipling Avenue Starbucks, I read chapters about the transition from an adult run world to a child run world. Parents taught their children the occupations they were in as the most efficient way to transfer knowledge quickly. Cixin focuses on the case of China.

As I read this, kids from the Collegiate Academy about two blocks away began to stream into the Starbucks. One tall senior high youth had a fade and a topknot grown from the crown of his head. A girl with whom he would later play fight had piercings, black lipstick and a friendly demeanor. She asked politely if she could have the chair at my table.

A younger, perhaps middle school girl, had on an orange athleisure top and carried, of course, her phone. She seemed serious until her friend came in, then they laughed and shared pictures off their phones.

The Starbucks lit up with the energy of young folks performing the person they thought they wanted to be or should be or could be.

At one point a college aged woman walked through them. Pant suit, blouse, briefcase. Not that far away in age, but so distant in sense of self and composure. At least outwardly. Her mask was adult.

My mask was that of the elder amused at the antics of the young, serious in his reading, but willing to laugh with the kids, too. Kabbalah teaches that we all wear masks, all the time. That everything is a mask for the ohr, the divine light of creation shattered after the tzimtzum, the sacred’s self contraction to allow space for other.

Saw all this through the lens of Cixin Liu’s middle schoolers taking over the adult world. Three children from the same middle school class in suburban Beijing were chosen to become the President, Prime Minister, and head of the military. No time for elections.

As I read, I looked up and saw the kids around me, released from the strict parameters of schooling, letting their still forming selves out to play. And tried to imagine this group here designated to run Colorado.

She’s the governor. He’s the head of the Highway Patrol. That one the Mayor of Littleton. Topknot guy following his mother as a bulldozer operator.

A fun collision of reading and immediate reality.

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.

A Certain Woolly Center of Gravity

Winter and the Future Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Snow, at night. Stefan and Lonnie in Colorado. Having plenty of leftovers. Hugs. Tears. This whole miracle the world. Life. Death. All of it. Again, still the mountains. This nation, tested as it is. This nation, for what it still is. This nation, for what it still can be. My heart which fills up, then flows over.

Three clean, sparkly, sweet smelling dogs: Gertie, Rigel, Murdoch. Gotta love it. Do this more often. Kep on Monday.

Kate went into her sewing room! Yeah! She fixed my gray, alpaca wool scarf. It got damaged in the Akita mixed-martial arts match two weeks ago. Lots of holes.

This scarf was born along the west coast of Latin America as Kate sat on our deck chair, viewing the wide Pacific. She made it for me because, as you go further south below the equator, it gets colder. I had it on when we sailed through the Chilean fjords, a remarkable one-hundred and twenty mile long stretch of mostly uninhabited islands, glacial bays. I had it on when we sailed into Ushuaia, the southern most town on the continent, and, in the world. Around Cape Horn. On the Falkland Islands. Now when I go get the newspaper. Or the groceries.

The dogs. With Murdoch added to the mix they require some Tetris like shuffling all day long. Where Kep is, Murdoch cannot be. And, vice versa. When Gertie is out, Kep cannot be. And, vice versa. Lots of intercom calls between upstairs and downstairs. What’s the disposition of the dogs? Where’s Kepler? I’d like to let Murdoch out. And so on until the moment when Murdoch and Rigel go up the stairs to the guest aka dog room for the night.

The payoff. A happy Joe and SeoAh, knowing Murdoch is safe and loved. Murdoch here with his puppy bounce and energy. Lots of kisses and wriggles and smiles. Life in the house with our life. Full. Good. Tiring.

Was gonna go see Stefan and Lonnie today in Avon, near Vail, but the weather out that way was nasty. No need to do that to myself. Gonna try again Friday. Stefan had a hip replacement at Steadman Orthopedics and is recovering at the Westin Spa and Resort. Why not?

There’s a certain Woolly center of gravity gathering energy here in Colorado. Paul’s daughter Kate and her husband, Michael, moved to Boulder. Scott’s son and daughter are both in Colorado: Pagosa Springs and Carbondale. Warren and Frank both have relatives out here. Tom’s visited several times. Mark and Bill and Paul have come out, too. Lonnie and Stefan come to Colorado regularly, this time for a new hip.

Finished my ninth page of Daf Yomi. As I read, I keep thinking of the 60’s, what a long, strange trip it’s been. Gonna keep at it. It’s alternately boring, fussy, and poignant. At some point I’ll do a post about what I’m learning.

Through our life together

Winter and the Full Future Moon

Saturday gratefuls: the full future moon lighting up Black Mountain Drive when I went for the Denver Post at 6 am. The crunch of the snow. The starry sky. The groomers at Petsmart for spiffing up Gertie, Rigel, and Murdoch. Kep’s on Monday. Kate’s weight at 101. Her increased energy and good spirits. Stefan and Lonnie in Vail. Stefan’s new hip.

Buddy Tom Crane, a cognoscenti of contemporary poets, found a book, A Dog Runs Through It, by Linda Pastan, former poet laureate of Maryland. Thanks for the gift, Tom.

Here’s a stanza from her poem, Envoi:

“We’re signing up for heartbreak

We know one day we’ll rue it.

But oh the way our life lights up

The years a dog runs through it.”

Those years have been, for Kate and me, thirty plus. And not just a dog running through them, but an ever renewing pack, sometimes as large as seven, now down to three plus a guest.

My first dog, Diamond, a puppy with brown and white fur, a misshapen diamond mark on his forehead, I barely got to know before someone fed him hamburger with ground glass. It still makes me sad, 64 years later.

The second dog, whose name I can’t recall right now, a black and white bouncy one, went after a five year old girl who leaned into the stroller to pet my infant brother, Mark. Dad told me he went to a “farm in Tennessee.” Uh huh. One of the reasons I lost trust in my father.

Steppenwolf, a German Shepherd. Dundee, a Sheltie. Both went to better homes than I could provide. Steppenwolf due to divorce and Dundee to my ignorance about how to care for dogs.

Kate was a long time dog owner when I met her. She had Buck and Iris, Whippets, and Bemish, who was old and died before I could get to know him. I learned from her how to be with dogs, how to love them, how to accept their love, how to care for them.

Since then, we’ve had Irish Wolfhounds, many, more Whippets, two IW/Coyote Hound mixes (Vega and Rigel), and two family rescue dogs, Gertie, a German Shorthair pointer, and Kepler, an Akita. Murdoch, also an Akita, is here for eleven months, then he’ll return to his mom and dad.

My heart is full with dog. Licks, kisses, wiggles, jump ups, digging, running, hunting, killing, barking, growling, fighting. Joy over their happiness and grief over their pain and their deaths. So many memories, so many deaths. So much joy. So much sorrow. Life. Life. Life.

When we consider our life situation, it’s not only about us, but also about the dogs. Part of our reason for staying on the mountain is our fenced in yard. Easy for the dogs. Good for them. No heart worm. No fleas. No ticks as long as they stay in the yard.

Hilo who would crawl up into my armpit for a nap. Gertie who lies with her head on my pillow at night. Celt stepping on my snowshoes. Sorsha with a squirrel in her mouth and another in sight, frozen in place. Emma standing on the big downed cottonwood surveying her realm. Vega and Rigel digging holes in Andover. And so many, so many more.

Dogs run through our lives, Kate’s and mine. Sharp teeth, four legs, wagging tails, floppy ears and alert ears, noses, always noses, taking in a world we humans cannot access. Asleep in our lap or near our chair. Eating. Getting treats, heads turned up, expectant.

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.

Rocking my inner boat

Winter and the Full Future Moon (98%)

Thursday gratefuls: for the Geek Squad guy who came to install our microwave. for his calling out an electrical problem. for Altitude Electric for coming next Monday. for the Geek Squad coming back next Saturday. for the first session in the Human Narrative, the Kabbalah class using Art Green’s book, Radical Judaism. for Zoom which allowed me to both here and there. Bi-location!

Kate and I have been doing sixty second hugs. As Paul Strickland mentioned in his review of a conference he and Sarah attended. What a great idea! We hug anyway, but often short ones. Sixty seconds encourages intimacy. More intimacy is welcome.

Also, we’re dancing with zero negativity. Same conference’s idea. For us, a real challenge. Not so much because we’re negative toward each other, but because both of us have minds that veer easily toward the critical, the analytical. And, we both know a lot so challenging each other’s conclusions comes with breathing. Still. I know where this concept heads and I would like to get there. So…

I describe myself as a neo-pagan by which I mean that my faith is located in this reality, not in some other, supernatural place. And that my faith reads revelation first from the ur sacred text, the book of Nature. This does not exclude other sacred texts as sources of wisdom, inspiration, even revelation, it places them second to seeing what you’re looking at. (Casey Reams) Or, being mindful. Or, deep listening. Or, respectful touching.

It also means that I’ve backed myself into an interesting corner, or, maybe, an interesting geodesic dome. If the cosmos itself reveals the sacred to those who see, the sacred underlies the whole cosmos. If the sacred underlies, is within, permeates the cosmos, then the Kabbalistic notion of divine light, ohr, waiting for us in everything begins to make sense to me.

If that makes sense to me, then the notion of an underlying unity also can come into focus. Is that unity the shekinah? That is, the feminine aspect of the divine said by the Kabbalists to constitute this material world? Not ready to go there yet, not sure I want to put a label on it. But, the idea of the shekinah does work for me at the level of analogy, metaphor.

Challenging. Rocking my inner boat. Yes.

Mountain Strong

Winter and the Future Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: For Paul’s idea of the 60 second hug and zero negativity. For Bill’s call yesterday. For Rabbi Jamie and Art Green, the class at Kabbalah Experience by Zoom. For Sandy, who cleans with energy and whose tumor has begun to shrink. For all the good dogs everywhere. All dogs are good dogs. For Mountain Waste who takes away the stuff we can’t use, don’t need.

Mountain strong. See that a lot up here. Bailey’s town motto is Mountain Strong. Has a sort of defiant, libertarian meaning to most. Clues: lots of comments about guns as a primary home defense system. About citiots. (city idiots) Griping about service up here when we know the difficulties involved.

Also, though. We can handle it our own. We’re neighbors, let’s help each other. Respect the wildlife. Keep the night dark.

I like it. Mountain strong. That’s how Kate and I feel. We’re mountain strong. Can it be difficult up here? Oh, yes. The thin air has caused both of us problems most of the time we’ve been here. On certain days the snow is so good we can’t go anywhere. IREA, the local electrical company, has miles of lines in difficult to reach, yet sensitive to weather places. Like up and down whole mountains. Outages are not uncommon and Kate needs O2 24/7. Generator. Delivery is episodic rather than consistent though we have an exceptional (for the mountains) mail carrier. Not to mention that it’s far away to all the services we need.

All true. What I call the Mountain Way. Just more molasses to crawl through for certain aspects of daily life.

However. The bare rock, the lodgepole pines, the aspen groves, the cold rushing creeks, the deep valleys and tall mountain peaks, the moose, the elk, the muledeer, the fox, the lynx, the bobcat, the mountains lions, the bears, the magpies and the Canada Jays, the crows and the ravens, the curvy roads, the changing seasons. And the clear, dark nights with the Milky Way and Orion and Ursa Major, Gemini and the whole zodiac. The clouds, the lenticular clouds and the clouds with a long straight front coming over Mt. Evans. When they’re lit by the rising or setting sun.

And for me, the two visits from the mountain spirits. The three mule deer bucks who greeted me when I came to close on the house on Samain of 2014. The two Elk bucks who stayed in our yard for a day eating dandelions. The day before I started radiation treatment.

Mountain strong. They promised that, welcomed me on the close of the Celtic year. They promised that, assured me on the day before the Cyber Knife visits. We are neighbors, mountain spirits and humans. We need mutuality to survive. The mountains themselves have greeted me and come to me as companions. Our mountain journey is now five years old and only just begun.

Mountain strong.

Seven years, five months, 26 days to go

Winter and the Future Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Kate removing my sutures. Shelly for a quick and relatively painless shot of Lupron. Ali Baba for great gyros, hummus. Those who built the mountain roads. Those who built and maintain the mountain power lines. Golden Solar for installing our solar panels.

Fourth day of Daf Yomi. Only seven years, 5 months and 26 days to go. I’ve always liked long books, long movies, long tv series. Daf Yomi has a similar resonance though its length puts it in a class all by itself. Well, wait. Not quite. Romance of the Three Kingdoms, the great Chinese classic novel, is well over 2,000 pages, too. It’s not, however, as dense and clever as the Talmud. It took a long while to read, but not years. Months.

Reading the Talmud, as a first-timer, is a challenging and intriguing experience. It swerves from topic to topic, sometimes in apparently unrelated ways, but seems to come back to a particular issue.

Let me give you an example. The major question since the first page has been when to recite the Shema: Hear o Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. (longer, but this is the essential verse.) The affirmation of monotheism is bedrock for Jewish faith and practice.

Reciting the Shema during the night, when to do it, has taken up the first four Talmudic pages. The questions are many. When is it night? When is it midnight? When is it morning? How do we know the three (or, maybe four) watches of the night? In a time before precise clocks these were urgent questions if reciting these prayers was critically important. And, their recitation was critically important.

In the discussion about how we know when it’s midnight, one rabbi answers that David got up at midnight to pray and study Torah. How did he know it was midnight? He hung his lyre by his bed and when the north wind blew on the lyre its sounds marked midnight. On the question.

But then the question becomes one of David’s piety. Raised, I suppose, by the fact that he got up at midnight to pray and study. Several paragraphs go back and forth on the question of his piety, then we return to the central issue, how do know when to recite the night time Shema?

This may sound dry, even Jesuitical (eh, Bill?), but it’s actually lively, full of stories and a certain kind of logic chopping that I’m familiar with from philosophy. In short, I’m liking it.

Better than a Lupron shot in the butt. Which I also got yesterday.

But wait. I can hear one of the Rabbi’s say, the Lupron shot was to save your life, how is reading the Talmud better than saving your life? Because its significance goes beyond life to matters of the soul.

This is tricky for me since my belief system shuttles away from particular traditions, but I recognize the questions and love the playfulness with which they are addressed. Reading Talmud for me, like reading Torah or the New Testament is a lesson in metaphor, analogy, not in prescriptions. More on this later, too.