We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

The Shadow Line

Written By: Charles - Sep• 01•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Easy Entrees. Diane and Mary’s gifts for Kate. Our theories of change. 41 degrees this morning. Somebody ate Kate’s Hosta. A good day yesterday for Kate. Annie. Her troubles. Max Brooks. His new book, Devolution: A First Hand Account of the Rainier Sasquatch Massacre. The Denver Post. The New York Times. The Washington Post. The Alexandria Times-Tribune in days long past.

The Shadow Line, a favorite Joseph Conrad story, uses the phrase as a metaphor for crossing a squall line into the bright sun, for crossing from sanity to insanity, for growing from immaturity to maturity.

I’m going to steal it for today, but I’m going to imagine it as crossing the squall line going the other way, into the squall, not out of it.

We crossed the shadow line over the last couple of weeks. Our nation has sailed toward the squall for centuries, for decades, for months, for weeks. The squall limns a reckoning long suppressed, a contest between justice and a nation built at its beginning on enslavement of others.

On this day in the third millennia since the crucifixion of a man of peace and love, we have an armed, belligerent faction dedicated to the idea that this suppression must continue. The police must have the freedom to kill and incarcerate and to do that with clear racial filters engaged. The battle flag of the enslavers must be seen with respect and honor. The rising of Black Lives Matter must be met by contemporary versions of Nathan Bedford Forrest and his Klan. Protests against racial injustice and police brutality must be monitored or counter-marched with battle rattle in place. Folks who make you wear a mask? The same.

The killing of two protesters in Kenosha and one in Portland, apparently an alt-right protester, gusted our now frail ship full across the shadow line and into a violent squall. Until the orange politician gets thrown out, I think it will only get worse. His tweets last night and his announced trip to Kenosha are strong indicators for further and more dangerous marches and protests.

I recall vividly the shock of the Kent State Shooting in 1970. Real bullets? WTF! Dead students. That shooting horrified even those who were not anti-war.

Now we’ve sailed into a scenario where men, and, yes, a few women, show up strapped with sidearms, automatic rifles and bandoliers of ammunition strapped across their chests. Many dressed in camo. People get killed.

And the reaction? ” “Are we really surprised that looting and arson accelerated to murder?” Carlson said during his show on Wednesday night. “How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?” CBS News. This was Tucker Carlson of Fox News.

Am I surprised at his lack of surprise? No. But now it’s in the open, said out loud. Most NRA members, every Dixie battle flag flying, Gadsen Flag flying guys, all the alt-right crowd: Proud Boys, 3 Percenters, Neo-Nazis, American Renaissance, Boogaloo Bois, Vanguard America heard it. Had thought. Believed it. They have to defend the constitution. Right?

As long as political cover comes from the office of the Presidency, this country will be well past the shadow line, buffeted and torn by the squall’s horrible winds. Will a Joe Biden win stop it? No. Will a blue tsunami? No. But the cans of Federal gasoline will go back into the Federal Petroleum Reserve.

This squall is more deadly to our national well-being than Covid. Covid is of Mother Nature; the squall of angry, frightened white people is, yes, I mean the collective noun, man-made.

Once we stop advancing further into the squall, perhaps we can make a difference by rethinking the role of police and changing departments, admit to and begin to ameliorate mass incarceration, deal with the economic devastation of poor white and poor Black folk. Latino, too.

How we move beyond this point as a nation is fraught. You know it and I know it. The question, what will we do?


Written By: Charles - Aug• 31•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Monday gratefuls: Rigel’s appetite. Kep’s centeredness. Our home. Kate feeling better last night. Chicken and blueberries and asparagus and beets. Our front, cleaner, more natural after the stump grinding. The night sky, visible now at 5 a.m. 36 degrees this morning.

Cold here overnight. Down to 36. Refreshing, invigorating. Up early, 4:30 a.m. with enough sleep. I go to bed early, around 8 p.m. The night Sky. Don’t see it much when I get up later, around 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. though that’s changing as the Great Wheel turns toward the vernal equinox.

Kate had a hard day yesterday with shortness of breath and not feeling well. I moved a TV into the bedroom. She can watch NCIS and Blue Bloods while resting. She feels better lying down. Our agreement is that the TV goes off when I come to bed. This is a change from her last year and a half when she read through books in a day or two, filling shelves of books she had read.

Rigel’s appetite, boosted by the prednisone she’s on for fever control, is good. She’s gradually returning to her old habits, a couple of cups of dry food with some wet food mixed in. Since her time in the hospital, she’s eaten a lot of canned food. It all has to be single protein, rabbit. That makes it expensive, three to four dollars a can. And she’s a big dog.

Zoombies. Don’t know why I haven’t seen this word yet, but it’s my neologism now. This is the zoombie apocalypse, characterized by so many seen but not felt. I don’t find that zoom eats my brain, but I do know it can cause a deadening if done too much. Many working at home have overloaded.

Yesterday the old zoombies met for what Paul calls our church. The topic was staying healthy as we age. A table with four legs: diet & exercise, relationships, sleep, and regular medical care. Couldn’t remember medical care as the fourth leg so I added curiosity. That works, too. So, five legs.

What we’re trying to do is lengthen healthspan, that period of life where you can do what you want to do with minimal interference from frailty or disease. As we age, so many of us experience dire insults that don’t kill us, but do render us weaker, less able to engage in our lives as we used to know them.

Ideas from the zoombie session: exercise bands, going to the club, cleanses of various sorts, walking, physical labor, interval training, workouts from a trainer, staying in touch with loved ones, with friends, with dogs.

I mentioned curiosity because it acknowledges mystery, wonder, and an openness to the future without trying to control it.

Here’s to your health, your loved ones health. May you live long and prosper.

Still alive in my heart

Written By: Charles - Aug• 30•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Sunday gratefuls: The Ancient friends. Health. Healthspan. Working out. Cool weather. Low humidity and dewpoint. Extreme fire weather. Rain yesterday and Friday. Stress.

Drifting to sleep, roaming places that reached into my heart. In no particular order:

Delos, the small Greek island where Apollo and Artemis were born

Delphi, home to the Delphic Oracle in the Temple of Apollo

Ephesus, the most complete Roman city I’ve seen. Near Patmos. The grave of John the Evangelist is there. Maybe.

The Chilean Fjords. 120 miles of islands, ocean, and glaciers.

Ushuaia. The furthest south city in the Americas.

Angkor Wat, temples of the Khmer devi-rajas, God-Kings.

The Maglev train in Korea

The Forbidden City and the Great Wall


The Uffizi

The Sistine Chapel

Inverness, Scotland

St. Deniol’s Residential library

Winifred’s Holy Well



Lake Superior

Northern Minnesota

Shadow Mountain and its neighbors


The Cloisters

Bangkok’s China Town and its night restaurants on the sidewalks

Minneapolis and St. Paul

The Panama Canal


Mexico City: the zocalo and Garibaldi Square and Xochimilco and the Anthropology Museum


Mountain Living

Written By: Charles - Aug• 29•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Saturday gratefuls: Mountain lions and bears, oh my! Snow plowing. Rigel’s eating. Long, soaking rain yesterday. 47 degrees this a.m. Red clouds, red sun. Mary’s birthday. Seoah, Joe. Ruth.

Here are a few snippets from today’s e-mails and message boards. These locations are all close by in mountain terms:

Mountain Lion. About 4pm today, a mountain lion took one of our goats (about 60 lbs) and carried it over a 5′ fence and a hundred yards down the hill towards Shawdow Mountain dr. before my dogs chased it away. Be cautious, and watch out for kids and pets.”

WATCH OUT! A BIG FAT BEAR IS ROAMING AROUND! Although my coup in build like Fort Knox, I lost 23 chickens last night to a very persistent and resourceful bear. He even came back for desert and killed my prize rooster. Today I hate bears.”

Up on the Roof. Yep! That’s a buck standing on the roof of the garage. Just another day in the neighborhood. 💕”

Deer Creek canyon road closed. Tried to come from Littleton up deer Creek canyon road around 4:45 p.m. it is closed due to a fire near the park.”

“Hello! Just checking in to see if you’d still like us to provide snow plowing services for you this season? “

That was yesterday. Another post talked about the beginning of the elk rut. Those strange strangled baby cries. The clack of antlers. Lots of elk sex.

One neighbor posted a picture of what he called Alaskan bear proofing for a chicken coop. Apparently you go inside the coop with a bag of big nails and pound them through the wall, sharp end out all the way around. Looked medieval.

Fire mitigation problem. Another mountain staple. Had a crew come out Tuesday to cut down three trees. I e-mailed the company earlier and said I would blaze the trees so they’d know which ones.

When I came home, the blazed trees were still standing. I e-mailed them. ? Got a call from Will, whom I like a lot. “Did my guys cut down the wrong trees?” Huh?

Turns out Will didn’t know what blazing a tree meant so they defaulted to an earlier conversation about trees with blue ribbons. Little bitty trees.

Will came by later in the day. He now knows what it means to blaze a tree. If you don’t, it’s cutting away a section of bark to leave exposed wood. Blazing a trail, for example. He tied orange tape around the trees, said his guys would be back.

These are three trees I don’t trust myself to fell because I might hit the house or garage.

What this all means is that summer has begun to wane. The animals, bears and mountain lions and elk and mule deer, know it. They’re getting ready for the winter, just like we are with snow-plowing.

The Great Wheel turns in the Rockies.

Just Say No

Written By: Charles - Aug• 28•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Friday gratefuls: Vampire Kate. Four new teeth for her. Rigel’s good appetite this morning. 2020, year of tragedy and transformation. Cooling down of our days. The blood red sun. Again. The zombie GOP, haunting itself. Annie. That very cute chocolate lab pup that Brenton White gets in 9 days.

The Pine Gulch Fire on the Western Slope has become the largest fire Colorado’s ever had. It surpassed the 2002 Hayman fire last night. A long drought, climate change, reduced snow pack = bad times for the Rockies and the rest of the West.

Wrapping himself in flags, multiple flags, Trump stood at the White House, the White House!, and spoke to the Republican virtual convention. Uncle Sam wept. Lady Liberty, too. Blind Justice. His carnival show of an administration has barkers, thrill rides, and rigged games, but only one ringmaster, a clown.

This is a dangerous moment. Between now and November 3rd the United States is in as much peril, more, than even war time. We may see more teenagers, or adults with teenage executive function, “deciding to keep order.” as Tucker Carlson said of Kyle Rittenhouse, the Kenosha shooter. We will see attacks on Kamala Harris, on BLM, on the very notion of national responsibility for the poor, the elderly, the immigrant.

Trump is right on this score. The nature of this country is in play. If you want to ignore climate change, eliminate any form of national health insurance, sanction racism, empower police to be even more violent, seal our borders, and go even further down the path of pariah nationhood, he’s your man.

Just say no.

A Second Act

Written By: Charles - Aug• 27•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Thursday gratefuls: Kate. Amber. Rigel. Kep. Cool morning. The Pandemic. Trump. BLM. Prostate cancer. Lung disease. Sjogren’s. CBE. Mussar. Tara. Electric cars. The dying of the extractive fossil fuel industries. Climate change. The Book of Revelation.

Predicting the end of the world is a parlor game played by intellectuals and cranks. It never fails to terrify, alarm, or make someone laugh. Think of all the cartoons with the bearded man and the sign: The End is Near.

Apocalypse. It’s hard to put the word aside these days: Murder Hornets, Covid, Trump, Climate Change (remember climate change?), that asteroid, Hurricane Laura. It has me checking the clouds for a guy in a flowing robe and an angry tilt to his eyebrows.

Remember 2012? Y2K? The first models of what the Coronavirus might do? Evangelicals support Israel because they think it will encourage the second coming. No, really.

Instead, I hear T.S. Eliot, “This is the way the world ends, not with a bang, but a whimper.” Our sense of drama wants, needs a bang, but I’d say the most likely scenario for the end of humanity comes after centuries of an Earth made too hot for us by our own actions. A self-destructive species, us Humans.

You’ll probably not guess where I’m going with this. It means to me that our nation will survive the Donald, will take him, the pandemic, even the Asteroid and murder Hornets, and recreate ourselves.

There may be no second acts in America, but I believe there will be a second act for America. The last four years, colored even darker by the “if it were fiction, it wouldn’t be believable.” nature of the last few months, have had certain oddly positive effects.

The racist (and, classcist) strands in our history have been written clearly in blood and anger. Black Lives Matter and its counter protesters in the alt-right have put on a medieval morality play in cities across the country. See Kenosha. Portland. Minneapolis. The reactions of police and the denizens of the right-wing demimonde have clarified what’s at stake for our nations future. I believe we will see positive policy changes in cities and in our nation, especially after the election.

The orange excrescence has performed a similar service for the small d democrats here. Who are, I believe, most of us on the left and right. We now know how important not only the constitutional nature of our government is, but the norms and traditions it has developed over 200 years of history as well.

That’s why I’m seeing a sign on a Brookforest yard that reads: I’m a Republican, but I’m no Fool: Vote Biden. That’s why all those national security folks have gone on record as supporting Trump. Even George Bush. George Will. Many other prominent members of what used to be the GOP.

We will have an opportunity, if we choose to take it, to reimagine this nation. Our founding documents and our founders will play a strange role in this reimagining.

That 3/5th’s “compromise.” Sally Hemmings. All those George Washington owned slaves. The white, male, property owner requirement for voting. Not who we want or need to be anymore. Let them now live on as the sins of the fathers that were visited on our generation, but finally expiated.

I’ve taken mild liberties with the text, but this should serve as a template for the next four years:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men of us are created equal, that we are endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men all men and women, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

We gray beards and gray heads have a role to play in this exciting time. Just what it is, I’m not sure, but it has something to do with insisting on our better natures. Will you join me as we search for Rumi’s field out beyond right and wrong?

Bloody Sun

Written By: Charles - Aug• 26•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Tuesday and Wednesday gratefuls: Kate’s DEXA scan for bone density. Ruby’s a.c. for the drive. Euphoria on HBO. Ruth’s new favorite show. Rigel’s improving appetite. Amber. Mountain Waste. The blood red morning Sun. Teenagers. The complexity of their lives, made even more complex by Covid. The orange excrescence and what he’s showing us about our country.

The dawn Sun here bleeds for the Fires burning through the West. The clouds show their concern with reflected color. Northern California and the Western Slope of Colorado are aflame. Their smoke and ash foul the Air we breath even up here on Shadow Mountain.

We live in the Arapaho National Forest, filled with Lodgepole Pine and Aspen stressed by drought, valley meadows with a summer’s growth of Grasses, also dry. The National Forest Service warning signs have pegged their highest mark, Extreme, for weeks now.

Western life. Punctuated by drought. Rejuvenated by Fire. Relieved by heavy Mountain Snows. For thousands of years. “Go, West, young man.” We did. But we white folk are not nomadic. We do not know where a village can be safe. We just build. Glass and steel. Hardie board and shingles. Permanent. As if there were no fire. No drought. These are strategies of the humid East, dangerous in the arid West.

As Greeley’s famous invitation flooded the West with people from the East, pushing out, slaughtering the people who knew how to move with the seasons, we made the same mistakes over and over. I’m living in one right now. It’s beautiful here on Shadow Mountain, but this house will burn. And that’s what Lodgepole Pine Forests do. They burn. All the Trees. Leaving fertile ground for a new Ecosystem.

Humans make mistakes. Often. And the consequences are sometimes horrific. Sometimes wonderful. Human life is one long unintentional adventure in empiricism. Oh, if we do that, this happens. Some of our mistakes lead us to lives otherwise impossible. Like our life here on Shadow Mountain.

Kate and I understand that we might be living here when the Forests catch Fire. That our home may be temporary. We choose to stay for the same reasons populations of us Eastern folk spotted all over the Mountains and Intramontane regions out here do. It’s beautiful and close to the Wild Life, a reminder of a world not controlled by humans.

Oh, yes, there’s a paradox. Live where it’s not safe. Why would we do that? We’re mistake makers, non-linear decision makers. We’re human.

2020. The Mayan Calendar come round at last?

Written By: Charles - Aug• 24•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Monday gratefuls: Kate and her sisters. A team. The Johnsons. Joe and Seoah and Murdoch. Rigel, bright eyed and smiling last night. Kep and his sores. Amber. Who’s hard at work for Kate. Ivory in a new home. Ruth and Gabe starting school virtually. Jon, teaching virtually and some in person. Hotshots and other Wildfire fighters. The West. A strange and wonderful place.

2016. 2020. Coincidence? No. Elections have consequences. In this millennia alone two elections in which Republicans lost the popular vote cost them what was left of their soul. Instead of strong and confident under the Bush and now Trump administrations our country became terrified, fearful. Muslims and Arabs became enemies. The white working class saw its fortune and its influence waning. Think of that. Two elections in which the majority spoke and was not heard.

I root the woes of 2020 in George Wallace’s third party candidacy in 1968. He won five states in the south. Won. In my memory, faulty in this case, he also won Indiana. He only got 11% of the vote. He loomed large in my political sensibilities. I guess because of my immersion in the movement at that time his 11% may as well have been a plurality.

Nixon started a conversation about a silent majority. I’m sure his idea got strong reinforcement from the 5 state win of an admitted, and proud, racist. He mentioned it first in a speech to the U.S. population about ending the Vietnam War. This “great silent majority” would back his policies. Many did, though whether as a great silent majority or as a war weary populace it’s hard to say.

The Reverend Jerry Falwell created the Moral Majority in 1979. Both of them were dogwhistles for the great white Shark that swims in the ocean of American politics, creating havoc where it will. It was Lee Atwater, a dark prince even among political consultants who turned these toxic, racist waters into votes for Republicans. He died young, but his ruthless and shameless negative politics found Newt Gingrich willing to carry them into the House of Representatives.

With a gerrymandering strategy also well in play, Republicans began to wall off Black voters into certain congressional and State districts, giving the Republicans the white suburbs and rural vote. Both Atwater’s negative politics and the gerrymandering pursued by Thomas Hofeller chose racism as a cause celeb for the Republican future.

Reagan reaped this whirlwind. He started an attack on unions that disenfranchised both Black and white working class voters, pushing them further down the economic ladder and pitting them against each other. It fit Atwater’s plans exactly.

Move ahead to Y2K. It was not the clocks of certain legacy software systems that shut down the year 2000, but an even older problem, the Electoral College. Bush and Gore had a very close election and the Electoral College decided the matter when the hanging chads pushed Bush past Gore thanks to the Supreme Court.

Who knows the significance of Bush’s presidency if it hadn’t been for 9/11. As it happened, his gloomy band of neoconservatives in security and foreign policy positions, guided by yet another dark prince of the GOP, Dick Cheney, created the War on Terror.

2016. The War on Terror is not a priority of the orange excrescence except as an excuse to ban Muslims from immigrating here. Instead, he’s focused his energy on the great white Shark, chumming the waters with anti-immigration policies, support of white supremacists, and trade wars with both our allies and our enemies.

Pandemic. Murder Hornets. Hurricanes doubling up. An asteroid headed for our planet. Climate change churning away, creating the conditions for massive wildfires currently raging in the American West.

Elections and political strategies have consequences. The Village of the Damned Trump has created out of our nation is not Trump’s alone. We will not turn the great White out to sea with one election. It will take all of us, the rest of our lives. Elections. Consequences. Where do you stand?


Written By: Charles - Aug• 23•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Sunday gratefuls: Jon, Ruth, Gabe. All here to celebrate Grandma’s birthday. The specific Animals that gave their lives for our meal: scallops and a tri-tip steak. The heat. When it leaves. Jon and Ruth’s happiness with the gift of Ivory. (our 2011 Rav4). Gabe’s “Air hug. I love you Grandpop.” Rigel at home. The chance to cook for a crowd. Kate. Always Kate.

Didn’t do much for Kate’s birthday on Tuesday. Lots of stuff going on before, that day, and after. But we hit it yesterday. Grandkids. Scallops. The gift of empanadas from Jon and the kids. Rigel up and about. When they left we both collapsed, as usual. A good exhaustion. Happy to see them come. Happy to see them go.

Record heat in Denver. Hot up here, too. Not by other spots standards, I know, but we’ve become acclimated to a cooler day.

You can’t see the Mountains from Denver. Jon. All this smoke and haze, heavy particulates has obscured us. We’re still here. The haze is here and the smell of smoke hangs in the Air like a harbinger. It’s bad further west, but the Wildfire threat is extreme here, too. Humidity at 16. The Ground Water evaporates. The stress on Trees and Grasses grows with the lack of precipitation. A grim reminder that we’re all part of this Ecosystem.

Ruth said that Animals from the Foothills are fleeing into metro Denver. People have been asked to leave water out for them. Can’t do it here. Habituation. Which kills Animals rather than helps them.

The arid West is not the humid East. The Mountains are not the Plains. Whether we realize it all the time or not, our lives have Water as a disruptive actor. The lack of it. Water from the Western Slope, for example, goes to Denver through huge tunnels and pipes. The southern burbs of Denver have depleted much of the Aquifer that sits beneath them. Long periods of dryness lead to extreme conditions for agriculture, Wildlife, and our Forests. The Colorado River Compact promises more Water to its downstream users like Las Vegas, Arizona, and Los Angeles than actually flows through it.

Diane, my San Francisco based cousin, told me about the book, Cadillac Desert, long ago. That piqued my interest in Water. I’ve been fascinated ever since. The way the Plains states like Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota, and even parts of Oklahoma and Texas have based their economies on the Ogallala Aquifer, an enormous reservoir of mostly ancient Water that underlies them. No Aquifer, no amber waves of Grain, no fruited Plains. The Great Lakes. Now, the Colorado River.

Consider the Water where you are. It is Life itself. Worthy of your attention.

Happy Now

Written By: Charles - Aug• 22•20

Lughnasa and the Labor Day Moon

Saturday gratefuls: The best days of my life. Right now. Rigel at home. Kate feeling better. And, 76. Transparent windows. Precious moments. Joe and Kamala. The orange excrescence. Murdoch in photos from Brenton. Extreme fire danger. Wildfires. Moving closer to election day. Can’t come soon enough. Ruth, Gabe, Jon coming for Kate’s birthday.

Life is strange. I always thought the best days of my life were those moments of achievement. Those moments when General Mills pulled out of Stevens Square. Control Data out of Elliot Park. MEED. MICAH. Delivering food to the protesters at Wounded Knee. That sort of thing. Or, the night Joseph came, December 15th, 1981. Our honeymoon following spring through Europe. Maybe that day Rigel got her head stuck in the gate. The first day we had her. Nope.

The best days are right now. With Rigel back from VRCC, her future still somewhat uncertain, I realized, yeah, mine, too. And, Kate’s. And, Kep’s. More fine tuning. The best night was last night. Rigel asleep by Kate. Kep on the bed. The best moment is right now. Black Mountain in a smoky haze from the Western Slope Wildfires and the multiple Wildfires in California.

Life’s moments, each of them, I said to Kate last night, precious. This one. I reached over and touched her hand. She said, yes. I understood why being in the now is so important for our mental and spiritual health.

The U.S. Forest Service fire warning signs have been pegged on EXTREME for the last several days. It’s dry and hot. When it’s Windy, the weather service throws up red flag warnings. No. I don’t worry. Yes, I’m paying attention.

One odd thing that Wildfire threat does. It forces a realization of what’s truly important: Kate, Kep, Rigel. Those few papers that we really, really need. Not, in other words, our house, our art, my books. If Fire demands those, we offer them up. But we leave with what matters. Prefer not to, of course.

Here’s a sequelae. My pandemic is over. This is our life. And, I love it. When things change, herd immunity achieved, a successful vaccine made and taken, visits no longer fraught with concerns about infection, that will be our life. In other words, we’re here and happy. Right now.