We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Hail a New Creation

Written By: Charles - Feb• 25•19

Imbolc                                                                         Valentine Moon

My life flows on in endless song;
above earth’s lamentation,
I catch the sweet, though far-off hymn
that hails a new creation.      “How can I keep from singing?”  Robert Lowry

When I opened this page, Robert Lowry’s hymn came to the surface. I could sing this verse with no pauses for personal editing. The rest of them? Not so much. But, no matter. This one has a powerful, here and now message and it came to me from my unconscious.

third phaseThe woes of the body, our lamentations here on Shadow Mountain, are of the tactile world, the one bound up in life and death; but, they are not of the soul, the spirit, the ohr, the imago dei. No. In my soul (a word I’ve come to use more freely of late, meaning that part of me that bows to the god in you, namaste.) I can hear the sweet, though often very far-off hymn. It hails a new creation coming into existence even now, one shaped by the lamentations, but not determined by them.

That new creation is a new sort of intimacy for Kate and me, one forged not in the upbeat, I did it, achievements of the family and career second phase, but in the existential reality of the third phase. In the third phase the body begins to let go of life, gradually, a bit here, a bit there. At the same time the fruits of a lifetime of meditation, awareness, thought, friendship ripens. The soul begins to unfold, ready.

Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Anthroposophy, said that September 29th, the Saint’s Day of the Archangel Michael, is the springtime of the soul. (odd coincidence. Kate’s bleed was on September 28th) What I’ve always liked about this idea is that it marks soul growth as occurring best in the fallow time. The fallow time, especially after Samain, Summer’s End, on October 31st, is that point when the growing season ends. An analogy to the third phase seems apt to me. The fallow time is a time for going within, going deep, finding nourishment in the eternal parts of ourselves, our soul.

That is what is happening for us. Our souls are flowering in the decay of the body. That flowering of the soul (I see a lotus.) is the new creation, perhaps not as far off as it seems.

Blessed be.


Then the heparin lock

Written By: Charles - Feb• 24•19

Imbolc                                                                         Valentine Moon

tpnTwo saline flushes, then the heparin lock. Clamp the picc line. Half of the thiamine bottle, one each of the white cap and blue cap bottles, all injected into the tpn bag of milky, 950 calorie nutrition. The thiamine is yellow and floods into the bag creating a branched, river like stream. Shake the bag so that the vitamins and other additives mix up. Spike the bag with the plastic spike that connects to the tubing. Clamp the tubing. Connect the cassette that holds the tubing to the pump. It slides in and locks. New battery for the pump. Turn pump on. Wait, go through the pump’s programming. Unclamp the tubing. (lots of alcohol wipes in here. sterile technique required since the picc line ends just above the heart.) The tpn nutrients gradually, a milliliter at a time, snake up to the connector. Saline flush. Wipe. Connect tubing to picc lock. And, voila, breakfast, lunch and dinner.

I do this by myself this morning, with Kate’s assistance of course. The tpn pump, in Kate’s case, runs almost 24 hours, delivering approximately 41 milliliters of nutrition an hour, every hour. The objective here is not so much weight gain as getting her tuned up nutritionally for surgery. The feeding tube placement procedure is not major surgery, but it is surgery and she is frail. Most of the time people learn how to do this for a much longer duration. In our case 10 days. Learning new things everyday.

Still slowly emerging out of the cocoon in which illness places us all. Perhaps I’ll have imaginal cells (a real thing, see butterflies) which will alter my being, transform me into someone new after the last three weeks. I’m ready for some new, even if it’s taking up again the things I was doing before with changed purpose.

It’s 10 degrees here on Shadow Mountain, but, in Colorado fashion, a warmup is on the way. 47 on Tuesday.

And, btw, yes, it has occurred to us that 8,800 feet is not the best position for us with our ailments. Not likely to change soon however with the dogs and my almost pathological aversion to the idea of moving. The move that got us here felt like a last time for that sort of thing. Difficult.

Still Here

Written By: Charles - Feb• 23•19

Imbolc                                                                             Valentine Moon

A new chapter. Mt. Evans’ Hospice and Home Health Care (personally wish they’d reverse the order of those nouns) has begun to come out. First, nurses to help us understand and adapt to Kate’s picc line and the changing of the tpn pouches every 24 hours. Both Julie and Michele live on Warhawk, very close by. Reassuring. The feeding helps, 950 calories or so over 24 hours, and balanced for her needs as I mentioned before.

Second, Kate had her first p.t. session yesterday and will have o.t. next week. This is important since Kate’s activity level has been minimal for months.

It’s a lot of change in a situation that has already caused lots of change. This is forward progress though. Kate sees Edwin Smith on Tuesday and hopefully the feeding tube placement will get scheduled and done soon after.

We get a grocery delivery today. That will be welcome. Once I feel better we can forego delivery and go to pickup. Still order online. They bring the groceries out to your car and you take them home. Ted plowed our drive this morning. 5 inches or so overnight. Happy about that.

I’m much better, but still mending. Chest x-ray on Thursday. Follow-up. No word on that yet.


Radical Change, or Radical Removal Roman Catholicism

Written By: Charles - Feb• 22•19

Imbolc                                                                   Valentine Moon

Let’s switch off health. I know, I know. You want more picc lines and coughing and fatigue, but I wanna talk about a different sort of illness. The Roman Catholic Church.

Been thinking about Lord Acton, the power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely guy. That’s not quite right. Here’s my version: if you think you have power, it corrupts you; if you think you have absolute power, it will corrupt you absolutely. Ideologues may not always have real political or economic power, but they think they have a power more important than either one, The Truth. Imagine a tyrannical father. A domineering mother. Donald Trump. The Shining Path. The KKK. Proud Boys.

I understand the allure, having veered off in that direction more than once in my life. If you know The Truth, your ends always justify your means. It just follows, doesn’t it? My ends, which are true, guide my method of achieving them. Ipso facto. QED. If there is some wreckage here and there, perhaps collateral damage, well, we’re still headed in the right direction and that’s what counts, right?

Max Weber, the father of sociology, famously defined religion as the rationalization of charisma. You have a dynamic, compelling leader, Jesus, Mohamed, who catalyze a movement. But these leaders die (or, in some cases, are killed) and those who surrounded them take over, vowing to keep the movement alive in the spirit of the fallen one. As you get further and further away from the death of the charismatic leader, bureaucracy begins to take over, making policies, setting rules, organizing everything. If you think about it, you’ve probably since this in action on a smaller scale at a business, a school, in sports.

Enter church councils, church fathers (see?), and, worst of all, theologians. The RCC believes it is the direct lineage of those early followers of Jesus, the followers who vow to keep the movement alive, in Weberian terms. They believe in particular that the bishops of the church are in direct line to the apostle Peter, containing his mystical power to define and shape the lives of Christians. All Christians.

This is a recipe for hubris. But, that’s not all. Celibacy. Celibacy became the mark of those who set aside their lives for service to the Church. Just how that happened isn’t important here, but it did happen and it acquired the theological imprimatur of the Church.

Now put celibacy together with the view that the church, whom the priest divinely represents through the sacrament of ordination, has the right, no, the responsibility to say what is good and what is bad in the lives of parishioners. In each congregation, each gathering of the body of Christ under the Roman Catholic rubric, the priest represents the power of Jesus, mediated through the apostle Peter who ordained bishops who then ordain priests.

I’m not trying to be subtle here. This ideology, for that’s all a theology is, a sanctified ideology, put absolute power over the lives of men, women, and children in the hands of men who agreed to never have sex. (Yes, nuns, but we’re sticking with the theme here.)

Here’s my main point. This has been true since Roman times. In other words, the same toxic combination of celibacy and absolute power has existed in Catholic congregations and monastic groups since the early 100’s a.d. That means, at least to me, that the same abuses of that power, driven in large part by the notion of celibacy, have existed since then. In other words, this moment is not an aberration, not a modern era problem, but a systemic one, an organized system of depravity and secrecy calling itself a Christian church.

I believe this questions the fundaments of the Catholic claims, not only questions, but destroys them. It needs a wholesale change: married priests, women priests, acceptance of lgbtq+ folk. Or, it needs to be torn out root and branch and burned on the bonfire of Apostolic vanity.


More Health Stuff.

Written By: Charles - Feb• 21•19

Imbolc                                                                  Valentine Moon

Gradually getting more stamina. Felt good enough to go in and pick up Kate from Swedish yesterday afternoon.

She’s home now, again. Trying to imagine what this whole ordeal must be like from within her frame of reference. Difficult. So many procedures, hospital and doctor visits. So many different interventions. And the needle sticks. She has rotten veins and it often takes four, five times to put an iv in or draw blood. Sounds medieval.

Home health from Mt. Evans’ Home Health Care comes by today to hook up the tpn. They offered to come last night around 7, but Kate was too weary. A delivery guy from an outfit called Medspeed dropped off two thermo insulated white boxes and an ordinary cardboard one, supplies. We’re entering new territory here with home health care and medical apparatus on site on Shadow Mountain.

Kate has had an important insight. Now that she’s well hydrated through the tpn nutrition her dry mouth is much, much better. We need to figure out how to keep up that level of hydration for her. This is a big deal because the dry mouth makes eating difficult.

We see Edwin Smith on the 28th about placement of the feeding tube. He wanted her on the tpn to get her stronger. Since medicare has severe restrictions on the use of tpn, we were lucky to get the ten days granted to us. Somebody was a good advocate.

I’m feeling incrementally better each day. Able to stay up longer, do more. Still watching it because I want, need, to stay healthy. Follow up chest x-ray today, probably. I have my annual physical on Monday. There will be lots to talk about.

I’m over my foot on our neck whine. Back to head down, move forward, take it as it comes.

Of course this whole process, starting with Kate’s bleed on September 28th until now, has been stressful. As near as I can tell, I’ve not added to the stress by becoming anxious about outcomes. Not sure the toll the stress has taken on me, though I imagine it did lower my immune response to whatever viral truck slammed me down to the pavement.

Grateful for all the care and time and thought given to Kate, and to me. Grateful for the snow and the cold, more like Minnesota this last week or so, and welcome. Grateful for those dogs who wag their tales and put up with our chaotic schedule. Grateful for the Valentine Moon, for 72 years. Grateful for my recovery that’s underway. Grateful we live Rocky Mountains. Yes, adversity unveils gratitude. Strange. True.



Written By: Charles - Feb• 20•19

Imbolc                                                                             Valentine Moon

FortThree weeks ago I drove through Denver around 8 pm exhausted and wondering why I was so damned tired. Getting home was hell. Today, thankfully, I’m able to be up  and get things done. Still operating at about half to three-quarters power, stamina not great, but improving. Stronger today is my day phrase.

Kate sounds great. Needing to recover I’m still at home. One thing I learned over the last three weeks is that if I’m not healthy, it makes our life here very difficult. I’m going to get back to normal so I can help her as much as she needs. A difficult balance, especially with her in the hospital.

They may insert the feeding tube while she’s at Swedish, too. This will give her two sources of nutrition, one intravenously and the other by drip directly into the gastrointestinal tract. She will able to eat meals as well. Several advantages here.

First. She’s been stuck at 78-82 pounds for months. Nothing nudges her out of that range. She needed a different approach.

Two. Electrolytes and other necessary nutrients will be carefully balanced in both the tpn and the feeding tube. Her diet up to now has been what she could tolerate with an emphasis on calories and protein, not overall nutrition.

Three. This will reduce, hopefully eliminate, her always nagging feeling that she wasn’t eating enough. This should help her get back to eating normally, without the attendant anxiety of trying to gain weight.

Four. Since she’s wanted this for several months now, these supplemental feeding tools give her a psychic boost, which she needs.

Five. Our big hope with this intervention is that it will lift her into a normal weight range where her diet and her stamina can both improve while the secondary effects of malnutrition drop away.

We’ve seen plenty of false dawns in Kate’s journey to this point. I’m hoping this is the one we’ve been waiting for.


Written By: Charles - Feb• 20•19

Imbolc                                                                              Valentine Moon

A question for the Woolly Mammoth meeting of this Monday: “…think back over time – older and newer – was there a piece of music, a song, or a musical video that had an impact on you, or that shaped your thinking, or who you are in some way, at some important juncture in your life, or time in your life.” Scott Simpson

Here’s my reply:

protestI can still hear the others singing, feel the resonance of my voice joining theirs, marching, marching, marching. So many times. The song was the old spiritual, We Shall Overcome. I sang it in protests again Vietnam, in labor solidarity rallies, on the occasional Sunday morning. I sang it alone, in the shower, driving in the car.
Whenever I hit the line, we shall over come someday, and even writing this, I tear up.
This song could be my heart’s theme song. It’s a musical answer to Shakespeare’s famous query, “To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them.” I’ve always been on the take arms side.
Though, parenthetically, I’m also a follower of the Tao which suggests wu wei, or non-doing as an answer. Both seem true to me. In the end I cannot just let things happen to me, or to the people and the society that I love.

Black Mountain White

Written By: Charles - Feb• 19•19

Imbolc                                                                         Valentine Moon

I’m just gonna say this. May be a little whiny, but it’s on my mind. Hey, universe! Would you get your foot off our necks? Or, at least let up long enough for us to catch our breath. Geez. OK. There.

Kate’s collapsed lung resolved with concentrated oxygen therapy. Thankfully. The picc line went in yesterday and she’s getting her first infusion of nutrition through it as I write this. She’s very happy that, as she said, “Something’s happening.” She’s dealt with the weight loss, the fatigue, Sjogren’s, food aversion for so long. As one just coming out of a still debilitating illness, I can only imagine what it would be to feel the way I feel now everyday. With no change maker on the horizon. This picc line may be the beginning of a turn around. I sure hope so.

Meanwhile I’m weak, still. Feel like the diseases of the past two weeks plus have left the field of battle, but the wreckage is still under repair. I’m 10 pounds behind now, limited stamina, and less energy. I’ll improve over the next few days, I’m sure. I look forward to getting back to things.

Lot of learnings, most not consolidated yet. They will be over the coming weeks.

Here’s something uplifting, at least I think so. Black Mountain white.


Health Cares

Written By: Charles - Feb• 18•19

Imbolc                                                                              Valentine Moon

Feeling much better. All except my bowels which took a beating. I’ve eaten very little over the last two plus weeks, down 10 pounds. Not as hydrated as I normally am. Result: intractable constipation. Since Saturday afternoon, my recovery has been interrupted by this. Beginning to resolve this morning, I think. Sure hope so, misery after misery.

I’ve lost about two weeks. By that I mean, I don’t recall events during the time when illness dominated my body. It’s an odd feeling, but I’m grateful for it. I remember blurs of discomfort, but little else.

Kate went back to Swedish E.R. yesterday. Jon had to take her due to my severe cramping and general dis-ease. They admitted her, though I don’t know exactly what for. She has an appointment with a home health company today to insert the line for her tpn feeding, don’t know what’s going to happen to that.

This was not the most festive birthday week I can recall. Maybe the least? Either way the earth keeps spinning and racing along its orbit.


The Death of Opportunity

Written By: Charles - Feb• 16•19

Imbolc                                                                        Valentine Moon

Hendrick Andriessen (1607–1655)

Hendrick Andriessen (1607–1655)

So here’s my summary of the last 17 days. I got ill. My doc thought it was influenza A. That lasted 10 days, then I got really sick. The pneumonia is clearing. I have more energy each day, though I’m still weak. Eating and sleeping. Still the main activities.

All these mortality signals keep whizzing by. The third phase is an existentialist phase no matter your theological orientation. Somewhere in the no longer so distant future is a personal and permanent extinction event. Made me read the news of Opportunity with a pang I might not have otherwise felt.

The struggle we have over these deep questions in our own day to day has gotten interlaced with our creations. It seems like taffy or a Chinese finger puzzle. The more we try to answer them the tighter the puzzle grips our finger. And when a plucky, brave, dogged machine just keeps on ticking, year after year, moving and sensing and communicating, all on a planet not our own, we see its slow, but confident progress, its unwillingness to stop until the last trickle of current ran from its batteries, as life itself. Until we say it out loud. Do we put quotations marks around death? What do we do with the emotions we feel for something made of silicon and metal?

death and friend“Our beloved Opportunity remained silent,” Thomas Zurbuchen, associate administrator for NASA’s Science Mission Directorate, said Wednesday… Her power dropped to a trickle, and she was last heard from on June 10…Keri Bean was among those who helped send that last radio signal. Losing Opportunity, she says, is like a death in the family…But at least it was Mars that killed her — it wasn’t the rover failing or something else. It was Mars. And I feel like that’s really the only appropriate death for her at this point.” NPR

It’s possible that we’ve been making a category mistake all along about death. We assume that we are individuals, clothed in an impenetrable skin with a mind mysterious and often hidden even from its self. What if that is too narrow? Way too narrow. What if we are also those things in which we invest our life? That is, I am not only the meat sack that turned 72 yesterday, but I am also Kate, our house, the dogs, even our Rav4. I’m not making a weird boundary issues statement here. I’m trying to point to what Buber calls the I-thou*. Buber saw the I-thou as a relationship with another that is permeable. I love this idea, but want to say that we can extend it, in some instances, even into the realm of what Buber calls I-it relationships.



Those instances are not as few as we might think. Yes, family. Yes, friends. Yes, members of a community important to us. Yes. But also the dog who sleeps in your bed. The tree you care for each spring and fall. The flowers that you plant. And, yes, the machines that extend your self into the wider world. These machines, like Opportunity, do function independently from us, are definitely an it in the usual understanding of the term, but perhaps we misunderstand the distance, the separateness. “Our beloved Opportunity remained silent.” “Like a death in the family.”

Opportunity was not only the physical entity on Mars. It was also a literal physical extension of those who made it, those who guided it, interacted with it, and gathered its data. It was like a hand or an eye, an arm or a leg, not separate, though able to operate independently. As such Opportunity’s death was just that, a death, the loss of an I-thou relationship.

How do these relationships happen? I believe this quote says it very well:

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”

“Does it hurt?” asked the Rabbit.

“Sometimes,” said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. “When you are Real you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,” he asked, “or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”    chewy.com



*Buber’s main proposition is that we may address existence in two ways:

  1. The attitude of the “I” towards an “It”, towards an object that is separate in itself, which we either use or experience.
  2. The attitude of the “I” towards “Thou”, in a relationship in which the other is not separated by discrete bounds.

One of the major themes of the book is that human life finds its meaningfulness in relationships. In Buber’s view, all of our relationships bring us ultimately into relationship with God, who is the Eternal Thou.  wiki