We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Optimism

Written By: Charles - Apr• 27•19

Spring                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

Kate at 16

Kate at 16

Took Kate out for errands yesterday. Doesn’t sound like a big deal, but it is. She went into the goldsmiths and got a new battery for her mercury dime-faced watch. I parked, came in and found her looking at wedding rings. Well, replacement wedding rings. After 29 years she has misplaced hers. Vega ate mine with the watch band I used to hold it long ago. It’s out there somewhere in the wilds of Andover. Kate walked into the goldsmiths, walked to the car. We went to Hopsin’s Dry Cleaner, the post office, and the Village Gourmet, looking for a bread box.

When we got back home, she was not ashen, not exhausted. Her stamina has improved. A lot. A testimony to weight gain, blood and iron infusions, and her commitment to ot/pt. Her face is fuller at 94 pounds. We’re both cautiously optimistic. Next up is the lung diagnosis and the j-tube placement. Some day.

I’m off to Bailey this morning for our month’s worth of thc. The Happy Camper. I’m going to take the opportunity to go to the Rustic Station for breakfast. Their sweet cream pancakes are wonderful. Tom and Mark and Paul, I’ll eat them with mindfulness of our trip to Durango.

20180615_101542It’s a blue sky, sun shiny Colorado day. We get a lot of them though in recent months we’ve also had our share of dark and gloomy. I like both. The sunny days lift my spirit; the gloomy ones inspire my creativity.

Got groceries delivered and the house cleaned yesterday. Having groceries picked and delivered relieves a major energy drainer. Well worth the extra 10-20 bucks. Sandy, our house cleaner, got energetic and washed some bedding, my electric blanket included. At first, I thought she had shorted it out like the first one that got washed, but no, it lives!

 

 

 

 

A Difference Maker for My Heart

Written By: Charles - Apr• 26•19

Spring                                                                              Rushing Waters Moon

20190420_173752Back to mussar yesterday. First time in quite a while. It was a gift, as was the minyan for Debra Copes’ mother’s memorial the night before.

Odd though, in both instances. I find myself an insider and an outsider. There is no question that Beth Evergreen accepts both Kate and me. I’m of the community, not a Gentile pagan interloper. Yet when the prayers are said and the knee bending and bowing begins, I feel like an outsider. I don’t know the words, nor do I fully understand why we’re bending and bowing. I try to follow the person next to me, but I feel awkward and a bit inauthentic. Also, I don’t wear the kippah during services. Again, it doesn’t seem authentic for me since I’m not of the tribe.

When Alan Rubin and I went to lunch on Wednesday, for example, I ordered a reuben, a pannini. When Alan ordered a salad, I said, “Oh, on your diet, eh?” “Well, yes, but also we can’t eat bread during Passover.” Oh? Oops. Passover, it turns out, is 8 days and eating leavened anything during this time is out. Yet they trust me enough to teach in the religious school.

high holy daysBeing away for a while makes me more aware of these moments. Yet Debra wanted me at her mother’s minyan. She did a universal worship service which consists of lighting candles for Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, Judaism, and a general candle for other witnesses to the divine. Rabbi Jamie said, at a meeting a couple of weeks ago, “This ex-Presbyterian understands Reconstruction better than anybody else around this table.” Around the table were key leaders of the synagogue.

Yesterday I offered what was for me a mussar interpretation of a table of virtues set out by Renee Brown, a favorite author of many in the congregation. Yes, to generosity. But, also, yes to retaining sufficient resources for yourself and your family. Yes, to freedom, but also yes to submission, to recognizing those times when serving others is more important. Yes, to accountability, but also yes to breaking the rules, to recognizing that not all instances of being held to account (even by ourselves) are equal or worthy.

20180316_191858The Jewish approach to death, too. Sitting shiva with someone after a death. Having those in mourning stand and be acknowledged during the mourner’s kaddish at every worship service. Celebrating each year the yahrzeit, the year anniversary of a loved ones death. Calling together a minyan as Debra did for honoring her mother. Those who knew it, repeated the mourner’s kaddish from memory. A vital and key part of maintaining community, acknowledging that the dead live on, not gone, just absent.

When I told Alan about my new reality with the axumin scan and oncologists, he said, “You know you’ve got the whole congregation behind you?” He meant it. Wow. Makes me feel like crying. Because I’ve always chosen an outsiders role, I’ve rarely known complete acceptance in a group; but, I feel it at CBE like I felt it in the Woollies. Profound. A difference maker for my heart.

 

 

 

Sigh

Written By: Charles - Apr• 25•19

Spring                                                                     Rushing Waters Moon

By Textefuermedizin - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Cyber knife

By Textefuermedizin – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Cyber knife (looks sort of ominous, doesn’t it?)

Cancer seems to move the wheels of medicine a bit faster than other things. My axumin scan will happen on May 14th. A radioactive molecule of an amino acid, leucine, cancer cells take up axumin “avidly” according to Blue Earth Diagnostics. PET scans can observe this activity through gamma ray emissions. According to one website, each dose of axumin costs between $3,000 and $4,000. My cost will be much less, probably around $200.

On May 17th I meet with the radiation oncologists at Anova Cancer Care. Dr. Gilroy will review the axumin scan and use it to recommend a treatment plan. Given the velocity of these matters I imagine the treatment itself will happen soon after.

How this effects Kate and me is uncertain right now. She still has a diagnosis of her lung disease ahead of her, which might entail a lung biopsy, as well as the surgery to place the j-tube. These may happen concurrently. If she’s recovering from surgery and I’m receiving radiation? Not sure how that will be.

Geez. Downbeat. I know. Wish my reality were different. Oh jinn of the lamp where are you? Even so, it’s life. Kate asked me if I was thinking, why me? I said no, never. Why? Because I’m human and we’re frail creatures, our bodies a compromise between life and entropy. Entropy always, always wins.

Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power has started up its new Shin Kori 4 reactor

Korea Hydro and Nuclear Power has started up its new Shin Kori 4 reactor

The technology involved in all this fascinates me. My buddy, nuclear engineer William Schmidt, studied the underlying physics of it all, utilizing nuclear power to create electricity. Now it will find those little bastards that want to advance the entropic time schedule for my body. When my prostate was cancerous, I wanted it out. In this situation there is no thing to cut out, no organ to remove. It’s similar, I think, to a forest where small fires have been ignited by lightning. None of the small fires, in themselves, will destroy the forest, but they have the potential to kindle whole forest consuming wildfires.

I looked at myself in the mirror yesterday. The same. The seven small scars from the DaVinci robot in a jagged curve, hardly visible. Yet, somewhere inside something nasty is happening. My former internist, Charlie Peterson, said we’re all black boxes to a certain extent. Right now, hanging between my psa numbers and the axumin scan, I’m in a limbo where all I know for sure is that there is some cancer, some where in that torso.

Not depressed, but melancholy. A heaviness settles in at some points, some staring. Numb, like my whole body rests on my crazy bone.

 

No to impeachment

Written By: Charles - Apr• 24•19

Spring                                                                             Rushing Waters Moon

abyssJupiter hangs west of the Rushing Waters Moon while Antares sits below it, also to the west. Black Mountain has a faint reddish glow as  dawn sun pushes up the Shadow Creek valley. In this light our lodgepole pines look lush, a vibrant healthy green against the red-tinted Black Mountain. Another Rocky Mountain morning.

Made corned beef and cabbage last night using the Instapot. I can’t say why I like this appliance so much, maybe the idea of using a pressure cooker at altitude. This was on Kate’s list of meals for me to cook this week. Strangely liberating, having someone else come up with the menu.

Got a call from Anova Cancer Care last night. A warm young woman. We scheduled an appointment for May 17th, hoping that’s out far enough for me to have had my axumin scan. They want a cd of it. The docs at Anova are radiation oncologists. Who wants to need an oncologist? Nobody. But, to have them available and experienced when you do. Pretty damned valuable.

Impeachment. A bad idea. Trump needs to be invalidated at the ballot box. Impeachment and all the hoopla surrounding it would only embolden all the creepy crawling things wearing those red hats. Vigilantes at the border. Proud Boys gearing up to attack the liberal left. McConnell. Republicans who have been Jim Jonesed by the orange tumor on our democracy. The regular white folks who think putting others in their place, domestically and abroad, is what Americur is all about. The judges who somehow believe in the infallible words written in the constitution, not by founders who were complex and nuanced, but by the almighty herself working through their pens. We need all these folks to suffer defeat in the democratic way, in an election, a fair election. Which might be more difficult to pull off than we imagine.

 

 

Sprinting Through

Written By: Charles - Apr• 23•19

Spring                                                                         Rushing Waters Moon

Slept fine. Had this soothing scene as the evening faded into night.

Learned that the Progoff workshop is on. I need it even more now. The Colorado years have been tough in health and Jon related matters. I need to pull back and look at my life, learn from it, make some decisions about directions. The cancer reemergence makes gaining this sort of perspective critical.

As with most things medical beyond primary care, an axumin scan requires prior approval by insurance. That can take as much as a week. That could put it in the Progoff week. I probably won’t schedule it for that week unless my docs feel this is super urgent. I’m going to need as much psychic balance as I can muster over the next few months. Kate’s still sick, after all. And still needs my care.

Took Kate to her year follow up for her shoulder replacement. A bit of good news. The shoulder looked good in x-ray and she’s got good range of motion. Her left shoulder has begun to show symptoms. Fixing that one is down the list of medical matters needing attention for her.

We’re planning to get back to mussar this week. I need the community at Beth Evergreen and so does Kate.

Lots of diverse things running, no, sprinting through my mind. As you might expect. Is this the beginning of the end? How bad is the reemergence? Has the cancer spread? What kind of treatment will I need? What will it do to me? How will all of this effect my ability to care for Kate? How will Joe, Jon, Ruth, and Gabe take this news? What’s my prognosis? None of these are happy thoughts. Each carries its own frisson of emotion.

So much unknown right now. It’s impossible not to wonder about the future, but I’m making no big leaps. Information gathering. Decision making. That’s now. And I have Kate to help with that. A big advantage.

Making corned beef and cabbage for dinner tonight.

Over the weekend

Written By: Charles - Apr• 22•19

Spring                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

Juice, haggadah, seder plate, gefilte fish, Lucas

Juice, haggadah, seder plate, gefilte fish, haroset, Lucas

 

Coors Field

Coors Field

 

Birthday boy and family

Birthday boy and family

 

Swing, batter

Swing, batter

 

Swimming in da Nile

Written By: Charles - Apr• 22•19

Spring                                                                        Rushing Waters Moon

axiumSwimming in denial. That’s me. I sent an apology e-mail to Dr. Eigner saying I had misstated my PSA. I wrote it to him as 1.2, but it was really .12, I said. Just got a call from Anna Willis, his PA. Nope. I had it right. It was 1.2. Guess I wished it to be .12 so I decided it was. Nope. The second PSA I had was, in fact, 1.3. Well.

Numb. In shock. Doing what I do to sort things out, write.

I’ll be getting an axumin scan, a relatively new pet scan procedure that can identify active cancer cells and locate them. This not only helps target therapy, a very good thing, but can also say whether the cancer has spread (metastasized) or is confined to the prostate fossa, the area where my prostate used to be. After the scan, I’ll visit the cancer care folks at Anova. They’ll discuss what treatments, probably radiation, might work.

20181011_181109I have a sort of buzzing in my head, a feeling of my body as more of a barrier to the world, heavy. Staring, sort of off into the distance. As I’m writing, I stop. Then, realize I’m stopped. Go again.

Black Mountain is gone, disappeared in the fog, or the cloud surrounding us right now. Appropriate. What’s going on in my body right now is covered in the fog of unknowing. I’ll have to wait, as I  will for Black Mountain, to see what can be seen.

Sighing. Distracted. This will pass, this feeling. Then reality will settle in, take another bit of time to figure out, to feel into this changed circumstance.

And, of course, the continuing weirdness of having a terminal condition (if left untreated) with no symptoms. I feel fine. Good. Healthy. Except…

Good thing Kate got good news from the scale this morning. 94! Some of it no doubt due to the prednisone burst she’s on right now, water retention, but not four pounds. She’s gaining weight, feeling more optimistic. Thank god. She said, “After your radiation or whatever treatment, we’re going to board the dogs and go on a cruise.” An excellent idea.

My Age

Written By: Charles - Apr• 22•19

Spring                                                                          Rushing Waters Moon

20190421_130639Earth day. Gabe turns 11. At the baseball game I asked Gabe what would change when he turned 11. “My age,” he replied. He’s that kinda kid.

Four signs of spring in three days. Pesach. Easter. A baseball game. Earth day. April is grandchild birthday month for us. Ruth, a sophisticated 13, loves Domo, the Japanese restaurant. Gabe, 11, said, yes, I’d like that, to my baseball game idea. Gabe, Ruth, Jon, and I saw the Rockies, cellar dwellers, beat the division leading Phillies 4 to 1.

It was a day game, started at 1:10. Had to leave here, in the snow, at 11:45. It was 41 on Shadow Mountain, when I got into Denver it was 67 and rainy. Even with the weather delay the game didn’t run too long with the Rockies stopping the Phillies in the top of the ninth. It got cooler and windier as the game progressed. Gabe, true to his Norwegian DNA, wore shorts and a t-shirt. I had on a fleece, a flannel overshirt, a scarf, and a hat. Even though I could see the goose bumps on his arms and legs, he only asked for a coat a couple of times. Late in the game he even got ice cream in a small blue baseball hat. Geez.

The Aurora Olsons

The Aurora Olsons

When Joe was six, I started taking him to see the Minnesota Twins in the now deflated and unmissed Metrodome. We got partial season tickets, probably saw 20 games. It was, however, 1987 and those same Twins went on that season to win the World Series. Joe’s been a baseball fan ever since. Me, not so much. Fishing and baseball I did as a father with a son.

The game yesterday was fun, in spite of the chilly weather. The Rockies had lots of offense, twice leaving the bases loaded when an inning ended. Two three-hundred million dollar players, Arenado for the Rockies and Bryce Harper for the Phillies, were on the field. Arenado looked good, Harper not so much, but it’s a long season.

 

 

The most effective way to tackle climate change? Plant 1 trillion trees CNN

Written By: Charles - Apr• 21•19

Spring                                                                                 Rushing Waters Moon

20190122_0710121 trillion trees  Tomorrow is Earth Day, Gabe’s 11th birthday. So let’s call it Plan Gabe. I wrote a piece about this process, a new word to me, afforestation. Let’s say you do nothing to advance the Great Work, creating a sustainable human presence on this earth. Let’s say you do nothing but plant yourself or pay to have planted 100 trees. If each family would take on the responsibility, say 100 trees per family member, or whatever could be afforded, we could create a foundation of the rich bastards profiting from mother earth’s feverish imbalance and plant the rest.

PLAN GABE.  We need it now. Let it be the only commandment in the ur-faith I describe below. Plant trees. Plant as many trees as you can. Now. Throughout your lifetime. As Nike says, Just do it.

Leave Some Faith Over for Your Mother

Written By: Charles - Apr• 21•19

Spring                                                                               Rushing Waters Moon

IMAG0871

Artemis honey, 2013

When I set out, long ago, on my forever not done task of reimagining faith, I didn’t want to reimagine Christianity. My goal was to focus on faith itself. Why and how. Was there a way to refocus at least part of that faith muscle in our psyche and point it toward Mother Earth? That was my impetus, Thomas Berry’s Great Work for our civilization, creating a sustainable human presence on this, our only planet, shared by and necessary to all.

In the process I discovered I was not a good systematic thinker. To my chagrin. Thought I was, or could be. Turns out I’m a creative thinker, but lack something to parse things out page after page. Not a bad thing at all, but not how I’d read myself.

The idea was to create, or better, evoke, an ur-faith, one that could slide under Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, even under atheism and take just a sliver of faith and focus it on loving and believing in and actively caring this miracle that sustains us. Still seems like a good idea.

Honeycrisp, Andover

Honeycrisp, Andover

What do you love about mother earth? The snow, perhaps. Or, the beach. The ocean. The mountains. Spring flowers. New leaves. That first onion or tomato in your garden. A puppy. A kitten. She gives them all to us. Each living thing began from one single-celled creature sparked into life somehow, a sacred moment for all of us who move, who draw our sustenance from the world.

This is Easter morning. Last night Kate and I went to the community seder for Beth Evergreen. When I think of barriers to a reimagined faith, a reconstructed element of our sense of wonder and hope, I think first of dogma and tradition. Yesterday Nicholas Kristof, an NYT columnist, had another in a continuing occasional series in which he asks Christian leaders if he’s a Christian though he doesn’t believe in the virgin birth, the resurrection, or the miracles of Jesus?

The Reverend Serene Jones, the first woman president of Union Seminary in New York City, doesn’t either, she says. She finds the virgin birth a bizarre claim that makes sense only if you consider a woman’s body sinful, only pure if untouched. She notes that the gospel of Mark has no resurrection story, ends with an empty tomb. The resurrection she says is a story of love triumphing over hate. The crucifixion is like a lynching in her view and the resurgence of Jesus’ followers after his death overcomes its power.

At first I got kind of excited about this way of understanding some of the core tenets of Christianity, reimagining the dogma. Then, I thought, wait. Why do I need a 2,000 year old story about a person who may or may not have existed to tell me that love triumphs over hate? That oppression and political executions are wrong? That the virgin birth involves projecting back into a significant individual’s life story something to explain his wonder.

IMAG0543

by the firepit, Andover

Oh, yeah. Dogma. I don’t need to wrestle with it to know that the fields of the Midwest, of the Ukraine, of northern and western China, of Argentina give us food. Food that our bodies evolved over millions of years to find nourishing of life. I don’t need to redefine these encrusted barnacles of too much thought. Not when I can see Black Mountain in the sunrise every morning. Not when I can reach down and pet Kep, Rigel, Gertie and see them wag their tales. Not when I could go out in June in our Andover garden and pluck fresh garlic cloves from the soil. Later on Honeycrisp apples from the tree, honey from our partnership with colonies of bees. No, the crucifixion is not necessary. That’s all.

That doesn’t mean that the narrative of love conquering hate is unimportant, hardly. Nor does it mean that the Passover story of liberation from oppression is unimportant either. We need liberation and love in our human contexts where our cupidity grinds away at both of them. But, important as liberation and love are for humankind, animals, too, without a planet to sustain us they won’t matter. The energy we spend redefining and rethinking dogma and tradition is, like money and status and power, a diversion from the central, Great, work of our time, healing our grievous wounds to this planet. Talk about a crucifixion.

IMAG0574

Gifts of our mother

In a supreme irony we must turn our attention to ourselves in order to ensure that our mother, this earth, can still be our home. We and our dogmas, our traditions, are the Romans, each of us a Pontius Pilate. We are the Egyptians who hold the Hebrews in slavery. We have already consigned our atmosphere, our oceans, our climate to a new balance, one they will be able to negotiate over time, though a renegotiation we may not survive as a species. Thousands of species have already gone extinct in the rebalancing phase under way right now.

On this great wakin’ up morning, after the night when the angel of death passed over the Hebrew first born, take what sustenance you can from these tales, but leave enough credulity over to consider the extinction level myth of a species that came to love its own sparkly things over the song of the robin, the bleating of a lamb, the crash of a waterfall, the sough of the wind through a grove of redwoods. Leave some of your faith over for our mother. If only you can.