Woolly Mammoths, 6 pm

Samain                            Moon of the Winter Solstice

First time at the Marsh, out on Minnetonka Blvd.  The Western burbs version of a California health spa.  In a small room off the dining area for their food service was a sign:  Woolly Mammoths, 6:00 pm.

Inside were Bill , Warren , Frank , Stefan and Mark.  Tales of the trip, yes, but mostly we were there to support Warren whose mother received a cancer diagnosis two days before Thanksgiving.  She’s now in hospice care at an assisted living center, asking only for palliative care.

Warren has been intimately involved with both his parents and his wife’s parents in their aging and decline.  They represent a degree of love and concern in that situation seen all too rarely.

On the way back I couldn’t find any music I liked, so, as I’ve done a lot lately while driving, I turned the radio off and entered into a road trip state of mind, a little bit country and a little bit Zen.

 

All Ha’il

Fall                                              Waxing Harvest Moon

First communication back from Mark in Saudi Arabia.  He says he hasn’t set up his computer yet and that the school seems to have a good connection.  He mentions the school is in Ha’il*.  Guess that’s where he is now.  So far that’s all I know.

Met with the Woolly’s last night at our once and forever location:  the Black Forest.  Tom Crane, Mark Odegard, Frank Broderick, Scott Simpson and Warren Wolfe showed up.  We went around the table, catching each other up on this and that.  Mark’s leaving.  Our cruise.  Tom and Roxann’s trip to Florida.  Mark O’s knee.  Warren’s upcoming article on Medicare.

Scott and I talked about something called latency trading.  Here’s an article that explains some of it.  The part it doesn’t explain is the drive, now well established, to position large supercomputer networks as close as physically possible to stock exchanges around the world.  Why?  To capture the millisecond advantage in data transmission that results from close proximity to the data feed itself.  Each millisecond can mean tens of millions of dollars in trading advantage.  According to Scott, physical proximity can yield as much as a 3 millisecond advantage.  Do the math.

On the drive home, the half Autumn moon hung in the night sky.  The moon roof was open and stars shone down through it.  The air was mild, with just that hint of fall.  Perfect.

*Ha’il (Arabic: حائل‎ Ḥā’il), also spelled Hail, Ha’yel, or Hayil, is an oasis city in Nejd in northwestern Saudi Arabia. It is the capital of the Ha’il Province. The city has a population of 356,876 according to Ha’il Province.

Ha’il is largely agricultural, with significant grain, date, and fruit production. A large percentage of the kingdom’s wheat production comes from Ha’il Province, where the area to the northeast, 60 km to 100 km away, consists of irrigated gardens. Traditionally Ha’il derived its wealth from being on the camel caravan route of the Hajj. Ha’il is well known by the generosity of its people in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world as it is the place where Hatim al-Tai lived.

 

The Woollys of September

Lughnasa                                                       Waning Harvest Moon

Woolly Mammoths on reading.  We had a meeting focused on current books, readings underway or accomplished during the summer.  Guys brought out books recounting the Battle of Little Big Horn hour by hour, the agony of the war in Vietnam, a Chinese classic with the attendant multiple volumes, the built in adaptive structures in the below consciousness part of our awareness.  Woollys are readers.

We also learned Charlie has a solid offer on his condo atop a warehouse district building.  Scott has still not come back to Minnesota from his time in Colorado and Utah.  Frank still doesn’t like the nuns in the Catholic school he attended.  Bill’s focused on Regina’s needs rights now.  Stefan attended the Men’s conference this year and brought back Zack, an aspiring actor and writer, who read a powerful example of his work.

Ode’s knee has gone from good to worse and now will require a third operation.  Frank’s new granddaughter is roly-poly. Warren, in the humor highlight of the evening, realized he had not yet signed up for Social Security.  Why humor?  Well, he does cover aging for the Star-Tribune and has done so for a long time.

We also discussed, a favorite topic, our retreat.  Some want to be near water, others want tradition at the Dwelling or Valhelga.  We agreed on the last week of April, the first week of May.  That’s a start.

 

Each Others Lives

Lughnasa                                                                       Waxing Honey Extraction Moon

“Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone deeply gives you courage.” – Lao Tzu

Five men came together tonight at the Black Forest.  Brothers.  Men who have stood shoulder to shoulder for over twenty years, through marriage and divorce, through conflict and calm.  We sat outside, under a clear plastic roof that sprayed water on us while we talked when the wind blew up.  The usual conversation.  Mark’s knee.  Getting better.  Frank’s trip to Ireland.  Everyone had a great time.  Stefan’s sons.  My brother.  Bill and I talked computers, how to back up ancientrails, whether I might mine it for a book, or two.  How I might redesign it.

We went over each others lives, we know the history, the background, the context.  We listened and nodded, ate our polish sausages and sauerkraut or lentil and sausage soup, felt the late heat of a stormy day begin to creep out from under the clouds.

We see each other twice a month at least, sometimes more.  Always we stay alert to each other, exchanging e-mails, funny and serious.

I’m proud to call these men my friends.

Grasshopper, You Are About To Be A Grandfather

Spring                                                                           Full Bee Hiving Moon

Men.  Emotions surprise us, batter us into consciousness, wake us up.  Hello, grasshopper, you are about to be A GRANDFATHER. Huh?  How did that happen?  Of course, you know exactly how it happened, but it still reaches inside and turns on the amazement switch.

Some old man, dimly known, shambles out of your past and you say, “Could that be me? That old fella?”

“Nah, I’m too young,” you say.

The event comes to pass and there you are with Ruth or Dave or Holly or Ava, a tiny pink wonder, yet, too, the most common event of all among us, a baby, a fledgling human, vulnerable, needy.  Somehow ours.  Somehow not ours.

Shaken but perhaps not yet stirred a gong sounds somewhere, a genetic clang or a cultural bong, but whatever deep, resonant, compelling and there you are at the door reserved for Elders Only.  This door, this torii, guards the pathway to the future, a divided path on which your grandchild will walk as a living memory in one direction while you stride resolute toward our last great journey.

Here’s the joy.  We can walk along this path a ways, maybe even a long ways, together.

What’s the nature of this walk?  Who knows?  One grandparent, one grandchild.  A unique way, created by the two, reserved for them alone.  Another grandchild, another way.

We spoke of these things tonight at Tom Crane’s house.  Mark, brother Mark, went along.  Warren, Charlie, Bill, Scott, Tom, Frank, Mark, Stefan were there.  We remembered our grandfather dying in front of us at four, of grandfather’s disappeared by distance and alcohol, of grandfather’s willing to play along with a silly joke, a grandfather who drank and drank and drank, having his last jug delivered the day after he died, of a grandfather with green flannel underwear that buttoned, puzzlingly, in the rear, who poured coffee into a cup, then a saucer and drank from the saucer, who made syrup from water and sugar, of grandfathers in the house, there to talk to, to go to, grandfathers abused by fathers.  We spoke of all these things nestled inside our own hopes, our joys, the wonders of our own journey through the torii of  generation.

Men wonder about these things, dream about them, hope for them.  See themselves with a tiny hand in theirs, walking along, picking dragons and mermaids out of the clouds.  Whistling.

Back From The Cloud

Imbolc                                                           Waxing Bridgit Moon

The drive home with Frank is over.  We followed route 12 back east, away from Blue Cloud Abbey and the snow which had claimed a semi and an SUV on the road away from the Abbey, stopping only in Litchfield for a Chinese lunch, a buffet.  We talked as usual about many things religion, politics, women and family history.

Another Woolly retreat has finished, our 24th by some counts.  The 25th will break with our two decade long tradition of late January, early February dates and move us into the last days of September and the first of October, September 29-October 2.  We hope this will encourage more of us to get outside, walk, hike, enjoy the weather and the place.  We’ve opted for our fourth retreat at Blue Cloud Abbey.  It suits our sensibility as a place dedicated to the sacred and brotherhood and is far enough away to count as a trip.  It also has individual rooms and prepared meals.

We have also developed a relationship with the monks, two brotherhoods with different founding purposes, yet a common focus on the life of men together.  We explore different facets of common ground each time, this time the chanting with Father Michael and some time with Father Tom.  We will, I believe, prove resistant to their attempts at evangelism, hamfisted as they are, but not done in mean spirit.

Now I’m on my study computer where I’ve just entered the upcoming activities from calendar, trying to spot the time to get back to work on Missing.  That will emerge this week, as I plan to get at least an hour a day in until I can squeeze out more.  I may still go back out to Blue Cloud for a quiet and solitary place to write.

Friends

Samhain                                        Waning Harvest Moon

Talking with the woollies at the Black Forest.  Scott, Frank, Warren, Stefan.  Eating here at this lasting monument to Gemütlichkeit we lived it.  Sharing with each other in our cozy, intimate way, a way borne of decades now together.  My claustrophobia, anothers workshop on codependence, Frank’s tooth, Scott’s restructuring of his hours at work, Warren’s cold.  All of these and the usual commentary on the upcoming election, the Vikings and the waiver of Randy Moss.  Friends eating together, putting another layer of mortar on the linkages among us.

Yet another trip through the night from downtown Minneapolis to the exurbs, from bright lights and people jaywalking, biking, loitering to the dark drive north of Coon Creek Road, past the eutrophying Round Lake and the vast peat bog across the road from it, the basis for Field’s large truck farm.

Now home, letting the dogs out, a note here, then upstairs to read, watch TV, relax.

Tom’s Place

Lughnasa                                                        Waxing Artemis Moon

Back from Tom’s gracious home in Shorewood.  He served corn on the cob, salmon, an egg salad and spinach.  Delightful.  A pileated woodpecker ate from his feeder just as I came in.  What a gorgeous bird.  We ate on the deck of Tom’s unusual housing arrangement.  These are homes with a connecting wall, though quite large on the interior with a long deck high above a sloping yard filled with maple trees and ending at a small pond.  The entrance to the homes are modest affairs with little lawn and a walk-way cum patio after passing through a small gate.  They open up once inside and have the decks facing the back that have complete privacy while fairly close to each other.

Tom, Ode, Scott, Bill, Frank, Warren and Charlie were there.  We sat outside on unseasonably cool August evening and discussed violence.  It was an interesting conversation.  I’m a little too tired right now to comment.  Perhaps tomorrow.

Ode brought me copies of the label.  Very cool, copies on label paper.  Gotta test the size of them on a honey jar and their stickiness.

I did hear this joke from Frank.

Tarzan, swinging vine by vine, comes finally to the porch of his tree home.  He jumps down onto the porch and says, “Jane, I need a scotch.  No, Jane, make that a double.”  He pauses, “No, make that a triple.”  Jane comes in with his drink, “Honey, you know alcohol doesn’t solve anything.  What’s the matter.”  “Oh, Jane,” he says, “it’s a jungle out there.”

The Patio of the Schwarzwald

Beltane                                        Waning Planting Moon

The Woolly brethren gathered yet again at the Black Forest, sitting outside near the fountain with the metal sculpture, a twisted geometric of aluminum.  Warren, Frank just back from Ireland, Bill, Paul, Tom, Stefan and myself shared the stories and the shorthand that comes from having been together for so long.

When Tom and Paul ordered Erdingers beer, we had a laugh about the restaurant with a rock, a very large rock, in a conspicuous location near the entrance.   We discovered this restaurant, this rock and Erdinger’s beer in Hot Springs, South Dakota during our pilgrimage to the Woolly Mammoth site there.  It seems the rock just wouldn’t give way to the folks building the restaurant, so they said the hell with it and built the hotel and restaurant around the rock, leaving about four feet or so of rock exposed through the floor.

Paul has experienced, so far, positive results from his iron chelation and looks appreciably better.  Stefan recounted stories from his trip to Arizona to see Taylor and announced that he and Lonnie have purchased or in the process of purchasing land in Peru.  Frank had a good trip to Ireland, all but one day without rain, which is unusual.  Warren and I talked about his articles on the GAMC mess which has all but defunded health care for the poorest of the poor in Minnesota.

What was it Humphrey said?  You can tell the quality of a society by how it deals with the most disadvantaged?

This gathering of the clan keeps our friendships and our bonds alive.  It is important, even essential to our ongoing health as a group.

Putting the Stuff Together

Imbolc                                   Waxing Wild Moon

A tour for Academia Caesar Chavez this morning.  Delightful 4th graders with lots of questions and energy.  I think they liked looking over the railing into the fountain court about as much as anything.   The talent level in the docent corps always amazes me.  The two women docents who shared this tour with me were, respectively, a professor of New Testament at Luther Seminary and a retired professor of epidemiology from the Public Health department at the UofM.deep-hive-body

After the tour I had lunch at Keegan’s Pub with Frank Broderick.  He gives me the leftover corned beef after his St. Patrick’s day meal for the Woollies, but he forgot on Monday.  He had a corned beef sandwich for lunch and I had bangers and mash.  The bangers were much smaller than the ones I remember from England.

The first order this season from Mann Lake Bee Supply came yesterday.  It had eleven hive bodies and seven honey supers.  Kate has a hive body and a honey super already put together.  A hive body is deeper than a honey super since it contains frames that house brood, the queen and the nurse bees.  A honey super is about half the size to fit the honey frames.

(pics:  a deep hive body and a honey super with frames)super-frames

We’re buzzing.