We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Posts tagged Joseph

An Ancient War

Spring                                                                 New (Emergent) Moon

Ruth and I went to Wings over the Rockies, a museum devoted to USAF planes and some 0space exhibits. They have a B1A bomber there. It’s a massive thing. It sits at the end of a row of fighters and bombers, all looking lethal in their sleakness, bay doors open for ordnance.

This is an old airport hangar from LowryAFB, now fresh plots of housing, similar in kind to but older than the large community built over the runways of the old Stapleton airport. These two developments are massive urban redesign made possible by the amount of space required by yesterday’s planes for commercial and military use.

Hanging from the ceiling of the museum is a parachute with many open rectangles. B61 nuclear bombDangling from it is a steel cylinder with a tip and it looks sort of like a very large artillery shell. When underneath it, there is a small circle with an explanation: nuclear bomb. This was a test device for a nuclear weapon deployed with this drag parachute so it could be released at supersonic speeds, presumably from a B1A type plane. It felt Damoclean and standing under it gave me a shiver of cold war angst.

The museum encouraged a conversation between Ruth and me about her Uncle Joseph and my father, also an Air Force man, and his piloting planes in WWII. Talking to this child of the third millennium made WWII seem like ancient history. Seen from her perspective it will be. And my father and mother both served.

Tonight Kate and I are taking Jon and Jen out to Foga de Chao, a good choice for a low carb meal. Lots of veggies and meat. An adult night out, something Jon and Jen don’t get too often.

Raising Joe

Winter                                                                        Cold Moon

What’s your greatest achievement to date?  Another question from the Weekly Planner.

I realized the answer to this one a long time ago.  And it’s simple.  Raising Joseph.

Probably a canard to say your child is your greatest accomplishment, but that’s not what I’m saying.  At least not exactly.  The rearing, the bringing up, the raising, the nurturing, the parenting.  That is, the two-way process of Joseph-me, an I-thou relationship in Martin Buber’s terms.  It’s been dialogue all the way, from our first encounter in the wicker basket when he got off the plane seven weeks old to the last one over the phone a week ago.

Wonder.  Maybe the second most amazing thing I’ve seen with my own eyes occurred watching Joseph in his crib, still very young.  He wanted to put his hand in his mouth but he hit his forehead instead.  Calculation.  Ah.  Hand in mouth.  Or, similar but later, in the dome of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.  Joseph making some noise, hearing it echoed back by the dome and realizing, open mouthed with astonishment, that he had made that sound.

Pain.  In his third year or fourth year of college receiving a call from a former girlfriends mother saying Joseph had threatened Mandy, then talked about suicide.  Weeks of watching, waiting.  Talking.  Hoping.

Pain.  A call from a Breckenridge hospital that Joseph was in surgery.  He’d broken a femur skiing.

Pride.  Joseph restarted the downhill ski team at Central High School in St. Paul.  When it came time to give out awards at the end of the season, his coach forgot the event.  Joseph took over and gave them out himself in spite of an auditorium full of people and no previous public speaking.

Joy.  Carrying the two year old Joseph on my back as the ferry docked at Vancouver Island.

All the while, at each stage, revisiting my own childhood, my own struggles and joys at that particular age.  Marveling at the chance to not only revisit those times but occasionally to relive them in a therapeutic way.  Not through Joseph, but through the intense dynamic of loving him softening the critical edges around my own memories.

No doubt. Raising Joseph and re-raising myself.  Biggest accomplishment by far.

On a Mission for Love

Beltane                                                  Garlic Moon

On the flight over I sat next to a Minneapolis based African scholar on his way to Nairobi, Kenya and then Stockholm.  When I told him about my visit to Romania to meet Nicoleta and her family, he said, “Oh.  You’re an envoy.”  Took me a second, but realized he was right.

This is a diplomatic mission, searching out the possibilities in new relationships, reconnoitering the ground, meeting the locals.  Better rested today, I can report the mission is well underway.

As you’ll see a bit later today, Joseph, Nicoltea, her sister Anna and I went to Transylvania, saw Dracula’s castle and stayed in a medieval walled town, Brasov.

This envoy task takes a surprising amount of energy.  I left Minneapolis at 3 PM on Thursday, got here at 3 PM Friday and then stayed up until 7pm to get my body clock right with Chronos.  The next morning our little troupe went over to Bucharest Nord and took the train to Brasov.  We wandered Brasov on Saturday, then went to Bran on Sunday, coming back to Bucharest yesterday afternoon.  That’s a lot of moving around given jet lag and all.

Plus, there’s the emotional stakes.  In one sense this is Joseph’s moment, his and Nicoleta’s to determine; on the other hand, they want my blessing, enough to arrange this trip.  So, I have a role to play.

That means, though, that in spite of attempts to lower the general anxiety level, this whole trip so far has had a lot of sub text and sub text is draining, especially when linguistic and cultural barriers make clarification, my usual approach to these kind of matters, very difficult.

I want to like Nicoleta; she wants me to like her.  Joseph wants me to like Nicoleta, so do her parents.  The good news?  I like Nicoleta.  Is that all the news?  Not at all.

Like most young couples they have no idea what they’re doing.  Or, maybe I should say, like me when I was in their situation.  That is, they’re not sure what’s going on.  After all, they’re thinking about a possibility neither has ever experienced, a life together.

Can they figure it out?  Of course,  they have good will, the ability to laugh with each other and at themselves and, most important, time.

Could they make a mistake? Well, it took me three tries to find Kate so they couldn’t make more than I did, I imagine.  So, sure.

A very good sign. Nicoleta says, “I have the best mother for me.”  Mother’s and daughters who get along well augur for a solid, stable woman and I get that feel for Nicoleta.

Working on figuring out whether a life together makes sense included, in their minds, a visit to the US by Nicoleta to see Joe’s living situation and to meet all of his family.  They seem level headed about checking all this out.  But, then, there’s politics.

Joseph is shy, tentative.  He wants this all to work, too.  One of the reasons we’re both here is a second shot for Nicoleta at a tourist visa.  She got turned down last time and the difficulties for getting such a visa can look very daunting from the Romanian vantage point.

Joseph will go with her to the Consulate.  He also has affidavits to show he can support her and that he (and I) vouch for our good intentions.  No white slavery.  Part of the reason I’m here is to be available if either of them think my presence at the embassy would help.

Wish I could figure out a way to make this all less fraught, but the stakes are love, family, kids.  None higher.

Bigger Trophy

Winter                                                            First Moon of the New Year

Joseph sent me this after he won company grade officer of the year for the 461st Air Control Wing.  He got the smaller trophy for winning at the squadron level.

His e-mail said: “Bigger trophy.”  He says the real important thing was the win for his career field, air battle management which often suffers at awards time in competition with the other rated career fields:  pilot and navigator.

Not to his old man.

Recent Family Pictures

Winter First Moon of the New Year

Joseph Wins Top Company Grade Officer of the Year For His Squadron



Little  Big  Gabe  Clydesdale

Ruth With Ski Helmet

Ah. Age. Changes Things.

Winter                                  First Moon of the New Year

Used to be, I could drive into the city and back every day. When I took Joseph into first Ramsey Jr. High, then Central H.S.  Later, I drove in three and four times a week for meetings:  Sierra Club, art related or educational related events.  Now, even a day or two a week wears me out.

No amount of exercising, now 7 days a week for me, eating right (well…) and even excellent time management can defeat that.  I have to pull back from the driving.  That’s a.

(this guy no longer has a brown beard, brown eyes or hair on the top of his head.  he has changed.)

Second, I can’t juggle the number of things that I used to do.  At my prime I could switch from organizing to changing Joseph’s diaper to working on an agenda for the West Bank Community Development Corporation and still have enough time to do some lobbying at city hall.  After that, I’d head off to a church meeting in the evening.

I spent, even then, a lot of time in the car.  Now I can’t manage as many things at once. I feel pressured too much and I never liked that.

Together these two mean I can handle less in the way of outside commitments, almost none compared to the old days.  Kate’s helping me see that that’s ok, that needing to change how I spend my time is part of aging.

Still, it’s tough.  I like to imagine that I’m forever 35 or 40 (don’t we all), able to hit the ground running every morning.  Every morning.  And I like to be part of the solution.  My part is going to have to come more from this study than out in the world.

The good news is that there are still things I can do, that I can do with less physical energy expenditure.  Like, write those novels.  Translate Ovid and develop a commentary.  Write essays, maybe building toward a book, on reimagining an earth focused faith for our time.  Help with the domestic work here.  Garden.  Take care of the bees.  Visit the kids and grandkids.  Travel with Kate.

Annual Report to Humanity: 2011

Winter                                       New Moon of the New Year

Consider this our annual report to the board of directors of humanity.

We spent a week in Denver in mid-January attending the Great Western Stock Show with the grandkids, Ruth and Gabe.

That’s Gabe on the left and Ruth on the right.

A year of transitions.  As all years are, of course, but some major ones came our way.  Kate retired from full-time practice in January and we celebrated with a big party at the Art Institute.  Lots of folks attended and Kate showed off her various talents useful outside the exam room.


In late March, early April we got the two Denver dogs, Sollie and Gertie.  Jon and Jen had begun a big remodel (see right pic) adding lots of space and the dogs would have been underfoot.

In April we got a distress call from Thailand.  Brother Mark needed a place to crash for a while he got his life back together after leaving a job in Bangkok. I picked him up at MSP a week later.

Mark stayed with us over the summer, helping out with gardening chores and learning how to live with our six dogs.  Four of ours with the Denver supplement.

In early May we installed three packages of bees in Katy Did-It woodenware.  Tom and Roxann came out for the morning to watch.  Later in May we planted our garden anew, uncovered the garlic and the asparagus and settled in for another growing season.

In June Kate had the second hip replaced using Mark Heller’s minimally invasive technique.  As usual, she weathered the difficulties with aplomb and got up and moving about well before our guests came in July.

In mid-summer we had an unusual confluence of visitors.  My cousin Diane (left with Joseph), who lives in San Francisco and was my best woman when I married Kate, decided to stop off at our house on her way to her sister’s in Kalamazoo. (Great name, Kalamazoo)  Sister Mary happened to be on her way to the States from Singapore for a visit.  Joseph had just finished a long deployment in Bahrain.

So.  We got everybody here.  The first time Mary(below with her back to the camera), Mark and I had been in the same place since, gosh I don’t know.  Maybe the late 60’s?  It meant I had my whole nuclear family here at home.  A great feeling.  A moment difficult to repeat with the very global spread of our few members.

Mark worked hard all August at job hunting in the worst job market since, gosh I don’t know.  He ended up with job offers, both in his field of teaching English as a second language and both in Saudi Arabia.  Just as the Arabic spring had begun to blossom.

He accepted and moved to Ha’il, Saudi Arabia in October.

Both grandkids started school in September, Ruth in kindergarten and Gabe in a special pre-school.  We visit them over Skype once a week and one or both of us is out there once a quarter. [We go next on January 13th for what has become an annual visit to the Great Western Stock Show.]

(Mark, Kate, me, Joseph)

Over the summer we added mulch, weeded, harvested, tended our garden.  In early September we harvested honey from two colonies of bees, a sticky, messy affair made notable this year by my decision to try a quick return of wet honey frames to a colony without benefit of veil.  Hmmm.  Thirty or forty stings and much use of the language God gave us to express ourselves while in pain thanks to something stupid we’ve done later my head calmed down.

Kate smoked my head. (keeps other bees from swarming after the attack pheromones)  She told me to get in the shower with my head under cold water.  And she gave me benadryl and prednisone. This was my most memorable moment of the year.

Joseph spent most of September and early October on deployment (again), this time stationed on Crete.  He managed military aircraft over Libya during the campaign to oust Quaddafi and support the revolutionaries.  As a result, he became one of a handful in his career field, air battle management, to have actually managed aircraft in combat.

In mid-October we drove the dogs over to Armstrong Kennels, went to MSP, flew to New York City and took a town car to dock 89, boarded the MSS Veendam and sailed away for a 40 day vacation celebrating Kate’s retirement. (thank you, Merton.)

Lots of memorable times on the trip.  Feeding leftover steak to street dogs in Santa Marta, Colombia.  Transiting the  Panama Canal.  Crossing the equator.  Seeing the archaeological legacy of Peru, riding a funicular in Valparaiso, spending time in the wonderful archipelagos of the Chilean fjords, visiting the southern most city in the Americas, going to the Falkland Islands and seeing those awfully damned cute rock hopper penguins, eating a wonderful hunk of tenderloin in Montevideo and walking the beaches of Rio.  Much to write home about.

We ate Thanksgiving dinner, two empanades and two chunks of Brazilian cheese bread, in our gate area at the Rio International Airport waiting for our plane to Atlanta.

Since then, Joseph has invited a dog into his home, Kepler, whom I showed here not long ago.  On the 28th he goes to Romania to stay at Nicoletta’s house.  He met Nicoletta on Crete while deployed to Libya.

Meeting the family in a foreign environment where he does not speak the language (he’s learning some though) of Nicoletta’s mother and father is a challenge, but one he anticipates with surprising (to me) relish.  She will move to Georgia in January to see how things might go with them together.

Fingers crossed here.

The end of the year is upon us now with today Christmas Eve and a week from now New Year’s Eve.  To all of you I wish a good night and very happy New Year.

(me as Carlito, dressed as a gaucho)

Pity Pentheus

Samain                             Moon of the Winter Solstice

Pebbly ice outside this morning.  Rain through much of the night, very little snow.  Sigh.

Finished ten verses of the Metamorphoses last night.  This is the story of Pentheus, who gets torn apart by the Bacchante, among whom is his mother. A Greek God skeptic in Ovid’s account, Pentheus pays for his scorn.  Somewhere in his story is the mythic beginning of theatre.

Joseph called with a report on his new dog.  No accidents, nothing chewed, little barking.  This black and white Akida is glad to see Joe when he comes home.  (he’s still working on a new name:  Buddy, Kepler or Ronin are under consideration.) That’s a big difference, having a warm, friendly body in the house when returning home.  He’s been living like a monk for several years now.  He sounds lighter.

Feeling the pinch in time with Latin, the novel and preparation for tours.  When the Sierra Club work starts back up in January–yikes.


Big News From Georgia

Samain                                           Moon of the Winter Solstice

Big news from Georgia.  Joseph’s current, serious relationship with Nicoletta, a Rumanian from Bucharest, just got a little hotter.  She has a five-year visa and will come over here to live with him, see how things go.  If they go well, he’s going to bring her up here in February to meet the parents.  He’s excited and so am I.

In Joseph’s world, even bigger news, since Nicoletta had become meaningful quite a while ago.  He got a packet with the announcement that the Air Force has begun recruiting astronauts again.  He’s already alerted his bosses that he wants this.  He’s already filling out his application.

He also told me he’s about half way through with his Master’s degree program in Space Studies.  That seems like a really good thing with this application about to go in the mail.

Joseph is a keep your head down, stay focused, but keep your eye on the big goal kind of man.  He has a calm, level-headedness about him that has caused superiors to tell him, that if he stays in the Air Force, he could make general.  They also tell him they doubt he’ll stay in.  Who knows?

Kids.  They may leave home but they never leave your heart.

Family. Dispersed.

Fall                                                    Waxing Autumn Moon

A gorgeous fall day.  And I’ve spent it inside, decompressing.  6 months with a guest in the house, no matter which guest, is a long term disruption for these two introverts.  We’re both glad Mark came and are proud of what he accomplished while he was here, but we’re also both glad to have our house back to two humans, four dogs and a gazillion plants.

Mark helped out a lot in the garden and around in the yard, so we’ll miss his strength.  He was also well-versed in geo-political affairs, a habit we both got from our father, a newspaperman.  Good conversations there.

He also knew our family well, on both sides.  He was, too, a lost brother, in a sense, come home.  Blending ourselves together as a contemporary family was not always easy, but whoever said family was easy.

As of tomorrow we’ll have Mary in Singapore, Mark in Saudi Arabia and Joseph in Georgia, Jon and Jen and Ruth and Gabe in Denver and our home here in Minnesota.  This is about as spread out as a family can get geographically.  We’ll use skype and e-mail to stay in touch.

June 2017
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