On the Move Again

Beltane and the Island Moon

Friday gratefuls: Joe and Seoah. Marilyn, Rich, Ron, Tara, Judy, Susan. Meeting in person, face to face. All those who helped me over the last month. The Sisters. Ruth. Rabbi Jamie. Alan. The chevra kadisha and the mitzvah committee. Cody. Will. Emily. Diane and Mary. The Ancient ones. Kep and Rigel. Mark Koonz. The nurses at Swedish. And, Kate. Always Kate.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: The new Iris bed. The Lilacs on their way. Travel at 500+ miles per hour. Up in the Sky! That helicopter on Mars.

Short one. Ready to go. Almost. Shower. Last few things in the suitcase and personal item. I’m going basic economy so no frills.

In person MVP last night. So good to be in the synagogue with the others. Lively, thoughtful, deep conversation. The unthawing of our post-covid lives. No, not yet fully, but at least some.

Time to boogie. Next post from Oahu, Hickam AFB.

Oh. Seoah called last night to make sure I’d had my test. She was worried. What a sweetie.

Posted in Family, Friends, Mussar, Plants, Third Phase, Travel | Leave a comment

Penultimate Day in Colorado

Beltane and the Island Moon

Thursday gratefuls: The intricate web of people, near and far, family, friends who held and hold me as I walk, slowly, this most ancientrail. Emily, who will love Rigel and Kep while I’m gone. Rigel and Kep, my home companions. The Ancient Ones. CBE. MVP tonight. Covid 19 test at Walgreen’s today. Jet travel. The great moisture we’ve gotten in May so far.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: The Mountain Night Sky. Lift. (airplane wings) The vastness of the World Ocean and the  Islands sprinkled throughout. Life.

Our Korean angel


After plowing through several usernames on different sites as I changed our information to my information, I found one I could use and not have to start over: animist. Guess it’s not front of mind for hardly anybody. Yeah. (psst. Don’t tell. Though. I do use a password manager.)

The safety deposit box and all banking accounts are now in the trust, the Olson Buckman-Ellis family trust. The big advantage of this is that, at my death, either Joseph or Jon can write checks, access the savings and the safety deposit box. It was simpler for me since I was the joint account holder, but it will be a different situation when I die. A little extra work now makes life easier for them.

I’m also switching to all online bill paying through Wells-Fargo. Easier, quicker, better records. Cheaper, too.

Tuesday morning it took right at 2 hours to remove Kate from the Verizon account and establish me as the account owner. Will said, “She’s going by the book.” I sat in the uncomfortable plastic chair as he calmly talked her through it. I’d spent just under that completing the banking changes with Cody. Over 4 straight hours from starting with Cody to finishing with Will.

Wiped me out. The sitting. The why of the tasks. The long interaction with other people. Slept for two and a half hours when I got back home.

It’s been a theme. The death certificates, too. Many of these tasks have taken longer than usual. Different reasons in each case. I have, however, finished everything that had to be done before I leave. Feels great, burden lifted.

More tasks still, but none that have to be done before I leave.

Called Emily and had her come out again. We chatted, exchanged information, I paid her, gave her the keys. Glad I had her come back. She’s going to be the one staying here and she’s obviously competent and caring.  Leaving the dogs is difficult. Again, a burden lifted.

Staples laminated my proof of vaccine card. Free. A smart move on their part. I also faxed the death certificate to OptumRx. After the I pushed the button for send, the fax machine reported it was in deep sleep. Huh? Several minutes later it woke up, printed a receipt.

Breakfast now. Get started packing. Shouldn’t take too long, but has to get done. Covid test at Walgreen’s at 10:45. Info for Hawai’i’s safe traveler program. Prevents a 10 day quarantine. Worth it.

MVP tonight. Appropriate. Reconnect in person with folks, some of whom I haven’t seen in a year. Others came to make the minyan at Kate’s service and at shiva. This gives me a chance to reenter the in person world of CBE before I leave. Glad for that chance.

Posted in Dogs, Family, Feelings, Friends, Holidays, Memories, Mountains, Shadow Mountain, Third Phase, Travel | Leave a comment

Shloshim ends

Beltane and the Island Moon

Wednesday gratefuls: Kate’s death, one month ago today. Kate conducting Brahm’s from her hospital bed. Kate and I laughing, as we often did. The end of shloshim. The guy at Verizon. Cody Wise. A long nap. Sufficient money. A house in a wonderful location.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: The Pacific Ocean, may it be pacific for me. Traveling again.

kate and me in time

Thirty days. + one. I got the call, “She’s gone.” Wham, life went sideways. The last month has been a poignant game of Chutes and Ladders, climbing, climbing, sliding back down only to climb again. A Sisyphean time.

Today and tomorrow are the last days I have to finish up stuff here that has to be done in person. I’m almost there. The only remaining tasks of that sort I’ll handle today. I have to apply for a credit card in my name at Wells Fargo and switch the safety deposit box into the trust. At noon I see Emily a second time to go over the information for her, give her the house key, and pay her. The house sitter/dog sitter. Also, I haven’t faxed a death certificate to Optum Rx, the only one that required a fax. Laminate vaccine card.

As far as I know, that completes the have to’s before I go to Hawai’i.

Got to take Kate off the dental insurance. Sign up for Survivor’s Benefits from Social Security. When I get back, the task of cleaning out her clothes, jewelry, sewing room will be up front. May be difficult. We’ll see. I’ll have help.

Less numb, more aware of the moment. A curtain still hangs, less opaque than before, shielding me from too much. When that veil lifts, a different stage of mourning will begin.

This afternoon and tomorrow my focus will turn to getting ready to go to Hawai’i. Deciding what to take. What to buy there. As I said before, my first trip in a very long time. Excited, a bit wary.

Posted in Family, Feelings, Great Wheel, Shadow Mountain, Third Phase | Leave a comment

Home and Family: where the healing is

Beltane and the Island Moon

Tuesday gratefuls: Kate and I sitting, breathing hard, surrounded by unpacked boxes the last week of December, 2014. Kate and I at Congregation Beth Evergreen, some winter night, at a study of King David. Our first night there. Kate asking me to plant an extended Iris bed and Lilacs in her memory. On it, sweetheart. Kep and Rigel, asleep in doggy dreamworld. Robyn at the Board of Pensions. Yet more Snow. Emily and Mobile Critters.

Sparks of Joy: MVP Thursday night. Hawai’i.

Spent all day yesterday at home. Social Security was too busy, so I’ll get a letter from them about signing up for survivor’s benefits. Spoke with the Board of Pensions, confirmed my 1/3 pension decrease. Worked out. Found myself tired after the morning. Napped as usual.

Might sound depressing. Not my experience. I get fed by being alone, need time to myself even after positive interactions like Sunday: Ancient Ones, Marilyn and Irv. Back to Wells Fargo today. Finish up credit card, safety deposit box, savings account change overs. After fax death certificate to Optum Rx. Didn’t get that done yet. Laminate vaccine record.

Today is the penultimate (a word Kate loved) day of shloshim. Tomorrow is the month anniversary of Kate’s death. All of my shloshim for Kate occurred in the Jewish month of Iyar, notable for turning bitter water into sweet.

Psychic alchemy turns mourning, grief into new life. In the mind’s alembic memory and the present moment swirl together. A past that has to be past transforms the present of the living. I’m far from that point, but not so far that I can’t imagine it.


Forgot to post this.

Posted in Family, Feelings, Shadow Mountain, Third Phase | Leave a comment

Love is the guide

Beltane and the waning Moon of Mourning (2%)

Monday gratefuls: Kate jumping up and down with our suitcases ready for the taxi. Kate and I eating in Pizzaro’s house in Lima, Peru. Kate hugging Ruth and Gabe on the steps of Chief Hosa lodge. Joe and Seoah, ready for me, for Mary. Murdoch.

Sparks of Joy: “Charlie guided Kate to her best self.” Sarah. Kate guided Charlie to his best self. Charlie.


Not going to switch the snowtires off today. Why? 8-16″ of snow predicted for this afternoon through tomorrow afternoon. I mean. Geez. Will do that after I get back, taking off the snowtires in July should be safe. I think. Also, I’m tired of errands out of the house. Need a stay home day.

Social security. Optum Rx. Verizon. Get started on thank-yous. Change dental insurance. Budget stuff. Make a few calls. Nap some more. Maybe even start packing. It’s been three years since I’ve traveled, maybe a bit more. A little rusty.

My spirits. A bit dull, though I laughed a lot with the Woollies and with Marilyn and Irv yesterday morning. Finished the material for Emily, the dog sitter, whom I’ll see for a second time on Wednesday.

Last night was a bit wakeful, with thoughts of Kate, tasks parading through on their own. Unbidden. I did get back to sleep, but feel tired this morning.

Two more days after today, then my version of shloshim will be complete. I like that it ends before I take off for Hawai’i. Means I can begin to focus on reintegration, life without Kate but with her memories and influence.

Have given little thought to my new life, won’t for a while. Perhaps some thoughts will come as I hike on Oahu, stroll on a beach, sleep at Joe and Seoah’s. OK if they don’t. I’m in no rush.

The only planning I’ve done, and that’s because people ask me, what will you do next, is to say, “I want to stay here (on Shadow Mountain) until Ruth graduates from high school in three years.” I know I’m less than a month away from Kate’s death so I add, “That’s what I’m thinking right now. It could change.”

My focus right now is, and has to be, very much in the present. There are still sequelae. There is getting ready to be gone for a month plus. There is settling into a life here in our house without her. Having all these details is good because it keeps me moving, keeps me centered.

I’m going back to the Mussar Vaad Practice group on Thursday. The first time in over a year. It will be in person for us vaccinated folk. Marilyn and I will drive over together. This is the sort of thing I’m going for right now, continuation. Doing things I’ve been doing, restarting with some of them, like MVP, staying with others like the Ancient Ones, the Clan diaspora Zoom sessions, time with Alan, caring for the dogs.

Hawai’i will be a caesura, a rest from most of this though the clan sessions and the Ancient Ones will continue. Maybe the Johnson/Olson family zoom, too. Of course, it will be a continuation with Joe, Seoah, Mary, Murdoch. And, Hawai’i. Island time.

Posted in Family, Feelings, Judaism, Memories, Minnesota, Mussar, Reimagine. Reconstruct. Reenchant., Shadow Mountain, Third Phase, Travel, Weather +Climate | Leave a comment

Mother’s Day

Beltane and the Moon of Mourning

Sunday gratefuls: Kate wearing sandals in the snow. Kate explaining the physiology of Raynauds. Kate laughing with her sisters. Rich Levine, a good man. Sofia. Carving her own path. Tara. A good woman. Bees. Bee equipment. Driving in the Mountains. Hawai’i. Joe and Seoah.

Sparks of Joy: Lincoln, Rich’s Dog friend. Judaism.

Mother’s Day. A long distant holiday for me. Mom died in 1964. That’s 47 years ago. The age she was when she died. I celebrated it with Raeone and Joseph. Then with Kate, Joseph, and Jon. A few times with Jen, Jon, Ruth, and Gabe.

A Hallmark day. Meant for the selling of greeting cards. Yet transformed into a day for awkward efforts at breakfast, trays for eating it in bed. A chef mother I heard on NPR described her children gathering flowers and weeds for her.

I can’t remember what we did with my Mom. Mary probably can. Maybe went over to Mangas Cafeteria in Elwood. Eating out fancy for us back then. Linen napkins, heavy silver ware, the food under glass in fancy dishes. Or, what seemed like fancy dishes to me.

Moms, like Dads, inspire a full range of emotions. Deep and lasting love to deep and lasting hatred. I’ve seen both.

As I’ve grown older, certain character traits of my Mom have seemed more and more important. She was a mitzvah mother, always ready to help at church, at school, with her family. She was kind. She loved us kids and that love helped me love myself, even after a pretty rocky period in my twenties.

Her sudden death and its terrible aftermath clouded my memories of her for so many years. Over time the smog of complicated grief began to lift and I could see her again. A traveler who made it to Capri, Algiers, Rome. A WAC in WWII. A small town girl, a really small town, who saw more of the world than most women her age. More than Dad, by far.

When Kate and I made it to Capri, I looked for Mom, her fleeting ghost. She must have been delighted. I still have a couple of postcards she brought back featuring the blue Grotto and the streets of this historic island. Tiberius ruled Rome from his villa there.

I’ve not been to Africa even now, after many visits to Europe and to Asia, Latin America.

Losing a mom is different, more primal I think, than losing a wife. Mom’s are, in most cases, (not Joseph’s which is why I mention it.) that most amazing of all creatures on earth, ones who can reproduce their species. In all cases relationships with our mothers is foundational. That’s not the case for all relationships with fathers who could, in my generation, be distant, difficult.

Jon and Joe are, if I’m right here, going through a different, perhaps more profound loss than even I am. And mine’s plenty profound. For sure different.

Kate was a small town girl, too, as I was a small town boy. I’ve always imagined that it was that small town upbringing, small towns in the agricultural Midwest, that helped us understand each other at a level below conscious awareness.

Mother’s Day. Or, as in Minnesota, fishing opener.













Posted in Family, Feelings, Holidays, Memories, Original Relation, Travel | Leave a comment

Hey, Pardner

Beltane and the Moon of Mourning

Saturday gratefuls: Kate, sticky with the honey harvest. Kate, shepherding me into a shower, giving me antihistamines after multiple bee stings. Kate, Celt, and I at the St. Kate’s art fair in St. Paul. Cody Wise, a Wells Fargo Banker. Rich Levine, bee keeper. Rabbi Jamie. Mark Koontz, of Primitive Landscaping. He will extend and replant the Iris bed and put in three Miss Kim lilacs in the back. BJ live on the radio with Schecky.

Sparks of Joy: Beekeeping. Getting tasks done.

Wild grapes waiting for Kate to turn them into jelly

Yesterday afternoon I pulled out all the honey harvesting equipment: uncapping knife and rake, solar wax renderer, motorized extractor, buckets, and filters. Took it to the driveway so Rich could pick it up for our work this morning with Sofia.

As I moved these objects, each last touched by us in 2014 when we moved, a wave of sadness and longing swept over me. Kate and I were partners. We grew flowers, picked fruit in our orchard, planted and harvested vegetables, managed a pack of dogs. My partner is dead. I missed her so much in that moment. Went back inside, sat down, cried for a bit. Not paroxysmally, but tears running down my face.

We were bound together by those things of the soil, of the four-leggeds, of the six-legged. It was a good life until the physical burden of became onerous. The move to the mountains, here on Shadow Mountain, came at a time when we needed to set down those tasks, pass them onto the younger couple that bought our Andover home.

We partnered again, living in the move. It took us most of 2014 to get ready and we worked hard. Once here in the Rockies we found ourselves tested by cancer, by Jon’s divorce, by Kate’s medical issues. Through it all. Partners.

Even to the last. Death with dignity. Yes, the right choice for you, I said. Even beyond the last. I’ve hired a landscaper who will fulfill two of Kate’s last wishes, a larger Iris bed in front and Lilacs planted in back. Half of her ashes will go into the Iris bed in August when family gathers to honor her on her birthday, August 18th.

Those tears, that sadness. It was for the good stuff. The way we lived together, always. Yes, I miss my pard, as we might say here in the West, but the knowledge and memory of how we were together does and will sustain me as I move forward.

Grief is the price we pay for love.


Posted in Bees, Dogs, Family, Feelings, Garden, Great Wheel, Judaism, Memories, Minnesota, Mountains, Plants, Shadow Mountain, Third Phase | Leave a comment

A Merry-Go-Round

Beltane and the Moon of Mourning

Friday gratefuls: Kate and I after dinner on the Left Bank. Kate and I at the tartan mill in Inverness. Kate and I passing through the Gaillard Cut of the Panama Canal. Hot. Jon making the effort to drive across town last night. Joe’s appointment making. Alan. The Wildflower. Evergreen.

Sparks of Joy: Ishmael. Emily.

With Rigel, Andover


Up. Down. It’s a merry-go-round. Grief, that is. Powerful tides sweep into the bay. I cry. Go quiet, stare out the window. Consider some new insight. Remember a detail from our life together. Somber again.

Dinner with Jon. He lost a mother, different, a lot different, from losing a wife. Both. Difficult. We cried a bit.

Then. Pay off the credit cards. Get the death certificates ready for Wells Fargo. Call Social Security. Contact the landscaper for Kate’s extended Iris bed and the Lilacs. Drive into Safelite and get the cracked windshield replaced. Have breakfast with Alan. You know, the stuff.

Then. Wake up at 3:30 after having gone to bed at 8:45. (late for me) Decide, no, I won’t go to Wells Fargo early. I’ll show up at the Psalms class, talk to Mark Koontz (landscaper). After, Wells Fargo to change up the name of the account, safety deposit box.

And, close the Credit Union account. No, not till after I get back from Hawai’i. Contact Emily, Mobile Critters. I want to see her again, talk through details. Which means I have to devote time to the checklist. Joe did a great first draft. Stuff I have to add.

Decide not to nail down my budget numbers until after Hawai’i. I need to do it. But not right now.

Pet Kepler. Still awake. Should I get up? Feed Kep and Rigel. Go upstairs. Or, stay in bed. Not likely to get back to sleep. Get up.

Trying to be calm with myself. Not move into shoulds, could’ves. Mostly successful. Back up behavior fills in though. Worrying. Trying to do too much. Hurry. Finish. Complete. Whoa, guy. Slow. It. Down. Lie will still be here.

 Somewhere in the Chilean Fjords

Posted in Dogs, Family, Feelings, Memories, Minnesota, Shadow Mountain, Third Phase, Travel | Leave a comment

Oh, honey

Beltane and the Moon of Mourning

Thursday gratefuls: Kate and I sitting together at the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, letting the music wash over us. Kate and I on the train, in bed, as we rolled through Germany. Kate fussing with Kep’s blown coats. Death certificates. Rich Levine and his paralegal, Donyce Gillespie-Ness. Lincoln, Rich’s dog. Joe’s follow through. Jon, whom I’m meeting for dinner tonight.

Sparks of Joy: Getting tasks done. Good sleep.

Kate in a favorite place, a fabric store


Getting the death certificates helped a lot. I sent a copy to our financial planner and one to the Board of Pensions. Tomorrow morning I’ll take one to Wells-Fargo, change the name on our account and on the safety deposit box. I’ll also fax one to Optum Rx.

Drove over to Evergreen Mortuary yesterday at 2. Picked up 8 death certificates, paid for them, said no I did not agree with the balance due for the cremation, and left. There’s some hitch in the giddy up between the Mortuary and the Cremation Society of Minnesota. I may have to resolve this one myself like Joe and I did on getting the death certificate signed. Count me unimpressed with their service.

Did occur to me that getting the death certificates about a week and a half late had a good side. Wasn’t as painful picking them up, photographing them, using them, as it would have been had they been more timely. So…

Did a complete circle around Shadow Mountain since I went from the Evergreen Mortuary on into Evergreen on 73. Rich and I had an appointment at 3 pm to discuss the estate and honey extraction.

He introduced me to Donyce, saying she was a former Minnesotan. Donyce and I launched into uffda, lefse, lutefisk, going up north to the cabin. As we agreed about the reality of cod soaked in lye as a foodstuff, Rich started to laugh. Wish I’d remembered an Ollie and Lena joke I could have told in mixed company.

This was about putting the house into the estate, getting it retitled, and retitling the car.

After Donyce left, Rich and I discussed solar wax rendering after honey extraction. He wants to do some honey extraction to help Sofia, Tara’s daughter (Tara is a good friend and will take me to the airport and pick me up for my Hawai’i trip), finish her senior project and graduate from high school.

I’m donating our honey extractor-motorized, solar wax renderer, uncapping knife, and whatever else he wants. Getting it out of our garage. He’s going to come by with dinner Friday night and we’ll load up. The honey extraction demonstration will happen at his house on Saturday morning.

This morning breakfast with Alan at the Wildflower in Evergreen. At 1 pm Safelite will replace the windshield on the Rav4, cracked by an errant rock from the back of a dump truck. Joseph made the appointment. Jon and I have dinner afterward.

A week from tomorrow I leave for Hawai’i. Still things to get done before then.

2014, Andover
Posted in Bees, Family, Feelings, Friends, Garden, Judaism, Memories, Minnesota, Shadow Mountain, Third Phase | Leave a comment

Some days good. Some days not.

Beltane and the Moon of Mourning

Wednesday gratefuls: Kate cleaning the goop out of Rigel’s eye. Kate reading in the chair. Kate, “Fuck. What’s he done now?” About 45. Death certificates. (Didn’t think I’d ever be grateful for them. But, I am.) Ruth, who said in a text: “I like reading philosophy. It helps me see things from a different angle.” CBE. I mean, wow. These folks. Friendship, food, love, straight up love.

Sparks of Joy: Death certificates. Sunny beaches. (hah)

Kate’s retirement gift from me.

Grief grinds on. Got me last night around 3 a.m. The worries. What if I never get the death certificates? What if I run out of money? Triggered, I think, by recalling the day Kate said, halting with each word, “Death with dignity.” And, then asked me what I thought of her decision. “I hate it, because it means I’m going to lose you. But, I think it’s the right decision for you.”

The pain of that moment has no parallel in my life after agreeing to let mom go off life support. It sears me, like looking into the sun. Letting go may be right, may be compassionate, may even be noble, but goddamn.

However. Got a call from Evergreen Mortuary at 8:50, about 10 minutes ago. Genevieve. I have the death certificates.

See. Moving into the future, even by a few hours, creates unnecessary chaos in the heart. I couldn’t have done anything about them at 3 am anyhow. And, I knew that. I think, to avoid the memory, I moved to worry. Not. A. Good. Decision. But, also. Be easy with yourself, dude. Because, grief.

Wondering if I’m going to be gone too long. 40 days. And, 40 nights. Good enough for wandering Jews. Good enough for me? I want to rest, restore. Recommit myself to healthier living. Talk with Joe, Seoah, Mary. Play with Murdoch. Swim. See Oahu.

Wouldn’t really wonder if it weren’t for the dogs. I hate to leave them for so long, though leaving them at home eases that burden. I think Emily will be good. Seoah liked her and Joe said he trusted her judgment about people. Just pre-trip jitters, I think. Gonna leave it alone, go.

Mark Koontz called. He’s the gardener/landscaper I’ve contacted to extend the purple Iris bed, plant some lilacs, and do a 5 foot no-ignition zone around the house. He’s coming by on Friday. Maybe he’ll do the work while I’m gone and I’ll come back to a modestly changed yard.

Tasks are the easy part. Doing. Becoming is the hard part. Becoming a new person. A widower. Single. Living by myself with the dogs. In Colorado. Dizzying when I consider those changes alone. There is, though, a taste of excitement, adventure. Never has the canard, It’s the first day of the rest of your life, held such power for me.

I feel lighter knowing I can get death certificates to those who need them. That will free up money, banking accounts, retitle the house and car, change my pension, and our social security accounts. Significant stuff for daily living.

June, 2013





Posted in Family, Feelings, Friends, Great Wheel, Judaism, Shadow Mountain, Third Phase, Travel | Leave a comment