The Consolation of the Natural World

Yule and the Moon of the New Year, at 4% Crescent

The Webb in its L2 orbit:

“Telescope deployment is complete. Webb is now orbiting L2. Ongoing cooldown and eventual instrument turn-on, testing and calibration occur. Telescope mirror alignment and calibration also begin as temperatures fall within range and instruments are enabled.

The telescope and scientific instruments started to cool rapidly in the shade of the sunshield once it was deployed, but it will take several weeks for them to cool all the way down to stable operational temperatures. This cooldown will be carefully controlled with strategically-placed electric heater strips. The remaining five months of commissioning will be all about aligning the optics and calibrating the scientific instruments.” NASA

Monday gratefuls: Mental health care for teens. Jon’s care for Ruth yesterday. The tenderloin roast. Yumm. The blizzard in Maine. The cold in Minnesota. The mind numbing 45 degrees we had here today. Ode in Mexico. Peak TV. All the wonderful series on now. Righteous Gemstones. Pennyworth. Bulgasal. Hotel del Luna. Qin Empire. New Book-Becky Chamber’s, A Long Way to a Small Angry Planet.

Sparks of Joy and Awe: Life



Tom asked me this morning how I got along so well with prostate cancer. With grief. With living alone. OK, he didn’t ask those last two, but I figure he implied them.

When first diagnosed in May of 2015, six months after we moved to Colorado, cancer hit me hard. I sat there in Eigner’s office listening. Who me?

When I got in the car to drive back home, the first thought was: Don’t drive when in the grip of strong emotions. Oh. Yeah. Sat there for a minute wondering if it was a good idea to pull out of the parking lot. But. How am I gonna get home?

The mountains were still new to me then. Amazing me each time I went somewhere. Still true, yes, but then my amazement was new, too. I chose to drive back Deer Creek Canyon Road, a sort of back way from Littleton to Conifer.

Turning left about three miles north of the Denver Botanical Gardens, I began the trek up the site, millions of years ago, of the Rocky Mountain Orogeny.  Rocky Cliffs rose from the Earth and the road began to climb as Cliffs and Streams and Boulders began to dominate. Colorado Blue Spruce, Ponderosa Pine, Lodgepole Pine. Aspen. A few Willows and Dogwoods along Deer Creek

Numb. Yes, numb. But then. These Mountains. The layer cake of their formations. One strata on top of another pushed up, up, up out of the Bedrock during the Laramid Orogeny, 80 to 55 million years ago. This Rock was ancient then, resting in place, awaiting the slow changes that come even to the seemingly obdurate.

These facts were fresh with me because, as is my way, I’d been reading a lot about the Rockies before and after our move. I like to know where I am. And how it got to be there.

Huh. It hit me. I’m such a Mayfly. Even my cancer is such a small thing. Big to my life, sure, but in the scope and sweep of these Mountains, Granite and Gneiss and Marble and Shale exposed after a long, long sleep. A sweep of the second hand.

As is also my way my Body went out to the Mountains, following them as I drove. Embracing them as teachers, as guides on this Planet we share. I gradually became calm, understanding that my life and the life of the Mountains are not separate, but joined. Now and forever.

There is a Great Wheel not wedded to the Seasons of temperate latitudes, but one wedded to the creation, life, and inevitable doom of this Rocky, Watery place we call home. I am part of that Great Wheel’s turning. As are each of you who read this.

Before what I have long called the Consolation of Deer Creek Canyon, I experienced the Consolation of the Great Anoka Sand Plain, the shore of the Glacial River Warren. There in Andover I planted, Kate weeded. Flowers and vegetables grew. Dogs ran here and there in the Woods. Bees flew in and out of the Gardens, the Orchard.

Each fall I would find Folk Alley radio on the internet, turn it up so I could hear on our small brick patio outside the lower level. There I would replenish the soil with compost and other nutrients. Digging out onto a tarp, then shoveling it back in. When that was finished I would open the boxes of Bulbs, Corms, and Tubers and Rhizomes. They would go in the Soil, with a bit of fertilizer, at the right depth, then get tucked in with a hard pat. Next Spring there would be Lilies, Tulips, Iris brightly signaling a new growing season.

I loved that work on those fall afternoons. I’d often hear the Andover Marching Band practicing. The Garden of course had its rhythms. It was finishing as I planted the perennial Flowers.

The Garden fed us all year. Fresh veggies, canned veggies. Fruits, too. Raspberries, Honey Crisp Apples. Plums. Cherries. The Bees gave us Honey.

The Garden was part of me and I, after the eating the produce and the Honey, was part of it. I call this the true transubstantiation.

In all Seasons I would hike to my Tree in the Boot Lake Scientific and Natural Area. I would sit with my back against it, looking at all of its Children who grew in an irregular circle around it. I sprinkled Tully’s ashes there. She was a sweetheart and I wanted to honor her.

I’ve gone on too long. The point is, I long ago found my place in the Natural World, its bounty, its death, its ongoingness. And as the Mountains along Deer Creek Canyon reminded me, that was and is enough.

One Response to The Consolation of the Natural World

  1. Avatar Bill+Schmidt
    Bill+Schmidt says:

    Dear Charlie,
    This is a deeply touching message of trusting Life. Poetic, vulnerable, wordsmith Charlie at his best.
    Thank you!