Monthly Archives: April 2015


Old Mine Building

Old Mine Building

My friend and I have coffee fairly often.  We have many common interests, from DU Lacrosse to politics,spirituality, motorcycles, and bicycles to name a few.  He plays pickleball, I don’t.  I write, he doesn’t.  We have fun.

We do find ourselves discussing our health care issues.  He is coming off his second knee replacement.  I have only had one.  He needs a prostate ream job, I had one.  He has had bypass surgery, I have high blood pressure.  Even though he is fairly nuts, I don’t think he has ADD.  Poor guy.

He is a year younger than I am, but I look better.  We are both getting a bit on in years.  Both retired, we have active, engaged lives.  It’s good to share this time of life with another old dude.  That health care thing does loom.  Things do not work as well as they used to.  The night before last I sustained a sleeping injury.  I rolled over and Ow, Ow.  My bad back did not like that particular motion.

Now what is that about? A stupid sleeping injury!  Hiking, motorcycling, bicycling, home maintenance projects, at work, yes, but sleeping?  Carol had a reading injury (wrist) but at least she was awake doing something.  This is getting serious.  Should I just stay in bed, not get up?  Well, no that’s where I hurt myself.  If I walk I might fall.  If I drive, I might get a ticket.  If I stay in my chair, I’ll get fat.  There is no way out.

How did I get myself in this fix?  I have always been something of a risk taker.  I climbed fourteeners.  I did both dirt and canyons on my motorcycle.  I scrambled around in the slickrock desert alone.  I jeeped over 13000 feet high passes alone.  I bicycled in ten degree temperature weather on the ice to get to work.  Now I hurt myself sleeping.

I am going to leave this coffee shop, drive up to Gilpin county, and go hiking.

Later.  I went to Gilpin County, hiked and jeeped.  I whacked my head on a low door frame in an old mine building, so now I have a scalp laceration.  Some days.

The Garden

Raspberries planterI am married to an artist.  She paints, she writes (lately, haiku), is doing lots of cooking with our new kitchen, and she gardens.  It’s spring, so a lot of our effort is going into the garden. I willingly garden, but it is mostly the labor part. I dig, I built a cold frame and re-glazed it, I water and help plant.  I do not, however decide what to plant or where.  I am getting better at pruning with my left-handed Felco Pruner.  I mow, compost, rake, clean up, water, and haul.

We are landscaping in back, so lots of things are changing.  We have a nice new patio with a pergola.  The iris are already in along the fence and in the alley just outside.

The project this week is raspberries.  We had a 15 foot long cedar planter built just in front of the big blank slab of a garage wall that is YELLOW.  I prepared the planter soil with compost made from last falls leaves and a lot of coffee grounds from the coffee shops.  The raspberries will get fairly high and will break up that expanse of garage.  We were planning to have the raspberries planted by the pros but Carol got a call from a woman she met at a class offering free raspberries.



We jumped in my pickup and went over to their garden in what used to be a run-down neighborhood between I-25 and Highlands.  It is being transformed with new construction, but still retains some of the flavor of what it used to be.  We dug up about fifteen plants, brought them home and planted them. They were bare root, so some of them are looking pretty droopy, but I think they will make it.  My job is to set some eight foot cedar posts and run wires between them to support the raspberry canes.  The bushes can get about six to eight feet tall.  I can’t wait to have fresh raspberries in my muffins.

Our perennials are doing fine.  We were a bit worried after that early hard freeze we had last fall.  Even Carol’s attempt to clone the Pacific Northwest with a salal plant and some azaleas survived.  There is a deciduous bush next to the front door that is supposed to be evergreen that lost all its leaves.    It has lots of little buds and a few leaves, so I think it will be all right.

One of the things we are getting done in front is putting big rocks and some perennials on the slope from the lawn down to the sidewalk.  I am not getting any stronger, and that slope is hard to mow.  It also gets dry in summer, as it faces west.

Our Little Free Library is up and running. It is one of the features on the slope.  It is so much fun going out to check the books.  We get quite a bit of business, but no problem, because people keep bringing us books.  It’s painful, but I am culling some of my books.  It seems like some of my soul goes with them.  I hope they will enrich the soul of their next owner. It is good, life as a householder.

Spring and the Spirit



Spring is the time of renewal.  Life returns to the land, the daffodils and the tulips emerge.  The people celebrate.  In the Middle East long ago, as it is now, Passover was one of the celebrations.  That holiday brought a teacher to Jerusalem, and the Western world changed.  The teacher was a threat to the local leaders, who were anxious to not stir the Roman occupiers up.  The Romans wanted stability to release the Legions to continue conquest, and stability for the tax collectors.

They crucified the teacher.  That did not end the movement Jesus started.  The believers grew in numbers, and began to realize that the crucified one was more than a teacher.  His ministry continued, and we celebrate Easter.  At Pentecost, the cycle became complete.



Many centuries before, the Hebrews encountered the One God.  This changed their world view, as they were surrounded by people who had gods for every occasion.  The One God gave the Hebrews the Law.  They had Torah, the written record of God choosing his people and instructing them on how to comport themselves.

The intervening centuries brought much conflict and turmoil, as human affairs do.  The people mostly persevered with their God.  There are written records of that journey with God, and they still instruct us.  They fell away, they returned, they went into captivity, and they returned. Their prophets had the spirit, and many others probably did also, we just do not have the record.

Then, the most miraculous thing happened.  God became man and walked among his people, calling everyone to be His people.  He was killed for it, but his message rose with Him and became stronger.  Then, at Pentecost, came the Holy Spirit.  God no longer walked among us or sent His prophets, but we received a great gift.  The Holy Spirit can dwell within us.

Holy Spirit

Holy Spirit

I am not one to live by faith alone.  I have to have evidence.  Science works for me, because it is evidence based.  My faith works because the Holy Spirit came, and it was the most profound experience of my life.  Now, the spirit blows where it will, and it does not often blow toward me.  That is all right, because I always have the spirit when I need it.  The spirit comes when I need it, not when I want it.  At first I had trouble with that, because I wanted to be plugged in all the time.

There is a problem with being in the Spirit all the time.  There is no time for anything else, and the need to keep the body going intrudes.  I thought about being a monk, but I find that I belong in the world.  So, I have my spiritual times, and long periods when all I do is pray every day.  I feel myself being moved into a spiritual time.  I don’t know where it will lead me, but I am ready.

Remember those words, “Seek, and you will find.”

Aggression and Fear

baby fearFear is part of life.  We are wired to react to threats in a number of ways.  Fight, flight, freeze, hide, cry for help.  In our society, there is little to fear.  In most of the country there is little violence.  Sometimes we experience a flash of fear in traffic, or when we slip on the ice.  For the most part, however, we are safe.

Why, then, to we have a culture of fear?  Gun and ammunition sales are booming, security system companies are busy, people are taking self-defense classes, and living with fear and anxiety on a daily basis.

Within our generally safe country there are acts of violence.  School shootings, workplace violence, robberies, gang shootings, random killings, on and on.  These acts, if horrific, are but a small part of life in a country of 314 million people.  They just do not affect most people.  The only time I have been truly terrified was when I was caught in a lightning storm when hiking above timberline.   I have never run so fast as that day.

The most important fear creator is television.  It is hard to get good video of a drop in the unemployment rate, but easy to show police cars, fire engines, ambulances, yellow crime scene tape, and bodies on gurneys.  The longest running TV shows are cop shows and doctor shows, with lives hanging in the balance every week.  “If it bleeds, it leads”, the mantra of local TV news.

Yes, they are showing real violence, but I have personally never been a victim of violence.  As a volunteer firefighter, I did see the aftermath of terrible accidents, but we were there to respond to those events.  In my daily life in the same area, I never saw an accident.

Life has always been marked by violence.  We are wired to deal with it.  Adrenalin, anger, the need to assemble in groups for mutual protection, all are part of our DNA.  In watching elementary school children in a park, I was always struck by the boy’s tendency to pick up a stick at the first opportunity.  The girls would respond to aggression from boys,  but tended not to initiate aggressive behavior.



Are the boys hunters or warriors, or are those behaviors modifiers of the same thing?  I am currently reading about Ancient Greece.  The tales are of war or the challenges of dealing with a dangerous world.  Very few cultures have not been violent to some degree.  There is always peril, whether from the neighboring tribe or the saber-toothed tiger.

Fear has always been a part of life.  Today, despite all the turmoil in the world, in this country we enjoy one of the safest countries and times ever.  The prevailing mindset, however, is fear.  Growing up in the 1950s I ran all over town and always walked the seven blocks to school.  Today children are accompanied by an adult when on the street.  It is more and more unusual to see unaccompanied young teenagers out on the street.

Because of some events in my early childhood, I have never felt safe.  I always have a strategy for dealing with a threat (back against the wall).  I have never in my threescore and ten years had to deal with a threat.  Because of my impulsivity and deep-seated anger I have sometimes initiated aggression, but usually calm down before getting myself in big trouble. I do seem to be getting better at letting go of the anger.

Is that the answer?  Aggression breeds aggression?  Especially with childhood abuse?  The old Johnny Cash song, A Boy Named Sue, is an example.  Father knew he would abandon his son, so he named the boy Sue in order for him to be abused and have to fight back to survive.  Abandonment and the target of aggression became that boy’s life.  He grew up to be angry and aggressive.  The song implies that is a good thing.  It is not.

When children grow up in a loving, fairly safe home with the knowledge they are loved and respected, they are able to deal with threats in a healthier way, knowing they will always have a refuge.  We need to provide love, compassion, support, and respect for all children.  A lot of that exists here, but how about the Sudan?  It is a sad world.  Work to end injustice and violence everywhere.  Foster compassion.

The Middle Ages

Reims Cathedral

Reims Cathedral

Currently I am reading about the Middle Ages in Europe.  They were a long, long time ago.  The languages were different, nation-states did not exist, the Black Plague struck, warfare was almost constant (what’s new?), and the One Church was the only way to save your soul.

Things were beginning to change.  Cities were growing, trade increasing, and the crusades, for all the harm they did, expanded Europe’s horizons.  The opulence of the church and the nobility was on the increase and the great cathedrals were built.

All this was created on the backs of the mass of people on the bottom.  For them, life was a constant struggle for survival.  Crop failures, disease, exorbitant taxes to support the Church and the adventures of the nobles; and the depredations of invaders were a constant threat.

For the nobility, the demands of the church and the ideals of chivalry ruled behavior.  Both systems had ideals too high for anyone to meet.  As a consequence the standards were honored in the breach, with the threat of eternal damnation or revenge from a cuckolded fellow noble.

It seems that every institution was corrupt.  As always, the people at the bottom supported the grandeur of the nobles and the church.  The nobles were required by the chivalric codes to go to war for glory, loot, and to honor his chaste love for a maiden.  A knights role was to prove his valor and greatness in battle.  He was also to marry in order to produce male heirs and cement alliances with other noble houses.  There were also social obligations, and the competition to display more grandeur in hunts, holiday celebrations, wars, and tournaments was the center of their lives.

The church was also a participant in medieval opulence.  The gothic cathedrals, the riches members of the hierarchy displayed, the children sired by priests and bishops, the power alliances made by clerics from the nobility, and always, the display of riches meant to show the Kingdom of God to the masses, were terribly expensive.  The source of the wealth for all this in an agrarian society again came those at the bottom of the social hierarchy.  No tournaments, no hunts, just ceaseless toil with the tax collectors taking most of their produce.

The fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries saw accelerating change.  The universities were growing, with knowledge increasing due to contact with the Moslem world, where much classical learning was preserved that were lost to the west during the invasions of the dark ages.  This was important, as Aristotle’s world view was more rational and practical than the Platonic cave.  Most of Aristotle came to the west in translation from Arabic.

Trade increased, cities grew, government began to be more centralized; and the influence of a growing mercantile and manufacturing middle class began challenging the power of the landed aristocracy.  The increase in commerce also meant the spread of ideas.



Warfare, previously the domain of the nobility also changed as archers and pikemen, all commoners, began to mark the end of the armored knight on his war horse.  An arrow or the sharp end of a pike held by a man on foot could bring an armored warrior down.  Another innovation, gunpowder, meant the end of castles and city walls.  A lead ball is effective in penetrating armor.  This change in technology made the chivalric code of the stalwart knight engaging in singular combat obsolete.

The technical innovation most important in ending the Middle Ages was the printing press.  Books were scarce and expensive when they were laboriously copied by hand.  Literacy was most common in the church and with some of the nobility.  A library of 100 volumes was a rare thing.  Most books were in Latin, the language of the educated.  The bulk of the population was illiterate.

When printed books became available at an affordable cost, often in the vernacular rather than Latin, literacy blossomed.  With literacy, people began thinking for themselves, with two consequences, the Protestant Reformation and an explosion of creativity in art, learning, science (Then known as Natural Philosophy), and politics.  The Renaissance had arrived.  Change, which was gradual for centuries, accelerated.  Conflict, a given in any historical period, continued, made more lethal by the changes in technology.  The western world changed.








Carol’s Haiku


  1. Briefest Season

Time of green lace leaves:images

Magenta bloom fills the boughs

The season reborn.





  1. Passing by Forsythiaixmages

Wooden fence.  Old. Grey.

Brilliant spires of yellow

Peek out from behind.                                                                4/1/15




  1. Morning Ride

Bridal white wreathes trees.imaxges

Lowering skies promise rain.

Errands.  Beauty’s day.




  1. We Need the Moisture

Fierce snow flakes hide moon:

A return to winter’s chill.

Leaf uncurls below.          imazges                                             4/3/15



  1. Morning Dawns

Slashes of crimson:

Tulips, snowy footed, sway.

Green and white the grass.





For all my life I have wanted to know why.  I want the answer, to understand the big picture.  That led me to history.  I am not sure, but maybe understanding the past can give us a glimpse of the future.  At the least, history has helped me understand what is going on now.

As to history, there are a lot of mysteries.  History is told by the victors, and we know much less about the losers, but their lives were every bit as important as the winners.  Here is an example.

I have been interested in Central Eurasia for decades.  What we call western civilization has interacted with the people of the steppes for many thousands of years.  The standard view is that the barbarians of the steppes raised horses, sheep, and cattle and fought among themselves until a great leader, Chingiss Khan for example, unified them and they then invaded civilized cities on the periphery.   Scythians, Vandals, Visigoths, Goths, Mongols, Huns, Ughyurs or Turks, they all had only conquest, loot, rape and slaughter as goals.  Those invasions affected China, Persia, Mesopotamia, Anatolia, and Europe.

Well, yes, some of that did happen.  Much of the conflict, however, came from the peripheral societies invaded the steppes.  All the standard reasons for invasions: conquest, riches, land, slaves, and something for the army to do. Alexander, for example, invaded everywhere he could, including the steppe.  The Great Wall was built to protect territory taken from the nomads and was used to keep people in as much as protection from invasion from the nomads.

The people of the steppe had cities, vast grasslands, cattle, sheep, horses, furs, and trade goods from west and east of the steppe.  They needed trade with the periphery, and the periphery needed their livestock and trade goods.

The Silk Road was a lifeline for the nomads.  The nomadic cultures were warrior cultures, yes, but they were foremost herders and traders. Just about every culture of any size is a warrior culture.  The United States is a warrior culture.  Just ask Native Americans, Cubans, Filipinos, and Mexicans.

The difference with regard to the Eurasian steppe cultures is that the people of the west call them barbarians.  What is a barbarian?  They have different clothes, religions, languages, and values.  They are Others, so they are barbaric.  Who were the barbarians, the Moslem tribes in the Philippines trying to defend their homeland from invaders or the U. S. Army doing the invading?  Maybe Custer was the barbarian. The Lakota surely thought so.

Romans, Greeks, Celts, Persians, and Hittites saw the invading horsemen as barbaric, but they surely did their own invading.  It is prejudice, viewing others as barbaric.  One of our most enduring prejudices is calling people barbarians because they fight and kill, for whatever reason.  All cultures fight and kill, and commit atrocities.  It is only when the other guy is doing it that it is barbaric.

So, let’s not get too self righteous when various factions act out their age-old animosities in the Middle East.  Don’t call their acts barbaric unless we have never done the same.  You can check with the Modocs or the Seminoles to make sure.