Brian's Journal - Winter 2015

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1/15/2015   A dream for the New Year  
A dream sometime recently:
I was in a big agricultural field - potatoes maybe, and I couldn't leave until I had harvested.a pound of seeds or maybe beans. I had almost a pound and I wanted to finish up but I had to urinate. Ylou weren't supposed to urinate in the field. Every time I went to urinate I found somebody was looking in my direction from somewhere in the field. Then I met Monica and Marco. Monica had seeds in her bra and it was OK with both of them if I got them out, so she opened her shirt and I cut three beans out of the fabric at the op of the left cup. That still wasn't enough though for me to get out of the field.
This dream appears to be about having ALS, being alone with it and unable to escape it, and my shame about it. Monica's massage, a formally intimate act, helps a little but not enough.
1/18/2015   Sangree M Froelicher hut  
Icebows
One of many
David and I drove up from Denver with Emily and her friend Molly. David's car was stuffed with gear and the girls had barely enough room to squeeze in. We made the traditional stop at Starbucks in Idaho Springs where I bought a pair of sunglasses to go with my Flat White. Thin ice clouds high overhead diffracted the sun into rainbows. Snowy but wind-scoured mountains loomed above the highway. Frisco was snowy and Copper Mountain snowier yet. Hundreds of cars were turning into the parking lots for the ski area.
We kept going, up to and over the pass by the big Climax molybdenum mine and down the other side towards Leadville. We missed the trailhead but found it on the second try. Beda waiting for us.
Towing sleds
Lunch
Cold spruce woods
The trail up to the hut follows a forested valley - groves of lodgepole pine, patches of aspen and up towards treeline, tall Engelman spruce. We ate lunch in the sunshine part way up. David and I were on snowshoes, Beda on skis. All three of us towed sleds packed with gear and food. David and I debated the existence of God during the second half of our ascent. Unlike back in college days, when I argued for and he against, we now both more or less agreed that we didn't know.
The hut
Inside
Sunset
The hut was a welcome sight, all warm wood inside and out. We settled in, got acquainted with our hutmates (all friends of Beda's), ate supper all together and photographed the sunset from the front porch.
1/19/2015   Buckeye Peak  
Sunrise
Morning sun on the Collegiate range
The cookstove
Sunrise was glorious, and did in fact predict worsening weather but the snow didn't arrive until after dark. I helped with breakfast, only slightly more than a token effort given the state of my arms and hands though I did manage to fire up the cookstove and afterwards, wash some dishes. We had a relaxed morning and David and I didn't get out on our hike until close to noon.
On the south ridge up to Buckeye Peak
David and the Collegiate range from the summit
View east - fourteeners Lincoln and Democrat on the left horizon
From the Sangree D Froehlicher hut we snowshoed up the gentle south ridge to the summit, descended the east ridge (with a wild slide down its steep south face) and traversed over to and across the southeast ridge. That part of the hike was an accident; I'd meant to descend the southeast ridge in the first place but dropped off the summit too far to the left. Once back on the southeast ridge we ate a lunch before dropping into a bowl and following the treeline over to the south ridge. My hands were too cold to grip the sandwich so I dropped it on the snow then leaned over and wolfed it down like a dog.
View southeast - Mosquito peak to Sherman peak
Below the southeast ridge
View back to the summit
We had a steep climb on hard wind-packed snow up out of a bowl to gain the ridge. Our snowshoes kept losing their grip right below the rim and we'd slide down thirty feet or more and have to struggle back up again. I was feeling faint from fatigue at that point and my heart was doing its vibrato thing. Fortunately once we made it up we were only a short walk from the hut. We reached it just before dark.
David at lunch
South ridge - we followed the treeline left below the peak
David in depth hoar
Delighted to be back on the ridge
The temperature was in the low 20s all day but with a brisk southwest wind it felt colder than that. I had left my windshell at the hut and so was a little too cold most of the time. As a consequence my hands didn't work very well at all, especially after taking off my mittens to take photos.
The total distance was 5 miles mostly on firm snow, but in places where we had to wade through thigh-deep depth hoar the going was very strenuous. Despite the depth hoar the snowpack seemed stable; the few steep slopes we encountered tended to be firmly packed by the wind. The sky was overcast most of the time and the light in many places was so flat we couldn't tell whether the ground in front of us went up or down. Flying into Denver I'd been looking down at the snow-covered peaks and longing to be down there hiking around but today provided a bit of a reality check. The combination of flat light, cold wind and unpredictable snow surface reminded me how tough winter hiking in Colorado can be even on easy terrain. I was seriously depleted afterwards with significant ALS cramping in my quads and hamstrings for an hour or so.
Recovered somewhat after supper and had an hour or so of conversation with Beda. That was nice.
1/20/2015     
The outhouse path
Beda and me
Telemark time
It snowed overnight, just the way it is supposed to do in Colorado. I woke up early and shoveled out the outhouse path, having picked my way along it in flip-flops a couple of times during the night. I was pleased to discover I could still shovel snow; it's something I've always liked to do.
The people in skis enjoyed the descent more than we who were on snowshoes did. The girls, lacking either, postholed whenever they veered off the packed trail which had been largely obscured by the overnight snow. They held up well and had their reward when we reached the steeper sections lower down and they slid screaming down on their fabric sleds.
1/25/2015   Healed by faith, or not  
Bottom line: some people apparently were but I apparently wasn't. But to explore the possibility I drove down to Redding California for the weekend, Friday and Saturday anyway. Sunday I went birding. As the guest of friends I attended a special Friday evening healing service, then attended the regular Saturday morning healing service as well.
The Friday
1/26/2015   Forgiveness  
I forgave God this morning. I've been angry at him for a long time. It's not that he hasn't blessed me. I suspect I've been blessed more than most, but like my biological father God asked impossible things of me then condemned to me when I failed to achieve them. I turned to him for love and for acceptance but found instead condemnation and rejection. I believed I was a bad person when I first turned to him and he only confirmed that. For years I struggled unsuccessfully to see him as loving me enough to accept me into his kingdom. Oh he loved me all right but because I didn't measure up to his standards he would in the end have to, with tears in his eyes, pack me off to bitter recrimination and ultimate death.
When I finally recognized through the help of Soltura that my image of God was merely the projection of my own self-condemnation, and that only through loving and accepting myself could I deliver myself from that sense of condemnation, I began to move in that direction and as I began to accept myself as loving and good, I found less need of God. But I was still angry at him. Even after I mostly didn't believe that he even existed, I was still angry at him. And that didn't make much sense.
The thing about forgiving someone, at least for me, is that you have to let go of the anger and when you do that, you have to deal with the sadness that spawned the anger in the first place. Under my anger I found sadness that God didn't love me the way I had hoped he would, sadness that probably echoed my sadness that my father didn't love me the way I wanted him to when I was a child. I also found that I had to forgive myself for not being the kind of man that God would love, the kind of little boy that my father would've loved. More grief, more tears. I accepted the sadness and forgave myself and them, and as I did, I could imagine Jesus also forgiving me. As for God the Father, not much happened when I forgave him though it felt good to be free of that anger at last. The sadness lingered curling like smoke from a cigarette then dissipated leaving a bit of a stink in the air.
A faint scent of sadness accompanies me much of the time these days. My hands are getting weaker, so weak that tying my shoelaces, opening and closing a Ziploc bag, buttoning and unbuttoning my blue jeans, signing my name are all a struggle now. I haven't been able to tuck in my shirts for months. I keep my wallet in my front pocket because I can't get it out of my back pocket. I can still drive but it takes two hands to turn the key to turn the car off. Parking my Subaru feels like parking a loaded dump truck. Arms and hands are significantly weaker than they were a month ago or maybe two or three months ago, it doesn't really matter. The fun phase of ALS, where I get to figure out new ways of doing things because I'm not strong enough to do them the normal way, is coming to an end. Now the shitty phase begins, when my arms and hands don't work at all and I can't do anything for myself, and I can't do any of the things that I love. Or most of them anyway. I can still run.
So I get out running most days, though often not until after dark when I chase the dim light of my headlamp in a vain attempt to leave the sadness behind. I suspect it will be with me until I die. But I'm grateful that it doesn't plague me all the time, just some of the time, and that there are times of love and joy as well just like normal people have. In those times, with the voice of my anger quieted, I can even hope to hear in my heart whether God's there or not. And if She is perhaps I can know Her as She is, at last.
2/08/2015   Dream  
A dream last night:
We are going on an expedition, flying by helicopter to some distant flat-topped mountains. I think I was with Susan, David and Daniel but they are vague. I wanted to explore the Blow-me-down mountains off to the left in the distance but instead we flew straight ahead to a somewhat closer range. We landed in a grassy open area next to a lake with greenish water. The yellow airplane we were towing landed behind us. I tested the water and it was warm so we decided to go swimming though I don't recall that we actually went in. The water was rising fairly rapidly and starting to flood the meadow we were in.
Continuing, I am in a house with no ceiling, rather like a maze. The walls may be of earth and stone, gray and brown. I exit over the rear wall into a lane or ditch, leaving a whole and a half yellow lemon on the wall so that I could identify where to cross the wall on my way back in. Something blocks me about a hundred yard feet down the lane so I return to the house. Now I am trapped inside, lying on the couch reading. A grey cartoon wolf, like the wolf in Little Red Riding Hood, walks toward a bright red Coke machine which is completely blocking one of the doorways out of the room. The wolf passes right through the coke machine. I think I can get out that way too so I try walking through the coke machine but I simply run into it. Then I try an adjacent doorway and it leads down a short hall to a zigzag edged hole in the wall about 4 feet tall which leads into a brightly lit tunnel. I consider going down the hole but am afraid I would be trapped down there and not be able to get out. I return to the room and I'm lying on a sofa reading a book. It is all I can do.
The dream was like a colorful fantasy. The expedition - our trip to Newfoundland the summer Dad died. The Blow-me-downs - mountains I've always wanted to explore, but out of reach. Meadow and lake - maybe the Goat Run marathon with Darchelle. Trapped in the house - ALS. The wolf and the coke machine - prayer for healing at Bethel church. The tunnel beyond the zigzag hole - death.
2/08/2015   Dream  
A dream last night:
I am sitting in my garden late in the season. The squash leaves are browning and the pole beans are full grown. David Nichol and maybe a couple other people are sitting with me. There are yellowjackets flying around and I am afraid that we are going to get stung, particularly after a man walks by the pole beans and stirs up a nest of them. I clearly see the yellowjackets flying towards me as if in formation large ones and small ones. We get up to leave and as we're following the path out to the gate I point out other spots where there have been yellowjacket nests that I have destroyed.
As we approached the garden gate, a dog like animal trots towards us on the inside of the garden fence and slips out through the gate in front of us. I point out that the animal is a cross between an opossum and a cat. The animal stops beyond the gate and I am concerned that it will attack my friends who have just gone out ahead of me. Sure enough, the animal begins moving towards them so I lunge out of the gate and grab it by the muzzle before it can get to them. I wrestle it to the ground and stomp on it. Under my feet it is grey and slimy and small but even though I crush its head it still keeps breathing now and then and I can't quite kill it.
The man by the pole beans reminded me of a man at Volunteer Park Church who Susan said wanted to date her around the time she and I got together. The animal that was a cross between a cat and opossum reminds me of Susan's concern about the opossums attacking our cat in Auburn. In fact, I think most of the figures in the dream are references to Susan and myself. The garden is my life; it is late in the season because I will die soon. The yellow jackets represent Susan and the man who stirs them up is me, who married her. The destroyed nests may represent times of conflict in which I have hurt her, or perhaps have distanced or separated myself from her. I think the animal represents perhaps my emotional involvement with Susan. The friends to whom the animal is dangerous are probably extensions of myself. I am unable to fully end my sense of obligation to and association with Susan.
2/11/2015   Wildcat Mountain  
My objective was to find Boreal Chickadees. They can be seen on the Washington Auto Road and up around Tuckerman's or on the trails approaching Slide Peak but I've also seen them on Wildcat Mountain on the ski trail down the backside. That would be a nice snowshoe hike, not too far from home, and more interesting than hiking up to Tuckerman's so that's where I went.
Eric didn't seem to be interested in going with me so I went alone. It was a calculated risk since with my weakend arms and hands I could more easily get into a situation where I might not be able to put on warm clothes if I needed them or even perhaps recover from a fall in deep snow. But I figured there would be at least a few people on the trail, and if I was careful I would be okay. The weather was favorable too, temperature in the 20s with little wind and lots of sunshine.
Ski trail
Birch Glade - mid-thigh depth hoar not obvious
Approaching the top
The 5 mile hike up from the Carter Notch Road trailhead took me 2 1/2 hours, not a bad pace and it included several stops. One of them was for Boreal Chickadees. I heard them first and then saw one, foraging in a loose flock with nuthatches in mature birch-fir forest. I find them very appealing for some reason, perhaps the way the subdued grays and browns of their crown and back complement the warm buff color of their flanks, or perhaps just that they're hard to find. I wonder if they compete with Black-capped Chickadees and if that is why they stay high in the mountains where the latter are less common. They seem less aggressive than their black-capped cousins and perhaps I identify with that. Whatever my reasons I was delighted to find them. The first one I saw was quite close, poking around in the lichen of the dead branches of a fir tree by the trail. I imagine I could have taken some good pictures if I'd had the camera with me, but I didn't even bring the camera to New Hampshire since I can't handle it very well anymore. And in any case, my experience has been that it is a lot easier to imagine getting good pictures of Boreal Chickadees than it is to actually get them.
I heard and even glimpsed them a couple more times on the trip, but both Black-capped Chickadees and Red-breasted Nuthatches were much more common. There were flocks of nuthatches; they must winter high because I've seen scarcely any down in Jackson. There weren't many other birds - Hairy and Downy Woodpeckers, a Golden-crowned Kinglet and a raven flying over high that could have been a crow - it takes me a while to get used to how big the crows are back here as compared to Seattle.
Washington from the ski area
The ridge I came up
Boreal Chickadee habitat
From the top of the ski area, I scrambled up to the observation platform on wildcat D. The deck was piled high with snow. I dug out my phone and took photos of the presidential range but my hands were clumsy and somehow none of the photos ended up in focus. In the bright light of sun and sky and snow, I didn't notice. Daniel called while I was up there; we talked for a few minutes about kayaking but I had to cut the conversation short lest I lose all control of my hands. Zipping up my coat took multiple attempts. Eventually I succeeded by snagging the zipper pull on the stub of a broken tree branch.
I think it was 6 PM when I got back to the car. It was pretty much dark. On the way down I worried a bit about being able to get my snowshoes off but reassured myself that if need be I could snowshoe all the way home. I didn't have to do that.
2/26/2015   Dream  
A dream last night:
I'm at an Adventist conference of some kind, and I'm in a fast food restaurant, Asian perhaps, with pictures of the dishes on the menu above a wide counter up front where you order. I'm anxious about ordering because I can't really see how it works so I consider leaving, but I'll feel like a failure if I leave without getting anything to eat. I need to urinate anyhow so I find the bathrooms up by the counter. When the current occupant leaves, I step up to take his place and realize there are two people waiting already. I get in line behind the second person and then there's a boy holding something in front of me and another man. I think I should be in front of them but I don't want to make a scene so I step back and find another 5 or 6 more people in front of me. I decided it'd be better to go out and try to find a place in the woods nearby instead.
I'm walking down the lane towards the woods. The three conference bretheren dressed in black robes are walking together behind me and off to the side. They're not paying any attention to me. As I walk I'm trying to juggle or flip a three-dimensional lattice of black PVC pipe about 3 feet across but each time I throw it up it doesn't spin as quickly as I expect so I drop it or am unable to catch it. I'm a little embarrassed that I keep dropping it with the brethren there but they don't notice.
I enter the woods, a mossy scrubby hemlock fir forest at a bend in the stream, but there are quite a few people around both in the woods and across the stream so I can't find a place to urinate.
Not much feeling in the dream: some shame about not knowing what I wanted to eat or how to order it, some irritation at the line for the restroom, embarrassment about dropping the lattice thing I was trying to juggle / flip, fear about being seen urinating. It's noteworthy that I, despite taking initiative and trying, was unable to do anything that I wanted to do.
3/01/2015   Dream  
A dream last night:
Marc Rossi was going to do an extreme snowboard run down a wooded gully with cliffs. A girl was going ahead of him, and before she started down, I encouraged her that if she was bold and committed to her course, she'd be fine. She made it. Marc wanted to start a little lower down so he walked down like a ladder but when I started down after him the stairway became precariously unstable, just a tall narrow stack of gray blocks with a dead tree hanging next to it for support, and though I wanted to proceed, I became very afraid that I would fall if I did. I was afraid I couldn't climb back up either but despite ALS I was able to climb hand over hand up a rope to safety. Marc did the run before I got there. 3 kids said oh my god he crashed. Why did he go so far off his line? They climbed down into a rocky gully to see if he was OK. I noticed a fragment of a snowboard caught on the cliff overhead so I knew it was bad. The kids shouted "he's okay he walked out he's not here" but I told them he must be there and then I saw his head, wearing a red hockey helmet like the one I used to use kayaking. It was ripped off at the neck and his face was all bloody. His eyes were blinking and his lips were moving so I leaned down close to hear what he said. I couldn't quite make it out, something about don't tell the family and about Laura. I wanted to ask him if it hurt, but didn't.
Marc doing the run represents me going ahead with my divorce because I know in my mind that it is right for me despite my anxiety about it. The "I" in the dream is a part of me that is fears to follow and anticipates that it will end in disaster. The girl who went first could be Sarah, whose divorce turned out well, but my words of encouragement are really intended for that fearful part of me that is scared to...do what? "Laura" is a reference to my birding on my own in Richland today after the race. With the conclusion of mediation today, my divorce is essentially accomplished. I'm on my own, and today I was literally on my own. And afraid - of walking around the north Richland neighborhood where Lauren reported a Pine Grosbeak, of ordering dinner at Trejo's Mexican restaurant the evening. Lynn suggested that the fear around the divorce is a fear of being on my own, of growing up. The sadness that welled up as we talked told me she was right about that.
3/26/2015   Wildcat Mountain painting  
Underpainting
Sky and mountains done, trees mostly done
I did the underpainting back in December and the painting sat around in my room for three months. I wondered if perhaps the underpainting was sufficient to satisfy my urge to capture the scene but finally last week I did the sky and mountains. How much nicer they looked with the repainting! To keep the style loose I'm painting the whole thing with two filbert brushes, a two and a four, though I may need to use a small bright or round for some of the branch detail. I wanted to avoid the mistake I made on the Ptarmigan painting. On that one I was seduced into using small sable substitutes and the result was a bit fussy.
I experimented with a variety of ways to produce the gray of the clouds; ultramarine blue and burnt umber was my old goto cloud gray but I was happier in this painting replacing the burnt umber with quinacridone (ie burnt) sienna. The lighter parts of the cloud are tinted with raw sienna and/or Hansa yellow. Unfortunately I've already forgotten the mix I used on the mountain, perhaps pthalo blue, quinacridone sienna and raw sienna. I also borrowed from the gray mixes left over from the clouds so there's probably a bit of everything mixed in there.
The trees were tough. I knew they would be so I kept putting off getting started on them. They still need some detail work. The colors are pthalo green, quinacridone sienna and Hansa yellow and I feel like they are either too bright or not bright enough but I'm not sure which. Maybe they're just too green; the details, which are gray-brown, will help with that.
I had dinner with John tonight at Vios Café. His Mezze with green olive tapenade and Tsatziki was better than mine with braised greens and baba ghanouj. The rustic bread and olive oil appetizer was very satisfying. We discussed how churches of all stripes, not just liberal ones, are declining in the US. He attributes his success at Green Lake to its ability to attract some fraction of the Adventists, young and older, who forsake rural and suburban churches for the attractions of the city, and considers himself fortunate to be at a church correctly situated to increase its share of a shrinking pie. I consider myself fortunate that he shares his thoughts with me.
On the way home, shopping at PCC for food for the weekend away, I was sad. I don't know why. I'm heading east of the mountains to run the Yakima Canyon marathon and do a bunch of birding. It will be fun.
3/30/2015   Dreams  
A fragment of a dream from a couple of nights ago:
A scruffy pink bird about the size and shape of a Kingfisher was trapped in a room or large cage maybe like a tennis court. I felt sorry for it because it couldn't fly up and escape so I caught and lifted it up and put it on a lower section of the fence. From there, the bird was able to scramble up the chicken wire fence to the top using beak and claws like a parrot. It was headed towards a clump of potted plants, lush and green, where it would feel somewhat at home, like the little frogs we would keep in an aquarium with grass and weeds for a home. I knew it would get to its refuge and was glad.
Another fragment of a dream, this from last night:
I was driving a large red pickup truck and we were headed down a steep hill. The hill was very steep with sharp turns and a long drop off on the right. The truck was gaining speed on its own and I was afraid that it would get out of control and I would go off the edge but I pressed on the brakes and the truck slowed down. Again the truck gained speed and I was afraid we would crash, but again I pressed on the brakes and slowed down safely. This happened a third time I think, and then I woke up feeling anxious and also relieved that I hadn't crashed.

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