January Snow, snow, snow

Fortunately we enjoy the benefits and can deal with the downsides that winter snow brings to Colorado. We haven’t been home a week yet but we’ve seen snow every day. Until today, the temperature hasn’t risen above freezing either – meaning it hasn’t been very messy either.

Confluence – Colorado and Roaring Fork
Wavy Snowfall
Neighborhood Eagles

This afternoon we have been treated to a classic Colorado blue sky and a warm up. It is an opportunity to clean up the snow on the driveway. A good thing given our absence and the growing piles along the edge.

Tomorrow we might try our hand at cross country skiing. Gotta love it!

Atmospheric River

We rode into Glenwood Springs today. We had to choose our travel days carefully as storms (an atmospheric river) were rolling in from California. Seems the term atmospheric river has been around for a long time but is being used more regularly these days. Another will be following in a couple days. For us it required a close study of weather apps and traffic cameras.

Our Washington-Colorado Journey

Despite all the planning, we didn’t completely escape hazardous conditions. We started in fog and moved into snow over passes in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Utah. Just before crossing into Utah we came across blowing snow. Crews were actively building snow fences to mitigate the snow blowing. The right lane thankfully was mostly dry from traffic but the left was solid ice. I was surprised when a large white SUV quickly pulled up on my left going over 80 miles an hour. Even more surprised when they began to lose control and swerve toward me. I moved off into the shoulder just in time for them to totally lose control and flip 360 degrees behind me, off the highway and into the median. I am still replaying the scene in my head it was so unbelievable. A reminder of how vulnerable we can be on the road and how important it is the maintain 360 degrees of awareness.

It is great to be home again. Feels luxurious not to have to fiddle with the heat, stoke the fire, and adjust the electric wall heaters. We also don’t have to climb almost 100 stairs every time we go out. I say this knowing that the cabin would be luxurious to many; to people who don’t have a home at all and some who are just making ends meet. The change in levels of luxury provide me with a reminder to give thanks. Thanks for the opportunities and comforts we enjoy. We are blessed.

Kooskooskie Cabin

No waiting for fruition

Within our days and our lifetime there are many things we aspire to accomplish. Long term goals and daily habits enter our mind and become wishes, hopes. While considering these future accomplishments we might picture ourselves basking in the light of enjoyment and/or completion. We might want to establish a discipline; of meditation, diet, weight loss, writing, music. We might picture ourselves in a home overlooking a lake, basking in the sun, finally in our dream location.

Goals and dreams are natural to many and can be useful for shaping our lives over time. They may never be accomplished but remain a regular fantasy throughout our days.

I believe the way in which we dream and fantasize has much to do with our accomplishment. If we want to take the goal further than the mind’s eye, there are some common pitfalls to consider. I am familiar with them from experience.

  • Placing our goal behind qualifications. If your meditation practice, for example, requires a particular setting, time, and conditions, you may never meet the right moment to begin. “I need this cushion, this altar, this temperature, a window, etc.” Accepting imperfect or basic conditions to begin, we are more likely to get our body to the mat.
  • Perfect accomplishment. If you have established a regular routine you will know that habits are refined through practice. In the beginning they often feel contrived, forced and uncomfortable. The first time I recited a Sutra prayer out loud I felt very odd. It took time to internalize the words, find a rhythm, and find meaning in them. “Perfection is the enemy of good enough”, a quote often attributed to Votaire, is a call to move our feet forward.
  • Intimidated by the act. Starting a habit or persisting may intimidate you. For me, writing is often a challenge to begin. The blank page doesn’t give me guidance or encouragement. It’s a little like jumping off a cliff into cold water. The anticipation of the shock (finding my voice in writing) can stop me in my tracks. The antidote requires jumping despite my hesitation; over and over and over again.
  • Intimidated by the scope of the act. I can get caught in the immensity of a goal. There are so many chords to learn, so many songs. It’s difficult to get my fingers in the right position not to mention moving them fast enough for the song. Singing and playing? Oh my god! I’ll never be able to accomplish that. These things are real but they don’t have to be accomplished in a single sitting. Can you enjoy the steps along the way. Truth be told, you probably won’t win a Grammy. Perhaps you need to revisit you purpose for playing.
  • Acceptance – Approval. Whether we struggle with approval from a voice inside or outside, the effect is the same. Closely related to our need for perfection, there is little we can do to satisfy this need except to acknowledge the green monster and move on. After recognizing the feeling of “not good enough”, we can do our practice despite it or even bring that energy into our practice.

Information Literacy or Alternative Facts

Last week saw the inauguration of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. With a change in administration comes an entirely new set of priorities in everything including Covid relief, health care, climate change, the economy, racism / racist policy, and international relations to name a few. As if these challenges weren’t already systemic and complex, it is unclear is how we will move forward, out of the cloud of disinformation and extremism. Problems like these require a proactive approach but in order to be proactive we need accurate and defensible information. Our interdependence… call it shared fate, requires unity and a willingness to cooperate in the face of these extreme problems. Will we face these problems united?

“…without unity there is no peace, only bitterness and fury, no progress, only exhausting outrage, no nation, only a state of chaos. This is our historic moment of crisis and challenge. And unity is the path forward. Hear me clearly: Disagreement must not lead to disunion.

Joe Biden – Inauguration on Jan 20, 2021

As I watched the swearing in and listened to the speakers, ministers, singers and poets I am encouraged to believe that we can repair the damage; damage in our confidence, in our institutions and in each other. Harris and Biden have the knowledge and skills in government that can help us repair the damage to agencies and their dedicated staff but they cannot succeed without the will of us all. I hope our representatives find consensus within the opposition, a willingness to rally resources that serve the needs of ALL people. People want to work, feed and support themselves and their families. But right now they need help. Better to put out immediate fires of the economy than let them build and consume it to the point of no return.

There are already questions about what and how the legislative agenda will be organized. How will the Biden administration balance a progressive agenda with mainstream agendas? How will they develop support from the ranks of Republicans; especially those that want to continue the assault on anything “democratic”. Acknowledging that a significant number of people question the legitimacy of the election, we need to find a way to restore faith in our government. What started as a “Tea Party”, questioning the need for taxes, has grown into a movement with a range of demands, roots in alternative facts*, not to mention name calling and disrespect. We need to understand the source of this dissatisfaction while we dispel lies.

Now that the incessant messages of the Trump administration have been quieted, it will be interesting to see how “alternative facts” are promoted. While there is no such thing as an alternative fact, it is essential that we practice and teach ourselves methods for separating fact from fiction.

In the early days of the Internet I considered digital literacy an important skill for children in our school district. At the time it seemed like a good idea. Now I would say it is a matter of survival. Without this basic skill, the long term survival of democracy, not to mention our health, is at risk. We need look no further than the misinformation that has been spread alongside the spread of Covid-19. If people can be led astray on something as essential as their personal health, then anything seems possible. Digital literacy isn’t about telling people what to believe, but giving them tools to separate opinion from fact and fact from fiction.

Alternative facts” was a phrase used by U.S. Counselor to the President Kellyanne Conway during a Meet the Press interview on January 22, 2017, in which she defended White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer’s false statement about the attendance numbers of Donald Trump’s inauguration as President of the United States. When pressed during the interview with Chuck Todd to explain why Spicer would “utter a provable falsehood”, Conway stated that Spicer was giving “alternative facts”. Todd responded, “Look, alternative facts are not facts. They’re falsehoods.”Wikipedia

Merry month of May

May Blooms at Home – David McGavock

It is impossible to grasp the myriad ways that people are sheltering and we’re just getting started. Yesterday I attended my sister-in-laws birthday party via Zoom. There were less than 10 of us and we represented at least 5 different towns, 3 different time zones. Listening to their stories, I realized how different our realities are. Shaped by climate, housing, family configuration, and the state and town we live in, each of us have a different way, a different perspective of sheltering. Though we were pretty much in agreement that sheltering is a necessary action, I sensed that there were variations in what we considered safe. The variations weren’t extreme but very present.

I have a brother in Missouri who has sheltered with both of his 2 adult children and their 4 children. With 2 houses on adjacent property and lots of acreage, one daughter has temporarily moved in to their home with her son. The other daughter lives in a house 100 yards across the field with her husband, daughter and 2 sons. In the weeks since sheltering began in their state and town, they have remained on the land and had the benefit (and the sacrifices) of close contact with only each other. They have home schooled the children, some have worked remotely and one has worked outside the home in an essential and solitary workplace. They have done shopping as needed but generally have kept to themselves. They express their gratitude that they are able to have this time together, even though it is under some duress.

My mother on the other hand is sheltered alone. From the last week in March to the present, she has left her home only once to shop. She has had her groceries delivered by the store or one of my brothers and has kept in touch with us via voice and video conversations. I am very thankful that, at 89, she has the skills and a sharp mind for negotiating her computer and phone. Living over 800 miles from her, the Internet is a precious gift for connecting with her. She seems to keep herself busy with reading books, playing games on her computer, watching television, reading Facebook and the news. Through it all she stays connected with the family and the world. In some ways her life hasn’t changed too much for her, thought she misses the periodic physical contact she used to have with children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Mom – iPad – FaceTime

As some states reopen and loosen safe at home living, our style of interaction will vary even more. While we can read what the recommendations are and have experienced some safe social engagement in the course of these weeks, we are still trying to establish our level of comfort and consequently our behavior. Joni and I have engaged in several video chats with friends and family and it seems that there is a subtle debate and negotiation in our conversations about what we’ve heard, read; about what is allowed and what is safe. If this is true of like-minded friends and family one can only assume that there is even greater diversity of thought in other communities and groups. At the extreme are people, a small but vocal minority, who still consider infection to be a hoax and you have a lot of room for confusion.

  • What did you hear about parks being open? Can you hike? Can you camp?
  • Can we cross state and county lines? What happens when we do? Can they stop us?
  • Can I get my bike fixed?
  • How do I tell someone to give me space? How do I deal with their anger (and language) when I do?
  • How sick do I need to be to get a test? Is an antibody test more available? Is it just as good? How reliable are the tests? Can I feel safe if I have the antibodies?
  • How can I be sure that people who work at my house conduct themselves safely?
  • Should I allow people to pet my dog?
  • If my friend and I have both been in isolation for weeks, can we safely gather? Should we still maintain 6 feet? With or without face masks? Can I go in their house?
New York Time – May 1, 2020

These and other questions will get answered over the summer and into the fall and winter as we line up our social behavior with the change in infection rates. Hopefully we will have the tests that are reliable and accessible to measure our progress. Hopefully people will choose health over money, finding ways to bring commerce and comfort back without sacrificing their community.