1/04/2015 Portland, ME
Going to visit Mom
1/11/2015 Both parents down
John's last breakfast
First lunch on our own
Crows gathering at sunset
1/13/2015 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
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.
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 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
Morning sun on the Collegiate range
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.
The outhouse path
Beda and me
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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
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.
At Soltura Carole observed at some point that safety was a big issue for me, finding a place where I
could be safe. Safety, and threats to my safety, seem to be the theme of this dream. Sitting in
the fenced garden with friends feels safe, but from within the garden come multiple threats in the
form of yellowjackets and the animal which is like a dog but combines an opossum and a cat. 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. Representing me, he inadvertently provokes the
yellowjackets. Flying in formation, the hornets represent a threat but one which is somewhat
abstract, and with which moreover I have successfully dealt in the past, as indicated by the
destroyed nests. The threat imposed by the animal is more intractable; I cannot fully eliminate it.
It is at a minimum a reference to my life with Susan in Auburn, where our cat tangled several times
with an opossum and lost. An opossum is an irritable animal with sharp teeth, harmless at a
distance but dangerous in close quarters. A cat on the other hand is affectionate, soft and cuddly.
Together I think they represent aspects of my experience of Susan. A dog in multiple subsequent
dreams represents God, and in this dream I think symbolizes my conflation of Susan with God.
Ultimately neither Susan nor God proved safe for me, although in both cases my inability to find
safety in them had more to do with who I am than who they were, an insight suggested in this dream
by my inability to kill the animal.
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.
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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.
3/27/2015 Umtanum Road
Grass Widows (Sisyrinchium inflatum)
Trumpet Bluebells (Mertensia longiflora)
Sagebrush Violet (Viola trinervata)
Small Monkey-fiddle (Hesperochiron pumilus)
Canby's Desert Parsley (Lomatium canbyi)
Lanceleaf Springbeauty (Claytonia lanceolata)
3/28/2015 Yakima Canyon Marathon
"Gorgeous day and good birding but felt tired and sore for last 10 miles and struggled to achieve 10 min/mile even early in the race."
Ponderosa Pine grove
3/29/2015 Toppenish birding
Horse Heaven Hills
3/30/2015 Dreams of making it through
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.
An odd bird is trapped so I set it free and now it will be able to make it to a place of refuge,
representing optimism about my situation, I guess.
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.
This time I find myself in a threatening situation and yet I manage to maintain control, another