I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, February 19, 2017

The measure of treasure

Pine cones caught in lichen
I didn't take many pictures on our hike last Thursday, since it was grey and rather wet, but as we walked along I saw this little set of pine cones captured in some of the lichen that hangs everywhere from the trees. I believe this is old man's beard lichen, but after spending a bit of time researching it, I'm not at all sure if it is a lichen or a moss. It's everywhere around the Pacific Northwest, and since a recent windstorm had downed several trees, there was plenty of it littering the trail, along with branches and sometimes even very large trees that we had to navigate around.

Even though I now only carry my cellphone camera, I still cannot resist trying to capture pictures that catch my eye and awaken my artistic side. I never have more than a few seconds to decide whether to attempt to take the picture, and even less time to find the best angle. And with the iPhone 7, I still don't know the capabilities of its camera. It managed to focus on the pine cones and gave the background a nice blur, so it pleased me when I looked at the picture later. More often that not, as I sit in the car on the way home examining my pictures, I'm disappointed at what I see. But that's the beauty of digital photography: I simply delete it, no agonizing over it.

Do you remember when we had cameras that used film to capture images? My first camera was a Brownie, a little box camera that took 127 film pictures in black and white. I clearly remember loading the camera and making sure I didn't allow any light to get onto the film cartridge as I placed it into the back of the camera body. Snapping it shut and turning the knob on the top until it stopped, knowing that I was ready to take a picture! Oh, the anticipation of what I might have captured in that little box! In my mind I was always convinced that it would be wonderful. Of course, I had to wait until I used up the film and took the film cartridge to be developed at the local camera store. I looked forward to picking up the developed film and sitting down to see what treasures I might have in my little hands.

Obviously, not much has survived from those days, since my treasures never measured up to my dream of some magnificent shot that would make me gasp with delight. More often, they were blurry and out of focus, or unflattering pictures of my siblings or parents that gave us a few laughs and then went into the bottom of a drawer somewhere. If I could reach back in time to those moments, I'm sure I would cherish those pictures of long-gone people and places. But that was then, this is now and although I think there might actually be some of those pictures in the possession of my siblings somewhere in their own keepsakes, I myself have nothing but my memories.

Pondering those long-ago days, thinking of how something as simple as a snapshot taken in the moment could become a treasure in a future world, I wonder what around me in this moment might be treasured in twenty years that I don't even register as important. We live in such a different world today, and there is much that is ephemeral and would not be missed, but are there artifacts or paraphernalia around me that hide their future value? What around me would I cherish tomorrow if it were suddenly lost to me?

Well, certainly I would miss my electronic devices. I love my laptop, looking at it right now and thinking how essential it has become to my existence. My cellphone is always with me these days, and I use it to check the weather forecast or my email wherever I might be. They connect me to the larger world as well, thinking of this very blog I'm writing in, and how much I would miss it if it were taken from me. What I treasure about it, though, is not the thing itself, but the richness it brings to my daily life.

The other day at the coffee shop as I was reading the news on my iPad, a young man asked if he could take my picture, along with my friends John and Gene. Each of us was reading on our separate tablets at the community table, and the young man marveled at how much the world has changed, with nary a newspaper in sight as the old folks perused the daily news. That is one thing I treasure right now, today: the connection with my friends as we visit with each other at the coffee shop. Although we each have our own devices, we are constantly stopping to hold up a picture or a cartoon to share with the others, laughing or nodding our heads in solidarity. In fact, once I finish with this post and start my day, I'll be heading off to the coffee shop to get my daily dose of friendship.

And I know for certain that one day it will come to an end, because everything does. I'll look back and remember these days with affection, but at this moment right now I can appreciate them and treasure them. It occurs to me that it isn't the thing itself I would miss (sitting in the coffee shop), but the companionship and community we share. That is one of the reasons I would miss you, you who are part of my virtual community, and the moments we share with one another in the moment.

Ah. It happened again: i was thinking about writing about something entirely different today, but this came out of my head and waltzed onto the page without much volition on my part. Last night an old nursery rhyme kept going through my mind and I looked it up (of course) and was going to write about the meaning of Mother Goose. It could still happen another day, but sometimes I think I don't actually run this show but ride the universal waves of thought to wherever they take me.

It's time to get up and do that very thing: start my day. I've got a massage scheduled at noon, which is always something I look forward to and treasure. Partner is still asleep next to me, and I sense the day's events pulling me right out of bed. I hope you will take a moment or two to think about what and who you treasure right now and be thankful. Be well until next week, dear treasured reader.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Reading, writing, and more

I'm on the right
This picture is a piece of a school picture, taken in the early 1950s at Travis Air Force Base in California. My dad was stationed there for the longest period of time that we stayed anywhere, and I sort of felt that California was my home. We moved several times during this period, and I cannot even fathom how I ever got an education while being shuttled from one school to another during my formative years. But I did, partly because I loved to read and, although I wasn't ever a standout in any subject, I was always good at English and loved to diagram sentences, and spelling was a favorite activity.

Now that I am no longer involved in public school affairs, I have learned that the schools I attended no longer exist in any form whatsoever. Public schools no longer teach penmanship and handwriting, and however they teach reading is nothing like how I learned. I was taught using phonics, which teaches the student to sound out the words. I remember when I learned how to spell the word "orange," because it was totally different from what I imagined. I had puzzled over how the sound of the word might be translated into letters.  It's one of those memories that I remember to this day, because I ran home from school to share my excitement with my mother.

I still love to read and manage to devour several books a week, fiction and nonfiction. Recently I read a really good book that was recommended to me, Wild By Nature, by Sarah Marquis. "In 2010 Sarah travelled from Siberia to Australia, alone, on foot. From freezing cold to desert heat, from high mountains to jungles, 6 countries to cross, 6 different languages. More than an expedition, it’s constantly going further than you think you can." There are scenes she describes in the book that come up in my mind while I'm walking, thinking about her having accomplished something like that. Her experiences came alive in my mind because of my ability to translate her words into thought pictures. Reading and writing are essential parts of my life, and I cannot imagine who I would be if I never learned to read.

Today, many children are given iPads and other tablets and use them for entertainment and watch movies and videos instead of reading. What a different environment than the one I had growing up! I can still remember with incredible excitement the Dick and Jane book I first read all by myself. The words were short and primary, but I read them without any help at all. It was a wonderful feeling. Reading is associated with many cognitive benefits. I wonder if staring at a screen does the same thing. Somehow I don't think so. A Wikipedia page on Reading says this:
Reading books and writing are among brain-stimulating activities shown to slow down cognitive decline in old age, with people who participated in more mentally stimulating activities over their lifetimes having a slower rate of decline in memory and other mental capacities. Reading for pleasure has been linked to increased cognitive progress in vocabulary and mathematics during adolescence. Moreover, the cognitive benefits of reading continue into mid-life and old age.
*   *   *

 There was another reason that I cropped that picture for the top of this blog. I was thinking about one of my fellow students, the girl on the left. I don't remember her name; she was shy and reticent, but I remember that she was the only girl who was allowed to dress in jeans, and I wondered why at the time. Back in those days I'm sure bullying occurred in schools, but it was nothing like today's intense problems. I've often wondered what happened to her. We called her a "tomboy," but I think she was one of those children who hated the gender she was born into. Maybe she is no longer a she, because these days it is acceptable to become transgender. I learned about what that means here. Although it may be possible to follow that path, most transgender people face discrimination at and in access to work, public accommodations, and healthcare. No one would choose to go through the process unless it was really important to them.

I am a little bit ashamed at how ignorant I have been about some of the difficulties that people who are different from me endure. It never occurred to me as a child to wonder about the young girl who still remains a mystery to me. Whatever happened to her, she is now in her mid-seventies (if she is still alive, that is), and I wish her all the best in the world. I wish I had been more curious back then. You know how when you think back about events in the past, they sometimes get fleshed out? Thinking about her, I believe she was a very good person and treated me with kindness, but that might only be my own projection. I hope I did the same to her.

A program I have enjoyed on Amazon is "Transparent," and I've watched all three seasons with varying degrees of appreciation. It's become a little bit more outrageous as time has gone on, but I will still watch the fourth season to see what happens to these people I've come to love. The story revolves around a Los Angeles family and their lives following the discovery that the person they knew as their father Mort is transgender. Hence, the name of the series. If you subscribe to Amazon Prime, you can get it free. The first season was the best, in my opinion.

Well, that was a little excursion away from the topic I chose this morning of reading and writing. However, the whole idea of being transgender has been in the news lately because of a young child who was born a girl, whose parents allow to live and function as a boy. He was thrown out of the Boy Scouts when his gender was discovered, and to my complete amazement, the Boy Scouts have changed their policy and allowed the child to join. Read about it here.

Yes, the world is changing right before my eyes, and I'm thrilled that I'm still around to learn about it all. I do hope that those children who aren't learning to read in the old fashioned way I learned will still become literate through methods I don't know anything about. It's important to be able to imagine and use those cognitive abilities that only reading gives us. Just my two cents.

And with that, another Sunday post has emerged, not the one I thought I would write, but another one entirely. I hope that you will give your loved ones some sweet Valentine on Tuesday, if you feel like it, that is. I know I can expect something chocolate will pass my lips on that day. Be well until next week. (And yes, SG is still snoring lightly next to me and my tea is gone.)

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Potpourri of thoughts

Celestial triad
Last Tuesday night I was leaving a meeting of the Advance Care Planning facilitators, and I looked up to see something much like this picture. This one is displayed just because I didn't actually stop to take a picture, and this is not real, but it's amazingly similar to what I saw. A crescent moon, Venus and Mars shining brightly in a clear sky. The meeting was a gathering to decide how we might proceed going forward, after the funding for our program has been lost. Hopefully it is only temporary, but it's a blow to those of us who care about helping people make their wishes known, in case they are unable to speak for themselves at the end of life.

I've been an ACP facilitator for more than a year now, and I've seen many, many clients over that period. I also became a Notary Public so that I can notarize the completed documents and get them on file at our local hospital. It's been a very satisfying period in my life, and I don't want it to stop. We are all volunteers, so there's now a need to find another venue where we can counsel clients, since the offices where we were located before are now no longer available to us. We have lost the one paid position of administrator of the program, and that's why we were having the meeting, trying to figure out where to go next. We'll have another meeting in two weeks and I volunteered to create a web page for us.

That's all well and good, I can do that (I've gotten started), but then I ran into the problem of content on the site. I have realized that I actually need to be part of a committee so that I don't have to be the one to make all the decisions as well. We are struggling here, but this is a very important service, helping people make the tough decisions of who to appoint as a surrogate and what kinds of intervention is appropriate for each person. Here's some information about Advance Care Directives. Everyone should have this information at least written down, and the laws are different for each state.

Anyway, that's one thing on my mind, along with several others that just won't let go. I've got to make an appointment with my doctor for my annual wellness visit, where I'll also find out how my blood work compares with previous years. The hospital in my city, PeaceHealth, allows me to go online and take a look at every year they have gathered that information for me. It's a great resource, and I realize that it's very possible that health care will become even more difficult to obtain in the near future, what with all the changes on the horizon. I don't even want to think about my Medicare Advantage plan's prospects. I think I'm good for this year, but who knows about 2018?

I think I am pretty healthy, but nobody can really tell about those internal organs we don't see. My digestion and elimination are normal, and I get all the tests you're supposed to have on a regular basis, but I can't help but wonder what's going on inside my body. My mother was a bit of a hypochondriac and I think I could be one if I let myself, too. Sometimes my mind just looks for something to worry about. As long as I am able to enjoy my activities without difficulty, I just hope for the best. Wasn't it Reagan who once said, "trust, but verify"? That is pretty much how I approach my health.

I'm in the process of visiting the local theaters to see all the films that have been nominated for Academy Awards. Yesterday I saw 20th Century Women, which was only nominated for one Oscar, but Annette Bening was robbed, in my opinion; she should have been nominated for Best Actress, if you ask me. Today I'll see Fences, which is up for Best Picture and Best Actor for Denzel Washington. So far, my favorite movie has been Hidden Figures, about three amazing African-American women who worked at NASA in the early 1960s, before it was integrated. I went online to find out how much of the movie was real and how much just Hollywood hype. It turns out that it's mostly based on actual events. One of the women, Katherine Johnson, is still alive at 98 and received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from Obama in 2015.

Now I've only got to see Hacksaw Ridge, a story about a Conscientious Objector during World War II who refused to carry a gun or kill anybody. It's gotten great reviews but I hear it's pretty violent, so I have hesitated about seeing it. I felt the same way about 12 Years a Slave a few years back, but I finally saw it and was glad I did. I wouldn't see it again, though. The main character was played by Chiwetel Ejiofor, who has quickly become one of my favorite actors. He has an amazing range; I've seen him in other movies lately where he becomes completely absorbed into the role. An amazing talent.

See? I told you this would be a "potpourri of thoughts," and sure enough that's what it has become. I'm sitting here in my bed, in my usual configuration with Partner next to me, stirring a bit but as always supine as I sit here with my tea and laptop. He goes to bed later than I do, so I am glad that he is getting a little more sleep. It's an important element of health, getting enough sleep. I'm glad I don't usually have much problem with it, unless there's something on my mind that won't let go. This post was bothering me last night as I had nothing at all to begin with, and even if it's not one of my best posts, it's done, and I'm feeling much better. My obligation to myself and to my readers has been met, and now I can get up and start the rest of my Sunday.

Until we meet again next week, I ask that you try yourself to get enough rest, and don't forget to treat your loved ones to a smile. Life is so much better with plenty of them, and they don't cost us a penny!

Sunday, January 29, 2017

The nature of goodness

Smiling rainbow
I just finished reading a really good book yesterday, South of Broad by Pat Conroy. That link will take you to Goodreads, and I found out that it was not universally enjoyed. Yes, there are problems with some of it (a very long book, too, 528 pages). But I enjoyed it nevertheless. And it got me to thinking about the nature of goodness.

It turns out that Conroy was a military brat, just like me, and he went to 11 different schools by the time he was 15, as the child of a career Marine Corps fighter pilot. He never had a home town until he moved to Beaufort, South Carolina and then attended The Citadel, the military school of South Carolina. He writes very lyrically about Charleston in this novel, and I as a writer was really struck by the way he describes places, bring them right out of the page and into vivid clarity. I found this in a book review by Chris Bohjalian in the Washington Post:
I should note that even though I felt stage-managed by Conroy's heavy hand, I still turned the pages with relish. Conroy is an immensely gifted stylist, and there are passages in the novel that are lush and beautiful and precise. No one can describe a tide or a sunset with his lyricism and exactitude. My sense is that the millions of readers who cherish Conroy's work won't be at all disappointed -- and nor will anyone who owns stock in Kleenex.
Pretty much sums up the book for me. But what has caused me to ponder the nature of goodness that was triggered by that book, is the whole juxtaposition of events in a life that cause us to be empathetic to the plights of others, or completely unmoved by them. Conroy was fired from his first job as a teacher because he refused to use corporal punishment on his students. I was surprised to find that 19 states still use this method, because I thought it was illegal everywhere. I myself have been on the receiving end of spankings, as most of us of a certain age grew up when it was thought to be the only way to discipline children. As a military brat, I somehow escaped being whacked in school, but I could have been. I spanked my own children because it was what you did in the sixties.

What makes anybody a good person? It's hard for me to conceive that physical punishment makes anybody a better person, but this is not a universal belief. It's hard for me to understand how might makes right, how a beating of any kind can actually cause anything more than shame and resentment. But then again, we all react differently to our life situations, so perhaps I'm wrong about that. I wonder what would modify bad behavior in someone who doesn't feel empathy for others. Perhaps some of my fellow bloggers who are teachers have a better idea and might share their thoughts with me. I hope so.

One thing that stands out for me in the novel is the protagonist, Leo, standing in front of a beautiful old home that he has just inherited from one of his long-time patrons on his paper route. The old man who died had become somewhat of a friend, and when he got sick Leo took care of him. He never told Leo anything about his plan, and he discovered the inheritance after the old man died. Leo ponders the circuitous path that got him to this place, one he could never have predicted.

It also made me wonder about the way the world works. Things that appear to be terrible and unjust can lead to avenues that could never have been predicted, ones that open to pathways that are beautiful and life-affirming. I am thinking right now about the recent presidential election in our country, with an outcome that seems scary and alarming to me, and realizing that I have no way of knowing the trajectory or outcome of this event. Although it looks bad to me as a liberal Democrat, the women's march in my home town a week ago was one of the most beautiful and wonderful experiences of my life. There was only joy and happiness all around me, with only the occasional negative protest sign. Most of them were lighthearted and uplifting, such as "Fight Truth Decay", "There Is No Planet B", "This Is a Sign," "We Shall Overcomb" and such. No angry riots and lots of smiles. I felt so much better just being there.

And who knows what is ahead for us? I realize that thinking the worst about the world and where we are going is counterproductive, hurting nobody but me. And if I will just lift up my eyes and take a look at the longer view, there are possibilities I cannot even imagine that might come out of our current political situation. Optimism is itself a tool that can make me feel better, and pessimism does the exact opposite. I find that eating right, exercising, and hanging out with friends over coffee helps, too. Charlie Chaplin once said, "You'll never find a rainbow by looking down."

"What day is it?"
"It's today," squeaked Piglet.
"My favorite day," said Pooh.
(thank you, A.A. Milne)

And mine, too. I am feeling the end of this post coming up, and I'm feeling all rainbow-y and optimistic. My partner still sleeps next to me, my tea is gone, and the coffee shop opens in a short while, and I know my pals will be gathering there soon. I am hoping that you will also ponder for a minute the nature of goodness, and how much of it comes naturally to you. Be well until next week, and don't forget to give your friends a smile or two.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

O little town of Bellingham

Women's March 21 January 2017
It was a decade ago when I was getting ready to retire from my job of three decades and move to our retirement home. But where? We (my guy and me) were living in Boulder, Colorado, the town I had chosen as my own after not having one to begin with. I moved there in 1976 from California, and I never looked back. It was a wonderful place to live, work, and play.

But my dear husband had moved from San Francisco in 1992 and missed it terribly, so we decided we would move to the west coast when I retired. He was already retired, taking early Social Security as soon as he was able. We took a month-long long road trip in 2005 to discover the places along the coast that we might be interested in, and able to afford, to move to. San Francisco was out of the question because of our limited retirement income.

We discovered Bellingham just by chance. I was on the internet looking at the Chamber of Commerce websites of possible places to visit, moving up the coast from San Francisco to northern California to Oregon, and finally Washington. Bellingham's beautiful bay caught my attention, and its proximity to both the coast and the mountains reminded me of places in California I loved. When we visited in August 2005, we stayed for a week in a motel and I walked to the YMCA and took an aerobics class. It is the same one, with the same instructor, that I still take three times a week.

When we moved here, we thought if we didn't like it, the town is strategically placed so that we could move elsewhere without too much difficulty. But we love it, this town is just right for both of us. I have a community of friends, many of them started from that same class at the Y, and other exercise activities I enjoy. It's been a place that feels like home.

On November 9 last fall, I was really dismayed to learn that Donald Trump would be our next president, as I had hoped to travel to Washington, D.C. to see the first woman president be sworn in. I wasn't all that political, really, until Trump began to disparage people I care about, such as disabled persons, and when that awful tape was released about him groping women and then those who came forward saying he had been doing it for decades. His embrace of Vladimir Putin seemed really dangerous, too. That's when I began to despair, but it seemed obvious to me that he would not be elected. And then he was.

Well, as Obama said, it's not the end of the world, for heaven's sake. Just honor the traditions of our great nation and work for change. But I hadn't held any political conversations with my friends and didn't know for sure whether the vast majority of them felt as I did. As we all know, the world has become so polarized that one can listen to and watch the news and never hear anything contrary to one's current worldview. I felt sad and hopeless, and my sister in Florida, living in Trumpland, was devastated and withdrew from watching anything other than sitcoms and reading her books.

It was a month or so ago that I heard about the protest march in Washington, D.C., that was being organized, to be held the day after Trump's inauguration, as a way to bring us together. The movement states on its website that the election "proved a catalyst for a grassroots movement of women to assert the positive values that the politics of fear denies." Organizers called for people to join them "as part of an international day of action in solidarity" on President Trump's first full day in the Oval Office.

When I learned about the Women's March in Bellingham, I wasn't surprised to learn that many local women were trying to find a way to express our distress about the platform of the new administration, which plans to take away health care from the least able of us, denies that climate change is real, and will close down Planned Parenthood, for one, that supplies health care to low-income women. So I decided that I would march yesterday, in solidarity with other women I know who felt it important to gather in solidarity. I was disgusted to learn about the violent protests in Washington surrounding the inauguration, and I truly hoped nothing awful would happen in my little town of Bellingham.

I was simply overwhelmed at what happened yesterday. As I joined my group of ladies for our Saturday walk, it turned out that almost every one of them would be marching, too, so we planned to walk the few blocks to City Hall, where it would start. Never in the world did I expect so many supportive people to show up. We were probably close to 10,000 strong, in a little town of 85,000 people. I was surrounded by pink pussy hats, signs of all kinds, everywhere, and a feeling of celebration and joy in our numbers. We saw a drone overhead, and the owner has made a short video to show the numbers. Here it is.
And I learned that the numbers of women who marched around the world numbered in the hundreds of thousands, and I saw pictures on the New York Times that confirms that I am not alone in my desire to keep the new administration from taking away liberties that we cherish and hold so dear. But now it's the day after. What now? Yes, I feel better about learning that many of us feel disenfranchised by the election, but what now? I found this very enlightening article from The Guardian, that asks that very question and provides some answers.

In any event, today I am beginning a new chapter in my own life. I've decided to let despair be replaced by action. I'm surrounded by myriad ways to work in my beloved community in the little town of Bellingham and just have to decide which ones to pursue. Today I'll see the movie "Hidden Figures," which is about three African American women (a true story) who made a difference.

And with that, I'm already late in finishing up this post and heading off to the coffee shop to join my dear friends John and Gene. My partner is still asleep next to me, tea gone, and I'm beginning to feel the desire to get up and start my day driving my fingers to find a quick exit. I do hope you have a wonderful week, and until we meet again next Sunday, be well and don't forget to give thanks today for your own wonderful life.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Coping mechanisms

On top of Herman Saddle, Mt. Baker behind
I've been thinking for a day or two about what to write this morning, my Sunday morning ritual. Last week I wrote about technology and how it has changed our lives, but what has been on my mind most this week is how I get through difficulties. And why would that be on my mind? Chronic pain, both physical and psychological. You don't get to be my age without at least some of it, I don't think.

What brought this to the fore was a fall I took on the ice last Thursday. We knew that the trail where we would be hiking was likely to be covered with snow and ice, since we've had incredibly cold weather (for us) these past few weeks, and trails in town that are well used have turned to sheets of ice, at least in spots. Those of us who had purchased ice cleats strapped them onto our boots, and they worked really well. Unfortunately, I took them off before we ventured onto some "black ice" on the trail that was invisible to my eyes, but not to my equilibrium. I fell backwards and twisted my left knee, so hard that I wasn't sure I would be able to continue. I lay on my back, gritting my teeth, and waited for the first wave of pain to settle down.

I had ACL replacement surgery on that knee in 1994, more than twenty years ago, and it's given me pain now and then ever since. I had lost full flexion, being unable to pull my heel to my rear, even with help, and that's the way it bent. All the way to my butt, as I lay wedged between a rock and a hard place.

But I was out in the wilderness, with no choice except to get back up and try to walk. Fortunately I never hike without Ace bandages and knee braces, and after a few minutes I realized that I was going to be able to continue without having to be hauled out by my friends. My first steps told me that walking was actually the best thing I could be doing, because the tendons around my knee kept wanting to seize up to protect the injury. Eventually they calmed down, and I was walking almost normally within a short time. Not without pain, though.

It could have been worse. One Trailblazer told us of a friend who took a spill like that while skiing, and she hit her head on a rock and lost consciousness. Yes, a blow to the head is never a good thing, but especially when we are older. The woman came to and had no memory of what had happened and suffered memory lapses afterwards. And the older we get, the more we are at risk for falls. Leonard Cohen died recently after a fall, at the age of 82. Jeremy Faust at Slate wrote an article about it, The Major Fall. It's an interesting read.

I had my first yoga class of the winter season on Friday, and I was not sure whether I would be able to do the class, so I told the instructor about the knee injury and that if it hurt too much, I would simply stop, or modify the pose. The interesting thing was finding out what did and didn't hurt as I made my way through the class. One of the things we do while lying flat is to take a strap and pull the leg up and straighten it as much as possible. Wow, did that hurt, mostly on the back of the knee. I kept trying, though, and I was able to get it almost straight.

I noticed that after I did that, the pain in my knee was much less. I was able to do the rest of the postures without too much difficulty, and modified what I needed to. By the time I left the class, my knee was much better. Now I am convinced that the yoga poses are what have made my knees stronger and more pain free. If I had babied the knee, would it have been healing as quickly? Then yesterday morning I went walking with the ladies, my normal Saturday activity, and the knee was so much better I was amazed and very pleased.

I am never really pain free. It's a part of aging, whether I remain active or not. I want to maintain my ability to hike and walk and play outdoors for as long as I can, because I know the direction that we humans take as we age. I read a great article recently, by Erica Manfred on Senior Planet, called "I'm Not Aging "Well," I'm Getting Old, Dammit." She and I are the same age, and I know exactly what she means when she says,
People used to think of growing old as part of the natural progression of life from birth to death. Not anymore. Now we go directly from middle age to you’re-just-as-old-as-you-feel.
 “Old age” has been dropped from our vocabulary. “You’re not old!” people say when I describe myself that way. I’m 74 with an assortment of age-related ailments and a generous complement of sags and wrinkles. If I’m not old, who is?
Exactly. The fact that I can still accomplish all that I do is for at least two reasons: I keep at it and modify what I can do each and every day. I also pay attention to my body and don't dose myself with drugs to dull the pain. I find that if I take even ibuprofen when I'm hurting I tend to push harder than if I allow myself to feel the condition of my joints and muscles. My sister has arthritic ankles and had to give up running more than two decades ago, but she took up swimming instead and now swims a mile every day, then takes a three-mile walk for weight bearing exercise. She also golfs and at 71 is going strong, even if she's had to modify her activity.

This past year I also discovered another coping mechanism, just by chance. My friend John had both knees replaced and suffers from chronic pain. He started using marijuana tincture (legal in our state) to help with it, and I went down to the MJ store and talked with the budtender (isn't that a cool title?) about how to cope with insomnia and pain without getting high. He introduced me to a tincture that works very well, called "Crash" that is designed to help people sleep. I took a half dose to start, and when that didn't seem to affect me, I took a full 10-mg dose, and I slept like a baby. And I found another side effect: every single ache and pain in my body just went away! Some I didn't even realize I had, because I was so accustomed to them, like the pain in my hip where I broke it years ago. Gone. When I woke in the morning, they were all back again, but somehow they didn't bother me as much, since I knew I had a way to make them recede.

But, for the same reason that I don't take ibuprofen on a regular basis, I also don't take the tincture every night. Maybe once a week I'll treat myself to a pain-free sleep. And there doesn't seem to be the same effect when you ingest it as when you smoke it; at least I didn't notice any "high" feeling from the small amount I took. When marijuana became legal in Colorado, Maureen Dowd, a columnist with the New York Times, ate an entire candy bar (16 doses!) and freaked out and wrote about her experience here. She was warned that she should take a small amount and wait at least an hour before ingesting any more. She didn't listen, and it made me very convinced that as powerful a drug as this is, you must use it with caution.

Anyway, those are my coping mechanisms: exercise (plenty of it), fresh air and being in the outdoors, yoga, and small doses of drugs. I've modified my activities to fit my own situation. And I should probably add intellectual stimulation. I read a lot and I write blog posts, like this one. I have a full life and a community of friends to help as well. When I finish this post, I'll leap out of bed and start my day, with my usual latte with my friends at the coffee shop. I smile as I think of it.

And you, my dear readers. I'm aware of your presence as I sit here in my bed, keys clicking away as I write, with You Know Who sleeping next to me. I do hope that you will share your own coping mechanisms for difficulties you face with me in your comments. Please have a wonderful, pain-free and peaceful week before we meet again, right here, same time, same place next Sunday.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

Our technological age

Mt. Baker peeking through 
We've had a week of clear skies and unusually cold temperatures, and it was still beautiful when we went on our Thursday hike last week. I took this picture with my cellphone, of course. I've stopped even bothering with my camera, since my phone does everything I need. I'm not a professional photographer and only need something that will help me chronicle life events and look halfway decent.

It's only been ten years since the iPhone was first released, with a camera that now seems rather dated. The new iPhone 7 is in my near future, but I'm still trying to recover from all the expenses of last month before I tackle a new purchase. It truly is amazing how attached I've become to that phone. It is with me constantly, helping me to count my steps, or get an answer to any question with the entire storehouse of human history at my fingertips. I can even use it to make phone calls occasionally, but these days that seems to be the least important aspect of my smartphone. Let's face it, I'm hooked. And ten years ago I thought it was great just to have a little tiny flip phone!

Technology marches on, and now the whole world has them. I just looked up the statistic of how many people worldwide use smartphones, and the number is now almost 3 billion! When I was young there weren't even that many people. Now we have 7.4 billion people on this tiny planet, and every day brings more and more. Is there a tipping point? Of course there is, but what will be tipped into? I don't even want to think of it.

Yesterday I went to see a documentary at the local movie theater that I enjoyed immensely: The Eagle Huntress, about a young teenager in Outer Mongolia who wanted to take up the activity of her father and grandfather, but women had never done it before. I wrote about it here. The Kazakh Nomads of Mongolia live in yurts during the summer months and move into walled structures during the winter, when it gets down as low as -40°F. I found this pictorial taken from a photographic expedition in 2015, and I am reminded that not every place on this beautiful planet is connected to the wider world. And I'm grateful for that, since the rest of us are so inundated every day with information that it has become rather overwhelming to try to keep up.

We who live in the developed world are so accustomed to the way we live that it's hard to even imagine life without electricity, roads, laptops, and the internet. This very minute, I am writing to a group of people whom I will never meet who have become dear friends, and this is because of the internet. I've been writing blogs since 2009, which doesn't seem that long ago, but how very much of my life has been altered through technology. I have a hard time thinking about what it was like before. My little nieces have never known a life where they didn't have an iPad that connects them to the rest of the world. It's a little bit mind-boggling.

I am a fan of dystopian novels written about a post-apocalyptic world, because they cause me to look around and actually see my world with different eyes. Margaret Atwood is a favorite author of this type of work; I remember reading The Handmaid's Tale back in 1985 and was hooked on her writing then. I think I've read all of her work except for her latest book. She's written several more of these kinds of books, all of them fascinating, some more gripping than others. She is just a few years older than me, and she shows no signs of slowing down.

None of us can see the future, but we certainly know plenty about the present moment, and we can only imagine what our lives will be like a decade from now. When I think back about how much has changed in the last one, it makes me grateful for the world of today. It does feel, though, a bit like standing on a precipice and looking down at vistas shrouded in fog, wondering when the air clears just what I will see. I am filled with gratitude for all my blessings, not the least of which is this laptop that connects me to you. It's been a wonderful journey so far, and I am glad to know that, whatever happens, I am not alone and will not have to face an uncertain future without help. That is true for all of us. Remember this in the days and weeks ahead.

I found this quote from Margaret Atwood:  "Every aspect of human technology has a dark side, including the bow and arrow." So yes, it's possible that when the fog clears, we'll see things that we couldn't even imagine. I am staying positive, because I can choose my response to whatever comes into my world, even if I cannot change much more than that. So, for as long as I have this venue and you, my dear friends, to share it with, how bad can things get? (No, don't answer that; it's just a rhetorical question.)

And now, it's time for me to get out of bed and start my day. I know that the coffee shop has a latte with my name on it, and that my friends are probably already there. I get a massage today and might go see another movie, but then again, maybe not. I'm due for a trip to the library to return some books and pick up some new ones. Please, dear friends, remember that we are gifts to those around us, and stay positive and loving in the face of uncertainty. Be well until we meet again next week.