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, August 17, 2014

Thoughts on how we change over the years

From Mother Jones interview of Ellar Coltrane
My friend Judy and I went to see the new movie Boyhood yesterday, filmed over a twelve-year period and directed by Richard Linklater. The young man who grew up right in front of my eyes was played by Ellar Coltrane. You can see his evolution from a cute six-year-old to a young man  in that series of shots. The movie is long, almost three hours, but it flew by as I was engrossed in the film and all that it evoked in me.

The link under the picture is an interview with Ellar, and it's very interesting to learn how different the life of Mason (the boy in the movie) was from Ellar's. What got me, however, is how closely the story of Mason's mother followed my own: his mother divorced his dad and then got involved in a series of unfortunate liaisons, as I did. However, the movie ends on a high note, and the sold-out audience applauded as the credits rolled.

Twelve years is both a long time but in the span of an entire life, not all that long. Nonetheless, the period between being a cute kid of six and becoming an adult (if eighteen can be considered adult) is incredibly fraught with change. I have been fortunate to have met young Leo at the coffee shop when he was six months old, and in a few months he will turn six. He's at about the same age that Mason was at the beginning of the movie. I can't help but wonder what kind of an adult he will be, although I probably won't be around him at the time to find out. I might still be alive (and 84), but who knows where he or I will be in twelve years?

It was twelve years ago that my son Chris died in Germany. I could not have anticipated that, or the trajectory my life would take. Outwardly, not that much changed; I continued in the same job and lived in the same town during those years. I was already married to my life partner, and he helped me through that awful period where I would wake every night, crying, unable to believe Chris was gone. That seems a long time ago now, but I still think about him and wonder how he would have matured into a middle-aged man. It's startling to realize how old one's child is getting to be. My sister is going through that now with her son, who just turned 48.

But inside, I've changed a lot in those twelve years. I loved my job and felt very fortunate to have the opportunity to travel to different places and arrange conferences all over the world. There were days when I'd arrive at the office before 7:00am and not leave until ten hours later, and I'd be totally engrossed in my work and not notice the passage of time. And then on the weekends I would dash off to the Drop Zone to teach a First Jump Course and spend that day and the next skydiving with students. I was really, really busy all the time. It was rare for me to take a day off, and I would realize I didn't know what to do with myself if my busy life changed for some reason.

But that frenetic pace began to wear on me as I grew older. It wasn't easy to decide what needed to change, but I was fortunate that my partner and I were able to communicate our wants and needs to each other, and a plan for retirement began to emerge. In 2006, two years before I retired from my job, we took a month-long road trip from Colorado to the west coast, to decide where we might want to live next. We had researched several places on the internet and were curious to see if Bellingham looked as good in real life as it did electronically. And yes, it did. We decided to use it as our "jumping-off place," and once we had actually moved away from Boulder, we could move again if we felt like it, and it wouldn't be nearly as wrenching as the first time.

We are still here, and my life has settled into a very satisfying routine. I have had the chance to slow down, read more, and spend quality time with my friends, much of that outdoors in the very different environment of the Pacific Northwest. I've grown familiar with all the different kinds of rain we have here: from a light mist to a downpour. We don't get a drenching rain often, but it does happen. Moving from the semi-arid landscape of Colorado to the rainforest of the Pacific Northwest has been a delightful learning experience. And it's changed me in some concrete ways, too: I have grown accustomed to milder temperatures, and when it climbs above the high 70s, I begin to feel too hot. I like the indoor temperature to be much cooler than I once did.

I no longer own any dress-up clothes, and the cargo pants look suits me just fine at this phase of my life. When I dress for the day, I realize I've grown fond of vests and wear them year round. Every pair of shoes I own are functional ones with low heels. There was a time when I loved to dress up and apply makeup, giving myself an entirely different look. These days makeup makes my face look a little strange (to me at least), although when I was working I never left the house without it. More habits changed without noticing, and suddenly I'm a different person than I was, much like those pictures of the boy morphing into a man. But it's so imperceptible, day to day, that one doesn't much notice the procession of years. It's usually a picture from the past that will remind me how much change has taken place.

As my outward pace has slowed down, my internal life has grown larger. The time I spend thinking about things, about life, about writing in this blog, for instance, takes more of my focus than it once did. The blogs I follow, with the lives of my virtual friends giving me a different perspective on life, are incredibly important to me. I learn how others are coping with change in their lives, and it gives me ideas and thoughts I would not have had access to otherwise. I am a very plugged-in senior, and I like it very much.

It's almost 7:00am and my tea is gone. Partner still sleeping next to me, and the sun would be up already if it weren't overcast. I hear blue jays scolding outside the window and the occasional call of a crow. All the songbirds I heard earlier in the spring and summer seem to have diminished to just a few now and then. I guess it's getting to be the time when they look towards the cooler weather and find other places to hang out. Today I'll take it slow and easy, and enjoy the book I picked up at the library yesterday. Maybe go out for a walk, or maybe not. I've exercised every day this week and could probably use a break. But I always feel better, more centered, when I've had at least a nice walk. Whatever I decide, it's really nice to know I've got the choice, and that everything in my body still works pretty well, for now at least.

Be well, my dear friends, and I hope you will enjoy your own life as it is right here, right now. For it will definitely change as time goes by. Until next Sunday, then.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Going skydiving today

Me under my pretty parachute
Last weekend one of my skydiving friends, Cindy, finally got recurrent for the season and sent me an email, asking if I would be interested in skydiving this weekend with her and her husband Dave. I said I definitely would, although it's not the same without my friend Linny. She has made only two skydives since she got whiplash from a hard opening last September, and I suspect she may not continue.

In a way, the few jumps I've made since returning from southern California in April has been a good segue into my desire to stop skydiving after this season. Rather than just driving down the 75 miles to Snohomish to get my knees in the breeze and jumping with anybody who might be around, I've begun to focus on other activities. That's not to say I won't miss it, I know I will. But things change, and we grow older with every passing day. Acknowledging change is important.

When I moved here six years ago, part of the reason I wanted to leave Colorado was to get away from the teaching aspect of skydiving. For the previous twelve years, I made well over 200 skydives every single year (unless I was injured) and taught numerous First Jump Courses to new students and took them out skydiving. Every weekend I made six or eight skydives with students, sometimes more during the long summer days. When we moved to the Pacific Northwest, I knew that skydiving would become seasonal, and that was all right with me. It was a good way to point my interests in new directions and discover what this new environment had to offer.

Much has changed in those six years. When we first moved here, there was a Drop Zone in Vancouver, BC, managed and owned by an old friend. Because of access issues, that skydiving venue closed down a few years ago. We stopped going north of the border to skydive. Then because of his shoulder injuries, Smart Guy stopped skydiving, and I knew that the time was coming for me to think about stopping, too. Last October in southern California I re-injured my left knee, which had ACL replacement surgery back in 1994. I wasn't really wanting to acknowledge how much I had hurt it, but as the weeks and months passed afterwards, I knew it would never be back to normal.

In that twenty-year-old injury, I had a good bit of meniscus damage, and the doctor told me that the knee would eventually develop arthritis, more than likely. I've been spared that, but the alarming popping and clicking that has become a daily occurrence tells me I've got to be careful not to let it get any worse. I started wearing a brace on that knee when I go hiking or walking, and miraculously the knee pain has diminished to almost nothing. Although I can no longer sit back on my heels (because of pain in the left knee), I can now do pretty much everything I could do before the October injury.

My Thursday hikes are very important to me for many reasons, not the least of which is because of the incredible beauty that I get to enjoy when I'm out in the wilderness. The friends I've made over the years, and the ability to stay fit are also important aspects of those hikes. When I first joined the group (six years ago), I figured that a group of hikers organized at the local Senior Activity Center would be easy and probably not much of a challenge. How wrong I was! I well remember that first hike: it was in September, and we went up to the Mt. Baker wilderness to hike the Chain Lakes trail, around seven or eight miles and up and down more than 2,500 feet of elevation. I was the only one in the group of twelve or so that didn't have trekking poles. I had never used them before, and I thought they were not very useful.

That day we had everything except a view: it rained and hailed and the wind blew us sideways. We kept on trudging, and frankly I was impressed with the hardiness of my fellow hikers. I had what I considered to be adequate rain gear and clothing, but by the time we reached the end, I was soaked through. And that was also my last hike without trekking poles: the next week I borrowed a spare set of Al's and the week after that I had my own. I am on my third set of poles already. They make an incredible difference, partly because of the balance, but mostly because it gives me a way to take the majority of the weight off my knees on the downhill sections. I don't think I could do without them now.

I also learned from my fellow hikers how to find a pair of waterproof hiking boots. I love having dry feet while tramping through puddles and crossing streams. That took a good bit of trial and error, but I found a brand of boots that fit my feet and keep them dry and comfy (Lowa's, if you're wondering). They are not cheap but they last for several years if I take good care of them. At first I didn't and found that leaving them, wet and covered with mud, in the trunk of my car after a hard hike was not a good idea. These days I bring my precious friends inside afterwards, take out the insoles, and clean them up. It's worth the effort.

One of these days, I won't be able to do the hard hikes any more; just like skydiving, it takes a certain amount of fitness, and abilities change over the years. But that's not today, and I don't intend to do anything that will keep me from enjoying the outdoors here in the Pacific Northwest for many years to come. Of course, life itself is not guaranteed, much less the ability to run and jump and play. One of the things that this blog gives me is some perspective on my life, on how the years follow one after another, and small imperceptible changes can be noticed.

One thing I realize as I sit here, tea now gone and my partner still asleep next to me, there's a feeling of anticipation from just thinking about a day of skydiving that I don't get from a hike. A flutter of anxiety in my stomach, not only from the thought of skydiving but also driving 150 miles (there and back) on the freeway. Although I'm careful, there is no way to anticipate accidents, just pay attention and be cautious. But there's no way I would stay away because of what might happen, so here I go, off into my day, filled with joy and gratitude for what these old bones still allow me to do! Please take good care of yourself, and until we meet again next week, I hope you will also be filled with joy and happiness. That's my wish for all of us.
The flowers on last Thursday's hike

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Sunshine and reflections

Mt. Shuksan
I took this picture as I was struggling my way up to the summit of Yellow Aster Butte last Thursday. Any chance I had to stop and catch my breath before trudging on behind my fellow hikers I took gratefully, along with a sip of water. I drank two liters of water during the six hours we spent out in the sun. I was also slathered with sunscreen and wearing my Tilley hat. The next day, Friday, I was tired all day and any upward exertion, such as walking up a flight of steps, reminded my complaining thighs of their earlier hard work.

By yesterday, Saturday, I was not only fully recovered, but the almost six miles we Fairhaven walkers covered at a brisk pace seemed, if not easy, at least nowhere near as tiring. Of course, the difference was that although it was sunny, it was also early in the day, and we had plenty of shady spots and it was a mere hour and a half. Not to mention with iced coffee at the end, along with lots of animated conversation.

My faithful readers know that I am definitely addicted to getting regular exercise, and I wrote last week about having discovered the Five Tibetan Rites while reading a book about Olga Kotelko. It's been a couple of weeks now and I've done them every morning and definitely can feel a difference in the way I approach my day afterwards. I read yesterday that Rian from Older But Better has started doing them, too. I'll be curious to learn if she notices anything after some more time passes. They are purported to be ancient rites that balance the body's vortexes, practiced by Tibetan monks long ago (and maybe even today). I downloaded the 1939 book that was first written about them and learned that it's a good idea to work up slowly to performing them 21 times each, even if you're able to do it easily. Well, of course yesterday I decided to try all 21 but won't do that again, after having read that it's not a good idea. So I'll stick to 11 for awhile, although while I don't think it would hurt me, I also don't want to burn out on them too soon. They are interesting.

I've been spending my summer days reading a good deal, too. I finished The Boys in the Boat, which I loved, about a rowing team from the University of Washington that went to the 1936 Olympics and won gold, against all odds. Fabulous book, available on Kindle for $2.99. Then yesterday I finished a book that had been recommended by another blogger, The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, written in 2011 and awarded the Booker Prize. I've read other Booker Prize winners that I didn't enjoy, but this book really captured my attention. I woke last night thinking about it. It's too close to some of the things I've written about here, the feeling of shame I carry for things I've done in the past. As an old man, the book's protagonist is confronted with a letter he wrote when he was young that altered the course of several lives, and he didn't even remember writing it.

That's happened to me, too. It makes me realize that my selective memory tends to think of my character today as having been the same throughout my entire life, but it's just not so. When I was a crass youth, I often said things that hurt others, and I often did it only because I told myself it was my duty to be forthright and "honest" with them. Humph. Now I see through my younger self as simply desiring to be the center of attention and possessing information that another person might think was proprietary. I was never very cognizant of the sensibilities of other people when I was young, but my sister Norma Jean was. I think now that she might have been the only reason I wasn't more destructive in terms of the feelings of others. Do you remember the "Peanuts" cartoon character of Lucy? I think that describes me pretty well: talking poor Charlie Brown into kicking the football she's holding and pulling it away right at the last second.

I'm not sure when I became aware of the hurt that can come from unthinking words. See, that's where I'm different now: I think before I speak, rather than saying whatever comes into my head without filtering. It's also possible that the simple fact of getting older, having experienced so much more of life, has made the biggest difference. I also like to think that the younger me wasn't doing what she did out of malice, but because she just didn't know any better. The bull in a china shop syndrome. As hard as I've tried while writing this morning, I can't think of a single event that stands out that I might use as an example. Probably because I really don't want to; it's still painful to look too hard at the Lucy side of my younger self. I'm just grateful that I have changed.

Now that isn't to say that the hurtful thoughts don't still pop into my head, they do, but they stay there, and I don't feel that need to let them out. It makes me wonder, when I sit sipping my coffee at the coffee shop, watching the people in line as they wait, if they too have volumes of unspoken conversations going on inside their heads. Do you sometimes read a book that will remind you of yourself when you were young and thoughtless? Or is it just me?

I suspect that getting older and more circumspect has much to do with the internal changes we experience as we age. That mellowing is real in my own life, that's for sure. That, and the ability to write down my feelings and ponder what my life is all about has helped me to find some understanding of how much I've changed over the years. Memory is a funny thing: I can remember something that happened decades ago as if it were yesterday, but yesterday's events blend together with nothing much standing out. In the 1980s I kept a journal and have those 16 books sitting on my bookshelf. Sometimes I will pick one of them up and open it at random and read what I wrote long ago. Although some things are embarrassing, other moments I see the person I am today coming through.

Just for grins, I went over to the bookshelf and pulled out one of my old journals. I opened it to a page and found an interesting piece from July 1982. It reminds me that I have been addicted to exercising for many years. At the time I wrote it, I was on a four-day-long solo backpacking trip into the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area. It astounds me that I have forgotten how long I've been enjoying the outdoors. Here's a nice excerpt to tie together all the threads of this post.
The sun has finally made it over the ridge and in walking around, feeling the joyousness welling up in me for this lovely place. I decided that it is not only possible, but desirable, to do nothing today. Now I wish I had brought my camera, to capture some of the zen scenes: trees growing right out of the rock, tiny trees with great root systems to weather the storms and wind that hit this place all year round.
These days I am rarely without a camera. And I don't go out on solo backpacking trips any more, but that was more than thirty years ago! I'm still enjoying being outdoors and transporting my one and only body from place to place. From the past to the present moment, I'm enjoying my life and continuing to grow and learn. I hope you will find some peace and contentment in your own life between now and when we meet again next Sunday. I'm wishing that for myself, too.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

What I learned this week

My new friends
I've started feeding these crows, sort of by accident. I had been leaving cat food out for the cats that come by, especially the sweet tom who lets me pet him now and then. The crows found the food and I get to watch them as they perch on the railing and carry on. I got a larger water bowl, too, so they can drink with those long beaks without any problem. They are smart and clever and they seem to eat just about anything. I read up on them and found that cat food, actually, is one of the better things to feed them! Multiple use food, it seems. Anyway, I enjoy learning about their relationships. Did you know that some crows can live to be forty years old? Some of my long-time neighbors have told me that the big crow has been around here for decades.

Today, finally, I will get to travel down to Snohomish with my friend Terry, who is going to make a skydive to celebrate and mark her 65th birthday. We were scheduled last weekend, but the weather wasn't cooperating, so today it will be. Our fine blue skies have returned, and there seems to be nothing that will keep us out of the sky today. I'll jump out with her, while she goes out with her tandem instructor. I'll land before them and hopefully catch a picture of her on landing. It should be fun.

I just finished reading the book, What Makes Olga Run? by Bruce Grierson. I got it from our local library, and I had to wait awhile for it to become available, since Olga recently died at the age of 95 from a brain hemorrhage. I wrote a post about her here, since I knew nothing about her before learning of her death. She competed right up to the end of her life, turning 95 in March and setting all kinds of records for her new age group just a month before she died. I had to put down the other books I was reading, because I only had it for a short time, as others wanted to read it, too. (There is a video of Olga at 93 on my other post, for your enjoyment. Or just type "Olga Kotelko" into YouTube and dozens of videos will come up.)

It is an interesting book. The subtitle is "The Mystery of the 90-Something Track Star and What She Can Teach Us About Living Longer, Happier Lives." It was written when she was 93, and although she did inherit good genes, it was not the only reason she was so active right up to the end. She began to compete in track and field at 77, after five years of playing slow-pitch baseball. During her fifteen years or so of competition, she set dozens of world records for her age groups. Every time she got into a new age group (every five years), she set new records. How many of us know women in their nineties who can throw a javelin, run the 100-meter dash, or perform the shot put? She simply amazes me.

In the book I learned not only some of her secrets of keeping fit, but also those of her competitors, mostly male, who traveled to Finland to compete in 2012. Bruce Grierson went along with her to write about her adventures. He interviewed all of the masters competitors and writes about their secrets. Some are very picky about what they eat.

Bruce went to dinner with her and wrote that she pretty much ate everything, not a picky eater at all. Plus she always wants to enjoy what the locals eat, and he said she put away prodigious amounts of food, at least for someone her size. She was five feet tall and weighed 130 pounds. Not exactly skinny. But she also slept nine hours every night, as most of the masters competitors do. That was interesting to learn. I also require about that much sleep every night to feel good the next day.

One of the men Bruce interviewed talked about his "fountain of youth" secret, the Five Tibetan Rites. Curious, I looked them up online (the Wikipedia link I've provided gave me my first look into what they are). Basically, they are five exercises that were written about in the 1930s by a guy who had learned about them from a British Army colonel who had traveled to Tibet. They are simple if you know anything about yoga, and not unfamiliar to me at all. I used to do yoga daily, although I haven't for years. I tried them out and have decided to see if I can incorporate the Rites into my morning routine. For one thing, they do help me feel less stiff in the morning when I first get out of bed. Who knows if I'll keep it up, but for now it's easy and only takes a few minutes to do a series of 7. You are supposed to work up to 21 but that's for later. I'm curious if any of you had ever heard of them before. I sure hadn't.

The other thing I learned yesterday is that my downstairs neighbor is being evicted for keeping the cat I have learned to love. So not only will I be losing my kitty, but also my pretty darn perfect downstairs neighbor. These apartments don't allow even outside cats, it turns out, and she is unwilling to lose them, so things will be in flux around here again. I will continue to keep my cat food outside, along with a bowl of peanuts, for the crows. I take the bowls in at night to keep the raccoons from discovering the food. I'm sad about it, but it is in the lease that we will not keep any pets. I'm sad, but I also understand where the owner is coming from. Sort of.

Anyway, I've got to leave in less than an hour for Terry's house, so we can travel in one car down to Snohomish. Her class is scheduled for 10:30, and we have an hour and a half drive. I'll need to get up and get started with my day. I do hope that you will have a wonderful week, and of course I'll let you know how it all went with the skydive. Be well until next Sunday.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Summer hits the Pacific Northwest

I like the shadow as much as the toes
I took this picture to show my sister what's left of the pedicure I got when I visited her in February. Just at the tip of my big toes, there's a little bit of chipped "purple rain" polish. I also liked the shadow play in the picture. I was sitting at the bus stop when I spied my toes and actually sent this one to her while I waited for the bus. I know that people do that all the time these days with their smartphones, but it was a first for me.

How technology has changed my world! When I realize that only a short time ago, I didn't walk around with a computer in my pocket, I couldn't ever imagine that something like Facebook would become so important to me. Through it, I keep track of goings-on with family and friends, and people I haven't seen in years still feel present in my life.

I had been keeping track of my niece Trish, my brother Buz's daughter, through Facebook, and I knew that she had recently separated from her husband and was at loose ends. I read her posts with interest as she made arrangements to fix up a van and travel across the country to Seattle. She is providing moral support to a friend who lives there; the friend's mother is very ill with cancer and not expected to live much longer. I got to be with my own mother when she grew sick, but this young mother is only 47, and while it's never easy to lose a loved one, it's especially awful when it happens at such a young age. At least I was an adult when Mama died. I know how much harder it was for my twenty-years-younger sister Fia to deal with it. And Mama lived a very full life, even if she only made it to 69.

Anyway, Trish was born and raised in Texas and moved to the East Coast with her husband and attended college. She has become a very talented artist and creates wonderful portraits of family pets. I've also watched her progress through Facebook as she put pictures up to share, and I was amazed, simply amazed, at the likenesses she is able to create. It's hard to understand just what it is in any portrait that makes the expression and features so unique, and the ability to capture and preserve such a moment is worth a great deal. And now I've gotten a chance to know her much better.

Trish's mother stayed with me in Boulder while she was pregnant with her, and I remember getting to know my brother's wife a little. They didn't stay married for long, and when Trish was born her mother had already moved back to Texas. Most of my family members are in that state, which is not a place I particularly like. It gets too hot in the summer, and there are no real mountains anywhere. Not to mention that Texas politics are not very easy for me to deal with. I've chosen to live in progressive communities and find Bellingham to be very much to my liking. Texas is a great place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. So when Trish decided last week to come and visit me in Bellingham, I looked forward very much to showing her what I like about my chosen home.

Over the years, I never had a chance to spend much time with her, one on one. When she was growing up, Buz only got to be with her on weekends, and it didn't happen often that I would be around when Trish was. But gradually I watched her grow up and become a very unique person. The last time, before this weekend, that I spent any time with her, she was in Texas for Thanksgiving. We were both staying with Buz and Phyllis (Buz's wonderful life partner), and I met Matt, Trish's husband, for the first time. What I remember most is being a little intimidated by the extensive tattoos both Matt and Trish sported. Trish only had a few back then, but Matt was decorated from neck to toe. It's such a different approach to one's body than I have, and it took some getting used to.

Now Trish has many very large tattoos, and before long I had forgotten about them. I didn't realize, until I would notice how people look at her, that they must give one a completely different relationship with strangers. I remembered how intimidated I was when I saw Matt's years ago, but if your loved one has tattoos, before very long you just don't see them any more. It was a bit like she was wearing a unique shirt, and I'd sit and admire it now and then, since the art is quite distinctive. She told me the meaning behind them and I realized that, just like always, the younger generation finds a way to be particularly unique and different from previous generations. These days tattoos and body piercings are everywhere. The world has come a long ways from the pierced earlobes that I thought were racy when I got mine done.

As we spent two full days together, I would sometimes get a flashback to those long-ago days when I was around Trish's mother. They have the same laugh, and I would be transported back more than three decades, thinking of Boulder in the sunshine, riding bikes and trying to get the pregnant mother to eat better and smoke less. Back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, smoking was everywhere, and I realize now how much I've grown accustomed to not being exposed to cigarette smoke. I realized with a jolt that her mother was actually smoking inside my house during those days! It was a different time, indeed.

We've gone through a couple of weeks of warmer-than-normal weather here in Bellingham, and for a few nights I even had some difficulty getting cool enough to sleep well. Those sandals in the picture are only worn around here for a few weeks during July and August, and then it's back to my more normal tennis shoes. Makes them last a long time when you don't use them much. I know some people are very accustomed to sandals, but for me it's like being in an alternate universe, having a chance to walk around with no socks like that. Feels good, though, I have to say.

Yesterday was our first day in weeks with a little rain, and of course it would happen on a Saturday, when I took Trish to the Farmers' Market. We didn't mind, though, walking around in a light rain, which has become much more familiar to me than days of unremitting sunshine. While my garden loves it, I was glad to have a respite from having to water. It looks like today will be much less rainy, and I'm hoping it won't interfere with my travel down to Snohomish. I've got a dear friend here in Bellingham who wants to celebrate her 65th birthday with a tandem skydive, and I've agreed to go with her and jump out at the same time. I did the same thing with Jonelle last year, which you can read about here, if you're interested. I'll climb outside the airplane and watch as she and her tandem instructor leave so that I can let go when they exit, and if all goes well, I'll land before her and get a picture of their landing.

It's been a very good week since we last visited, and everything is as usual here this morning. My tea is gone, my partner is still sleeping, and the birds, especially the crows, are making their usual racket. Since I've started feeding cats and now crows, I think they might be waiting for me to put out their breakfast. Cheeky birds, those crows. I like them, and they recognize me, I know they do. Take care of yourself between now and next Sunday, and enjoy your own little spot on our beautiful blue planet, until we meet again.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Another weekend without any skydives

Supermoon setting
When I woke yesterday, the moon was just setting over the trees, so I grabbed my camera. This is the best capture I was able to get, but it's not bad, really. The high humidity added a wee bit of haze, giving it a little fuzzy halo. I had been reading about supermoons, what makes them super. Turns out that it's when the moon is at perigee: the moon's closest point to Earth in its orbit. We'll have two more this year, in August and September. The tides are especially high and low when we have a supermoon.

I was supposed to go skydiving yesterday, with my friends Linny, Christy, Dave and Cindy. But things transpired to make it not happen. Linny had another difficult opening last Sunday under her canopy and will be seeing the doctor this Tuesday to see if she strained something again. I fear that my dear friend may not be skydiving much any more, as she struggles to get back into it. Dave and Cindy had something come up that would keep them from attending, and I really didn't want to drive 75 miles south to make some two-way skydives with Christy, so I begged off. It's funny to realize how much more fun even three people can have in the air together. And I so enjoy the fun we've had over the years.

In a way, it's fitting that I am winding down my skydiving now, when things are changing with all of us. As much fun as I have been having, I'm realizing that taking care of my body, especially my knees, has real priority in my day-to-day activity. Without good knees, it's hard to stay as active as I've become accustomed to being. But that last jump last Sunday was a really good one, and I keep wishing I could bottle it up and partake a sip at a time. I'll try to describe it.

It was Linny, Christy, and me. Linny loves to check the spot and make the decision when we will leave the airplane, and we decided to have what's called a "no-show" exit. That means Linny would look out the door, with the two of us behind her, and would leave without warning. We then dove out of the airplane door after her, catching her as quickly as we could. Then we did what we call a "fly around" maneuver. One person lets go and flies around the other two and then joins them again. It's easy and a lot of fun. We did that for awhile, until suddenly I noticed that there was a cloud directly beneath us, and I realized that we would be falling through it. (I had seen a few clouds forming on the way up, but there weren't many and I hadn't worried about them.)

You see, skydivers are not supposed to fall through clouds, because you need to see the ground and the pilot could lose his license if he intentionally allowed it to happen. It does happen occasionally, though, and really, there's nothing quite like the feeling of falling through one. It's not the first time for me, but it always takes my breath away. From being able to see everything, suddenly everything turns white and there's nothing to see except each other. It didn't last long, and then I saw the mist clear and the ground appeared once again. I saw Linny smiling from ear to ear as she flew over to me. Then it was time to go, to separate from each other so we would have clear air to open our parachutes.

As I tracked off (a maneuver that allows you to move horizontally at a quick rate), getting away from the others, I shouted with joy as I reached back to find the handle to open my beautiful canopy over my head. It was a perfect opening (thanks to my packer), and I oriented myself to the landing area, ascertained the direction of the ground wind, and set up my landing pattern, coming to the ground softly and filled with happiness to have had such a fine experience.

Then Linny landed and came over to join us. She had a split lip from her hand having hit her face, and she wasn't walking with her usual bounce after a good skydive. Then I learned she was feeling some tightness in her chest. She packed up as usual and went home. She told me that she hoped she would be feeling better so that we could play this weekend, but she still was feeling bad enough that she needed to see her doctor before skydiving again. I'm worried about her, and I realize that my skydiving enjoyment is tied directly to those people I've grown close to since I moved here from Boulder.

Everything changes, and having made the decision to let this activity go, I realize that I may not be the only one of us who won't be coming back next year. The Drop Zone closes during November and December, and only the hardiest skydivers are out in the winter, making freezing cold skydives just because they can't wait for nice weather. I've been on many a below-zero skydive, but that was a long time ago. Now I'm a fair-weather skydiver, and not even that for much longer. Although I still enjoy it very much, it's no longer the same thrill that I experienced in the first thousand or two skydives. I would never have thought that something as exciting as leaping from an airplane and being in freefall would get boring, and even if it's not quite that ho-hum, the experience has lost a great deal of its adrenaline rush for me.

When I was an instructor, being responsible for another person made me feel just as filled with adrenaline as my student, and I needed to be competent and as on top of my game as I could get. I would have as many as seven or eight skydives in one day, and by the end of the weekend I would be tired out but filled with satisfaction at a job well done. Today, I see others teaching students at the Drop Zone, and I am glad someone else is doing it. I've been there, done that, and don't need to do it any more. I suppose there will be a day when I can go to the Drop Zone and watch other people skydive, and in the same way, I won't want to do it myself. Everything changes.

Instead of skydiving yesterday, I spent the day enjoying myself with a nice brisk walk with my walking group, starting a new book (Boys in the Boat), and puttering in the garden. One really nice part of the garden is the community aspect. I have gotten to know my neighbors in the apartment complex in ways I wouldn't have otherwise. I've even stolen a raspberry or two and sneaked an especially tempting strawberry from someone else's plot.

Other than this post, I've got nothing scheduled for the day. The walking group is gathering to take an excursion to Canada and walk up Grouse Mountain in Vancouver. It's a steep and challenging trail, and then they'll have lunch at the restaurant at the top. (There's also a road to the top, but they won't be taking it.) They'll spend most of the day together, taking a tram back down and then heading home. I decided not to go, because tomorrow, Monday, is the first of the Trailblazers' extra hikes of the season, and it will be a long day. I need to be rested up and ready for what will be a new hike for me.

Well, that's about it from my little corner of the Universe. I'm feeling pretty good, and I walked yesterday without my knee brace and had no pain at all afterwards. (I carried it with me, just in case.) Today is supposed to be hotter than yesterday, and it was plenty warm then. I'll stay hydrated and enjoy the moment, as I hope you will, too. I am wishing you all good things until we meet again next Sunday.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Telling secrets

Sunrise from my front porch
It doesn't happen often, but this morning I don't have anything to write about. I worried a little last night, thinking that something would occur to me during the night, or I'd have a dream that would point me in a direction, but it didn't happen. So this morning will be a stream of consciousness kind of post, and about what, I have no idea. I'll just... write whatever comes out.

One thing I have been mulling for a while now is the subject of Shame. One of my blogging friends wrote about her ability to keep a secret, and it reminded me of how I cannot. If you ever share something with me that you don't want other people to know, you are in trouble. I don't know why that is, but this has caused me to lose friends and even make a few enemies over the years. A secret, something that other people don't or shouldn't know, just burns inside me until I let it out by telling someone.

Now, having said that, I realize this was true about me many years ago, and I'm not sure that I'm still like that, since I don't actually have people tell me secrets any more. Plus, twenty years ago I married a very private person, someone who has taught me lessons over the years about how to keep things to myself. We have had numerous conversations about this topic, and I now actually feel a source of pride that I don't have to spill the beans, so to speak, every time I open my mouth.

Some people, like me, often speak without thinking. Just like this post, I often don't know for sure what I'm going to say when I begin to talk, and there are times when the subject surprises even me. It's almost as if I sometimes channel thoughts that come from a place I cannot access if I attempt to find it, but that come out unbidden, if I'm not careful.

Years ago, I read the entire Urantia Book, which is over 2,000 pages long and purports to have been written over many years by a man in a trance. He apparently knew nothing about the pages that came from him during the night, but all of these papers were gathered together in the early part of the twentieth century, published in book form, and now those ideas have quite a following. There is now a Urantia Foundation, I guess, and for many years while I lived in Boulder I attended gatherings of people who follow the tenets of the book. The book and its teachings were of great comfort to me at that time in my life.

But it does make me wonder if it's possible for something that huge, that involved, to actually come forth from the same place in that anonymous man's mind that I sometimes access in my own brain. It's really almost as if someone else said those things, although they come out of my own mouth. Or is this just a way for me to feel better about having shared secrets that were not mine to share? It's something I wonder about now and then. The human brain is definitely a mystery in many ways. I've always been fascinated by the unknown.

When I was young, I devoured every science fiction book I could get my hands on. There are themes from those books that I realize are now part of my own thought processes. They are familiar and no longer strange, and it's not possible for me to separate out the ideas that I took on from those books, ideas that someone dreamed up and have no basis in real life. But they seemed real to me at the time and now reside somewhere in the corridors of my mind. I may even have turned the fantasy into reality and have no awareness of it.

I guess where I'm going with this is to wonder whether it's possible for me to have changed enough that I can let go of the shame I associate with the long-ago telling of secrets. At first I tried to wiggle out of it by thinking to myself that I didn't actually have the ability to censor what came out of my mouth, but that's not true. I found a secret to be a burden that I wanted to unload, to get out from under, and telling another person released me from that burden.

There is one secret in particular that I especially regret. I didn't even realize that the person I told used the information to injure the other until much later. It was someone who saw me as a friend, who later told me why she wouldn't talk to me any more, why she hated me so much. I was terribly chagrined, sorry for the pain I had caused, and for many years I suffered when I thought of her. I have tried, in recent years, to find her again, but it's impossible, since women change their last names, to follow the trail of where she is now. I just want to tell her again that I'm sorry.

Perhaps admitting it here will give me some further release from that transgression. In any case, I now think that if someone were to tell me a secret, I would not immediately look for someone to share it with. In fact, now that I think of it, I harbor quite a few secrets that people have told me over the years, and they don't seem to be a burden at all. I'm different now.

And when I started to write this post, I didn't know that. I didn't realize how much I have changed. In fact, I think I can forgive that younger version of myself without any help at all. Perhaps the only thing I needed to do was to write it down and give her a voice, a chance to ask for forgiveness.

When I started this post, I had no idea, really not the slightest, where it would go. Now I actually feel a bit lighter, a bit cleaner, than I did when I began. I hope that this post finds my readers enjoying what is left of the weekend and perhaps a little bit lighter, too.