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, July 24, 2016

Growing old together

Mt. Baker from High Divide last week
I just spent a half hour looking for the right picture to put at the top of my post, and I should remember that it's dangerous to do that, since I can get lost in my memories as I peruse them all. That's exactly what happened, and these days I must remember that the yoga class at 9:00am restricts me from sitting around for too long before writing this.

We Senior Trailblazers had a wonderful time last Thursday, when I took that picture during our lunch stop. I'm still feeling the effects of all that effort in my legs; we old folks climbed more than a thousand meters (3,600 feet) to get to that spot. But we did it, every one of the fourteen of us. The youngest hiker is in her mid-sixties, and the oldest a decade older. Almost everybody is over seventy.

It's been eight years since I started hiking with this group, and we've covered an incredible amount of terrain. I've worn out at least five pairs of boots and have gone through several iterations of backpacks to carry my essentials with me. It's been awhile since I started using a hydration pack and now consider that one of my essentials. It gives me the ability to sip water continuously, rather than waiting for one of our infrequent stops. Between having snacks handy and the water, I can manage to keep going and hope that I have many more years to enjoy the outdoors with my friends.

But that is not guaranteed, is it? The people I hike with have changed over the years, with some people no longer hiking because of injury or illness. It's what happens when you are hiking with a group of elders. But we keep on going, and it gives me an incentive to stay in shape so that I can enjoy this activity for as long as possible. I had quite a scare in the springtime when one of my knees simply refused to work. Limping around, unable to climb or descend stairs, I was afraid that it was over, that my hiking days were behind me. But the knee gradually improved, and I am happy to say that my knees successfully carried me up and down all that distance this past week without complaint. They were both braced and the trekking poles were essential, but I did it.

Tomorrow my sister Norma Jean has another birthday. She and I have been growing old together, although mostly from a distance. We still spend some time on video chat together a couple times a month, but she's got her busy life and I've got mine. I cannot imagine my life without her in it, though; we are both now in our seventies and still doing everything we can to keep ourselves healthy. We are both obsessive exercisers and eat as well as we can for health. When we talk, it's rarely about our aches and pains (although there is that), but how we have been spending our days.

Yesterday I watched an interesting movie on my laptop. I've got Amazon Prime and it reminds me of new movies that come available. Last year I almost saw The Age of Adeline when it was in the theaters, but when I saw the premise I decided to skip it. The story is about a woman (Blake Lively) who has an accident that stops her from aging. She stays 29 years old and has to change her identity every decade to keep people from realizing that she's not changing. When she is over a hundred years old, another accident makes her normal again.

The movie isn't really memorable, but I found the premise interesting, and the acting was really good. I wasn't familiar with Blake Lively, but she plays the part very well, and I enjoyed it. What it also did was got me thinking about what it would be like if I were able to stay young while everyone around me continued to age. The movie did a good job of showing how miserable and lonely an existence it would be. Ellen Burstyn plays her daughter, one of the few who know her secret. To have an elderly woman (Ellen) calling this young-appearing woman mama was truly disconcerting.

When I realized that the one thing she would never be able to experience is growing old together with a loved one, it made me again thankful for the time I have with my friends and family, those moments that come for a brief instant and then move on. Sometimes the passage of time is imperceptible. Then I see a picture of myself as a young woman and remember that I was once very different from the person I am today. When did my hair turn white? It was a strand at a time, never noticing the process much, until one day it no longer had any brown in it at all. The imperceptible process of aging will continue in me and in my loved ones until something will remind me of how changed we are today from a decade ago.

There is no reason to try to hang onto youth. What that movie reminded me is that life must move on from the present moment in order to be worthwhile. It is dynamic and not static. To be unchanging in a changing world wouldn't be much fun, and yet we all think we are just the same today as we were yesterday. Perhaps the inevitable birthdays and pictures from years past are the keys to remaining aware of this precious moment, this one right here where I sit in my bed, creating a post in a time I've set aside for this task. I'm breathing in and out and will soon finish and will rise up out of bed to experience the summer day.

A season lasts three months, and we have four of them in each year of our lives. This summer season is almost to the halfway point, and then we will begin to move towards autumn, and the leaves on the trees will change color and fall to the ground. We are truly fortunate to be able to experience all the seasons to remind us of the many cycles we pass through during our journey through life.

My latest journey, the one where I get to be elderly, is so far pretty darn good. I'm growing older with my partner, who shares the journey with me, and my family and friends as well. As is true with most things in life, there are ups and downs: periods of calm reflection, along with periods of upsets. We always get to choose what we focus on, even if we aren't able to manage the particulars of our daily lives.

Oh, and there's one other partner with whom I share this ride: you, my dear reader. We've got each other's backs. I hope you will come again to share this time with me, but today, it's time already to move from this present moment into the day. I hope you will be well and spend some time thinking about the journey we share until we meet again.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Taking a larger view

From Astronomy Picture of the Day
Since I wrote here last Sunday, more awful events have transpired in the world: first the horrific attack in Nice and then the bloody failed coup in Turkey, where I walked the streets a year ago and interacted with the wonderful people of Istanbul. As is probably true with many of my readers, I had just begun to pick myself up from despair and sadness of the previous week. Then I was cast down once again because of what we just went through.

It's time for me to take a longer view,and expand my horizons. That picture at the beginning of my post thrilled me, when I saw the moon, and behind it Jupiter and four of its moons. In order, you are seeing Callisto, Ganymede, Jupiter, Io, and Europa, peeking out from behind the crescent of our  own moon. You can read more about it on the link from Astronomy Picture of the Day.

Every morning, part of my routine is to read the blogs I follow that have popped up in my news reader, take a quick look at the news, visit Facebook if I have the time, read my emails, check the weather, and look at APOD. Only then do I close the laptop and get up to start my day. My friends smile at my need for routine, but they are all pretty used to it by now. As I sit here on Sunday morning, which is the only day that I actually write a post before I get up, my partner is sleeping soundly next to me, with a dim light on the end table next to me, which also holds my tea and the latest book I'm reading. It's very quiet, and it seems like I'm the only person stirring in the entire surrounding area. My fingers tapping the keys is the only sound I hear. This is my favorite time of the day, when I'm up and everybody else is still asleep.

For other people, like SG, his favorite time is at night when he's up and everybody else has gone to bed. Both of us enjoy these moments of solitude, because we also have each other and active lives the rest of the day. Sometimes I'm aware of when he comes to bed, but mostly I simply find him sleeping next to me when I get up to use the bathroom.

Yesterday morning when I met my lady friends for a couple of trips around Lake Padden, we were all feeling the need for companionship and sharing. I was relieved to find that I was not the only one in a fragile emotional state. Many of us came because we knew that exercise would help us get through our grief. And sure enough, when we were finished we all felt much better and were able to go into our day with a lighter heart. Our leader, Cindy, is traveling at the moment but she has still given us a schedule to follow on Saturday mornings while she is away. She's in Iceland right now, and when she returns from her travels she intends to get another spaniel puppy. It's been long enough since she lost her sweet Luna to old age and cancer that she's ready to begin again.

People who love animals always need to say goodbye to them long before they want to, even when they are long-lived, they don't have life spans that correspond to our own. My friend Gene still misses his parrot three years after it died. He had that parrot for 25 years. I remember watching Poopstain crawl inside his shirt and settle in for a nap on his chest, and I was amazed to watch how that parrot had trained Gene so well. We still gain so very much from our interaction with our pets, and I do occasionally miss having one these days. But the other side is the freedom from caring for them and not having to say goodbye way too soon. When I talk to my sister Norma Jean, she never fails to tell me of the latest antics of her dog Icarus. She got him as a puppy, and he's now five. How quickly that time passed!

Yesterday I decided to pick up a book that would be uplifting, and I was fortunate that several books had come from the library this week. After perusing them all, I started to read Bill Bryson's latest book, The Road to Little Dribbling. It's a sequel to "Notes from a Small Island," written in 1995, both about being an American in Britain. That link takes you to Goodreads, and several commenters seem to dislike the latest book because they are comparing it to the first one. Since I didn't read the first, I came to the book with little expectation. I've spent quite a lot of time laughing, sometimes out loud.

Bryson is 64 and has written several nonfiction book that have been very well received. I've only read A Walk in the Woods of his previous books, a story about his trek on the Appalachian Trail, and I enjoyed it very much. More than the movie, I must say. But in this current book, he comes across very much as a curmudgeon, a grumpy old man who finds fault with pretty much everything, but in a very humorous way. Here's an excerpt:
The worst part about aging is the realization that all your future is downhill. Bad as I am today, I am pretty much tiptop compared with what I am going to be next week or the week after. I recently realized with dismay that I am even too old now for early onset dementia. Any dementia I get will be right on time. The outlook generally is for infirmity, liver spots, baldness, senility, bladder dribble, purple blotches on the hands and head as if my wife had been beating me with a wooden spoon (always a possibility) and the conviction that no one in the world speaks loud enough.
I laughed out loud when I read that, because I can relate completely to what he's saying. And he's ten years younger than me. It's possible he is exaggerating, but then again, maybe not. His take on the world involves large doses of humor about things that are perhaps not to one's liking. It's a good way to approach the world today, in my opinion.

One of my blogging friends, Ronni of Time Goes By, posts on Saturday about things she calls "interesting stuff." Yesterday she posted a wonderful video about fireflies. I've never lived anywhere that has them, so I was really intrigued by this particular view of a rather magical creature. Not to mention that it's also very soothing and gives yet another view of this beautiful, wonderful world in which we live. It's just a little more than two minutes long. The music is lovely, too.



And with that, another post has been written. I hope that when you are finished, you will feel a little lighter in spirit than when you began. That was my intention, anyway. Please remember to look around at the beauty of the world and think of all that gives you pleasure. And when we meet again next week, I'm hopeful that many wonderful adventures will have taken place in our lives. Be well until then.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Reflections about peace on earth

Snagged from Facebook
This picture is all over my Facebook feed because of last week's awful news. It was like one blow after another, with the murder of those two black men, and then the murder of those policemen in Dallas. It seemed like every time I turned on the news, it was one awful event after another. It didn't help that the news media kept playing those traumatic videos over and over. I was caught by surprise by the first one, but after that I was careful to avoid seeing that kind of violence again.

I can understand why some unstable person might completely lose it, after being exposed to such violence over and over. Why does our news media do that? And then to stick their microphones into the faces of the bereaved and ask them how it makes them feel. It's simply awful. I finally turned off the news not only in disgust, but because I could feel it was arousing feelings of frustration and despair inside me. It reminds me that although I cannot do much to change the world, I certainly can change my own focus.

It feels to me like the world I live in is at a crossroads. Change is in the air, from the events in the Middle East to the roiling anger in our cities. And on top of that, the two major political parties will be holding their conventions this month. Maybe it's emblematic that the two main candidates are some of the least popular people on the planet, and who knows what will happen at those events? It's really scary.

I think, for me, it's time to look for some perspective so that I can put all of this angst into a more positive outlook. Yesterday I picked up a good book at the library that was recommended to me, and once I was several chapters in, I realized that my mood had improved and that maybe things are not as bad as all that. The book is The Swerve: How the World Become Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt. In addition to winning both the 2012 Pulitzer Prize and the 2011 National Book Award, it also won the Modern Language Association James Russell Lowell Prize. So I'm not alone in thinking the book is wonderful. From that link:
Greenblatt tells the story of how Poggio Bracciolini, a 15th-century papal emissary and obsessive book hunter, saved the last copy of the Roman poet Lucretius's On the Nature of Things from near-terminal neglect in a German monastery, thus reintroducing important ideas that sparked the modern age.
Part of what I have realized in reading this book is that it doesn't take much for something to change the course of history, and while it's not possible to see what's actually happening while standing in the midst of it, it will all become clear when viewed from a larger perspective. While I might not live long enough to see the outcome of this particular historical period, I have faith that it will one day be understood and written about.

In the meantime, I have my own day-to-day life to live, and it's important to realize that getting bogged down in depression is not helpful to anybody, especially me. After I finish with this post, I'll be getting up, as usual, and starting my Sunday with a yoga class. I went for the first time to Laifong's class last week, and I am thrilled that I've discovered a class that will definitely benefit me, as long as I remember to pay attention to what I can and cannot do. While most of the dozen people in her class are younger than I am, they are not in any better shape, and she doesn't see age as a barrier to improving one's strength and balance. It is a Level I class, after all, and not in any way advanced yoga.

She reminded me that yoga is a journey towards balance in all aspects of one's life and not a competition. In the Iyengar tradition of yoga, which is what I'm learning now, Ingela, the main teacher there, has a page called "Reflections" that discusses what yoga is:
In Yoga it’s not what you do, but how you do it that is the power of the practice. Quality is more important that quantity. To bring quality to a pose you align the body with balance, extend fully, and then go to your healthy edge, breathe, relax and experience. 
She has much more on that page about the process of the contradictory theme of letting go and making an effort. Laifong said last week that if you injure yourself while in class, you were not doing yoga. Being aware of my body and its limitations is part of what I'm supposed to be paying attention to, not trying to emulate someone else's pose. For me, that's easier said than done, which is why this is such a good journey for someone like me. However, there is nothing more beautiful than watching Laifong demonstrate the pose as it's supposed to be done, and then wanting to give it my best shot.

A few months ago I attended a pranayama (breathing) class taught by a woman in her eighties. Although we spent much of the time sitting quietly, every once in awhile we'd get up and stretch. I watched her as she raised her arms and effortlessly bent forward with a straight back, touching the floor with flat palms. She's been doing this yoga practice for a long time, obviously, but it made me realize that in ten years, if I keep doing this, I'll be just as limber as her. Something to look forward to.

It also makes me realize that there is only one place that I can actually affect real change, and that's in my own spirit, my own body. What I choose to do with my own life is within my own power. It brings to mind Mary Oliver's closing lines from her poem "The Summer Day": "Tell me, what do you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?"

If I can create a little corner of the world where there's peace, I've done all I can to make things a little bit better. Writing this post has helped me gain even more perspective about the condition of the world and my place in it. And guess what? I have two hours before I'll be starting my 90-minute yoga class, and before then I need to get up and start my day. I've finished my tea and hear gentle breathing emanating from the other side of the bed. It's quiet outside, with only an occasional bird call to break the silence.

Hopefully you will be inspired to find your own peace and tranquility to add to mine, and then we'll begin to change the world, one little bit at a time. One day, I have no doubt, there WILL be peace on earth. It may take awhile.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Independence Day

Yesterday's sky
We had a cool front with possible rain move in last night, and the sky all day long yesterday was filled with these incredible clouds. I kept stopping in my tracks and gazing up at their beauty. This picture was taken from my front porch. This morning is cloudy and cool; right now it's 15C (60F). And last I checked, it's the day before the Independence Day holiday and it's sizzling all across most of the rest of the country. I'll take this temperature any day, even with the rain.

My Sunday morning routine is changing a little: this morning I need to be across town before 9:00am for a new yoga class. I've signed up for a Level I class that is only held early Sunday and in the afternoon on Thursdays. Since that's my hiking day, I'm going to see how it works out for me to take this class. It might be too advanced for me, since Gentle Yoga has been just right for months now. Here's Yoga Northwest's description of their classes. They hold plenty of other Level I classes, but I like Laifong's approach. I took a free class that she taught, and I was impressed with her ability to teach someone like me. She's a young person who, I think, sees me as someone she can help. I really like that. I'm not leaving my original instructor behind, though; I'm taking one Gentle II a week with her as well.

It wasn't that long ago that I was searching for a yoga studio that would be right for me, and now I'm signed up for my third semester of taking two classes a week. I find that smaller class sizes with plenty of correction possibilities helps me more than anything else to advance in my quest to gain flexibility and core strength, the things that will assist me in keeping fit through my seventies. That and aerobic exercise are key ingredients.

For the past two mornings, I have emerged from sleep after having vivid skydiving dreams, both very realistic and wonderful: it's almost as though that activity has not left me at all, and continues to give me pleasure. There is no sense of loss, but instead a satisfaction to think of skydiving being part of my DNA. With so many thousands of skydives under my belt, I guess it's changed me permanently. That makes me smile, just to think of it.

Tomorrow is America's Independence Day. "July Fourth in the US is a federal holiday commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, by the Continental Congress declaring that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer part of the British Empire."

And lately I've been watching the news about "Brexit," where Britain has been calling June 23 their own independence day after the referendum that gave the British people the chance to leave the European Union. Nobody seemed to think that it had a chance of passing, and now the whole world economy has been turned upside down. It not only passed, but now there are rumblings of Scotland and Ireland leaving the British Empire. Everything changed with the passage of that referendum. I was really dismayed to learn that the "Leave" voters won. Frankly, I think most of the Brits were dismayed as well. I found this BBC website that explains how the vote broke down by age:
From BBC
Even though the young people in Britain voted overwhelmingly to stay, it didn't matter much because they mostly didn't bother to cast a ballot. Just think how different everything would be today if they had. It's amazing to me that people don't exercise their right to vote! I have never missed a chance to cast a ballot. Whether or not it makes any difference in the long run, I feel I've done my part. But then again, I see by that chart that most of us of a certain age feel the same way about voting.

It will take several years for Britain to actually leave the European Union, but in the meantime the world economy suffered another shock. Although the stock markets have mostly recovered their huge losses, the long-term effects will be around for years. Whatever happens in our own presidential election in November is another potential shock. I'll be watching the two conventions that will be held in July and hoping that we get through this without any terrible things happening.

And that's not even mentioning the upswing in terrorism all around the world. No wonder, when I think of it, that I feel a sense of dread when I consider the state of society today. My sister and I have commented to one another that it's a good thing we're old now; we won't be around to see the worst of the world's turmoil. I was born and raised in a part of the globe where I haven't, until now, felt the effects of political upheaval directly on my day-to-day activities. With Independence Day tomorrow, I'll breathe a sigh of relief when we make it all the way to the middle of next week without having another terrorist bombing somewhere.

My heart aches for all the suffering and turmoil that goes on every single day on this planet of ours. But one of the things I get to choose is what I focus on: do I want to feel that dread and fall into despair, or do I want to focus on what I can do to make my own little corner of my world a little bit better? Every Sunday morning I sit down with my laptop and feel the day as I compose this post. I never know for sure what's going to emerge, what I'll find on this page when I finish, but it is one thing I do for myself and for my readers. In a way it helps me to connect with all that's good and right in the world.

It's almost 6:30am, and if I'm going to make it on time to my yoga class, I'll need to wind it up here and change my focus toward the day ahead. So, that said, it's with a glad heart, not a heavy one, that I wish all of you dear friends a wonderful day ahead. Be well until we meet again, and don't forget to give your loved ones a hug, virtual or actual. That's what I'm doing with you: sending you a hug, can you feel it?

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Bouquets of gratitude

A sidewalk bouquet
Last year at this time we were sweltering in an unusual heat wave. Usually here in the Pacific Northwest we have something called "June Gloom" that I wrote about recently. And we've had it right on schedule for several weeks now, but summer is officially under way now, and we've got sun on our weather forecast for as far as the eye can see. I just hope it's not going to be as hot this summer as last year.

The days are already beginning to shorten. Today will be 35 seconds shorter than yesterday, as we start the journey to the autumnal equinox in September, when the days and nights will again be of equal length. At the beginning of summer, however, I wake in daylight and fall asleep before the sun is down at 9:17pm. It's beautiful out there right now, with the temperature in the low 50s and early morning dew on everything. It's enough to fill me with bouquets of gratitude for this wonderful place that I live.

This past week I finished two books that have given me a great deal of joy. The first, a long one and hard to get into, is A Tale for the Time Being. The link will take you to the Goodreads page about this book, where I found that many people were unable to enjoy it, but others felt just like I did. Here's an excerpt from a review:
If I’d had my way, the 2013 Man Booker Prize would have gone to this novel-writing documentary filmmaker and Zen Buddhist priestess from British Columbia, Canada (by way of Japan). A Tale for the Time Being is a rich reflection on what it means to be human in an era of short attention spans, the dearth of meaning, and imminent environmental threat. (Rebecca Foster)
I spent lots of time googling aspects of the book that I felt I needed to know more about, as well as time pondering the meaning of Ruth Ozeki's magic realism. Ruth came to Bellingham in March and gave several very well-attended talks about this book, but I hadn't read it yet and missed them all. But I'm really glad I didn't miss the book itself and that I soldiered on through the parts where the novel dragged. I can't really recommend this book to everyone, but it has definitely enriched my own life.

When I finished it on Friday, I was really in a bit of a funk, because I left Ruth's world and felt a little bereft. Fortunately for me, I had a pile of negected books from the library that were waiting for me to open them. Someone had suggested that I read A Man Called Ove. I don't remember who: when a book is recommended by a blogger or another friend, I go right to my library's website and log in and put a hold on it. Then when it shows up and I pick it up from the library, I have no idea where the recommendation came from.

This book was just the ticket. I started it late on Friday and finished it yesterday, reading it in one day. It's translated from Swedish and introduced me to Ove, a grumpy old man who has a past that the author, Fredrik Backman, slowly reveals as you go from disliking him to loving him. I finished it last night with tears streaming down my face, tears of joy and recognition. It's a novel about loss and loneliness, as well as love and redemption. My favorite paragraph from the book:
Death is a strange thing. People live their whole lives as if it does not exist, and yet it's often one of the greatest motivations for living. Some of us, in time, become so conscious of it that we live harder, more obstinately, with more fury. Some need its constant presence to even be aware of its antithesis. Others become so preoccupied with it that they go into the waiting room long before it has announced its arrival. We fear it, yet most of us fear more than anything that it may take someone other than ourselves. (Fredrik Backman)
 Yes, that paragraph sums up exactly my relationship with death, all the little deaths we face every day and the big ones, too. By the time you get to be in your eighth decade of life, those little deaths continue to pile up until one day, if you're like me, you realize that the person you have become is almost unrecognizable from the person you used to be, the person you thought you were. There are times when I catch my reflection in a window and don't realize it's my own. After all, most of the time I don't feel my age.

Yesterday when I was walking with the ladies early in the morning, as is my habit, I realized I am the oldest person in the group. Most of the women are in their fifties and sixties, and most of them are still working. There are a few others who are retired, like me, but I am now the oldest. There are a few other septuagenarians who join the group now and then, but yesterday they were not present. Just me. It makes me realize that I need to enjoy and appreciate every single Saturday that I am able to keep up with them, and I will continue to do just that, even if sometimes it's a struggle.

I will continue to do everything I can to stave off the inevitable decline of my body, and doing so is definitely one of the motivations for all my exercise. But something interesting has happened as I strive in every last moment of exertion: I'm enjoying myself immensely. As I walked along the lush streets of town, with everything in riotous bloom, I couldn't help but grin and feast my eyes on the rich exuberance of everything around me, feeling my body gliding along the narrow streets.

Afterwards, we gathered in the coffee shop where we began the walk and shared stories and laughter. It was the antithesis of last Saturday's walk, when it rained the entire time and we were so soaked afterwards that nobody wanted to stop anywhere for coffee. But we were together for the walk anyway, more than a dozen of us. These women are inspirations for me to get out there and see what the day brings. I'll take yesterday over last week anytime, but each day is unique and filled with whatever we make of it.

Well. This post didn't go where I intended, but I did want to be sure and share with you those books that will remain favorites and worth a re-read at some time in the future. I'll be looking for the other books by these two authors and read them as well, hoping for a repeat. In the meantime, I'll be out there walking and hiking and enjoying the summer. And of course reading about the adventures of my blogging friends. This morning when I read the dozen that waited in my Reader, every single one was filled with gratitude and joy, which helped put me in the mindset of gratitude. It's catching.

So, with that, and the usual morning ritual of writing this post finished, I will leave you with a quote from that book by Fredrik:
She laughed and laughed and laughed until the vowels were rolling across the walls and floors, as if they meant to do away with the laws of time and space.
Indeed. Be well until we meet again next week, and don't forget to laugh now and then.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Father's Day 2016

Daddy
This picture of my father was posted on Facebook recently by one of my siblings, and it brought back memories of long ago. I remember watching that green wavy line on the oscilloscope when I was a kid, but I don't know to this day what that device did. Daddy probably told me but it didn't mean anything to me so I have forgotten. I've forgotten a lot of things in my life, but my parents are still very present to me. Even all these years later, I can still remember the sound and resonance of Daddy's voice.

I was very fortunate to have been raised in a large family with parents who loved each other and stayed together. It's a rarity these days, and I myself managed to bumble my way through many relationships and marriages, until I found my soulmate in SG. It's wonderful to share my life with him, and to actually be happier together today than the day we met. Although we have no children between us, having met at the age of fifty, and with only the sport of skydiving as a shared activity, it's a miracle that we got together at all. I give thanks every day for his presence in my life. I can't imagine how different my life would be without him.

While I was writing this post last Sunday, I didn't know that a gunman had killed and wounded more than a hundred people in Orlando, Florida, a few hours before. I suffered over the news of that event as much as I did over Sandy Hook in 2013. I found myself crying at odd times and without much warning. Although we have almost daily mass murders here in the United States, I never think of myself as  being possibly caught up in one. I'm not so sure any more. There is so much hatred and anger everywhere I look, and it is only growing with this toxic presidential election looming. I've taken to skipping the daily news cycle and only watching the PBS News Hour once or twice a week, getting the rest of my news from the internet, where I can pick and choose what I let in.

Just writing that last paragraph makes me sad, once again. This is not the direction I want to travel for this Father's Day post, and it was only last year when I wrote a tribute to my father, which you can read here if you're interested. I reread it just now, hoping to find some direction for today's post. I don't want to wallow in sadness, and I don't want to repeat myself, so I'm casting a wide net to see what I catch. Last year's post told about who Daddy was to me and about his early death from heart disease. I've now lived eleven years longer than he did, partly because I exercise obsessively and take statins, which seems to have helped. My numbers are good, even exceptional, which would not be the case if I allowed myself to slack off on diet and exercise.

Tomorrow we in the Northern Hemisphere will celebrate the summer solstice, with revelers in Britain gathering at Stonehenge to watch the sunrise. Here's an excerpt from that link:
The encompassing horseshoe arrangement of the five central trilithons, the heel stone, and the embanked avenue, are aligned to the sunset of the winter solstice and the opposing sunrise of the summer solstice. A natural landform at the monument's location followed this line, and may have inspired its construction.
Nobody knows why Stonehenge was created so many thousands of years ago, but its history and what has been learned about it is fascinating to me. That something created so long ago still exists fills me with wonder. So much of what surrounds me every day will not be in existence even a few centuries from now. It's somehow comforting to me to take a longer view of history.

What will I do with this Father's Day? First of all, I will finish my early morning task of writing this post, and then I'll get up and head off to the coffee shop, my own special place in Bellingham, and wish a happy Father's Day to John, who will already have arrived and had his breakfast, with his iPad in front of him to read the news. Gene is gone off to Alaska for his six-week fishing expedition, catching salmon on his little tugboat, Hobo, with his crew of women.
Gene with last year's crew on Hobo
I found this picture on Gene's Facebook page, just to show you what he's up there in Alaska doing right now instead of hanging around in the coffee shop with us. He built that boat, along with many others, and swears every year when he comes back to Bellingham that it's the last year he'll be doing this. But every year he goes back. I know there will come a day when he doesn't go off fishing at this time of year; he's been doing it since he was a teenager. I celebrate his presence in my life, not to mention the great salmon I'll be eating when he returns. Gene is very generous with his friends and I'm glad to count myself in that number.

Then after the time I spend in the coffee shop, I'll come home and spend some time with my guy before heading out into the sunshine. It rained all day long yesterday and made my garden very happy; I won't need to water for a day or two, but weeds need constant tending to keep them at bay. I sure love to get my hands dirty these days and talk to my plants, so that's also on the agenda. I'm also reading a book that isn't holding my interest all that much, so I'll pick it up and read a little at a time. It's called A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. It's good enough that I continue to return to it, but it just hasn't grabbed me yet.

Other than that, I'll enjoy my day off from scheduled exercise and maybe visit with a few nearby friends. Next week begins another semester of yoga, so I have the week off and will try a free class at the next level up from mine, to see if I'm yet ready to take it or will stay with my gentle yoga for another season. And I've decided to skip next week's hike with the Trailblazers, since I know it's one that would challenge my knee too much. I'll be looking for something to take its place, maybe a favorite hike around town.

Yes, I am definitely a creature of habit, and I realize how much I miss it when there's a change in my schedule. I'll be volunteering at WAHA tomorrow as I do most Mondays. I enjoy helping people with their Advance Care Directives for end-of-life care. I have learned so much from my clients already, and I've only been doing this since the beginning of the year. I've also got a new circle of friends with the other women who do this work. Yes, my life here in Bellingham continues to keep me occupied; in fact, every now and then I realize that I'm actually too busy! Well, since I'm in charge, I can change that, right? Right.

And having cast that wide net, I've caught myself an eclectic post, filled with a bit of this and a bit of that. But I can feel myself being drawn into the day, ready to get up and have a spot of breakfast before heading out. I do hope that you fathers out there will have an especially fine day, and that all the rest of you will have a good day, too. I give thanks for all that fills my life, and that includes you, my dear readers. Please be well and filled with happiness until we meet again.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

June Gloom

The view at 5,000 feet last Thursday
In this part of the country, mostly on the west coast, we have an atmospheric phenomenon known as June Gloom. It usually occurs during late spring and early summer and is characterized by low clouds and cool temperatures. We've had years when we never had a day of warm sunshine until after the 4th of July. Not so this year; we've already had several days of temperatures in the 80s, so I'm happy to report that for the past several days our normal weather has returned and we're ensconced in June Gloom. The high temperature yesterday was 61F and we never saw the sun at all.

On our hike to Church Mountain last Thursday, we had a few moments when we saw the sun, briefly, but it was also cool enough that we needed most of our warm clothing. I much prefer hiking in cool weather rather than full sun, so even though we didn't have much of a view, it was a beautiful day to be out. Even without the sun, we had fun, and I wrote about it here. I always take pictures and write about our adventure on my other blog every Thursday, as well as again once on Saturday and Tuesday. Here, as you know, I sit with my laptop on my knees early in the morning on Sunday and just wing it.

I am definitely a creature of habit, and I find that it's comforting to know what my daily activities will be, even though I'm retired and can do whatever I want with my time. I've become accustomed to getting up and going to bed early, although yesterday I had a hard time getting to sleep, since I was unable to put my book down and stayed up reading until close to midnight. Unusual for me but not unheard of, either. I'm sufficiently well rested that it doesn't really make me feel tired, but I sure slept well last night and woke this morning feeling like my usual self.

I've written about it here before, but I'm reminded again about what that means, my "usual self." As I age, that changes, but usually it's gradual enough that I don't notice until something makes me pay attention to my daily routine. Hurting my knee in early April and being unable to hike on Thursdays or walk with the ladies on Saturday changed my schedule, all right. It made me grateful for my usual good health and ability to exercise. I have now done four Thursday hikes with my friends and enjoyed myself immensely, but I woke on Friday with pain in my knee again, making me cautious and a bit apprehensive. I'm treating the knee with creams and compression, hoping to avoid a repeat. Before, I thought if I ignored the pain it would go away; now I know better. I've learned a hard lesson and am anxious not to get injured again.

As we drove back on Thursday, I had a chance to visit with two new hikers. I sat in the back seat and perused my pictures, thinking about the blog post I'd be writing when I arrived home. Dick, sitting next to me, has joined us a couple of times before, but I hadn't had a chance to learn much about him. It turns out that the four of us in the car were all in our seventies and retired from our professions. Dick's wife is also a hiker and recently fell and broke her leg while out hiking. She's gradually getting back to normal; he said they were able to walk up to Fragrance Lake last week.

Sometimes when I'm walking along, thinking my own thoughts and looking at the trail in front of me, I imagine what I would do if I got really injured, like breaking a bone, while out in the wilderness. One of our regular hikers carries a first aid kit, and I carry a few bandaids and compression bandage, along with my knee braces. It wouldn't be easy but we'd be able to manage to get to safety. In the wilderness, we don't have cell coverage, so it would be necessary to get to the highway and down to the Ranger Station for help. Although it wouldn't be pleasant, we would manage, by helping each other through it all.

I've been going out on these hikes for eight years now. Nobody has ever been hurt badly, other than a few scrapes from a fall or injuring a knee, like I did in April. I hope it stays that way, but realistically each hiker must make the decision before going out about his or her fitness level for that day. I forget that fact, thinking that every day is like every other one, but I've learned that there are reasons why my friends stay home from hard hikes, or don't come at all any more because of injury or illness. We're seniors, after all, and time doesn't stand still for anyone, does it?

Hubris: isn't that a wonderful word? It is an ancient Greek word meaning pride or arrogance, used particularly to mean the kind of arrogance that often brings about someone's downfall. I've been guilty of it most of my life, and now that I'm in my seventies, I realize that it's long past time for me to grow out of it. In spite of myself, I'm actually gaining wisdom as I age. It's partly because I can't continue to believe that if I ignore a pain or symptom in my aging body that it will get better. It won't. I am moving in one direction only, and listening to my body will give me a chance to keep going a bit longer. It's true for all of us; it's not just me getting older while everybody else stays the same.

I just finished reading a really good book yesterday, Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History. It tells the story of the hurricane that destroyed Galveston in 1900, and it also made me realize the hubris of that time. The weather forecasters of the day believed that they were able to predict storm paths, even though we know today that they knew very little. They also believed that Galveston was immune to that kind of hurricane. How wrong they were: more than 8,000 people died in that storm, and much of it was caused by the kind of arrogance that leads to destruction. Today we have satellites and instantaneous communication, and all those in a storm's path are evacuated to higher ground. And still: we have situations like Hurricane Katrina where more than a thousand people died, and it was in the twenty-first century. We continue to believe that we are past all that, but we aren't, are we?

Yes, it's gloomy to consider the human predicament, which leads right into the title of this post: June Gloom. Although it refers to a climatological event, it can also be thought of as a state of mind. As I consider how to nurse my knee so that I don't end up injured again, and as I try to stay clear of the hubris that I am so often guilty of, I'll think ahead to the bright and sunny days of July.

And with that, the post is written. My mind and heart feel clear and ready to begin another week, whether in clouds or in sunshine. I'll make every attempt to stay healthy and wish exactly the same situation for you, my dear reader. The day is about to begin, and it holds the promise of a day filled with love and happiness. Be well until we meet again next week, and remember than gloom always gives way to the light.