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, October 28, 2012

A break from my routine

I received a summons for jury duty here in Washington state, beginning tomorrow, which says it will be for two weeks. This is the first time I've been summoned since moving here, but I was summoned three times over the years I lived in Colorado. Twice I was dismissed in trials for people who had been arrested for driving while impaired and were fighting it. I told the attorneys that I felt they were already guilty and could not offer them a fair judgment, since they had already admitted they were driving under the influence of alcohol. I was summarily dismissed.

And once I sat on a jury for three days. A woman was suing a man for an alleged rape, and I listened to the presentations of both the assertion of rape and the arguments in the man's defense. These took two days, one for the witnesses and aggrieved party to testify, and the second day for the defense to make their case.

The hardest part for me was to listen to everything and not be able to discuss it with anybody: not the other jurors, not my partner, simply nobody. I had some very strong opinions about what was going on here, and it was my duty to keep those thoughts to myself. Were the other jurors feeling like I did? Was I wrong in thinking that this woman was making it all up in a fit of pique? That's what was emerging in my mind as I listened to the arguments.

I am not sure how I would have fared in a long trial, because just in those two short days I was having difficulty letting myself get involved in any other activity. I was obsessed with the trial and couldn't read or otherwise distract myself. If I went for a walk, my thoughts turned constantly to the arguments that had been presented to me, and I couldn't talk to anybody about it!

Fortunately, we were given our final instructions on the third day and went into jury deliberations. What a relief to finally be able to talk about it! And interestingly, all but one other juror felt as I did. Since we had one holdout, a social worker who also acted as an advocate for rape victims (how did he ever get on this jury?), he brought up some interesting theories of the possible reasons this might have actually been what the aggrieved party said it was. But it was a stretch, a real stretch.

 It turned out that most of us were in total agreement about the woman's real intentions in this trial, to make the young man suffer. We finally all came into agreement, and within a few hours after we began our deliberations, we were able to deliver a "not guilty" verdict. When I walked out to the parking lot, the young man was walking out a free man after being in jail for something he did not do. Not to mention the time and expense involved for all parties.

Now I will find out whether I will end up on another jury, or if I will be dismissed or not needed during this two-week period. Since I'm retired and have no job to worry about, you'd think I would be excited about this break from my schedule. But frankly, I'll miss riding the bus to the coffee shop and hanging out with the regulars, attending my regular classes at the gym, and basically having my daily routine disrupted. I am also planning on a trip in mid-November to visit my family for Thanksgiving. I wonder what happens if you end up sitting on a long trial: do they break for holidays? (Probably not.)

It's been raining here all day and all night, for several days in a row. I walked with the Fairhaven walkers yesterday anyway; we only had a few sprinkles as we made our way through Whatcom Falls park. Thirteen of us showed up on a dreary day, and we walked through wide avenues covered with leaves, painting a colorful tapestry of gold, yellow and browns. Even when it's raining, it's really beautiful here in the Pacific Northwest. I would have taken some pictures but I was afraid of getting my camera wet, so I left it in the car.

So begins another Sunday morning as I sit here in the dark, partner sleeping lightly next to me, and the day about to begin. Tonight I'll call the juror telephone line to find out what tomorrow will bring. In Colorado, I was required to attend at least the first day for orientation, but this is Washington state and things might be handled differently. I'm glad I visited my previous experiences as a juror in today's post; my feeling about the situation has shifted to one of curiosity and a possible new adventure.

Have a wonderful week, dear readers. Until next time!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Looking at clouds

Taken from a moving car last Thursday
I love to look at clouds. It comes partly from seeing their amazing variety, but also because I really HAVE seen clouds from both sides: from being above them looking down wondering if I can avoid jumping through them, and from looking at them here on the ground, wondering whether I need a raincoat. Clouds are really beautiful. Could anybody be bored if you love clouds?

Sitting here in the dark on this cloudy and cool morning, I've been casting about for a topic for this morning's Sunday post. Several things are on my mind, but one keeps coming up for examination: how to create useful and satisfying activity in my daily life. Last Thursday twelve of us seniors headed up to the mountains for what seems to have been our last excursion to the High Country for the season: last night it snowed up there and the weather turned much colder. Yesterday I spent some time going through my warm-weather gear to make sure I have the proper items in my backpack so that I can continue to enjoy going outdoors. Back to the Low Country hikes.

I don't usually suffer from boredom, but I know there are many people who think retirement would be boring, that there would be little of interest to occupy one's time. Is boredom a state of mind? I would worry about it when I was working, since I knew that the way I occupied my days would be gone. One of my solutions was to move away from the place I had lived for more than three decades. No triggers or old habits were possible when the act of finding a new home, a new place to live, and going through our possessions and discarding much of the old life had to be accomplished.

Some people need structure, a routine for their days. I am one of them, and work provided that. I was always the first person to arrive at the office, make the coffee and get things started before the rest showed up. It was a good feeling, and I also could leave the office before everyone else. In the summertime it meant I had much of the day to do other things. I've always enjoyed exercising and being outdoors. I could go for a bike ride or run errands. Today, those things are still part of my routine. Frankly, I have wondered lately how I ever managed to fit a full-time job into my busy life.

One reason this is on my mind is that my old boss has asked me to take on an activity with him that I can do from my computer. It sounds interesting, but the real clincher is that I realize he needs my expertise if it is to succeed. He's calling it his swan song before he retires for good, and he'd like it to be a quality product. I said I would consider it, but as it gets closer to fruition, I find myself looking around at what enjoyable parts of my daily life will be curtailed until the job is done. Will I be sorry I agreed to do this? Can I still say no?

No, I'll bite the bullet and get the job done. It will be an adventure, if I approach it the right way. And it's got an end date. Winter might be keeping me indoors more often anyway. It's really funny to think that my daily life doesn't have much room for even a part-time job. I will figure out some way to enjoy the experience.

Just writing this all down, getting it shoehorned into my mental real estate, has helped me. It might not be very interesting to read about from your point of view, but it was a valuable exercise for me. I feel better now.

Sundays tend to be the least structured of my days, with nothing other than this post on the agenda. I'll be getting up soon and getting dressed, however, so I can drive to the cafe for my morning latte. If they have a good breakfast, I'll bring two of them home and share a nice Sunday morning with my partner as I read the Sunday paper. It's the only day of the week that I actually buy a paper and enjoy reading through it, rather than perusing everything on line. Then I'll consider whether the weather will allow a walk or if I might go to the gym and ride the elliptical. Or maybe I'll just hang out at home.

I hope that your day is filled with exactly what you desire, whether it be knitting by the fire, playing with your grandchildren, or looking at the clouds.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A change in the weather

I pass the ivy growing on the side of this building every day when I walk from the gym to the bus. Even when the sun isn't shining, the color is intense right now. I've taken pictures of its brilliant color before, but this year it seems especially red. The skies are dark, spitting rain, and the wind is blowing. Our long stretch of beautiful weather has come to an end. Now that I don't have a cold and could go skydiving, the weather is not cooperating. I'm just not ready to say that the skydiving season is over, but it probably is.

Last night I kept thinking about a video I watched yesterday. It is from the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, about a bunch of ducks mistreated by their owner and rescued by the sanctuary. They were all adult ducks and had never been in water before. It's less than two minutes long, and I've now watched it several times, each time with feelings I can't quite identify. (You might want to make it full screen since I can't seem to figure out how to get it to fit into my existing column. The sound is nice but not necessary.)

The birds were terrified of the water and had to be reintroduced to it several times, until finally one of them realized that it was, well, fun. Before long all of them had taken to the water and were enjoying themselves immensely. It made me realize that all creatures know little of life except what we experience at birth. How would a duck know that it belongs in water if it never is around it? How would any of us know how wonderful life could be if we are mistreated when we are born? That is all we know, and that's what we expect as we go through our days.

I guess that's what the feeling is: a mixed one of sadness that some of us are not given our birthright, and gratitude that there are people like those at the sanctuary who help creatures to have a better life. Adding value to any life is worthwhile, and it makes me hopeful that we humans will one day tip the scales towards compassion rather than neglect. I realize that this might be a bit of a pollyanna point of view, but it's the one I choose. I'd like to think that we are evolving towards kindness and the comprehension that we are all in this together.

Although it's dreary outside, I'm enjoying the change in the weather. I have a warm safe apartment to share with my partner, and we can stand inside and watch the trees bend in the wind and listen to the rain. I don't need to go out in it until I have girded myself with appropriate gear. It's hard to believe that only a few days ago I was in full sunshine in the High Country with my friends, sweating and slathering on sunscreen. Yesterday I pulled my expensive eVent raincoat out of the closet and used it for the first time in months. It will get a workout for awhile now.

I have looked at the long-range weather forecasts, however, and I have learned that we are expected to get a bit less rain here in the Pacific Northwest than usual. For the past two winters, we've been inundated with higher-than-normal snowpack, so it might make for a nice change. In fact, I might even get to skydive this winter, if the weather cooperates at all. The only thing I need is sunshine, even if it's cold. You go up in the plane and jump out, having only a few minutes to deal with the cold. In Colorado where the sun shines most days, I jumped year round; any time it was above freezing on the ground you would see crazy skydivers loading the plane, swaddled in enough clothes under their jumpsuits to look like overstuffed teddy bears. I was one of them.

Now that I'm thinking of it, I remember one day when we had a heavy snowfall all day long on Saturday, nice fluffy Colorado powder. On Sunday morning I woke to see that the sky was completely blue! I packed up my stuff and headed to the Drop Zone, knowing that there would be others who would want to jump, once they cleared the runway. And sure enough, I made three or four skydives that day, landing in soft powder snow. It looked odd to see steps in the snow that seemed to start from nowhere heading to the hangar. I suppose I wouldn't do that again today, since I have so many more skydives now than I did then. But then again, I also know now what I might miss out on!

One thing that we can all count on: whatever weather we are having right now will change. Every season is ostensibly only three months long, and the years flow by, giving us everything from rain and snow to brilliant blue skies. I wish you many days of whatever weather makes you happiest, with just a little bit of the other kind to remind you how nice it is when you have your favorite weather.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A weekend to remember

Deb, me, Sally, Sandi, and Jann at Vashon Island Farmers' Market
This is the weekend of the bloggers' Vashon Island getaway. I'm starting my Sunday morning from the farmhouse here on Vashon Island where we have been staying since Friday afternoon. I wrote about some of it yesterday on my other blog. But the story of how we decided to get together here is worth telling.

Linda (missing from the picture above, since she was busy checking out the booths at the Vashon Island Saturday morning Farmers' Market), who writes the blog Thoughts from a Bag Lady in Waiting met Deb one morning at a Starbucks in Vancouver, Washington and discussed the possibility of having a gathering of some bloggers that they both follow. They emailed five of us about it, and all but one person accepted the invitation to investigate the feasibility of getting together somewhere. Linda researched some possible locations and dates, and we decided on this weekend and chose Lavender Hill Farm on Vashon Island. After some difficulty finding the ferry (covered pretty well in those two previous links), we have spent the last few days together, getting to know each other in person rather than as virtual entities in the Blogosphere.

We have discovered many things about each other that we didn't know, but mostly there have been only a few surprises in personalities. It makes me realize how much of who we are comes through in the words we write on our blogs. I have been taken by surprise by the dry wit of one, the elegance of another, and the sheer generosity of spirit in every one.

Although I am a bit saturated by all the interaction of the weekend, I am filled with an amazing sense of camaraderie that has developed between us. We've shared, we've cried, and we've laughed until we were holding our sides in pain. Last night I had to pull myself away from the living room and make my way to bed so that I would have time to write a post this morning.

I am the oldest of the group, with the youngest, our baby, nine years younger than me. We are all in our sixties, all committed bloggers, and two are still working as teachers and knew each other before they started blogging (Deb and Sandi). I will write one more post about this weekend on my other blog before I will move on to other things. As I sit here with a cup of coffee, in the living room so I can watch the sun rise and illuminate Mt. Rainier, I am feeling introspective and wondering what I've learned from this weekend.

One thing I've learned that surprises me is that I have actually become less extroverted, and for the first time understand the need for quiet introspection. Since I retired, I haven't been exposed to such a concentrated dose of interaction and find myself looking forward to pulling out my meditation pillow at home and sitting for some time. I miss Smart Guy and the connection that has developed between us since we've moved here. The past five years have changed me. In any group, some people talk more than others, and I've always been one of them, but this weekend taught me that I no longer have a need to be the center of attention for extended periods of time; in fact, it's a bit daunting.

In a group of bright, articulate women, I fit right in. In retirement I've continued to grow and change, and it makes me happy to learn that. I guess I thought that once I no longer had the stimulus of productive work, I'd stagnate and become someone less interesting. That's not true, not for me, not for any of us who have retired. Linda is extremely active, traveling all over the world on a shoestring, marking things off her bucket list, and learning to be certified as a mediator. She performed her magic on me when I got an email about a possible contract job I might (or might not) take on. In a half an hour, all the different aspects of the situation had been examined in terms of what it means for me, and what I want out of it. I am impressed and grateful for her expertise.

There's just the tiniest bit of light in the morning sky, and I m looking at Mt. Rainier on the horizon, thinking about this amazing weekend and what I've learned. It's been an education in more ways than one.