|Rainy scene last Thursday|
Last Thursday was a wet one. Although we have had many hikes that were wetter, it made it impossible for us to reach our destination; the cold wind and rain caused us to pull out all our warm gear, while we attempted to stay dry as we hunkered down for a quick lunch. Although it sounds pretty miserable, it actually wasn't. I enjoyed myself because I had all the right gear, dry feet inside my hiking boots, and the company of my fellow hikers. I came home and wrote this post about the adventure.
What is on my mind this morning? Two things surface: the first is the gratitude I feel for being able to enjoy my favorite pursuits, hiking in the beautiful Pacific Northwest wilderness and skydiving, both with favorite companions. After I wrote last week's post, I drove down to Snohomish and made three skydives before heading back home. On Monday I went on a long 12-mile hike with the Trailblazers, and then Thursday's shorter 7-mile-long wet one. And yesterday, another two skydives. All in one week, interspersed with trips to the gym for my usual exercise classes. I look back on this week and am grateful that I can still do it. As we were walking back to the hangar after the last jump, Christy told me how glad she is that I decided to continue skydiving this year. I was reminded that I had considered hanging it all up when I turned seventy.
Which brings me to the other thing on my mind this morning: the incredible speed of time passing by. Now that it's already September, I'll begin to focus on my trip to southern California next month, and ponder the future of my skydiving career. Not to mention the future of my hiking career. Both of these activities require a fit and resilient body, and my 71st birthday is right around the corner. Several times lately I've shown up at the Senior Center for a Thursday hike and discovered that someone is not joining us because of an infirmity, such as knee problems (which I have), inflamed tendons (ditto), or a bad back (so far so good).
As we age, we either work through our pain or we stop being so active, or both. It's part of life, and it's not possible to ignore the fact that these bodies wear out. I have long thought I would be smart enough to be willing to listen and make the appropriate decisions. But here I am, pushing myself and my body to the limit time and time again. As long as I can continue to do it, I will. I tell myself it makes me stronger, but there's some denial in there, too. It's not that I don't have pain: I pamper my sore knees by using trekking poles, although they continue to complain on steep downhills. The achilles tendon on my right heel refuses to work in the mornings until I warm it up. I hobble around for a few minutes before it works properly, but by the time I leave the house, I've forgotten about it.
Skydiving has a reputation for being a daredevil sport, but it's actually not like that at all. I'm one of the dinosaurs, because I come from a generation of skydivers that likes to make formations with others, all while maintaining a belly-to-earth configuration. That's become old fashioned, as most youngsters like to fly head down, and speed increases as you present less body surface to the air. Things change. I tried it once and hated it, but there are some DZs where nobody does belly flying any more. I'm glad I play in the air with friends who enjoy the same things I do.
Climbing outside the airplane requires some upper body strength, as I hold on in the wind, but that's probably the only part of the skydive that involves much muscle. Being in freefall is easy (other than the psychological aspect), and if my parachute has been packed properly, the opening is not jarring in any way. Flying around under my canopy as I set up my pattern to land is also not only fun, but it doesn't take much upper body strength, either. The landing is usually just a step down onto the ground, but if I misjudge the timing, the worst that usually happens is that I scrape in on my rear end. My pride is injured, but that's about it.
Hiking requires much more stamina than most people have developed, but since our hikes are rated easy, moderate or hard, one can make a decision about whether or not you are up to it. I've been pushed to my limit many times this summer, but I'm stronger today than I was at the beginning of the summer, even at my age. I know that during the winter when our hikes are shorter and closer to town, I'll lose some of that aerobic fitness, and one day it will not return when I start out on a longer hike. I know this, and I will have to learn the lesson of gracefully bowing out of a hike that is beyond my level. Paying attention to the subtle signals that my body sends me is paramount. I'm trying to be reasonable, really I am. I suspect that some of my readers think I am imprudent to carry on the way I do, but is it really true? Or is it the perception that as we age we must retire to our rocking chairs based on what the calendar tells us?
I don't really know. As I sit here in the early morning, I can feel the twinges in my left knee, and that pesky tendon in the right heel is tight. The clicking of the keys as I type doesn't disturb my softly sleeping partner next to me. Taking an inventory of my aches and pains reveals that I'm not doing too badly, and I'll go to the gym today, since it's closed tomorrow for Labor Day. I'm scheduled for a massage tomorrow that I'll enjoy tremendously. It also helps to keep me active, and just the thought of it gives me pleasure.
Those two things: gratitude for today's blessings and the grace to accept what the future holds reminds me of the Serenity Prayer, which I offer here: "God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference."
Until next week, I wish you well, and maybe you'll give somebody close to you a hug. As soon as Smart Guy wakes up, I'm giving him one.