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 5, 2015

Holiday weekend and friendships

Me, Carol and Linda cooling our feet
Some Sunday mornings I wake with a good idea of what I want to write about, but not this one. I slept fairly well, after listening to the booms and whistling of firecrackers for what seemed like several hours. It started around 9:30 and went on until around midnight. Somewhere in there I fell asleep and only woke a few times afterwards when a stray boom jolted me awake. It's all quiet now, and the sun is just over the horizon on this soon-to-be sultry Sunday.

My habit in the morning is to get up and make myself a cup of tea and bring my laptop back to bed in order to read the news of the day. I think this is the first time in many years that I have woken the morning after the Fourth and not seen several pictures of exploding fireworks. Not on the Bellingham Herald site, the Washington Post, or even Yahoo News. It must be because it fell on a Saturday and Sunday's papers usually have a broader perspective. I'm not sure why, but I noticed the difference. I was going to snag a picture of fireworks for my picture, but instead I used this picture of the three waders from last Thursday's hike. It makes me thankful for my friendships.

Friendships. I have to say that as I have grown accustomed to becoming a retired skydiver, I still gaze at the pictures of my friends in freefall and enjoy the excitement of the sport on my Facebook page. Probably a hundred of my Facebook friends are skydivers from around the world, and I notice that I'm glad for the opportunity to stay connected to my old buddies and see what they're up to. But I also notice that I don't seem to have any need to join them; my appreciation for their happiness is not diminished by my decision to retire. I'm getting used to this idea of letting go of activities that filled me with such delight not so long ago. The activity is not less enjoyable, but the need to participate as I once did is fading away.

I realize how fortunate I am to have established the circle of friends that sustain me. My friend Judy, whom I met at the Y, is my go-to-the-movies pal, and she and I will travel together later this month to Seattle to see Wicked, which is coming there for the month of July. I've gone to numerous movies with her and we've dined at our favorite places for the past seven years, and now she feels like family.

The friendships I've formed from my Thursday hikes are also around seven years old now. I started hiking with them in 2008, after moving here when I retired from work, and I would never have guessed that my days would be so enriched by this activity. We meet every Thursday; nobody has to say ahead of time whether or not they're going, so the people who show up vary from occasional hikers to regulars. I'm one of the regulars, but I also made a decision after last week to skip those difficult hikes when we have such hot weather. I just don't have nearly as much fun when it's so hot and I feel my strength draining away as I struggle to keep up. I'm happier in cool or cold weather, which is one of the reasons I moved to this part of the country.

Two of the long-time hikers in the group encouraged me to join their walking group on Saturday mornings. It took me awhile before I did join them, but I finally started walking with them at Lake Padden on New Year's Day 2010. One of the nice things about having a blog, I can look up the date since I wrote a post about it. I never expected it to become a regular thing, since I spent summer weekends at Skydive Snohomish and didn't want to give that up. But that was then. Now I look forward to it; it's how I start almost every weekend these days.

Yesterday the walking group gathered at our leader's home (Cindy's) for our annual Fourth of July potluck. There were fifteen of us, all women I've grown to cherish as friends. As in my hiking group, you just show up and the number varies as do the people. Men are also welcome, but they don't seem to come more than once or twice and then we don't see them again. We laughed about it yesterday and figured they might feel intimidated by all of us. We also discussed books we've enjoyed, and Cindy talked about how next year will be her tenth anniversary of having started this group. She'd like to do something special, so we'll try to think of some ideas. They also feel like old friends after five years of walking together. After the walk we usually go out for coffee and chat. It's a really good group.

I'll bet you know about the other group that gives me such pleasure, don't you? You should, since you're part of it. There are probably two dozen or so fellow bloggers whom I have come to care about (and worry about), and we write posts and comment back and forth to each other. I thought briefly about listing some of my blogging family, but then I realized I might forget somebody who is crucial and then I'd feel bad about it, so I'll just say how much I appreciate my online pals. Who would ever have guessed a few years ago how the blogosphere would become such a significant social outlet? Not me, that's for sure, but I am eternally grateful that it has. And this October, I'll join five other bloggers for our third annual gathering on Vashon Island, staying at the wonderful Lavender Hill Farm.

I read often about the importance of staying connected to social groups in order to improve one's mental health. My family is scattered around the country, but I keep in touch with them through Facebook, and my sister Norma Jean and I video chat a couple of times a month. Norma Jean is the sister I'm closest to, but I love and appreciate my other siblings, as well as their extended family, which is pretty large. And then there's the guy who is lying next to me, the one who shares my daily life and makes sure I have good food to eat (he's the cook in the family). Now who could ask for more than that? As I recount all the friends and family I have in my life, I realize why I'm not feeling more of a lack as I move away from skydiving. There's a hole, for sure, but it won't be there for long.

Until we meet again next week, stay safe and, if you feel like it, you might take stock of all those people who sustain you, too. Somehow since I've written all this down, I am feeling very wealthy, very blessed, and ready to start my day surrounded by love.


John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Your post today leaves me smiling, as is often the case. Well, you came in with no plan and finished up with such an excellent post full of positive feelings. Nice work! :-) I’m curious about why the men didn’t return, after a time or two, to your hiking group. My guess is you ladies were probably in better shape and the guys felt a little too challenged. :-) I hope you are finding a way to stay cool up there in Bellingham. While it seems that it should be a little cooler there than Seattle, it may not be much as I’ve heard it is quite warm up in Vancouver. I’m going to count myself in on your group of blogging friends and I appreciate your kind words. I truly do look forward to your Sunday posts and your comments on my blog as well. This blogging hobby is really pretty neat and I feel lucky to have found it and some wonderful followers, like you! :-) Wishing you a great week ahead!

Gwen said...

I, too, have met some amazing women while blogging. A few rotten apples too, but that's life. ;)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Interesting observation about the change of tone in news on a weekend. It appears you seem to be a light sleeper as you do catch sounds easily. You also seem to be an early riser to get as much as you can out of each day. And your relection on how your hole will be filled is a theme we seniors now share about many of the activities we once just jumped into but now find ourselves hesitatimg with caution. But your observation that you are wealthy from good health , many friends and family and you are much loved is because you also show mucg care for others. I love it when you comment at my blogs. It is blogging that kept my spirit going when things got tough. I don't have a friend network yet but I'm learning to rekindle that. You are one of my inspirational bloggers to get out there and try. Thank you for that DJan.
Life has left its marks on me but I continue to plod along. Since my cancer in July 2008 much changed in my body. I have issues with various foods and I have developed some axieties that make no sense. My fine hair has turned into coarse. Light sleep has become so deep that no loud thunderstorm or loud alarm can awaken me now once I fall asleep yet falling asleep can be a difficulty at least once a week. I have learned to cope with it now and just play my games on my iPad, listen to songs or even sing silently in my head. Usually by 4 or 5 am my brain will allow me to have a power nap and I'm good for the day.
Hubby is the chief chef in our home now and I feel blessed that he loves his cooking. I too am blessed in my small circle.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I agree with you 100%. It's great being married and we are looking forward to seeing a couple of friends who are dining with us on Tuesday.

Tabor said...

Clearly you are always the person who lands on her feet. I envy you a bit.

Far Side of Fifty said...

aw...I feel honored to call you my friend! The fireworks were horrid last night at 2 AM they finally quit, poor Chance was nearly beside himself...finally the bathroom became his refuge and I turned the TV louder! Everyone on the lake must have had fireworks. I saw a few through the trees mainly flashes of light. The forest fire smoke seems less today so we will venture out. Take Care of you...perhaps a "short" 2 or 3 mile hike would be good for you on a hot day instead of a long one and maybe just maybe there is a former Trailblazer that would like that also...you never know:)

Glenda C. Beall said...

DJan, I consider you one of my friends even though we have never met in person. I relate to your words and know you are a good person. You have much to offer to others. That is what I hope to do with my blogs. As senior adults we can be models of the best way to grow older and that is what I aspire to do.

I also met a woman, Joan Cannon, a writer, in 2007 when I began my first blog. We never met, but have supported each other over the years. She writes for www.seniorwomen.com which is an excellent site for women.
With all the faults of the Internet, and some are scary, connecting those of us with blogs has been a great experience. Thank you for this excellent post.

Red said...

You cover a few key things for good aging. We have to keep active. we have to know when to drop something and then move on. You have a good attitude about your skydiving.Then we have to get out socialize and make new friends. You have a very good young friend. Keep him. Groups tend to be very supportive. last , the blog world for some people has became an excellent social venue. My world seems much bigger and not so scary because of the blog.

Elephant's Child said...

Love and laughter are the foundations of my world. And that love includes friends of course.
When I started blogging I had no idea of the richness I would find. And the love. And the awe, education and delight. So many friends including those I will probably never meet in the flesh.
Thanks for this post. A timely reminder.

Rian said...

DJan, we didn't hear too many fireworks this 4th. The cats heard some though... as they were hiding under the bed most of the night. Their hearing is definitely better than ours.
I feel that physical friends and online friends are different, but they both fill a need. And sometimes in some cases, the two groups mesh... which is wonderful. But online friends are important as I find that when I blog, I look for responses from certain followers... and worry if they don't comment. I know this is silly as I don't always comment myself even though I read certain bloggers faithfully. But it's important to stay connected in retirement... and sometimes (especially for those of us who are not extroverts)it's something we have to work at.

The Furry Gnome said...

Friends and family have suddenly become dramatically more important to us now., including those blogging friends you mention. I'm making enormously more efforts to stay in touch with family, and making a point of getting out with friends too. So important! It makes a big difference after losing William.

Linda Reeder said...

It's 8:345 in the evening and I have just gotten around to reading your Sunday post. Jill and the kids just left after coming here to watch the Women's World Cup match and then have dinner. Jake will be here over night and early tomorrow morning (Monday) we will be taking him in for his ankle surgery. He will come back here with us to begin his recovery. Tomorrow will be a long day.
We were up at 6:00 this morning to get in a walk and then get some work done outside before it got hot again. It got up to 92 again. We are appreciating our air conditioning.
Blogging friendships have enriched my life too. I have friends all over the country who I feel a real connection to. Sharing our lives makes mine richer. You are one of those people.

Linda Myers said...

You've filled your life with activities and people you care about, so when you drop one old familiar activity, there's lots left. Good for you!

Also looking forward to our time on Vashon.

Rita said...

Just a plain wonderful post. You do have a large network of people in your life. I'm glad to be a little part of it and I count you as one of my peeps in blogland. ;) I still marvel at the internet. I have been blessed with meeting really special, kind, supportive, generous souls. What a world, eh? Life is good. :)

Arkansas Patti said...

Our activities may change but it seems new interests pop up on cue. I am glad you are cutting down on the tough hikes--they should be enjoyed, not struggled with especially in the unseasonable heat. There are plenty of hikes that are still good for you and your walking group sounds great. As for blog buddies and yes you are right up there on my list, the beauty of them is we get to know a LOT about them, care for them, share their lives and yes worry for and about them yet we don't even have to get out of our jammies to enjoy them.
From what I can see, you are doing it all right. Keep on keeping on.

Gigi said...

Wow! Time does fly...it seems not too long ago that you were headed out for the trip to Vashon Island.

I always love your posts and try to comment, both here and at the other, as often as I can. I count you as a friend and a blessing. Have a great week.

Retired English Teacher said...

Friends, you are one of mine, become links in life that keep us grounded at times when family just can't (or won't) fill the bill. You have taught me so much about the importance of keeping active, making connections, change, and the importance of friendship. It is always a joy to read your reflections. Hugs.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

You're a treasure, for sure!

Midlife Roadtripper said...

Our friendships do change as we change and our activities change. To still meet new friends at our age is a good thing. Odd though, that some who have been my friends for years and years now don't quite satisfy something in me. Not that I don't still love them or like to be with them, just that I'm reaching in other areas they are not. If that makes sense.

Anyway a very gentle post this was to read.

troutbirder said...

Well said, DJAN. My own first subtract and add new activities occurred after a football knee injury in high school and has continued ever since. For each loss I find a something new to do or emphasize. It still works after all these years...:)_