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, September 20, 2015

Fall begins this week

Turning leaves
We only have a couple of days left in the official summer season of 2015. Fall begins at 1:22am on Wednesday, September 23, the atumnal equinox. Since we've had so many days of rain lately, it definitely feels as if summer left a little prematurely. If things follow their usual fall pattern, though, we will have plenty of days of sunshine mixed in with the rain. We were so dry during the summer that I think we will need much more rain to catch up to normal. It was a strange summer, dry and hot, and I'm glad to see the last of it.

In a small number of days, I'll be joining my blogging friends for a retreat at the Lavender Hill Farm on Vashon Island, our fourth gathering. This time, instead of staying only for a three-day weekend, we'll be there for two more nights, leaving on a Thursday and coming back on the following Tuesday. We'll use our extra time together to have a writing retreat, and hopefully I'll be coming back from the time together with some new writing tools. I'm excited to find some new directions to take with my two blogs, things that inspire me as well as my readers. It was December 2009 when I began this blog, and in those years, almost six now, I've sometimes struggled to find the next direction I want to take.

When I began to write here, I had a plan. I started with my early life and wrote from my earliest memories to the present day, marking the milestones that brought me here. After all, having been married four times, borne and lost two children, and having spent a third of my life as an active skydiver, there was plenty to write about. But then I got a little stuck, wondering if I could write from the current moment as a meditation in the same way that I used for so long. It has worked, sometimes well, and other times I truly struggle to find a direction.

At first I refused to even consider the importance of my readers, thinking that I was writing just for myself. But of course that's simply not true. Once I began to generate followers, I would look forward to hearing what you would have to say. And I sometimes suffer from the self-consciousness that afflicts most writers from time to time. I consider writing to be one of the activities that gives me real pleasure, at least most of the time. There are times when I sit here writing, tears streaming down my face from the recollection of a painful memory, and other times when I laugh out loud and startle my sleeping partner next to me. Writing can definitely be a catharsis, but it can also be somewhat of a tribulation. When the words don't want to come, or if my brain is foggy without any focus on my current situation, then I flounder.

But I try, every Sunday morning, to come up with words that reflect the current state of my life. It really amazes me when I go back and read some of the previous posts that they actually came out of me, and often I can remember exactly what it was like to be there at that moment, indicating to me that I was successful then. So why not always? I ponder the answer to that question.

Time is linear, but life is not. My days flow in erratic patterns. If I've got a physical ailment, or if I'm distraught over some event in my life, the ebb and flow is more of a churning surf, driven by storms of anxiety or illness. Rarely do I experience the sense of being becalmed, unable to move from my current situation. I have lived long enough to realize that any situation I find myself in will not be permanent; it might get better or worse, but it's not going to stay static and unchanging. Life itself is a process of growing and changing and becoming something different from day to day. Last week I was filled with contentment; this week, not so much. And it's only been seven days!

Last Thursday I hiked with my fellow seniors in cloudy weather with occasional light rain. It was not an easy hike; we traversed a muddy trail that had four steep ravines to descend into and climb out of. There were places that were so difficult, steep steps up and down for my short legs, that I realized my left knee was beginning to complain. By the time we finished our hike, we had ascended and descended 2,500 feet (750+ meters) of elevation. On the way back to Bellingham, my knee throbbed and felt quite injured. I worried that I was going to be unable to carry on my usual activities. When I woke the following morning, I stepped gingerly out of bed and tested the knee, to find that it was working moderately well. Although I needed the assistance of the railing as I walked down stairs, it was definitely not as bad as I feared.

I have a plethora of braces and paraphernalia for my knee, and I use whatever I need to keep going. But yesterday, Saturday, I went walking with the ladies for a brisk five-mile jaunt (also in the rain) and found that my knee didn't hurt at all! In only a couple of days it had begun to heal, with the help of a brace and my persistence. I also managed to keep from taking any drugs, since I know that they might help in the short term, but I'll save them for later when I really need them. The latest news about all anti-inflammatory drugs is not good, including my usual ibuprofen, so I really try to use it only as a last resort. And so far, so good.

These bodies were not made to last, and I intend to get as much mileage out of mine as I can, but I'm not so naive to believe it can last forever. I suppose it's possible to consider a knee replacement in the future, but before I get there, it will need to be much worse that it is now. Plus I've got cataract surgery much more prominent in my future, I expect, as they also continue to grow and cloud my vision. But that's also not necessary today or tomorrow. In another year or two, there's no doubt I'll need it. And those who have put it off, like me, usually wish they had done it sooner once it's done, but just the idea of having my eyes operated on gives me chills. We live in an age when the doctors can attempt to fix many failing body parts, and I guess that's a good thing.

Or is it? It's all stopgap measures, and I really believe that a mature person should not attempt to stave off the inevitable. I saw a movie yesterday, Grandma, starring Lily Tomlin, who is 76 and looks it. She's in great shape, and the movie reminded me that it's still possible to be relevant and even beautiful at any age. She's also up for an Emmy for her performance in Grace and Frankie, a Netflix sitcom I watched and enjoyed. But what I really noticed in that series is the difference between the way Lily Tomlin looks compared with her costar Jane Fonda, who is almost the same age (77). Jane has had plenty of surgery on her face in an attempt to look younger, and she wears lots of makeup as opposed to the almost clean face of Lily. Although Jane looks good, to my mind she doesn't hold a candle to Lily. If Lily has had any surgery, I would be surprised, although she probably dyes her hair, since I don't see any grey in it.

I stopped wearing makeup when I retired eight years ago. There are moments when I pull the stuff out, but frankly I think I look a little strange in it. Mascara became problematic when I realized that most of it ends up underneath my eyes these days, giving me a raccoon look. Not what I was going for. And eye shadow disappears in the folds of my eyelids. Plus I think wrinkles are exacerbated by foundation; they don't go away but become more prominent. No, I'll stay clean faced and invisible.

Well, guess what? Another post is written, and I ended up enjoying the writing process after all. I still have plenty more to say, but I think I'll save it for another day, since the sun has come up already, my tea is gone, and I'm actually looking forward to starting my Sunday routine. Once I get out of bed, I'll weigh myself, then dress and go out to the front porch to do my five Tibetan exercises. Afterwards, it's breakfast and a trip to the coffee shop for my daily fix of espresso in the form of a two-shot latte. My fisherman friend Gene might be there, and I know that Leo and his family have the habit of starting Sunday together there, so I'll be glad to see them, too.

I hope that this day brings you, my friend, plenty of whatever keeps you going, keeps you happy, and that there's a friend nearby to hug. Or pet. Until next week, be well.


Linda Reeder said...

The thing I worry most about from aging is losing my mobility. Like you, I need to be outdoors and active. My mother was the same way, and her loss of movement was hard for her to bear.
I stopped wearing makeup when I retired ten years ago. Actually it was before that, when I got pink eye, couldn't wear mascara, and then realized what a bother all of that was. I just use a sun screen moisturizer year round.
Today will be a slow day for us. We'll finally get around to doing some house work, take a walk, read the paper, and watch the Seahawks on Sunday Night football. I'll do that with my laptop on my lap, making sure I keep up with blog friends.
This will be a busy week for us, with work to do and places to go and people to meet up with. Most of it should be fun.
Oh, and yes, I have already hugged my cat.

Far Side of Fifty said...

You might have to wear your brace when you know the hikes have many ups and downs that are steep. You may not need a total knee replacement, lately around here many have been walking better after an arthroscopic surgery. Don't worry about the cataract surgery it is a piece of cake and the rewards so worth it!
Have a blast on the Island! :)

Kailani said...

What a wonderful post. :)

I found when I gave up wheat and most sugar, and lost all my excess weight, the knee pain I had left. I've put some pounds back on, but still stay away from most grains, and still no knee pain. You don't look overweight, so I'm sure that's not the issue for you, but I thought I'd bring it up.

I freak about about eye surgery too, but I know it's fast and painless. I will need cataract surgery, but so far, no symptoms to me, just to the doctors when they can see it.

Anonymous said...

I don't know why you need a self-imposed direction for your blogs. It's not like writing a book, is it? Just go with the flow and write what is on your mind at the time of writing.

As for make-up, I gave it up in 2004 when I contracted Bell's Palsy (facial paralysis) and found that cosmetics exacerbated my bad looks. I don't miss it at all.

Rian said...

DJan, I've never spent much time thinking about the direction of my writing... just kind of go with the flow... used to call it my "monkey mind" that jumped all over the place. Always felt that one of the reasons I write is to get all these thoughts out of my head (and I'm not much of a talker).
And I too have been told that I need cataract surgery... but can wait a year or two... which I will. The thought of surgery on my eyes (although I KNOW it's simple and done every day)is a bit daunting. As for make-up, I gave up mascara, eye-liner, and lipstick a long time ago, but still use a little light foundation and blush when going out. Not sure it does much, but after all these years, seems to be part of getting dressed.

DDD said...

I am very happy with my right eye cataract surgery. September 15, 2015.
I adjusted my iPad the brightness down The day after my surgery. (90 to 45 %)
It supposes to keep on improving for a month.
My son encouraged me, or I may wait another ten years.
My plan is mini monoVision for my left eye.
I enjoy reading your blogs very much. You are writing for me it seems.

Linda Myers said...

I love your reflective Sunday posts. I think of them as "DJan's reflective posts" and look forward to them every week.

I had cataract surgery on my right eye three years ago. The left eye is this Thursday. My vision is decent here at home but I'm bothered by the glare in Arizona during the winter, and the surgery will help that.

KHenrie said...

"Hugs", love your vulnerability.

Elephant's Child said...

I do love the invitation into your head, your heart and your world that we get from your blogs.
Thank you.
And I hope your bloggers retreat is wonderful. Pleasurable and productive.

Jackie said...

Enjoy teaching and learning on your writers' retreat. I know that you all will gain an amazing amount of knowledge and will enjoy sharing your time together.
Love these words from your blog: " I have lived long enough to realize that any situation I find myself in will not be permanent; it might get better or worse, but it's not going to stay static and unchanging." (You are a wise lady....)
Thank you for sharing your blog with us....

Red said...

I like what yo say that we have to write for an audience. It's not just about us. I enjoy the comments that indicate a response to my writing. I think we all have down times when it comes to writing. I find that I have to go back from time to time and look at what I've written and carry on from there.Have a great fall .

Rita said...

Lovely post. I always look forward to your Sunday contemplations. :)
Enjoy your time with the ladies!! Can hardly wait to see pictures and hear all about it.

Pam said...

Your post reminds me that just as summer is turning to fall, life, too is changing. When I read, "this life is not made to last," I gulped. Even though we all know that our days are fleeting, it still gave me pause. How right you are! Sometimes I get so caught up in the little stuff, that I forget to be grateful for the gift of life. Thanks for the reminder. Enjoy your time away.

Pam said...

I apologize, I misquoted you! You said our bodies are not made to last, and no one could ever debate that!! Life, on the other hand, can go on and on in the spiritual realm, but that's another post. Sorry for my mistake.

Arkansas Patti said...

I always look forward to your Sunday's stream of consciousness. You write with such ease and clarity--I am a bit envious. You have a great take and understanding of life. Yes our bodies do wear out and while my friends often complain about always having to be patched up,I am just grateful that today, there are so many patches available.
Have a wonderful 5 days with your blog buddies.

Gigi said...

I, for one, always look forward to your reflective Sunday posts and must admit, I was troubled when it didn't pop up in my reader yesterday - I suppose my reader was being slow because here you are today. That being said, I think the writer's retreat is a wonderful idea. It never hurts to stretch our boundaries and learn something that might be of benefit. I know I could use some stretching right about now!

I, too, am fearful of eye surgery. I briefly considered Lasik but the fear has kept me in contacts.

Have a great week my friend.

Mel said...

Lovely photo, lovely post. I love reading your Sunday reflections, and appreciate having your perspective on life and getting older and everything in between. There is so much wisdom and great advice in your words.

I agree with you on so much here, not the least of which is Lily vs. Jane. Isn't Lily's hair glorious, so thick and curly? I love her honesty, but I also admire Jane as well.

I'm with you on the makeup, it just doesn't hide anything I want hidden. Mascara is my last hold out, because my lashes are so thin and tiny, but I'm tired of poking myself in the eye and raccoon eyes too :)

And it's funny, the surgery aversion. I just told my doctor I'm not sure what, if anything I'd agree to surgically for the joint pain, or the cataract or any malady for that matter. I can't explain it, but I just don't want another procedure for anything again in my life, necessary or otherwise. I may change that tune if my joints get bad enough. It is scary, though when the knees threaten to quit working. So far, mine do what I ask if I rest them a bit, but I've only done small hikes so far, nothing like your adventures. I hope to work up to your level of adventure as far as the hiking goes, but not the sky-diving. That I leave to you!

Have a great week.

Barb said...

I enjoyed reading your reflections on writing and life. I actually read the post yesterday morning but had to leave for a hike with friends, so I came back to reread today and comment. Sometimes, when I take a blog break, I really enjoy not feeling that I have to come up with another post. However, I begin to miss the writing and the connections after a few weeks, and for 7 years now, I always start up again. I've always written since I was a child both to journal my everyday experiences and to somehow find a direction for my life through the words. About a year ago, I destroyed all my journals; I decided I didn't ant my grandchildren reading them when I'm gone. However, I keep the blogs (though I've made one private and only accessible to family). I'm a bit more circumspect about what I reveal in the blog posts as opposed to what I revealed in my journals! Concerning aging - yikes! I feel well most of the time, but on the few occasions I've gotten seriously ill in the last few years, I'm shocked at how quickly wellbeing can go downhill! So far so good with my knees and hips, but I still do dangerous sports like biking and skiing, so who knows how long they'll last. One bad fall, and it's all over! I still wear lipstick, but mostly (I tell myself) to keep my lips moisturized. If I apply any other makeup, I look like a drag queen. Have fun with your friends on the retreat. I'm going on a Girlfriends' vacation soon and am looking forward to it.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, This post is a perfect example of why I enjoy Eye on the Edge so much. Your ability to step back and reflect on things is, to me at least, refreshing and unusual. Just to be a little more specific, let me touch on three things you said. 1. “Time is linear, but life is not. My days flow in erratic patterns.” Had you been here when I read that you would have heard me say Amen. It is so true for me as well, but I had never thought of it in such a precise, condensed way. Life is definitely going to flow and the sooner we recognize it isn’t always going to be peachy-keen, the easier it is to deal with the downside. 2. “These bodies were not made to last, and I intend to get as much mileage out of mine as I can, but I'm not so naive to believe it can last forever.” And 3. “I really believe that a mature person should not attempt to stave off the inevitable.” Amen again! In my way of looking at things, when a person lets their vanity start controlling their life they are in for a difficult time. So much effort and so little to be gained. Ageing with grace … now that is a good goal. I’m submitting this comment just in time that you might see it before heading over to Vashon. Hope you have a great time and enjoy seeing all the blogging friends again. I’ll look forward to hearing how it goes and especially about the writing retreat. Take care and be well.

John's Island said...

Excuse my second comment, but I forgot to mention above ... Your photo to start this post is just wonderful!

Rhapsody said...

enjoy your retreat with your blogging friends at the Lavender Hill Farm.
You certainly have lived, something to admire as most just exist and moving is by default through the passage of time.

Keep writing, I'll keep coming.
Stay blessed.