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 11, 2016

Alpenglow

Mt. Baker at sunset last night
My neighbor Carol is a night owl and comes alive once the sun goes down. Last evening I was sitting on the porch chatting with another neighbor, Lynn, when Carol came out of her apartment and exclaimed, "Alpenglow!" She was looking out towards Mt. Baker to the east at this wonderful view of the mountain. It only lasted for a few short moments, but I was able to capture this with my cellphone camera. The three of us shared some wine and finally I left to head into my bed, thinking about the post this morning.

It's September 11th, and we all know what that day means to most of us. I've already read several posts from my blogging friends about where they were that day, the significance of the event fifteen years later. That will probably continue for the rest of the anniversary; on this day we will be reminded once again of those planes of destruction flying through the air toward their targets. I won't be watching any TV today, because they will be showing the Twin Towers falling once again. Instead, I'm going on a journey through time.

Time isn't only linear; it can also be event-based. A few days ago, I was lying on my massage therapist's table getting a wonderful rubdown and realized that my sense of the passage of time had morphed from moment to moment into parts of my body: first the back, then the left leg and then the right, and so on. I could have been getting that massage for days, instead of just an hour. My sense of time was concentrated on the pressure of her hands, the oil. Peace and serenity were the only things going through my mind. I was in an altered state, one which doesn't always occur with a massage, but it often does.

Sarah (the massage therapist) and I didn't say even one word during the massage. She communicated with me through her hands, and I with her through receiving the massage. Afterwards, as we set up a time for the next one, I realized that my entire outlook had changed for the better. I get a massage every third Friday, and it's as important for my mental health as anything else I do for myself.

I've been getting regular massages ever since I began to recover from my skydiving accident in June 2000, more than sixteen years ago. About six months afterwards, I was pretty much over the worst of it and could walk without a limp, but the trauma was still very much in my body. My friend Karen gave me the gift of three massage sessions with her own therapist, and that's what started me seeing Melissa on a regular basis. At first I couldn't even allow her to touch my lower back or the areas where the damage was the worst. But during the coming months and years of regular sessions, I was not only physically healed but emotionally as well. Scars will always remain from our injuries, but that's different than allowing ourselves to become crippled by them.

The definition of alpenglow is the rosy light on the setting or rising sun on high mountains. Alpenglow is also very present in my own life, as I see the setting sun as a metaphor for my golden (or glowing) years. I remember well the peaks and valleys of my youth, when I could be ecstatic over a new relationship or even a new restaurant, and the valley of despondency when it ended or closed. I don't have those much any more. My peaks and valleys have all evened out to become much more neutral. I get excited about things, but not like before, and I have low periods, but they have lost much of their drama. It must be the mellowness of aging, and I have to say I like it.

Thinking of some of the high points of my life gives me great pleasure, and the memories will never leave me (at least I hope they won't). Sitting here in my bed with the laptop on my knees, I can recall any number of outstanding skydives and can almost feel the air at altitude, when the door of the airplane is opened and I jump out into space. There is no feeling like it, and even after thousands of skydives, it never lost its adrenaline rush. Just writing about it, bringing it back into my consciousness, makes my heart start beating faster.

Do I miss it? Sometimes I think about it and wonder if I would still have what it takes to get into an airplane with proper gear and jump out. But then I realize, what would be the point? It's like trying to recapture youth when you're old: it just isn't the same and you're fooling no one but yourself. No, I am a retired skydiver, left with many wonderful memories and friends for life. Because of Facebook, I still see those friends posting pictures of their latest skydives, and I'm glad for them. I was there with them once upon a time, but they are carrying on as I sit on the sidelines and cheer them on.

That's perfectly appropriate. I am sitting here in the alpenglow of my wonderful life, realizing that if it ended today, I have done and accomplished everything I ever wished to. Nothing is left undone, or untasted, that appealed to me. Next month I will be heading off to Vashon Island to have the fifth reunion of my blogging friends and a five-day writing retreat. It will be the impetus to capture these feelings and emotions, writing them down and getting feedback from the others. Of course, I get the same thing through the comments that you, my readers, leave on these posts, but the dialog is truncated because the form doesn't allow us a chance to sit down together over a cup of tea and chat.

Robert Frost once wrote, "The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected." And the evening? Well, that's the time to sit and gaze at the far-away mountains shining with the alpenglow of the setting sun. Beautiful, isn't it?

And with that, I have finished another Sunday morning reverie. I will have a latte and share a bagel with my friend John at the coffee shop before heading to my yoga class with Laifong. I just signed up for a fourth semester at Yoga Northwest and I must say, it gives me pleasure to think of that resource available to me for as long as I want. Whatever this day brings to you, I hope part of it will also be a sense of gratitude for the people and critters around you. I know I am filled with it and it's spilling out of the page towards you, my dear reader. Be well until we meet again next week.

21 comments:

Tabor said...

Now you have made me decide to go do my free weights session...here on the rug at my house.

Kailani said...

You really are a very special person. You know that, right?

Linda Reeder said...

When I see video of the 9/11 attack, I see it as a news story in which I was not involved. I see it as a distant observer. I never saw much of the original report, because I was busy. It was the first day of reading instruction at my elementary school, a place where I was the director of the reading program and had spent weeks getting it up and running. That day I would meet my own reading groups, the twenty lowest first graders up first thing in the morning. I had to put what was going on on the other coast out of my mind because my job was all consuming.
I checked in at recess and learned the second tower had fallen, and later in the day I just kept rolling, until, exhausted, I arrived home to see continuous loops of the tragic events. but by then I was emotionally removed, and because of that, I have been removed ever since.

Now it seems to me that we should try harder as a nation to let it go and move on. We are not the only nation that has suffered attack on our homeland. This is just the first attack that was performed by foreign nationals instead of our own people. The damage was more than in terms of body count and structural damage, it was also the impetus of still growing hatred toward those unlike us, who we now fear. That is not healthy for us as individuals or as a nation.

And I do love your life in alpenglow analogy.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Good Morning, your Alpenglow is beautiful! How wonderful to see that view from your deck! I would be sitting out there every night!
I agree the highs and lows have evened out MOST of the time. I think that happens with age if you are a happy person. Perhaps lack of hormones have a bit to do with that!
I hope you have a wonderful week! :)

Linda Myers said...

Could it rally be lack of hormones?

Maybe we just get very, very wise.

Or someplace in between.

Looking forward to seeing you at Vashon!

Cynthia said...

What a beautiful photo. It looks like a watercolor painting. Thank goodness for sunsets and all the beauty of nature to soothe us and give us perspective and hope on days like this anniversary of 9/11.

Arkansas Patti said...

This is the first I have read of your accident and I am still stunned. I have always admired your passion and athleticism but your courage to put your knees in the breeze after that horrible accident has put you over the top for me. Kailani nailed it.

Marie Smith said...

If this is my last day, I too am happy with my life. I try to live this way, enjoying every minute as if it were the last. I don't want any experiences not to be appreciated. It means pettiness, gossip are left behind, most of the time. Life is good.

gigihawaii said...

My cousin is a massage therapist and is doing well financially. My younger daughter goes there for a massage every time she visits Hawaii, because she has lower back pain.

The Furry Gnome said...

Thinking of you today when we are in Ottawa with all our family for the Fallen Firefighters Memorial, coincidentally held on the 15th anniversary of 9/11. Take care.

Gigi said...

What a beautiful photo and I loved the analogy. I can't believe another year has gone by and that it is time for you to go to Vashon Island - how I wish I lived closer.

I, too, have avoided the news today - it's just too much.

Have a wonderful week, my dear friend.

Elephant's Child said...

Yet another beautiful post.
Raising my glass to you.
Thank you.

Rian said...

Alpenglow! Has a nice ring to it. And I even like the definiton "rosy light on the setting of the sun" - sounds better than "golden years" to me. Think I will consider myself entering Alpenglow from now on.

And please be sure to share your days on Vashon Island! Looking forward to it too!

Red said...

There's one short quote that i like, "It works for me." You've found a number of things that work for you and keep you healthy in mind and body.

Rita said...

Beautiful post!
*smiles and hugs* :)

John's Island said...

Hello DJan, Being in one of those "reflective" moods this morning, I'm trying to put into words why I enjoy your weekly blog so much. It seems to be like a weekly update from an old friend with lots of similar interests. An update that combines a look at the past, the challenges of the current moment, and the possibilities for the future. I especially like the way you look at the past and include both the good and not so good or, in other words, the reality of things. Often including an element of nature's time ... the seasons, sun, moon, changing skies ... puts everything into perspective. Compliments to you on putting Eye together each week. Very nicely done! This week I enjoyed the element of Alpenglow ... I've been experiencing it and enjoying the phenomena but had not put it together with the name. Still learning something new every day and thank you for this one!

C-ingspots said...

Beautifully written. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts with us. What a beautiful picture of that mountain scene you captured - and what a blessing to get to look upon it daily. I would love that. Love the Robert Frost quotation. He does have a way with simple directness, but he says it with eloquence that we can all relate to. Time is such an unusual fellow, and it does seem to involve perception and how we choose to spend it, that dictates how quickly or slowly it passes. I'm trying to learn how to live in the moment, rather than always searching the future for happiness, being content with what is happening, and enjoying the now. For me, it does not come naturally or easily, but something I have to really be conscious of. The past is gone. Tomorrow may never come, so really now all we have is the present. How exciting for you to spend a week with friends in such an atmosphere of learning, growing and sharing! I think you're about my sister's age, and when I listen to how you spend your time - you couldn't be further from how my sis chooses to live hers. She could be spending her time doing so much that would bring her joy, but instead doesn't do much at all. I am sad for her, and joyous for you. You my friend, know how to live!

Barb said...

I can sense the gratitude in your post and in your being, DJan. That's a lovely alpenglow - I see the peak glowing pink which makes me smile. It's lucky for us that we don't know in the morning what the evening will bring. Life is never boring!

troutbirder said...

Ah yes. Now I know what I've been striving for since retirement.... Alpenglow. I like it...:)

Glenda Council Beall said...

I have been remiss in reading my favorite blogs lately. I am wearing too many hats these days but that will soon end.
I love the photo and the Alpenglow analogy. Like you, I have a massage, only I have it twice a month. It helps my with my pain more than anything.
Your post reminded me of a friend's step father who is in his late seventies. He was once a sky diver and now he has dementia. But recently he said he wanted to go out to the airport and sky dive again. At least he has those great memories, still.
Have a great week. I so enjoy your Sunday posts.

Kathleen Valentine said...

What an amazingly beautiful photograph. Your life sounds quite full and satisfying to me.