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 25, 2016

My eventful week

Yesterday's amazing sky
When I went walking with the ladies yesterday morning, we had just finished a couple of days of rain, but the day was forecast for clouds and, later, sun. I happened to look up as we were gathering and saw these interesting clouds. We had a lovely walk, all twenty of us. Last week we walked in torrents of rain, and not many showed up. Today was dry and delightful.

And then yesterday afternoon, I went to a concert that my friend Al, the leader of our Thursday hikes, had mentioned. It was a free concert at a local church, so I didn't know quite what to expect, but I was blown away by the Male Ensemble Northwest, a group of thirteen educators from around the Pacific Northwest, some local and some coming from as far away as Idaho. They get together four or five times a year to practice, and all of them teach, elementary to college level. They are good friends, and next month they will travel to Thailand for their first international concert series. From their website:
While a high level of artistry is always an important goal, the members of MEN value the professional and personal associations they have with each other.  It is important that the personal soul is fed as well as the artistic.  
 It showed in their performance: starting out with regular chorale singing, by the time they were finished they had the entire audience standing and clapping, with one song even miming the playing of instruments. One talented fellow, Justin Raffa, was able to sound like a piccolo! I sure enjoyed this, as you can tell, and if you visit their page you can also find out more about them. If you live in the Pacific Northwest, it's worth going out of your way to hear them.

Last Thursday's hike up to Church Mountain was a memorable one, too. Our first hike of the autumn season was spectacular with fall scenery, and the group size of eight made it easy to visit with everybody. We were without our leader, Al, who was a little under the weather, and I think that might be why I ended up with such sore legs afterwards. Al sets a very nice slow pace, and without him I think we climbed the incredible 4,000 feet of elevation at a faster pace than usual. Or maybe it was the downhill, who knows? All I know is that when I got out of bed on Friday morning, I hurt just about everywhere, but especially my quadricep muscles. Today, Sunday, they are much, much better. The five-mile walk yesterday helped work out the kinks, too.

I am so glad that I can still do such difficult hikes as Church Mountain, and I know there will be a time in the not-too-distant future when I'll be lucky to hike to the meadow rather than making it all the way to the top, but as long as I'm able, I'll keep going. It not only feeds my need for exercise, but my soul as well. Someone told me about the concept of "forest bathing" or the Japanese art of Shinrin-yoku. That link will take you to a Washington Post article about the practice. From the article by Meeri Kim:
A number of scientific studies emphasize that reveling in the great outdoors promotes human health. Spending time in natural environments has been linked to lower stress levels, improved working memory and feeling more alive, among other positive attributes.
I can certainly attest to feeling more alive after a time in the wilderness. In fact, my Thursday hikes are sacrosanct: it takes a lot for me to miss one, even in the rain and wind. We only have another month, at best, to play in the High Country, and then for late fall and winter, we'll move to the lowlands. But we will still go out on Thursdays to play in the beautiful outdoors. I do think it keeps me healthy.

One hike I'll miss will be in early October, because I'll be heading off to Vashon Island with my blogging buddies for our fifth adventure together. It's hard to believe that it's been five years already since I met my fellow bloggers for a three-day retreat to the island. We have since expanded our time together to five full days, and I look forward to it with anticipation. We will miss having one person with us (we started out as six), but she lives in Colorado and the rest of us are more locally situated. Plus the six-bedroom farmhouse we rent for the period has one bedroom that is not as comfortable as the others, so we will not have to use it. Everyone has her own room at the Lavender Hill Farm. Being surrounded by lavender fields is also a real bonus.

My dreams during this past week have been vivid, for whatever reason. I met an old friend in one dream, and she's been hanging around with me ever since. Although it's someone I had a difficult time with for years, in my dream we made up and became close again. And probably because of the concert yesterday, I dreamt last night about an old favorite song that has been playing inside my head. When I was young, my parents had a stereo system and a collection of albums (remember those?). One that I particularly liked was The Ink Spots. They were a black vocal group popular in the 1930s and 1940s. They have been a presence in my life ever since. The song that I keep hearing in my head is called "If I Didn't Care," and I found it on YouTube. Here it is, and I apologize for the lead-in commercial, but I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. I've listened to this a couple of times now.

And with that, I've finished another post. As usual, I wish all the best to you, my dear readers, for the week ahead. Now that we in the Northern Hemisphere are in the autumnal season, with leaves falling off the trees and painting our pathways, I hope that path will take you to some walks in the great outdoors. And I always have to remember that some of my readers are beginning their springtime. What a great world we live in!

Sunday, September 18, 2016


Beautiful Mt. Baker 
I saw this picture of Mt. Baker when I happened to turn around at the end of the long day's hike on Thursday, seeing her backlit by the sun, dark hills in front, making for a set of contrasts, which sort of defines the weather I've experienced this week.

This morning (just a few minutes ago), I woke to discover that I had overslept by an hour. Usually I wake naturally around 5:00am, which gives me plenty of time to get my tea, write this post, then get up in a leisurely fashion and do my exercises, dress and get to the coffee shop for a half-hour of visiting before heading to my yoga class at 9:00am. This morning I'm already late. For most people, waking up on a Sunday at 6:00am would NOT be sleeping in. For me, it's sleeping in. That's a contrast: usually I am sitting here contemplating the post, not thinking about what I might slap on the page to allow myself not to be late.

I really dislike being late for anything and am usually the first to arrive at any event or party. I leave the house in the morning to catch the bus so that I can arrive at the stop three minutes before it's scheduled, leaving the house at 7:06am to walk a two-thirds of a mile and arrive at 7:17. I get downtown by 7:30 or so and walk to the coffee shop (five minutes) and hang out with my friends as I drink my latte, leaving for the gym by 8:20. That gives me plenty of time to walk to the gym (seven minutes) and change into my workout clothes and get on the treadmill to warm up before the 9:00am class. That's my usual weekly schedule, except for Thursday when I hike with the Trailblazers. After the workout, I shower and dress back into my street clothes and stop at the grocery store to pick up any items I might need and catch the bus at 11:00am back home.

Am I someone who loves routine? You know I am. I've been keeping this same schedule now for years, and I watch the change of seasons as I head out for the bus in the early morning. In the summer the days are long and the early morning light is beautiful, and the birds welcome me with their song. In the winter, it's very dark out, and I wear a head lamp so I can see where I'm going and be seen by other early morning risers. My clothes also change from light slacks and shirt in the summer to warm long pants and a coat, winter gloves and a warm hat in the winter. And of course, there are those days when it's raining, and I add my rain gear (I've got lots of different coats to choose from) and a rain hat.

My car sits in its spot at the apartment complex while I walk to the bus in all kinds of weather. The worse the weather, the more thankful I am that I have a bus to ride in, rather than driving in it. You also might wonder if it ever gets bad enough that I don't actually get out and go to the gym. The answer to that is no. The only time I stay home is when I am sick. The instructors know me and if I don't come to class, I am always asked about it when I return. I like that.

This week ushers in the first day of fall in the Northern Hemisphere, and the first day of spring Down Under. One of my blogging friends in the Southern Hemisphere has been posting pictures of the burgeoning spring in her area, while the rest of us have been putting lots of pictures of changing weather and turning leaves.

Although we had just about the most perfect day in the High Country last Thursday, when that picture was taken, yesterday was the complete opposite: I woke to rain and a quick look at the radar on my weather channel confirmed that we would be walking in the rain on my Saturday walk with the ladies. When I first starting going on these walks, I would skip the wet ones, but I knew that some people would show up, no matter what the weather. The only time Cindy, our leader, cancels the walk is when it's icy. I know to check my mail on a morning when she might decide it's too risky, but that has only happened twice in five years or so. And now that Saturday walk is part of my routine. I don't miss it willingly.

And yes, we walked in the rain. We changed our destination from the mountain trek that was scheduled (see that walk with the ladies in 2014 here) and instead took a walk in the nearby park. It rained the entire time, but there were moments when it was a deluge. We didn't go very far, less than five miles round trip, but we were all so soaked by the end that we just got in our cars and went home to change, no stop for coffee. If you go to the linked post, you'll see fifteen ladies enjoying the mountain on our first time at that location. Yesterday eight diehard ladies showed up in spite of the rain. It could not have been more different than our Thursday weather. I just looked at the rain gauge and learned that we got three-quarters of an inch of rain yesterday. After I got home and dry, I was glad that I'd braved the rain.

Another contrast that I'll share with you is this post. Last Sunday I thought about the post during the evening before and woke with a clear idea of what I would write about. Yesterday my mind was a blank when I would try to think about it, and I hoped that maybe during the night something would pop into my head, but no, instead I had lots of dreams and then overslept. So today you are getting potpourri, a meditation of contrasting moments during my week.

I'm not sure why my readers keep coming back, but you do, and so I will always try to give you at least something, but it's not an easy task to write extemporaneously and be interesting every time. I write from my heart, sometimes, and there are other days like this when I write out of a sense of duty, wanting it to be good and interesting, but not knowing quite how to make that happen. Some of my followers start their Sunday with this post, and in the same sense that I don't like to be late, I also don't like to disappoint. But how can I do that? There are days when inspired words simply flow out of my fingers and I finish with a sense of accomplishment. Contrast that with today, when I hem and haw, start sentences and erase them, start over, and finally limp my way toward the finish line.

It's a strange relationship we have, me here with the laptop sitting in my bed in the dark tapping away at my keys, and you in your own respective home reading this sometime later, but somehow your presence is with me in this moment, and I look forward to reading your comments, knowing that everyone of us is connected through some unseen tenuous force, living our different lives but gaining knowledge and comfort through the connection. Most of you have blogs that I read regularly, and they are all different from each other but give me a sense of your life. It touches me throughout my day, and perhaps I'll think about a difficult journey some reader is facing and send wishes for a good outcome their way, or a blessed event in another life. Through it all, I feel your presence with me.

And with that said, I also sincerely hope that your week will be a good one until we meet again next Sunday. Who knows what will transpire between now and then? I hope you will remember to be grateful for your loved ones, and that you might include me in that number. Be well, dear readers.

Sunday, September 11, 2016


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.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Labor Day marks summer's end

Heirloom tomatoes at the market
Some people might not think that heirloom tomatoes are as pretty as I think they are. They are all sizes, colors and shapes, but the way they taste is nothing like those uniform ones in the grocery store. That red one would slice up perfectly for a tomato sandwich, and I might just have to do that before the season passes away, along with the incredible harvest of this year.

I've got some pretty golden cherry-sized tomatoes in my garden, and I've been enjoying those, eaten right off the vine or slice in half in a salad. Yes, summer is coming to an end, and tomorrow is Labor Day in the United States. Do you wonder, as I have many times, just what the heck Labor Day is? Well, of course Wikipedia helped me out:
It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the country. It is the Monday of the long weekend known as Labor Day Weekend and it is considered the unofficial end of summer.
I also learned from that link that Canada also celebrates Labour Day on the first Monday of September, too. We have had a three-day weekend in September for as long as I can remember, along with it also marking the start of the school year and the beginning of football season. Yes, summer is now over, and I can start to enjoy those crisp fall days when the leaves turn magnificent colors and gently descend to the ground. The autumnal equinox this year will occur on September 22 at 7:21am here on the Pacific coast. That link from one of my favorite websites will tell you what the equinox is and when it will occur in your part of the world. It's the vernal equinox in the Southern Hemisphere, when spring begins there. Basically, though, it's one of the two days in the year when the days and nights are of equal length. The big difference for us here in the Northern Hemisphere is that then the days get shorter and the nights longer.

This morning, once I finish this post and get up to start my day, will take me in just a few hours to my yoga class, with Laifong finally back from her vacation. The substitute teacher, Lourdis, was much harder on me than Laifong, but frankly, I enjoyed being pushed a little. I've also signed up for my fourth semester with Yoga Northwest, thinking that I've found my niche for the next few semesters, with one Gentle II class on Wednesday and a Level I class on Sunday mornings. You can check out what those classes are on that link, if you're interested.

I spoke with Lourdis for a few minutes after our last Sunday class, so I could thank her for her instruction. Many of the others were quite comfortable with some of the poses that stymied me, and she had to spend more time correcting me. She also told me that I did quite well and that this level is an appropriate one for the present time, and that I would be able to benefit from continuing to expand my yoga horizons. I was encouraged and will miss her, even though I'm looking forward to seeing Laifong again.

What I notice in my everyday life is that I can move more freely and feel more balanced and upright than I did before I began this yoga journey. I'm also not sure if it's the yoga or not, but my knees both feel much stronger and gave me no trouble on our last Thursday's hike, with a thousand meters (3,280 feet) of elevation gain and loss. That's not to say that my thighs were not sore for the next couple of days, because they certainly were. But today I feel strong and ready for whatever comes next.

You might be noticing that I'm casting about here for something to compose for you, my readers, and you would be right. Sometimes I will think of the regular commenters and try to picture what should be just the right post to write for all of you, but today you must be quite an eclectic group, because nothing is coming to me. Instead, I'm sitting here thinking that maybe it's time to just end it and allow myself to get up and get started with what looks to be a wonderful day ahead.

My sister Norma Jean will probably look askance at it once she's read this post and wonder why I'm so lame this morning. But she'll just have to deal with it. We are getting close to the time of year when spooks and goblins begin to emerge, from the summer doldrums to autumn's darkening days, and (horrors!) the US Presidential Election will be everywhere to scare us even more.

With that, I'll leave you with my usual wishes for you to have a wonderful week ahead, filled with everything that makes you happy. And I have a fun short little video that I hope will make you laugh as it did me. It's only one minute long but it sure is funny. Wish I knew exactly what that kitty is seeing.