|Sunshine on my shoulder|
I moved here in April 2008, and the first thing I did was join the YMCA and the Senior Center. I started taking classes every day, and I bought myself a bus pass and would sometimes just ride the bus for fun, to see where the different routes would take me. I found that if I didn't have a car, I could get just about every place in town I needed to go. At that time, though, I was still skydiving, so I needed to drive more than an hour south to Snohomish for that activity. Now, however, I rarely venture out of town myself, as we carpool on our various Thursday hikes. I will drive my fifteen-year-old car now and then, but mostly I pay my share for gas and let somebody else drive.
In late summer 2008, my sister Markee in Canada decided that she would like her family to join her in a half-marathon in Texas, and she invited all of us and of course I accepted the challenge. I had been going to the Y faithfully, but since this was a distance event, I needed to find some way to get longer hikes into my repertoire. The Senior Center offers several different hikes, so I decided to join one. In September 2008, I made my first hike with the Senior Trailblazers.
I was not a neophyte when it came to hiking, so I had a backpack with extra clothing, rain gear, a lunch, snacks, and water. I had learned long ago that when it comes to hiking where you'll be sweating a lot, you need to avoid wearing cotton, and I didn't want any of these veterans to think I was not aware of that. The synthetics I wore served me well. We drove for more than an hour to the High Country and once we got to the parking lot, a park ranger approached us to let us know that a storm was coming our way, and we needed to be prepared for wind and rain.
Once we started the hike, the weather was overcast but dry and rather pleasant. There were a dozen of us, and I chatted with those hiking nearby, learning names and finding out how long some people had been with the group. Before long, however, it began to rain lightly, and the fog moved in. We kept going, and every once in awhile someone would inform me that right here there would have been a wonderful view if we could only have seen it. The one thing I didn't have that everyone else did was trekking poles. I had never used them before but I quickly saw their usefulness on steep, uneven terrain.
Well, by the time we headed back to Bellingham, I was hooked, and from that day forward I have been a regular with the hiking group. The following week I borrowed Al's second pair of poles, and the next week I had purchased my first set of trekking poles. They make a huge difference for me in hiking downhill, since I can lean on them and save my knees. That was nine years ago, and I'm still going every week unless I'm sick or injured. Needless to say, I've made some fast friends from spending so many hours with these fine people every week.
I haven't made as many friends during my classes at the Y, but instead have many acquaintances who greet each other as we make our way to the classroom. Everybody has a "spot" that they prefer, and I've gotten to know several people around me quite well. One fellow, Joseph, who stands next to me is a retired professor from the local college and is exactly ten years older than me. Although I never see him outside of class, I miss him when he's gone and usually find out when he returns that he'd been traveling. The instructor of this class, Joanne, has been teaching it for well over twenty years and has quite a following.
Another class, Strength and Tone, taught every Tuesday and Thursday rounds out my exercise routine at the Y. Usually I don't make it to the Thursday class because I'm out with the Senior Trailblazers, but this class is where I met my friend Judy. She and I began having coffee together after class, and before long we would take trips together. In 2009 we traveled to the Tulip Festival in Skagit County, and we've taken day-long trips to various parts of the state. Now we see movies together and go out to dinner afterwards. She's become a very good friend.
And then there's the walk on Saturdays with the ladies. It was Peggy and Linda from the Senior Trailblazers who tried to get me to join them on this walk, and finally I did. At first I wouldn't go when it was rainy, but after awhile I got so I really missed the walk when I didn't go. This is the only exercise every week that still hurts my ailing hip: we walk really fast and I find that my hip will hurt me as I push hard to keep up. Yesterday was the first time since I hurt it that I was able to complete the entire five-mile walk. But I see the same women every week, and now it's been so many years that we ask where someone has been who misses several weeks in a row.
So this is the core of where I've made friends in Bellingham since moving here nine years ago. Of course, since these groups are filled with like-minded people who are around my age, the makeup of the group changes from time to time. People get injured or move on, and some people stay for the duration. If I am not going to attend, I find it important to let Al (our leader) know so people won't wonder if I'm all right. And I'm constantly making new friends, as people join and become regulars like me. You just cannot spend that much time with people without getting close to some of them. At least I can't.
The coffee shop I visit every morning also has its regulars that I have come to love and cherish. It makes me laugh to think that those old fogeys have wormed their way into my heart and that I miss them if I don't see them regularly. Plus it helps that we all have excellent coffee to enjoy. So that's my circle of friends who enrich my life every single day. My life partner also fills in the gaps, as he's my go-to guy when I need to have a good long talk about anything that's on my mind.
This morning I didn't have any idea what I would write about, and it's just become a soliloquy about my circle of friends, those who enrich my life in so many different ways. And I've somehow written to my other circle of friends, my virtual friends, who I visit every day on the web, and who also visit me. They say that keeping yourself surrounded by friends and family will help you to live a richer and longer life. And I can attest to the power of friendship to keep me looking forward with excitement and delight to each day as it comes.
I hope that you will take the time to think of those around you who enrich your own life, and if they are present, let them know. And if they are not, talk to them anyway. If they have passed beyond, I believe they will still hear you. But that's just me. Until we meet again, dear friends, be well.