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, January 14, 2018

Alpenglow

Rosy skies and Mt. Baker
Yesterday I happened to peek out the front window just as the sun was setting and saw Mt. Baker lighted up under this beautiful sky. I quickly pulled out my iPhone, which is always with me, so I could capture the scene. In the few seconds that took, the scene had already begun to lose some of its spectacular color. This is what I saw just before it faded to dark.

At this time of year, we only have 8 hours and 42 minutes of daylight at this latitude, but it's better than it was at the winter solstice. We've already gained almost a half hour, from a low of 8 hours 15 minutes of daylight last month. The return of the light is always a cause for rejoicing. And to have such a sunset to admire from my front porch, well, I'm pleased.

Yesterday was a lovely day from start to finish, even though we didn't see the sun. Why? Because it didn't rain! After several inches fell on the previous two days, everything is soaking wet with puddles of water everywhere, unable to sink into the saturated ground. At least it's mild, with temperatures rising into the high 40s (9°C). I wish I were able to convert Fahrenheit to Celsius without looking at an app, but I cannot. We Americans are one of the few holdouts in the world still using Fahrenheit and not converting to the metric system. Here's an interesting article about why. An excerpt:
This isn't just an aesthetic issue. America's stubborn unwillingness to get rid of Fahrenheit temperatures is part of its generally dumb refusal to change over to the metric system, which has real-world consequences. One conversion error between US and metric measurements sent a $125 million NASA probe to its fiery death in Mars' atmosphere.
It's partly because of old people like me who can't convert the numbers quickly because of a lifetime of habit. When I watch the world news, the worldwide temperatures are given in Celsius and I make a futile attempt to convert those numbers in my head. I do know that 0°C is freezing (32°F) and that makes it a little bit easier to figure. If the news channels just stopped using Fahrenheit, I'm pretty sure it wouldn't be long before I got it straight. But for now, it's like learning a foreign language: I must convert words I know into ones I don't, and that takes time.

For now, I've got a few more pressing issues to deal with than lamenting my creaky old brain's foibles. I've decided to visit my sister in Florida next month and have already begun the packing process. I'm not checking a bag, which means I've got to winnow down my important items to a small carry-on and my little backpack/purse. It's been more than a year since I last visited, and during that time I seem to have forgotten everything I learned. She swims every weekday morning in the outdoor pool at her local Y, and I'll be joining her, although I haven't pulled out my swimsuit since my last trip. Plus I need earplugs and a swim cap so that I don't get water in my ears. That's just one part of my visit that reminds me to pack the right stuff.

And I worry about staying healthy between now and then, since everybody around me is getting sick these days. My friend John just spent four days in the hospital with the flu, although he got a flu shot and is usually healthy as a horse. When I went on the walk with the ladies yesterday, several were either missing because of illness or on the way to recovery, with hoarse voices and low energy. I am washing my hands every chance I get, and trying to remind myself not to bring my hands to my face all the time. Once I read about this tip to keep from getting sick, I was really amazed to notice how often I touch my face.

This week I will have the final checkup for the cataract surgery on my eyes, and I will finally (finally!) finish with the twice-daily drops. Four weeks of drops in each eye, with three times a day for the first week. I've gotten accustomed to the routine, though, and I am needing to put artificial tears in the left eye, which feels dry and scratchy otherwise. I'm guessing that once I finish with the right eye this week, I'll be doing the same with it. At least I will be finished with the prescription drops.

It's wonderful to see so much better these days, and although I still have some residual flashes in my left eye, they seem to be diminishing as the days pass. The problem for me is that I will never have healthy eyes again, with the macular degeneration still there and progressing. The good part is that when I am sitting here with my laptop, I don't need to wear glasses, or when I'm reading. When I drive I need them, or when I go to the movies and want to see everything crystal clear at a distance. Otherwise, I am content to go without glasses and let the world out there be slightly blurry as I gaze into the distance. I can still see better without glasses than I did with them before the surgeries.

I watched the Golden Globes awards show last week (although for the majority of the show I had the TV on and the sound off) and because of the show I started watching This Is Us. It's currently in its second season on NBC, but because I can watch season one on Hulu, I've been watching a couple episodes every time I get a chance. It reminds me of Parenthood, a series I enjoyed a few years ago. It's about a family dynamic that begins with the birth of triplets. Well, sort of. As with all these kinds of dramas, it's complicated. The show goes back and forth in time to three different periods, one of them being the present day. There are things that happened earlier and the show drops a few clues but doesn't reveal critical information all at once. I'm hooked after five episodes.

Well, now you're up to speed in all that's happening in my life. I do hope that wherever you are in the world, that you are healthy and safe. In this turbulent world, it's good to count our blessings and be glad for what we have in our lives that keeps us going forward with appreciation. I found this quote from Denis Waitley, which sums it up pretty well:
Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude. 
Dear readers, I wish you all good things once again this week and until we meet again,  be well and remember to embrace the moment.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Ruminations on a new year

A contemplative place
Yesterday on the walk with the ladies, I wanted to go over the bridge and get a picture of the roaring waterfall, but we were heading elsewhere, so I kept getting behind when I'd stop to take a picture. This is as close as I got to the falls. These ladies walk fast, and I was continually lagging behind. I'd have to run a little to catch up; I didn't want to hold anybody up because I was not concentrating hard enough on keeping up the pace.

One of the reasons I enjoy this walk is the challenge to maintain a pace that is much faster than I would go by myself. When I first began walking with them, seven years ago now, I'd almost always struggle to keep up. There tend to be two groups: one very fast and the other keeping a pace not quite as fast. I try hard to stay at the forefront of the slower group; Cindy (our leader) always stops at junctions and waits until the second group is in sight before heading off again. It's partly because of this walk that I am able to keep up with my sister when I visit her in Florida. She would be at the front of the first group.

Cindy was a competitive race walker for many years before she started leading a group of fun walkers every Saturday morning at 8:00am. It's open to everyone, but many times someone will come once or twice and decide it's too fast a pace (around four miles an hour). I am probably the oldest person who comes on these walks on a regular basis, although there are many retired ladies among us. Men are welcome, but for some reason they don't return after a time or two. It is part of my routine that helps to keep me fit. I'm usually sweating hard no matter the temperature; it's a good workout.

This year marks the tenth anniversary of our move from Boulder, Colorado, to Bellingham, Washington. It was April 2008 when we first pulled up our rented U-Haul to our new apartment. SG had already scouted out possible places to live, and he had found a place that we both agreed would be a good starting point. Although I was still in Boulder, finishing up the last weeks in my job before retiring, he left his car here and flew back to Boulder so that I could drive my car and he could drive the U-Haul.

It was a sunny day and everything was in full bloom when we arrived. The environment here in Bellingham is completely different from Boulder's semi-arid conditions. I remember noticing how lush everything seemed, with plenty of green everywhere. Now it's become the norm: when I went back to visit Boulder, it seemed strange to see the sparse vegetation that once was normal to me. Funny how that happens.

Now it's been ten years and this is my home. We moved once, four years ago, from one apartment in the complex to another, but we are still here appreciating the many joys of the Pacific Northwest in almost the same place we first arrived. Most of the time, I don't even mind the rain, and I've amassed quite a collection of clothing that helps to exercise and play outside in all the conditions we find ourselves exposed to. Bellingham was a brilliant move for us, and the many friendships I've made over the years enrich my days.

Today I'll go to the movies with my friend Judy, now that the holidays are over and her family has returned to their own homes, she's available to me once again. I met her at the Y and we had coffee after class one day, and that was the beginning of a dear friendship of two like-minded women of a certain age. Our partners don't particularly like the same things we do, so we enjoy movies, excursions, and dinners together on a regular basis. Ten years now!

I got a text yesterday from my sister Norma Jean that her son Peter successfully returned from a trip to the East Coast. He drove there, and I was worried about how he would get back, with the awful weather hitting the entire eastern half of the country. He did attempt to leave earlier this week but ended up staying with some friends halfway back to Florida. I just looked at the weather and we are both experiencing temperatures in the mid-forties at the moment. For a time, she had colder weather in Florida than we had here. I read that iguanas were falling out of the trees, frozen and stunned by the extreme cold. (Apparently they weren't dead in most cases and just needed to warm up.) Now that would be a sight!

I watched a few rescues on the news, animals that fell through ice and were pulled out by good samaritans. One poor dog was pulled out just in the nick of time, and I was so relieved to see him wrapped in blankets and recovering afterwards. When I was pondering what to write about this morning, I thought about all those people who are helping others through this terrible cold and snow covering so much of our country and thought it would be a good topic. But once I sat down to write, I just couldn't quite get anything going, much less something that I would need to research. Nope, that was not where I was headed today. Instead, I didn't actually venture very far from the confines of my own little cocoon: tea finished, partner sleeping, and the tapping of the keys on my laptop here in the dim light of this Sunday morning before dawn, our first visit of the new year.

One thing doesn't change from year to year: my sincere desire that we all have a wonderful and fulfilling trip around the sun, once again. I know things change; it's the nature of life, but for you, my dear reader, and for all those I hold dear, I wish us all a year filled with love, light, and wonder. Be well until we meet again next week.