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, April 15, 2018

Reminiscences

SG, Gene, me (and the now deceased parrot)
This picture was taken a year after we moved to Bellingham from Boulder. It was Opening Day of the Farmers' Market in April 2009. The market just had its 2018 opening a week ago, and I was reminded once again how much I enjoy this wonderful town. I've been in a mood for reminiscing lately, reading other people's memoirs and even going back into my old journals and reminiscing about my own past.

I kept handwritten journals during the 1980s, which started with my desire to get my problems with weight under control, and it had been suggested to me that I keep a diary of everything I eat during the day, so I could begin to examine how I might change my eating habits. It quickly turned into a much more comprehensive journal, covering whatever I felt like writing about. The first journal is dated February 1982 and makes for some very interesting reading.

Yesterday I opened one at random and read about what I was doing in March 1984. It was the time in my life when I had decided to volunteer for Hospice. I went through the two-day training and then was assigned my first patient, Carl, who was dying of a brain tumor. I would stay with him for several hours once a week so his wife could have time to herself. Over the next three months, I became quite fond of him and would read to him, as well as help him out of bed so he could sit in the living room or kitchen for short periods. He must have been very much a storyteller in his younger days, because he told me some jokes and stories that gave me some idea of his personality; even as sick as he was, it still came through.

It was hard to watch him deteriorate, but that was to be expected. At the end, I remember once walking into his bedroom (which had a hospital bed installed) and realized he had changed a great deal in just one week. He was propped up in bed and was almost blind by then, but he recognized me. I asked him how he was feeling, and he said, "with my hands!" Then he smiled and his wife left for her errands, and we were alone together. It was one of the last times I saw him.

I had forgotten how incredibly busy I was during those days. I worked a full-time job, volunteered, ran several times a week to keep myself fit, and attended evening classes. I didn't realize how much I managed to cram into one day until it was all there in the journal. I recognized the person who wrote those words, but in the thirty-four years that have passed since then, I retired from working and find that just reading about that much activity is exhausting.

These days, I have a routine that fills my days with all I need. Sunday mornings I begin with this post, a way for me to keep myself mentally fit, and I walk and hike and work out at the gym to keep myself physically fit. I cannot run any more, but I'm happy that my knees and other joints still manage to work well enough that I can enjoy the outdoors. One of these days I'll get into my garden and the muscles I use will be sore for awhile, a good kind of sore. But for now, it's still raining and I have to wait until the saturated ground dries out a little.

The arc of a life, or a story, can usually only be viewed after you've finished all the chapters. One thing that keeps coming up to me is that the chapters of my own life are mostly written and behind me. But they are still present in my memories and the decade of the 1980s is still there in my journals. I love to read, and being able to lose myself in the chapters of another life is simply wonderful for me. I look forward to the days ahead, whatever they bring.

I have been privileged to be present when several loved ones and people I've known have passed over to the other side. I remember how peaceful my mother looked once she breathed her last. She was only sixty-nine, and I've already lived five years longer than she did, and I wonder what lies ahead for me. If I could make a wish for my own passing, it would be that I am mentally present for the event. I know many people hope that they pass away in their sleep, but to me, I'd feel like I missed the final act of a magnificent play. Mama knew what was coming, and she faced it armed with her faith that all her loved ones were waiting for her to join them. We will never know until we get there ourselves if that's true or not, but it certainly gives me a great deal of pleasure to imagine it to be so.

And who knows what the future will bring? I'm hoping it will be a good one, and that even with all the turmoil in the world right now, I might live to see peace on earth. It's a long shot, but it could happen. In any event, I can help to bring it into being in my own little corner of the world, with love and joy in my heart.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Remember that is all we have power over: to decide what to do with the time that is given us. I hope that you will make an attempt to bring some love and joy into your world, because that is where peace on earth starts. With each one of us. Be well until we meet again next week, dear readers.

16 comments:

Linda Reeder said...

I'm up earlier than I prefer to be on this drippy Sunday morning, but it does mean I have plenty of time to read your Sunday morning meditation before I get going on a busy day. I will take your words to heart, to create love and happiness and JOY! around me.

Today we host a celebration of birthdays, 13th for Irene and 43rd for Jake. Jill and the kids are just arriving at the airport after a wonderful week in Hawaii. They'll have photos and fun stories to share. Before then Tom and I will make some more dinner preparations and then sit down for a 1:00 Sounders match on TV. Then we'll cook for our kids.

I see a ray of sun perking through the clouds and lighting up the just whitening dogwood blossoms right outside our office window. Maybe there is a break in the rain today! Sure hope so!

We're off to Whidbey Island tomorrow, and one day will be devoted to going to see the tulips in the Skagit Valley. I am so ready for a change of venue and some sunshine on my shoulders while surrounded by fields of rainbows.

And now I will smile thinking about that, and move on into my day, creating happiness for those around me.

Be well and happy.

KH said...

Thank you for the words at the end of this post ❤️

Marie Smith said...

Make peace where you are is a great place to start. It is the solution for the world really. Have a great week, Jan. I hope it dries out a little so you can get into the garden!

Rian said...

I like that picture! And I like reminiscing... must be age getting to us. But that's one of the things about journaling, blogging, etc. You can read what you were thinking or doing years ago. It's interesting because sometimes you are still doing the same thing... and sometimes, you wonder where your head was. My grandson is staying with us now and I've let him read some of my thoughts from times past. Told him it might give him a better insight into his Memaw. He's a great kid. Love getting to know him. Wish I could have known my grandparents. As for being there... I was there for my dad and my sister's passing, but not for my mom (who did die in her sleep) nor my brother (which I'll always regret). And I agree that we cannot know what lies beyond, but it pleases me to believe that we will all be together again one day - for the next step in our journey.
But while we're here, I wish you (and everyone within my reach (physically and virtually) Joy!

Elephant's Child said...

The arc of your life shines brightly. On you, and all those you touch (literally and metaphorically).
I am not a believer in an after life (while knowing that I could well be wrong) which fuels me to think that living well (and kindly) in the here and now is an obligation. One I do my best to meet.
Thank you for yet another thought provoking post.

Gigi said...

"I hope that you will make an attempt to bring some love and joy into your world, because that is where peace on earth starts." Truer words have never been spoken. Now if only everyone in the world could hear them and them to heart and act on them - the world would truly be a better place.

I spent a short amount of time in one of my flower beds this morning trying to beat the rain that's coming this evening. I'm ready to play in the dirt a little.

Linda Myers said...

I always love reading your Sunday reflections. Thinking of my own journals now, and wondering whether I might read them all again, just to remember how it used to be when life was so much more complicated.

Red said...

Your comment about how busy we were long ago is interesting. I also wrote a journal for a few years. I am always surprise at how much I did. I have rally slowed down. However, I still enjoy life and take each day as it comes.

Far Side of Fifty said...

You were really busy back then but younger and you had a great amount of energy!( I think you still do have some of that energy) We can only do what we can do...and make the best of it all! I hope you have a wonderful week:)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, those journals you kept are valuable for many reasons, one of which is that you can look back over a life well-lived and rejoice in who you were during the 1980s and '90s and right up to now.

When I wrote the convent memoir and all those memories came back to me, I came to a new appreciation of Dee Ready who entered at 22 and left when she was almost 31. I came to admire her; I came to an understanding of her that I'd never had before.

Another thing about journals is that they so clearly show us all for which we can be grateful. I've kept a gratitude journal since about 1994. Every night I write 5 things (people, events, thoughts, etc) for which I've been grateful that day.

During the times when I've been really ill, I've taken those journals from the bookshelf and read what I was doing on that day 20 years ago, 10 years ago, etc. And I always find myself filled with a deep gratitude and appreciation for the wonder of my life and for the many people who have cherished me. Peace.

Arkansas Patti said...

If reading about 1984 made you wonder how you did it all, when I read about your 2018 schedule, I wonder how you do it all. You set the bar high for us but that is a good thing. It makes us realize that moving, mentally and physically is necessary.
Journals or blogs let us clearly revisit a time that otherwise might be dim or worse, gone from our memories. They are a blessing.

Rita said...

Ahh! Another wonderful Sunday post. Yes, we can only do what we can with the life we are given and the small space we hold on this earth. Have a lovely week. :)

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Every week I look forward to reading your new edition of Eye. Today I stopped at this spot, “And who knows what the future will bring? I'm hoping it will be a good one, and that even with all the turmoil in the world right now, I might live to see peace on earth.” I’ve just been sitting here for a while thinking that is a great way of looking at things. For the past few months I have really been feeling a bit of anxiety about the state of our country. It seems like so many things are going in the wrong direction. But now that you’ve given me this new perspective I do feel better. I mean, by golly, we might both live to see peace on earth. And, the best way for us to approach this is by sharing love and joy. Thank you, as always, for sharing your thoughts and for your kind comments on my blog. John

Sally said...

As usual, you left us thinking after reading your Sunday post. I’ve never seen a photo of SG before. I don’t think you have ever posted one. He is a handsome man. I remember how fondly the friend we have in common, Scott from skydiving days, my daughter Julie’s boyfriend from high school, spoke of SG and how much he learned from him when he was learning to skydive in Colorado.

I am struck by how small the world is. You once lived near me and even knew a person that is very close to me. You even met my daughter, but you don’t recall it most likely because it was a brief introduction by Scott. Now she is gone, and I got to know you through blogging and you helped learn to live life after much grief. You are my fellow Vashionista. We have made some pretty cool memories together.

But today, I am struck by just how much you have done in life. You have lived it well, DJan. You have connected to so many people. You have helped so many people. And, you have left a record of you life with your wonderful blogs. I think when the end comes for you, you will face it just as you have lived life with much anticipation, acceptance, and with peace because you will know that you have lived well, so very well. Hugs.

Galen Pearl said...

What a beautiful reflection, and I love the quote from Lord of the Rings. We can't escape getting older and dying, but we can choose how we live. My mother used to say "Aging is a bitch." And now my sister quotes Mom in agreement. I find that so sad. I am happier than I have ever been in my life, and more content. That might change, I don't know. But I feel so blessed and so grateful for my life. I hope I sustain this attitude through till the end of my days on this earth and that I die with peace in my heart and eagerness to see what's next.

Mage said...

Wonderful. Thank you.