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 19, 2021

Last post of summer

Bellingham Bay yesterday

Our rain started later in the day on Friday, and it continued all night long. Bellingham had a record amount of rainfall on Saturday, after a summer of below normal precipitation: 1.82 inches fell before I got out of bed yesterday. But then the skies cleared and it was a glorious day. Melanie and I walked a little more than six miles along the South Bay trail beside Bellingham Bay, into Fairhaven and down to the ferry terminal and back. The rain returned sometime last night, and it should be damp today. I don't mind, really, since I consider Sunday my day off and I don't even try to close the exercise rings on my Apple Watch.

Usually I try to get some exercise in every day and manage the three rings on my Watch fairly easily. By walking to the bus first thing, I get around a third of a mile in, and then when my friend John drops me off at a trailhead, after coffee, I get about three miles total before I come home before 10:00am in the morning. I also have a daily routine of my Five Tibetan Rites (which only takes about ten minutes to accomplish), and I am trying to get in at least three days a week of yoga, and a long-ish hike on Thursdays. It's not a huge exercise regimen, but it's enough for me to feel pretty good most days.

I happened across an article about exercise the other day, with the intriguing title, The Exercise Routine That Can Make Your Body 30 Years Younger. It sounds great, right? It's a hook that made me have to read it, and of course I found out that you also must have begun that routine thirty years ago! The study found that older adults who began getting fit during the exercise boom of the 1970s, and continued into their seventies and beyond, were far fitter than "normal" septuagenarians. They studied three groups, people in their twenties and older folks who exercised and those who didn't.
The muscles, capillaries and enzymes of the exercising older adults were similar to those of the younger cohort. However, while their aerobic capacities were lower than the younger folks, they were 40% greater than the group of older adults who did not exercise regularly. When compared to the national averages, they had the cardiovascular health of someone 30 years younger.
I was one of those people who got hooked on exercise in the 1970s. I well remember standing in the doorway of my apartment, looking down at my brand-new running shoes, before heading out for my very first run. Back then, I didn't really care that much about aerobic fitness, but I wanted to lose about ten pounds and thought this was the ticket. Well, within three days I was almost unable to walk, with shin splints that were agonizingly painful. 

I went to a sports doctor to find out what I was doing wrong, and he analyzed my gait and said I am a pronator (my feet turn slightly inward) and fitted me with orthotics, which I wore inside my running shoes. I kept it up, and before long I had experienced the fabled "runner's high" that came from vigorous exercise. I also realized that I could walk and run and still get the benefits, as long as I dedicated myself to a daily regimen.

Before long, I was strapping on my running shoes and hitting the trails behind my workplace on my lunch hour. I found other people who were just as dedicated as me, and I found others who would join me on what we called "fun runs," just going out and enjoying being outdoors. What I was able to do is not exactly what some would consider actual runs, since my pace was around nine miles an hour. But I got better, and I did lose those pounds. My best race was a 10K (6.2 miles) at an 8.5-mile-an-hour pace.

I also got into bicycling long distances. Living in Boulder, there were so many opportunities to just get onto my bike and go, plenty of places with little traffic. My friend Donna and I decided, one summer long ago, to ride our bikes from Boulder to San Francisco! And we did it, taking six weeks, camping each night in city parks or the equivalent. We crossed the Continental Divide five times, riding through Yellowstone, up and down country roads. I got pretty good at changing a bike tire quickly. The only drawback was that, after being with each other for so long, we were barely speaking to one another at the end. (We did reconcile eventually.)

I fell in with some friends who were attempting to climb all 52 of Colorado's mountains of 14,000 feet or higher. We would head out for a weekend adventure, always with the hope of summiting a peak before returning home. Before that period was over, I had managed to climb 26 of them. Some memories of those days still pop into my head occasionally, usually when we had gotten lost, or looking up at a rocky climb towards the top and wondering if I could make it.

And then, in my fifties, I got hooked on skydiving, and all the rest of my world was completely fixated on jumping out of airplanes. Nothing interested me except getting to be a better and more accomplished skydiver. Since I could still jog and learned that packing my parachute several times a day was plenty of exercise, I still kept fit during those years. I made my first jump in 1990, and my last in 2015. It was where I met my life partner, and we were married in freefall in 1994.

When I look back at the journey I've made into the present moment, I am amazed at how different my life has been because of exercise. As I peer over at my dear partner sleeping next to me right now, I realize that he wouldn't be here if I hadn't become a skydiver, so that is probably the one activity that has changed my life the most. But today, here in Bellingham, I am fortunate to be fit enough to walk up to around eight miles at a time, and knowing that I am doing quite well for a really old lady, thanks to having started this fitness journey so many decades ago.
You’re only one workout away from a good mood. —Unknown

 And here I am, finishing up my Sunday morning meditation, having been brought into the memories of all those years of different types of exercise by that article, and realizing how different my life would have been without it. I am incredibly fortunate to have the life I lead today, and with the ability to make friends around the world through the magic of the Internet, I can also learn about others like me.

I do hope, dear friends, that you will have a wonderful week ahead, and don't forget to mark the new season that begins in three days: autumn. It begins here around noon on Wednesday, September 22. And now, it's time for me to begin the rest of my Sunday. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Fall ruminations

Whatcom Falls

 Yesterday morning the three of us ladies walked in Whatcom Falls park and I took this picture, showing how puny the falls can get. We've been in a drought, with little rain (as usual) this summer, and the falls are almost nonexistent. After weeks of rain, the entire area from left to right will be filled with roaring water, making it almost impossible to hear each other talking while standing here. But not today. This is the lowest level of the falls that I've seen since I moved here in 2008.

The trees are beginning to change color, just at the beginning of the season, and the rain is supposed to return this coming week. The change is pretty normal for mid-September and marks the beginning of my favorite time of the year. Cool weather, clear skies, punctuated by the occasional shower, perfect for a nice walk with just a light jacket. 

Yesterday was also the twentieth anniversary of the terrorist attacks, and it has been impossible to turn on the TV without being reminded again and again of that awful time in our nation's history. It began our longest period of war and it has not ended yet, even if we have left Afghanistan and Iraq. Those countries are in terrible shape, and it does make me wonder what it was all for. So many soldiers and civilians dead. I can barely stand to think of it, so we pretty much kept the TV turned off this past weekend and hope we can move on to more positive memories soon.

Much of my attention these days has been towards taking off a few pounds. I started keeping track of my daily food intake, using an app on my phone, and I see it's now been 30 days since I began. It reminds me of how often I will lose a pound or two at the beginning of a diet and then enter a plateau where the scales stubbornly stay the same for awhile. When the entire amount of weight to lose is a small number, for me under ten pounds, seeing any progress comes and goes, which is normal. I've added more protein into my diet, which helps keep me from being too hungry, and it's been helpful to cut back and make every calorie come from healthy food rather than comfort food.

Even if the scales are not registering the weight loss, I can tell that I'm losing weight by the way my clothes fit. I have a pair of favorite pants that have needed a belt to stay up, and for months I managed to wear them without that belt. And they no longer are comfortable without it, which makes me happy. My belly has begun to shrink a little, so I will continue until I lose another three pounds over the next month or so. I'm moving in the right direction; nothing is more demoralizing than to be gaining pounds on my small frame. 

As I sit here in bed, in the dim light with the laptop sitting open, I can hear the rain starting, and the sound makes a light drumming on the roof, reminding me that we won't be having clear skies today. It is time to pull out my numerous rain jackets for the coming days ahead. It's a nice change and I really don't mind, and if it's not a downpour, it's nice to walk in it now and then. It doesn't take much for all the brown grass to begin to green up once again. 

I'm not feeling very inspired to write anything with much substance this morning, and I wonder why. It's not like I haven't been reading plenty of books and watching the occasional movie. Several friends asked if I had watched CODA, a new film about a young girl who is the only hearing person in her family. CODA is an acronym for "Child of Deaf Adults," and I found it moving and very uplifting. It apparently won all sorts of awards at the Sundance Film Festival. I enjoyed it very much and recommend it.

My sister recommended a book to me that I suggested last week that you might also enjoy, The Midnight Library. I ordered another book by the same author, Matt Haig, How to Stop Time, which I also enjoyed. It's not as wonderful as his previous book, but I will now make an effort to read everything he's written. One reviewer said this book is "a meditation on the tick and tock of time and mortality." From the above link:

Tom Hazard is a high school history teacher who has just moved back to London. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but due to a rare condition, he has been alive for centuries. Tom was born in 1581 in France and has lived history alongside famous historical characters such as Shakespeare, Captain Cook, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.

 It is interesting to think about what it would be like to live forever, or at least for longer than our short lifespan. I remember long ago thinking about that, and realizing with a shock that all the people I love would be left behind in such a situation. And now here I am, old enough to have lost many dear friends and family already, and I wouldn't like it at all. Better to be a "mayfly" in the world (one who lives only for a day) than an "albatross" (long lived birds). In any event, the premise of the book was a good one and a good speculation about what it would be like to live for centuries.

Since our society equates happiness with youth, we often assume that sorrow, quiet desperation, and hopelessness go hand in hand with getting older. They don't. Emotional pain or numbness are symptoms of living the wrong life, not a long life. —Martha Beck

I can attest to the fact that getting older has its benefits. I am fortunate to live in a situation where I have access to healthy food (sometimes a bit too much of it), lots of green trails to explore, a comfortable place to live, and a dear sweet partner who helps me navigate the shoals of growing older. I look at him and see how hard he works to make our living situation better, and I am grateful. I pretty much have everything I need to continue comfortably in this life for a bit longer. But I do have to remember that it won't always be like this, and to stop and look around to help myself continue to be grateful, even when things change.  

The rain has stopped for the moment, and I feel the need to wrap up this post and begin the rest of my day. I will have 1,200 calories to spend, including a visit to the coffee shop for my oat latte, and time to spend with my friends there. Then I will come home and consider how I might enjoy the rest of my day. One thing I always do these days is stop to consider my dear virtual friends; I will visit your blogs and see how the world looks from your vantage point. I do hope it's a good day for you, too. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, September 5, 2021

Kindness in today's world

Front porch flowers yesterday

Not knowing for sure what I might write about, yesterday I snapped this picture of my front porch flowers to start the process: showing what my petunias and geraniums are doing right now. I look at the flowers in my fellow bloggers' posts and realize my little offering is modest. But just right for me, since I tend to be someone whose garden needs to flourish under my "benign neglect." In other words, I enjoy looking at them and making sure they are watered, but otherwise they must get by without much else.
I've been searching for ways to heal myself, and I've found that kindness is the best way. —Lady Gaga

Kindness. What an interesting concept. I've written before about how much better it feels to treat others with kindness rather than hatred, to see them as we would like to be seen, and having a sense of forgiveness for slights, great or small,  to allow ourselves to grow in kindness.

It's amazing how much that can change my mood and the trajectory of my entire day. Finding ways to choose the softer, more inclusive path makes my life feel so much better. In other posts I've given ideas of how we might find more kindness in our lives, with the incredibly distressing news cycle trying hard to make us suspicious of everything and everybody. But it doesn't have to be like that. 

Instead, we can start each day with the idea that we will be agents of good today, that we will find ways to make someone else's day better. After all, this day is really all we have: our hopes and dreams can disappear in the blink of an eye. Nobody has a  guarantee that there will be a tomorrow, so let's take the present moment and use it for joy and love. We do get to choose that much.

This past week I joined the Senior Trailblazers for a hike I have enjoyed for more than a decade. The weather was perfect, late summer and clear skies made for a cold start in the High Country, but more than a dozen of us made the trek together. It was really nice to see everyone again, but I was so nervous about whether I could still do it that I hardly slept the night before. I worried that I would have ankle problems, or overheat as I have often lately, and I built the entire excursion into a problem. 

It occurs to me that I am no longer the risk taker I was in my earlier years. No, these days I am happy to keep going in a much safer, more sedate way. This is someone who enjoyed hurling herself out of an airplane several times in one day. But that was then. Now, I am so very happy to walk or hike, using my trekking poles for balance, with good friends in the wilderness and forests of my world. And remembering always to give thanks for the ability to continue well into my late seventies. 

I read a really good story this past week, The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. It's a book that will make you think about what your life might have been like, if only you had made a different decision in some past situation. From that link:

As a place, the Midnight Library isn't really a library (of course), but is instead a 101-level lecture in parallel universe theory, philosophy and quantum indeterminacy. Really, it's a therapist simulator, minus the couch. A place of regret and possibility. Because who, in their darkest moments — or maybe just on a Tuesday — hasn't wondered what life would be like if only...

 I really enjoyed the book and thinking about how different my own life would have been if I had taken off in a different direction at various junctures in my life. If I had not made that first tandem jump back in 1990 and not having fallen in love with freefall, I would never had met my life partner, for one thing. As he sleeps next to me, I try but fail to imagine my life without him. Although we don't jump out of airplanes together any more, skydiving shaped my life and changed its trajectory forever. We have been together now for three decades and watched each other grow old. We met just before our fiftieth birthdays and, doing the math, you know we are well into our final years. Happy together in ways I could never have imagined.

When I retired from my job in 2007, we made the decision to move somewhere other than Colorado. What if we had chosen to stay, or to move some place like, for instance, Louisiana? Or New Jersey? Those places are in the news today because of Hurricane Ida, which caused enormous destruction as it tore apart entire cities this past week.

I am being careful here, because I could easily go down the path in my writing to consider today's news cycle. But I won't, since I believe most of us are looking for something else to fill our minds with. Like love and joy and hope and happiness. These aspects of life are always available to us by changing the direction of our thoughts, by looking past the present difficulties and being grateful for that which is always present in our lives: peace and hope for a better future. As I write this, I realize that there are many of us who are suffering, but it is possible to look beyond today's problems to a time when things will get better. And one thing I can promise you: it will change, because nothing in life holds still. It's always changing, and we can imagine a happy future just as well as any other.

Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. —Albert Einstein

I am incredibly blessed in my own present world, but I also know it will not stay this way forever. Life isn't like that, but it doesn't mean I need to cower in a corner and be afraid of what is coming. It does mean that I must continue to take care of myself and my surroundings as best I can, and look ahead to more joy and love in my life, no matter what else comes along. We can all do that, if we just put our minds to it. 

Oh, yes. A good friend of mine has always said "yes" to the world and what comes to her through it. And why not? It's so much easier to say yes than to try to push the river into our own idea of what our lives should look like. I so enjoy seeing how others are coping during this difficult time in the history of the world. Many of us are continuing to support and love each other, choosing kindness instead of meanness, choosing love instead of hate: we can do that through every breath we take.

And now it's time for me to finish up this post so I can publish it and see what you, my dear virtual friends, have to add to it. I always look forward to each one's "take" on my Sunday morning musings. And I do hope you will find some way today to add a little kindness to the world around you. I'll do the same and we will have made a difference.

My tea is gone, my dear partner sleeps quietly next to me, and the world looks so much brighter right now than it did when I sat down to write. Be well, dear ones, and I look forward to the coming week, with light and love in my heart.

Sunday, August 29, 2021

Contemplating being alive

Squalicum Harbor yesterday

Yesterday, Saturday, my friend Melanie and I walked for around five miles at the marina in Bellingham Bay, under sunny and delightful skies. It wasn't very hot, since the sun at this time of the year is quickly moving towards the fall equinox. It's the very last days of summer, with just a week before the Labor Day weekend, the unofficial end of the summer. The actual equinox will be on September 22, three weeks from this coming Wednesday. Right around the corner.

This is my favorite time of the year, when the days are crystal clear but not hot, and the trees begin to turn colors, while flowers are still abundant everywhere I look. I am so fortunate to still be able to walk that distance, at my age. I know so many other people who cannot because of injuries or other infirmities. But I am still alive and enjoying every single day as much as possible. I know it won't last. Nothing does, really: not youth, not health, or even the season of life.

When I look at how much has changed in the world during my lifetime, which is considerable but not all that long in the grand scheme of things, it's pretty amazing. When I was born in 1942, the entire world population was 2.3 billion, while today we are approaching 8 billion. That statistic alone tells the tale of how much our world has changed. You cannot add that many people into the world without profound deleterious effects. We are changing the climate in terrifying ways, along with many billions of children born into a world that cannot feed them. And I could go on and on with the bleak outlook that comes along with the population explosion, but I won't. That's not what I want to focus on, but instead I want to think about how much the last eight decades of life have given me.

There are many significant people still alive who were also born in that year: President Biden, Michael Bloomberg, Barbra Streisand, Harrison Ford, to name a few. And there are many other famous people who have died: Stephen Hawking, Jimi Hendrix, and Jerry Garcia, among many others. I remember when each one died, and I don't remember thinking that their deaths were premature, other than Jimi Hendrix, who died in 1970 at the age of 27. I wonder what he would say about the world today. He accomplished so much in his short life and is still well known more than a half century after his death.

I learned to read at an early age, and I know that being able to make sense of my world was much increased by having that skill. These days, graduating from high school is no assurance that you will have learned to read. I suppose you could function quite well by just being able to watch TV. I well remember when we got our first one (I was a pre-teen), a black-and-white console that took up lots of space in the living room. It was our connection to the outside world, even though the snowy images of newscasters was very different from the images we see today. Are we better off for having such incredible connectivity? I wonder. Now I immediately am aware of everything of note that is happening throughout the entire world, and it's enough to dismay even the most positive of outlooks. 

Even though there are so many people, we are still making progress on extending the lifespan of those of us who are alive today. Now you can get new knees, hips, and shoulders, even if you don't realize how much will be required to regain your mobility, and it's just not the same. I haven't needed any of that, and I don't think at my age that I would submit to it. After all, now that I have lived a full life, I have to consider the quality of those years I have left. Fortunately I can still get out and walk and enjoy the forests and trails that surround me. If I couldn't get out and about any longer, I think I would find some way to enjoy the outdoors differently. One of my blogging friends was active and spent plenty of time outdoors, and then he had a procedure that ended up paralyzing him and putting him into a wheelchair. He has found a way to continue to enjoy life, and I appreciate reading about his life today and find it inspiring.

 When I was 57, I needed to have my knee repaired after having torn the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL). I remember going to a couple of doctors who suggested that I should just learn to live with it, at my advanced age. It took several visits to surgeons before I found one that would work on me. I was reminded of how difficult the rehab would be and asked if I felt I was up to it. And I got the work done and learned just what they were talking about. It was not easy, but it was worth it. 

Today I have a good friend who is getting his second shoulder rebuilt, an even more difficult procedure, and he is 81! How times have changed. He has already gotten new knees and does pretty well with them, even going dancing now and then, and now his shoulders are being replaced, one at a time. I have considered what I would have done if I were in his shoes, and I'm not sure I would want to endure it. But it's not my choice to make. Everybody needs to do what feels right for them. 

It would be different if I were in constant pain, I suspect. Not that I don't have twinges of pain and discomfort from my joints, but I can still carry on with the help of exercises and, especially, yoga. I do think that practice has helped me stay flexible and able to continue to enjoy the outdoors to the maximum. When that changes, I will reconsider. But I am determined to enjoy the time left to me, and I will continue what has become sacred to me, my Sunday morning meditation here, and my ability to connect to my dear virtual friends. 

But as in all things, it is time to bring this post to an end, so I can get out of bed and get on with the rest of my day. It's taken longer than usual to get here, and I feel the pull of the day helping me to bring it to a close. You might notice I have given little bandwidth to the news of the day. That is on purpose; I need a break from it, as I'm sure you do, too.

My dear partner still sleeps quietly, my tea is gone, and I am ready to start the rest of my day. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Golden days of summer

Sunflower beauty

Late summer. When everything is so pretty because you know what's coming behind all the bursting flowers. It's my favorite time of the year, when the garden is at its peak of production, tomatoes ripen, the birds and bees are abundant, and the cool weather will not be a sometime event, but every day will be a mixture of sun and clouds, with the rain hopefully returning. The trees are beginning to show their fall colors already.

I am not a summer person. Exercising in the heat has become very hard for me, and I wilt in the sunshine. It wasn't always this way, but lately I am careful not to expose myself to full sun while trying to walk uphill. Don't misunderstand me; I am very happy to be able to still hike several miles and appreciate my body's abilities, especially at my advanced age. Every day I see people younger than me who are not fit enough to join me on my walks, so I give thanks for what I have. 

It's interesting to think about how much my life has changed over the decades, and how throughout it all, it's been important to me that I can walk and hike and basically do all that. So many things that I thought were important have fallen away, such as running and skydiving. There was a time when I believed that I would never want to stop those things and that I would be able to continue forever.

It makes me wonder if the same would be true if I couldn't go into the forests around here and walk to my heart's content. One of these days I might be unable to continue to do the things that seem impossible to give up. What I have learned over the decades is that I can, and that I will find a way to be happy and content with whatever life brings to me. For now, I need to appreciate each day and keep taking care of myself. I know I am fortunate and don't want to take it for granted.

Several of my online friends have told me that they are no longer watching the news on a daily basis. I am still addicted to it, but I now keep my consumption down to a bare minimum, so that I can continue to find equanimity in my daily life. It's true that where you focus your attention can make all the difference between enjoyment and despair. And what good does it accomplish to cry and grieve at the world situation, when my own small circle is the only place I can find joy and love?
Friendship improves happiness and abates misery, by the doubling of our joy and the dividing of our grief. —Marcus Tullius Cicero
I am grateful for my friends, both physical and virtual. I have learned how other people are coping during this tumultuous time in the history of the world. I am also finding new ways to see the world around me. I know it is possible to lose track of what's important and drown in sorrow, because I've been there quite a few times in the past few weeks. I need to keep myself uplifted rather than allow myself to give in to the darkness. And I will. Perhaps I can bring you along with me, what do you say? Or maybe you will bring ME into the light and we can dance in the sunbeams together. I believe that's what friends are for.

* * *

I've got several books going at once right now, and one has helped me to fall asleep every night, by reading just one short chapter after I climb into bed. It's another David Michie book, which is giving me another look at mindfulness and meditation. Once upon a time I meditated every day and found it to be very fulfilling, and these days I have attempted to find some time to take up the practice again. In any event, his writings always make me feel lighter and happier. 

My sister Norma Jean also told me about a book she read recently and recommended it highly: Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I've downloaded it onto my Paperwhite but haven't started it yet. I read the reviews and am looking forward to reading it. It's been a bestseller for a year now, and has been included on many lists as one not to miss, so I've also got that treasure to look forward to.

About that Paperwhite: I've found that reading on the device allows me to continue reading for much longer than when I am reading straight text from a physical book. My brother suggested that I enlarge and bold the text and find a font that I find appealing. I've done all that, and now I can lay aside my reading glasses and keep going for much longer. My eyes are definitely fading, due to the macular degeneration, but this helps me so much that I am encouraged I'll be able to keep reading for a good long time to come. That also makes me happy.

When I look at my life through the lens of gratitude, I can't imagine why I would not be able to find joy everywhere I look. I have so many reasons to celebrate each day as it comes. Sunday mornings I begin my day with this post, and although I had no idea what would come out today, I know that in spite of whatever my readers might glean from it, the post has helped me to change my own perspective to one that looks forward to the day to come, and those that follow as well. 

My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and he's so still that I listen for his breathing. Ah, there it is, all is well. My tea is gone and my latte at the coffee shop beckons, along with my friends who will join me there, as usual. It's supposed to rain today, and after all the dry days, I'm looking forward to putting on my raincoat and allowing the cleansing drops to fall around me. Life is good.

I hope that whatever this day brings, you will find a moment to look around and see what wonders abound. They are there, with just a little nudge towards joy, I'll bet most of us can find some. Please remember that you are valued and that at least one person wishes you all good things. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, August 15, 2021

Contemplating roses

Cornwall Rose Garden rose

 Truths and roses have thorns about them. —Henry David Thoreau

We have reached the Ides of August (the middle of the month) and late summer of 2021. It's a fraught time in the history of the planet. I wish there were more good news these days, but every time I turn on the TV and settle in to watch what's happening in the world today, I feel emotional pain, not just for the way the Covid virus is apparently sending us all backwards into lockdown, but how the children are vulnerable, and that this is still seen by some as a hoax. I feel also the pain of the people in the Middle East, where Afghanistan is falling to the Taliban, probably this week. Then yesterday Haiti suffered another earthquake and hundreds of people are buried in the rubble. And that's just the headlines.

I could go on and on, but I won't. It doesn't seem to help to wallow in misery, and there's enough of it in the news that I cannot easily bring myself to look away. For my own health, however, I realize that I must find the other side of this moment and think what it will look like in retrospect. What will be read about in history books about this moment in time? That it was when we turned the corner and started the journey towards truth and reconciliation? Or the moment when we lost our way completely and gave up the pretense that we are in charge in any way at all? Only time will give us the answer to that. The one thing I know for sure is that it is a pivotal and decisive moment.

So I will settle in on this Sunday morning to look for the bright spots in my own life, since there are many, and why not bring the moment into my own bedroom, listening to the sounds of summer outside my window? Yes, that is a much better idea than to try and make sense of the rest of it. I can hear a gull calling, interspersed with the harsh call of crows, and the distant sound of a train whistle. Otherwise, it is quiet as we await the sunrise. Days are much shorter now, and the sun doesn't come up until a few minutes after 6:00am today. We are losing more than three minutes of daylight every day, which adds up to quite a lot every week. 

As we get closer to the autumnal equinox, the world around me begins to ready itself for fall: leaves are beginning to change color, the garden is in full display, with grapes ripening on the arbor that Carter fashioned from a small planting of a few years ago. I thought it was strange when I saw him putting up large beams of driftwood over the area, but now it is a sweet little grotto of shade and the grapes are abundant everywhere. I had no idea that grape plants grew so quickly! It's so lovely and within less than a month we will be eating the fruit.

Last week I got quite a shock when I stepped on the scales, something I do every morning. I knew that I had been eating more than I should, and foods that I find comforting, like ice cream and buttered toast. Finally I could no longer deny what had transpired: it was either buy larger clothes or decide to stop the slide. I saw a number on the scales that I hadn't seen in years, so I decided to start counting my calories again. I had deleted from my phone an app I've used before, Lose It! When I got rid of it before, it told me that I would lose all my previous information, but when I downloaded it again, I found that it recognized me and gave me access to all the foods and meals I had entered before. What a nice surprise!

Now I am back to reasonable eating again, remembering how tasty an apple is when you are not looking for a big bowl of coffee ice cream. It makes me approach food quite differently when I must count those calories and not just rummage around aimlessly for something to munch on. And with all the wonderful salad delights that abound in the garden, it's become my newest project: lose that weight! It's been almost a week, and I can already see the difference in the way my favorite shorts fit. Instead of being uncomfortably tight, I can actually slide a finger or two into the waistband. Of course, they are a bit looser for having been worn for a couple of days, but still! I'm happy that I'm back again to thinking of food as fuel. It amazes me at how quickly I reach the daily calorie limit, in order to lose a half-pound a week, which is plenty fast enough for me. And it's also nice to treat myself as a worthwhile project.

Today our weather has broken from the latest heat wave and smoky skies we endured all last week. Today it's normal again, with clear skies and good air quality, which was impacted by the British Columbia forest fires and plenty of abnormally hot days. At least not what we usually have in mid-August. We will once again enjoy temperatures in the mid-seventies (24°C) during the day, and cool nights. And since the nights are getting longer and the days shorter, we have hopefully weathered the worst of the summer heat for this year. It was so strange to see orange skies and being unable to close our windows because of the hot temperatures. I rejoice in our usual delightful weather.

I am still enjoying my three-times-a-week Zoom yoga classes, although my favorite teacher has moved on after a decade and a half of instructing us. The new teacher will soon become another favorite, I think, since she's not only very sweet and attentive to her students, but she challenges us just enough and takes our individual needs into consideration. I will miss Denise (my previous instructor) for a long time, but she has promised to make a couple of videos for us to purchase from her, so we can go back into the past and enjoy her teaching at our leisure. Not exactly the same as a live class, but I'll take it.

Today is the anniversary of my son Chris' death, as well as the anniversary of the birthday of my son Stephen. Both of them are with the angels, but this is a day I don't let go by without acknowledging, and thinking of how different my life would have been if they had stayed on the planet as my children. By now they would probably both have given me great-grandchildren. Instead, I rejoice in the offspring of my blogging friends. It gives me great pleasure to see those remote children growing up and becoming grownups themselves. I love them very much and am so appreciative of the sharing of their lives with me and all others who read your blogs. I love my electronic family!

I just looked at the clock and realize that I've been here for almost two hours now, composing this for our enjoyment, and helping me to put into perspective this last week of news of the world. It helps me to write this, and I hope it helps you too. I tried not to dwell on the negative but emphasize the positive. One thing we all know is that it will change, the world with its trials and tribulations will continue to evolve into whatever is coming next. I am optimistic.

And with that, dear friends, I will leave you for today. My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, the sun came up and is brightening my day, and the coffee shop and my friends there are beckoning. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Changing of the seasons

Dahlias mark late summer

I'll be glad when summer heat is behind us, but this week we have two or three days ahead that will be difficult for those of us who don't do well when it's hot: it won't be as bad as the awful heat at the end of June, but it won't be much fun, either. My ideal outdoor temperature is around 70°F (20-21°C), but we will be close to (or surpass) 90° by Thursday. 

Never mind. On the calendar, we are already past the halfway point between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox, which means that the worst of the high temperatures is behind us up here in the far northwestern corner of the country. And one thing that remains constant in our lives is change. I just re-read my post from last week, and I am sorry to tell you this one will be a seat-of-the-pants post, rather than one so well put together. Last week I began to think about what I would write a few days before, but this week it's just me again, no wonderful TED talk to inspire me, just my regular ruminations. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. As I sit here at the beginning, I am curious to see what emerges.

I feel incredibly fortunate to have reached my advanced age without real illness to deal with, but of course I have all the everyday problems that most of us struggle with as we age. I no longer seem to be able to hike uphill in full sun without having to slow way down and suffer, wishing I were anywhere else. My friend Melanie practically hauled me up to the pass on last Thursday's hike, encouraging me that I could do it as I struggled upwards. Once I was in the shade and resting, I was okay, but I noticed that night when I lay in bed waiting for sleep, my pulse rate was much higher than normal, reminding me that I had to get plenty of rest to recover. And I did; I slept nine hours and woke feeling refreshed.

Good thing, too: Friday was a full day, with my usual trip to the coffee shop and a trip to the gym to ride the stationary bike, then walking home through the blackberry bushes with lots of tasty ripe bursts on my tongue; then to my acupuncturist's office for a treatment and lastly, a massage. By the time I walked back home after all that, I felt wonderful.  

Yesterday was a nice five-mile walk in light rain with Melanie. We walked to Squalicum Harbor, one of our favorite Saturday walks, and it was delightful to experience some rain for a change: it had been 53 days since our last sprinkles, and although we only got a quarter of an inch for the entire day, it was enough to clear the air and give us nice cool temperatures. We finished with a quick trip to the Saturday Farmers' Market and shared a freshly baked scone. 

And now here I sit in the dark, listening to the morning sounds coming through the open window, tapping my keys and thinking about what's on my mind. I've been reading a book that I'm enjoying quite a lot. It's just one of three other books I'm making my way through, one in hardback and the rest on my Kindle. I think I told you that I recently purchased a Paperwhite Kindle and retired my old Kindle Fire. I love it and find it much easier to use than actual physical books. I'm also getting in the habit of re-reading books I enjoy a lot, and there they are, right at my fingertips on my Paperwhite. The battery lasts for an amazing amount of time, and I've found settings that are easier on my eyes and allow me to read longer than I would otherwise.

The book I'm enjoying so much is The Dalai Lama's Cat and the Four Paws of Spiritual Success. It's part of a series of four books, and David Michie, the author, writes from the point of view of a fabulous cat. He introduces the reader to many Buddhist beliefs and ideas, and all of it is easy to understand without getting into the philosophical weeds. And it ties together many different aspects of my own spiritual journey. I've now been practicing yoga for more than six years now and have enjoyed the readings each instructor gives at the beginning of class, which all come from B.K.S. Iyengar's book Light on Yoga, who founded the branch of yoga I practice.
The requirements for our evolution have changed. Survival is no longer sufficient. Our evolution now requires us to develop spiritually — to become emotionally aware and make responsible choices. It requires us to align ourselves with the values of the soul — harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life. —Gary Zukav

 Through yoga practice, I've learned quite a lot about the spiritual values listed above: harmony, cooperation, sharing, and reverence for life. It all is summed up in Michie's book about HHC, the Dalai Lama's cat (His Holiness' Cat) and intriguing for people like me who are always searching for ways to find harmony in one's life.

Now that I am approaching my seventy-ninth birthday, I find myself looking for ways to express my gratitude for all that I've lived through: I've endured grief, joy, sadness, and I find myself today surrounded by love for the life I've been blessed with. I did think when I was young that by the time I reached the age of almost eighty that I'd be ready to let go and lie down for my final sleep. But right now, today, I am filled with enough joyous energy to feel like I could keep going for a long time to come. But I know better. Our bodies were not designed to keep us going for much longer than I've already experienced. I will attempt to make use of these waning years of life to the fullest I can.

We cling to our own point of view, as though everything depended on it. Yet our opinions have no permanence; like autumn and winter, they gradually pass away. —Zhuangzi

I am learning about impermanence, the ebb and flow of life and the precious gift of having lived at all. When I was young, it was scary to think of death, but now it seems like part of the blessing of living: My life won't last, just like everything else, and requires me to stop what I'm doing and open my eyes, look around in wonder, and take each day as it comes.  

I'm sitting here in midsummer with the joy of fall right around the corner. And I know I have the coffee shop directly ahead of me in this day's enjoyment, once I get up and start the rest of my day. My dear partner, who takes such good care of me, is still sleeping quietly as I tap the keys. The sun has risen and light flows through the window, beckoning me to come outside and play.

Dear friends, until we meet again next week, God willing, I hope you will enjoy a wonderful week filled with friends and family and furry cats, if that is what you wish. Please be safe and I wish you all good things.