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 23, 2022

Contemplating life

Whatcom Falls

Yesterday morning Mel, Chris and I walked four miles in the Whatcom Falls Park area, and I quickly snapped this picture of the roaring falls. Over the years, I've seen these falls almost disappear during the dry days of summer, and sometimes they have been even more massive and powerful than they were yesterday. All that water! It never stops completely, just pouring over the edge and continuing its journey down to Bellingham Bay to join the ocean. As usual, I was again struck by the sheer volume of water. How does it keep on coming? Where does it all go?

Yesterday, I learned that Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Tibetan Buddhist monk, died at the age of 95, eight years after having suffered a severe brain hemorrhage and lost the ability to speak. He received plenty of treatment for his injury, and was eventually able to return to his Plum Village Monastery and live out the rest of his life. Although he was unable to speak, he was able to communicate through hand gestures and other means. 

Nhất Hạnh was active in the peace movement and deep ecology, promoting nonviolent solutions to conflict and raising awareness of the interconnectedness of all elements in nature. He was the founder of the largest monastic order in the West. He also refrained from consuming animal products, as a means of nonviolence toward animals.

I had been aware of him for many years, and he wrote an incredible number of books during his lifetime. He traveled extensively before his stroke and is just about as famous as the Dalai Lama in Tibetan Buddhist circles. The New York Times published a collection of some of his most famous sayings yesterday, and I was enchanted to read them. I hope you can read them for yourself here. But just in case you cannot, here's one I think is timely:

The Buddha has a very different understanding of our existence. It is the understanding that birth and death are notions. They are not real. The fact that we think they are true makes a powerful illusion that causes our suffering. The Buddha taught that there is no birth; there is no death; there is no coming; there is no going; there is no same; there is no different; there is no permanent self; there is no annihilation. We only think there is. When we understand that we cannot be destroyed, we are liberated from fear. It is a great relief. We can enjoy life and appreciate it in a new way.

 Maybe it's because I have recently become so interested in Buddhism, but for whatever reason I was very much moved by learning of his death. I also wondered if he will be one of those "rainbow bodies" that I have heard of. It's when the body of an enlightened being simply shrinks away and leaves behind only hair and nails. It's one of the reasons that monks' bodies are supposed to be allowed to remain undisturbed for at least three days after death. One description (from the link above):

Generally, the individual, who entered meditation before death, continues to maintain the meditation posture — they do not topple, slump, or display rigor mortis. The body, particularly the area around the heart, stays warm. This was recorded by medical science in the case of the Sixteenth Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, who died in a Chicago hospital in 1981.

 There is so much we don't know about what's real and what's not. Now that I am entering my eightieth year of life on earth, I am finding quite a bit of solace as I learn about different ways to look at my life and my eventual death. A few years ago, one of my favorite bloggers, Ronni Bennett, learned that she had pancreatic cancer and for the next few years chronicled her journey from a massive surgery to remove the cancer (which wasn't successful) to her final death. I still think of her often, and remember that although in the beginning she was terrified of death, by the end she said that she was no longer afraid. Although I was frustrated that I didn't get to know the nitty-gritty details of her passing, it didn't really matter in the long run because she taught me, and others, so much about how to approach our final days.

Through the long years of my life, I have lost many who were dear to me, and the suffering and loss stays with me even today. One of the lessons I've learned, though, is that as the years pass by and I recollect my loved ones, it is with joy and happiness, rather than with tears that I remember them. Not only that, but I am blessed with the loved ones who surround me in the present moment. My dear partner gives me so much joy every day, and although he is not the same as he was before his stroke more than a year ago, he still remains my favorite person to share my life with. He still struggles with language, but it's been long enough since that fateful day in August 2020 that I am still seeing him improve imperceptibly as he continues through his own journey through life. He has taught me that humor is an essential ingredient in getting through the rough patches we all face.

During this coming week, I will attend a reading by a local Zen Buddhist priest (priestess?) at the local Senior Center. She has written a book called Autumn Light: My Fifty Years in Zen. Through research, I've learned that Edwina Norton is a member of a Zen community here in Bellingham that I will probably get to know more about. They have closed their dharma center during the pandemic and are looking for a new place to purchase. I look forward to learning more about it all. 

For now, however,  I'll continue my early morning meditations and enjoy the eventual return of the light. We are gaining 2 and a half minutes of daylight every day now, soon to be at the halfway point between the winter solstice and the spring equinox (February 2). And I have been struggling to get this post written so I can get on with my day. It's not the same since I no longer rush off to the coffee shop or ride the bus to town. That might be changing soon, however, as I'm hoping we are on the downside of this pandemic. At least I am now in possession of some good N95 masks and feel I could venture onto the bus. But not quite yet; I'll wait and bide my time.

Until that occurs, I'll be continuing to enjoy my daily life, if not the usual regular routine. At least I'm getting a little exercise, and my back is almost back to normal, probably 95% healed and it no longer hurts constantly. Yay for that! And I do hope, my dear friends, that you are staying safe and free of illness. Please remember to give love and compassion to all you encounter: it will return to you in time. Be well until we meet again next week, dear virtual family.

Sunday, January 16, 2022

How Zen

Winter hike

In my desire to learn more about Buddhism, I recently wondered what is the difference between Tibetan Buddhism, which is really all I've read about so far, and Zen Buddhism. Do you feel like learning along with me?

Last week I realized that we are beginning the third year of disruption of our lives from the pandemic. It was about this time two years ago when the first Americans got the virus, and by mid-March we were all in lockdown, and the entire world was closing down with coronavirus. Now here we are, two years later, and we still are dealing with it in various ways. The omicron variant is so contagious that even those of us who are fully vaccinated and boosted are coming down with it, although those I know who have gotten it have only experienced mild symptoms.

As I have withdrawn from more and more of my usual activities in order to stay healthy, it's been really difficult to continue to get enough exercise. And then last week I managed to "throw my back out" (oh how I wish I could really do that) and even small movements became very painful. Fortunately by having a blog, I can go back and see when this first began happening. It was in 2011 when I had my first sacroiliac joint discomfort, to the extent that I couldn't get up and down without serious pain. It's happened twice more, this being the third time that I've been laid low like this.

That said, every day it seems a little better, and my fear that this is a permanent state recedes from my consciousness. Being in pain is never fun, but when you suddenly cannot walk much distance without being reminded of your limitations, it's hard not to get a little discouraged. I have many friends who also have had to deal with this feeling of falling apart and not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel. Getting older, as we have all heard, is not for sissies. But then again, it's the nature of things to wear out, and being alive is a gift even when we are not able to continue on as we once did. 

My continuing study of Buddhism has gotten me curious about what the different types are, as I have heard the phrase of something being "very Zen" and have not thought much about it, but Zen Buddhism is a form that is quite different from Tibetan Buddhism, which is what I know the most about. I keep learning new things almost daily, and realize that this could go on forever without ever becoming proficient in the practice or understanding of the religion itself. What is common to all sects and divisions of Buddhism are (1) the Three Universal Truths; (2) the Four Noble Truths; and (3) the Noble Eightfold Path. 

That's a lot of information, but I think we can all get behind the first part, those Three Universal Truths. They are: Nothing is lost in the Universe; Everything changes; and the Law of Cause and Effect.

In Buddhism, the law of Karma says "for every event that occurs, there will follow another event whose existence was caused by the first, and this second event will be pleasant or unpleasant according as its cause was skillful or unskillful." Therefore, the law of Karma teaches that the responsibility for unskillful actions is borne by the person who commits them. (From Buddhist Core Values) 

Apparently all forms of Buddhism believe in Karma, then. But it's different in Zen Buddhism. Zen is a minimalist way of following Buddhism, whereas Tibetan Buddhism is a more elaborate form. Zen is spread across Japan and Tibetan Buddhism is more well known in other Asian countries. I have discovered that there are plenty of places here in the United States that have followers from both forms. I also learned that there will be a reading by the author, Edwina Norton, an ordained Zen priest, at my local Senior Activity Center at the end of this month. She has written a book, Autumn Light: My Fifty Years in Zen. I will definitely make an effort to attend this one, and of course get the book on my Kindle, too.

One thing I know already: I am a much more serene person after having added a brief period of meditation to my daily routine. Once I get up and start my day, it's now become a part of every morning. How such a small little change can make such a profound difference in how I feel about the rest of life is simply amazing. Even through the back pain, I can find lots of ways to appreciate what's going on around me, and I am happier throughout the rest of my day. It will be interesting to see how I will fare once our lives begin to get back to normal, whatever that means post-pandemic.

And I guess that pretty much winds up today's post. Not much to chew on in terms of philosophical ruminations, but every day is a new beginning, and I do hope that we will be back here next week to see what emerges from the depths of my mind. By then I fully expect the back pain to be a thing of the past and not worth mentioning. That's the optimist in me coming out in full voice. 

I do hope that the coming week will bring you all good things, and that you will have plenty of joy and beauty surrounding you. Until we meet again, be well, dear friends.

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Mystery of time and space

Spiral galaxy 56 million years distant

Every morning when I first get up, part of what I start the day with is a glimpse of the current Astronomy Picture of the Day. It helps me to get some perspective on what is happening here on Earth, to see reminders of the enormity of the Universe as we know it. When I saw this beautiful galaxy, the light of which takes 56 million years to reach Earth, I wondered what it looks like today. We'll never know, because we are stuck in a tiny bubble of time, and what does "today" mean in galaxy terms?

I feel very fortunate to have lived during a time when the Hubble Telescope (which took this picture) will be replaced with the James Webb Space Telescope, which is currently on its way to a distant spot at least a million miles from Earth. What will it be able to see?

Webb will be able to see what the universe looked like around a quarter of a billion years (possibly back to 100 million years) after the Big Bang, when the first stars and galaxies started to form. (NASA)

I find that fascinating, since time seems to be a constant from my little human point of view. But obviously it's not. The year when I was born almost eighty years ago will be lost in the mists of time. But it will be the first number in my very own lifespan, with the second number being the year when I will die. The only thing I know for sure about it all is that I will have been blessed with a full lifespan, going from birth through a well-lived full life. Not everybody is given such a gift, and I do want to acknowledge that, even if my life ends today, it has been a complete and full one. 

This past week Sidney Poitier died at the age of 94, having also been given the gift of a full life. He saw so much change in the world from the time he was born until he died. He fathered six daughters and made numerous movies that gave him the opportunity to be the first Black actor to receive the Best Actor Award in 1964. 

We are imperfect creatures. We are, that's what it is. But we should try reaching for the better you, the better me. There is pain and difficulties, and there is fear and all the kinds of things that we live with. But it is through them we have to reach. We have to reach out, not just to each other, but to the universe. —Sidney Poitier

He only received a year and a half of schooling and taught himself to read and write. Not only did he excel at acting, but he ended up writing his own memoir, which I intend to read in the near future. He's someone who will not be forgotten soon, and part of that is because he was given the gift of a full life. I remember how devastated I was when Chadwick Boseman died at 43, a man filled with promise in much the same way as Sidney was. But he was not given the full measure of life. It's truly a gift to have been given more time to live, but we all must deal with the finality of our short lifespan.

And looking out at the stars and distant galaxies certainly changes the way one looks at things, at least for me. What does my tiny life mean in the full scope of that galaxy? Not much, really, but it's everything to me. It's all I've ever known, and I also have been reaching out to the universe to find some meaning in my own life. My most recent endeavor has been learning more about Buddhism and its philosophy, and I find the concept of a continuing mindstream to be fascinating, although my skeptical self considers it unlikely. Not that it matters, really, because what is true and real is that the self that writes here, that drives my consciousness, is very much limited in time and space. What happens after I die will not matter much in the full scheme of things, but each one of our individual lives is all we have known, and what comes after isn't really relevant to our living each day to the fullest.

One of the concepts in Buddhism that I really resonate with is living one's life with loving kindness towards all other living beings. Every morning when I meditate, I say a Buddhist prayer for all sentient beings to be free of disease, pain and suffering. It's a very good reminder that although I cannot solve all the suffering in the world, I can point myself in the direction to remember that each of my own actions has consequences, and that if I act with loving kindness, I have done something good in the world for today. In my own small way, I am reaching for the stars.

Gosh. I have been sitting here for awhile now, with the light from the screen staring up at me from the laptop, wondering where to go from here. And nothing is coming to me, so it must mean I've finished this post for today. Even if it's not much, not very profound, when you write from the heart, sometimes the chambers don't quite fill to the top before the next heartbeat comes rushing in. I feel the call to begin the rest of my Sunday routine. I overslept to begin with, so I didn't get the chance to ponder about what to write for long. 

My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, my tea is gone, and the day beckons. I am sending you, my dear virtual friends, love and light and a fervent wish for you to have a wonderful day and week ahead. Be well until we meet again.

Sunday, January 2, 2022

An auspicious beginning

Taken on my 79th birthday

Melanie took me out for lunch on my birthday and also snapped this picture of me looking, well, 79.  Not much different from the day before, I guess, but it's symbolic that I have entered into my 80th year of life, and that today, the Sunday after the New Year begins, I am settling into this new chapter of life. I can no longer pretend that I am not old.

The weather began to deteriorate around here right around Christmas Eve, with the temperatures falling lower than I ever remember since we left Colorado behind. And yesterday, New Years Day, the temperature climbed above freezing for the first time. Yes, an auspicious beginning to 2022. As the wind shifted from the frigid northeast and began blowing (hard) out of the south, the temperatures have only continued to climb. Here it is early in the morning and it's already warm and above freezing. I am delighted to welcome normal moderate weather back!

Mel and I usually walk on Thursdays and Saturdays, but the past ten days of terrible weather, plus the holidays, put all of that exercise on hold. And we not only had a white Christmas, but a white New Years as well. With the wind, snow, and the cold temperatures, walking has been unusually unpleasant. I managed to plow my way through snowdrifts on buried sidewalks for short distances, but it was very slow going. Almost everyone has been walking in the streets, dodging cars, with the sidewalks remaining difficult terrain to navigate. Perhaps with the warm southerly wind and above freezing temperatures, all that will now improve. I'm hoping.

Yesterday afternoon Mel called me to see if I would go for a downtown walk with her, and I readily agreed, since I haven't managed to close my exercise rings on my iWatch for days, and I thought it sounded like a good idea. We walked past all the closed shops and enjoyed walking on mostly cleared sidewalks until we got to the South Bay trail that goes along Boulevard Park and heads towards Fairhaven. It was well packed down from all the previous travelers, and I found it to be pretty easy going, considering. The uneven snow, however, made it hard to walk very fast, and we enjoyed being out and admired the steely gray water in the bay.

Unfortunately, we lost track of time, and I realized that the sun was going down just as we were beginning our return. Ooops! That meant walking back in the fading light, on mostly packed snow (which gave us some reflective light). By the time we got back to downtown, and lights, I was very tired and asked Mel to go on ahead to her car and come back to get me as I struggled with the snowy streets. I took the opportunity to call SG and let him know I was all right, since I knew he would be worried. He was indeed, but in just a few minutes Mel showed up and took me home. It was at least an hour past sunset when I walked into the apartment.

What surprised me is the difficulty I had walking on the snow, but then I realized how much I need to keep exercising every day: my right leg was injured badly in 2000, when I fractured my pelvis in six places and shattered the right sacrum. It has two pins in it that held everything together as it healed. But in the accident, I lost the internal iliac artery down my right leg, and the only thing that keeps everything healthy is regular exercise. By the time I saw Mel's car coming to get me, I could barely keep from dragging the right leg rather than walking on it. It was a perfect storm: more than a week of missing exercise, uneven surfaces, darkness, and me not willing to admit my weakness.

The good part is that I made it in one piece, got home and drank a glass of wine as I chronicled my adventure with my dear partner, who was indeed very worried about me. So, the first thing I did in the new year was have a real adventure! I think my friend Melanie thinks I'm stronger than I am, and it was my own fault for not turning around sooner. But if I hadn't done it, I wouldn't have a good story to tell this morning, would I?

As I struggled walking back in the fading light, I remembered times in Colorado when I would join friends for a midnight cross-country ski trip under a full moon and clear skies. We had places we loved to ski, and I well remember realizing how difficult it was to tell where the bumps were as we skied downhill, and how I just had to slightly bend my knees and navigate the terrain by feel rather than by sight. It was exhilarating, but not that different from the sense of accomplishment I got from making it home safe and sound last night.

I think we build resilience to prepare for whatever adversity we'll face. And we all face some adversity - we're all living some form of Option B. —Sheryl Sandberg

It is interesting to examine how each of us deals with adversity, and to take lessons from others who have dealt with this situation themselves. So many of us have strength and resilience that we don't realize we have, because we don't ever get challenged and take the easy path instead of the one that heads straight uphill. I am very fortunate to have in my life people who like to try harder and steeper paths, like my friend Melanie, who ends up pushing me until I find my own limitations. And they are often much farther away than I imagine them to be. Is that true for all of us? Do we need to attempt hard things to find out how strong we really are?

Perhaps this new year will give us all a chance to find our strengths, ones we don't realize we already have. Now that I've had a chance to rest and enjoyed a good sleep, I'm feeling happy that I am as strong as I am, for an old person at least. And I've been reminded once again how important regular exercise for this old body of mine. Hopefully, we'll be together in this virtual room for the coming year, and we can share our stories of how we managed to cope with it all. I fervently wish that we will be here again in a year's time, telling stories of adventure, resilience, and joyous victory over adversity!

And now it's time for me to wrap up this first post of the new year, as my tea is gone and my dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me. I don't think I'll be heading to the coffee shop this morning, since covid has made gathering inside places like that not much fun at all. Perhaps the coming year will bring the end to our pandemic. I'm really hoping it will. Please remember to give your loved ones a hug or a pet, a phone call, or whatever you need to let them know they are loved and cherished. I do cherish my time with you, dear friends, and I wish you all good things until we meet again next week. Be well.

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Ice fog and Boxing Day

Snowy and cold Christmas Day

When I woke yesterday, Christmas morning, and looked outside, it was snowing, making everything look clean and new. The temperature was just a few degrees below freezing, so it seemed okay to venture out for a walk. I didn't go far, and the amount of snow on the steps looked to be around five inches or so. Being Christmas Day, nothing was open and everything was quiet. I suppose that inside homes there were presents being opened and lots of merriment going on, but outside, everything was hushed and still.

The temperature then dropped all day long, and now I wake to temperatures in the mid-teens F (-10°C) and expect that, as the day progresses, the temperature will continue to drop also. We are in the midst of a deep freeze that is cold enough to scare anybody who is paying attention. What is happening to all the homeless people and the wild animals? Considering how cold I feel inside my warm apartment, I shudder to think about what they are experiencing.

John is not coming to take me to coffee and breakfast, our usual Sunday morning activity, and there is no way I should even venture out in this weather. At least there are now stores and shops available, and the buses should be running, so I might find a way to get out in the middle of the day and maybe go downtown to see what's happening in the deep freeze. We rarely get this cold in the Pacific Northwest, and I do so hope that nobody loses power (especially us!) and that we can get through this without too much suffering. According to the forecast, we won't get above freezing for the remainder of the year.

Today is Boxing Day. I never heard of this before I moved to this part of the world, thinking that perhaps it meant boxing up all the presents you gave or received on Christmas. Apparently the meaning of the term is not fixed, and lots of countries use the term to mean different things. From Wikipedia:

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated after Christmas Day, occurring on the second or third day of Christmastide. Though it originated as a holiday to give gifts to the poor, today Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday. It originated in the United Kingdom and is celebrated in a number of countries that previously formed part of the British Empire.

 When I went out for a short walk yesterday, and took a few pictures of our white Christmas, I realized that the cold means roads and sidewalks will be slippery and difficult to navigate for several days to come. Fortunately I have spikes to strap onto my boots, which will make it easier for me to stay upright. When I was younger, I enjoyed these challenges much more than I do today. Now it's just survival tactics. 

Have you heard of ice fog? That's another new one for me. I saw it in the weather forecast and wondered what it means. So of course I looked it up, and found this:

Ice fog is a type of fog consisting of fine ice crystals suspended in the air. It occurs only in cold areas of the world, as water droplets suspended in the air can remain liquid down to −40 °C (−40 °F). Ice fog is not the same thing as freezing fog, which is commonly called pogonip in the western United States.

 So, as you can see, I have learned two new terms that are not usually used in my neck of the woods. When you are in the midst of a weather phenomenon at Christmas, these two terms emerge for word people like me to add to our lexicon. That's enough for me at present. However, I don't want to spend the entire post on weather!

As I slept last night snuggled up under my down comforter, with my dear partner sleeping quietly by my side, my dreams were filled with recollections of old friends I haven't seen in decades. They were so real and present, it made me realize how many dear friends I've forgotten over the years. But they are obviously not gone, because we got together last night in my dreams, and I woke feeling like we had just been together. And their laughter still echoes through my morning reverie. 

One thing about dreams that I love is how much they bring past moments into my present reality. Sometimes I dream more often than usual, and lately I notice that I wake up and find myself in another reality altogether. It makes me think about that story of the man who dreamed he was a butterfly:

Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. 

 Our reality doesn't seem all that solid to me at the moment. Although I can hear the wind blowing in sub-freezing conditions, I am safe and warm, just a short distance away. And yes, I might have to see if I can get outdoors on Boxing Day and experience it firsthand. Or maybe I am just dreaming it all anyway. 

My day has begun. A different Sunday than I usually experience, but then again, the day has just started. I won't be doing my exercises on the front porch as usual, but instead in the living room in front of our heater. Once I finish with this post, I will finally have a chance to warm up my cold hands. Although it's moderately warm in here, my hands must be outside the covers in order to type, and I keep having to sit on them while I ponder my next words.

Well, it's time to bring this to a close, and to wish all my dear virtual friends a happy Boxing Day and week to come. I do truly hope that you will be well and will find yourself surrounded with happiness and contentment. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A change in plans

Lake Whatcom last Thursday

This gloomy scene is actually in color, although you sure wouldn't know it unless I told you. I took this last Thursday on our holiday walk with the Senior Trailblazers. Although it's shades of grey, the day itself was a nice treat: lots of old friends and no rain fell on us for most of the time we were out. So, there were bright spots among the day's dreariness.

I'm hoping that I will be finding some of the same bright spots for the Christmas holiday, as well as for this post. Yesterday I realized that the entire globe is in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic for yet another rough patch ahead. Christmas celebrations are being canceled everywhere. Last night, Saturday Night Live sent their audience home and pretty much canceled the show; all the live Broadway performances are also closing down, getting ready for the Omicron advance.

For those of you not already aware of the newest version of the virus (Omicron), you will definitely become aware of it soon. Somehow, after all our hopes for a wonderful holiday season, coronavirus is coming back with a vengeance, more contagious and capable of evading our vaccines, at least to some extent. I, for one, am more than a little afraid of what's to come. In Denmark, where some of the best epidemiologists in the world study, they are saying in this Washington Post article that we are about to enter our hardest month yet. The only good news is that this version of the virus might not be as severe as previous ones, but no one knows for sure at this point.

Yesterday, SG and I discussed our options, and how we intend to get through this surge. I will, for the time being, no longer go inside any restaurants to sit for a meal, and I am debating about whether to stop going into the coffee shop and start using my French Press once again for my morning coffee. I can still walk in my neighborhood and drive to beautiful places around me to keep up my exercise, but I will stay away from the gym for awhile. By the time Christmas Day gets here next week, we should know more about what's to come. We are both triple-vaxxed and have had our flu shots, but our advanced age doesn't make me feel very good about exposing ourselves to other people in any setting, really. Perhaps it will turn out better than I'm anticipating. The world has been through harder times than this, and things turned out just fine. Eventually.

This latest surge could not have come at a more difficult time, with lots of people traveling and getting together with family for the holidays. I feel very fortunate to have the ability to get online and learn how others are coping, and see how my dear friends in our virtual community are doing. I feel a need to find some semblance of hope and happiness for our situation, since the entire world is going through this, not just one country or just one continent. We are all in this together, so I am hoping that we will find a way out of it together. Perhaps our governments will realize that and come together in peace to find a new way forward. It's possible.

The world situation has made me more determined than ever to spend my days striving to find more loving kindness and compassion around me, and not to "awful-ize" and let hopelessness take hold. Although I am not looking forward to being housebound, at least I have a warm and cozy home, with a partner who shares my days and gives me plenty to be grateful for. I will go forward one day at a time, and try everything I can to stay healthy and serene for the trials and tribulations to come. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Emily Dickinson wrote these words more than a century ago, and they resonate with me today. Hope is the one thing I have for the time ahead, and I really must remember that events never turn out the way they seem at the time, and that even storm clouds have a silver lining. Look for the bright spots in the darkness, and together we can imagine a sunny future ahead.

And now my tea is gone, my dear partner sleeps next to me, and the world looks quite a bit different to me now than it did when I began this post an hour ago. It might not live up to my standards of love and joy that I strive for, but I sure do feel better, knowing we are still together and will prevail. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well and accept my humble virtual hug.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

December musings

Icy flowers

Rising a little earlier than normal, hoping to find something to write about this morning, I first checked the news to see what the recent story is about all those awful tornadoes that ravaged the South Friday night. I couldn't believe it when I saw that "possibly more than a hundred" people died from eighteen tornadoes in Kentucky alone. One tornado had a swath of destruction 250 miles wide. This is just horrible news, weather that kills so many in such a short time. I know that will be a small number of those who will die if I live to see the Big One, the coming earthquake, hit the Pacific Northwest. We do drills and try to figure ways one might be able to survive. In the last few weeks, more than 40 small tremors have occurred in the area. I do wonder if they are a precursor to larger and more destructive quakes. 

That is not what I wanted to write about! I see no reason to dwell on what might be coming my way, but the shock of the rare late-season tornado outbreak had changed my focus. So, now that I have given bad weather and earthquakes their due, I'm going to move on to more positive things, because there is still so much joy and happiness around me. This December season is filled with walks in the dark to the bus and seeing so many homes covered with lights. People smile and we greet each other with good wishes, and dogs always look happy to be out and about as well. So much around me fills my heart with serenity and good cheer. 

My morning routine has shifted a bit to allow me to get that twenty minutes of meditation in. Sunday mornings are the only time when I don't get to follow the routine, because I need to write this post. I'll skip many of the usual morning rituals in order to be ready by the time my friend John will drive up to take me to our Sunday breakfast hangout. In our quest to find a better coffee shop, we've decided to make Sundays a habitual breakfast stop in Fairhaven, for the winter at least. John's right shoulder has passed its six-week mark from having been rebuilt, and although it's still very stiff, it's getting better every day. He will start physical therapy next week, two sessions a week. I was dubious about getting the surgery, given the resurgence of Covid everywhere, but he's triple-vaxxed and seems to recover quickly from these things, for a man of almost 82, anyway.

I guess it comes with the territory of getting older, but many of my friends and acquaintances are dealing with medical issues. I'm still a few months from my annual wellness visit with the doctor, but for now I'm happy to be able to carry out my usual routine with minimal discomfort. I am aided in my quest to be active by getting massages and acupuncture treatments regularly, and having yoga classes several times a week via Zoom. As I've said before, I'm in no hurry to get back to the studio with other practitioners in close proximity. I don't think we will be free of Covid for awhile yet, and I am very fortunate to live in a state that requires masking indoors. Most of the time, I feel quite safe.

Melanie and I have become a "bubble" of our own on Thursdays, not really quite willing to hike with large groups yet. We went on our own snowy hike last week, but we learned that the regular Senior Trailblazers group ended up being 16! And that was on a wet and snowy day going on a trail without much view even on a good day. I am not sure when I'll be ready to return, but going out with Mel has made my hikes less stressful, and even a bit shorter and less difficult. At my age, I'm quite happy to continue this way for the coming winter, at least.

Yesterday three of us walked twice around Lake Padden. The weather had been horrible the night before, with lots of wind and rain, so we were prepared for it, but instead the wind died down, the sun came out, and we had a spectacular five-mile walk. Afterwards, Mel and I joined another friend at a restaurant for lunch. Dianne has been dealing with months with a hip injury, and I hadn't seen her for ages. I was a little nervous about going inside a restaurant on a Saturday afternoon, but it was just fine. The place has enormously high ceilings, and plenty of social distancing. We wore our masks until we were seated and I enjoyed a mid-day glass of red wine. It had been quite awhile since I'd had any wine, and it went right to my head, since I'd exercised and not eaten. By the time I finished my lunch, however, I was back to normal. I used to drink a glass every night, but in my desire to lose weight, I'd stopped the practice, and I don't think I'll take it up again. An occasional glass is nice, and I get plenty of enjoyment from it because of its rarity.

When we left the restaurant, however, all the nice sunshine was gone and it had begun to rain again. Then suddenly we were pelted with hail and sideways rain as we hurried to Mel's car. In just a short distance, we were soaked to the bone! Thank heavens for her seat warmers; in nothing flat we were comfortable and on our way back home. I dashed from her car to my own when we pulled up at her place, and I went straight home and enjoyed the rest of my day indoors with my sweet partner. 

Looking at the clock, I see that I'm just a few minutes later than I would normally be for getting out of bed and beginning the rest of my day. I'll have plenty of time for my exercises and meditation (hopefully) before John gets here. I'll skip my usual routine of reading the news and checking the weather (it's raining again, of course) and that will pretty much getting me back on track.

Those few minutes of meditation in the morning have become essential to my feeling of well-being. It amazes me how much I look forward to it, and how much better the entire rest of my day becomes because of it. Getting through the holidays is easier, and the whole day begins on a positive note. My tea is gone, my partner sleeps beside me as I tap the keys. The day ahead beckons.

I do hope you are finding your own way to equanimity during these stressful times, and that those of you in the South escaped injury. My heart goes out to all those who suffer, and I wish nothing but the best for all. During this holiday season, I wish you all good things. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.