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 11, 2021

Paying it forward

Skagit Valley daffodils

 I overslept this morning, and I've got a massage scheduled early, so here goes a Sunday post with little to no idea what I've got to say. It's always a little bit disconcerting to awake and find that half my morning is already gone, and I am already feeling less than serene. This picture was taken last Sunday when my friend Lily and I drove to the Skagit Valley, hoping for tulips but seeing very few, although the daffodils were in full bloom! Gazing at that picture does bring me a little more serenity.

We've had a very cool spring, and everything is behind. But coming up this week we've got a big change in the works: a week (at least) of above-normal temperatures, and everything should catch up quickly. The weather has been really strange in so many places in the world, probably because of climate change, they say, but who knows for sure? We are still in the grip of the coronavirus in much of the world, as well as countless wars and rumors of war everywhere. It's a very unsettled time in the history of the world.

And here we are, right in the middle of it all. We in the United States had the first presidential election in our history where there was not a peaceful transfer of power, with an insurrection on January 6th, and many people still not convinced in the legitimacy of President Biden. It has caused so much strife and difficulty already, and I fear there is more to come. Not since the 1960s have so many citizens marched in the streets for change. And now almost everyone has at least one gun and I wake up every day to learn of another mass shooting in my country. It's inexplicable, and many of them seem random, making me more fearful for my safety and for those around me.

There are so many homeless and hopeless people in Bellingham, and it seems to be increasing daily. As I sat in the cab of my friend John's truck yesterday as we enjoyed our coffee together, at least six homeless people walked by, some with all their belongings in a grocery cart, few dressed appropriately for the cold weather. And a few obviously in a bad mental state, shouting and cursing at everyone they see. It's a very depressing state of affairs.

However, for now we do have a functioning government, and there are places for those without homes to get some food, even as many of them are huddled in doorways in inadequate sleeping bags, trying to sleep with all their belongings surrounding them. There are homeless shelters, but many of these unfortunate people don't go there because of the rules they must follow. And they must leave each morning to walk the streets. At least we are in springtime, and the weather will soon warm and make life a tiny bit easier for them. I fear that the trickle of homeless will soon become a flood, along with all the pain and suffering that we will all be forced to endure.

Not that it seems to be any better in other countries. I shudder to read every morning about what is happening in other parts of the world, where military are executing their own citizens in Myanmar, where innocents are being starved to death in Syria and other places, and where governments are teetering on the brink of collapse. Is it just me, or is the world really in worse shape than ever? The pandemic is raging in most countries, and we endured a horrible year in 2020. People want a scapegoat and are going after Asian Americans, as if they had anything to do with the virus.

Bad times, hard times, this is what people keep saying; but let us live well, and times shall be good. We are the times: Such as we are, such are the times. —Saint Augustine

What do you suppose St. Augustine means by that statement? That if I can live well, times shall be good? My life is pretty darn good, and I have a roof over my head and hopefully no bullets will come through my windows. I can sit in my bed on a dark Sunday morning and ponder the state of everything. I don't know how to go forward when times are so bad everywhere around me. I feel almost guilty for my good fortune, when I see so many others suffering. If there is a way for me to make the world a better place, I ask for guidance to find that path.

First of all, I realize that even in the midst of so much suffering, there is plenty to be grateful for. Yesterday I observed several acts of kindness that were unexpected by the recipients, and I saw that and even offered one myself. Kindness is catching. I realize now that is the way forward for me: find ways to spread more kindness through my own little world, and life will get better. If everyone could find a way to be kind today, we can spread that benign virus into the world. Perhaps that is what St. Augustine means by living well. What do you think?

Paying it forward is also something that can help spread kindness through the world. I read not long ago about a long line of people in cars waiting to get a chance to buy coffee, and one person paid for the coffee of the people in the car behind them, and that started a chain that went on for 11 hours, from morning to evening. You can read about it here

Upon realizing as I sit here writing, there are definitely many ways for me to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem. Life gives us, every day, choices to make that can either brighten the world around us, or allow us to fall into despair and consent to its becoming darker. I was well on my way to darkness until I asked for guidance and found that article. Yes, it is possible for my small little self to make things better by looking for ways to spread kindness in my immediate environment.

One of the ways I can also spread kindness is to ask my readers to start a chain of kindness in their own lives. That would be you, my dear friend, and perhaps this day will become bright enough to light many sparks that will change the world. And with that admonition, I hope to feel that this bright new day will offer many of us a new beginning. 

My dear partner still sleeps next to me, my tea is long gone, and I am ready to begin the rest of my day. I will be getting a massage in a few short hours, and that will help me, too. I hope that your day will be bright with promise and lots of love, dear friends. Until we meet again next week, be well. 

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Easter 2021

Rita Eberle-Wessner creation

Let your life lightly dance on the edges of Time like dew on the tip of a leaf. —Rabindranath Tagore

Here we are again, the week has slid around to another Sunday, this one Easter. I went back to look at previous Easter posts I have written, and the picture I thought I might use at the beginning, of my sister Norma Jean and me with our Easter baskets many decades past, has been used too many times already. This one, snagged from one of my Flickr friends, thrills me with its perfect evocation of springtime joy.

And I love the image that comes to mind when I read that quote from Tagore. What does it mean, to "let my life lightly dance on the edges of Time"? Almost every person whom I choose to emulate has already danced there, and they have left the realm of the living and now are only present through their past works. Does it matter that they are gone from this earth? Does it make them any less relevant?

No, certainly not. Easter reminds me that we are all caught in this wonderful and magical creation of ours, that of being born into a world we know nothing about, learning and growing, moving from youth to old age, feeling ourselves the same, but always dancing on the edges of Time. After living through a pandemic winter, the birds are now singing, the flowers emerging from the ground, and my life feels filled with promise. We are not through to the other side of the pandemic just yet, but there is much to be grateful for and to enjoy through each moment of the day.

Easter always comes on a different Sunday, and I learned that it was decided to be held the first Sunday after the full moon following the vernal equinox, by the First Council of Nicea in AD325. It's also the celebration of Passover, the eight-day-long Jewish celebration of the Israelites being freed from Egyptian slavery. It's not by coincidence that all these events happen at the same time. But why in the world has Easter become associated with bunnies and Easter eggs? Here's why:

All the fun things about Easter are pagan. Bunnies are a leftover from the pagan festival of Eostre, a great northern goddess whose symbol was a rabbit or hare. Exchange of eggs is an ancient custom, celebrated by many cultures. Hot cross buns are very ancient too. In the Old Testament we see the Israelites baking sweet buns for an idol, and religious leaders trying to put a stop to it. The early church clergy also tried to put a stop to sacred cakes being baked at Easter. In the end, in the face of defiant cake-baking pagan women, they gave up and blessed the cake instead.

The celebrations of annual events has been followed by humans immemorial, and here we are in 2021, still following the same paths set down by our ancestors. It makes sense, since we are all experiencing our magnificent planet and its seasons throughout our lives, whether we dance lightly on the edges of Time for a long or short moment. It's sort of reassuring to me to realize that even as momentous events occur, the march of the seasons stays the same through the years. Easter comes and Easter goes, but will return again and again.

For me, the holiday is also a time to remember those who are (as they say) on the other side of the grass. My parents are both gone, but when I sleep at night, my mother often visits me in my dreams. My children are both gone, but my son Chris sometimes comes to laugh and rejoice with me, and I remember that all that I am today is part of my history that will never disappear as long as I breathe.

And it is also a time to count my blessings, which are numerous. As I sit here in the dark with my laptop, I feel the presence of my dear partner, who sleeps next to me, and my gratitude for him in my life only grows as the time passes. When he had a stroke last August, and I worried that I might lose him, it became very clear to me that I had better appreciate our time together every single day. He has mostly recovered from it, but he's different now. In some ways it has been a good thing: he's more emotional and less reticent to share his feelings with me. He still makes puns and bad jokes that cause me to groan in protest, but now they are precious and unique. But he also still struggles to speak clearly and works on making progress every day. If anything, I love and cherish him more because of the stroke.

During this last year, I was unable to carry on my life as usual, and now what I realize is how much of my routine was fungible: although now that I walk with one or two friends, I still walk. If I cannot hike in the mountains, I can still enjoy the wonderful forest environment within a few minutes drive from here. I do miss my workouts at the gym, but three Zoom yoga classes a week in my living room have helped me stay moderately fit. And some things will never return to their pre-pandemic place in my daily life, but it's not something to lament, just to notice and appreciate today.

And yes, there is always my social calendar, one which I am enjoying right this moment: a conversation with my virtual family. Once I finish this post and hit publish, I will look forward to your comments and hear what you have to say. One day soon, I should be able to attend a movie theater inside, but for now I am happy to keep things virtual. Now that I am fully vaccinated, I feel so much less apprehensive about walking around in close proximity to others. Here in my town, we are all still wearing masks and keeping our distance, but lately I have been able to hug dear friends who are also vaccinated. It's wonderful and something I once took for granted.

And with that, dear friends, I will finish off with an Easter wish for you: that you will find joy and companionship in your day. And that you will also remember that whatever else happens, you are appreciated. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Living the dash

Camellia in bloom

Walking back home after my coffee shop visit, I saw a bush laden with camellias in bloom already. It's almost April, but I am always taken aback by how quickly we go from winter to spring in this part of the country. And since this pandemic started, I've altered my route from the bus stop back home, making for a longer walk. I am not getting the same amount of exercise every day that I did before, but I've managed to find ways to get in most of my steps through determined effort. And now the weather is getting better and being outdoors is much more pleasant than it was when it was dark and wet.

Have you heard the phrase "living the dash" before? It refers to the line used in obituaries between one's birth year and one's death, as in (my case) 1942–20xx. Obviously I don't yet know what those last two marks will be, because I seem to be hanging in there still today, into the third decade of the 21st century. One day my relatives and friends will be able to complete it. Happens to everybody eventually. So we are busy living our dashes as we progress through our days.

Yesterday I watched a very moving documentary about Audrey Hepburn (1929–1993). I always loved watching her in movies, and I remember her work as an ambassador for UNICEF in her later years. For some reason, I thought she had grown quite old, but she was only 63 when she died of a rare form of stomach cancer. She had two children, both boys, one from each of her two marriages, and she apparently had suffered miscarriages as well. She wanted to have lots of children, but it was not to be. I am well aware of how little most of us are able to plan out our lives. She was an amazing woman who would be in her nineties today if she had lived that long. I tend to think of her has having died prematurely, but is that really true? If one dies in their forties or fifties, that is definitely premature, but living until one is well into their sixties, I'm not sure. In some ways I look at my own life, rolling quickly towards my ninth decade of life, and I know I've been fortunate and have lived the vast majority of my dash already. No premature death for me.

Audrey accomplished so much during her life. She was fluent in six languages and made some memorable movies. I loved Breakfast at Tiffany's when I first saw it many years ago, and thanks to the miracle of today's world, I think I'll watch it again for free on Amazon Prime, which I subscribe to. She won an Oscar for her performance in that movie and is one of only a handful of people who have garnered an EGOT: which is shorthand for receiving an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony. She was such a kind person, and you could see it in her face over the years she performed, and in the documentary you can tell how much she cared about the starving children she raised money for. During the time she was affiliated with UNICEF, contributions more than doubled because of her efforts. And she also found true love in her later years. If you subscribe to Netflix, you can see the documentary yourself.
The beauty of a woman is not in a facial mode but the true beauty in a woman is reflected in her soul. It is the caring that she lovingly gives the passion that she shows. The beauty of a woman grows with the passing years. —Audrey Hepburn
That was certainly true about Audrey: she is more beautiful in her later years than in her youth. And because of film, we have the ability to see all the phases of her life, from her first movie to this documentary that covers her life after she left Hollywood behind. Even today she is enriching my life and that of many others. Who could ask for a better legacy?

* * * 

I am now fully vaccinated. Last Tuesday I went to PeaceHealth, where I received my second Pfizer dose, and on April 9th, two weeks after that shot, I will be as safe as possible from the coronavirus. Nobody knows yet how long that immunity will last, but for now I am quite happy to know that I am protected from Covid and its variants. It is a good feeling, and yesterday I went to a restaurant for brunch after my walk. Lily treated me to a wonderful vegan meal at Twin Sisters Brewery, which offers both indoor and outdoor seating and seemed to be doing a brisk business. We are now able to have restaurants at 50% capacity, meaning that we are through the hardest part of the pandemic, and hopefully businesses will now begin to recover. I read somewhere that more than 2,000 restaurants have closed permanently in Seattle, never to return. That means all those employees will have to find other jobs.

I was expecting that I might have some after-effects from the shot, but other than a sore arm and a few aches and pains (which I might have had anyway), it was pretty easy. And a minor headache that didn't require me to take anything, but it's gone now, and I'm feeling happy to be among the thousands of old people who cannot pass it to others. There is still a five to ten percent chance of getting it, but if I do it should be a mild illness, probably similar to what I experienced last March. It was difficult a year ago to get a test, so I don't know for sure whether or not I had it, and fortunately I am not one of those people who developed what is called "long Covid," where you don't really get over it but continue to have symptoms that vary from mild to severe, and never let up. That must be really hard to deal with. This virus has truly altered our world, and not for the better.

But we are through the worst of it, at least in the US. I am hoping that we will not have another surge, although we are still getting more than a thousand new cases across the country every day. I am certainly not going to stop wearing a mask or keeping my distance from others. It's funny, I now feel quite happy to have my face covering, and considering that we didn't get much of a flu season because of it, maybe it would be a good idea to keep on with the masking in public places. They do it in Asian countries, where masks are pretty permanent accessories. Just another way our lives have changed. Plus I have quite a collection of them now.

Well, dear friends, that pretty much wraps up another Sunday post. I enjoyed writing this one, mostly because of Audrey, and now that my tea is gone and my dear partner sleeps next to me, everything feels bright and a new day beckons. 

I do hope that whatever you do with your day, it will be a good one. And remember, whatever you find to do with it, find a way to spread around some kindness. It will make the world a better place, as well as brighten your own day. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, March 21, 2021

The evening of life

Red rainbow by Rita Eberle-Wessner

One of my favorite artists is Rita Eberle-Wessner, and I snagged this wonderful picture of hers from her Flickr site. She lives in Belgium and I am impressed with her ability to capture nature incredibly well. Of course, it helps that she uses a professional Canon Mark IV for many of these beauties. I looked it up to see how much it costs and realized it is not for me! I'll stick to my iPhone camera and snag hers for my own enjoyment. And yours, too, in this case.

This morning I'm looking back at my long life, and how many times I've completely changed everything in it, becoming an old woman very gradually but inexorably. I caught a glimpse of myself yesterday and was shocked by how deep the wrinkles around my mouth have gotten. I feel like the same person throughout my life, but the journey from a child to a young adult feels like ancient history. Even becoming a retired person feels like a long time ago; it's been thirteen years.

When I see the age of people I admire, I realize that many times these people were born what seems like not long ago to me, but they are now adults and making a mark on the world. Chadwick Boseman was only 43 when he died, but he had already become famous for his incredible acting ability. I just watched his role in Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, his last movie, and I was so moved by his performance that I cannot forget that last scene. We are all diminished by his passing, but we will have his legacy of films to celebrate for a long time to come.

I'm in the process of seeing all the Oscar-nominated films, as is my habit, although this time it is from the comfort of my living room, and without my movie-going partner, Judy, while we are in the midst of a viral pandemic. This coming Tuesday I will get my second shot; SG had his second one last Friday, and hopefully after a few more weeks, I'll be as protected against the virus as I can be. Our post-pandemic life will look different across the world, but from here, the beginning of spring (or autumn in the Southern Hemisphere), it looks like we still have a ways to go. Canada just announced another month of border closure, making it well into the second year without the ability to travel across the border from the US. I'm a long way from considering travel, but one day we will be able to do so safely. Not today, though.

Today, I am pondering what it means to grow old. I've been given the gift of life for many decades now, and as I emerge from the decade of my seventies and tentatively place a toe into that of my eighties, I wonder why in the world people continue to live and in some cases thrive for so long. Anyone who loves his or her pets knows that they will not outlive us: their shorter life spans means they will leave us and we will grieve their loss. It doesn't mean we won't continue to love and enjoy them, just that we know what it means in the time ahead. 
A human being would certainly not grow to be seventy or eighty years old if this longevity had no meaning for the species. The afternoon of human life must also have a significance of its own and cannot be merely a pitiful appendage to life's morning. —Carl Jung

I found this intriguing quote from one of my favorite authors. When I was younger, I studied Jung's work and read many of his most famous books. He was a Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst well known in the middle of the twentieth century. He died in 1961 at the age of 85. I think he was a man ahead of his time, and he came up with several concepts that have become mainstream. Read more about Carl Jung on his Wikipedia site here

I wonder what he would think of the internet and how connected we have all become to our smartphones and social media in general. It all happened after he died, but he seemed to know what was coming, writing extensively about the collective unconscious:

As modern humans go through their process of individuation, moving out of the collective unconscious into mature selves, they establish a persona—which can be understood simply as that small portion of the collective psyche which they embody, perform, and identify with. The collective unconscious exerts overwhelming influence on the minds of individuals. These effects of course vary widely, however, since they involve virtually every emotion and situation. At times, the collective unconscious can terrify, but it can also heal.

Well, to be fair, Jung wrote about everything in massive volumes of work, as well as giving lectures throughout the world. He was tremendously prolific, and continues to be very relevant in today's world. And I really wonder what he would think of these new collections of humans in the virtual world, such as this blog, with so many of my dear friends whom I will never sit down in a room with, but who are as important to me as any of the rest of my family. Our world has changed significantly with the advent of this new connectivity.

For me, my laptop and its ability to let me know what is happening in the entire world almost instantaneously has become essential and rather routine. Here I am sitting in my bed with the laptop, writing a post that will soon be published to anyone who wishes to read it, anywhere in the world, along with thousands of others that are being created as I write, by others like me, many of whom are also old. We bring our wisdom and beliefs into the blogosphere to share and amplify. There are people who, I'm told, look forward to this missive every Sunday as a way to regulate their Sundays into a regular routine.

Although I am looking at the sunset of my life, it is also at the beginning of a new day, and a new season. We have made it through another winter and I so look forward to the enjoyment of spring flowers, green plants shooting up out of the ground as if they were impatiently waiting for the sun to awaken them. My goodness, I have so many ways to feel joy and love that I can barely count them all. And not least in that list is feeling grateful for the physical body that carries me through all my days. Even though it's true that age has brought me aches and pains that will only increase as I age further, I cannot deny that I welcome them, listen to them, as they help me decide what I might be able to accomplish today, this first full day of spring.

Of course, the first task is almost finished: writing this post. Then, it will be time to leap out of bed (figuratively, that is) and get on with the rest of my day. That always starts the same way: washing up, dressing, brushing my teeth, and going out onto the front porch to do my exercises. And then it's off in my car to the coffee shop, where John will already be drinking coffee in his truck, waiting for me. 

One day we will once again be able to gather around the table inside, but not today, not yet. We'll be wearing our masks out in public, but since John is part of my "bubble," we'll take them off while we drink our coffee. If we get out of the cab, we'll put them back on again. I feel very fortunate that my entire town seems to be cognizant of the need for protection from the virus, even as other places are apparently ignoring the pandemic. I hope they will stay safe and not infect others on purpose.

And with that, my dear virtual family, I will leave you to enjoy your day, with lots of hopeful wishes for happiness as we move through yet another moment on this beautiful planet, with love and joy surrounding us everywhere. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Hodgepodge post

Buds are out

Yesterday I went out on a very nice five-mile walk with my friend Melanie, with lots of sunshine and a few wispy clouds, but oh how the signs of spring are everywhere! Even these fruit trees are beginning to be laden with blossoms, after a few days of sun and spring just around the corner. Today is Pi Day, March 14, with the first day of spring coming in five days: March 20 at 2:37am (here in the Pacific time zone). Oh, and then there's St. Patrick's Day next Wednesday!

What is Pi Day, you ask? Here's a fun fact about the date:

Pi denotes the relationship between a circle’s circumference and its diameter and is denoted by the fraction 22/7 which calculates approximately to 3.14. One of the most widely recognized mathematical constant, π, is an irrational number, the digits of which repeat in a random fashion and are never ending.

 Some people, those who write their dates with the day first, such as 22 July, celebrate Pi Day in the middle of summer (22/7). I guess for some people this is even more common, but I didn't know any of that when I began to look it up for this post. I've always heard that Pi Day falls in March, and it's an excuse to celebrate by eating some pie.

And I just learned that this morning, those who live in Chicago woke up to the traditional dyeing green of the Chicago River, as a surprise move for the city. Because of the pandemic, it was thought the tradition would be skipped this year, but the mayor sent out a tweet: "Although we didn’t gather, we were able to honor long-standing tradition by dyeing the Chicago River green, thanks to the Chicago Journeymen Plumbers." How we love to celebrate annual traditions! It was canceled last year because of the pandemic, so it's lovely to see another semblance of normalcy returning. If having a green river is normal, that is. Why green? Wikipedia tells me this:

The day commemorates Saint Patrick and the arrival of Christianity in Ireland, and celebrates the heritage and culture of the Irish in general. Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilís, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks.

 So, we have plenty of reasons to celebrate right now, it seems. That, and the passage of a huge stimulus bill in Congress, which will soon cause some extra money to show up in my bank account. I just checked: it's not there yet, but I did see on the news that some people have already received it, although the bill was just passed and signed into law on Thursday. More green that we can all appreciate.

Since there is no real focus for this post, I figure I can write about anything I want, and hope that in the end it will make for some interesting reading. Usually when Sunday morning comes around, I've got an idea of what I will say, but that's just not true today, so I decided to go with the flow. Hodgepodge (a confused mixture) gives me a bit of leeway to let the words take me where they will.

I'm in the process of trying to watch all the movies that are likely to be nominated for an Oscar, even though it's not in a movie theater with my friend Judy like usual. Yesterday I watched Da 5 Bloods, a Spike Lee creation that has gained plenty of Oscar buzz. The main reason why, I think, is the incredible performance of Delroy Lindo, who plays Paul, one of the four Vietnam vets who return to Vietnam to find the remains of their fallen leader, and to find the gold bars they discovered and buried. I couldn't quite place where I'd seen Lindo before, but then I realized he plays a character in The Good Fight, which I very much enjoyed. But he's nothing like that guy in this movie. If you can deal with the violence of war (and greed), I recommend this movie wholeheartedly. It is, so far, the most impactful one I've seen, and Spike Lee has outdone himself.

Spike Lee’s new joint is an anguished, funny, violent argument with and about American history, with an unforgettable performance from Delroy Lindo at its heart. (A.O. Scott, NYT)

There are two more I'm looking forward to seeing, but both of them require me to pay an extra $20 rental fee to watch them: Minari and The Father. I will probably be required to pony up that extra cash in order to see them, and I might decide to wait until the Oscars are announced, which should be tomorrow, March 15.

So there's plenty to feel good about right now, as we move towards a new season in our world, and in our hearts. I think finally the pandemic is beginning to recede, but it's still very much present in the world, and we have every reason to keep wearing our masks, keeping our distance, and washing our hands. I will receive my second Covid vaccine shot on the 23rd, if all goes as planned, and two weeks after that I should be as safe as anyone else can be. It seems it will be awhile before we reach herd immunity here in the US, but it's on the horizon, at least, thanks to three wonderful and effective vaccines. I'm a Pfizer recipient, but I would have taken any one of the three in order to gain immunity from this awful virus.

And with that, this hodgepodge post has finally found its inevitable end. My tea is gone, dear partner still sleeping next to me, and a new day ahead, even if I did miss an hour of sleep last night. I'll make up for it tonight, though. I do hope you will find lots of reasons to celebrate this week, and until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well until then, dear friends.

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Being brave

Golden Ears, Canadian mountains

I took this picture of these mountains right at sunrise a few years back, just at the right time to capture them in glorious color. I am looking across Bellingham Bay into Canada, and when I saw this, I stopped the car on my way to join the Saturday walk I did every single Saturday, for years. Until this past year, when the whole world changed with the pandemic.

 My life has certainly changed enormously since then. Now I still walk with one or two people on Saturday, because it's such an important part of my life, but I haven't been able to walk or hike with more than a few people for over a year now. I'm sure it's pretty much the same with everybody, but we are all hoping that as the Covid vaccine becomes available to us, we might be able to return to a semblance of normalcy. Whatever that means, post-pandemic. I have received the first of two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and by the end of the month, I should become fully vaccinated against the virus. So much of the world still has no access to the vaccines, so I suppose I should feel grateful.

It's a bit hard for me to maintain a positive attitude, because the political situation around the world is in such flux, and it seems like things are falling apart. Every morning I read the news on my laptop, and during the week I tune in to the PBS Newshour every evening. I despair about the military coup in Myanmar, with the soldiers killing innocent protesters with impunity, just because they can. A young 19-year-old woman was one of them, her life cut short because of her activism. She was aware of the danger and did it anyway. She had told her parents and friends what to do with her things if she died. And the next day, even more protesters filled the streets, defiant and fully aware of the risks.

This past year I have been unable to watch any of the movies I would normally have watched in my favorite theater with my friend Judy. She has a very immune compromised husband and has stayed pretty much indoors or close by her neighborhood in order to protect him. We have lost touch, although she did call me on my birthday and fill me in on her limited life. Maybe later this year we will be able to get back together. She's just one of the people I miss.

I've been trying to watch some of the streaming movies that were released during 2020 and are possible award winners. Yesterday I watched The Trial of the Chicago Seven on Netflix, which has been available online since last October, but I wasn't made aware of it until I watched the Golden Globes. It covers the time when those who were arrested during the riots that took place in Chicago where the Democratic National Convention of 1968 occurred. I remember those times, but I was a young woman who only peripherally paid attention to current events. 

I had forgotten how incredibly scary those times were, and how much our country suffered from the awful effects of graft and corruption at the highest levels in the city of Chicago. The movie reminded me that this is not the only time in our country's history when we almost lost our freedom to political dirty tricks. So many young protesters came to Chicago to march against the Vietnam War and demand that our government change direction. That movie might not have been the most uplifting way for me to spend my Saturday, but I'm so glad I did. For one thing, it tied the events in the world today with the bravery and dedication of those who protested in the name of something they believed in back then. Fifty years ago, I well remember how despairing I was of the direction of our country, after the assassination of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy.

There is no shortage of brave and courageous young people in today's world. I see it every day on the news, and I see it also in the actions of many who are working to make the world a better place, even during this pandemic. Now that I am old and have seen much during my decades of life, I can reflect on how we will get through this period, too, and perhaps we will be better for it. It is definitely a time that we will never forget, and we might even see it in later years as an inflection point, a time when the world changed in positive and uplifting ways.

There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism. —Alexander Hamilton

I am hopeful. It's a much better way to feel than despairing. There are moments when I look for the bravery that others exhibit to appear in my own self, and occasionally I am rewarded with the courage to look ahead with joy and hope in my heart. I am reminded how even someone like the Cowardly Lion was able to overcome his fears when he wanted to help Dorothy. Maybe that's why he came to me in a dream last week: to buoy up my own courage. The image from the movie of the Tin Man hanging onto his tail as they climbed the mountain that led into the castle where she was imprisoned, that image is uppermost in my mind as I begin to finish this post.

My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I am ready to take on the new day, with love and hope in my heart. My tea is gone, and spring moves ever closer on the calendar, bringing lots of new growth to enjoy and admire. I do hope this coming week will bring you plenty of ways to appreciate your life and your loved ones. Until we meet again next week, be well, dear friends.

Sunday, February 28, 2021

Over the rainbow

Emerging crocus

I saw this precious early sign of spring to come while out walking in my neighborhood. Not only the crocus, but all the budding green shoots filled my heart with happiness. We made it through yet another winter, this one especially hard because of the pandemic. Better times are ahead.

As I have heard many times lately, and I hope it's true, the most difficult part of the worldwide pandemic is behind us. Perhaps that's why a couple of nights ago I had the most wonderful dream, filled with light and laughter, and a character from my past: the cowardly lion from The Wizard of Oz. Why did he appear in my dream, and what is the message I took from him? I remembered his "roar," a little whiff that makes me smile just to think of it.

I decided to find the entire movie and watch it again. Unfortunately, it's not streaming on any of my current apps at the moment, so I ended up joining HBO Max in order to watch it at home. I had been contemplating signing up for it anyway, since several studios are releasing this year's movies on the video app. Although it will be awhile before I can see myself walking into my favorite movie theater, I'll now be able to see them all before the awards season starts in earnest.

My father used to tell the story of the time he took my sister Norma Jean and me to the theater to see the movie. We were so scared, he said, about the tornado at the beginning, and I suspect also the witch, we climbed under the seats and cried until he took us out of the theater. I remembered the transition from sepia to technicolor very well, especially the ruby slippers and how gorgeous they looked to my young eyes.

My adult self watched the entire movie and took away so much that I had forgotten. Yes, I've seen it several times over the years, but yesterday it was a completely new story for me, with all the characters bringing up various emotions. And questions that never occurred to me before were: what happened to Dorothy's parents? Was she dreaming the entire story or did she actually go to Oz? Suffice it to say, I loved it when I re-watched it considering our current worldwide woes, and it gave me a bit of hope for the future. And I once again realized that the movie is truly a masterpiece.

I'm curious as to why the Cowardly Lion was so present in my dream, and I wonder what he personifies in my life today. Bert Lahr's performance was wonderful, and I laughed at his antics once again ("put 'em up, put 'em up"), at his comical tears and smiled at his willingness to work through his cowardice to stand up for Dorothy. There was also much more humor in the movie than I remembered from previous viewings.

I didn't realize until reading about the movie, how it was filmed and all the actors who were considered for the various parts, that it was based on a book, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, written by Frank Baum in May 1900. It's been reissued many times since, and perhaps it would be useful to find a copy and read it today. Perhaps I'd find out what happened to her parents.

Obviously, a movie made in 1939 no longer has anybody still alive who was part of the phenomenon that it became. We are left with a delightful artifact from that period in history, and I know I will want to watch it at least once more before I myself head over the rainbow. To me, that is what the rainbow represents: leaving the world of the living and heading off to where the bluebirds fly.
Someday I'll wish upon a star
Wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where trouble melts like lemon drops
High above the chimney top that's where you'll find me
Oh, somewhere over the rainbow way up high 

Today I might spend some time looking at my new HBO Max app and maybe even settle in for a nice revisit of another movie that I remember from long ago, or even a new one. If the weather cooperates, I might even head out for a nice walk and see if those crocus flowers are still there two days later. At this time of the year, our environment changes in the blink of an eye. Yesterday, when I was walking with my friend Melanie, we saw some daffodils just ready to bloom, and on the way back an hour later, some had already opened in the full sunshine.

And what, my dear online friends, will you do with this wonderful irreplaceable day that we have ahead? I know some of you will already have experienced the day, since I'm over on the west coast of the US and many of you are even already into the next cycle. It always amazes me when I open my reader and see that it's already the next day over in Australia. So, whatever part of the cycle you are in, I hope it's a good one, and that you will spend at least part of it with your loved companions.

My tea is gone, my dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I am now ready to start the rest of my Sunday. By the time I visit with you again next week, I hope I will have received the first of two vaccine shots. It's been tough getting an appointment, and I won't actually believe it until it's behind me, but I think this will be the week when it happens. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.