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, February 5, 2023

Moving into February

John T. Rus capture

I am again snagging a photo from the Seeing Bellingham group on Facebook, since the pictures I've taken recently just aren't as beautiful or inspiring. John Rus has lately been taking and posting lots of pictures of owls, which we have so many of around these parts. I often hear one hooting from the trees on my walks, not sure what kind it is, but I know the call very well. In this shot, I love the intense bead of the owl's laser-like focus on capturing its next meal.

We have such incredible birds around here, not just owls, but eagles, hawks, crows and ravens, sparrows, hummingbirds, and more. Just yesterday morning I saw my first-of-the-season robin! There were four of us ladies walking yesterday, and although we only covered around four miles, we had a really good time together. The bitter cold has receded for awhile at least, and in just a short time I was able to take off my gloves. And for a few moments, we actually had some sunshine! It left quickly, but it was sure pleasant to enjoy while we had it. 

What to write about this morning? Well, I've recently started to read another book on quantum mechanics, published just last month, by Heinrich Päs: The One: How an Ancient Idea Holds the Future of Physics. I read an article about the recent release of this book, which holds many fascinating ideas to ponder. It's interesting to consider that what Päs is postulating is exactly what the Ancients have been teaching for thousands of years: that all is one, everything that makes us think otherwise is an illusion. And I do think that, even though I'm only part way through the book, I am beginning to have more of an understanding of the concept of quantum entanglement a little better than before I began to read it. 
Since everything is an illusion, perfect in being what it is, having nothing to do with good or bad, acceptance or rejection, One may burst into laughter. —Longchenpa, Zen Master, 1350 AD

Heinrich explains the relation between the quantum world and our classical world by using the example of the film projector: is reality the film seen on the screen or is this simply derived from the roll of film in the projector? If everything really is just One Thing, and we are creating all the rest of reality through projection, we're doing a pretty good job of making it all look fantastic and mind-blowing. The concept of monism has been around for as long as human have been. It's the idea that All is One.

I don't know why I've become so fascinated with quantum physics, but everything I have learned tends to bring me a sense of hope that perhaps we can consider another and better reality than the one we wake up to every day. That perhaps even time and space are illusions. Even so, we need to find a alternate way of thinking about life and our place in the Universe that makes more sense than what we accept as reality today.

Heinrich is a mere youth who was born in 1971 and garnered many different degrees at prestigious universities before starting to write books about what he has learned as a particle physicist. He spent years learning to surf in Hawaii, with his first book being called "The Perfect Wave,"about neutrinos, which he says are some of the most puzzling particles in the universe. Not to mention his passion for surfing being part of his story. 

In this new book he says that, once quantum mechanics is applied to the entire cosmos, it uncovers a three-thousand-year-old idea: that underlying everything we experience there is only one single, all-encompassing thing —that everything else we see around us is some kind of illusion. I found an excellent article about all this on a website called "The Big Think," interviewing people in the news. Check this out, written by Heinrich:

The One is the story of both a serious crisis in physics and the half-forgotten concept that has the potential to resolve it. It explores the idea that “all is One,” that matter, space, time, and mind are all just artifacts of our coarse-grained perspective onto the universe. Along the way it narrates how the concept evolved and shaped the course of history, from ancient times to modern physics. Not only did monism inspire the art of Botticelli, Mozart, and Goethe, but it also informed the science of Newton, Faraday, and Einstein. Even now, monism is becoming a tacit assumption underlying our most advanced theories about space and time. This is a story full of love and devotion, fear and violence—and cutting-edge science. In no small way, this is the story of how humanity became what it is.

He writes about stuff in ways that pull me right in, and as I'm immersed in his book, his worldview, I am feeling quite happy to be alive in this moment, when we have people like Heinrich discovering new avenues to discover in quantum physics, and when the James Webb telescope is showing us what the universe was like at its beginning, and much, much more. How can anybody take a look around and not be excited about what we have already uncovered?

With all that, I think I will need to bring myself back down to earth and consider that you might not be all that interested in what I'm learning. But I'll bet that you, along with many of us, want to find a way to appreciate the natural world and enjoy some peace and serenity in your everyday life. It might seem unproductive to sit and follow one's breath for a few minutes every day, but I have to tell you that it seems to be working for me. I have carved out a small amount of time from my morning routine to include it, and now I think I am beginning to reap the benefits. I feel more centered and am often filled with awe when I look at the world around me.

Of course that thought sent me to the internet to discover ways to have more awe in my life, and I'll share these tips with you. These are taken from another interesting website. Here are six ways to incorporate awe into your daily life:

Linger. When you catch yourself in awe, sit with that feeling for as long as possible. Though you may be tempted to move quickly onto the next thing, such as taking a photo or responding to a notification, try pausing first to soak in the surroundings for a bit longer.

Slow down. Create space for awe to emerge in the mundane. While you water your plants, tenderly check for new leaves and buds. While eating, consider the time and energy that went into the food in front of you.

Appreciate your senses. Tune in deeply to your awareness of color, texture, scent, and sound. What do you hear? What do you see? While on a walk, stretching, or taking deep breaths, allow yourself to sink into the senses that connect us to the world, and be in awe of what we find.

Unplug. While many of us are dependent on technology for work or for communicating with others, it’s good to intentionally step away from the screen and give yourself the opportunity to connect with yourself. 

Awe walks. Numerous studies have shown that spending time in nature lowers stress and improves our physical and mental health by decreasing blood pressure, enhancing focus, and strengthening our immune system. 

Awe journaling. Think back to our most awe-inspiring vacations, events, and moments, and take the time to document them. Where were you? Who was there? How did you feel? This simple practice may decrease your sense of time pressure, and make you more generous, as well.

Well, I'd better start wrapping up this long post, and find my way into the rest of my day. My sweet partner still sleeps next to me, my tea is gone, and I've spent altogether too much time in my head! Time to jump out of bed and get ready for what's next in my day. John will be here soon to take me to breakfast, so I'd better get started. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I hope you will find a way to spend part of your day awestruck! Until then, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, January 29, 2023

Generating a post

Lake Padden yesterday

I had a hard time deciding what to write about today, because my head is simply brimming with possibilities. Should I write about the burgeoning windstorm that we here in the Pacific Northwest will endure for the next few days? Or what about the murder of that poor man in Memphis? Or maybe about, wait for it, the advances in artificial intelligence (AI)  that have recently taken over the internet, as well as all possible uses and misuses of the next new big thing, Chat GPT?

One of my blogging friends suggested that I consider using it to assist in writing my post, just to see what might emerge. I am tempted, really I am, but when I just now went over to the OpenAI website, I got as far as to learn that, at the very least, I would need to give out my email address and phone number in order to set up an account. There might be more, but I didn't go further into it to find out. 
Success in creating AI would be the biggest event in human history. Unfortunately, it might also be the last, unless we learn how to avoid the risks. —Stephen Hawking

Well, Stephen, we've done the first part by creating it, and now it's up to us to make sure that it is going to be developed to assist and aid humanity, rather than (thinking of the Terminator movie) it becoming self-aware and deciding that humanity is a nuisance. 

Chat GPT is the latest exciting bot to emerge, after having become available to the public at the end of last year. For now, signing up to use the service is free, but everybody thinks it will soon become only available for a price. Who knows? I found plenty on the internet to tell me about it, and the article I linked above will tell you everything you need to know to get started, if you want to try it yourself. I also read a good article on PC Guide that tells you even more about it.

Chat GPT has become a viral phenomenon – and it is no surprise. The online AI chatbot has blown the minds of the public and it seems that everyone is trying to check it out. As a result, Chat GPT servers have been struggling to handle all their user’s requests. Resulting in some people being temporarily blocked from using the service.

Well, that's one more reason to leave it alone for now. I am curious, because my friend in Seattle who mentioned it to me, sent me a comment on my other blog with a question that he generated from Chat GPT, asking where might be a good small city in which to retire in the Pacific Northwest, and it chose Bellingham and described it perfectly!

I then went to YouTube and watched a 30-minute video about how to use it with Chrome extensions, which was fascinating, but again I got a chill thinking about how much our world will be changed by this technology. I wonder what you might think about it, and whether or not you have ventured into its use. In any event, this post is generated completely from my fevered brain after a good night's sleep.

Yesterday Mel and I walked two times around Lake Padden, which is where I took that picture. It was still, almost, as you can see from the glassy surface of the lake. We saw a heron in a tree near the water and watched it for awhile. Plenty of people were out and about, enjoying the weather and, I suspect, wanting to get out before the forecasted wind hit. And it did: I listened to it howl through the trees all night long. A twenty-mile-an-hour cold wind from the northeast made it unpleasant to even think about being outdoors last night. It's moderated a little at this time before dawn, but it's still blowing. At least it's perfectly clear and cold, which means I'll be able to get a good walk in this afternoon, bundled up and watching my breath steam up the air as I walk. I have a nice three-mile walk that is mostly away from traffic, and I'll enjoy myself, I'm sure.

I can usually find ways to bring happiness into my life, but out of curiosity I looked online to see what others think are necessary to be happy. I found this:

  • Practice Daily Gratitude. Expressing gratitude has been shown to do more than improve your mood. 
  • Surround Yourself with Positive People. 
  • Do Regular Acts of Kindness. 
  • Spend More Time with Family and Friends. 
  • Spend Money on Experiences Instead of Things.

Most of these are regular occurrences in my own life. It's always uplifting to spend time with my guy, or with other friends, like my friend John who will pick me up this morning for our usual Sunday breakfast. I would also add to that list the importance of exercise, which always improves my mood, and my day.

And that will wrap up my post for this Sunday morning at the end of January 2023. The wind still blows but the day beckons and is pulling me out of my warm cocoon in bed, with my dear partner sleeping quietly next to me. I do hope this week will bring you happiness, dear friends, and until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, January 22, 2023

Existential thinking

Taken on a December morn
There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn't true: the other is to refuse to believe what is true. —Soren Kierkegaard

When I was in my twenties, I became obsessed with learning what happened during the Holocaust, and I ended up reading volumes of books that chronicled the atrocities that were carried out against more than six million souls, mostly Jewish, during the 1930s and 1940s. I don't know why I got so focused on that period in history, but I suspect it might have been because I stumbled upon a book that simply fascinated me: Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl, written in 1948 about his experiences in a concentration camp.

It was a long time ago, and I know that I was pregnant with my first son during that time and was rather unhappy in my personal life. I was only eighteen and forced to get married when I found myself "in a family way" with someone I barely knew. But it was 1961, there weren't a lot of options for me at the time. So I immersed myself in the suffering of others, I suspect. Within a few months, my husband was transferred to an Air Force Base in Puerto Rico, and I was pretty much by myself as I waited to join him there. I read incessantly until I flew to Puerto Rico, six months pregnant.

When I look back at that time in my life, and in the historical period itself, I think that I needed to find a way to think about things that made sense. It was a difficult time for me, but there were also the events surrounding me: the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, and I was living in Puerto Rico when it happened. Then JFK being assassinated, and then so many other leaders being lost as well. I was just a kid, I realize now, trying to make sense of life. I continued to read incessantly, and after having studied the Holocaust, I turned to books that might help me understand how to think about things. I went in several different directions over the years, but I know now that the concept of existential thinking has brought me to my present belief system.

Existentialism: a form of philosophical inquiry that explores the issue of human existence. Existentialist philosophers explore the problems related to the meaning, purpose, and value of human existence, and personal agency. An individual person's phenomenological starting point is direct experience of life. (Wikipedia)

By the time I turned thirty, I had been married and divorced, lost my infant son to meningitis, and was the mother of a young boy who was forced to endure all those upheavals along with me. He is now also gone, but he lived to the age of forty before dying of heart disease. We became good friends, but I still live with the knowledge that I was not a good mother to him. When he was a teenager, he dropped out of high school and nothing I said or did would change his mind. I sent him to live with his father, and that helped somewhat. He went into business with his dad and I think it was the best path for him at that time. But as I said, I still feel a great deal of guilt for the trials and tribulations we both faced during those years.

Now I am old, and looking back on my life, I realize that I had to make an attempt at understanding what it is all about in order to stay sane. During all those years, I never stopped reading and went through several different periods of interest. I read long involved novels that would allow me to forget my current circumstances. I had to work all during those years, and I also went to community college to earn an associate's degree (but I didn't finish). It was surprising to me to find that I really liked chemistry, but it only served to give me another direction in which to focus my reading. 

When I discovered quantum mechanics and Buddhism, more recently, many of the concepts that had been swirling in my mind began to come into focus. To learn that all the precepts of Buddhism dovetail so perfectly into the ideas of quantum mechanics has been a revelation, and it makes me feel much more confident in continuing to read about both of them with an eye towards better understanding the world as I perceive it.

And now, today, my world is feeling pretty stable, with a dear partner who shared those skydiving years with me, and I continue to read quite a lot. These days, I usually read books on my Kindle, since my eyes are no longer able to spend endless hours over hard copy. But I still read and realize and am grateful for how much I have learned, and continue to learn, as I make my way towards the exit.

None of us knows for certain what the future holds, but I feel quite content in the life I have today. Of course, it could all be altered in a few minutes, but for the present moment I wouldn't change a thing. I wonder if the fabled earthquake will occur while I am still alive, or if we'll have our current political situation go kablooey, as it has in so many places around the world, or if it will continue along pretty much as it has for so many years now. Who knows? 

Since I have learned that my happiness does not come from external circumstances, but from how I perceive my life, it has made me feel much more serene in daily existence. I've had a lot of it now, many years to ponder and experience the vicissitudes of life. I've had many wonderful people over the years to share my life and thoughts with, and through the magic of the internet, I no longer feel the need to be present in corporeal form to have an entire community of friends.

My dear partner still sleeps next to me as I begin to wrap up this post and look to the day ahead. As usual, John will pick me up for breakfast in Fairhaven, and then I'll go bowling with my dear friends Lily and Lamont. It's shaping up to become another wonderful day. I do hope you will have a lovely week ahead. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, January 15, 2023

Respite from the rain

Bellingham Bay yesterday

Melanie and I lucked out once again during our Saturday walk. We decided to head to Squalicum Harbor and make our usual five-mile walk through the area. It was simply a superb day, with mild temperatures and lots of sunshine. It felt like weather more reminiscent of late fall, rather than mid-winter. And it won't last all that long, since the rain is supposed to return tonight and be light but persistent on Monday.

The weather is so much worse in California, and I was actually hoping that we would receive part of that atmospheric river, to mitigate the effects in Northern California, but no, it's looking bad throughout much of the state. What an incredible amount of rain they have received: 
Mother Nature delivered 12.9 inches of rain to Oakland between Dec. 26 and Jan. 10, setting a new record for any 16-day period, according to the National Weather Service. San Francisco International Airport (11.59 inches) and Stockton (8.10 inches) also set new 16-day rainfall records. (NBC Bay Area, 11 Jan 23)

People have asked whether all this rain will end the decades-long drought the state has experienced, but everything I read says it will not. Although they have received massive amounts of rainfall in recent weeks, and has given some places more rain than ever before, it will mostly run off into the ocean, since it has no place left to go. It's not clear what will happen after these torrential rivers of water stop. One thing everyone recognizes is that extremes like this are becoming more common all across the globe. Most experts attribute it to climate change.

I myself think that one unremarked-upon situation has exacerbated the crisis: overpopulation. So many people are crowding out the natural habitats of most other species. In my own lifetime, we have added more than five billion people to the planet, growing from 2.3 billion to 8 billion. That has a massive effect on everything, and is the driving cause of climate change. How can anyone doubt it? 

During the mid-1300s, the Black Plague killed 75-200 million people in Europe, which was around half the population. This all happened within four years. It must have been a really horrific time to be alive and to cope with the disease. In comparison, we have had a pretty mild pandemic with Covid, with 6.7 million worldwide deaths estimated as of today. I guess pandemics are one of Nature's ways to cope with the planet being overrun. 

The natural lifespan of humans also helps control overpopulation, since we have such a limited time to spend here, a century being a long time, but in any case most people live long enough to experience the vicissitudes of aging as the years pass. I feel fortunate to have lived to eighty, and know that it's just a matter of time before I begin to lose my health and mobility. When I think of the massive numbers of fellow humans who are on the planet here with me, it makes me wonder whether it's really a good idea to think of extending our life spans. We need to make room for the young and vigorous, it seems to me at least.

Life is a gift, and a happy, safe and secure life is a gift given only to a small number of us. When I see the suffering in the world through the news, I always take a moment to be grateful for all my good fortune. Just to have a roof over my head and food to eat is not within reach of the vast majority of us, and it makes me very sad to realize it doesn't have to be this way. If we really cared about others, we could help so many more than we do. The Federal Reserve data indicates that as of the end of 2021, the top 1% of households in the United States have 32.3% of the country's wealth, while the bottom 50% have 2.6%. 

I really didn't mean to go off on this tangent this morning, but it's what is on my mind today as I wake to another beautiful Pacific Northwest morning, with my friend John taking me to Fairhaven as usual for our Sunday breakfast. It really does make a difference in one's life to think about the positive aspects of everyday existence, rather than looking at the world's woes and lamenting our inability to change much for the better.

I keep forgetting that there is only one place I can make a meaningful difference: right here in my own head, in my own surroundings. Instead of thinking about all that is wrong in the world, I can think about everything that is right, all around me. Why, just realizing that I am sitting in a warm bed, typing away on my laptop, ready to reach out to the entire electronic universe with these words, how can I not believe that the world is in a beautiful and perfect place? My dear partner sleeps next to me, and we will continue to laugh and cry together as we make our way into the days ahead. I wouldn't change much, if I look at what I can actually alter and have control over. 

Whew! I think I have finished this post, which started with the disasters in California and ends with this paragraph, realizing that the only thing I can actually change is my attitude. I hope that next Sunday we will be together again, looking at the world together, with love and hope for better days ahead. Until then, I wish you all good things, dear friends. Be well.

Sunday, January 8, 2023

The years fly by so quickly

Me, Wordle, and John

I didn't realize it's been more than a year since I started playing the New York Times game, Wordle, but here is a picture taken in February 2022, almost a year ago, and there I am, playing the game that I now enjoy once a day, usually in the morning. I'm now on a streak of 76 tries without a miss! (I hope I'm not jinxing it, but this streak does need to end somewhere.) I've learned that you if you miss a day of playing you lose the streak, and of course you can't miss the word or, well, you start over the next day at 1. John is obviously solving all the problems of the universe, judging by his expression in this picture.

I've gotten so obsessed with the game that if I cannot figure it out by the fifth try (you get six tries in total), I'll put it aside and hope that I can look at it again later and possibly figure it out. I have also learned that another regular coffee shop customer, Dave, has a really good eye for the solution. He figured out one that I couldn't get ("cynic") with just a quick look. John is always interested in seeing the word once I get it, but he's not a player himself.

Anyway, it's a nice pastime, and it joins several others that take me through the day. I am definitely a creature of habit, and really like to find ways each day feels similar to the day before. I don't know whether I've always been like this, or if it's because I have become more of a fan of routine as I age. I do know that when we lived in Colorado, I would get up each morning to bring in the newspaper, bring it back to bed and peruse it with a cup of tea as I began my day. These days, it's the laptop that joins me to read the news of the day. I've always been an early riser and early-to-bed person. Most nights I manage to get close to eight hours of sleep and really enjoy snuggling into my warm bed for a good night's sleep.

I stayed up a little later than usual last night to watch a special on CNN about January 6. It was probably delayed from its usual air time because of the four days that we watched the House of Representatives try over and over to elect a speaker. Finally, Kevin McCarthy wore down the rebels who didn't want him to win. Now the task of governing begins, and I sure hope that was the hard part, and now they will work together with one another and the Dems to make policies and laws for the good of the country.

Yesterday Melanie, Chris and I walked in the rain at Whatcom Falls Park for our usual Saturday morning exercise. It has been a while since we actually got seriously wet, but yesterday we sure did. Although only a quarter-inch of rain fell, and we were all dressed in appropriate gear, I had forgotten how much of a difference it makes to walk in serious rain. Nowhere near as nice as without it. However, in this part of the country you cannot wait for dry days; they come and go and make for a nice break from the usual winter precipitation. At least it's a warm rain right now, so I'll smile and be grateful for what I have, and be glad I have such good rain gear. And friends who also are willing to walk in the rain with me.
You have to accept the storms and the rainy days and the things in life that you sometimes don't want to face. —Bai Ling

Without the contrast of rainy days, the sunshine doesn't seem nearly as bright and cheerful, so I'll keep on looking for the rainbows that accompany the rain. It sometimes comes down to an internal conversation I have with myself: what is good right now in my life? Can I accept that I have so much more comfort and privilege than the majority of humanity without feeling bad about it? Of course I can, so that will be my mantra for the day: enjoy the soft rainfall that makes our Pacific Northwest such a green paradise in summer and enjoy whatever else the day might bring.

Plus, it seems like I barely get used to one year passing, and another has flown right by while I wasn't paying attention. It' already 2023, can you believe it? Since so few of my family members have lived as long as I have, I didn't expect to be around, but here I am, not only still happily living each day, but filled with gratitude for having my health, my dear partner, and all my friends, virtual and actual. It is a gift that I will enjoy for as long as I can. And I am also beginning to enjoy my status as an elder.

There's a silver lining somewhere in there

It won't be long now before we will start seeing little signs of spring popping up through the forest floor. Well, okay, maybe it won't be tomorrow, but with the ways the days, months and years have been flying by, it will happen that one day, while I'm out walking. I'll see the first primrose rise up to remind me that it's constantly changing from winter to spring, then summer and fall, and back once again to start it all over. It's a dynamic process, and I'm glad to have the ability to appreciate it, and to share the days with you and that special person sleeping next to me as I write this morning.

I got a late start, since I was up later than usual and woke a bit after my usual time, so I am feeling a little bit of time crunch. Before John gets here, I need to get out of bed, wash my face and brush my teeth, get my morning exercises in, and spend a little time in meditation. So that means I won't get to spend as much time as usual sitting here and pondering what to write. In any event, I am confident that by next Sunday, I will have caught up and will be back to my normal routine and will spend more time with you, my dear virtual friends. 

I do hope the coming week will bring you happiness, a bit of life's joy to remind you to smile and find the silver lining that is definitely there somewhere. Sometimes we just need to change our attitude to see it, but it's there. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, January 1, 2023

A new year begins

Our beautiful mountains

I've visited these lovely mountain views for many years now, and they never fail to inspire me as I contemplate their enduring beauty. I went looking for an inspiring picture among the hundreds I have stored on my laptop. Sadly, for me, I got caught up in trying to find just the right one to usher in our brand-new year. The time flew by, and now here I am trying to regain the time lost to reminiscence. Can't be done, so I'll just pick up the attempt from here.
Before we took down the tree each year, Dad would always say a prayer that we would be together the next Christmas. I cling to that prayer, which serves as a reminder that it's important to be grateful in the present for the people you love because, well, you never know. —Catherine Hicks

That's what is on my mind this morning: how many wonderful friends and acquaintances, as well as the celebrities, we have lost this past year. And as Catherine says, "it's important to be grateful in the present for the people you love because, well, you never know."

On this past Friday, as I was watching Judy Woodruff's final show as the long-time anchor of the PBS Newshour, I learned that Barbara Walters has died at 93. And just a few minutes later, the news flash came across the screen that Pope Benedict had also died. All at once, it sort of hit me about the brevity of life and how little we know about what is to come. The year 2022 was difficult in so many ways, but 2023 looks to be one where we might be able to pick up some of the lost days that the pandemic changed for all of us.

My resolution for the new year is to find a new yoga studio and actually attend the classes. I had gotten so accustomed to my familiar teacher and using Zoom to take the classes in my living room, that I realize how little I want to be in a crowded studio with others. I am still not feeling all that safe with the viruses circulating everywhere right now. I've narrowed my search to a couple that seem right up my alley, and one of them has a very extensive Zoom repertoire. But first I have to go in person and "feel the vibes." As I've said before, it's not that I don't know WHAT to do to keep myself fit from yoga, but I really like the yoga environment with others in the room to inspire me.

I'm thinking that I might also join a gym, since I miss the classes I attended at the Y, but the teachers I enjoyed are no longer there, and they have never reopened the women's locker room. A new place seems to be the answer, so that's my resolution for the new year as well. Writing it down helps me to follow through, you know?

I guess one shouldn't be surprised when dear hiking friends pass away, when you are already a senior, but it is still jarring to hear about old friends who are not only not hiking any more, but who have debilitating illnesses or worse. Of course it's part of life, but I keep forgetting that while I'm not paying attention, people are getting older and (in some cases) are no longer with us. 

You just never know what a new year has in store, both the good and the bad of our journey through life. Now that I have entered my ninth decade, I feel really fortunate that I am still able to do most of what I really want to do. Of course, that changes as one ages, too: I no longer feel the need to jump out of perfectly good airplanes, but I sure did for many decades. In fact, there was a time when I couldn't even imagine giving it up. It has become a distant memory, a fond one but from another era.

What I truly cherish and hope I can maintain for the rest of my time on earth, is my ability to remember and reminisce. I didn't know it until she died, but Barbara Walters had become very ill from advanced dementia. She joins the many celebrities whom I have admired who eventually became unable to continue their normal life because of it. I wonder what it is like, feeling yourself begin to slip away, little by little. One of my favorite books that describes the journey is Still Alice, written in 2007 by Lisa Genova. It was made into a movie starring Julianne Moore as Alice. It's well worth your time to read the book or see the movie, if you want to learn more about the illness that has taken so many wonderful people away from us.

It is one more thing to remind myself to be grateful not only for my physical health, but my mental and emotional health as well. The other day I couldn't remember the name of an old hiking friend who recently died, and after searching around in the nooks and crannies of my memory, feeling it almost emerge and then disappear again, I gave up. It made me realize that this particular event happens to me more and more often, which is normal as one's brain ages, but it's very disconcerting. I never did remember the person's name, until I asked my friend Melanie, who also knew him. Ah! The relief as I felt the name slip into place, feeling the blank spot in my memory become whole again.

We don't know what this new year will bring us, but I do have some real wishes and desires for what's to come. First and foremost, I hope that the war in Ukraine will come to an end, hopefully culminating in a just peace. Those people have endured so much suffering but continue to inspire the world with their resilience.

And here in this country, I wish that all who are suffering from homelessness can find their own way to safety. If our economy was not driven by so much greed, we would be able to feed and clothe the entire country. So I can add my own wish to those of many others, to find a way towards economic equity, or at least to make a start in that direction. Let's do it! I am reminded of a wonderful Margaret Mead quote that says it perfectly:

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead

With that hopeful note, I will leave you once again as we start a brand new year with hope and joy in our hearts. My dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me, and it's time for me to begin the next phase in my own journey: out of bed and into the world. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, December 25, 2022

Christmas Day 2022

Linda H. Williams on Seeing Bellingham Group

Looking for just the right picture for Christmas, I found this one taken by a local photographer, with Christmas lights shining behind branches covered by freezing rain that kept most of us in the region stuck inside during the last few days. It was right before the biggest economic holiday of the year. And today, as everything is now closed down to allow us to recover, I'm finally able to get to the coffee shop with John this morning. Not our regular one, which is closed, but one of the few we have found that is open on Christmas morning. He will be here in his big truck, which was completely frozen solid under a sheet of ice yesterday morning. He tried everything, but then, almost like magic, the severe cold broke and a warm rain began to cover everything. Of course, it fell on icy snow-covered streets, and it was treacherous to even try to make it down my apartment steps to see how bad the sidewalk was.

The warm rain continued to fall all morning, and as I looked out the front door in the dark before dawn, it felt almost balmy in comparison to the subfreezing temperatures we've endured for days. I listened to the ice cracking and falling from trees and nearby structures. Right now, before dawn, it's 45°F (8°C), while 24 hours ago we were in the deep freeze. Most of the country has endured some truly memorable weather during the past week. Here's hoping we are turning the corner on this day, the last Sunday in the calendar year, and the day when Christmas reminds us that the true meaning of the day is LOVE.
The festival of Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ and conveys his message of love, tolerance and brotherhood. It is a celebration of humanity and mankind. Though Christmas is a primary festival of the Christian calendar, it still has a special significance in everyone's life.

 When I was a kid, I always hoped to find a special gift for me under the Christmas tree. I knew in my heart that my parents were the ones who found just the right gift (actually, my mother), not Santa Claus. I was never much of a believer, but played along because it was expected. In all the years of my childhood, I must have received hundreds of gifts, but only a few stand out in my memory. When I was around ten, I really wanted a bride doll, and I can still remember seeing it in the store and wanting it so bad. I guess I received it, but it was the wanting that I remember to this day. I suppose I would be wealthy today if I had kept it, pristine and unloved in its original box, but I'll wager that she was loved until she was used up and eventually discarded.

Far more precious treasures were given during those Christmas festivities: family memories, the closeness I shared with Mama and Daddy and Norma Jean, and then eventually the rest of my siblings as they showed up in my life. But especially my sister who was both my playmate and constant companion. As I grew from a toddler to an adult who went off with my first husband, she was always there. We were a very happy family, as I recollect the memories that still emerge when I think of that long-ago time.

The bond that links your true family is not one of blood, but of respect and joy in each other's life. —Richard Bach

 What do I remember from my childhood Christmases? There was always a well-decorated tree, covered with lights, ornaments and tinsel. I remember liking to lie down with my head under the tree so that I could look up at the beauty of it, and smell the pine scent, which seemed more intense from underneath. And I was also at eye level with the prettily wrapped presents, even imagining myself being one of them.

As I sit here writing this, in my dark room with my dear partner still sleeping next to me, I think of all the Christmas mornings we have shared together in the three decades we have been together. Since we met as skydivers, we would often spend our Christmas holiday in Arizona jumping out of airplanes. But that was then, and now we are both elders who marvel at what we did when we were young, with no real desire to return to those days. That is actually pretty amazing when you think about how central to our lives that activity was. Today, we will wake up and spend the quiet day together with little to differentiate it from other days. 

We no longer exchange gifts; we have no tree standing in the living room surrounded with presents; sometimes we have a lovely salmon dinner, but since the pandemic we haven't even done that. Instead, I will get in John's truck and we'll head off for coffee, much as we do every day, and SG will remain in bed until he's ready to start his day. When I come home, we'll spend some time together, perhaps reminiscing over past Christmases, but in reality just being grateful for our being together during these precious days in the twilight of our lives. 

Every year for the past several, I have received a wonderful Jacquie Lawson Advent Calendar from a dear friend as a Christmas gift. Advent is finished today, after a month of wonderful videos and games to play every day, I'll miss it. I just watched the video from the final day that marks the beginning of the Christmas season. I took a picture with my phone to share it with you:

Until next Advent season, Merry Christmas!

My virtual family, my friends from around the world who visit me on my blogs, whose own blog posts keep me apprised of what is going on in their lives, and those who like to read and don't comment, to all of you I wish you the best of Christmas days on which your future memories will be formed. Until we meet again, dear friends, when we will begin another trip around the sun, I wish you all good things. Be well.