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, December 10, 2023

Unexpectedly wet walk

String quartet at Adagio's

It sure seemed like it would be a normal walk yesterday, with my friends Steve and Don, as we set out from the coffee shop under mostly cloudy skies to walk to Squalicum Harbor, which is one of our favorites. We walked across the bridge and saw the snout of a seal sticking out of the water, checking out the scene. After we had navigated a couple of miles, suddenly we saw it: a squall of wind and water heading our way. Our nice dry walk turned into a torrent of icy pellets, plenty of regular old rain, and heavy wind. In nothing flat, we were soaked and turned around to head back into town. Steve took us on a shortcut, so we only managed a brief three-miler, but the weather made it quite exciting. Don took off for his car as soon as we got close, but I decided to go inside the coffee shop and get myself a hot chocolate and try to dry out a little. Steve came in for a few minutes, but then he took off too. 

I was surprised to see that string quartet in there, playing lots of Christmas tunes, and it was really nice to be indoors and have a place to gather myself together. Everything I had on was soaked, except for my rain pants, which were snug inside my pack, where I had brought them just in case. I decided it was not worth trying to get them on while I was struggling to stand upright. Once we made it back to the coffee shop, I found an open table and sat down to enjoy an incredibly good (and plenty warm) hot chocolate. I felt quite happy after having a few minutes of relaxation, safe from the storm. It continued to rain and blow, but once I felt ready, I made a beeline to my car and drove home. No desire to set out again for the rest of the day.

And, as it turned out, the rain never let up. Today we are expected to get more heavy rain, which means the streams and rivers around here will finally overflow their banks. It's above freezing, but only by a few degrees, and my heart goes out to all those poor homeless people who are just trying to stay dry and warm. I have a nice warm home, and plenty of warm clothes and blankets. It makes me feel guilty for having such luxuries while there are people all around the world who don't have anywhere to go to escape their misery. I woke in the middle of the night and couldn't go back to sleep, thinking about it all. 

What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like. —Saint Augustine

The middle of the night has passed, without me finding any respite in sleep. I did wake my guy and we huddled together in the dark, talking about our various states of mind. It never fails to make me feel better when I feel his arms around me, another fellow traveler through this life, sharing the good and the not so good, which is just part of the human condition. I want to spend my days and hours in love, and Saint Augustine reminds me that love is not all hearts and flowers, but seeing others as they are and helping however we can. Right now that help will be in the form of a post, one that will hopefully be uplifting to myself and in the process, help others.

I could easily list the terrible happenings I read about and see on the news every day, but that would not be helpful, plus you probably already know about them. Instead, in this season of dark nights and grey days, perhaps it would be more useful to consider that in just a few short weeks, the days will begin to lengthen (slowly), the sun will shine intermittently, and soon we will begin a new year, another journey around the sun. We will bob up and down in harmony with the ocean swells as we hold onto each other in our little lifeboats in the enormity that is our lives.

Yesterday, while wrapped in a blanket in my easy chair, I watched a wonderful documentary on PBS about Tyrus Wong, a Chinese-born American artist who came to this country in the 1930s and became an influential artist in many areas: as a painter, animator, calligrapher, muralist, ceramicist, lithographer and kite maker, as well as a set designer and storyboard artist. My first experience of his art was when I watched Bambi, as a young child, an animated story about a deer and his friends. It was produced by Disney and came to the screen in 1942, the year I was born. In the documentary, I learned that his art was very different from anything created earlier, using minimalist backgrounds and charming brushstrokes. It has become a classic.

In June 2008, the American Film Institute presented a list of its "10 Top 10"—the best ten films in each of ten classic American film genres—after polling over 1,500 people from the creative community. Bambi placed third in animation. In December 2011, the film was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically and aesthetically significant." (Wikipedia)

 Although Tyrus was discriminated against because of his ethnicity, he never seemed to take it personally and never stopped trying to create. He married Ruth Kim in 1937 and became father to three daughters. He and his father immigrated illegally in 1920 until the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1946. He then became an American citizen and found work at Disney Studios and later Warner Brothers. When I think of how hard his life was, and how successful he became, I realize that there is nothing that cannot be overcome, with (as he said) "luck and hard work."

Tyrus died in 2016 at the age of 106, having changed the face of animation forever, and having created so much that is still being discovered today. For many years, his contribution to Bambi was unknown. After having watched that documentary, I realize that I too was unaware of the depth and breadth of his creative talents. How many other wonderful people have I missed, or worse, misjudged, in my own life? Perhaps it's more important for me to take stock of my life today, as well as my friends and family, and examine it and them for clues to unrecognized talent.

One thing I know for sure: that in taking a look outside of my own life at the world around me, with all its depth and possibility for change, there is a way to be hopeful and filled with love for it all. Yes, all of it, if I can let go of judgment and simply let it in. I realize that just being tuned into the disasters and pain of the world that fills the TV screen are NOT all there is to see and experience. I will not let myself get pulled into the misery, when all I have to do is look over at my dear sweet partner, placidly sleeping next to me as I write, to realize that cultivating an "attitude of gratitude" will go a long way toward healing my worldview.

And you, my dear virtual family, will hopefully find your own way to happiness as you navigate the shoals of your own life. We do get to choose, you know. My tea is long gone, and my day will begin once I finish this post and climb out of bed to enjoy the rain and wait for my friend John to take me to Sunday breakfast once again. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I do hope you find a way to relax and enjoy the moment just a bit. I know I will be doing that, too. I wish you all good things and wish you many happy returns of the season.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Holiday activities ahead

The view from Eagle Cliff

Well, I can now say that I had the best birthday week of my life. Or that I can remember, at least. It started on Monday with a new class, strength training, that will continue until December 22. Twice a week I will get instructed, along with my other classmates, on the correct operation of the fifteen exercise stations in the Senior Center's gym. I have already used a couple of machines that I've never been on before: the abdominal crunch and the low back extender. I started on low weights, since I have plenty of "stuff" going on in those areas. It's also fun learning new skills. 

As the week went on, I got a good acupuncture treatment, a fabulous massage from my regular therapist, and a super-wonderful hike on Wednesday, to a place new to me: Cypress Island in the San Juans. That picture was taken from the high point of our several hikes. It's a thousand feet above the water, and we traversed it in just over a mile's distance. That means, yes, it was steep. I couldn't have done it without my trekking poles. But all twelve of us made it to the top, before turning around and carefully descending to get to our pickup spot with our water taxi boat.

And now I am well and truly into my eighties. I cannot help but wonder how I managed to be in such good shape at this time in my life, and although I've got pins in my back and knees, I still seem to be able to hike nine miles! It must be all the years I've continued to exercise, but I don't know for sure what might be the reason. Good genes? My parents didn't manage to make it out of their sixties, but they didn't have statins and died of heart disease. I sometimes wonder how long they might have lasted if their hearts had been healthy. All I know for sure is that I must continue to be vigilant and take care of my physical self for as long as I can. We all do end at some point not too far into the future. I won't know until I get there.
Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards. —Soren Kierkegaard
Perhaps it's normal, but since I've never been this old before, I do begin to wonder how it will all finish up. Not having grandchildren, or even living children, there is nobody who will grieve too terribly when my demise finally comes. At this age, there are only a few options that I can think of: physical illness, an accident, dementia perhaps. Now that my birthday has passed for the year, I intend to enjoy all the holiday hoopla. Sedately, that is. I will probably attend two or three holiday parties and will see good friends, but for the most part SG and I will just continue to carry on our daily activities as usual. We have a particularly soggy forecast for the next week or so, with as much as three or four inches of rain coming our way through an atmospheric river. At least that means it will be warm and not freezing. At this moment, early in the morning, it's already 41°F with a light rain. Being a Pacific Northwesterner, I have lots of raincoats and rain pants. It is truly amazing what a difference it makes to have proper gear for the weather. I almost look forward to it.

I keep thinking about that hike we did last Wednesday and what a beautiful place Cypress Island is. While the days will continue to get even shorter over the next few weeks, it will not be long before we turn the corner and begin to see more light in the morning sky. By the end of January, it will be very noticeable. That picture above was taken at the end of November with the sun low on the horizon at around 2:30 in the afternoon, but soon we will have reached the nadir. I believe the first day of winter starts on December 21, with it also being the beginning of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. I love seeing the changing seasons, and still am amazed that we have summer beginning somewhere on the planet, while some of us begin our winter. It seems that 12% of the human population lives Down Under. 

Yesterday I enjoyed a nice five-mile walk from the coffee shop, with friends Steve and Don. We were ready for the rain, which continued all night, but just for us the sun came out and we saw blue skies. Today will begin with "sprinkles" and change to actual rain by noon or so. I do hope I will be able to get out for at least a short walk, and that I can put on all my rain gear and pretend I'm related to the ducks. When I was a young girl, I remember wearing galoshes and carrying an umbrella. Although I own an umbrella, I rarely use it here, because when it rains, it usually blows as well. You don't see many umbrellas around these parts; mostly used by transplants to the region, I suspect. Just a time or two of having your umbrella blown inside out will discourage its use. 

Taking stock of where I am in the scheme of things makes me ponder once again how it might all change. After all, change is inevitable, and when I look back at the long arc of my life, I'm thinking that there must be a rainbow somewhere that will show the pot of gold at the ending point. I do like to think that instead of dreary grey skies, I'll be looking at rainbows. I am determined to live every moment of my life in love and gratitude for all that I've been blessed with. Counting one's blessings is always a happy task, no matter what your circumstances might be. (There are exceptions, of course, but attitude does make a huge difference in our perception.)

I feel myself beginning to think ahead to the day's activities: John will be coming around in his truck to take me to Fairhaven for our usual Sunday breakfast. Then I'll return home and spend some time talking with SG about the day ahead. He is busy researching what his next computer will be, while I will spend some time watching a few episodes of The Crown on Netflix. It is currently in its sixth season, and I stopped watching it awhile back and have to finish season five before starting on the current season. Since I was young, I've watched the royal drama, and remember well when William and Harry were born. Now they are parents themselves, and Harry wrote a book about what it was like for him being a member of the royal family. It really does seem odd that we still have kings and queens in some parts of the world, doesn't it? It seems an anachronism to me, but then again, we still have never figured out the best way to govern ourselves. I suppose I won't ever see what the future holds in that regard, but I'm content to imagine a future where we all live in harmony with one another.

And with that lovely thought, I think I'll wrap up this holiday gift to my readers, imperfect as it is. When I was a kid, I sometimes created homemade gifts for my parents and family, and I suspect they are just as fondly remembered as anything that could be purchased. The season is upon us, and I wish my dear virtual family all good things in the weeks ahead, and that you will also find a way to count your blessings and share the love. Until we meet again next week, I wish you health, wealth, and happiness.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Pondering and wandering

The season is upon us

Thanksgiving in the country where I live is now behind us, and we are gearing up for the next holiday, Christmas. As I walk to the bus in the morning, each day there are more decorations going up, until the street I walk down will be filled with colored lights and scenes like this one. In this picture, the first light of the day was beginning to decorate the sky, too. The days are short and getting shorter, so we will take the time to bring some light into the darkness. That's sort of what I try to do with these Sunday posts, looking for some light in the darkness, and attempting to spread it around a bit.

It's been hard lately to find joy and happiness in my days, especially if I let myself get pulled down with the news of the world. From burgeoning wars, desperate people trying to stay out of harm's way where nowhere exists for them, people without food, water, clothing and shelter as winter begins. If I let myself, I can get overwhelmed with it all, and that helps no one, particularly myself. So, it's a balancing act between the news and watching escapist TV, or reading an uplifting book to focus my thoughts elsewhere. I also try not to feel guilty for all my good fortune.

As usual, I get my regular exercise to work out the kinks. I always, without fail, feel better after going outdoors and walking in nature for any length of time. Yesterday I walked with my friends Steve and Don to Fairhaven, and we were at first quite cold (below freezing) but since we had full sunshine, it didn't take long before we were shedding hats and coats. Just being able to walk 6+ miles fills me with gratitude. I am losing some of my abilities, but I am still able to walk at a three-mile-an-hour pace for awhile. I cannot be unhappy about that!

My eyesight continues to deteriorate, and I realize now that my right eye can no longer focus well, since the missing vision has almost completely covered its focal point. It means that now I have little depth perception, and although both of my eyes' peripheral vision is good, the left eye has become my better and more dominant one. I don't wish macular degeneration on anybody and am just glad that I can still drive short distances with care. Those days are numbered, though. Thank goodness we have such an extensive public transit system here and, given enough time, I can get anywhere around town I need to go by bus.

Do you have nightmares? I hardly ever do, but the other night I had one that won't go away. It was so real and detailed that I can still, three days later, see scenes in my mind's eye that occurred in it. I had been looking forward to taking a hot bath, and in my dream I had settled into the steamy bathtub when I realized that my mother was in the bath with me, propped against the side of the huge tub. But she didn't seem to be breathing, so I tried to arouse her, with no luck. Then I realized that she had slipped under the water and had drowned. I tried CPR (which I have never given) and kept trying to get some reaction from her. Nothing. So I pulled her out of the water and tried to find help, but when I tried to scream, only a little squeak came out of my mouth. That is when I woke up, realizing it was a dream. Mama has been gone since 1993, so where in the world did that nightmare come from? Perhaps it is from trying to keep my own head above water as I deal with the helplessness I feel.

What is the appropriate behavior for a man or a woman in the midst of this world, where each person is clinging to one's piece of debris? What's the proper salutation between people as they pass each other in this flood? —Buddha

When I look around at the beautiful and peaceful environment that surrounds me, I can only wish that I could somehow give that gift to the suffering world. And I must remember that it helps absolutely no one to allow myself to give up and sink into despair. There is so much to be thankful for in every life, and that should guide my mental wanderings, not to focus on the hard parts, but look for the joy that exists everywhere, even in war zones. Although the world will not be peaceful for many centuries to come, it will always have little pockets of happiness to be uncovered and appreciated. Love is always somewhere to be found and I will do my very best to love as many fellow travelers as I can. When my heart is filled with love and joy, it's like a little candle I have lit and I can look for others to share it with, lighting their own candle from its light. Soon, just like the colored lights on my neighborhood street, the darkness can be pushed back a bit.

Several remarkable things will happen for me this week: I will start a strength training class at the Senior Center that I signed up for months ago. It will continue until December 22 with eight sessions, when I will then have finished the training and can then use the facilities whenever I want. On Wednesday, I will join some other Senior Trailblazers as we make another boat trip on a water taxi to spend the day hiking around Cypress Island. Last month we went to Sucia Island. I've never been on this island before and look forward to a great adventure. Then on Friday, I will celebrate my eighty-first birthday with a massage and another strength training class. 

A full week, and I am so blessed to have such good friends to enjoy it with. And of course, I always look forward to hearing what is going on in the lives of my dear virtual family, of which you are part, hoping that you will be close enough to someone's little candle to light up your days. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Thanksgiving week

Lake Padden on a calm day

Anyone who has lived in Bellingham for awhile, and who also likes to go on some easy to moderate hikes, has discovered this gem: Lake Padden. If you take the loop around the lake, it's 2.6 miles, or twice around for a perfect workout distance. At least it's just right for me. I've taken this exact picture many times over the years, but there is usually at least a little breeze to stir up the water. Not on this lovely calm day, however. The lake is a smooth as glass.

It's Sunday before the big holiday when thousands, if not millions, of turkeys give up their giblets in order for the entire US to indulge in the first of the holiday traditions: overeating and consuming lots and lots of food. This year, if I had just one wish, it would be to transport half of the haul to Gaza to feed those starving and displaced Palestinians. But I cannot, so I will instead send some money to Doctors Without Borders to help them to get something, anything at all to them, along with my heartfelt prayers for better days ahead.

I've never been alive without wars going on in many different places on our beautiful blue globe. However, it's never seemed like we've had so many major conflicts at once, but it could just be because I'm paying closer attention in my waning years. The only thing I can be really positive about is that I will not live to see a harmonious free world during my lifetime. This lifetime, anyway. Maybe if I come back in a hundred years, maybe as a bodhisattva, I'll be able to be more sanguine about things. What is a bodhisattva, you ask? In Buddhist teachings, it's a being who is able to reach nirvana but delays doing so out of compassion for the suffering of others. Until that day comes, if it ever does, I'll be spending my remaining time helping others in whatever way I can.
Our human compassion binds us the one to the other — not in pity or patronizingly, but as human beings who have learnt how to turn our common suffering into hope for the future. —Nelson Mandela

 Nelson Mandela lived a long and fruitful life, even if almost three decades of it were spent behind bars for his work to end apartheid. He was deemed a terrorist and a danger to society. Of course, that was because the ruling party didn't want to give up their power over those they held down. And they were facing a huge disparity in numbers, five to one, and they were scared. But as you know, once Mandela was freed, he ended up being elected to be the President of the country and apartheid in South Africa became obsolete. It must have been a very difficult time to live in South Africa. Yesterday I read the entire Wikipedia entry chronicling the major events of his life. He lived to be 95, and during that long life, he received many accolades, including the Nobel Peace Prize. And he never became bitter or angry, even after all those years locked up behind bars.

Amid growing domestic and international pressure and fears of racial civil war, President F. W. de Klerk released him in 1990. Mandela and de Klerk led efforts to negotiate an end to apartheid, which resulted in the 1994 multiracial general election in which Mandela led the ANC to victory and became president. (Wikipedia)

 I wonder if someone like Mandela might emerge once again to help heal the conflict going on right now with Israel and Hamas. Although it's unlikely, there is no reason not to hope for such an event to occur. Anything is possible, and with enough motivation, perhaps the apartheid existing in Palestine will one day be relegated to the dustbin of history.

Well, I certainly took a swerve away from what I was originally going to talk about, which is all the many reasons I have for being grateful during Thanksgiving week. I have never been directly exposed to conflict and displacement myself, but I can well imagine it. Instead, my decisions will revolve more around how to prepare for the big dinner, and whether or not I'll be able to get in some exercise. No Senior Trailblazer hikes on Thursday, it seems.

This year, I decided to buy the local community food co-op's Thanksgiving feast, all prepared and assembled for me. I don't need to do anything more than pick up the  pre-cooked dinner. I'll make some nice side dishes, maybe, just so I can get into the spirit. I'll arrange everything on separate plates, and SG and I will sit down to a stress-free Thanksgiving meal. It's my idea of a perfect Thanksgiving, although I have so many childhood memories of my mother's wonderful spread, including (of course) pumpkin and apple pies. She also made a wonderful turkey hash out of the leftovers, which for me was my favorite part of the holiday. I've tried, but I never was able to duplicate that delicious dish. Mama's magic ingredient was always missing.

A rainy hike five years ago

In all these years of hiking in the Pacific Northwest (fifteen so far), I've been incredibly fortunate to have so many wonderful places, and wonderful people, to enjoy the outdoors with. It still continues today, although the faces change, the camaraderie and mutual enjoyment of our beautiful environment does not. I will continue on this way for as long as I can, and then when it's finally time to settle into my armchair for good, I will be content. Until then, I wish you, my dear friends, a very happy and fulfilling Thanksgiving. Be well until we meet again.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Thanksgiving just around the corner

Cornucopia of veggies

Yesterday I ended up walking by myself from the coffee shop. Steve had company from out of town, Don had a plumbing problem, and John is back in the hospital again. Not because of Covid this time, but he began to feel really woozy and called his son to take him to the hospital, and they admitted him. He was barely able to walk. They discovered that his potassium level, for one thing, was highly elevated. Last week he started taking a different medication for his heart, and the doctors thought perhaps that might have caused his symptoms. He stopped taking it and feels better, but he'll be there for another day or two to be sure he's out of the woods. Plus they will start him on another medication and will monitor his progress closely.

He is, you know, elderly. He'll be turning 84 in a couple of months, and I remind you what they say about aging: there is only one way to keep it from happening, and hardly anybody is looking forward to dying. It will eventually catch up to all of us, but I, for one, am in no hurry to take that final journey. Sometimes when I'm relaxing quietly in the dark, waiting for sleep, I take stock of my day's activities and look ahead to tomorrow, realizing that my considerable good health makes me happy to be alive. Although I'm not immune to various aches and pains, I seem to be hanging in there for the moment, and for that I am grateful.
Participate joyfully in the sorrows of the world. We cannot cure the world of sorrows, but we can choose to live in joy. —Joseph Campbell

I am also working hard to stay positive and not overwhelmed with the awful news of the world. I was very pleased last Tuesday to see how well the Democrats did in the off-year elections, although I was disappointed by some of the local Bellingham races. And by the fact that only 44% of eligible voters participated in Whatcom County was discouraging as well. You could hardly make voting much easier than it is here in Washington State: all you need to do is fill in the ballot that was mailed to us and mail it back. You do need to figure out who and what to vote for, but that is not too hard.

Sorry, I didn't mean to get on my soapbox. It's not what I really want to spend my free time doing. I have stopped watching the news channels in the evening that were once something I wouldn't miss. It seems like it only seems to grow more dire, and there is nothing I can do about it, except distract myself with other activities. And the holidays are right around the corner! Less than two weeks before Thanksgiving, which has already occurred in Canada. This year I once again ordered our Thanksgiving dinners from the local co-op, and on Wednesday I will pick up our dinner rather than fixing it myself. It's a good way to support our local grocery store and not cook. I did it for the first time last year and was quite pleased with the quality and quantity of the Thanksgiving feast.

Red leaves

The beautiful red leaves in the picture above are now fallen, after we had a windstorm that pretty much took the last of the deciduous tree leaves down. But we still have many evergreen trees that never lose their lovely branches, although many bits were strewn across the lawns and streets after the storm. We didn't lose power, so once it was over without much damage, I was feeling quite lucky.

Just watching what is happening in so much of the world is difficult enough, but it sure feels hard to find joy in the day-to-day life I lead. I am figuring that as the years pass and I get older, I look at the world news knowing that many of the situations that dominate the headlines today will not be resolved before I die. So, it behooves me to find ways to increase my own equanimity and stay positive. There are a few tricks I've found that work for me.

  • Perform regular aerobic physical activity. 
  • Dedicate yourself to others. 
  • Connect with your spiritual side. 
  • Discover something new. 
  • Give yourself permission to take a few moments of pleasure, especially when you are feeling low. 
  • Pay attention to the good. 
  • Conversely, limit negativity. 
One of the ways that I limit negativity is by watching uplifting shows on TV and turning off the news. That doesn't mean I don't pay attention to what's happening, but you can let yourself get dragged down, which does no good for anybody. Also, I have found that letting myself have a good cry really helps sometimes. I watched Diane Nyad in the recent Netflix movie about her attempts to swim from Cuba to Key West. She tried five times before finally accomplishing it, and she was 64 years old when she did it, in 2013. That movie really gave me a chance to have a good cry, all right.

And now it's almost time to get up and begin my unusual Sunday morning. John will be having his own breakfast in the hospital (I don't recommend it) and I will find somewhere else to enjoy a solitary breakfast. My dear partner never eats breakfast until around noon, so I will be partaking of a simple breakfast, maybe at the food co-op, maybe somewhere else that catches my eye. But first is my daily routine of exercises and a few moments of meditation on the breath. And then I can really start my day, reading your blogs and commenting, as well as hopefully solving today's wordle.

So, with that, my friends, I am wishing you a wonderful week ahead, and that you will find some joy in your daily life. Until we meet again, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

November is here

Boulevard Park walk yesterday (picture by Steve)

I love these leaves, big leaf maple that lined the trail as Steve and I walked from the coffee shop to the Taylor Dock before turning around and heading back. He got both the flu and Covid shots on Friday and wasn't feeling a hundred percent. I also wasn't anxious to be outdoors in the wind and rain, as we kept having frequent squalls of rain and bouts of wind, but then it would calm down again. We didn't go far, but it made me feel so much better just to get in a little exercise. These pretty leaves won't look so nice once the rain pounds us, as it's forecast to do.

John is back at the coffee shop, too, but he's still recovering from the aftermath of Covid and the treatment he was given. He'll pick me up this morning, however, and we will make our way to Fairhaven for breakfast. It's amazingly warm right now, but that is also expected to change soon. November is famous around here for extremes in weather. When you see that the forecast says to expect "rain with partly sunny skies" you know you need to be ready for anything.

When I got my latest massage on Friday, my therapist scheduled the next session for one month from now, and it turns out that will be on my birthday! How did that happen, where did this past year go? It makes me realize that the older I get, the faster the days, months, and seasons seem to rush by. And there are so many fewer ahead of me than behind. But I cannot complain: I've lived a full and event-filled life, with lots of thrills and chills, with good times and bad times, as every one of us who gets to become an octogenarian can attest to. 

I woke this morning at the usual time, according to my sleep cycle, but the clock says I got up an hour earlier. During the night, the time changed on all our clocks (except for the microwave); our devices and electronics didn't even seem to notice. It will take me a week to get adjusted to the time change, but it gives me an extra hour to write this post, just for today. For whatever reason, I slept well and feel quite serene and happy with life for the moment. The news of the day hasn't been dealt with yet, and I might just keep it that way for awhile. Nothing is making me anxious to find out and spoil my mood. The only thing that changes when I read the news is me.

People who are kind and good hearted all feel the same right now, I suspect: wishing there was something that can be could to make things better. My technique is simple and effective, which is to spend some time in following my breath and then making a gratitude list. Who would have thought that paying attention to something we do unconsciously most of the time could be helpful? But it is. We breathe from the moment we are born until we take our last breath when we die. Most of the time we are completely unaware of that essential element in life, and paying attention to it is rather calming. It also makes me aware of those times when I have difficulty concentrating, but bringing my mind back to my breath without judgment is also a gentle way to train my "monkey mind," the ever-present mental processes, into serenity.
Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens. —Khalil Gibran
And then there is gratitude, such a wonderful addition to anybody's life. I am grateful for the ability to think, to contemplate, to move through my days with the ability to grow. Even as an elder, the expansion of one's horizons never really stops, unless you choose to allow it. All around every one of us are myriad possibilities for growth. Today I'm going to see if I can infect others with the benign virus of love. Why not? It seems like just the thing for a windy, rainy November day.

Well, will you look at that? The hour that I gained last night has just been spent in happy contemplation of the day ahead. It's now time to think about getting out of bed and starting my usual activities. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I can hear the wind moving through the trees outside my window. John will be here soon, and we will climb inside his chariot and transport ourselves to Fairhaven for breakfast. I do hope you will have a truly wonderful week ahead, with plenty of company in whatever form suits you best. Two-legged, four-legged, winged, wild or domestic, I wish you and your world all good things until we meet again. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, October 29, 2023

To everything there is a season

Freezing temps at Bellingham Bay

Sometimes I worry just a little bit about how easily I have adjusted to the cold wintery temperatures we've got going on right now. (Good clothing helps.) Friend Don took this picture on our Squalicum Harbor walk yesterday. Do I look cold? I should, since the temperature fell to 2.5°C (37°F) overnight, and these blasts of cold air should continue until late next week when, in fact, the nighttime temperature will be higher than we are reaching during the daytime hours at present. Our apartment owners have weatherproofed all that they can, for now.

We walked for about four+ miles, and our conversation meandered all over the place, except we stayed away from the state of the world and all its permutations. Instead, we talked about our own lives and past events, like how we ended up in Bellingham. He and his wife moved here from Idaho, and they are both much happier here, preferring the weather as well as the political climate. He is a retired middle school teacher, and his wife is an artist who has found a thriving community in which she can grow. Don has begun taking one or two hikes a week with the Senior Trailblazers, which is how we know each other. These new friends I am making are partly because of the huge hole in my life that opened up when Melanie moved away, but it's filling up with new friends, much to my relief. I check out Mel's adventures she posts on Facebook, but otherwise I stay away, remembering what a time sink Facebook once was for me.

John is still recovering from his bout with Covid. He takes a blood thinner, which meant he couldn't take Paxlovid, but his doctor prescribed another antiviral medication, which he just finished taking. I talked to him yesterday, and he was not feeling very much better, but maybe now that he's finished that medication, he'll start to feel like his old self again. I've missed him, but I'm glad I didn't catch it. In another week or so, I should be protected from the flu as well by the vaccine I received last week. That of course doesn't mean I can't get it, but if I do it should be less severe than without the vaccine. There is so much stuff going around right now, and it's not even November. But we'll muddle through, and before you know it, we'll be seeing signs of spring popping up. We do have the rest of fall and most of winter to navigate before then, however. Counting one's chickens, well you know what they say about that! It does seem a bit premature to think of spring before we've even begun the winter months.

Such a pretty sight

One of the best parts of fall, for me, is seeing the colorful leaves everywhere, both on the trees and on the ground, as we walk through the beautiful Pacific Northwest scenery. Of course, the evergreens don't shed their leaves, but instead little needles fall off that break down pretty quickly, but make for good nutrients to feed next year's new growth. And once the rain returns, it also breaks down the leaves into mulch and this pretty scene turns into soft brown gunk. Nutritious for the plants, perhaps, but the beauty of the scene lasts only a short time. I enjoy it while I can.

This morning, another without a trip to breakfast with John, allows me the luxury of lounging in bed until I want to get up. It means that after I finish this post, I'll be able to make another cup of tea if I want, before deciding where I might rustle up a good cup of coffee. I did peruse the espresso machines for purchase on Amazon, thinking maybe I should just get one for myself, but then I realized that, given the option, I prefer to have coffee socially with friends, instead of solitarily. I guess that is one place my extroversion asserts itself.

I have felt hampered in my ability to watch the news on TV, since it seems to be unremittingly bleak. So many terrible events are happening every day, which never seemed so imminent and ceaseless as they do today. It's telling that I have come to prefer the commercials to the actual news shows. And the thing is, I know there are still plenty of good and positive things happening worldwide, but they are not newsworthy, I guess. So instead of watching the news, I spend a good bit of time looking for uplifting programs that bring me joy. I have rewatched a couple of series that I enjoyed in the past, like The Queen's Gambit on Netflix. Although I enjoyed it a few years ago, it was even more enjoyable the second time around, since I knew what was going to happen and could concentrate on the story and the incredible acting. In fact, it was so enjoyable that I watched the last episode again (there are seven hour-long episodes).

I don't want to be one of those people who sticks her head in the sand about what's happening in the world, but wouldn't it be possible to include some of the really positive events too? This year, a wonderful thing happened:
The James Webb Telescope, the largest space telescope ever built, reached its destination in orbit around the sun in January, following decades of planning and a million-mile journey from Earth. Since then, the $10 billion observatory has captured mesmerizing images of a planet outside our solar system, nebulae where stars are born, and distant galaxies.
Every morning, I look at the Astronomy Picture of the Day, which always helps me to put the world's problems into perspective. When the picture is of a distant galaxy millions of light-years away, and the commentary deems it to be in "the neighborhood," it does make me realize that our problems diminish in importance the farther away from them we get. Perspective is everything.
It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars. —Arthur C. Clarke
To that, I say YES and let's have more positivity and gratitude in our lives. I am so grateful for this opportunity I have, every week, to share these thoughts with you, my dear readers. It's also possible to concentrate on the happiness I can find in my simple little world, and from there I can take a leap out into the vast universe of loving kindness and joy. Please, dear friends, be well and content until we meet again next week. I wish you all good things.