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, March 18, 2018

Searching for serenity

Yoga teacher's props bathed in sunlight
It's one of those Sundays that came around quickly, after days and days of delightful sunshine and being outdoors enjoying the burgeoning signs of spring. There's nothing that raises my spirits as much as watching the changes occurring all around me, as dreary winter turns to cheerful spring.

I've just signed up for another round of yoga classes, this time taking two a week instead of just one. The studio signs you up for semesters, either 10 or 12 weeks at a time, changing with the seasons. I have two more classes in the current semester and then there's a week of free classes for people to try out other instructors or levels. I'll stick to my current ones but I might try the next level up during free week. It's a wonderful studio and I love what yoga has given me.

Iyengar Yoga allows the use of props, such as blocks and bolsters, as well as folding chairs and the wall for certain poses, and I'm able to try the harder ones using them. I will never be able to move up very far in level, given not only my advanced age, but also because I don't have a home practice, not yet anyway. I'm moving in that direction, and I realized not long ago that I might one day reach a place where I feel confident enough in the poses that I don't need a teacher to correct me. That's where I seem to be headed.

At the beginning of class, we have a short lesson about yoga, and I've learned about the koshas, or the Five Layers of Self. In my mind, can hear my teacher talking about annamaya kosha, or the outer layer, the physical self.
Derived from Sanskrit, kosha means "sheath" or "covering." As such, the koshas are often called the five sheathes. The annamaya kosha is the sheath of the physical. The yogi who understands herself within this kosha would define herself as a physical body: blood, flesh, bones, fat, and eating and drinking to sustain the body.
This is but the first of the koshas, and one can learn through practice to understand life in a larger sense. Although the annamaya kosha is the first and most basic layer of one's self, discovering each kosha is believed to bring the individual closer to oneness with the universe. I'm learning to appreciate this kosha as I try to remain my equanimity in the chaotic world around me.

My habit in the morning is to rise early and make myself a cup of tea and bring it back into bed while I sit propped up with pillows and turn on a low light, opening up my laptop. My partner is now very accustomed to the sound of the tapping of keys as I write and doesn't even stir if he's particularly tired. We are the essence of opposites: he comes to bed late most nights, and I rarely even hear him come in as I'm already fast asleep. When I get up, I spend about an hour reading the news, emails, and what's going on in the life of my blogging friends. If I have time to spare, I'll even check Facebook, but as you know, that can be a real time sink, so I usually wait until later in the day to go there.

On Sunday mornings, like today, I spend a little longer propped up in bed, because I write this post as a meditation, usually not knowing what will come out of my fingers. The night before, as I lay in bed waiting for sleep to take me, I think about what I might write. Casting about for what's on my mind, it will usually become evident that something particular is wanting to emerge. Not always, though: sometimes I don't have much of anything in mind when I sit down to write. Or sometimes, I realize I have some resistance to examining what's bothering me. In any event, knowing that my Sunday morning will begin with this practice helps with my attempts at self-discovery.

Now that my eyes seem to have settled down after enduring cataract surgery, and finally having some progressive lenses that allow me to see with clarity in the distance, I'm feeling very happy about being in a holding pattern with the macular degeneration. I'm sitting here with the laptop without wearing any glasses at all, since I can see close without them, and that's a big change from before. I had to wear my glasses all the time, for close or far, and even then my vision left much to be desired. I'm very happy that I have been given the opportunity to have so much better vision.

When I first get out of bed, usually I cannot quite take full steps as I test the state of my ankles, which almost always hurt. As I begin to move around as I make my tea, they begin to loosen up a little (usually) and by the time I'm actually up and ready to start my day, I'm moving normally. I do sometimes hear the internal conversation I carry on with myself: this is what old ladies do, they toddle around and this is where I'm headed. But then I am able to walk again and realize that I'm not there yet.

This week I'll have my annual wellness visit with my doctor. I've only seen her once before, as my previous doctor has moved on, but I look forward to the visit with her. I like having a female doctor, especially a young one, and she seems very knowledgeable. I will have my blood drawn early tomorrow morning so we can discuss the results. I like the fact that I'll be able to see the results myself the day after it's drawn. I've been doing this now annually since I moved here ten years ago, and I really like the system. I can also compare the results with previous years in a graph. The only number that changes much has been my cholesterol and triglyceride numbers, and they have been getting better as the years pass. I'm hoping this year will be the same.

I will also ask her if she knows when I might be able to receive the new shingles vaccine that has been developed. That's one illness I hope to avoid: shingles is no fun and as we age we are at increased risk for it. I've already received the earlier vaccine, but this one is apparently much more effective. It doesn't sound like much fun to take, as the side effects can be uncomfortable in many patients, but if you have ever seen what shingles can do, it's worth it.

And here I am already, it's 6:30am and I've finished my Sunday post along with my tea. I just took the last swig, and this is where I find a few minutes to extend my consciousness out into the ether and see if I can connect with you, my dear reader. I wish it were possible for me to open up a two-way avenue and reach into your world and give you a hug, but I can't. So it's going to have to be a virtual one, from my annamaya kosha to yours. Please, be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, March 11, 2018

March is a favorite month

Daffodils in bloom
Yesterday was a sunny delight as I walked with the ladies, and everywhere the trees are budding out, the flowers are coming up, and basically reminded me that the Spring equinox is right around the corner. In fact, it will happen a week from this coming Tuesday, March 20, at 9:15am here in the Pacific Northwest. It was a rather mild winter, with only a few wind storms but plenty of rain, and plenty of snow in the mountains. It makes me realize it will probably be awhile before we are able to hike on our favorite High Country trails. And we'll be making more hikes at sea level for awhile yet. But the short days and long nights are behind us for another year.

Late last summer I decided to start counting calories again so I could lose the five pounds I had gained, and within a couple of months of watching what I eat, those five pounds disappeared. Temporarily, it seems. Then I started eating normally, not recording my food intake onto the Lose It app on my phone and gradually, very gradually, those pounds starting showing up on my scale in the mornings. Slowly, I stopped seeing my favorite numbers and would step lightly on with my eyes closed, then looking at the number, one eye at a time, hoping it wouldn't be showing my indiscretions. Most of the time, it's three over, not five, but the last two days are a harbinger of things to come.

Of course, those numbers include the occasional ice cream and popcorn indulgences I have allowed myself, and I've begun to eat wheat and bread again, things I don't touch when I'm trying to lose. But the funny thing is, I'm just not able to work myself up enough to cut back again. The scale keeps me honest, and it does make a difference when I decide to eat something I know I shouldn't. I really like not carrying around those extra pounds. One day soon I'll start being more careful of what I eat.

In two weeks I have my annual wellness visit at the doctor's, and I really don't want to show up there with extra weight. I hate getting on those scales at her office and seeing numbers I don't like, since I have to weigh with my clothes on. I will have removed my loose change, phone, and wallet from my pockets before stepping on them. Am I being silly? Perhaps, since I know I play games with myself to work up some semblance of outrage. I just don't want to have my clothes get snug around the waist and spill out a spare tire over the top. Not my ideal self image, not at all. But what the hell, I tell myself, you are the only one who cares.

There's so much distress going on around the world, and here I am fixating on a couple of extra pounds. That's the part I find not to be normal, actually. But the difference, for me, is that I can actually DO something about my weight, and I can't do anything about what's going wrong in the larger world. I'd rather focus on something that is within my grasp. Nevertheless, I will read the news every day and have opinions on what is happening, but what can I do about the school shootings and the dysfunction in Washington? Not much, other than vote every chance I get, attend marches, and give money to causes I believe in.

The healthy thing to do, I think, is pay attention, read the news, and do whatever is necessary to keep a positive attitude about it all. Everything moves in cycles, and what is ascendent today will be descendent tomorrow; what goes up and all that. Usually I focus on the good news anyway. It's part of my coping mechanism, and I do have to say that my environment helps with that. Thank God I don't live in Syria, or Appalachia, or even in a big city anywhere. I like my small town of Bellingham, with its wonderful bus system and YMCA, both of which I use regularly. And even though it rains a lot here, in the summertime it is pretty darn perfect. I have so much to be thankful for, and I need to remind myself of that.

I had to get up an hour earlier this morning, since we lost that pesky hour of sleep last night as we begin Daylight Saving Time once again. Eight months of it ahead, before we get back that extra hour of sleep in the fall and return to Standard Time. Why do we do this? It seems so strange. I read that Florida has passed a resolution to stop DST, and Arizona and Hawaii stay on Standard Time all year. I found this interesting article about what it would be like if we simply stopped doing this. It also gives some background about how it all started. Hope you find it enlightening; I did. Winston Churchill seemed to think that it was worthwhile. He is quoted as having said:
An extra yawn one morning in the springtime, an extra snooze one night in the autumn is all that we ask in return for dazzling gifts. We borrow an hour one night in April; we pay it back with golden interest five months later.
I like thinking about it like that, giving it a positive spin. Like I said, staying positive is what is on my mind most these days, that and those few extra pounds. I hope that until we meet again next week, you will be filled with light and airy thoughts. Also, don't forget to give your loved ones a smile or two.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Evolution of a post

Chuckanut Ridge by Melanie
My friend Melanie is a good photographer and sometimes takes pictures that have a mood to them I love. This one shows a hiker almost to the top of a ridge, among tall trees and long winter shadows. I looked carefully and realized with a start that it is me in the picture. It could have been anybody, but it's me; I sure like the feeling it evokes.

It got me to thinking about how much our world has changed: hardly anybody carries a regular camera any more, and the pictures taken by our smartphones are as good as most of us ever need to capture the moment. That's just one part of the change that has evolved since the beginning of the Information Age. Everywhere I look people are fixated on a tiny screen, doing... what? I know what I use my cellphone for, and the least of it is for making phone calls. In the twentieth century (you know, long ago), I got my news from the morning paper, which was delivered to my doorstep. I rose out of bed, put on the teakettle and went looking for the paper. I'd climb back in bed and read while I drank my morning tea. My partner was, even then, asleep next to me while I began my day. We've always been opposites in that way; he's a night owl and I'm a morning person.

These days, I still make my tea and bring my laptop back to bed with me while I peruse the news and read the papers online. The best part is that I can pick and choose where I want to go with information. Once I've read the headlines, I usually find some tangent will capture my interest. Yesterday I happened to see a mention of Ann-Margret, who I remembered is the same age as me. The article is entitled, "Still a Beauty at 76," so of course I had to find out what she looks like today. I watched a video of an interview, and I hardly recognized her. Wondering why, I did a little research to find that she has been "under the knife" from plastic surgery plenty of times, in an effort to retain her beauty.

That little excursion into the internet took awhile, and I found that plastic surgery for women my age is common, especially when you don't want to let the ravages of time get the best of you. But is it worth it? At what cost (and I don't mean monetary, necessarily) do we put all our belief that just a nip here, a tuck there, will make us look like we did when we were young. Nope, it doesn't work that way.

I must admit that it's a little distressing to see how quickly my body is beginning to age. It's a constant battle to stay healthy, to keep my weight down, and keep going out there exercising every day. But the alternative is to give up. Just a couple of weeks away from my regular routine means months of effort to climb back to what I was able to do before the layoff. Is this just another form of denial? I know how much better I feel when I can walk briskly with the ladies on Saturday mornings, how much I would miss the hikes if I couldn't join my fellow seniors on Thursdays. So the effort seems worth it, for now.

Change is inevitable, I know that. It's now been three years since I made my last skydive, and sometimes I marvel at how little I miss it. It was at the center of my life for more than two decades, but I've moved on. Will it be the same with other aspects of my life? Most probably. And I will adjust and find other pursuits that fill me with joy. Just writing this blog post gives me some of that, and I find it to be an activity that helps me figure out what's important to me at this very moment in time.

I'm looking forward to watching the Oscar ceremonies tonight, although what I usually do is listen to the opening monologue and then turn the sound off so that I don't have to be bothered with the interminable commercials and drivel. I like to look at the gowns and after having seen most of the movies, I have my own ideas of who should win what. I'll sit in my favorite chair and read my current book, Katherine Graham's autobiography. After I watched "The Post," I went to my library's website and put a hold on the book, and it recently became available. I wanted to find out what she actually thought about being the first woman to run a major newspaper and how she coped. It's really well written; she won a Pulitzer Prize for it in the 1980s.

Graham lived to be 84. She was attending a conference when she fell:
Mrs. Graham suffered a head injury when she fell on a concrete walkway outside a condominium in Sun Valley, Idaho, and never regained consciousness. She had gone there for a conference of business and media executives.
Graham's obituary from the New York Times is informative and made me really look forward to reading about her. Thinking about her death, it makes me ponder what might be the best way to exit this life. Katherine didn't seem to worry much about wrinkles or her health; she was active and involved right up to the end. That seems to me pretty much perfect. And at 84, she had lived a very full and meaningful life. It was not without difficulties and drama, of course, but that's pretty much true of any of us. I highly recommend the book, and the movie.

There was a time, not so long ago, when this post I'm writing wouldn't have been possible. I've spent some time this morning doing a little research on the internet so I could provide my readers with more information if one desires, and even the post itself wasn't possible before the advent of the information age. Being involved in publishing during my working life, it was available and even necessary in my job, and I had to learn how to write online. This blog is very satisfying to put together, and it keeps me connected to the wider world. What a great time it is to be alive! Steve Ballmer sums it all up quite well in this quote:
The number one benefit of information technology is that it empowers people to do what they want to do. It lets people be creative. It lets people be productive. It lets people learn things they didn't think they could learn before, and so in a sense it is all about potential.
And so, with that, I'll leave you to your own devices, while I finish reading the news and Sunday comics (I never miss them). My partner still slumbers, my tea is gone, and it's time to begin the rest of my day. It is my hope that today will bring you all good things, and that you will be surrounded with love and light. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

A pretty wonderful week

Cornet Bay last Thursday
With little idea about what will come out of my fingers this morning, I'll start by recapping my last week, the first since I returned from Florida. I returned to drastically different temperatures, from hot and steamy to cold and wet. I've had a chance to break out my down jacket, raincoat, and long johns. After a day of cold and snow on Wednesday, on Thursday the sun came out and nine of us drove south to walk on snowy ground on a beautiful but cold day. It was below freezing in that picture above, but you wouldn't know it unless I told you. Snow in the foreground belies that beautiful blue sky and water.

And then yesterday, the whole day looked like it would be a bust, as it snowed most of the previous evening in parts of the area. Interestingly, it was spotty and one place got several inches of snow, where others (like where I live) received only a few flakes. So I went out for my walk with the ladies, and even though it was snowy underfoot and we ended up with a few flakes falling from the sky, we had a very enjoyable walk anyway.

I considered not going myself, worried about slipping on the snowy trails, but my worries were for naught. Nobody fell, and we walked more slowly than normal (which I much prefer anyway) and never broke up into faster and slower walkers. It was quite lovely, actually. We skipped the uphills and downhills and stayed on level ground. Even though it was early in the morning, there were plenty of other people out enjoying the trails along with us.

Then I went to the movies with my friend Judy and saw Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool, a movie starring Annette Bening and Jamie Bell, based on a memoir about Gloria Grahame, a legendary actress who died of breast cancer at the age of 57. Bening is really wonderful in this, as she is in most of her films, and I enjoyed it very much and would recommend it to anyone who wants to see a great actress portraying another great actress.

I was devastated, as were most of us, by the school shooting that occurred the day after I left Florida and wonder if my country will ever come to grips with assault rifles in the hands of so many. I remember when they were banned, briefly, at a time when I knew little about them, but now every single mass shooting we have recently endured has been carried out with assault rifles. An article from US News says this about them:
Guns modeled after the AR-15 assault rifle -- arguably the most popular, most enduring and most profitable firearm in the U.S. -- have become the weapon of choice for unstable, homicidal men who want to kill a lot of people very, very quickly.
The entire article is a very interesting read about the history of the gun culture in our country. I try to avoid reading about guns and have never fired one myself. My nephew Peter suggested going to a range while I was in Florida and firing his guns, but I declined. Just the thought of holding a lethal weapon in my hands feels antithetical to everything I believe in. And yes, I know that many of my readers are gun owners and aficionados, but I am not. The closest I ever got to a gun was when my dad came home from active duty in the Air Force and placed his gun on top of the refrigerator out of harm's way from his two young daughters. We (the daughters) pulled up a couple of chairs, peered at it, and looked long and hard at the gun and thought about touching it. But we never did.

Norma Jean has taken Peter up on his offer and he tells me she has good marksmanship. I hope I never get any closer to a gun than I did when I stared at Daddy's so long ago. With so many mass shootings occurring throughout this country, I realize that I might end up being a victim myself, I know that. But taking up arms does not seem like a proper solution to me. I don't know what might change our gun culture from what it is today, but either banning them or adding more into the world doesn't seem like a solution. What do you think?

In lieu of going to the rifle range in Florida, instead I went to Busch Gardens with Norma Jean and Peter and enjoyed a theme park for the first time in simply ages. I rode a roller coaster and got thrills and chills galore. Another ride that is designed for maximum scare takes you up hundreds of feet into the air, tips you face to earth, and then drops you terrifyingly fast towards the ground. I dreamt about it a couple of times, very vivid dreams. In one dream, nobody clipped me into the seat and I had to do it myself, and I worried that I had done it incorrectly. Someone yelled at me to tighten it up, and I tried but still felt I might slip out of the seat. The ride began its ascent and I was afraid when it tipped me toward the ground, but when it dropped, it very gently headed downward. Someone said I never got the parachute over my head so the ride was aborted. Parachute? Where did that come from? Dreams are strange; it felt so real at the time.

The extreme cold we have been experiencing the last week seems to be over for now. I just checked the weather, and we will remain constant throughout the day, with the temperature not going up or down from the current level of 42°F (5°C) all day long and into the night. I guess I can leave my long johns and down jacket behind today, as I head out into uncharted activity. The only thing on my agenda is heading to the coffee shop, as usual, and sharing a bagel with John while we sit and read on our tablets. We share funny or interesting articles with each other, usually with Gene as well, and then go our separate ways. It's a good way to spend a Sunday morning.

And with that, I have finished my post and will send you, my dear reader, a sincere wish that the coming week will bring us all good fortune and, if we have wind, that it will be at our backs.
The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails. --William Arthur Ward
Be well until we meet again next week, and don't forget to hug your loved ones. It's good for us all.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Vacation is behind me

Tuesday's sunset from the airplane
Last Tuesday evening I took a direct flight from Tampa to Seattle, flying from east to west, and just happened to look out the window when the sun was going down. We landed a full 45 minutes early, which made me very happy. It meant I would have no problem catching the 9:00pm shuttle bus to Bellingham. I arrived at 11:30pm to find my dear partner waiting to take me home. My adventure finished, my familiar pillow and bed never looked more inviting.

When my sister Norma Jean's husband Pete died in 2011, I began taking a trip down to Florida each winter to visit her. At first she lived alone, but for the past few years her son Peter lives there too. I slept in his bedroom while he stayed in the shed, where he keeps a small bunkbed along with his desktop. I was as comfortable as one can be sleeping in someone else's space. Peter prepared all our breakfasts and dinners every night. Norma Jean takes all this in stride, but I was once again able to experience Peter's culinary skills with great appreciation. It's not that I don't get wonderful food at home, but it's different.

When I first arrived in Florida, the weather could not have been more perfect. But by the time I left, it had gotten much warmer and more humid, and I had some difficulty adjusting. Of course, here at home the rain stopped while I was gone and the sun was shining, with cool temperatures while I sweltered. I was happy to return to my own weather. It's true that the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, right? Now it's just a happy memory, and my days here in Bellingham are filled with rain, wind, and even some sunshine.

I missed my friends and family here, but I've already returned to the gym for my usual classes and even got in a yoga class on Friday. Yesterday I walked with the ladies, although I only went around Lake Padden once, as the wind howled through the trees and the rain was stinging pellets. There was a much smaller number of us than usual because of the weather, but then once I got home, the sun came out, the wind died down, and it was beautiful. I should have persevered.

Now that I am back home and settling into my old routine, I look back at the time in Florida as if it were another world. I can still feel the intense sunshine and incredible humidity when I think of it. I guess I've become a Pacific Northwesterner through and through, because this feels like home and that was an adventure, a place to visit but not to stay. How people like my sister live there year round is a mystery to me. Peter told me that you do get used to it, but it's hard to imagine that I might ever even want to. Summers in the Pacific Northwest are so perfect that I wouldn't want to miss a day.

Both Peter and Norma Jean did everything they could to accommodate me, making me as comfortable as I could have been, and I very much appreciate it all when I look back at the days we were together. Their lives were uprooted, Norma Jean didn't golf at all while I was there, and her golfing buddies kept calling to see if they could get her to change her mind. She's got a wonderful group of ladies who play golf together several times a week, and they have all become quite fond of Peter as well, who does construction and odd jobs for them. One of them, Rose, showed me her entire home in which Peter tore out all the carpeting and laid linoleum that looks like a hardwood floor. It's beautiful. He is a perfectionist in everything he does.

Today I am pensive, thinking of my own life and how much I appreciate the environment I have. A coffee shop filled with friends and acquaintances, a gym with classes I have been taking for a decade, and now yoga that helps me keep my body flexible and my mind serene. This spring I'd like to begin a home practice, so that is a goal I have ahead.

When I returned home, I was amazed at how much lighter the sky is in the morning than it was just a few days before. We've turned the corner toward spring, and every day now we have more and more daylight. Walking to the bus, I no longer need my headlamp, and the sun is setting at 5:36pm today, more than an hour later than it did at the winter solstice. Signs of spring are popping up everywhere, although we still have a fair amount of winter to get through before it's time to start planting in the garden. I love it here. Sometimes you have to visit another place just to see your own environment with new eyes.

Today I'll be heading off to the coffee shop and will enjoy the ritual I've created with my friends there. Then I'll come back home and spend some time with my partner before settling into my favorite chair with a good book. I might go back to Lake Padden and make that second loop around that I missed yesterday. My friend Judy and I might go to a movie. The whole world of Bellingham is open to me, and I can decide what most appeals to me. Isn't it great to have choices about what to spend one's day doing?

And once again I've written a Sunday post, feeling myself wrap up the vacation that now is a memory, looking forward to today and tomorrow with a new appreciation for all that I have in my life. Mark Twain gives us his take on life here:
Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do than by the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sail. Explore. Dream. Discover.
Well, okay then. I'm off to see what this day has to offer. I hope that you will take a few moments to think about what you might appreciate in your own life. And I'll see you again next week. Be well until then, dear friends.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Missing my home

Beautiful beach and sky
I woke yesterday realizing that I am on the final stretch of my vacation in Florida. Tuesday I will return home. And as hard as it may be to believe, I am missing Bellingham and my partner enough that leaving this place behind won't be difficult. I could not have imagined that when I first got here, because I was more than a little tired of all the rain at home.

When I arrived last Monday, the weather could not have been more perfect: in the mid-70s (23°C) and sunny, but every day it has gotten a little warmer until yesterday's 86 (30°C) just wore me out. I was forced to stay inside because the heat and humidity became so intense. Every day that I have been here has made me miss my normal environment a little bit more. I know that might seem odd to those who are craving some sunshine. We are no strangers to humidity in Bellingham, but when the temperature is 67 and the dew point is 68 (as it was yesterday when we walked), I was covered in moisture and exercising wasn't pleasant, even when it was not very warm.

Does it sound like complaining? I don't mean to, but it makes me realize that sometimes you need to get away from your regular environment to see it for what it really is. I've never done well with heat, but it hasn't bothered me like it is right now. Of course, I'm no spring chicken and it's been fourteen months since I've dealt with the Florida heat, but frankly I cannot imagine living here year round. I'd wilt like a hothouse flower in no time.

But in between I've truly enjoyed the time with Norma Jean. She is getting more and more fit as time goes by, and yesterday she slowed her long walk so that I wouldn't have to keep running to catch up. Today I took a break from exercising; she's out there walking as I write this post. I thought I knew how to walk fast, but I cannot keep up with her pace. If she were out there with my Saturday walking group, she would be far in front with the fastest walkers, while I'd be staying with the middle group. (We usually separate out into the fastest, middle, and slowest walkers within a few minutes.)

It's a little disconcerting to be feeling like a drag on her activity, but she doesn't seem to mind. We've been doing this for so long, and it does make me wonder if I could ever learn to increase my pace until, miraculously one day, I might actually keep up! She wasn't sure whether she has slowed down or not, but I was able to reassure her that, if anything, the opposite is true. Of course, who knows whether it's just me that is different? However, the ladies that I usually walk with on Saturdays give me a baseline, and that hasn't changed.

I've been a little under the weather. I don't know whether it had anything to do with the sore throat I had last week, but I've been fighting with chest congestion that has gotten worse ever since I got here. Today is the first day that it seems like I might be over the worst of it. Swimming has been delightful every morning during the last week, and since I'm lap swimming by myself, there is nobody to try to keep up with. Norma Jean swims for an entire mile, and I have managed to make a solid twenty minutes and then I'm done. I shower and enter the main section of the gym and ride a stationary bike, like I do at home, until she comes out.

And then it's home to a wonderful breakfast prepared by her son Peter. Norma Jean doesn't cook for herself any more, since Peter seems to enjoy keeping his culinary skills sharp and taking care of his mom in this manner. I have certainly been enjoying the fantastic omelets he makes. Since I have been keeping this blog for awhile, I should go back and look at how things have changed over the years. I know that in past visits she would fix me a kale smoothie for breakfast that I enjoyed immensely, but I don't even see her Vitamix sitting around the kitchen any longer.

I miss my own routine, but in no time at all I will be back home and remembering this time as if it were a dream. So I really need to soak in all the sunshine and blue skies before I return. Peter wants us to go to Busch Gardens tomorrow, so I'll be out in the sunshine and riding roller coasters and other exciting stuff in this Florida theme park. It's been a long time since I've ridden one, but apparently this place has dozens to choose from. It gives me a little thrill to think of getting on one after all these years. And then the following day, Tuesday, I'll return home late at night after another long day of travel.

So that's the state of my annual visit to Florida; it's still in progress but I'm beginning to shift back into the life I've been leading in Bellingham. I miss my friends and partner, but they will hopefully still be there when I get back, and the coffee shop crowd will be a welcome sight. Funny to feel like I've got a foot in each world. I must remember that it's important to be totally present wherever I am. Otherwise, I'll not be able to enjoy each day to the fullest.
No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow.” – Lin Yutang
Yep, that's right. My pillow is waiting for me. In the meantime, I've got adventures and delightful companions to enjoy. I hope you will remember to spend some time realizing how fortunate we are, alive right here, right now, with the wonders of the internet joining us together. And don't forget to hug your loved ones, even if it's only a virtual hug, and let gratitude fill your soul. Be well until we meet next week.

Sunday, February 4, 2018

The rain just won't stop

Pussy willows
I was walking home from the bus yesterday and saw the first signs of spring beginning to emerge. These pretty pussy willows caught my eye, a sure sign that we are now through the darkest days of winter. Two days ago, we had Groundhog Day, February 2, the day right between the winter solstice and the spring equinox. I also notice that there are green shoots of daffodils sprouting out of the ground in many places. It would be nice to capture some of the signs of spring, but it's raining again.

This rain is more than I remember from years past, but it's probably more likely that my memory is selective. Usually, though, we will have respite from the rain with blue skies and fluffy white clouds interspersed between the periods of rain. Not this year. Fortunately for me, tomorrow afternoon I'll arrive in Florida and will have more than a week of sunny weather to enjoy with my sister and nephew. By this time on Tuesday, I'll have had at least one lap swim at sunrise in the outdoor pool at my sister's Y. Everything is packed and I'm ready for a change.

It's been fourteen months since I was in Florida. It was December 2016 when I last visited, and I decided then it would be better to visit later in the winter; it was so hot, mostly in the 90-degree (32°C) range for the entire visit, and I wilted like a fragile flower in the heat. But now it's in the 70s and sunny, simply perfect. Florida had a couple of cold spells last month, but they are behind us for at least the upcoming week. I might have to "endure" a day or two in the low 80s. The forecast for here is, you guessed it, more rain.

I'm hoping that we will all stay healthy for the rest of the season. This is a very bad flu that's going around, and I'll be carrying wet wipes and trying to keep myself from getting sick from the close proximity to others while traveling. I had a scare earlier this week when I woke on Wednesday with a sore throat, thinking it was the prelude to the flu, or at least a cold. But within a couple of days, the worst I suffered was fatigue and some chest congestion, but not even the sniffles. It worried me that I would be sick just in time for my vacation and would bring my sister an unwanted present from the Pacific Northwest. Hopefully that will not be the case. It seems that the flu is more prevalent all along the East Coast, including Florida, with only moderate outbreaks here at present. There's not much more I can do to protect myself.

When I first felt the onset of the bug, I went to the local wellness store to get advice as to what I might be able to take to get over it more quickly, and I learned about oil of oregano and bought a bottle of capsules (Gaia brand). And of course then I went online to find out all I could about how it works. Apparently it's a bit of a wonder cure:
Oregano oil is one of the best natural remedies if your immune system is under attack by a cold virus, the flu, respiratory infections, or any other illnesses. This is due to its expectorant, anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, antiseptic, and antioxidant properties. 
Well, I don't know if it really helped me get better, but I didn't get any worse. There's no way to tell how I might have recovered without it, since there's only one of me to test it. I'll take the rest of the capsules with me and maybe I'll be able to offer it to Norma Jean in case we have any other unwelcome symptoms during the week.

For one thing, we are continuing to get older, with all the concomitant hazards that come with aging. I have reached (according to some studies) the middle-old age group.
The older adult population can be divided into three life-stage subgroups: the young-old (approximately 65–74), the middle-old (ages 75–84), and the old-old (over age 85). Today's young-old age group is generally happier, healthier, and financially better off than the young-old of previous generations.
There are other breakdowns of the period of old age, which you can read all about here, but this is the one that resonates with me. It's true that once you reach middle-old age, things begin to break down more quickly, and you realize there's only one direction to travel. Our hike leader has been absent for more than a month now because of heart problems, and I see many people I've known for a decade beginning to slide from vigorous health to frailty. Many of the hikers who were energetic and enthusiastic when I joined them a decade ago are no longer active. And I know it's just a matter of time before I join them. Meanwhile, I'll keep going as long as I can.

And there's still so much to look forward to! I've geared myself up for a voyage, and it's going to be a lot of... whatever it becomes. It's always restorative for me to be with my sister, my lifelong companion, and I'm grateful that I have the chance to travel from coast to coast in this wonderful country. Just the thought of my upcoming trip makes me smile.

And I'll be thinking of all my friends in the blogosphere while I play in the sun and the water for the next week. I'll be writing from my sister's home then, with hopefully lots of adventures to share. Be well until next week, and don't forget to be grateful for all that we share. Thank you.
If the only prayer you ever say in your entire life is thank you, it will be enough. --Meister Eckhart
Oh, and one more thing: (click to enlarge)