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, May 20, 2018

Long days and short nights

Last of the tulips
The time of the year that I go to bed before the sun goes down has arrived. We have days longer than 15 hours already, and by the summer solstice a month from now, the days will be longer than 16 hours. I am staying up a little longer than I do during the winter months, because when I snuggle into my covers at the the end of my day, it seems weird to see the sun shining onto my bed. For this reason, I have a sleep mask that I use to trick myself into thinking it's really dark outside.

I know there are people who love the extra-long days and short nights, but I am not one of them. After a good day's efforts, I must somehow get my eight to nine hours of rest, or the next day isn't much fun for me. I've always been an early-to-bed and early-to-rise sort of person. My best hours of the day start about 5:00am until early afternoon, when I begin to spend more time in my easy chair with a good book. Until then, I"m active and happy to be outdoors in my garden or at the gym working out, or out walking or hiking in the beautiful area I live in. As a retired person, I seem to find plenty to keep myself occupied, and the days fly by.

It's already Sunday again, which amazes me. Wasn't it just yesterday when I sat down in my bed with tea by my side, laptop situated on my legs, propped up and ready to write a post? No, it was a week ago, because here I am again, this time wondering what the heck to write about, since nothing much has emerged from the depths of my consciousness.

I've spent much of this past week reading. The library sends me a notice when books that I've got on hold arrive for me to pick up. Mostly they are books that fellow bloggers have recommended, or ones by authors I have recently enjoyed. By the time I get that email, often I've forgotten why I asked for that book, who recommended it, or what it's about. It's like a hidden treasure. Yesterday I picked up one by A.J. Finn, The Woman in the Window. It is new this year, and I have no idea what it's about or why I put a hold on it. I only get it for two weeks, because there are other people waiting for it. Apparently it's a thriller, so once I begin to read it, I'll be finished with it much sooner than that.

This week I also finished the final book in the Red Sparrow trilogy, not my usual fare, but my friend Judy had the first book in the series and lent it to me. Once I grew fond of the characters, of course I had to find out more about them. A movie was made about the first book, which wasn't well received, but the book was really good, about the world of spies and spycraft, which I knew little about before reading it. Some of the characters seem taken right from current events between Russia and the US. My only objection to the books was the amount of violence that I had to read about. There is enough real violence in the world that I prefer to read uplifting books.

Once I finished the last book, I perused the books I had previously read on my Kindle, and decided to re-read The Martian by Andy Weir. Although it was only a few years ago when I read it the first time, I had completely forgotten much of the events in the novel. It was almost like a first read. I enjoyed it thoroughly, so much so that I downloaded the movie yesterday and watched it again. The book is better, I think. If you don't know the story, it's about an astronaut who gets stranded on Mars when a six-person mission goes bad and he's left behind, supposedly dead, but he manages to survive in the Hab (Habitat) and figures out how to contact Earth. Although there lots of suspense and close calls, Mark Watney (the Martian) uses ingenuity and humor to help survive. Once Earth realizes his predicament, his survival becomes a worldwide rallying cry, with billions of people hoping and praying that somehow he would make it.

It made me wish that somehow or other we could have something like that to pull people together and concentrate on what we as humans share and not what makes us different. There is so much division and hate in the world today, enough to make me despair of any chance we might have as humans to one day live in harmony. Of course, anything is possible, and I wonder if I could make a difference in the world by simply living my own little life in as loving and caring way as I can. If enough people would do that, little by little, I believe we would begin to see a change in the world around us.

Albert Einstein seemed to think it would be enough. His words:
Nothing that I can do will change the structure of the universe. But maybe, by raising my voice I can help the greatest of all causes -- goodwill among men and peace on earth.
 Perhaps it's a pollyanna premise, but why not give it a chance? As Einstein says, nothing we can do will change the underlying structure of the universe, but we live and breathe on another plane of existence, too: that of like-minded people working to create a better world. We have instant communication these days, and although it is often misused, it can also (I believe) quickly create harmony and peace if we just knew how to begin. Maybe it begins now, right here, with each of us who read these words making a commitment to the greatest of all causes: goodwill among people and peace on our beautiful, precious planet.

I am reminded of the parable of the Hundredth Monkey. Do you know it? It goes like this:
The account is that unidentified scientists were conducting a study of macaque monkeys on the Japanese island of Koshima in 1952. These scientists observed that some of these monkeys learned to wash sweet potatoes, and gradually this new behavior spread through the younger generation of monkeys—in the usual fashion, through observation and repetition. Watson then concluded that the researchers observed that once a critical number of monkeys was reached, i.e., the hundredth monkey, this previously learned behavior instantly spread across the water to monkeys on nearby islands.
I lifted it from that Wikipedia link above, if you want to learn more about the history of this phenomenon. Whether or not there is such a thing as the hundredth monkey effect, it's quite possible that if enough people visualize world peace, we might actually make a difference. Who knows? What else do we have to do as we watch the world around us roiling in such turbulence and conflict?

Well, I'm starting right now. I'm looking over at my dear partner, sleeping contentedly, thinking of the sunny day ahead, my coffee shop friends, and putting a lovely circle of love and light around it all. My heart feels lighter already. I do hope that whatever you do today, you might imagine, just for a moment, that your loved ones and your world are beginning to merge with my own circle of light. Be well until we meet again next week, dear ones.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Mother's Day

Me and my mama
I love this old picture, taken in the mid-1940s, judging by my age, somewhere around two. Leave it to Daddy, the photographer, to make sure our car was also in the frame. Is that an old Studebaker? He was probably as proud of the car as he was of his family. My sister Norma Jean was born two years and eight months after me, so Mama was probably already pregnant with her, but otherwise it was just me, the apple of their eye and obviously quite spoiled, believing that I am the center of the universe.

Mama was only nineteen when I was born, so she was very young and beautiful at this time, and a very good mother to me. I suppose it's normal when a baby grows up in a secure and loving environment to believe that everything was created just for her enjoyment. My childhood was a very happy one, and that was due mostly to my mother's efforts. She ended up bearing seven children, with me the first and my sister Fia the last, twenty years later. She had one pregnancy that she didn't carry to term; at seven months gestation the baby didn't have lungs developed enough to breathe on her own. These days that baby would have lived, but back then (I was a teenager at the time), she didn't make it.

The remaining six of us were raised by our parents to become productive and relatively happy members of society. My sister PJ died at 63, from complications of heart disease and diabetes. Mama herself only lived to be 69, so I wasn't born into a family destined to become centenarians. I've already lived longer than either parent, so that's one reason I take health and exercise seriously: to be more fit and active in my old age than my genetic heritage would suggest I've got coming to me.

Daddy was in the Air Force when I was growing up, so we moved often. Mama would always create a home for us wherever we were living, and I didn't suffer so much from the experience. Norma Jean did, however; she decided when she grew up that she wouldn't do that to her children and would raise them in a secure home in one place. It's interesting how differently two siblings can experience the same events, isn't it? I loved the experience of going to a new school with new friends. She was shy and would make one dear friend who she would have to leave behind when we moved. I, on the other hand, never made close friends like that, preferring to have lots of acquaintances who were interchangeable. Of course, I always had my sister, and we were very close when we grew up. We still are, and it occurs to me often that she's the only person still alive who shares my childhood memories.

My mother never felt like she accomplished much in her life, since she never brought home a paycheck, never worked outside the home except for volunteer work. I think she had the idea back then that somehow her life was lacking an essential ingredient because she never developed a career. But she was so wrong: the career of motherhood at the center of her life gave every one of us the best possible start in our own lives. And we all end up having our children grow up and away from home in any event.

There are moments from my childhood that stand out in my memories, and almost without fail they involve my mother. I remember once when I was very sick and she was taking me to the hospital. I was feverish and felt awful, but she put my head in her lap (someone else was driving) and she stroked my forehead with such love and devotion that I remember it to this day. Once a child from a large family no longer needs that kind of care, it's memorable when it happens again. Mama loved me, and all of her children, I have no doubt whatsoever.

She was an avid reader all her life. I'll bet Mama read just about everything in the local library, and I remember her going in with a box of books she had read and leaving with another full box. She'd sit on the couch surrounded by books and make her way through each one. I don't remember if she preferred any particular type of book, but I do know she devoured an enormous number of them. Norma Jean and I are the same way, having inherited the love of reading from our mother.

Mama had so many illnesses to combat in her life. She developed breast cancer in her forties, and the treatment they gave her back then, cobalt radiation after a radical mastectomy, scarred her heart and caused her numerous heart attacks over the years. She always rallied, and we began to think she would continue to fight back forever. But she had a final heart attack in 1993 that she knew was the final one. Although she lived for a few weeks afterward, giving all her children a chance to say a final goodbye, she gave away all her possessions and we knew she was ready. She slipped into a coma and for about a week she lingered before finally breathing her last.

I was privileged to be with her in her final moments. After the last gentle breath slipped away, we took all the flowers that were in her room and arranged them around her face. She was simply beautiful and her face was filled with peace. Although it was a hard time, it was one I will always cherish, having been able to be with her when she took her last breath, as she was with me when I breathed my first. We came full circle together.
Life began with waking up and loving my mother's face. --George Eliot
And so, on this Mother's Day, I remember my beautiful mother with love and happiness. I'll go out to my regular places and carry her memory in my heart and spread love and joy as far as my being allows. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well, my dear reader. Happy Mother's Day.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Hiking as salvation

Me, a modern hiker (taken by Bob at Maple Grove)
Since I have spent the past decade going out on hikes of varying difficulties every Thursday, I think I am stronger now than I was ten years ago. I've gone through numerous pairs of boots and a couple of backpacks, until I found one that I really like. I've got water in an internal hydration pack, and always plenty of food. And the ubiquitous trekking poles.

I realize now that I have always been an active person. Sometimes you have to get towards the end of one's days in order to look back and see a trend that would be obvious to anyone else. When I lived in Colorado, I took week-long backpacking trips, carrying everything I might need and a fairly heavy pack: dried food, sleeping bag, tent, camping stove and fuel. It was hard to start with such a heavy pack, but as the days went by, I not only got stronger, I also fell into the rhythm of the trail.

At the coffee shop last week, one of my buddies showed me a link about a book that he said made him think of me: Grandma Gatewood's Walk. I went right to the local library's website and put a hold on this book. Once I received a notice in my email that it was available, I picked it up and brought it home. Yesterday I began to learn about Emma Gatewood.
At the start of her 2,000-mile hike
In 1955, when Emma completed the entire Appalachian Trail with only a homemade knapsack slung over her shoulder carrying a few supplies, a blanket and a shower curtain for rain, no sleeping bag or shelter, I was simply astounded to learn about her adventure. She was 67 years old and had 11 children and more than 20 grandchildren by then. But Emma was no stranger to suffering: she had an abusive husband who would beat her repeatedly, going so far as to break her ribs and teeth, making her unrecognizable.

I found this interesting article about her in Adventure Journal. It sums up what I'm learning from the book, written by Ben Montgomery in 2014, many decades after her death, to celebrate the woman who saved the Appalachian Trail by drawing attention to its deficiencies:
The public attention she brought to the little-known footpath was unprecedented. Her vocal criticism of the lousy, difficult stretches led to bolstered maintenance, and very likely saved the trail from extinction. Author Ben Montgomery was given unprecedented access to Gatewood's own diaries, trail journals, and correspondence. He also unearthed historic newspaper and magazine articles and interviewed surviving family members and hikers Gatewood met along the trail. 
In reading about Emma and all that she endured during her lifetime, I realize that all those years of suffering made her stronger and more determined than ever. Where one person would just give up or decide to die rather than overcome such difficulties, another will get up and keep going. It's very inspiring to me and a reminder that one's state of mind can help you make it through whatever difficulty you're facing at the time.

One thing that I'm beginning to understand in my own life is that all the exercise and hiking that I do is not only good for my body, but also essential for my peace of mind. They don't seem like they're closely connected, but they are. When I read about someone like Emma and think of putting myself in her shoes (Keds sneakers), I realize that I have resources inside me that I haven't even plumbed. I do hope I won't have the chance to find out how deep they go. But you never know what lies ahead in the path of Life. When I despair about the state of the world, it tends to make me sad and defeated, just the opposite of what I need to be feeling. So reading inspiring stories about people who overcome enormous obstacles without a shred of self-pity I find to be very uplifting. I'll finish the book today, and I only started it yesterday. You wouldn't think it would be that kind of page-turner, would you? But it is, well written with some history included as well.

Yesterday I made a lot of progress in my garden, with my dark glasses and wide-brimmed hat protecting my eyes, and I can only hope that I will not be forced to discover how one gets along without central vision. However, someone like Emma would not let a little thing like macular degeneration hold her back.I found this quote from Anne Morrow Lindburgh that says it all for me:
I do not believe that sheer suffering teaches. If suffering alone taught, all the world would be wise, since everyone suffers. To suffering must be added mourning, understanding, patience, love, openness and the willingness to remain vulnerable.
Ah, yes, that about sums it up. Now my heart is full of hope and the day beckons me to enjoy whatever comes my way. And if suffering is part of it, I'll just remember to add a few additional elements to change the flavor of the day. I do hope that whatever comes your way, dear reader, it will be delightful and inspiring, too. I wish you well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Living memories

Me and my son Chris in 1962
Lately I've been thinking about all the memories I carry around in my head, a whole lifetime of them. So much has happened to me in my life that I think I've completely forgotten, until something jars an old memory and I think about the many different lives I've lived. I was once long ago the mother of a fine son who gave me endless joy. The young woman in the picture has changed into an old woman, and the baby grew into a man.

So many memories surface when I gaze at old pictures like this one. We were in Puerto Rico, where my first husband, who took the picture, was stationed. It was a sunny day, but then again almost all the days were sunny. I was a happy person, and it shows in the picture. I recognize that blouse from my memories; I sewed it myself, from a pattern. Back then I made a lot of my own clothing, something I haven't even thought of for a long time.

I'm not sure why I've been thinking lately about times past, people long gone, and decades of life lived and forgotten. Perhaps it has something to do with a book I just finished reading: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. In the story, Alice hits her head and loses a decade of her memory. She wakes up and thinks she is twenty-nine and pregnant with her first child, only to discover that she is thirty-nine, has three children and is getting a divorce. The book reminded me of how much we change in ten years, as well as the crucial part memory plays in our current existence.

Then on Friday I went into an ice cream shop while waiting for my yoga class to begin. I indulged in one of my favorite things, ice cream, while sitting next to a young man with his daughter. She is four and very outgoing. I watched her eat an enormous sugary fried fritter while her dad scrolled through his phone. I asked her how old she is and whether she knows her ABCs. Promptly she recited them to me, and it brought back a memory of raising my own child. The three of us started a conversation and I learned not only her age, but that the family recently expanded to include an infant. Dad was taking care of his lively daughter so that Mom could have some quiet time.

Since Chris died without having a child of his own, I will never have grandchildren. I appreciate the stories of them that my fellow bloggers share in their posts, and look at their pictures and remember my own days as a young mother. Sometimes the memory of a smile comes unbidden to my mind and I can almost feel the moment return. The joy of children laughing never stops being a delightful memory. The little girl I met the other day, with her wide-eyed chatter about her new baby brother, gave me a little twinge of regret about lacking grandchildren. But that's silly: the little girl shared her life with me and has given me the gift of remembered childhood. It's everywhere around me. Just because I don't have any grandchildren myself doesn't mean I miss the chance to enjoy the company of young people. And I truly enjoy the pictures and stories about the grandchildren of many of my blogging buddies.

When I think about it, if my son had fathered a child at the same age that I had him, that child would now be grown, too. Great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren would be more like it. Wow! How time flies when I'm not paying attention; then something happens to remind me of how long ago it was that I was a young mother myself. That young mother still is a part of me, however long ago it happened. My activities these days don't give me much chance to be around small children.

I have a coffee shop friend, Leo, who was not even a year old when I first met him. We played together in the coffee shop, he let me read to him and we enjoyed each other's company. But Leo grew up, too: now he is almost ten and no longer plays with me but instead sits and reads his own books, sometimes not even acknowledging me other than a polite hello. It makes me a little sad, but when I look at the young man he's becoming, I realize that it is the natural progression of life. I enjoyed the toddler much more than I would enjoy hanging out with the young man he's becoming today.

Instead, I'll hang out with friends my own age, John the farmer and Gene the fisherman. We'll have our devices in front of us and share funny things with each other that we find on Facebook. As I age, they are aging along with me, and the years pass without that much difference. When you're young, change from year to year is much more pronounced. I look forward to being with them several times a week. John will be getting up soon and going off to the coffee shop. He's the first to arrive. On Sunday mornings, we share a bagel, something I want but not the whole thing. He will have already had one himself, so he gets three half bagels and I get one, which is perfect for both of us. And a quote from Helen Keller to wrap up this post:
So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good. 
Yes, life is good. I have so many memories to cherish, and I'm glad I can share them with you, my dear reader. It's almost time for me to get up and start the rest of my Sunday. Partner is still sleeping next to me, and I can feel the growing desire to get off to visit my friends. I hope you will be here again next week, when I'll sit with my laptop and think about a lovely week ahead for us. Be well until then.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Today is Earth Day

Good morning
According to the calendar, spring has been here for a month now, but you sure wouldn't have known it from the soggy and dreary days we've spent around these parts lately. I found this lovely picture on the internet (don't know from where) and it spoke to me about the fine days and sunrises we have ahead of us for the season.

April 22nd already! And yesterday was sunny and glorious, with an entire week without rain projected ahead. I went out yesterday and began to figure out what I will plant in my garden once the winter's weeds and grasses have been removed. One good thing from all this rain, the ground is soft and pulling them up is relatively easy. I made a start on it yesterday, but then it began to rain! Big fat drops fell out of a rogue raincloud and sent me back inside. Today, though, we have zero chance of precipitation.

Last Friday my friend Lily, who had the day off from work, joined me in visiting the Tulip Festival in Mt. Vernon, a half-hour's drive from Bellingham. People come from all over the world to view these incredible tulip fields and gardens during the month of April. RoozenGaarde Gardens are my favorite place to go. It was partly sunny, but with so much moisture in the air, once the warm sun begins to warm the ground, clouds form quickly. I think that was what created yesterday's shower. Anyway, we had perfect weather to enjoy the tulips. Since it was Lily's first visit, she snapped hundreds of pictures on her phone, while I walked around and took a few pictures, but not that many. It really marks the beginning of the season for me.

Earth Day. It's been around for 48 years, can you believe it? Every year the Earth Day Network (EDN) focuses on one aspect of pollution that we can help to eradicate. This year it's plastic pollution. I've seen pictures of that awful place in the Pacific called the Great Pacific garbage patch, and it's now twice the size of Texas! I live in a city that bans one-use plastic bags in grocery stores, but everywhere I see people drinking bottled water out of store-bought plastic bottles and think about the enormous volume of plastic that must be generated worldwide every day from their use. We've got to do something about this. As the Earth Day Network tells us,
From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastics is now threatening the survival of our planet.
You can learn from the EDN what you might be able to do to make a difference in the world today. Take a look here at all the different campaigns EDN has launched. Earth Day contributed to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency and many others. One thing I did is take the test on line to find out about my own personal plastic use and how I might reduce it.

Okay, I've done my small part to raise awareness about plastic pollution and how we might make even the tiniest difference in the consumption of plastics, and now it's time to move to something more pleasant at the very beginning of this lovely day. I'm looking forward to spending some more time in the garden in full sunshine today, and just thinking about it raises my spirits.

However, I'm nursing a sore ankle from a fall yesterday while on my usual Saturday walk with the ladies. It feels better today, but I notice that it's beginning to turn colors, meaning that I twisted it hard enough to bruise the tissues inside. I'll continue to be careful with it, but there's no way I can stop using it. I thought about wrapping it with an Ace bandage, but I don't think it would have made a difference; it's just going to take time. I notice that I turn my ankle and take a fall more often these days. I think perhaps I'm going to have to start wearing a brace on my right one, which seems to be the culprit more often than the other.

I know that while my aging body would probably find benefit in having me take it easier, my mind and spirit haven't learned that lesson yet. It will come, but I keep thinking it's not now, not today, but somewhere in the distant future that I'll have to pay closer attention to all these aches and pains and what they're telling me. In the meantime, I'll continue to run around and play in the sunshine until I simply cannot continue doing it any longer, whenever that is. Tomorrow. Maybe.
Your body actually reminds you about your age and your injuries - the body has a stronger memory than your mind. --Mikhail Baryshnikov
Well, if anybody should know about injuries and aging, it would be Misha. He was wonderful to watch when he was young. He's 70 now, into my decade, and has continued to change and grow into new phases of his life. It's a good thing for all of us to do, look at others around us and see how they cope with the aging process.

And now it's time for me to stop dithering with the keyboard and make my way into the rest of this beautiful day. I've got the usual suspects around me: sleeping partner, an empty teacup, and the pull to the coffee shop coming on strong. I do hope that you will think about your own loved ones and not forget to be grateful for the life we share today. You are always in my thoughts, dear reader. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Reminiscences

SG, Gene, me (and the now deceased parrot)
This picture was taken a year after we moved to Bellingham from Boulder. It was Opening Day of the Farmers' Market in April 2009. The market just had its 2018 opening a week ago, and I was reminded once again how much I enjoy this wonderful town. I've been in a mood for reminiscing lately, reading other people's memoirs and even going back into my old journals and reminiscing about my own past.

I kept handwritten journals during the 1980s, which started with my desire to get my problems with weight under control, and it had been suggested to me that I keep a diary of everything I eat during the day, so I could begin to examine how I might change my eating habits. It quickly turned into a much more comprehensive journal, covering whatever I felt like writing about. The first journal is dated February 1982 and makes for some very interesting reading.

Yesterday I opened one at random and read about what I was doing in March 1984. It was the time in my life when I had decided to volunteer for Hospice. I went through the two-day training and then was assigned my first patient, Carl, who was dying of a brain tumor. I would stay with him for several hours once a week so his wife could have time to herself. Over the next three months, I became quite fond of him and would read to him, as well as help him out of bed so he could sit in the living room or kitchen for short periods. He must have been very much a storyteller in his younger days, because he told me some jokes and stories that gave me some idea of his personality; even as sick as he was, it still came through.

It was hard to watch him deteriorate, but that was to be expected. At the end, I remember once walking into his bedroom (which had a hospital bed installed) and realized he had changed a great deal in just one week. He was propped up in bed and was almost blind by then, but he recognized me. I asked him how he was feeling, and he said, "with my hands!" Then he smiled and his wife left for her errands, and we were alone together. It was one of the last times I saw him.

I had forgotten how incredibly busy I was during those days. I worked a full-time job, volunteered, ran several times a week to keep myself fit, and attended evening classes. I didn't realize how much I managed to cram into one day until it was all there in the journal. I recognized the person who wrote those words, but in the thirty-four years that have passed since then, I retired from working and find that just reading about that much activity is exhausting.

These days, I have a routine that fills my days with all I need. Sunday mornings I begin with this post, a way for me to keep myself mentally fit, and I walk and hike and work out at the gym to keep myself physically fit. I cannot run any more, but I'm happy that my knees and other joints still manage to work well enough that I can enjoy the outdoors. One of these days I'll get into my garden and the muscles I use will be sore for awhile, a good kind of sore. But for now, it's still raining and I have to wait until the saturated ground dries out a little.

The arc of a life, or a story, can usually only be viewed after you've finished all the chapters. One thing that keeps coming up to me is that the chapters of my own life are mostly written and behind me. But they are still present in my memories and the decade of the 1980s is still there in my journals. I love to read, and being able to lose myself in the chapters of another life is simply wonderful for me. I look forward to the days ahead, whatever they bring.

I have been privileged to be present when several loved ones and people I've known have passed over to the other side. I remember how peaceful my mother looked once she breathed her last. She was only sixty-nine, and I've already lived five years longer than she did, and I wonder what lies ahead for me. If I could make a wish for my own passing, it would be that I am mentally present for the event. I know many people hope that they pass away in their sleep, but to me, I'd feel like I missed the final act of a magnificent play. Mama knew what was coming, and she faced it armed with her faith that all her loved ones were waiting for her to join them. We will never know until we get there ourselves if that's true or not, but it certainly gives me a great deal of pleasure to imagine it to be so.

And who knows what the future will bring? I'm hoping it will be a good one, and that even with all the turmoil in the world right now, I might live to see peace on earth. It's a long shot, but it could happen. In any event, I can help to bring it into being in my own little corner of the world, with love and joy in my heart.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Remember that is all we have power over: to decide what to do with the time that is given us. I hope that you will make an attempt to bring some love and joy into your world, because that is where peace on earth starts. With each one of us. Be well until we meet again next week, dear readers.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Potpourri post

Drippy scenery
I took this picture from the summit of our hike last Thursday. We were out in the elements, with almost a full inch of rain falling that day. We spent our lunchtime indoors at the Senior Center, because nobody wanted to stop and try to find a place to huddle out of the rain. There wasn't one. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the day because of my companions; you know that old saying about how misery loves company.

Last night I couldn't seem to find anything rolling around in my head that wanted to come forth this morning, so this is one of those days when I'm sitting at my laptop without any idea of the topic that might emerge. So this will be a grab bag of thoughts, or more elegantly, a potpourri, a mixture of things.

Yesterday that rain continued. I think even the most hardy of Pacific Northwesterners are more than ready for a change in the weather. This latest round of precipitation is hitting California even harder than us, with flooding and washouts of areas that were burned last year that lost all natural groundcover. I found an interesting blog that tells the tale:
This rainfall was so intense that it led to very significant flash flooding near Mariposa and Groveland near Yosemite National Park and nearly caused the failure of a small dam in the area. Had this rainfall ended up 100-200 miles farther south, as initially anticipated, it could have led to catastrophic flash flooding in the SoCal burn areas. Fortunately, it instead fell in an area that had much greater capacity to absorb the sudden deluge.
I am a weather junkie, you might have noticed. It all started when I was skydiving every weekend, and I wanted to know whether it would be possible or not, so every day, year round, I'd check the weather to see what was coming, and how windy or cold it might be. If there was the slightest chance that I might be able to get my "knees in the breeze," I'd drive the fifty miles to the Drop Zone and hope to be one of the first people to get on a load. Those first few years of my skydiving career, I just couldn't get enough. If I made one jump, it was worth it, but there were days when I'd make five or six in one long summer's day. That meant going up in the airplane, jumping out, playing in freefall for about a minute, then flying my canopy to the ground, go indoors and find a place to spread out my gear and pack it up for another skydive.

Although those days are long gone, my interest in the weather has not waned. I still watch the Weather Channel or the local news to see what's coming. I am not sure whether I would have had such regard for the weather otherwise. I remember when I learned how to tell the strength and direction of the wind by watching flags moving, the clouds of dust in fields being plowed, or smoke from brush fires. When you are under a canopy and want to land safely, you need to find an open field and land into the wind to slow down your forward speed.

I have made the mistake of misreading the wind when setting up for a landing and finding myself moving across the ground too fast, realizing that it was too late to turn around (since you lose altitude as you turn, and a 180-degree turn isn't possible when you are close to the ground) and knowing that I'd better get ready for an ignominious and possibly dangerous landing. Usually the worst that happened to me was a serious tumble and getting tangled up in my parachute's lines. But it made me look even more carefully afterwards to gauge the wind.

Once I became a skydiving instructor, it was important to teach my students what they needed to know to be safe, and emphasize the most important things so that they wouldn't be confused when having to make a quick decision. When I look back on those days, I realize that as much as I enjoyed the experience of teaching, it was a tremendous responsibility. Fortunately nobody in my classes ever got seriously hurt making their initial skydives, but I agonized over every single sprained ankle. I did once have a student misread the wind direction and land downwind in a fairly strong wind, and he ended up breaking his wrist. But he recognized what he had done wrong and wouldn't make that mistake again.

Instructing anybody in any activity is a responsibility. Yesterday I took a free seminar at my yoga studio about how to maintain stability in standing twists. I was way beyond my comfort level and felt that I would never learn how to keep from falling over while doing these poses. The instructor suggested going right to the level of discomfort and not continuing to push on to the full pose. I only fell over twice, but I did learn how to practice the pose at home. Why would anybody want to do these standing twists, you ask? Here's a link to a young lady's blog who explains how to do the pose we practiced yesterday. She calls twisting poses "spring cleaning your body."
Twists are like wringing out a dirty dish rag. When we twist deeply we stimulate our internal organs and give them a nice massage. After a twisting practice, you’ll feel lighter, more energized and cleaned out!
We spent the entire class learning how to do that first posture, and I do have to say that it's true that I could feel the benefits of twisting that deeply. When we would release it, I felt lightheaded and definitely like I'd done something beneficial. But getting into the posture without falling is a challenge. I'll keep trying. I trust my instructor to help me learn without hurting myself.

Well, that's it, what came out of my fingers this morning. I am ready to begin the rest of my day, which will include going to the movies with my friend Judy and, of course, my stop at the coffee shop to visit with my friends there. Partner is fast asleep at the moment, and I'm beginning to feel the pull of the day, time to get out of bed and get moving. I do hope that whatever the week brings you, it will be beneficial and that you will remember to smile and bring a little laughter into your days. It helps as much as any twist. I wish you all good things until we meet again next week.
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. ---Kurt Vonnegut