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 22, 2011


Hooded mergansers, taken by Joe Meche
Spring is definitely in full swing here in the Pacific Northwest. I belong to a birder's email group and Joe Meche puts up pictures fairly regularly of birds he sees in the area. I thought this portrait of a hooded merganser and her babies was particularly sweet, but he also said that there were eight little "merganserlings" who quickly became four. These little hatchlings must be irresistible to many predators. That's just the way of life, I guess, so I try not to let it upset me too much. I also have hawks who are attracted to my front porch by the birds who come to my feeders. At first it bothered me, but it's just the way things are.

On my other blog I was complaining at the beginning of last week about the constant gloomy days, rain without end, it seemed, and almost immediately I was blessed with three days of sunshine that changed my mood from grumpiness to smiles. I noticed the difference everywhere, too: the expressions of my fellow riders on the bus; the exercise room filled with the sun's rays as we chatted before class about the beautiful weather; and the flowers opening up to the sun and seemingly smiling, too.

Then yesterday, just in time for Saturday and hopes to drive to Snohomish for a few skydives, the rain and low clouds returned. My day was changed from excitement to more of the same dreariness that I have become so accustomed to. Cliff Mass, my favorite weather blogger, explains here about the reason for what is called "June gloom" around these parts, which are caused by the transition between the cool weather of spring and the warmer weather to come in July. He explains it very well, but it appears that climate change will make it even more prevalent in the coming years. There are problems with the weather in almost every place I've ever lived, so I guess I'll get used to it and  be grateful that we don't have tornadoes or cyclones or other major disasters on a regular basis.

What has been on my mind this past week has mostly focused on the imperceptible change from one state to another. This is true in the progression of the season from spring to summer across the Northern Hemisphere as well as the change in my emotional state from serenity to dissatisfaction. One moment I am happy and content, just minding my own business, and it feels like it will always be that way. I don't notice the shift, but then I slowly begin to realize that every little thing is causing me irritation. What changed? And when?

It's beginning to become clear that as I get older I have developed some chronic pain here and there. Most of the time I don't even notice these little aches, but occasionally I realize that it's a little like having a pebble in my shoe: I don't notice it at first, but as I walk through my life, that little pebble begins to feel like a boulder. If I don't stop and remove it, nothing else makes it to my consciousness and it becomes my sole focus. The realization that the aches and pains of life cannot be removed so easily tells me that I need to change my attitude about those annoyances.

This must be why it's so important to get perspective on things by stopping to smell the flowers, listening to the wind in the trees, the sound of birdsong, and being grateful for having the ability to make the decision to look beyond the mist to the sun behind the clouds. In just the short time it took to write this, my attitude and perspective have shifted to peaceful gratitude from the grumpiness I felt when I woke, looked out the window and saw the low clouds greeting me.

I might not be going skydiving again today, but I will head to the Y and swim for a half hour instead. There is something very enriching about swimming laps. I usually sneak a peek at the other swimmers and notice their technique to learn something new. The only really hard part about swimming for exercise is making myself get there and begin, donning earplugs, goggles and swim cap.

Yesterday I walked in the rain with my friends and we chatted as we walked briskly enough to keep ourselves warm. The pebble in my shoe was forgotten.


Linda Reeder said...

I get that "pebble in my shoe" quite often too. A good day can turn sour with what seems like very little cause.
Yesterday I was prepared for a cloudy but mild day, and when it never got above 53, it made me grumpy, an COLD. We toured gardens in the morning, and that was fine. I did smell the flowers and hear the birds sing.
But when we left at 5:00 to go to the soccer match, it had just started to rain. NOT AGAIN! When we got downtown it was still dry, and my spirits lifted again. At halftime the light rain began, but since it was nowhere near as bad as the deluge of last Saturday, I handled it without a return to grumpiness, especally when the Sounders finally scored, in extra time, to win the match.
Transition has been a major theme for me this month, with all of the time and thought we have put into moving my mother out of her house. I find it is still on my mind too much. I'm hoping for a transition back to listening to bird song and smelling the flowers.

Grandmother Mary said...

I appreciate your emphasis on changing our attitude toward the things we can't change. It's the one thing we can control. And it's part of wisdom. Thanks for your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

Can weather affect one's mood so drastically? Have you considered moving to an area that gets more sun and less rain?

How about the runner's high? My daughter's biological father was a doctor who claimed that running for an hour every day produced endorphins in his brain that elevated his mood after a depressing stint treating sick patients in the hospital. Rain or shine, he would always run.

As for your aches and pain, well, that's to be expected, given your active lifestyle.

Enjoy your Sunday, DJan!

Linda Hoye said...

Wise words. As I get older I too am understanding the importance of taking the time to appreciate simple things like the sound of the birds that wake me up in the morning with their happy songs.

Linda Myers said...

When we left Seattle for our three-week road trip, I was sick of the rain. But you know, almost everywhere we traveled it was windy. Now I'm grateful we don't have a lot of wind in the Pacific Northwest.

We arrived home to the three days of sunshine. I enjoyed one of the days and then came down with a virus. As I lay in bed, I tried to be grateful looking out the picture window in our bedroom. It was green, green, green outside. Lovely!

#1Nana said...

We had those same few days of sun and then the wind and rain started on Saturday. I need a few days of sun to dry out my patio furniture. I sanded the stain and got ready to paint...now I need it to dry out. It might be July before I get it done!

Sally Wessely said...

Thank you for the reminder that we can have those small transitions that bring about major shifts in our thinking and emotions by choosing to focus on other things, make different choices, and perhaps dealing with the pebble in the shoe before it consumes us.

Robert the Skeptic said...

Being a transplanted Californian myself, I do find the rainy and gloomy weather gets to me after a while. Hence we try to jet off to Hawaii, Mexico or some other warm dry sunny spot during the dead of winter.

Friko said...

An excellent simile "pebble in a shoe". I must remember it.

I am often grumpy and dissatisfied, I hate getting older and finding lots of things harder to do. I hate being so dependent on the weather, I hate having aches and pains.

There's nothing I can do about it. Like you say, doing something else, even blogging, soon gets rid of the grumpiness and the sun shines through, metaphorically speaking, anyway.

Life's not so bad.

Rita said...

What lovely ducks!
I agree that there is no use getting upset over the circle of life events--or the pebble in the shoe days--or even the boulder on my back times. ;)
That old saying "let a smile be your umbrella" sounds like a good one to have with all the rain--LOL! :)

Bragger said...

I find myself mellowing and becoming more laid-back as I get older. I wish I had known when I was younger not to let the little things upset me. I am embarrassed for myself when I look back and remember how I reacted at some of the simplest things. How trivial!

California Girl said...

You sound wistful. To be expected. Who can age and not remember their more vibrant, more youthful self? I mourn my athleticism which began to slip away when my hips did. We have to find other things to fulfill us; to replace the things we're losing.

Reflective, nice post.

Gigi said...

It IS amazing how much the weather can affect our moods. But you are right, we can change our perspective if we try. Thanks for the reminder. I really needed it.

Leave a Legacy said...

I always love your perspective on things. I read what you say, and I sit here and think to myself, "Yea, that's how I feel too".
Weather affects me a lot. Our climate is very similar to yours, so I know exactly how you feel.
Mind and attitude is a powerful thing, though, and can make all the difference!

Teresa Evangeline said...

I got so tired of the rain, I went out and worked in it two days in a row and got more accomplished than on the sunny days. Gardens are a lot easier to weed when wet.

How'm I doin?

I cannot match your enthusiasm for exercise, in any form, but I keep trying. You are really an inspiration. Really.

Arkansas Patti said...

We have also been teased with brief periods of sun and long periods of rain. I have outside work that needs done and inside work I don't like to do so I really would like at least non-rainy days. Then I think of drought areas and I feel petty. Since no place is paradise, will just have to make do here.
Glad you wrote yourself into a better mood. The power of the pen.

The Retired One said...

I understand so well, DJan...I have fibromyalagia and some days, it hurts to even roll over in bed...that is why I love photography so much..looking through the lens reminds me of the details of beauty that nature provides us, if we just take the time to look a bit closer and appreciate it.

Trish said...

Perfect metaphor, pebble in the shoe!

Nancy said...

I know all about the pebble in the shoe. I then start reciting all of the things I have to be grateful for - and sometimes it is just having a warm shower, food to eat, and a roof over my head. Which is a lot when you think about it.

justme_alive said...

Well said, sometimes a small distraction is just what the doctor ordered!

SquirrelQueen said...

Oh I love that photo of mommy Hooded Merganser and the chicks, so cute.

I must be a little weird, I like a rainy day. It gives me a chance to catch up on all those things I have put off for a rainy day. But then having lived down in the Portland area, enough is enough. I don't like rain that much.

Donna B. said...

You are such a hands on person. You set goals and achieve them. You exercise and keep in shape like a super woman. You eat right. You meet life head on...it's nice to know you get moody and irritated once in awhile. I know that pebble in the shoe very well. In fact, I have a pebble collection....