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 27, 2012

And so it begins

Summer, that is. Yesterday, the first day of the Memorial Day weekend, I walked with the Fairhaven walkers (twenty of us, all women) to the home of a woman who lives on Lummi Island, just over three miles each way. I took this picture from her deck of the water in Bellingham Bay with foliage and madrone trees in the foreground. She has a beautiful place, but the island is separated from the mainland, necessitating a ferry ride to get to a grocery store, or anywhere else in town. The price of the ferry recently jumped from $2 to $7 (round trip) to simply walk on. Taking your car across costs $13 and only 12 cars can go at a time. The ferry runs twice an hour. It is very lovely, but it wouldn't be a place I would choose to live.

After coming home from the excursion to Lummi Island, I helped spread manure in our community garden. Some of the residents in our apartment complex talked the owners into the idea of using part of the area located behind the apartments for a community garden, and they paid to have the area fenced, to (hopefully) keep out the deer and other critters that will be eyeing our veggies. I decided to plant kale, collards, carrots, and squash in my little area, but we needed to spread the two piles of horse manure before it can be tilled, which will probably happen today. I am exhilarated, since I have never before had the possibility of having a garden. I may enjoy it or possibly find it to be too much work, who knows? Even the uncertainty is a bit exciting to me.

Our sunny, beautiful weather returned for a couple of days, but last night I woke to wind blowing the curtains and rattling the bird feeders. I went outside and removed them so they wouldn't be blown down and felt the change in the weather. Today is the annual Ski to Sea event here in Bellingham, and I've been watching friends in the gym working hard to get ready for it. That link will take you to a USA Today article about it that I found interesting.

A few years ago I volunteered to help organize the packets that the racers require. There are eight people in a team, which are limited to 500. People sign up for this event far in advance, and the same top teams win year after year, but many people are not as competitive and decide to enter for the fun of it. It's a relay race of over ninety miles. Here's a bit of information taken from the official website.
A Ski to Sea Race team consists of 8 racers (2 in the canoe leg) for the seven race legs (Cross Country Ski; Downhill Ski/Snowboard; Running; Road Bike; Canoe; Mountain Bike; Kayak). A racer can only be on one team, and only complete one leg. We also recommend a support team to carpool the team to the different race leg venues. From the top of Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay, discover Whatcom County's recreational playground and the 'Ski to Sea' Experience.
Some of the teams have decided to make it even more challenging and reduce their carbon footprint by not taking any cars to get to their starting point. I heard some people talking about logistics. It's a fun event and a lot of people get totally enthusiastic about it. Although I have considered finding a senior's team (there are plenty), I haven't followed through yet. I don't have a bike, so the only leg I would feel comfortable competing in would be the cross country ski part. That's what has kept me from actually doing it. I tell myself that, anyway.

Instead, I'll learn about gardening and raising my own vegetables. I was wondering what I would be doing this long weekend to keep fit, since the buses won't be running and the Y will be closed tomorrow. After shoveling manure for hours yesterday, I no longer need to worry about that. I came in and took a shower, washing off all the sweat and grime and went to bed early after a glass of wine. Although I tried to read, I found myself nodding off and gave myself permission to retire. After all, I'd walked a fast six-and-a-half miles and shoveled for a couple of hours, so I was entitled, I figured.

It was such a beautiful day yesterday that I glanced up at the sky now and then and thought about skydiving. A gentle breeze and completely blue skies made it a perfect day for it. But last Saturday I made four jumps and was a little bit glad for a break. My friend Linny wasn't going to be there anyway, so it wasn't as tempting as it would otherwise have been to make the drive down to Snohomish and get my knees in the breeze.

The birds are singing outside; I can hear the ubiquitous robin who wakes me every morning, a couple of chickadees, the goldfinch twittering, and the house sparrows tweeting. I've got a few white-crowned sparrows hanging around, but I don't hear them right now. The wind seems to have died down and the sky is looking good for the racers. In the afternoon I'll head downtown on the bus and make my way to the finish line, hoping for some good pictures. The first teams will arrive at Marine Park by early afternoon and the rest will stagger across the finish line, one at a time, until the sun sets.

And so it begins, the unofficial start of the summer season, the blue skies and sunshine, long days and short nights. I'm feeling pretty good for having lifted that shovel so many times yesterday; my workouts must be making a difference. Not bad for an old lady, I tell myself. Not bad.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Ring of Fire 2012

From Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Today we will have the first solar eclipse of the century visible to those of us in the United States. The map above shows what parts of the country will see it best, and I've learned that even here in the northern part of Washington, we should see 83% of it. Wikipedia has a really good link with everything you might want to know about it. It tells me that the last annular eclipse was in May 1994. The meaning of an "annular" eclipse is that it occurs when the moon's orbit passes relatively far away from the earth, so when it moves in front of the sun, a "ring of fire" remains around the moon.

Unfortunately for me, I've also learned from those two links that my chances of seeing anything at all is very low. After weeks of cloudless weather, they have returned today, Sunday, just in time to obscure any view I might have had. The Cliff Mass link gives the probability of cloud cover in our area around 6:44pm when it will begin. Sigh.

But anybody who follows these celestial events knows that you don't have to SEE it to enjoy it, or to be affected by it. Sometimes I think of how it must have seemed to people when they didn't know it was coming. We know all about it, but they must have thought the world was coming to an end. The world I live in is connected in ways that would have seemed like magic to them. In fact, this blog post I'm writing right now will be available to anyone with a computer in a very short while. How much like magic that seems to me, even today.

Yesterday I spent the entire day skydiving. It was the fourth time I've gone to Snohomish for the activity so far this year, and the difference between the way I felt yesterday and the first jumps of the season last month is surprising to me. The day after I made those first two jumps, I was sore from packing, climbing outside the airplane, and flying my parachute. Even though I get a fair amount of exercise, it's such a different usage of my muscles that I felt tired and sore. Yesterday I made twice as many jumps and packed for myself all four times and this morning (so far anyway) I feel just fine.

On Thursday I went with the Trailblazers on a long drive to hike part of the way around Baker Lake. I wrote about it here, and I was plenty sore after somewhere around twelve miles and a 150-mile car trip (75 miles each way). When I tried to climb out of the car, it took me quite a few moments to get things going again. But again, I woke the following morning and headed off to my exercise class, with a bit of stiffness but nothing major.

Friday was the only day between these two events. What amazes me is that I am capable of such activity at my age. It not only makes me wonder how long I can keep this up, but what I am doing right that allows it? I know people much younger than me who couldn't possibly have done these two things in a three-day period, even if they wanted to. Most people don't want to skydive, and a whole lot of people don't want to walk such distances. But I do, and as long as I can manage to drag these old bones out to play, I will.

It must be related to the old adage, "use it or lose it." I could not have begun with such a long trek, but now it's been a weekly activity for almost four years. And as I noticed with the skydiving activity, I'm getting accustomed to jumping again after the winter's layoff. Whatever the reason, I'll take it. Right now, on this day of the Ring of Fire, I'm grateful to be here on the planet, interested and involved in the world, even if I'm not exactly leaping out of bed yet.  Once I hit "publish," I'll get up and start my day. Watch the Ring of Fire if you can!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Sunny Mother's Day

Mama and me
I have been sitting in bed reading my morning blogs, all those written since I last looked at my list on Reader. Yesterday I spent my day at the Drop Zone making three wonderful skydives in the sunshine, which were definitely exciting and fun, but I got behind on my computer tasks, and I never like to miss seeing what my friends have to say and pictures they show me. Of course most of the ones this morning have been about mothers and Mother's Day in general. A couple of them are truly inspiring. My friend Dianne wrote about all kinds of mothers on her blog, and it's well worth going over there and taking a look at the delightful pictures she chose.

When that long-ago picture was taken, obviously by Daddy, I was in diapers and Mama's hair was auburn red. She used henna on her hair in those days, and I can still remember the smell of it when she would treat her long beautiful hair with what looked like mud. She would slather it on and wrap the muddy locks around and around before covering it with a hot towel. She didn't forget her eyebrows, either, and I was fascinated by the process that transformed her from my beautiful mother to a scary creature. She let her hair grow so long at one time that when she braided it into one long thick plait it would wrap around her entire head like a crown. All of these memories of my mother are precious to me, especially now that she's nowhere around any more. It occurred to me the other day that my sister Norma Jean and I are the only ones left who share these memories of our mother. My other siblings are much younger. Perhaps PJ remembers some, but she was born when I was seven, not two as I was when Norma Jean was born.

Today I also think of my two sons who are also long gone from the world. It's just me here with my memories to remember why I still celebrate Mother's Day as a mother. Chris would always call me on my birthday and on Mother's Day, no matter where in the world he was. Or he would visit me, when he lived close by. He never had much money, so he didn't send me cards, which I wouldn't have cared much for anyway; I wanted to see him or talk to him instead, and he understood that. Our family has never been much for holidays that advertisers are anxious to take over to make you buy stuff you don't need. A hand-written card is much more meaningful to me than one with sentiments thought up by someone else. I have memories of "found" bouquets of flowers handed to me in a sticky fist, an offering by my son to his mom. I cherish the memory the way I cherished that little bouquet long ago.

Stephen died so long ago that I have only a few memories that stand out in my mind. He only lived for thirteen months, so he never had a chance to hand me bouquets of flowers, but we loved each other immoderately. I remember days when we would play hide and seek for hours at a time, both of us filled with laughter and delighted with each other. Sometimes I would neglect my household chores and find that most of the day was gone before I would remember. We had so much fun together. I have a memory of a little red wagon that I pulled along with both of my sons in it. Chris in the back and his little brother in front, waving at the passersby. That one pulls at my heartstrings even today and I don't want to go any farther down that memory lane, so I won't.

Mothers are busy in the springtime throughout the entire animal kingdom. Norma Jean has some doves that made a nest outside her bedroom window on top of an air-conditioning box. She can't see into the nest but saw the two parents creating it and now there are at least two little ones in there. I think one of the squirrels that visits my front porch is also looking for extra food for babies. It's that time of the year.
Hummingbird mom with two babies
Sometimes my friends will ask me if it bothers me when they talk about their grandchildren, knowing that I don't have any. You know, I suppose it might if I look at it one way, but I am glad that they share them with me, because all children and babies are precious to me. I don't have to sit on a nest to appreciate the sentiment of the mother bird, and I don't have to be related to a child to value him or her.

Yesterday there were children running and playing in the sunlight while their parents watched relatives who had come to the Drop Zone to make a tandem jump. Families come out to share the excitement of their son or daughter who received a skydive as a graduation present, or to celebrate a birthday, or simply to experience the thrill of a lifetime. But the little ones were a joy to me; they didn't have any idea what was happening with the adults, and they played in the sun as I watched and smiled with them. In many ways, I can enjoy the little ones much more because I don't have to be responsible for them.

They are carefully watched so that they stay out of harm's way, with barriers separating non-jumpers from those boarding the plane. In much the same way that I enjoy children, I also share the excitement of first-time skydivers making a tandem. For a few of them, they will fall in love with freefall as I did and will come back for more. But most will not. It will be an experience that will become a memory to cherish, much as I cherish those I have shared with you today.

Happy Mother's Day to all mothers and those who have or have had a mother. Pretty much covers it, doesn't it?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Super cool week

Snagged from Yahoo News
Last night the light from this incredible moon kept shining in through the windows, making it look like daylight out there. I didn't get up and take any pictures, of course, because that would have meant dressing for the cold and driving down to the bay to get anything really worthwhile. Instead, I climbed back into bed. This event usually occurs once a year; the moon is in its full phase at the same time that it is closest to the earth, and we just happened to have a clear night here. The first in many days. While much of the country has been baking, we have been having temperatures below normal.

From Climate Prediction Center
Yes, this is what happened to us all last winter, too. A strong ridge of high pressure built over the midwest, and we ended up with all the cold. Apparently this is set to change, and it can't be too soon for me. Yesterday I planned to head to Snohomish to make a few jumps, but the weather didn't cooperate; it didn't clear until late in the day. I decided to try again today, and although the temperature is quite cold (36 F), it should warm up in the predicted sunshine. I'll try again today and hope to get my "knees in the breeze" a time or two. I really don't mind the cool weather, especially when I read about some of my blogging friends already having 90-degree temperatures. Of course, a bit of warmth would be more likely to melt the massive snowpack in the Mt. Baker area so we can get some good hikes in during the summer. It's possible that the High Country will not be accessible again, for the second year in a row. But I'll think about that later.
Check it out!
THIS is what has been occupying most of my time and attention this week, though. On Monday morning I ordered myself a new laptop to replace my seven-year-old trusty MacBook. It was beginning to fail and I found myself growing impatient as I waited for things to load. Or hang up and never load. And Smart Guy told me that the hard disk was beginning to fail. This is the first post I've written on this new machine, and I love it, simply love it!

What amazes me is its incredible thinness. I remember when Steve Jobs first introduced it to the world, he pulled it out of an interoffice envelope! Even at the time I gasped with amazement, and I hadn't even seen one in person. Now it's on its second version and a new version is expected this summer. However, I saw that this one is beginning to go on sale to get ready for the new one, and I ordered it online Monday and received it Thursday. That kind of turnaround won't happen when the new version comes out, and I'm perfectly happy with my pretty new toy. It is solid state and has no moving parts, no fan inside, with plenty of connection ports. I put a link under the picture, just in case you are interested in looking more closely at my new gadget. It was seamless to migrate all my pictures and apps from my old one to the new one, so other than being FAST and QUIET, it's like my old laptop, familiar in every way.

You can tell I'm happy with it. Plus I watched a Masterpiece Theater episode on it yesterday, with headphones, and I found the screen resolution astounding. I could never have done that with my old machine, as it was way too slow and would hang constantly. Okay, I'll stop rhapsodizing over my new obsession so I can finish up this post and get ready to go skydiving.

The week has been filled with activity, and yesterday was also our eighteenth wedding anniversary. We were married in freefall, which I wrote about here, and we also celebrated our tenth anniversary by jumping out of a plane together. We won't be doing that on our twentieth, because he's not active right now and I suspect I won't be by the time it rolls around in two years. Skydiving is still fun for me but I see myself moving on to new pursuits. Every day I am grateful that I'm still kicking, jumping, hiking, and having the chance to play in the air. Life moves on, though, and feeling all my aches and pains, I'll be happy to take up knitting again. Someday.