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 19, 2013

A full life

Me, Leo, and one of his toys at Avellino's
Sometimes I wonder if it's a particular inherited trait to get oneself overly involved in activities, or whether it's something I have developed over a lifetime. When I moved from my home in Colorado, it was partly because I knew that I would never be allowed to retire if I stayed in place. Although I had a job that was ending, I was quite aware that the tendrils of commitment and community could only be broken if I moved away. Not to mention my avocation of skydiving every weekend, all year round, which took up all my weekends and vacations. That needed to change so I could start the next chapter of my life.

When we first arrived here in April 2008, I knew no one except my husband. We moved into the apartment complex where we still reside, and I began to develop my day's routine. The first two things I did were to join the YMCA and get myself a bus pass. I am very fortunate to have these two wonderful resources; the Y has a full activity schedule, and I take maximum advantage of the classes and the exercise equipment. And the buses. As a senior, I can buy an unlimited pass for three months, which takes me from the Canadian border all the way south to Mt. Vernon, if I wish. All for $35 (half price). Although I have a car and use it regularly, I would much rather take a bus because of the social aspect and economy.

There are so many coffee shops in Bellingham that I first began to have a morning latte at the downtown Starbucks before my exercise class at 9:00am. But it wasn't quite the right place, and I asked the barrista if she knew of any coffee shops that had the old pull-the-handle type of espresso machine, and she directed me to Avellino's, just down the street. That's where I met Leo and his dad, my fisherman friend Gene, and another friend Bob. I arrive just before 8:00am and order my usual, and everyone arrives one at a time. There is free wifi, so I usually open my iPad until someone shows up and we start a conversation. Sometimes I am reluctant to leave at 8:45 for my class. Leo knows I will play with him or read to him, and he always opens the door for me to leave with an admonition to watch out for wooly mammoths or snakes, or some such thing. I leave, smiling, and walk to the Y.

I met my friend Judy a few years ago at exercise class. We went out for coffee afterwards, and it started our friendship outside of the Y. I have watched as her son and daughter-in-law went from having no children to two twin girls and a single daughter. These grandchildren are the light of Judy's life, and I enjoy hearing about them and seeing pictures on Facebook. Judy is my movie partner, as we both are married to men who are not interested in most of the movies that appeal to us. We share books and have dinner together occasionally.

I joined the Senior Center so that I could participate in the Thursday hikes it sponsors. I have been going out with the Senior Trailblazers for over four years, and now I not only know all the regulars quite well, I am also very knowledgeable about the different hikes in the area. In the summer we carpool up to the Mt. Baker Wilderness Area, a drive of about an hour, spend four or five hours in the wilderness, and drive home. This makes for lots of time together, and I know these people very well now, as they do me. All one has to do is show up, and as the years pass people come and go. At our age, there are often medical issues that keep us away, and sometimes an injury or illness will interfere with our ability to hike. The Center has easier hikes available also, and sometimes people will migrate to another group, and I miss their company.

Two of the women from the Trailblazers encouraged me to join them with the Fairhaven walking group at 8:00am on Saturday mornings. I was at first a sometime attendee, because the woman who leads this group, Cindy, is a retired race walker and we set a blistering pace of around four miles an hour for anywhere from four to six miles. At first I was lagging at the back of the pack, but now I'm much faster, walking as fast as I can go, sometimes having to take a few running steps. Yesterday, one of the women in this group asked me to have coffee with her, so we will meet on Wednesday for an early lunch. Another new friend.

The weather wasn't conducive to skydiving yesterday, but today looks much better, so I'll head down to Snohomish to join my friend Linny to get my knees in the breeze, fly my canopy around and hopefully make some fun jumps before heading back north to Bellingham. When I was in Colorado, I couldn't show up at the Drop Zone before being pulled in to help teach some newbie, and although I was willing, it's nice to have that part of my career behind me. All I do now is play; after all, I'm retired. Sort of.

Yes, a full life indeed, with a very full contingent of friends, some of whom I consider to be close friends. My sister Norma Jean and I also talk on video chat at least once a week, and our lives are intimately intertwined. If social activity, along with exercise, keeps a person happy, I think I've got that covered. Looking at my life like this, thinking of how I got to this place, I am filled with wonder at how it's come about. I chose this town, and now it's hard for me to walk down the street and not see someone I know. And then there's the rock-solid relationship with Smart Guy. We spend some time every day together, but our lives are actually quite separate. I'm a social animal (obviously), and he prefers to spend time alone, with me and my full life giving him just about all the social interaction he requires. He does have interests outside of the home, but they are different from mine.

And then there's blogging. I write here once a week, my Sunday morning meditation, and I write in my other blog three times a week, usually. I follow more than a hundred blogs, which takes up time every day and provides intellectual stimulation. My blogging friends are another universe of social activity, and I care so much about all of you. Your lives and your concerns are mine, too. My heart is filled with gratitude for the life I often take for granted. Right now, however, I can give thanks for it all. And thank YOU as well. Blessings of the season to you and yours, until we meet again next week.


O-town Ramblings said...

You've formed some great friendships. I admire your courage in moving somewhere completely new with no connections, something I would be terrified to do.

Finding a good local coffee shop is such a treasure ins't it? I've made so many friends and connections at my coffee shop.

Teresa Evangeline said...

Sweet lady, I'm on the verge of tears, what a beautiful post. Your life is so full and rich. I know you've built this life through conscious effort and I find that very inspiring. Despite my still too reclusive ways, that could all change. I just have to stay open, as you have.

Anonymous said...

I think it's great that you have carved such an interesting life that satisfies you. Friends make all the difference in the world. Congrats, DJan!

Linda Myers said...

You've made your new home just that - home. I love hearing about your commitments and your joys.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

People who keep making new friends live longer, or so I heard once upon a time. Just yesterday Peter and I were wondering whether that includes online friends. When a person really shares, and the online friends share in return, I believe it does make a difference. But you have done both, and so well, too. Leo's love for you is so evident in that photo, and in his regular warnings to watch out for dangerous creatures in the world! You are not just lucky, you are successful in the best sense.

Jackie said...

Jan...if we could look at a strand of your DNA, I am POSITIVE that it would have "You Go Girl" stamped right in there. Has to be. Just has to be.
You are amazing, and one of the amazing things about you is that you make others feel special and important, and that is a gift and a blessing.
I love the fact that you have friends along the way...wherever your path takes you, you have/make friends. Like flowers, they bless your life, brighten your steps, and I can tell that you do the same for them.
Love the fact that Leo is such a young gentleman. Would you tell him for me when you see him again that Ms. Jackie smiled and her heart grew very happy when she read that he holds the door for a lady. He is a gentleman. Makes my heart proud to read this about him.
Thank you for sharing love and determination, Jan. Contagious, you are...

Rian said...

DJan, I enjoyed reading how you made the change from Colorado to Washington, what it involved, and how it has evolved. You seem to have created a well rounded routine that you enjoy. This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing.

Gigi said...

I love your posts, DJan. They are usually inspiring and uplifting and remind me that I need to get out more often and meet new people.

And Leo? He is an absolute doll!

Have a great week! xo

Red said...

To have friends , you have to be a friend. this is what you find yourself doing. So you're outgoing , social and an extrovert. That's about as good as it gets. Now your husband? I'm like him. I'm and introvert. I could spend the whole day by myself.
We all need people for support.In a few minutes I'm going to the hospital to visit my friend who has just had colon surgery for cancer.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Today we saw two skydivers drifting down against the pale blue sky and I thought of you, DJan. You have friends everywhere, even in the sky.

The Broad said...

This is such an inspirational post, DJan. You have such an enthusiasm for
life and you live it! It's a privilege to count you among my blogger friends!

Arkansas Patti said...

Well done in molding your new town around you and the beauty is that you have surrounded yourself with those of similar interests. You could write a manual on how to adjust.
I do much the same thing when entering a new town.
BTW, it is obvious that Leo thinks you are the berries. Clearly a smart kid and that is a really cute picture.

Sally Wessely said...

The trailblazer shows us the way again. I am finding myself trying to establish in my new surroundings. I already had built in friends and a community in my church that I belonged to twenty years ago when I moved away, but I wish to make more friends in different spheres.

I think a great place to start would be to find a walking or hiking group. Friends make the world more interesting. We all need deep human connection.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, I found this posting about how and why you moved from Colorado to Washington and how you've settled there and made friends so interesting.

Like your husband, I'm more of a solitary creature. I have many friends in Minnesota. Friends I met during my 38-year sojourn there.

But even though I've been here in Missouri for four years, I've made few friends because I don't expend the time and effort you've made. The truth is that I'd rather sit at the computer and write then be out and about. And yet, I know that making friends is essential to contentment. So I'll use information from your posting to get started. There is a senior citizen center here in Independence and I'll see if they have a walking group. I do love to walk.

Your openness is so appreciated by all of us who read your your philosophical postings, which are always, it seems to me, filled with your gratitude for your life. Peace.

Rita said...

Love that picture of you and Leo. It is the perfect example of the life you have built there in a few short years. I love this post! You have a great life, lady! Filled with variety and people and adventures. And now another new friend to meet for lunch. Don't forget your garden and the people you are meeting there, also. Can hear the contentment and see it on your face. :):)

Glenda Beall said...

DJan, like you I moved to a place where I knew no one, leaving my big family and everyone I knew. Now I consider this little mountain town my home and I can't go anywhere that I don't see a familiar face. I went from being an introvert to becoming a leader of a writers group and finding friends all over North Carolina. My life is good even though I lost my husband four years ago. I just had to reinvent myself and go one. I love your posts.

Friko said...

It takes a special person to make friends as easily and whole-heartedly as you do. Although I am more like Smart Guy, I wish I could have a little of your willingness to engage with others. And your enthusiasm for life. And outdoor activity. I could go on. . . . .

Far Side of Fifty said...

You do have a full and rich life! I so enjoyed that photo of you and Leo!
You can never have enough special friends...and I am happy that you have made so many!
Life is constantly changing and evolving..and you my friend make the best of everyday.
I so enjoy my online blogging friends who let me view their lives, they are people I would never meet and places I will probably never get to visit..but I can do that online. Thank you! :)

CiCi said...

This is an endearing post. You have a rich life, a full life and I am one of your readers who enjoys hearing about it. In your usual kind way, you share with us here, and it is a blessing. You have a way of writing that makes it easy to picture the people in your life, with or without photos. Hugs.

CrazyCris said...

You have a wonderfully full life DJan! You've made yourself a lovely niche there in Bellingham and met some great people from the sound of it. Keep enjoying it!