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, July 21, 2013

Clouds from both sides

Hiking above the clouds
Last Thursday's hike with the Trailblazers took us from dense fog to this: rising up above the clouds to gaze down on them, where they look like whipped cream covering the valley. This is one of the most wonderful aspects of the Pacific Northwest: the clouds. They were missing from Colorado's skies, at least clouds like these. I have been here for five years and am still mesmerized by the view of trees rising out of the mist.

It has caused a few problems, though, as that marine layer has sometimes been slow to burn off the past few weeks. Last Wednesday I was scheduled to skydive with my friend Jonelle (who would be making her first skydive, a tandem), but the weather never cleared all day. Then we rescheduled for this past Friday, and the same thing happened. (We have rescheduled for this coming Wednesday.) Yesterday the clouds didn't leave the Puget Sound area until 3:00pm. This means that today's planned activity, skydiving with Linnie and friends, might not happen. The past several weeks I've gotten at least three jumps each weekend, usually four.  I get accustomed to things going a certain way, and when it changes, my schedule goes awry. The recent holiday on the Fourth messed up my internal clock for more than a week.

Last night I slept like a log, the first time in several nights. It sure makes a difference in the way the world looks to me when I'm well rested. And at my age, my body is harder to roust out of the doldrums when I'm physically tired. A decade ago, I took for granted that I'd have boundless energy for everything I wanted to do, but these days I need to pick and choose my activities. That's not to say that I am not happily continuing to play in the sunshine and rain, but I've definitely slowed down. My sister Norma Jean makes me feel like a slacker, since every day she swims, has a vigorous walk, and attends yoga and Pilates classes weekly. She is probably in the best shape of her life right now as she approaches her 68th birthday. We spend a couple of hours every week together on video chat, and I must say that she simply glows with health. She continues to inspire me.

We've got a new hiker who has joined us the last two weeks, Doug. He shows every sign of becoming another regular, someone who shows up every week. Of course, the weather hasn't been especially challenging, and it's only the hardiest of the hardy who show up for a hike in the rain. We'll see. Many of the people I have grown to love and appreciate in that group are not hiking with us right now, either because of health issues or, in the case of Fred, having taken on a full-time job. It was so nice to see him on a hike a few Sundays ago, and he promised that he would be coming back to join us as soon as he's trained someone to take over his job.

Some of the people I exercise with at the gym have become good friends, such as Judy, and although she has a very full life, we find time to be together. During the summer I see much less of her because of her family activity, when her daughter and grandkids who live in the East visit, but it's during the long winter that I really appreciate us doing things together. We have taken day-long bus tours as well as the usual "dinner and a movie" that is our usual fare. Just last week she snuck away for a quick movie with me, but I won't be seeing much of her until late August.

Sitting here propped up in bed, laptop on my knees and partner sleeping beside me: this has become the time when I think about my life, contemplate where I am today and where I might be headed in the future. There are not many of life's hurdles left to climb, like those that young people are facing right now, since I'm retired from the world of work. Social Security and annuities are deposited in my checking account monthly. We will never be wealthy, or even have enough extra money to take long vacations, but it's enough that we don't have to worry about how to pay the bills. That gives me an opportunity to concentrate on what I want to do with the rest of my life.

One thing I've discovered I need is intellectual stimulation. Reading and writing blogs has helped to fill that void. My blogging friends are like part of my extended family, and I know as much about the lives of several of you as I do my own flesh-and-blood family. I feel very blessed to live in a time when virtual friends can become this important to me, and it's because of the vast changes in technology that have emerged during the past decade. I read recently that more than half of all Americans now have a smartphone. I myself need a keyboard to write, but I see more and more young people writing texts to each other on their phones. I wonder if any of them have made friends that they only know through electronic media.

This morning as I ponder how to wrap up this post about nothing in particular, I'm thinking of that Judy Collins song that inspired the title:
Bows and flows of angel hair
And ice cream castles in the air
And feather canyons everywhere
I've looked at clouds that way
But now they only block the sun
They rain and snow on everyone
So many things I would have done
But clouds got in my way
I've looked at clouds from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It's cloud's illusions I recall
I really don't know clouds at all
 Whatever you choose to do with yourself before we meet again, be well and, if you can, spend some time looking at those beautiful, mysterious clouds.


Teresa Evangeline said...

I have been reading through your last few posts and enjoyed hearing more about your family and your life. It sounds peaceful and full. Happy Sunday, Jan. I love clouds, too. Your photo on top is stunning when enlarged!

Anonymous said...

Too bad you have had to postpone skydiving for awhile. I can tell it is addictive for you. I feel that way about my weekly hula classes.

Linda Reeder said...

I've been having trouble sleeping in lately, so I'm in my recliner where my back is happier, with my laptop, looking at the bottom of those clouds this Sunday morning. I have the program "Sunday Morning" on the TV in front of me. They do some lovely stories, and I almost never watch it. I should.
It looks like I will have plenty of time to go for my walk before the sun gets hot today, which means you may not get to play in the sky, because those clouds are playing instead.
I enjoy all of your posts, but I especially enjoy spending Sunday mornings with you.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

Glad you slept well! I am always surprised when I can't sleep, but it's been happening more often in the past few months. I can just sleep in longer, but that doesn't really make me feel rested, so I'm on a mission to change things. First rule: must go to bed at a regular time. Not easy because I'm so tempted by every excuse to stay up!

Red said...

As all of us are individuals , we age differently too. My friend Howard turned ninety a few weeks ago. He still skates , gardens and shovels snow. A few weeks ago he moved into a seniors home as his wife could not manage in their own home any more. But Howard ages very slowly.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

One of my favorite songs! And these photos of the trees poking through the mist are lovely.

Arkansas Patti said...

Your sister has to be awesome to make you feel like a slacker. You both have taken control of your health and bodies. Kudos to you both.
Like you, I really enjoy my cyber friends. How else would I have friends in many countries plus those all over our own lovely country?
While I do have a male friend who is a sky diver, pretty sure I would never met a lady near my age who loves to put her knees in the breeze like you. Blogging is a pure blessing.
Please keep setting the bar high for me.

Sally Wessely said...

I loved the way you ended this post. I love Judy Collins and this song is a particular favorite. We do need to ponder those clouds, don't we? I don't think clouds have gotten your way often. Except, when you wish to sky dive. Your sis is amazing, but so are you. You continue to teach me so much about life.

Rita said...

I don't do well when my sleeping is off, either. Which amazes me, as I have only started sleeping regular hours almost a year and a half ago--LOL!

I am surprised to hear there is somebody more active in your family than you! What an inspiring pair you two are!

I feel the same way about my blogger friends. Most of the younger people I know talk to people they already know in real life. I'd be curious to know if many of them have met friends online, too.

If anyone has seen clouds from both sides, you have. And I love that you share the pictures with us!! ROFL!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Love that song..and spending time with you..and your thoughts:)

amanda said...

I'm late in my reading, but every so glad I caught up. I always enjoy your thoughtful posts, DJan.
You've had me thinking a lot about "family".. those we have a born blood connection to, and those we choose, who continue to inspire us, support us, and help us thrive later on.
I'm glad PJ is one who has been there throughout it all.
And I'm glad to have your thoughts and adventures to read and inspire me.
I have made several friends through technology, whom I've never met in real life.
I don't have a smartphone yet, though!

Friko said...

I am glad to say the clouds are back, beautiful, big-bellied summer clouds. We’ve had the most horrendous heatwave for England and I’m glad it seems to be over.

You still tire me out reading of your exploits, perhaps I’m just not as fit as you. Well, of course I’m not, this bloody ticker is a pain in the . . . .

I love the way you describe yourself sitting up in bed in the early morning, going over the way you arrange your life. I hope it remains kind to you and you can arrange it the way you like best for a long time to come.

Bill said...

What a beautiful and inspiring post. And what a wonderful photo.

It seems your "retirement" includes a stimulating mix of physical activity, intellectual activity, interaction with nature and interaction with loved ones. Sounds great to me. :)

Stella Jones said...

Lovely post! Yes I'm a cloud watcher. In fact I'm a dreamer and I watch things like that too often! I love having the time to do that.

troutbirder said...

Absolutely one of my favorite songs. Somehow as I've grown older the lyrics seem to take on more meaning in my life....