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, March 23, 2014

Living my life out in the open

Taken by Diane last Thursday
My friend Diane sent me this picture by email, and I smiled and stared at it with pleasure. I realized when I saw it that I am a very lucky person to live where I do and have the ability to enjoy the outdoors. It all seems so circumstantial. I only discovered the Senior Trailblazers because I needed to find a way to get sustained exercise occasionally instead of the hour-long classes I was taking at the Y. That was five years ago, and I've been fortunate to have learned about the trails in the entire area, and sometimes, in the summer, taking a longer trip and spending sunup to sundown, the entire day, with my friends.

And they are truly my friends. Cherished and special to me, they are not just acquaintances any more, people I spend so much time with, people whose lives I know quite a bit about, just through the inevitable chitchat as we walk. Last Thursday we had sixteen people join us; within that group there were three medical doctors, although one is retired the other two are still working. Fred is back with us after having taken two years off to help out his former employer; several retired college professors join us, and many retired schoolteachers as well. Even though you don't need to be retired to join the Senior Center, being able to have Thursdays free requires either a flexible schedule, or no schedule at all.

In addition to having formed deep bonds with these people over the years, there's also my blogging family. It was a complete surprise to me that my desire to keep writing after my retirement led me to create two blogs and all the connection that comes from them. On this blog I write once a week early on Sunday morning. It's become part of my schedule, whether self-imposed or not, I would not feel right if I didn't sit in the dark with my laptop and begin to compose. Sometimes it's difficult to think what to write about, since in looking back over the week nothing stands out as important enough or relevant. It does require me to take stock, think back and review what's on my mind.

And then I just... let the keys click away as I sip my tea and ponder. Sometimes I hit a snag or decide I didn't want to go in that direction after all, and I'll start over. Often I share more than I intend of the trials and tribulations of this or that, but that's really all right, I think. I'm not hiding my daily life but living it out in the open. I don't actually realize sometimes how open, until I'm walking down the street one day and someone will come up to me and tell me they recognize me from my blog pictures. We'll sometimes have a short conversation about it, but I will walk away and wonder why in the world a stranger would actually seek to follow some old lady's weekly ruminations.

But then I also think of all the blogs I follow, the lives I peek into and people I look forward to hearing about. My friend in Australia who shows me pictures of kangaroos and tells of the trials she faces with illness; the wonderful woman in Texas who feeds hundreds of whistling ducks and tells of her life on the ranch; my friends in Minnesota and Canada whose blogs run the gamut of indoor and outdoor activities; those on the East Coast who have endured weather events from incredible snowstorms to Hurricane Sandy—this list could go on and on, because I care about these people and their lives. And they care about me, too. I know this from their comments, and sometimes through private emails we have shared. I have visited Vashon Island twice now to have a retreat with five other bloggers who live nearby. They are cherished and dear friends, now both in the blogging world and in the flesh. It all started with blogging, though.

Before the Internet took over my life, I spent time perusing the morning paper, and I enjoyed the editorial section. I had favorites I wouldn't miss. I read many political editorials, some folksy ones like Erma Bombeck, and I looked forward to hear what they would have to say. That activity has been replaced with my morning perusal of favorite bloggers and what they have posted since I last visited. Since we are not professional writers, there are times when I might skip through some parts that aren't all that interesting to me. I'm sure my readers do the same. But I always visit. They, too, are living their lives out in the open, with a window into their thought patterns, their homes, their interests, likes and dislikes. It's a wonderful world that didn't even exist a few years ago, and it satisfies my need for connection in ways I never could have imagined.

It also makes me vulnerable to criticism. Although I've got some pretty strong opinions about almost everything, I try very hard to avoid hot-button issues such as politics and religion (to name a few). I have blogging friends who had to shut down their blogs because of the vitriol some unkind people have unloaded on them, just because they expressed opinions someone didn't agree with. You can moderate who can comment on your blogs and remove offensive comments, but sometimes it can hit a person hard to learn that there are people out there who are angry and hurtful and will do whatever they can to make you suffer.

I get my share of comments I delete, but most of them are spam, not angry and filled with hate. But I do get those occasionally; it jolts me and makes me wonder if it's worth attracting people like that into my sphere, just to have this window into my life that has no real purpose. But then some kind and dear friend will leave me a comment that makes my heart soar with gratitude and love.

It's worth it, all right. I'll continue to live my life out in the open. Remember that we are all in this together and let's concentrate on the good parts. I hope your coming week will be filled with trees in blossom and daffodils peeking up through the earth, just like I've got happening here in the Pacific Northwest.


Deb Shucka said...

Love the title, and I love love love that picture of you. While my blogging life isn't as active as yours, I feel the same way about my blogging friends (you included). These friendships are as real and as important to me as the ones based on real-time interactions. I would miss you a ton if you weren't here.

justme_alive said...

Great picture of you, I think I love this phrase in your ending. Wouldn't it be great if we greeted each other with these words? "I hope your coming week will be filled with trees in blossom and daffodils peeking up through the earth"! - Kim

Anonymous said...

I don't think you have a mean bone in your body, DJan. Your comments on my blog always make me grateful for friends like you. Keep on truckin, as they say.

Linda Reeder said...

I hadn't thought of it that way, "Living my life out in the open", and it's ironic because I am such a private introverted person, but I do that too. And of course there is an intended double meaning, as we are both lovers of the great outdoors.
I hear warnings all of the time about being careful of what you post on line, and I wonder if I am being too open, but then I just toss those warning away and post anyway. I love my blog family, you included. You all enrich my life.
I love that photo of you too, perfect for your title and topic!

Elephant's Child said...

The warmth and the wonder I have found here in the blogosphere awes and humbles me. So many bloggers, including you, are a part of my life and held firmly in my heart despite the fact we will probably never meet. Hugs.

Mel said...

Great photo! I envy your hiking group and locale, what a great way to stay healthy and happy.

I have trouble remembering my life before blogging, it's been eight years now, and it has given me so many new and wonderful friendships, like it has you.

I've also struggled with the idea of living out in the open, feeling vulnerable, and finding, sadly, sometimes that people are touchier or meaner or odder than I imagined, and it is a jolt. I have my days where I think I'm done, this is silly, opening myself up like this, but I stay here and I will probably always stay because of the people I've met that I care about. This is a lovely extended family, and I couldn't put a price on how much it has enriched my life.
I'm so glad you type every Sunday morning. I was up early today, so I've been waiting to hear from you.
Thanks for the daffodil wishes - mine aren't up yet, but I bought a bunch from Trader Joes and my house smells like Spring :)
Have a great week.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Morning my friend, I would miss you if you didn't blog. I like your hiking photo so very much you!

I worry sometimes about being too open too. Some people sought me out at the museum and that was fine. I always like to meet blog readers. BUT I prefer to meet the ones who also have blogs! People recognize my husband and Chance more than anything else. Without them I can remain anonymous. I kind of enjoy that! So by publishing your photo you are much more open than I am.
I don't know the world is a scary place sometimes. I think facebook and Twitter are probably worse than a blog.
I hope you have a good week! Sunny here but cold...no snow melting today:(

Joyful said...

Good day DJan! Sounds like you are fully and truly enjoying retirement. That is how is should be. May it long continue in that vein. It's wonderful to see the sun shine again on the west coast.

Gigi said...

It boggles my mind that some mean spirited person would leave you a mean comment!

Blogging has certainly opened up our little worlds and I also love it!

Have a wonderful week, DJan.

Rian said...

I do think you are lucky to live where you do and enjoy your hiking experiences! You do realize that the rest of us are living vicariously through you. As for blogging, it has enriched my life also. And although I seldom have problems coming up with things to write about, I do realize that sometimes my posts are a bit mundane... but heck (I did say h-e-c-k), so is life. At my age I'm very content to say that nothing too earth-shattering is going on.

Linda Myers said...

I love that you live your life out in the open in your blog. I try to do that, too, though there are few topics I don't talk about even though they're important in my life.

We have a virtual neighborhood! And, of course, some of us know each other face to face. Isn't that wonderful?

Jackie said...

I'm so glad we met through blogging. My life is much richer because of that meeting. I couldn't wait to read your blog, and I'm never disappointed with your honesty and brilliant methods of writing. I pray that you and yours are doing well. I have been so worried since I heard about the terrible mudslides in your area. I have prayed that you are fine.

Glenda Beall said...

In her book, Daring Greatly, Brene' Brown talks about letting our vulnerability show. Most good writers learn to let others see their vulnerability and in return, as you see here, your readers love you more. I enjoy your writing, your thoughts and admire your lack of fear to show us who you are. Because of that we, your readers, feel we know you and love you.

Arkansas Patti said...

You are right. I have the quote on my side bar "Things I would not tell anyone, I tell the public." ~ Michel de Montaigne."
Or you might say, I blog about. My family is surprised by some of my postings.
And you are also right how these far away people have become those we care about.
So far, I haven't gotten any ugly comments, just occasional spam.

Red said...

In your last paragraph , you get to the right conclusion. We take the good with the bad.
I know we get out there and leave ourselves exposed. Some of the knocks can be hard to deal with.
You're doing fine so keep at it. You will only make more friends,

Sally Wessely said...

I love this title also. You are the poster child (woman) for living your live in the open. I envy your hiking group. I am so hoping I can get some health issues resolved soon so I can again be hiking and walking.

As far as blogging goes, I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I don't know where I'd be without my blogging friends. You are right at the top of the list. I love what Arkansas Patti said about the things that she'd never tell anyone, she tells to the public. I'm sure there are haters out there for us all. I learned about those critical people when I was a teacher and when my husband was principal. They should not stop us from expressing who we are.

Thanks for being you. Thanks for sharing who you are with all of us.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

You're a true Sagittarian treasure, DJan. Onward. I love your posts!

Dee said...

Dear DJan, just yesterday I got one of those comments that surprised me and left me wondering why someone would ask the question he asked. I simply deleted the comment, and that's an aspect of blogging that I so appreciate.

Like you, I'm not reading the newspaper as thoroughly as I used to because of reading blogs. Sharing my life with other bloggers and their generous sharing of their lives with me made such a difference to my life after I moved here from Minnesota. I feel I now have friends in so many places and their lives touch mine for good. A blessing , , , as your two blogs are to me. Peace.

Friko said...

Yes, the daffodils are out in force., thank you very much. On a cold, windy day, they are a great heart warmer.

Let’s not take notice of the blogging nasties, there are far more good and kind people around, who give pleasure.

I hope your outdoor and indoor year will be filled with joy and healthy exercise and that you will continue to find great pleasure opening up to your friends in the blogging world.

Stella Jones said...

I think Americans are a lot more 'open' than we Brits anyway, but I'm learning. I am trying to open up a bit more because after all it is 'our blog'and we should be able to put what we want onto it. How hurtful that some people would think to lash out. How hurtful and how sad. I've read most of your posts and never found anything amiss that could upset anyone. I know that some folk have terrible problems in that way. Keep writing D-Jan and we will keep reading. It's lovely to share your life on the other side of the world.

Nancy/BLissed-Out Grandma said...

I agree with you, blogging is a wonderful way to share, connect, and be part of a community. When I worked, I had many women with whom I'd take a few minutes (or longer) to talk about whatever was important to us. It was an important part of my support system. Now my blogging friends play that role to a large extent, and I'm glad for that. Although as you note, some topics are best avoided in blogland. Thanks for your spring good wishes; I'll save them for a few weeks until there's more likelihood of blossoms etc. :)

Rita said...

I started smiling as soon as I saw your contented face in the sunshine...and kept smiling all the way to the end. You brightened my day all the way over here in Fargo. I am blessed to know you out here in blogland. :)

troutbirder said...

Well said DJ and I feel much the same way. You do arouse a small degree of envy with your trailblazers group. I know if I lived in the Twin Cities I could find similar outdoor groups and also book clubs but small town life has been good to me and I remain basically content with that.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful picture! God has blessed you so much to enjoy the outdoors. It will be a wonderful day to spend time with our friends! Have a wonderful day!

R. J. said...

Your photo makes me smile because you have such a great outlook on life, it shines through--great aura. I enjoy reading all the blogs of the courageous people like you who deal with the bad and enjoy the good parts of living life in the open. I am a very guarded and private person even though I realize the web is no different from real life with the good, the bad, and the ugly. On the other hand, it really doesn't matter to me if people agree with where I'm coming from. I like my hobbies, and entertainments and I have to please no one but myself. It is very freeing to be retired and answer to no one. A lifetime of values do not go away and I could never sink to the depths that some on the web seem to indulge in with their inappropriate, insensitive postings of venom toward others. I mourn the loss of civil discourse in society and it is at its worst on the web. I enjoyed reading your very thoughtful post.