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, August 30, 2015

A very strange Sunday indeed

Well, this is certainly a different way to start my Sunday. I am sitting here in bed in the dark (that’s not so unusual, but there is no light except for my computer screen), listening to the rain falling outside. We have been without electricity since around 11:00am yesterday. We had a huge windstorm most of the day, and when the power went off I thought it would be fairly quickly restored. But no, it’s still out.

After realizing yesterday that it wasn’t going to return, around 5:00pm I ventured out in my car to find somewhere that might have internet so I could get my Saturday post done. I found one, and to my dismay I saw many huge areas of Bellingham are without power, and perhaps half of the street lights were not working. Many stores had been forced to close, and block after block of complete darkness showed that this is a massive outage. Using my smartphone, I was able to learn that it would be “awhile” before all power would be restored. Fallen trees and telephone poles across the streets were causing major hazards.

I came home about 6:30pm, while there was still a little daylight, but it wouldn’t be long before I knew I would be unable to read my book, or do much of anything. Everything in our apartment is electric: lights, heat, stove, hot water, microwave… as I would automatically think of doing something I usually accomplished without thinking, I realized I was unable to even make myself a cup of tea!

Fortunately, I have a headlamp that I bought for walking to the bus in the dark, and I was able to set it up in my bedroom so that I could read by it for awhile. Smart Guy had gone out to see what was going on outside, and when he returned he reported that there are still huge areas of town that were completely dark. During the night, I heard a couple of explosions, which might have been electric transformers that were overloaded and blew. Who knows?

I am writing this post on my laptop in a text editor, because I discovered that when I don’t have internet connection, I cannot access the website that allows me to write a post on Blogspot. I thought at least I could write it and post it once the power returns, but that is not to be. I’ll simply cut and paste this into the post once I get to the coffee shop. And I am only able to be drinking a cup of tea right now because Smart Guy has a thermos he filled yesterday with hot water. It was still hot enough for me to brew a weak cup of tea. It does make a difference to be able to create a semblance of my normal Sunday routine. I am definitely a creature of habit.

My fall a week ago last Thursday has become a thing of the past, since I was able to walk more than eight miles on our last outing three days ago. And yesterday before the wind came, I went on my usual Saturday walk with fourteen others, who showed up despite the weather. But by the time I was returning home, I was disconcerted by the strength of the wind; once the rain stopped, the wind howled for hours and hours, tearing limbs off trees and downing small ones. I felt safe inside my little apartment, even if nothing was the same without electricity.

And now here it is the next morning, and I’m planning on getting dressed in the dark and heading out to the coffee shop as soon as they open, so I can get a hot cup of coffee and post this. When my routine is disturbed like this, I find that it’s the little things that give me comfort, not to mention having others to share it with. When will things return to normal?

At least I have plenty to read: I went to the library on Friday to pick up four books that all came in at once. I had put them on hold and waited for them, but of course they don’t come one at a time, but all at once. I must read three of them within two weeks because other people are waiting for them and I cannot renew them. I am almost finished with the first one, which is very interesting indeed: it’s called Do No Harm by Henry Marsh. It’s a memoir written at the end of his career by a brain surgeon, and he tells of many stories that inspire and terrify. I cannot imagine having taken up such a profession, but he describes why he did and how it turned out for him. It’s hard to put down, believe it or not, even if I had to read it by headlamp! I’d like to learn more about him, but that will have to wait until I have internet again. (As you can see by the link above, I am now in the coffee shop and enjoying a hot latte as I get ready to post.)

Well, I think if I dress slowly and drive to town, I’ll be able to find some place to post this very different and unusual post. I’m hoping that by the time we meet again, I’ll be back in my old routine. Until then, be safe, my dear friends. Whatever would I do without you?

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Sunday morning musings

Red arrow shows Puget Sound area
Yesterday morning that smoke plume from the eastern side of Washington state reached us in the Puget Sound area. Bellingham is right above the red arrow, almost at the border, so you can see that we were clear as a bell until around noon, when suddenly the sky turned hazy and blocked out quite a bit of sunlight. I have been watching the news and worrying about people caught in the wildfires that are burning our state right to the ground. Several towns have been evacuated, and places I've hiked in past years are simply charred wastelands today.

This is the worst year for wildfires in the history of Washington state, exacerbated by the incredibly dry spring and summer that has allowed our usually verdant landscapes to turn brown and easily catch fire. I keep hoping for rain, but even though the weather forecast shows a bit in the future, by the time we get there it's all gone, nothing. Last weekend it rained about an inch in Seattle, but we didn't get hardly any, and on the eastern side of the state, they only got lightning that sparked more fires. It's so depressing that I'm going to stop watching the news for awhile. After all, what can I do about it?

Yesterday morning I went walking with the ladies on the trail on the north shore of Lake Whatcom, the level of which is lower than usual because of the drought, and the trail is also very dry. It's a six-mile hike, three miles out and back, and because I wore my sneakers I ended up getting quite a few rather large pebbles in my shoes. I stopped before we turned around and shook them out. I was tying my shoes when they started back, and I had to run to catch up. Well, instead of catching up, I caught my shoe on a rock and fell, quite hard, on the trail. Ouch!

I hit with my left knee first, which took the brunt of the fall, then the other knee, my right elbow and left hand, and last of all, my chin. I laid there, stunned, for a minute, while several of the ladies turned around and hurried over to assist me. I was most worried about my left knee, which hurt so bad at first that I could hardly stand it, and I wasn't sure I was going to be able to walk the three miles out. I shakily stood after a few minutes, and one person washed the gravel out of the elbow, which is the only thing that ended up bleeding. Another fashioned a walking stick out of a branch, and I began the trek back to the cars, limping a little with the knee sending me little twinges of pain. The adrenaline helped, since I was still in a bit of shock, I guess, but I made it out, with several impressive wounds to display to the rest of the group when we saw them in the parking lot.

Once I got home I put an Ace bandage on the knee and realized that it was the only real injury, with the rest just scrapes. I even went to the movies in the afternoon with my friend Judy, able to drive my manual transmission car with little problem. It does help to be in shape, because I realized that the surrounding muscles helped me lift the knee with only a little pain.

My elbow and chin hurt this morning, but when I carefully put my feet by the side of the bed and went to stand up, I noticed that I'm better, that I'm going to be just fine once a few days pass. The left knee will also display some very impressive colors, since the hematoma that formed afterwards has already begun to dissipate. I can walk, I can even make my way down stairs with the help of a handrail. Going up isn't a problem, but going down I cannot manage without a handrail to help.

As you can imagine, yesterday's fall is pretty much on my mind along with the smoky atmosphere from the wildfires, but I sure don't want to spend this entire post in a state of lamentation. After all, in the scheme of things, I've got it pretty darn good. When I read on the news about the refugees on the border of Macedonia being turned back by tear gas, I was aghast at how terrible it has become in so many places in the world. And here I am moaning about a fall. No, I will turn my attention elsewhere.

Today I will visit my friend John's home for the first time. He's the one who had the double knee replacement back in December, and we became friends when he started hanging out at the coffee shop. I visited him several times in the nursing home while he was rehabilitating, and in return he's given me plenty of produce from his garden, starting with rhubarb this spring and this summer's sweet corn has been endless. He's going to have a barbecue with lots of his friends and is providing grilled salmon for me, since everyone else will be eating steak, I guess. I'll take pictures and we'll have a wonderful time, and I'll be able to display my injuries in order to receive plenty of sympathy.

And then there's my latest grand-niece, Alicia, who is growing up so fast! She was born the end of February, so she's about six months old now, and my sister Norma Jean is completely smitten. She sends me pictures and videos of her (not nearly enough), and I look and look at this beautiful life that has just begun.
Alicia at six months
Although I haven't met her yet, I can hardly wait! She's a beautiful child, and Norma Jean never fails to tell me how exceptional she is, how alert and perceptive. Look at those sparkly eyes: how could anybody not love this beautiful baby? And when I think of the improbability of her existence, being an IVF baby with donor sperm and donor egg, I am again thankful that I have lived to see the emergence of this technology. Although she is not related to me by blood, and for that matter is not even related to her mother by blood, what possible difference could that make in my ability to love her to pieces?

Now that she lives close to Norma Jean, I'll be able to see her plenty when I next visit. That should be sometime this fall. When Norma Jean and I talk next, I'll nail down the time of my visit and make the plane reservations. Then I'll have that visit to look forward to. In the meantime, I will simply enjoy knowing that Alicia is in my universe.

And today I'll make every effort not to eat and drink too much at the barbecue, so that when I hobble out of bed tomorrow morning, I won't have to wince when I step on the scales. I've been managing to keep my weight from going up by the simple habit of checking each morning. If the number ticks up, I eat less during the day and if it's down, I indulge and the process starts all over again! I'm feeling ever so much better now than I did when I started this post, so it's been successful in giving me a better start to the day.

Hopefully you will not be taking any spills yourself, and hoping that you will be able to have lots of laughter and fun during the next week. I'm a little later than usual getting this post done, since I slept in a bit after yesterday's adventure. I really do find that a little introspection can be a tonic for an unsettled mind, and that's just what this post has been. Be well, my dear friends, and I'm trusting that all of us will be healthy and happy until we meet again next week.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Time traveling

Mountains from Canyon Ridge last Thursday
I woke up in the middle of the night with this Bob Dylan phrase in my head:
Ah, but I was so much older then
I'm younger than that now
 And of course since we live in the internet age, I was able to find all the lyrics to the entire song, one called "My Back Pages" on an album I must have heard ages ago. I know I smiled when I heard that phrase, because it reminded me of how much I thought I knew once long ago, before it became obvious that the young pedantic girl who thought she knew everything would be learning life's hard lessons.

I remember sitting at the dinner table (before I left home at eighteen) and imparting to my parents some piece of knowledge that I thought they didn't already know, thinking it was my duty to enlighten them. Oh, I was definitely so much older then. Today I realize how very little I really know about life and about love. I know I loved my parents very much and when I let myself, I can miss them both terribly. It's been decades since we sat around that table and now I only have the remembrance of those long-ago days.

Yesterday was the thirteenth anniversary of the day my son Chris died. I thought of him often during the day, remembering him as a young boy and also as a grown man. He had left the country when he joined the Army and had married and settled down in Germany, so I hadn't seen him for a couple of years when he died of a heart attack. I traveled there for the funeral and saw him one last time in a glass-covered casket, dressed in his uniform. It took more than a year before any other images of Chris would surface when I thought of him, but today I only remember the good times we had together, and the images of him as a child stand out in memory. He was a beautiful person, and every once in awhile he still visits me in my dreams. He always appears as a boy around ten or so, just before puberty, and there are times when we spend what seems like hours together on some adventure or other. Those dreams make me feel as though he's close by, easy to reach across the veil.

Although the passage of time is so incremental that change doesn't often show itself on a daily basis, as I've grown older I see the wisdom in keeping photographs that allow me to mark the changes in my loved ones and in myself. Not that I need all that much reminding about my own personal aging process, since it's obvious that the young girl I once was is no longer present. There is something very different about having turned seventy; there is no longer even a little bit of that young girl hanging around. It's perfectly okay to have become invisible when I walk down the street, no longer an object of youth and beauty. I don't miss it, but sometimes my eye alights on a young beautiful creature and I remember that I was once like that too. I can delight in the youth and beauty of others and feel glad.

There is a sense of self-consciousness that has also left, along with my youth. When I was growing up, I suffered from stage fright and simply hated to be forced to stand in the front of the class and be singled out from the others. Just thinking about it makes my cheeks turn red and I can feel the sense of dread that I felt. But somehow or other, that changed as I grew older. As an instructor for several years, I remember wondering at the beginning if I would be able to teach without embarrassment, but I learned that if I had knowledge to impart that was necessary for the student to learn, there was no fear at all. I suppose that if I were not prepared for it, and for some reason I was singled out in a classroom setting today, it might return, but I wonder. I am still quite conscious of myself, but it's different now.

It's true that I expose my own personal self in ways I never thought I could, right here in this blog. I write about my innermost thoughts and feelings, my fears and joys, and there is no sense that someone might be able to hurt me with that knowledge. Of course, there are things I could write about that I choose not to, for the simple reason that I know that anybody in the world with this web address can read what I write here, and some people might be offended and choose to attack me because of my beliefs. I've seen it happen to others and I protect myself as well as I can from them by not writing about sex, politics, or religion. Although I don't at this time see a need to use it, I'm glad that Blogspot gives me the option to review comments before they are posted.

And about time traveling: when I think back just a decade or two ago about what I might have thought would become obsolete in today's world, I would have been completely wrong. The advent of the internet and the digital age has changed everything. I read recently that DVDs and CDs are soon to become a thing of the past, as we are moving towards streaming everything. Kodak and film cameras are gone, and encyclopedias and dictionaries are now on line. When I leave the house, I put a small computer called a smartphone in my pocket and have the entire digital world available to me as I walk around and carry out my daily life. What a world!

And back to the world around me. Now that I have traveled through time, I stop and look around: the laptop with its tapping keys as I write, the empty teacup beside me on the nightstand, and of course my dear partner still sleeping beside me. It's Sunday morning again, and here I am beginning my day with my only self-imposed task almost finished. I've returned to the present, and as I think of you, my dear readers, I am filled with a sense of joy and gratitude for the life I am able to live today, right here, right now. I know it will change, but for now, we are together. I give thanks every day for the chance to know you through this amazing exchange we are privileged to share. I send you my sincere wish for you to have a week filled with adventure and joy.

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Random thoughts this morning

Mountain ash leaves loaded with moisture
I can't seem to get started on any sort of theme this morning, but I'm full of little random thoughts making their way from the dim corridors of my mind onto the printed page. Here's a smattering: I read a good book that I want to share; saw a movie yesterday that got me to thinking about the process of aging with its concomitant aches and pains and forgetfulness; enjoying some cooler weather and a bit of moisture; worrying over those three pounds that won't go away.

Now where to start? I have to remind myself that I'm not an accomplished writer trying to create the latest hit novel, but a blogger who set out to write down what's on her mind on Sunday mornings. I have to admit that sometimes I do hit a home run and I seem to resonate with lots of other like-minded people and it's tempting to try to do that every week, but I just can't. Today it will be more like a list, I fear. But at least it's real.

The book: Wesley the Owl. It's the story of a young biologist who adopted a barn owl who was a few days old and about the nineteen years they spent together. It's funny and sad and I earned a great deal about animal behavior when I read it. I was telling one of my friends about it while we drove to our trailhead last Thursday, and she told me about a presentation at the museum this coming Tuesday by Paul Bannick. He wrote a book in 2009 called The Owl and the Woodpecker, which is the basis for this talk, along with lots of his photographs. I decided to go and had to buy a ticket for it since it's expected to sell out.

The movie: yesterday I went by myself to our independent theater to see Mr. Holmes, a movie about Sherlock Holmes played by Ian McKellan in two time periods: when he is a very old man of 93, and earlier when he was in his sixties and had a case that causes him to retire from his profession. He wants to write it down to figure out what happened, but he cannot remember it. His memory comes and goes; he's in the later stages of senility. A quote from one of the reviews:
Mr. Holmes stands as yet another bravura performance on the actor’s lengthy resume, one that sees him digging into not only the Holmes mythology but also the inevitability of aging to find a keen intellect beginning to turn on itself, and what this would do to a man whose entire defining characteristic in life has been his mind. 
Yes, the inevitability of aging and a keen intellect beginning to turn on itself. I feel this myself, often not just when I've forgotten the name of something I should easily be able to recall, but when my mind doesn't behave properly. It's the little things that are the most disconcerting. In any event, the movie got me to thinking about this one-way street I'm traveling down, and how I can make the most of whatever time and cognizance I have left to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not thinking that I'll be moving into assisted living any time soon, but it's a definite direction and I'm taking notice.

And then there's the weather: I was so pleased to actually have cool damp weather to hike in on Thursday, and at this time of the year we are losing more than twenty minutes of daylight every single week. I can see the difference in the short week since I last wrote in here. The trees around us are already beginning to drop their leaves, which is a consequence of the extreme dryness of the past few months. We haven't had enough moisture to do much more than wet the ground, not enough to change our status of severe drought. People who have lived here their entire lives continue to remind me that they've seen nothing like this before. I can only hope it's an anomaly and not permanent.

And the final thing on the list: those three pounds I'd like to lose. I have gotten into the habit of weighing myself every morning, and I'm afraid to stop, since it does seem to keep the extra weight down at least a little. It makes me think about what I consume and gives me incentive to see the scales tip the right way. But it's certainly a battle that I'm not enjoying. I remember a few years ago when I lost fifteen pounds and found it easy to maintain the weight loss, but it's not so easy these days. If I didn't weigh myself daily, I fear that all those pounds would be right back on my hips. And I certainly don't want to diet but instead find a more reasonable way to keep myself on track. Diets just don't work for me; I lose the weight but then gain it back when I stop dieting. There must be a way!

I know I could say to myself, who cares about a few extra pounds around my middle except me? But I know that there is a healthy weight that makes me feel good when I dress in the morning, or there is that annoying muffin top creeping out above my waistband that makes me choose something else to wear, leaving me grumpy that my favorite pants don't fit. And in a few minutes I'll be facing those scales again, which will probably reflect that buttered popcorn I couldn't resist yesterday.

So these are the random thoughts that have plopped themselves out onto the laptop, but as I look around, nothing much has changed: my partner is still sleeping next to me, accustomed to the sound of the tapping of the keys; my tea is gone, and I'm feeling just the tiniest bit guilty for having indulged in this potpourri. I'm sure by next week I'll be more focused and hopefully this post won't cause my readers to desert me. Until we meet again next week, I do hope you have a wonderful, fulfilling week filled with love and laughter. That's what I'm hoping for myself, too.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Lammas 2015

From this Wiccan website
When August begins, we reach the season of Lammas, or Lughnasadh (in Celtic), the festival of the first harvest. Traditionally, the first grain of the harvest is baked into loaves. Here in my little corner of Bellingham, we had a garden party yesterday, and some of the people who labored in our garden celebrated Lammas with a wonderful little gathering. One person brought a potato salad made with little red potatoes from her plot; another shared a fabulous blackberry cobbler made with blackberries picked from the bushes on the side of the back yard. I didn't cook but provided cold beer and rose lemonade all frosty cold from my new cooler. We feasted and laughed and made plans for next year's garden.

Keith provided two large tents for shade, which were perfect for the hot sunny day we had. The other thing that Lammas marks is the halfway point between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. That means the days are getting shorter and soon we'll have some respite from all this unaccustomed heat. Seattle has already had 12 days this summer at 90 or above, breaking the previous record of 9 days for the entire summer. Everything in my garden is pretty much done, except for the tomatoes, which are just beginning to turn! I've never been successful at growing tomatoes, other than small cherry tomatoes, but this year... I will have so many ripen all at once I'll have to figure out what to do with them all.

Lammas is also a time of reflection, when one realizes that everything changes and moves on. The days are perceptibly shorter, and I for one will be glad to see the endless sunshine and heat begin to moderate with fluffy clouds and some rain. I've definitely become a Pacific Northwesterner and feel irritable and uncomfortable with this hot, dry heat I associate with the desert. I keep looking at the forecast and every time there is a possibility of some precipitation, it dissipates as we get closer in time. But then again, heat is relative. We are not quite reaching 90 degrees here in Bellingham, and I read that in Iran this week the heat index reached an incredible 165! That is a temperature of 115 with a dew point of 90 -- off the charts. At least it cools off at night here to a tolerable level, which is not happening over there.

Okay, enough about the weather. It's on my mind a lot because I'm such a wimp about the heat. There are other things going on. Last week I went to Seattle to see the Broadway play Wicked with my friend Judy, and now I've started to read the book on which the play is based. So far I am enjoying it even more than the play, and I did enjoy that very much. It's based on a different view of the world of Oz and tells much more about how the Wicked Witch of the West got so, well, wicked. The book supposedly gives the reader some perspective on the nature of good and evil. I've only just begun.

I like to think of myself as being a good person, and I try to live my life that way. But I know that when I read about someone who is really evil, I can easily get into that headspace and understand why someone might be twisted by circumstances and is really no different from me at all. But I do believe that when confronted with a situation that gives me a choice to make, I'll choose the path of the least harm to me and those around me. Is that my nature or am I conditioned by my past experiences? I get angry sometimes, but I realize that I don't naturally take it out on others. Some people seem to need to externalize their anger onto those around them. I try to stay away from that sort of person, but sometimes we cross paths.

Is the world becoming more angry in general? I know that as an American, I  am dismayed by the bellicose stance we seem to have taken in much of the world these days. It wasn't always that way; I remember when we were coming out of World War II it seemed like Americans were the good guys in everybody's eyes. But that was more than half a century ago, and things change. We move on from who we once were into who we are now. Once upon a time I was a young woman with my whole life ahead of me; now I look at the world knowing that there are not many more years when I will be around. My mother used to say that she was glad she was old because she wouldn't have to experience the worst effects of our present trajectory. I'm beginning to understand what she meant.

Sometimes I am dismayed by the news of the day: climate change, water shortages and drought, floods and tornados wreaking havoc, and worst of all, shootings and bombings of innocents by extremist elements. But then I realize that our media considers all that stuff to be the only newsworthy information to be shared. Surely all over this planet there are good stories to balance all that negativity. But perhaps that's not considered interesting. Well, I certainly seek out stories that uplift me rather than bring me down. Sometimes I take a news fast, which seems to be the only way I've discovered to help me gain some perspective. For the next few days or so, I'll be lost in the world of Oz and contemplating the nature of good and evil, it seems. I'll check the weather, hoping for rain, but otherwise stay away from news shows. Do you have a technique for attitude adjustments?

At the beginning of this harvest season, I've got a smidgen of optimism that fall is not that far away, and that a change in the weather will bring a change in my outlook, knowing that I will move away from pessimism and once again enjoy the beauty of life, my surroundings, and especially my network of friends and family. There is so much to be thankful for, and all I need is to count my blessings, right? Let's see: I'll begin right here, with you, my dear readers, and I am looking forward to reading your comments and enjoying the company of the blogosphere.

I have never met most of you, but you have definitely taken residence in my heart. I look forward to your blogs, seeing what you're doing, what is on your mind, and taking a peek into your world through your writing and pictures. I feel incredibly fortunate to have found you, and I open my Reader wondering who I'll be visiting today. After I finish this post, I'll take a look. I wanted to get this written before I did anything else this morning. And what do you know? It's done! Be well and take care until we meet again next Sunday morning.