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, October 25, 2015

Thinking of times gone by

Sun, clouds, and Ruth Mountain, taken last week
Last Thursday we had such a beautiful hike with the Trailblazers, a fine sunny day with a few clouds, after waking to heavy fog. I took quite a few pictures but many of them were spoiled by rays from the sun. For some reason, this picture shows the sun at the top, but it didn't mar the picture. I rather like the effect, and looking at that sun shining on the mountain and snow fields reminds me of the lovely day we had.

I was quite surprised that we climbed so far and covered more than nine miles and my knees didn't bother me one bit, either on the downhill or the next day. That's rather unusual, since I've been babying that left knee and expected more difficulty than I encountered. I'm not sure why, but I'm grateful. Once upon a time I could ski every week in the winter and run more than 30 miles a week, but that's in the past. In fact, as I've grown older I realize how much my activities have changed along with the years. It was so gradual that in many cases I didn't notice; as long as I had something to keep me going outdoors and working up a sweat, I've been going with the changes without experiencing a sense of loss.

Well, that's not quite true: I realize, now that I think about it, that I miss being able to strap on my running shoes and go for a five-mile run, and I miss being able to spend the entire day outdoors on a cross country ski trip. I compensate for it by having my classes at the gym, my Saturday walks with the ladies, and my sacrosanct Thursday hikes with the Senior Trailblazers. Exercise is a part of my life, and I realize it's been that way since the early 1970s. When I first moved to Boulder, I moved into a rooming house that had at least a dozen Boulderites living there, and as I gradually became friends with them, they invited me to join them on excursions into the mountains for climbs of the peaks. Some of them were trying to "bag" all the fourteeners (Colorado has 53 peaks higher than 14,000 feet (4,265 meters).

I remember my first fourteener. Although I'm not sure whether it was Quandary Peak, I think it was, and I remember the effort to get to the top. As the air gets thinner and one climbs higher, you need to stop often to catch your breath. It got to the point that I would count ten steps and then stop for a moment. But it wasn't just me; everybody was in the same situation. By the time I made it to the top, I was simply amazed at the 360-degree view of the surrounding mountains! It was incredible, and that moment still lives in my memory as if it were yesterday. I was hooked on that Rocky Mountain High, all right. I ended up climbing 26 of the Colorado fourteeners, some of them more than once. A few were scary and just enormous piles of loose rocks with little to no path to the top, just clambering upwards until you could climb no higher. But still. I loved it. Each fourteener has a canister at the top with a page inside for the summiteer to sign to show you got there. I'm not sure who keeps them supplied, but I don't think I ever climbed a fourteener without one.

And then my friend Donna and I decided to bicycle from Boulder to San Francisco, so we went on many long bike rides on the plains and in the mountains to get ready for it. In September and October 1974, we spent six weeks on the road on our bikes, with adventures galore. By the time we got to Oregon, we were sick of each other and split up to finish the rest of the ride solo. I was in the best shape of my life by then, with legs as hard as rocks from all that biking. I think I also had some calluses from that bike seat! I remember how much I disliked Highway 1 along the Pacific Coast to San Francisco. I would climb upwards and reach the top of a hill and then zoom downwards, again and again. I was glad my bike had a good low gear. It was a great adventure and I sure do enjoy thinking about it all these years later.

All through the 1970s and 1980s I was very active outdoors, with long overnight ski trips, hiking and biking, and having taken up running and training for a marathon (which I never did; I would get injured as I worked to increase my mileage). Then my world changed when I made that first skydive on September 3, 1990. Skydiving took over my entire life and I left everything else behind, other than my career which took off at about the same time. Everybody who wasn't a skydiver got tired of hearing about it from me, and every single weekend, every vacation I ever took after that was geared to skydiving. In the 1990s and 2000s that's all I pretty much cared about. I met Smart Guy through skydiving and we were married in 1994, in freefall of course. When I retired from my job in 2008 and we moved to the Pacific Northwest, I still continued to skydive but nowhere near as often.

This year I stopped skydiving and have sold my skydiving gear. Although I could still go out for a jump by renting gear, I probably won't. It was time to stop, and I know you have heard plenty about the long mental struggle I endured trying to give it up. But I finally did, and now that it's been six months since I last leaped out of an airplane, I know it was the right thing to do.

It's inevitable that as we age we take up activities that are more geared to our place in life. I've managed to stay fit and carefully manage the aches and pains of age in order to keep on going for as long as I can. There's no doubt that I am still wanting to enjoy the outdoors to the fullest extent possible, but one day that will come to an end, too. I'll be a gardener and walker for as long as I'm upright. In fact (dare I say it?), one day I'll be unable to do any of these things, but it won't be without looking back with much satisfaction on all that I have done.
My 70th birthday with the walking group
And now it's three years since that picture was taken, and I'll be heading to Florida in just over a week to spend time with my sister Norma Jean. I'll swim with her every morning outdoors at her Y. I won't swim a mile like she does, because I don't swim on a regular basis, but I'll give it my best shot. We'll be together, and that's the main thing. I'll get to see my new grand-niece Alicia, get reacquainted with her sister Lexie, their mother Allison (Norma Jean's daughter), and Peter, Norma Jean's son. I am looking forward to it with joy and love in my heart.

Yes, it's a good life, all right, and there's this other family that means so much to me, my blogging family. I am hoping that you will have a wonderful Sunday, that you will give yourself a hug for me, because I'm sending a virtual one, do you feel it? Until next week, I wish you all good things.


Linda Reeder said...

Having read just now of all of your physical accomplishments, I realize more fully why you notice each little ache and decline in endurance and ability. I didn't remember that you had scrambled up so many fourteeners! And that bike trip, and running five miles!

I was never a runner, just a walker. I believe I have spent about as much time in my life on my knees in a crop field or in a garden as you have on your feet! Fortunately I can still crawl!

It's the last regular season Sounders game this afternoon. We'll be riding the Link into the city this afternoon. Looks like we'll have decent weather once more!

Sandi said...

You energy and zest for life never ceases to amaze, DJan! You have crammed so much living into your 70+ years, and have wonderful memories because of it. You are the epitome of the Energizer Bunny - you just keep going! Love and hugs!

Far Side of Fifty said...

You amaze me with all that you have done! You go girl! Good to hear that you are going to see Norma Jean usually you go in the winter...but I hope you have a great time! :)

Anonymous said...

Yes, that is a lot of exercise over the years.
I gardened a bit the past two days, but stopped after my back started to ache. I guess I am not meant to garden on a regular basis.

The Yum List said...

I've never actually completed a marathon either. I keep getting injured. I think my body is not aligned and so when I start doing exercise that's too long in duration I get injured.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

You are probably going to live into your 100s and will still be fit and upright!

The Furry Gnome said...

Well thanks for that hug! I feel i could use it today. You're an inspiration to all of us!

Red said...

People make their lives good by putting effort into it. Find the people who are complaining about life and you find people who didn't do anything. I quit running at age 71. It was the right thing to do. Do I miss it? You bet I do. I had low hemoglobin so no matter how fit I was I didn't have the energy to put in the miles.

Elephant's Child said...

Hug gratefully received and returned. With interest.
My world has shrunk - and I was never as fit as you.
I hope to garden for a long, long time yet. And have certainly crawled across the lawn to get inside when I couldn't walk it.

Rita said...

Oh, I could feel it! Thanks so much!
My world started shrinking about 15 years ago or so. Then closed up to the basic four walls a little over ten years ago. I was never as active as you were, but I went from being the energizer bunny to being a big stuffed bunny in a chair--LOL! I love hearing about and seeing pictures of all your activities...from the mountains and hillsides to the coffee shop and market. :)
Love and hugs back. Have a wonderful trip! :)

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I enjoyed this trip into the past. The thing that comes through so clearly is that you’ve enjoyed the journey … and isn’t that what life is all about? It’s the journey not the destination. I did use the link to go back to your post in 2010 where you talked about how you and Smart Guy got together. That is a great story too! Some of your experiences remind me of another person I got to know via the WWW … Steve Garufi. Steve’s claim to fame is riding his bicycle across country twice. He has written a book about it. He also introduced me to the concept of climbing “fourteeners”. If you are interested, look him up … https://www.facebook.com/garufi?fref=ts Now, thank you for the blogger hug and back to ya! Wishing you a fine week! And thank you for all your kind comments on my blog!

Tabor said...

I love the out of doors and while not as energetic or with the stamina you have, I also realize when my knees tell me it is time to quit that I obey.

Glenda Beall said...

What a wonderful active life you have led and I'm sure you will continue to be active as long as you are on this earth. Like my father,who was on his tractor until he was hospitalized with pneumonia one day. Two days later he died, but on his deathbed, as he began to slip away, he thought he was on his tractor and was giving orders to his son to help him get it started.
In the past three days with a new puppy to care for, I'm feeling my knees as I go up an down steps several times a day to take her outside. I think it is good for me as I can get too lost in my writing and research and forget to move out of my chair. You are an inspiration and I am so happy I have come to know you, DJan.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

I'm thinking you won't have any trouble with that mile swim. I'm so impressed with your activities through the years. Biking as you did? Truly amazing life you've have in all regards with running, biking, mountain climbing (really?) skydiving.

You have guts, my dear. Guts. Nope, if you don't finish that mile swim it will only be because you got bored doing it.

Rhapsody Phoenix said...

You are so vibrant and live every day.
I shall aspire to that.


Barb said...

We've done so many of the same things, D'Jan. (Except skydiving!) I ran and competed in races until I was in my 60's when I started to have minor injuries. So many of my friends who were hardcore runners and are younger than I am are having major knee and hip issues, sometimes requiring replacement. I gave up distance running about 5 years ago. I still occasionally run a hill to get my heat rate up, but I mostly stick to walking and hiking now, trying to get about 5 miles a day or more. So far so good with my joints. In the winter, I either downhill or cross country ski nearly every day. I also go out on snowshoes, though I like skiing better. When I turned 60, my husband and I biked from Eagle, CO, to San Francisco where our son was living at the time. It took us 26 days. I still road bike when the weather permits, but I'm not as avid as my husband is - I'd rather hike than bike. We've always been active as a family - now my grandkids are getting into the act. I've had to give up some activities, and I've certainly gotten slower and less strong, but I'm pleased that at 71 I can still be outdoors exercising my body and renewing my spirit. Enjoy your visit with family. Hugs back to you!