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, December 6, 2015

My birthday week

Pretty glass tree decorations
Well, this is another one of those days when I don't know what in the world I will write about. Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't. I won't know until I reach the end which one of those days I'll have. Yesterday while I was doing a photo safari at the Farmers' Market, I looked at these pretty hand-blown glass ornaments and wished for a brief moment that I had a tree. Perhaps I'll end up buying one of those ornaments next week for a friend who does have one.

I have reached the age where I don't exchange gifts with anyone on a regular basis. Smart Guy and I have a rather loose system of giving each other presents: if we see something that we just have to get for the other, we do it, no matter what time of year it is or whether it's anybody's birthday or a holiday. And not having any children either here or anywhere to expect a gift from me, the joy of giving ends up being spontaneous and much more interesting. The only problem is that there are some people who feel obligated to give me a gift in return, one of equal value. I usually tell the recipient that I really do enjoy finding some little thing that makes me think of them and that I've already received plenty of satisfaction just in finding it and giving it.

But I sort of know what they mean, when I receive an unexpected gift from a friend. However, I've learned to accept gifts shamelessly with joy and happiness. My fisherman friend Gene always gives me salmon he caught while fishing in Alaska. I love it and don't complain that I've nothing to give him back. My friend Judy will sometimes spontaneously pay for my movie ticket and I smile and say thank you. And the things I find for others are maybe one of those pretty ornaments or a small handmade bowl. I'm not talking about expensive stuff here. Although I have to say if I were wealthy, it might be a different story. But I'm not, and in actuality, I think it's nice to have just enough and no more.

I saw another really good movie last week with Judy, Brooklyn, with Saoirse Ronan, a young woman (born in 1994!) who has already won the New York Film Critics Circle Best Actress award for her performance. She plays a young immigrant in the 1950s who comes to Brooklyn from Ireland. The movie is based on a book written by Colm Toíbín which of course I will now have to read. I've got a hold on it at the library, but I'm #30 in line and there are only five books. It will be awhile, but I'm looking forward to it. By the way, if you wonder how to pronounce her name, Saoirse, I looked it up: it's a bit like the name Sasha, but a little different: SEER-sha. When I see a name like hers, I realize I always say it "out loud" in my mind, but when I haven't a clue what the correct pronunciation is, it makes me uncomfortable until I figure it out.

Last Tuesday was my birthday, and I have to say I was really overwhelmed with all the birthday wishes on Facebook. Well over a hundred of my friends from every part of my life, past and present, took the time to wish me a happy birthday. And people I know here in Bellingham also made a point of it, including the staff at the coffee shop. It makes me realize how important it is to acknowledge my friends' birthdays as well, because it just feels good to be remembered on our special day. Just this morning I received an e-card from an old friend I haven't seen in years. That reminds me, does anybody use Blue Mountain e-cards? It looks like a good organization and has really got me wondering whether it would be worth $20/year to send unlimited e-cards to family and friends. I just recently bought a beautiful card for a friend and it cost $9, which shocked me. The recipient doesn't have email so I was forced to send her one by snail mail, and considering the two stamps it took to mail it, the $20/year cost begins to look a lot more reasonable.

I am halfway through the online course I'm taking to become an ADF (Advance Directive Facilitator) with the Whatcom Alliance for Health Advancement. It's been a long time since I've taken a course of any kind, but I have to say I am really impressed with how sophisticated the course is. There are four modules and each takes a couple of hours to complete, after having read the corresponding chapter in the manual. I was sent the manual online and was going to print it out, but when I realized it is almost 200 pages long, I went to an office store and had it printed and bound by a professional. It's much easier to read that way. Then there will be a full day's training in person at some point in the future. It's not exactly riveting reading, but it's very comprehensive and will give me an idea of how to deal with different scenarios that might arise. I look forward to helping other people to write a valuable end-of-life advance directive.

Well, that was my week since we last met here in the blogosphere. I'm still not sure whether the magic worked and I've created an interesting post. You will notice that I didn't mention the news of the week, the current mass shooting that occurred in California. I't's not because I haven't been watching the news, because there is nothing else on when I turn on the TV. This was the 355th mass shooting in this country so far this year, meaning four or more people dead. I cannot fathom the horror and so right now I have decided to read uplifting books and try to see the good in today's world.

The world around me, right here at least, is warm and safe. I hear the wind blowing outside and rain pounding the roof, but my partner is snoring gently beside me as I type away on my laptop. The winter solstice is right around the corner, and once we reach the nadir, the light will slowly begin to return. That's the way it is on Planet Earth: the light diminishes but always comes back to days of sunshine and flowers and abundance. I'll concentrate on the good and that always means you, my dear readers, as well as those who share my days in person. I'm hoping that this coming week will bring you plenty of smiles and love and that all your Christmas gifts will magically appear to your wondering eyes. Be well until we meet again next week.


Anonymous said...

That's a pretty nice post, considering you had nothing in mind at the beginning. Lol.

Linda Reeder said...

You may have gathered that I am in Whidbey Island this Sunday morning. Jill and the kids are here too. I cooked a big breakfast for the family, the cleanup is done and everyone has settled down. The Seahawks game is on here on two TVs, on two levels, with some of us watching and some of us puttering about (Tom).
I had to pause because the Seahawks just scored!
I'm glad to see the rain stop even if the wind is strong and cold. We'll all travel home later this afternoon and go back to our daily routines, which means school for Jill and the kids and projects for us. Tomorrow we'll take several teacher friends on our annual field trip to Christmas shops.
While the news is awful, we must be discerning about the fear mongering going on that enhances the terrorism. That 355 number is very misleading, and includes gang shootings and street crime and other domestic violence. The actual mass shooting number this year is four, and that's four too many. Violence is and always has been a sad part of american society. Live by the gun, die by the gun.
Wishing you a happy week, with good hikes and and warm times with friends and your mate.

Marie Smith said...

Love your ideas of gifts. I could live with that for myself but my family won't hear of it. I get what I need and want for nothing. Gratitude is my gift, for life and family. I enjoyed your post. Have a great week.

Tabor said...

Giving is so important to the giver and it is hard for the receiver not to feel obligated in some way. I do so love to give rather than receive, unless the gift is that of time! Happy Belated Birthday and how nice to have so many friends wishing you the best on your special day!

Linda Myers said...

These days we send gift cards to our grandchildren and good wishes to everyone else. I still write a Christmas letter, but this year I plan to post it on my blog and on Facebook, sending snail mail cards only to people without an email address. This tradition is important to my husband, so I do it.

I'm glad you're enjoying your class. I expect you will find the opportunity a good fit. Isn't that great?

Glenda Beall said...

So glad to see that you don't always know what you are going to write about. I have been trying to finalize a blog post all day but can't find photos I want to post. I have few gifts to buy for Christmas, but I do love to give when I can. On my birthday, I give gifts to my closest family and friends. That is a tradition I started a few years ago.

Like you, DJan, I am concentrating on the good things in life and the things I can do something about. All the horror on the news has become so common place now that it is almost like watching a movie where nothing is real. There is not even any shock value any more. I don't think about being fearful because I don't go where there is likely to be a shooter, no crowded venues where I don't know the people who are with me. If I worried about it and the future, I would not sleep and would be so anxious I would be unhappy and unhealthy. I just hope we don't have to go to war and have so many of our Americans killed and maimed on the battle fields. But, I can't do much about that.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I am so happy you had a good birthday, you are loved by many people! It sounds like your class is interesting.
Recently I did a little research delayed cremation vs direct cremation...the delayed is much more expensive and there is no need for it if close family members can visit the hospital or your home shortly after death occurs. We asked both our girls if they needed to see a body for closure...they don't...and at least we know...of course they think we are being morbid. Funeral home cost are horrid. I was thinking of graveside service with a potluck picnic...forget the middle man. It seems lately some people are just forgoing a service and saying a private graveside service was held.
Recently I found out that a service I attended had no remains because they were not back from the crematory....but the funeral went on anyway. I am sure I am not okay with that...with my OCD tendancies!
I hope you have a good week! :)

Elephant's Child said...

Happy belated birthday. We do try and make birthdays special - and I really like Glenda's idea of the birthday girl (or boy) giving gifts.
The mass shootings, and the world wide mayhem are very difficult to take in. I have imposed a media ban to try and come to terms with it all.
Hugs. Always.

Red said...

I'm always amazed at how you can start out with nothing in your head and end up with a post of substance. Around here, gifts are bought all year and have a mysterious habit of ending up as Christmas gifts. Since my kids are adults, it's hard to get things for them.Enjoy your week.

Rita said...

With your intelligent, contemplative mind there will always be an interesting Sunday post. I have never been disappointed.

I do believe the light always returns. Focus on the positives and that spreads light around, too. The world needs all the light it can get. ;)

Gigi said...

You don't need a tree to enjoy the ornament (if I were there, I know I would gift you one!) - but a pretty ribbon through the top and hang it in your window or on a sturdy houseplant and enjoy!

Your attitude towards gifts is the proper one, according to experts. Most people give out of love, not out of the expectation that they will receive something in return.

I too am focusing on the good in the world because the horror is more than I can bear right now.

Have a wonderful week my friend. And buy yourself an ornament.

Unknown said...

Hi, DJan, I hope you are continuing to celebrate your birthday. I'm celebrating on your behalf. I have paid very little attention to the ongoing news about the shooting and the shooters, because the reporters talk for hours without advancing the story. What stays on my mind is the ugly backlash against all Muslims. too many people are advocating curtailing Muslims' rights, or simply eradicating them. I do not want that rhetoric to win. Sigh.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Try Jacquie Lawsson ecards, just $12 a year and they're fabulous! Loved the post.

Barb said...

A belated Happy Birthday, DJan! My mother always believed in giving gifts at random times when she saw something she thought a person would really enjoy. I have taken up this tradition. My best friend and I often send small packages to each other throughout the year. Yesterday, I mailed a package to someone I know is grieving. I hope it will make her smile to receive it. Many years ago, my closest friends and I decided not to exchange gifts at Christmas - instead we give to charities to honor our continuing friendship. My husband and I don't exchange gifts at Christmas either - however, we do treat ourselves by staying at a wonderful hotel in the city to enjoy the urban atmosphere at this time of the year. So (thankfully), I'm not scrambling around to find the perfect gifts at the last minute. I do buy my grandchildren gifts. However, they or their parents make me a list, and I choose a couple items to order on-line. I believe focusing on good is always preferable to the angry rhetoric and the media circus to which we are exposed daily.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, The Magic worked and I enjoyed this post. While you were celebrating another year of wisdom I was in the process of having cataract surgery on my left eye … I’ve now completed surgery on both eyes so I can’t use that again for an excuse on why I’m late getting around to commenting. :-) Belated Happy Birthday to you! Here it is almost exactly one week after you published this post and, yes, it is still windy and stormy in the Pacific Northwest. I can’t say I recall any series of strong storms quite like we’ve experienced recently … I hope you have been able to get through all this without difficulty. So far I’ve been lucky down here in Seattle . Now, you are the second blogger I follow to recommend Brooklyn and I definitely want to see it. The other person said the movie was quite emotional. I do like those kind of movies. Lastly, I thought the way you mentioned the California shooting was right on. I am so with you on trying to find something positive to focus on. Thanks for another fine post!