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, June 12, 2016

June Gloom

The view at 5,000 feet last Thursday
In this part of the country, mostly on the west coast, we have an atmospheric phenomenon known as June Gloom. It usually occurs during late spring and early summer and is characterized by low clouds and cool temperatures. We've had years when we never had a day of warm sunshine until after the 4th of July. Not so this year; we've already had several days of temperatures in the 80s, so I'm happy to report that for the past several days our normal weather has returned and we're ensconced in June Gloom. The high temperature yesterday was 61F and we never saw the sun at all.

On our hike to Church Mountain last Thursday, we had a few moments when we saw the sun, briefly, but it was also cool enough that we needed most of our warm clothing. I much prefer hiking in cool weather rather than full sun, so even though we didn't have much of a view, it was a beautiful day to be out. Even without the sun, we had fun, and I wrote about it here. I always take pictures and write about our adventure on my other blog every Thursday, as well as again once on Saturday and Tuesday. Here, as you know, I sit with my laptop on my knees early in the morning on Sunday and just wing it.

I am definitely a creature of habit, and I find that it's comforting to know what my daily activities will be, even though I'm retired and can do whatever I want with my time. I've become accustomed to getting up and going to bed early, although yesterday I had a hard time getting to sleep, since I was unable to put my book down and stayed up reading until close to midnight. Unusual for me but not unheard of, either. I'm sufficiently well rested that it doesn't really make me feel tired, but I sure slept well last night and woke this morning feeling like my usual self.

I've written about it here before, but I'm reminded again about what that means, my "usual self." As I age, that changes, but usually it's gradual enough that I don't notice until something makes me pay attention to my daily routine. Hurting my knee in early April and being unable to hike on Thursdays or walk with the ladies on Saturday changed my schedule, all right. It made me grateful for my usual good health and ability to exercise. I have now done four Thursday hikes with my friends and enjoyed myself immensely, but I woke on Friday with pain in my knee again, making me cautious and a bit apprehensive. I'm treating the knee with creams and compression, hoping to avoid a repeat. Before, I thought if I ignored the pain it would go away; now I know better. I've learned a hard lesson and am anxious not to get injured again.

As we drove back on Thursday, I had a chance to visit with two new hikers. I sat in the back seat and perused my pictures, thinking about the blog post I'd be writing when I arrived home. Dick, sitting next to me, has joined us a couple of times before, but I hadn't had a chance to learn much about him. It turns out that the four of us in the car were all in our seventies and retired from our professions. Dick's wife is also a hiker and recently fell and broke her leg while out hiking. She's gradually getting back to normal; he said they were able to walk up to Fragrance Lake last week.

Sometimes when I'm walking along, thinking my own thoughts and looking at the trail in front of me, I imagine what I would do if I got really injured, like breaking a bone, while out in the wilderness. One of our regular hikers carries a first aid kit, and I carry a few bandaids and compression bandage, along with my knee braces. It wouldn't be easy but we'd be able to manage to get to safety. In the wilderness, we don't have cell coverage, so it would be necessary to get to the highway and down to the Ranger Station for help. Although it wouldn't be pleasant, we would manage, by helping each other through it all.

I've been going out on these hikes for eight years now. Nobody has ever been hurt badly, other than a few scrapes from a fall or injuring a knee, like I did in April. I hope it stays that way, but realistically each hiker must make the decision before going out about his or her fitness level for that day. I forget that fact, thinking that every day is like every other one, but I've learned that there are reasons why my friends stay home from hard hikes, or don't come at all any more because of injury or illness. We're seniors, after all, and time doesn't stand still for anyone, does it?

Hubris: isn't that a wonderful word? It is an ancient Greek word meaning pride or arrogance, used particularly to mean the kind of arrogance that often brings about someone's downfall. I've been guilty of it most of my life, and now that I'm in my seventies, I realize that it's long past time for me to grow out of it. In spite of myself, I'm actually gaining wisdom as I age. It's partly because I can't continue to believe that if I ignore a pain or symptom in my aging body that it will get better. It won't. I am moving in one direction only, and listening to my body will give me a chance to keep going a bit longer. It's true for all of us; it's not just me getting older while everybody else stays the same.

I just finished reading a really good book yesterday, Isaac's Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History. It tells the story of the hurricane that destroyed Galveston in 1900, and it also made me realize the hubris of that time. The weather forecasters of the day believed that they were able to predict storm paths, even though we know today that they knew very little. They also believed that Galveston was immune to that kind of hurricane. How wrong they were: more than 8,000 people died in that storm, and much of it was caused by the kind of arrogance that leads to destruction. Today we have satellites and instantaneous communication, and all those in a storm's path are evacuated to higher ground. And still: we have situations like Hurricane Katrina where more than a thousand people died, and it was in the twenty-first century. We continue to believe that we are past all that, but we aren't, are we?

Yes, it's gloomy to consider the human predicament, which leads right into the title of this post: June Gloom. Although it refers to a climatological event, it can also be thought of as a state of mind. As I consider how to nurse my knee so that I don't end up injured again, and as I try to stay clear of the hubris that I am so often guilty of, I'll think ahead to the bright and sunny days of July.

And with that, the post is written. My mind and heart feel clear and ready to begin another week, whether in clouds or in sunshine. I'll make every attempt to stay healthy and wish exactly the same situation for you, my dear reader. The day is about to begin, and it holds the promise of a day filled with love and happiness. Be well until we meet again next week, and remember than gloom always gives way to the light.


Far Side of Fifty said...

I think you should wear that knee brace instead of having it in your pack. It may help you from being injured.
We have June Gloom in November and January and sometimes February too. I hate it when the clouds block out the sun.
We were about 75 yesterday, and today it will be a chilly 66 with little to no sun.
I hope you have a really good week! :)

Linda Reeder said...

I agree with Olga that you should wear the knee brace. I know my knee would not withstand the hiking you do, especially the down hill.
I need to get moving. It has been a very busy three days for me,which I hope to get around to posting about soon.
Now that I've caught up with you, it's time to catch up with me!

Anonymous said...

Well, judging from your lifestyle, you seem to be doing quite well.
Who among us can exercise so strenuously and write a blog so beautifully?

Marie Smith said...

We're in the gloom too. One day of sun a week is all we've averaged. The wind has been cold as well. However, this too will pass and the weather will improve.

Take it easy on that knee!

I'm going to look for that book. Thanks for the tip.

Gigi said...

Take care of that knee! Have a great week.

Elephant's Child said...

Have a wonderful day.
Hubris is not something I ever think about in connection with you. You look after your body with healthy food and exercise. You also exercise your mind.
In my head anyway hubris attacks those who do nothing to help themselves and assume it will all turn out...

Carole said...

I had not heard of June Gloom. Interesting. I know what you mean about paying attention to what our bodies are telling us. I've always struggled with this. More than once I have tried to "work through" an injury, too impatient to stop and rest. Not good. As I get older I'm doing better with it. But I that doesn't mean I'm not impatient to get active again. So glad you are enjoying your hikes again.

Red said...

You got me thinking about how all our experience in life is used to put meaning to new things. Some people have more ability to associate experiences with the past and fine more meaning. that's what you are doing with many things in your life at this time.

Rita said...

I remember hubris well--LOL! I ignored my body and just pushed through to do whatever I had to do. I didn't have time for what I considered at the time to be weakness--which was just illness, exhaustion, or injuries. I would just push myself--mind over matter, I believed. But old injuries and all that soldiering on came back to haunt me years later and my body completely took over my life. I pushed mine till I broke it--ROFL!

You are doing really well to still be so active, but I do agree with the others that you should be wearing that knee brace to support your knee when you are out walking and hiking. Your knee is talking to you. ;) At least as we age we can become smarter about listening--LOL! You will know when it's time to skip the more strenuous climbs. :) :)

#1Nana said...

I'm just that little bit younger than you and I'm surprised every day by some new ache, pain, or diminishment of an ability. I used to be able to squat down with ease...now it's not quite so elegant a movement! I'm glad you're back to hiking. We've got gloom today...I've got my sheets on the clothesline (it is Monday, and I always do sheets on Monday) and they are blowing frantically in the wind. IT's good that it is windy because there isn't much sun. Love to you, looking forward to cathing up this fall.

John's Island said...

Hello DJan, When we first moved to Seattle, more than four decades ago, we had a nice neighbor who was a native Northwesterner. One time we were talking about the weather in June. He said his mother had told him ... Don't sit on the ground until after the Fourth of July. :-) I think it was her way of talking about the June Gloom. I sure enjoy the way you write about these things. Truly, Eye on the Edge is one of my favorite blogs. And thank you for all your kind comments on mine! Hope you have a wonderful day and a fine week ahead!

Barb said...

I like the photo of the clouds low on the mountains. We finally got a good rain yesterday evening, but today it's very breezy and chilly. It went down to 33 overnight. I'm sorry your knee is still giving you problems. Is your trouble in the joint or the muscle? I think I mentioned Arnica to you before if it's muscle pain. I know I still take chances when I go out alone into the backcountry. However, I do try to tell my husband where I'm planning to hike. I took a long hike over the weekend and was by myself for many miles/hours. I know if something happened to me, It would take a long tome for rescue! However, I don't dwell on that as I hike. Mostly, I love the quiet and the beauty. I was very tired and my right foot was sore when I returned home, but I took Arnica by mouth and used the gel on sore areas. By morning I felt fine. Unlike when I was younger, I don't do successive days of hard hiking. I know I have to recuperate now.

Friko said...

Glad to see that you are still leading a full and active life. Sure, old age will stop you doing as much as you used to do but there is no reason why you can’t follow your body’s dictates and listen to it telling you what is enough for you at any time.

Time to cut back will come soon enough without hurrying it along. Stay happy and active for now! I have a hip which hurts - I twisted it some months ago - but that isn’t going to stop me from walking as much as I can.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I admire how each Sunday you take time to reflect about your goals, activities and personal growth. I am thankful that I have got a bit of vision to enjoy reading such special posts. Thanks for allowing me to introspect as I capture your thoughts and wisdom.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I admire how each Sunday you take time to reflect about your goals, activities and personal growth. I am thankful that I have got a bit of vision to enjoy reading such special posts. Thanks for allowing me to introspect as I capture your thoughts and wisdom.

Glenda Beall said...

I never heard of June Gloom, and wish we had it here. It has been so hot I don't want to go outside. I don't do well with heat these days. By July, I'll be a real shut-in. Love your posts and your positive way of looking at life and ageing. Take care of yourself and let that knee heal before putting it to work on another hike. Thanks for reading my blog and always leaving a comment. I do appreciate you.