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, July 30, 2017

A lifetime of memories

Seventy'-three years apart
My friend Melanie took this picture of me last Thursday, showing the septuagenarian hiker in her element. While I was perusing my photos yesterday, I found this other picture of me, the first studio sitting my parents must have had for their firstborn. Several things about that picture call out to me. First, these days a professional photographer would never have allowed me to be undressed but instead I'd be wearing a cute little outfit and a bow in my hair. I like this much better.

Look at how my mama had arranged my curls. I love the upswept back and the curls on top brushed into a mini-Mohawk. These days you don't see baby pictures with hair like that, do you? Must have been the style. These days I keep my white hair short enough that those curls don't bother me, but I still have them. And look at those chubby cheeks and rolls of baby fat! I was loved and pampered, and it all shows in that picture.

The years that separate those two images have been filled with so many events that it boggles my mind that I can even recall much of what has happened. When I was born, the world was at war. No difference there, but we had nothing to bring it into our living rooms, like we do today. In fact, because of cellphones, we carry the news around in our pockets, available to us and billions of others at a moment's notice. Is this a better way? I'm not convinced. That baby was completely insulated from the world and only knew her parents' complete love and devotion. Today she would be vying with the phone for her parents' attention. But in that picture, she's in her element and it shows.

The elderly woman in the other picture is also in her element. She is standing near the summit of a mountaintop, with abundant summer flowers surrounding her, and vistas stretching out in every direction of distant snow-covered peaks. She looks content, too, doesn't she? And what does she have in her backpack? Food and water and gear for all kinds of weather, because now she's on her own, with her parents long gone and many decades of living behind her. Not so many years ahead, but hopefully they will be good ones. She'll do what she can to help that along by eating right and exercising.

On that hike I slipped on the trail and fell, scraping my arm and causing it to bleed in spots. I didn't think anything of it, really, and figured I'd slap a bandaid on it once we got back to the cars. By then I had forgotten about it. Once home and cleaned up, I knew that it would heal by itself just fine, and it did. Except that for some reason a rash broke out in the area between the wrist and elbow and has kept me scratching it for a couple of days. It reminded me of poison ivy, which I had once long ago and had forgotten until the intense itching brought back the memory. I went down to the drugstore yesterday and got some calamine lotion and started slathering it on. Last night before bed I also wrapped the area in an Ace bandage so I wouldn't keep scratching it, and this morning it's much better.

But for the past couple of days, that background itch that just wouldn't let me forget it. That annoyance is what reminded me of the bout I had with poison ivy (or poison oak, I'm not sure which). A small spot on my arm grew into blisters, which broke and spread onto other places without me realizing what I had. Before long, I was covered with blisters, and I learned what one must do when you contract it. It was the sensation of itching that brought back the memory, and with the smell of calamine lotion applied with cotton balls, it all came back to me. I ended up at that time miserable with it for weeks, confined to home and wearing soft loose clothing until it cleared up. I know better these days not to ignore an itch.

Memory is a curious thing. Something will trigger a memory, which I could not have dredged up on my own, and I am able to be transported back to that time. Smell does that often for me, although my ability to smell has been diminished drastically by age and a medication I took for years. However, some odors are as strong as ever, and others are changed from what they were, but I can still smell calamine lotion. I was very distressed to discover a few years ago that the medication I was taking for high blood pressure (lisinopril) was altering my ability to smell. It's been at least a year since I stopped taking it and my sense of smell is beginning to return, although some smells are still not available to me. Oh, well; there are worse things that happen to people as they age. My blood pressure managed to stabilize and is now normal without medication. I have no idea why that might be, but I'm happy about it.

We are at the end of July already, with August beginning on Tuesday. That is the one month here in the Pacific Northwest when the temperature often becomes uncomfortably hot. This past month has been pretty perfect, but when I look at the projected temperatures ahead for the coming week, I am dismayed. When it gets close to 90°F around here, I wilt and must do what I can to stay cool, like exercising early and staying indoors with a fan and a cold drink the rest of the time.

Have you heard of Lammas? It marks the time between the first day of summer and the first day of fall in the annual calendar. The name comes from Anglo-Saxon "loaf-mass." August 1st is when it is usually celebrated, but sometimes a day later or a day earlier.
It is a festival to mark the annual wheat harvest, and is the first harvest festival of the year. On this day it was customary to bring to church a loaf made from the new crop, which began to be harvested at Lammastide.
First harvest. I have already harvested some vegetables from my garden, and now I am happily looking forward to the ripening of tomatoes on three bushes: I planted the little golden cherry-type tomatoes which are just now beginning to ripen, and two bushes of larger tomatoes. All three plants are laden down with them, and the warm August weather should bring them to fruition. The large tomatoes are still green, with some of them just beginning to show a hint of color. It is a wonderful time of the year.

When I think of all the blessings I have received in this life, from the reminder of the happy baby to the happy old lady, I know that whatever I have done to receive this gift had nothing to do with me choosing it. All I get to do is live it in the best way I know how. I've grown a lot over the years, but I still carry that sweet baby somewhere inside. Oscar Wilde once said, "Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead."

And I strive to do just that: to keep love in my heart. It's not hard to do when you have such a wonderful environment as I do, with people I love surrounding me. Right at this moment, my dear partner is sleeping next to me, and I feel the call of the coffee shop and my friends there, and all of you, dear readers, who shower me with your support every single Sunday. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things and every happiness.


Marie Smith said...

Jan, the sense of wonder at the world which was expressed on your face as a small child is still present today. Inspiring!

Linda Reeder said...

Yes, tomato ripening time - August - is nearly upon us. A time for us here at Reeder Gardens when all of the big projects are done, and we move to the days of lazy afternoons in the shade. While I don't like to see the freshness of spring and early summer go, these dog days are special too.
Today we will gather once more with Jill, the kids and their guests for brunch on the waterway in Tacoma, and then go for a stroll. After that we will be at home for most of the week to come. Jill's extra child will fly home with her mother and grandparents on Monday, and we'll all settle in for some slow days. That is what August is for, along with harvesting the zucchini, of course.
Keep on collecting memories!

Anonymous said...

How nice to remember your parent's love and adoration. A great beginning.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, I sometimes wonder how you are able to wake up on a Sunday morning and put together a wonderful post, like this one today, which winds from your birth to this week, and reflects on the changes we are all facing. I’m right with you on how to deal with the week ahead and the forecasted heat. And thanks for the update on the garden. Your tomato crops sounds like it will be great. And "Keep love in your heart" ... yes, it's essential! As always, thank you for sharing your blog … it is one of a few I really look forward to! :-) Have a fine week ahead and stay cool!

Elephant's Child said...

Both your baby self and the current version are beautiful. Open to the world, loved - and loving.
Thank you for being you.

Gigi said...

I LOVE both of those pictures! And that quote by Oscar Wilde is perfection.

Our weather today has been wonderful - right about 80 and no humidity - rare for this time of year around here. I've spent much of the day outdoors to enjoy it before the intense heat and humidity return later this week. Here's hoping August won't be too unbearable for either of us.

Have a wonderful week!

Red said...

Reflection on our life brings back many experiences and how those experiences influenced our lives. Believe it or not , I have a couple of baby photos...not professional. Baby pictures can start us reflecting on what has happened.

Sally Wessely said...

I love the baby picture of you. Those were the days when we photographed without fancy dresses and bows because there wasn't money for that. There was a war going on. I always wondered how there was money for professional photographs. In my case, I think my mother must have sacrificed to have them taken so my father would have a photo while he was away in the service. I like how this captured your nature very early. I have similar one of me in that I have on a sunsuit and am holding a ball. My hair is also in curls.

I admire the hiking so much. I've done a lot of walking this summer. I asked my hubby today if he thought we could attempt a mountain path near our home. I don't do the altitude well. I need to start out at lower that 7100 ft. which is where this hike started. We are trying to get to the point where we could attempt such a hike. You remain my inspiration.

Rita said...

Your curls in your baby picture were natural. The ones you see in mine were pin curls--LOL!

Life is good! Have a fabulous week! :)

Tabor said...

I will be getting an opportunity to hike in Canada next week. A little fearful as I am not in good shape for high altitude hikes anymore and there will be younger people along. Oh well. the view looking up at the mountain is just as nice.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, after Dulcy died she gave me this message--"At the end all that matters is love. My love for my human and hers for me." She went on but I think that your posting today is replete with love and gratitude. What a wonderful way to live. Peace.

troutbirder said...

Most enjoyable reflections on then and now. Well done!

Arkansas Patti said...

What a delightful post. Marie makes a good point. That adventurous, expectant, caring child lives on. You are apart from that adorable child only in years. She is visibly still in you. I see her. Love those curls by the way. I'd kill for naturally curly hair.

Far Side of Fifty said...

What a beautiful baby you were and a beautiful older lady too!
P I itches like crazy...hope your goes away.
I took that BP med once it made me sleepy all day.
I think we lose olfactory receptors as we age, at least that is what I will blame it on. Stay cool!!

Anonymous said...

How nice to remember your parent's love and adoration. A great beginning.


Glenda Beall said...

Today I attended a celebration of life for my dear friend, Kathryn Stripling Byer who died on June 5. The place was filled with love from all the people there. In her seventies, she still had a beautiful life ahead. We never know when we will go so we must hold on to love every single day and not let anger and hatred into our hearts. Like you, DJan, I have loving family and friends around me. I want them to know I love them before they leave me.
Thanks for this post. I love the photos. You have always been a lovely person I see.