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 2, 2017

My Sunday action items

Early morning sky and tree
I saw this tree blocking the rising sun and let me see these beautiful clouds this past week. When I am walking to the bus, I often get a feeling of great joy because I live here, right in the middle of the Pacific Northwest, with incredible skies and perfect temperatures at this time of the year. We don't usually have the terrible heat that many of you deal with because of the moderating temperature of the Pacific Ocean, which gives us a built-in air conditioner most of the summer. The onshore breeze brings the cool air and the only time it gets hot is when that air flow is blocked and we experience offshore flow, bringing warm air from the interior. But it never lasts.

Then again, what does last? Even the mighty mountains and rocks wear down in time. I won't be around to see it, of course, because the span of a single lifetime reveals some change, but it's just a drop in the bucket in ecological time. We are here for such a short period, and sometimes that bothers me, but other times it makes me feel content that I don't have to be around to see the changes ahead.

When I went to bed last night, I pondered what I would write about today. The only thing I knew for sure is that I didn't want to write about getting old, about the weather (which I already have), or about illness. Thinking of the Five Buddhist Remembrances again, I'm realizing that I don't want to focus on all the changes going on around me, but concentrate on what does last. The Fifth Remembrance, "My actions are my only true belongings, the ground upon which I stand" gives me some idea of where I might take this post this lovely Sunday morning.

What is the definition of an action, exactly? (Thank you, Google.) "The fact or process of doing something, typically to achieve an aim." Or: "Action applies especially to the doing, act to the result of the doing. An action usually lasts through some time and consists of more than one act: to take action on a petition. An act is single: an act of kindness."

Well, I am and have always been an active person, but what specific actions do I have in my own life that I can stand upon? When I think of my daily life, which is full and filled with activity, I'm wondering how much of it is actually action and how much is busy-ness? Or does it even matter? All those years I spent as an active skydiver are actions I'm quite proud of, but they don't have much relevance to my daily life today. The only thing that still lingers are the damaged bones I broke and their concomitant arthritic annoyances. I have lovely memories, but they are all in the past. Out of all the thousands of skydives I have made, only a few of them actually stand out in memory, usually because something untoward happened. Or because of some silliness, like skydiving naked. (Yes, I did, once.)

I had a career at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, working there for thirty years and retiring nine years ago. Does anything actually still exist because of my efforts? There are books on some bookshelves that I edited, scientific books with fewer errors because of me, and thoughtful indexes that I compiled. They exist as a result of my actions. But I find those years of effort and action don't give me much satisfaction today, when I think back. Perhaps they should.

In retirement, I find that most of my actions are related to physical activity or writing blogs. Every day I try to get at least 10,000 steps on my iPhone app, and sometimes I'm quite pleased to see that I've often managed to get more than twice that number. I'm a little addicted to seeing those numbers grow; the app shows daily, weekly, and yearly averages, and I spend some time every day looking at them. It's one place I've chosen to spend my energy: doing what I can to keep my aging body fit.

Blogging four times a week is sometimes a chore, but much more often it's a satisfying action that keeps me apprised of the daily and yearly passage of time, and when I'm getting ready to go on another Thursday hike with the Trailblazers, I can look back on my blog (not this one but my DJan-ity blog) to remind myself what it was like on past visits. This week we will be going on one that is, while not a favorite, quite a workout. I go not only for the exercise, but for the companionship with like-minded friends. And then I document the trip in a blog post when I get home and download some pictures to enliven the text. I've been doing this for several years and really don't like to miss because my sense of world order gets a little skewed when I'm not out hiking on a Thursday.

Another action is going to the coffee shop almost every morning. It's more than the coffee: my friends who have become as dear as family members are there, and I look forward to seeing them. In fact, I am totally amazed at how much I anticipate seeing some of them. John has become a good friend, and ever since I wrote the first post about the Five Buddhist Remembrances, John has insisted on receiving the hugging meditation I mentioned. Lately I've given and received many more hugs because of it. Just to remind you of what that meditation is:
Another way of practicing the Five Remembrances is through something Buddhist master Thich Nhat Hanh calls hugging meditation. When your partner or children leave for work or school, hug each other for three full breaths, and remind yourself of the Fourth Remembrance.
It works. Hugs are sure nice to give and receive. SG has received many more hugs than before, but then again we have always been huggers. Some people I don't hug, or offer hugs to, because it seems a little invasive if it's someone you don't know all that well. But I've learned that physical touch of any kind can be healing and reassuring. I know that the massage I receive every third week is an essential part of my wellness routine. When I'm done and getting ready to leave, we always have a very nice hug before parting.

Reading is an action item I would miss very much if I didn't have such an abundance of material to peruse. I am an active library patron, and friends give me books to read as well. Right now I have two books next to my easy chair that I'm making my way through. I also have plenty of books on my Kindle, which I usually read when I'm traveling somewhere. Reading is an activity I love. It is also an action upon which I stand, because every book I read becomes part of me. 

My Sunday post is an action that I have been doing for 400 Sundays. In fact, this will be the 400th (I just looked back to see how many I've written). That translates into 92 months and more than seven-and-a-half years of blogging every Sunday.  That's enough time to settle into a routine, wouldn't you say? It's become a sacred moment for me, this time every Sunday when I sit in my bed with my laptop on my knees, my dear partner sleeping next to me as I write. Usually I don't have much idea what's going to come out, and sometimes the magic doesn't work and I struggle. Today was easier.

And it's written, here for posterity. Or for as long as there is a World Wide Web and blog posts stay relevant. In the scheme of things, there's not much that lasts forever. I'd love to think that my actions make a difference in the world, but I'll leave that for others to figure out. I'll just stay here in my little corner of the world and enjoy myself for as long as I can. I do know that my little community of followers who comment on these words have become cherished friends. I'm glad I've lived long enough to see the advent of virtual communities.

Please take care of yourself between now and next Sunday, when we meet again. I am now going to go forth into the summer day to play. Be well and don't forget to hug your loved ones.


Linda Reeder said...

Now that I have started my Sunday morning with your post, I will initiate some actions of my own. Tom lingers in bed, but when he is up and going, we'll do our routine walk. I'll shower off the sweat, do my stretching, floor exercises, and then go out into the garden to snip and clip and enjoy being active in a beautiful place Tom and I have created. Later there will be down time, time for reading, and a light, grilled dinner. Sunday night has good TV, thanks to PBS.
In my mind, I'm gearing up for the 4th of July. Monday I'll be doing lots of food preparation. The 4th will be a day of fun and activity with a little down time in between.

I think often of my legacy as an educator, as a parent, and as a friend. I do think I have made at least a small lasting difference. I hope so.

Thanks for the Sunday morning inspiration.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Congratulations on Eye on the Edge post #400! That is an accomplishment indeed. I have grown to love your Sunday post as much as any blog I follow or that I've found in my 7 years of blogging. Every week you give us something to reflect on and so often it is something I've been thinking about myself. Today I had to stop and start reflecting right at the beginning of your second paragraph when you said, "Then again, what does last?" What a great question. My first thought was something I read not too long ago, a quote, "Life is change." I tried to recall who said it but quickly went to the best source of memory: Google. :-) A quick search did not reveal the answer this time so I'll have to dig a little deeper into the memory vault. Right now I'm recalling that in your Eye post on May 28th you quoted from an article, "The problem is not that things change, but that you try to live as if they don't." Thank you, as always, for sharing Eye on the Edge. Wishing you and SG a fine 4th of July and week ahead!

Gigi said...

"I'd love to think that my actions make a difference in the world..."

Yes, your actions have made a difference - every Sunday you write a wonderful post that we all enjoy. You spread your kindness throughout the internet with every comment. You touch more people than you can possibly realize.

Have a great week, D'Jan. Sending you a virtual hug!

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

That we take action to follow your Sunday blog is a sure sign that you make a difference.
Our action was to head out for a family brunch after yesterday's huge BD party for our little grandchild.

Anonymous said...

This is a good reminder to me to hug my husband, daughters, and grandkids every time I have the chance to do so.

Elephant's Child said...

You give us so many things. Beauty. Wonder. And things to ponder.

Glenda Beall said...

I once told my sister when she was in her eighties and not too active anymore that her job each day was to stay well and stay alive. Her actions toward that end were to eat right, sleep enough, take her meds, exercise when she could and read which she loved to do. That was all I would ask of myself if I was disabled. But I am hard on myself now. I am going to the pool twice a week and keeping up with my work. I sleep more during the day than I did before. But I feel I am taking action each day, important action, and I hug many people in my life. I love hugs as well. My massage therapists give me big hugs and I feel such love for them.
Human touch is important for life. Thanks for your years of blogging and sharing with us. I enjoy your words.

Arkansas Patti said...

Yes you have left your mark, here in particular. I look forward to your posts and often learn from your experiences and admire your commitment. Thanks to you, I am even hugging longer now days which I am sure is passing on the comfort the longer hug gives. Kind of a pyramid scheme of hugs as I am sure my huggees are also becoming longer and better huggers. I wouldn't be doing that with out your direction. Just one small thing I learned here.

Marie Smith said...

Hugs...touch...connect with others on a physical level and the rest follows. It sounds easy but is tough to do. For some of us, starting is the hard part. What holds us back? You provide the inspiration, Jan, the inspiration to take the chance.

Red said...

Congratulations on 400 Sundays. Your sunday posts certainly give pause for thought on life and how we pass it...actions! I think you have to reach out to others. It's a healthy part of living. Your hiking group is very supportive. I'm in two similar groups. As a biker , I'm a loner.

The Broad said...

I so agree with you about the importance of physical contact. It is such an important part of the human condition. But I have discovered that sometimes I come across people, some who are important to me, and physical contact is for them almost painful. This is very difficult to understand and to know how to deal with. I think the answer is by example and to step back a bit. It's not easy...

Dee said...

Dear DJan, Walt Whitman in his "Leaves of Grass" said something about our being the world we wandered through. I've always accepted and believed that: we are a product of the world we have experienced. A product of all the lives that have touched ours. A product of all the lives we have touched. That feeling of gratitude you are having is, I think, one of the great gifts of growing older. I am reminded of what Dulcy said to me two days after she died, "At the end, all that matters is love." And you have certainly known and given love. Peace be to you.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Wow! 400 Sundays! And for all those Sundays, you have delighted your followers!