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, August 6, 2017

August wildfires and more

Sunrise from my front porch
For the past several days, this is what the sunrise looks like from my front porch. When I have gone out to do my exercises, it feels like I'm on an alien planet, and the sunsets look just as strange. Orange skies are caused by the wildfires north of us in British Columbia, and they have made a huge impact on our projected heat wave. Yesterday we only reached a high of 68°F (20C) and although there were no clouds in the sky, the sun didn't have any warmth to it. It's really rather scary to think of what must have happened in the world when we had cataclysmic volcanic events that affected the weather for years on end.

I remember in the early 1990s when Mt. Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines. Although I was otherwise occupied at the time (I had just started my skydiving career), I remember learning about the global effects of the volcanic eruption.
This very large stratospheric injection resulted in a reduction in the normal amount of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface by roughly 10%. This led to a decrease in northern hemisphere average temperatures of 0.5–0.6 °C (0.9–1.1 °F) and a global fall of about 0.4 °C (0.7 °F). ... The stratospheric cloud from the eruption persisted in the atmosphere for three years after the eruption. 
Three years!  I guess I shouldn't be complaining about a week or so of diminished sunlight around here. The wildfires in B.C. are still burning, with more than 1.2 million acres lost already. This has occurred at just the beginning of the wildfire season, and it makes me fearful for the future. We've had a local fire right at one of my favorite wintertime hikes, Lost Lake, and although it's now contained, the area is still closed to recreation. And when I visit it next, it will look very different indeed.

Change. I'm not a fan of change for its own sake, but frankly it's the nature of living, isn't it? Every time I turn around, I'm reminded that one thing or another in my body is deteriorating and needs shoring up. Although my knees seem stable for the moment, it's just a matter of time before I'll be hauling out my knee braces again. My eyesight is deteriorating, too, and I am very happy for being in the care of a retina specialist and a good ophthalmologist, but they cannot do anything much for my eyes except delay the inevitable. I forget how bad my eyesight has become until somebody will point something out in the distance that I cannot make out, and that's with my glasses on. Without my glasses I feel practically blind; I'm so nearsighted that I cannot make out much more than colorful blurs.

I'm beginning to wonder if all those years of skydiving are partly responsible for my deteriorating eyesight. I did go up and down through 13,000-14,000 feet (4 meters) of atmosphere, in freefall for 68 hours in total, and it was after a particularly intense period of ten days and fifty skydives that I first began to notice some visual changes in my eyes. Although the visual disturbance cleared up after a few days, they were never quite the same. I'm now pretty sure that the activity affected my eyes permanently.

And all those injuries I experienced throughout my lifetime are beginning to come home to roost: I have aches and pains in all those places that were broken and healed up. I guess this is to be expected; if you use your body the way I did in previous years, it will continue to remind one that there is always a cost involved, even many years later. Oh, well, I wouldn't change any of it. I had a great time and am glad I was able to skydive for more than two decades, even after starting at almost fifty years of age.

It's all relative, isn't it? I am still active in my mid-seventies, and all the injuries are manageable. Most of the time I feel pretty lucky to be able to carry on the way I am still capable, but I also realize that I should be counting my lucky stars that I'm not in a wheelchair. That might come about one day, and I'll look back on the days when I could hike for ten miles and wonder why I didn't appreciate my mobility more. So here I am, busy appreciating what I have in my life right now. I've got a smile on my face thinking of our five-mile walk yesterday in the cool air, happy to be one of the dozen or so women who meet every Saturday morning for a brisk walk together. And it was cool, as I've mentioned, even if the air quality was not good. At least we were walking early, and it did get a little hazier in the afternoon. Today is supposed to be worse, but I don't mind since I consider Sundays to be my day off from exercise.

The gradual changes that I experience as I grow older sometimes rise up unbidden, wondering when it was that I could no longer run even short distances. I can walk briskly for short distances, but if I try to make my old body pick up the pace to a run, well, it just doesn't happen. It's a little bit like watching an ancient beloved pet forgetting for a moment that he's not a puppy any more and collapsing after a short distance. Yep, I'm past my prime and heading towards more time spent in my easy chair with a good book. It's not a bad thing, it's just that I sometimes forget that I'm not a young sprite any more.

Even though things change constantly, I think I might be able to enjoy a few more years of relative health and wellness. I'm sure doing everything I know to make that happen. And I look forward to seeing what might spring from my fingers on a Sunday morning when I sit down with the laptop and start typing. Everything is just the way I like it: I'm almost done, my partner is still sleeping next to me, the tea was lovely but it's now gone, and I've got a coffee shop with friends waiting for me to arrive about an hour from now. Just right!

I do hope that you might take some time today to look around at your life as it is right this moment and appreciate the good things that you are able to enjoy or look forward to. I've got friends who are recovering from intense surgeries, from all kinds of other difficulties, and they continue to inspire me to keep on keeping' on. I hope your week will be a good one, filled with reflection on the beauty that surrounds us all. And I'll leave you with this quote that speaks directly to me today:
It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one most adaptable to change.  --Clarence Darrow


Marie Smith said...

My understanding of aging at this point is about adapting to health issues and circumstances and forging ahead. Living the day and making the most of it is a priority. The past is done, the future uncertain but I will make plans and look to the future. Have a great day..

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Another excellent reflection on life and change. Wow, your Closing Thought could not be more true! I appreciate the way I can apply your thoughts to my own life experience. Thank you, as always, for sharing.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Yes adaptive to change is a great way to describe an aging body Some people are more resistant than others. My husband sometimes thinks he wants to do "stuff" that he could when he was 17 and becomes depressed. I have to remind him to just embrace his age and do the best he can with his failing body. He and Chance are off for their morning walk, one walking crooked and the other losing control of a back leg...they are quite the pair, but at least they are out there walking:) I will check on them shortly if they take too long, I will go for a walk also:)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

While your heat wave is not forth coming the heat in Europe has gone sky high. Adapting to change is really all we can ask of ourselves as we face many challenges. I imagine the air quality will be an issueas oxygen is sucked up to fuel the fires. Maybe global warming will be slowed down bu nature? But can life around us as we know it adapt as eartg changes? The flooding in northen Germany in cities like Berlin was another example of change. Rain storms are more violent and cause more widespread damage in areas that seemed safe. Hope your day off is a great one.

Rian said...

68 degrees F - wow! How wonderful! (Of course if it's due to the wildfires north of you, that's certainly not so wonderful..) We've been in the high 80's the last few days here in Texas and it's been pretty great (and definitely a reprieve from the triple digits).
DJan, I do have to ask how the sky-diving could affect your eyes? Atmospheric pressure maybe? Did your eye doctors' tell you this or is it something sky-divers have observed?

Arkansas Patti said...

Some of your previous activities may have come home to roost but I was glad to see you wouldn't have changed anything. You are head and shoulders physically above anyone I know even close to your age. Keep doing what gives you pleasure. So sorry your area is suffering from the wild fires. Nothing more scary nor destructive.

Linda Reeder said...

Well, we still have the smoke, mixed now with coastal fog, the makings for smog. At least it is cooler. The forecast for next week calls for temps in the 80's rather than the 90's. But then I am off to the Oregon coast, where we will need jackets. Change for sure.

Red said...

You realize that thing are slowly changing but that's no reason to sit in a chair and read a book. I know that you will keep on pushing yourself and still enjoy activity.

The Furry Gnome said...

You're right, all those old injuries and illnesses come home to roost. Our health becomes all-consuming. I just cross my fingers and hope to survive for another 23 years (I'ved decided that 92 is long enough)!

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

Darrow nailed it!

Linda Myers said...

As you said, change is inevitable. Maybe that's why I am in Greece for the fourth time in a year, working at the refugee camp. I know I won't always be able to do it.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, the feeling of gratitude that can pervade us when we suddenly realize the gifts of living that we enjoy is so sudden sometimes and so overwhelming that I want to raise my arms high in alleluia. It's wonderful that you are so aware that change brings something new with it. Something that can ultimately be embraced. Peace.

Rita said...

Yes--adaptive to change. That's the ticket in life. Have a great day--despite the smoke and haze. love and hugs!! :)

Stella Jones said...

Yes, I sympathise re the aging. In this household we are in the same place. One is deaf and two are hard of sight. We have two floaters, four cataracts, seven pairs of glasses to lose, one bad back, one set of varicose veins, one irritable bowel and a partridge in a pear tree! However, it could be a lot worse and so far we have kept out of the hospital! I hear better than Larry, but he sees better than me so it's a bit like the film, 'Hear no evil, see no evil'.
I think you've done more than most to take care of your body, but you have also pushed it a lot. Take care.