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, April 29, 2018

Living memories

Me and my son Chris in 1962
Lately I've been thinking about all the memories I carry around in my head, a whole lifetime of them. So much has happened to me in my life that I think I've completely forgotten, until something jars an old memory and I think about the many different lives I've lived. I was once long ago the mother of a fine son who gave me endless joy. The young woman in the picture has changed into an old woman, and the baby grew into a man.

So many memories surface when I gaze at old pictures like this one. We were in Puerto Rico, where my first husband, who took the picture, was stationed. It was a sunny day, but then again almost all the days were sunny. I was a happy person, and it shows in the picture. I recognize that blouse from my memories; I sewed it myself, from a pattern. Back then I made a lot of my own clothing, something I haven't even thought of for a long time.

I'm not sure why I've been thinking lately about times past, people long gone, and decades of life lived and forgotten. Perhaps it has something to do with a book I just finished reading: What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty. In the story, Alice hits her head and loses a decade of her memory. She wakes up and thinks she is twenty-nine and pregnant with her first child, only to discover that she is thirty-nine, has three children and is getting a divorce. The book reminded me of how much we change in ten years, as well as the crucial part memory plays in our current existence.

Then on Friday I went into an ice cream shop while waiting for my yoga class to begin. I indulged in one of my favorite things, ice cream, while sitting next to a young man with his daughter. She is four and very outgoing. I watched her eat an enormous sugary fried fritter while her dad scrolled through his phone. I asked her how old she is and whether she knows her ABCs. Promptly she recited them to me, and it brought back a memory of raising my own child. The three of us started a conversation and I learned not only her age, but that the family recently expanded to include an infant. Dad was taking care of his lively daughter so that Mom could have some quiet time.

Since Chris died without having a child of his own, I will never have grandchildren. I appreciate the stories of them that my fellow bloggers share in their posts, and look at their pictures and remember my own days as a young mother. Sometimes the memory of a smile comes unbidden to my mind and I can almost feel the moment return. The joy of children laughing never stops being a delightful memory. The little girl I met the other day, with her wide-eyed chatter about her new baby brother, gave me a little twinge of regret about lacking grandchildren. But that's silly: the little girl shared her life with me and has given me the gift of remembered childhood. It's everywhere around me. Just because I don't have any grandchildren myself doesn't mean I miss the chance to enjoy the company of young people. And I truly enjoy the pictures and stories about the grandchildren of many of my blogging buddies.

When I think about it, if my son had fathered a child at the same age that I had him, that child would now be grown, too. Great-grandchildren and even great-great grandchildren would be more like it. Wow! How time flies when I'm not paying attention; then something happens to remind me of how long ago it was that I was a young mother myself. That young mother still is a part of me, however long ago it happened. My activities these days don't give me much chance to be around small children.

I have a coffee shop friend, Leo, who was not even a year old when I first met him. We played together in the coffee shop, he let me read to him and we enjoyed each other's company. But Leo grew up, too: now he is almost ten and no longer plays with me but instead sits and reads his own books, sometimes not even acknowledging me other than a polite hello. It makes me a little sad, but when I look at the young man he's becoming, I realize that it is the natural progression of life. I enjoyed the toddler much more than I would enjoy hanging out with the young man he's becoming today.

Instead, I'll hang out with friends my own age, John the farmer and Gene the fisherman. We'll have our devices in front of us and share funny things with each other that we find on Facebook. As I age, they are aging along with me, and the years pass without that much difference. When you're young, change from year to year is much more pronounced. I look forward to being with them several times a week. John will be getting up soon and going off to the coffee shop. He's the first to arrive. On Sunday mornings, we share a bagel, something I want but not the whole thing. He will have already had one himself, so he gets three half bagels and I get one, which is perfect for both of us. And a quote from Helen Keller to wrap up this post:
So long as the memory of certain beloved friends lives in my heart, I shall say that life is good. 
Yes, life is good. I have so many memories to cherish, and I'm glad I can share them with you, my dear reader. It's almost time for me to get up and start the rest of my Sunday. Partner is still sleeping next to me, and I can feel the growing desire to get off to visit my friends. I hope you will be here again next week, when I'll sit with my laptop and think about a lovely week ahead for us. Be well until then.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Today is Earth Day

Good morning
According to the calendar, spring has been here for a month now, but you sure wouldn't have known it from the soggy and dreary days we've spent around these parts lately. I found this lovely picture on the internet (don't know from where) and it spoke to me about the fine days and sunrises we have ahead of us for the season.

April 22nd already! And yesterday was sunny and glorious, with an entire week without rain projected ahead. I went out yesterday and began to figure out what I will plant in my garden once the winter's weeds and grasses have been removed. One good thing from all this rain, the ground is soft and pulling them up is relatively easy. I made a start on it yesterday, but then it began to rain! Big fat drops fell out of a rogue raincloud and sent me back inside. Today, though, we have zero chance of precipitation.

Last Friday my friend Lily, who had the day off from work, joined me in visiting the Tulip Festival in Mt. Vernon, a half-hour's drive from Bellingham. People come from all over the world to view these incredible tulip fields and gardens during the month of April. RoozenGaarde Gardens are my favorite place to go. It was partly sunny, but with so much moisture in the air, once the warm sun begins to warm the ground, clouds form quickly. I think that was what created yesterday's shower. Anyway, we had perfect weather to enjoy the tulips. Since it was Lily's first visit, she snapped hundreds of pictures on her phone, while I walked around and took a few pictures, but not that many. It really marks the beginning of the season for me.

Earth Day. It's been around for 48 years, can you believe it? Every year the Earth Day Network (EDN) focuses on one aspect of pollution that we can help to eradicate. This year it's plastic pollution. I've seen pictures of that awful place in the Pacific called the Great Pacific garbage patch, and it's now twice the size of Texas! I live in a city that bans one-use plastic bags in grocery stores, but everywhere I see people drinking bottled water out of store-bought plastic bottles and think about the enormous volume of plastic that must be generated worldwide every day from their use. We've got to do something about this. As the Earth Day Network tells us,
From poisoning and injuring marine life to disrupting human hormones, from littering our beaches and landscapes to clogging our waste streams and landfills, the exponential growth of plastics is now threatening the survival of our planet.
You can learn from the EDN what you might be able to do to make a difference in the world today. Take a look here at all the different campaigns EDN has launched. Earth Day contributed to the formation of the Environmental Protection Agency and many others. One thing I did is take the test on line to find out about my own personal plastic use and how I might reduce it.

Okay, I've done my small part to raise awareness about plastic pollution and how we might make even the tiniest difference in the consumption of plastics, and now it's time to move to something more pleasant at the very beginning of this lovely day. I'm looking forward to spending some more time in the garden in full sunshine today, and just thinking about it raises my spirits.

However, I'm nursing a sore ankle from a fall yesterday while on my usual Saturday walk with the ladies. It feels better today, but I notice that it's beginning to turn colors, meaning that I twisted it hard enough to bruise the tissues inside. I'll continue to be careful with it, but there's no way I can stop using it. I thought about wrapping it with an Ace bandage, but I don't think it would have made a difference; it's just going to take time. I notice that I turn my ankle and take a fall more often these days. I think perhaps I'm going to have to start wearing a brace on my right one, which seems to be the culprit more often than the other.

I know that while my aging body would probably find benefit in having me take it easier, my mind and spirit haven't learned that lesson yet. It will come, but I keep thinking it's not now, not today, but somewhere in the distant future that I'll have to pay closer attention to all these aches and pains and what they're telling me. In the meantime, I'll continue to run around and play in the sunshine until I simply cannot continue doing it any longer, whenever that is. Tomorrow. Maybe.
Your body actually reminds you about your age and your injuries - the body has a stronger memory than your mind. --Mikhail Baryshnikov
Well, if anybody should know about injuries and aging, it would be Misha. He was wonderful to watch when he was young. He's 70 now, into my decade, and has continued to change and grow into new phases of his life. It's a good thing for all of us to do, look at others around us and see how they cope with the aging process.

And now it's time for me to stop dithering with the keyboard and make my way into the rest of this beautiful day. I've got the usual suspects around me: sleeping partner, an empty teacup, and the pull to the coffee shop coming on strong. I do hope that you will think about your own loved ones and not forget to be grateful for the life we share today. You are always in my thoughts, dear reader. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, April 15, 2018


SG, Gene, me (and the now deceased parrot)
This picture was taken a year after we moved to Bellingham from Boulder. It was Opening Day of the Farmers' Market in April 2009. The market just had its 2018 opening a week ago, and I was reminded once again how much I enjoy this wonderful town. I've been in a mood for reminiscing lately, reading other people's memoirs and even going back into my old journals and reminiscing about my own past.

I kept handwritten journals during the 1980s, which started with my desire to get my problems with weight under control, and it had been suggested to me that I keep a diary of everything I eat during the day, so I could begin to examine how I might change my eating habits. It quickly turned into a much more comprehensive journal, covering whatever I felt like writing about. The first journal is dated February 1982 and makes for some very interesting reading.

Yesterday I opened one at random and read about what I was doing in March 1984. It was the time in my life when I had decided to volunteer for Hospice. I went through the two-day training and then was assigned my first patient, Carl, who was dying of a brain tumor. I would stay with him for several hours once a week so his wife could have time to herself. Over the next three months, I became quite fond of him and would read to him, as well as help him out of bed so he could sit in the living room or kitchen for short periods. He must have been very much a storyteller in his younger days, because he told me some jokes and stories that gave me some idea of his personality; even as sick as he was, it still came through.

It was hard to watch him deteriorate, but that was to be expected. At the end, I remember once walking into his bedroom (which had a hospital bed installed) and realized he had changed a great deal in just one week. He was propped up in bed and was almost blind by then, but he recognized me. I asked him how he was feeling, and he said, "with my hands!" Then he smiled and his wife left for her errands, and we were alone together. It was one of the last times I saw him.

I had forgotten how incredibly busy I was during those days. I worked a full-time job, volunteered, ran several times a week to keep myself fit, and attended evening classes. I didn't realize how much I managed to cram into one day until it was all there in the journal. I recognized the person who wrote those words, but in the thirty-four years that have passed since then, I retired from working and find that just reading about that much activity is exhausting.

These days, I have a routine that fills my days with all I need. Sunday mornings I begin with this post, a way for me to keep myself mentally fit, and I walk and hike and work out at the gym to keep myself physically fit. I cannot run any more, but I'm happy that my knees and other joints still manage to work well enough that I can enjoy the outdoors. One of these days I'll get into my garden and the muscles I use will be sore for awhile, a good kind of sore. But for now, it's still raining and I have to wait until the saturated ground dries out a little.

The arc of a life, or a story, can usually only be viewed after you've finished all the chapters. One thing that keeps coming up to me is that the chapters of my own life are mostly written and behind me. But they are still present in my memories and the decade of the 1980s is still there in my journals. I love to read, and being able to lose myself in the chapters of another life is simply wonderful for me. I look forward to the days ahead, whatever they bring.

I have been privileged to be present when several loved ones and people I've known have passed over to the other side. I remember how peaceful my mother looked once she breathed her last. She was only sixty-nine, and I've already lived five years longer than she did, and I wonder what lies ahead for me. If I could make a wish for my own passing, it would be that I am mentally present for the event. I know many people hope that they pass away in their sleep, but to me, I'd feel like I missed the final act of a magnificent play. Mama knew what was coming, and she faced it armed with her faith that all her loved ones were waiting for her to join them. We will never know until we get there ourselves if that's true or not, but it certainly gives me a great deal of pleasure to imagine it to be so.

And who knows what the future will bring? I'm hoping it will be a good one, and that even with all the turmoil in the world right now, I might live to see peace on earth. It's a long shot, but it could happen. In any event, I can help to bring it into being in my own little corner of the world, with love and joy in my heart.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time," said Frodo. "So do I," said Gandalf, "and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
Remember that is all we have power over: to decide what to do with the time that is given us. I hope that you will make an attempt to bring some love and joy into your world, because that is where peace on earth starts. With each one of us. Be well until we meet again next week, dear readers.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Potpourri post

Drippy scenery
I took this picture from the summit of our hike last Thursday. We were out in the elements, with almost a full inch of rain falling that day. We spent our lunchtime indoors at the Senior Center, because nobody wanted to stop and try to find a place to huddle out of the rain. There wasn't one. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the day because of my companions; you know that old saying about how misery loves company.

Last night I couldn't seem to find anything rolling around in my head that wanted to come forth this morning, so this is one of those days when I'm sitting at my laptop without any idea of the topic that might emerge. So this will be a grab bag of thoughts, or more elegantly, a potpourri, a mixture of things.

Yesterday that rain continued. I think even the most hardy of Pacific Northwesterners are more than ready for a change in the weather. This latest round of precipitation is hitting California even harder than us, with flooding and washouts of areas that were burned last year that lost all natural groundcover. I found an interesting blog that tells the tale:
This rainfall was so intense that it led to very significant flash flooding near Mariposa and Groveland near Yosemite National Park and nearly caused the failure of a small dam in the area. Had this rainfall ended up 100-200 miles farther south, as initially anticipated, it could have led to catastrophic flash flooding in the SoCal burn areas. Fortunately, it instead fell in an area that had much greater capacity to absorb the sudden deluge.
I am a weather junkie, you might have noticed. It all started when I was skydiving every weekend, and I wanted to know whether it would be possible or not, so every day, year round, I'd check the weather to see what was coming, and how windy or cold it might be. If there was the slightest chance that I might be able to get my "knees in the breeze," I'd drive the fifty miles to the Drop Zone and hope to be one of the first people to get on a load. Those first few years of my skydiving career, I just couldn't get enough. If I made one jump, it was worth it, but there were days when I'd make five or six in one long summer's day. That meant going up in the airplane, jumping out, playing in freefall for about a minute, then flying my canopy to the ground, go indoors and find a place to spread out my gear and pack it up for another skydive.

Although those days are long gone, my interest in the weather has not waned. I still watch the Weather Channel or the local news to see what's coming. I am not sure whether I would have had such regard for the weather otherwise. I remember when I learned how to tell the strength and direction of the wind by watching flags moving, the clouds of dust in fields being plowed, or smoke from brush fires. When you are under a canopy and want to land safely, you need to find an open field and land into the wind to slow down your forward speed.

I have made the mistake of misreading the wind when setting up for a landing and finding myself moving across the ground too fast, realizing that it was too late to turn around (since you lose altitude as you turn, and a 180-degree turn isn't possible when you are close to the ground) and knowing that I'd better get ready for an ignominious and possibly dangerous landing. Usually the worst that happened to me was a serious tumble and getting tangled up in my parachute's lines. But it made me look even more carefully afterwards to gauge the wind.

Once I became a skydiving instructor, it was important to teach my students what they needed to know to be safe, and emphasize the most important things so that they wouldn't be confused when having to make a quick decision. When I look back on those days, I realize that as much as I enjoyed the experience of teaching, it was a tremendous responsibility. Fortunately nobody in my classes ever got seriously hurt making their initial skydives, but I agonized over every single sprained ankle. I did once have a student misread the wind direction and land downwind in a fairly strong wind, and he ended up breaking his wrist. But he recognized what he had done wrong and wouldn't make that mistake again.

Instructing anybody in any activity is a responsibility. Yesterday I took a free seminar at my yoga studio about how to maintain stability in standing twists. I was way beyond my comfort level and felt that I would never learn how to keep from falling over while doing these poses. The instructor suggested going right to the level of discomfort and not continuing to push on to the full pose. I only fell over twice, but I did learn how to practice the pose at home. Why would anybody want to do these standing twists, you ask? Here's a link to a young lady's blog who explains how to do the pose we practiced yesterday. She calls twisting poses "spring cleaning your body."
Twists are like wringing out a dirty dish rag. When we twist deeply we stimulate our internal organs and give them a nice massage. After a twisting practice, you’ll feel lighter, more energized and cleaned out!
We spent the entire class learning how to do that first posture, and I do have to say that it's true that I could feel the benefits of twisting that deeply. When we would release it, I felt lightheaded and definitely like I'd done something beneficial. But getting into the posture without falling is a challenge. I'll keep trying. I trust my instructor to help me learn without hurting myself.

Well, that's it, what came out of my fingers this morning. I am ready to begin the rest of my day, which will include going to the movies with my friend Judy and, of course, my stop at the coffee shop to visit with my friends there. Partner is fast asleep at the moment, and I'm beginning to feel the pull of the day, time to get out of bed and get moving. I do hope that whatever the week brings you, it will be beneficial and that you will remember to smile and bring a little laughter into your days. It helps as much as any twist. I wish you all good things until we meet again next week.
Laughter and tears are both responses to frustration and exhaustion. I myself prefer to laugh, since there is less cleaning up to do afterward. ---Kurt Vonnegut

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Easter 2018

Lovely sunrise
This morning I woke to see if perhaps there would be an Easter sunrise like this one, but it's cloudy and there is not likely to be sunrise service anywhere near us. The sun rises at 6:48am and I'll be looking (that's about an hour from now). I've attended a couple of sunrise services in Colorado, but I've never gotten involved with a congregation since we moved here ten years ago.

Many years ago, when I worked at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, I would take a personal retreat at a nearby convent, the Convent of St. Walburga, during Holy Week. The Benedictine contemplative nuns allowed a small number of women to spend four days there during that time. I don't know how I heard about the convent, because I wasn't involved in a church community at the time, but somehow I found that much-needed experience to allow myself to have nothing to do but pray and contemplate the direction of my life for four whole days. I would get very frazzled and needed someplace to go where I wouldn't hear a phone or be available for work at all. The convent fit the bill perfectly.

I arrived on Wednesday afternoon and settled into the small retreat cabin that I was assigned for the next few days. At first it was strange to have absolutely nothing I had to do and maintain silence, as the nuns did. We retreatants gathered three times a day for meals in a small room off the kitchen. Each of us (I think there were maybe eight or ten) had her own place setting and we would be served by the nuns. We didn't see where the nuns ate, and the only time I was allowed to see them at all was when they went to chapel to sing the liturgical offices, seven times a day (I think).

It was a very small community, and I enjoyed the complete difference from my regular life during that time. On Thursday, the nuns washed the feet of the retreatants, a very profoundly moving service. On Good Friday, the nuns began their withdrawal into prayer, which continued during Saturday as well. And then on Sunday morning, everything was joyful, and I found a small Easter basket outside the door of my cabin, filled with eggs and homemade cookies, a real delight. It's the only Easter basket during my life that I remember with such happiness.

For the following three or four years, I enjoyed the same Easter retreat with the nuns, but then life changed, and the convent stopped providing the service and I had only the wonderful memories of that time in my life. For a brief period, I toyed with the idea of spending every day like the nuns, but I realized that it was not for me. The whole idea of taking a vow of obedience and the rigidity of one's days from sunrise to sunset was enough to deter me. I wouldn't have lasted very long.

Nevertheless, it is a favorite Easter memory from long ago. Today I spend my Sundays taking a day off from my usual exercise, and this Easter I will follow my habitual routine by going off to the coffee shop to join my friends there, and then I'll return home to spend some time transferring the flowers I bought yesterday into pots on the front porch. If the weather allows and it's not raining too much, I'll also start the process of preparing my garden area for planting.

I am reading a very good book by one of my blogging friends, Dee, about her time as a Benedictine nun. She spent more than eight years in a Benedictine convent similar to the one I knew. She recalls in this memoir her life during that time, and it resonates with me. The book is called "Prayer Wasn't Enough" and is available in both electronic and hard copy. I have it on my Kindle and will probably finish it today after I spend some time getting my hands in the dirt. Her book gives me the ability to imagine how I would have fared in that environment.

Today I am as far from that world as I am from my skydiving years. I was an active skydiver for twenty-five years, and it amazes me that it has faded from my consciousness as much as it has. I still follow all the exploits of my still-skydiving friends on Facebook with pleasure and find enjoyment in their achievements. But the strange thing is that looking back, it's with the same detachment that I feel from any need to have a life of prayer and retreat from the outside world.

I keep thinking about that quote from Madeleine L'Engle I left you with last week: "The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been." Although I may not lose all those other ages, do I lose all the other lives I've lived? These days they seem no more solid than a dream. Perhaps that's the way it is for everybody, but how can I know?

The interesting thing is how one morphs from one life to another. One day I am a third-grader playing with crayons and learning to spell, and the next I am an old woman sitting in her bed with a laptop, tapping away at the keys and thinking about what the day will bring. And all the lives in between blend together to become the person I am right now, at this instant in time.

And now it's getting to be time for me to wrap this up and start the rest of my Easter Sunday. Tea is gone, partner is sleeping, and I found this quote from Dr. Seuss that will give us something to think about for the coming week:
How did it get so late so soon? It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?
Ah, yes, that sums it up nicely. I hope your Easter Sunday is a good one, and that you will not forget all the worlds that encompass your past and future days. Be well until we meet again next week.