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, September 30, 2018

A week of highs and lows

Mt. Shuksan from Ptarmigan Ridge
I took this picture of glorious Mt. Shuksan while on our weekly hike this past Thursday. It was such a beautiful day, one I won't soon forget. While we were outdoors, cut off from all internet and news, high drama was playing out in Washington, with the questioning of the Supreme Court nominee and his accuser of sexual assault almost four decades ago. I had been following all this closely, so I was very glad to have some respite from it all.

This is not a political post. There would be no reason, because nothing I might say about my own views would or should influence anybody to see things differently. It's one of those moments in the history of our country that will live for a long time, discussed and debated about the what ifs and whys, but nothing will change immediately, except for people to become more hardened in their own beliefs.

But there is a tectonic shift happening, slowly, very slowly, as it always has, with many women beginning to believe that perhaps our world might change for the better if we get involved in the political process. I'm not one of them, but that's partly because of my age and inability to begin to imagine how I would deal with the intense scrutiny and inevitable attacks. But there are many young women who have, for the first time, run for office and taken on the challenge. I'm glad for that, but other than marching for justice, I'll be watching and voting for the ones I can.

Years ago I decided to run for the position of Regional Director for the US Parachute Association. I had to gather signatures and campaign a little, not much, and I won. I was thrilled to have the chance to represent my fellow skydivers in the Mountain Region. The term was only for two years, and I served on the board for four years. What I thought would be fun and perhaps a bit of work (you had to attend the annual meeting, which meant flying to some interesting place and getting put up at a hotel on the organization's dime) turned into something else entirely. I was on the Safety & Training Committee. There were many people who had become rather famous in the skydiving world on the board, and at first I was a little intimidated, but the three-day-long meeting to discuss and decide on training techniques was really valuable, to me at least.

However, I wasn't able to handle the heat when I discovered that one of the Drop Zones in my region was breaking the rules by allowing some young men to jump from aircraft without two parachutes: only one, no reserve parachute, because the rig was designed for base jumping, which means jumping from fixed objects without any time to use a reserve. And then one of the jumpers miscalculated his trajectory and hit a bridge, being killed instantly.

I had to investigate and make a report to the USPA. Many of the jumpers who knew about the violations wanted me to cover it up, or at the very least, look the other way. I didn't, and I suddenly began to be harassed and even received death threats from some anonymous skydivers. It was a terrible time, and I tried to resign from the board, but others convinced me that I could simply serve out the rest of my term and keep a low profile. That's what I did, but it was probably one of the most difficult periods of my life, and it meant I would no longer have any desire to serve in a public capacity.

The skydiving community is a small, close-knit group, and I had wanted to make a positive difference, and I ended up paying a heavy price. The jumpers and Drop Zone owner in question were given a light slap on the wrist but did, as far as I knew, stop the practice. Once I was off the board, I continued to instruct at my local Drop Zone and teach first-time jumpers how to become safe skydivers, and I truly wish I had left it at that. So that's one reason I watch what happens with people who are willing to stand up when others attack them and admire their courage. I know what it feels like to be maligned.

Now that is not what I wanted to say in this post, that it's not worth it to stand up for your beliefs. What I did want to say is that, if you do, you must be strong and willing to take the heat. Without some people standing up, nothing changes. And there is plenty of change that will come after this week's hearings are digested and become part of the history of our country. That's as it should be, I think. I'm glad I am alive and have the ability to read and think and make my own decisions, but I don't feel moved to act, other than to vote. Which I will do anyway, because I always have and never miss the chance to vote, even in a local election.

I am reminded of a quote that has meant a lot to me over the years, and it says it all in a very concise manner. The words of Margaret Mead:
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has. 
 But change doesn't come quickly, and sometimes it's frustrating to think that nothing will ever change. It's not true: everything changes, it's the only constant in our lives. Sometimes it's over months and years, and sometimes it's over millennia. And sometimes change is instant. Just this past week an earthquake and resulting tsunami have killed hundreds of people in Indonesia. They were just living their lives, and suddenly they died. Change came to that area, and it will take many years before the survivors will return to a normal existence. I just read about an air traffic controller who stayed on the job to allow a plane filled with passengers to flee the earthquake, and he lost his life in the same earthquake. You can read about it here.

There are small miracles of valiant acts in every catastrophe, and we never know for sure how things will turn out. But we are sometimes forced to act, even when we know it's dangerous. We are sometimes courageous and surprise ourselves with our actions. I pray that I will never have to face an earthquake and its destruction, but realistically it could happen as I live in a place where they occur. That's part of the nature of change: our world is not static, just as our lives are not, either. I'm now old enough to have seen much change, both in the world and in my own body.

What can we do about it? Some people turn their lives over to a higher power and pray; others rail against change, unwilling to accept it. Well, it comes whether we want it to or not. I am no different, wanting to preserve the good times, good health, the good weather. But one thing also comes from having had a long life: acceptance that the inevitable change will come. And learning to appreciate the good times when they are upon us.

I hope that your upcoming week will be a good one, filled with good times and happy laughter with loved ones. I know some of us are grieving over recent loss, and that's normal and to be expected. We sure know how to do that, given so much chance to get it right. It will change, too. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

First day of fall

Rainbow over Bellingham Bay
I love rainbows and feel very blessed whenever I see one. Yesterday Lily and I were walking on the bridge in Boulevard Park when we saw this one. It had been raining lightly and then the sun came out. That's always a perfect scenario for a rainbow, and there it was. I smiled when I saw that boat placed perfectly underneath. Did you know (from Wikipedia)...
A rainbow is a meteorological phenomenon that is caused by reflection, refraction and dispersion of light in water droplets resulting in a spectrum of light appearing in the sky. It takes the form of a multicoloured circular arc. Rainbows caused by sunlight always appear in the section of sky directly opposite the sun.
 Yesterday was also the first day of fall. Actually, since it didn't occur until 6:47pm, yesterday was really the last day of summer 2018. Now the days will begin to shorten until we reach the winter solstice in late December, and then they will start to lengthen again. The march of the seasons.

I've been through many seasons, and I am always a little surprised that within a short three-month period, it can all change so much. Our summer was pretty normal, except it was drier than usual. Although it got warm at times, I don't think we ever reached 90 degrees (32°C), while I read about horrific temperatures all across the Northern Hemisphere. It amazes me to realize that if I wanted to experience spring right this minute, I could head to Australia, where it's springtime. One of my blogging friends who lives there posts pictures that remind me of much of our planet's magnificent variations.

I've published 463 posts on this blog, where I write once a week on Sunday mornings. I started it in late 2009, and all those Sundays have come and gone, flown right by as I live my life tucked away in the northernmost corner of the United States, in Washington State. When we moved here the year before, I had no idea that I would be writing two blogs, and they have become another world I didn't know existed. I've got a whole bunch of virtual friends who also write blogs (or who at least visit them), and I've learned so much from people all around the world who are in my "neighborhood," the blogosphere.

The word was created in 1999 as a joke, but it's now become very real: a community (or a collection of connected communities) in which everyday authors can publish their opinions. I like that term: everyday authors in a connected community. I follow almost a hundred blogs, and fortunately the vast majority of them only publish occasionally, or I'd have to cull my list. I feel connected to, and care about, people whom I would otherwise never have known. It's definitely an important part of my life.

I took a spill last week. Walking across the street from the coffee shop on my way to the gym, a pebble got under my shoe at just the right angle to cause me to twist my ankle and fall right there in the street. Fortunately there were no cars coming, but I skinned my knee and hit hard on my right hip. It was so intense that I just lay there for a moment, not sure if I would be able to get up or not. After the initial shock wore off, I sat up and took a look at my bloody knee. The pain in my hip was intense, too, but fortunately nothing was broken. I hobbled to the gym and got a bandage for my knee before climbing the stairs. And oh, it hurt to walk upwards, but I held onto the rail and made my way up.

By the time class began, I was sure I hadn't broken anything and was able to work out normally. Afterwards I drove to Fairhaven to take the first class of our 12-week semester of yoga. I told the instructor I was not sure I would be able to kneel, but it was fine. Sort of. Now it's been a few days and the hip is bruised and the knee itches as it heals, but otherwise I'm fine. It could have been so much worse.

It made me think of Lyle and what he and my friend Peggy are going through right now. If a small spill could hurt like that, what has it been like for him? He's still in critical condition in the hospital, now fighting infections and having had yet another surgery last week. I called our mutual friend Linda to find out the latest, not wanting to bother Peggy, who is going through this with him, and I found out that he's holding on, up one day and down the next. I cannot see a garbage truck in the street without imagining the scenario of having been run over by one. Their lives have been turned upside down for a long time to come.

I hope by the time we reach the winter solstice three months from now, he'll be home and learning to use his wheelchair. I heard a rumor that he may lose his other leg as well, but I can't find anybody who knows anything for sure. Maybe it's still too early; it happened on Labor Day at the beginning of the month. I will definitely keep you posted if I learn anything more.

Maybe the rainbow is a good omen, and that we will all have a week of positive news and happy reunions. I can hope for it, anyway. I found this perfect quote from Desmond Tutu:
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness. 
And here it is, still very early but my tea is gone and my partner is slumbering so quietly that I had to lean over to see the rise and fall of his chest to make sure he's okay. I smile at that, knowing that he would have something cheeky to say if he were awake, but he's deep in sleep. I'm going to get up now, and start the rest of my day. The coffee shop beckons, and the day should be filled with sun and clouds, but less rain than yesterday. Please remember, dear ones, to hug your loved ones (even if virtually) and allow gratitude for all that you have to fill your hearts. Be well until we meet again next week, same time, same place.

Sunday, September 16, 2018

Late summer musings

Taken from my front porch
I took this pretty scene when I got up one day last week, seeing the sun just beginning to lighten the sky and brighten the clouds. It was early, but in just a week since I took this picture, the sun is now coming up later and later, and it's dark when I go out the door. In fact, this coming Saturday, September 22, will usher in the first day of fall. The equinox will occur at 6:54pm PDT. The September equinox occurs the moment the Sun crosses the celestial equator – the imaginary line in the sky above Earth’s Equator – from north to south. Some fun facts about the equinox from timeanddate.com:

  • The full Moon closest to the September equinox, the Harvest Moon, is astronomically special. This is because the time between one moonrise to another around this period becomes shorter.
  • In the old days, the early moonrise for a few days around the equinox in the Northern Hemisphere meant that farmers could work and harvest their crops for a longer time in the evenings.
  • Many cultures around the world hold feasts and celebrate festivals and holidays to mark the September equinox.
I don't think there will be any festivals I'll attend at the equinox next Saturday, since I don't know of any. Many of my friends don't like to acknowledge that summer is truly over for this year and that we're now heading toward the long nights of winter. Of course, in the Southern Hemisphere, it's all reversed and the days will get longer after Saturday and spring arrives, so one could always hop on a plane and fly into spring! 

For those who might be wondering how Lyle is doing a week after I wrote about his accident, according to Peggy he is "precarious," now fighting infection and continuing to have surgeries. It's pretty awful; I'm getting my information by email from our mutual friend Linda, since I sure don't want to add to Peggy's burden by bothering her for updates. My heart goes out to both of them and their family.

Meanwhile, I'm continuing to spend fifteen minutes every day doing some yoga here at home, trying to make it through the 100-day Challenge. The studio has sent out some emails with ideas of how one might use that fifteen minutes. You would think it would be easy to carve out a niche of that small amount of time every day, but I'm finding it impossible to do it at the same time every day. It needs to be between meals, in the proper clothes and barefoot, so the preparation takes at least as long as the asanas (yoga poses).

I've been doing the sun salutation twice through, a couple of the standing poses, stretching my hamstrings with a yoga belt, and at least one twisting posture. Then it's done and I can write on my little sheet that I've accomplished one more day of the challenge. A friend told me that if you do something for at least 21 days in a row, it will become a habit. Well, it's not yet a habit, but I'm beginning to think I will finish it. I had been wanting to start a daily yoga practice, and this seems to be the way to do it. I hear the instructor's voice in my head as I attempt some of the poses, so perhaps that helps keep me from doing the postures incorrectly. Anyway, it's not the burden I thought it would be, and I occasionally find myself smiling as I lay out the yoga mat in preparation for my daily practice.

Hurricane Florence is no longer a hurricane since its winds have diminished, but incredible amounts of rain are continuing to inundate the Carolinas and beyond. At the same time, there is a huge typhoon in the Philippines that is causing terrible damage from winds and rain (Typhoon Mangkhut). I just learned that there little difference between hurricanes and typhoons:
Hurricanes and typhoons are the same weather phenomenon: tropical cyclones. Once a tropical cyclone reaches maximum sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or higher, it is then classified as a hurricane, typhoon, or tropical cyclone, depending upon where the storm originates in the world.
 I feel very fortunate to be experiencing gentle rain for most of the coming week, with a little breeze now and then, nothing like what millions of people around the world are coping with right now. September is peak hurricane season, and most storms occur right around this time. It should be over by the end of November. Hopefully we won't be having any more monster storms after this one leaves. But you never know.

Anyway, I've taken out my raincoat and am ready to face the elements here in my little town, and I'm glad for their relative harmlessness. While the world is a dangerous place, there are many little pockets of serenity, and I'm feeling quite glad to be in one today. The coffee shop will open in a few minutes and my barista will be preparing fragrant coffee for the patrons, one of which will be me within a short time. I can almost smell the coffee!

I do hope you will find a little pocket of serenity for yourself today, and that you will not forget to be grateful for its presence. I will take that advice for myself, as I begin my Sunday. My beloved partner still sleeps quietly next to me, the sun will be coming up soon, and it's time to begin the rest of my day. I wish you all good things between now and when we meet again next week, dear friends.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

How quickly life can change

Me, Sue, and Al taken last Thursday
My friend Cathy took this picture of us on our hike into the High Country last week, and I like it for several reasons. First, it shows us in one of our favorite places, on one of our favorite hikes. Second, you can see how dry it's been up there, with orange colors predominating. That will all change this coming week, however, with rain in the forecast every day: it's the beginning of the fall changeover. We'll still have plenty of sunny days, if past seasons are any indication, but still.

It's a bittersweet picture for me, since I am finally taking seriously the need to stop hiking uphill in high temperatures. Although I will still be able to visit this incredible place in future seasons, I'll be going with the slower group. Once again, I struggled with the uphill part of this hike, climbing more than a thousand feet from Bagley Lakes to Herman Saddle, and with my new fitness tracker device, I saw that when I was feeling the absolute worst, my heart rate had skyrocketed well above where it should be. It gave me the excuse to slow down and rest more often on the way up. Out of the twelve of us, I was the only one having such difficulty. Another indication that I must start hiking with the "relaxed" Trailblazers, rather than the "half-fast" group.

It's not the end of the world, after all, to admit that I cannot keep up with the faster hikers any longer. And it was exactly ten years ago that I began my hiking career with the Trailblazers, on this very hike, when I discovered the joys of our beautiful wilderness area. You can read the Washington Trails Association description of this loop hike, Chain Lakes, here. I've been fortunate to have enjoyed the company of my fellow hikers for so long that I haven't wanted to lose their companionship, but the couple of hikes I've done with the other group makes me realize that there are a whole bunch of people I will enjoy getting to know better. Like I said, I can still for the moment continue to hike, just at a slower pace.

Yesterday on my usual Saturday morning walk with the ladies, as we gathered to begin our trek up the very steep Taylor street, I was glad it was cool and that I knew I'd be done with the hard part quickly. We always form a circle and Cindy, our leader, tells us what the route will be, and then we go around and state our names. There were fifteen of us yesterday, and Linda, a long-time friend, shared with us a terrible accident that Peggy's husband Lyle endured on Labor Day.

He was out at the end of their driveway gathering their bins after trash collection. The truck had just passed by, but apparently the driver had missed one of the cans and backed up to get it. Although the backup beep sounded, Lyle seemingly didn't hear it, and the truck ran right over him. He was taken to St. Joseph's Hospital, and then transferred to Harborview Medical Center in Seattle in critical condition. Although it's been almost a week, he's still in critical condition and has had numerous surgeries; they even had to amputate one of his legs. I cry just thinking about it, how terribly injured he is.

I did find out that he is conscious, even if heavily medicated. They were able to take him off the ventilator and now he can at least communicate with his family. Lyle has never hiked with us, but he has never missed a party, so I feel I know him somewhat. Not as much as Peggy, but over the years we learn a great deal about each other's family life as we hike along, and I knew that Lyle was hard of hearing but had not gotten hearing aids yet. I wonder if he didn't hear the backup sound, or whether it all just happened so fast that he didn't register the significance of the sound quickly enough. I know that I hear that sound often enough that I might not have responded, either.

When I got home I sent an email to Peggy, telling her I'm thinking of both of them and sending fervent wishes that he will recover. She wrote back that there's an old saying that "in every life some rain must fall," but in their case, it's more like a snowstorm that will drastically change the course of their lives. She said they are strong and made stronger by the caring thoughts of friends. We will be kept up to date over the weeks by Linda. Peggy will not be hiking or walking with us for some time to come. My heart just breaks for them.

It is also a reminder to appreciate our loved ones, every single day, because you just never know when an accident like this one will upend the course of your life. I have also thought of the driver of the truck, and how the course of his life has also been changed. He will have to deal with it every day as well. There were no tickets issued, and the accident has been chalked up to inattention by both parties. But Lyle is the one who pays the heaviest price.

I am doing everything I can to care for the condition of my own body, but something like this could happen to any of us. And then the climbing back to whatever semblance of wellness we can muster. I must remember to be thankful for every single bit of health I have, and something like this helps me to continue my efforts. Just last week I joined a 100-day challenge with the yoga studio I attend. First of all, I was just not sure I could commit to fifteen minutes of yoga every single day for 100 days, but after talking it over with other students, I realized that it is a perfect way for me to grow a home practice. I've been wanting to do that, and now I've got a perfect justification to get that going. It started on September 5, and I've now managed to get four days behind me. I found that setting a fifteen-minute timer on my phone lets me know when I'm done, and I've already learned how many asanas I can do in that time period.

The sun is just now rising, and I glimpsed the orange colors of the sunrise through the window, realizing that we are not far from the first day of fall in this hemisphere, and that we will begin our long journey into the dark and wet months of the year. Fall is my favorite season of the year, and I look forward to the brilliant leaves as we move through it. I have so many things in my life to be thankful for, and I sometimes need a reminder to appreciate and enjoy my day to the fullest, for we never know what the future holds.
Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present. 
I hope that the coming week will bring healing to all who need it (which is pretty much everyone), and that you will not forget to send love and joy out to the world from your own abundance. My tea is gone, the post is written, and the world outside beckons. I wish you all good things until we meet again next week, dear friends.

Sunday, September 2, 2018


Cathy took this last Thursday
Last week I was thrilled to be out in the wilderness with my friends, feeling better than I have in awhile. I don't do well in the heat, but that seems to be gone for now, and it was cool and delightful to hike in the clouds, rather than in the uncomfortable (to me) heat. For once, I didn't lag behind. Cathy took several hundred pictures and sent me her favorites.

It's that time of year. The leaves are beginning to turn and the wildflowers are on the wane and the mountains will soon be covered with snow until next year. It seems like summer just began, but now it's almost over. In three weeks we'll have the autumnal equinox upon us, when the days and nights are the same length, and then we'll start moving towards the shortest day and the longest night, before it all begins once again. Fall is definitely my favorite of the four seasons, but as in all things, it's the variety of experiences that add to the flavor.

This month, I will celebrate ten years of hiking in the wilderness with the Senior Trailblazers. It's hard for me to remember today how the places we visit every summer felt to me back then. Now, I've gone to all the places at least once every summer season, and they are very familiar. But that first time we went into the High Country, back in September 2008, I was overwhelmed with the beauty and the challenge to my hiking ability. I didn't have a pair of trekking poles at the time, since I had never used them before, but I was the only one who didn't have them. These days, there are several hikers who choose not to use them, but I was at a definite disadvantage back then, especially navigating the steep downhill sections.

Ten years. I know I will not be so privileged to be doing this activity ten years from now, and although some of our hikers are close to their eighties, they are mostly male. The women don't seem to keep going for nearly as long. We do have a couple of members over eighty, but they mostly begin to miss hikes now and then, and one day they just don't come back any more. It's to be expected, really, but I sometimes forget that it's normal as we age to change our activities to fit our abilities. And those abilities change.

This past week I bought myself a fitness tracker. I was intending to buy a Fitbit like my sister has, but I was talked into a Garmin Vivosport instead. The salesperson said if I didn't like it, I could always bring it back and try another. But I have been quite pleased with it. I wear it on my wrist, and it gives me my heart rate, steps taken, distance traveled each day, stress level, and best of all, my sleep patterns. Since I started wearing it, I've learned that I get around eight hours of sleep every night, with most of it light rather than deep sleep (last night I didn't get any deep sleep; I tossed and turned much of the night). It's useful information, and I had been envious of my sister's Fitbit; now I'm feeling up to having some bragging rights when we FaceTime next week.

I did have to go online to figure out how in the world a device you wear on your wrist can possibly tell you how much sleep you get, and whether it's deep, light, or REM sleep. Well, it turns out that these trackers are not all that sophisticated. They use your heart rate, age, and movement to estimate these things with an algorithm. Did you know that when you're in REM sleep that your heart rate increases even though you're asleep? I didn't know that. Anyway, I take it all with a grain of salt but still feel happy to know my statistics. It's another tool to help me maintain my fitness level.

It takes more and more effort to maintain that level. Right now I spend four days a week at the gym, not for long periods, but enough to raise my heart rate and to lift a few weights. I also attend an hour-long class on those four days, and I usually leave a little early to beat the swimmers into the shower. They take a class at the same time as I do and when they come into the locker room, sometimes I have to wait in line to get into the shower.

I am also at present taking two yoga classes a week, and I'm thinking of joining a 100-day challenge that starts next week. You commit to at least fifteen minutes of yoga each day. That might help me to incorporate yoga into a daily practice, so it's worth a try. I learned that even savasana (corpse pose) counts towards that time, so why not? Nothing ventured, nothing gained, right? Nobody will yell at me if I don't accomplish it.

I have been taking the same yoga class, yoga Level 1, for a couple of years now. It's been more enjoyable and helpful to my maintenance than I ever expected. For years I had taken my flexibility for granted, and it had slipped away during decades of not stretching properly. When I first started, my left knee was a little wonky, but now it's as good as the other knee, and I no longer need to wear a brace when I hike, although I always carry it. I credit yoga for the improvement. I look forward to every class and am sorry if I have to miss one. And there are people in the class who have been coming to the same class for decades, so I'm in good company.

Well, here I am again, at the end of a post. This one wasn't very inspirational, unless you're looking to be inspired to hit the gym or the yoga studio. I know I'm much happier with myself and my life because I work to remain a level of fitness that works for me. I did look for a quote, but nothing quite hit the mark. So I'll just sign off here, for now, and get up and start the rest of my day. It's the middle day of a three-day weekend for those who still go to work. For me, it means there will be no gym tomorrow (it's closed) or bus (they don't run on holidays), so I'll have to find something out of the ordinary to do with my day.

Until we meet again next week, I do hope you will find some inspiration to work up a little sweat. And don't forget to give a gentle hug to those you love; they will appreciate it. Be well, dear friends.