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, December 9, 2018

Living in interesting times

Frosty decorations
Last Thursday on our usual weekly hike, the weather had turned very cold and clear. Many of the plants on the side of the trail were covered by frost, making for some beautiful designs, as if the Universe is busy decorating the trails for the season. Between the clear skies and the frost, it did make for a very beautiful day, as long as we kept moving. Stopping for very long, even in the direct sun, caused me to begin shivering. The only solution was not to stop.

On the days when I drove rather than take the bus, I went out to my car before the sun came up to scrape ice from the windshield so I could see to drive. Even a small carport would have kept me from having to do this, but of course in my apartment complex, we have no such amenities. And then yesterday, when I went out at the same time, no ice! Although it wasn't all that warm, it was above freezing and felt balmy in comparison. Today is even warmer. In contrast, a huge winter storm is hammering Virginia, Oklahoma, and North Carolina right this minute. That part of the country is not prepared for heavy snow and many people have lost power. I wonder if there is any correlation between our moderate temperatures and their storm.

It is winter in every respect but the calendar. Why does the first day of winter fall in late December? It seems that right now is when the days are the shortest and that winter's grip is the tightest. I say that now, but in February when the cold winds blow and the temperature falls even lower, I'll be looking forward to the first signs of spring. After the new year begins, it will be winter for real. I'm just glad I live in the Pacific Northwest where snow usually behaves itself and stays in the mountains.

For years, I've heard a phrase that many consider to be an ancient Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times." After finding that Wikipedia link, I discovered that it's not an actual Chinese phrase at all, but the idea is that the best times to be alive are those that are boring, not filled with conflict and turmoil. Perhaps it's because the world seems to have shrunk so dramatically through our interconnectedness. I'm writing this morning on my laptop, connected to the internet and therefore to my readers, as well as to the news of the day.

Every morning these days it is with some trepidation that I check the headlines to make sure nothing too awful has occurred while I was asleep. And of course something almost always has. Paris is burning, the political situation is the US is going off the rails, people all over the world are being bombed and starved through ongoing wars, and sometimes it just simply gets to be too much and I have to tune it all out, for my own sanity. We are definitely living in "interesting times."

For me, part of the despair is feeling so helpless to change anything. I am just one person watching the events unfold, some of which fill me with horror and others with sadness. Of course, there are some things I can do, but they all deal with my own life. Tolstoy once said, "Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” That is the only thing I can do, that any of us can do: change ourselves, take care of ourselves. My sister has stopped watching any news channels and even some of the late-night comedians that deal with current events, because she needs to take care of herself. When we talk, we don't discuss the world events, because she won't allow it.

My way is different. I am sitting here with my laptop and my thoughts, and I am trying to find a way towards wholeness. For one thing, I realize that I am incredibly fortunate in my own personal life, with a safe place to live, good food to eat, an adequate amount of income that should (unless things get really bad) continue throughout the rest of my life. Today I will get a massage, my every-third-week treat to myself, and I will spend time both with my coffee-shop friends and my partner. We will discuss politics, the weather, world affairs, and then share some humor and spend time laughing together. That's all I know how to do to take care of myself.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. ― Lao Tzu
Well, if you say so, I'll give it a try. It's getting to be time to start the rest of my day, with my tea gone and my partner sleeping gently next to me, the day beckons. I won't have to scrape the windshield this morning (yay!), the espresso is always good at the coffee shop, and the massage will feel wonderful. That's enough for me to leave behind my early-morning trepidation and walk out into a wonderful day. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.


Trish MacGregor said...

Beautiful Sunday post!

Linda Reeder said...

I watch, listen to, and read news, particularly political news, but lately I have been doing so peripherally. I stay on the edges of it, informed but not involved. With the holiday season upon us, I have far too many more important and pleasant things to think about.
I also try to keep things in perspective. The local news seems to cover a murder or shooting of some malicious act a day, and I think, "What is the world coming to?" Then I remember, we live in a metropolitan area of more than a million people. The ratio of good to evil is still minuscule. Look for the good things.

Elephant's Child said...

That purportedly Chinese curse has always struck me as a particularly vicious one. We do live in interesting (and scary) times. I am selective at what news I can watch, and do turn away if it is something I cannot change/help with.
And try and make a positive difference where I can.
Wnjoy your massage and have a wonderful week.

William Kendall said...

Sometimes the interesting times line can be a blessing, sometimes a curse.

I get my news via the papers. I think it provides more context and enough of a distance from the news than the 24 hours news channels. Plus I can avoid hearing the sound of the voice of that... man in the Oval Office.

Gigi said...

I'm glad it is warming up for you. And, yes, we here in NC ARE getting hammered and have no idea how to handle it. Currently, I'd say we have a little over 10 inches and it's still snowing. I figure we will be stuck inside until at least Wednesday, if not later. I've never seen anything like this in my life.

Have a great week, my friend!

Sally Wessely said...

We certainly do live in interesting times. I watch the news if I am in the kitchen and it is a busy news day. I read several newspapers. We also watch a few pundits in the evening, but not as much as we used to. I had to take a break from it all, but just enough of a break to stay informed.

gigi-hawaii said...

We have been having wintry weather here in Hawaii. The low is in the low to mid 70s and the high is barely 80. Also lots of rain.

Far Side of Fifty said...

I don't watch news...some local news...a new grocery store opened in our tiny town...that was BIG news! My cousin is getting married after being widowed for four years. I told him to just shack up with her but he wants to make it legal...they are both in their 70's...so that is big news too or maybe that is gossip!
I did watch George HW Bush funeral last week, much of it when I was in the clinic...I think the clinic is our "go to" place.
It got up to mid 20's today...warm spell!!
What is that saying "The best of times and the worst of times" Must depend on your perspective:)

Tabor said...

You do live a super rich life. Walking with friends, a massage, good coffee and a comfortable partner. Whatever, remember that. One of our blogger friends lost her electricity today with the icy storm. I have about an inch of heavy wet snow and now it is dark and there will be more.

Red said...

I find it hard to deal with such negative situations in various places. However, we can't stick our head in the sand we have to be informed and be ready to support change.

The Furry Gnome said...

Yes, it's interesting times for sure, but your comment on how lucky you are resonates with me - in spite of my present situation.

Arkansas Patti said...

Sadly with todays technology, we know of every horror as it is occurring even in the remote corners of the world. I try to limit myself to Google news, one TV news cast and a little Colbert in the evenings to see if I can still find the humor.
Love that idea of a regular massage. Think I will incorporate one into my life frequently. It really gives one an attitude adjustment.

Rita said...

I didn't watch the news much if I could help it I left home in 1968. Years of watching the Vietnam War over dinner and funerals of classmates was quite enough for me. People always keep you informed, regardless. I was glued to the Watergate hearings--but then stayed away again until I heard rumors that Trump might win. Been keeping an ear to the ground ever since. ;)

Dee said...

Dear DJan, every morning I scan the headlines of the online New York Times and read an e-mail from one of the columnists--a political columnist--who sums up what he's been reading about politics and politicians in the United States. He often mentions other writers and books. Today he noted a book on what brings democracies to an end. And he said that the two authors, when he contacted them, said that what is happening in Wisconsin right now if alarming. It's one of the beginning-of-the-end events of a democracy. Living in Minnesota for 38 years, I knew a lot about what was happening right across the river. So I'm not surprised that this is happening there. But I am disheartened and disillusioned and sad.

So I, too, have to find a way to guard again feeling powerless with regard to what is happening today. I do that by reading light fiction some of the time and listening to music and walking--as you do almost daily--and getting a good night's sleep and trying to embrace the virtue of hope. The hope that the youth of today will step forward as we did back in the Vietnam Era and make the choices that can lead to life-giving change. Peace.

Rian said...

I do feel like we certainly live in "interesting times"... but perhaps over the years everyone has felt that way. It's just with the way technology is evolving, changes seem to be happening exponentially (if that makes sense). Change is inevitable, but so much change so fast is hard to keep up with. And I don't just mean for us old folks. Youth may have the advantage as they accept life as it comes as normal, but with the internet and computers (and all that includes), the world has gotten smaller and our lives less private. Security issues, legalities, etc. all have a great challenge ahead. I understand the necessity to "tune it all out" to keep your sanity. I do the same on occasion.

Madeline Kasian said...

A thoughtful post. I too wake up and check the news to see if anything awful has happened while I slept. I also ponder what can I DO to make this world a better place. My own quest for wholeness is a lifelong journey, never ending... and at the age of 65,I find that the best I can do is offer what I am and what I can to my community..I volunteer in various local food kitchens,etc. and I work on a practice of kindness in all my daily interactions. Interesting times for sure, and your quote about the "flow" of life..perfect. The spiritual concept of "surrender" has always been the hardest for me. The more mature I become, the more years I live, the more i "get it.." Some days more than others!!

Marie Smith said...

These times are more interesting than I would like! I fear for my grandchildren and the world we are leaving them!

John's Island said...

“Hi DJan, This post is so “right-on”! I couldn’t agree more with what you’ve said. These times are definitely “interesting”. Yes, it may be a curse. I would not doubt it. My earliest years, in the 50s, were quiet and peaceful and steady. And I remember that! Then along came Nukes, the Vietnam War, Watergate, and instability started to kick up. Although we can use the word “interesting” to describe these days I think another word that describes them is “distressing.” In this post I love this quotation: “Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don't resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ― Lao Tzu. As always, I look forward to reading Eye on the Edge and thank you for sharing! Have a great weekend ahead. John

Glenda Beall said...

I don't watch the news channels and seldom watch regular news shows. I do watch PBS and their news sometimes. The greatest problem with watching so much bad news is that we ordinary people cannot do anything about it. That is what causes depression. That helplessness gets us down. So, I am shutting out the news until after Christmas and maybe longer. I did what I could when I voted last month. Since then I have had a heck of a time taking care of myself. My car ended up in the shop for 18 days and cost me over 2,000 dollars to get fixed. Then last week, my hot water heater leaked all over my downstairs. I had to have a new heater put in and with the clean up and the replacement, I am out another 2,000 dollars which I don't have just hanging around in my checking account.
At this time, I am totally trying to take care of me and let someone else take care of the world. I'm glad you are doing well and hope you have a great weekend.
The good news is that we have sold out of our first printing of Paws, Claws, Hooves, Feathers and Fins. That makes me smile.