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, March 3, 2019

Pondering the passage of time

Mt. Shuksan in 2013
While searching around in my pictures for something else, I rediscovered this picture I took of Mt. Shuksan six years ago. I've been hiking with the Senior Trailblazers since 2008, and it was right around the time I took this that I changed over from using a regular camera to using my cellphone to capture all my pictures. This is one of the last ones I took with the camera.

I feel very fortunate that I can still make it into the High Country during the summer months, because it's not only very beautiful and soothing to my spirit, but I also have an incentive to keep myself fit enough to continue with this activity. And that's saying something: the inevitable passage of time means that several of my fellow hikers are no longer able to do it. One day, that will be me, but not today, not this year (I hope). I've gotten much slower going up steep terrain, but so far I haven't needed to turn around and retreat on any hike. There have been a few close calls, though, and it's been enough to make me think twice before heading into the wilderness this coming year on a sunny day with a difficult hike. There is always the option of heading out with the other group, which goes slower and doesn't push quite as hard. But I would miss my dear friends, so we'll see what the summer brings.
Everybody needs beauty as well as bread, places to play in and pray in, where nature may heal and give strength to body and soul. —John Muir
How is it possible that more than a decade has passed since I began the pursuit of spending every single Thursday learning about this area? If you think about how many weeks that would be, how many drives on old logging roads to get to trailheads, how many pairs of hiking boots worn out, well, it's a significant number. I didn't set out to accomplish more than one single hike. It's been a wonderful journey so far, and I don't know when it will end. But I do know that it will. That's what happens as we move through our days.

This winter has brought major changes to many of my friends. I learned recently that two of my favorite fellow gardeners in our community garden will no longer be planting. One has moved away, and the other is no longer capable of carrying out the bending and stooping that gardening inevitably requires. Another reminder that nothing is static in this world. It saddens me, but I will certainly not be giving up my own spot in the garden this year. I actually like the soreness that comes after a day out there preparing the soil to receive tasty vegetables. I look forward this year to enjoying tomatoes, kale, cucumbers, zucchini, onions, and maybe a bit of fennel and kohlrabi from my little plot.

One of the good things about keeping a blog is being able to look back and remember what my life was like five or ten years ago, to reminisce about my first years here in Bellingham and what I expected from our move into our retirement. It's been way more rewarding than I would have expected. Sometimes I think about all those years I spent skydiving, and how I believed that I would never want to stop, but time passes and things change. Now, it's difficult to understand how I ever managed to do hundreds of skydives every year for over a quarter of a century. That was then. It's not who I am today.

That lesson tells me that there will come a day when I will not be hiking every Thursday and spending time in the wilderness. And there will come a time when I will also give up my spot in the garden. Is it a good idea to consider what and who I will become in another decade? I'm not sure, but what I do know is that it's almost always a slow process, imperceptible change but change nevertheless.

I don't mind. One of the realities of growing old is realizing that as things change, our spirit becomes stronger as our bodies begin to fail. There is never one vantage point that stands out as the pinnacle of success, of accomplishment, of "having arrived." Wherever I stand in this wonderful world, the ground will shift under my feet and I'll be somewhere else before I know it. Looking at the magnificent scenery from atop a mountain peak is gratifying, but then one must turn around and begin the descent. And sometimes that descent is just as delicious, with the right mindset, anyway.

Well. It is now time for me to begin my descent into the day's activities, now that I've finished this post. Or almost finished it. I believe it will be another sunny day, with a stiff northeast wind, so I'll bundle up as I head to the coffee shop to see my friends there, to drink my favorite latte, and to share the conversation and concerns of my dear coffee-shop friends. Then I'll come home and putter around, maybe begin to think of what flowers I'll want to plant on my front porch this year, who knows? The day is new and fresh and hopefully will be bringing all of us something we can appreciate and delight in.

My partner is quietly sleeping next to me, my tea is gone, and it's time to get going. I'm always surprised at how I begin to get restless after sitting here and writing for awhile. I do hope that whatever you decide to do with your precious day, it will bring you to the end of it with some satisfaction. I'll be doing just that myself! Be well until we meet again next week.


Marie Smith said...

Ahhh... Now I am ready to embrace the day too. Your post was like a reminder to just breathe!

gigi-hawaii said...

I used to walk a lot because I had no car and the bus was so slow. Then I bought my first car at age 33 and I walked less. Too bad.

Tabor said...

The hardest thing is to adjust to change. We no sooner get our heads together and we are treading water so nicely and then comes some wave minor or major wave and we realize we are being pushed in another direction and faced with change.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Passage of time is an obvious senior thing as we are very much aware of how precious our days now are. That you have many friends in your various activities is important to brain health one longgevity according to recent studies. The Passioate Eye just put out a study last night. My problem is joining groups as most are not willing to allow Buddy for he ought mix with his own kind. We are still stuck in that ugly box of non acceptance by many though not as many now.
I thought I would share with you that trees and plants all are able to eiectonically communicate with one another as per a very fascinating study just done.. And while in nature we too can feel plant energy and they can sense us.
Have a super week.

Linda Reeder said...

I am now forced to think every day about how much longer I can do this. As we walked to and from the light rail, participated in the march to the match, and arrived at our seats at the top of the stadium, having used the elevator instead of walking up the ramp, I wondered if I would still be doing this next year, or the year after. How much longer/ I have a new motto where gardening is concerned - embrace imperfection. I will no longer be able to sustain hours of yard work at a time, and recovery takes longer. My walks are now limited to two miles, and that usually hurts.
Nevertheless, I am determined to keep on going as long and as far as I can.
Today we celebrate our daughter's birthday. Our kids and grandkids will be with us here at the homestead. By tonight, I will be tired, but I will be happy.

Galen Pearl said...

I always love your Sunday reflections. I have been surprised several times in my life when I began to detach from something I thought I would do all my life. My last job, for example. I did love it. In fact I used to say I couldn't believe someone was paying me to have so much fun. I planned to stay in it until they "carried me out." However, some years ago, I realized I was beginning to feel stale, and I wasn't motivated to re-energize myself and keep going. So I let it go. More recently, I have cut back on my martial arts classes. In both cases, it wasn't just a question of age and ability. It was something else. Just time to let go and move on. And it does mean letting go of not just the activity, but also of the people you share it with. As Buddhists say, everything is impermanent.

Far Side of Fifty said...

Just an idea. Perhaps you could all pitch in and do one raised bed in the community garden? That may give more people a chance to pluck some weeds and grow some stuff. It could be as simple as some totes raised up on cement blocks. I had an idea to use crates the kind milk used to come in turn one upside down and put another on top, line with plastic and you have a raised bed:) Crates can be bought at Walmart:) You are very fortunate to be able to keep up with your friends hiking! I know it is important to you and you will know when to go with the "slower" group:)

Red said...

You take good looks at yourself and prepare yourself for necessary changes. In this way you can carry on to something else. Every year I say , "Will I get my 1000 km in this summer?" Unless this rotator cuff tear clears up I may not get enough cycling in .

Rita said...

Another thoughtful Sunday post. :)
Have a wonderful week. I know you will enjoy your routine--even after it eventually changes again. We humans are adaptable and resilient. :)

Arkansas Patti said...

That picture is stunning. You really have great views. It is kind of reassuring that as our bodies fail us in one area, there is maybe a lesser but none the less just as rewarding activity waiting for us. Life is one adjustment after another but maybe that is what it keeps it from being boring.

William Kendall said...

Very well said!

Trish MacGregor said...

You will be doing whatever you love until the second you pass. That's your nature.

Dee said...

Dear DJan, your posting, in which you shared the gentle pondering you are doing about the passage of time and time's effects on our body, speaks to me right now in ways it might not have just a few months ago. This line especially enlightened me: "And sometimes that descent is just as delicious, with the right mindset, anyway." That "right mindset" is so important and I'm in the midst of discovering it for myself and, hopefully, embracing it.

Years ago, in high school, Sister Rosaria introduced the poem "Ulysses" by Alfred Lord Tennyson to our senior class. I read it and knew that it spoke a truth that had to be universal (I think I was much wiser then than I am now!). So I memorized the poem. Now I've forgotten its many lines and so I am going to find it and memorize it again because it speaks to age and the eternal longing we have to be questing in some way.

My own postings are going to be reflecting this soon as your posting does today. Peace.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Wow, I am so glad you found that picture of Mt Shuksan. It looks like one of those photos a person would see in a frame shop with a big price tag on it. It is just great! And you still take pictures that are just as great with your phone! I was out of the blogging mood for a couple months. Thinking about it in January and February I decided to give it another go and change up the format a little. Thank you so much for stopping by and your kind and encouraging comments. Looking at your post here my favorite is the paragraph that begins "I don't mind." You are so right on with what you said and it reminded me of one of those "old sayings" ... It's the journey that matters, not the destination. Thank you for sharing your blog and for your comments on mine. Take care and have a great day! John

troutbirder said...

Ah the Golden years. Giving up old outdoor adventures and adapting with new indoor hobbies for me. I can still read and now with my new talk to type Dragon return to blogging. Learning to live alone is the latest challenge as Mr. T is now in "memory care. So it goes ups and downs one day at a time...:)