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 17, 2019

St. Patrick's Day 2019

Carter in our community garden 2019
It's St. Patrick's Day today. How did it come around again so soon? It's the story of my life: I barely finish the Sunday post and it's already Sunday again. My days are flying by at an alarming rate. In a couple of days, spring officially begins, and another winter will be behind us. In fact, this Wednesday at 2:58pm here in the Pacific Northwest, it will be SPRING. The Tulip Festival in the Skagit Valley is only two weeks away, but this year the tulips will be late, because of all our cold weather in February. I suppose with all this warm weather we're having right now it means that the early tulip varieties will begin blooming within another week or two.

Today I'll start planting the flowers I purchased yesterday into my front porch planters. It's such a good feeling to see the sun shining and everything greening up. Our wonderful community garden is in the best shape it's ever been in, since we have one new resident, Carter, who has helped to create a fine environment. He was out there improving things all winter long, so instead of going out to see the winter weeds having taken over, my own plot was quietly doing nothing under a bed of straw. I need to think about what I want to plant out there, but first I'll brighten up the front porch with lots of pansies and primroses.

I hardly know where to begin with my usual post ruminations. It's curious to me how sometimes I can barely decide which of many directions to take, and others my mind is a complete blank. That's sort of where I am today. I first looked up the history of St. Patrick's Day, wondering who he was.
According to tradition, Patrick returned to Ireland to convert the pagan Irish to Christianity. The Declaration says that he spent many years evangelising in the northern half of Ireland and converted "thousands." Patrick's efforts against the druids were eventually turned into an allegory in which he drove "snakes" out of Ireland, despite the fact that snakes were not known to inhabit the region. ... Celebrations generally involve public parades and festivals, céilís, and the wearing of green attire or shamrocks. 
So he was another one of those guys who was converted and believed it was his calling to convert the whole rest of the world to Christianity. Since here we are in 2019 wearing lots of shamrocks and other greenery and drinking green beer, he was sort of successful in turning a regular day into a festival In Chicago, where an entire river is dyed green. You can read about it here. A video shows that it's really a vivid color and people love it. It's only done when the holiday falls on a weekend, apparently, so it's been six years since it was last turned green.

I've got some Irish ancestry in me, which I discovered last year when I spit into a little tube and sent my DNA off to be tested. I'm about half British and Irish, with no way to know how much for each one, but somewhere in the distant past my ancestors probably danced an Irish jig or two. And wore shamrocks too, perhaps. I'll find something green to wear today.

This past week was a challenge in being able to recover from some rather intense exercise. I had my usual two yoga classes, both of which were hard enough to make me sore, and then on Thursday we hiked up Oyster Dome, a couple of thousand feet of elevation, on ice and lots of snow. It took me a few days to recover from it; my knees don't do well traipsing through soft snow, and I was reminded once again that my cardiovascular system isn't what it once was. I struggled, but slept like a rock that night. Now that it's been three days, with a nice five-mile walk yesterday to work out the kinks, I think I'm mostly recovered.

I keep putting off joining the slower hiking group, because I don't want to leave my old friends behind. I look forward to being with them each Thursday, but this latest hike was just one more reminder that this summer I will not be able to keep up on the harder hikes into the High Country. It's good to push myself, I think, but still I must remember that everyone slows down, and there is a reason for me to pay attention to what I can and cannot do. Even as I write this, I feel a sadness come over me for having to face the inevitable.

This does not mean I will not continue to do all I can to stay fit and healthy, but there really is a change from year to year that I cannot deny. It does sometimes make me wonder if there is an underlying problem that my body is telling me to pay attention to. One of our regular hikers discovered that he has pancreatic cancer, but he was keeping up with us until one day, he just couldn't any more. I worry about something like that happening to me. It's the one cancer I fear the most, because there are no tests to detect it until it has spread. It's scary to contemplate.

But make no mistake about it: something sooner or later will surface to cause me to modify or reduce my vigorous activity. I am reminded of the Five Remembrances of Buddha:
  1. I am subject to aging. There is no way to avoid aging.
  2. I am subject to ill health. There is no way to avoid illness.
  3. I am going to die. There is no way to avoid death.
  4. Everyone and everything that I love will change, and I will be separated from them.
  5. My only true possessions are my actions, and I cannot escape their consequences.
I have written about these remembrances before. But I conveniently forget as I live my life that they apply to me, too. And that I am no longer young, so it's evident that the vagaries of age are catching up to me. Pondering this, I realize that it's time for me to start focusing on that last remembrance: that my only true possessions are my actions.

But I must not forget that happiness springs eternal and that digging in the dirt and planting flowers are a wonderful source of delight. On St. Patrick's Day this year, I will be sure to spread around a bit of happiness into each soul I encounter. That begins right here, right now, with you, my dear readers. Let me wish each of you a wonderful day and week ahead, and that you will find happiness.
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust


gigi-hawaii said...

I had to laugh at your DNA sample revealing British and Irish origins. My daughter did hers and found Irish, Scots, French, Syrian, and Egyptian on her biological father's mother's side. She also found Korean, North Chinese, and Japanese on my side.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

DJan you are always pushing to the point of pain and I wonder why. Surely you still benefit from less stressful moves. l loved how you wrote about time flying and spring approaching and your gardens to be.I do worry about your sensing your aging will come as it seems to suggest a sense of a bit of fear or doom. Look at it as a blessing, a transformation back to the earth we all come from and imagine your joyful spirit free to be. I imagine spirits of you passed love ones are around you now.
Have a fun day in green and all week.i love your post.it had an unusual ending. No snoring WG or tea finished. Interesting.

Friko said...

As always, an enjoyable meander down internal and external paths. Don’t be hard on yourself, we can all only ever do our best and when strenuous hiking becomes too much there’s always the less strenuous kind. Since my back went into spasm I have been a lot less active. Sure, I hope to recover fully, but what does that mean at my age?

I have also been thinking about happiness and have come to the conclusion that the ‘pursuit’ thereof is probably futile. If I can get a post out of it I will. Your lines are helping me along the way. Thanks.

William Kendall said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Linda Reeder said...

I am reading this post on my lunch hour, having spent the morning doing my daily exercises, going for a walk, and digging in the dirt. Charlie came by for food and stroking. The sun is doing my stroking, along with being outside.
I have had no choice but to cut back on my physical activity, and yet I do still push myself to do all ail can. It's not really fear, or denial, but it is a lack of pleasure to contemplate being physically limited and having to make changes one would rather not make. We will grow old gracefully, but not necessarily willingly. Still, we will find joy in what life gives us.
Sending joy back to you.

Marie Smith said...

How fortunate to be able to plant your flowers already, Jan. Happy St. Paddy’s Day.

Red said...

With you, when you give up one activity , you quickly find another . So I'm sitting here saying, "when she gives up hiking , what new activity will she find???" You're good for many miles yet.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Every Sunday morning you wake up, get a cup of tea, and start working on a post for us here on Eye on the Edge. I, for one, look forward to seeing what you will come up with. You are an excellent writer. I have found that we are often on the same page about many subjects. For example, today, as we were driving over to Green Lake for our walk, I asked my Micro Manager (aka spouse) who was St Patrick and what was he famous for. She did not have an answer but here I am this afternoon and see that you've done the research. It is interesting, isn't it? I love the way you mention hiking up Oyster Dome ... a couple thousand feet ... and then a 5 mile walk yesterday. I think you are in better shape than I. :-) I am curious about your walks ... what kind of pace do you like to set? Today, at Green Lake, my pace on my first mile was 17:31 and I felt like I was moving along pretty rapidly. When I first started walking in January my pace was almost 20 minutes so I am pleased with my improvement. Thank you for reminding us of the Five Remembrances of Buddha. It would be good for me to review those daily for a while. Maybe I will put them on a 3 x 5 card and review them at the beginning of my walks for a few days. Thank you for sharing your blog and for all your comments on mine. Hope you and SG have a fine week ahead! John

Far Side of Fifty said...

One day at a time! I am thankful for friends like you! :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

Oh I bet you can still dance a Irish jig:)

Galen Pearl said...

In the last few days, I found out that an old friend died and another one is dying. Those remembrances are so true. I'm reading a book about grief -- The Wild Edge of Sorrow. Making our peace with loss is part of the grace of aging. It doesn't mean that we are not sad about it. It means that we stop struggling against it or denying it. Years ago, when I used to have a word of the year, my word was "death." I understood this word not to be morbid or ominous, but as a reminder to listen to death as a friend and adviser, and to make my peace with its inevitability. Then I could be free to live fully.

Arkansas Patti said...

I'm about half and half Irish/English also according to my parents stories.
I know you are hanging on to your favorite hiking group but think it is great you have a less strenuous group you could join. They may become your new favorite and don't be surprised if some to the favorites now join you in the future. As you feel yourself declining, I'll bet they are also. Don't be afraid of plan B, embrace it.

Midlife Roadtripper said...

A very deep post this day. I, too, feel the days are flying by. I was writing in my morning pages yesterday how quickly it seems to go now. I recall my dad saying that years ago. I understand the switching to a slower group. My garden calls as well. Hoping I can fit it in by week's end. We shall see. Not certain my fervor for it is the same as before in my life. it has wained for the past several years, something I do because I always have. Hmmmm.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Tomorrow is Spring Equinox. One of the things I so enjoy about following you is the way we are on the same page when it comes to following the timing and changes of the seasons. I can't wait to see if you will mention (next Eye) that our last two days of winter were more like days of summer. What happened to spring? :-) Take care and be well! John