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 27, 2020


Misty scene

Last night as as I crawled into bed, making myself comfortable and wondering just what I might write about this morning, I thought about perspective. Do I want to write about myself and what's going on in my life, or what I perceive as the state of today's world? It all depends on how you look at a situation, whether it seems positive, negative, or neutral. Or whether you can get enough distance from a situation to appreciate its meaning.

Here we are in the week between Christmas and New Year's Day, and I am trying to make sense of things. I was born in December and think of it as "my" month, when the days are short and the nights long. I actually prefer the shorter days, since I have trouble getting to sleep when the sun is still shining, but I must do it anyway for much of the year. These days it seems that I barely begin my day when it's time for the sun to set. The actual length of a day at this latitude is barely eight hours at this time of the year, so I'm not imagining it. It gives me plenty of time to sleep and let my body recover from whatever I've subjected it to during the day. 
The only thing you sometimes have control over is perspective. You don't have control over your situation. But you have a choice about how you view it. —Chris Pine
One of the things I like to do in these Sunday morning musings is to find a quote to share, or one that might help me gain some perspective. Sometimes I think I will never get going, never find an actual theme to work around, and other times it refuses to budge away from some predetermined direction. This morning it seems that it's the latter situation, and I wonder how to tap into the message I'd like to deliver.

I keep thinking about how sometimes I feel like a body with a brain, my eyes like headlights shining out into the world, taking in whatever lies in my path. It is rooted in the small perspective of a single human, with eyes to perceive the world, and a brain that tries to interpret what it sees. That is the narrowest perspective any of us deals with, and it reminds me of the parable of the blind men who are confronted with an elephant, as they try to figure out what it is. The moral of the parable is that humans tend to claim absolute truth based on their limited, subjective experience as they ignore other people's limited, subjective experience. I believe that sums it up: there is no way for me to have any sort of truth emerge from the limited perspective of my own single viewpoint.

Therefore, I can also try to figure things out by widening my perspective, and becoming involved with the larger world, and hopefully a more objective truth. Now that in itself is a dilemma, for where can I look to find the news of the world? In one sense, that is not much different from the blind man trying to figure out the meaning of the elephant. I myself choose to read several different news outlets, but I realize they all skew towards my own preconceived beliefs. There is no objectivity in these outlets, but frankly I am wondering if there is any place, anywhere at all, to find out the truth of what is happening in the world today. My solution is to take it all with a grain of salt, reading widely but with skepticism. Or perhaps there really is no objective truth, everything is subjective and I must learn to deal with that reality and not try to find something that doesn't exist.

Whether it's true or not, I feel that we here on Planet Earth are at a crossroads. One where we decide to come together and agree with one another, or break into factions that attempt to convince the other side that it is wrong. This doesn't seem to me to be a good solution. But what else can we do? How can we find a way out of this dilemma? Unfortunately, I cannot see any way out, so I do what many of us have a tendency to do: deny the conflict and distract myself with diversions that give me pleasure. It will work for awhile, but I know that underneath the conflict still sits there, waiting and knowing that it's impossible to carry on like this indefinitely. 

When I am beginning to relax enough to fall asleep at night, there is one tiny thread that keeps coming back to me: that I am not alone. That somehow there is a higher being present. I can only access its presence by laying aside my preconceived notions, my own limited perspective, and allowing the presence a chance to take over my thoughts, take over my troubled mind. I find myself in prayer. 

Before long, I am feeling less troubled and despair takes a holiday. When I allow myself to pray to that higher power, I am comforted. And I realize the truth that I am not alone, that giving myself a conduit to another reality is the only way to deal with the dilemma of my limited perspective. It also doesn't make me feel conflicted, and even the tiniest little bit of joy begins to emerge from the darkness, and the world has transformed from dark to light. It's as if the sun has come over the horizon and I can have hope for a better world.

It is amazing how that shift in my perspective transforms, well, everything. How I was in despair and once it lifted, I feel the presence of others here with me. My family, my friends both actual and virtual, I can feel myself lifted up and held in the light of love. I had forgotten about love, how looking at the world through the headlights of my eyes, how different it looks when love is present. I believe it was Martin Luther King who said, "I have decided to stick with love, since hate is too great a burden to bear."

That is where I end up this morning: in joy, feeling the presence of love all around me, feeling the presence of my dear partner next to me, and having found myself once again able to greet the day with love. I am so very grateful for the perspective of being a person in the arms of LOVE. 

Until we meet again next week, be well and be sure to find plenty of ways to say thank you. I know you will.

Sunday, December 20, 2020

Christmas week

Fallen leaves or stars?

Lately, I have been inundated with memories of years past, thinking of my family, my friends, and how much has changed in my life as the decades progress. It's almost as though the years bring me into different worlds, and people whom I love and who love me come and go. Once upon a time I was a young mother, with two small children. Now I have no living children and am an old woman. In between those two events, I have lived a full life, with the days passing one at a time, but imperceptibly changing from one stage to another. The loss of my first child, when I was only 22, was the first major life event that caused my world to turn upside down. He was an infant, just over a year old, when he died of spinal meningitis. He got sick in the afternoon and died that very night. They say that sudden death is harder to bear than a gradual one, and I have to agree.

But death and dying are as much a part of life as are new birth and celebrations of joy. We all live through both extremes if we are on this planet long enough. And sometimes I find myself astonished to realize how much I have lived through, and how much has changed since I first became a mother. Stephen died in September, and I still remember how hard it was for me to see the first snowflakes fall onto the earth that now housed the grave of my child. I wanted to keep him safe and warm, and I could not bear that he was gone. The loss of a child is one that I wish upon nobody, although eventually the hole in my heart scarred over and allowed me to once again laugh and smile. But it took a long time, and I feel empathy for all who suffer such a grievous loss.

Although it's been more than half a century since it happened, there are flashes of memory that can bring it all back as if it happened yesterday. When I see the image of the Christ Child in a manger, wrapped in his mother's arms, I can easily transport myself into the scene. A happy one, although not unlike many mothers who even today don't know how they will protect their child from harm. You have to take every moment and celebrate happiness when and where you find it. It's not permanent; nothing is. Life is constant change, and we find little snippets of joy intermingled with sadness. I have found that there is only one way to deal with life's vicissitudes, and that is to be grateful for all of it, the highs and the lows, the moments of great sorrow mingled with the moments of great happiness.
Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. —Melody Beattie

 These days, I find friendship in the most unlikely places. Being in the middle of a pandemic, the stores are not packed during this Christmas week, but there are more people in them than I've encountered in months. I stay out of them, for the most part, but I realize there are many people, friends that I have grown very fond of, that I would like to acknowledge with a gift. Fortunately, I can shop online and send them something they would like, and I know how much they would appreciate being remembered. That is my task for the coming week: bring joy into lives of others. Not to mention that it also makes me happy.

One friend, someone I will probably never meet, has gifted me with a season of 11 episodes of a reality show. Now I am not one who watches things like this usually, but because it is a gift, I accepted it. The show, Alone, is about ten people who agree to spend 100 solitary days in the Arctic wilderness, in hopes of making it to the end and a reward of a million dollars. They are helicoptered into different places and deposited with ten approved items of survival gear and a satellite phone that can be used to contact someone to bring them out if necessary. They also have camera equipment and are expected to document their experiences. I have watched three episodes and already two people have chosen to leave, and it's only been a week or so.

It has also been an eye opener for me, thinking about whether I could survive in such circumstances. The answer is simply "no." I think the hardest part would be hunting game and catching fish, not knowing how to even begin such a task. And building a shelter. Most of the participants are well versed in all of that and welcome the challenge. I can put myself in their positions without having to actually do it myself, thanks to the series. I wonder if most of them are introverts, because I realize I would also seriously miss the interaction with other people. It also makes me realize how much I depend on basic necessities like clean water and food to eat that I don't have to kill first. Anyway, I give thanks for the possibility to peek into these people's adventure, and it also gives me a new perspective on all the amenities of simple living that I take for granted.

I am impressed at how many of the participants give thanks when they kill a creature, and the level of compassion they show as they make it into food. I'm not sure I give enough appreciation for the bounty I have in my own life, and that is one thing I won't forget soon: to give thanks for the incredible riches that surround me. Thank you, dear friend, for this gift of a new perspective on life.

As I sit here in the dim light of my laptop, listening to my dear partner breathing softly next to me as he sleeps, and I think of the day ahead, it is another gift I keep forgetting to appreciate: that I can actually get up, dress, and head out the door for what could be an adventure of a different sort. It's important as I age to get the most out of every day. Right now I am reading Obama's latest book, and although it's long and detailed, he is a gifted writer and knows how to make me feel like I'm right there with him as he moves from being an unknown quantity to the celebrity he is today.

That reminds me to also be grateful for the gift of sight. Although I suffer from age-related macular degeneration (AMD), I can still see well enough to read books, if I am careful to use my reading glasses and take plenty of breaks. Long gone are the days when I could read for hours without thinking about it. The missing vision in one eye is compensated by the other eye, but I also know that it's not the same. To see certain images, I have to look off to the side and not focus right on the image itself. I got used to doing this and now hardly notice how I have had to adapt. I am grateful that I can still read, and I'm nearing the next decade of life. I'm damn near eighty!

But, that said, I hope to be around for awhile yet. It takes some getting used to, finding ways to appreciate what remains still within my purview, and it is plenty. One thing I will never stop being grateful for is this amazing ability to sit and stare at an empty screen and watch the words flow out, even if I don't always produce a masterpiece, something always comes to share with you, my dear readers. And in a few minutes I'll be able to hit "publish" and my words will reach out into the blogosphere, shared with whoever is interested. I am definitely filled with gratitude for having this magic at my fingertips.

I do hope this Christmas week will bring you joy, as I know it will for me. By the time next Sunday rolls around, we'll be looking forward to putting this year to bed and getting ready for 2021. Until we meet again next week, I wish you good health and all the love and happiness you deserve. I send you my love, dear friends.

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Sibling soulmates

Norma Jean and me

Long, long ago, I did just about everything during my childhood with my sister, Norma Jean, who was born less than three years after me. We were the beginning of a much bigger family, which ultimately culminated in the birth of seven children over a twenty-year period. The last child was born almost sixty years ago, and we have not all survived to this date, but most of us have, and most of us have many wonderful memories of our childhood. I didn't know how blessed I was to have such a happy early life. These days, I know all too well how rare those halcyon years were.

We have both endured our share of pain and loss over the decades, but we have never lost our connection with one another. Even after many years of separation because of circumstances, deaths, marriages and divorces, the connection with my sister has endured and strengthened. After her husband died in February 2011, I began making a pilgrimage across the country, from my home in the Pacific Northwest, to hers in Florida, to spend time with her. That first year I spent three weeks there, and afterwards it became just over a week. But I went every year until last year, when travel became dangerous because of the coronavirus pandemic. Soon it will mark two years since I spent part of my winter months in Florida. And there is no way for me to know when, if ever, things will return to their pre-pandemic state.

Once a month, every fourth Wednesday, I have a standing date to spend time with Norma Jean on FaceTime. I am always a little anxious just before I make the call, not knowing if she remembered, but she is there, waiting for me. It is interesting how much can change in a month; we are both older and showing our age in big and little ways, like me forgetting family birthdays or anniversaries. After all, those little girls are now septuagenarians. 

However, we still share so much with one another and somehow a couple of hours on the monthly call flies by, having again connected with each other and gotten caught up with the latest episodes in our daily lives. These days, not much is happening in either of our lives, because of our efforts to stay safe and distanced from others to keep from catching the virus. Just yesterday the first vaccine was approved for use in the US, and I think by this time next year we should be back to whatever "normal" will look like. I don't think we will return to the world as it was before.

I am just glad that the little sister who has journeyed through life with me is still healthy and living a relatively happy life. She still swims most days in an outdoor pool, getting in her daily mile, and we both enjoy comparing our activity level with one another. Although I have other siblings, none of them are what I would call close confidants, as the two of us are. I guess it's partly a matter of birth order, but for whatever reason, I cannot imagine a world without my sister Norma Jean in it. She truly is my soulmate, and I cherish her and feel her presence in my life, even when I haven't seen or talked with her for awhile. This monthly visit is pretty darn perfect, and I count on her being there.

Sometimes we need someone to simply be there. Not to fix anything, or to do anything in particular, but just to let us feel that we are cared for and supported. —Unknown

There are also sisters of the heart, ones you choose and enjoy being with, even though you aren't related by blood. But I've found that those sisters come and go, as we move on through life. I've got plenty of close friends here in Bellingham, but right now I cannot actually sit with them and have a glass of wine together. Or hang out in the coffee shop, or do much of anything together. When this is over, some of them will emerge as friends once again, but in between now and then, I feel a loss of connection and without the constant virtual presence in my life of Norma Jean and the solid presence of my dear life partner, SG, I think I would be having a much harder time, going through this isolation. It's not easy being an extroverted person in lockdown.

But! The universe has provided me with a new and very useful tool during this time: the internet, the blogosphere that gives me such a different and meaningful way to connect with others. I have now been blogging for more than a decade, and I think of many of my virtual friends as being as essential to my mental health as any other person. As I sit here writing in the dark, listening to my partner's breathing as he sleeps, I can feel your presence through the ether. Those of you who tell me every week how much this connection means to you, as it does to me. I picture many of you in my mind's eye, and I think of you as I write. These words sometimes don't make much sense, but it has become a sacred duty that I spend some time trying, anyway, to reach across the miles and hold you in my heart.

And with that last paragraph, I realize that I can now begin the rest of my Sunday. I have come to my virtual church and spent some time listening in the dark to whatever the universe is trying to tell me. What miracle has given me the chance to do this every Sunday, to finish up and hit "publish," and reach all of you so easily? Whatever it is, I am grateful. More than just a little bit, and just now I realize how important this all is to my continued sanity during these trying times.

Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, and I hope you will find many connections in your own life. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, December 6, 2020

Destiny and 2020


Another snagged photo

I am enamoured with Rita Eberle-Wessner's shots of light coming through forest trees. I've used a couple of her other shots, too, to begin a post. She's able to capture what I feel in my heart so often these days. A feeling that there must be a day when the light will emerge and open up our grey and listless world into a new dawn.

With the pandemic on one side, keeping us separated and in misery as we move through the months of lockdown (not everyone, but most of us) to avoid getting the virus or spreading it to vulnerable others, it's easy to forget that these times will pass. It feels like it's been going on for ages, but it's not even been a year yet. There is no doubt that we will look back on the year 2020 as one of the most difficult ones that the US has endured. We are now leading the world in deaths by percentage of population, with almost 300,000 Americans already dead and being months away from a vaccine distributed to vulnerable populations. It's a staggeringly scary statistic. Sometimes I get really discouraged and wish I could move to a country that has a more reasonable government. But where? Canada, just a few miles from here, is doing so very much better. But the border is closed: they don't want us to infect them with our belief that it's our right not to wear masks or distance ourselves from others.

I say that, but it's not what most of us think is right. I am so happy to live in a state with mandates that help to protect others, as well as ourselves. I just read yesterday that Iowa, a state in the middle of the country, has a 50% positivity rate. In other words, half of of the population tested for the virus has it. Now that's really scary!

But all this is not what I intended to say in today's post. What I'm getting to, eventually, is that we are not alone in this pandemic; the entire world is working to get it under control. All I can do is my own little part, and that is all any of us can do. I am part of the vulnerable populations, being in my seventies, and even with no underlying conditions, it's possible for me to die from it. Although I think I might have already had it, the case was a mild one and might not be protective. I'll get the vaccine as soon as I get a chance to, not because I am so afraid of the virus, but because I'm afraid of giving it to others unknowingly.

One of my friends has decided that the year 2020 has been awful enough that whenever anything bad happens to a friend, she says they got "2020ed." And of course most of us have seen that image of a hand spelling out "2020" with its middle finger showing what many of us think about this year. I sure hope the coming year, 2021, will be a better one. With the vaccine available coming in a few months, it should be a better outcome for the world.

Do you believe in destiny? It is defined as "the events that will happen to a particular person or thing in the future." Sometimes I think I know what will happen in a particular instance, and I'm usually wrong. Things flow from events and often take a turn that I never expected. It happens to all of us. And in the case of our current situation in the world, I really have very little idea of how things will look when we get to the other side. One thing I am fairly confident of, it won't look like the time before 2020. We will all be altered in one way or another. That fact makes me happy, because it means we can be somehow better, more connected, more caring about our friends and family. When you lose something precious, it makes you realize not only what you had, but how you might keep yourself from greater loss.

Bad things do happen; how I respond to them defines my character and the quality of my life. I can choose to sit in perpetual sadness, immobilized by the gravity of my loss, or I can choose to rise from the pain and treasure the most precious gift I have - life itself. —Walter Anderson

I had an epiphany the other day: I realized that the events shaping our world right now are perhaps aligning themselves for a larger purpose. Maybe we are being guided and just don't know it. Sometimes I think I can see a light at the end of the tunnel, that a sea change is about to happen. There is only one way to know if it's true, and that's to be able to look ahead into the future. Since I cannot do that, I can only hope it's true. If I am fortunate enough to live until then, that is. 

You know what? I'm just riffing right now looking for some way to end this post. It didn't come out like I hoped, and I truly just wanted to give you, my dear readers, something light to think about and brighten your day. Instead, it's been a bit of a slog, and I apologize for that. Sitting down to write on a Sunday morning doesn't always turn out the way I hope it will, but I'm always a bit more centered after the attempt. Unfortunately for you, it might not be very coherent. Sorry about that. Sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it doesn't.

In any event, the day is calling me to get out of bed, with my dear partner still sleeping next to me, and see if I can find a better start to my day. I have coffee to drink, friends and their conversation to enjoy, even through a mask, and hope for better days ahead. 2020 is almost over! Whatever you do with yourself between now and next Sunday, I hope it will increase your happiness and give some light to the world. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, November 29, 2020

An attitude of gratitude

Last rose of the year

 Yesterday, Melanie and Chris and I walked from the Farmers' Market to the campus at Western Washington University, making a loop walk of around five miles. Early in the spring, we had stopped at the rose garden on campus and enjoyed the wonderful flowers. This time, we saw one solitary rose still on the bushes, covered with moisture and smiling up at us, reminding us that beauty still lingers, even at the end of November.

You may not enjoy loneliness, because loneliness is sad. But solitude is something else; solitude is what you look forward to when you want to be alone, when you want to be with yourself. So, solitude is something we all need from time to time. —Ruskin Bond

 I've been thinking quite a lot lately about what it means to be lonely. It seems to be everywhere, with this pandemic keeping us from being with our friends. Do you feel it, too? I am blessed with my partner, who shares my days and keeps me entertained, and well fed, too. He doesn't allow me to forget the wonderful food I've managed to neglect in the dark reaches of the refrigerator, by pushing it to the forefront and sometimes even placing a smiley face on a container, as if to say, "what about me?"

We don't go to bed at the same time, hardly ever. I am a morning person and wake hours before he does, and I tire and fall into bed much earlier than my night owl partner. After a sweet hug from him, I climb into bed, the door closed and the room darkened. I listen to the sounds outside through the open window and think about things, about my life, my day, even my hopes for the future sometimes. It's a time that gives me the solitude I need to come home to myself. A time to visit the quiet place inside my mind that allows me to gently fall asleep. Usually it works without fail, but when I am anxious about something, it will come up and demand to be examined.

Have you ever felt loneliness at times like that? I know I have. And it might help to think that I could just get up and interrupt whatever activity my partner might be engaged in, and start a conversation. But I usually don't, since it seems a bit selfish, to pull him into a mental place that he isn't actually in at the moment. I know it helps me just to know he's there, available if necessary. But no, I usually stay in bed, knees pointed at the ceiling under the covers, and ponder what is bothering me.

And that is when I realize that I'm not alone. That the sense of being heard exists inside my own mind. If I lay out the dilemma, looking at it as if I were going to tell it to another, it shifts around and takes on quite a different complexion. I carry on a conversation with my spirit self, and if I listen, I can often hear what is really going on and what needs to shift in my perception. Before long, I am asleep.

Some people might say that I am engaged in prayer. And yes, that is what I call it, too, often when I am laying out the facts, as if on an altar, one bit at a time. I believe that everything I need is available to me, if I just look within myself for it, rather than outside. And being grateful always helps me to look around with new eyes.

'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding. —Alice Walker

 Yesterday, my dear friend Lily invited me over to her place for a small gathering (four of us) to celebrate my upcoming birthday. I usually avoid thinking about these birthdays, since I've had enough of them already, I don't need more of them. Why this birthday and not last year? I also received a wonderful unexpected birthday gift from one of my blogging friends, who sent me some handmade crocheted wearables, which is very touching. She first sent me a book, many years ago, when I wrote on my blog that I had never heard of Aldo Leopold. For someone who loves the outdoors, she was surprised that I had never read his "A Sand County Almanac." She, it turned out, had plenty of copies of it and gifted me with one. I read it and truly enjoyed it. There are images from the book I will never forget. Some people are easy to be grateful for, and she is definitely one. 

It reminds me that one reason I don't believe I experience loneliness very often is that I have a plethora of books to explore, and many virtual friends who share their lives with those who read their blogs. Because of them, I peer into their daily lives and see how others are coping with the pandemic. We are all so different, and I often am learning to see the world through their eyes, which gives my own perspective a new angle. I am constantly reminded of how fortunate I am, with such a full life, and so much to be thankful for.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. —Melody Beattie

And with that, dear friends, I think I have finished another Sunday morning meditation. It has been fun to sit here in the dark, with my dear partner sleeping next to me, the light from my laptop shining into the room, filling me with so much gratitude that it is spilling right into the world. This little light will, I pray, make your day a better one, filled with the hopes and prayers of all of us for a kinder, more compassionate world. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well. 

Sunday, November 22, 2020

Thanksgiving week


Ferry terminal decorated for the holidays

Yesterday, my friend Melanie and I walked from downtown, along Boulevard Park, to Fairhaven's ferry terminal, where we knew we would be able to see its windows. They have been painted by our friend Ellen Clark, a local artist and a dear friend. We tried to get the best picture possible, but it was difficult because of filtered sunshine on the windows. Mel got this one, and if you could see that big window on top, you'd see Santa, smiling, checking his list. And wearing a mask. That's me on the right, in front of one of the two smaller windows that she also decorated. The link takes you to a short bio about her.

By the time we meet again next week, we will have celebrated Thanksgiving in the United States. Canada celebrated theirs on the second Monday in October, while ours is on the fourth Thursday in November. Canada managed to stay within the boundaries of their pandemic restrictions, but they are also, along with the entire rest of the world, experiencing a surge in Covid cases and deaths. I saw a graphic showing the stark difference between our countries, with our cases yesterday reaching almost 2,000 in a single day. And Thursday, people will still be gathering in their homes with friends and family and spreading the virus even more. Canada has wisely decided not to reopen the border between our countries until the end of the year, if then.

It is a terrible and very scary time in the history of the world, and my country has the dubious honor of having some of the most out of control spread. I am proud of my own state's response, with our governor closing all bars and indoor dining, and asking us to mask up even when hiking outdoors. And of course limiting our gatherings to a maximum of five. These tighter restrictions are in place for a month, hoping that after that time we will have flattened the curve. I am skeptical, but hopeful. By mid-December, we'll know if we were successful.

In the meantime, I will do my best to follow the rules and not spread the virus. I do have some friends that I spend time with, and they are all old like me and therefore vulnerable to Covid's worst effects. I think I had it, along with SG, back in March when there were no tests available. We are admonished not to get a test even now, unless we have been exposed or have symptoms, leaving the tests for those who need them. 

So what to do? Well, I've been looking for ways to keep myself healthy, both in mind and spirit, and have found that some things really seem to work for me. The first one is, not surprisingly, getting exercise daily. Walking instead of driving, even in the rain, and keeping a mask available at all times. Mostly I walk with it around my neck, unless I encounter another person, and then I pull it up as we pass by each other. I keep my distance whenever possible, and I stay out of crowded stores, even if everyone is masked. I always feel much better once I am able to raise my body temperature with exercise. It never fails.

I have limited my exposure to the news, since that tends to make me feel depressed and even discouraged. But really, we will get through this period and will remember this time as one of major challenges to our way of life, and hopefully there will be some good to come from it. We won't be able to see it until we are fully through and into another reality. But it will come.

Our shared values define us more than our differences. And acknowledging those shared values can see us through our challenges today if we have the wisdom to trust in them again. —John McCain

 I am grateful to have so many friends, even if we only visit each other these days through texts and Zoom calls, who also find laughter and love with one another. A positive attitude goes a long way towards making my mental health better. Even if I get sad temporarily, I know the moment will pass and things will look different when I change my perspective. It's normal to have moments of discouragement during these dark days, but the light always returns.

During the coming week, I will be concentrating on all the good in my life, and there is plenty of it. I not only have enough good food to eat, but I also have enough to share with those who don't. I will give money to the Bellingham Food Bank, which is one of the best ways to get people enough to eat right here in my city. If you can afford it, I recommend it as a way to do something concrete to help others.

Today is the anniversary of JFK's death in 1963. I was living in Michigan at the time, and I remember how much I felt like the earth had opened up and swallowed happiness for all time. As many of us who lived through that time remember, it was a great shock to our country, but we lived through it, and through much more trauma after that. And we got through it, just as we will today. We are resilient and resourceful creatures.

This Thursday, I will celebrate all the many gifts that I am surrounded with: my dear partner (whose health continues to improve), the beautiful Pacific Northwest with all its weather changes, my friends and family, and that special bond I have with you, my dear reader, the one I will never see in person but know so well. Most of my readers also have blogs of their own, and I continue to learn so much from everyone. Life is good!

I hope the coming week will be a good one for you, and that you will find a way to celebrate your blessings through all of our challenges and trials. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Mid-November musings

Last of the leaves

As I sit here in the dark, with my laptop on my knees while sitting up in bed, a usual Sunday morning dawns. This morning, nothing pops into my head as I ponder what to write about. As anybody who follows this blog knows, sometimes the magic works, and sometimes it's a dud. I have no idea what will come out today, but this practice has been going on for more than a decade and so, here goes.

Yesterday I went on my usual Saturday morning walk with a couple of good friends, all of us wearing masks even while we are outside. On Saturday there are many more people on the trails than we encounter on Thursdays, my other usual hiking day. Because the pandemic has curtailed the groups that I used to join for those two activities, I still manage to have found some diehard friends who are willing to join me. Otherwise, I'd be going alone. I truly need the exercise during this time more than ever. Those walks, plus three Zoom yoga classes a week, help to keep me from slipping into depression.

I also join some of my old Senior Trailblazer friends for a Zoom meeting once a week, and we normally have a group of around 8 or 10 of us talk for an hour. We discuss how we are faring, who is hiking where, and discussing whatever is on our minds. It helps to see these old friends, learning about their coping mechanisms as we navigate our "new normal." The way the pandemic is going, I don't see this situation changing any time soon. Most of us are in our seventies and considered high risk, even if we are more active than many seniors. We are still old.

During a recent Zoom meeting, I learned about a new kind of fabric to keep you dry during heavy rain. Since we're getting into our usual rainy season, I was interested to hear about it. We laughed about how anybody living and hiking in the Pacific Northwest usually has more than one or two rain jackets. This new fabric is only available from Columbia at the moment, and so I went to their website to learn more about OutDry Extreme. I've never been thrilled with Gore-Tex, which is expensive and only seems to work for a short while before becoming just another jacket that leaks. Once you wash it a time or two, it loses its potency. I found an OutDry raincoat on sale for half price and ordered it. It should arrive this coming week, and since we are entering a particularly rainy patch; I'll be able to see if it works and if I like it. Otherwise, it will join the other half-dozen raincoats in my closet. 

Yesterday we walked around five miles in Arroyo Park from Fairhaven, and it was mild, cloudy, and dry, making it a very pleasant time along the wide trails. There were plenty of people out and about, and almost everyone wore a mask, even though we were outside. When we got to the bridge over Chuckanut Creek, we saw a group of five or six women staring into the water. The salmon are running at the moment, making their way up the creek to their spawning grounds. They had spied a group of fish, so we decided that we would join them. Since we are not supposed to be in such large groups, even outside, we found another place where you could see the fish struggling upstream and watched in fascination as one after another fought against the rushing water. Sometimes they would tire and slip backwards, losing their hard-fought gains.

Of course, when I got home I researched the salmon activity, wondering if they really do find their way all the way back to where they were spawned and how it occurs. How does a salmon find its way back "home"? I found this information on Wikipedia:

Most salmon mostly spend their early life in rivers or lakes, and then swim out to sea where they live their adult lives and gain most of their body mass. When they have matured, they return to the rivers to spawn. Usually they return with uncanny precision to the natal river where they were born, and even to the very spawning ground of their birth. It is thought that, when they are in the ocean, they use magnetoreception to locate the general position of their natal river, and once close to the river, that they use their sense of smell to home in on the river entrance and even their natal spawning ground.

I also learned that they stop eating when they begin this trip, and they just don't have the energy to return after spawning, so they die. Some of the salmon we saw were huge, at least to my eyes, and it made me sad to realize that they are on their final journey. Most salmon live around five to seven years, but they only make this trip once before they die. I tried to capture it but was unsuccessful. My friend Melanie got this great video, which I hope you can see. (9 seconds long)

In any event, it was definitely an amazing experience. Then we said goodbye and went to our respective homes, reflecting on the natural world and its vast variety of species. I feel very blessed to live in such a beautiful part of the country, where I can walk in the forests and watch the salmon run, and even enjoy the life-giving rain. 

Today I'll join my coffee shop friends and will probably sit around outside while enjoying my coffee and their company, before making some shopping errands and then heading home. I might start watching season 4 of The Crown, which was just released today. I've enjoyed the first three seasons very much. As our days grow shorter and the nights ever longer as we make our way towards the winter solstice, I am spending more time inside, sequestered with my dear partner as we slog through our isolation during the pandemic. 

We cannot change our past. We can not change the fact that people act in a certain way. We can not change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. —Charles R. Swindoll

Well, that about wraps up this post, as I get ready to begin the rest of my Sunday. I do feel a bit better than I did before I started to write, which is why I do it. Hopefully you will find some joy and happiness in your days before we meet again next week. Until then, dear friends, be well. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

Election is finally over

November trail

Well, the election of our president for the next four years was called yesterday, Saturday, November 7. A day for the history books, after five days of counting almost 150 million ballots. The counting is still continuing, but it became evident that Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would become the next executive leaders of our country, and the race was called when he crossed the threshold of 270 electoral votes.

Last night I watched the celebratory speeches by both of them, and was pleased to see that in that huge crowd of people, everybody was wearing masks, even if social distancing was impossible. The speeches were fine, not too long, but I just wished that Biden had not shouted into the mic the whole time. I had to turn the volume way down, but otherwise I enjoyed it all. 

When they started the fireworks, I was again amazed at the ones that spell out words, so of course I went online to find out how it's done. It turns out that these are special things called "lanceworks." Each lance is hand pressed and filled to burn for approximately sixty seconds. Zambelli Fireworks website explains:

If you have ever seen a name or company logo produced by pyrotechnics, it is called a “set-piece.” Nearly any logo, word, sentence/phrase, or other design can be created using fireworks known as “lances.” Lances are pencil-sized miniature flares that are mounted on wooden frames designed to the exact specifications of a word or logo.

Anyway, now the hard work begins in the transition period before January 20 next year. I am very worried about how the coronavirus has been spreading around the country, and pleased to hear that Biden is setting up a task force right away. Hopefully that might nudge our current president to take some immediate steps to contain the pandemic. But in any event, we cannot return to any semblance of normal life until the virus is under control. I'm just glad I am able to find places to exercise and keep my strength and stamina up during the coming weeks and months. Not to mention my mental health.

What else is on my mind this fine November day? I had a lovely walk last Thursday around the Lake Padden horse trails (which is where I took the picture above) and enjoyed the dry weather, even if the recent rains had made for some very muddy patches. Then yesterday, when I went out for a short walk with my regular Saturday walking friends, it began to rain. A lot, it turned out, and I was totally unprepared since it was not supposed to rain at all. My down jacket got soaked, and when I returned home, I learned that in the northern part of the city, where I live, it had not rained at all! From now on, I'm going to carry rain gear in my car, just in case. I'm not sure whether it would have helped yesterday, though, since we were at least a mile into the walk when it began to rain. Oh well, I didn't melt, even if it wasn't pleasant to be so unprepared.

Yesterday I began to watch the seven-part miniseries, "The Queen's Gambit," on Netflix. By the time I had finished the first one, I was hooked, and even had dreams based on that episode. Kelly Lawler, on USA Today, had this in her review:

Based on the novel by Walter Tevis, "Queen's" follows the rise of fictional chess prodigy Beth Harmon (a stunning Anya Taylor-Joy), a Kentucky orphan in the 1960s who learns the game from a janitor (Bill Camp) in her orphanage's basement. As a teen, she makes her way onto the international chess circuit, traveling the globe and handily beating men twice her age. She also spends that time battling addiction, a much harder fight for Beth than any chess match. 

 If you watched it, or intend to, I'd like to know what you think of it. I still have six episodes before I'm finished, but it's definitely a good place to take any thoughts of my current world into another sphere. I'll probably get the book after I'm finished with the series, since that's my usual pattern when I'm not quite ready to let go of a good diversion.

I've never played chess, but my father tried once, long ago, to interest Norma Jean, my sister, and me in learning it. I suspect he had visions of us becoming prodigies, but he was definitely not the best teacher. He had no patience with our inability to understand the intricacies of the game, much less how to move the pieces! Instead, he had two terrified young girls trembling at the thought of what piece to move next.  We really wanted to make him happy, but this was not the way to do it. I think we both now have a bit of an aversion to the game. We stuck to checkers after our disgrace with chess. Today, I can smile at the memory. 

Well, that's about it for now. I cannot seem to think of anything else that's currently on my mind. (That may change as I re-read what I've written here, but I don't think so.) Keeping myself and my dear partner healthy, both physically and mentally, is the big challenge in my life right now. I know I am not alone in this, either. 

The tea is gone, my dear one is still sleeping, and the day is beckoning. I'm meeting my friends Lily and John for breakfast in a little more than an hour from now, so I'll be finishing this and hoping I'll be more inspired next week. I do hope you find some enjoyment yourself during this coming period, and if you have any tips, please don't hesitate to pass them along. Until then, be well and don't forget to count your blessings. You are definitely one of mine.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Pondering our future and a goodbye

Street art

Yesterday morning, I went for a really nice walk around the waterfront with two dear friends. It was sunny (as you can see in the above photo) and cold, with the temperature in the low thirties (1.5°C). We walked around five miles, and by the time we were done, it had warmed up considerably, with no wind and after having been active. It felt really nice.

I needed it for several reasons, not the least of which is that I learned that my dear blogging friend Ronni Bennett died Friday evening. As many of you know, she wrote the blog Time Goes By for fifteen years, and I have been a follower and fan for more than a decade. Three years ago now, Ronni discovered she had pancreatic cancer and decided to opt for the Whipple Procedure, an invasive operation that gives people with this illness a chance to live. She describes the entire process in great detail, and it's worth your time if you want to go back and read about how she dealt with dying.

She did two things that I find really rather amazing: she arranged to have a guided psilocybin "trip" to help her deal with the fear of dying, and I have gone back and read about it more than once. (I just tried to find it again with no success. No search box on TGB, but all her posts are still there.) She described in response to her trip that finally her fear of dying had changed dramatically. 

The other thing she did, after having become a Hospice patient, was to arrange to have the drugs in her home that she could take when it became impossible to continue, and not having to wait for the natural process of death to take place. This is legal in Oregon, where she lived. At this point I don't know if she actually took them, or whether she died without them. From what I know, pancreatic cancer is a particularly painful death, and she cared for her father many years ago when he died of it. In any event, she is gone, leaving her dedicated fans and followers to muddle through. She has a good friend, Autumn, who will take over the blog and keep it alive so that we can all continue to "visit" with Ronni and glean her wisdom, even now that she's gone from the world.

After having had a copious cry, I read the comments from other readers who had responded to her passing, and it was time to begin the process I've grown to know all too well: mourning the loss of a treasured friend. When Ruth Bader Ginsburg passed, I began the process with her, and it still continues to this day. They both died of pancreatic cancer, which for a rather rare cancer, seems to be all too present in my own circle. Those two, along with one of my hiking buddies who was younger than me, also died of it last year. 

Dying is a part of life. Nobody and nothing that is born escapes death, and now that I have lived long enough that I've passed through all the phases of the life cycle, except for the final one of dying, I realize how fortunate I am to still be active, with relatively few aches and pains (although there are still plenty, if I focus on them), and so very much to be grateful for. When I watch the news and see what's happening in other parts of the world, I again thank the Powers That Be for my good fortune of having been born here in the United States.

But that might be changing soon. In two days, we will have an election that will change the trajectory of this country in profound ways. No matter who wins, I fear we are in for a bumpy ride, one which I am not sure all of us will survive. There is so much hate and division, more than I would ever have thought possible, everywhere in this country. What happens next depends on whether people decide to concentrate on what we all share and preserve it, or whether we decide to take out our anger on each other.

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality... I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. —Martin Luther King, Jr.

I have an extra hour this morning, since we again changed our clocks back to Standard Time, which will be around for a few months before we go back to Daylight Saving Time again in the spring. Of course I couldn't sleep beyond my usual waking time, so I've already been up for more than an hour, and it's not even 6:00am yet! I really dislike the process, although I am happy for my friends who never seem to get enough sleep and can snooze for an extra hour. This time change will mess with my routine for a week or so, but I have little problem losing that extra hour in the spring. I'm weird like that.

One thing I have realized as I ponder the future is that whatever we end up going through during the next week or so will finally pass. It sure doesn't help that we are still, all over the world, in the grip of Covid-19. It isn't as bad in my own state as it is in several others, but the good thing is that now we seem to know a little better how to treat the illness in those who end up in the hospital. People are still dying, and that really makes me sad and angry at people who don't take it seriously. But I can only do what I can in my own circles and have no power to change them. I want to believe what Martin Luther King, Jr. says in that quote: that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. 

And of course I need to take care of myself as best I can, stay out of crowds and stay masked and socially distant, except for my own Covid "pods," and hope for the best. It takes a lot for me to actually get down on my knees and pray, but I'm doing that now, and trying to find peace wherever I can. My dear life partner sleeps next to me, peacefully, and that makes me smile. The day is beginning bright and sunny (when the sun comes up, that is), and I will visit my friends at the coffee shop, even though it's cold we will gather and take comfort in each other's presence. We might end up huddling in John's truck as we drink our hot coffee and remind each other how important friends are. 

And that is how I will end this post, thinking about a week from now when I hope we will gather here together in virtual communion, and we take a look at our changed world and find it good. You are admonished to find one thing, just one, to be grateful for. If you do that, you'll find other reasons not far behind. Take care of yourself, dear reader, and keep believing that unconditional love will have the final word.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Explorations and ruminations


Shaggy parasol mushroom

During our hike last Thursday, we four women saw dozens of different kinds of mushrooms and spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of the most interesting ones. This one was as big as a dinner plate, and some of us recognized it as a Shaggy Parasol, a purportedly edible mushroom that looks a lot like others that are poisonous. "Young shaggy parasols look identical to the poisonous Chlorophyllum molybdites (the mushroom that causes the most poisonings in North America yearly)." The link I've provided gives you all the information you would ever need to know about this mushroom.

I have been able to get enough exercise each day to feel pretty good during this extended lockdown period. In my part of the country, we are stable in regards to the coronavirus, while much of the rest of the US is spiking to the highest infections since the pandemic began back in February and March. And here we are at the beginning of the cold weather. I found this scary statistic online:

The US has marked a harrowing milestone: It recorded its highest one-day number of Covid-19 infections Friday at more than 83,000 — more than 6,000 higher than the country's previous record set in July.

Other countries are also having spikes in infections, but we never got our numbers down in the first place, so we are in trouble as we go forward into the holidays. I cannot imagine getting on a plane these days and traveling to a family gathering. It would be scarier than any skydive I ever made during my decades-long career. Some states are asking people not to gather in person for Thanksgiving, but that is not likely to happen, unfortunately. Some Americans feel it would be restricting their freedom, while others (me included) consider it our duty to protect each other from harm.

We will get through this, I'm sure, but we won't be the same once we get back to "normal." There is no normal anymore, and anyone who thinks we can return to the lives we had before this pandemic are in for a rude surprise. Even if a vaccine was developed within the next few months, it would not mean we could start gathering in large numbers safely any time soon. The virus will be with us for a long time to come, and it will continue to kill the old and infirm among us. I wonder if I will live long enough to attend a movie theater or a concert again. It's doubtful. Maybe they will become a relic of the past. 

I'm sorry to be so negative, but the news is dragging my optimism down a bit. There really is no safe haven in the world today, so I have no other option than to look within. There are many positive techniques for finding peace and serenity within oneself, and that is where I need to concentrate my efforts. I am fortunate to be able to attend Zoom yoga classes, where I am guided into 90 minutes of stretching and attempting new postures, concluding with several moments of savasana (relaxation). Three times a week I gather my yoga props and mat and enter a safe and loving environment, with others I cannot see. Afterwards, I always feel more centered and more able to gain a positive perspective. It doesn't help anybody, especially me, to allow myself to fall into despair.

Between regular exercise, including long walks and a weekly gathering (five or fewer) to go on a hike, and the yoga classes, I am able to keep myself fairly centered, but I do have my moments when I need to look beyond my own situation for inspiration. That is where books come in, for me. My sister Norma Jean and I share book recommendations, and I am currently reading one that I'm enjoying very much. It's a bestseller, and I decided to indulge myself and load it onto my Kindle. It's called 28 Summers by Elin Hilderbrand.

Based on the classic film Same Time Next Year (which Mallory and Jake watch every summer), 28 Summers explores the agony and romance of a one-weekend-per-year affair and the dramatic ways this relationship complicates and enriches their lives, and the lives of the people they love.

That's a teaser from Amazon. I am not devouring the book in one sitting, because I really am enjoying taking my time and thinking about the relationship and how it might be to love someone but live the majority of one's life with someone else. And the best part of all is that I have discovered another prolific author whose work I enjoy! That has opened up a whole new literary world for me. I am always looking for a new author whose books are right up my alley, and I think I've found one. Thanks for that, sis!

We had a cold snap come in overnight, and I just looked at the temperature and see that we are right at freezing, which means I'll be scraping my car's windshield this morning before heading to the coffee shop. Normally I'd just make coffee at home on a day like this, but my friend John called yesterday to tell me he's actually going to drive there, the first time since his operation on October 8th. He had a major shoulder surgery rebuild, and his left arm is in a sling but he's gotten the go-ahead from his doctor to start his regular activities (that he can do with one hand, that is). He managed to drive himself to the local store to shop for groceries, which pretty much amazes me, but he's determined to get back to normal as soon as possible. So I'll go there, too. It will be great to see part of our lives beginning to resume. A little, at least, since we can't hang out in the coffee shop yet; I'll climb into the cab of his big truck and quaff a coffee with my friend. 

Permanence, perseverance and persistence in spite of all obstacles, discouragements, and impossibilities: It is this, that in all things distinguishes the strong soul from the weak. —Thomas Carlyle

I think of John as someone who is determined to regain as much strength and mobility as possible, even at eighty, so that he can continue to do what he loves for as long as possible. And he's got friends who help him. He wants to be able to dance again, ride his tractor again, and be ready for plowing once we get to springtime.

And yes, springtime will come again. Hopefully we will all be there to enjoy it, and that it will be a new year, with this awful year of 2020 behind us, never to return. Who would have guessed at the beginning of this year that it would end up with the entire world suffering through this pandemic? That we would be unable to gather with our friends and family for so long?

But we will get through it all, and I again pause to count my many blessings. You, my dear friends, are part of my blessings, and I have so much gratitude for your continued presence in my life. I have managed to muddle my way through another Sunday post, and I can feel myself anxious to get up and start a new day. Hopefully you will take a few moments to count your own blessings, too. Until we meet again next week, I hope you will be well and all good things will come your way. 

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Gearing up for winter

Mushroom village

I am constantly surprised by the green forests I visit here in the Pacific Northwest. They never stop being green, even in the winter. Just look at this old tree, cut down sometime in the past, sawed into segments that are now a village for moss and mushrooms. And although in some places the ferns die back in the winter, here they are still around to grace the forest paths all year long. They do sprout new growth in the spring, but they never seem to totally die off. Maybe it's because it doesn't get cold enough during our winter season.

Rain fell last night. We sleep with our window open, even during the colder months, and bundle up with warm blankets. When I woke in the middle of the night, I could hear the gentle sound of rain and fell back asleep to the sound. It is still raining a little this morning, but now I've closed the window and turned on the heater. I've opened my laptop and am now trying to think what to write about today. Sometimes I've got a good idea of what is coming, but not today. It's early in the morning and the day is still quiet; other than the tapping of the keys as I send out a message to you, there is no other sound. 

We are likely to have a dreary winter, since the pandemic is surging all across the country, and we are being admonished to continue our limited activities.  When I learned last week that my gym is open for business, if you make a reservation and join the very few people allowed inside, I was looking forward to it. But then I thought about whether it's really a good idea or not. I was given a chance to take a look at how much they have changed the layout, with cavernous distances between equipment setups, and the use of all the large workout spaces now filled with stationary bikes and treadmills set far apart. Only five people are allowed inside at a time in some rooms. No, I think I'll wait awhile longer before I return to exercising indoors. It's going to be necessary to take my walks in the rain, wearing my rain gear and hoping for the best.

We are now only a few short weeks away from the election here in the US. I will be glad when it's behind us, when I will no longer be subjected to the endless political ads on TV, the enormous amount of campaign literature that builds up in our post office box, or to the sense of anxiety that many of us are feeling. As I watch the news for signs of hope, I realize that in this particular time in the history of the world, we are caught in a collective sense of change that is coming to us all. Change in our daily lives for the foreseeable future, a change in the direction of my country, and a hope that we will emerge from this time of upheaval stronger, more coherent, and with us being more united. 

I was born during World War II, and no one could have imagined how the world would evolve from then until now. And this means that no one can really predict how our world will be in another fifty years. It won't look like today's world, of course, and I can only hope that by then we will have given up war and conflict and found a way to coexist on this tiny planet, caring for each other, caring for the environment, and having decided to limit our population so that all the other creatures on the earth can thrive. It could happen, and if I can imagine a peaceful world, I know it's possible. 

Humans aren't as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were 'reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.' —Neil deGrasse Tyson

Yes, a different world indeed. And how does one start gaining empathy? Well, part of it is looking around at my own little world and figuring out what I can do to make other beings happier. There's the neighborhood cat that has been hanging out for months on my front porch. I have discovered that he belongs to a nearby family, but he wanders around with an imperious air and doesn't seem to want to be "owned" by anybody. We enjoy each other's company without having to do anything about it. He brings me joy, and I provide a place for him to feel safe from predators. At first I thought about feeding him, but he seems to find plenty of food without my help. So we are simply fellow travelers who acknowledge each other's existence.

Every morning when I set out in my car for the coffee shop, I know I must be careful of the deer that might appear in the road. Almost always I see at least one of them, and yesterday I saw an entire family: father, mother, and two fawns. They emerged from the shadows and set off in the direction of breakfast, whatever it might be. They looked healthy and well fed, where in this part of the country there is plenty to eat year round. They also bring me joy, just seeing them doing so well.

The squirrels around here have been frantically stashing nuts for the coming winter. Our neighbor has a walnut tree, and the nuts barely have a chance to hit the ground before the squirrels come to haul them away. I saw one enterprising squirrel with a nut in each cheek as he hurried by. They are getting ready for winter in the only way they know how. But isn't it curious how well they do? Nobody taught them but they still know from genetic information passed along through instinct. At least that's what I think, but I don't know for sure. Perhaps there are little classrooms set up inside old trees where the grownups impart knowledge to the little ones. (smile)

We are all gearing up for the long winter ahead, one unlike any other we will see in our lifetimes. Mostly because of the pandemic and its effect on everybody in every country. I feel very blessed to be in a relatively safe environment, with enough food to eat and a dear partner who shares the burden of living with me. He is doing quite well, by the way, shopped for veggies yesterday and prepared lots of steamed kale and broccoli for us to enjoy for the next bit of time. He now has doctor appointments regularly, and I am also feeling gratitude for our ability to have health care that we can afford as we age. I wish I could wave a magic wand and give that blessing to the entire world.

And now I am gearing up for the rest of my day. I will go to the coffee shop, although my friends won't be there (but I still need my caffeine fix). In the late morning, I will go to a favorite place to share breakfast with my friend John, who will be driven there by his lady friend who has been caring for him since his shoulder surgery. I haven't seen him since the operation, but he is doing well, he says, and although we won't hug or anything, I will be happy to lay eyes on him today. 

I have so much to be grateful for, and it's such a wonderful thing to count my blessings and share my life with you, dear friends, who are more than just friends but my virtual family. I hope that you will find some time to count your own blessings and gear up for the coming winter surrounded by only joy and gratitude. Along with a nice warm blanket, too. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Keeping my head above water


Waterfall behind me

I smiled at the double entendre in the title of this post and the picture of me, taken by Lily, with Whatcom Falls in the background. We took a walk in the park while her car was getting serviced, with the mild weather and no rain contributing to a lovely morning stroll. We didn't go far, really, but it was nice to be together during this season of social distancing. I have my mask around my neck, which I pulled up whenever strangers approached, but Lily and I consider each other to be family. She is part of my Covid "pod," one of those people with whom I feel comfortable breathing the same air.

I wanted to spend some time with her, since her mother died a few days ago, and she is hurting. Lily is from Guatemala and has a green card to live and work in the US, but with the politics being what they are these days, she didn't want to leave when she has no assurance that she would be able to return. Earlier this year, she traveled through Canada to Guatemala City to spend time with her ailing mother. Today, the border is closed to Canada. Lily was able to "attend" her mother's funeral through FaceTime; she is coping with the help of her family and the friends she has made here. She took the entire week off from work so she could grieve in private. And with close friends, which includes me.

My friend John had shoulder surgery last Thursday, and although I have sent him some emails, I still haven't heard from him, so that weighs on my mind, too. It was a fairly extensive rebuild of his right shoulder and rotator cuff. He is staying with a lady friend who agreed to take care of him for a couple weeks until he can function on his own. I am certainly willing to help, once he's in need and lets me know. I'll pester him until I get some answers about when that might be.

The weather is turning cooler now, and the leaves have begun to turn colors. On my walks I see leaves gently falling from the branches, creating a carpet under my feet. It is usually my favorite season, autumn, but this year the pandemic has created uncertainty in much of my daily life. The coffee shop, which has been a source of enjoyment for so many years, is still unable to open its doors to customers. We must sit outside, and with the weather changing, it's much less appealing than it was during the summer months. And John isn't there, so I am now making coffee at home and missing the social interaction I crave, even if we have to keep our distance from one another. I miss my life in the Before Times, before this pandemic upended the lives of millions of us around the entire world.

I got my flu shot last week, and I was able to get the high dose version of Fluzone. I didn't realize there are two kinds of flu shots being offered this year, until my blogging friend Kay alerted me to the difference. Most places around here are not able to offer the high dose, either, because of such high demand for it. My arm was very sore for three days, but now it's fine and I'm glad to have that behind me. I sure don't want to get the flu. I think I had the coronavirus back in March, considering my symptoms, but there were no tests available at the time. I had a cough, low grade fever, and lost my sense of taste and smell (such as it is). Now I am back to my version of normal and am doing all that I can to stay healthy. I sure miss the gym, but I wouldn't go back there right now, even if I could. When you work out, you breathe hard, and the virus is airborne. And there is the matter of my age.

Joe Biden is my age, born just a few weeks before me in 1942. So I know what he is dealing with and know how difficult it must be for him to be taking on the task of running for President at his age. He was not my first choice, but as a lifelong Democrat, he's what I've got. We will receive our ballots in the mail this week, and we'll sit down at the kitchen table and discuss our choices and then will drive our completed ballots to the drop box in front of City Hall. Washington state has had mail-in ballots ever since we moved here in 2008. At first I missed going to the polls early on Election Day, which is what we did in Boulder, Colorado, for decades. We tried to be within the first dozen voters, and usually we were. One year we got to our polling station fifteen minutes before opening, and there was already a line. I don't remember why, all these years later.

I truly hope that everyone who wants to vote this year will get a chance to, but there seem to be real problems in some other states. So this year I'm glad I don't have to venture out and stand in a long line, which will most likely happen all over the country. I have never missed voting in any election since my first one, when I voted for John F. Kennedy. Boy, that was a long time ago! How much the world has changed since then. And how many more people are alive today than back then: the United States had 186.5 million people, and now we have 328 million. That's 142 million more Americans! No wonder it seems crowded in so many ways: it is.

This is a tough time in the history of the world. I am privileged to be alive during it, and I hope I will have many more years of living to see how we get through this. No matter who wins the election next month, we will not return to any kind of normalcy for a long time to come. Sometimes this scares me, but other times I realize that what is happening in the world today is a struggle between different ideologies. It is not the first time this has occurred, and it won't be the last. The only thing any of us can do is keep our heads above water, so we can continue to breathe. Everybody uses different methods to cope with difficulty. And I do realize that the difficulties I have are miniscule when compared with others around the world, and even in my own country.

You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' —Eleanor Roosevelt

Eleanor Roosevelt went through trials that I can only imagine, and she continued to live a full and meaningful life. When I was young and she passed away, I thought she was ancient, but now I realize she was only 78, which I will be in December. And I'm not ready to leave quite yet. I will use her life, however, as a bellwether for what it is possible to achieve in the remaining years of my life. She had strength, courage, and confidence in abundance, and I believe I can have the same if I just continue to look for those attributes within myself, and incorporate them into my little corner of the world. 

Because of the internet, I am able to have instantaneous news from around the world, and I do pay attention to what is happening in remote regions, as well as right here in Bellingham. I am blessed to have dear virtual friends around the world, and they give me a sense of what their lives are like, as well as those who live nearby. It always gives me great pleasure to look at the posts I receive from my friend in Canberra, who calls herself Elephant's Child, where it is springtime and the abundant spring flowers in her garden make me realize that I must expand my understanding of the world. Here the days are becoming shorter and the nights longer, but on the other side of the equator, the opposite is happening. Isn't that wonderful? It reminds me that what I see around me is only a small slice of life on our planet.

And with that, dear friends, I think I might have finished this post. It's become a lifeline for me, a chance to spend time sitting in my bed with my laptop, with my dear partner next to me, asleep through the clacking of my keyboard, and take stock of where I am today, and where I want to be tomorrow. There are always places one can look to see the good surrounding us, and to give thanks for friendship, which exists in myriad fashions to help us through these difficult days. Until we meet again next week, dear ones, I wish you all good things. Be well and don't forget to count your blessings.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Finding serenity every day

Arroyo Park bridge

 Yesterday I walked with Melanie (my usual Saturday walking companion), along with my longtime friend Chris (one of the regulars when we had a Saturday walking group). Chris will join us every Saturday now, since she's unable to hike on Thursdays as she will be homeschooling her grandkids during the weekdays. In any event, we met in Fairhaven and walked to the Arroyo bridge together. It was foggy when I woke in the morning, and it stayed with us all day long. The temperature never even got to 60°F (15°C) during the day. But for walking and being outdoors when active, it was just fine.

With all that's happened in the news this week, I've been looking to find some pockets of serenity so that I can function and not let current events drag me down. It hasn't been easy, and now the president is in the hospital with the virus. He has the best care available to anybody in the world, so I'm trying to stay positive with the news.

One of the ways that I'm able to keep my equanimity is to continue with my three-times-a-week yoga classes on Zoom, and to continue my exercise routine: trying to get at least 10,000 steps a day and hiking once or twice a week (although not long when compared to my pre-Covid routine, it's better than nothing). I miss riding the bus to downtown, which I've only done twice since the lockdown began in March. I might try to start again, since the buses have added lots of sanitation protocols, and no one can board the bus without a mask. Stores in my community also have plenty of safety measures, which is good, since it looks like the virus will be with us for quite awhile longer. Who would have believed that we'd be entering the cold months with such high viral numbers around the country? Certainly not me.

And I've got a new toy, which arrived last Thursday: an Apple watch. I decided to go with the less expensive (but brand new) version, the SE, which doesn't have oxygen saturation levels and an ECG built in. I figured I don't need those, and I really wasn't sure just how much I might use and enjoy the watch. There is so much I still don't know about it, but I've gotten the basics down. I chose a watch face that shows the moon in its current phase, and also displays the time and date, along with the Bellingham weather conditions. It is a watch, after all, so I can see the time and date with a flick of my wrist. The fancier and more expensive version of the new watch line stays on constantly, which didn't appeal to me. I'm quite happy with what I know about my new toy already, and there's so much more to learn.

Yesterday, when we began our brisk walk, the watch face lit up and said, "it looks like you're working out. Would you like to record the event?" So of course I said yes, and I found out several things: we walked at an 18-minute per mile pace, we traveled just under five miles, and the device has a pause button in case you want to stop for a bit. And I could choose to stop it at any time. It was fun! The watch also has a fitness feature that keeps track of my steps, and has three "rings" of activity to prompt you to close them each day. So far on the two days I've worn it, I have managed to do that with little problem. I might decide to up the activity goals, once I've gotten used to it.

So far, I'm thrilled with the watch. It also has an app that seemed a little cheesy to me until I tried it: a reminder to sit and follow your breath. Once you get settled and focus on your breath, it vibrates as you take in a breath with a cloudlike circle on the face, and then as you slowly exhale, the little circle slowly disappears. Then another breath, and so on. It's really very calming, and I have already used it a few times. There are plenty of other features like that one to explore, when I can find the time.

Three weeks ago, I fell while on a walk, and I think I might have broken the little finger on my right hand. As I fell, it hit a rock, and it hurt like crazy. Although a prudent person might have gone to the doctor, I just came home and taped it to the adjoining finger to immobilize it. It's stiff and a little bent, but it's getting better every day. I think I might finally get it checked out, but what can they do when you break a little bone in your finger?  Not much more than that. And the skin was never broken over it. In the meantime, I'm finding it doesn't quite bend all the way into a fist, but that might come with time. I've "liberated" it from its neighbor. That's when I realized that it's a little crooked. Since I don't play the piano or need anything more than the ability to type (which I can), I'm probably going to skip the doctor visit.

Speaking of doctor visits, my dear partner had his first checkup with his primary care physician since his stroke on August 9. It went very well: he is coming along nicely and is doing much better than the doctor anticipated. He doesn't need to return for four months, and is already driving himself around town and going up and down steps without having to stop to take a breath. When it first happened, it was a very different story. I'm so pleased that he is doing so well. Life will never return to what it was before, but it's sort of like my little finger: well enough to count our blessings. 

And life in the world will never return to what we had before the Covid crisis hit. It is now normal to see everyone masked, and keeping their distance from one another. I still have to remind myself not to queue up behind someone when standing in line, but otherwise I'm pretty good. I saw some cute little toddlers yesterday playing on the Village green, wearing their masks and not seemingly bothered. They of course didn't practice social distancing as they ran around and tumbled in the grass, but that would be hard to explain to a two-year-old. Still, I was impressed with their masked nonchalance. 

I am happy to wake up each morning filled with energy and basically pain free. I am grateful to my acupuncturist, whom I visit every two weeks, and to my massage therapist, who has returned to work and sees me once a month. In both offices, I must put my coat and other clothes in one specific place, and everything is sanitized thoroughly between clients. I know some people would be uncomfortable with it, but there are some things I am willing to risk for the larger benefit. Plus, I'm pretty sure I already had the virus and just want to make sure I don't risk anybody else's health.

So that's what is happening in my little corner of the world. I managed to get through the entire post without mentioning politics (other than about the president being hospitalized), and that did take a little bit of doing. As we approach the election in less than a month, I am hoping that everyone will be able to cast a ballot safely, and that you, my dear virtual friends, will remain safe and free of disease. And that you will find your own ways to find serenity every day. It is available to each and every one of us, if we give it some focus and energy. And every one of us has the ability to find happiness in our daily life, if we will look around to find and count our blessings. 

Always say 'yes' to the present moment... Surrender to what is. Say 'yes' to life—and see how life starts suddenly to start working for you rather than against you. —Eckhart Tolle

And with that quote, I will leave you until we meet here again next week, and I truly wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Changing my perspective


Lunch, anyone?

When I was out walking in my neighborhood a few days ago, I saw these two deer snacking on someone's greenery. At first, I thought they were lawn ornaments, and then one of them moved. The one on the right was so close to me that I could almost reach out and touch her (I think it is a doe). I took out my phone and snapped the shot. They turned back to lunch, while I continued on my way.

It made me think about how much things look different at first glance, and then how my feelings change when I look at something from a new perspective. After six months in virtual lockdown from the pandemic, much of my new life has become familiar. I still shop at my favorite grocery store, but the numbers of people allowed inside at one time is smaller, and everyone wears a mask. We keep our distance from each other, and we don't hug or make physical contact with friends when we encounter them. It's become almost normal. I walk around in my neighborhood several times a week for exercise, instead of my gym, which is still not open. I don't think I would want to go there, even if it were open, knowing how airborne the virus is. We are living through an unprecedented time in the history of the world.

Not that there haven't been plagues and viruses in the past, but there were never before so many of us, and with instant communication, we know what is happening in other parts of the world. We are spared from natural disasters here at the moment, but we have no guarantee of continued calm. There is a sense of unease that permeates my surroundings, as we move inevitably closer to the national election on November 3. Just a few miles north of here, the Canadian border separates our countries, although it is closed until at least October 21 (and I suspect they will not reopen it then, either), because Canada has very low infection rates, and we here in the US have among the highest in the world. And fall is here, with cold weather following close behind.

Many of our favorite restaurants have extended their outside seating areas so that people don't have to come inside except to order. When it is rainy or cold, we just get our coffee and/or breakfast and take it home. Sometimes my friend John and I sit in the cab of his truck and visit while we drink our coffee. He is part of my Covid "pod," or safe people to hang out with.

Pods are small, self-contained networks of people who limit their non-distanced social interaction to one another—in other words, they're the small group of people with whom you share air without using breath-control precautions such as masks.

John will soon have surgery on his shoulder and will then leave my pod, because he will be exposed to other people.  I'll miss him, because he has become part of my everyday life, seeing him at least for a half hour every morning. These days, we sit outside if the weather is good and enjoy each other's company. His companionship comforts me and gives me a sense of normalcy in this otherwise altered environment. We laugh together and commiserate about our changed lives. John turned eighty this past spring, and his health is about average for someone his age, but he misses the dances he went to every week and is getting less exercise. I admonish him to walk more, but he mostly gets his exercise on his tractor, moving dirt and manure as part of his landscape activity. That will change along with the weather.

We have had a few days of rain, but now we are headed into a warm Indian Summer period, and I'll enjoy every little bit of it, knowing how short it is likely to be. All of next week is projected to be dry with above-normal temperatures. It will allow me to spend more time outdoors, with a possible hike in the mountains with my friends, a last hurrah before being forced to stay close to home for my outings. My world will shrink a bit as I retreat into my warm home as the weather changes.

One of my blogging friends lives in Australia, and I am reminded when I visit her blog that south of the equator, spring is just beginning. Her pictures of the burgeoning spring flowers gives me such joy, and it reminds me that perspective is dependent on one's vantage point. While we prepare for the cold weather, she is walking among the tulips and getting ready for the warm weather to come. One of my daily activities is absorbing the Astronomy Picture of the Day. It always helps to give me a more inclusive perspective of my daily life. We are all inhabitants of Planet Earth, but our beautiful planet is only one little speck in the immense universe. 

It is not easy to see how the more extreme forms of nationalism can long survive when men have seen the Earth in its true perspective as a single small globe against the stars. —Arthur C. Clarke

 I have always been a fan of science fiction, and I have read stories that take me along to distant planets, with many different ways of seeing ourselves. One of my favorite authors is Ursula LeGuin, who wrote The Left Hand of Darkness, a story I have read and re-read because she shows me how much different we would be if we were not always the same sex. Her characters cycle in and out of being male or female. Just think about how that might change your perspective!

I will be getting up soon, and I'll start my day with a trip to the coffee shop. Although it's colder these mornings, it's fun to dress for the weather and sit outside and enjoy our coffee and (sometimes) breakfast. First, I'll do my morning exercises out on the front porch and make sure I am dressed appropriately for staying outside. Right now it's a bit nippy (49°F/9°C) but it should warm up quickly, once the sun rises. That isn't happening now until 7:05am. We are past the fall equinox and the days are shorter than the nights, until we reach the nadir on December 21, when the days will begin to lengthen once again. I love the cycle of seasons.

And with that, I will sign off and make my way into the rest of my day. This task on Sunday mornings almost always makes me feel better about life, and I hope it might do the same for you as well. My dear partner sleeps quietly next to me, the tea is long gone, and the day beckons. Until we meet again next week, I wish you nothing but the best. Be well and don't forget to count your blessings. You are one of mine.