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, January 26, 2020

Love, loss, and laughter

Lake Padden in late January
Yesterday we ladies met at Lake Padden to take our two laps around together in the rain. I think the last several weeks we've dealt with either snow and cold weather, or rain and warmth. We haven't seen much of the sun lately, but I much prefer the warm weather to the ice and harsh winds. You can see we had low clouds and a little rain, but mostly it was pretty darn perfect.

I noticed that my friend Linda did not have her dog with her, and I learned that she had to put Riley to sleep this past week, as his liver cancer had progressed far enough to cause him to be in a lot of pain and with no further treatment possible. I loved that dog, too, and grieve for his loss. It seems like many of us are going through similar difficulties. A blogging friend just lost her brother-in-law to a quick cancer death, too, and she is grieving along with her sister. I have several other blogging friends who are dealing with loss, both of their own health, or with loved ones leaving us behind.

It's part of life. If you love (and we all do), you must sometimes be the one holding the memories of happier times, and sometimes it's us ourselves dealing with our own losses of health and mobility. The older I get, I keep thinking it will get easier, but it doesn't. We wish we could stay young, vibrant and healthy forever. It doesn't work that way. We wish our loved ones would never suffer, and that in a perfect world, none of us would ever die. But then there would be no room for the new ones, and all of life would be stagnant and much less precious. We all must join the progression from birth to death, living our own unique dashes (the time between these events) in the most authentic ways we can.

No one who has lived long enough to have gray hair and wrinkles has escaped the struggle of trying to find a way to both let go of our loved ones and holding on to our precious memories. The hole in our lives will eventually ease up, but we can never journey back to the same place we were before. The interesting thing about it all is that we still find ways to love as fully as ever, maybe even more so, because we have been reminded that these moments we have are priceless and only exist for a short while. I intend to make the most of every minute of every day, and that means taking stock every once in awhile and looking for the little nuggets of life that sustain me.
I have always felt that laughter in the face of reality is probably the finest sound there is and will last until the day when the game is called on account of darkness. In this world, a good time to laugh is any time you can. —Linda Ellerbee
Yes, that's one of my favorite ways to cope with life's ups and downs: laughter. When I'm feeling really down, I know that if I can find the humor in the situation or in anything at all, I'll feel better. A good book that takes me outside of myself, or a funny movie that gives me a belly laugh or two, is a balm to my spirit. And it's not even cheating, since laughing and crying are definitely preferable to shutting down and feeling nothing.

One thing I have learned is that whatever I might be experiencing right now won't last all that long. Whether it's being hungry, or being too full, that will change before too long. Whether it's being sad and angry, or being filled with mirth, these are all transient emotions that will change over short periods of time. That makes me feel a bit better when that old familiar squeeze of sadness touches my heart. I know that I will also be feeling its expansion in love and happiness before too long. It's sort of like the weather: wait awhile and it will change.

I am no stranger to either loss or abundance. Like most of us, the times I crave the most are those when I have my loved ones surrounding me, and we are all laughing together. Those periods in life that I can recall with immense fondness, even when those loved ones who have moved on, these memories are priceless treasures that I will enjoy for as long as I live. If this were my last day, I realize that I have been given so much that I could hardly ask for more in this life.

And with that, dear friends, I realize that I've written another early Sunday morning meditation that I hope will leave you with some joy. Remember that whatever you are going through right now, it's part of being a whole person, and that tomorrow will be different. And don't forget to give thanks for the ones you love, for they are always with you in your hearts. My dear partner sleeps quietly next to me, my tea is gone, and the coffee shop beckons. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Mid-January reflections

Our walking group yesterday
I've been walking with this group for years now, and yesterday's walk was the smallest turnout I've seen in all our various weather configurations. Nobody wanted to go out and walk around on the snow-covered trails. We've walked in a downpour, on slippery sidewalks, in windstorms, and even occasionally under sunny skies. But yesterday only seven of us showed up. Cindy sent around an email changing our venue from the downtown area to the trails behind Barkley Haggen's grocery store. We walked from there to Whatcom Falls and turned around. Not a long walk, but it had plenty of icy patches. It's a lot of work to walk on snow, but nobody fell, not even me!

After a week of below-normal temperatures and all this snow, things are gradually returning to normal. Yesterday it got all the way up to above freezing, and today should see much of the remaining snow melt away. At least I can drive around now without fear of hitting any ice and losing control of my car. When I lived in Colorado I learned to drive in these conditions, but I'm older now and much less confident behind the wheel driving in snow and ice.

And so many of my usual activities have been curtailed because of the weather. On Thursday, the Senior Center was closed and some intrepid hikers showed up anyway. One of the hiking groups canceled, and the other (ours) decided to hike around the Lake Padden upper trails. I decided just to make it home and stay inside, since the driving was still not good on side roads. I've had all the winter weather I need for the season.

Today my friend Judy and I will head to our local theater to see 1917. Neither of us are anxious to see this movie, another war film. And as many historical buffs know, this was one of the most awful wars ever. But the movie has garnered so many Oscar nominations that we will go anyway and decide how we feel about it. Yesterday I streamed Once Upon a Time in Hollywood and watched it at home. I enjoyed it very much, and the performances by Leonardo diCaprio and Brad Pitt were wonderful. They have both earned well deserved nominations.

A few weeks ago we saw Little Women, which I truly enjoyed and, so far of the ones I've seen, would pick it as the best picture of the year. The premise is slightly changed from all the previous versions, and the performances are stellar. I don't understand why Greta Gerwig, the writer and director, was not nominated for awards, I really don't. I've read that it's partly politics; women are not supposed to be good at this sort of thing. Whatever. It is a delight and I highly recommend it. The period costumes are incredible, too.

It was a week of interrupted plans, but I still found plenty to enjoy. These days you can stay in your own cozy little abode and find lots of interesting diversions. I have read a couple of books and streamed some episodes of Star Trek on my iPad, and occasionally even turned on the TV and watched the news. I remember when it was impossible to stay up to date without watching TV, but now it's an afterthought. My laptop brings me plenty of news programs, and I can choose to read and watch what I am most interested in. I pay for access to so many national newspapers that I cannot keep up. It's sure an interesting time to be alive.

It was only a few weeks ago that the only thing I could think about was the condition of my back, especially the sciatic nerve that caused me to walk around like an old person with a bad back. Today I am still an old person, but the aches and pains of my back are completely gone. I credit my acupuncturist, massage therapist, chiropractor, and yoga for that wonderful state of affairs. I know that whatever difficulties I face in the future will benefit from these practitioners, too. Although I am still grappling with the fact of birthdays coming around way too often, I know that for my age I'm doing just fine. Soon it will be time for my annual wellness visit, and I'm hoping that the numbers in my blood draws will not show anything untoward. But you never know: it's important to visit the doctor now and then, even if you're healthy.

When I think back over my long life and reminisce about all that I once did and no longer even miss, such as my skydiving years, or my career that I left behind more than a decade ago, I am really quite amazed that I've found so much pleasure in making my own routines. My friends and family sustain me in many ways, too. Writing my posts every week also help to keep me engaged and mentally sharp. This morning I had absolutely no idea where I'd be traveling in these musings, but somehow or other I've managed to eke out some semblance of a blog post here. I like to write, but actually I like to read other people's writings even more. The blogosphere is filled with interesting people, and I visit some of them daily, too. What a full life! Where did I ever find the time to fit in a job?

Part of it is that I've slowed down and begun the process of letting go of extraneous aspects of life, and now I can just sit back in my easy chair and ponder just what I want to do with my remaining time on this beautiful planet. One thing I know I will never stop doing: realizing my great good fortune and being grateful for all that I am able to appreciate and enjoy. I am guided by those who are also traveling this path with me, and learning how to find gratitude in everyday little pleasures.

It's way more fun to think about the good stuff than to be a grumpy old curmudgeon. We all have some of those people in our lives, and it's probably a good idea to simply smile and maybe even commiserate for awhile. But not for long; I'll be looking for people who are in love with life to hang around with. Just like any virus can be contagious, so can the benign virus of love. I'll spend my days spreading that virus, I hope.

So, dear friends, until next week when we meet again, I hope you will spread that virus and find plenty in your life to be grateful for. I have my dear partner sleeping next to me, softly snoring, my tea is long gone, and the coffee shop and my pals there are calling to me. Please take these days ahead to look on the good side of life; it's there for all of us, I know it is. I wish you all good things.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

A change in the weather

Rain is easily dealt with
Today we are under a winter storm warning, with extremely cold air coming down from British Columbia, and lots of wind to go along with it. Right now, however, the situation is pretty normal, with rain and relatively mild temperatures. That is all supposed to change this afternoon. We've got not only cold and wind on the way, but it looks like our familiar rain will turn to snow.

I know that many of my blog family has been dealing with situations much worse than what we've got ahead for the next few days, but we are quite spoiled, with the usual Pacific Northwest mild temperatures in retreat and subfreezing temperatures expected for the highs every day. Yikes! My friend Judy and I are heading off to the theater to see Little Women at noon. If the forecasts are correct, we'll come out of the theater to a much different world than when we enter.

We try to see all the movies and performances that are likely to be nominated for Oscars, and there are quite a few that we haven't seen yet. Some are available for streaming and not in the theaters: I've already seen The Irishman and Marriage Story online and have a few more to see that way. The world is definitely changing, and I suspect that every year there will be more and more movies available right away for streaming, rather than needing to head to a theater. It's a little sad, in a way, because I really enjoy the community experience.

But there's no stopping progress, the changes that are coming every day, every week, and every year. Maybe it's because I've seen so much change already during my lifetime that I have become a happy traveler through these upheavals. Well, maybe not "happy" to see what is happening around the world today, but reconciled to the world under my feet no longer feeling quite so solid. I often use books and movies to distract myself from the world situation, and I have a daily routine that comforts me and keeps me busy.

That is not to say that I am not engaged with current politics, but there is just so much I can tolerate before it begins to drag me down, which does no good for anybody, especially me. My yoga classes have begun again after the holiday break, and they help a lot. It's interesting that I have purchased all the necessary props for me to have a daily practice here at home, but I just can't seem to do it without the impetus of a class, with a teacher and fellow students. Maybe one day that will change, but for now I have two classes a week that I look forward to.

My back problems have receded, with help from the talented bodywork professionals that I have discovered over the years. I actually have days when I have little to no discomfort anywhere. I went on a nine-mile hike last Thursday, and although I was exhausted at the end of the day, I was pleased that my knees and back held up passably well. Today is my rest day, where I don't try to reach my usual step goal of 10,000 (although sometimes I do inadvertently), so I won't be heading to the gym or yoga studio, just to the movies with Judy. That, of course, is after my excursion to the coffee shop, which does so much more than just give me a chance to ingest caffeine; I also interact with the staff and my coffee shop friends. The same people show up and sit in the same spots we usually inhabit, giving the beginning of my day a reassuring shape. I do hope this community will continue for a long time to come.

Once this cold snap passes, we should return to our usual winter fare of rain, with snow piling up in the mountains and leaving us alone here at sea level. I am not looking forward to the need for plenty of warm weather gear, and I just remembered that I have run out of Hot Hands and need to order some more. (I just clicked over to Amazon and ordered some.) These are invaluable for our winter hikes. Some people also use toe warmers along with hand warmers. These ingenious little packages last for up to ten hours and are nice to place in pockets or even inside mittens to keep us warm and toasty. Although they only are good for one use, that one use makes all the difference. One more item I don't think I want to go without.

Well, it's about time for me to think about making my way to the coffee shop. I'll pull out my down jacket, warm gloves, hat, and muffler to wrap around my neck. I hope I enjoy the movie this afternoon, since I've heard mixed reviews from friends who have already seen it. And then, once I'm home, I'll hunker down with a good book and hope the change in the weather will come and go quickly. Tomorrow I'll be riding the bus and not taking a chance on driving, so that someone else will be at the wheel.

My beloved lies here next to me, not asleep at the moment but on his way back to slumberland, while I make my way up and out of bed. Tea is gone, my willingness to brave the weather gearing up and catapulting me into the day ahead. I do hope that you, my dear friends, will stay safe and comfortable until we meet again next week. Be well until then.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Winter sunrise

Outside the coffee shop
On Friday, I decided to walk in the wind and rain to the bus to get to the coffee shop. I knew that otherwise I probably wouldn't make my step target for the day, since I was scheduled for a massage and needed to skip my usual aerobics class. This pretty winter's morning picture caught my eye and I snapped it with my cellphone. Since it's always with me, I sometimes get pictures I would otherwise miss. I am a fan of all the lights on the trees that my town puts up during the holidays. They will all be gone by the end of the month, and I'll miss them.

At this latitude, we are gaining more than a minute of daylight every day which, if you add it up, makes for ten minutes a week more light in the sky than we had on the darkest day of the season, December 21. We are in the midst of a mild and windy (and wet) period, but the temperature is supposed to fall and the rain will become snow in the High Country. That should make skiers happy; it's been a slow season so far.

This past week was one of plenty of body work: I saw the chiropractor on Monday, as I hoped; Tuesday was an acupuncture treatment, and Friday was a wonderful massage. My back is almost 100% better, with only an occasional residual twinge after having been in such pain for a week. I think the chiropractic adjustment was very helpful. I've now seen Russell Maxwell three or four times over the past decade, and he always helps with the sacroiliac joint pain. This latest time was no exception, and I smiled when he handed me the teddy bear to hold while he made the adjustment. Such a sweet little gesture and completely appropriate for patients like me who are a bit squeamish about the whole ordeal.

I am definitely still in a phase shift about posting on my other blog. In taking a break from my three-times-a-week schedule, I find that I'm truly needing to let myself be more spontaneous and not so rigid. I almost wrote a post out of duty yesterday, but somehow the day slipped by and it never got done. This morning I realize I feel relief but am still not liberated from the decade-long task I've set for myself. On Thursdays I always write about my Senior Trailblazer hike, so that's still happening, and I'm wondering why I don't just allow the rest of the week to flow naturally. Once I'm through this phase, it will be different, I just don't know how quite yet.

I have other blogging friends who are changing up their schedule or deciding how and when to post. One dear friend has stopped allowing comments on his posts, and I find myself feeling frustrated, because I want to communicate with him and cannot. To me, comments are an essential part of blogging; I can read what someone wrote and let them know what I think about it immediately, whether they live in Australia or just down the highway. The community aspect of blogging is part of what I love about it. Although I'll never see most of you in person, it's not an important aspect of our interaction. The sharing of one's daily life with me enriches my own immeasurably. And we are all so different! It makes me aware of how many ways there are to be in the world. Right now I am terrified for my Australian friend who lives in Canberra and is seeing her entire country go up in fire, with so many homes and lives lost, both human and animal. Somewhere I read that up to half a billion wildlife are probably gone, with no end in sight. Knowing my blogging friend makes the headlines personal. How I wish I could send her some of our rain!

Today I should finish a 720-page novel that has gripped me by the shoulders and won't let go. This is not a book I would recommend, but I care so much about the characters that the author has created that I cannot help but finish it. The book is A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and it's probably the saddest book I've ever read. Because I am so invested in the characters, I decided to read reviews of the book before finishing it, and I discovered what's yet to come. In a way, it helps me to know so that I can decide whether to just put the book down (which I won't, having gotten through 500 pages), or now that I am braced for the rest of it, lay it down once it's finished, having come to love all four main characters that Hanya created. I will soon be released from her world.

Today I'll also find some light and cheerful movie to stream as I come back into the other side of life, the happy and optimistic side. Yes, I know that life is complicated, it's certainly that way for most of us. I've dealt with loss, and perhaps that's why I know that the characters and the lives in the book are doing the best they can in horrific circumstances. In most cases, things get better with time, and there are always ways to cope with trauma, if one can make it through the hardest parts intact. I am praying for our glorious blue planet and hope that we can find the rich joy that is possible in our everyday lives.
All the art of living lies in a fine mingling of letting go and holding on. —Havelock Ellis
And with that quote, I leave you for yet another Sunday, looking forward to what the coming week will bring. As I listen to my dear partner sleeping next to me, I know that I am truly blessed, and on this day I will not forget to look around at everything and give thanks for all that I can hold onto, and let go. Until next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.