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, February 23, 2020

Sometimes the magic works

Forest in July
I am a bit flummoxed about what I might write about this morning, since last week's Sunday post turned out to be such a big hit. I realize now that I cannot repeat it, and after spending a good long while rummaging through my pictures, wondering what to start this post with, I ran across this one, and it brought back to me all those wonderful hikes in the High Country that I've made with my friends over the years. I could be wrong, but I believe this is the trail to Church Mountain.

When we first moved here in 2008, I never expected to find such a great group of friends, people I've now known over the last dozen years, people who have become kindred spirits as well as fellow hiking partners. Although many who were there in 2008 are no longer hiking, that's to be expected when you are in a group of senior citizens. Fortunately, I am still able to join them on most hikes. There are a few I will probably not do again, ones that challenged me even a decade ago and now don't hold much interest for me. But I can still enjoy most of them, even if they seem harder than they once did. Life goes on.

My friend Lily is still in Guatemala with her ailing mother, and she will return early next month, if all goes well. Getting her back across the border should not be a problem, since she has a green card and a job waiting for her, but you just never know these days. In the back of my mind, there is a little worry that our government will find some reason not to let her back in. And although she has been here long enough to apply for citizenship, it has become prohibitively expensive: you need thousands of dollars that may or may not help. It was not always this hard.

And then there's my friend John. He finished all the tests his doctors ordered to see if his aggressive prostate cancer has spread. He sees his doctor to find out the results on Wednesday, which just happens to be the eve of his eightieth birthday. Some of his friends are gathering on Thursday, and as of now we don't know whether it will be to celebrate good news or not. At least the biopsy was able to catch the disease early, before any symptoms developed. I've got my fingers crossed.

Caring about friends and family is a side effect of loving them so much and hoping for the best. But to be truthful, the older I get, the more we suffer from the debilities of age and infirmity. It's part of life, and the only way to avoid suffering along with them is just not to care so much. That is one coping mechanism that I haven't seemed to master, and I'm not sure I even want to. Distractions are helpful, though; yesterday I curled up in my easy chair with a good book, and when I finished it, I streamed a movie on my laptop. Turning on the TV was a mistake, since there was nothing on but the Nevada caucus and the interminable talking heads. Sigh.

It's really raining outside right now; I can hear the rain drumming on the roof, and the wind blowing as well. We had several fabulous days of full sun and mild temperatures, but that is over for the moment. We expect plenty of rain today. Good thing I've got all the right rain gear for the weather, since I'll be heading out to the coffee shop as usual but will work out indoors, if at all. Sunday is usually my day off from trying to get my 10,000+ steps. I am such a creature of habit, though, if I don't at least walk around for a short bit, I feel like I'm cheating.

See? I told you I am uninspired this morning. There is nothing pressing in my life that I haven't already mentioned, and I don't have any wonderful stories to lift me up out of the moment. This is where I usually open a new tab and go looking for some relevant quote, but I cannot even do that, since I don't seem to have any focus. I even keep changing the title of the post, looking for the right one for the moment.

On that note, Chief Dan George played the part of Old Lodge Skins in Little Big Man, a 1970 film that I have seen a few times and really enjoyed. There is a scene in the movie where Old Lodge Skins decides it's time to die.
Back at the Cheyenne camp, Jack accompanies Old Lodge Skins to a nearby hill, the Indian burial ground, where the old man, dressed in full chief's regalia, has declared "It is a good day to die," and decides to end his life with dignity. He offers his spirit to the Great Spirit, and lies down at his spot at the Indian Burial Ground to wait for death. Instead, it begins to rain. Old Lodge Skins is revealed to still be alive, and says, "Well, sometimes the magic works. Sometimes it doesn't." They return to his lodge to have dinner.
 That is as good as I'm able to do this morning, and it seems a fitting ending for this post. Yes, it's a bit on the lame side, but that's what you get this morning. I'm looking forward to having more to tell you next week, but until then, I always have to take this moment to give thanks for the great life I am able to enjoy right now in this moment, with you along with me on the journey. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and I hope he will have a wonderful day, as well as you, dear reader. Until next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Love is in the air

Rose quartz
I've certainly seen a lot of pink like this color around the past week, Valentine's week. Friday was the actual day, but it bled out into the surrounding days with all the beautiful flowers in the stores, the boxes of candy begging you to buy them (which I didn't), the lovely color bringing smiles to my face.

In yoga, our instructor read us a short parable at the beginning of the class. It was about someone walking along a sidewalk and seeing what looked to be a piece of rose quartz. So pretty! She stopped to pick it up and realized that it didn't feel right: it was too light and spongy, and then she realized it was just a piece of styrofoam litter. She dropped it, disgusted that it was not what she thought it was.

Nothing in the piece of detritus had changed, only her perception of it.When she thought it was something of value, she wanted it. But when she realized what it was, she dismissed it. How much our perception of things can change in just the twinkling of an eye. It got me to thinking about how I can change my own situation just by looking at it differently. When I'm getting ready to go outdoors and walk in the rain, I can be happy that I have all the right gear, or I can grouse about the endless precipitation.

It's the same for my physical situation: I can be happy that I am able to walk briskly, no matter the weather, or I can focus on that pesky ankle that hurts if I move it the wrong way. When I look in the mirror, I can see only the wrinkles and grey hair, or I can see a vibrant and healthy old lady. I can transform everything with a smile and a quick attitude adjustment. It helps to have friends and family to laugh with, and share humorous and uplifting stories with each other. Perception is everything.

My friend John is a good lesson for me. Yesterday at the coffee shop, I asked him about his brothers who both had developed prostate cancer and survived. What treatment did they choose, I asked. He doesn't know, he never asked them. Tomorrow John sees the urologist to make some decisions about treatment of his moderately aggressive cancer. Frankly, I cannot get my head around his cavalier approach, but it must be working for him. He isn't worried and doesn't seem very concerned. (I didn't tell him I researched it all and had my opinions about what he should do. Why mess with his perception that everything will be fine?)

Or maybe it's all an act. Perhaps he's really worried and being a typical male, doesn't want to get into it. He knows I care about him and perhaps he's thinking he's protecting me. I am continually amazed at how much he means to me, this coffee shop buddy who has become a dear friend, not just any old acquaintance, but a true friend. When I think of my first impression of him, that he was probably just an old redneck truck driver with nothing much going on upstairs, I feel myself blush with embarrassment at how wrong I was. He hasn't changed, but I have. I feel real affection when I look at him these days. And I'm worried for him.

Yesterday, when I was checking out Facebook, I saw that another friend had posted something from a website called Fractal Enlightenment. It really resonated with me, and so of course I joined up. Here's the wonderful story that she shared:

Kafka (1883–1924), who never married and had no children, was strolling through Steglitz Park in Berlin, when he chanced upon a young girl crying her eyes out because she had lost her favorite doll. She and Kafka looked for the doll without success. Kafka told her to meet him there the next day and they would look again.

The next day, when they still had not found the doll, Kafka gave the girl a letter "written" by the doll that said, “Please do not cry. I have gone on a trip to see the world. I'm going to write to you about my adventures."

Thus began a story that continued to the end of Kafka’s life.

When they would meet, Kafka read aloud his carefully composed letters of adventures and conversations about the beloved doll, which the girl found enchanting. Finally, Kafka read her a letter of the story that brought the doll back to Berlin, and he then gave her a doll he had purchased. “This does not look at all like my doll," she said. Kafka handed her another letter that explained, “My trips, they have changed me." The girl hugged the new doll and took it home with her. A year later, Kafka died.

Many years later, the now grown-up girl found a letter tucked into an unnoticed crevice in the doll. The tiny letter, signed by Kafka, said, “Everything you love is very likely to be lost, but in the end, love will return in a different way."

Here I am on my Sunday morning, with a new subscription to enjoy every day, and a post almost finished. I'm feeling pretty fortunate to have so much love surrounding me, and my dear partner sleeping quietly next to me. I'm sending him lots of love, encircling him with my love and respect. I'm glad to be able to sit in front of my computer every Sunday morning and open up to the universe and let it flow through me. I am also sending love and gratitude your way, too, can you feel it? Until we meet here again next week, I am hoping that you will have a loved-filled wonderful period ahead. Be well until then.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Friends of my heart

Fearsome foursome
This picture was taken (a group selfie) on Christmas Day when the coffee shop was closed. They are some of my dearest friends now, and sometimes I wonder just how it all happened. I've known Gene the longest, him of the Santa beard. He was at the coffee shop when I first went there almost a dozen years ago now. Lily and John I've known for a lesser amount of time, but they are just as precious to me. These are friends of my heart, family in almost every way.

Lily has been going through an exceptionally hard time in her life. She left this week to travel home to Guatemala to be with her mother, who faces an uncertain future. Her mother survived esophageal cancer twelve years ago, and now it's returned after all this time. Her mother doesn't want to go through another bout of treatment. Lily took leave from her job and spent a long day of three separate flights to get there. She should have arrived yesterday, but I haven't heard from her yet.

Gene drove her to the airport in Vancouver, Canada, because the flights are much cheaper from there, versus Seattle, even though she flew on an American carrier. Gene was willing to get up at 4:00am and head across the border to get her to the airport. I offered, but Lily knew I have never been to that airport before, and she worried I might get lost. Better to have Gene do it, since he's very familiar with the area. Gene turned up at the coffee shop before 8:00am, and he said they had no problems crossing the border. I do hope she will have no problem on the return, since she only has a green card and being from Central America these days, there is no guarantee that they will let her back in.

Last week John had a biopsy of his prostate, since his PSA numbers had recently spiked. He told me the doctor called him in the evening to tell him the bad news: he does have prostate cancer. His father died of the disease in his fifties, and both of his younger brothers have developed it. Apparently there are different severities of the cancer, and he has a more aggressive form of it, so he will need some sort of treatment. I was very upset by the news, but he took it in stride. I think I slept more poorly worrying about him than he did! Not that worry ever makes anything better, but some of us can't help it. I'm a world class worrier.
That the birds of worry and care fly over your head, this you cannot change, but that they build nests in your hair, this you can prevent. —Chinese Proverb
Yeah, right. I've got nests in my nests. I've struggled with worry, trying to find ways to cope with it, but so far I've been unsuccessful. I think if you let yourself love freely, you care very much about the lives of your friends and family. And as we get older, things happen to each of us that must be dealt with. It's the way life works, and the only way I've found not to worry is not to let myself care and look away from the difficulties they face. But that is a lonely and hard path to follow, I find. It's better just to let the nests build up in my hair. And keep my hair cut short.

What surprises me the most is that these people have become so dear to me, and they were just people hanging out at the coffee shop along with me. Gene brought John there one day, because he knew that John was lonely and needed some companionship. I didn't like John at all when I first met him, because he had the look of a conservative old redneck farmer, and I judged him. I could not have been more wrong in my assessment, and I've learned that looks can be deceiving. John is thoughtful, intellectually curious, and even more of a liberal than I am! And I've been the recipient of his kindness many, many times. I count him as one my favorite people. So I'll worry about him until we get this disease under control.

Lily is the only one of the group who is still in her working years. She is also going through a divorce, which will be finalized when she returns. She has the final court date in early March, and we'll celebrate when it happens. Lily used to live in our apartment complex, but now she's across town from me, so I don't see her as often as I once did, but we get together at least once a week. She goes on the Saturday morning walks with the ladies, and then she and I go out to breakfast afterwards. I already miss her presence and look forward to her eventual return. She's got a lot to deal with right now, so I won't bother her with my worries. I'll just keep them to myself for now.

For the moment (and really, that is all we have), things seem to be going pretty well at home with my dear partner. Yesterday we let go of our Verizon account for our iPhones and went to Consumer Cellular. There are a few glitches, but so far it seems to be working pretty well. I am happy that our phone bill will be reduced significantly, and that our coverage will increase. SG did all the research ahead of time, so we had all the passwords and account numbers to facilitate the process when we went to the store to purchase new SIM cards for our current phones. The tech person did all the work for us, which was really helpful. I didn't even know you could do that without buying new phones. But then again, I'm just not very tech-savvy.

Well, that's what's been on my mind this past week. A rather eventful one, but really not unusual for someone of my advanced years. As I get older, I find myself being more and more grateful for the life we've created for ourselves in our retirement. We have friends who care about us, and as we move through the weeks and months without any major health concerns of our own, I am indeed filled with love and gratitude for all our blessings. The ability to write, read, ponder and share, are all things I take for granted most of the time. It's important to stop and look around, taking stock of my wonderful life, and say THANK YOU to the Powers That Be for it all. Until we meet again next week, I wish you, my dear readers, all good things. Be well.

Sunday, February 2, 2020


Trekking across snowfield
This picture was taken four-and-a-half years ago. It's hard for me to realize how many more revolutions around the sun have occurred since we headed back that June day, after having made it to Excelsior Pass. By the time we get back up there, it will be five full revolutions, five years ago.

What has changed during those five years? For one thing, I've gotten older but am still hanging in there with my exercise routine. That day, Linda and Ward were celebrating their fiftieth wedding anniversary, meaning that this coming June it will be 55 years! (That's Linda at the end of the long line.) I've worn out a few pairs of hiking boots since then, and am considering whether it's time for another pair. Some people think you should replace your boots annually, but I find that about three years of use is about right.

Today is Groundhog Day, meaning that we are halfway between the first official day of winter and the first day of spring. We are gaining three minutes of daylight with each passing day, and after today we will be closer to spring than to the dark days of winter. When I leave the house in the mornings before sunrise, there is now some faint light in the sky, rather than pitch darkness. And we are finally through January, one of the wettest months I remember since moving here twelve years ago. I think today is one of the first days without rain in the forecast; there are puddles everywhere, with the saturated ground unable to absorb any more water.

Since I always try to see all the nominated movies before the Academy Awards ceremony, which this year will be early, next Sunday in fact, I've fallen behind in my movie viewing. Yesterday I rented Rocketman, a musical about the life of Elton John, and still this morning several of the songs are rolling around in my head. "Your Song" just won't let go, and "how wonderful life is while you're in the world" and the tune is still reverberating in my mind as I write this. I didn't realize that song was one of his first big hits, written in 1970, since it seems so relevant today, fifty years later. Anyway, I really enjoyed the movie and think the actor who plays Elton did a great job, although he wasn't nominated. Elton has been sober for 29 years now, which I didn't realize until I saw the remarks at the end of the movie.

There are a few movies that I guess I just won't be able to see before the ceremony, but if there are a few outliers that end up winning, those movies will be brought back to the local theaters. It amazes me that it's already time for the Oscars. In previous years they were held in March, so early February does seem a bit unusual. I will be watching, at least the first part, since I can't stay awake much past 8:00pm these days, and they always run into overtime. The winners are always on the front page of my local news the next morning, so it isn't like I won't know the results almost immediately.

What else has changed in the past five years? Well, we are gearing up for another national election, which sure seemed to roll around fast. Of course, four years isn't all that long a period of time, is it? I guess it depends on how you look at it. When I was a young woman, it seemed to be an interminable length of time, but now it seems like time has been accelerated so much that the march of the seasons is like a revolving door. No sooner do we get to winter than spring is right around the corner. In fact, primroses and daffodils are peeking up through the ground already! It seems way too early, but it really is right on time. It's only my perception that has fallen behind. It's already Groundhog Day.

I like Sundays. They always start the same way, with me getting up to make a cup of tea, open my laptop and begin the process of writing this post. Sometimes it really does seem like a mystery, since I have no idea what might be coming out, and I've begun to realize that it's part of the process of getting from Point A to Point B: just plop those fingers on the keys and starting moving them. When I went to bed last night, I thought I might be writing about the phenomenon of shame, since the movie triggered some old memories that relate to it. But that's not what happened. Instead, I got caught in the revolutions of the seasons, revolving doors, annual awards shows, and more.

And with that, another post has been written. I just looked up the lyrics for that song, and I would like to give you my favorite stanza. Here it is:
And you can tell everybody this is your song
It may be quite simple but now that it's done
I hope you don't mind
I hope you don't mind
That I put down in words
How wonderful life is while you're in the world
That is how I feel about my blogging community. I am just so happy that we are all sharing this time together, and that you know that my gratitude for your presence in the world is boundless. Until we meet again next week (Oscars Sunday!), I hope you will have a wonderful and fruitful week. Be well until then.