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, May 31, 2020


While I watered my front porch flowers with a light spray of mist, I accidentally disturbed this spider's home. But then the light caught the web and I grabbed my phone to capture the beauty of the sparkling spiderweb. She was not happy with my disturbance,but managed to straighten things out quickly. I left her alone after that.

The metaphor of being ensnared in a trap has been on my mind lately. Trapped inside my home, unable to sit in a coffee shop and enjoy a leisurely cup of coffee, unable to visit my still-shuttered gym, and unable to take care of my shaggy hair. The pandemic has left me feeling trapped.

And then the horrific killing of another black man at the hands of the police has exploded our cities into devastating unrest in city after city in our country. People who have also been locked in their homes came out to join protests against the injustice of yet another senseless killing. I watched the video that was shown over and over of the murder, it was impossible to avoid it, and the outcry that has followed has made me afraid of what is yet to come. More than 25 large cities imposed curfews last night (Saturday) and most protestors ignored them. Violence broke out and looters and haters took center stage.

For solace this morning, I looked at a collection of inspiring quotes from Martin Luther King. So many of them spoke to this moment, he who was murdered in 1968 but still lives on in the hearts and minds of those of us who will never forget, more than fifty years later. I found this page of 123 of the Most Powerful Martin Luther King Jr Quotes Ever.
Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. Hate multiplies hate, violence multiplies violence, and toughness multiplies toughness in a descending spiral of destruction. 
Never, never be afraid to do what’s right, especially if the well-being of a person or animal is at stake. Society’s punishments are small compared to the wounds we inflict on our soul when we look the other way.
He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.
The more there are riots, the more repressive action will take place, and the more we face the danger of a right-wing takeover and eventually a fascist society.
A riot is the language of the unheard. 
Okay, I'll stop there. I could go on and on, but these quotes that I share with you have given me plenty to ponder. Plenty for me to think about how to respond during this tumultuous time in the history of the world. I know for sure that the world I knew in February will not return when all this is over.

I wish there was some way I could stop the rioting while still hoping for more peaceful protests. I wish there was not such incredible inequality in the country I love so much. Most of the people who have lost their jobs, 40 million of them, were held by people who have lost hope and let themselves be filled with rage at the injustice of it all. I wish I could do something about it.

The only thing I have at my disposal are my words, right here and now. That, and prayer. I have never felt more need than I do right now to prayerfully ask for the words that will make a difference in at least one life today: my own.

I have lived for a long time and have witnessed some terrible times in the past. We made it through them, not unchanged, but then again, not changed necessarily for the better. Some things are better, like my ability to be connected to all my dear friends in an instant. But what good does that do when I have no solutions to anything, especially the anguish I feel in my heart?

If I were an amanuensis for God's word right now, what would spill out and cover the page? If only I could remove my own fear and doubt, something would emerge, but I am not clear enough or humble enough to find out. Maybe it will come to me in a dream, or maybe just the right words will find their way to me somehow. I am open to it, and my prayer is that you, my dear reader, might be able to help point me towards the direction of healing. After all, we are all in this together, and if any one of us can reach high enough, it can bring healing to the rest.

Going back to the picture at the beginning, I'm like that spider: and what I'd like to ensnare in my web is peace and love. If I spread out my web into the ether of life, what will I catch? One think I know for sure that I will be ensnared in that web is connection. Connection to all of you, all who are like me, unsure of the future but hoping to catch the peace that surpasses all understanding.

And now it's time for me to begin my daily activities. Whatever is coming towards me, I will face it with equanimity, with a little help from my friends. My dear partner sleeps next to me, and I am ready to rise up from my bed (I no longer leap out of it like I did in my youth) and smile at the bright new day to come. Please stay safe and share some love today.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

A holiday like no other

Masked and ready
Memorial Day, usually a four-day holiday that marks the unofficial start of the summer season. Not this year. We are still under "stay home, stay safe" orders from our governor, and asked to wear face masks when in public, whether indoors or outside when we are not able to physically distance ourselves from other people. These homemade masks, given to us by a dear blogging friend who asks to remain anonymous, have quickly become our favorites. They have adjustable elastic ear loops and sturdy replaceable filters. Not to mention they are strikingly handsome. I get asked about mine whenever I wear it. ("Sorry, it's a special gift from a friend.")

I now have five different face masks, all reusable, and I keep one in the car, in case I forget to take one with me when I leave the house, and one that is light and works great for hiking. I don't actually use it on the trails unless I see someone approaching, and then I pull it up from around my neck. Everyone wears one around here, and you would stand out from the crowd if barefaced. I think these fashion accessories will be with us for quite awhile. It does make me feel safer to see everyone around me with one on. In my county, we still have people testing positive and a 10% fatality rate, mostly from those in nursing homes.

None of the usual Memorial Day celebrations are taking place around here. The Ski to Sea relay race is an annual activity that is missing. The huge crowds that congregate in Fairhaven at the end of race day are missing, too. In fact, now that I think about it, I don't think I have seen anybody around here breaking the social distancing rules, much less gathering in a large group. I see my hiking friends on Zoom, otherwise I stay on the trails either alone or with one friend. Apparently now it is okay (as of yesterday) to gather in groups up to five people not from your household, for any reason, as long as you follow the guidelines. Since we are definitely in the high risk group because of our ages, we'll continue to stay home. But maybe I'll join some neighbors for a nice little chat today to mark the holiday, socially distancing of course.

Memorial Day is distinct from Veterans Day by honoring those who gave their lives in battle. Although I've had plenty of relatives who have served, nobody in my immediate family died on the battlefield. For that I am grateful, but I am also grateful for the sacrifice of all all those who suffered and died in our numerous wars. Although my son was in the Army when he died, he died of a heart attack and not in combat. And for that I am thankful.
To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go. —Mary Oliver
I've got a book of Mary Oliver's poems, Devotions, and find solace whenever I take it from the shelf and peruse her amazing poetry, its ability to speak the words that seem to come from my own heart. I give you a link to the Kindle store, in case you might want to join me on a journey through her gentle and very relevant work. She died last year, at the age of 83. There was a time when that would have seemed to have been a full life, but as I get closer to that age myself, I find it sad that we couldn't have kept her around a bit longer. But as she says, "when the time comes to let it go, to let it go." I've got five years before I get there, hopefully. There are no guarantees, even for one more year, or one more day.

So I guess that means I'd better darn well appreciate each and every single day I have to enjoy the world. With summer just beginning in all its strange circumstances, it just doesn't matter. This day, this time in my life, will not come again, so to burrow under the covers and hide is not an option. I'm going to concentrate on all the wonderful delights that await me, once I climb out of bed and begin my day.

Perhaps this will be a little shorter than usual, because nothing seems to be flowing out of my fingers. And the day does beckon, even if my new normal is just to dress in comfy old clothes and shuffle into the kitchen to make a pot of coffee instead of heading out to the coffee shop. Our lives will return to normal eventually, but I suspect it will look quite different from the time Before.

I feel very fortunate to be old enough not to have to worry about finding a job in this scary environment, hoping they won't take away any of my social security and wishing that everybody had a guaranteed income. And I not only have food to put on the table, I also have the internet, a laptop that connects me to the world, and plenty of virtual friends to visit. When I allow myself to stop worrying about what might happen and concentrate on what wonders surround me, I've got nothing to stop me from being happy and content. Plus I've got that wonderful partner, still sleeping next to me, to share my days with. Life is precious and to be appreciated and celebrated, so that's what I'll do today.

And I truly hope that this morning finds you in similar circumstances, and that you will find a way to share your world with someone, whether near or far, furry or not, until we meet again next week. I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, May 17, 2020


Mt Baker from Chain Lakes trail
I woke from a dream this morning that was tied to my years of skydiving. One of the activities I enjoyed very much was working as a freefall photographer, filming people who were practicing for competition. I was filming a 4-way group when I broke my pelvis in 2000 after a bad landing. And although I recovered and went on to make many more skydives, I never again wore a camera helmet. In my dream last night, I wore one again.

In some ways, the fact that it all happened twenty years ago seems impossible to believe, but at other times it feels like it was more than a lifetime ago. I haven't made a skydive in five years, but it was such a central part of my life for so long (25 years) that it's still, and always will be, an unforgettable part of me. I spent more than 62 hours of my life in freefall, averaging 50 seconds at a time, during more than 4,000 leaps from airplanes. And helicopters and hot-air balloons. Not only my pelvis, but my entire being, is changed because of those years spent involved in the sport. So I guess it's not surprising that I would dream about it now and then.

In the dream, one of the resident videographers had been injured, and I was trying to decide whether or not I would take his place on the roster. As is the nature of dreams, it all seemed so mundane and my decision revolved around whether or not I could be trusted by those I would be filming not to fall on them. Here's the way it works: the videographer climbs outside the aircraft, holding onto the frame, and the team gets in position in the door, all holding onto each other so that they don't need to build the first formation from scratch. They give a count, and the videographer needs to see the count and leave a split second before the team, so that you can capture the exit for later scrutiny. They then begin to make a series of formations, while the videographer films from a position just above and to the side of them. (Maybe it's easier to see if I show you a picture, snagged from the internet.)
What the videographer needs to do is get close enough to the formation to show all the grips, but not close enough to get into the disturbed air above them (called the burble), because then you would not have any air to fly on yourself, and you would take out the formation (I almost did that once). The videographer needs to trust the skydivers not to do anything unexpected, and when filming, you need to leave a bit before they turn and track off in order for each one to have clear air to deploy a parachute. I didn't mean to get involved in all this detail, but when I tried to explain, it became more and more difficult. Suffice it to say that it was a period of time in my life that I enjoyed tremendously, but it was decades ago. Now all I do is occasionally dream about it.

When I moved to the Pacific Northwest in 2008, I continued to skydive occasionally, but it was never the all-consuming activity it had been for so many years. Instead, I began to hike with the Senior Trailblazers and became a fixture in the group that went every Thursday on a hike that gave us plenty of miles and elevation gain and loss. In the summer, we would go on several favorite hikes. One of them is in the Mt. Baker wilderness area, a seven-mile-long loop up over a pass and down into the Chain Lakes region. I took that picture at the beginning of this post in 2018, on a clear day in August.

It's now been more than two months since we've been on any hikes together, because of the pandemic and the lockdown still in effect. Although I've tried to be positive during this period, I sometimes forget that while I am able to walk and occasionally even go into the local forests around here, I am losing my ability to walk long distances and climb and descend passes, like the one I had to climb in order to take that picture of Mt. Baker. Of course, it was beginning to be more difficult even before this pandemic shutdown took effect. For the past two or three summers, I would skip the more challenging hikes because it became impossible for me to keep up with the others. 

Now I realize that, just as I gradually lost the enthusiasm for skydiving, I will probably not be able to continue, after this is over, to continue my activities at the level that I took for granted before. Life moves on, and we don't get to stay in the moment; everything must be appreciated and enjoyed when it happens. I'm not saying I'm unhappy about it all, but it's obvious to me that these months away from the gym, away from logging step counts in the thousands, it will not be the same when I return to my usual activities. 

Last week I went on a rather strenuous hike on Thursday, with my friend Melanie urging me on, and I am still recovering from it, three days later. I had a Zoom yoga class yesterday, which helped me get over most of the real soreness, but I realized that the hike was more than I should have attempted. Some of us take awhile to accept changes in our lives, and especially in our bodies, while others adapt much more easily. Unfortunately for me, I am one of those who needs to be constantly reminded of my evolving circumstances. No one can take away those years of enjoyment in the mountains with my dear friends, and I can still continue to take pleasure in them in a more sedate manner.
There are a few moments in your life when you are truly and completely happy, and you remember to give thanks. Even as it happens you are nostalgic for the moment, you are tucking it away in your scrapbook. ― David Benioff
My own virtual scrapbook is overflowing with wonderful memories of times gone by, times spent with exhilarating activities and dear friends. Those memories are precious to me, and they will always be available to sift through, remember, and give thanks.

And of course I always remember to give thanks for you, my dear readers, who spend a few moments with me in our wonderful shared virtual room. It's always nice to be together. My tea is gone, my dear partner still sleeps, and it's time for me to begin the rest of my Sunday, make some coffee to sip in my favorite chair, and reminisce about the old days. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things and admonish you to stay safe.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Mother's Day 2020

I don't know how long ago this picture of my mom was taken, or who took it (although I suspect it was my dad), but I know where it was taken: on the dock behind the parent's retirement home on Lake Worth, Texas. So many things make me smile when I look at it: how happy Mama was, imbibing her favorite evening drink (a martini), how great she looked, showing off her legs and slim figure. She was rarely that thin in her later years, when she struggled for her life through many illnesses. She died in 1993, almost having reached her seventieth birthday. Mama gave birth to seven children during her lifetime; I was the oldest, born when she was only nineteen. My youngest sister was born twenty years later, when Mama was 39. Twenty years of childbearing, with a gap between the first three and the last four. One sister died soon after birth, having been born prematurely; her lungs were not sufficiently developed for her to survive.

But in those seventy years, Mama accomplished so much and made many wonderful homes for her family over the years. When Daddy died in 1979, Mama was devastated and never fully recovered from the loss. Of course, that changes the trajectory of countless lives, losing your partner of many decades, but Mama was strong and found a way to carry on. But she never considered remarrying, because none of the eligible men held a candle to our dad, she said. She moved on from being a housewife but never stopped being an outstanding homemaker.

On this Mother's Day 2020, we are in the midst of a terrible pandemic of a virus that is taking away so many loved ones, families shattered, the entire world economy shut down and here in the United States, most of us are under lockdown orders; for our own good, we are mostly staying home. We learned this week that 30 million people are currently unemployed in the US, because most businesses are still closed after two months. Many businesses are tentatively beginning to reopen, although the pandemic is still very much alive in many parts of the country. It will be awhile yet before I'll be able to get a much-needed haircut or massage. Or go back to the gym. But I have adapted; although I'm not getting nearly the same amount of exercise I was before the virus changed everything, I'm at least past my period of ennui where I barely budged from my favorite chair for days on end.

At least three or four days a week, I'm able to go for a decent sized walk, and occasionally I will take a hike with a friend, keeping our physical distance and wearing face masks. It's not much fun to keep the mask on constantly, and although I keep it pulled down under my chin most of the time, when I meet someone on the trail or sidewalk, I pull it back up before passing by. At the grocery store yesterday, I noticed that almost everybody is wearing some kind of face covering and honoring the social distancing guideline of staying six feet apart. It's the new normal, and I suspect it will be with us for a long time to come.

I came across a comment on a favorite blog that mentioned a book that sounded interesting, Spillover by David Quammen. The subtitle for the book, written in 2012, is "Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic." He has been employed by National Geographic for a long time, and traveled extensively to get the information he shares in the book. In an article written by Alice Roberts, she is quoted here:
This is an extraordinary book. David Quammen has woven a story of incredible complexity; a detective story with a difference, with a host of murderers – all of them real. They are viruses, bacteria and single-celled organisms which infect other animals, but every now and then make the jump – spill over – to our own species. Each chapter follows the quest to track down a new villain. 
The book was written long before the emergence of the coronavirus that has now changed the entire world, but he predicts that it, and others to come, are definitely the new normal. I am only halfway through the book, but it's a fascinating read and Quammen is a gifted writer. Although it's terrifying to contemplate what horrors might await the world in the future, it's also very satisfying to learn how and why, and consider how we might be able to mitigate our fate. I recommend the book highly. It is my Mother's Day gift to you, if you like detective stories, that is. I loaded it onto my Kindle for a very reasonable price. Normally, I would have gotten it from the library, but that is not an option these days. Or even buying it at the shuttered local bookstore, so Kindle it is.

I haven't decided how I want to spend my Mother's Day this year. Hopefully I will get a chance to walk in the forest somewhere, enjoying the shaded greenery. Every once in awhile I remind myself that it's perfectly okay to settle into my chair and binge-watch a new show. One thing I know I will do today is finish the final two episodes of Dead to Me, a television series on Netflix. My sister suggested it, and at times I found myself glued to the chair and watching just one more episode. Now I've almost finished season 2, and I'll have to wait for who knows how long for season 3! The first series was released in May 2019, and the second in May 2020, but with everything on hold, it's unclear when the next season will be released. There is such a plethora of good shows to watch these days, I'm just hoping I'll remember to check for news about the show in May 2021.

 At least the weather is pretty darn perfect around here. If anything, it's a little on the too-warm side, with the weather yesterday making it all the way to 80°F (26°C). I kept looking for shade when I was walking yesterday, but today should be a few degrees cooler. I know for some, it would be perfect at 80, but I have become a Pacific Northwestern flower that wilts in the heat. I suppose I would adapt, but I shouldn't have to here, since it's much more likely to be cold and rainy, even in the summer. I'll survive the sunshine.

In any event, the flowers all around town are in full bloom, and the delight to my eyes is welcomed. I am in a beautiful part of the world, and at the beginning of summertime's long days, with plenty to be thankful for. My sweet partner is still sleeping next to me, and the day beckons, even if I will not be able to visit my friends in the coffee shop, I have my own coffee here. I might just take it out to the front porch and sit in the coolness of the morning air and drink it while I listen to the birds and enjoy the silence around me. Later there will be plenty of noise from lawn mowers, leaf blowers, and conversations floating through the air, but for now, it' all quiet.

And you, dear reader, I hope you will have a day to remember, one that keeps you and your loved ones safe and healthy. Every day is a gift, don't forget, and if your mother is still around, I know you will not forget to wish her a happy day. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

First Sunday in May

Happy little sign
I've found a nice walk in my neighborhood that takes me down several streets I haven't visited much before. I saw this delightful little sign. Those last two lines, which are difficult to read, say "Save Farms – Build in Cities," and "Transit Access is Terrific." Their home is on a relatively busy street and has two city buses that come by often. The walk gives me just under 10,000 steps and has the advantage of being a loop, so I can see plenty of variety.

I didn't walk yesterday, not much anyway. Although it wasn't raining hard early, it was definitely damp. And then it got much more so, with almost a half-inch of rain total during the day. Today is supposed to be much the same, only cooler. So yesterday I didn't walk, but today if it's not pouring, I'll try to get out for a little exercise. Having walked three days in a row, I realize how much better I feel for it. My body is not used to all this inactivity, it seems.

Our governor has extended the stay-at-home order until the end of May, but he's allowing some construction projects to begin, and he will open up the state recreational areas tomorrow. Golf courses will open as well, but as with all other recreation activities, you are supposed to keep your golf partners (or hiking partners) limited to two. And we are all encouraged to wear a mask when outdoors in places where social distancing guidelines cannot be followed. 

It seems unlikely that we will be getting back to normal here in Washington State before the end of June, meaning coffee shops and restaurants providing inside seating. I saw a program yesterday that said restaurants will not survive without at least half of their capacity being available. I really feel for all those people who are suffering so badly by not being able to work and not receiving unemployment compensation. There are definitely advantages to being retired and living on Social Security and pensions. I was worried that our annuities would be hit hard, but we are losing less than I feared, meaning we will survive this pandemic in relatively good shape, while so many others are suffering badly.

My worst problem is coming from my inability to keep the pounds from piling on. I've gained around five pounds in two months, and every time I think I'll now be inspired to lose the weight, my resolve fades by late afternoon. Eating good food is so satisfying! Yesterday I selected a pair of pants to wear that have always needed a belt, but no longer. They stay up just fine. Until now, I've managed to keep off the extra fifteen pounds that I lost a decade ago. Every morning I step on the scales, hoping to see that I haven't gained any more. It does help me make better dining decisions during the day, remembering that number.

Sometimes I wonder why I bother, why it matters at all. I am otherwise healthy and relatively fit (not as fit as a month ago), and then I remember what a difference it makes on my knees, not having to carry around extra weight. Five pounds of extra load on my knees is multiplied by four when walking uphill. Since I haven't been exercising much, they feel pretty good. But twenty years ago I had a bad accident that caused me to lose an artery down my right leg and must keep exercising to maintain collateral circulation. The damage to my right side is the reason I should keep going as long as I can, and should keep my weight down as well. I am giving myself a pep talk here, just in case you didn't recognize what I'm doing.

I'm stuck here. What else to write about? I went over to a page of quotes looking for inspiration, but nothing is hitting that writing spot. I'm experiencing a real block! More information about my obsessions is not going to do it. What if I just point my mouse at the page and pick a quote, no matter whether it's good or not? Here goes:
If I get stuck, I look at a book that tells me how someone else did it. I turn the pages, and then I say, 'Oh, I forgot that bit,' then close the book and carry on. Finally, after you've figured out how to do it, you read how they did it and find out how dumb your solution is and how much more clever and efficient theirs is!—Richard P. Feynman
No, I didn't choose this one, it chose me. And the fact that it's about being stuck, well I find that fascinating. It reminds me that synchronicities really do occur, and that I will get the guidance I need by just opening myself up to random chance. If there is such a thing anyway, since this one came to me that way. I do believe in a universe that surrounds me with infinite possibilities. So there you go.

It is just enough for me to consider this post finished. Now it's time to climb out of bed and begin the rest of my day. Maybe it won't rain all day and I can get outdoors and get myself moving. Maybe I'll vegetate in my favorite chair and watch a movie. Or maybe I'll just put one foot in front of the other and see where I end up. Next week will be different, and hopefully I won't be moaning about anything but instead filled with love and joy. There is so much to be grateful for, and there's no need to bemoan my fate. You, I hope, will be in a better place that the one I started out in. And I hope that the coming week will bring you light and happiness. I wish that for myself, too. Until we meet again next week, be well and stay safe.