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, June 28, 2020

Strange summer of 2020

Poppies and purple flowers
Yes, the flowers are beautiful, as they always are, but this is turning out to be the strangest summer season since I moved to the Pacific Northwest. It's beginning to seem like I might not actually make it to the High Country this year because of the pandemic, along with plenty of snow still in the mountains. Our inability to carpool to drive for an hour together means that those of us with old cars that don't like rutted mountain access roads are unable to get there.

My gym is still closed, and it looks like it will remain so for the foreseeable future, since we are having a spike in coronavirus cases, along with much of the rest of the country. Washington State now requires us to wear a mask or face covering of some kind whenever we leave our homes, unless we are able to maintain physical distance from others. It's beginning to feel like this situation will only get worse before it gets better.

I really didn't want to write about what's going on in our country, because I think most of us already know, and discussing the dire situation isn't helping anybody. But it's all that is on my mind these days. I watch the news with trepidation, learning how politicized the entire virus response has become, and I fear for our future. Between those who believe it's traitorous to wear a mask and those who consider them essential, the huge gap is only growing wider. And the virus doesn't care at all; it just continues to spread. I am more than a little terrified.

It looks like the European Union will block Americans from traveling to their countries once they open up to international travel next week. Who would have thought that we would be in such a situation? Not that it seems like a very good idea these days to get on an airplane for long flights, or congregate in airports among strangers. The Center for Disease Control has given us the following guideline:
Avoid the three C's which are: closed spaces with poor ventilation, crowded places with many people nearby and close-contact settings, such as close-range conversations.   
I have eaten inside two restaurants since we opened up to Phase 2, but I am beginning to think that I should avoid doing so in the future. Both times I was with a friend, and the restaurants were sparsely occupied, with plenty of space between tables and well ventilated. But still, I am thinking that it's becoming important to stay away from places where I cannot better control my interactions with others.

Are you hopeful that things will get better? I am sure trying to find that place within me that believes that there are silver linings in these clouds. And we've been down before and come back stronger.
There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’ No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster. —14th Dalai Lama
I think perhaps it's time to change the subject, since I'm only making myself feel worse, not better. And that's not what I want to happen with this post, or any other for that matter. Last week I wrote about my father, and there were a few things my sister pointed out to me that she found to be curious. She never thought of Daddy as being much of a reader (I called him "an avid reader"), but that's what I remember: he taught me to appreciate science fiction, and the two of us shared books that we found interesting. He introduced me to Isaac Asimov, and I eventually read almost all the fiction he wrote. Asimov was also a prolific nonfiction writer, and I read some of that work, too. Daddy did, also. He also subscribed to Time Magazine and read it from cover to cover each week, often cursing loudly over segments he disagreed with. He often threatened to cancel his subscription, but I don't think he ever did.

Norma Jean also clarified for me that Daddy was an engineer on the B-36 bomber. It was something that I don't think I ever knew. For one thing, I didn't know that airplanes ever had engineers, so I read up about the B-36. What an airplane! It was truly an amazing feat of technology.
Early models "only" had six enormous 71-liter, 28-cylinder radial engines in a rare pusher-prop configuration. These were soon augmented by four jet engines, for a total of 44,000 horsepower, creating one of the only aircraft ever powered by both.
Well, that explains it. It was a prop plane with jet engines, too.  This article is fascinating: Six Turning, Four Burning. I guess in those days it was essential to have a crew that included engineers. Each 15-man crew had someone like my dad aboard. I also learned that the B-36 is the only bomber that never dropped a live bomb on a target. Anyway, I've learned quite a lot from having known so little about what my father did in his early career. Norma Jean said it was because I was only interested in boys in those days and had little interest in the rest of the world around me. She is probably right. Thank goodness that the internet gave me a chance to find out what I missed.

Hey, that worked! Having changed my focus from the present moment, I've managed to make myself feel much better. I hope that you will take the time to peruse that article about the B-36. I found it to be fascinating. Now I wish I still had my father around to ask him questions about his storied career on that plane. I'm only a half century late.

Now it's time for me to answer the call of my rumbling stomach. I realize that I'm actually a little hungry this morning. Usually I have to wait a while longer before that happens. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and my tea is long gone. I will probably just make myself some coffee at home today, since the coffee shop holds little interest when I don't get to visit with my friends.

I do hope that you will stay safe this week, and that you will not forget to count your blessings and to give thanks for friends and family. I am so grateful for you, my dear readers, and I wish you all good things until we meet again next week.

Sunday, June 21, 2020

Father's Day 2020

My dad, on the left
It's not hard to see why my mother fell for this guy, back in the early 1940s, during World War II. In this undated picture, he's enjoying both a cigar and a beer with his fellow soldiers. Everyone looks so happy. I wonder how many of them went overseas to battle, never to return. Daddy was a Warrant Officer in the USAAF (US Army Air Force) and received a commission to Second Lieutenant some time later. I just looked up the rank of WO online and learned that they are considered to be highly trained technicians. Daddy always wanted to fly, but it wasn't until much later that he got the training to become a navigator on the huge air refueling bomber, the KC-135.

Somewhere in there, he met Mama at a USO dance and they had one of those wartime romances (I suppose; they never talked about it later) and married in November 1941. I was born in December 1942, the first of seven children.

Daddy was in the Air Force for many years after I was born, and I became one of those kids who never stayed in one place for long, as we followed Daddy from one air base to another. When I was just a toddler, Daddy began his first assignment at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico. We lived off base, and many of my playmates spoke Spanish, so I guess I picked up quite a bit, but I have never been fluent in the language. Daddy was often gone as I was growing up, in what was known as TDY (temporary duty) for as long as six months.

While Daddy was gone, my mother took up golf and became quite good at it. As a young child, I remember Daddy lamenting that all the golf trophies in our home had skirts. Both of my parents loved the sport, and Daddy continued to play long after retiring from the service. I don't remember Mama playing much in later years, but I know that it was a big part of their lives. My sister Norma Jean plays these days, but I've never had any aptitude for it and wonder what I might have missed.

Once my father retired from the Air Force, they bought a home in Fort Worth on the lake. My parents had also started a second family: my brother and two youngest sisters had a completely different life experience than that of the first three children, who moved constantly. They grew up in a town that became their home, something we, the older children, never experienced. For us, our home was wherever our parents lived.

Both of my parents were avid readers, which rubbed off on the older children. For fun, Norma Jean and I would sit around with a dictionary and look up new words. We had a full set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, and I would spend hours at a time poring through a book, soaking up knowledge. But the volumes that we spent the most time with were the Childcraft books, which taught me to appreciate poetry, among other things. Who would have ever guessed that they would become obsolete, with the advent of the internet? Now everything is constantly changing and no print volumes could keep up.

Daddy was a soft-hearted soul, and I think it embarrassed him that he would tear up easily. He had difficulty reading stories to us, since he would get to an emotional part and jump up and leave the room, blowing hard into his handkerchief. Norma Jean and I would look at each other and smile. As if we didn't know why. It was not something that men in those days were allowed to do: crying was considered unmanly. Is it the same today? I sure hope not, but I don't know. My dear partner sometimes gets emotional while watching a sad TV episode, and maybe because of my father, I find it endearing.

Daddy had heart disease and died at 62, after experiencing a terrible heart attack that allowed him to live on for only a few days in the hospital. It was enough time for all of his children, scattered around the country, to get back home to say goodbye. I remember him sitting up in bed as I arrived to see him, and he seemed the same, except for the pinpoint pupils that were caused by strong morphine he was on. He knew that he wasn't going to make it, and he was emotional as he told us, each one, that he loved us. I think the last words I heard him say were "I love you all!" And then we were pushed out of the room.

There were so many of us that we were given our own waiting room area to stay in while we waited. It's been so long ago that I remember very little about it, except that we hoped for the best and expected the worst. Daddy died there in the hospital, still a young man in so many ways, and we were each left to mourn our own loss.

Daddy's life was, in total, a success. He raised six of us (one sister died soon after birth), along with Mama, to become productive and well-adjusted members of society. I am now fifteen years older than he was when he died, and I still miss him, usually on days like today, Father's Day. I am blessed to have him visit me occasionally in my dreams, and I know the love we all had for him will only die when all of us are gone, too.

And now it's time for me to finish up this post and start the rest of my day. I will enjoy it with a strong cup of coffee and a brisk walk, before settling down in my favorite chair and reminiscing about the exceptional man who was my father. I hope you will have a wonderful day and week ahead, before we meet here again next week. I wish you all good things, dear friends.

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Calla lilies and more

Calla lilies
Well, this is becoming very annoying. It's taken me awhile just to figure out how to put a picture into the beginning of the post, since Blogger has changed all its settings and displays, and nothing was working correctly in Chrome. So here I am in the Safari web browser, hoping to have a little more success. Finally, after much difficulty, I was able to get this picture inserted. Sigh. As if I needed more challenges in my daily life.
The calla lily was named after the Greek word for beautiful — calla. It is associated with the Greek goddess Hera. ... However, the most common meaning for calla lilies is purity, holiness, and faithfulness. It's commonly depicted in images of the Virgin Mary.
I found this information about calla lilies, wondering what the name "calla" means. Now I know: it means beautiful, and they certainly are. I saw these in a garden while on a walk and was enchanted by them. (This post is going to be a struggle, I can see that now: every time I turn around, the font is a different size or type. I will just have to muddle through and see if I can learn to use this new Blogger interface without too much pain.)

Anyhow. Nothing ever seems to stay the same, either in life or in free apps such as Blogger. They did this once before, long ago, and I tried to change over to Wordpress, but it was even more complicated, so I came back to this app. It's been many years since I've been frustrated by Blogger to this extent. 

I thought I'd publish a post about my dad, but that's coming next week, when it's Father's Day. Instead, I'll tell you about my Wellness visit last week (or was it the week before?) Every year Medicare pays for me to see my regular doctor for a visit, and it was really nice to see her. She always makes me feel so good about all I've done to keep myself healthy. She even said I am the healthiest 77-year-old patient in her practice, which gave me a chance to pat myself on the back.

And then yesterday I received a call from her nurse, telling me that my blood work shows some anomalies. My white blood cell count is quite low, and the neutrophils (a type of cell) are lower than they had been, way lower than last year. So she wants me to have another test next week and then see a hematologist, if the numbers remain the same. That was quite a surprise, so of course I got onto Google and tried to figure out what it might mean. The condition is called "leukopenia" and can indicate several different things. I'm hoping that when I get my blood drawn next week it will be normal, and all this will be forgotten. I feel fine, but the nurse warned me that it means I am more susceptible to infection and should be careful about being exposed to diseases. Well, there is a pandemic going on right now, so that will be difficult.

On the other hand, I do think I've already had the virus, so maybe that's one reason for the differences, or maybe I'm developing something internally. I do realize that once we reach a certain age, it's normal for our bodies to begin to wear out. And I've used this one quite vigorously and have the scars to prove it. At first I was worried, because that's what I do, but now I've grown more sanguine about it. It's always a bit of a shock to find that one is not immune to disease and decay. 

The world breaks everyone, and afterward, some are strong at the broken places. —Ernest Hemingway
Well! I managed to cut and paste that quote and get it in the right font and everything. Maybe I'll learn how to use this new format without tearing my hair out. Which, by the way, has been cut, finally (the hair, that is). It was sure nice to get rid of the shaggy locks that had grown out during the lockdown. We are now in Phase 2, and yesterday I even went out for lunch with my friend Lily and we dined inside a restaurant at a table. We had to wear our masks until we were seated, and boy did that clam chowder ever taste wonderful. It was raining, but we wandered around for awhile afterward, and I notice that many more places of business are opening. It will take some time, but we are on the upswing here. I just hope we don't end up spreading the virus and have to return to lockdown. That would be very unpleasant for everyone. I'll stay positive, though, and will look forward to getting back to normal, or at least getting back to our new normal.

This post is going to be a little shorter than usual, because it took so long for me to get started, and who knows how it's going to look once I post it. I couldn't find my usual font, but it might only be like this as I write it. Please bear with me as I figure out the interface. At least I've got different browsers to use, and I've learned that if one doesn't work, it's time to try another one. Works most of the time.

And now it's getting to be time to finish up, and look forward to my day. We had rain again yesterday, but today it's only cloudy and looks like we might get a short break before the next onslaught. It will be okay, rain is good for the garden. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, and my tea is long gone. It's going to be a good day, I can feel it. I do hope you will have a good day, too. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well, dear friends.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

A little madness

California poppies
I have always loved Emily Dickinson's poetry, and for some reason this poem keeps running through my head:
A little Madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King,
But God be with the Clown –
Who ponders this tremendous scene –
This whole Experiment of Green –
 As if it were his own!
(E.D. c. 1875)
 It is definitely spring, almost summer. We have been having cool weather and days of rain, which helps all the growing plants, but it makes it hard for me to spend much time outside, unless I'm bundled up inside my rain gear. Many of my blogging friends from around the world have been complaining of triple digit temperatures. We struggle to get to the mid-eighties (28°C). Last week our high temperature for the week was 63°F. I think we have only made it to 82 twice so far this year. In Seattle, 90 miles south, they get a little warmer, but not much. We will get our warmer weather in July and August, and then a quick cool-down. I much prefer this weather to extreme heat, so don't think I'm complaining.

Our little city, nestled up against the Canadian border in the northwest corner of the country, just moved from Phase 1 to Phase 2 in the pandemic lockdown. We now are able to get a haircut (although I have left two voicemails at my hairdresser's with no response) and am thinking that maybe today I'll look for another option and get these long unruly locks lopped off. This is the longest I've gone without getting a haircut in decades. But somewhere in this city there must be someone who will let me pay them for a decent haircut.

Plus, next week I will finally get to see both my acupuncturist and massage practitioner! It's been so long and I really need them both. The list of conditions in order to be safe that I need to meet are long, but they will be worth it. In the case of my acupuncturist, I am to park my car and then call him; he will meet me at the front door and allow me inside the building, where we will then tiptoe up to his office. It feels a bit furtive, but whatever it takes to make it all work. It's been almost three months!

And everywhere there are massive demonstrations, including right here in Bellingham, but I don't feel that it's safe for someone my age to attend, since physical distancing is impossible. Here, at least, most people were wearing masks, and there were no riots and no unrest, just a peaceful crowd of thousands. I've looked at the pictures and am rather proud of my little town.

It's odd to realize that I have reached the twilight of my life, and that somehow or other more than seven decades of living have already gone by. I remember when I was young, which doesn't seem that long ago, but it was. It astounds me to realize that the new millennium began two decades ago, and that the people born in the year 2000 are now grownups. Many of them were out marching yesterday, people with a completely different experience of life than I had when I was growing up. I guess this is normal, that as the generations experience change in different ways, those of us who are old are left behind to wonder if we will ever understand today's world. All I can do is try.

My parents, both long gone, have been on my mind lately. I've wondered if it was the same for them, as they grew old. They didn't live in such a multi-connected world, with smartphones and 24/7 news. They were both avid readers, though, and my mom managed to read lots of books every single week of her life. Daddy read fewer books, but he still did read. I remember him ranting at some article in Time Magazine many times. He always swore he'd cancel his subscription, but he never did. Mama wrote letters to the editor of the local paper. Both of my parents were part of their generation, connected to their like-minded friends, whose views of our country would seem quaint to the millennials who now begin to make the change in the world that they want to see.

Yes, time moves on, and as I ride the currents and marvel at the world around me, I am happy to still be part of it. Today the rain has stopped, and I'm going to get in the car and discover how things might have changed around town since stores are now able to open, even if in diminished capacity. It's a whole lot better than it was!

And the time has come for me to wind up this meandering post and start the rest of my day. I find it difficult to remain silent on my blog about the state of the country, but I figure we all need a rest from the cacophony, including me. Instead of ranting, I truly wish to heal any rifts I experience right here in front of me. I want peace and love to prevail, so I must do my part by opening my heart to healing. I hope that you will find some way to do the same today, and for the rest of this week. Please remember to stay safe and keep your loved ones close. My dear partner still sleeps next to me. Be well until we meet again next week.