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, October 11, 2020

Keeping my head above water


Waterfall behind me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


gigi-hawaii said...

Interesting that you do not want to go to the gym. My husband intends to go on Oct 22 when the gyms open again. I am now worried that it might not be a good idea after all, since people do breathe hard and the virus is air borne.

John's Island said...

I could write a long comment on this post because there is so much here I am in total agreement with and as I was reading I kept saying to myself, yes, yes. I admire your support of Lily and despise the way our government is treating those who are here from other countries. I was hoping to hear something about John’s recovery, hope he is doing well, maybe we will hear from him by next week. Your experience with the flu shot is exactly like mine. We may have gotten our shots on the same day. :-) We’re on the same page with Joe, not my first choice, but, for me, the only choice when I consider the alternative. And, I’ve got to repeat something you said, it is perfect: “I realize that what is happening in the world today is a struggle between different ideologies. It is not the first time this has occurred, and it won't be the last.” Thanks, as always, for writing and sharing. Until next week, wishing you the best.

ApacheDug said...

DJan, I very much liked your theme of keeping your head above water; your Sunday words often remind me that I need to look at things from a calmer perspective. (I watch too much MSNBC & allow myself to get hot-headed.) By the way, a very nice photo of yourself & that waterfall... you spend so much time outdoors, this picture is how I already see you in my mind’s eye! Anyway, I’m glad your friend Lily has your friendship in such difficult times like now, and I sure hope you hear from John soon. I also hope you get to vote soon, this was my first time doing a mail-in vote. I think Joe Biden is a great guy, certainly a very decent man but he wasn’t my first choice either. But I’m still glad we got him, and he DID pick a terrific VP.

Elephant's Child said...

I am so very glad that you are keeping your head above water. And for the friendships the blogosphere has given me - yours not least.
My thoughts are with Lily, with John and with you. And thank you for your link to my spring display.
Stay well, stay safe, stay positive.

Marie Smith said...

Missing one’s mother lasts a long time. The good memories will keep Lily going I hope.

I hope that no news from John is a good news. You will hear from him soon!

This is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. In spite of the conditions in the world, we are blessed. Take care.

Far Side of Fifty said...

What a lovely photo of you keeping your head above water! Please give mt best to Lily it must be so difficult for her...I am so glad she has you as a friend. Hope you hear from John soon. sounds like he will have a long recovery.
I hope that your Smart Guy is recovered completely from his stroke....I think of him often.
Well that Eleanor sure said it well...you never know from one day to the next what will happen.
WE voted absentee ballots and mailed them a few days ago...maybe a week by now. I recall standing in line for about two hours in 1980 with two small bored children to vote for Jiummy Carter...you see I was a Democrat at one time:)

Gigi said...

This is the first year that I voted by mail. My plan was to take it to the County Board of Elections...but I couldn't determine if there was a drop box or not plus it's downtown - which means parallel parking...so I ended up mailing it a week or so ago. I checked the ballot tracker and it's been received and accepted, so that's one task checked off my list. I may actually do it this way going forward.

Poor Lily...I'm sending loving thoughts her way. And I'm sending healing thoughts John and Smart Guy's way.

Have a great week, my dear friend.

Arkansas Patti said...

I am so sorry Lily lost her mother and wasn't able to be with her. I am so happy though she has you to be there for her and to give her support.
I sure hope you hear from John soon. He may be medicated after the surgery and just not able to answer you. Let us know when you hear.
Me too on Joe but he is definitely our only choice. What is taking Nov 3rd so long to get here? I have all ready voted by absentee, now the wait.

Arkansas Patti said...

That is a really cute picture of you.

Red said...

Keep active and you will make your life much easier. You also interact socially with many people so again you're doing something healthy. Eleonor Roosevelt was an introvert. She learned how to cope and do much good for her people. As for these days, I'm not one to worry but I am worried at this time. things are unpredictable.

Betsy said...

Fall seems to be zipping by over here on the east side. It's supposed to be 29F Wednesday night so I delivered my flowers to a friend who can keep them from being zapped by the frost if it comes.
Thank you for being a good friend to Lily. You never get over losing your Mother. My Mom passed when I was only 29. I'm 60 now. Oh my gosh, she's been gone over half of my life and I just realized that. I do know that not a day goes by that I don't think of something I want to tell her and sometimes I actually pick up the phone! After all of theses years! It's a bond that doesn't go away.
Take care and blessings,

Anvilcloud said...

I look at the long comments, and I don't do that. I am a pithy sort of bloke. I have had a few moments of missing family during our TG weekend, but on the whole it has been good and worthy of the season. We have yet to get our flu shot. I imagine that the doctor will call sooner than later.

Rian said...

We are voting absentee for the first time, but will bring our ballots in to the place they need to be instead of mailing them in. We don't intend to stand in any line during the pandemic... distancing or not.
Glad you are there for both Lily and John... and of course for hubby. And must be nice to have a 'Covid pod'. It's just the 3 of us here, everyone else either goes to work or has someone who goes to work living with them. But at least there are 3 of us... I do feel for those who are going it alone.
And we did get our flu shots recently... the normal dose, not the ones for over 65. It has always worked for us, so why change.

Rita said...

Great photo. So good that Lily has friends here and can keep in touch with her family so far away, too, to help her through this time. I hope you hear from John soon and that he is doing okay. Long haul, I bet. Glad SmartGuy is doing well.

I think things will just remain different in a lot of ways. Life always changes. Sometimes in little ways and sometimes in monumental ways. This has been monumental on so many levels and all around the world. Been shifting, but covid has made it more obvious. Humanity will survive.

I think of your space pictures you look at every day. We are but a speck in the universe. A fragile one at that. We are blessed to even be here at all. :) :)

Linda Reeder said...

I'm pushing back my lunch hour to get this post read and responded to. Sunday morning I was busy and then never got back to finding your post.
Our son Jake cam for breakfast with us Sunday morning and then we talked until well past noon. It was great to spend time with him. He is a deep thinker and is well informed. Our conversations are substantial.
We got out flu shots last week also, the "senior" dose. So that's done.
I was startled to realize the Eleanor Roosevelt was only 78. I always thought she was so old. She was such a wise woman.
I hope to get out for a walk this afternoon. Things are hurting, but fresh air and a bit of sunshine sound wonderful.
Take care.

Margaret said...

I voted for Jimmy Carter in my first Presidential election. Since that time I've seen little (or nothing) from the GOP to entice me to jump camps. Au contraire. The pandemic has taken away some of my sense of self as a sociable, active and traveling person. I loved coffee dates inside, Happy Hours, films at the cheap movie theater, and trips to various states and countries. I've had to adapt and am doing the best I can. The rain and cold of fall and winter will force me inside more, which I don't look forward to. I got the regular dose flu shot since I don't quite qualify for the high dose. :) Different people have different worries and fears, but the fact that we're ALL under numerous stresses doesn't help the mood or temper of the country. (in my humble opinion)

William Kendall said...

Very wisely said.

Galen Pearl said...

I enjoyed catching up with you as always. I especially enjoyed your observation about your friend "down under." You are right that we are very oriented to the season/calendar associations in the northern hemisphere. Especially in the temperate zones. I lived in the tropics for five years, and even though they have seasons there, they were not the ones I am familiar with. I loved my time there but I was always disoriented in terms of the calendar!

Debby said...

We are living in such strange days. I am sorry for your friend Lily. I think we all feel isolated right now. It's not just covid. I live in a red county and the closer this election gets the more vocal THEY get. I'm really tired of the noise. My husband was pushing the garbage bin to the curb. We have three Biden signs on our house, and our neighbor has three tRUMP signs on his. He heard the bin rumbling down the driveway and yelled, "Here comes the tRUMP train." Nope, I said. Just the same old garbage.

Linda Myers said...

I'm guessing you did have the virus if you lost your sense of taste and smell. Have you considered getting an antibody test?

Tabor said...

Politics have become a nasty person's game. No longer the hidden agenda of gentlemen. I am all for having more women in office and YOUNGER women and of course, more minorities. While a registered Democrat, I am not so single visioned that I would not vote for an Independent or Republican or other that might appeal to me. I will say that I am sooooo tired of old white men. I am a few years younger than our current Presidential candidates and certainly not sure I could keep up with either. I am so sorry about your social restrictions. You are better than I at getting out and about and I think things will be better in the spring. Hang in there.