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, December 26, 2021

Ice fog and Boxing Day

Snowy and cold Christmas Day

When I woke yesterday, Christmas morning, and looked outside, it was snowing, making everything look clean and new. The temperature was just a few degrees below freezing, so it seemed okay to venture out for a walk. I didn't go far, and the amount of snow on the steps looked to be around five inches or so. Being Christmas Day, nothing was open and everything was quiet. I suppose that inside homes there were presents being opened and lots of merriment going on, but outside, everything was hushed and still.

The temperature then dropped all day long, and now I wake to temperatures in the mid-teens F (-10°C) and expect that, as the day progresses, the temperature will continue to drop also. We are in the midst of a deep freeze that is cold enough to scare anybody who is paying attention. What is happening to all the homeless people and the wild animals? Considering how cold I feel inside my warm apartment, I shudder to think about what they are experiencing.

John is not coming to take me to coffee and breakfast, our usual Sunday morning activity, and there is no way I should even venture out in this weather. At least there are now stores and shops available, and the buses should be running, so I might find a way to get out in the middle of the day and maybe go downtown to see what's happening in the deep freeze. We rarely get this cold in the Pacific Northwest, and I do so hope that nobody loses power (especially us!) and that we can get through this without too much suffering. According to the forecast, we won't get above freezing for the remainder of the year.

Today is Boxing Day. I never heard of this before I moved to this part of the world, thinking that perhaps it meant boxing up all the presents you gave or received on Christmas. Apparently the meaning of the term is not fixed, and lots of countries use the term to mean different things. From Wikipedia:

Boxing Day is a holiday celebrated after Christmas Day, occurring on the second or third day of Christmastide. Though it originated as a holiday to give gifts to the poor, today Boxing Day is primarily known as a shopping holiday. It originated in the United Kingdom and is celebrated in a number of countries that previously formed part of the British Empire.

 When I went out for a short walk yesterday, and took a few pictures of our white Christmas, I realized that the cold means roads and sidewalks will be slippery and difficult to navigate for several days to come. Fortunately I have spikes to strap onto my boots, which will make it easier for me to stay upright. When I was younger, I enjoyed these challenges much more than I do today. Now it's just survival tactics. 

Have you heard of ice fog? That's another new one for me. I saw it in the weather forecast and wondered what it means. So of course I looked it up, and found this:

Ice fog is a type of fog consisting of fine ice crystals suspended in the air. It occurs only in cold areas of the world, as water droplets suspended in the air can remain liquid down to −40 °C (−40 °F). Ice fog is not the same thing as freezing fog, which is commonly called pogonip in the western United States.

 So, as you can see, I have learned two new terms that are not usually used in my neck of the woods. When you are in the midst of a weather phenomenon at Christmas, these two terms emerge for word people like me to add to our lexicon. That's enough for me at present. However, I don't want to spend the entire post on weather!

As I slept last night snuggled up under my down comforter, with my dear partner sleeping quietly by my side, my dreams were filled with recollections of old friends I haven't seen in decades. They were so real and present, it made me realize how many dear friends I've forgotten over the years. But they are obviously not gone, because we got together last night in my dreams, and I woke feeling like we had just been together. And their laughter still echoes through my morning reverie. 

One thing about dreams that I love is how much they bring past moments into my present reality. Sometimes I dream more often than usual, and lately I notice that I wake up and find myself in another reality altogether. It makes me think about that story of the man who dreamed he was a butterfly:

Once upon a time, I, Zhuangzi, dreamt I was a butterfly, fluttering hither and thither, to all intents and purposes a butterfly. I was conscious only of my happiness as a butterfly, unaware that I was Zhuangzi. Soon I awakened, and there I was, veritably myself again. Now I do not know whether I was then a man dreaming I was a butterfly, or whether I am now a butterfly, dreaming I am a man. 

 Our reality doesn't seem all that solid to me at the moment. Although I can hear the wind blowing in sub-freezing conditions, I am safe and warm, just a short distance away. And yes, I might have to see if I can get outdoors on Boxing Day and experience it firsthand. Or maybe I am just dreaming it all anyway. 

My day has begun. A different Sunday than I usually experience, but then again, the day has just started. I won't be doing my exercises on the front porch as usual, but instead in the living room in front of our heater. Once I finish with this post, I will finally have a chance to warm up my cold hands. Although it's moderately warm in here, my hands must be outside the covers in order to type, and I keep having to sit on them while I ponder my next words.

Well, it's time to bring this to a close, and to wish all my dear virtual friends a happy Boxing Day and week to come. I do truly hope that you will be well and will find yourself surrounded with happiness and contentment. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

A change in plans

Lake Whatcom last Thursday

This gloomy scene is actually in color, although you sure wouldn't know it unless I told you. I took this last Thursday on our holiday walk with the Senior Trailblazers. Although it's shades of grey, the day itself was a nice treat: lots of old friends and no rain fell on us for most of the time we were out. So, there were bright spots among the day's dreariness.

I'm hoping that I will be finding some of the same bright spots for the Christmas holiday, as well as for this post. Yesterday I realized that the entire globe is in the throes of the coronavirus pandemic for yet another rough patch ahead. Christmas celebrations are being canceled everywhere. Last night, Saturday Night Live sent their audience home and pretty much canceled the show; all the live Broadway performances are also closing down, getting ready for the Omicron advance.

For those of you not already aware of the newest version of the virus (Omicron), you will definitely become aware of it soon. Somehow, after all our hopes for a wonderful holiday season, coronavirus is coming back with a vengeance, more contagious and capable of evading our vaccines, at least to some extent. I, for one, am more than a little afraid of what's to come. In Denmark, where some of the best epidemiologists in the world study, they are saying in this Washington Post article that we are about to enter our hardest month yet. The only good news is that this version of the virus might not be as severe as previous ones, but no one knows for sure at this point.

Yesterday, SG and I discussed our options, and how we intend to get through this surge. I will, for the time being, no longer go inside any restaurants to sit for a meal, and I am debating about whether to stop going into the coffee shop and start using my French Press once again for my morning coffee. I can still walk in my neighborhood and drive to beautiful places around me to keep up my exercise, but I will stay away from the gym for awhile. By the time Christmas Day gets here next week, we should know more about what's to come. We are both triple-vaxxed and have had our flu shots, but our advanced age doesn't make me feel very good about exposing ourselves to other people in any setting, really. Perhaps it will turn out better than I'm anticipating. The world has been through harder times than this, and things turned out just fine. Eventually.

This latest surge could not have come at a more difficult time, with lots of people traveling and getting together with family for the holidays. I feel very fortunate to have the ability to get online and learn how others are coping, and see how my dear friends in our virtual community are doing. I feel a need to find some semblance of hope and happiness for our situation, since the entire world is going through this, not just one country or just one continent. We are all in this together, so I am hoping that we will find a way out of it together. Perhaps our governments will realize that and come together in peace to find a new way forward. It's possible.

The world situation has made me more determined than ever to spend my days striving to find more loving kindness and compassion around me, and not to "awful-ize" and let hopelessness take hold. Although I am not looking forward to being housebound, at least I have a warm and cozy home, with a partner who shares my days and gives me plenty to be grateful for. I will go forward one day at a time, and try everything I can to stay healthy and serene for the trials and tribulations to come. 

“Hope” is the thing with feathers -
That perches in the soul -
And sings the tune without the words -
And never stops - at all -

And sweetest - in the Gale - is heard -
And sore must be the storm -
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm -

I’ve heard it in the chillest land -
And on the strangest Sea -
Yet - never - in Extremity,
It asked a crumb - of me.

Emily Dickinson wrote these words more than a century ago, and they resonate with me today. Hope is the one thing I have for the time ahead, and I really must remember that events never turn out the way they seem at the time, and that even storm clouds have a silver lining. Look for the bright spots in the darkness, and together we can imagine a sunny future ahead.

And now my tea is gone, my dear partner sleeps next to me, and the world looks quite a bit different to me now than it did when I began this post an hour ago. It might not live up to my standards of love and joy that I strive for, but I sure do feel better, knowing we are still together and will prevail. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well and accept my humble virtual hug.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

December musings

Icy flowers

Rising a little earlier than normal, hoping to find something to write about this morning, I first checked the news to see what the recent story is about all those awful tornadoes that ravaged the South Friday night. I couldn't believe it when I saw that "possibly more than a hundred" people died from eighteen tornadoes in Kentucky alone. One tornado had a swath of destruction 250 miles wide. This is just horrible news, weather that kills so many in such a short time. I know that will be a small number of those who will die if I live to see the Big One, the coming earthquake, hit the Pacific Northwest. We do drills and try to figure ways one might be able to survive. In the last few weeks, more than 40 small tremors have occurred in the area. I do wonder if they are a precursor to larger and more destructive quakes. 

That is not what I wanted to write about! I see no reason to dwell on what might be coming my way, but the shock of the rare late-season tornado outbreak had changed my focus. So, now that I have given bad weather and earthquakes their due, I'm going to move on to more positive things, because there is still so much joy and happiness around me. This December season is filled with walks in the dark to the bus and seeing so many homes covered with lights. People smile and we greet each other with good wishes, and dogs always look happy to be out and about as well. So much around me fills my heart with serenity and good cheer. 

My morning routine has shifted a bit to allow me to get that twenty minutes of meditation in. Sunday mornings are the only time when I don't get to follow the routine, because I need to write this post. I'll skip many of the usual morning rituals in order to be ready by the time my friend John will drive up to take me to our Sunday breakfast hangout. In our quest to find a better coffee shop, we've decided to make Sundays a habitual breakfast stop in Fairhaven, for the winter at least. John's right shoulder has passed its six-week mark from having been rebuilt, and although it's still very stiff, it's getting better every day. He will start physical therapy next week, two sessions a week. I was dubious about getting the surgery, given the resurgence of Covid everywhere, but he's triple-vaxxed and seems to recover quickly from these things, for a man of almost 82, anyway.

I guess it comes with the territory of getting older, but many of my friends and acquaintances are dealing with medical issues. I'm still a few months from my annual wellness visit with the doctor, but for now I'm happy to be able to carry out my usual routine with minimal discomfort. I am aided in my quest to be active by getting massages and acupuncture treatments regularly, and having yoga classes several times a week via Zoom. As I've said before, I'm in no hurry to get back to the studio with other practitioners in close proximity. I don't think we will be free of Covid for awhile yet, and I am very fortunate to live in a state that requires masking indoors. Most of the time, I feel quite safe.

Melanie and I have become a "bubble" of our own on Thursdays, not really quite willing to hike with large groups yet. We went on our own snowy hike last week, but we learned that the regular Senior Trailblazers group ended up being 16! And that was on a wet and snowy day going on a trail without much view even on a good day. I am not sure when I'll be ready to return, but going out with Mel has made my hikes less stressful, and even a bit shorter and less difficult. At my age, I'm quite happy to continue this way for the coming winter, at least.

Yesterday three of us walked twice around Lake Padden. The weather had been horrible the night before, with lots of wind and rain, so we were prepared for it, but instead the wind died down, the sun came out, and we had a spectacular five-mile walk. Afterwards, Mel and I joined another friend at a restaurant for lunch. Dianne has been dealing with months with a hip injury, and I hadn't seen her for ages. I was a little nervous about going inside a restaurant on a Saturday afternoon, but it was just fine. The place has enormously high ceilings, and plenty of social distancing. We wore our masks until we were seated and I enjoyed a mid-day glass of red wine. It had been quite awhile since I'd had any wine, and it went right to my head, since I'd exercised and not eaten. By the time I finished my lunch, however, I was back to normal. I used to drink a glass every night, but in my desire to lose weight, I'd stopped the practice, and I don't think I'll take it up again. An occasional glass is nice, and I get plenty of enjoyment from it because of its rarity.

When we left the restaurant, however, all the nice sunshine was gone and it had begun to rain again. Then suddenly we were pelted with hail and sideways rain as we hurried to Mel's car. In just a short distance, we were soaked to the bone! Thank heavens for her seat warmers; in nothing flat we were comfortable and on our way back home. I dashed from her car to my own when we pulled up at her place, and I went straight home and enjoyed the rest of my day indoors with my sweet partner. 

Looking at the clock, I see that I'm just a few minutes later than I would normally be for getting out of bed and beginning the rest of my day. I'll have plenty of time for my exercises and meditation (hopefully) before John gets here. I'll skip my usual routine of reading the news and checking the weather (it's raining again, of course) and that will pretty much getting me back on track.

Those few minutes of meditation in the morning have become essential to my feeling of well-being. It amazes me how much I look forward to it, and how much better the entire rest of my day becomes because of it. Getting through the holidays is easier, and the whole day begins on a positive note. My tea is gone, my partner sleeps beside me as I tap the keys. The day ahead beckons.

I do hope you are finding your own way to equanimity during these stressful times, and that those of you in the South escaped injury. My heart goes out to all those who suffer, and I wish nothing but the best for all. During this holiday season, I wish you all good things. Be well until we meet again next week, dear friends.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Winter on the way

Mushroom in the snow

We have been having more strange fall weather, with temperatures so warm it has often felt a little like late summer or early spring. But that all changed a day or so ago, when the temperatures dropped to normal, and our rain has begun to be mixed with a little snow. For the first time in ages I've seen frosty plants as I walk to the bus.

Outside right now, before dawn, it's just below freezing, and by the time I walk out the door, I expect it will be quite nice, since there is no rain falling for a change. Yesterday's Saturday walk was a wet one, but it wasn't pouring, so we felt quite ready for it. I really need to get out in order to keep my spirits up, and these days when it's dry, I feel happy to leave my rain gear behind and work up a sweat.

I've been reading an interesting book: Cave in the Snow by Vicki MacKenzie, about a woman who was born Diane Perry in England but became known as Tenzin Palmo, a Buddhist seeker who ended up living for twelve years in a Himalayan cave at 13,000 feet elevation, completely isolated from everything and everyone, and loved it. One of the things about Tenzin Palmo that interested me is that we are the same age, and she is still around. These days, though, she is running a monastery for Buddhist nuns and traveling around giving speeches about her journey.

Since I've become interested in Buddhism, I wondered if there are any females who were equivalent to the Dalai Lama. Although she isn't there yet, I suspect she will maybe find enlightenment in this life, or maybe the next. I'm still not sure whether I really believe in reincarnation, but just like any possible existence after death, there isn't any foolproof way to prove any of it. That said, apparently the Dalai Lama is the 14th reincarnation of the original guy, Gendün Drubpa. 
I started out really young, when I was four, five, six, writing poems, before I could play an instrument. I was writing about things when I was eight or 10 years old that I hadn't lived long enough to experience. That's why I also believe in reincarnation, that we were put here with ideas to pass around. —Willie Nelson

Many people believe in some sort of continuance after we die, but the Buddhist version makes more sense to me than the notion that we are resurrected in our bodies. Well, which one would I be: the infant, the young mother, the old crone, which one? Buddhists believe that our minds survive death and are reincarnated in another sentient being, and that those on a spiritual path are aided by their teachers to find the next appropriate body. Whatever. Tenzin Palmo has certainly lived a rich life so far, and if she comes anywhere nearby to speak, I'll try to find a way to attend. She has vowed that she will reach enlightenment in a female body, rather than as a male. I'm not sure she has any actual power to do that, but what do I know?

For one thing, she sure does make it sound unpleasant (to me), being alone in a cave for so long. She would meditate for three hours at a time, several times a day, and she would sleep in her meditation box sitting up! When I think of giving up that creature comfort of snuggling into my warm covers and falling into a gentle sleep, I just couldn't do it. Meditation in small doses seems to be enough for me these days. I know I am more relaxed and serene when I come out of a session, but as I get older, who knows what direction I might turn to? Probably not towards sleeping upright. Even the Dalai Lama gets horizontal, I think.

I am certainly enjoying learning about all the different ways that Buddhism is practiced throughout the world, and that there is really no right way to proceed in finding one's own spiritual path. I have learned that it is helpful to find actual teachers who can help you find the right way to practice, but I'm not there yet. For now, I'm learning through books and through studying the paths of others. And for now, it's enough. It does amaze me how much I look forward to that short amount of time I've set aside for meditating. Just learning how to watch my own breath has taught me so much. For one thing, I now understand what it means to have a "monkey mind." Sitting there, I can catch myself planning my day, or thinking of someone I haven't seen in awhile, or trying to ignore that itch on my back. I just keep bringing my mind back to the task at hand: following my breath. For a few short moments, I lose track of time, and I am always amazed at how short a time fifteen or twenty minutes can seem when I'm focused on my breath.

* * *

John and I are trying to find a new coffee shop to visit in the mornings. We are not happy at all about how crowded Avellino's can be when it's cold and rainy outside, and many people just come in to get out of the weather. They are required to mask up inside, but many people aren't really trying to stay safe, and some flaunt the rules on purpose, which makes me quite uncomfortable. We tried a new place last week, which has many good things going for it, but it's got no good parking places, meaning we have to walk a good distance to get inside. Not too bad when it's not raining. They don't allow tipping, because they say they give their employees a living wage (we asked: $21/hour) and don't take cash, only cards. I liked it better than John did, since he really doesn't like to walk if he can avoid it. We'll keep looking. But the place (the Black Fern) is open, airy, and not crowded.

I need to get out of bed soon, so I can get all my morning routine out of the way, with the twenty minutes of meditation added in. The only day that it's a problem is Sundays, when I need to write this post instead of reading my blogs and the news. That will have to wait until we are inside the coffee shop, I guess, or after I get home. It's actually supposed to be a little sunny today for a change, so maybe I can find the time for a nice walk.

My tea is gone, my dear partner still sleeps beside me as I tap the keys, and I feel the pull towards the rest of my day. I do hope you will have a wonderful week ahead, filled with robust good health and lots of smiles coming your way. That's what I wish for myself, too. You, my dear virtual family, are part of my happiness. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

Pondering the virtual world

Final frozen rose of the year

 It's another one of those Sunday mornings when I don't really know what to write about, what's uppermost in my mind, or even what I might find interesting to share. Then my blogging friend John, who lives in Seattle, sent me an email yesterday, with this query in it:

In your very first post, Sunday, December 6, 2009, you said, "Already I feel the excitement of creation. I'm going to allow it to unfold and see where I go with it." So, here we are nearly 12 years later. From your viewpoint how has it unfolded? 

My theme for this day was born with that question! I won't be able to share all the wonders of more than a decade of this blog, but I can make a start with it, for sure. I began this particular blog with the idea of chronicling my life, covering all my marriages (I've had four but the best one is the present one) and the loss of my children, and how I fell into a job that became a career, with a boss who believed I could do anything and gave me the opportunity to try. He was a senior scientist at NCAR (National Center for Atmospheric Research) and wrote many books, with me as his partner. We were a good team.

But then I got to the present moment, and it began taking a different tack: writing about my daily life, and things that interest me. It got more contemplative and introspective as the years went on, and John reminded me that all those posts (632 as of today) are still available for perusal, by me or others. Only writing once a week, on Sunday mornings, it amazes me that more than six hundred weeks have passed since I began this journey.

On my other blog, which I wrote daily until I ran out of material and cut back to twice a week, I have over two thousand posts, some good and some not so good, but heck, it's been quite an interesting journey. Of the two blogs, this one is my favorite, because I've given myself the option of going wherever the wind takes me. But being someone who falls into routine quite quickly, I have restricted myself in various ways. Can't be helped: I am who I am. But if I had to choose between them, I'd take this blog, hands down.

I don't go back and re-read much of what I've written, but I guess it might be a good thing to do, since retrospection and reminiscence come naturally to me. But there's still so much new stuff to read in the world that I haven't even started, that I probably won't. It is the difference between looking back and looking ahead at new ideas and new possibilities. 

John also asked me how I feel about the difference between real versus virtual friends. Well, John, that is a very curious observation, because I don't find much difference in importance between them. I get to interact with my virtual friends through comments and personal blogs much more than I do with "skin" friends, since we spend time together in both respects, but it's deeper and often more meaningful in the virtual realm. I have learned so much through personal blogs, and I see the virtual friendships as essential to my happiness and continued growth as a person.

As the Internet of things advances, the very notion of a clear dividing line between reality and virtual reality becomes blurred, sometimes in creative ways. —Geoff Mulgan

I have been heavily influenced by the interests and concerns of those people who have become my friends and who write personal blogs about their lives. Some are blessed with large families, and some have no family at all. I missed out on having grandchildren but truly enjoy watching the babies of other families as they grow up and become adults. And I am reminded once again how the fertile ground of human existence can be watered and fertilized by our interactions, changing the direction of many, the trajectory of our lives blossoming with creative energy. It's really rather astounding when you think about it.

There have been accidental (or maybe meaningful coincidences) stories and occurrences that my virtual friends have written about that changed my life for the better. I am reminded that I learned about Olga Kotelko from a Facebook friend when Olga died at 95. That sent me on a journey to find all that I could about her. She set more records as a senior athlete than anyone could have imagined, and she began her athletic career at 65 after retiring as a teacher. 

One curious thing I learned about her and her senior athletic friends is that many of them were followers of the Five Tibetan Rites, a series of exercises that many of them swore by. I started doing them, too, and still these days I don't miss a day. Once I get out of bed and get dressed, I step out onto my front porch and perform 21 repetitions of them. It only takes about ten minutes, but now I cannot imagine missing that practice. All because of a virtual friend who pointed me in that direction. I've written about them before, but they are worth checking out. I do have skin friends who have taken up the practice, too.

By the time I write here next week, I will have had another birthday. It's the last one in my seventies, and then I get to start being an octogenarian! Boy, the seventies sure have gone by quickly. I suspect that it will be the same with the eighties, which will keep me writing here until I cannot any longer. The practice of writing gives me so much pleasure, and the fun of reading the writings of others sparks new directions in my thinking and my life. So in conclusion, I can truly say I am enriched by this practice of writing in my blog and reading the reflections of all my dear virtual friends.

And with that, I will sign off for the week, and I will continue here once again next week with who knows what topic! Until we meet again next week, I wish you, dear friends, the very best week ahead. My partner still sleeps next to me, and I am finished with my tea and now looking forward to beginning the rest of my Sunday. Be well.

Sunday, November 21, 2021


Me and Markee

Most of the time on my blog, when I talk about a sister, it's usually Norma Jean. But the truth is, I have two other sisters I rarely see and so they aren't as much a part of my life as she is. Norma Jean and I grew up together, and the three youngest siblings weren't even born before I got married and left home. Well, my brother Buz was born when I was sixteen, but as anybody who has teenagers know, I didn't pay much attention to family; my social life revolved around kids my own age. Family was peripheral. I was a self-centered juvenile most of the time.

But that was then. My brother and two youngest sisters were only in my life when I visited my parents, or if I was between marriages and taking refuge in their home. That was actually the only time, really, when I got to know my youngest siblings. While I was busy with my own life, my career, or outdoor activities, they were busy growing up. Markee married Bob, a Canadian, and moved to Alberta, Canada, decades ago, where they bought a lovely ranch and raised three children. Now those kids are all grown, and their daughter Sarah was married in a beautiful ceremony in August. I wanted to attend, but there were no Americans present because of the pandemic and still-closed border. 

Now that the border is open, Bob and Markee bought themselves a camper-type vehicle and hit the road. They are traveling eventually to Florida, where they will spend the winter in their condo in Apollo Beach. It's about an hour's drive south of Norma Jean, so fortunately it's been well looked after by her and Norma Jean's son Peter. They have used it as a second home during the two years that it's been vacant. All that is about to change, now that the missing family can get there for the winter months. They will be snowbirds, traveling between Canada and Florida, which was their original intent when they bought it. They were only there for a few months before they had to return to Canada because of the pandemic. And now we can travel between countries once again.

Markee's name is actually Mary Katherine, but when she was growing up she was always called by her nickname within the family. Her husband Bob doesn't call her that, as I was reminded when he'd address her by that unfamiliar (to me) name. They came through Bellingham for us to have a nice lunch together before they took off for Texas. Driving diagonally across the country on their way to Florida, in order to visit family. I was so happy to spend more than three hours with them before they took off. They will be with my brother Buz and sister Fia and all their extended family for Thanksgiving.

We spent much of our time together looking at photos of the wedding, a huge affair with 175 guests and with a very professional photographic essay of the entire event. You know how they do it, starting with the bride and her entourage getting dressed and following through the day's proceedings. Now Sarah and her husband are happily married and living in their newly purchased home.

It was so lovely to catch up with her and Bob after so many years without much contact at all. We realized that the last time I saw Markee was at our sister PJ's memorial service in February 2014. And now Markee has turned sixty, my baby sister has grown up to become a senior citizen! Since I was already a mother when she was born, I don't like to think how old I have become. My birthday is in a couple of weeks, when I will enter my eightieth year (and turn 79). How quickly those years passed!

I am the only one of the six of us who doesn't have children (living ones, that is). Norma Jean had two, Peter and Allison, with two grandchildren. My brother Buz has one grown daughter, Trish, who has not had any children. Markee has three, as I mentioned, two twin boys (who are no longer boys), and Sarah. PJ had two sons, one of whom managed to have two sets of twins. PJ was so proud of her beautiful grandchildren. And last of all, my sister Fia, who had two children, a boy and a girl, both of whom are married and have given her lots of grandchildren.

When people ask me about my two sons, both of whom have died, I always say I have no living children. I was only 22 when my son Stephen died, and a matron of sixty when my son Chris died. No grandchildren for me, and that makes me sad. But it's through no fault of my own that I am the only one without them. That doesn't mean I don't have plenty of family, though, as you can see. My parents, who are also both gone, would be proud of the accomplishment of their children and grandchildren. As am I. 

Family. I married SG when we were both fifty, and now that is more than a quarter of a century ago. The time does indeed fly when you're having fun, an adventurous life, and a career. I have been retired now for thirteen years, and after having moved from Boulder, Colorado, to Bellingham, Washington, I have still been having fun, a good life, with lots of friends with whom I enjoy nature's wonders in the Pacific Northwest. And there was that quarter of a century I spent jumping out of perfectly good airplanes. So much of my life is now in the past, but I have enjoyed every bit of it, the bad and the good, the ups and downs, and am now settling into a more relaxed and serene existence. 

Part of what I have started is a journey into discovery of mindfulness and meditation. Although my dear partner has developed an illness that may become problematic, we have good healthcare and for now he is doing just fine. He's under a good doctor's care, one he trusts, and he's learned that he will not need to undergo any further treatment, other than keeping an eye on his blood count and keeping himself from getting an infection. Fortunately for us, everywhere we go we are masked, and that will continue for the foreseeable future. I venture out much more than he does, and we are both triple-vaxxed and have received our flu shots.

There are no guarantees that we will be in such good shape in the future, since everything changes and moves on, forward into time. There is little I would change about my life, and I count my blessings at every moment. I am filled with gratitude for having had such a wonderful life. And there's my virtual family: YOU! I enjoy reading about your own adventures and lifestyles, and I glean information and joy through you as well. Who could ask for much more?
One's family is the most important thing in life. I look at it this way: One of these days I'll be over in a hospital somewhere with four walls around me. And the only people who'll be with me will be my family. —Robert Byrd

While many of my dear virtual family will probably not be in that hospital with me, I'll have my laptop and we can Zoom together. These days, there is no excuse for not being surrounded by family and friends, since much of our lives has become available for anybody who wants to share it. I am so grateful for the internet, and for being able to "visit" you whenever we wish. 

And with that, dear friends, I've finished my tea, my post, and my ruminations. Now it's time to get out of bed and spend some time following my breath before heading out into the world. Another day without rain is a good one. The rain returns tomorrow, but it's nothing like the deluge we endured earlier. And my dear partner still sleeps quietly next to me as I get out of bed before the sun rises. 

I'm sending you all my best wishes for a good week ahead, our Thanksgiving week here in the US, and I'll be enjoying a quiet meal with just one other person: guess who? Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Rain and more rain

Fallen leaves

We are in the midst of a strong "Pineapple Express," or an atmospheric river that comes to the Pacific Northwest in the form of warm rain that dumps massive amounts of precipitation in our area. Right now, after having had several days of rain, we are supposed to get another four to five inches over the next two days. And it is warm: it is as warm outside before dawn today as it usually ever gets in our area at this time of the year. However, once this system moves through, the temperature will plummet and we'll get a good frost. 

But that is not what I wanted to talk about today. After carefully checking that I am in the correct blog for my Sunday post, I pondered what is on my mind and would make a good post. I came up with a phrase that resonates deeply with me: lovingkindness. The word originates from two sources: (1) an English translation of Chesed, a term found in the Hebrew Bible, and (2) an English translation of Mettā or maitrī, a term used in Buddhism. The Dalai Lama said it best when he reminded us to "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible."
What we all have in common is an appreciation of kindness and compassion; all the religions have this. Love. We all lean towards love. —Richard Gere 

When I am feeling good and healthy, it's easy for me to feel lovingkindness towards others, but when I am grumpy or nursing a sore back, for example, it becomes much harder. Perhaps that is what I am trying to find in life these days: a way to be in a state where I can rise above it all and become a permanently compassionate person. Hmmm. There seems to be a disconnect here. Life doesn't work like that, at least not in my experience. It is easy for me to love those who already love me or that I see as good, but it's much harder when I come up against someone or something that really disgusts me.

But I also have to be kind to Yours Truly, and forgive myself for the shortcomings I see in myself every day. I guess it all boils down to my need to get away from my ego consciousness and learn to be more cosmic in my outlook. Sounds easy, but it's not at all. Every time I think I have "risen above" some small imperfection in my spiritual journey, it comes back in another form entirely. Take, for example, my need to give money to homeless people who are begging me for relief from their situation. I feel for them and reach into my pocket for a few dollars and then walk away feeling magnanimous. What have I actually done for them? Nothing. But I have given myself permission to feel virtuous for my generosity. Hmmm. 

I ran across a phrase that won't let me go: idiot compassion. For compassion to be effective, we need to discover if our actions are going to be of real help and value or if they may actually be supporting an already unhealthy situation. According to a blog I discovered, 

Developing lovingkindness and feeling compassion toward our fellow humans is one thing, while putting it into action is another matter. Without even trying, we cause suffering: we hurt ourselves, we hurt each other, we ignore each other's pain and create further pain. How do we stay open and loving in the midst of insult or conflict? Our caring and compassion are tested and challenged in every moment, every time we are tempted to ignore but choose to stay open instead. (Ed and Deb Shapiro)

 Now this doesn't mean I will stop giving money to homeless people, but it does make me aware of the actual reason I do it. The number of people in the world today who are desperate is growing. I can barely force myself to watch the news these days, with so many wars and displaced people suffering so much. Was the world really like this fifty years ago and I was just not aware of it? Or has it become much worse? I can't remember seeing homeless people wandering the streets like today. It does make me sad and I fight against a sense of hopelessness.

So I sit quietly in my living room a few minutes a day to calm myself and follow my breath. I also write this blog, hoping for inspiration and that I might be able to give at least one other person a little bit of optimism. That comes from my desire, a true one, to provide love and caring to others. The most effective way I have discovered, so far, is to be kind to myself and forgive those who don't see things my way. I am old enough to be looking out my eyes from a spirit that wants to change from despair to lovingkindness. Adding benefit to the world around me, rather than making things worse: that's my goal.

That said, I also must remember to give thanks for all that I have: a warm and dry place to live; a partner who loves me and whom I love very much; the ability to walk and play outside with good rain gear; friends and family who support me in ways I don't even know; enough nourishing food to eat every day. So very many people in the world don't have even one of those things I take for granted. 

I will leave you with a favorite Buddhist mantra:  Om Mani Padme Hum. Known as the Compassion Mantra, or the Jewel in the Lotus, this is a powerful Buddhist prayer. This mantra is a tool to train the mind to achieve ultimate peace and enjoyment. The mind dictates our experience of happiness and sadness, so we must learn to control our mind.

I would like to remind you to be kind to yourself, as well as others. This is something I am working on these days. Until we meet again next week, dear friends of my heart, I wish you all good things. Be well.

Sunday, November 7, 2021

After the storm

From  the Seeing Bellingham Group

I found this picture on my new favorite Facebook group, and although I neglected to note the photographer, I simply couldn't resist sharing this optimistic and beautiful picture with you. It was taken last Thursday, when Mel and I walked in the rain during the morning, and I got home soaked and a bit miserable from all the rain. As I sat down in my easy chair to compose my last post, the rain lessened, and then I looked outside as the sun was going down and saw everything lighted up, just as in this picture, although I didn't have a rainbow to enjoy. 
I'm continually inspired by nature, and the rainbow is one of nature's greatest optical phenomenons. The sighting of a rainbow never fails to bring a smile to people's faces. They signify optimism and positivity: with them comes the sunshine after the rain. —Matthew Williamson

Our walks lately have all been wet. The onset of normal fall precipitation seems to be going a bit crazy lately. The weather people are blaming it on La Niña, a phenomenon that will bring wetter and colder weather to us in the coming months. It's a lot easier for me to appreciate wet conditions when I am dressed for it. Unfortunately, I've been resisting, believing that the rain will stop before it does, and not realizing that I've got to be wearing more effective rain gear. 

Yesterday we walked twice around Lake Padden, one of our favorite places to go when we might not want to venture far because of the weather. Once around is 2.6 miles, and the rain was predicted to begin around 11:00am. So I wore a rain-resistant jacket and stuffed my raincoat into my backpack. A light rain started almost immediately at 9:00am, and I believed it would stop soon, so I didn't put on my raincoat. At least not until I was completely soaked through and had gotten a little bit grumpy. In any event, we did make two complete turns around the lake, which did help my mood a little, and I came home and changed into nice dry clothes.

We gained an hour of sleep last night, but of course I awoke at my usual time, and there was nothing for it except to get up, make my tea and start this post. So I think it will be posted sooner than it usually is, and I can get out to the coffee shop earlier than I normally would. It's not the same without John there, so I toyed with the idea of taking the bus instead of driving, but it is supposed to rain again today. Never mind: I'll drive.

I'm realizing that it won't be that many more years that I will want to drive my car anywhere. Now that it will be DARK so early in the evening, I'll take the bus most places, or let someone else drive (like Mel in her lovely SUV). I'm not sure if the macular degeneration I've been dealing with for years is the reason, but I seem to be losing my depth perception. That's not good for driving. Full sunlight sure helps, but as we venture into the late fall and winter months, there's not much of it around. Fortunately for me, I can walk or take the bus just about everywhere I need to go, thanks to the great bus system we have here in Bellingham.

I'm still meditating every morning, and the peacefulness and joy that I experience much of the time is spreading out from that short period of following my breath into more and more of my day. It is a little amazing to me to think that learning more about Tibetan Buddhism would have such a profound effect in my life. Just yesterday I got a new Kindle book from David Michie about the Dalai Lama's Cat (this one is called Awaken the Kitten Within), the fifth in the series about HHC (His Holiness' Cat), and it deals with her life as she begins her senior years. I've only just begun the story, but everyone who has already read it gives it a great review.

I had just finished re-reading the fourth story in the series about the Dalai Lama's Cat and the Four Paws of Spiritual Success. The characters in the stories all come to life in Michie's writings, and anybody who loves a cat will appreciate learning all about HHC's life. What surprises me is how much I am enjoying reading these books more than once, and rather astounded at how much more I glean from them about Buddhism with each reading. I feel like I've found a treasure trove of books to keep me grounded and peaceful. David Michie has found a new admirer (me), and I intend to study Buddhist philosophy for a long time to come.

Although to some people it wouldn't seem like a blessing, I think it truly was for me to be raised in a family that had no evident church upbringing. My father was an agnostic, and my mother was raised a Catholic. When she married a nonbeliever, she stopped going to church and we, her children, never ventured inside one until we became old enough to do so on our own. When I was in my early teens, I discovered Episcopalianism and began to attend a local church, and before long my siblings had joined me. I was so enchanted with the liturgy I would read the Book of Common Prayer all day long and thought about becoming a nun. 

That didn't last long, but my life was changed because I was no longer without a faith, and it stood me in good stead for many years. When I was a young woman, I began to study different religions and was drawn to Buddhism even then. Living in Boulder, Colorado, I was able to learn a lot about it, since Boulder has the only accredited Buddhist university in America. Well, back then it was anyway; I'm not sure about today. Since there were so many local avenues to learn more about it, I took advantage of classes open to the public, and I learned to meditate as well.

For many years, I meditated morning and night, and somehow it fell away without my noticing. But I wonder, since I have picked it up again, whether all those years had changed my mental processes somehow, because every morning I do feel like I've come home to a place that never left. All I know for sure is that I feel more centered and willing to see compassion and loving kindness in neglected places surrounding me.

I ran across an article not long ago that theorizes that much of the empathy that we feel is due to a genetic trait, rather than learned. You can read more about it in this article from Medical News Daily, which suggests that many of us are more empathetic because of our genes.

Some people are more empathetic than others, and the new study revealed that a significant part of how empathetic we are is down to genetics. In fact, 10 percent of the variation in empathy between people is due to genes, according to the research.

Well, I must have been born with plenty of that gene, because I tend to feel other people's pain and joy more than most, and I am happy that is the case. Of course, it makes it really hard when someone I love is hurting, but I'd rather feel bad for them than not to care at all. How about you? 

Well, here I am with an extra hour to spare, and I think I might actually spend a little more of it in meditation than I usually do. Why not? And then it will be time to head to the coffee shop, my usual routine, to quaff my usual latte. Maybe I'll be able to get a quick walk in later, in between raindrops. It's just not the same at the coffee shop without John around, so I don't spend nearly as much of my time there without him. Of course, there are other people to interact with, before coming back home. 

I do hope you will have a wonderful Sunday, no matter where in the world you are, I am so grateful for your presence in my life. My dear partner just turned over and is still sleeping quietly, but I am beginning to feel the pull to get out of bed and start the rest of my day. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things. 

Sunday, October 31, 2021

One week later

Whatcom Falls after lots of rain

After last week's embarrassing fiasco, losing my post and trying unsuccessfully to recover it, I've checked to make sure I am in the right place as I begin this morning's writing. Not that I have any confidence that whatever pours out of my noggin will be interesting, but here goes.

Yesterday Mel and I walked to Whatcom Falls Park and saw the most amazing roaring water coming over the falls. You could hear it a long ways away, with all the rain we got during the last two days: almost three inches. Then the skies cleared and it got cold enough yesterday for me to have to scrape ice off my car before heading out. Bundled up against the cold, we had a lovely walk and I captured this picture. I was sort of amazed when I studied it closely to discover there is a man photographing the falls from above. Do you see him? That is a very dangerous place to be, and a few people have lost their lives by slipping right there and being carried to the rocks below.

You can see that our fall colors are still around, but beginning to fade as we pass the halfway mark from fall into the winter months. The long-range forecast is for lots of wet and cold weather ahead, with La Niña making an appearance this year. But for us, it's a relatively mild winter anyway: most of the snow should stay in the High Country and spare us. Although I well remember a winter when we got as much snow as we expected in Colorado, it was still short-lived in comparison.

We'll see. In any event, I am happy to have a warm and cozy apartment to live in as we move through the seasons. I have finally grown accustomed to the 20% hike in rent, and I guess almost half of it will be covered by the increase in our Social Security. It's the only bright spot in the economy for me right now: we will get a 5.9% increase for 2022. Everything has become so much more expensive, and I suspect it's the same for our landlords, so I am reconciled to it. It's no different anywhere else in the region, so where could I move to avoid it?

It's Halloween, the last day of the month of October. It's been a good transition month around here, with the rain returning and the days shorter and colder. Soon we will return to Daylight Standard Time, and it will be very dark around here about the time people get off work. Fortunately I am retired and won't venture out much in the evenings. I've also got a head lamp that I use to see my path ahead in the dark, which I need right now in the mornings as I walk to the bus.

I got a call from John yesterday. He had the massive shoulder surgery accomplished last Thursday, and he's in quite a lot of pain right now and is sleeping a lot, eating very little, and just trying to get through these first few weeks. He says he didn't remember last year's surgery on the other shoulder being so painful, and I can only imagine what it must be like. The doctor said the surgery went well, but that the right shoulder was worse than the other one, so it makes sense that the rebuild was more extensive. His left shoulder no longer hurts and he has full mobility in it, so he's hoping that it will be the same in a few months. We sure miss him at the coffee shop. Everyone sends their best wishes for a speedy recovery.

I am still meditating every morning after I exercise for ten minutes on the front porch. This time right now is when I would normally be getting out of bed and starting my day, but Sundays are different because I write this post. Since there is no reason to rush to the coffee shop, with John not there, I'm going to add the meditation time after exercise, just as if it were any other morning. Hopefully it will help me get used to a regular time to meditation every day.
Mindfulness helps you go home to the present. And every time you go there and recognize a condition of happiness that you have, happiness comes. —Thich Nhat Hanh

It's interesting how much it has helped me with the stress of daily life. That, and I am definitely watching much less news than I once did. After all, I can learn everything that is going on within a short time on my favorite news channel and the internet; everything else is just commentary and repeat information. Sometimes I wonder if the news is designed to raise my anxiety level and make me worry more. That would be counterproductive for me, since worry is one of those aspects of thinking I don't need more of. I love to spend my time reading other people's blogs and sticking to books that are uplifting, rather than listening to more doom and gloom.

Plus it's that time of year when everybody seems to concentrate on scary stuff, and I don't find that good for me, or anyone at all. But everyone gets to live their own life; I won't try to fix them, or the universe, for all the good that would do. Trying to find peace, contentment and happiness in my own life is enough of a project for me.

And there are so many aspects of my life that I am grateful for. SG has had a bone marrow extract and a CT scan to try to discover the source of his low blood counts, but so far nothing seems especially scary. He's got no symptoms of lymphoma, which is what the doctor suspects, but from what I've read about it, he either has a very mild case or it's something else. He trusts his doctor and doesn't return for another visit for a few weeks, so in the meantime we are being hopeful that all will turn out well. Of course, this business of getting older means that we are all susceptible at some point to illness. 

Buddha's Five Remembrances help me to remember all this. Do you know them? Now that I am studying Buddhism, I remembered learning these five remembrances long ago. Maybe I should tape them to my bathroom mirror so I won't forget them.

  1. I am of the nature to grow old; there is no way to escape growing old.
  2. I am of the nature to have ill health; there is no way to escape having ill health.
  3. I am of the nature to die; there is no way to escape death.
  4. All that is dear to me and everyone I love are of the nature to change. There is no way to escape being separated from them.
  5. My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground upon which I stand.

In some ways, this reminder is helpful to keep me grounded in truth and giving me plenty of reasons to give thanks for every day that I am alive and remain a healthy old woman. And every morning in my meditation, I end with a prayer that all living beings will one day be free from disease, pain, and suffering, that we will all eventually attain enlightenment.

Although I only sit for fifteen to twenty minutes, at the end of that time I am really surprised at how centered and grounded I feel. Just following my breath and keeping myself focused on the moment, letting any thoughts that come up pass through, like clouds passing by. And I find myself, after only a short few months of this, craving those moments of peace. That I can find anywhere at any time, if I just go within. I recommend giving it a try. You don't have anything to lose, and much to gain. But then again, everyone has a different path to wholeness. Forest bathing is one direction I love to go in my quest for serenity. 

And you know what? I've managed to finish this post and have every confidence that this week I will be able to publish it without any glitches. It was a good lesson last week to pay attention to what I'm doing and stay out of ruts. I do hope you will have a wonderful week ahead, and that all good things will come your way. My dear partner still sleeps next to me, breathing so quietly that I cannot hear him, but I know he's there. And life will continue to bring us all chances to spread joy and happiness to others. I wish you all the best. Be well until we meet again next week.

Sunday, October 24, 2021

I can't believe I did that

Stoney Ridge Farm

 I completed by Sunday post and then inadvertently posted it on my other blog, and when I deleted it from that one, I could not get it back to post it here.

So, here I am with egg on my face, nothing to post, and I think I really need a cup of coffee. I'm sorry!!!

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Local Aurora Borealis

Kyle Stitt captured this last Monday

Five days ago, we who live in the Pacific Northwest, were treated to a display of the Northern Lights, also known as the Aurora Borealis. I found this picture on Facebook's group, Seeing Bellingham. We had clear skies that night, and of course I was fast asleep but read about it the next morning and learned about the spectacle after the fact.
The Aurora Borealis is caused by the interaction between the sun and the earth’s atmosphere, according to the National Weather Service. Electrically charged particles called ions are emitted from the sun and move outward in a stream of plasma, which is called the solar wind. When the plasma comes into contact with the earth’s magnetic field, some ions become trapped and interact with the earth’s atmosphere. This causes them to glow, which is the same principle that makes a neon sign light up (king5.com).

 It made the local news, and I heard about it at the coffee shop the next morning, but I myself have never seen such a display. People who live in Alaska see them all the time, but it's quite rare to happen around here, at Bellingham's 48.75° latitude.

Since that time, most nights have been overcast and we've gotten quite a lot of rain, nothing to see here. It also went from very cold to almost balmy in comparison. We do get our fair share of weather events, but so far we have not had a freeze. I feel very fortunate to have retired in such a place, with mostly mild temperatures year round, and lots of green forests that thrive in this environment.

*  *  *

On my other blog, I posted a few pictures of the injury to my left eye socket, and now, more than a week later, the bruising is almost all gone, except for the area underneath the eye, which is very much better but still rather strange looking, for an old woman to have such a bruise. It is pretty much covered up by my mask, so unless I'm drinking my coffee, it's covered and no one notices.

One thing about being elderly, I also realize that not many people look my way for any length of time. It's true what they say about becoming invisible when you get to a certain age. When I was a young woman, I turned heads and remember how much I enjoyed the attention. Now that it's gone, I don't really mind. Every phase of life has its benefits and disadvantages. 

I have recently begun a daily meditation practice, remembering once again all those years when I sat twice a day, many decades ago. I lived in Boulder, Colorado, back then, and there was a very active Buddhist community, with plenty of places to attend meditation practice. I can still remember coming home from work and being so glad to be able to relax on my meditation cushion for a half hour or so. It made all the difference in my busy life. 

One thing that I find curious is how easily I have slipped into it once again. Apparently, the mental processes I developed at that time are still here. I used a mantra in those days, and I might do that once again, but for now I am watching my breath, counting them to 10 and starting over. At first I just sat and allowed the time to pass, thinking that 15 or 20 minutes would be difficult, but a couple of times I didn't stop then and lost track of time. So now I use a timer, with a dainty chime when the time is over.

Although it's only been a couple of weeks, I can already feel that I am drawn to the gentle quiet that takes over my mind when I point it in one direction. It also keeps me from stressing too much over the state of the world, especially my own country and its challenges. Although I am still reading several newspapers every day, on my laptop I can choose what I read and can stay away from those that upset me too much. My equanimity is closer to the surface with meditation part of my daily life.

The time I've found to sit is early in the morning, after I've done the Five Tibetan Rites that have become an essential part of my day since July 2013. Then I pull out my meditation stool and settle in for a session. The only day when this doesn't work for me is on Sundays, because I am busy writing this post, and I need to wait until after I return from my trip to the coffee shop. This will be the third Sunday since I began meditating that I will need to find another time to sit. 

In a couple of weeks, my schedule will change from what has become my usual routine of taking the bus to the coffee shop, then having my friend John drop me off at the Cornwall Rose Garden and walking home. He will be having his right shoulder rebuilt, and he'll be unable to drive or do much at all for several weeks. Last year at this time he had his left shoulder done, and it's been so successful that he's gone ahead and scheduled the other one. This will be harder because it's his dominant arm, but I fully expect he will recover. By then we'll be even closer to the end of the pandemic. (I hope.) But who knows what the future holds? The only time we really have is the present moment.

We recently learned that our rent will increase by more than 20% in the coming year. At first I was really dismayed, but then I realized that the reason the owner can do that is because there is no place to move that is less expensive. I suppose his costs have increased as well as ours, and I wish him well. We will deal with it, since in May my annuities increased enough that for these few months I haven't had to worry about budgeting. That changes when my excess "wealth" will go into his pocket. Just like everything else, our lives continue on with the trials and tribulations that we all face. I am just grateful that I can actually scrape it together. And that I continue to have a roof over my head, enough good food to eat, and health care if I should need it.

That puts me in a situation that the majority of the world does not enjoy. My heart breaks for the homeless I see every day on my city streets. Pushing a cart loaded with everything they own, they walk in the rain with plastic sheets covering their belongings, sometimes wrapped in plastic themselves. Old and young, men and women, down on their luck in a society that has no room for them. I suppose there have always been people like this in America, but I sure don't remember such poverty when I was growing up. But then again, there were not so many of us grasping to find a hold in a world of diminishing resources.

Nope, I'm not going to go there. In just writing that short paragraph, I could feel myself being pulled towards disheartenment, and that helps no one, least of all those homeless people. What happened in their lives for this to be their misfortune?

I have been learning about the Buddhist concept of reincarnation. I really don't know how I feel about it, since none of us knows at all what happens to our consciousness after death, but the idea that our mindstream continues after all else dissipates is a fascinating concept to me. There is so much I will never know, but it makes as much sense as any other that I've encountered. There is no doubt that enlightened beings have powers that make no sense to my rational mind, so who's to say that our essential being does or doesn't continue on in another form? I am fascinated by it all. 

In any event, I have accomplished what I set out to do when I woke this morning: write another Eye on the Edge post. Now it's time to get out of bed and continue my day's activities. I must give thanks for the wonderful ability I have to communicate with you, my dear readers, and to have my dear partner still sleep quietly next to me, and to begin yet another day with the abundance with which I am blessed. Later today I will read your blogs and whatever comments you leave here. You have become an essential part of my life, too, and I wish you all good things, today and tomorrow. Until we meet again next week, be well, dear friends.

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Days of change ahead

Neighborhood decorations

Walking to the bus last week, I noticed this house decorated up for the season. I especially like the Frankenstein creature in the doorway and wondered how people feel having to enter past his scary demeanor. This family also does a great job for the Christmas holidays, too. I have a few friends who love the Halloween season, and since I do, too, I'll be keeping my eye out for other decorative additions to the neighborhood.
From ghoulies and ghosties and long-leggedy beasties and things that go bump in the night, Good Lord, deliver us! —Scottish Saying

Although never having been much of a partygoer in my youth, I still really enjoyed getting dressed up for Halloween and wearing my costume to work. One year I was Dolly Parton (and had the perfect wig for it), another I was Harpo Marx, and I tooted a horn to answer anybody who wanted to talk to me. Another year I was Kermit the Frog. Thinking about all those fun costumes and days long past, it reminds me that I did enjoy becoming another personality now and then. It's been many years since I did all that, having left work behind me, and today the last day of the month of October is fun to observe and enjoy dressing up vicariously.

If you read my other blog, you know that last Thursday I tripped and fell, face planting and hitting the left side of my face on the gravel in the trail. As usual, it was right at the beginning of the hike, so my friend Melanie helped me up and insisted I be seen at the urgent care clinic. I hit right on the eyebrow and my glasses were scratched and flew off my face. The swelling was immediate, along with quite a bit of pain. At first I couldn't see out of my eye, but it was because of all the tearing and a bit of blood from the wound. At the clinic, I was told that they couldn't examine me, since everyone over the age of 65 with a head injury must go to the Emergency Room and get a CT scan.

There was no way I was going to subject myself to hours of waiting in a Covid-heavy environment, so instead I went home and decided to take it easy for the rest of the day. Other than quite an impressive black eye, I have had no other symptoms, meaning that an internal bleed is not likely. It's been three days now, and the swelling is almost all gone, leaving me with one half of a Halloween disguise. It can be covered up with my sunglasses and barely noticeable if you're not looking for it.

Yesterday I went for a five-mile walk with my friend Melanie, as usual on a Saturday morning, and there was no difference from my normal walk. If I don't look in the mirror, I forget that I'm injured. It's becoming all too familiar for me to keep taking these falls, which I guess isn't all that unusual as I get older, but it's important to get back up and keep going for as long as I can. I took a Zoom yoga class on Friday and noticed that I can do all the postures without anything more than my usual difficulty, but I chose not to attempt the shoulderstand, an inverted posture and felt it might be a bit early for that. I could do it today without any worries, though.

What I have been enjoying very much is beginning a meditation practice. It all started with me reading David Michie's series on The Dalai Lama's Cat. The book is a multi-layered treatise on the practical aspects of Buddhist teachings cloaked in the delightful tale of a cat. I have also read several other books by Michie, some nonfiction, and other novels of his with Buddhist teachings interspersed inside a good suspense story. It's funny how something can change the trajectory of one's life with just a tiny push from an unexpected source.

Years ago, I meditated daily, and it's very interesting to notice how much of the earlier experience is still present in my consciousness. Insights keep coming up after just a few minutes of mindful breathing, those I learned long ago. When I concentrate on my breath, I seem to have rediscovered a forgotten resource towards serenity. Since I am just at the beginning of this journey, I'll keep you updated as to how it develops. In any event, I am feeling much more centered and calm about the state of the world. Nothing has changed externally, but I am feeling better and have found myself actually waking up with a smile on my face. How great is that?

One thing that occurs to me on a regular basis is that our days are filled with the possibility of positive change at any moment. Just as it was a lightning-quick change in trajectory when I face planted, positive change can come just as quickly. A particularly insightful book, a chance comment from a friend, numerous interactions with our loved ones: there are so many ways for us to find a new direction in our lives, if we just allow ourselves to be open. I'd like to be fertile ground for affirmative change to come in and make my life better. 

And it's happening, as I allow it. One affirmation I make is to be as kind as possible to others I encounter in my daily life. Being kind is a choice I make every day, and I choose to find other ways to allow kindness to all others spread out from my center into the whole world. Starting small, growing larger and larger in scope as I feel it emanate from within. Can you feel it? I am sending waves of happiness and joy your way.

I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy. —Rabindranath Tagore

My tea is gone, and I will spend a few minutes following my breath before getting on with the rest of my day. My dear partner sleeps quietly next to me, the day ahead beckons and is filled with possibilities. I do hope that life will bring you some delight today, and I hope that you will be open to receiving it. Until we meet again next week, dear friends, I wish you all good things.

Sunday, October 3, 2021

Placing a wager

Another rose from the garden

 I know I've shared pictures I've taken before of the Cornwall Rose Garden roses, but I can't resist when there's nothing more exciting to show you. This is one of the last fading roses of the season, and there are more rose bushes without any blossoms at all, making the remaining ones even more precious to look at. When my friend John drives into the neighborhood and drops me off before I take my gentle and enjoyable walk home, I spend a few minutes admiring what's left. Maybe one day this winter I'll even see one with some snow on it, who knows?

For now, I'm enjoying our seasonal change, with days of rain and then days of sunshine, cool temperatures, and lots and lots of green to soothe the eyes. Yesterday I decided to buy a Powerball ticket, considering all the hoopla that has developed over the fact that nobody has won this particular lottery since June, and the jackpot has reached well over $600 million. I guess that fact alone should tell you about my chance of actually winning: well over 300 million to one. But as people have said before, someone has to win eventually, and it might as well be me. And you can't win if you don't play.

This morning I checked the winning numbers against my ticket, and guess what? I didn't win either. But the whole process of buying a ticket raised an interesting conversation with SG: he asked me if I was indeed willing to win, since it would change our lives significantly. It caused me to go online and read about what has happened to previous winners of large jackpots, and while realizing my chances of winning are small, I was actually not looking forward to winning, and pleased instead to find that I did NOT win. A double benefit for the small price of a ticket.

It had been years since I last bought a ticket, and I was surprised to find that these days (in Washington State, at least), you no longer go to a counter in the store to purchase the ticket, but a vending machine gives you the option of playing dozens of different games. I placed my money into the slot, which warns that it does not give change, and out spit a paper with my numbers already chosen. I suppose that one of the options would have been to choose my own, but I didn't stand around considering what I should do. After all, there was a line at the machine when I got there, and one was forming behind me. All that money! And one person was playing several different games and put a LOT of money into the machine. I was fascinated by his intensity and wondered if he does this all the time, wanting to ask him but was afraid I might anger him if he has a method and might see me as interfering. So I just kept quiet and watched.

If we find it hard to believe that winning millions might not be so lucky after all, we just don't have a good enough imagination. If I fantasise about winning the lottery, it doesn't take long before all sorts of worrisome potential consequences occur to me.—Julian Baggini

In so many concrete ways, I feel that I have already won the real lottery of life, by continuing to have health and companionship well into my late seventies. That, of course, is not guaranteed for the long term, but it does give me a reason to let happiness and joy surround me all the time. Giving thanks for that which we do posses right now is, indeed, a much better way to spend my time than wishing for a windfall.

My maternal grandfather was an addicted gambler. Since he was the owner of an inn that made him well off, he managed to set up a back room where men from all over came to gamble. His family didn't know anything about it, until he died and my grandmother learned that the home she thought she owned had been mortgaged several times over. Not only did she lose her husband, but everything she owned as well. She was bitter over it and had to live in a small bedroom with my family. She was not a happy person; I learned at an early age that gambling is a disease and that I was fortunate not to have inherited it.

Yesterday's adventure into buying a lottery ticket was an eye-opener. While I am not a gambler, there seem to be plenty of them out there. I truly was surprised at what a racket selling tickets of chance has become in our world today. I do hope that whoever does win this current game will be blessed by the money and will find ways to spread it around with delight and will rejoice in the ability to bring happiness to others.

In studying Buddhist philosophy (my latest obsession), I have learned that generosity is much prized by followers of the Dharma, and that having too much of anything is just not helpful to spiritual practice. Although I'm not likely to go so far as to wander off into a cave in order to seek enlightenment, I am realizing that owning too much is just as distracting as not having enough. This gives me a chance to be grateful for my just-right existence, and to thank the machine for not transforming my life by causing me to win the lottery. It will probably be a long time before I get caught up in such a desire again.

I just checked the weather, wondering what I should be dressed in today for me to happily spend time outdoors. The temperature is a bit cooler than the seasonal average, and sprinkles and light rain are forecast for the day, meaning I can rummage around in my closet for just the right apparel. I'll want to get my steps in and close the exercise rings on my Apple Watch. It never fails to delight me to walk around in the beautiful forests that exist in my town. I am such a fan of magnificent trees, and they are within a short walk from here, waiting for me in Cornwall Park. Today I will visit them, along with (of course) a trip to the coffee shop and some time to chat with my friends there.

My tea is gone, my dear partner just got up to use the bathroom and is now settling back into bed to continue his sleep, while I begin to move towards becoming upright and going through my usual morning routine before heading out the door. I am feeling pretty good this morning, with only the usual aches and pains to remind me that I'm alive and ready to start another new day, with joy and love and hope for a wonderful future for all of us to share.

Until we meet again, dear friends, I hope you will take a look around at your life and all the blessings that surround you. We are indeed fortunate, in myriad ways, and we rarely take the time to stop and notice. I wish you all good things for the week to come. 

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Wildlife and more

You can't see me

I see a fair amount of wildlife on my walks around town. This little cottontail runs across the trail as I head home from my morning walk almost daily. It might not be the same one, but who knows? Last week I saw him again, and I saw that he went under a tree to hide from me, and he stayed perfectly still as I captured him on my camera.

This survival technique must work pretty well, since it's been going on for millennia: hold perfectly still and maybe the predator won't see you and will just move on. Of course, bunnies are one of the most sought-after prey for many animals looking for a quick snack, so I guess the magic doesn't work all that well most times. I do enjoy seeing his little white tail disappear into the brush and hope he is able to grow up and enjoy life for a good long time to come.

We are in the midst of wonderful fall weather, with sunny bright days that don't get very hot, interspersed occasionally with a rain shower that greens up the entire environment. My favorite time of the year, in fact. Yesterday four of us ladies walked down to the harbor to admire the boats and get our steps in for the day. We finished it off with a quick trip to the Farmers' Market, which is only open for a few hours on Saturday. It was packed with people, everyone masked and looking happy to be outside on a beautiful day.

And now we have the opposite of yesterday's sunshine: showers all morning turning into a steady rain for the afternoon. One thing I especially like about this time of year: while it will be rainy for most of the day, I wouldn't be surprised to see the sun come out at the end of the day, after everything is washed clean. Like I said, it's a wonderful time of the year and makes me happy to be alive.

This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.—Dalai Lama

I am getting to know my own brain and heart as I study the principles of love and kindness. I have been attracted lately to Buddhist thought and have been reading a great deal about how to meditate, and how to live a good life in the context of today's challenges. It reminds me that many years ago, long before I became the person I am today, I was a meditator. I had actually forgotten the benefits of sitting quietly and watching my breath. It's been a long time since I have actually done it, but it has come back to me once again, and it already brought me some serenity.

And it all started with me reading a few books about the Dalai Lama's cat, by David Michie. Now I have read several books by the author, and I have found something else that intrigues me: meditating on the Medicine Buddha.  Michie also wrote a suspense novel that ends with his discovery of the power of meditating with this particular Buddha. I love that each meditation begins and ends with this prayer:

By this practice of Medicine Buddha, may I be purified of all disease, pain, and suffering, and enjoy robust good health, and attain complete and perfect enlightenment to lead all other beings to this same state.

 Well, it's a start. You gotta have something to work towards, and now I am thinking I will continue to find peace and contentment in my life through meditation. Since I am retired and supposedly have all the time in the world (!), I can certainly find many different ways to slip in a moment or two of breathing in the Medicine Buddha's mantra. Funny how just a little story that captivated me has changed the trajectory of my days. Maybe there will be at least one more person out there who might give it a whirl.

This post is taking longer to write than usual, and that's because I keep going off to Google and looking up one thing or another regarding the Medicine Buddha, and then I end up reading the entire article. It surprises me how often David Michie keeps coming up in relation to Bhaisajyaguru (the name of this particular Buddha). I have no idea how to pronounce it, although I could probably figure it out, since Sanskrit has become more familiar to me through my yoga practice.

Life's little twists and turns fascinate me, and I will continue to keep you updated on the evolution of my practice. Every day is a new and precious gift, and I will continue to attempt to make use of these days for the benefit of every living being.

I send you, my dear readers, a special gift today: one of healing and wholeness that should be the birthright of everyone. On this day, I will sit in meditation with you in mind, and I have no doubt that if you do the same, we will be connected to one another through our intention. I know it sounds pretty woo-woo, but what the heck? What do we have to lose? We have everything to gain.

Well, this has been a much different journey to the end of this post than I could have imagined. I am now ready to begin the rest of my day, with a trip to the coffee shop (of course) and the chance to smile at some new friends and spread around a little happiness. My dear partner still sleeps quietly beside me, the sun is not yet over the horizon, and I will walk with a spring in my step as I move through my day. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things, dear ones.

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Last post of summer

Bellingham Bay yesterday

Our rain started later in the day on Friday, and it continued all night long. Bellingham had a record amount of rainfall on Saturday, after a summer of below normal precipitation: 1.82 inches fell before I got out of bed yesterday. But then the skies cleared and it was a glorious day. Melanie and I walked a little more than six miles along the South Bay trail beside Bellingham Bay, into Fairhaven and down to the ferry terminal and back. The rain returned sometime last night, and it should be damp today. I don't mind, really, since I consider Sunday my day off and I don't even try to close the exercise rings on my Apple Watch.

Usually I try to get some exercise in every day and manage the three rings on my Watch fairly easily. By walking to the bus first thing, I get around a third of a mile in, and then when my friend John drops me off at a trailhead, after coffee, I get about three miles total before I come home before 10:00am in the morning. I also have a daily routine of my Five Tibetan Rites (which only takes about ten minutes to accomplish), and I am trying to get in at least three days a week of yoga, and a long-ish hike on Thursdays. It's not a huge exercise regimen, but it's enough for me to feel pretty good most days.

I happened across an article about exercise the other day, with the intriguing title, The Exercise Routine That Can Make Your Body 30 Years Younger. It sounds great, right? It's a hook that made me have to read it, and of course I found out that you also must have begun that routine thirty years ago! The study found that older adults who began getting fit during the exercise boom of the 1970s, and continued into their seventies and beyond, were far fitter than "normal" septuagenarians. They studied three groups, people in their twenties and older folks who exercised and those who didn't.
The muscles, capillaries and enzymes of the exercising older adults were similar to those of the younger cohort. However, while their aerobic capacities were lower than the younger folks, they were 40% greater than the group of older adults who did not exercise regularly. When compared to the national averages, they had the cardiovascular health of someone 30 years younger.
I was one of those people who got hooked on exercise in the 1970s. I well remember standing in the doorway of my apartment, looking down at my brand-new running shoes, before heading out for my very first run. Back then, I didn't really care that much about aerobic fitness, but I wanted to lose about ten pounds and thought this was the ticket. Well, within three days I was almost unable to walk, with shin splints that were agonizingly painful. 

I went to a sports doctor to find out what I was doing wrong, and he analyzed my gait and said I am a pronator (my feet turn slightly inward) and fitted me with orthotics, which I wore inside my running shoes. I kept it up, and before long I had experienced the fabled "runner's high" that came from vigorous exercise. I also realized that I could walk and run and still get the benefits, as long as I dedicated myself to a daily regimen.

Before long, I was strapping on my running shoes and hitting the trails behind my workplace on my lunch hour. I found other people who were just as dedicated as me, and I found others who would join me on what we called "fun runs," just going out and enjoying being outdoors. What I was able to do is not exactly what some would consider actual runs, since my pace was around nine miles an hour. But I got better, and I did lose those pounds. My best race was a 10K (6.2 miles) at an 8.5-mile-an-hour pace.

I also got into bicycling long distances. Living in Boulder, there were so many opportunities to just get onto my bike and go, plenty of places with little traffic. My friend Donna and I decided, one summer long ago, to ride our bikes from Boulder to San Francisco! And we did it, taking six weeks, camping each night in city parks or the equivalent. We crossed the Continental Divide five times, riding through Yellowstone, up and down country roads. I got pretty good at changing a bike tire quickly. The only drawback was that, after being with each other for so long, we were barely speaking to one another at the end. (We did reconcile eventually.)

I fell in with some friends who were attempting to climb all 52 of Colorado's mountains of 14,000 feet or higher. We would head out for a weekend adventure, always with the hope of summiting a peak before returning home. Before that period was over, I had managed to climb 26 of them. Some memories of those days still pop into my head occasionally, usually when we had gotten lost, or looking up at a rocky climb towards the top and wondering if I could make it.

And then, in my fifties, I got hooked on skydiving, and all the rest of my world was completely fixated on jumping out of airplanes. Nothing interested me except getting to be a better and more accomplished skydiver. Since I could still jog and learned that packing my parachute several times a day was plenty of exercise, I still kept fit during those years. I made my first jump in 1990, and my last in 2015. It was where I met my life partner, and we were married in freefall in 1994.

When I look back at the journey I've made into the present moment, I am amazed at how different my life has been because of exercise. As I peer over at my dear partner sleeping next to me right now, I realize that he wouldn't be here if I hadn't become a skydiver, so that is probably the one activity that has changed my life the most. But today, here in Bellingham, I am fortunate to be fit enough to walk up to around eight miles at a time, and knowing that I am doing quite well for a really old lady, thanks to having started this fitness journey so many decades ago.
You’re only one workout away from a good mood. —Unknown

 And here I am, finishing up my Sunday morning meditation, having been brought into the memories of all those years of different types of exercise by that article, and realizing how different my life would have been without it. I am incredibly fortunate to have the life I lead today, and with the ability to make friends around the world through the magic of the Internet, I can also learn about others like me.

I do hope, dear friends, that you will have a wonderful week ahead, and don't forget to mark the new season that begins in three days: autumn. It begins here around noon on Wednesday, September 22. And now, it's time for me to begin the rest of my Sunday. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well.